Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard
I have been asked to introduce Miss Farjeon to the American public, and although I believe that introductions of this kind often do more harm than good, I have consented in this case because the instance is rare enough to justify an exception. If Miss Farjeon had been a promising young novelist either of the realistic or the romantic school, I should not have dared to express an opinion on her work, even if I had believed that she had greater gifts than the ninety-nine other promising young novelists who appear in the course of each decade. But she has a far rarer gift than any of those that go to the making of a successful novelist. She is one of the few who can conceive and tell a fairy-tale; the only one to my knowledge—with the just possible exceptions of James Stephens and Walter de la Mare—in my own generation. She has, in fact, the true gift of fancy. It has already been displayed in her verse—a form in which it is far commoner than in prose—but Martin Pippin is her first book in this kind.
I am afraid to say too much about it for fear of prejudicing both the reviewers and the general public. My taste may not be theirs and in this matter there is no opportunity for argument. Let me, therefore, do no more than tell the story of how the manuscript affected me. I was a little overworked. I had been reading a great number of manuscripts in the preceding weeks, and the mere sight of typescript was a burden to me. But before I had read five pages of Martin Pippin, I had forgotten that it was a manuscript submitted for my judgment. I had forgotten who I was and where I lived. I was transported into a world of sunlight, of gay inconsequence, of emotional surprise, a world of poetry, delight, and humor. And I lived and took my joy in that rare world, until all too soon my reading was done.
My most earnest wish is that there may be many minds and imaginations among the American people who will be able to share that pleasure with me. For every one who finds delight in this book I can claim as a kindred spirit.
J. D. Beresford.
Foreword Introduction Prologue—Part I Part II Part III Prelude to the First Tale The First Tale: The King's Barn First Interlude The Second Tale: Young Gerard Second Interlude The Third Tale: The Mill of Dreams Third Interlude The Fourth Tale: Open Winkins Fourth Interlude The Fifth Tale: Proud Rosalind and the Hart-Royal Fifth Interlude The Sixth Tale: The Imprisoned Princess Postlude—Part I Part II Part III Part IV Epilogue Conclusion
In Adversane in Sussex they still sing the song of The Spring-Green Lady; any fine evening, in the streets or in the meadows, you may come upon a band of children playing the old game that is their heritage, though few of them know its origin, or even that it had one. It is to them as the daisies in the grass and the stars in the sky. Of these things, and such as these, they ask no questions. But there you will still find one child who takes the part of the Emperor's Daughter, and another who is the Wandering Singer, and the remaining group (there should be no more than six in it) becomes the Spring-Green Lady, the Rose-White Lady, the Apple-Gold Lady, of the three parts of the game. Often there are more than six in the group, for the true number of the damsels who guarded their fellow in her prison is as forgotten as their names: Joscelyn, Jane and Jennifer, Jessica, Joyce and Joan. Forgotten, too, the name of Gillian, the lovely captive. And the Wandering Singer is to them but the Wandering Singer, not Martin Pippin the Minstrel. Worse and worse, he is even presumed to be the captive's sweetheart, who wheedles the flower, the ring, and the prison-key out of the strict virgins for his own purposes, and flies with her at last in his shallop across the sea, to live with her happily ever after. But this is a fallacy. Martin Pippin never wheedled anything out of anybody for his own purposes—in fact, he had none of his own. On this adventure he was about the business of young Robin Rue. There are further discrepancies; for the Emperor's Daughter was not an emperor's daughter, but a farmer's; nor was the Sea the sea, but a duckpond; nor—
But let us begin with the children's version, as they sing and dance it on summer days and evenings in Adversane.
THE SINGING-GAME OF "THE SPRING-GREEN LADY"
(The Emperor's Daughter sits weeping in her Tower. Around her, with their backs to her, stand six maids in a ring, with joined hands. They are in green dresses. The Wandering Singer approaches them with his lute.)
THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my spring-green lady, May I come into your orchard, lady? For the leaf is now on the apple-bough And the sun is high and the lawn is shady, Lady, lady, My fair lady! O my spring-green lady!
You may not come into our orchard, singer, Because we must guard the Emperor's Daughter Who hides in her hair at the windows there With her thoughts a thousand leagues over the water, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my spring-green lady, But will you not hear an Alba, lady? I'll play for you now neath the apple-bough And you shall dance on the lawn so shady, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my spring-green lady!
O if you play us an Alba, singer, How can that harm the Emperor's Daughter? No word would she say though we danced all day, With her thoughts a thousand leagues over the water, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
THE WANDERING SINGER
But if I play you an Alba, lady, Get me a boon from the Emperor's Daughter— The flower from her hair for my heart to wear Though hers be a thousand leagues over the water, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my spring-green lady!
(They give him the flower from the hair of the Emperor's Daughter, and sing—)
Now you may play us an Alba, singer, A dance of dawn for a spring-green lady, For the leaf is now on the apple-bough, And the sun is high and the lawn is shady, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
The Wandering Singer plays on his lute, and The Ladies break their ranks and dance. The Singer steals up behind The Emperor's Daughter, who uncovers her face and sings—)
THE EMPEROR'S DAUGHTER
Mother, mother, my fair dead mother, They have stolen the flower from your weeping daughter!
THE WANDERING SINGER
O dry your eyes, you shall have this other When yours is a thousand leagues over the water, Daughter, daughter, My sweet daughter! Love is not far, my daughter!
The Singer then drops a second flower into the lap of the child in the middle, and goes away, and this ends the first part of the game. The Emperor's Daughter is not yet released, for the key of her tower is understood to be still in the keeping of the dancing children. Very likely it is bed-time by this, and mothers are calling from windows and gates, and the children must run home to their warm bread-and-milk and their cool sheets. But if time is still to spare, the second part of the game is played like this. The dancers once more encircle their weeping comrade, and now they are gowned in white and pink. They will indicate these changes perhaps by colored ribbons, or by any flower in its season, or by imagining themselves first in green and then in rose, which is really the best way of all. Well then—
(The Ladies, in gowns of white and rose-color, stand around The Emperor's Daughter, weeping in her Tower. To them once more comes The Wandering Singer with his lute.)
THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my rose-white lady, May I come into your orchard, lady? For the blossom's now on the apple-bough And the stars are near and the lawn is shady, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my rose-white lady!
You may not come into our orchard, singer, Lest you bear a word to the Emperor's Daughter From one who was sent to banishment Away a thousand leagues over the water, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my rose-white lady, But will you not hear a Roundel, lady? I'll play for you now neath the apple-bough And you shall trip on the lawn so shady, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my rose-white lady!
O if you play us a Roundel, singer, How can that harm the Emperor's Daughter? She would not speak though we danced a week, With her thoughts a thousand leagues over the water, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
THE WANDERING SINGER
But if I play you a Roundel, lady, Get me a gift from the Emperor's Daughter— Her finger-ring for my finger bring Though she's pledged a thousand leagues over the water, Lady, lady My fair lady, O my rose-white lady!
(They give him the ring from the finger of The Emperor's Daughter, and sing—)
Now you may play us a Roundel, singer, A sunset-dance for a rose-white lady, For the blossom's now on the apple-bough, And the stars are near and the lawn is shady, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
As before, The Singer plays and The Ladies dance; and through the broken circle The Singer comes behind The Emperor's Daughter, who uncovers her face to sing—)
THE EMPEROR'S DAUGHTER
Mother, mother, my fair dead mother, They've stolen the ring from your heart-sick daughter.
THE WANDERING SINGER
O mend your heart, you shall wear this other When yours is a thousand leagues over the water, Daughter, daughter, My sweet daughter! Love is at hand, my daughter!
The third part of the game is seldom played. If it is not bed-time, or tea-time, or dinner-time, or school-time, by this time at all events the players have grown weary of the game, which is tiresomely long; and most likely they will decide to play something else, such as Bertha Gentle Lady, or The Busy Lass, or Gypsy, Gypsy, Raggetty Loon!, or The Crock of Gold, or Wayland, Shoe me my Mare!—which are all good games in their way, though not, like The Spring-Green Lady, native to Adversane. But I did once have the luck to hear and see The Lady played in entirety—the children had been granted leave to play "just one more game" before bed-time, and of course they chose the longest and played it without missing a syllable.
(The Ladies, in yellow dresses, stand again in a ring about The Emperor's Daughter, and are for the last time accosted by The Singer with his lute.)
THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my apple-gold lady, May I come into your orchard, lady? For the fruit is now on the apple-bough, And the moon is up and the lawn is shady, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my apple-gold lady!
You may not come into our orchard, singer, In case you set free the Emperor's Daughter Who pines apart to follow her heart That's flown a thousand leagues over the water, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
THE WANDERING SINGER
Lady, lady, my apple-gold lady, But will you not hear a Serena, lady? I'll play for you now neath the apple-bough And you shall dream on the lawn so shady, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my apple-gold lady!
O if you play a Serena, singer, How can that harm the Emperor's Daughter? She would not hear though we danced a year With her heart a thousand leagues over the water, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
THE WANDERING SINGER
But if I play a Serena, lady, Let me guard the key of the Emperor's Daughter, Lest her body should follow her heart like a swallow And fly a thousand leagues over the water, Lady, lady, My fair lady, O my apple-gold lady!
(They give the key of the Tower into his hands.)
Now you may play a Serena, singer, A dream of night for an apple-gold lady, For the fruit is now on the apple-bough And the moon is up and the lawn is shady, Singer, singer, Wandering singer, O my honey-sweet singer!
(Once more The Singer plays and The Ladies dance; but one by one they fall asleep to the drowsy music, and then The Singer steps into the ring and unlocks the Tower and kisses The Emperor's Daughter. They have the end of the game to themselves.)
Lover, lover, thy/my own true lover Has opened a way for the Emperor's Daughter! The dawn is the goal and the dark the cover As we sail a thousand leagues over the water— Lover, lover, My dear lover, O my own true lover!
(The Wandering Singer and The Emperor's Daughter float a thousand leagues in his shallop and live happily ever after. I don't know what becomes of The Ladies.)
In they go.
You see the treatment is a trifle fanciful. But romance gathers round an old story like lichen on an old branch. And the story of Martin Pippin in the Apple-Orchard is so old now—some say a year old, some say even two. How can the children be expected to remember?
But here's the truth of it.
MARTIN PIPPIN IN THE APPLE-ORCHARD
One morning in April Martin Pippin walked in the meadows near Adversane, and there he saw a young fellow sowing a field with oats broadcast. So pleasant a sight was enough to arrest Martin for an hour, though less important things, such as making his living, could not occupy him for a minute. So he leaned upon the gate, and presently noticed that for every handful he scattered the young man shed as many tears as seeds, and now and then he stopped his sowing altogether, and putting his face between his hands sobbed bitterly. When this had happened three or four times, Martin hailed the youth, who was then fairly close to the gate.
"Young master!" said he. "The baker of this crop will want no salt to his baking, and that's flat."
The young man dropped his hands and turned his brown and tear-stained countenance upon the Minstrel. He was so young a man that he wanted his beard.
"They who taste of my sorrow," he replied, "will have no stomach for bread."
And with that he fell anew to his sowing and sighing, and passed up the field.
When he came down again Martin observed, "It must be a very bitter sorrow that will put a man off his dinner."
"It is the bitterest," said the youth, and went his way.
At his next coming Martin inquired, "What is the name of your sorrow?"
"Love," said the youth. By now he was somewhat distant from the gate when he came abreast of it, and Martin Pippin did not catch the word. So he called louder:
"Love!" shouted the youth. His voice cracked on it. He appeared slightly annoyed. Martin chewed a grass and watched him up and down the meadow.
At the right moment he bellowed:
"I was never yet put off my feed by love."
"Then," roared the youth, "you have never loved."
At this Martin jumped over the gate and ran along the furrow behind the boy.
"I have loved," he vowed, "as many times as I have tuned lute-strings."
"Then," said the youth, not turning his head, "you have never loved in vain."
"Always, thank God!" said Martin fervently.
The youth, whose name was Robin Rue, suddenly dropped all his seed in one heap, flung up his arms, and,
"Alas!" he cried. "Oh, Gillian! Gillian!" And began to sob more heavily than ever.
"Tell me your trouble," said the Minstrel kindly.
"Sir," said the youth, "I do not know your name, and your clothes are very tattered. But you are the first who has cared whether or no my heart should break since my lovely Gillian was locked with six keys into her father's Well-House, and six young milkmaids, sworn virgins and man-haters all, to keep the keys."
"The thirsty," said Martin, "make little of padlocks when within a rope's length of water."
"But, sir," continued the youth earnestly, "this Well-House is set in the midst of an Apple-Orchard enclosed in a hawthorn hedge full six feet high, and no entrance thereto but one small green wicket, bolted on the inner side."
"Indeed?" said Martin.
"And worse to come. The length of the hedge there is a great duckpond, nine yards broad, and three wild ducks swimming on it. Alas!" he cried, "I shall never see my lovely girl again!"
"Love is a mighty power," said Martin Pippin, "but there are doubtless things it cannot do."
"I ask so little," sighed Robin Rue. "Only to send her a primrose for her hair-band, and have again whatever flower she wears there now."
"Would this really content you?" said Martin Pippin.
"I would then consent to live," swore Robin Rue, "long enough at all events to make an end of my sowing."
"Well, that would be something," said Martin cheerfully, "for fields must not go fallow that are appointed to bear. Direct me to your Gillian's Apple-Orchard."
"It is useless," Robin said. "For even if you could cross the duckpond, and evade the ducks, and compass the green gate, my sweetheart's father's milkmaids are not to be come over by any man; and they watch the Well-House day and night."
"Yet direct me to the orchard," repeated Martin Pippin, and thrummed his lute a little.
"Oh, sir," said Robin anxiously, "I must warn you that it is a long and weary way, it may be as much as two mile by the road." And he looked disconsolately at the Minstrel, as though in fear that he would be discouraged from the adventure.
"It can but be attempted," answered Martin, "and now tell me only whether I go north or south as the road runs."
"Gillman the farmer, her father," said Robin Rue, "has moreover a very big stick—"
"Heaven help us!" cried Martin, and took to his heels.
"That ends it!" sighed the sorry lover.
"At least let us make a beginning!" quoth Martin Pippin.
He leaped the gate, mocked at a cuckoo, plucked a primrose, and went singing up the road.
Robin Rue resumed his sowing and his tears.
"Maids," said Joscelyn, "what is this coming across the duckpond?"
"It is a man," said little Joan.
The six girls came running and crowding to the wicket, standing a-tiptoe and peeping between each other's sunbonnets. Their sunbonnets and their gowns were as green as lettuce-leaves.
"Is he coming on a raft?" asked Jessica, who stood behind.
"No," said Jane, "he is coming on his two feet. He has taken off his shoes, but I fear his breeches will suffer."
"He is giving bread to the ducks," said Jennifer.
"He has a lute on his back," said Joyce.
"Man!" cried Joscelyn, who was the tallest and the sternest of the milkmaids, "go away at once!"
Martin Pippin was by now within arm's-length of the green gate. He looked with pleasure at the six virgins fluttering in their green gowns, and peeping bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked under their green bonnets. Beyond them he saw the forbidden orchard, with cuckoo-flower and primrose, daffodil and celandine, silver windflower and sweet violets blue and white, spangling the gay grass. The twisted apple-trees were in young leaf.
"Go away!" cried all the milkmaids in a breath. "Go away!"
"My green maidens," said Martin, "may I not come into your orchard? The sun is up, and the shadow lies fresh on the grass. Let me in to rest a little, dear maidens—if maidens indeed you be, and not six leaflets blown from the apple-branches."
"You cannot come in," said Joscelyn, "because we are guarding our master's daughter, who sits yonder weeping in the Well-House."
"That is a noble and a tender duty," said Martin. "From what do you guard her?"
The milkmaids looked primly at one another, and little Joan said, "It is a secret."
Martin: I will ask no more. And what do you do all day long?
Joyce: Nothing, and it is very dull.
Martin: It must be still duller for your master's daughter.
Joan: Oh, no, she has her thoughts to play with.
Martin: And what of your thoughts?
Joscelyn: We have no thoughts. I should think not indeed!
Martin: I beg your pardon. But since you find the hours so tedious, will you not let me sing and play to you upon my lute? I will sing you a song for a spring morning, and you shall dance in the grass like any leaf in the wind.
Jane: I think there can be no harm in that.
Jessica: It can't matter a straw to Gillian.
Joyce: She would not look up from her thoughts though we footed it all day.
Joscelyn: So long as he is on one side of the gate—
Jennifer: —and we on the other.
"I love to dance," said little Joan.
"Man!" cried the milkmaids in a breath, "play and sing to us!"
"Oh, maidens," answered Martin merrily, "every tune deserves its fee. But don't look so troubled—my hire shall be of the lightest. Let me see! You shall fetch me the flower from the hair of your little mistress who sits weeping on the coping with her face hidden in her shining locks."
At this the milkmaids clapped their hands, and little Joan, running to the Well-House, with a touch like thistledown drew from the weeper's yellow hair a yellow primrose. She brought it to the gate and laid it in Martin's hand.
"Now you will play for us, won't you?" said she. "A dance for a spring-morning when the leaves dance on the apple-trees."
Then Martin tuned his lute and played and sang as follows, while the girls took hands and danced in a green chain among the twisty trees.
The green leaf dances now, The green leaf dances now, The green leaf with its tilted wings Dances on the bough, And every rustling air Says, I've caught you, caught you, Leaf with tilted wings, Caught you in a snare! Whose snare? Spring's, That bound you to the bough Where you dance now, Dance, but cannot fly, For all your tilted wings Pointing to the sky; Where like martins you would dart But for Spring's delicious art That caught you to the bough, Caught, yet left you free To dance if not to fly—oh see! As you are dancing now, Dancing on the bough, Dancing on the bough, Dancing with your tilted wings On the apple-bough.
Now as Martin sang and the milkmaids danced, it seemed that Gillian in her prison heard and saw nothing except the music and the movement of her sorrows. But presently she raised her hand and touched her hair-band, and then she lifted up the fairest face Martin had ever seen, so that he needs must see it nearer; and he took the green gate in one stride, and the green dancers never observed him. Then Gillian's tender mouth parted like an opening quince-blossom, and—
"Oh, Mother, Mother!" she said, "if you had only lived they would not have stolen the flower from my hair while I sat weeping."
Above her head a whispering voice made answer, "Oh, Daughter, Daughter, dry your sweet eyes. You shall wear this other flower when yours is gone over the duckpond to Adversane."
And lo! A second primrose dropped out of the skies into her lap. And that day the lovely Gillian wept no more.
It happened that on an afternoon in May Martin Pippin passed again through Adversane, and as he passed he thought, "Now certainly I have been here before," but he could not remember when or how, for a full month had run under the bridges of time since then, and man's memory is not infinite.
But in walking by a certain garden he heard a sound of sobbing; and curiosity, of which he was largely made, caused him to climb the old brick wall that he might discover the cause. What he saw from his perch was a garden laid out in neat plots between grassy walks edged with double daisies, red, white and pink, or bordered with sweet herbs, or with lavender and wallflower; and here and there were cordons of fruit-trees, apple, plum and cherry, and in a sunny corner a clump of flowering currant heavy with humming bees; and against the inner walls flat pear-trees stretched their long straight lines, like music-staves whereon a lovely melody was written in notes of snow. And in the midst of all this stood a very young man with a face as brown as a berry. He was spraying the cordons with quassia-water. But whenever he filled his syringe he wept so many tears above the bucket that it was always full to the brim.
When he had watched this happen several times, Martin hailed the young man.
"Young master!" said Martin, "the eater of your plums will need sugar thereto, and that's flat."
The young man turned his eyes upward.
"There is not sugar enough in all the world," he answered, "to sweeten the fruits that are watered by my sorrows."
"Then here is a waste of good quassia," said Martin, "and I think your name is Robin Rue."
"It is," said Robin, "and you are Martin Pippin, to whom I owe more than to any man living. But the primrose you brought me is dead this five-and-twenty days."
"And what of your Gillian?"
"Alas! How can I tell what of her? She is where she was and I am here where I am. What will become of me?"
"There are riddles without answers," observed Martin.
"I can answer this one. I shall fall into a decline and die. And yet I ask no more than to send her a ring to wear on her finger, and have her ring to wear on mine."
"Would this satisfy you?" asked Martin.
"I could then cling to life," said Robin Rue, "long enough at least to finish my spraying."
"We may praise God as much for small mercies," said Martin pleasantly, "as for great ones; and trees must not be blighted that were appointed to fruit."
So saying, he unstraddled his legs and dropped into the road, tickled an armadillo with his toe, twirled the silver ring on his finger, and went away singing.
"Maidens," said Joscelyn, "here is that man come again."
Maids' memories are longer than men's. At all events, the milkmaids knew instantly to whom she referred, although nearly a month had passed since his coming.
"Has he his lute with him?" asked little Joan.
"He has. And he is giving cake to the ducks; they take it from his hand. Man, go away immediately!"
Martin Pippin propped his elbows on the little gate, and looked smiling into the orchard, all pink and white blossom. The trees that had been longest in bloom were white cascades of flower, others there were flushed like the cheek of a sleeping child, and some were still studded with rose-red buds. The grass was high and full of spotted orchis, and tall wild parsley spread its nets of lace almost abreast of the lowest boughs of blossom. So that the milkmaids stood embraced in meeting flowers, waist-deep in the orchard growth: all gowned in pink lawn with loose white sleeves, and their faces flushed it may have been with the pink linings to their white bonnets, or with the evening rose in the west, or with I know not what.
"Go away!" they cried at the intruder. "Go away!"
"My rose-white maidens," said Martin, "will you not let me into your orchard? For the stars are rising with the dew, and the hour is at peace. Let me in to rest, dear maidens—if maidens indeed you be, and not six blossoms fallen from the apple-boughs."
"You cannot come in," said Joscelyn, "lest you are the bearer of a word to our master's daughter who sits weeping in the Well-House."
"From whom should I bear her a word?" asked Martin Pippin in great amazement.
The milkmaids cast down their eyes, and little Joan said, "It is a secret."
Martin: I will inquire no further. But shall I not play a little on my lute? It is as good an hour for song and dance as any other, and I will make a tune for a sunny May evening, and you shall sway among the grasses like any flower on the bough.
Jane: In my opinion that can hurt nobody.
Jessica: Gillian wouldn't care two pins.
Joyce: She would utter no word though we tripped it for a week.
Joscelyn: So long as he keeps to his side of the hedge—
Jennifer: —and we to ours.
"Oh, I do love to dance!" cried little Joan.
"Man!" they commanded him as one voice, "play and sing to us instantly!"
"My pretty ones," laughed Martin Pippin, "songs are as light as air, but worth more than pearls and diamonds. What will you give me for my song? Wait, now!—I have it. You shall fetch me the ring from the finger of your little mistress, who sits hidden beneath the fountain of her own bright tresses."
The milkmaids at these words nodded gayly, and little Joan tip-toed to the Well-House, and slipped the ring from Gillian's finger as lightly as a daisy may be slipped from its fellow on the chain. Then she ran with it to the gate, and Martin held up his little finger, and she put it on, saying:
"Now you will keep your promise, honey-sweet singer, and play a dance for a May evening when the blossom blows for happiness on the apple-trees."
So Martin Pippin tuned his lute and sang what follows, while the girls floated in ones and twos among the orchard grass:
A-floating, a-floating, what saw I a-floating? Fairy ships rocking with pink sails and white Smoothly as swans on a river of light Saw I a-floating? No, it was apple-bloom, rosy and fair, Softly obeying the nod of the air I saw a-floating. A-floating, a-floating, what saw I a-floating? White clouds at eventide blown to and fro Lightly as bubbles the cherubim blow, Saw I a-floating? No, it was pretty girls gowned like a flower Blown in a ring round their own apple-bower I saw a-floating. Or was it my dream, my dream only—who knows?— As frail as a snowflake, as flushed as a rose, I saw a-floating? A-floating, a-floating, what saw I a-floating?
Martin sang, and the milkmaids danced, and Gillian in her prison only heard the dropping of her tears, and only saw the rainbow prisms on her lashes. But presently she laid her cheek against her hand, and missed a touch she knew; and on that revealed her lovely face so full of woe, that Martin needs must comfort her or weep himself. And the dancers took no heed when he made one step across the gate and went under the trees to the Well-House.
"Oh, Mother, Mother!" sighed Gillian, "if you had only lived they would never have stolen the ring from my finger while I sat heartsick."
Above her head a whispering voice replied, "Oh, Daughter, Daughter, mend your dear heart! You shall wear this other ring when yours is gone over the duckpond to Adversane."
Oh wonder! Out of the very heavens fell a silver ring into her bosom. And if that night Gillian slept not, neither wept she.
In the beginning of the first week in September Martin Pippin came once more to Adversane, and he said to himself when he saw it:
"Now this is the prettiest hamlet I ever had the luck to light on in my wanderings. And if chance or fortune will, I shall some day come this way again."
While he was thinking these thoughts, his ears were assailed by groans and sighs, so that he wet his finger and held it up to find which way the wind blew on this burning day of blue and gold. But no wind coming, he sought some other agency for these gusts, and discovered it in a wheat-field where was a young fellow stooking sheaves. A very young fellow he was, turned copper by the sun; and as he stooked he heaved such sighs that for every shock he stooked two tumbled at his feet. When Martin had seen this happen more than once he called aloud to the harvester.
"Young master!" said Martin, "the mill that grinds your grain will need no wind to its sails, and that's flat."
The young man looked up from his labors to reply.
"There are no mill-stones in all the world," said he, "strong enough to grind the grain of my grief."
"Then I would save these gales till they may be put to more use," remarked Martin, "and if I remember rightly you wear a lady's ring on your little finger, though I cannot remember her name or yours."
"Her heavenly name is Gillian," said the youth, "and mine is Robin Rue."
"And are you wedded yet?" asked Martin.
"Wedded?" he cried. "Have you forgotten that she is locked with six keys inside her father's Well-House?"
"But this was long ago," said Martin. "Is she there yet?"
"She is," said Robin Rue, "and here am I."
"Well, all states must end some time," said Martin Pippin.
"Even life," sighed Robin, "and therefore before the month is out I shall wilt and be laid in the earth."
"That would be a pity," said Martin. "Can nothing save you?"
"Nothing but the keys to her prison, and they are in the keeping of them that will not give them up."
"I remember," said Martin. "Six milkmaids."
"With hearts of flint!" cried Robin.
"Sparks may be struck from flint," said Martin, in his inconsequential way. "But tell me, if Gillian's prison were indeed unlocked, would all be well with you for ever?"
"Oh," said Robin Rue, "if her prison were unlocked and the prisoner in these arms, this wheat should be flour for a wedding-cake."
"It is the best of all cakes," said Martin Pippin, "and the grain that is destined thereto must not rot in the husk."
With these words he strolled out of the cornfield, gathered a harebell, rang it so loudly in the ear of a passing rabbit that it is said never to have stopped running till it found itself in France, and went up the road humming and thrumming his lute.
On the road he met a Gypsy.
"Maids," said Joscelyn, "somebody is at the gate."
The milkmaids, who were eating apples, came clustering about her instantly.
"Is it a man?" asked little Joan, pausing between her bites.
"No, thank all our stars," said Joscelyn, "it is a gypsy."
The milkmaids withdrew, their fears allayed. Joan bit her apple and said, "It puckers my mouth."
Joyce: Mine's sour.
Jessica: Mine's hard.
Jane: Mine's bruised.
Jennifer: There's a maggot in mine.
They threw their apples away.
"Who'll buy trinkets?" said the Gypsy at the gate.
"What have you to sell?" asked Joscelyn.
"Knick-knacks and gew-gaws of all sorts. Rings and ribbons, mirrors and beads, silken shoe-strings and colored lacings, sweetmeats and scents and gilded pins; silver buckles, belts and bracelets, gay kerchiefs, spotted ones, striped ones; ivory bobbins, sprigs of coral, and sea-shells from far places, they'll murmur you secrets o' nights if you put em under your pillow; here are patterns for patchwork, and here's a sheet of ballads, and here's a pack of cards for telling fortunes. What will ye buy? A dream-book, a crystal, a charmed powder that shall make you see your sweetheart in the dark?"
"Oh!" six voices cried in one.
"Or this other powder shall charm him to love you, if he love you not?"
"Fie!" exclaimed Joscelyn severely. "We want no love-charms."
"I warrant you!" laughed the Gypsy. "What will ye buy?"
Jennifer: I'll have this flasket of scent.
Joyce: I'll have this looking-glass.
Jessica: And I this necklet of beads.
Jane: A pair of shoe-buckles, if you please.
Joan: This bunch of ribbons for me.
Joscelyn: Have you a corset-lace of yellow silk?
The Gypsy: Here's for you and you. No love-charms, no. Here's for you and you and you. I warrant, no love-charms! Ay, I've a yellow lace, twill keep you in as tight as jealousy, my pretty. Out upon all love-charms!—And what will she have that sits crouched in the Well-House?
"Oh, Gypsy!" cried Joscelyn, "have you among your charms one that will make a maid fall OUT of love?"
"Nay, nay," said the Gypsy, growing suddenly grave. "That is a charm takes more black art than I am mistress of. I know indeed of but one remedy. Is the case so bad?"
"She has been shut into the Well-House to cure her of loving," said Joscelyn, "and in six months she has scarcely ceased to weep, and has never uttered a word. If you know the physic that shall heal her of her foolishness, I pray you tell us of it. For it is extremely dull in this orchard, with nothing to do except watch the changes of the apple-trees, and meanwhile the farmstead lacks water and milk, there being no entry to the well nor maids to milk the cows. Daily comes Old Gillman to tell us how, from morning till night, he is forced to drink cider and ale, and so the farm goes to rack and ruin, and all because he has a lovesick daughter. What is your remedy? He would give you gold and silver for it."
"I do not know if it can be bought," said the Gypsy, "I do not even know if it exists. But when a maid broods too much on her own love-tale, the like weapons only will vanquish her thoughts. Nothing but a new love-tale will overcome her broodings, and where the case is obstinate one only will not suffice. You say she has pined upon her love six months. Let her be told six brand-new love-tales, tales which no woman ever heard before, and I think she will be cured. These counter-poisons will so work in her that little by little her own case will be obliterated from her blood. But for my part I doubt whether there be six untold love-tales left on earth, and if there be I know not who keeps them buttoned under his jacket."
"Alas!" cried Joscelyn, "then we must stay here for ever until we die."
"It looks very like it," said the Gypsy, "and my wares are a penny apiece."
So saying she collected her moneys and withdrew, and for all I know was never seen again by man, woman, or child.
"My apple-gold maidens," said Martin Pippin, leaning on the gate in the bright night, "may I come into your orchard?"
As he addressed them he gazed with delight at the enclosure. By the light of the Queen Moon, now at her full in heaven, he saw that the orchard grass was clipped, and patterned with small clover, but against the hedges rose wild banks of meadow-sweet and yarrow and the jolly ragwort, and briony with its heart-shaped leaf and berry as red as heart's-blood made a bower above them all. And all the apple-trees were decked with little golden moons hanging in clusters on the drooping boughs, and glimmering in the recesses of the leaves. Under each tree a ring of windfalls lay in the grass. But prettiest sight of all was the ring of girls in yellow gowns and caps, that lay around the midmost apple-tree like fallen fruit.
"Dear maidens," pleaded the Minstrel, "let me come in."
At the sound of his voice the six milkmaids rose up in the grass like golden fountains. And fountains indeed they were, for their eyes were running over with tears.
"We did not hear you coming," said little Joan.
"Go away at once!" commanded Joscelyn.
Then all the girls cried "Go away!" together.
"My apple-gold maidens," said Martin Pippin, "I entreat you to let me in. For the moon is up, and it is time to be sleeping or waking, in sweet company. So I beseech you to admit me, dear maidens—if maidens in truth you be, and not six apples bobbed off their stems."
"You may not come in," said Joscelyn, "in case you should release our master's daughter, who sits in the Well-House pining to follow her heart."
"Why, whither would she follow it?" asked Martin much surprised.
The milkmaids turned their faces away, and little Joan murmured, "It is a secret."
Martin: I will put chains on my thoughts. But shall I not sing you a tune you may dance to? I will make you a song for an August night, when the moon rocks her way up and down the cradle of the sky, and you shall rock on earth like any apple on the twig.
Jane: For my part, I see nothing against it.
Jessica: Gillian won't care little apples.
Joyce: She would not hear though we danced the round of the year.
Joscelyn: So long as he does not come in—
Jennifer: —or we go out.
"Oh, let us dance, do let us dance!" cried little Joan.
"Man," they importuned him in a single breath, "play for us and sing for us, as quickly as you can!"
"Sweet ones," said Martin Pippin, shaking his head, "songs must be paid for. And yet I do not know what to ask you, some trifle in kind it should be. Why, now, I have it! If I give you the keys to the dance, give me the keys to your little mistress, that I may keep her secure from following her heart like a bird of passage, whither it's no business of mine to ask."
At this request, made so gayly and so carelessly, the girls all looked at one another in consternation. Then Joscelyn drew herself up to full height, and pointing with her arm straight across the duckpond she cried:
And the six girls, turning their backs upon him, moved away into the shadows of the moon.
"Well-a-day!" sighed Martin Pippin, "how a fool may trip and never know it till his nose hits the earth. I will sing to you for nothing."
But the girls did not answer.
Then Martin touched his lute and sang as follows, so softly and sweetly that they, not regarding, hardly knew the sound of his song from the heavy-sweet scent of the ungathered apples over their heads.
Toss me your golden ball, laughing maid, lovely maid, Lovely maid, laughing maid, toss me your ball! I'll catch it and throw it, and hide it and show it, And spin it to heaven and not let it fall. Boy, run away with you! I will not play with you— This is no ball! We are too old to be playing at ball.
Toss me the golden sun, laughing maid, lovely maid, Lovely maid, laughing maid, toss me the sun! I'll wheel it, I'll whirl it, I'll twist it and twirl it Till cocks crow at midnight and day breaks at one. Boy, I'll not sport with you! Boy, to be short with you, This is no sun! We are too young to play tricks with the sun.
Toss me your golden toy, laughing maid, lovely maid, Lovely maid, laughing maid, toss me your toy! It's all one to me, girl, whatever it be, girl So long as it's round that's enough for a boy. Boy, come and catch it then!—there now! Don't snatch it then! Here comes your toy! Apples were made for a girl and a boy.
There was no sound or movement from the girls in the shadows.
"Farewell, then," said Martin. "I must carry my tunes and tales elsewhere."
Like pebbles from a catapult the milkmaids shot to the gate.
"Tales?" cried Jessica.
"Do you know tales?" exclaimed Jennifer.
"What kind of tales?" demanded Jane.
"Love-tales?" panted Joyce.
"Six of them?" urged little Joan.
"A thousand!" said Martin Pippin.
Joscelyn's hand lay on the bolt.
"Man," she said, "come in."
She opened the wicket, and Martin Pippin walked into the Apple Orchard.
PRELUDE TO THE FIRST TALE
"And now," said Martin Pippin, "what exactly do you require of me?"
"If you please," said little Joan, "you are to tell us a love-story that has never been told before."
"But we have reason to fear," added Jane, "that there is no such story left in all the world."
"There you are wrong," said Martin, "for on the contrary no love-story has ever been told twice. I never heard any tale of lovers that did not seem to me as new as the world on its first morning. I am glad you have a taste for love-stories."
"We have not," said Joscelyn, very quickly.
"No, indeed!" cried her five fellows.
"Then shall it be some other kind of tale?"
"No other kind will do," said Joscelyn, still more quickly.
"We must all bear our burdens," said Martin; "so let us make ourselves as happy as we can in an apple-tree, and when the tale becomes too little to your taste you shall munch apples and forget it."
"Will you sit in the swing?" asked Jennifer, pointing to the midmost apple-tree, which was the largest in the orchard, and had a little swing hanging from a long upper limb.
Close to the apple-tree, a branch of which indeed brushed its mossed pent-roof, stood the Well-House. It had a round wall of old red bricks growing green with time, and a pillar of oak rose up at each point of the compass to support the pent. Between the south and west pillars was a green door, held by a rusty chain and a padlock with six keyholes. The little circular court within was flagged, and three rings of worn steps led to the well-head and the green wooden bucket inverted on the coping. Between the cracks of the flags sprang grass, and pink-starred centaury, and even a trail of mallow sprawled over the steps where Gillian lay in tears, as though to wreathe her head with its striped blooms.
"What luck you have," said Martin, "not only to live in an orchard, but to have a swing to swing in."
"It is our one diversion," said Joyce, "except when you come to play to us."
"It is delightful to swing," said little Joan invitingly.
"So it is," agreed Martin, "and I beg you to sit in the swing while I sit on this bough, and when I see your eyelids growing heavy with my tale I will start the rope and rouse you—thus!"
So saying, he lifted the littlest milkmaid lightly into her perch and gave her so vigorous a push that she cried out with delight, as at one moment the point of her shoe cleared the door of the Well-House, and at the next her heels were up among the apples. Then Martin ensconced himself upon a lower limb of the tree, which had a mossy cushion against the trunk as though nature or time had designed it for a teller of tales. The milkmaids sprang quickly into other branches around him, shaking a hail of sweet apples about his head. What he could he caught, and dropped into the swinger's lap, whence from time to time he helped himself; and she did likewise.
"Begin," said Joscelyn.
"A thought has occurred to me," said Martin Pippin, "and it is that my tale may disturb your master's daughter."
"We desire it to," said Joscelyn looking down on the Well-House and the yellow head of Gillian. "The fear is rather that you may not arouse her attention, so I hope that when you speak you will speak clearly. For to tell you the truth we have heard that nothing but six love-tales will wash from her mind the image of—"
"Of whom?" inquired Martin as she paused.
"It does not matter whom," said Joscelyn, "but I think the time is ripe to confess to you that the silly damsel is in love."
"The world is so full of wonders," said Martin Pippin, "that one ceases to be surprised at almost anything."
"Is love then," said little Joan, "so rare a thing in the world?"
"The rarest of all things," answered Martin, looking gravely into her eyes. "It is as rare as flowers in Spring."
"I am glad of that," said Joan; while Joscelyn objected, "But nothing is commoner."
"Do you think so?" said Martin. "Perhaps you are right. Yet Spring after Spring the flowers quicken my heart as though I were perceiving them for the first time in my life—yes, even the very commonest of them."
"What do you call the commonest?" asked Jessica.
"Could any be commoner," said Martin, "than Robin-run-by-the-Wall? Yet I think he has touched many a heart in his day."
And fixing his eyes on the weeper in the Well-House, Martin Pippin tried his lute and sang this song.
Run by the wall, Robin, Run by the wall! You might hear a secret A lady once let fall. If you hear her secret Tell it in my ear, And I'll whisper you another For her to overhear.
The weeper stirred very slightly.
"The song makes little sense," said Joscelyn, "and would make none at all if you called this flower by its right name of Jack-in-the-Hedge."
"Let us do so," said Martin readily, "and then the nonsense will run this way as easily as that."
Hide in the hedge, Jack, Hide in the hedge! You might catch a letter Dropped over the edge. If you catch her letter Slip it in my hand, And I'll write another That she'll understand.
As he concluded, Gillian lifted up her head, and putting her hair from her face gazed over the duckpond beyond the green wicket.
"The lady," said Joscelyn with some impatience, "who understand the letter must outdo me in wits, for I find no understanding whatever in your silly song. However, it seems to have brought our master's daughter out of her lethargy, and the moment is favorable to your tale. Therefore without further ado I beg you to begin."
"I will," said Martin, "and on my part entreat your forbearance while I relate to you the story of The King's Barn."
THE KING'S BARN
There was once, dear maidens, a King in Sussex of whose kingdom and possessions nothing remained but a single Barn and a change of linen. It was no fault of his. He was a very young king when he came into his heritage, and it was already dwindled to these proportions. Once his fathers had owned a beautiful city on the banks of the Adur, and all the lands to the north and the west were theirs, for a matter of several miles indeed, including many strange things that were on them: such as the Wapping Thorp, the Huddle Stone, the Bush Hovel where a Wise Woman lived, and the Guess Gate; likewise those two communities known as the Doves and the Hawking Sopers, whose ways of life were as opposite as the Poles. The Doves were simple men, and religious; but the Hawking Sopers were indeed a wild and rowdy crew, and it is said that the King's father had hunted and drunk with them until his estates were gambled away and his affairs decayed of neglect, and nothing was left at last but the solitary Barn which marked the northern boundary of his possessions. And here, when his father was dead, our young King sat on a tussock of hay with his golden crown on his head and his golden scepter in his hand, and ate bread and cheese thrice a day, throwing the rind to the rats and the crumbs to the swallows. His name was William, and beyond the rats and the swallows he had no other company than a nag called Pepper, whom he fed daily from the tussock he sat on.
But at the end of a week he said:
"It is a dull life. What should a King do in a Barn?"
So saying, he pulled the last handful of hay from under him, rising up quickly before he had time to fall down, and gave it to his nag; and next he tied up his scepter and crown with his change of linen in a blue handkerchief; and last he fetched a rope and a sack and put them on Pepper for bridle and saddle, and rode out of the Barn leaving the door to swing.
"Let us go south, Pepper," said he, "for it is warmer to ride into the sun than away from it, and so we shall visit my Father's lands that might have been mine."
South they went, with the great Downs ahead of them, and who knew what beyond? And first they came to the Hawking Sopers, who when they saw William approaching tumbled out of their dwelling with a great racket, crying to him to come and drink and play with them.
"Not I," said he. "For so I should lose my Barn to you, and such as it is it is a shelter, and my only one. But tell me, if you can, what should a King do in a Barn?"
"He should dance in it," said they, and went laughing and singing back to their cups.
"What sort of advice is this, Pepper?" said the King. "Shall we try elsewhere?"
The nag whinnied with unusual vehemence, and the King, taking this for yea, and not observing that she limped as she went, rode on to the Doves: the gentle gray-gowned Brothers who spent their days in pious works and their nights in meditation. Between the twelve hours of twilight and dawn they were pledged not to utter speech, but the King arriving there at noon they welcomed him with kind words, and offered him a bowl of rice and milk.
He thanked them, and when he had eaten and drink put to them his riddle.
"What should a King do in a Barn?"
They answered, "He should pray in it."
"This may be good advice," said the King. "Pepper, should we go further?"
The little nag whinnied till her sides shook, which the King took, as before, to be an affirmative. However, because it was Sunday he remained with the Doves a day and a night, and during such time as their lips were not sealed they urged him to become one of them, and found a new settlement of Brothers in his Barn. He spent his night in reflection, but by morning had come to no decision.
"To what better use could you dedicate it?" asked the Chief Brother, who was known as the Ringdove because he was the leader.
"None that I can think of," said the King, "but I fear I am not good enough."
"When you have passed our initiation," said the Ringdove, "you will be."
"Is it difficult?" asked William.
"No, it is very easy, and can be accomplished within a month. You have only to ride south till you come to the hills, on the highest of which you will see a Ring of beech-trees. Under the hills lies the little village of Washington, and there you may dwell in comfort through the week. But on each of the four Saturdays of the lunar month you must mount the hill at sunset and keep a vigil among the beeches till sunrise. And you must see that these Saturdays occur on the fourth quarters of the moon—once when she is in her crescent, once at the half, again at the full, and lastly when she is waning."
"And is this all?" said William. "It sounds very simple."
"Not quite all, but the rest is nearly as simple. You have but to observe four rules. First, to tell no living soul of your resolve during the month of initiation. Second, to keep your vigil always between the two great beeches in the middle of the Ring. Third, to issue forth at midnight and immerse your head in the Dewpond which lies on the hilltop to the west, and having done so to return to your watch between the trees. And fourth, to make no utterance on any account whatever from sunset to sunrise."
"Suppose I should sneeze?" inquired the King anxiously.
"There's no supposing about it," said the Ringdove. "Sneezing, seeing that your head will be extremely wet, is practically inevitable. But the rule applies only to such utterance as lies within human control. When the fourth vigil has been successfully accomplished, return to us for a blessing and the gray robe of our Order."
"But how," asked the King, "during my vigils shall I know when midnight is due?"
"In the third quarter after eleven a bird sings. At the beginning of its song go forth from the Ring, and at the ending plunge your head into the Pond. For on these nights the bird sings ceaselessly for fifteen minutes, but stops at the very moment of midnight."
"And is this really all?"
"This is all."
"How easy it is to become good," said William cheerfully. "I will begin at once."
So impatient was he to become a Brother Dove—
(But here Martin Pippin broke off abruptly, and catching the rope of the swing in his left hand he gave it a great lurch.
Joan: Oh! Oh! Oh!
Martin: I perceive, Mistress Joan, that you lose interest in my story. Your mouth droops.
Joan: Oh, no! Oh, no! It is only—it is a very nice story—but—
Martin: What cannot be said aloud can frequently be whispered.
He leaned his ear close to her mouth, and very shyly she whispered into it.
Joan (whispering very shyly): Why must the young King join a Brotherhood? I thought...this was to be a...love story.
Martin smiled and chose an apple from her lap.
"Keep this for me," said he, "until I ask for it; and if you are not then satisfied, neither will I be")
So impatient (resumed Martin) was the King to enter the Brotherhood, that he abandoned his idea of visiting the Huddle Stone and the Wapping Thorp (which would have taken him out of his course), and, without even waiting to break his fast, leaped on to Pepper's back and turned her head southwest towards the hills. And in his eagerness he failed to remark how Pepper stumbled at every second step. Before he had gone a mile he came to the Guess Gate.
Of the Guess Gate, as you may know, all men ask a question in passing through, and in the back-swing of the Gate it creaks an answer. So nothing more natural than that the King, having flung the Gate open, should cry aloud once more:
"Gate, Gate! What should a King do in a Barn?"
"Now at last," thought he, "I shall be told whether to dance or to pray in it." And he stood listening eagerly as the Gate hung an instant on its outward journey and then began to creak home.
"He—should—rule—in—it—he—should—rule—in—it—he—should—" squeaked the Guess Gate, and then latch clicked and it was silent.
This disconcerted William.
"Now I am worse off than ever," he sighed. "Pray, Pepper, can this advice be bettered?"
As usual when he questioned her, the nag pricked up her ears and whinnied so violently that he nearly fell off her back. Nevertheless, he kept Pepper's head in a beeline for Chanctonbury, never noticing how very ill she was going, and presently crossed the great High Road beyond which lay the Bush Hovel. The Wise Woman was at home; from afar the King saw her sitting outside the Hovel mending her broom with a withe from the Bush.
"Here if anywhere," rejoiced William, "I shall learn the truth."
He dismounted and approached the old woman, cap in hand.
"Wise Woman," he said respectfully, "you know most things, but do you know this—whether a King should dance or pray or rule in his Barn?"
"He should do all three, young man," said the Wise Woman.
"But—!" exclaimed William.
"I'm busy," snapped the Wise Woman. "You men will always be chattering, as though pots need never be stewed nor cobwebs swept." So saying, she went into the Hovel and slammed the door.
"Pepper," said the poor King, "I am at my wits' ends. Go where yours lead you."
At this Pepper whinnied in a perfect frenzy of delight, and the King had to clasp both arms round her neck to avoid tumbling off.
Now the little nag preferred roads to beelines over copses and ditches, and she turned back and ambled along the highway so very lamely that it became impossible even for her preoccupied rider not to perceive that she had cast all her four shoes.
"Poor beast!" he cried dismayed, "how has this happened, and where? Oh, Pepper, how could you be so careless? I have not a penny in my purse to buy you new shoes, my poor Pepper. Do you not remember where you lost them?"
The little nag licked her master's hand (for he had dismounted to examine her trouble), and looked at him with great eyes full of affection, and then she flung up her head and whinnied louder than ever. The sound of it was like nothing so much as laughter. Then she went on, hobbling as best she could, and the King walked by her side with his hand on her neck. In this way they came to a small village, and here the nag turned up a by-road and halted outside the blacksmith's forge. The smith's Lad stood within, clinking at the anvil, the smuttiest Lad smith ever had.
"Lad!" cried the King.
The Lad looked up from his work and came at once to the door, wiping his hands upon his leather apron.
"Where am I?" asked the King.
"In the village of Washington," said the Lad.
"What! Under the Ring?" cried the King.
"Yes, sir," said the Lad.
"A blessing on you!" said the King joyfully, and clapped his hand on the Lad's shoulder. "Pepper, you have solved the problem and led me to my destiny."
"Is Pepper your nag's name?" asked the blacksmith's Lad.
"It is," said the King; "her only one."
"Then she has one more name than she has shoes," said the Lad. "How came she to lose them?"
"I didn't notice," confessed the King.
"You must have been thinking very deeply," remarked the Lad. "Are you in love?"
"I am not quite twenty-one," said the King.
"I see. Do you want your nag shod?"
"I do. But I have spent my last penny."
"Earn another then," said the Lad.
"I did not even earn the last one," said the King shamefacedly. "I have never worked in my life."
"Why, where have you lived?" exclaimed the Lad.
"In a Barn."
"But one works in a Barn—"
"Stop!" cried the king, putting his fingers in his ears. "One prays in a Barn."
"Very likely," said the Lad, looking at him curiously. "Are you going to pray in one?"
"Yes," said the King. "When is the New Moon?"
"Hurrah!" cried the King. "That settles it. But what's to-day?"
"Alas!" sighed William, wondering how he should make shift to live for five days.
"I don't know what you mean, sir," said the Lad.
"I would tell you my meaning," said the King, "but am pledged not to."
Then the Lad said, "Let it pass. I have a proposal to make. My father is dead, and for two years I have worked the forge single-handed. Now I am willing to teach you to shoe your nag with four good shoes and strong, if you will meanwhile blow the bellows for whatever other jobs come to the forge; and if the shoes are not done by dinner-time you shall have a meal thrown in."
The King looked at the Lad kindly.
"I shall blow your bellows very badly," he said, "and shoe my nag still worse."
Said the Lad, "You'll learn in time."
"Not before dinner-time, I hope," said the King, "for I am very hungry."
"You look hungry," said the Lad. "It's a bargain then."
The King held out his hand, but the Lad suddenly whipped his behind his back. "It's so dirty, sir," he said.
"Give it me all the same," said the King; and they clasped hands.
The rest of that morning the King spent in blowing the bellows, and by dinner-time not so much as the first of Pepper's hoofs was shod. For a great deal of business came into the forge, and there was no time for a lesson. So the King and the Lad took their meal together, and the King was by this time nearly as black as his master. He would have washed himself, but the Lad said it was no matter, he himself having no time to wash from week's end to week's end. In the afternoon they changed places, and the King stood at the anvil and the Lad at the bellows. He was a good teacher, but the King made a poor job of it. By nightfall he had produced shoes resembling all the letters of the alphabet excepting U, and when at last he submitted to the Lad a shoe like nothing so much as a drunken S, his master shrugged and said:
"Zeal is praiseworthy within its limits, but the best of smiths does not attempt to make two shoes at once. Let us sup."
They supped; and afterwards the Lad showed the King a small bedroom as neat as a new pin.
"I shall sully the sheets," said William, "and you will excuse me if I fetch the kettle, which is on the boil."
"As you please," said the Lad, and took himself off.
In the morning the King came clean to breakfast, but the Lad was as black as he had been.
Tuesday passed as Monday had passed; now William took the bellows, marveling at his youthful master's deftness, and now the Lad blew, groaning at his pupil's clumsiness. By nightfall, however, he had achieved a shoe faintly recognizable as such. For a second time the King washed himself and slept again in the little trim chamber, but the Lad in the morning resembled midnight. In this way the week went by, the King's heart beating a little faster each morning as Saturday approached, and he wondered by what ruse he could explain his absence without creating suspicion or breaking his pledge.
On Saturday morning the Lad said to the King: "This is a half-day. You must make your shoe this morning or not at all. It is my custom at one o'clock to close the forge and go to visit my Great-Aunt. I will be work again on Monday, till when you must shift for yourself."
The King could hardly believe his luck in having matters so well settled, and he spent the morning so diligently that by noon he had produced a shoe which, if not that of a master-craftsman, was at least adaptable to the purpose for which it had been fashioned.
The Lad examined it and said reluctantly, "It will do," and proceeded to show the King how to fasten it to Pepper's hoof.
"Why," said the King, having the nag's off forefoot in his hand, "here's a stone in it. Small wonder she limped."
"It isn't a stone," said the Lad, extracting it, "it is a ruby."
And he exhibited to the King a ruby of such a glowing red that it was as though the souls of all the grapes of Burgundy had been pressed to create it.
"You are a rich man now," said the Lad quietly, "and can live as you will."
But William closed the Lad's fingers over the stone. "Keep it," he said, "for you have filled me for a week, and I have paid you with nothing but my breath."
"As you please," said the Lad carelessly, and, tossing the stone upon a shelf, locked up the forge. "Now I am going to my Great-Aunt. There's a cake in the larder."
So saying, he strolled away, and the King was left to his own devices. These consisted in bathing himself from head to foot till his body was as pure without as he desired his heart to be within; and in donning his fresh suit of linen. He would not break his fast, but waited, trembling and eager, till an hour before sundown, and then at last he set forth to mount the great hill with the sacred crown of trees upon its crest.
When at last he stood upon the boundary of the Ring, his heart sprang for joy in his breast, and his breath nearly failed him with amazement at the beauty of the world which lay outspread for leagues below him.
"Oh, lovely earth!" he cried aloud, "never till now have I known what beauty I lived in. How is it that we cannot see the wonder of our surroundings until we gaze upon them from afar? But if you look so fair from the hilltops, what must you appear from the very sky?" And lost in delight he turned his eyes upward, and was recalled to his senses by the sight of the sinking sun. "Lovely one, how nearly you have betrayed me!" he said, and smiling waved his hand to the dear earth, sealed up his lips, and entered the Ring.
And here between two midmost beeches he knelt down and buried his face in his hands, and prayed the spirits of that place to make him worthy.
The hours passed, quarter by quarter, and the King stayed motionless like one in a dream. Presently, however, the dream was faintly shaken by a little lirrup of sound, as light as rain dropping from leaves above a pool. Again and again the sweet round notes fell on the meditations of the King, and he remembered with entrancement that this was the tender signal by which he was summoned to the Pond. So, rising silently, he wandered through the trees, and keeping his eyes fixed on the soft dim turf, lest some new beauty should tempt him to speech, he went across the open hill the Pond. Here he knelt down again, listening to the childlike bird, until at last the young piping ceased with a joyous chuckle. And at that instant, reflected in the Pond, he saw the silver star that watches the invisible young moon, and dipped his head.
Oh, my dear maids! When he lifted it again, all wet and bewildered, he saw upon the opposite border of the Pond, a figure, the white figure of—a woman! a girl! a child! He could not tell, for she lay three parts in the shadowy water with her back towards him, and his gaze and senses swam; but in that faint starlight one bare and lovely arm, as white as the crescent moon, was clear to him, upcurved to her shadowy hair. So she reclined, and so he knelt, both motionless, and his heart trembled (even as it had trembled at the bird's song) with a wish to go near to her, or at least to whisper to her across the water. Indeed, he was on the point of doing so, when a sudden contraction seized him, his eyes closed in a delicious agony, and he sneezed once vigorously; and in that moment of shattering blackness he recalled his vow, and rising turned his back upon the vision and groped his way again to the shelter of the trees.
Here he remained till dawn in meditation, but as to the nature of his meditations I am, dear maidens, ignorant. Nor do I know in what restless wise he passed his Sunday.
It is enough to know that on Monday when he went into the forge he found the Lad already at work, and if he had been pitch-black at their parting he was no less so at their meeting. He appeared to be out of humor, and for some time regarded his apprentice with dissatisfaction, but only remarked at last:
"You look fatigued."
"My sleep was broken with dreams," said the King. "I am sorry if I am late. Let me to my shoeing. Since Saturday ended in success, I suppose I shall now finish the business without more ado."
He was, however, too hopeful as it appeared, for though he managed to fashion a shoe which was in his eyes the equal of the other, the Lad was captious and would not commend it.
"I should be an ill craftmaster," said he, "if I let you rest content on what you have already done. I made such a shoe as this on my thirteenth birthday, and my father's only praise was, You must do better yet.'"
So particular was the young smith that William spent the whole of another week in endeavoring to please him. This might have chafed the King, but that it agreed entirely with his desires to remain in that place, sleeping and eating at no cost to himself, and working so strenuously that his hands grew almost as hard as the metal he worked in; for the Lad now began to entrust him with small jobs of various sorts, although in the matter of the second shoe he refused to be satisfied.
When Saturday came, however, the King contrived a shoe so much superior to any he had yet made that the Lad, examining it, was compelled to say, "It is better than the other." Then Pepper, who always stood in a noose beside the door awaiting her moment, lifted up her near forefoot of her own accord, and the King took it in his hand.
"How odd!" he exclaimed a moment later. "The nag has a stone in this foot also. It is not strange that she went so ill."
"It is not a stone," said the Lad. "It is a pearl."
And he held out to the King a pearl of such a shining purity that it was as though it had been rounded within the spirit of a saint.
"This makes you a rich man," said the Lad moodily, "and you can journey whither you please."
But the King shook his head. "Keep it," he said, "for you have lodged me for a week, and I have given you only the clumsy service of my hands."
"Very well," said the Lad simply, and put the pearl in his pocket. "My Great-Aunt is expecting me. There's a cake in the larder."
So saying he walked off, and the King was left alone. As before, he bathed himself and changed his linen, and left the contents of the larder untouched; and an hour before sunset he climbed the hill for the second time, and presently stood panting on the edge of the Ring. And again a pang of wonder that was akin to pain shot through his heart at the loveliness of the world below him.
"Beautiful earth!" he cried once more, "how fair and dear you are become to me in your remoteness. But oh, if you appear so beautiful from this summit, what must you appear from the summit of the clouds?" And he glanced from the earth to the sky, and saw the sun running down his airy hill. "Dear Temptress!" he said, "how cunningly you would snare me from my purpose." And he kissed his hand to her thrice, sealed up his lips, and entered the Ring.
Between the two tall beeches he knelt down, and drowned the following hours in thought and prayer; till that deep lake of meditation was divided by the sound of singing, as though a shoal of silver fishes swam and leaped upon its surface, putting all quietness to flight, and troubling its waters with a million lovelinesses. For now it was as though the bird's enchanting song came partly from within and partly from without, and if the fall of its music shattered his dream like falling fish, certain it seemed to him that the fish had first leaped from his own heart, out of whose unsuspected caves darted a shoal of nameless longings. He too leaped up and darted through the trees, and with head bent down, for fear of he knew not what, made his way to the Pond. Here he knelt again, drinking in the tremulous song of the bird, as tremulous as youth and maidenhood, until at last it ceased with a sweet uncompleted cry of longing. And at that instant, in the mirror of the Pond, he saw the uncompleted disc of the half-moon, and dipped his head.
Ah wonder! when he lifted it again, dazzled and dripping, he saw across the Pond a figure rising from the water, the figure, as he could now perceive in the fuller light, of a girl, clear to the waist. Her face was half turned from him, and her hair flowed half to him and half away, but within that cloudy setting gleamed the lines of her lovely neck and one white shoulder and one moonlit breast, whose undercurve appeared to float upon the Pond like the petal of a waterlily. So he knelt on his side and she on hers, both motionless, and he heart leaped (even as it had leaped at the bird's song) with a longing to kneel beside and even touch that loveliness; or, if he could not, at least to call to her across the Pond so that he would turn and reveal to him what still was hidden. He was in fact about to do so, when suddenly his senses were overwhelmed with a sweet anguish, darkness fell on him, and from its very core he sneezed twice, violently. This interruption of the previous spell was sufficient to bring him to a realization of his peril, and rising hastily he ran back to the Ring, where he remained till morning. But to what pious thoughts he then committed himself I cannot tell you; neither in what feverish fashion he got through Sunday.
On Monday morning when he arrived at the forge he found the Lad at work before him, and ebony was not blacker than his face. He glanced at the King with some show of temper, but only said:
"You look worn out."
"I have had bad dreams," said the King. "Excuse me for being behind my time. I will try to make up for it by wasting no more, and fashioning instantly two shoes as good as that I made on Saturday."
But though he handled his tools with more dexterity than he had yet exhibited, the Lad petulantly pushed aside the first shoe he made, which to the King appeared to be, if anything, superior to the one he had made on Saturday. The Lad, however, quickly explained himself, saying:
"A master-smith who intends to make his apprentice his equal will not let him rest at the halfway house. I made a shoe like this when I was fourteen, and all my father said was, I have hopes of you.'"
So for yet another week the King's nose was kept to the grindstone, and it would have irritated most men to find their good work repeatedly condemned; but William was, as you may have observed, singularly sweet-tempered, besides which he desired nothing so much as to remain where he was. And for another five days he slept and ate and worked, until the muscles of his arms began to swell, and he swung the hammer with as much ease as his master, who now left a great part of the work entirely in his hands. Although in this matter of the third shoe he refused to be satisfied.
Nevertheless on Saturday morning the King, making a last effort before the forge was shut, submitted a shoe so far beyond anything he had yet achieved, that the Lad could not but say, "This is a good shoe." And Pepper, seeing them coming, lifted her off hind-foot to be shod.
"Now as I live!" cried the King. "Another stone! And how she contrived to hobble so far is a miracle."
"It isn't a stone," said the Lad, "it is a diamond."
And he presented to the King a diamond of such triumphant brilliance that it might have been conceived of the ambitions of the mightiest monarch of the earth.
"You now own surpassing wealth," said the Lad dejectedly, "and you have no more need to work."
But William would not even touch the stone. "Keep it," he said, "for you have befriended me for a week, and I have given you only the strength of my arms."
"Let it be so," said the Lad gently, and put the diamond in his belt. "I must not keep my Great-Aunt waiting. There's a cake in the larder."
So saying he went his way, and the King went his; which, as you may surmise, was to the bath and his clean clothes. He did not go into the larder, and an hour before sunset made the ascent of the hill, and for the third time stood like a conqueror upon the crest. And as he gazed over the lands below his heart throbbed with a passion for the earth that was half agony and half love, unless indeed it was the whole agony of love.
"Most beautiful earth!" he cried aloud, "only as you recede from me do I realize how necessary it is for me to possess you. How is it that when I possess you I know you not as I know you now? But oh! if you are so wonderful from these great hills, what must you be from the greater hills of air?" And he looked up, and saw the sun descending in the west. "Sweet earth," he sighed, "you would hold me when I should be gone, and never remind me that the moment to depart is due." And he stretched out his arms to her, sealed up his lips, and went into the Ring.
Once more he knelt between the giant beeches, and sank all thoughts in pious contemplation; till suddenly those still waters were convulsed as though with stormy currents, and a wild song beat through his breast, so that he could not believe it was the bird singing from a short distance: it was as though the storm of music broke from his singing heart—yes, from his own heart singing for some unexpressed fulfillment. He was barely conscious of going through the trees, with eyes shut tight against the outer world, but soon he was kneeling at the brink of the Pond, while the surge of joy and pain in the song broke on his spirit like waves upon a shore, or love upon a man and a woman—washed back, towered up, and broke on him again. At last on one full glorious phrase it ceased. And at that instant, deep in the Pond, he saw the full orb of the moon, and dipped his head.
Oh, when he lifted it, startled and illuminated, he saw on the further side of the Pond a woman standing. The moonlight bathed her form from head to foot, her hair was thrown behind her, and she stood facing him, so that in the cold clear light he could see her fully revealed: her strong tender face, her strong soft body, her strong slim legs, her strong and lovely arms. As white as mayblossom she was, and beauty went forth from her like fragrance from the shaken bough. So he knelt on his side and she stood on hers, both motionless, but gazing into each other's eyes, and his heart broke (even as it had broken at the bird's song) with a passion to take her in his arms, for it seemed to him that this alone would mend its breaking. Or if he might not do this, at least to send his need of her in a great cry across the Pond. And as his passion grew she slowly lifted her arms and opened them to him as though to bid him enter; and her lips parted, and she cried out, as though she were uttering the cry of his own soul:
All the joy and the pain, fulfilled, of the bird's song were gathered in that word.
Glorified he leaped up, his whole being answering the cry of hers, but before his lips could translate it he was gripped by a mighty agony, and sneeze after sneeze shook all his senses, so that he was utterly helpless. When he was able to look up again he saw the woman moving towards him round the Pond, and suddenly he clapped his hands over his eyes and fled towards the Ring, as though pursued by demons. Here he passed the remainder of the night, but in what sort of prayers I leave you to imagine; as also amid what ravings he passed his Sunday.
On Monday the Lad was again before him at the forge, and a crow's wing had looked milky beside his face. He did not raise his eyes as the King came in, but said:
"You look very ill." He said it furiously.
"I have had nightmares," said the King. "Pardon me if you can. I will get to work and make my final shoe."
But though he now had little more to learn in his craft, the Lad, when the shoe was made, picked it up in his pincers and flung it to the other end of the forge; yet the King now knew enough to know that few smiths could have made its equal. So he looked surprised; at which the Lad, controlling himself, said:
"When I pass your fourth shoe you will need no more masters—I forged a shoe like that one yonder when I was fifteen, and my father said of it, You will make a smith one day.'"
And on neither Tuesday nor Wednesday nor Thursday nor Friday could the King succeed in pleasing the Lad; the better his shoes the angrier grew his young master that they were not good enough. Yet between these gusts of temper he was gentle and remorseful, and once the King saw tears in his eyes, and another time the Lad came humbly to ask for pardon. Then William laughed and put out his hand, but, as once before, the Lad slipped his behind his back and said:
"It is so dirty, friend."
And this time he would not let William take it. So the King was forced instead to lay his arm about the Lad's shoulder, and press it tenderly; but the Lad made no response, and only stood hanging his head until the King removed his arm. All the same, when next the King made a shoe he was full of rage, and stamped on it, and ran out of the forge. Which surprised the King all the more because it was so excellent a shoe. Yet he was secretly glad of its rejection, for he felt it would break his heart to go away from that place; and he could think of no good cause for remaining, once Pepper was shod. So there he stayed, eating, sleeping, and working, while the thews of his back became as strong under the smooth skin as the thews of a beech-tree under the smooth bark; and his craft was such that the Lad at last left the whole of the work of the forge in his charge. For there was nothing he could not do surpassingly well. And this the Lad admitted, save only in the case of the fourth shoe.
But on Saturday, just before closing-time, the King set to and made a shoe so fine that when the Lad saw it he said quietly, "I could not make a better." Had he not said so he must have lied, or proved that he did know a masterpiece when he saw it. And he too good a craftsman for that, besides being honest.
Pepper instantly lifted up her near hind-foot.
"Upon my word!" exclaimed the King, "the world is full of stones, and Pepper has found them all. The wonder is that she did not fall down on the road."
"This is not a stone," said the Lad, "it is an opal."
And he displayed an opal of such marvelous changeability, such milk and fire shot with such shifting rainbows, that it was as though it had had birth of all the moods of all the women of all time.
"This enriches you for life," said the Lad gloomily, "and now you are free of masters for ever."
But William thrust his hands into his pockets. "Keep it," he said, "for this week you have given me love, and I have given you nothing but the sinews of my body."
The Lad looked at him and said, "I have given you hard words, and fits of temper, and much injustice."
"Have you?" said William. "I remember only your tenderness and your tears. So keep the opal in love's name."
The Lad tried to answer, but could not; and he slipped the opal under his shirt. Then he faltered, "My Great-Aunt—" and still he could not speak. But he made a third effort, and said, "There is a cake in the larder," and turned on his heel and went away quickly. And the King looked after him till he was out of sight, and then very slowly went to his bath and his fresh linen. But he left the cake where it was.
And he sat by the door of the forge with his face in his hands until the length of his shadow warned him that he must go. And he rose and went for the last time up the hill, but with a sinking heart; and when he stood on the top and gazed upon the beauty of the earth he had left below, in his breast was the ache of loss and longing for one he had loved, and with his eyes he tried to draw that beauty into himself, but the void in him remained unfulfilled. Yet never had her beauty been so great.
"Beloved and lovely earth!" he whispered, "why do you appear most fair and most desirable now that I am about to lose you? Why when I had you did you not hold me by force, and tell me what you were? Only now I discover you from mid-heaven—but oh! in what way should I discover you from heaven itself?" And he looked upward, and lo! a blurred sun shone upon him, swimming to its rest. "Farewell, dear earth!" said the King. "Since you cannot mount to me, and I may not descend to you." And he knelt upon the turf and laid his cheek and forehead to it, and then he rose, sealed up his lips, and passed into the Ring.
Between the two tall beeches he sank down, and all sense and thought and consciousness sank with him, as though his being had become a dead forgotten lake, hidden in a lifeless wood; where birds sang not, nor rain fell, nor fishes played, nor currents moved below the stagnant waters. But presently a wind seemed to wail among the trees, and the sound of it traveled over the King's senses, stirred them, and passed. But only to return again, moan over him, and trail away; and so it kept coming and going till first he heard, then listened to, and at last realized the haunting signal of the bird. And he went forth into the open night, his eyes wide apart but seeing nothing until he stumbled at the Pond and crouched beside it. The bird grew fainter and fainter, and presently the sound, like a ghost at dawn, ceased to exist; and at that instant, under the Pond, he beheld the lessening circle of the moon, and dipped his head.
Alas! when he lifted it, shivering and stunned, he saw the form he longed to see on the other side of the Pond; but not, as he had longed to see it, gazing at him with the love and glory of seven nights ago. Now she stood on the turf, half turned from him, and the wave of her hair blew to and fro like a cloud, now revealing her white side, now concealing it. And he looked, but she would not look. So he knelt on his side and she remained on hers, both motionless. And suddenly the impulse to sneeze arose within him, and at that instant she began to move—not towards him, as before, but away from him, downhill.
At that he could bear no more, and quelling the impulse with a mighty effort, he got upon his feet crying, "Beloved, stay! Beloved, stay, beloved!"
And he staggered round the Pound as quickly as his shaking knees would let him; but quicker still she slid away, and when he came where she had been the place was as empty as the sky in its moonless season. He called and ran about and called again; but he got no answer, nor found what he sought. All that night he spent in calling and running to and fro. What he did on Sunday you may know, and I may know, but he did not. On Sunday night he stayed beside the Pond, but whatever his hopes were they received no fulfillment. On Monday night he was there again, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday; and between the mornings and the nights he went from hill to hill, seeking her hiding-place who came to bathe in the lake. There was not a hill within a day's march that did not know him, from Duncton to Mount Harry. But on none of them he found the Woman. How he lived is a puzzle. Perhaps upon wild raspberries.
After the sun had set on Chanctonbury on Saturday night, he came exhausted to the Ring again, and stood on that high hill gazing earthward. But there was no light above or below, and he said:
"I have lost all. For the earth is swallowed in blackness, and the Woman has disappeared into space, and I myself have cast away my spiritual initiation. I will sit by the Pond till midnight, and if the bird sings then I will still hope, but if it does not I will dip my head in the water and not lift it again."
So he went and lay down by the Pond in the darkness, and the hours wore away. But as the time of the bird's song drew near he clasped his hands and prayed. But the bird did not sing; and when he judged that midnight was come, he got upon his knees and prepared to put his head under the water. And as he did so he saw, on the opposite side of the Pond, the feeble light of a lantern. He could not see who held it, because even as he looked the bearer blew out the light; but in that moment it appeared to him that she was as black as the night itself.
So for awhile he knelt upon his side, and she remained on hers, both trembling; but at last the King, dreading to startle her away, rose softly and went round the Pond to where he had seen her.
He said into the night in a shaking voice, "I cannot see you. If you are there, give me your hand."
And out of the night a shaking voice replied:
"It is so dirty, beloved."
Then he took her in his arms, and felt how she trembled, and he held her closely to him to still her, whispering:
"You are my Lad."
"Yes," she said in a low voice. "But wait."
And she slipped out of his embrace, and he heard her enter the Pond, and she stayed there as it seemed to him a lifetime; but presently she rose up, and even in that black night the whiteness of her body was visible to him, and she came to him as she was and laid her head on his breast and said:
"I am your Woman."
("I want my apple," said Martin Pippin.
"But is this the end?" cried little Joan.
"Why not?" said Martin. "The lovers are united."
Joscelyn: Nonsense! Of course it is not the end! You must tell us a thousand other things. Why was the Woman a woman on Saturday night and a lad all the rest of the week?
Joyce: What of the four jewels?
Jennifer: Which of the answers to the King's riddle was the right one?
Jessica: What happened to the cake?
Jane: What was her name?
"Please," said little Joan, "do not let this be the end, but tell us what they did next."
"Women will be women," observed Martin, "and to the end of time prefer unessentials to the essential. But I will endeavor to satisfy you on the points you name.")
In the morning William said to his beloved:
"Now tell me something of yourself. How come you to be so masterful a smith? Why do you live as a black Lad all the week and turn only into a white Woman on Saturdays? Have you really got a Great-Aunt, and where does she live? How old are you? Why were you so hard to please about the shoeing of Pepper? And why, the better my shoes the worse your temper? Why did you run away from me a week ago? Why did you never tell me who you were? Why have you tormented me for a whole month? What is your name?"
"Trust a man to ask questions!" said his beloved, laughing and blushing. "Is it not enough that I am your beloved?"
"More than enough, yet not nearly enough," said the King, "for there is nothing of yourself which you must not tell me in time, from the moment when you first stole barley sugar behind your father's back, down to that in which you first loved me."
"Then I had best begin at once," she smiled, "or a lifetime will not be long enough. I am eighteen years old and my name is Viola. I was born in Falmer, and my father was the best smith in all Sussex, and because he had no other child he made me his bellows-boy, and in time, as you know, taught me his trade. But he was, as you also know, a stern master, and it was not until, on my sixteenth birthday, I forged a shoe the equal of your last, that he said I could not make a better.' And so saying he died. Now I had no other relative in all the world except my Great-Aunt, the Wise Woman of the Bush Hovel, and her I had never seen; but I thought I could not do better in my extremity than go to her for counsel. So, shouldering my father's tools, I journeyed west until I came to her place, and found her trying to break in a new birch-broom that was still too green and full of sap to be easily mastered; and she was in a very bad temper. Good day, Great-Aunt,' I said, I am your Great-Niece Viola.' I have no more use for great nieces,' she snapped, than for little ones.' And she continued to tussle with the broomstick and took no further notice of me. Then I went into the Hovel, where a fire burned on the hearth, and I took out my tools and fashioned a bit on the hob; and when it was ready I took it to her and said, This will teach it its manners'; and she put the bit on the broom, which became as docile as a lamb. Great-Niece,' said she, it appears that I told you a lie this morning. What can I do for you?' Tell me, if you please, how I am to live now that my father is dead.' There is no need to tell you,' said she; you have your living at your fingers' ends.' But women cannot be smiths,' said I. Then become a lad,' said she, and ply your trade where none knows you; and lest men should suspect you by your face, which fools though they be they might easily do, let it be so sooted from week's end to week's end that none can discover what you look like; and if any one remarks on it, put it down to your trade.'
But Great-Aunt,' I said, I could not bear to go dirty from week's end to week's end.' If you will be so particular,' she said, take a bath every Saturday night and spend your Sundays with me, as fair as when you were a babe. And before you go to work again on Monday you shall once more conceal your fairness past all men's penetration.' But, dear Great-Aunt,' I pleaded, it may be that the day will come when I might not wish—'"