10 Flower and Weed.
A woman, quite a young woman—nay, a girl in what
should have been the first fresh bloom of girlhood—lay
asleep in that mossy hollow, the azure of wild hyacinths
reflected on her wan pinched cheek, one wasted hand lying
pale and deathhke among the flowers. The scanty cotton
gown hardly concealed the shrunken outline of the figure.
The feet, one bound in blood-stained rags, the oth^r in a
boot which was the veriest apology for covering, testified to
long and weary tramping upon dusty high-roads.
Lucille slipped from her saddle, and, with Puck's bridle
hanging on her arm, went close up to the prostrate figure
It was not the first time she had found a tramp asleep in
Ingleshaw woods, nor the first time that her immediate
impulse had been to relieve abject poverty, worthy or worth¬
less, needing no higher claim upon her charity than its
helplessness. She stood looking down at the sleeper, more
keenly interested than she had ever felt before in any stray
creature she had found in her domain.
The face lying among the flowers was exc[uisitely beautiful,
even in its pinched and haggard condition. The low broad
brow, the delicate Greek nose, the heavily-moulded eyelids,
with their dark lashes, the oval cheek from which the rich
growth of bronze-brown hair was swept back in a tangled
mass, the melancholy lines of the pale lips, the modelling of
the small dimpled chin—all were perfect, and on all there
was the stamp of sickness unto death. What could Lucille
do ? She had no purse with her; or perhaps she might
have done no more than drop a sovereign into that shrunken
band, and pass upon her way. Yet there was something
in the sleeper's face that would have haunted her pain¬
fully afterwards, had her charity gone no further than this.
As it was, she tied Puck to a tree, and sat down at the
root of another, within a yard or so of the sleeper, patiently to
await her waking, in order to see what could be done with her.
She had not long to wait. Before she had been seated
five minutes, looking dreamily at the sulphur-hued butter¬
flies flitting across the mossy hollows where the hyacinths
made broad patches of azure light, the flies grew too tor¬
menting for Puck's patience. A sharp shake of his honest
old gray head rattled bit and bridle, and at the sound that
pale sleeper stirred uneasily, and the heavy lids were lifted
from eyes darker than night.
Those dark velvety eyes looked up at Lucille, the pallid
lips quivered faintly, and, as if with a painful effort, the
wayfarer lifted herself into a sitting position.