"And I cannot touch her face And I cannot touch her hair, And I
kneel to empty shadows— Just memories of her grace; And her voice
sings in the winds And in the sobs of dawn And among the flowers at
night And from the brooks at sunrise And from the sea at sunset,
And I answer with vain callings … "
It was the Joy of the Sunset that brought us to speech. I was
gone a long way from my house, walking lonely-wise, and stopping
often that I view the piling upward of the Battlements of Evening,
and to feel the dear and strange gathering of the Dusk come over
all the world about me.
The last time that I paused, I was truly lost in a solemn joy of
the Glory of the Coming Night; and maybe I laughed a little in my
throat, standing there alone in the midst of the Dusk upon the
World. And, lo! my content was answered out of the trees that
bounded the country road upon my right; and it was so as that some
one had said: "And thou also!" in glad understanding, that I
laughed again a little in my throat; as though I had only a
half-believing that any true human did answer my laugh; but rather
some sweet Delusion or Spirit that was tuned to my mood.
But she spoke and called me by my name; and when I had gone to
the side of the road, that I should see her somewhat, and discover
whether I knew her, I saw that she was surely that lady, who for
her beauty was known through all of that sweet County of Kent as
Lady Mirdath the Beautiful; and a near neighbour to me; for the
Estates of her Guardian abounded upon mine.
Yet, until that time, I had never met her; for I had been so oft
and long abroad; and so much given to my Studies and my Exercises
when at home, that I had no further Knowledge of her than Rumour
gave to me odd time; and for the rest, I was well content; for as I
have given hint, my books held me, and likewise my Exercises; for I
was always an athlete, and never met the man so quick or so strong
as I did be; save in some fiction of a tale or in the mouth of a
Now, I stood instantly with my hat in my hand; and answered her
gentle bantering so well as I might, the while that I peered intent
and wondering at her through the gloom; for truly Rumour had told
no tale to equal the beauty of this strange maid; who now stood
jesting with so sweet a spirit, and claiming kinship of Cousinhood
with me, as was truth, now that I did wake to think.
And, truly, she made no ado; but named me frank by my lad's
name, and gave laughter and right to me to name her Mirdath, and
nothing less or more—at that time. And she bid me then to come up
through the hedge, and make use of a gap that was her own especial
secret, as she confessed, when she took odd leave with her maid to
some country frolic, drest as village maids; but not to deceive
many, as I dare believe.
And I came up through the gap in the hedge and stood beside her;
and tall she had seemed to me, when I looked up at her; and tall
she was, in truth; but indeed I was a great head taller. And she
invited me then to walk with her to the house, that I meet her
Guardian and give word to my sorrow that I had so long neglected to
make call upon them; and truly her eyes to shine with mischief and
delight, as she named me so for my amissness.
But, indeed, she grew sober in a moment, and she set up her
finger to me to hush, as that she heard somewhat in the wood that
lay all the way upon our right. And, indeed, something I heard too;
for there was surely a rustling of the leaves, and anon a dead twig
crackt with a sound clear and sharp in the stillness.
And immediately there came three men running out of the wood at
me; and I called to them sharply to keep off or beware of harm; and
I put the maid to my back with my left hand, and had my oak staff
ready for my use.
But the three men gave out no word of reply; but ran in at me;
and I saw somewhat of the gleam of knives; and at that, I moved
very glad and brisk to the attack; and behind me there went shrill
and sweet, the call of a silver whistle; for the Maid was whistling
for her dogs; and maybe the call was also a signal to the
men-servants of her house.
Yet, truly, there was no use in help that was yet to come; for
the need did be then and instant; and I nowise loath to use my
strength before my sweet cousin. And I stepped forward, briskly, as
I have told; and the end of my staff I drove into the body of the
left-ward man, so that he dropped like a dead man. And I hit very
sharply at the head of another, and surely crackt it for him; for
he made instantly upon the earth; but the third man I met with my
fist, and neither had he any great need of a second blow; but went
instant to join his companions, and the fight thus to have ended
before it was even proper begun, and I laughing a little with a
proper pride, to know the bewilderment that I perceived in the way
that the Lady Mirdath, my cousin, stood and regarded me through the
dusk of the hushed even.
But, indeed, there was no time left to us, before there came
bounding up, three great boar-hounds, that had been loosed to her
whistle; and she had some ado to keep the brutes off me; and I then
to beat them off the men upon the earth, lest they maul them as
they lay. And directly, there was a noise of men shouting, and the
light of lanthorns in the night, and the footmen of the house to
come running with lanthorns and cudgels; and knew not whether to
deal with me, or not, in the first moment, even as the dogs; but
when they saw the men upon the ground, and learned my name and saw
me proper, they kept well their distance and had no lack of
respect; but, indeed, my sweet cousin to have the most of any; only
that she showed no intent to keep distance of me; but to have a new
and deeper feeling of kinship than she at first had shown.
And the men-servants asked what should be done with the
foot-pads; seeing that they were now recovering. But, indeed, I
left the matter, along with some silver, to the servants; and very
sound justice they dealt out to the men; for I heard their cries a
good while after we had gone away.
Now, when we were come up to the Hall, my cousin must take me in
to her Guardian, Sir Alfred Jarles, an old man and venerable that I
knew a little in passing and because our estates abounded. And she
praised me to my face, yet quaintly-wise; and the old man, her
Guardian thanked me most honourably and with a nice courtesy; so
that I was a welcome house-friend from that time onward.
And I stayed all that evening, and dined, and afterward went out
again into the home-grounds with the Lady Mirdath; and she more
friendly to me than ever any woman had been; and seemed to me as
that she had known me always. And, truly, I had the same feeling in
my heart towards her; for it was, somehow, as though we knew each
the way and turn of the other, and had a constant delight to find
this thing and that thing to be in common; but no surprise; save
that so pleasant a truth had so natural a discovery.
And one thing there was that I perceived held the Lady Mirdath
all that dear fore-night; and this was, indeed, the way that I had
my pleasure so easy with the three foot-pads. And she asked me
plainly whether I was not truly very strong; and when I laughed
with young and natural pride, she caught my arm suddenly to
discover for herself how strong I might be. And, surely, she loosed
it even the more sudden, and with a little gasping of astonishment,
because it was so great and hard. And afterward, she walked by me
very silent, and seeming thoughtful; but she went never any great
way off from me.
And, truly, if the Lady Mirdath had a strange pleasure in my
strength, I had likewise a constant wonder and marvel in her
beauty, that had shown but the more lovely in the candle-light at
But there were further delights to me in the days that came; for
I had happiness in the way that she had pleasure of the Mystery of
the Evening, and the Glamour of Night, and the Joy of Dawn, and all
And one evening, that I ever remember, as we wandered in the
park-lands, she began to say—half unthinking—that it was truly an
elves-night. And she stopped herself immediately; as though she
thought I should have no understanding; but, indeed, I was upon
mine own familiar ground of inward delight; and I replied in a
quiet and usual voice, that the Towers of Sleep would grow that
night, and I felt in my bones that it was a night to find the
Giant's Tomb, or the Tree with the Great Painted Head, or—And
surely I stopped very sudden; for she gripped me in that moment,
and her hand shook as she held me; but when I would ask her what
ailed, she bid me, very breathless, to say on, to say on. And, with
a half understanding, I told her that I had but meant to speak of
the Moon Garden, that was an olden and happy fancy of mine.
And, in verity, when I said that, the Lady Mirdath cried out
something in a strange low voice, and brought me to a halt, that
she might face me. And she questioned me very earnest; and I
answered just so earnest as she; for I was grown suddenly to an
excitement, in that I perceived she knew also. And, in verity, she
told me that she had knowledge; but had thought that she was alone
in the world with her knowledge of that strange land of her dreams;
and now to find that I also had travelled in those dear, strange
dream lands. And truly the marvel of it—the marvel of it! As she to
say time and oft. And again, as we walked, she gave out word that
there was little wonder she had been urged to call to me that
night, as she saw me pause upon the road; though, indeed, she had
learned of our cousin-ship before, having seen me go by on my horse
pretty oft, and inquired concerning me; and mayhap daintily irked
that I had so little heed of Lady Mirdath the Beautiful. But,
indeed, I had thought of other matters; yet had been human enough,
had I but met her proper before I see her.
Now you must not think that I was not utter stirred by the
wonder of this thing, that we had both a dreamful knowledge of the
same matters, of which each had thought none other knew. Yet, when
I questioned more, there was much that had been in my fancies that
was foreign to her, and likewise much that had been familiar to
her, that was of no meaning to me. But though there was this, that
brought a little regret to us, there would be, time and again, some
new thing that one told, that the other knew and could finish the
telling of, to the gladness and amazement of both.
And so shall you picture us wandering and having constant
speech, so that, hour by hour, we grew gladly aged in dear
knowledge and sweet friendship of the other.
And truly, how the time passed, I know not; but there came
presently a hullabaloo, and the shouts of men's voices and the
baying of dogs, and the gleam of lanthorns, so that I knew not what
to think; until, very sudden, and with a sweet and strange little
laughter, the Lady Mirdath to perceive that we had missed the hours
utter in our converse; so that her Guardian (made uneasy because of
the three foot-pads) had ordered a search. And we all that time
a-wander together in happy forgetfulness.
And we turned homeward, then, and came towards the lights; but
indeed, the dogs found us before we were come there; and they had
grown to know me now, and leaped about me, barking very friendly;
and so in a minute the men had discovered us, and were gone back to
tell Sir Jarles that all was well.
And this was the way of our meeting and the growing of our
acquaintance, and the beginning of my great love for Mirdath the
Now, from that time onward, evening by evening would I go
a-wander along the quiet and country road that led from my estate
to the estate of Sir Jarles. And always I went inward by the
hedge-gap; and oft I should find the Lady Mirdath walking in that
part of the woods; but always with her great boar-hounds about her;
for I had begged that she do this thing for her sweet safety; and
she to seem wishful to pleasure me; but truly to be just so oft
utter perverse in diverse matters; and to strive to plague me, as
though she would discover how much I would endure and how far she
might go to anger me.
And, truly, well I remember how that one night, coming to the
hedge-gap, I saw two country-maids come thence out from the woods
of Sir Jarles'; but they were naught to me, and I would have gone
upward through the gap, as ever; only that, as they passed me, they
curtseyed somewhat over-graceful for rough wenches. And I had a
sudden thought, and came up to them to see them more anigh; and
truly I thought the taller was surely the Lady Mirdath. But,
indeed, I could not be sure; for when I asked who she did be, she
only to simper and to curtsey again; and so was I very natural all
in doubt; but yet sufficient in wonder (having some knowledge of
the Lady Mirdath) to follow the wenches, the which I did.
And they then, very speedy and sedate, as though I were some
rack-rape that they did well to be feared of alone at night; and so
came at last to the village green, where a great dance was a-foot,
with torches, and a wandering fiddler to set the tune; and ale in
And the two to join the dance, and danced very hearty; but had
only each the other for a partner, and had a good care to avoid the
torches. And by this, I was pretty sure that they were truly the
Lady Mirdath and her maid; and so I took chance when they had
danced somewhat my way, to step over to them, and ask boldly for a
dance. But, indeed, the tall one answered, simpering, that she was
promised; and immediately gave her hand to a great hulking
farmer-lout, and went round the green with him; and well punished
she was for her waywardness; for she had all her skill to save her
pretty feet from his loutish stampings; and very glad she was to
meet the end of the dance.
And I knew now for certainty that it was Mirdath the Beautiful,
despite her plan of disguise, and the darkness and the wench's
dress and the foot-gear that marred her step so great. And I walked
across to her, and named her, whispering, by name; and gave her
plain word to be done of this unwisdom, and I would take her home.
But she to turn from me, and she stamped her foot, and went again
to the lout; and when she had suffered another dance with him, she
bid him be her escort a part of the way; the which he was nothing
And another lad, that was mate to him, went likewise; and in a
moment, so soon as they were gone away from the light of the
torches, the rough hind-lads made to set their arms about the
waists of the two wenches, not wetting who they had for companions.
And the Lady Mirdath was no longer able to endure, and cried out in
her sudden fear and disgust, and struck the rough hind that
embraced her, so hard that he loosed her a moment, swearing great
oaths. And directly he came back to her again, and had her in a
moment, to kiss her; and she, loathing him to the very death, beat
him madly in the face with her hands; but to no end, only that I
was close upon them. And, in that moment, she screamed my name
aloud; and I caught the poor lout and hit him once, but not to harm
him overmuch; yet to give him a long memory of me; and afterward I
threw him into the side of the road. But the second hind, having
heard my name, loosed from the tiring-maid, and ran for his life;
and, indeed, my strength was known all about that part.
And I caught Mirdath the Beautiful by her shoulders, and shook
her very soundly, in my anger. And afterward, I sent the maid
onward; and she, having no word from her Mistress to stay, went
forward a little; and in this fashion we came at last to the
hedge-gap, with the Lady Mirdath very hushed; but yet walking anigh
to me, as that she had some secret pleasure of my nearness. And I
led her through the gap, and so homeward to the Hall; and there bid
her good-night at a side door that she held the key of. And, truly,
she bid me good-night in an utter quiet voice; and was almost as
that she had no haste to be gone from me that night.
Yet, when I met her on the morrow, she was full of a constant
impudence to me; so that, having her alone to myself, when the dusk
was come, I asked her why she would never be done of her
waywardness; because that I ached to have companionship of her;
and, instead, she denied my need. And, at that, she was at once
very gentle; and full of a sweet and winsome understanding; and
surely knew that I wished to be rested; for she brought out her
harp, and played me dear olden melodies of our childhood-days all
that evening; and so had my love for her the more intent and glad.
And she saw me that night to the hedge-gap, having her three great
boar-hounds with her, to company her home again. But, indeed, I
followed her afterwards, very silent, until I saw her safe into the
Hall; for I would not have her alone in the night; though she
believed that I was then far away on the country road. And as she
walked with her dogs, one or another would run back to me, to nose
against me friendly-wise; but I sent them off again very quiet; and
she had no knowledge of aught; for she to go singing a love-song
quietly all the way home. But whether she loved me, I could not
tell; though she had a nice affection for me.
Now, on the following evening, I went somewhat early to the gap;
and lo! who should be standing in the gap, talking to the Lady
Mirdath; but a very clever-drest man, that had a look of the Court
about him; and he, when I approached, made no way for me through
the gap; but stood firm, and eyed me very insolent; so that I put
out my hand, and lifted him from my way.
And lo! the Lady Mirdath turned a bitterness of speech upon me
that gave me an utter pain and astonishment; so that I was assured
in a moment that she had no true love for me, or she had never
striven so to put me to shame before the stranger, and named me
uncouth and brutal to a smaller man. And, indeed, you shall
perceive how I was in my heart in that moment.
And I saw that there was some seeming of justice in what the
Lady Mirdath said; but yet might the man have shown a better
spirit; and moreover Mirdath the Beautiful had no true call to
shame me, her true friend and cousin, before this stranger. Yet did
I not stop to argue; but bowed very low to the Lady Mirdath; and
afterward I bowed a little to the man and made apology; for,
indeed, he was neither great nor strong-made; and I had been better
man to have shown courtesy to him; at least in the first.
And so, having done justice to my own respect, I turned and went
on, and left them to their happiness.
Now, I walked then, maybe twenty good miles, before I came to my
own home; for there was no rest in me all that night, or ever,
because that I was grown deadly in love of Mirdath the Beautiful;
and all my spirit and heart and body of me pained with the dreadful
loss that I was come so sudden upon.
And for a great week I had my walks in another direction; but in
the end of that week, I must take my walk along the olden way, that
I might chance to have but a sight of My Lady. And, truly, I had
all sight that ever man did need to put him in dread pain and
jealousy; for, truly, as I came in view of the gap, there was the
Lady Mirdath walking just without the borders of the great wood;
and beside her there walked the clever-drest man of the Court, and
she suffered his arm around her, so that I knew they were lovers;
for the Lady Mirdath had no brothers nor any youthful men kin.
Yet, when Mirdath saw me upon the road, she shamed in a moment
to be so caught; for she put her lover's arm from about her, and
bowed to me, a little changed of colour in the face; and I bowed
very low—being but a young man myself—; and so passed on, with my
heart very dead in me. And as I went, I saw that her lover came
again to her, and had his arm once more about her; and so, maybe,
they looked after me, as I went very stiff and desperate; but,
indeed, I looked not back on them, as you may think.
And for a great month then, I went not near to the gap; for my
love raged in me, and I was hurt in my pride; and, truly, neither
had a true justice been dealt to me by the Lady Mirdath. Yet in
that month, my love was a leaven in me, and made slowly a sweetness
and a tenderness and an understanding that were not in me before;
and truly Love and Pain do shape the Character of Man.
And in the end of that time, I saw a little way into Life, with
an understanding heart, and began presently to take my walks again
past the gap; but truly Mirdath the Beautiful was never to my
sight; though one evening I thought she might be not a great way
off; for one of her great boar-hounds came out of the wood, and
down into the road to nose against me, very friendly, as a dog oft
doth with me.
Yet, though I waited a good time after the dog had left me, I
had no sight of Mirdath, and so passed on again, with my heart
heavy in me; but without bitterness, because of the understanding
that was begun to grow in my heart.
Now, there passed two weary and lonely weeks, in which I grew
sick to have knowledge of the beautiful maid. And, truly, in the
end of that time, I made a sudden resolving that I would go in
through the gap, and come to the home-grounds about the Hall, and
so maybe have some sight of her.
And this resolving I had one evening; and I went out
immediately, and came to the gap, and went in through the gap, and
so by a long walking to the gardens about the Hall. And, truly,
when I was come there, I saw a good light of lanthorns and torches,
and a great company of people dancing; and all drest in quaint
dress; so that I knew they had a festival for some cause. And there
came suddenly a horrid dread into my heart that this might be the
marriage-dance of the Lady Mirdath; but, indeed, this was
foolishness; for I had surely heard of the marriage, if there had
been any. And, truly, in a moment, I remembered that she was come
one-and-twenty years of age on that day, and to the end of her
ward-ship; and this surely to be festival in honour of the
And a very bright and pretty matter it was to watch, save that I
was so heavy in the heart with loneliness and longing; for the
company was great and gay, and the lights plentiful and set all
about from the trees; and in leaf-made arbours about the great
lawn. And a great table spread with eating matters and silver and
crystal, and great lamps of bronze and silver went all a-down one
end of the lawn; and the dance constant upon the other part.
And surely, the Lady Mirdath to step out of the dance, very
lovely drest; yet seeming, to mine eyes, a little pale in the
looming of the lights. And she to wander to a seat to rest; and,
indeed, in a moment, there to be a dozen youths of the great
families of the country-side, in attendance about her, making talk
and laughter, and each eager for her favour; and she very lovely in
the midst of them, but yet, as I did think, lacking of somewhat,
and a little pale-seeming, as I have told; and her glance to go
odd-wise beyond the groupt men about her; so that I understood in a
moment that her lover was not there, and she to be a-lack in the
heart for him. Yet, why he was not there, I could not suppose, save
that he might have been called back to the Court.
And, surely, as I watched the other young men about her, I
burned with a fierce and miserable jealousy of them; so that I
could near have stept forth and plucked her out from among them,
and had her to walk with me in the woods, as in the olden days,
when she also had seemed near to love. But, truly, what use to
this? For it was not they who held her heart, as I saw plain; for I
watched her, with an eager and lonesome heart, and knew that it was
one small man of the Court that was lover to her, as I have
And I went away again then, and came not near to the gap for
three great months, because that I could not bear the pain of my
loss; but in the end of that time, my very pain to urge me to go,
and to be worse than the pain of not going; so that I found myself
one evening in the gap, peering, very eager and shaken, across the
sward that lay between the gap and the woods; for this same place
to be as an holy ground to me; for there was it that first I saw
Mirdath the Beautiful, and surely lost my heart to her in that one
And a great time I stayed there in the gap, waiting and watching
hopelessly. And lo! sudden there came something against me,
touching my thigh very soft; and when I looked down, it was one of
the boar-hounds, so that my heart leaped, near frightened; for
truly My Lady was come somewhere nigh, as I did think.
And, as I waited, very hushed and watchful; yet with an utter
beating heart; surely I heard a faint and low singing among the
trees, so utter sad. And lo! it was Mirdath singing a broken love
song, and a-wander there in the dark alone, save for her great
And I harked, with strange pain in me, that she did be so in
pain; and I ached to bring her ease; yet moved not, but was very
still there in the gap; save that my being was all in turmoil.
And presently, as I harked, there came a slim white figure out
from among the trees; and the figure cried out something, and came
to a quick pause, as I could see in the half-dark. And lo! in that
moment, there came a sudden and unreasoned hope into me; and I came
up out of the gap, and was come to Mirdath in a moment, calling
very low and passionate and eager: "Mirdath! Mirdath! Mirdath!"
And this way I came to her; and her great dog that was with me,
to bound beside me, in thought, mayhap, that it was some game. And
when I came to the Lady Mirdath, I held out my hands to her, not
knowing what I did; but only the telling of my heart that needed
her so utter, and craved to ease her of her pain. And lo! she put
out her arms to me, and came into mine arms with a little run. And
there she bode, weeping strangely; but yet with rest upon her; even
as rest was come sudden and wondrous upon me.
And sudden, she moved in mine arms, and slipt her hands to me,
very dear, and held her lips up to me, like some sweet child, that
I kiss her; but, indeed, she was also a true woman, and in honest
and dear love of me.
And this to be the way of our betrothal; and simple and wordless
it was; yet sufficient, only that there is no sufficiency in
Now, presently, she loosed herself out of mine arms, and we
walked homeward through the woods, very quiet, and holding hands,
as children do. And I then in a while to ask her about the man of
the Court; and she laughed very sweet into the silence of the wood;
but gave me no answer, save that I wait until we were come to the
And when we were come there, she took me into the great hall,
and made a very dainty and impudent bow, mocking me. And so made me
known to another lady, who sat there, upon her task of
embroidering, which she did very demure, and as that she had also a
dainty Mischief lurking in her.
And truly, the Lady Mirdath never to be done of naughty
laughter, that made her dearly breathless with delight, and to sway
a little, and set the trembling of pretty sounds in her throat; and
surely she must pull down two great pistols from an arm-rack, that
I fight a duel to the death with the lady of the embroidering, who
held her face down over her work, and shook likewise with the
wickedness of her laughter that she could not hide.
And in the end, the Lady of the Embroidering looked up sudden
into my face; and I then to see somewhat of the mischief in a
moment; for she had the face of the man of the Court suit, that had
been lover to Mirdath.
And the Lady Mirdath then to explain to me how that Mistress
Alison (which was her name) was a dear and bosom friend, and she it
was that had been drest in the Court suit to play a prank for a
wager with a certain young man who would be lover to her, an he
might. And I then to come along, and so speedy to offence that
truly I never saw her face plain, because that I was so utter
jealous. And so the Lady Mirdath had been more justly in anger than
I supposed, because that I had put hands upon her friend, as I have
And this to be all of it, save that they had planned to punish
me, and had met every evening at the gap, to play at lovers,
perchance I should pass, so that I should have greater cause for my
jealousy, and truly they to have a good revenge upon me; for I had
suffered very great a long while because of it.
Yet, as you do mind, when I came upon them, the Lady Mirdath had
a half-regret, that was very natural, because even then she was in
love of me, as I of her; and because of this, she drew away, as you
shall remember, being—as she confessed—suddenly and strangely
troubled and to want me; but afterwards as much set again to my
punishment, because that I bowed so cold and went away. And indeed
well I might.
Yet, truly, all was safe ended now, and I utter thankful and
with a mad delight in the heart; so that I caught up Mirdath, and
we danced very slow and stately around the great hall, the while
that Mistress Alison whistled us a tune with her mouth, which she
could very clever, as many another thing, I wot.
And each day and all day after this Gladness, Mirdath and I
could never be apart; but must go a-wander always together, here
and there, in an unending joy of our togetherness.
And in a thousand things were we at one in delight; for we had
both of us that nature which doth love the blue of eternity which
gathers beyond the wings of the sunset; and the invisible sound of
the starlight falling upon the world; and the quiet of grey
evenings when the Towers of Sleep are builded unto the mystery of
the Dusk; and the solemn green of strange pastures in the
moonlight; and the speech of the sycamore unto the beech; and the
slow way of the sea when it doth mood; and the soft rustling of the
night clouds. And likewise had we eyes to see the Dancer of the
Sunset, casting her mighty robes so strange; and ears to know that
there shakes a silent thunder over the Face of Dawn; and much else
that we knew and saw and understood together in our utter joy.
Now, there happened to us about this time a certain adventure
that came near to cause the death of Mirdath the Beautiful; for one
day as we wandered, as ever, like two children in our contentment,
I made remark to Mirdath that there went only two of the great
boar-hounds with us; and she then told me that the third was to the
kennels, being sick.
Yet, scarce had she told me so much; ere she cried out something
and pointed; and lo! I saw that the third hound came towards us, at
a run, yet very strange-seeming in his going. And in a moment,
Mirdath cried out that the hound was mad; and truly, I saw then
that the brute slavered as he came running.
And in a moment he was upon us, and made never a sound; but
leaped at me in one instant of time; all before I had any thought
of such intent. But surely, My Beautiful One had a dreadful love
for me, for she cast herself at the dog, to save me, calling to the
other hounds. And she was bitten in a moment by the brute, as she
strove to hold him off from me. But I to have him instant by the
neck and the body, and brake him, so that he died at once; and I
cast him to the earth, and gave help to Mirdath, that I draw the
poison from the wounds.
And this I did so well as I might, despite that she would have
me stop. And afterwards, I took her into mine arms, and ran very
fierce all the long and weary way to the Hall, and with hot skewers
I burned the wounds; so that when the doctor came, he to say I have
saved her by my care, if indeed she to be saved. But, truly, she
had saved me in any wise, as you shall think; so that I could never
be done of honour to her.
And she very pale; but yet to laugh at my fears, and to say that
she soon to have her health, and the wounds healed very speedy;
but, indeed, it was a long and bitter time before they were proper
healed, and she so well as ever. Yet, in time, so it was; and an
utter weight off my heart.
And when Mirdath was grown full strong again, we set our wedding
day. And well do I mind how she stood there in her bridal dress, on
that day, so slender and lovely as may Love have stood in the Dawn
of Life; and the beauty of her eyes that had such sober sweetness
in them, despite the dear mischief of her nature; and the way of
her little feet, and the loveliness of her hair; and the dainty
rogue-grace of her movements; and her mouth an enticement, as that
a child and a woman smiled out of the one face. And this to be no
more than but an hint of the loveliness of My Beautiful One.
And so we were married.
Mirdath, My Beautiful One, lay dying, and I had no power to hold
Death backward from such dread intent. In another room, I heard the
little wail of the child; and the wail of the child waked my wife
back into this life, so that her hands fluttered white and
desperately needful upon the coverlid.
I kneeled beside My Beautiful One, and reached out and took her
hands very gentle into mine; but still they fluttered so needful;
and she looked at me, dumbly; but her eyes beseeching.
Then I went out of the room, and called gently to the Nurse; and
the Nurse brought in the child, wrapped very softly in a long,
white robe. And I saw the eyes of My Beautiful One grow clearer
with a strange, lovely light; and I beckoned to the Nurse to bring
the babe near.
My wife moved her hands very weakly upon the coverlid, and I
knew that she craved to touch her child; and I signed to the Nurse,
and took my child in mine arms; and the Nurse went out from the
room, and so we three were alone together.
Then I sat very gentle upon the bed; and I held the babe near to
My Beautiful One, so that the wee cheek of the babe touched the
white cheek of my dying wife; but the weight of the child I kept
off from her.
And presently, I knew that Mirdath, My Wife, strove dumbly to
reach for the hands of the babe; and I turned the child more
towards her, and slipped the hands of the child into the weak hands
of My Beautiful One. And I held the babe above my wife, with an
utter care; so that the eyes of my dying One, looked into the young
eyes of the child. And presently, in but a few moments of time;
though it had been someways an eternity, My Beautiful One closed
her eyes and lay very quiet. And I took away the child to the
Nurse, who stood beyond the door. And I closed the door, and came
back to Mine Own, that we have those last instants alone
And the hands of my wife lay very still and white; but presently
they began to move softly and weakly, searching for somewhat; and I
put out my great hands to her, and took her hands with an utter
care; and so a little time passed.
Then her eyes opened, quiet and grey, and a little dazed
seeming; and she rolled her head on the pillow and saw me; and the
pain of forgetfulness went out of her eyes, and she looked at me
with a look that grew in strength, unto a sweetness of tenderness
and full understanding.
And I bent a little to her; and her eyes told me to take her
into mine arms for those last minutes. Then I went very gentle upon
the bed, and lifted her with an utter and tender care, so that she
lay suddenly strangely restful against my breast; for Love gave me
skill to hold her, and Love gave My Beautiful One a sweetness of
ease in that little time that was left to us.
And so we twain were together; and Love seemed that it had made
a truce with Death in the air about us, that we be undisturbed; for
there came a drowse of rest even upon my tense heart, that had
known nothing but a dreadful pain through the weary hours.
And I whispered my love silently to My Beautiful One, and her
eyes answered; and the strangely beautiful and terrible moments
passed by into the hush of eternity.
And suddenly, Mirdath My Beautiful One, spoke,—whispering
something. And I stooped gently to hark; and Mine Own spoke again;
and lo! it was to call me by the olden Love Name that had been mine
through all the utter lovely months of our togetherness.
And I began again to tell her of my love, that should pass
beyond death; and lo! in that one moment of time, the light went
out of her eyes; and My Beautiful One lay dead in mine arms …
My Beautiful One… .