GONE!—BUT HOW? 151
Her arms lay on the grass by her sides as if paralyzed.
Suddenly they closed about my neck, rigid as those of the torture-maiden. She drew down my face to hers, and her lips clung to my cheek. A sting of pain shot somewhere through me, and pulsed. I could not stir a hair's breadth. Gradually the pain ceased. A slumberous weariness, a dreamy pleasure stole over me, and then I knew nothing.
All at once I came to myself. The moon was a little way above the horizon, but spread no radiance; she was but a bright thing set in blackness. My cheek smarted; I put my hand to it, and found a wet spot. My neck ached: there again was a wet spot! I sighed heavily, and felt very tired. I turned my eyes listlessly around me—and saw what had become of the light of the moon : it was gathered about the lady ! she stood in a shimmering nimbus ! I rose and staggered toward her.
' Down!' she cried imperiously, as to a rebellious dog. ' Follow me a step if you dare !'
' I will!' I murmured, with an agonised effort.
' Set foot within the gates of my city, and my people will stone you : they do not love beggars !'
I was deaf to her words. Weak as water, and half awake, I did not know that I moved, but the distance grew less between us. She took one step back, raised her left arm, and with the clenched hand seemed to strike me on the forehead. I received as it were a blow from an iron hammer, and fell.
I sprang to my feet, cold and wet, but clear-headed and strong. Had the blow revived me? it had left neither wound nor pain!—But how came I wet?—I could not have lain long, for the moon was no higher !