“Tell me I pray, why seek you my name, and wherefore?”
Quoth Beltane, soft and slow as one that dreams:
“I have seen thine eyes look at me from the flowers, ere now, have heard thy laughter in the brook, and found thy beauty in all fair things: methinks thy name should be a most sweet name.”
Now was it upon her lips to tell him what he asked, but, being a woman, she held her peace for very contrariness, and blushing beneath his gaze, looked down and cried aloud, and pointed to a grub that crawled upon her habit. So Beltane loosed the bridle, and in that moment, she laughed for very triumph and was off, galloping ’neath the trees. Yet, as she went, she turned and called to him, and the word she called was:—
OF THE LOVE AND THE GRIEF OF HELEN THE PROUD
Long stood Beltane where she had left him, the soft shadows of night deepening about him, dreaming ever of her beauty, of her wondrous hair, and of the little foot that had peeped forth at him ’neath her habit, and, full of these thoughts, for once he was deaf to the soft voices of the trees nor heard the merry chatter of the brook. But later, upon his bed he lay awake full long and must needs remember yet another Helen, with the same wondrous hair and eyes of mystery, for whose sake men had died and a noble city burned; and, hereupon, his heart grew strangely heavy and cold with an unknown dread.
Days came and went, and labouring at the forge or lying out in the sunshine gazing wistfully beyond the swaying tree-tops, Beltane would oft start and turn his head, fancying the rustle of her garments in his ears, or her voice calling to him from some flowery thicket; and the wind in the trees whispered “Helen!” and the brook sang of Helen, and Helen was in his thoughts continually.
Thus my Beltane forgot his loves the flowers, and sang no more the wonders of the forest-lands.
And oft-times the Duchess, seated in state within her great hall of Mortain looking down upon her knights and nobles, would sigh, for none was there so noble of form nor so comely as Beltane the Smith. Hereupon her white brow would grow troubled and, turning from them all, she would gaze with deep, unfathomable eyes, away across the valley to where, amid the mystery of the trees, Beltane had his lonely dwelling.
Wherefore it was, that, looking up one evening from where he sat busied with brush and colours upon a border of wondrous design, Beltane beheld her of whom he was dreaming; and she, standing tall and fair before him, saw that in his look the which set her heart a-fluttering at her white breast most strangely; yet, fearing she should betray aught of it, she laughed gaily and mocked him, as is the way of women, saying:
“Well, thou despiser of Love, I hearkened vainly for thy new song as I rode hither through the green.”