My father crammed down the ashes in his pipe, and glanced back at the sun, now dropping into the fold of the glen between us and the sea.
“I will give you another chance,” he said.
Thrice that night, my dreams being troubled, I awoke and stretched myself to see Billy pacing grimly in the moonlight between us and the gateway, tholing his penance. I know not what aroused me the fourth time; some sound, perhaps. The dawn was breaking, and, half-lifted on my elbow, I saw Billy, his musket still at his shoulder, halt by the gateway as if he, too, had been arrested by the sound. After a moment he turned, quite casually, and stepped outside the gate to look.
I saw him step outside. I was but half-awake, and drowsily my eyes closed and opened again with a start, expecting to see him back at his sentry-go. He had not returned.
I closed my eyes again, in no way alarmed as yet. I would give him another minute, another sixty seconds. But before I had counted thirty my ears caught a sound, and I leapt up, wide awake, and touched my father’s shoulder.
He sat up, cast a glance about him, and sprang to his feet. Together we ran to the gateway.
The voice I had heard was the grunting of the hogs. They were gathered about the gateway again, and, as before, they scampered from us up the glade.
But of Billy Priske there was no sign at all. We stared at each other and rubbed our eyes; we two, left alone out of our company of six. Although the sun would not pierce to the valley for another hour, it slanted already between the pine-stems on the ridge, and above us the sky was light with another day.
And again, punctual with the dawn, over the ridge a far voice broke into singing. As before, it came to us in cadences descending to a long-drawn refrain—Mortu, mortu, mortu!
“Billy! Billy Priske!” we called, and listened.
“Mortu, mortu, mortu!” sang the voice, and died away behind the ridge.
For some time we stood and heard the hogs crashing their way through the undergrowth at the head of the glade, with a snapping and crackling of twigs, which by degrees grew fainter. This, too, died away; and, returning to our camp, we sat among the baggage and stared one another in the face.
HOW BY MEANS OF HER SWINE I CAME TO CIRCE.
“So saying I took my way up from the ship and the sea-shore. But on my way, as I drew near through the glades to the home of the enchantress Circe, there met me Hermes with his golden rod, in semblance of a lad wearing youth’s bloom on his lip and all youth’s charm at its heyday. He clasped my hand and spake and greeted me. ’Whither away now, wretched wight, amid these mountain-summits alone and astray? And yonder in the styes of Circe, transformed to swine, thy comrades lie penned and make their lairs!’”—Odyssey, bk. X.
“Prosper,” said my father, seriously, “we must return to the ship.”