And as she spoke, her lips closed together and her thniat
rattled, and she died.
The boy slept at her feet, and babbled in his sleep,
Phratos stooped down and raised him. He was a child
of eight years, and Avorn with famine and fever, and his
gaunt eyes stared hideously up at the driving snow.
Phratos folded him in his arms, and went on with him:
the snow had nearly covered the body of his mother.
All around were the fields. There was no light, except
from the lantern on the cross. A few sheep huddled near
without a shepherd. The stillness Avas intense. The belli
had ceased to ring, or he had wandered far from the sound
The lad was senseless ; he muttered drearily foolish words
of fever ; his limbs hung in a dead weight; his teeth
chattered. Phratos, bearing him, struggled on : the snow
was deep and drifted heavily; every now and then he
stumbled and plunged to his knees in a rift of earth or in a
shallow pool of ice.
At last his strength, feeble at aU times, failed him ; his
arms could bear their burden no longer ; he let the young
boy slip from his hold upon the ground ; and stood, breath¬
less and broken, with the snowflakes beating on him.
" The Avoman trusted me," he thought ; she was a
stranger, she was a beggar, she Avas dead. She had no bond
upon him, neither could she ever bear Avitness against him.
Yet he was loyal to her.
He unwound the sheepskin that he wore, and stripped
himself of it, and folded it about the sick child, and Avith a
slow laborious effort drew the little body aAvav under the
frail shelter of a knot of furze, and wrapped it clasely
round, and left it there.
It Avas all that he could do.
Then, with no defence between him and the driving cold,
he strove once more to find his road.
It Avas quite dark ; quite still.
The snow fell ceaselessly ; the Avhite wide land was path¬
less as the sea.
He stumbled on as a mule may that being blind and
bruised yet holds its way from the sheer instinct of its sad