The Queen's Gift Book, In Aid of Queen Mary's Convalescent Auxilliary Hospitals

160 THE QUEEN'S GIFT BOOK The boy watched what he would do. In his hand he carried the sword which at the sunrise he had taken from the dead. And he came to the sacred tree that was in the middle of the grove and he too began to pace about it glancing from side to side as that other had done before him. And once when he was near the place where the caked blood still lay upon the ground the sword fell clashing from his hand and he flung his two arms to heaven with a hoarse and piercing cry—the cry of him who accuses and arraigns the gods. And the boy shivering slipped from the tree with that cry in his ear and hastily sought for his goats. And when he had found them he drove them home not staying even to quench his thirst from their swollen udders. And in the shepherds hut he found his father Caeculus and sinking down beside him with tears and sobs he told his tale. And Caeculus pondered long. And without chiding he laid his hand upon the boys head and bade him be comforted. 4 For said ashe though he spake with himself—4 such is the will of the goddess. And from the farthest times it has happened thus— before the Roman fathers journeyed from the Alban Mount and made them dwellings on the seven hills—before Romulus gave laws—or any white-robed priest had climbed the Capitol. From blood springs up the sacred office and to blood it goes !No natural death must waste the priest of Trivias tree. The earth is hungry for the blood in its strength— nor shall it be withheld !Thus only do the trees bear and the fields bring forth. Astonished the boy looked at his father and saw upon his facc, as lie turned it upon the ploughed lands and the vineyards a secret and a savage joy. And the little goatherds mind was filled with terror— nor would his father tell him further what the mystery meant. But when he went to his bed of dried leaves at night and the moon rose upon the lake and the great woods murmured in the hollow far be­neath him he tossed restlessly from side to side thinking of the new priest who kept watch there—of his young limbs and miserable eyes —of that voice which he had flung to heaven. And the child tried to believe that he might in his dreams he saw more and the slayer watching crowd —and waiting thirstily for the as though a mighty I spilt blood. And it was \hand crushed the boys yet escape. But already the grove part once leap forth. He saw the their fierce steady eyes heart and for the first f the gods and from his \of his youth was dark- 'V \/time he shrank from —so father that the joy ened within him.”
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