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A Napa Christchild; and Benicia's Letters

To dear Benicia as a memory of me

"We are coming from the forest, All laden with flowers, With bright, crimson flowers All sparkling with dew."

Then from the river rose the song:

"We come from the water With bright, polished pebbles, With white, glittering pebbles, Our love-gift to you."

The singing now was in the very garden, but I could not see the singers, though I knew that they were there, for the strange creature-image whirled about the court, laughing and nodding on every side, while the music grew each moment louder and wilder, when suddenly all was still, and the image pausing in the middle of the court began with many odd gestures this weird song:

"What am I? Who am I? Where did I come from? What, who and where--well, no human knows; Ye though my loved ones know what to answer, My pale face ye follow wherever it goes. My home's in the forest, my home's in the city, Wherever the terror of loneliness lies, And woe be to him who when out in the moonlight Catches the glance of my soul-piercing eyes. By day I am stone By night I have breath, And those whom I meet, know the sister of Death."

"Curse you!" I shrieked, leaning from the window, and all was gone; the statue was in its niche again, the Maria Virgo

Sancta. I staggered back from the window and was received almost breathless from excitement in the arms of Brother Andreas who entered the room just then.

"My child, you should not sit by an open window; I fear that you have done yourself an injury already." He laid me down on the bed and when I awoke he was gone, and now I am writing off this scrap of a letter for you my dear friend. How I long to see you, and oh, why can I not have you here! Would to God that I had not met the woman on the bridge. My friend, my Jose, I dare not tell you what I fear; those eyes were upon me, those fatal eyes. No, no I will not keep it from you, I will tell you all and leave you the terrible duty of telling Benicia.

My dear boy, I am growing colder each moment; my hand trembles as I write this, my last letter; I pray that I may have strength to finish it. The river was not so long as I expected, and now my poor raft is breaking. Nor would I live, for now I know who has power over me, I know now whose were those drooping eyelids; it is better not to live, for I have not strength to conquer them.

It is autumn, the last leaves are falling, the cold winter is coming, but I shall not be here to dread its cold. My winter is on me now, and may God grant that through it I come to the eternal spring. All that I want is to see Benicia and you once more, but that cannot be. Now a last, long farewell to Benicia; I can write no more, I am too cold. The raft is broken; the journey was not long.

God bless you, good bye; I am going to lie down now. Give the ruby ring, which I wear, to dear Benicia as a memory of me; and tell Beni--

* * * * *

Here was the ending of the letter in the unfinished name of his loved one.

[Illustration: Scroll]

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