306 THE FOUR GIFTS
But the portress answered roughly that it was no place for beggars, and bade her begone, so the poor girl dragged herself slowly along the road, till a light and the bark of a dog told her that she was near a farm.
In front of the house was a group of people ; two or three women and the sons of the farmer. When their mother heard Tephany's request to be given a bed the good wife's heart softened, and she was just going to invite her inside, when the young men, whose heads were turned by the girl's beauty, began to quarrel as to which should do most for her. From words they came to blows, and the women, frightened at the disturbance, pelted Tephany with insulting names. She quickly ran down the nearest path, hoping to escape them in the darkness of the trees, but in an instant she heard their footsteps behind her. Wild with fear her legs trembled under her, when suddenly she bethought herself of her necklace. With a violent effort she burst the clasp and flung it round the neck of a pig which was grunting in a ditch, and as she did so she heard the footsteps cease from pursuing her and lun after the pig, for her charm had vanished.
On she went, scarcely knowing where she was going, till she found herself, to her surprise and joy, close to her aunt's house. For several days she felt so tired and unhappy that she could hardly get through her work, and to make matters worse Denis scarcely ever came near her.
' He was too busy,' he said, ' and really it was only rich people who could afford to waste time in talking.'
As the days went on Tephany grew paler and paler, till everybody noticed it except her aunt. The water-pot was almost too heavy for her now, but morning and evening she carried it to the spring, though the effort to lift it to her shoulder was often too much for her.
' How could I have been so foolish,' she whispered to herself, when she went down as usual at sunset. ' It