THE FUGITIVE MOTHER 155
as of a creature in agony ! I drew aside from its path, and waited. As it neared me, I saw it was going on three legs, carrying its left fore paw high from the ground. It had many dark, oval spots on a shining white skin, and was attended by a low rushing sound, as of water falling upon grass. As it went by me, I saw something streaming from the lifted paw.
' It is blood!' I said to myself, ' some readier champion than I has wounded the beast!' But, strange to tell, such a pity seized me at sight of the suffering creature, that, though an axe had been in my hand I could not have struck at it. In a broken succession of hobbling leaps it went out of sight, its blood, as it seemed, still issuing in a small torrent, which kept flowing back softly through the grass beside me. ' If it go on bleeding like that,' I thought, ' it will soon be hurtless ! ' ,
I went on, for I might yet be useful to the woman, and hoped also to see her deliverer.
I descried her a little way off, seated on the grass, with her child in her lap.
' Can I do anything for you ? ' I asked.
At the sound of my voice she started violently, and would have risen. I threw myself on the ground.
' You need not be frightened,' I said. ', I was following the beast when happily you found a nearer protector ! It passed me now with its foot bleeding so much that by this time it must be all but dead !'
There is little hope of that! ' she answered, trembling. ' Do you not know whose beast she is ? '
Now I had certain strange suspicions, but I answered that I knew nothing of the brute, and asked what had become of her champion.