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After London - Wild England
by Richard Jefferies
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Overjoyed at this sudden turn of fortune, Felix forgot to let well alone. He had his audience with him for a moment; he could not resist as it were following up his victory. He thanked the king, and added that he could make a machine which would knock the walls yonder to pieces without it being necessary to approach nearer than half a bow-shot.

"What is this?" said the king. "Ingulph, have you ever heard of such a machine?"

"There is no such thing," said the Baron, beginning to feel that his professional reputation as the master of the artillery was assailed. "There is nothing of the kind known."

"It will shoot stones as big, as heavy as a man can lift," said Felix eagerly, "and easily knock towers to fragments."

The king looked from one to another; he was incredulous. The Baron smiled scornfully. "Ask him, your majesty, how these stones are to be thrown; no bow could do it."

"How are the stones to be thrown?" said the king sharply. "Beware how you play with us."

"By the force of twisted ropes, your majesty."

They all laughed. The Baron said: "You see, your majesty, there is nothing of the kind. This is some jester."

"The twisted rope should be a halter," said another courtier, one of those who hoped for the rich man's downfall.

"It can be done, your majesty," cried Felix, alarmed. "I assure you, a stone of two hundredweight might be thrown a quarter of a mile."

The assembly did not repress its contempt.

"The man is a fool," said the king, who now thought that Felix was a jester who had put a trick upon him. "But your joke is out of joint; I will teach such fellows to try tricks on us! Beat him out of camp."

The provost's men seized him, and in a moment he was dragged off his feet, and bodily carried outside the entrenchment. Thence they pushed him along, beating him with the butts of their spears to make him run the faster; the groups they passed laughed and jeered; the dogs barked and snapped at his ankles. They hurried him outside the camp, and thrusting him savagely with their spear butts sent him headlong. There they left him, with the caution which he did not hear, being insensible, that if he ventured inside the lines he would be at once hanged. Like a dead dog they left him on the ground.

Some hours later, in the dusk of the evening, Felix stole from the spot, skirting the forest like a wild animal afraid to venture from its cover, till he reached the track which led to Aisi. His one idea was to reach his canoe. He would have gone through the woods, but that was not possible. Without axe or wood-knife to hew a way, the tangled brushwood he knew to be impassable, having observed how thick it was when coming. Aching and trembling in every limb, not so much with physical suffering as that kind of inward fever which follows unmerited injury, the revolt of the mind against it, he followed the track as fast as his weary frame would let him. He had tasted nothing that day but the draught from the king's cup, and a second draught when he recovered consciousness, from the stream that flowed past the camp. Yet he walked steadily on without pause; his head hung forward, and his arms were listless, but his feet mechanically plodded on. He walked, indeed, by his will, and not with his sinews. Thus, like a ghost, for there was no life in him, he traversed the shadowy forest.

The dawn came, and still he kept onwards. As the sun rose higher, having now travelled fully twenty miles, he saw houses on the right of the trail. They were evidently those of retainers or workmen employed on the manor, for a castle stood at some distance.

An hour later he approached the second or open city of Aisi, where the ferry was across the channel. In his present condition he could not pass through the town. No one there knew of his disgrace, but it was the same to him as if they had. Avoiding the town itself, he crossed the cultivated fields, and upon arriving at the channel he at once stepped in, and swam across to the opposite shore. It was not more than sixty yards, but, weary as he was, it was an exhausting effort. He sat down, but immediately got up and struggled on.

The church tower on the slope of the hill was a landmark by which he easily discovered the direction of the spot where he had hidden the canoe. But he felt unable to push through the belt of brushwood, reeds, and flags beside the shore, and therefore struck through the firs, following a cattle track, which doubtless led to another grazing ground. This ran parallel with the shore, and when he judged himself about level with the canoe he left it, and entered the wood itself. For a little way he could walk, but the thick fir branches soon blocked his progress, and he could progress only on hands and knees, creeping beneath them. There was a hollow space under the lower branches free from brushwood.

Thus he painfully approached the Lake, and descending the hill, after an hour's weary work emerged among the rushes and reeds. He was within two hundred yards of the canoe, for he recognised the island opposite it. In ten minutes he found it undisturbed and exactly as he had left it, except that the breeze had strewn the dry reeds with which it was covered with willow leaves, yellow and dead (they fall while all the rest are green), which had been whirled from the branches. Throwing himself upon the reeds beside the canoe, he dropped asleep as if he had been dead.

He awoke as the sun was sinking and sat up, hungry in the extreme, but much refreshed. There were still some stores in the canoe, of which he ate ravenously. But he felt better now; he felt at home beside his boat. He could hardly believe in the reality of the hideous dream through which he had passed. But when he tried to stand, his feet, cut and blistered, only too painfully assured him of its reality. He took out his hunter's hide and cloak and spread himself a comfortable bed. Though he had slept so long he was still weary. He reclined in a semi-unconscious state, his frame slowly recovering from the strain it had endured, till by degrees he fell asleep again. Sleep, nothing but sleep, restores the overtaxed mind and body.



CHAPTER XXI

A VOYAGE

The sun was up when Felix awoke, and as he raised himself the beauty of the Lake before him filled him with pleasure. By the shore it was so calm that the trees were perfectly reflected, and the few willow leaves that had fallen floated without drifting one way or the other. Farther out the islands were lit up with the sunlight, and the swallows skimmed the water, following the outline of their shores. In the Lake beyond them, glimpses of which he could see through the channel or passage between, there was a ripple where the faint south-western breeze touched the surface. His mind went out to the beauty of it. He did not question or analyse his feelings; he launched his vessel, and left that hard and tyrannical land for the loveliness of the water.

Paddling out to the islands he passed through between them, and reached the open Lake. There he hoisted the sail, the gentle breeze filled it, the sharp cutwater began to divide the ripples, a bubbling sound arose, and steering due north, straight out to the open and boundless expanse, he was carried swiftly away.

The mallards, who saw the canoe coming, at first scarcely moved, never thinking that a boat would venture outside the islands, within whose line they were accustomed to see vessels, but when the canoe continued to bear down upon them, they flew up and descended far away to one side. When he had sailed past the spot where these birds had floated, the Lake was his own. By the shores of the islands the crows came down for mussels. Moorhens swam in and out among the rushes, water-rats nibbled at the flags, pikes basked at the edge of the weeds, summer-snipes ran along the sand, and doubtless an otter here and there was in concealment. Without the line of the shoals and islets, now that the mallards had flown, there was a solitude of water. It was far too deep for the longest weeds, nothing seemed to exist here. The very water-snails seek the shore, or are drifted by the currents into shallow corners. Neither great nor little care for the broad expanse.

The canoe moved more rapidly as the wind came now with its full force over the distant woods and hills, and though it was but a light southerly breeze, the broad sail impelled the taper vessel swiftly. Reclining in the stern, Felix lost all consciousness of aught but that he was pleasantly borne along. His eyes were not closed, and he was aware of the canoe, the Lake, the sunshine, and the sky, and yet he was asleep. Physically awake, he mentally slumbered. It was rest. After the misery, exertion, and excitement of the last fortnight it was rest, intense rest for body and mind. The pressure of the water against the handle of the rudder-paddle, the slight vibration of the wood, as the bubbles rushed by beneath, alone perhaps kept him from really falling asleep. This was something which could not be left to itself; it must be firmly grasped, and that effort restrained his drowsiness.

Three hours passed. The shore was twelve or fifteen miles behind, and looked like a blue cloud, for the summer haze hid the hills, more than would have been the case in clearer weather.

Another hour, and at last Felix, awakening from his slumberous condition, looked round and saw nothing but the waves. The shore he had left had entirely disappeared, gone down; if there were land more lofty on either hand, the haze concealed it. He looked again; he could scarcely comprehend it. He knew the Lake was very wide, but it had never occurred to him that he might possibly sail out of sight of land. This, then was why the mariners would not quit the islands; they feared the open water. He stood up and swept the horizon carefully, shading his eyes with his hand; there was nothing but a mist at the horizon. He was alone with the sun, the sky, and the Lake. He could not surely have sailed into the ocean without knowing it? He sat down, dipped his hand overboard and tasted the drops that adhered; the water was pure and sweet, warm from the summer sunshine.

There was not so much as a swift in the upper sky; nothing but slender filaments of white cloud. No swallows glided over the surface of the water. If there were fishes he could not see them through the waves, which were here much larger; sufficiently large, though the wind was light, to make his canoe rise and fall with their regular rolling. To see fishes a calm surface is necessary, and, like other creatures, they haunt the shallows and the shore. Never had he felt alone like this in the depths of the farthest forest he had penetrated. Had he contemplated beforehand the possibility of passing out of sight of land, when he found that the canoe had arrived he would probably have been alarmed and anxious for his safety. But thus stumbling drowsily into the solitude of the vast Lake, he was so astounded with his own discovery, so absorbed in thinking of the immense expanse, that the idea of danger did not occur to him.

Another hour passed, and he now began to gaze about him more eagerly for some sight of land, for he had very little provision with him, and he did not wish to spend the night upon the Lake. Presently, however, the mist on the horizon ahead appeared to thicken, and then became blue, and in a shorter time than he expected land came in sight. This arose from the fact of its being low, so that he had approached nearer than he knew before recognising it. At the time when he was really out of sight of the coast, he was much further from the hilly land left behind than from the low country in front, and not in the mathematical centre, as he had supposed, of the Lake. As it rose and came more into sight, he already began to wonder what reception he should meet with from the inhabitants, and whether he should find them as hard of heart as the people he had just escaped from. Should he, indeed, venture among them at all? Or should he remain in the woods till he had observed more of their ways and manners? These questions were being debated in his mind, when he perceived that the wind was falling.

As the sun went past the meridian the breeze fell, till, in the hottest part of the afternoon, and when he judged that he was not more than eight miles from shore, it sank to the merest zephyr, and the waves by degrees diminished. So faint became the breeze in half-an-hour's time, and so intermittent, that he found it patience wasted even to hold the rudder-paddle. The sail hung and was no longer bellied out; as the idle waves rolled under, it flapped against the mast. The heat was now so intolerable, the light reflected from the water increasing the sensation, that he was obliged to make himself some shelter by partly lowering the sail, and hauling the yard athwart the vessel, so that the canvas acted as an awning. Gradually the waves declined in volume, and the gentle breathing of the wind ebbed away, till at last the surface was almost still, and he could feel no perceptible air stirring.

Weary of sitting in the narrow boat, he stood up, but he could not stretch himself sufficiently for the change to be of much use. The long summer day, previously so pleasant, now appeared scarcely endurable. Upon the silent water the time lingered, for there was nothing to mark its advance, not so much as a shadow beyond that of his own boat. The waves having now no crest, went under the canoe without chafing against it, or rebounding, so that they were noiseless. No fishes rose to the surface. There was nothing living near, except a blue butterfly, which settled on the mast, having ventured thus far from land. The vastness of the sky, over-arching the broad water, the sun, and the motionless filaments of cloud, gave no repose for his gaze, for they were seemingly still. To the weary gaze motion is repose; the waving boughs, the foam-tipped waves, afford positive rest to look at. Such intense stillness as this of the summer sky was oppressive; it was like living in space itself, in the ether above. He welcomed at last the gradual downward direction of the sun, for, as the heat decreased, he could work with the paddle.

Presently he furled the sail, took his paddle, and set his face for the land. He laboured steadily, but made no apparent progress. The canoe was heavy, and the outrigger or beam, which was of material use in sailing, was a drawback to paddling. He worked till his arms grew weary, and still the blue land seemed as far off as ever.

But by the time the sun began to approach the horizon, his efforts had produced some effect, the shore was visible, and the woods beyond. They were still five miles distant, and he was tired; there was little chance of his reaching it before night. He put his paddle down for refreshment and rest, and while he was thus engaged, a change took place. A faint puff of air came; a second, and a third; a tiny ripple ran along the surface. Now he recollected that he had heard that the mariners depended a great deal on the morning and the evening—the land and the Lake—breeze as they worked along the shore. This was the first breath of the Land breeze. It freshened after a while, and he re-set his sail.

An hour or so afterwards he came near the shore; he heard the thrushes singing, and the cuckoo calling, long before he landed. He did not stay to search about for a creek, but ran the canoe on the strand, which was free of reeds or flags, a sign that the waves often beat furiously there, rolling as they must for so many miles. He hauled the canoe up as high as he could, but presently when he looked about him he found that he was on a small and narrow island, with a channel in the rear. Tired as he was, yet anxious for the safety of his canoe, he pushed off again, and paddled round and again beached her with the island between her and the open Lake. Else he feared if a south wind should blow she might be broken to pieces on the strand before his eyes. It was prudent to take the precaution, but, as it happened, the next day the Lake was still.

He could see no traces of human occupation upon the island, which was of small extent and nearly bare, and therefore, in the morning, paddled across the channel to the mainland, as he thought. But upon exploring the opposite shore, it proved not to be the mainland, but merely another island. Paddling round it, he tried again, but with the same result; he found nothing but island after island, all narrow, and bearing nothing except bushes. Observing a channel which seemed to go straight in among these islets, he resolved to follow it, and did so (resting at noon-time) the whole morning. As he paddled slowly in, he found the water shallower, and weeds, bulrushes, and reeds became thick, except quite in the centre.

After the heat of midday had gone over, he resumed his voyage, and still found the same; islets and banks, more or less covered with hawthorn bushes, willow, elder, and alder, succeeded to islets, fringed round their edges with reeds and reed canary-grass. When he grew weary of paddling, he landed and stayed the night; the next day he went on again, and still for hour after hour rowed in and out among these banks and islets, till he began to think he should never find his way out.

The farther he penetrated the more numerous became the waterfowl. Ducks swam among the flags, or rose with a rush and splashing. Coots and moorhens dived and hid in the reeds. The lesser grebe sank at the sound of the paddle like a stone. A strong northern diver raised a wave as he hurried away under the water, his course marked by the undulation above him. Sedge-birds chirped in the willows; black-headed buntings sat on the trees, and watched him without fear. Bearded titmice were there, clinging to the stalks of the sedges, and long-necked herons rose from the reedy places where they love to wade. Blue dragon-flies darted to and fro, or sat on water-plants as if they were flowers. Snakes swam across the channels, vibrating their heads from side to side. Swallows swept over his head. Pike "struck" from the verge of the thick weeds as he came near. Perch rose for insects as they fell helpless into the water.

He noticed that the water, though so thick with reeds, was as clear as that in the open Lake; there was no scum such as accumulates in stagnant places. From this he concluded that there must be a current, however slight, perhaps from rivers flowing into this part of the Lake. He felt the strongest desire to explore farther till he reached the mainland, but he reflected that mere exploration was not his object; it would never obtain Aurora for him. There were no signs whatever of human habitation, and from reeds and bulrushes, however interesting, nothing could be gained. Reluctantly, therefore, on the third morning, having passed the night on one of the islets, he turned his canoe, and paddled southwards towards the Lake.

He did not for a moment attempt to retrace the channel by which he had entered; it would have been an impossibility; he took advantage of any clear space to push through. It took him as long to get out as it had to get in; it was the afternoon of the fourth day when he at last regained the coast. He rested the remainder of the afternoon, wishing to start fresh in the morning, having determined to follow the line of the shore eastwards, and so gradually to circumnavigate the Lake. If he succeeded in nothing else, that at least would be something to relate to Aurora.

The morning rose fair and bright, with a south-westerly air rather than a breeze. He sailed before it; it was so light that his progress could not have exceeded more than three miles an hour. Hour after hour passed away, and still he followed the line of the shore, now going a short way out to skirt an island, and now nearer it to pass between sandbanks. By noon he was so weary of sitting in the canoe that he ran her ashore, and rested awhile.

It was the very height of the heat of the day when he set forth again, and the wind lighter than in the morning. It had, however, changed a little, and blew now from the west, almost too exactly abaft to suit his craft. He could not make a map while sailing, or observe his position accurately, but it appeared to him that the shore trended towards the south-east, so that he was gradually turning an arc. He supposed from this that he must be approaching the eastern end of the Lake. The water seemed shallower, to judge from the quantity of weeds. Now and then he caught glimpses between the numerous islands of the open Lake, and there, too, the weeds covered the surface in many places.

In an hour or two the breeze increased considerably, and travelling so much quicker, he found it required all his dexterity to steer past the islands and clear the banks upon which he was drifting. Once or twice he grazed the willows that overhung the water, and heard the keel of the canoe drag on the bottom. As much as possible he bore away from the mainland, steering south-east, thinking to find deeper water, and to be free of the islets. He succeeded in the first, but the islets were now so numerous that he could not tell where the open Lake was. The farther the afternoon advanced, the more the breeze freshened, till occasionally, as it blew between the islands, it struck his mast almost with the force of a gale. Felix welcomed the wind, which would enable him to make great progress before evening. If such favouring breezes would continue, he could circumnavigate the waters in a comparatively short time, and might return to Aurora, so far, at least, successful. Hope filled his heart, and he sang to the wind.

The waves could not rise among these islands, which intercepted them before they could roll far enough to gather force, so that he had all the advantage of the gale without its risks. Except a light haze all round the horizon, the sky was perfectly clear, and it was pleasant now the strong current of air cooled the sun's heat. As he came round the islands he constantly met and disturbed parties of waterfowl, mallards, and coots. Sometimes they merely hid in the weeds, sometimes they rose, and when they did so passed to his rear.



CHAPTER XXII

DISCOVERIES

This little circumstance of the mallards always flying over him and away behind, when flushed, presently made Felix speculate on the cause, and he kept a closer watch. He now saw (what had, indeed, been going on for some time) that there was a ceaseless stream of waterfowl, mallards, ducks, coots, moorhens, and lesser grebes coming towards him, swimming to the westward. As they met him they parted and let him through, or rose and went over. Next he noticed that the small birds on the islands were also travelling in the same direction, that is against the wind. They did not seem in any haste, but flitted from islet to islet, bush to tree, feeding and gossiping as they went; still the movement was distinct.

Finches, linnets, blackbirds, thrushes, wrens, and whitethroats, and many others, all passed him, and he could see the same thing going on to his right and left. Felix became much interested in this migration, all the more singular as it was the nesting-time, and hundreds of these birds must have left their nests with eggs or young behind them. Nothing that he could think of offered an adequate explanation. He imagined he saw shoals of fishes going the same way, but the surface of the water being ruffled, and the canoe sailing rapidly, he could not be certain. About an hour after he first observed the migration the stream of birds ceased suddenly.

There were no waterfowls in the water, and no finches in the bushes. They had evidently all passed. Those in the van of the migratory army were no doubt scattered and thinly distributed, so that he had been meeting the flocks a long while before he suspected it. The nearer he approached their centre the thicker they became, and on getting through that he found a solitude. The weeds were thicker than ever, so that he had constantly to edge away from where he supposed the mainland to lie. But there were no waterfowls and no birds on the islets. Suddenly as he rounded a large island he saw what for the moment he imagined to be a line of white surf, but the next instant he recognised a solid mass, as it were, of swallows and martins flying just over the surface of the water straight towards him. He had no time to notice how far they extended before they had gone by him with a rushing sound. Turning to look back, he saw them continue directly west in the teeth of the wind.

Like the water and the islands, the sky was now cleared of birds, and not a swallow remained. Felix asked himself if he were running into some unknown danger, but he could not conceive any. The only thing that occurred to him was the possibility of the wind rising to a hurricane; that gave him no alarm, because the numerous islands would afford shelter. So complete was the shelter in some places, that as he passed along his sail drew above, while the surface of the water, almost surrounded with bushes and willows, was smooth. No matter to how many quarters of the compass the wind might veer, he should still be able to get under the lee of one or other of the banks.

The sky remained without clouds; there was nothing but a slight haze, which he sometimes fancied looked thicker in front or to the eastward. There was nothing whatever to cause the least uneasiness; on the contrary, his curiosity was aroused, and he was desirous of discovering what it was that had startled the birds. After a while the water became rather more open, with sandbanks instead of islands, so that he could see around him for a considerable distance. By a large bank, behind which the ripple was stilled, he saw a low wave advancing towards him, and moving against the wind. It was followed by two others at short intervals, and though he could not see them, he had no doubt shoals of fishes were passing and had raised the undulations.

The sedges on the sandbanks appeared brown and withered, as if it had been autumn instead of early summer. The flags were brown at the tip, and the aquatic grasses had dwindled. They looked as if they could not grow, and had reached but half their natural height. From the low willows the leaves were dropping, faded and yellow, and the thorn bushes were shrivelled and covered with the white cocoons of caterpillars. The farther he sailed the more desolate the banks seemed, and trees ceased altogether. Even the willows were fewer and stunted, and the highest thorn bush was not above his chest. His vessel was now more exposed to the wind, so that he drove past the banks and scattered islands rapidly, and he noticed that there was not so much as a crow on them. Upturned mussel-shells, glittering in the sunshine, showed where crows had been at work, but there was not one now visible.

Felix thought that the water had lost its clearness and had become thick, which he put down to the action of the wavelets disturbing the sand in the shallows. Ahead the haze, or mist, was now much thicker, and was apparently not over a mile distant. It hid the islands and concealed everything. He expected to enter it immediately, but it receded as he approached. Along the strand of an island he passed there was a dark line like a stain, and in still water under the lee the surface was covered with a floating scum. Felix, on seeing this, at once concluded that he had unknowingly entered a gulf, and had left the main Lake, for the only place he had ever seen scum before was at the extremity of a creek near home, where the water was partly stagnant on a marshy level. The water of the Lake was proverbial for its purity and clearness.

He kept, therefore, a sharp look-out, expecting every moment to sight the end of the gulf or creek in which he supposed himself sailing, so that he might be ready to lower his sail. By degrees the wind had risen till it now blew with fury, but the numerous sandflats so broke up the waves that he found no inconvenience from them. One solitary gull passed over at a great height, flying steadily westwards against the wind. The canoe now began to overtake fragments of scum drifting before the wind, and rising up and down on the ripples. Once he saw a broad piece rise to the surface together with a quantity of bubbles. None of the sandbanks now rose more than a foot or so above the surface, and were entirely bare, mere sand and gravel.

The mist ahead was sensibly nearer, and yet it eluded him; it was of a faint yellow, and though so thin, obscured everything where it hovered. From out of the mist there presently appeared a vast stretch of weeds. They floated on the surface and undulated to the wavelets, a pale yellowish green expanse. Felix was hesitating whether to lower his sail or attempt to drive over them, when, as he advanced and the mist retreated, he saw open water beyond. The weeds extended on either hand as far as he could see, but they were only a narrow band, and he hesitated no longer. He felt the canoe graze the bottom once as he sailed over the weeds. The water was free of sandbanks beyond them, but he could see large islands looming in several directions.

Glancing behind him he perceived that the faint yellow mist had closed in and now encircled him. It came with two or three hundred yards, and was not affected by the wind, rough as it was. Quite suddenly he noticed that the water on which the canoe floated was black. The wavelets which rolled alongside were black, and the slight spray that occasionally flew on board was black, and stained the side of the vessel. This greatly astonished and almost shocked him; it was so opposite and contrary to all his ideas about the Lake, the very mirror of purity. He leant over, and dipped up a little in the palm of his hand; it did not appear black in such a small quantity, it seemed a rusty brown, but he became aware of an offensive odour. The odour clung to his hand, and he could not remove it, to his great disgust. It was like nothing he had ever smelt before, and not in the least like the vapour of marshes.

By now being some distance from any island, the wavelets increased in size, and spray flew on board, wetting everything with this black liquid. Instead of level marshes and the end of the gulf, it appeared as if the water were deep, and also as if it widened. Exposed to the full press of the gale, Felix began to fear that he should not be able to return very easily against it. He did not know what to do. The horrid blackness of the water disposed him to turn about and tack out; on the other hand, having set out on a voyage of discovery, and having now found something different to the other parts of the Lake, he did not like to retreat. He sailed on, thinking to presently pass these loathsome waters.

He was now hungry, and indeed thirsty, but was unable to drink because he had no water-barrel. No vessel sailing on the Lake ever carried a water-barrel, since such pure water was always under their bows. He was cramped, too, with long sitting in the canoe, and the sun was perceptibly sloping in the west. He determined to land and rest, and with this purpose steered to the right under the lee of a large island, so large, indeed, that he was not certain it was not part of the mainland or one side of the gulf. The water was very deep close up to the shore, but, to his annoyance, the strand appeared black, as if soaked with the dark water. He skirted along somewhat farther, and found a ledge of low rocks stretching out into the Lake, so that he was obliged to run ashore before coming to these.

On landing, the black strand, to his relief, was fairly firm, for he had dreaded sinking to the knees in it; but its appearance was so unpleasant that he could not bring himself to sit down. He walked on towards the ledge of rocks, thinking to find a pleasanter place there. They were stratified, and he stepped on them to climb up, when his foot went deep into the apparently hard rock. He kicked it, and his shoe penetrated it as if it had been soft sand. It was impossible to climb up the reef. The ground rose inland, and curious to see around him as far as possible, he ascended the slope.

From the summit, however, he could not see farther than on the shore, for the pale yellow mist rose up round him, and hid the canoe on the strand. The extreme desolation of the dark and barren ground repelled him; there was not a tree, bush, or living creature, not so much as a buzzing fly. He turned to go down, and then for the first time noticed that the disk of the sun was surrounded with a faint blue rim, apparently caused by the yellow vapour. So much were the rays shorn of their glare, that he could look at the sun without any distress, but its heat seemed to have increased, though it was now late in the afternoon.

Descending towards the canoe, he fancied the wind had veered considerably. He sat down in the boat, and took some food; it was without relish, as he had nothing to drink, and the great heat had tired him. Wearily, and without thinking, he pushed off the canoe; she slowly floated out, when, as he was about to hoist up the sail, a tremendous gust of wind struck him down on the thwarts, and nearly carried him overboard. He caught the mast as he fell, or over he must have gone into the black waves. Before he could recover himself, she drifted against the ledge of rocks, which broke down and sank before the bow, so that she passed over uninjured.

Felix got out a paddle, and directed the canoe as well as he could; the fury of the wind was irresistible, and he could only drive before it. In a few minutes, as he was swept along the shore, he was carried between it and another immense reef. Here, the waves being broken and less powerful, he contrived to get the heavy canoe ashore again, and, jumping out, dragged her up as far as he could on the land. When he had done this, he found to his surprise that the gale had ceased. The tremendous burst of wind had been succeeded by a perfect calm, and the waves had already lost their violent impetus.

This was a relief, for he had feared that the canoe would be utterly broken to pieces; but soon he began to doubt if it were an unmixed benefit, as without a wind he could not move from this dismal place that evening. He was too weary to paddle far. He sat on the canoe to rest himself, and, whether from fatigue or other causes, fell asleep. His head heavily dropping on his chest partly woke him several times, but his lassitude overcame the discomfort, and he slept on. When he got up he felt dazed and unrefreshed, as if sleeping had been hard work. He was extremely thirsty, and oppressed with the increasing heat. The sun had sunk, or rather was so low that the high ground hid it from sight.



CHAPTER XXIII

STRANGE THINGS

The thought struck Felix that perhaps he might find a spring somewhere in the island, and he started at once up over the hill. At the top he paused. The sun had not sunk, but had disappeared as a disk. In its place was a billow of blood, for so it looked, a vast up-heaved billow of glowing blood surging on the horizon. Over it flickered a tint of palest blue, like that seen in fire. The black waters reflected the glow, and the yellow vapour around was suffused with it. Though momentarily startled, Felix did not much heed these appearances; he was still dazed and heavy from his sleep.

He went on, looking for a spring, sometimes walking on firm ground, sometimes sinking to the ankle in a friable soil like black sand. The ground looked, indeed, as if it had been burnt, but there were no charred stumps of timber such as he had seen on the sites of forest fires. The extreme dreariness seemed to oppress his spirits, and he went on and on in a heavy waking dream. Descending into a plain, he lost sight of the flaming sunset and the black waters. In the level plain the desolation was yet more marked; there was not a grass-blade or plant; the surface was hard, black, and burned, resembling iron, and indeed in places it resounded to his feet, though he supposed that was the echo from hollow passages beneath.

Several times he shook himself, straightened himself up, and endeavoured to throw off the sense of drowsy weight which increased upon him. He could not do so; he walked with bent back, and crept, as it were, over the iron land which radiated heat. A shimmer like that of water appeared in front; he quickened his pace, but could not get to it, and realized presently that it was a mirage which receded as he advanced. There was no pleasant summer twilight; the sunset was succeeded by an indefinite gloom, and while this shadow hung overhead the yellow vapour around was faintly radiant. Felix suddenly stopped, having stepped, as he thought, on a skeleton.

Another glance, however, showed that it was merely the impression of one, the actual bones had long since disappeared. The ribs, the skull, and limbs were drawn on the black ground in white lines as if it had been done with a broad piece of chalk. Close by he found three or four more, intertangled and superimposed as if the unhappy beings had fallen partly across each other, and in that position had mouldered away leaving nothing but their outline. From among a variety of objects that were scattered about Felix picked up something that shone; it was a diamond bracelet of one large stone, and a small square of blue china tile with a curious heraldic animal drawn on it. Evidently these had belonged to one or other of the party who had perished.

Though startled at the first sight, it was curious that Felix felt so little horror; the idea did not occur to him that he was in danger as these had been. Inhaling the gaseous emanations from the soil and contained in the yellow vapour, he had become narcotized, and moved as if under the influence of opium, while wide awake, and capable of rational conduct. His senses were deadened, and did not carry the usual vivid impression to the mind; he saw things as if they were afar off. Accidentally looking back, he found that his footmarks, as far as he could see, shone with a phosphoric light like that of "touchwood" in the dark. Near at hand they did not shine; the appearance did not come till some few minutes had elapsed. His track was visible behind till the vapour hid it. As the evening drew on the vapour became more luminous, and somewhat resembled an aurora.

Still anxious for water, he proceeded as straight ahead as he could, and shortly became conscious of an indefinite cloud which kept pace with him on either side. When he turned to look at either of the clouds, the one looked at disappeared. It was not condensed enough to be visible to direct vision, yet he was aware of it from the corner of his eye. Shapeless and threatening, the gloomy thickness of the air floated beside him like the vague monster of a dream. Sometimes he fancied that he saw an arm or a limb among the folds of the cloud, or an approach to a face; the instant he looked it vanished. Marching at each hand these vapours bore him horrible company.

His brain became unsteady, and flickering things moved about him; yet, though alarmed, he was not afraid; his senses were not acute enough for fear. The heat increased; his hands were intolerably hot as if he had been in a fever, he panted; but did not perspire. A dry heat like an oven burned his blood in his veins. His head felt enlarged, and his eyes seemed alight; he could see these two globes of phosphoric light under his brows. They seemed to stand out so that he could see them. He thought his path straight, it was really curved; nor did he know that he staggered as he walked.

Presently a white object appeared ahead; and on coming to it, he found it was a wall, white as snow, with some kind of crystal. He touched it, when the wall fell immediately, with a crushing sound as if pulverised, and disappeared in a vast cavern at his feet. Beyond this chasm he came to more walls like those of houses, such as would be left if the roofs fell in. He carefully avoided touching them, for they seemed as brittle as glass, and merely a white powder having no consistency at all. As he advanced these remnants of buildings increased in number, so that he had to wind in and out round them. In some places the crystallized wall had fallen of itself, and he could see down into the cavern; for the house had either been built partly underground, or, which was more probable, the ground had risen. Whether the walls had been of bricks or stone or other material he could not tell; they were now like salt.

Soon wearying of winding round these walls, Felix returned and retraced his steps till he was outside the place, and then went on towards the left. Not long after, as he still walked in a dream and without feeling his feet, he descended a slight slope and found the ground change in colour from black to a dull red. In his dazed state he had taken several steps into this red before he noticed that it was liquid, unctuous and slimy, like a thick oil. It deepened rapidly and was already over his shoes; he returned to the black shore and stood looking out over the water, if such it could be called.

The luminous yellow vapour had now risen a height of ten or fifteen feet, and formed a roof both over the land and over the red water, under which it was possible to see for a great distance. The surface of the red oil or viscid liquid was perfectly smooth, and, indeed, it did not seem as if any wind could rouse a wave on it, much less that a swell should be left after the gale had gone down. Disappointed in his search for water to drink, Felix mechanically turned to go back.

He followed his luminous footmarks, which he could see a long way before him. His trail curved so much that he made many short cuts across the winding line he had left. His weariness was now so intense that all feeling had departed. His feet, his limbs, his arms, and hands were numbed. The subtle poison of the emanations from the earth had begun to deaden his nerves. It seemed a full hour or more to him till he reached the spot where the skeletons were drawn in white upon the ground.

He passed a few yards to one side of them, and stumbled over a heap of something which he did not observe, as it was black like the level ground. It emitted a metallic sound, and looking he saw that he had kicked his foot against a great heap of money. The coins were black as ink; he picked up a handful and went on. Hitherto Felix had accepted all that he saw as something so strange as to be unaccountable. During his advance into this region in the canoe he had in fact become slowly stupefied by the poisonous vapour he had inhaled. His mind was partly in abeyance; it acted, but only after some time had elapsed. He now at last began to realize his position; the finding of the heap of blackened money touched a chord of memory. These skeletons were the miserable relics of men who had ventured, in search of ancient treasures, into the deadly marshes over the site of the mightiest city of former days. The deserted and utterly extinct city of London was under his feet.

He had penetrated into the midst of that dreadful place, of which he had heard many a tradition: how the earth was poison, the water poison, the air poison, the very light of heaven, falling through such an atmosphere, poison. There were said to be places where the earth was on fire and belched forth sulphurous fumes, supposed to be from the combustion of the enormous stores of strange and unknown chemicals collected by the wonderful people of those times. Upon the surface of the water there was a greenish-yellow oil, to touch which was death to any creature; it was the very essence of corruption. Sometimes it floated before the wind, and fragments became attached to reeds or flags far from the place itself. If a moorhen or duck chanced to rub the reed, and but one drop stuck to its feathers, it forthwith died. Of the red water he had not heard, nor of the black, into which he had unwittingly sailed.

Ghastly beings haunted the site of so many crimes, shapeless monsters, hovering by night, and weaving a fearful dance. Frequently they caught fire, as it seemed, and burned as they flew or floated in the air. Remembering these stories, which in part, at least, now seemed to be true, Felix glanced aside, where the cloud still kept pace with him, and involuntarily put his hands to his ears lest the darkness of the air should whisper some horror of old times. The earth on which he walked, the black earth, leaving phosphoric footmarks behind him, was composed of the mouldered bodies of millions of men who had passed away in the centuries during which the city existed. He shuddered as he moved; he hastened, yet could not go fast, his numbed limbs would not permit him.

He dreaded lest he should fall and sleep, and wake no more, like the searchers after treasure; treasure which they had found only to lose for ever. He looked around, supposing that he might see the gleaming head and shoulders of the half-buried giant, of which he recollected he had been told. The giant was punished for some crime by being buried to the chest in the earth; fire incessantly consumed his head and played about it, yet it was not destroyed. The learned thought, if such a thing really existed, that it must be the upper part of an ancient brazen statue, kept bright by the action of acid in the atmosphere, and shining with reflected light. Felix did not see it, and shortly afterwards surmounted the hill, and looked down upon his canoe. It was on fire!



CHAPTER XXIV

FIERY VAPOURS

Felix tried to run, but his feet would not rise from the ground; his limbs were numb as in a nightmare; he could not get there. His body would not obey his will. In reality he did move, but more slowly than when he walked. By degrees approaching the canoe his alarm subsided, for although it burned it was not injured; the canvas of the sail was not even scorched. When he got to it the flames had disappeared; like Jack-o'-the-lantern, the phosphoric fire receded from him. With all his strength he strove to launch her, yet paused, for over the surface of the black water, now smooth and waveless, played immense curling flames, stretching out like endless serpents, weaving, winding, rolling over each other. Suddenly they contracted into a ball, which shone with a steady light, and was as large as the full moon. The ball swept along, rose a little, and from it flew out long streamers till it was unwound in fiery threads.

But remembering that the flames had not even scorched the canvas, he pushed the canoe afloat, determined at any risk to leave this dreadful place. To his joy he felt a faint air rising; it cooled his forehead, but was not enough to fill the sail. He paddled with all the strength he had left. The air seemed to come from exactly the opposite direction to what it had previously blown, some point of east he supposed. Labour as hard as he would, the canoe moved slowly, being so heavy. It seemed as if the black water was thick and clung to her, retarding motion. Still, he did move, and in time (it seemed, indeed, a time) he left the island, which disappeared in the luminous vapours. Uncertain as to the direction, he got his compass, but it would not act; the needle had no life, it swung and came to rest, pointing any way as it chanced. It was demagnetized. Felix resolved to trust to the wind, which he was certain blew from the opposite quarter, and would therefore carry him out. The stars he could not see for the vapour, which formed a roof above him.

The wind was rising, but in uncertain gusts; however, he hoisted the sail, and floated slowly before it. Nothing but excitement could have kept him awake. Reclining in the canoe, he watched the serpent-like flames playing over the surface, and forced himself by sheer power of will not to sleep. The two dark clouds which had accompanied him to the shore now faded away, and the cooling wind enabled him to bear up better against his parching thirst. His hope was to reach the clear and beautiful Lake; his dread that in the uncertain light he might strike a concealed sandbank and become firmly fixed.

Twice he passed islands, distinguishable as masses of visible darkness. While the twisted flames played up to the shore, and the luminous vapour overhung the ground, the island itself appeared as a black mass. The wind became by degrees steadier, and the canoe shot swiftly over the water. His hopes rose; he sat up and kept a keener look-out ahead. All at once the canoe shook as if she had struck a rock. She vibrated from one end to the other, and stopped for a moment in her course. Felix sprang up alarmed. At the same instant a bellowing noise reached him, succeeded by a frightful belching and roaring, as if a volcano had burst forth under the surface of the water; he looked back but could see nothing. The canoe had not touched ground; she sailed as rapidly as before.

Again the shock, and again the hideous roaring, as if some force beneath the water were forcing itself up, vast bubbles rising and turning. Fortunately it was at a great distance. Hardly was it silent before it was reiterated for the third time. Next Felix felt the canoe heave up, and he was aware that a large roller had passed under him. A second and a third followed. They were without crests, and were not raised by the wind; they obviously started from the scene of the disturbance. Soon afterwards the canoe moved quicker, and he detected a strong current setting in the direction he was sailing.

The noise did not recur, nor did any more rollers pass under. Felix felt better and less dazed, but his weariness and sleepiness increased every moment. He fancied that the serpent flames were less brilliant and farther apart, and that the luminous vapour was thinner. How long he sat at the rudder he could not tell; he noticed that it seemed to grow darker, the serpent flames faded away, and the luminous vapour was succeeded by something like the natural gloom of night. At last he saw a star overhead, and hailed it with joy. He thought of Aurora; the next instant he fell back in the canoe firm asleep.

His arm, however, still retained the rudder-paddle in position, so that the canoe sped on with equal swiftness. She would have struck more than one of the sandbanks and islets had it not been for the strong current that was running. Instead of carrying her against the banks this warded her off, for it drew her between the islets in the channels where it ran fastest, and the undertow, where it struck the shore, bore her back from the land. Driving before the wind, the canoe swept onward steadily to the west. In an hour it had passed the line of the black water, and entered the sweet Lake. Another hour and all trace of the marshes had utterly disappeared, the last faint glow of the vapour had vanished. The dawn of the coming summer's day appeared, and the sky became a lovely azure. The canoe sailed on, but Felix remained immovable in slumber.

Long since the strong current had ceased, it scarcely extended into the sweet waters, and the wind only impelled the canoe. As the sun rose the breeze gradually fell away, and in an hour or so there was only a light air. The canoe had left most of the islets and was approaching the open Lake when, as she passed almost the last, the yard caught the overhanging branch of a willow, the canoe swung round and grounded gently under the shadow of the tree. For some time the little wavelets beat against the side of the boat; gradually they ceased, and the clear and beautiful water became still. Felix slept till nearly noon, when he awoke and sat up. At the sudden movement a pike struck, and two moorhens scuttled out of the water into the grass on the shore. A thrush was singing sweetly, whitethroats were busy in the bushes, and swallows swept by overhead.

Felix drew a long deep breath of intense relief; it was like awakening in Paradise. He snatched up a cup, dipped, and satisfied his craving thirst, then washed his hands over the side, and threw the water over his face. But when he came to stand up and move, he found that his limbs were almost powerless. Like a child he tottered, his joints had no strength, his legs tingled as if they had been benumbed. He was so weak he crawled on all fours along to the mast, furled the sail kneeling, and dragged himself rather than stepped ashore with the painter. The instant he had fastened the rope to a branch, he threw himself at full length on the grass, and grasped a handful of it. Merely to touch the grass after such an experience was intense delight.

The song of the thrush, the chatter of the whitethroats, the sight of a hedge-sparrow, gave him inexpressible pleasure. Lying on the sward he watched the curves traced by the swallows in the sky. From the sedges came the curious cry of the moorhen; a bright kingfisher went by. He rested as he had never rested before. His whole body, his whole being was resigned to rest. It was fully two hours before he rose and crept on all fours into the canoe for food. There was only sufficient left for one meal, but that gave him no concern now he was out of the marshes; he could fish and use his crossbow.

He now observed what had escaped him during the night, the canoe was black from end to end. Stem, stern, gunwale, thwart, outrigger, mast and sail were black. The stain did not come off on being touched, it seemed burnt in. As he leaned over the side to dip water, and saw his reflection, he started; his face was black, his clothes were black, his hair black. In his eagerness to drink, the first time, he had noticed nothing. His hands were less dark; contact with the paddle and ropes had partly rubbed it off, he supposed. He washed, but the water did not materially diminish the discoloration.

After eating, he returned to the grass and rested again; and it was not till the sun was sinking that he felt any return of vigour. Still weak, but able now to walk, leaning on a stick, he began to make a camp for the coming night. But a few scraps, the remnant of his former meal, were left; on these he supped after a fashion, and long before the white owl began his rounds Felix was fast asleep on his hunter's hide from the canoe. He found next morning that the island was small, only a few acres; it was well-wooded, dry, and sandy in places. He had little inclination or strength to resume his expedition; he erected a booth of branches, and resolved to stay a few days till his strength returned.

By shooting wildfowl, and fishing, he fared very well, and soon recovered. In two days the discoloration of the skin had faded to an olive tint, which, too, grew fainter. The canoe lost its blackness, and became a rusty colour. By rubbing the coins he had carried away he found they were gold; part of the inscription remained, but he could not read it. The blue china-tile was less injured than the metal; after washing it, it was bright. But the diamond pleased him most; it would be a splendid present for Aurora. Never had he seen anything like it in the palaces; he believe it was twice the size of the largest possessed by any king or prince.

It was as big as his finger-nail, and shone and gleamed in the sunlight, sparkling and reflecting the beams. Its value must be very great. But well he knew how dangerous it would be to exhibit it; on some pretext or other he would be thrown into prison, and the gem seized. It must be hidden with the greatest care till he could produce it in Thyma Castle, when the Baron would protect it. Felix regretted now that he had not searched further; perhaps he might have found other treasures for Aurora; the next instant he repudiated his greed, and was only thankful that he had escaped with his life. He wondered and marvelled that he had done so, it was so well known that almost all who had ventured in had perished.

Reflecting on the circumstances which had accompanied his entrance to the marshes, the migration of the birds seemed almost the most singular. They were evidently flying from some apprehended danger, and that most probably would be in the air. The gale at that time, however, was blowing in a direction which would appear to ensure safety to them; into, and not out of, the poisonous marshes. Did they, then, foresee that it would change? Did they expect it to veer like a cyclone and presently blow east with the same vigour as it then blew west? That would carry the vapour from the inky waters out over the sweet Lake, and might even cause the foul water itself to temporarily encroach on the sweet. The more he thought of it, the more he felt convinced that this was the explanation; and, as a fact, the wind, after dropping, did arise again and blow from the east, though, as it happened, not with nearly the same strength. It fell, too, before long, fortunately for him. Clearly the birds had anticipated a cyclone, and that the wind turning would carry the gases out upon them to their destruction. They had therefore hurried away, and the fishes had done the same.

The velocity of the gale which had carried him into the black waters had proved his safety, by driving before it the thicker and most poisonous portion of the vapour, compressing it towards the east, so that he had entered the dreaded precincts under favourable conditions. When it dropped, while he was on the black island, he soon began to feel the effect of the gases rising imperceptibly from the soil, and had he not had the good fortune to escape so soon, no doubt he would have fallen a victim. He could not congratulate himself sufficiently upon his good fortune. The other circumstances appeared to be due to the decay of the ancient city, to the decomposition of accumulated matter, to phosphorescence and gaseous exhalations. The black rocks that crumbled at a touch were doubtless the remains of ancient buildings saturated with the dark water and vapours. Inland similar remains were white, and resembled salt.

But the great explosions which occurred as he was leaving, and which sent heavy rollers after him, were not easily understood, till he remembered that in Sylvester's "Book of Natural Things" it was related that "the ancient city had been undermined with vast conduits, sewers, and tunnels, and that these communicated with the sea". It had been much disputed whether the sea did or did not still send its tides up to the site of the old quays. Felix now thought that the explosions were due to compressed air, or more probably to gases met with by the ascending tide.



CHAPTER XXV

THE SHEPHERDS

For four days Felix remained on the island recovering his strength. By degrees the memory of the scenes he had witnessed grew less vivid, and his nerves regained their tone. The fifth morning he sailed again, making due south with a gentle breeze from the west, which suited the canoe very well. He considered that he was now at the eastern extremity of the Lake, and that by sailing south he should presently reach the place where the shore turned to the east again. The sharp prow of the canoe cut swiftly through the waves, a light spray flew occasionally in his face, and the wind blew pleasantly. In the cloudless sky swallows and swifts were wheeling, and on the water half a dozen mallards moved aside to let him pass.

About two hours after he started he encountered a mist, which came softly over the surface of the water with the wind, and in an instant shut out all view. Even the sun was scarcely visible. It was very warm, and left no moisture. In five minutes he passed through and emerged again in the bright sunlight. These dry, warm mists are frequently seen on the Lake in summer, and are believed to portend a continuance of fine weather.

Felix kept a good distance from the mainland, which was hilly and wooded, and with few islands. Presently he observed in the extreme distance, on his right hand, a line of mountainous hills, which he supposed to be the southern shore of the Lake, and that he was sailing into a gulf or bay. He debated with himself whether he should alter his course and work across to the mountains, or to continue to trace the shore. Unless he did trace the shore, he could scarcely say that he had circumnavigated the Lake, as he would leave this great bay unexplored. He continued, therefore, to sail directly south.

The wind freshened towards noon, and the canoe flew at a great pace. Twice he passed through similar mists. There were now no islands at all, but a line of low chalk cliffs marked the shore. Considering that it must be deep, and safe to do so, Felix bore in closer to look at the land. Woods ran along the hills right to the verge of the cliff, but he saw no signs of inhabitants, no smoke, boat, or house. The sound of the surf beating on the beach was audible, though the waves were not large. High over the cliff he noted a kite soaring, with forked tail, at a great height.

Immediately afterwards he ran into another mist or vapour, thicker, if anything, and which quite obscured his view. It seemed like a great cloud on the surface of the water, and broader than those he had previously entered. Suddenly the canoe stopped with a tremendous jerk, which pitched him forward on his knees, the mast cracked, and there was a noise of splitting wood. As soon as he could get up, Felix saw, to his bitter sorrow, that the canoe had split longitudinally; the water came up through the split, and the boat was held together only by the beams of the outrigger. He had run aground on a large sharp flint embedded in a chalk floor, which had split the poplar wood of the canoe like an axe. The voyage was over, for the least strain would cause the canoe to part in two, and if she were washed off the ground she would be water-logged. In half a minute the mist passed, leaving him in the bright day, shipwrecked.

Felix now saw that the waters were white with suspended chalk, and sounding with the paddle, found that the depth was but a few inches. He had driven at full speed on a reef. There was no danger, for the distance to the shore was hardly two hundred yards, and judging by the appearance of the water, it was shallow all the way. But his canoe, the product of so much labour, and in which he had voyaged so far, his canoe was destroyed. He could not repair her; he doubted whether it could have been done successfully even at home with Oliver to help him. He could sail no farther; there was nothing for it but to get ashore and travel on foot. If the wind rose higher, the waves would soon break clean over her, and she would go to pieces.

With a heavy heart, Felix took his paddle and stepped overboard. Feeling with the paddle, he plumbed the depth in front of him, and, as he expected, walked all the way to the shore, no deeper than his knees. This was fortunate, as it enabled him to convey his things to land without loss. He wrapped up the tools and manuscripts in one of his hunter's hides. When the whole cargo was landed, he sat down sorrowfully at the foot of the cliff, and looked out at the broken mast and sail, still flapping uselessly in the breeze.

It was a long time before he recovered himself, and set to work mechanically to bury the crossbow, hunter's hides, tools, and manuscripts, under a heap of pebbles. As the cliff, though low, was perpendicular, he could not scale it, else he would have preferred to conceal them in the woods above. To pile pebbles over them was the best he could do for the present; he intended to return for them when he discovered a path up the cliff. He then started, taking only his bow and arrows.

But no such path was to be found; he walked on and on till weary, and still the cliff ran like a wall on his left hand. After an hour's rest, he started again; and, as the sun was declining, came suddenly to a gap in the cliff, where a grassy sward came down to the shore. It was now too late, and he was too weary, to think of returning for his things that evening. He made a scanty meal, and endeavoured to rest. But the excitement of losing the canoe, the long march since, the lack of good food, all tended to render him restless. Weary, he could not rest, nor move farther. The time passed slowly, the sun sank, the wind ceased; after an interminable time the stars appeared, and still he could not sleep. He had chosen a spot under an oak on the green slope. The night was warm, and even sultry, so that he did not miss his covering, but there was no rest in him. Towards the dawn, which comes very early at that season, he at last slept, with his back to the tree. He awoke with a start in broad daylight, to see a man standing in front of him armed with a long spear.

Felix sprang to his feet, instinctively feeling for his hunting-knife; but he saw in an instant that no injury was meant, for the man was leaning on the shaft of his weapon, and, of course, could, if so he had wished, have run him through while sleeping. They looked at each other for a moment. The stranger was clad in a tunic, and wore a hat of plaited straw. He was very tall and strongly built; his single weapon, a spear of twice his own length. His beard came down on his chest. He spoke to Felix in a dialect the latter did not understand. Felix held out his hand as a token of amity, which the other took. He spoke again. Felix, on his part, tried to explain his shipwreck, when a word the stranger uttered recalled to Felix's memory the peculiar dialect used by the shepherd race on the hills in the neighbourhood of his home.

He spoke in this dialect, which the stranger in part at least understood, and the sound of which at once rendered him more friendly. By degrees they comprehended each other's meaning the easier, as the shepherd had come the same way and had seen the wreck of the canoe. Felix learned that the shepherd was a scout sent on ahead to see that the road was clear of enemies. His tribe were on the march with their flocks, and to avoid the steep woods and hills which there blocked their course, they had followed the level and open beach at the foot of the cliff, aware, of course, of the gap which Felix had found. While they were talking, Felix saw the cloud of dust raised by the sheep as the flocks wound round a jutting buttress of cliff.

His friend explained that they marched in the night and early morning to avoid the heat of the day. Their proposed halting-place was close at hand; he must go on and see that all was clear. Felix accompanied him, and found within the wood at the summit a grassy coombe, where a spring rose. The shepherd threw down his spear, and began to dam up the channel of the spring with stones, flints, and sods of earth, in order to form a pool at which the sheep might drink. Felix assisted him, and the water speedily began to rise.

The flocks were not allowed to rush tumultuously to the water; they came in about fifty at a time, each division with its shepherds and their dogs, so that confusion was avoided and all had their share. There were about twenty of these divisions, besides eighty cows and a few goats. They had no horses; their baggage came on the backs of asses.

After the whole of the flocks and herds had been watered several fires were lit by the women, who in stature and hardihood scarcely differed from the men. Not till this work was over did the others gather about Felix to hear his story. Finding that he was hungry they ran to the baggage for food, and pressed on him a little dark bread, plentiful cheese and butter, dried tongue, and horns of mead. He could not devour a fiftieth part of what these hospitable people brought him. Having nothing else to give them, he took from his pocket one of the gold coins he had brought from the site of the ancient city, and offered it.

They laughed, and made him understand that it was of no value to them; but they passed it from hand to hand, and he noticed that they began to look at him curiously. From its blackened appearance they conjectured whence he had obtained it; one, too, pointed to his shoes, which were still blackened, and appeared to have been scorched. The whole camp now pressed on him, their wonder and interest rising to a great height. With some trouble Felix described his journey over the site of the ancient city, interrupted with constant exclamations, questions, and excited conversation. He told them everything, except about the diamond.

Their manner towards him perceptibly altered. From the first they had been hospitable; they now became respectful, and even reverent. The elders and their chief, not to be distinguished by dress or ornament from the rest, treated him with ceremony and marked deference. The children were brought to see and even to touch him. So great was their amazement that any one should have escaped from these pestilential vapours, that they attributed it to divine interposition, and looked upon him with some of the awe of superstition. He was asked to stay with them altogether, and to take command of the tribe.

The latter Felix declined; to stay with them for awhile, at least, he was, of course, willing enough. He mentioned his hidden possessions, and got up to return for them, but they would not permit him. Two men started at once. He gave them the bearings of the spot, and they had not the least doubt but that they should find it, especially as, the wind being still, the canoe would not yet have broken up, and would guide them. The tribe remained in the green coombe the whole day, resting from their long journey. They wearied Felix with questions, still he answered them as copiously as he could; he felt too grateful for their kindness not to satisfy them. His bow was handled, his arrows carried about so that the quiver for the time was empty, and the arrows scattered in twenty hands. He astonished them by exhibiting his skill with the weapon, striking a tree with an arrow at nearly three hundred yards.

Though familiar, of course, with the bow, they had never seen shooting like that, nor, indeed, any archery except at short quarters. They had no other arms themselves but spears and knives. Seeing one of the women cutting the boughs from a fallen tree, dead and dry, and, therefore, preferable for fuel, Felix naturally went to help her, and, taking the axe, soon made a bundle, which he carried for her. It was his duty as a noble to see than no woman, not a slave, laboured; he had been bred in that idea, and would have felt disgraced had he permitted it. The women looked on with astonishment, for in these rude tribes the labour of the women was considered valuable and appraised like that of a horse.

Without any conscious design, Felix thus in one day conciliated and won the regard of the two most powerful parties in the camp, the chief and the women. By his refusing the command the chief was flattered, and his possible hostility prevented. The act of cutting the wood and carrying the bundle gave him the hearts of the women. They did not, indeed, think their labour in any degree oppressive; still, to be relieved of it was pleasing.

The two men who had gone for Felix's buried treasure did not return till breakfast next morning. They stepped into the camp, each with his spear reddened and dripping with fresh blood. Felix no sooner saw the blood than he fainted. He quickly recovered, but he could not endure the sight of the spears, which were removed and hidden from his view. He had seen blood enough spilt at the siege of Iwis, but this came upon him in all its horror unrelieved by the excitement of war.

The two shepherds had been dogged by gipsies, and had been obliged to make a round to escape. They took their revenge by climbing into trees, and as their pursuers passed under thrust them through with their long spears. The shepherds, like all their related tribes, had been at feud with the gipsies for many generations. The gipsies followed them to and from their pastures, cut off stragglers, destroyed or stole their sheep and cattle, and now and then overwhelmed a while tribe. Of late the contest had become more sanguinary and almost ceaseless.

Mounted on swift, though small, horses, the gipsies had the advantage of the shepherds. On the other hand, the shepherds, being men of great stature and strength, could not be carried away by a rush if they had time to form a circle, as was their custom of battle. They lost many men by the javelins thrown by the gipsies, who rode up to the edge of the circle, cast their darts, and retreated. If the shepherds left their circle they were easily ridden over; while they maintained formation they lost individuals, but saved the mass. Battles were of rare occurrence; the gipsies watched for opportunities and executed raids, the shepherds retaliated, and thus the endless war continued. The shepherds invariably posted sentinels, and sent forward scouts to ascertain if the way were clear. Accustomed to the horrid scenes of war from childhood, they could not understand Felix's sensitiveness.

They laughed, and then petted him like a spoilt child. This galled him exceedingly; he felt humiliated, and eager to reassert his manhood. He was willing to stay with them there for awhile, nothing would have induced him to leave them now till he had vindicated himself in their sight. The incident happened soon after sunrise, which is very early at the end of June. The camp had only waited for the return of these men, and on their appearance began to move. The march that morning was not a long one, as the sky was clear and the heat soon wearied the flocks. Felix accompanied the scout in advance, armed with his bow, eager to encounter the gipsies.



CHAPTER XXVI

BOW AND ARROW

Three mornings the shepherds marched in the same manner, when they came in view of a range of hills so high that to Felix they appeared mountains. The home of the tribe was in these hills, and once there they were comparatively safe from attack. In early spring when the herbage on the downs was scarce, the flocks moved to the meadowlike lands far in the valleys; in summer they returned to the hills; in autumn they went to the vales again. Soon after noon on the third day the scouts reported that a large body of gipsies were moving in a direction which would cut off their course to the hills on the morrow.

The chief held a council, and it was determined that a forced march should be made at once by another route, more to the left, and it was thought that in this way they might reach the base of the slopes by evening. The distance was not great, and could easily have been traversed by the men; the flocks and herds, however, could not be hurried much. A messenger was despatched to the hills for assistance, and the march began. It was a tedious movement. Felix was wearied, and walked in a drowsy state. Towards six o'clock, as he guessed, the trees began to thin, and the column reached the first slopes of the hills. Here about thirty shepherds joined them, a contingent from the nearest camp. It was considered that the danger was now past, and that the gipsies would not attack them on the hill; but it was a mistake.

A large body almost immediately appeared, coming along the slope on the right, not less than two hundred; and from their open movements and numbers it was evident that they intended battle. The flocks and herds were driven hastily into a coombe, or narrow valley, and there left to their fate. All the armed men formed in a circle; the women occupied the centre. Felix took his stand outside the circle by a gnarled and decayed oak. There was just there a slight rise in the ground, which he knew would give him some advantage in discharging his arrows, and would also allow him a clear view. His friends earnestly entreated him to enter the circle, and even sought to bring him within it by force, till he explained to them that he could not shoot if so surrounded, and promised if the gipsies charged to rush inside.

Felix unslung his quiver, and placed it on the ground before him; a second quiver he put beside it; four or five arrows he stuck upright in the sward, so that he could catch hold of them quickly; two arrows he held in his left hand, another he fitted to the string. Thus prepared, he watched the gipsies advance. They came walking their short wiry horses to within half a mile, when they began to trot down the slope; they could not surround the shepherds because of the steep-sided coombe and some brushwood, and could advance only on two fronts. Felix rapidly became so excited that his sight was affected, and his head whirled. His heart beat with such speed that his breath seemed going. His limbs tottered, and he dreaded lest he should faint.

His intensely nervous organization, strung up to its highest pitch, shook him in its grasp, and his will was powerless to control it. He felt that he should disgrace himself once more before these rugged but brave shepherds, who betrayed not the slightest symptom of agitation. For one hour of Oliver's calm courage and utter absence of nervousness he would have given years of his life. His friends in the circle observed his agitation, and renewed their entreaties to him to come inside it. This only was needed to complete his discomfiture. He lost his head altogether; he saw nothing but a confused mass of yellow and red rushing towards him, for each of the gipsies wore a yellow or red scarf, some about the body, some over the shoulder, others round the head. They were now within three hundred yards.

A murmur from the shepherd spearmen. Felix had discharged an arrow. It stuck in the ground about twenty paces from him. He shot again; it flew wild and quivering, and dropped harmlessly. Another murmur; they expressed to each other their contempt for the bow. This immediately restored Felix; he forgot the enemy as an enemy, he forgot himself; he thought only of his skill as an archer, now in question. Pride upheld him. The third arrow he fitted properly to the string, he planted his left foot slightly in advance, and looked steadfastly at the horsemen before he drew his bow.

At a distance of one hundred and fifty yards they had paused, and were widening out so as to advance in loose open rank and allow each man to throw his javelin. They shouted; the spearmen in the circle replied, and levelled their spears. Felix fixed his eye on one of the gipsies who was ordering and marshalling the rest, a chief. He drew the arrow swiftly but quietly, the string hummed, the pliant yew obeyed, and the long arrow shot forward in a steady swift flight like a line of gossamer drawn through the air. It missed the chief, but pierced the horse he rode just in front of the rider's thigh. The maddened horse reared and fell backwards on his rider.

The spearmen shouted. Before the sound could leave their lips another arrow had sped; a gipsy threw up his arms with a shriek; the arrow had gone through his body. A third, a fourth, a fifth—six gipsies rolled on the sward. Shout upon shout rent the air from the spearmen. Utterly unused to this mode of fighting, the gipsies fell back. Still the fatal arrows pursued them, and ere they were out of range three others fell. Now the rage of battle burned in Felix; his eyes gleamed, his lips were open, his nostrils wide like a horse running a race. He shouted to the spearmen to follow him, and snatching up his quiver ran forward. Gathered together in a group, the gipsy band consulted.

Felix ran at full speed; swift of foot, he left the heavy spearmen behind. Alone he approached the horsemen; all the Aquila courage was up within him. He kept the higher ground as he ran, and stopped suddenly on a little knoll or tumulus. His arrow flew, a gipsy fell. Again, and a third. Their anger gave them fresh courage; to be repulsed by one only! Twenty of them started to charge and run him down. The keen arrows flew faster than their horses' feet. Now the horse and now the man met those sharp points. Six fell; the rest returned. The shepherds came running; Felix ordered them to charge the gipsies. His success gave him authority; they obeyed; and as they charged, he shot nine more arrows; nine more deadly wounds. Suddenly the gipsy band turned and fled into the brushwood on the lower slopes.

Breathless, Felix sat down on the knoll, and the spearmen swarmed around him. Hardly had they begun to speak to him than there was a shout, and they saw a body of shepherds descending the hill. There were three hundred of them; warned by the messenger, the whole country had risen to repel the gipsies. Too late to join in the fight, they had seen the last of it. They examined the field. There were ten dead and six wounded, who were taken prisoners; the rest escaped, though hurt. In many cases the arrow had gone clean through the body. Then, for the first time, they understood the immense power of the yew bow in strong and skilful hands.

Felix was overwhelmed; they almost crushed him with their attentions; the women fell at his feet and kissed them. But the archer could scarcely reply; his intense nervous excitement had left him weak and almost faint; his one idea was to rest. As he walked back to the camp between the chiefs of the shepherd spearmen, his eyes closed, his limbs tottered, and they had to support him. At the camp he threw himself on the sward, under the gnarled oak, and was instantly fast asleep. Immediately the camp was stilled, not to disturb him.

His adventures in the marshes of the buried city, his canoe, his archery, were talked of the livelong night. Next morning the camp set out for their home in the mountains, and he was escorted by nearly four hundred spearmen. They had saved for him the ornaments of the gipsies who had fallen, golden earrings and nose-rings. He gave them to the women, except one, a finger-ring, set with turquoise, and evidently of ancient make, which he kept for Aurora. Two marches brought them to the home of the tribe, where the rest of the spearmen left them. The place was called Wolfstead.

Felix saw at once how easily this spot might be fortified. There was a deep and narrow valley like a groove or green trench opening to the south. At the upper end of the valley rose a hill, not very high, but steep, narrow at the ridge, and steep again on the other side. Over it was a broad, wooded, and beautiful vale; beyond that again the higher mountains. Towards the foot of the narrow ridge here, there was a succession of chalk cliffs, so that to climb up on that side in the face of opposition would be extremely difficult. In the gorge of the enclosed narrow valley a spring rose. The shepherds had formed eight pools, one after the other, water being of great importance to them; and farther down, where the valley opened, there were forty or fifty acres of irrigated meadow. The spring then ran into a considerable brook, across which was the forest.

Felix's idea was to run a palisade along the margin of the brook, and up both sides of the valley to the ridge. There he would build a fort. The edges of the chalk cliffs he would connect with a palisade or a wall, and so form a complete enclosure. He mentioned his scheme to the shepherds; they did not greatly care for it, as they had always been secure without it, the rugged nature of the country not permitting horsemen to penetrate. But they were so completely under his influence that to please him they set about the work. He had to show them how to make a palisade; they had never seen one, and he made the first part of it himself. At building a wall with loose stones, without mortar, the shepherds were skilful; the wall along the verge of the cliffs was soon up, and so was the fort on the top of the ridge. The fort consisted merely of a circular wall, breast high, with embrasures or crenellations.

When this was finished, Felix had a sense of mastership, for in this fort he felt as if he could rule the whole country. From day to day shepherds came from the more distant parts to see the famous archer, and to admire the enclosure. Though the idea of it had never occurred to them, now they saw it they fully understood its advantages, and two other chiefs began to erect similar forts and palisades.



CHAPTER XXVII

SURPRISED

Felix was now anxious to continue his journey, yet he did not like to leave the shepherds, with whom his life was so pleasant. As usual, when deliberating, he wandered about the hills, and then into the forest. The shepherds at first insisted on at least two of their number accompanying him; they were fearful lest the gipsies should seize him, or a Bushman assassinate him. This company was irksome to Felix. In time he convinced them that he was a much better hunter than any of the tribe, and they permitted him to roam alone. During one of these excursions into the forest he discovered a beautiful lake. He looked down on the water from the summit of one of the green mountains.

It was, he thought, half a mile across, and the opposite shore was open woodland, grassy and meadow-like, and dotted with fine old oaks. By degrees these closed together, and the forest succeeded; beyond it again, at a distance of two miles, were green hills. A little clearing only was wanted to make the place fit for a castle and enclosure. Through the grass-land opposite he traced the course of a large brook down to the lake; another entered it on the right, and the lake gradually narrowed to a river on his left. Could he erect a tower there, and bring Aurora to it, how happy he would be! A more beautiful spot he had never seen, nor one more suited for every purpose in life.

He followed the course of the stream which left the lake, every now and then disturbing wild goats from the cliffs, and twice he saw deer under the oaks across it. On rounding a spur of down he saw that the river debouched into a much wider lake, which he conjectured must be the Sweet Waters. He went on till he reached the mouth of the river, and had then no doubt that he was standing once more on the shore of the Sweet Water sea. On this, the southern side, the banks were low; on the other, a steep chalky cliff almost overhung the river, and jutted out into the lake, curving somewhat towards him. A fort on that cliff would command the entrance to the river; the cliff was a natural breakwater, so that there was a haven at its base. The river appeared broad and deep enough for navigation, so that vessels could pass from the great Lake to the inland water; about six or seven miles, he supposed.

Felix was much taken with this spot; the beauty of the inland lake, the evident richness of the soil, the river communicating with the great Lake, the cliff commanding its entrance; never, in all his wanderings, had he seen a district so well suited for a settlement and the founding of a city. If he had but a thousand men! How soon he would bring Aurora there, and build a tower, and erect a palisade! So occupied was he with the thought that he returned the whole distance to the spot where he had made the discovery. There he remained a long time, designing it all in his mind.

The tower he would build yonder, three-quarters of a mile, perhaps a mile, inland from the opposite shore, on a green knoll, at the base of which the brook flowed. It would be even more pleasant there than on the shore of the lake. The forest he would clear back a little, and put up a stout palisade, enclosing at least three miles of grassy land. By the shore of the lake he would build his town, so that his vessels might be able to go forth into the great Sweet Water sea. So strongly did imagination hold him that he did not observe how near it was to sunset, nor did he remark the threatening aspect of the sky. Thunder awoke him from his dream; he looked, and saw a storm rapidly coming from the north-east.

He descended the hill, and sheltered himself as well as possible among some thick fir-trees. After the lightning, the rain poured so heavily that it penetrated the branches, and he unstrung his bow and placed the string in his pocket, that it might not become wet. Instantly there was a whoop on either side, and two gipsies darted from the undergrowth towards him. While the terrible bow was bent they had followed him, tracking his footsteps; the moment he unstrung the bow, they rushed out. Felix crushed through between the firs, by main force getting through, but only opening a passage for them to follow. They could easily have thrust their darts through him, but their object was to take him alive, and gratify the revenge of the tribes with torture.

Felix doubled from the firs, and made towards the far-distant camp; but he was faced by three more gipsies. He turned again and made for the steep hill he had descended. With all his strength he raced up it; his lightness of foot carried him in advance, and he reached the summit a hundred yards ahead; but he knew he must be overtaken presently, unless he could hit upon some stratagem. In the instant that he paused to breathe on the summit a thought struck him. Like the wind he raced along the ridge, making for the great Sweet Water, the same path he had followed in the morning. Once on the ridge the five pursuers shouted; they knew they should have him now there were no more hills to breast. It was not so easy as they imagined.

Felix was in splendid training; he kept his lead, and even drew a little on them. Still he knew in time he must succumb, just as the stag, though swifter of foot, ultimately succumbs to the hounds. They would track him till they had him. If only he could gain enough to have time to string and bend his bow! But with all his efforts he could not get away more than the hundred yards, and that was not far enough. It could be traversed in ten seconds, they would have him before he could string it and fit an arrow. If only he had been fresh as in the morning! But he had had a long walk during the day and not much food. He knew that his burst of speed must soon slacken, but he had a stratagem yet.

Keeping along the ridge till he reached the place where the lake narrowed to the river, suddenly he rushed down the hill towards the water. The edge was encumbered with brushwood and fallen trees; he scrambled over and through anyhow; he tore a path through the bushes and plunged in. But his jacket caught in a branch; he had his knife out and cut off the shred of cloth. Then with the bow and knife in one hand he struck out for the opposite shore. His hope was that the gipsies, being horsemen, and passing all their lives on their horses, might not know how to swim. His conjecture was right; they stopped on the brink, and yelled their loudest. When he had passed the middle of the slow stream their rage rose to a shriek, startling a heron far down the water.

Felix reached the opposite shore in safety, but the bow-string was now wet and useless. He struck off at once straight across the grass-lands, past the oaks he had admired, past the green knoll where in imagination he had built his castle and brought Aurora, through the brook, which he found was larger than it appeared at a distance, and required two or three strokes to cross. A few more paces and the forest sheltered him. Under the trees he rested, and considered what course to pursue. The gipsies would expect him to endeavour to regain his friends, and would watch to cut off his return. Felix determined to make, instead, for another camp farther east, and to get even there by a detour.

Bitterly he reproached himself for his folly in leaving the camp, knowing that gipsies were about, with no other weapon than the bow. The knife at his belt was practically no weapon at all, useful only in the last extremity. Had he a short sword, or javelin, he would have faced the two gipsies who first sprang towards him. Worse than this was the folly of wandering without the least precaution into a territory at that time full of gipsies, who had every reason to desire his capture. If he had used the ordinary precautions of woodcraft, he would have noticed their traces, and he would not have exposed himself in full view on the ridges of the hills, where a man was visible for miles. If he perished through his carelessness, how bitter it would be! To lose Aurora by the merest folly would, indeed, be humiliating.

He braced himself to the journey before him, and set off at a good swinging hunter's pace, as it is called, that is, a pace rather more than a walk and less than a run, with the limbs somewhat bent, and long springy steps. The forest was in the worst possible condition for movement; the rain had damped the fern and undergrowth, and every branch showered raindrops upon him. It was now past sunset and the dusk was increasing; this he welcomed as hiding him. He travelled on till nearly dawn, and then, turning to the right, swept round, and regained the line of the mountainous hills after sunrise. There he rested, and reached a camp about nine in the morning, having walked altogether since the preceding morning fully fifty miles. This camp was about fifteen miles distant from that of his friends; the shepherds knew him, and one of them started with the news of his safety. In the afternoon ten of his friends came over to see him, and to reproach him.

His weariness was so great that for three days he scarcely moved from the hut, during which time the weather was wet and stormy, as is often the case in summer after a thunderstorm. On the fourth morning it was fine, and Felix, now quite restored to his usual strength, went out with the shepherds. He found some of them engaged in throwing up a heap of stones, flint, and chalk lumps near an oak-tree in a plain at the foot of the hill. They told him that during the thunderstorm two cows and ten sheep had been killed there by lightning, which had scarcely injured the oak.

It was their custom to pile up a heap of stones wherever such an event occurred, to warn others from staying themselves, or allowing their sheep or cattle to stay, near the spot in thunder, as it was observed that where lightning struck once it was sure to strike again, sooner or later. "Then," said Felix, "you may be sure there is water there!" He knew from his study of the knowledge of the ancients that lightning frequently leaped from trees or buildings to concealed water, but he had no intention of indicating water in that particular spot. He meant the remark in a general sense.

But the shepherds, ever desirous of water, and looking on Felix as a being of a different order to themselves, took his casual observation in its literal sense. They brought their tools and dug, and, as it chanced, found a copious spring. The water gushed forth and formed a streamlet. Upon this the whole tribe gathered, and they saluted Felix as one almost divine. It was in vain that he endeavoured to repel this homage, and to explain the reason of his remark, and that it was only in a general way that he intended it. Facts were too strong for him. They had heard his words, which they considered an inspiration, and there was the water. It was no use; there was the spring, the very thing they most wanted. Perforce Felix was invested with attributes beyond nature.

The report spread; his own old friends came in a crowd to see the new spring, others journeyed from afar. In a week, Felix having meanwhile returned to Wolfstead, his fame had for the second time spread all over the district. Some came a hundred miles to see him. Nothing he could say was listened to; these simple, straightforward people understood nothing but facts, and the defeat of the gipsies and the discovery of the spring seemed to them little less than supernatural. Besides which, in innumerable little ways Felix's superior knowledge had told upon them. His very manners spoke of high training. His persuasive voice won them. His constructive skill and power of planning, as shown in the palisades and enclosure, showed a grasp of circumstances new to them. This was a man such as they had never before seen.

They began to bring him disputes to settle; he shrank from this position of judge, but it was useless to struggle; they would wait as long as he liked, but his decision they would have, and no other. Next came the sick begging to be cured. Here Felix was firm; he would not attempt to be a physician, and they went away. But, unfortunately, it happened that he let out his knowledge of plants, and back they came. Felix did not know what course to pursue; if by chance he did any one good, crowds would beset him; if injury resulted, perhaps he would be assassinated. This fear was quite unfounded; he really had not the smallest idea of how high he stood in their estimation.

After much consideration, Felix hit upon a method which would save him from many inconveniences. He announced his intention of forming a herb-garden in which to grow the best kind of herbs, and at the same time said he would not administer any medicine himself, but would tell their own native physicians and nurses all he knew, so that they could use his knowledge. The herb-garden was at once begun in the valley; it could not contain much till next year, and meantime if any diseased persons came Felix saw them, expressed his opinion to the old shepherd who was the doctor of the tribe, and the latter carried out his instructions. Felix did succeed in relieving some small ailments, and thereby added to his reputation.

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