THE FUGITIVE MOTHER 157
beast has not hurt her !—Yes : it was my baby she was after !' she went on, caressing the child. ' And then she would have torn her mother to pieces for carrying her off!—Some say the princess has two white leopardesses,' she continued : ' I know only one—with spots. Everybody knows her ! If the princess hear of a baby, she sends her immediately to suck its blood, and then it either dies or grows up an idiot. I would have gone away with my baby, but the princess was from home, and I thought I might wait until I was a little stronger. But she must have taken the beast with her, and been on her way home when I left, and come across my track. I heard the sniff-snuff of the leopardess behind me, and ran;—oh, how I ran !—But my darling will not die ! There is no mark on her ! ' ' Where are you taking her ? '
' Where no one ever tells !'
' Why is the princess so cruel ?'
' There is an old prophecy that a child will be the death of her. That is why she will listen to no offer of marriage, they say.'
' But what will become of her country if she kill all the babies ?'
' She does not care about her country. She sends witches around to teach the women spells that keep babies away, and give them horrible things to eat. Some say she is in league with the Shadows to put an end to the race. At night we hear the questing beast, and lie awake and shiver. She can tell at once the house where a baby is coming, and lies down at the door, watching to get in. There are words that have power to shoo her away, only they do not always work.—But here I sit talking, and the beast may by