THE GROACH OF THE ISLE OF LOK 317
fast as she could to the cross roads, where she drove her stick into the ground, murmuring as she did so a verse her mother had taught her :
Little staff of apple-tree, Over the earth and over the sea, Up in the air be guide to me, Everywhere to wander free,
and immediately the stick became a smart little horse, with a rosette at each ear and a feather on his forehead. He stood quite still while Bellah scrambled up, then he started off, his pace growing quicker and quicker, till at length the girl could hardly see the trees and houses as they flashed past. But, rapid as the pace was, it was not rapid enough for Bellah, who stooped and said :
' The swallow is less swift than the wind, the wind is less swift than the lightning. But you, my horse, if you love me, must be swifter than them all, for there is a part of my heart that suffers—the best part of my heart that is in danger.'
And the horse heard her, and galloped like a straw carried along by a tempest till they reached the foot of a rock called the Leap of the Deer. There he stopped, for no horse or mule that ever was born could climb that rock, and Bellah knew it, so she began to sing again :
Horse of Leon, given to me, Over the earth and over the sea, Up in the air be guide to me, Everywhere to wander free,
and when she had finished, the horse's fore legs grew shorter and spread into wings, his hind legs became claws, feathers sprouted all over his body, and she sat on the back of a great bird, which bore her to the summit of the rock. Here she found a nest made of clay and lined with dried moss, and in the centre a tiny man, black and wrinkled, who gave a cry of surprise at the sight of Bellah.