‘Save us!’ repeated Farina, with the echo of a deadened soul.
They made the sign of the Cross, and purified the place with holy ejaculations.
’I ’ve seen him at last; grant it be for the last time! That’s my prayer, in the name of the Virgin and Trinity,’ said Guy. ’And now let’s retrace our steps: perchance we shall hunt up that bauble of yours, but I’m not fit for mortal work this night longer.’
Burdened by their black encounter, the two passed again behind the Cathedral. Farina’s hungry glances devoured each footmark of their track. Where the moon held no lantern for him, he went on his knees, and groped for his lost treasure with a miser’s eager patience of agony, drawing his hand slowly over the stony kerb and between the interstices of the thick-sown flints, like an acute-feeling worm. Despair grew heavy in his breast. At every turning he invoked some good new saint to aid him, and ran over all the propitiations his fancy could suggest and his religious lore inspire. By-and-by they reached the head of the street where Margarita dwelt. The moon was dipping down, and paler, as if touched with a warning of dawn. Chill sighs from the open land passed through the spaces of the city. On certain coloured gables and wood-crossed fronts, the white light lingered; but mostly the houses were veiled in dusk, and Gottlieb’s house was confused in the twilight with those of his neighbours, notwithstanding its greater stateliness and the old grandeur of its timbered bulk. They determined to take up their position there again, and paced on, Farina with his head below his shoulders, and Guy nostril in air, as if uneasy in his sense of smell.
On the window-ledge of a fair-fitted domicile stood a flower-pot, a rude earthen construction in the form of a river-barge, wherein grew some valley lilies that drooped their white bells over the sides.
The Goshawk eyed them wistfully.
‘I must smell those blessed flowers if I wish to be saved!’ and he stamped resolve with his staff.
Moved by this exclamation, Farina gazed up at them.
‘How like a company of maidens they look floating in the vessel of life!’ he said.
Guy curiously inspected Farina and the flower-pot, shrugged, and with his comrade’s aid, mounted to a level with it, seized the prize and redescended.
‘There,’ he cried, between long luxurious sniffs, ’that chases him out of the nostril sooner than aught else, the breath of a fresh lass-like flower! I was tormented till now by the reek of the damned rising from under me. This is heaven’s own incense, I think !’
And Guy inhaled the flowers and spake prettily to them.
‘They have a melancholy sweetness, friend,’ said Farina. ’I think of whispering Fays, and Elf, and Erl, when their odour steals through me. Do not you?’
‘Nay, nor hope to till my wits are clean gone,’ was the Goshawk’s reply. ’To my mind, ’tis an honest flower, and could I do good service by the young maiden who there set it, I should be rendering back good service done; for if that flower has not battled the devil in my nose this night, and beaten him, my head’s a medlar!’