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The White Omen
by [?]

“Ah, Monsieur, Monsieur, come quick!”

“My son, wilt thou not be patient?”

“But she–my Fanchon–and the child!”

“I knew thy Fanchon, and her father, when thou wast yet a child.”

“But they may die before we come, Monsieur.”

“These things are in God’s hands, Gustave.”

“You are not a father; you have never known what makes the world seem nothing.”

“I knew thy Fanchon’s father.”

“Is that the same?”

“There are those who save and those who die for others. Of thy love thou wouldst save–the woman hath lain in thine arms, the child is of this. But to thy Fanchon’s father I was merely a priest–we had not hunted together nor met often about the fire, and drew fast the curtains for the tales which bring men close. He took me safely on the out-trail, but on the home-trail he was cast away. Dost thou not think the love of him that stays as great as the love of him that goes?”

“Ah, thou wouldst go far to serve my wife and child!”

“Love knows not distance; it hath no continent; its eyes are for the stars, its feet for the swords; it continueth, though an army lay waste the pasture; it comforteth when there are no medicines; it hath the relish of manna; and by it do men live in the desert.”

“But if it pass from a man, that which he loves, and he is left alone, Monsieur?”

“That which is loved may pass, but love hath no end.”

“Thou didst love my Fanchon’s father?”

“I prayed him not to go, for a storm was on, but there was the thought of wife and child on him–the good Michel–and he said: ‘It is the home-trail, and I must get to my nest.’ Poor soul, poor soul! I who carry my life as a leaf in autumn for the west wind was saved, and he–!”

“We are on the same trail now, Monsieur?”

“See: how soft a night, and how goodly is the moon!”

“It is the same trail now as then, Monsieur?”

“And how like velvet are the shadows in the gorge there below–like velvet-velvet.”

“Like a pall. He travelled this trail, Monsieur?”

“I remember thy Fanchon that night–so small a child was she, with deep brown eyes, a cloud of hair that waved about her head, and a face that shone like spring. I have seen her but once since then, and yet thou sayest thy Fanchon has now her great hour, that she brings forth?”

“Yes. In the morning she cried out to me twice, for I am not easy of waking–shame to me–and said: ‘Gustave, thou shalt go for the priest over the hills, for my time is at hand, and I have seen the White Omen on the wall.’ The White Omen–you know, Monsieur?”

“What does such as she with the legend of the White Omen, Gustave?”

“Who can tell what is in the heart of a mother? Their eyes are not the eyes of such as we.”

“Neither the eyes of man nor priest–thou sayest well. How did she see it?”

“She was lying in a soft sleep, when something like a pain struck through her eyes, and she waked. There upon the wall over the shrine was the white arrow with the tuft of fire. It came and went three times, and then she called me.”

“What tale told the arrow to thy Fanchon, Gustave?”

“That for the child which cometh into the world a life must go from the world.”

“The world is wide and souls are many, Gustave.”

“Most true; but her heart was heavy, and it came upon her that the child might be spared and herself taken.”

“Is not that the light of thy home–yonder against the bunch of firs?”

“Yes, yes, good father, they have put a light in the window. See, see, there are two lights. Ah, merci, merci, they both live! She hath had her hour! That was the sign our mother promised me.”

“Michel’s wife–ah, yes, Michel’s wife! Blessed be God. A moment, Gustave; let us kneel here…”