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Arabesque: The Mouse
by [?]

"You are cold," he whispered, touching her bare neck with timid fingers. "Quite, quite cold,"

drawing his hand tenderly over the curves of her chin and face. "Let us go in," he said, movingwith discretion from the rapture he desired. "We will come out again," said Cassia.

But within the room the ball was just at an end, the musicians were packing up theirinstruments and the dancers were flocking out and homewards, or to the buffet which was on aplatform at one end of the room. The two old peasants were there, munching hugely.

"I tell you," said one of them, "there’s nothing in the world for it but the grease of an owl’sliver. That’s it, that’s it! Take something on your stomach now, just to offset the chill of thedawn!"

Filip and Cassia were beside them, but there were so many people crowding the platform thatFilip had to jump down. He stood then looking up adoringly at Cassia, who had pulled a purplecloak around her.

"For Filip, Filip, Filip," she said, pushing the last bite of her sandwich into his mouth, andpressing upon him her glass of Loupiac. Quickly he drank it with a great gesture, and, flingingthe glass to the wall, took Cassia into his arms, shouting: "I’ll carry you home, the whole wayhome, yes, I’ll carry you!"

"Put me down!" she cried, beating his head and pulling his ears, as they passed among thedeparting dancers. "Put me down, you wild thing!"

Dark, dark was the lane outside, and the night an obsidian net, into which he walked carryingthe girl. But her arms were looped around him, she discovered paths for him, clinging moretightly as he staggered against a wall, stumbled upon a gulley, or when her sweet hair was caught in the boughs of a little lime tree.

"Do not loose me, Filip, will you, do not loose me," Cassia said, putting her lips against histemple.

His brain seemed bursting, his heart rocked within him, but he adored the rich grace of herlimbs against his breast. "Here it is," she murmured, and he carried her into a path that led to herhome in a little lawned garden where the smell of ripe apples upon the branches and the heavylustre of roses stole upon the air. Roses and apples! Roses and apples! He carried her right intothe porch before she slid down and stood close to him with her hands still upon his shoulders. He could breathe happily at the release, standing silent and looking round at the sky sprayed withwondrous stars but without a moon.

"You are stronger than I thought you, stronger than you look, you are really very strong," shewhispered, nodding her head to him. Opening the buttons of his coat she put her palm against hisbreast.

"Oh, how your heart does beat: does it beat truly—and for whom?"

He had seized her wrists in a little fury of love, crying: "Little mother, little mother!"

"What are you saying?" asked the girl; but before he could continue there came a footstepsounding behind the door, and the clack of a bolt….

What was that? Was that really a bolt or was it … was it … . the snap of the trap? The mansat up in his room intently listening, with nerves quivering again, waiting for the trap to kill thelittle philosopher. When he felt it was all over he reached guardedly in the darkness for thelantern, turned on the beam, and opened the door of the cupboard. Focussing the light upon thetrap he was amazed to see the mouse sitting on its haunches before it, uncaught. Its head was bowed, but its bead-like eyes were full of brightness, and it sat blinking, it did not flee.