THE DRYAD 995
secrets; all was whispered and confided without a sound being heard.
The Dryad saw herself disguised in silk and veil, resembling in form the other rich and high-born ladies ; was each of them a child of longing like herself ?
There sounded a sigh, so painfully deep ; did it come from the confessional corner, or from the breast of the Dryad ? She drew her veil closer round her. She breathed the incense and not the fresh air. Here was no place for her longing.
Away! away! in flight without rest! The Ephemera has no rest; its flight is its life !
She was again outside under the blazing gas-lamps by the splendid fountain. ' All the streams of water will not be able to wash away the innocent blood which has been shed here.' So it has been said.
Foreigners stood here and talked loudly and with animation, as no one dared to do in the High Court of Mystery, from which the Dryad came.
A large stone-slab was turned and lifted up; she did not understand this ; she saw an open entrance to the depths of the earth ; into this people descended from the starlit sky, from the sunshiny gas-flames, from all the stirring life.
' I am afraid of this ! ' said one of the women who stood there ; ' I dare not go down ; I don't care either about seeing the sight ! Stay with me ! '
' And go back home,' said the man, * go from Paris without having seen the most remarkable thing, the real wonder of the present time, called into being by the talent and will of a single man ! '
' I shall not go down there,* was the answer.
' The wonder of the present age,' they said. The Dryad heard and understood it; the goal of her greatest longing was reached, and here was the entrance, down in the depths under Paris ; she had not thought of this, but when she heard it now, and saw the foreigners going down, she followed them. The spiral staircase was of cast iron, broad and commodious. A lamp gleamed down there, and another one still farther down.
They stood in a labyrinth of endlessly long intersecting