The Silver Christ
Genistrello is a wild place in the Pistoiese hills.
Its name is derived from the genista or broom
which covers many an acre of the soil, and shares
with the stone pine and the sweet chestnut the
scanty earth which covers its granite and sandstone.
It is beautiful exceedingly; but its
beauty is only seen by those to whom it is a
dead letter which they have no eyes to read.
It is one of the many spurs of the Apennines
which here lie overlapping one another in curve
upon curve of wooded slopes with the higher
mountains rising behind them; palaces, which
once were fortresses, hidden in their valleys, and
ruined castles, or deserted monasteries, crowning
From some of these green hills the sea is
visible, and when the sun sets where the sea is
and the red evening glows behind the distant
peaks, it is lovely as a poet's dream.
On the side of this lonely hill, known as
Genistrello, there dwelt a man of the name of
Castruccio Lascarisi. He was called 'Caris' by
the whole countryside; indeed, scarcely any
knew that he had another patronymic, so entirely
amongst these people does the nickname
extinguish, by its perpetual use, the longer
His family name was of Greek extraction undoubtedly;
learned Greeks made it familiar in
the Italian Renaissance, at the courts of
Lorenzo and of Ludovico; but how it had
travelled to the Pistoiese hills to be borne by unlearned
hinds none knew, any more than any know
who first made the red tulip blossom as a wild
flower amidst the wheat, or who first sowed the
bulb of the narcissus amongst the wayside grass.
He lived miles away from the chapel and the
hamlet. He had a little cabin in the heart of
the chestnut woods, which his forefathers had
lived in before him; they had no title which
they could have shown for it except usage, but
that had been title enough for them, and was
enough for Caris.
It had been always so. It would be always
so. His ideas went no further. The autumnal
migration was as natural and inevitable to him
as to the storks and herons and wild duck
which used to sail over his head, going southward
like himself as he walked through the
Tuscan to the Roman Maremma. But his dislike
to the Maremma winters was great, and
had never changed in him since he had trotted
by his father's side, a curly-pated baby in a
little goatskin shirt looking like a Correggio's
What he longed for, and what he loved, were
the cool heights of Genistrello and the stone
hut with the little rivulet of water gushing at
its threshold. No one had ever disturbed his
people there. It was a square little place built
of big unmortared stones in old Etruscan
fashion; the smoke from the hearth went out
by a hole in the roof, and a shutter and door of
unplaned wood closed its only apertures.
The lichen and weeds and mosses had welded
the stones together, and climbed up over its
conical rush roof. No better home could be
needed in summer-time; and when the cold
weather came, he locked the door and went
down with his pack on his back and a goatshair
belt round his loins to take the familiar way to
the Roman Maremma.
Caris was six-and-twenty years old; he
worked amongst the chestnut woods in summer
and went to the Maremma for field labour in
the winter, as so many of these husbandmen
do; walking the many leagues which separate
the provinces, and living hardly in both seasons.
The songs they sing are full of allusions to this
semi-nomadic life, and the annual migration has
been a custom ever since the world was young—when
the great Roman fleets anchored where
now are sand and marsh, and stately classic
villas lifted their marble to the sun where now
the only habitation seen is the charcoal-burner's
rush-roofed, moss-lined hut.
Caris was a well-built, lithe, slender son of the
soil, brown from sun and wind, with the straight
features and the broad low brows of the classic
type, and great brown eyes like those of the
oxen which he drove over the vast plains down
in the Maremma solitudes. He knew nothing
except his work.
He was not very wise, and he was wholly
unlearned, but he had a love of nature in his
breast, and he would sit at the door of his hut
at evening time, with his bowl of bean-soup
between his knees, and often forget to eat in his
absorbed delight as the roseate glow from the
vanished sunrays overspread all the slopes of
the Pistoiese Apennines and the snow-crowned
crests of the Carara mountains.
'What do you see there, goose?' said a charcoal-burner,
once passing him as he sat thus
upon his threshold with the dog at his feet.
Caris shrugged his shoulders stupidly and
half-ashamed. He could not read the great
book outspread upon the knees of the mountains,
yet he imperfectly felt the beauty of its
The only furniture in the cabin was a table
made of a plank, two rude benches, and one
small cupboard; the bed was only dried leaves
and moss. There were a pipkin, two platters,
and a big iron pot which swung by a cord and
a hook over the stones where the fire, when
lighted, burned. They were enough; he
would not have known what to do with more if
he had had more. He was only there from
May to October; and in the fragrant summers
of Italian chestnut woods, privation is easily
borne. The winter life was harder and more
hateful; yet it never occurred to him to do else
than to go to Maremma; his father and grandfather
had always gone thither, and as naturally
as the chestnuts ripen and fall, so do the men in
autumn join the long lines of shepherds and
drovers and women and children and flocks and
herds which wind their way down the mountain
slopes and across the level wastes of plain and
marsh to seek herbage and work for the winter-time.
It never entered the head of Caris, or of the
few who knew him or worked with him, to
wonder how he and his had come thither. They
were there as the chestnut-trees were, as the
broom was, as the goats and squirrels and wood-birds
were there. The peasant no more wonders
about his own existence than a stone does.
For generations a Lascaris had lived in that
old stone hut which might itself be a relic of
an Etruscan tomb or temple. No one was
concerned to know further.
The peasant does not look back; he only
sees the road to gain his daily meal of bread
or chestnuts. The past has no meaning to him,
and to the future he never looks. That is the
reason why those who want to cultivate or convince
him fail utterly. If a man cannot see the
horizon itself, it is of no use to point out to
him spires or trees or towers which stand out
The world has never understood that the
moment the labourer is made to see, he is made
unhappy, being ill at ease and morbidly envious
and ashamed, and wholly useless. Left alone,
he is content in his own ruminant manner,
as the buffalo is when left untormented amidst
the marshes, grazing at peace and slumbering
amidst the rushes and the canes.
Caris was thus content. He had health and
strength, though sometimes he had a fever-chill
from new-turned soil and sometimes a frost-chill
from going out on an empty stomach
before the sun had broken the deep shadows of
the night. But from these maladies all outdoor
labourers suffer, and he was young, and
they soon passed. He had been the only son
of his mother; and this fact had saved him
from conscription. As if she had lived long
enough when she had rendered him this service,
she died just as he had fulfilled his twenty-third
year; and without her the stone hut seemed for
awhile lonely; he had to make his fire, and boil
or roast his chestnuts, and mend holes in his
shirts, and make his own rye loaves; but he
soon got used to this, and when in Maremma
he always worked with a gang, and was fed and
lodged—badly, indeed, but regularly—at the
huge stone burn which served such purposes on
the vast tenuta where the long lines of husbandmen
toiled from dusk of dawn to dusk of eve
under the eye and lash of their overseer; and
when on his native slopes of Genistrello he was
always welcome to join the charcoal-burners'
rough company or the woodsmen's scanty
supper, and seldom passed, or had need to pass,
his leisure hours alone. And these were very few.
His mother had been a violent-tempered
woman, ruling him with a rod of iron, as she
had ruled her husband before him; a woman
loud of tongue, stern of temper, dreaded for
miles around as a witch and an evil-eye; and
although the silence and solitude which reigned
in the cabin after her death oppressed him painfully
at first, he soon grew used to these, and
found the comfort of them. He brought a
dog with him after his winter in Maremma
which followed on his mother's loss—a white
dog of the Maremma breed, and he and the
dog kept house together in the lonely woods in
fellowship and peace. Caris was gentle and
could never beat or kick a beast as others of
his kind do; and the oxen he drove knew this.
He felt more akin to them and to the dogs
than he did to the men with whom he worked.
He could not have expressed or explained this,
but he felt it.
He had little mind, and what he had moved
slowly when it moved at all; but he had a
generous nature, a loyal soul, and a simple and
manly enjoyment of his hard life. It did not
seem hard to him. He had run about on his
bare feet all his childhood until their soles were
as hard as leather, and he was so used to his
daily meal of chestnuts in cold weather, and of
maize or rye-bread with cabbage, or bean-soup,
in the hot season, that he never thought of
either as meagre fare. In summer he wore
rough hempen shirt and trousers; in winter
goatskin and rough homespun wool. In appearance,
in habits, in clothing, in occupation, he
differed little from the peasant who was on that
hillside in the times of Pliny and of Properticus.
Only the gods were changed; Pan piped no
more in the thicket, the Naiad laughed no
longer in the brook, the Nymph and Satyr
frolicked never beneath the fronds of the ferns.
In their stead there was only a little gaudy
chapel on a stony slope, and a greasy, double-chinned,
yellow-cheeked man in black, who
frowned if you did not give him your hardly-earned
pence, and lick the uneven bricks of the
chapel floor when he ordered you a penance.
Caris cared little for that man's frown.
He sat thus at his door one evening when
the sun was setting behind the many peaks and
domes of the Apennine spurs which fronted
him. The sun itself had sunk beyond them
half an hour before, but the red glow which
comes and stays long after it was in the heavens
and on the hills.
Genistrello was a solitary place, and only
here and there a hut or cot like his own was
hidden away under the saplings and undergrowth.
Far away down in the valley were
the belfries and towers of the little strong-walled
city which had been so often as a lion in
the path to the invading hosts of Germany;
and like a narrow white cord the post-road,
now so rarely used, wound in and out until its
slender thread was lost in the blue vapours of
the distance, and the shadows from the clouds.
Bells were tolling from all the little spires
and towers on the hills and in the valleys, for
it was a vigil, and there was the nearer tinkle
of the goats' bells under the heather and broom
as those innocent marauders cropped their supper
off the tender chestnut-shoots, the trails of
ground ivy, and the curling woodbine. Caris,
with his bowl of bean-soup between his knees
and his hunch of rye-bread in his hand, ate
hungrily, whilst his eyes filled themselves with
the beauty of the landscape. His stomach was
empty—which he knew, and his soul was empty—which
he did not know.
He looked up, and saw a young woman
standing in front of him. She was handsome,
with big, bright eyes, and a rosy mouth, and
dusky glossy hair coiled up on her head like a
He had never seen her before, and her sudden
apparition there startled him.
'Good-even, Caris,' she said familiarly, with
a smile like a burst of sunlight. 'Is the mother
Caris continued to stare at her.
'Eh, are you deaf?' she asked impatiently.
'Is the mother in, I want to know?'
'My mother is dead,' said Caris, without
'Dead! When did she die?'
'Half a year ago,' said Caris, with the peasant's
confusion of dates and elongation of time.
'That is impossible,' said the young woman
quickly. 'I saw her myself and spoke with her
here on this very spot in Easter week. What
makes you say she is dead?'
'Because she is dead!' said Caris doggedly.
'If you do not believe it, go and ask the
sacristan and sexton over there.'
He made a gesture of his head towards the
belfry of an old hoary church, dedicated to St.
Fulvo, which was seven miles away amongst the
chestnut woods of an opposing hillside, and
where his mother had been buried by her wish,
because it was her birthplace.
The girl this time believed him. She was
dumb for a little while with astonishment and
regret. Then she said, in a tone of awe and
expectation, 'She left her learning and power
with you, eh?—and the books?'
'No,' said Caris rudely. 'I had all the
uncanny things buried with her. What use
were they? She lived and died with scarce
a shift to her back.'
'Oh!' said the girl, in a shocked tone, as
though she reproved a blasphemy. 'She was a
wonderful woman, Caris.'
Caris laughed a little.
'Eh, you say so. Well, all her wisdom
never put bit nor drop in her mouth nor a
copper piece in her hand that I did not work
for; what use was it, pray?'
'Hush. Don't speak so!' said the maiden,
looking timidly over her shoulder to the undergrowth
and coppice growing dim in the shadows
of the evening.
'Tis the truth!' said Caris stubbornly. 'I
did my duty by her, poor soul; and yet I fear
me the Evil One waited for her all the while,
for as soon as the rattle came in her throat, a
white owl flapped and screeched on the thatch,
and a black cat had sat on the stones yonder
ever since the sun had set.'
'The saints preserve us!' murmured the
girl, her rich brown and red skin growing
There was silence; Caris finished munching
his bread; he looked now and then at his visitor
with open-eyed surprise and mute expectation.
'You have buried the things with her?' she
asked him, in a low tone, at length.
He nodded in assent.
'What a pity! What a pity!'
'Because if they are underground with her
nobody can use them.'
Caris stared with his eyes wider opened still.
'What do you want with the devil's tools, a
fresh, fair young thing like you?'
'Your mother used them for me,' she answered
crossly. 'And she had told me a
number of things—ay, a vast number! And
just in the middle uncle spied us out, and he
swore at her and dragged me away, and I had
never a chance to get back here till to-night,
and now—now you say she is dead, and she
will never tell me aught any more.'
'What can you want so sore to know?' said
Caris, with wonder, as he rose to his feet.
'That is my business,' said the girl.
'True, so it is,' said Caris.
But he looked at her with wonder in his dark-brown,
'Where do you live?' he asked; 'and how
knew you my name?'
'Everybody knows your name,' she answered.
'You are Caris, the son of Lisabetta, and when
you sit on your doorstep it would be a fool
indeed would not see who you are.'
'So it would,' said Caris. 'But you,' he
added after a pause, 'who are you? And what
did you want with Black Magic?'
'I am Santina, the daughter of Neri, the
smith, by the west gate in Pistoia,' she said in
reply to the first question, and making none to
'But what wanted you of my mother?' he
'They said she knew strange things,' said the
'If she did she had little profit of them,' said
The girl looked at him with great persuasiveness
in her face, and leaned a little nearer to him.
'You did not really bury the charms with
her? You have got them inside? You will let
me see them, eh?'
'As the saints live, I buried them,' said
Caris truthfully; 'they were rubbish, or worse;
accursed maybe. They are safe down in the
ground till the Last Day. What can such a
bright wench as yourself want with such queer,
The girl Santina glanced over her shoulders
to make sure that no one was listening; then
she said in a whisper:
'There is the Gobbo's treasure in these woods
somewhere—and Lisabetta had the wand that
finds gold and silver.'
Caris burst into a loud laugh.
'Ah, truly! That is a good jest. If she
could find gold and silver, why did we always
have iron spoons for our soup, and a gnawing
imp in our stomachs? Go to, my maiden. Do
not tell such tales. Lisabetta was a poor and
hungry woman all her days, and scarce left
enough linen to lay her out in decently, so help
The girl shook her head.
'You know there is the treasure in the
woods,' she said angrily.
'Nay, I never heard of it. Oh, the Gobbo's?
Che-che! For hundreds of years they have
grubbed for it all over the woods, and who
ever found anything, eh?'
'Your mother was very nigh it often and
often. She told me.'
'In her dreams, poor soul!'
'But dreams mean a great deal.'
'Sometimes,' said Caris seriously. 'But
what is it to you?' he added, the suspicion
always inherent to the peasant struggling with
his admiration of the girl, who, unbidden, had
seated herself upon the stone before the door.
With feminine instinct she felt that to make
him do what she wished, she must confide in
him, or appear to confide.
And thereon she told him that unless she
could save herself, her family would wed her to
a wealthy old curmudgeon who was a cart-maker
in the town; and to escape this fate she
had interrogated the stars by means of the dead
Lisabetta and of the astrologer Faraone, who
dwelt also in the hills, but this latter reader of
destiny would tell her nothing, because he was
a friend of her father's, and now the witch of
Genistrello was dead and had left her fate but
'What did she tell you?' said Caris, wincing
at the word witch.
'Only that I should go over the mountains
to some city and grow rich. But it was all dark—obscure—uncertain;
she said she would
know more next time; and how could I tell
that before I came again she would have died?'
'You could not tell that, no,' said Caris
He was thinking of the elderly well-to-do
wheelwright in the town, and he felt that he
would have liked to brain him with one of his
own wooden spokes or iron linchpins. For the
girl Santina was very beautiful as she sat there
with her large eyes shining in the shadows and
the tears of chagrin and disappointment stealing
down her cheeks. For her faith in her charms
and cards had been great, and in her bosom
there smouldered desires and ideas of which
she did not speak.
She saw the effect that her beauty produced,
and said to herself: 'He shall dig up the things
before he is a week older.'
She got up with apparent haste and alarm;
seeing how dark it had grown around her, only
a faint red light lingering far away above the
lines of the mountains.
'I am staying at the four roads with my aunt,
who married Massaio,' she said as she looked
over her shoulder and walked away between the
chestnut sapling and the furze.
Caris did not offer to accompany or try to
follow her. He stood like one bewitched
watching her lithe, erect figure run down the
hill and vanish as the path wound out of sight
amongst the pines. No woman had ever
moved him thus. He felt as if she had poured
into him at once scalded wine and snow-water.
She was so handsome and bold and lissom,
and yet she made his flesh creep talking of his
mother's incantations, and bidding him knock
at the door of the grave.
'What an awful creature for tempting a man
is a woman,' he thought, 'and they will scream
at their own shadows one minute and dare the
devil himself the next!'
That night Caris sat smoking his black pipe
on the stone before the door where she had sat,
and the scalded wine and the snow-water coursed
by turns feverishly through his veins, as once
'Where hast been, hussy?' said Massaio crossly,
yet jokingly, to his niece when she went home
The four roads was a place where the four
cart-tracks at the foot of that group of hills
met and parted; the man was a seller of wood,
and his cottage and his wood-yards and sheds
thatched with furze stood where the four roads
met under some huge stone pines. The aunt
of Santina had married there many years
They were people well-off, who ate meat,
drank wine, and had a house full of hardware,
pottery, and old oak: people as far removed
from Caris and his like as if they had been lords
or princes. He knew them by sight, and doffed
his hat to them in the woods.
The thought that she was the niece of
Massaio, the man who paid for his wood and
charcoal with rolls of banknotes, and sent his
own mules to bring the loads down from the
hills, placed Santina leagues away from and
The only women with whom he had ever had
any intercourse had been the rude wenches who
tramped with the herds, and dug and hoed
and cut grass and grain on the wastes of
the Maremma; creatures burnt black with the
sun and wrinkled by the winds, and with skin
hard and hairy, and feet whose soles were like
wood—'la femelle de l'homme,' but not so clean
of hide or sweet of breath as the heifers they
drove down along the sea-ways in autumn
This girl who called herself Santina was
wholesome as lavender, fresh as field thyme,
richly and fairly odoured as the flower of the
When supper was over and the house was on
the point of being bolted and barred, Santina
threw her brown soft round arm round her
'I went down to see Don Fabio, and he was
out, and I sat talking with his woman and
forgot the time,' she said penitently.
Don Fabio was the priest of the little gaudy
church low down in the valley where the post-road
Massaio patted the cheek, which was like an
apricot, and believed her.
Her aunt did not.
'There is still snow where the man of God
lives up yonder, and there is no water, only
dust, on her shoes,' thought the shrewd
But she did not say so; for she had no wish
to put her husband out of humour with her
But to Santina, when with her alone, she
'I fear you are going again to the black arts
of that woman Lisabetta; no good ever is got
of them; it is playing with fire, and the devil
breathes the fire out of his mouth!'
'I cannot play with it if I wished,' said
Santina innocently; 'Lisabetta is dead months
'That is no loss to anybody if it be true,'
said Eufemia Massaio angrily.
Lisabetta had been such an obscure and
lonely creature, that her death had been taken
little note of anywhere, and the busy, bustling
housewife of Massaio had had no heed of such
an event. She had not even known the woman
by sight; had only been cognizant of her evil
repute for powers of sorcery.
Santina went up to her room, which she
shared with three of the Massaio children.
Long after they were sleeping in a tangle of
rough hair and brown limbs and healthy rosy
nudity, the girl, their elder, sat up on the rude
couch staring at the moon through the little
She was thinking of words that Lisabetta
had said, as she had dealt out the cards and
gazed in a bowl of spring water, 'Over the
hills and far away; wealth and pleasure and
love galore—where? how? when?—ay, that is
hid; but we shall see, we shall see; only over
the hills you go, and all the men are your
How? when? where? That was hidden
with the dead fortune-teller under the earth.
Santina did not for a moment doubt the
truth of the prophecy, but she was impatient
for its fulfilment to begin. She knew she was
of unusual beauty, and the organist at the
duomo in Pistoia had told her that her voice
was of rare compass, and only wanted tuition
to be such a voice as fetches gold in the big
world which lay beyond these hills. But that
She could sing well and loudly, and she knew
all the 'canzoe' and 'stornelli' of the district
by heart; but there her knowledge stopped;
and no one had cared to instruct or enlighten
her more. Her own family thought the words
of the organist rubbish.
There are so many of these clear-voiced, flute-throated
girls and boys singing in their adolescence
in the fields and woods and highways;
but no one thinks anything of their carols, and
life and its travail tell on them and make them
hoarse, and their once liquid tones grow harsh
and rough from exposure to the weather, and
from calling so loudly from hill to hill to
summon their children, or their cattle, or their
The human voice is a pipe soon broken.
The nightingale sings on and on and on, from
youth to age, and neither rain nor wind hurt his
throat; but men and women, in rough, rustic
lives, soon lose their gift of song. They sing
at all ages, indeed, over their furrows, their
washing-tank, their yoked oxen, their plait of
straw or hank of flax; but the voice loses its
beauty as early as the skin its bloom.
Santina had no notion in what way she could
make hers a means to reach those distant parts
in which her fate was to await her if the cards
spake truly. Only to get away somewhere,
somehow, was her fixed idea; and she would
no more have married the sober, well-to-do
wheelwright her people picked out for her, than
she would have thrown her vigorous and virgin
body down the well.
'He shall get me the cards and the treasure
wand out of her grave before this moon is out,'
she said, between her white teeth, with which
she could crack nuts and bite through string
and grind the black bread into powder.
Caris took no definite shape in her eyes except
as an instrument to get her will and ways.
She was but a country girl just knowing her
letters, and no more; but the yeast of restless
ambition was fermenting in her.
She sat staring at the moon, while the tired
children slept as motionless as plucked poppies.
The moon was near its full. Before it waned
she swore to herself that she would have Lisabetta's
magic tools in her hands. Could she
only know more, or else get money! She was
ignorant, but she knew that money was power.
With money she could get away over those
hills which seemed drawn like a screen between
her fate and her.
Marry Matteo! She laughed aloud, and
thought the face in the moon laughed too.
The outfit was made, the pearls were bought,
the 'stimatore' who is called in to appraise
every article of a marriage corredo had fingered
and weighed and adjudged the cost of every
single thing, and the wheelwright had bought
the bed and the furniture, and many other
matters not usual or incumbent on a bridegroom,
and her parents had said that such
a warm man and so liberal a one was never
seen in their day: and very little time was
there now left wherein she could escape her
All unwillingness on her part would have
been regarded by her parents as an insanity,
and would have only seemed to her bridegroom
as the spice which is added to the stewed hare.
There was no chance for her but to use this
single fortnight which she had been allowed to
spend in farewell at the four roads of Genistrello.
Her uncle and aunt had helped generously
in the getting together of the corredo; and
their wish to have her with them had been at
once conceded. Her parents were poor, and
the woodsman was rich as rubies are esteemed,
amongst the oak scrub and chestnut saplings of
the Pistoiese Apennines.
The Massaio people liked her and indulged
her; but had they dreamed that she meant to
elude her marriage they would have dragged
her by the hair of her head, or kicked her with
the soles of their hob-nailed boots down the
hillside into her father's house, and given her
up to punishment without pity, as they would
have given a runaway horse or dog.
The day for the ceremony had not been fixed,
for in this country, where love intrigues speed
by as swift as lightning, matrimonial contracts
move slowly and cautiously; but the word was
passed, the goods were purchased, the house
was ready; and to break a betrothal at such a
point would have been held a crime and a
Santina herself knew that; she was well
aware that decent maidens do not do such things
when the dower clothing and linen are all
stitched, and the marriage-bed bought by the
bridegroom. She knew, but she did not care.
She was headstrong, changeable, vain and full
of thirst for pleasure and for triumph and for
wealth. She would not pass her life in her
little native town, in the wheelwright's old house
with a jealous rheumatic curmudgeon, for all
the saints in heaven and all the friends on earth.
'Not I! Not I! Oh, why did Lisabetta
go underground for ever with half the cards
unread?' she thought, as she sat upon her
couch of sacking and dry maize leaves, and she
shook her clenched hands at the moon with
anger at its smiling indifference. The moon
could sail where it chose and see what it liked;
and she was chained down here by her youth,
and her sex, and her ignorance, and her poverty;
and her only one faint hope of escape and aid
lay in the closed grave of a dead old woman.
Though she was voluble and garrulous and
imprudent and passionate, she could keep her
Under her Tuscan volubility there was also
the Tuscan secretiveness. Nobody saw inside
her true thoughts. Her mind was like a little
locked iron box into which no one could peep.
The Tuscan laughs quickly, weeps quickly,
rages, fumes, smiles, jumps with joy; seems a
merely emotional creature, with his whole heart
turned inside out; but in his inmost nature
there is always an ego wholly different to that
which is shown to others, always a deep reserve
of unspoken intents and calculations and desires.
It resembles a rosebush all bloom and dew
and leaf and sunshine, inside which is made the
nest of a little snake, never seen, but always
there; sometimes, instead of the snake, there is
only a flat stone; but something alien there
always is under the carelessly blowing roses.
The Tuscan never completely trusts his
nearest or dearest, his oldest friend, his truest
companion, his fondest familiar; be he gentle
or simple, he never gives himself away.
The homeliest son and daughter of the soil
will always act as though he or she were
cognizant of the axiom of the fine philosopher
of courts: 'Deal with your friend at all times as
though some day he would become your enemy.'
Santina, therefore, had told her secret intent
to no living soul, and only Caris's old weird
mother had been shrewd enough to guess it in
the girl's flashing eyes and in her eager questioning
The house of Massaio was a very busy house,
especially so at this season of the year, when
the purchasing and fetching and stacking of
wood for the coming winter was in full vigour,
and all the boys and girls were up in the woods
all day long, seeking out and bringing down
brushwood and pines and cut heather.
Santina with wonderful alacrity entered into
the work, although usually she was averse to
rough labour, fearing that it would spoil her
hands and her skin before she could get to that
unknown life of delight which she coveted.
But going with the heedless and unobservant
children up on the hillsides where the heather
and chestnut scrub grew, and farther up still
where the tall stone pines grew, she had chances
of meeting Caris or of again getting away to his
hut unnoticed. He was usually at this season
occupied in carrying wood or helping the charcoal-burners,
and was now in one place, now in
another, as men who have no fixed labour
Moreover, her just estimate of her own
attraction for him made her guess that this
year he would choose to labour nearer the four
roads than usual, if he could get employment,
and she was in no manner surprised when she
saw him amongst a group of men who were
pulling at the ropes of one of her uncle's wood-carts,
to prevent the cart and the mules harnessed
to it from running amuck down the
steep incline which led to that green nook at
the foot of Genistrello, where the woodman's
buildings and sheds were situated.
She gave him a sidelong glance and a shy
smile as she passed them, and Caris, colouring
to the roots of his hair, let his rope slacken and
fall, and was sworn at fiercely by his fellow-labourers,
for the cart lurched, and one of the
wheels sunk up to its hub in the soft wet
'Get away, lass!' shouted the carter roughly.
'Where women are men's work is always
'You unmannerly churl!' shouted Caris; and
he struck the carter sharply across the shoulders
with his end of the rope.
The man flung himself round and tried to
strike his assailant in return with the thong of
his long mule-whip; but Caris caught it in his
grip and closed with him.
They wrestled savagely for a moment, then
the carter, freeing his right arm, snatched out of
his breeches belt the knife which every man
carries, however severely the law may denounce
and forbid such a habit. It would have buried
its sharp, narrow blade in the ribs or the breast
of Caris had not the other men, at a shout from
Massaio, who came hurrying up, thrown themselves
on the two combatants, and pulled them
'To —— with you both!' cried Massaio,
furious to see his cart stuck in the sand, its
load of wood oscillating, and the time wasted of
men whom he paid by the day.
Santina had stood quietly on the bank above
the mules and the men, watching with keen
interest and pleasure.
'Why did you stop them, uncle?' she cried
to Massaio pettishly. 'I do love to see two
good lads fight. 'Tis a sight that warms one's
blood like good communion wine.'
But no one heeded what she said.
On these hills women are used but never
listened to by any man.
'The cows give milk, not opinions,' the men
said to their womenkind.
Only Caris had seen in the sunlight that lithe
erect figure amongst the gorse, and those two
burning, melting, shining eyes, which had incited
him to combat.
He was deeply angered with Massaio for
stopping the duello.
A knife? What mattered a knife? He
had one, too, in his breeches band; in another
second he, too, would have had his out, and
then Santina would have seen work fit for a
brave, bold woman to watch, with the red blood
running merrily through the thirsty sand and
the tufted heather.
He was not quarrelsome or bloodthirsty; but
any man who goes down into Maremma through
the 'macchia,' where the 'mal-viventi' hide,
learns to know very well how to sell his own
life dearly, and hold the lives of others cheaply;
and these contraband knives, which the law
forbids so uselessly, cost very little to buy,
and yet do their work surely, quickly, and well.
He cast one longing look up at Santina
standing above amongst the gorse, and moved
on sullenly with the other men and the mule,
when the cart with rare effort had been pulled
erect and dragged out of the sand. It was then
only an hour or two after daybreak.
The day came and ended without Caris seeing
his goddess again.
During the repose at noontide, when he with
others broke bread and ate soup at the big table
in Massaio's kitchen, she was not there. They
were served by her aunt Eufemia. He had
only accepted this work of fetching and stacking
for sake of the vicinity to her which it
offered; and his heart was heavy and his
blood was turned, as he would himself have
Chagrin and irritation, in the Italian's opinion,
turns the blood as tempest changes milk. He
was too shy and tongue-tied to venture to inquire
for her; and the instinct of secrecy which
characterizes all passion was joined to his
natural hesitation in speech.
Massaio's people seemed, too, to him to be
very grand folks, with their byres and stalls
filled with beasts, and their casks of wine and
great earthen jars of oil standing there for anybody
to read in mute declaration of their prosperity.
A barrel of wine had never entered the hut of
the Lascarises within the memory of man. No
one took any notice of him. He was a 'bracciante,'
paid by the day, nothing more. Had
Eufemia known that he was the old witch's
son he would have attracted her attention; but
she did not know it. When there is quick
rough work to be done, nobody notices who
When the last wood of the day was brought
in, Caris went home by himself, by ways he
knew. He was downcast and dull. He had
been baulked of his knife-play with the carter,
and he had not seen Santina.
At a bend in the hill-path, where the chestnut
saplings grew taller than usual, and aged pines
with scaly scarred trunks were left standing, he
heard a laugh amongst the leafy scrub, and in
the dusk of the moonless evening a slender
straight figure shot up from its screen of
'Eh, Caris!' cried the girl to him. 'What a
poor day's work! Have you left Black Simon
without an inch of steel in him? Fie for shame!
A man should always write his name large when
he has a stiletto for his pen.'
Caris gazed at her dumb and agitated, the
veins in his throat and temples throbbing.
'It was your uncle stopping the play,' he
muttered; 'and I could not begin to brawl in his
Santina shrugged her shoulders. 'Brave men
don't want excuses,' she said unkindly.
'Ask of me in Maremma,' said Caris sullenly.
'They will tell you whether men taste my
'Maremma is far,' said Santina, sarcastic and
jeering; 'and the men there are weak!'
'You shall see what you shall see,' muttered
Caris, growing purple, red, and then pale.
'Tell me a man you have a quarrel with—nay,
one who stands well with you—that will be
'Those are words,' she said, with curt contempt.
'You shall see deeds. Who is it stands well
'No one. Many wish it.'
'Your promised man should; but he is old,
and a poor creature. 'Twould be no credit to
do away with him.'
'He is a poor creature,' said Santina, her lips
curling. 'So are you, when to do a woman a
pleasure you will not open a grave.'
'Open a grave! Nay, nay, the saints forbid.'
'The saints! That is how all weaklings and
cowards talk. What harm could it do any
saint in heaven for you to get those magic
things? If they be the devil's toys and tools,
as you say, more reason to pluck them out of
'How you go on!' muttered Caris, whose
slower brain was scared and terrified by his
companion's rapid and fearless strides of thought.
'Heaven have mercy on us! You would have
me commit sacrilege! Rifle a tomb! Holy
Christ! and that tomb my mother's!'
The sweat stood on his brow, and made the
chestnut curls of his hair wet as with dew or rain.
Santina poured into his all the magnetic force
and fire of her own eyes, shining in the dusk
like some wild cat of the woods.
'Sacrilege! whew! Where got you that big
word? You put the things in; you can take
the things out. Your mother will sleep sounder
without them. I want them, my lad, do you
understand? I want them. And what I want
I get from those who love me; and those who
deny me, hate me, and I hate them.'
Caris shuddered as he heard.
'I love you,' he stammered. 'Do not hate
me—for pity's sake, do not hate me.'
'Obey me, then,' she said, with her dark
level brows contracting over her luminous eyes.
'In anything else!'
'Oh, ay! It is always anything else, except
the one thing which is wanted!'
'But what is it you want?'
'I want the charms and the wand and the
book out of your mother's grave.'
'What could you do with them? Without
the knowledge, they are no more than a dry
twig and a few dirty play-cards.'
'How know you what knowledge I have? I
want the things, that is all, I tell you.'
'They were accursed if they had any use in
them. And what use had they? She who
understood them lived and died all but a
beggar. If they had any power in them, they
cheated and starved her.'
The speech was a long one for Caris, whose
thoughts were so little used to fit themselves to
Santina heard him with the passionate impatience
and intolerance of a swift mind with a
dull one, of a bold will with a timid nature.
She had set her soul on possessing these magic
things; she was convinced that she should find
the way to make them work; superstition was
intense and overwhelming in her, and allied to a
furious ambition, all the more powerful because
given loose rein through her complete ignorance.
'Oh, you white-livered ninny!' she cried to
him, with boundless scorn. 'Would to Heaven
Black Simon had buried his blade into you!
It would have rid the earth of a dolt and a
'Then let me be, if I be worth so little,'
said Caris sullenly, whilst his eyes devoured
her beauty half seen in the darkness which
preceded the late rising of the moon. Then
she saw that she had mistaken her path, and
she changed it. She let great tears come into
her eyes, and her mouth trembled, and her
'This was the lad I could have loved!' she
murmured. 'This was the strong bold youth
whom I thought would be my brave and bonny
damo before all the countryside. Oh, what
fools are women—what fools!—taken by the
eye, with a falcon glance and a sheaf of nut-brown
curls and a broad breast that looks as if
the heart of a true man beat in it. Oh, woe is
me! Oh, woe is me! I dreamed a dream, and
it has no more truth in it than the slate shingle
here has of silver.'
She kicked downward scornfully as she spoke
the crumbling slate and mia which showed
here and there betwixt the heather plants in the
tremulous shadow relics of a quarry worked
long centuries before, and forsaken when the
fires of the camp of Hun and Goth had blazed
upon those hillsides.
Caris stared at her as she spoke, his whole
frame thrilling and all his senses alive as they
had never been before under a woman's glamour.
He heeded not the derision, he thought not of
the strangeness of the avowal; delicacy is not
often a plant which grows in uncultured soil,
and he had none of the intuition and suspicion
which an educated man would have been moved
by before such an avowal and such an upbraiding.
He only knew, or thought he
was bidden to know, that he had the power
in him to please her fancy and awaken her
'You love me! You can love me!' he shouted
in a loud, vibrating, exultant voice which wakened
all the echoes of the hills around him, and he
sprang forward to seize her in his arms. But
Santina, agile and strong, pushed him back, and
'Nay, nay, stand off!' she cried to him.
'Ne'er a coward shall touch me. All I said
was, you might have won me.'
'I am no coward,' said Caris hotly. 'And
why do you fool and tempt one so? 'Tis unfair.
'Tis unfair. You may rue it.'
His face was convulsed, his eyes were aflame,
he breathed like a bull in a hard combat.
Santina smiled; that was how she liked to see
a man look.
She had all the delight in watching and weighing
the effects of the passion which she excited
that moved the great queens of Asia and the
empresses of Rome. She was only a poor girl,
but the love of dominance and the violence of
the senses were in her strong and hot and
In her was all that ferment of ambition and
vanity and discontent which drives out from
their hamlets those who are born with something
in them different to their lot and alien to
their fellows. She had never been anywhere
farther afield than the hills and woods about
Pistanse, but she knew that there were big cities
somewhere, where men were made of money,
and women wore satin all day long, and everybody
ate and drank out of gold plates and silver
vessels. She knew that; and to get to these
kingdoms of delight was the one longing which
possessed her day and night.
She wanted to get one thing out of this man—the
means of liberty—and she cared nothing
how she won it. Besides, he was so simple, so
malleable, so credulous, it diverted her to play
on him as one could play on a chitarra, making
the strings leap and sigh and thrill and groan.
And he was good to look at, too, with his
tanned, fresh face, and his clustering curls,
and his strong, straight, cleanly limbs.
'I only said you might have won me,' she
repeated—'nay, you may still, if you have
the heart of a man and not of a mouse.
'Do not fool me,' said Caris sternly, 'or as
the Lord lives above us——'
She laughed airily.
'Oh, big oaths cannot frighten me. It shall
lie with you. I want those things of your
mother's. When you bring them I will thank
you—as you choose.'
He grew gray under his brown, bright
'Always that,' he muttered—always that!'
'Naturally, it is what I want.'
'Go, get them, since you think it holy
'I will,' said Santina, 'and then good-night
to you, my good Caris; you will never see me
She turned on her heel and began to run
down the slope in the moonlight.
Santina would not have ventured inside the
graveyard at night to get mountains of gold.
She would not have passed after nightfall within
a mile of its gate without crossing herself and
murmuring Aves all the way. Superstition was
born and bred in every inch of her bone and
every drop of her blood, and she would no
more have carried out her threat than she would
have carried the mountain upon her shoulders.
But he did not know that. She was so bold,
so careless, so self-confident, if she had told him
she would split open the earth to its centre he
would have believed her.
He overtook her as she fled down the slope
and seized her in his arms.
'No, no!' he cried, close in her ear. 'It is
not work for you. If it must be done I will
do it. Will you swear that you will give
yourself to me if I bring you the unholy
'I love you!' she said breathlessly, while her
lips brushed his throat—'yes, I do love you!
Go, get the things, and bring them hither at
dawn. I will meet you. Oh, I will find the
way to use them, never fear. That is my
business. Get you gone. They are calling
below. They shut the house at the twenty-four.'
No one was calling, but she wished to get rid
of him. He was strong, and he was on fire
with her touch and her glance; he strained
her in his arms until her face was bruised
against the hairy sinews and bones of his chest.
She thrust him away with a supreme effort,
and ran down the stony side of the hill, and
was swallowed up in the duskiness of the
A little scops owl flitted past, uttering its
soft, low note, which echoes so far and long in
the silence of evening in the hills.
Caris shook himself like a man who has been
half stunned by a heavy fall. He was on fire
with the alcohol of passion, and chilled to the
marrow by the promise he had made.
Open a tomb! Rifle a grave! See his
mother again in her cere clothes—see all the
untold and untellable horrors of which the dead
and the earth make their secrets!
Oh, why had he ever admitted that he had
sealed up the uncanny things in the coffin!
He could have bitten his tongue out for its
He had thrust them in almost without consciousness
of his act as he had hammered the
lid down on the deal shell all alone with it
in his cabin.
The things had been always under his
mother's pillow at night; it had seemed to
him that they ought to go with her down to
the grave. He had had a secret fear of them,
and he had thought that their occult powers
would be nullified once thrust in sacred soil.
He had been afraid to burn them.
The churchyard in which his mother lay was
on the topmost slope of Genistrello, where the
brown brick tower of the massive medieval
church of St. Fulvo rose amongst the highest
pines, upon a wind-swept and storm-scarred
Few were the dead who were taken there;
meagre and miserable were the lot and the
pittance of its poor Vicar, and weather-beaten
and worn by toil were the score of peasants
who made up its congregation, coming thence
from the scattered huts and farmhouses of the
It was seven miles off from the chestnut
wood where he dwelt, and twice seven from the
four roads; a lonely and not over-safe tramp
across the hills and the water-courses and the
But it was not the distance which troubled
him, nor any possible danger. He knew his
way through all that country, and the full round
moon was by now showing her broad disc over
the edge of the farther mountains on the south-east.
But the thought of what he would have
to do at the end of his pilgrimage made him
sick with fear not altogether unmanly.
He knew that what he would do would be
sacrilege and punishable by law, but it was not
of that he thought: his mind was filled with
those terrors of the nether world, of the unknown,
of the unseen, which a lonely life and a
latent imagination made at once so indistinct
and so powerful to him.
'Had she but asked me anything else! 'he
thought piteously. 'Anything!—to cut off
my right hand or to take the life of any man!'
But she had set him this task; inexorably as
women of old set their lovers to search for the
Grail or beard the Saracen in his mosque, and
he knew that he must do what she willed or
never again feel those warm red lips breathe on
He tightened the canvas belt round his loins,
and went home to his cabin to fetch a pickaxe
and a spade, and, bidding his dog stay to guard
the empty hut, he set out to walk across the
vast steep breadth of woodland darkness which
separated him from the church and churchyard
which were his goal.
A labourer on those hills all his life, and
accustomed also to the more perilous and murderous
thickets of Maremma, where escaped
galley-slaves hid amongst the boxwood and the
bearberry, and lived in caves and hollow trees,
no physical alarm moved him as he strode on
across the uneven ground with the familiar
scents and sounds of a woodland night around
him on every side.
The moon had now risen so high that the
valleys were bathed in her light, and the sky
was radiant with a brilliancy which seemed but
a more ethereal day.
He had no eyes for its beauty. His whole
soul was consumed by the horror of his errand.
He only looked up at the pointers and the pole-star
which he knew, so as to guide himself by
them up the steep slopes to the church, for he
had left the cart-tracks and mule-paths and
struck perforce through the gorse and undergrowth
westward, gradually ascending as he
'Poor mother! poor mother!' he kept saying
to himself. It seemed horrible to him to go
and molest her out in her last sleep and take
those things which were buried with her.
Would she know? Would she awake? Would
she rise and strike him?
Then he thought of a dead woman whom he
had found once in the 'macchia' in Maremma,
lying unburied under some myrtle bushes; he
remembered how hideous she had looked, how
the ants and worms had eaten her, how the wild
boars had gnawed her flesh, how the jaws had
grinned and the empty eyeballs had stared, and
how a black toad had sat on her breast.
Would his mother look like that?
No; for she was safe under ground, under
sacred ground, shut up secure from wind and
weather in that deal shell which he had himself
made and hammered down; and she was in her
clothes, all neat and proper, and the holy oil
had been upon her.
No, she had been put in her grave like a
Christian, witch though they said that she was.
She could not look like the woman in Maremma,
who had been a vagrant and a gipsy.
Yet he was afraid—horribly afraid.
It was a soft and luminous night; there was
the faintest of south winds now and then
wandering amongst the tops of the pines, and
fanning their aromatic odours out of them.
The sound of little threads of water trickling
through the sand and moss, and falling downward
through the heather, was the only sound,
save when a night bird called through the dark,
or a night beetle whirred on its way.
The summit of the hillside was sere and arid,
and its bold stony expanse had seldom a living
thing on it by daylight. By night, when the
priest and sacristan of St. Fulvo were sleeping,
there was not a single sign of any life, except
the blowing of the pine-tops in the breeze.
He had never been there except by broad
day; his knees shook under him as he looked
up at the tall straight black tower, with the
moonlit clouds shining through the bars of its
open belfry. If he had not heard the voice of
Santina crying to him, 'No coward shall win
me,' he would have turned and fled.
He was alone as utterly as though all the
world were dead.
It was still barely midnight when he saw the
bell-tower on high looming darker than the dark
clouds about it, and the pine-trees and the
presbytery and the walls of the burial-ground
gathered round it black and gaunt, their shapes
all fused together in one heap of gloom.
The guardians of the place, old men who
went early to their beds, were sleeping somewhere
under those black roofs against the
tower. Below, the hills and valleys were all
wrapped in the silence of the country night.
On some far road a tired team of charcoal-bearing
mules might be treading woefully to the
swing of their heavy bells, or some belated string
of wine-carts might be creeping carefully through
the darkness, the men half-drunk and their
But there was no sound or sign of them in
the vast brooding stillness which covered like
great soft wings the peaceful hills overlapping
one another, and the serenity of the mountains
bathed in the rays of the moon.
There was no sound anywhere: not even the
bleat of a sheep from the flocks, nor the bark of
a dog from the homesteads.
Caris crossed himself, and mounted the steep
path which led to the church-gate.
The last time he had come thither he had
climbed up with the weight of his mother's
coffin on his shoulders; the ascent being too
steep for a mule to mount and he too poor to
pay for assistance.
The walls of the graveyard were high, and
the only access to it was through a wooden
iron-studded door, which had on one side of it
a little hollowed stone for holy water, and above
it a cross of iron and an iron crown. To force
the door was impossible; to climb the wall was
difficult, but he was agile as a wild cat, and
accustomed to crawl up the stems of the pines
to gather their cones, and the smooth trunks
of the poplars in the valleys to lop their
He paused a moment, feeling the cold dews
run like rain off his forehead, and wished that
his dog was with him, a childish wish, for the
dog could not have climbed: then he kicked off
his boots, set his toe-nails in the first crevice in
the brick surface, and began to mount with his
hands and feet with prehensile agility.
In a few moments he was above on the broad
parapet which edged the wall, and could look
down into the burial-place below. But he did
not dare to look; he shut his eyes convulsively
and began to descend, holding by such slight
aids as the uneven surface and the projecting
lichens afforded him. He dropped at last
roughly but safely on the coarse grass within
All was black and still; the graveyard was
shut in on three sides by its walls, and at the
fourth side by the tower of the church.
The moon had passed behind a cloud and he
could see nothing.
He stood ankle-deep in the grass; and as he
stirred he stumbled over the uneven broken
ground, made irregular by so many nameless
graves. He felt in his breeches pockets for his
pipe and matches, and drew one of the latter
out and struck it on a stone.
But the little flame was too feeble to show
him even whereabouts he was, and he could
not in the darkness tell one grave from
Stooping and stretching out his hands, he
could feel the rank grass and the hillocks all
round him; there were a few head-stones, but
only a few; of such dead as were buried in the
graveyard of St. Fulvo, scarce one mourner in a
century could afford a memorial stone or even
a wooden cross.
He stood still and helpless, not having
foreseen the difficulty of the darkness.
He could feel the stirring of wings in the air
around him. His sense told him that they
were but owls and bats, of which the old tower
was full; but he shivered as he heard them go
by; who could be sure what devilish thing they
might not be?
The horror of the place grew on him.
Still, harmless, sacred though it was, it filled
him with a terror which fastened upon him,
making his eyeballs start, and his flesh creep,
and his limbs shake beneath him.
Yet he gripped his pickaxe closer and tighter,
and held his ground, and waited for the moon
to shine from the clouds.
Santina should see he was no white-livered
boy. He would get her what she asked, and
then she would be his—his—his; and the
woods would hide their loves and the cold moss
grow warm with their embrace.
Stung into courage and impatience by her
memory, he struck violently upon one of the
stones his whole handful of brimstone matches;
they flared alight with a blue, sharp flash, and
he saw there at his feet his mother's grave.
He could not doubt that it was hers; it was
a mound of clay on which no grass had had
time to grow, and there were the cross-sticks
he had set up on it as a memorial, with a bit of
an old blue kerchief which had been hers tied
It was just as he had left them there four
months before, when the summer had been
green and the brooks dry and the days long and
light. She was there under his feet where he
and the priest had laid her, the two crossed
chestnut sticks the only memorial she would
ever have, poor soul!
She was there, lying out in all wind and
weather alone—horribly, eternally alone; the
rain raining on her and the sun shining on her,
and she knowing nought, poor, dead woman!
Then the wickedness of what he came to do
smote him all of a sudden so strongly that he
staggered as under a blow, and a shower of hot
tears gushed from his eyes, and he wept
'Oh, mother, poor mother!' he cried aloud.
She had been a hard mother to him, and had
had ways which he had feared and disliked, and
a cruel tongue and a bad name on the hillside,
but she had been his mother, and when she had
lain dying she had been sorrowful to think that
she would leave him alone.
She had been his mother, and he came to
rifle her grave.
What a crime! What a foul, black crime,
such as men and women would scarce speak of
with bated breath by their hearths in the full
blaze of day! What a crime! He abhorred
himself for doing it, as he would have abhorred
a poisoner or a parricide seeing them pass to the
'Oh, mother, mother, forgive me! She
will have it so!' he sobbed with a piteous
He thought that, being dead, his mother
would understand and forgive, as she would
never have understood or forgiven when living.
Then he struck his spade down into the
heavy clay on which no bird-sown seed of blade
or blossom had yet had any time to spring.
He dug and dug and dug, till the sweat
rolled off his limbs and his shoulders ached and
his arms quivered.
He threw spadefuls of clay one after another
out on the ground around, his eyes growing
used to the darkness, and his hands gripping
the spade handle harder and harder in desperation.
The very horror of his action nerved
him to feverish force.
'Oh, Santina, Santina, you give my soul to
hell fires everlasting!' he cried aloud once, as
he jammed the iron spade down deeper and
deeper into the ground, tearing the stiff soil
asunder and crushing the stones.
The moon came forth from the clouds, and
the burial-ground grew white with her light
where the shadows of the wall did not fall.
He looked up once; then he saw black crosses,
black skulls and cross-bones, rank grass, crumbling
headstones, nameless mounds all round
him, and beyond them the tower of the church.
But his mother's coffin he did not find. In
vain he dug, and searched, and frantically
tossed aside the earth in such haste to
have ended and finished with his horrible
His mother's coffin he could not find.
Under the rays of the moon the desecrated
ground lay, all broken up and heaped and
tossed together, as though an earthquake had
riven the soil. But the deal shell which he had
made with his own hands and borne thither on
his own shoulders, he could not find.
'She will never believe! she will never believe!'
Santina would never believe that he had
come there if he met her at dawn with empty
hands. He could hear in fancy her shrill, cruel,
hissing shriek of mockery and derision; and he
felt that if he did so hear it in reality it would
drive him mad.
He dug, and dug, and dug, more furiously,
more blindly, going unconsciously farther and
farther away from where the two crossed chestnut
sticks had been; they had been uprooted
and buried long before under the first heap
of clay which he had thrown out from the
He had forgotten that they alone were his
landmarks and guides; in the darkness which
had been followed by the uncertain, misleading
light of the moon, he had gone far from them.
His work had become almost a frenzy with
him; his nerves were strung to an uncontrollable
pitch of excitation, fear, and horror,
and obstinacy, and a furious resolve to obtain
what he sought, with a terrible dread of what
he should see when he should reach it, had
together, in their conflict of opposing passions,
driven him beside himself.
He dug on and on, without any consciousness
of how far he had gone from his goal, and
no sense left but the fury of determination to
possess himself of what he knew was there in
the earth beneath him.
He stood up to his knees in the yawning
clay, with the heavy clods of it flung up on
either side of him, and the moon hanging up
on high in the central heavens, her light often
obscured by drifting cloud wrack, and at other
times shining cold and white into his face, as
though by its searching rays to read his soul.
How long he had been there he knew not;
time was a blank to him; his supernatural
terrors were lost in the anguish of dread lest
he should be unable to do Santina's will.
He felt as though he strove with the fiend
Who but some hideous power of evil could
have moved the corpse and baffled and beaten
him thus? Perhaps truly the charms had been
things born of the devil, and the devil had
taken them both to himself, and the body of his
mother with them. He dug on and on frantically,
deriving relief from the fever within him
through that violent exertion which strained
every vein and muscle in his body, till he felt
as though beaten with iron rods.
He did not see, in the confusion of his mind
and the gloom of the night, that he had come
close under the graveyard wall, and was digging
almost at its base. He believed himself still to
be on the spot where he had buried his mother;
and he had deepened the pit about him until he
was sunk up to his loins. He never remembered
the danger of the priest or the sacristan
waking and rising and seeing him at his occult
He never remembered that the bell would
toll for matins whilst the stars would be still in
their places, and the hills and the valleys still
dark. All sense had left him except one set,
insane resolve to obtain that by which the
beauty of a woman was alone to be won.
Of crime he had grown reckless, of emotion
he had none left; he was only frantically,
furiously determined to find that which he had
come to seek. Standing in the damp, clogging
soil, with the sense of moving creatures about
him which his labours had disturbed in the bowels
of the earth, he dug and dug and dug until his
actions had no purpose or direction in them,
only hurling clod upon clod in breathless, aimless,
senseless monotony and haste.
At last his spade struck on some substance
other than the heavy soil and the slimy worms;
he thrilled through all his frame with triumph
and with terror.
At last! At last! He never doubted that
it was the coffin he sought; he did not know
that his mother's grave lay actually yards away
from him. Oh, were there only light, he
thought; it was so dark, for the moon had now
passed down behind the wall of the graveyard,
and there would be only henceforth growing
ever darker and darker that dense gloom which
precedes the dawn. He dared not go on
digging; he was afraid that the iron of his
spade should stave in the soft wood of the coffin,
and cut and maim the body within it. He
stooped and pushed the clay aside with his
hands, trying to feel what the tool had struck.
What met his touch was not wood, but
metal—rounded, smooth, polished; though
clogged and crusted with the clay-bed in which
it lay. He pushed the earth farther and farther
away, and the object he had reached seemed to
lie far down, under the soil, and to be held
down by it.
He was himself hemmed in by the broken
clods, and stood in the hole he had dug, half
imprisoned by it. But he could move enough
to strike a few remaining matches on the iron
of the spade, and let their light fall on what he
Then it seemed to him that a miracle had
Before him lay a silver image of the Child
Christ. His knees shook, his whole frame
trembled, his lips gasped for breath; the flame
of the matches died out; he was left in the dark
with the image.
'It is the Gesu! It is the Gesu!' he
muttered, sure that his dead mother, or the
saints, or both, had wrought this miracle to
show him the evil of his ways.
In truth, the statue had lain there many
centuries, buried against the wall by pious
hands in times when the torch of war had been
carried flaming over all the wasted villages and
ravaged fields in the plain below.
But no such explanation dawned on the mind
To him it was a miracle wrought by the
saints or by the dead. In the dark he could
feel its round shoulders, its small hands folded
as in prayer, its smooth cheek and brow, its
little breast; and he touched them reverently,
trembling in every nerve.
He had heard of holy images shown thus to
reward belief or to confound disbelief.
His faith was vague, dull, foolish, but it was
deep-rooted in him. He was a miserable sinner;
and the dead and the saints turned him thus
backward on his road to hell; so he thought,
standing waist-deep in the rugged clay and
clutching his spade to keep himself from falling
in a swoon.
To Caris miracles were as possible as daily
He knew little of them, but he believed in
them with his whole soul. It seemed wonderful
that the heavenly powers should create one for
such a poor and humble creature as himself;
but it did not seem in any way wonderful that
such a thing should be.
The Divine Child was there in the earth,
keeping away all evil things by its presence, and
he could not doubt that the saints who were
with Mary, or perchance his own mother's
purified spirit, had called the image there to
save him from the fiend.
He sank on his knees on the clay, and said
over breathlessly all the Aves he could think of
in his awe. They were few, but he repeated
them over and over again, hoping thus to find
grace and mercy for his sin for having broken
into these sacred precincts and disturbed the
dead in their rest.
But what of Santina? Would she believe
him when he told her of this wondrous thing?
If he went to her with his hands empty,
would she ever credit that he had courage to
come upon this quest? He could hear, as it
were, at his ear, her mocking, cruel, incredulous
She had said, 'Bring me the magic toys.'
What would the tale of a miracle matter to
her? She wanted treasure and knowledge.
She would care nothing for the souls of the
dead or the works of the saints—nothing.
He knew that her heart was set on getting
things which she knew were evil, but believed
were powerful for good and ill, for fate and
Suddenly a thought which froze his veins
with its terror arose in him, and fascinated him
with its wickedness and his daring. What if
he took the holy image to her in proof that he
had tried to do her will, and had been turned
from his errand by powers more than mortal?
Since she had believed in the occult powers of
his mother's divining tools, surely she would
still more readily believe in the direct and visible
interposition of the dead?
If he bore the Gesu to her in his arms, she
could not then doubt that he had passed the
hours of this night in the graveyard of St.
She could not, before its sacred testimony, be
angry, or scornful, or incredulous, or unkind.
But could he dare to touch the holy thing?
Would the image consent to be so taken?
Would not its limbs rebel, its lips open, its
body blister and blast the mortal hands which
would thus dare to desecrate it?
A new fear, worse, more unspeakable than
any which had moved him before, now took
possession of him as he knelt there on the
bottom of the pit which he had dug, gazing
through the blackness of the darkness to the
spot where he knew the silver body of the
Christ Child lay.
The thing was holy in his eyes, and he meant
to use it for unholy purposes. He felt that his
hands would wither at the wrist if they took up
that silver Gesu from its bed of earth.
His heart beat loudly against his ribs, his
It was still dark, though dawn in the east had
He crawled out of the pit of clay with
difficulty, holding the silver image to his bosom
with one arm, and stood erect, and gazed
If saints or friends were there beside him, they
made no sign; they neither prevented nor
avenged the sacrilege.
The sweet, sharp smell of the wet blowing
grasses was in his nostrils, and the damp clinging
sods were about his feet, dragging at the
soles of his boots, that was all.
He began to think of the way in which he
could, thus burdened, climb the wall.
The silver Christ was heavy in his hold, and
he needed to have both hands free to ascend the
height above him.
He knew it was an image and not a living
god; yet none the less was it in his sight holy,
heaven-sent, miraculous, potent for the service
of the saints, and to take it up and bear it away
seemed to him like stealing the very Hostia
True, he would bring it back and give it to
the vicar, and let it, according to the reverend
man's choice, be returned to its grave or laid
on the altar of the church for the worship of
the people, and the continued working of
Yes, he said to himself, assuredly he would
bring it back. He would only bear it in his
arms most reverently to Santina, that she might
see and believe, and become his; and then he
would return hither with it and tell the priest
the wondrous story.
Yet he shook as with palsy at the thought of
carrying the blessed image as though it were a
mere living human babe.
It seemed to him as if no man could do such
a deed and live. The anointed hands of a priest
might touch it, but not his—his so hard and
rough and scarred with work, never having held
aught better than his pipe of clay and his tool
of wood or of iron, and the horn haft of his
Nor was even his motive for taking it pure.
He wanted through it to justify himself in the
sight of a woman, and to find favour with her,
and to gratify a strong and furious passion. His
reasons were earthly, gross, selfish; they could
not redeem, or consecrate, or excuse his act.
That he knew.
All was still, dusky, solitary; the church was
wrapt in gloom, the daybreak did not reach it;
only above the inland hills the white light spread
where he could not see; behind the high wall of
the graveyard, beyond the ranges of the inland
hills, the gray soft light of daybreak had arisen.
He thought he heard voices all around him,
and amongst them that of his mother warning
him to leave untouched the sacred Child, and
get up on his feet and flee. But above these he
heard the laughter of Santina mocking him as
an empty-handed, white-livered fool, who came
with foolish tales of visions to hide his quaking
Better that his arms should shrivel, that his
sight should be blinded, that his body should
be shrunken and stricken with the judgment of
heaven, than that he should live to hear her red
lips laugh and call him a feckless coward.
With all the life which was in him shrinking
and sickening in deadly fear, he stooped down,
groped in the dark until he found the image,
grasped its metal breast and limbs, and dragged
it upward from the encircling earth.
It was of the size of a human child of a year
He plucked it roughly upward, for his terror
made him rude and fierce, and held it in his
arms, whilst he wondered in his great awe and
horror that no judgment of affronted heaven
followed on his desperate act.
All was still well with him; he saw, he heard,
he breathed, he lived; the cool night air was
blowing about him, the clouds were letting fall
a faint fine mist-like rain.
He undid the belt about his loins—a mere
piece of webbing with a buckle—strapped it
around the body of the Gesu, and taking the
ends thereof between his firm, strong teeth,
sought in the dark for the place whence he had
descended, and found it.
He climbed the wall with slow, laborious, and
painful effort, the dead weight of the silver figure
encumbering him as he mounted with cat-like
skill, cutting his hands and bruising his skin
against the rough, undressed stones.
He dropped carefully down on the earth
beneath, and began the descent of the hill.
'When I can bring the little Christ back, I
can get the tools,' he thought. It seemed a
He was forced to leave behind him his spade
When at last he reached the top of the coping,
he saw that it was dawn. His heart leaped in
his breast. Down in the chestnut coppice
Santina would be awaiting him; and she would
believe—surely, certainly she would believe—when
she should see this holy Gesu brought out
from the tomb.
He was in good time. It was barely day.
He unslung the little Christ and took it again
in his arms, as carefully as a woman would take
a new-born child. The polished limbs grew
warm in his hands; its small face leaned against
his breast; he lost his awe of it; he ceased to
fear what it might do to him; he felt a kind of
love for it.
'Oh, Gesu, dear Gesu, smile on us!' he said
to it; and although it was still too dark to see
more than its outline faintly, he thought he saw
the mouth move in answer.
Holding it to him, he started homeward down
the stony slope. He was thankful to be out of
that ghostly place of tombs; he was thankful
to have escaped from that scene of terror whole
in limb, and uncursed if unpardoned; the tension
of his nerves in the past hours had given
place to an unreasoning and overstrung gladness.
But for his reverence for the burden he
carried, he could have laughed aloud.
Only once now and then, as he went, his
conscience smote him. His poor mother!—he
had forgotten her; he had displaced the
mark set above her grave; no one would ever
now be sure where she was buried. Did it hurt
her, what he had done? Would she be jealous
in her grave of the woman for whom he did it?
Was it cruel to have come away without smoothing
the rugged earth above her bed and saying
an Ave for her?
But these thoughts, this remorse, were fleeting;
his whole mind was filled with the heat
of passion and its expectation. Fatigued and
overworked and sleepless as he was, he almost
ran down the paths of the hills in his haste, and
tore his skin and his clothes as he pushed his
way through the brushwood and furze, guarding
only the Gesu from hurt as he went.
The day had now fully dawned, and the sun
had risen; its rosy flush was warm over all the
land and sky; the woodlarks and the linnets
were singing under the bushes; the wild doves
were dabbling in the rivulets of water; the
hawks were circling high in the light.
On the wooded hillside all was peaceful with
the loveliness of the unworn day; the air was
full of the smell of heather and wet mosses and
resinous pine-cones; rain was falling above
where the church was, but in these lower woods
there was a burst of sunrise warmth and light.
None of these things, however, did he note. He
went on and on, downward and downward,
holding the silver image close against his
breast, scarcely feeling the boughs which grazed
his cheeks or the flints which wounded his
When he came within sight of the place
where he had left Santina the night before,
he strained his eyes to catch a glimpse of her
through the tangle of leaves and twigs and
fronds. And true enough to her tryst she was
there, waiting impatiently, fretting, wishing the
time away, blaming her own folly in setting all
her hopes of freedom and the future on a
foolish, cowardly churl—for so she called him
in her angry thought, as she crouched down
under the chestnut scrub and saw the daylight
widen and brighten.
She ran a great risk in hiding there; if any
of her people or their carters saw her, their
suspicions would be aroused and their questions
endless. She would say that she came
for mushrooms; but they would not believe
her. She was too well known for a late riser
and a lazy wench.
Still, she had imperilled everything to keep
her word with him, and she waited for him
seated on the moss, half covered with leaves,
except at such times as her impatient temper
made her cast prudence to the winds and rise
and look out of the thicket upward to the hills.
She had made herself look her best; a yellow
kerchief was tied over her head, her hair shone
like a blackbird's wing, her whole face and form
were full of vivid, rich, and eager animal beauty.
To get away—oh, only to get away! She
looked up at the wild doves sailing over the
tops of the tall pines and envied them their
Caris saw that eager, longing look upon her
countenance before he reached her, and he
thought it was caused by love for him.
He held the Gesu to his bosom with both
hands and coursed like lightning down the
steep slope which still divided him from her;
he was unconscious of how jaded, soiled, and
uncomely he looked after his long night's work
and all his ghostly fears; his feet were scratched
and bleeding, his shirt soaked in sweat, his flesh
bespattered with the clay, his hair wet and
matted with moisture; he had no remembrance
of that, he had no suspicion that even in that
moment of agitation, when she believed her
errand done, her will accomplished, she was
saying in her heart as she watched him draw
nigh: 'He has got them, he has got them; but,
Holy Mary! what a clown!—he has all the mud
of fifty graves upon him!'
He rushed downward to her, and held the
silver image out at arm's-length, and sobbed
and laughed and cried aloud, indifferent who
might hear, his voice trembling with awe and
'It is the Gesu Himself, the Gesu—and I
have brought Him to you because now you
will believe—and my mother must be well with
them in heaven or they never had wrought such
a miracle for me—and such a night as I have
passed, dear God! such things as I have seen
and heard—but the Child smiles—the Child
is pleased—and now you will believe in me,
though I could not find the magic things—and
I said to myself when she sees the Gesu she
will believe—and she will be mine—mine—mine!
The Lord forgive me, that has been
all my thought, though heaven wrought such
a miracle for me!'
The words poured out of his mouth one over
another like the rush of water let loose through
a narrow channel. He was blind with his own
excess of emotion, his own breathless desire; he
did not see the changes which swept over the
face of Santina in a tumult of wrath, wonder,
fury, eagerness, suspicion, cupidity, as one after
another each emotion went coursing through
her soul and shining in her eyes, making her
beauty distorted and terrible.
Her first impulse was fury at his failure to
bring her what she wanted; the second was to
comprehend in a flash of instantaneous insight
the money value of that to which he only
attached a spiritual merit.
She snatched the image from him, and in the
morning light she saw the silver of it glisten
through the earth which still in parts clung to
it. It might be better, surer, more quick aid to
her than the uncertain divining tools whereof
she was ignorant of the full employ. Her
rapid mind swept over in a second all the uses
to which it might be put, and comprehended
the superstitious adoration of it which moved
Caris and made him control his passion for herself,
as he stood gazing at it in her arms, his
own hands clasped in prayer, and his whole
frame trembling with the portentous sense of
the mercy of heaven which had been made
manifest to him.
She in a second divined that it had been part
of some buried treasure which he had by accident
disinterred, but she was too keen and wise
to let him see that she did so; it was her part
to humour and to confirm him in his self-deception.
She calmed the angry, gibing words which
rose to her lips, she held back the exultant
covetousness which flashed in her eyes and
betrayed itself in the clutching grasp of her
fingers; she gazed on the Gesu with a worship
half real, half affected, for it was also a holy
image to her, if its sanctity were to her outweighed
and outshone by its monetary worth in
'Tell me how you found this?' she asked,
under her breath, as one almost speechless with
awe before such a manifestation from on high.
She was really in genuine fear. He had been
into precincts which none could enter without
offending immortal and unseen powers. He
had done it at her bidding. Who could be
sure that the offending spirits would not avenge
his sacrilege on her?
But through her fears she kept her hold upon
the image, whilst she asked the question.
Tremblingly he told her how he had passed
the awful hours of the night and failed to find
his mother's tomb, but in its stead found this.
'And I brought it that you should know that
I had been there,' he said in conclusion, 'that
you might know I had been where you willed,
and am no coward; and we will take it back together
and give it to the holy man up yonder—and
now—and now—and now——'
His hands touched her, his breath was upon
her, his timid yet violent passion blazed in his
eyes and quivered all over his frame: he had
dared all things for his reward, and he claimed
it. But, quick as lightning, and merciless as
dishonest, she put the holy image between her
and him. The sacred silver froze his burning
His arms fell to his side as though they were
'Not while the Gesu is with us,' she murmured
in rebuke. 'Let us not be unworthy—you
say yourself a miracle was wrought.'
He stood before her, checked, daunted,
breathing heavily, like a horse thrown back
on its haunches in full flight.
'Hush!' she said, with a scared look.
'There are people near; I hear them. We
will take the Gesu back to the church, but
that cannot be till dusk. I will keep Him safe
with me. Go, you dear, and clean your skin
and your clothes, lest any seeing you should
suspect what you have done.'
'I will not go,' he muttered; 'you promised——'
'I promised, oh fool!' she said, with quick
passion, 'and my word I will keep, but not
while the Gesu is with us. I love you for all
you have braved. I love you for all you have
done. I will be yours and no other's. See! I
swear it on the Holy Child's head!'
And she kissed the silver brow of the
He was convinced, yet irresolute and impatient.
'Let us go back with it now, then,' he
muttered. 'I did but bring him to show you
in witness of what I had done.'
'No,' she said, with that imperious command
in her voice and her gaze which made the
resolve in him melt like wax beneath a flame.
'You cannot be seen with me in such a state as
you are. I will carry the Christ back to the
church if so be that He rests uneasily in common
arms like ours, and then—well, I will pass by
your cabin as I come down. Dost complain of
that, my ingrate?'
A flood of warmth and joy and full belief
swept like flame through the whole being of
Caris. Her eyes were suffused, her cheek
blushed, her lips smiled; he believed himself
beloved; he thought himself on the threshold
of ecstasy; the minutes seemed like hours until
he should regain his hut and watch from its
door for her coming.
'You will go now?' he asked eagerly.
'At once,' she answered, holding the Gesu to
her as a woman would hold a sucking child.
Caris closed his eyes, dazed with her beauty
and the wild, sweet thought of how she would
hold to her breast some child of his on some fair
'Then go,' he muttered. 'The sooner we
part, the sooner we shall meet. Oh, my
She gave him a smile over her shoulder, and
she pushed her way upward through the chestnut
boughs, carrying the Gesu folded to her
Watching her thus depart, a sudden and new
terror struck him.
'Wait,' he called to her. 'Will the priest
be angered that I disturbed the graves, think
'Nay, nay, not when he sees that you give
him the image,' she called backward in answer.
Then she disappeared in the green haze of
foliage, and Caris struck onward in the opposite
direction, to take the way which led to his cabin
on Genistrello. Her words had awakened him
to a consciousness of his bruised, befouled, and
He wished to avoid meeting anyone who
might question him as to his condition.
He got as quickly as he could by solitary
paths to his home, and was met with rapture by
his dog. He entered the house, and drank
thirstily; he could not eat; he washed in the
tank at the back of the hut, and clothed himself
in the best that he had: what he wore on holy
and on festal days.
Then he set his house-door wide open to the
gay morning light which, green and gleeful,
poured through the trunks of the chestnuts and
pines; and he sat down on his threshold with
the dog at his feet, and waited.
It would be a whole working-day lost, but
what of that? A lover may well lose a day's
pay for love's crown of joy.
Hour after hour passed by, and his eyes
strained and ached with looking into the green
light of the woods. But Santina came not.
The forenoon, and noontide and afternoon
went by; and still no living thing came up to
his solitary house. The whole day wore away,
and he saw no one, heard nothing, had no
visitant except the black stoat which flitted
across the path, and the grey thrushes which
flew by on their autumn flights towards lower
The long, fragrant, empty day crept slowly
by, and at last ended. She had not come.
He was still fasting. He drank thirstily, but
he could not eat, though he fed the dog.
He was in a state of nervous excitation almost
delirious. The trees and the hills and the sky
seemed to whirl around him. He dared not
leave the hut, lest she should come thither in
his absence. He stared till he was sightless
along the green path which led down to the four
roads. Now and then, stupidly, uselessly, he
shouted aloud; and the mountains echoed his
The dog knew that something was wrong
with his master, and was pained and afraid.
The evening fell. The night wore away.
He put a little lamp in his doorway, thinking
she might come, through shyness, after dark;
but no one came. Of her there was no sign, or
from her any word.
When the day came he was still dressed and
sleepless, seated before his door; the flame of
the little lamp burnt on, garish and yellow in
The sun mounted to the zenith; it was
again noon. He went indoors, and took a
great knife which he was accustomed to carry
with him to Maremma. He put it in his belt
inside his breeches, so that it was invisible.
Then he called the dog to him, kissed him on
the forehead, gave him bread, and motioned to
him to guard the house; then he took his way
once more down the hillside to Massaio's
If she had fooled him yet again, she would
not live to do it thrice. His throat was dry as
sand; his eyes were bloodshot; his look was
The dog howled and moaned as he passed out
He went onward under the boughs tinged
with their autumnal fires, until he came to the
place where the house and sheds and walls of
the wood merchant's homestead stood. He
walked straight in through the open gates, and
then stood still.
He saw that there was some unusual stir and
trouble in the place: no one was at work, the
children were gaping and gabbling, the housewife
was standing doing nothing, her hands at
her sides; Massaio himself was seated drumming
absently on the table.
'Where is Santina?' asked Caris.
They all spoke in answer, 'Santina is a jade'—Massaio's
voice louder and rougher than the
'She has gone out of the town and away,
none knows where; and she has left a letter behind
her saying that none need try to follow,
for she is gone to a fine new world, where she
will want none of us about her; and my brother
says it is all my fault, giving her liberty out on
the hills. And the marvel is where she got the
money, for we and they kept her so close—not
a stiver—not a penny—and it seems she took
the train that goes over the mountains ever so
far, and paid a power of gold at the station
The voice of Caris crossed his in a loud,
bitter cry. 'She sold the Gesu! As God lives—she
sold the Gesu!'
Then the blood rushed from his nostrils and
his mouth, and he fell face downwards.
A few days later he was arrested for having
violated and robbed the tombs in the burial-grounds
of St. Fulvo. The pickaxe and the
spade had been found with his name burned on
the wood of them; he was sentenced to three
years at the galleys for sacrilege and theft.
When the three years were ended he was an
old, gray, bowed man, though only twenty-nine
years of age; he returned to his cabin, and the
dog, who had been cared for by the charcoal-burners,
knew him from afar off, and flew down
the hill-path to meet him.
'The wench who ruined you,' said the charcoal-burners
around their fire that night, 'they
do say she is a fine singer and a rich madam
somewhere in foreign parts. She sold the Gesu—ay,
she sold the Gesu to a silversmith down in
the town. That gave her the money to start
with, and the rest her face and her voice have
done for her.'
'Who has the Gesu?' asked Caris, hiding
his eyes on the head of the dog.
'Oh, the Gesu, they say, was put in the
smelting-pot,' said the charcoal-burner.
Caris felt for the knife which was inside his
belt. It had been given back to him with his
clothes when he had been set free at the end of
'One could find her,' he thought, with a
thrill of savage longing. Then he looked down
at the dog and across at the green aisles of the
pines and chestnuts.
'Let the jade be,' said the forest-man to him.
'You are home again, and 'twas not you who
bartered the Christ.'
Caris fondled the haft of the great knife
under his waistband.
'She stole the Gesu and sold Him,' he said,
in a hushed voice. 'One day I will find her,
and I will strike her: once for myself and twice