And Achilles bent to her with tender gesture. Then he lifted his head and listened. There was another sound, on the plain, mingling with the sobs that swept across the child’s frame.
He touched her quietly. “Someone is coming,” he said.
She lifted her face, holding her breath with quick lip.
The sound creaked to them, and muffled itself, and spread across the plain, and came again in irregular rhythm that grew to the slow beat of hoofs coming upon the road.
Achilles listened back to the sound and waited a minute. Then he covered the child, as before, with his coat and turned back, walking along the road to meet the sound. It creaked toward him and loomed through the light of the stars—a great market wagon loaded with produce—the driver leaning forward on the seat with loose rein, half asleep. Suddenly he lifted his head and tightened rein, peering forward through the dark at the figure down there in the road. Achilles held his way.
“Hello!” said the man sharply.
Achilles paused and looked up—one hand resting lightly on his hip, turned a little back—the other thrust in his breast.
The man’s eyes scanned him through the dimness. “Where you bound for?” he asked curtly.
“I walk,” said Achilles.
“Want a job?” asked the man.
“You got job for me?” asked Achilles. His voice had all the guileless caution of the foreigner astray in a free land. The man moved along on the seat. “Jump up,” he said.
Achilles looked back and forth along the road. “I think I go long,” he said slowly.
The man gave an impatient sound in his throat and clicked to the horses. The heavy wagon creaked into motion, and caught its rhythm and rumbled on.
Achilles’s ears followed it with deepest caution. The creaking mass of sound had passed the flat-spread coat without stop, and gathered itself away into a slow rumble, and passed on in the blurring dark.
Beyond it, the little, low lights still twinkled and the suburb waited with its trailing cars.
But when he lifted the coat she had fallen asleep, her face resting on her arm, and he bent to it tenderly, and listened.
AND CLANGING CARS
He looked up into the darkness and waited. He would let her sleep a minute... there was little danger now. The city waited, over there, with its low lights; and the friendly night shut them in. Before the morning dawned he should bring her home—safe home.... A kind of simple pride held him, and his heart leaped a little to the stars and sang with them—as he squatted in the low grass, keeping guard.
Presently he leaned and touched her.
She started with a shiver and sprang up, rubbing her eyes and crying out, “I—had—a—dream—” she said softly—“a beautiful dream!” Then her eyes caught the stars and blinked to them—through dusty sleep—and she turned to him with swift cry, “You’re here!” she said. “It’s not a dream! It’s you!”