PAN AND SYRINX

BY MRS. GUY E. LLOYD

Long ages ago in the pleasant land of Arcadia, where the kindly shepherds fed their flocks on the green hills, there lived a fair maiden named Syrinx. Even as a tiny child she loved to toddle forth from her father's house and lose herself in the quiet woods. Often were they forced to seek long and far before they found her, when the dew was falling and the stars coming out in the dark blue sky; but however late it was, they never found her afraid nor eager to be safe at home. Sometimes she was curled up on the soft moss under the shelter of a spreading tree, fast asleep; sometimes she was lying by the side of a stream listening to the merry laughter of the water; sometimes, sitting over the stones upon the hillside, she would be watching with wonder and delight the lady moon, with her bright train of clouds, racing across the sky as if in hot chase.

Years passed on, and Syrinx grew into a tall and slender maiden, with long fair hair and great gray eyes, with a look in them that made her seem to be always listening. Out in the woods there are so many sounds for any one who has ears to hear—the different notes of the birds, the hum of the insects, the swift, light rustle as some furry four-legged hunter creeps through the underwood. Then there is the pleasant, happy murmur of the breeze among the leaves, with a different sound in it for every different tree, or the wild shriek of the gale that rends the straining branches, or the bubbling of the spring, or the prattle of the running stream, or the plash of the waterfall. Many are the sounds of the woods, and Syrinx knew and loved them all until

"Beauty born of murmuring sound,
Had passed into her face."

"Have a care, Syrinx," her playfellows would say sometimes. "If you wander alone in the woods, some day you will see the terrible god Pan."

"I should like well to see him," the maiden made answer one day to an old crone who thus warned her. "The great god Pan loves the woods and everything that lives in them, and so do I. We must needs be friends if we meet."

The old woman looked at her in horror and amaze. "You know not what you say, child," she made answer. "Some aver that none can look upon Pan and live, but of that I am none so sure, for I have heard of shepherds to whom he has spoken graciously, and they never the worse for it. But of this there is no doubt—whoever hears the shout of Pan runs mad with the sound of it. So be not too venturesome, or evil will come of it."

Now Syrinx might have taken warning from these wise and kindly words. As it was, she treasured them, and only wondered what this god could be like, the sound of whose shout made men run mad. She feared to see him, and would have run swiftly away if she had caught a glimpse of him, and yet she went continually to the far and silent groves whither, so the shepherds said, Pan was most wont to resort.

It chanced one day that Syrinx had wandered farther than was her wont; she had been in the woods since daybreak, and now it was high noon. She was tired and hot, and lay down to rest on a bank beneath a tall ash tree that was all covered with ivy, and resting there she soon fell fast asleep. While she slept the wild things of the woods came to look upon her with wonder. A doe that was passing with her fawn stood for a moment gazing mildly upon the maiden, and the fawn stooped and licked her fingers, but at the touch Syrinx stirred in her sleep and both doe and fawn bounded away among the bushes. A little squirrel dropped lightly from a tree and sat up close beside her, his tail curled jauntily over his back, his bright eyes fixed upon her face. The little furry rabbits first peeped at her out of their holes, and then growing bolder came quite close and sat with their soft paws tucked down and their ears cocked very stiffly, listening to her quiet breathing. And last of all, stepping noiselessly over the grass, came the lord of all the wild things, the great god Pan himself.

His legs and feet were like those of a goat, so that he could move more quickly and lightly than the wild gazelle, and his ears were long and pointed—ears like those of a squirrel, so that he could hear the stirring of a nestling not yet out of its egg. Softly he drew nigh to the maiden, and there was a wicked smile in his bright dark eyes. But as he bent to look into her face she stirred, and he leapt lightly back and sat himself down a little space from her, leaning on his arm among the brushwood till he was half hidden from her. Beside him lay a great bough torn from the tree by some winter storm; Pan drew this to him and began to cut from it a piece of wood whereof to fashion a dainty little drinking-cup. And lying there, cutting at the wood, Pan began to whistle low and sweetly to himself, just as though he had been some shepherd or huntsman resting in the shade.

At first the soft notes made for the half-awakened maiden a dream of singing birds and rippling water; then her drowsy eyes unclosed and she became aware of a bearded face turned half away from her and bent over some sort of work. For a time she lay still, and Pan forebore to glance at her, but cut away at the piece of wood he was fashioning, and whistled to himself as though he had not marked the maiden.

Presently, broad awake, Syrinx raised herself upon her elbow and gazed full upon the stranger, who glanced round at her in a careless, friendly way, and nodded to her with a kindly smile.

"Thou hast slept well, fair maiden," said Pan, in a low, gentle voice, that sounded like the far-off murmur of a winter torrent.

And Syrinx, reassured by the gleam of the merry dark eyes, made answer: "Yea, fair sir, for I had wandered far, and was aweary."

"How hast thou dared to wander so far from the haunts of men?" asked the sylvan god, "Art thou not afeard of all that might meet thee here in the deep forest?"

"I fear none of the wild things of the wood," answered Syrinx simply, "for none has ever done me hurt. If thou art, as I judge thee, a hunter, thou knowest that it is through fear alone that the beasts of the forest do harm to man. But I move ever quietly among them, and do not startle them, and they go on their ways and leave me in peace."

"Thou art passing wise," said Pan; "there are few indeed of thy years who have attained to thy knowledge. When a man perceives a rustling in the brushwood he flings his spear at the place; while women, for the most part, scream and flee. But the fearless may walk quiet and unharmed through the depths of the forest."

"There is one fear in my heart, kind stranger," said Syrinx earnestly. "There be shepherds who say that in these forest paths they have seen and spoken with the great god Pan himself. But some say that it is death to see him, and all say that men run mad at the sound of his shout. How thinkest thou? Hast thou ever caught a glimpse of him?"

There was a merry twinkle in those dancing eyes as the stranger made answer: "Nay, maiden, I have never seen him of whom thou speakest; but cast away thy last fear, for sure I am that the sight of him is not death to any living thing. He loves and cares for all that hath life; and as for his shout, that is only heard in battle, for he never cries aloud save in wrath, and then indeed it brings confusion to his enemies or to those who withstand him, but to his friends it brings courage and triumph."

Syrinx heaved a sigh of relief, and lay back again, one arm under her head, her long fair hair rippling over her shoulder, and her beautiful gray eyes fixed upon the face of the stranger.

Pan gazed upon her, and crept a little nearer through the brushwood.

"Sure I am that thou art as wise as thou art kind, fair stranger," said the innocent maiden. "There has ever been within me a secret thought that Pan, the lord of all the wild things of the wood, could not be fierce and cruel as men said, and ever have I been assured that could I meet and speak with him I should love him well."

"Love, love, love, love," said the deep soft voice of the great god Pan. "Every tree, every flower, every bird, every beast lives for nothing else. Dost thou indeed understand what thou sayest, fair maiden?"

And the girl nodded her pretty head wisely, for she quite thought she did. "Yea, kind stranger," she answered, "for when I look into the eyes of one to whom I have never yet spoken a word, I know at once whether his speech and company are like to be pleasant to me, or whether I would have him pass on and speak no word. When I lay half asleep but now, and listened to your merry whistling, I could feel within me that it was a sweet and a friendly sound, and good to hear. It was like the speech of the forest, which I have loved since I was a baby."

Pan laughed gently to himself as he fashioned his wooden cup; but there was a new gleam in his downcast eyes, and when next he glanced at her Syrinx saw the change, and a vague uneasiness awoke in her. She looked at the sky, already beginning to glow with the radiance of the setting sun.

"It grows late," she said; "I must away, for I have far to go ere night-fall. Farewell, gentle stranger."

"Nay, but stay a little longer," said Pan gently. "I know every path of the forest, and if the darkness falls upon thee I can guide thee safely, never fear."

But the maiden feared the more, as she sprang to her feet.

"Nay, I must tarry no longer," she said hastily; "it is already over-late." Tossing her hair back from her flushed face she sprang away down the slope like a frightened fawn.

Forgetting all but his wish to stay her Pan leapt up to follow her, and glancing back over her shoulder Syrinx saw his goat feet, and knew with whom she had been speaking. With a sudden start she plunged into the brushwood, and as she disappeared from his sight Pan, anxious only to bring her back, uttered a mighty cry.

The sound smote upon the ear of the terrified maiden, and her brain reeled. With one wild shriek of terror she turned and fled, and before even those swift goat's feet could overtake her she had plunged into the river, and was gone—a reed lost among the river-reeds.

And the great god Pan sat down upon the river bank sorrowful and baffled; and as he gazed upon the water, flushed with the light of the setting sun, he saw the very bank of water-reeds where Syrinx had disappeared. Slender and graceful they were, as the maiden who was gone, and they trembled as she had done when she looked behind and saw who was her pursuer, and their tufted heads, golden in the evening light, reminded Pan of the golden hair of Syrinx. He stepped forward to the edge of the water, and stooping, plucked a handful of the reeds. They snapped with a sharp crack in his strong fingers, and as he looked down at them he sighed deeply. His sigh came back to him with a low musical note, and Pan went back to the bank, and sitting himself down he scanned and fingered tenderly the hollow stalks. Long did he sit there with his newly found treasure; the sun went down, the crimson clouds turned to dark lines across the pale saffron sky, the full moon rose slowly from behind the hill, and still Pan bent over his handful of water-reeds, and breathed upon them this way and that, and cut and fashioned them with care.

Next day the shepherds were all abroad in the woods searching for Syrinx, but of her they found no trace; only, as they moved hither and thither, they heard sweet and strange and far-off music. It was as if all the sounds of the forest had been modulated and harmonized; now it swelled and grew loud and joyous, and now it died away in pitiful lamenting. It was Pan, playing upon the sevenfold pipe that he had made, and when at length he gave it to the sons of men, and taught them to play upon it too, he gave it the name of Syrinx, the beautiful and hapless maiden whom he had loved and lost.