The Wanderings of Arasmon

by Mary De Morgan

Long ago there lived a wandering musician and his wife, whose names were Arasmon and Chrysea. Arasmon played upon a lute to which Chrysea sang, and their music was so beautiful that people followed them in crowds and gave them as much money as they wanted. When Arasmon played all who heard him were silent from wonder and admiration, but when Chrysea sang they could not refrain from weeping, for her voice was more beautiful than anything they had ever heard before.

Both were young and lovely, and were as happy as the day was long, for they loved each other dearly, and liked wandering about seeing new countries and people and making sweet music. They went to all sorts of places, sometimes to big cities, sometimes to little villages, sometimes to lonely cottages by the sea-shore, and sometimes they strolled along the green lanes and fields, singing and playing so exquisitely, that the very birds flew down from the trees to listen to them.

One day they crossed a dark line of hills, and came out on a wild moorland country, where they had never been before. On the side of the hill they saw a little village, and at once turned towards it, but as they drew near Chrysea said,

"What gloomy place is this? See how dark and miserable it looks."

"Let us try to cheer it with some music," said Arasmon, and began to play upon his lute, while Chrysea sang. One by one the villagers came out of their cottages and gathered round them to listen, but Chrysea thought she had never before seen such forlorn-looking people. They were thin and bent, their faces were pale and haggard, also their clothes looked old and threadbare, and in some places were worn into holes. But they crowded about Arasmon and Chrysea, and begged them to go on playing and singing, and as they listened the women shed tears, and the men hid their faces and were silent. When they stopped, the people began to feel in their pockets as if to find some coins, but Arasmon cried,

"Nay, good friends, keep your money for yourselves. You have not too much of it, to judge by your looks. But let us stay with you for to-night, and give us food and lodging, and we shall think ourselves well paid, and will play and sing to you as much as you like."

"Stay with us as long as you can, stay with us always," begged the people; and each one entreated to be allowed to receive the strangers and give them the best they had. So Arasmon and Chrysea played and sang to them till they were tired, and at last, when the heavy rain began to fall, they turned towards the village, but as they passed through its narrow streets they thought the place itself looked even sadder than its inmates. The houses were ill-built, and seemed to be almost tumbling down. The streets were uneven and badly kept. In the gardens they saw no flowers, but dank dark weeds. They went into a cottage which the people pointed out to them, and Arasmon lay down by the fire, calling to Chrysea to rest also, as they had walked far, and she must be weary. He soon fell asleep, but Chrysea sat at the door watching the dark clouds as they drifted over the darker houses. Outside the cottage hung a blackbird in a cage, with drooping wings and scanty plumage. It was the only animal they had yet seen in the village, for of cats or dogs or singing-birds there seemed to be none.

When she saw it, Chrysea turned to the woman of the house, who stood beside her, and said,

"Why don't you let it go? It would be much happier flying about in the sunshine."

"The sun never shines here," said the woman sadly. "It could not pierce through the dark clouds which hang over the village. Besides, we do not think of happiness. It is as much as we can do to live."

"But tell me," said Chrysea, "what is it that makes you so sad and your village such a dreary place? I have been to many towns in my life, but to none which looked like this."

"Don't you know," said the woman, "that this place is spell-bound?"

"Spell-bound?" cried Chrysea. "What do you mean?"

The woman turned and pointed towards the moor. "Over yonder," she said, "dwells a terrible old wizard by whom we are bewitched, and he has a number of little dark elves who are his servants, and these are they who make our village what you see it. You don't know how sad it is to live here. The elves steal our eggs, and milk, and poultry, so that there is never enough for us to eat, and we are half-starved. They pull down our houses, and undo our work as fast as we do it. They steal our corn when it is standing in sheaves, so that we find nothing but empty husks;" and as she ceased speaking the woman sighed heavily.

"But if they do all this harm," said Chrysea, "why do not some of you go to the moor and drive them away?"

"It is part of the spell," said the woman, "that we can neither hear nor see them. I have heard my grandfather say that in the old time this place was no different to others, but one day this terrible old magician came and offered the villagers a great deal of money if they would let him dwell upon the moor; for before that it was covered with golden gorse and heather, and the country folk held all their merrymakings there, but they were tempted with the gold, and sold it, and from that day the elves have tormented us; and as we cannot see them, we cannot get rid of them, but must just bear them as best we may."

"That is a sad way to speak," said Chrysea. "Cannot you find out what the spell really is and break it?"

"It is a song," said the woman, "and every night they sing it afresh. It is said that if any one could go to the moor between midnight and dawn, and could hear them singing it, and then sing through the tune just as they themselves do, the charm would be broken, and we should be free. But it must be some one who has never taken their money, so we cannot do it, for we can neither see nor hear them."

"But I have not taken their money," said Chrysea. "And there is no tune I cannot sing when I have heard it once. So I will go to the moor for you and break the spell."

"Nay, do not think of such a thing," cried the woman. "For the elves are most spiteful, and you don't know what harm they might do to you, even if you set us free."

Chrysea said no more, but all the evening she thought of what the woman had told her, and still stood looking out into the dismal street. When she went to bed she did not sleep, but lay still till the clock struck one. Then she rose softly, and wrapping herself in a cloak, opened the door and stepped out into the rain. As she passed, she looked up and saw the blackbird crouching in the bottom of its cage. She opened the cage door to let it fly, but still it did not move, so she lifted it out in her hand.

"Poor bird!" said she gently; "I wish I could give this village its liberty as easily as I can give you yours," and carrying it with her she walked on towards the moor. It was a large waste piece of land, and looked as though it had been burnt, for the ground was charred and black, and there was no grass or green plant growing on it, but there were some blackened stumps of trees, and to these Chrysea went, and hid herself behind one to wait and see what would come. She watched for a long time without seeing any one, but at last there rose from the ground not far from her a lurid gleam, which spread and spread until it became a large circle of light, in the midst of which she saw small dark figures moving, like ugly little men. The light was now so bright that she could distinguish each one quite plainly, and never before had she seen anything so ugly, for they were black as ink, and their faces were twisted and looked cruel and wicked.

They joined hands, and, forming a ring, danced slowly round, and, as they did so, the ground opened, and there rose up in their centre a tiny village exactly like the spell-bound village, only that the houses were but a few inches high. Round this the elves danced, and then they began to sing. Chrysea listened eagerly to their singing, and no sooner had they done, than she opened her lips and sang the same tune through from beginning to end just as she had heard it.

Her voice rang out loud and clear, and at the sound the little village crumbled and fell away as though it had been made of dust.

The elves stood silent for a moment, and then with a wild cry they all rushed towards Chrysea, and at their head she saw one about three times the size of the others, who appeared to be their chief.

"Come, quickly, let us punish the woman who has dared to thwart us," he cried. "What shall we change her to?"

"A frog to croak on the ground," cried one.

"No, an owl to hoot in the night," cried another.

"Oh, for pity's sake," implored Chrysea, "don't change me to one of these loathsome creatures, so that, if Arasmon finds me, he will spurn me."

"Hear her," cried the chief, "and let her have her will. Let us change her to no bird or beast, but to a bright golden harp, and thus shall she remain, until upon her strings some one shall play our tune, which she has dared to sing."

"Agreed!" cried the others, and all began to dance round Chrysea and to sing as they had sung around the village. She shrieked and tried to run, but they stopped her on every side. She cried, "Arasmon! Arasmon!" but no one came, and when the elves' song was done, and they disappeared, all that was left was a little gold harp hanging upon the boughs of the tree, and only the blackbird who sat above knew what had come of poor Chrysea.

When morning dawned, and the villagers awoke, all felt that some great change had taken place. The heavy cloud which hung above the village had cleared away; the sun shone brightly, and the sky was blue; streams which had been dry for years, were running clear and fresh: and the people all felt strong, and able to work again; the trees were beginning to bud, and in their branches sang birds, whose voices had not been heard there for many a long year. The villagers looked from one to another and said, "Surely the spell is broken; surely the elves must have fled;" and they wept for joy.

Arasmon woke with the first beam of the sun, and finding Chrysea was not there, he rose, and went to seek her in the village, calling, "Chrysea, Chrysea! the sun is up and we must journey on our way;" but no Chrysea answered, so he walked down all the streets, calling "Chrysea! come, Chrysea!" but no Chrysea came. Then he said,

"She has gone into the fields to look for wild flowers, and will soon be back." So he waited for her patiently, but the sun rose high, the villagers went to their work, and she did not return. At this Arasmon was frightened, and asked every one he met if they had seen her, but each one shook his head and said "No, they had seen nothing of her."

Then he called some of the men together and told them that his wife had wandered away, and he feared lest she might lose herself and go still farther, and he asked them to help him to look for her. So some went one way, and some another, to search, and Arasmon himself walked for miles the whole country round, calling "Chrysea! Chrysea!" but no answer came.

The sun was beginning to set and twilight to cover the land, when Arasmon came on to the moor where Chrysea had met her fate. That, too, was changed. Flowers and grass were already beginning to grow there, and the children of the village, who till now had never dared to venture near it, were playing about it. Arasmon could hear their voices as he came near the tree against which Chrysea had leaned, and on which now hung the golden harp. In the branches above sat the blackbird singing, and Arasmon stopped and listened to its song, and thought he had never heard a bird sing so sweetly before. For it sang the magic song by which Chrysea had broken the elves' spell, the first tune it had heard since it regained its liberty.

"Dear blackbird," said Arasmon, looking up to it, "I wish your singing could tell me where to find my wife Chrysea;" and as he looked up he saw a golden harp hanging upon the branches, and he took it down and ran his fingers over the strings. Never before did harp give forth such music. It was like a woman's voice, and was most beautiful, but so sad that when Arasmon heard it he felt inclined to cry. It seemed to be calling for help, but he could not understand what it said, though each time he touched the strings it cried, "Arasmon, Arasmon, I am here! It is I, Chrysea;" but though Arasmon listened, and wondered at its tones, yet he did not know what it said.

He examined it carefully. It was a beautiful little harp, made of pure gold, and at the top was a pair of golden hands and arms clasped together.

"I will keep it," said Arasmon, "for I never yet heard a harp with such a tone, and when Chrysea comes she shall sing to it."

But Chrysea was nowhere to be found, and at last the villagers declared she must be lost, or herself have gone away on purpose, and that it was vain to seek her farther. At this Arasmon was angry, and saying that he would seek Chrysea as long as he had life, he left the village to wander over the whole world till he should find her. He went on foot, and took with him the golden harp.

He walked for many, many miles far away from the village and the moor, and when he came to any farmhouses, or met any country people on the road he began to play, and every one thronged round him and stared, in breathless surprise at his beautiful music. When he had done he would ask them, "Have you seen my wife Chrysea? She is dressed in white and gold, and sings more sweetly than any of the birds of heaven."

But all shook their heads and said, "No, she had not been there;" and whenever he came to a strange village, where he had not been before, he called, "Chrysea, Chrysea, are you here?" but no Chrysea answered, only the harp in his hands cried whenever he touched its strings, "It is I, Arasmon! It is I, Chrysea!" but though he thought its notes like Chrysea's voice, he never understood them.

He wandered for days and months and years through countries and villages which he had never known before. When night came and he found himself in the fields alone, he would lie down upon his cloak and sleep with his head resting upon the harp, and if by chance one of its golden threads was touched it would cry, "Arasmon, awake, I am here!" Then he would dream that Chrysea was calling him, and would wake and start up to look for her, thinking she must be close at hand.

One day, towards night, when he had walked far, and was very tired, he came to a little village on a lonely, rocky coast by the sea, and he found that a thick mist had come up, and hung over the village, so that he could barely see the path before him as he walked. But he found his way down on to the beach, and there stood a number of fisherwomen, trying to look through the mist towards the sea, and speaking anxiously.

"What is wrong, and for whom are you watching, good folk?" he asked them.

"We are watching for our husbands," answered one. "They went out in their boats fishing in the early morning, when it was quite light, and then arose this dreadful fog, and they should have come back long ago, and we fear lest they may lose their way in the darkness and strike on a rock and be drowned."

"I too, have lost my wife Chrysea," cried Arasmon. "Has she passed by here? She had long golden hair, and her gown was white and gold, and she sang with a voice like an angel's."

The women all said, "No, they had not seen her;" but still they strained their eyes towards the sea, and Arasmon also began to watch for the return of the boats.

They waited and waited, but they did not come, and every moment the darkness grew thicker and thicker, so that the women could not see each other's faces, though they stood quite near together.

Then Arasmon took his harp and began to play, and its music floated over the water for miles through the darkness, but the women were weeping so for their husbands, that they did not heed it.

"It is useless to watch," said one. "They cannot steer their boats in such a darkness. We shall never see them again."

"I will wait all night till morning," said another, "and all day next day, and next night, till I see some sign of the boats, and know if they be living or dead," but as she stopped speaking, there rose a cry of "Here they are," and two or three fishing-boats were pushed on to the sand close by where they stood, and the women threw their arms round their husbands' necks, and all shouted for joy.

The fishermen asked who it was who had played the harp; "For," they said, "it was that which saved us. We were far from land, and it was so dark that we could not tell whether to go to left or to right, and had no sign to guide us to shore; when of a sudden we heard the most beautiful music, and we followed the sound, and came in quite safely.

"'Twas this good harper who played while we watched," said the women, and one and all turned to Arasmon, and told him with tears of their gratitude, and asked him what they could do for him, or what they could give him in token of their thankfulness; but Arasmon shook his head and said, "You can do nothing for me, unless you can tell me where to seek my wife Chrysea. It is to find her I am wandering;" and when the women shook their heads, and said again they knew nothing of her, the harp-strings as he touched them cried again,

"Arasmon! Arasmon! listen to me. It is I, Chrysea;" but again no one understood it, and though all pitied him, no one could help him.

Next morning when the mist had cleared away, and the sun was shining, a little ship set sail for foreign countries, and Arasmon begged the captain to take him in it that he might seek Chrysea still farther.

They sailed and sailed, till at last they came to the country for which they were bound; but they found the whole land in confusion, and war and fighting everywhere, and all the people were leaving their homes and hiding themselves in the towns, for fear of a terrible enemy, who was invading them. But no one hurt Arasmon as he wandered on with his harp in his hand, only no one would stop to answer him, when he asked if Chrysea had been there, for every one was too frightened and hurried to heed him.

At last he came to the chief city where the King dwelt, and here he found all the men building walls and fortresses, and preparing to defend the town, because they knew their enemy was coming to besiege it, but all the soldiers were gloomy and low-spirited.

"It is impossible for us to conquer," they said, "for there are three of them to every one of us, and they will take our city and make our King prisoner."

That night as the watchmen looked over the walls, they saw in the distance an immense army marching towards them, and their swords and helmets glittered in the moonlight.

Then they gave the signal, and the captains gathered together their men to prepare them for fighting; but so sure were they of being beaten that it was with difficulty their officers could bring them to the walls.

"It would be better," said the soldiers, "to lay down our arms at once and let the enemy enter, for then we should not lose our lives as well as our city and our wealth."

When Arasmon heard this he sat upon the walls of the town, and began to play upon his harp, and this time its music was so loud and clear, that it could be heard far and wide, and its sound was so exultant and joyous, that when the soldiers heard it they raised their heads, and their fears vanished, and they started forward, shouting and calling that they would conquer or be killed.

Then the enemy attacked the city, but the soldiers within met them with so much force that they were driven back, and had to fly, and the victorious army followed them and drove them quite out of their country, and Arasmon went with them, playing on his harp, to cheer them as they went.

When they knew the victory was theirs, all the captains wondered what had caused their sudden success, and one of the lieutenants said, "It was that strange harper who went with us, playing on his harp. When our men heard it, they became as brave as lions." So the captains sent for Arasmon, but when he came they were astonished to see how worn and thin he looked, and could scarcely believe it was he who had made such wonderful music, for his face had grown thin and pale, and there were gray locks in his hair.

They asked him what he would like to have, saying they would give him whatever he would choose, for the great service he had done them.

Arasmon only shook his head and said,

"There is nothing I want that you can give me. I am seeking the whole world round to find my wife Chrysea. It is many many years since I lost her. We two were as happy as birds on the bough. We wandered over the world singing and playing in the sunshine. But now she is gone, and I care for nothing else." And the captains looked pityingly at him, for they all thought him mad, and could not understand what the harp said when he played on it again, and it cried,

"Listen, Arasmon! I too am here—I, Chrysea."

So Arasmon left that city, and started again, and wandered for days and months and years.

He came by many strange places, and met with many strange people, but he found no trace of Chrysea, and each day he looked older and sadder and thinner.

At length he came to a country where the King loved nothing on earth so much as music. So fond of it was he, that he had musicians and singers by the score, always living in his palace, and there was no way of pleasing him so well as by sending a new musician or singer. So when Arasmon came into the country, and the people heard how marvellously he played, they said at once, "Let us take him to the King. The poor man is mad. Hear how he goes on asking for his wife; but, mad or not, his playing will delight the King. Let us take him at once to the palace." So, though Arasmon would have resisted them, they dragged him away to the court, and sent a messenger to the King, to say they had found a poor mad wandering harper, who played music the like of which they had never heard before.

The King and Queen, and all the court, sat feasting when the messenger came in saying that the people were bringing a new harper to play before his majesty.

"A new harper!" quoth he. "That is good hearing. Let him be brought here to play to us at once."

So Arasmon was led into the hall, and up to the golden thrones on which sat the King and Queen. A wonderful hall it was, made of gold and silver, and crystal and ivory, and the courtiers, dressed in blue and green and gold and diamonds, were a sight to see. Behind the throne were twelve young maids dressed in pure white, who sang most sweetly, and behind them were the musicians who accompanied them on every kind of instrument. Arasmon had never in his life seen such a splendid sight.

"Come here," cried the King to him, "and let us hear you play." And the singers ceased singing, and the musicians smiled scornfully, for they could not believe Arasmon's music could equal theirs. For he looked to be in a most sorry plight. He had walked far, and the dust of the roads was on him. His clothes were worn threadbare, and stained and soiled, while his face was so thin and anxious and sad that it was pitiful to see; but his harp of pure shining gold was undulled, and untarnished. He began to play, and then all smiles ceased, and the women began to weep, and the men sat and stared at him in astonishment. When he had done the King started up, and throwing his arms about his neck, cried, "Stay with me. You shall be my chief musician. Never before have I heard playing like yours, and whatever you want I will give you." But when he heard this, Arasmon knelt on one knee and said,

"My gracious lord, I cannot stay. I have lost my wife Chrysea. I must search all over the world till I find her. Ah! how beautiful she was, and how sweetly she sang; her singing was far sweeter than even the music of my harp."

"Indeed!" cried the King. "Then I too would fain hear her. But stay with me, and I will send messengers all over the world to seek her far and near, and they will find her much sooner than you."

So Arasmon stayed at the court, but he said that if Chrysea did not come soon he must go farther to seek her himself.

The King gave orders that he should be clad in the costliest clothes and have all he could want given to him, and after this he would hear no music but Arasmon's playing, so all the other musicians were jealous, and wished he had never come to the palace. But the strangest thing was that no one but Arasmon could play upon his golden harp. All the King's harpers tried, and the King himself tried also, but when they touched the strings there came from them a strange, melancholy wailing, and no one but Arasmon could bring out its beautiful notes.

But the courtiers and musicians grew more and more angry with Arasmon, till at last they hated him bitterly, and only wanted to do him some harm; for they said,

"Who is he, that our King should love and honour him before us? After all, it is not his playing which is so beautiful; it is chiefly the harp on which he plays, and if that were taken from him he would be no better than the rest of us;" and then they began to consult together as to how they should steal his harp.

One hot summer evening Arasmon went into the palace gardens, and sat down to rest beneath a large beech-tree, when a little way off he saw two courtiers talking together, and heard that they spoke of him, though they did not see him or know he was there.

"The poor man is mad," said one; "of that there is little doubt, but, mad or not, as long as he plays on his harp the King will not listen to any one else."

"The only way is to take the harp from him," said the other. "But it is hard to know how to get it away, for he will never let it go out of his hands."

"We must take it from him when he is sleeping," said the first.

"Certainly," said the other; and then Arasmon heard them settle how and when they would go to his room at night to steal his harp.

He sat still till they were gone, and then he rose, and grasping it tenderly, turned from the palace and walked away through the garden gates.

"I have lost Chrysea," he said, "and now they would take from me even my harp, the only thing I have to love in all this world, but I will go away, far off where they will never find me," and when he was out of sight, he ran with all his might, and never rested till he was far away on a lonely hill, with no one near to see him.

The stars were beginning to shine though it was not yet dark. Arasmon sat on a stone and looked at the country far and near. He could hear the sheep bells tinkling around him, and far, far off in the distance he could see the city and the palace he had left.

Then he began to play on his harp, and as he played the sheep stopped browsing and drew near him to listen.

The stars grew brighter and the evening darker, and he saw a woman carrying a child coming up the hill.

She looked pale and tired, but her face was very happy as she sat down not far from Arasmon and listened to his playing, whilst she looked eagerly across the hill as if she watched for some one who was coming. Presently she turned and said, "How beautifully you play; I never heard music like it before, but what makes you look so sad? Are you unhappy?"

"Yes," said Arasmon, "I am very miserable. I lost my wife Chrysea many years ago, and now I don't know where she can be."

"It is a year since I have seen my husband," said the woman. "He went to the war a year ago, but now there is peace and he is coming back, and to-night he will come over this hill. It was just here we parted, and now I am come to meet him."

"How happy you must be," said Arasmon. "I shall never see Chrysea again," and as he spoke he struck a chord on the harp, which cried, "O Arasmon, my husband! why do you not know me? It is I, Chrysea."

"Do not say that," continued the woman; "you will find her some day. Why do you sit here? Was it here you parted from her?"

Then Arasmon told her how they had gone to a strange desolate village and rested there for the night, and in the morning Chrysea was gone, and that he had wandered all over the world looking for her ever since.

"I think you are foolish," said the woman; "perhaps your wife has been waiting for you at that village all this time. I would go back to the place where I parted from her if I were you, and wait there till she returns. How could I meet my husband if I did not come to the spot where we last were together? We might both wander on for ever and never find each other; and now, see, here he is coming," and she gave a cry of joy and ran to meet a soldier who was walking up the hill.

Arasmon watched them as they met and kissed, and saw the father lift the child in his arms, then the three walked over the hill together, and when they were gone he sat down and wept bitterly. "What was it she said?" he said. "That I ought to go back to the spot where we parted. She will not be there, but I will go and die at the place where I last saw her." So again he grasped his harp and started. He travelled many days and weeks by land and sea, till late one day he came in sight of the hill on which stood the little village. But at first he could not believe that he had come to the right place, so changed did all appear. He stopped and looked around him in astonishment. He stood in a shady lane, the arching trees met over his head. The banks were full of spring flowers, and either side of the hedge were fields full of young green corn.

"Can this be the wretched bare road down which we walked together? I would indeed it were, and that she were with me now," said he. When he looked across to the village, the change seemed greater still. There were many more cottages, and they were trim and well kept, standing in neat gardens full of flowers. He heard the cheerful voices of the peasants, and the laughter of the village children. The whole place seemed to be full of life and happiness. He stopped again upon the mound where he and Chrysea had first played and sung.

"It is many, many a long year since I was here," he said. "Time has changed all things strangely; but it would be hard to say which is the more altered, this village or I, for then it was sunk in poverty and wretchedness, and now it has gained happiness and wealth, and I, who was so happy and glad, now am broken-down and worn. I have lost my only wealth, my wife Chrysea. It was just here she stood and sang, and now I shall never see her again or hear her singing."

There came past him a young girl driving some cows, and he turned and spoke to her. "Tell me, I beg," he said, "is not your village much changed of late years? I was here long ago, but I cannot now think it the same place, for this is as bright and flourishing a town as I have ever seen, and I remember it only as a dreary tumble-down village where the grass never grew."

"Oh!" said the girl, "then you were here in our bad time, but we do not now like to speak of that, for fear our troubles should return. Folks say we were spell-bound. 'Tis so long ago that I can scarcely remember it, for I was quite a little child then. But a wandering musician and his wife set us free; at least, everything began to mend after they came, and now we think they must have been angels from heaven, for next day they went, and we have never seen them since."

"It was I and my wife Chrysea," cried Arasmon. "Have you seen her? Has she been here? I have sought all over the world ever since, but I cannot find her, and now I fear lest she be dead."

The girl stared at him in surprise. "You? you poor old man! Of what are you talking? You must surely be mad to say such things. These musicians were the most beautiful people upon the earth, and they were young and dressed in shining white and gold, and you are old and gray and ragged, and surely you are very ill too, for you seem to be so weak that you can scarcely walk. Come home with me, and I will give you food and rest till you are better."

Arasmon shook his head. "I am seeking Chrysea," he said, "and I will rest no more till I have found her;" and the girl, seeing that he was determined, left him alone and went on her way driving her cows before her.

When she had gone Arasmon sat by the wayside and wept as though his heart would break. "It is too true," he said; "I am so old and worn that when I find her she will not know me," and as he again fell a-weeping his hand struck the harp-strings, and they cried, "I have watched you through all these years, my Arasmon. Take comfort, I am very near," and his tears ceased, and he was soothed by the voice of the harp, though he knew not why.

Then he rose. "I will go to the moor," he said, "and look for the tree on which I found my harp, and that will be my last resting-place, for surely my strength will carry me no farther." So he tottered slowly on, calling, as he went, in a weak voice, "Chrysea, my Chrysea! are you here? I have sought you over the world since you left me, and now that I am old and like to die, I am come to seek you where we parted."

When he came upon the moor, he wondered again at the change of all the country round. He thought of the charred, blackened waste on which he had stood before, and now he looked with amazement at the golden gorse, the purple heather, so thick that he could scarcely pick his way amongst it.

"It is a beautiful place now," he said, "but I liked it better years ago, deserted and desolate though it was, for my Chrysea was here."

There were so many trees upon the common that he could not tell which was the one on which his harp had hung, but, unable to go any farther, he staggered and sank down beneath a large oak-tree, in whose branches a blackbird was singing most sweetly. The sun was setting just as of yore when he had found his harp, and most of the birds' songs were over, but this one bird still sang sweet and clear, and Arasmon, tired and weak though he was, raised his head and listened.

"I never heard bird sing like that," he said. "What is the tune it sings? I will play it on my harp before I die." And with what strength remained to him he reached forth his trembling hand, and grasping his harp struck upon it the notes of the bird's song, then he fell back exhausted, and his eyes closed.

At once the harp slid from his hand, and Chrysea stood beside him—Chrysea dressed as of old, in shining white and gold, with bright hair and eyes.

"Arasmon!" she cried, "see, it is I, Chrysea!" but Arasmon did not move. Then she raised her voice and sang more sweetly than the bird overhead, and Arasmon opened his eyes and looked at her.

"Chrysea!" cried he; "I have found my wife Chrysea!" and he laid his head on her bosom and died. And when Chrysea saw it her heart broke, and she lay beside him and died without a word.

In the morning when some of the villagers crossed the common they saw Arasmon and Chrysea lying beneath the oak-tree in each other's arms, and drew near them, thinking they were asleep, but when they saw their faces they knew they were dead.

Then an old man stooped and looked at Chrysea, and said,

"Surely it is the woman who came to us and sang long ago, when we were in our troubles; and, though he is sadly changed and worn, it is like her husband who played for her singing."

Then came the girl who had driven the cows and told them how she had met Arasmon, and all he had said to her.

"He searched everywhere for his wife, he said," said she. "I am glad he has found her. Where could she be?"

"Would that we had known it was he," said they all, "how we would have greeted him! but see, he looks quite content and as if he wished nothing more, since he has found his wife Chrysea."