and the others could get their bows round to the seas,
they too were full of water and foundering. Loud
shrieks rang from the darkness and echoed like blows
against the buildings on the shore. Lights burst out ;
dark shapes hurried along the quays ; and voices cried
to voices as boats put forth in all haste. But meantime
men were drowning, and only those whose hands had
reached the rocks and whose strength had sufficed to
drag them into safety, still lived when succour arrived.
Ben Hassan, rising from his first immersion, struck
out with passion cooled ; and the sea lights shone and
sparkled into a fury of fire under his stout arm.
Swimming strongly thus, a white, struggling thing
touched him, and a small hand clutched frantically at
his shoulder. Of all those fighting lives this one loved
soul was thrown in his way, and he braced himself to
" Cease thy struggles, Nuzhat ! " he cried, with the
sea at his lips. " My arm is round thee. We will
return to life or die together."
Then he fought the sea, and the bundle he held
grew limp and heavy, and heavier, till it dragged him
down deep and his arm was like to break from his
shoulder. Twice the slippery rocks were torn away
from his lacerated fingers ; a third time he swam out of
the main inlet, and escaped the full force of the sea, and
held on. Then the white bundle was thrust up on to
the rocks, and Ben Hassan, now blind and fainting, fell
beside it and lost all sense. His head dropped heavily
upon the seaweed and he lay dead to all things. One
other man there was who likewise saved himself by
210 THE FOLK AFIELD
swimming-, but all the rest had gone down for the last
time, and unknown fishes, that see in darkness by the
light of their own eyes, were peering into drowned
faces, even while upon the top of the sea men cried the
names of the dead and sought to save them.
By lantern-light the mariners saw a black shape
upon a rock with a white one lying beside it ; and half
an hour later Ben Hassan opened his eyes again upon
shore in comfort and in light ; but he found himself very
weak, while some live monster, as it seemed, gnawed at
his lungs when he breathed.
" He lives ! Praise be to the God of the Land and
the Sea. Four have perished and three are left to thank
Allah," said an old man who held Ben Hassan's hand.
" And Nuzhat, what of her ? " he gasped with his
first breath. " Surely the life has now returned to her
body even as it has to mine ? Say not that she whom
I loved and rescued from the water is also dead } "
" Brace thyself for ill news if that was thy thought,
my son," answered the ancient man. " You rescued
not Nuzhat, the daughter of Abu Luluah, but Jamr
Shadid, the little Armenian, whom men call ' Live
Coal.' He lives and, thanks to thy right arm, may yet
escape from the Hell of the Unbelievers, if he turn from
his infidel life and seek Truth."
For it happened that when Jamr Shadid, toiling at his
oar, had stripped off his outer coat for ease and freedom,
Nuzhat, feeling the night wind of the sea cold upon her,
had picked it up and girt it about her warm from his
body. Thus her white raiment was hidden and his
Ben Hassan turned upon his couch and wept. Then
thought moved with him and he saw that, after all, the
woman had loved him not, but was even flying from him
when Azrael brought death to her. He dried his eyes,
therefore, and fixed them on a red lamp burning in the
chamber, and said :
" Inshallah ! The Lord doeth what seemeth good
to Him. Allah is all wisdom and all justice ; and the
fish of the sea must be fed, even as the fowls of the air,
and the unloved beasts of the field."
The morning tide, whispering under the first gold
of day, returned Nuzhat Luluah to the land of her
birth in a silver shroud. But among those who followed
her to the grave, beating their bosoms with unbaked
earth and denoting their grief by the force of their self-
chastisement, Ben Hassan was not numbered. And,
as for Jamr Shadid, he stood far off and watched with
hollow eyes, while devout Moslems, returning from the
obsequies, pointed against him the finger of scorn and
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA
HAROLD FOSTER had yawned away two months
at Mentone, and was seeking for some new thing
with the sHght energy that he possessed. Then, fired
by chance conversation with EngHsh strangers, he hit
upon a notable scheme for spending money and adding
salt to his worthless life. Fate had portioned to this
man a frail mother and an unintelligent father of hearty
physical perfections and enormous wealth. Thus it
happened that he found himself at five-and-twenty
possessed of no brains, of more money than he knew
how to spend, and of a weak chest, with feeble habit of
body that made it desirable for him to spend a third
part of every year out of England.
"At Turin," said a chance acquaintance, "you can
get motor cars far cheaper than in London or Paris.
For a thousand guineas you may purchase a magnificent
machine of twenty-four horse-power — a machine that
would climb these hills like a bird and take you a
hundred miles between luncheon and dinner."
" Thank you," said Mr Foster ; " it's quite a good
idea. I'll get one."
So he went to Turin and returned the following day
in a handsome and powerful automobile. The mechanic
who brought him back drove with such dash and courage,
214 THE FOLK AFIELD
that Foster experienced the glory of many grand, new
sensations, and his valet, a sober man of fifty, gave warn-
ing three times upon the road.
The new toy answered its purpose and charmed
Harold Foster into extreme activity. He took no
intelligent interest in his motor car, and was not con-
cerned to learn either its scientific secrets or the art of
driving it ; but he enjoyed to sit beside the chauffeur
and urge him on every possible occasion to put the
vehicle to its full pace. In a fortnight he engaged and
dismissed three drivers who could not agree with him as
to the speed desirable upon high roads. Then he heard
of a young Italian who had been dismissed from the
service of a French count for killing a child at San
A waiter in the Winter Palace Hotel brought this
genius to the notice of Harold Foster.
" His old grandmother, Teresa VelHano, work in
the hotel garden, monsieur. She very old. You see
her creep about like a brown monkey in a red jacket.
She help gardener to trim and water the plants ; and
she look after the canaries and little parrots in the cages.
She speak English ver' well. He wild young man — her
grandson, Paul — and he go too fast for French gentle-
men, but not too fast for you. She tell you about him."
So the Englishman put up his eyeglass, sauntered
into the hotel garden, and accosted Signora Velliano,
where she worked and deftly trimmed a flowing curtain
of grey-green lotus that tumbled over a wall in the
grounds of the Winter Palace.
"Your grandson, Teresa .!* I hear that he is a
first class chauffeur and not frightened, like these French
fools .-* "
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA 215
She put her scissors into a basket and shook her
hand and head together.
" Speak not of him. I pray for him that he never
ascend into the vile running engines again. I pray for
him that he may go back — back to Castel-Vittorio in
Mount Vetta, the home of our people."
" Nonsense, my good woman ! What shall he do
in the wretched mountains } If he is up to the mark,
I'll give him a hundred francs a week. But he must
earn it. I want a man without any nerves."
" He will break your neck and his own. Let him
go back to the mountains, signor. Do not tempt him
with the promise of so much money."
"He'll not make a hundred francs aweekshakingdown
olives or tending sheep in your beastly hills, Teresa,"
" Do not tempt him. Ah ! there he is ! See how
She pointed, and Foster beckoned to a short, bull-
necked, black-eyed man of twenty-five. He had a
square, unshaven jaw, and a smile that showed his
" Go back to Castel-Vittorio, bad boy," said the old
woman. " Do not listen to signor. Go back to the
Velliano folk ; go back to the smithy and the forge and
cease this devilish life of slaughter and stink that you
" Never, Granny, never," said Paul, laughing. " I
want the wind in my face again. I want to know what
it is to move. I am tired of crawling the earth like a
snail. Presently they will forget that I killed the child
— or rather that the child killed herself by running the
wrong way ; then they will come to me again. For
they know how I can drive."
216 THE FOLK AFIELD
" Go back to Castel-Vittorio and get a wife, mad
boy ! "
Her grandson smiled and shook his head.
" I would rather get a master."
" Let me see you at work," said Harold Foster.
" Come, we will run out to Bordighera."
He went to the looking-glass in the hotel hall,
patted his fair hair and adjusted his tie.
In ten minutes they were off, and in less than an
hour they had accomplished the journey and returned
to their starting point. They ran over some fowls at
La Mortola, but met with no other mishap.
Velliano spoke not a word going or coming, but as
he stopped at the entrance of the hotel, he praised
young Foster's automobile mightily.
" It is the best that I have yet driven, signor. I
would drive so good a machine for love. To see it
climb ! "
" You shall have a hundred francs a week, if you
will come to me," answered the owner. " You'll suit
me. But I'm frightened to meet your old ruin of a
grandmother. What will she say } "
" She is a good, old, holy woman. I would not
give her pain ; but a man must live, signor. We come
from Castel-Vittorio — the village in the hills that springs
with roofs and towers to a point, like a pine-cone fallen
from a tree. Sixty years ago my grandmother departed
from there when her husband died, and she has lived in
Mentone ever since. She makes a few francs a week
and keeps body and soul together, and prays to rest her
old bones at Pigna, nigh Castel-Vittorio, at the end.
But it cannot be, I fear. She must lie with the poor
folk here upon the hill."
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA 217
The ambitions of Signora Velliano did not interest
" Help me out of my coat, and turn up here this
afternoon." he said. " I want to see you clean my car.
I've got ideas I may tell you. It is possible that if I
can get a nomination, I shall become a competitor in
the next Gordon-Bennett race."
The Italian's eyes glittered.
" But not with this car, signor .-' "
" Of course not, you fool. I should buy the best
racer they could build me up to a couple of thousand
guineas or more."
" And I would drive for you, signor .-• "
" Perhaps ; but in the meantime you've got to get a
lot more out of this car here. It's good for a mile
a minute in proper hands — I'm sure of it."
AFTER winter had passed and the Englishman began
to turn his thoughts homewards, an unexpected
difficulty presented itself. His chauffeur was now in-
dispensable to young Foster ; man and master enjoyed
various adventures to their discredit, and much to his
delight, the youth acquired a sort of notoriety. But
when he announced the day for returning to England,
Paul Velliano made great lamentation and declared his
" My grandmother — my old grandmother — how will
she live any longer ? Who will put her into her grave ?
I have promised her that she shall see Castel-Vittorio
once more before she dies. It will break her heart,
signor, if I go beyond reach."
" But you can explain that you will come back some
day. I'll even undertake to be down here again next
year for certain."
" For the old there is no next year for certain, signor.
Teresa Velliano is more than eighty."
Poor Harold fretted and fumed. It was the first
and greatest trial that life had brought him. He even
fancied that he saw a white hair or two among his sandy
locks. Existence stretched out a dreary blank without
the companionship of Paul. Promises were no tempta-
tion ; even an increase of wages did not win more than
grateful thanks from young Velliano. Then accident
solved the difficulty and, after all, the chauffeur was on
the steamer that took his master back to England from
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA 219
It happened that, standing on the steps of the hotel
waiting for his automobile, Harold saw Signora Velliano
pottering about at her usual tasks. Suddenly a great
idea entered his narrow brow, and he approached the old
woman herself on the subject of her grandson.
" He is a very good boy, your Paul, old woman ;
a brave boy and a splendid chauffeur. Some day he
might have been quite a great man, and got known all
over Europe as a famous driver ; but something is
standing between him and his future. He will not come
home with me. His great career will never come off."
" He will go nowhere soon. He will end by being
locked up, signor, if he does not kill himself and you.
They tell me that you dare not drive to Nice again for
fear of what will happen if you do."
" Don't believe it. The owner wanted fifty pounds
for his beastly poodle. He swore it could do every-
thing but talk. Of course, he was a liar ; but I paid
the money. It was not Paul's fault at all — it never is.
The world is full of fools with dogs and damned fools
with babies, Teresa. But as for Paul, a lady is in
the case : a woman keeps him from coming with me to
England to make his fortune."
" I hope you tell me true, signor."
"An old lady — his silly grandmother, in fact."
" Bless him ! It is good to know I am somebody.
He will keep his word. He will never quite leave me ;
he will close my eyes and take my bones back to my
native town under Mount Vetta."
" What rot ! Besides, I can leave orders with a
notary about your bones. I know we must all die, and
all that sort of thing, Teresa. Well, I'll leave fifty
quid — pounds — for the business — I swear I will."
220 THE FOLK AFIELD
He screwed in his eyeglass, and regarded the old
woman very earnestly,
" A notary is not your grandson, signer. It is his
solemn duty. He has even promised that I shall see
Castel-Vittorio with these eyes before I close them for
the last time. Do not tempt him to break that promise."
" If that's the fuss," said Mr Foster, "why, damn it
all, the place is only round the corner ! And, when
you come to think of it, it's better fun to see your
blessed old home while you're alive than to be buried
in it when you're dead — eh, Teresa ? "
The motor crept slowly to the steps, and Paul
" You might go there any day— any hour, old lady,"
continued the Englishman.
" Impossible, signor. I am very old and it is far,
far off. I do not know how far after sixty years ; but
to my old heart it is as far off as my girlhood, and my
bridal, and my two little boys — both dead now, though
they were men before they died. A place in a dream,
signor — a place beyond the snow,"
" It's miles this side of the snow. By Jove ! why
not > "
Another of his rare inspirations had suddenly flashed
into Harold Foster's head. He found himself face to
face with an idea.
" Not for sixty years, you say, Teresa ? "
"No, indeed. And yet I hope and hope that
before the end — "
" Come and speak to your grandson. He has some-
thing to say to you."
The ancient woman approached the car, and held
her garments about her as though she feared danger.
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA 221
" Jump in and talk over the back of his seat to
him," said Foster. " It won't bite you. It's quite
tame. Paul must not leave the wheel, but you can
listen to him there. Let me help you up."
" I bless you this day, Paul Velliano," said his
grandmother. " I bless you and know right well that
you are a good boy, because you do not go to England,
and do not forget your promise to lay my bones in
While she spoke a door was banged behind her,
and as the old woman turned and prepared hastily to
dismount, she found herself enveloped in a huge coat
of fur. It completely covered and smothered her. A
lock or two of white hair with a red handkerchief tied
over it, a wrinkled face, brown as a coffee-bean, and
two frightened black eyes staring out of a mass of grey
wolf's-fur was all that could now be seen of Signora
" For Jesus' sake, let me down ! " she cried.
" No, no ; we're off — ^just a little run to Pigna."
" Pigna — Pigna — at the foot of Vetta ! It is a long,
long journey — sixty years long. Impossible, signor.
I pray you — such an old woman ! It will kill me.
Paul, I command you not to move, by your mother's
memory ! It shakes !— it trembles ! "
" Go ahead," said Foster. " Don't rush it or she'll
be frightened. She wants to see Castel-Vittorio, in the
Nervia valley. Then she jolly well shall see it. Sit
here, old lady, and think of your home, and shut your
eyes and your mouth to keep the dust out."
So that strange pilgrimage began, and the ancient
felt something under her gather itself together with the
strength of two hundred men and spring forward im-
222 THE FOLK AFIELD
patiently as though alive. A hum as of a thousand
angry hornets burst from beneath her. Teresa found
herself flying and the air striking like ice upon her face.
For a long time she kept her eyes shut, then suddenly
the great car leapt at the hill that rises out of France
into Italy, and the traveller was over the frontier and in
her mother-country before her shattered senses grasped
the fact of half that had happened.
A sensation as of being slowly petrified overtook
her. Her nerves ceased to throb. Her first terror at
this adventure gave way to indifference. She felt like
a mouse under a cat's paw. The motor was a live
monster in her imagination — a creature of steel and fire
that never tired. She shuddered at its harsh growl
when Paul dragged a lever and changed the gearing
for the hills. Then the thing dashed up each incline
faster than the last ; while houses, cliffs, trees and
people swam before her eyes in a wild and whirling
medley through veils of dust.
The terrific nature of this ancient woman's experi-
ence was entirely missed by her companions. The
Englishman had no imagination, and merely felt a
virtuous self-denial in going so slowly upon his
guest's behalf; while Paul's interest centred in a
hope that his grandmother might observe and appreci-
ate the immense skill with which he was conveying
her at twenty-five miles an hour to the home of her
Poor Teresa screamed once as they began to
descend the hill into La Mortola ; then she sank to the
bottom of the car on her knees, put her elbows upon
the seat and prayed. In this attitude she remained
motionless while her grandson drove into Ventimiglia,
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA 223
thundered over the Roja bridge, turned presently into
the valley of the Nervia and rushed along beside the
river. None noted the old woman in this lowly position
as the car fled past. The chauffeur, like a graven
image ; the owner looking ahead through his goggles ;
the roar of the wheels ; the eternal grunt, grunt of the
hooter was all that any man saw or heard. From the
moment of that weird and warning yell behind some
corner and the sudden apparition of the flying car, to
the time when it rushed past and vanished behind
the dust-cloud that leapt at its heels, the startled peasants
might scarce count twenty. In front was peace and the
purity of still valleys and ravines that murmured to the
echo of the river and served as setting for the mighty
foothills of the mountain ; behind was stench and
smother, shaking of fists and cursing, squealing and
kicking of mules, shrieking of women, howling of
children, and barking of dogs.
Foster, much bored by the slowness of their progress,
looked at his watch and shouted, " Faster, faster ! The
old lady is accustomed to it now." So Paul nodded
and only slowed down when some team of cattle or
sudden right-angled turn at a river-bridge made decrease
of speed necessary. He began to be fired with the
romance of his grandmother's pilgrimage, and increased
the pace accordingly. The ancient woman appeared
quite calm where she knelt and clutched the edge of
the car ; for now, even had she travelled on the wings
of a bird, all other emotions than those of the place and
the vanished past must have fallen from her. After
sixty years she returned to the wonderful home of
her childhood, and the years fell away as quickly as
the intervening miles diminished. The manner of her
224 THE FOLK AFIELD
return was now as nothing to her, but only the terrific
fact of it.
Nervia's valley extended in spring glory, and the
river's glittering water, now shrunk low, made a network
over the wide and sandy mouth. Great reeds bent and
rustled beside the way ; the terraced hills opened their
grey hearts to the road as it wound into them ; and the
automobile panted forward under long ridges of naked
vinelands and amid gentle hills hidden to their crowns
in the silver-grey of the olive. Winding, leaping, pant-
ing, the car dashed ahead towards mountains that were
still feathered with the last snows of winter. Every turn,
every bend of the road and glittering fall of the river,
every mountain and hamlet and old ruined aqueduct
or broken bridge, opened a casement on the ancient
woman's memory and let in light ; every hill and vale
touched her heart and told a tale of maidenhood. She
watched intently, and strained her eyes and her mind
upon remembered things as they unfolded, grew, stood
at hand, swiftly sank away. Campo-Rosso was passed
and Dolce-Acqua reached. She saw the bridge and the
dim, frowning mass of a ruined castle whence the dead
and gone Doria had ruled that land. The snows grew
nearer ; in imagination her nose sniffed the remote
forests of the pine ; she saw the goatherds, she remem-
bered the perilous paths and steep edges of stone that
her young feet had pressed in the spring-time, when her
hand was in her lover's and the eagle was not more
free. Then upon her aged soul there fell the spirit of
religion and the call to prayer. Her lips moved, but
her eyes missed nothing. The car reeled and jolted as
it swayed over a spidery bridge high above the river ;
but Teresa knew no more fear. Beyond the next
PILGRIMAGE TO PIGNA 225
great strut of stone and mountain-side lay Pigna, and
from that village Castel-Vittorio, lifted upon its proper
pinnacle of Mount Vetta, came swiftly into her ken.
Perched amid the dizzy precipices, a harmony of dull
hues and faded walls beneath bleached tiles, clustered
like a honeycomb, or the shadowy grey and glittering
fabric woven by worms and spiders, the goblin hamlet
thrust upward to quaint, high-pitched gables and tiny
towers. Dwarfed by the immensity of the mountains,
shadowed by precipices whose brows were forests of
pine, reduced by the concavities and contours of the
crags to a mere harmonious cluster of fairy dwellings
or pigmy city sprung from the crown of the hillside,
Castel-Vittorio hung aloft. Infinite age marked its
wrinkled and expressive face, a spirit of eld haunted its
gnarled and knotted network of crumbling walls. Its
pent-roofs bent under weight of years, its earthquake
arches, like old hands joining, made light against dark-
ness ; black windows stared out of irregular planes of
ripe masonry fringed with growing weeds ; and all, so
perfectly planted there under the mountain crowns,
seemed rather a dream of harmonious light and shadow
mingled, than a stark and storm-defying abode of men.
The mediaeval village looked down upon its child
and she looked up to it.
" Give her ten minutes," said Mr Foster, " and I'll
poke about and smoke a cigarette. Rubbishy fifteenth-
century churches are here somewhere, with mouldy
frescoes in them. I'll bet there are trout in that river.
But only ten minutes. I've got to be at Monte by six
Teresa Velliano descended from the car and her
grandson wrapped the furs round her, for her hands
226 THE FOLK AFIELD
were intensely cold. Then she motioned him away,
walked to a stone, and sat down there and stared
over the river upward to the village in the hills. Sixty
years had scarcely added a stain to those ancient walls.
She knew each dwelling and those who inhabited it.
Then she remembered that nearly all the people were
changed, and her eyes turned to seek the graveyard.
Presently she fixed them on the houses again, and stared,
and pressed her eyelids to squeeze away the water that
threw all things out of focus. As still and watchful as