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A heart that beats with love for all that lives.'
M. E. S.
Love can hope where reason would despair.'
LORD LYTTLETON. CHAPTER I.
It was a dream!
Once more I walked, as in boyhood's days, on the white sandy beach, looking for shells and shining stones.
To my right lay the downs, their steep banks deeply ridged and undermined by the floods of countless ages ; gray trunks towered above, their tops crowned with richest verdure, while here and there bare roots projected, crooked and distorted into most uncouth shapes. On the very edge of the precipice the corn was waving its light culms in the air, and over the sand and gravel lay strewn the half-ripened ears that had fallen on to the beach below.
To my left rolled the waves—ever in the same shape, with the same hue, with the same sound. They ran towards the shallow beach, died away, and then reappeared. Their murmurs mingled with the sighing of the wind, just as the cloudless sky, mirrored in the blue waters, blended its reflections with the bright sunbeams.
Far behind, scarcely to be recognised, were the last thatched roofs of the little fishing village, and still further away on the horizon in front was a promontory, widely curved, which, ending in a steep precipice and enclosing a small creek, seemed to form the end of all land.
Veiled in a bluish haze, this promontory looked far beyond my reach. But I wanted to get to it, for I had never as yet seen it but as a myth in the distance, and all at once an irresistible impulse seized me to lift its misty veil.
I was but a boy, and yet my feet dragged heavily through the deep fine sands; I was as completely exhausted with the
walking as if body and soul had borne the burden of many weary years. No human form was stirring within my sight; a great white-plumed bird alone flapped its wings up and down the beach. He overtook me, turned away, came back towards me again, and continued thus escorting me with the same movements ever to and fro. From time to time his cry re-echoed across the lonely sea and shore. I felt that he was talking to me, but it was in a language I did not understand. It sounded to me like a warning not to continue my path, or rather my pathless course. But still my goal stood out before me, apparently as far away as ever, although behind me every sign of my startingpoint had long since disappeared. All things around me remained the same; my footstep left no print upon the sands; and, strange to say, the sun itself seemed to stand still in the self-same spot of the deep blue sky.
I must thus have plodded on in this way for many hours, but I gradually lost all consciousness of time. I might have been walking on for days-aye, for years !
Suddenly a weird feeling came upon me. I knew that I had passed into a realm where time was not.
And then, all at once, I found myself beside the distant headland, which I had so long striven to reach. It projected far out into the sea, gray and barren, except for some pale-green reeds which gleamed forth here and there; it was lonely as deaththe world's end—for a thick mist spread a gray pall over everything that lay behind it. At the foot rose up out of the water three mighty masses-runic rocks--half buried in the ground, dark and black. They looked like the giant stones of an ancient cairn ; the waves played gently round them, singing their ceaseless song, and upon the time-worn rocks three naked figures sat, their feet dipping in the clear waters of the crystal sea, while the wind played with their tresses, and the sunshine enveloped with a dazzling veil of golden beams their bodies, which were white as ivory. Were they sea-nymphs risen from the hoary deep? They were beyond the ordinary stature of woman; never had I seen a living creature to compare with them; each was tall as the goddesses which the artist's hand is wont to carve in marble, but they differed from each other both in feature and in expression.
The first had her jet-black hair coiled round her head in a way that gave her a very grave and dignified appearance. Her face wore a look of immovable calm, and her eyes, which