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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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."