Although she could not remember ever having seen those copses, those clearings, those heaths, at every turn in the path she would say to herself, “There, I knew it was so! I knew that tree would be there! I was sure of that rock! And there’s the waterfall just below!” Although a thousand strange remembrances passed with momentary flashes, like sudden visions, through her mind, she could not understand it all and could explain nothing. She had not yet been able to say to herself, “What Fritz and the rest of them want to make them happy is the village, and the meadow, and the farm-house, and the fruit-trees, and the orchard, and the milk-cows, and the laying hens; plenty in the cellar, plenty in the granary, and a nice warm fire on the hearth in winter. But what have I to do with all these things? Wasn’t I born a heathen, quite a heathen? I was born in the woods, just as the squirrel was born in an oak, just as a hawk was hatched on the crag and the thrush in the fir-tree!”
It is true she had never thought of these things, but she was guided by instinct; and this mysterious force drew her unconsciously about sunset to the bare heaths of the Kohle Platz, where the gangs of gipsies that wander between Alsace and Lorraine are accustomed to stay the night, and hang up their kettles among the dry heath.
Here Myrtle sat down at the foot of an old oak-tree, tired, footsore, and ragged; and here she long sat motionless, gazing into vacant space, listening to the rustling of the wind amongst the tall fir-trees, happy, and feeling herself quite alone in the wide solitude.
Night came. The stars broke out by thousands in the purple depths of the autumn sky. The moon rose and silvered with soft light the white stems of the birch-trees, which hung in graceful groups along the mountain sides.
The young gipsy was beginning to yield to sleep when cries in the distance roused her into an impulse to fly.
Hark! She knows the voices! They are those of Bremer, Fritz, and all the people of the farm searching for her!
Then, without a moment’s hesitation, Myrtle flew, light as a roe, farther into the forest, stopping only at long intervals to listen attentively and anxiously.
The cries died away in the distance, and soon the only sound she could hear was the loud beating of her own heart, and she went on her way at a less rapid pace.
Very late, when the moon’s rays became less brilliant, unable to stand out against her fatigue any longer, she sank down on the heath and fell fast asleep.
She was four leagues from Dosenheim, near the source of the Zinzel. Bremer was not likely to come so far to look for her.
It was broad daylight when Myrtle awoke amidst the deep solitudes of the Schlossberg, beneath an old fir-tree overgrown with moss and lichen. A thrush was whistling overhead; another was answering in the distance far down the valley. The morning breeze was fanning the rustling foliage; but the air, already warm, was loaded with the sweet perfumes of the ground-ivy, the honeysuckle, the woodruff, and the sweetbriars.