BARAGLADIN was a little fellow of seven years, and belonged to a tribe of wandering gipsies.
Brown as a coffee-bean, he had astonishing black eyes that always seemed hot, shaded by huge eyelashes soft and thick as a feather.
Baragladin was a typical son of his race, and so white were his teeth that even from a distance they could be seen shining through his lips.
None too clean was Baragladin, whatever he wore, and at all times his clothing was scarce, hung in rags about him, picturesque but filthy, and easily discarded by the way. Best of all, Baragladin liked to run about as the good God had made him, with naught on him at all but a dirty string round his neck, whence hung a copper charm, queer in shape, which protected Baragladin from the evil things of this earth.
In his way Baragladin was a beauty, a little bronze statue he was, hard, slim, with perfect limbs and the agile movements of a wild animal; a sun-kissed, sun-baked, dust-covered morsel of wandering humanity, whose home was a constantly moving tent, and whose land was each land through which he passed.
Baragladin shared this ever-shifting home with a swarm of sisters and brothers, brown as himself, and just as grimy.
His father was a wandering tinker, a dark, sinister-looking man, with hair long and black as a raven's wing. Yanka his mother, once a beauty, was now haggard and careworn; nevertheless, draped in her discoloured rags, she had about her something of a beggared Indian princess. Baragladin loved his mother, but this, however, did not make of Baragladin either a nice or a good little boy.
Eternally squabbling with his brothers and sisters, Baragladin was noisy, troublesome, and undisciplined, but always tolerated by old and young because of his wonderful knack with the violin.
Tiny as he was, Baragladin played in a way which made the heart melt within you, as butter in the sun.
Grouped around their fires of an evening in the shade of some peaceful "lunca,"1 or at the edge of a forest, the wandering tribe would listen by the hour, spellbound, to the small boy's play.
In fact Baragladin was a musical genius, but this of course he did not know.
Besides, he had a poet's soul in his sun-baked little body; instinctively he loved all that was beautiful. The flaming sunsets were a joy to him, he dreamed that the dew was a scattered treasure of diamonds that each night the fairies strew over the earth, whilst he was sleeping, and he was always plaiting wreaths for his mother out of all the flowers he plucked by the way.
Of course Baragladin had thieving instincts, he would not have been a gipsy had it been otherwise, but the nut-brown fellow, when he stole, did so for the sake of things beautiful. Like a blackbird, all that gleamed attracted him; Baragladin would have stolen the stars had they been within his reach.
Best of all the little fellow loved the rainbow; to him it seemed the most marvellous thing in God's creation, the rarest, the most beautiful, the thing that above all he would love to touch, and one day... one day... But you will hardly believe it! One day... Baragladin, all by himself, reached the foot of the rainbow and found the treasure which lay there, the treasure of which you all have heard so often.
This is how it happened.
It was spring-time. After a long tramp, the wandering folk had pitched their tents on the border of a wide plain. All day it had been raining by fits and starts, not a heavy rain, but deliciously soft and refreshing. The clouds had had high sport in the sky, chasing each other and gradually, towards evening, dissolving into nothing. Then the wind had fallen and the sky had turned a sort of leaden-grey, over which the rainbow had suddenly arched its wondrous fairy bridge.
"Oh!" cried Baragladin, "oh! oh!" and began running, running as fast as his brown legs could carry him—running, running.... All the wandering folk laughed to see the little chap run like that, but accustomed to his queer ways, they let him run, sure that he would come back in his own good time. In his arms he was clasping his old violin.
Even the sky seemed to be laughing at Baragladin, as well as the dandelions in the grass and the grey willows past which he rushed.
His little torn shirt flew out behind him like two dust-coloured wings. Upon his skinny, wee chest the copper charm gleamed like a burning cinder, and the old violin groaned, so mercilessly did the child press it in his arms.
On, on ran the little brown fellow, his bare feet seemed to be winged. "Wait for me, O beautiful rainbow," he cried. "Do not fade away before I reach your foot. I'm small, so I cannot run any faster, but I'm not easily tired, I can run for a long, long time, and when I've reached you, I'll play you a beautiful tune such as you've never heard before."
So on, on, ran Baragladin, clasping his violin to his heart.
The gipsy-folk had quite lost sight of him, he seemed to have dipped over the edge of the horizon. Shrugging her shoulders, his mother returned to her work. "He is bewitched by all that is beautiful," she murmured, and there was a pucker between her brows. "He is fey—the rainbow is calling to him! One day this love of beauty will be his perdition, for indeed there is danger in things that glitter overmuch."
But, although you will hardly be able to believe it, Baragladin actually did reach the foot of the rainbow!
A great and mysterious light enveloped him suddenly, colours of quite indescribable beauty flashed before his eyes, nearly blinding him. It was almost more than the child could bear; it was ecstasy and pain in one. Letting his violin drop to the ground, he pressed one hand to his heart, the other over his eyes, for both eyes and heart seemed to be pierced with fiery darts. Then gradually the light began to fade, and at last Baragladin was able to look up.
Above him arched a miraculous bridge, prodigiously high and stupendously luminous, and so exquisite of colour that none of you can at all realize what it was like.
Baragladin felt as though he had reached the very Gates of Paradise. He actually sobbed with joy, stammering all sorts of inarticulate words, which were quite inadequate to express all he felt—but as there was no one to listen to him, this did not matter much. Had ever human child had such a fantastically wonderful joy!
No architecture built by man could be compared to this coloured mystery, this thing of dreams, this vision of glory. But, oh, grief, it was beginning to melt away, the colours were getting less bright, more distant, more illusive—had it perhaps really all been but a dream? It was going! fading away into the dusk of the evening which was advancing to meet it with dark wings....
Now it was gone... gone...!
"Oh!" sobbed Baragladin, "it is finished, finished, as if it had never been!" and his huge eyes were bright with unshed tears.
But what was that! something that lay glittering at his feet—had a little bit of the wonder-bridge broken off?
Baragladin bent down.
The treasure! it was the treasure! Transported as he had been into a world of supernatural ecstasy, the child had forgotten all about the treasure. And there it lay... at his feet.
A wonderful little casket it was, curiously wrought in gold, inlaid with precious stones of every colour, just like those of the rainbow; red, blue, violet, green, orange, yellow—and such large, round, smooth blobs they were!
Baragladin rubbed his fingers over them lovingly... up and down... they were cool to his touch; then with a really childish movement he passed his hot, red little tongue over the gems; he just had to lick them, they so tremendously resembled great lumps of jelly. But they had no taste! nor had Baragladin really expected that they would have a taste, he just wanted to lick them. They did not, either, get any brighter when wet, they were already so beautifully bright.
Then Baragladin set about trying to open the casket, but shove and push and pull as he would, try with his teeth and his nails, the box remained closed; nor was there any key, although there was a small keyhole.
This was very disappointing.
Oh! but it was getting dark, he must hurry back or he would no more find his way. Although a venturesome fellow, Baragladin had no wish to become a lost little boy.
Then suddenly with a pang he remembered that he had promised to play his most beautiful tune to the rainbow—and now the rainbow was no more! "What shall I do?" thought Baragladin, "one must always keep a promise! and the rainbow waited for me! let me reach its foot before it fades away!"
"Well, anyhow, it could not hear me now," decided the child, "and I must be getting back with my treasure or I shall lose my way. I know what I'll do, I'll invent a beautiful tune in which one will feel all its colours, and I shall call it the rainbow song, and no one will know why—only I and the rainbow; then I shall have two secrets all to myself," for Baragladin, like all children, adored secrets, and was not this treasure the most wonderful secret anybody could have? Of course he was not going to share it with anybody! the treasure was his, his alone.
Picking up his violin, which he clasped against his side, whilst in both hands he carried the precious box, our little gipsy began running for all he was worth; but the violin was dreadfully slippery and kept escaping from his grasp.
"I think you've become alive," scolded Baragladin in complete exasperation as he picked it up for the eleventh time.
Oh, but over there he now espied the gipsies' fires. "That's all right," thought the child, "but now I shall go warily because I do not mean to be discovered bringing back my wonder-casket—I can guide myself by their fires, whilst they cannot see me, as I am in the dark."
All the secretive instincts of his race came out in Baragladin, as like a stealthy little animal he crept near the gipsy encampment, but just not close enough to be observed.
For a moment he stood still; he was dreadfully out of breath, and his heart went pitter-patter, pitter-patter, making the copper charm tremble on his breast.
"That's a sound of water I hear," said the little fellow to himself; "I'll go down near the river among the willows and there somewhere I'll bury my treasure."
Baragladin fumbled about in the dark near the water, and at last he found what he considered an excellent hiding-place, right inside a hollow willow tree. He could shove his arm deep, deep into the hole, and after having placed his precious box with infinite precautions as far back as he could, he raked moss and dead leaves over it, and then, very satisfied and rather self-conscious, as a dog who has buried a bone, our rainbow-adorer slunk noiselessly back to his tent.
As he stepped within the circle of firelight, loud jeers and enquiries were hurled at his curly head. But Baragladin, when he would, could hold his peace, and this evening he certainly did not mean to give up his secret.
Taunt him as they would about where he had been, what he had seen and done, calling him the "Rainbow Prophet," he remained dumb, but when his brothers became aggressive, he immediately used his fists; finally he had his ears well cuffed by his father, and his mother packed him off to bed in their cart.
For several days running the wandering people remained there where they had pitched their tents, and every morning and evening Baragladin managed to steal away unobserved to visit his treasure.
With fingers all a-tremble with emotion he would draw the precious casket out of its hiding-place, let its gems glisten in the sunshine, cuddle it, play with it, hold converse with it. It was a glorious joy to the child, imbued with a mystery indescribable, but try as he would, the casket would never open.
Although this both annoyed and tantalized the boy, it also added to the treasure's spell, and Baragladin kept guessing what might be inside.
Perhaps more precious gems, perhaps a crystal flask full of sweet-smelling rose-oil, or golden coins, or some strange relic or charm? Perhaps there was a spirit shut up inside, or some terrible words of wisdom that he would be too young to understand. Perhaps a dagger? Perhaps some magic philtre which would give you the power to perform miracles or sorcery?—no end of quaint ideas did the boy have.
A special artistic joy did the little fellow find in letting the last rays of the setting sun play with the gems on his golden box, till a wonderful fiery intensity was added to their beauty.
It was at an hour such as this, when the sky stood in flame, that Baragladin composed his "Hymn to the Rainbow."
It was an astonishing bit of music, riotous in its joy of beauty; veritably all sorts of colours seemed to flash before one's eyes.
Baragladin played it over and over again, till he got every note as he wanted. But all through the triumphant ecstasy of the tune there ran a strange wailing cry of desire, desire towards what, Baragladin would certainly not have been able to explain, but it curiously heightened the rapturous exultation of the melody.
"It will weep as well as laugh," sighed Baragladin, "but it is beautiful all the same," and he laid the instrument down beside him on the ground, and sat gazing at the sun's last farewell to the day. "I like colours," sighed the boy again, "colour and sound and shiny things"... and a third heavy sigh did the small boy heave, then rising from his seat amongst the willow roots, Baragladin took up his precious box and hid it away in its cache.
It was the last he was destined to see of it for many and many a day....
That night, whilst Baragladin was sleeping, the gipsies broke camp and wandered to another place.
All drunk with sleep, Baragladin never awoke to realize that they were moving away, the jolting of the cart was too familiar to him, and in no wise disturbed his rest. And when he did awake late next morning from deep, dreamless slumbers, to his horror he discovered that he was far, far away from the enchanted spot where his treasure lay hidden.
Their caravan was moving along an endless dusty road, which ran on into Eternity....
"Are we going back to the "lunca" where we were yesterday?" enquired the child with choking voice.
"Why should we go back?" asked his mother.
"I want to go back!" declared the urchin.
"Well, you'll have to wait till your hair is grey then," laughed Yanka, "for do we wandering folk ever know if we go back to a place?"
"But I want to go back," insisted her small son.
"Don't bother me," scolded his mother; "I wonder who ever cares anything about your wishes?"
"I want to go back!" repeated Baragladin, and receiving no answer, began bitterly to weep.
"Stop your noise!" said his father, who, pipe in mouth, shoulders plying beneath the weight of the copper vessels he was carrying, trudged along beside the cart.
"I hate you all!" cried Baragladin with flaming eyes. "And I know something none of you know."
"Shut up!" shouted his father, "or I shall dip you into the first pond we meet along the way."
"I hate you!" repeated the little brown imp, "I hate you!" and putting his tongue out at his father he kept repeating over and over again, "I hate you all, and I want to go back, want to go back to where we have just come from...."
"Leave the child alone," said the old granny who shared Baragladin's bed with him; "probably he has had a touch of the sun, which has made him daft for a while. With sunset his senses will return to him and he'll give up his nonsense—for, indeed, one of our race never cares long for any place!"
Then overcome by a feeling of impotent despair, with the gestures of those of old he began howling aloud and tearing the rags he wore to pieces. Had he ashes, he certainly would have strewn them over his black curls, but having none, he expressed his grief and rage as picturesquely as he could.
"Troublesome little fellow," sighed his mother; "although he's my favourite, he gives me more trouble than all the others put together!" and taking her white clay pipe out of her mouth, she spat on the ground; a somewhat drastic way of expressing her annoyance.
But I am sure that you too would have been desperate, if you had had thus suddenly to forsake a treasure you dearly prized without any sort of hope of ever finding it again?
So I think we understand brown Baragladin's grief, even though he had a somewhat uncivilized way of expressing it.
All the rest of the day Baragladin lay sobbing, his face hidden amongst the scattered objects at the bottom of the cart.
* * * * * *
Years and years had passed and Baragladin had grown to be a man.
He was still a wandering gipsy, but although he had trudged all over the world, he had never been able to find the place where he had hidden his treasure away.
Search, search! he had searched every day of his life, at all hours, at all seasons, but in vain, he knew not the spot where it lay nor in which land to search for it.
Baragladin knew no geography except that of the roads over which he wandered.
As a child he had crossed many a frontier, all muddled up amongst the pots and pans, rugs and rags, tent-poles and cooking implements, not to count the dogs and hens, jumbled together in his parents' creaking cart.
Relentlessly they had moved away from the spot where his heart had remained buried with his treasure, and since that day Baragladin had been moving, moving, always moving over endless roads through many lands—lands of sunshine, lands of dust, lands of rain, lands of wind, lands of flat plains, lands of high mountains—on, on, over roads long as Eternity....
And thus Baragladin once came to a town, a small town, but a town which had its pretensions.
Baragladin was still a wonderful musician, and wherever he went people would flock around him to hear him play.
The beautiful little boy had grown into a handsome man, remarkably picturesque with his long raven curls, his flashing eyes and snow-white teeth. Still ragged and grimy, he nevertheless attracted attention wherever he went.
The gipsy caravan had halted on the outskirts of the little town, and there had pitched their tents; but Baragladin, eager to gain a few coppers, had sauntered back into its streets, and soon found himself upon the shady promenade, where those who had time to loiter walked up and down, laughing, chattering, staring at each other, and showing off their best clothes.
For a while the dusky wanderer watched this gay crowd with sombre eyes—he had no particular love for humanity, there was something suspicious and resentful in his heart, for his soul had higher aspirations than those usually of his race, but he had never found anyone to share them with him.
All that glittered had still for him the same irresistible attraction, and his mother, who was now quite an old woman, continued to declare that this, one day, would be his perdition, for she had guessed that her son had never quite realized "that all that shines is not of gold." Amongst the wandering people Baragladin still retained the nickname of the Rainbow Prophet. Too much of a dreamer, keeping too much to himself, he was not much liked amongst his kind, except for his music, which was quite irresistible.
Up and down the promenade went the townsfolk. It was Sunday, and old and young were enjoying their day off.
Suddenly Baragladin laid his violin under his cheek and began to play. He was leaning against the trunk of an old chestnut tree; the sun filtering through the leaves covered him with dancing lights.
Baragladin's first thought no doubt had been to attract the attention of the passers-by, for like all gipsies he tried to earn pennies whenever he got a chance; neither was our Baragladin, in spite of his air of an Indian prince in disguise, above extending a begging hand when he was out of funds, but the moment he made his violin sing, Baragladin forgot all else, and played for the love of music alone.
A crowd of listeners had assembled about the wandering minstrel who, with half-closed eyes, lost in his own dreams of harmony, paid little attention to any of them, when suddenly a woman pushed her way through the dense ring and stopped before him—a woman with red lips and laughing eyes.
Bright was her dress as the brightest summer flowers—she had many rings on her gloveless fingers, and huge stones flashed at her ears. Very pink were her cheeks, and very dark the lashes round her eyes.
Never in his wandering life had Baragladin seen a woman so beautiful! his heart began to beat as it had done when as a child he had reached the rainbow's foot.
The woman was surrounded by a troop of idle young men and boys; she laughed rather too loudly, as the colours she wore and the colour in her cheeks were rather too bright. But this, Baragladin did not notice. To him she appeared as a wondrous vision of beauty but seldom revealed to man.
Before, he had been playing to himself; now he began playing for her. He played his most enchanting tunes, the gayest, the saddest, those that laughed and wept, those that danced and languished, those that were as hymns of praise or as songs of triumph. His bow flew over the strings, became an alive thing mad with the folly of sound, a panting, quivering source of harmony—and the beautiful woman stood straight in front of him, nodding now and again with her head, or following the rhythm of his dance-tunes with the tapping of her neatly shod foot, occasionally throwing some taunting word over her shoulder to one or to other of her youthful followers.
At last Baragladin lowered his bow and, passing his ragged sleeve over his damp forehead, stood quite dumb facing the flashing beauty. His hot eyes consumed her face, and it was no mystery to her what emotions she awoke in his breast.
"Come to me this evening," she called to the gipsy; "you'll play to us whilst we dance and look at the stars. I was always on the lookout for a musical genius such as you. I'm greedy for music, and I'll make it well worth your while if you'll play for me!" and she mentioned her name, a fine-sounding, flashy name, like the name of some tropical flower, then throwing back her head, she laughed an odd laugh. "My name is well known in this town," she said; "ask even the boys of the street and they'll show you my house...."
"I'll come," said Baragladin, and found not another word to say.
The imperious lady turned away still laughing, beckoned to her retinue and swept off, the young men following close upon her heels.
The girls and women standing about shrugged their shoulders, and some of them gathered their skirts about them as she passed, as though they feared their clothes might come into contact with her flaunting finery.
Baragladin went that night and played for the woman with the fine-sounding name—and he returned many times after that....
His mother watched him closely, for they still shared the same tent, though his father had been dead for years, and she, observing his restlessness, did not feel at ease about him.
"He's like a moth," she grumbled, "always after the light; once it is a rainbow, then a star, or some glittering tinsel he cannot leave alone. Now I'm sure he's found a candle, in the flame of which he will burn his wings!"
Pale and haggard became Baragladin, his eyes were hotter than ever, his days without peace. He neglected his tinker's work, for Baragladin had inherited his father's trade—but when evening came he would steal back to the painted woman's house.
Now he knew that she was painted, but truly had his mother spoken, he was as a moth which cannot keep away from the light.
One night at the gay woman's house a curious scene took place.
Baragladin had been playing half the night through. The company assembled had become somewhat more rowdy than usual, and one glass of champagne after another had been offered to Baragladin, and each guest in turn had dropped a small gold piece into the bottom of the glass.
Baragladin had emptied them all, and now it was the beautiful woman's turn to offer a drink to the musician; she dropped a gold piece into the sparkling wine, set it to her lips, and then handed her glass to Baragladin.
In seizing the glass the gipsy, in a moment of madness, caught hold of the tantalizing woman's hand, trying to draw her towards him. Laughingly she resisted and began taunting him, with words which made her guests laugh. Excited by the applause her witticisms aroused her jokes became ever more trivial, till finally she cried out, "Verily I prefer you more as a "lautar"2 than as a lover, for what could you bring to me except your violin and your naked feet all covered with dust!"
Baragladin turned very pale at this insult; he set down the glass untouched on the table, and taking hold of both hands of her who was holding him up to ridicule, he forced his face quite near hers, letting his dark, fiery pupils burn into her eyes.
"I could give you a treasure," he cried, "such as none of you here have ever seen! I found it as a child at the foot of the rainbow—a golden casket all studded with precious stones!"
A great roar of laughter greeted the gipsy's words, and loudest of all laughed the woman with the painted lips.
Baragladin was now trembling with rage, the fumes of wine having quite gone to his head.
"I'll bring it to you one day," he cried, "then you'll believe me; only I've lost the place where I buried it; my parents moved me thence one night as I slept—since, I have been searching for it through many lands, and so many have I already searched through, that surely I'm near upon finding it now!"
"A nice story to mystify us with," laughed the woman and her guests; "keep your rainbow legends for little children, more credulous than we."
Desperate at having revealed his precious secret to this unworthy company, that secret which he had never even confided to his mother, Baragladin was now seized by a sort of blind rage against himself, against his hostess, against her guests, and hardly knowing what he was saying, "Well, if you will not believe me," he cried, "I'll play you the hymn I composed to the Rainbow as thanks for its having allowed me to reach its foot. I've never played it to human ear, but it's the sweetest piece of music ever composed..." and there, in that overheated, tawdry room, full of the sickly smell of fading flowers and melting candles, Baragladin played his hymn, that wondrous song of thanksgiving that had come to his childish fingers, as a God-given inspiration, so long, long ago.
Forgetting his surroundings, he played with the marvellous crystalline purity of a child dreaming its first dream of beauty. His strings sang and wailed and laughed and shook with that great cry of unquenched, unquenchable desire, which ran all through his hymn of praise—as though, at the hour of its great joy, the child had instinctively guessed rhe pain which lies beneath all human emotion.
Spellbound, the frivolous, sceptical, pleasure-loving company listened in perfect silence. The woman's face had become mask-like, deep lines suddenly marred its painted beauty. Her white hands, covered with rings, lay on the table before her, clutching at whatever they touched.
Suddenly Baragladin ceased playing—there was a moment of tense, throbbing silence, an angel seemed to be passing through the room, then the woman gave a great gasp which was almost a sob, and Baragladin, as though suddenly awakening from a trance, cried out, his voice all hoarse with grief:
"Oh! God, I have violated my secret, desecrated my hymn of praise, played it to a painted puppet, without heart or soul in her body!
"Good-bye, I've had enough of your feasting and drinking, of your overheated, over-perfumed ease and luxury; I'm a creature of the wilds, and to my wilds I'll return, to my endless roads, to their mud, to their dust, for there I belong!" and seizing with a passionate gesture the glass of wine he had set down on the table beside her, he suddenly emptied its contents into the woman's face. "Take back your gold," he cried, "and I'll try to tear the poison of your beauty out of my blood!" Thereupon, like a wild creature half distracted with rage and misery, Baragladin, the wandering gipsy with the magic violin and the dusty feet, rushed like a madman from the room.
* * * * * *
Years came and went—many years.
Baragladin's hair was white. But his mother was still with him, sharing his wanderings 'neath rain and sunshine. Old, old she was now, a bent old hag with trembling limbs.
Unlike those of his race, Baragladin had never taken to himself a wife—shy and suspicious, he had always kept out of women's way, caring little about them, but since that night when he had betrayed his secret, he hated them like sin, they seemed to him the devil's own invention. Now he was old, but still a grand figure of a man.
Old Yanka looked like a witch, and had some of a witch's wisdom and cunning. The rest of the clan held her in high respect, fearing her sorcery. But a curious link of dumb understanding bound mother and son together; they seldom spoke to each other, and when they did so it was in quarrelling tones.
Slaves to the habit of centuries, the people moved in groups—but this one difference mother and son made, they would share their tent with no one except the dogs and hens.
Baragladin was now chief of his tribe—there was something savage and relentless about him, some secret, silent force which made the gipsies choose him out as their leader, although a father's dignity was not his, and only his brothers and nephews would carry on his race.
But did he not possess the gift of music?—unto the end of the earth would the wandering people have followed the call of Baragladin's violin.
One thing the gipsies noticed, their chief always led his caravan along the river's course. "He is wise," they said amongst themselves, "he will never run the risk of man or beast suffering from thirst."
But each evening Baragladin would leave the encampment and wander along the river's bank, more especially there where the willows grew, and each single tree did he look at anxiously as one who is searching for a friend. His violin was always with him, and when sure that no human ear could hear him, he would play his Hymn to the Rainbow; each evening at sunset he played it, as though he were trying to tear some secret down from the skies which eternally remained dumb.
And the years passed, passed—and still Baragladin wandered, wandered with his old mother, searching, eternally searching for that which as a child he had hidden so carefully away.
* * * * * *
One evening Baragladin's old mother lay dying. She knew that her last hour had come, and she was glad. Though now she was quite blind, she knew that her son was at her side.
"Son," she said, "is the sun sinking?"
"Yes," answered her white-haired son.
"Son, art thou still searching for that which thou canst not find?" This was the first time that she had spoken thus. How had she known? Had she guessed? And her son looked at her with a strange look, but being blind, she saw not the expression in his eyes.
"Son," continued the old woman, "there is a tune thou hast never played to me; now, at this my last hour, play me that tune!"
Again Baragladin marvelled, but, lifting his violin to his shoulder, played to his dying mother his Hymn to the Rainbow, his wondrous hymn of thanksgiving that on a night of folly he had played in the painted woman's house.
Quite still on her pallet of rags lay the old woman who had wandered over so many roads, and although her eyes were blind, as her son played the tune he had composed as a child, a glorious light filled her eyes, a light which flashed in many colours, such as never upon earth had she seen. And with that light in her eyes, in her brain, in her heart, old Baragladin's old, old mother passed away out of this world.
* * * * * *
Still the years succeeded each other in endless file, and still Baragladin was searching for the treasure he had possessed as a child.
Long were the roads over which he wandered, long as Eternity....
Now Baragladin was old, old, quite old, and his hands trembled as once those of his mother had done.
Even his steps were tottering, and his once broad, upright shoulders were bent as though beneath a weight—it was the weight of years which he carried, of years and of his unstilled longing which he had borne with him all the days of his life.
He could no more trudge for uncounted hours over roads long as Eternity... but he would sit as he had done as a child amongst the pots and pans, rugs and rags of the creaking cart—head bent, he sat, his hands hanging between his knees whilst one of his sturdy nephews strode tirelessly along by the side of the skinny, hard-worked horses, lashing at them with a long whip.
Only when at sunset the tents were pitched in some shady "lunca" would the old man climb from the cart, and with slow, stiff steps move away towards the river's edge, scanning with tired eyes the silhouette of each willow tree as though searching for a friend, fondling his old violin as he went.
He still played his Hymn to the Rainbow, but more haltingly, with stiff fingers, and often he would break off in the middle—"What's the use?" he would mumble to himself, "What's the use? I shall never, never find the place, my time is nearly up, nor shall I ever know now what was in the box." Above all haunting was this thought, tearing from him his last peace, "I shall never know, never, never know what was in the box...."
At times the face of the woman he had loved for a few passionate fever-filled days would suddenly rise before him, with her too red lips, her too dark lashes, but beautiful, oh! so beautiful! a haunting vision he could not tear out of his blood. In his mind, which was becoming a bit confused, the face of the woman would oddly mingle with the glittering surface of his lost treasure, till in a certain inexplicable way they became one.
One evening in early spring, after a showery day, the shabby gipsy caravan reached the border of a wide plain.
Suddenly Baragladin, who had been slumbering, with his weary white head sunk on his breast, looked up and gave a great start....
A rainbow, broad, brilliant, glorious, stretched its luminous, unbroken arch right over the leaden-grey sky before him, like a bridge built by invisible hands for the Gods. One end rested in the far plain, and the other... the other was dipping into a slow-flowing stream bordered by willows... willows old and grey.
Baragladin gave a great cry, and as one moved by some irresistible force, he climbed off his cart, stumbling to the ground, his old violin pressed against his heart, and with tottering feet and feeble knees he started running towards that vision of promise.
Those watching him thought of course that the old man had gone stark, staring mad!
But Baragladin, in spite of the weight of years he carried on his bent shoulders, reached the spot where the end of the rainbow dipped into the river at the very foot of a great grey willow—a willow bent with age as the man who had searched for it through all the long years of his life.
The rainbow faded gradually away, and the old man sank to the ground amongst the willow roots, his hands searching, searching till they found a deep hole... and in that hole something hard... something cold....
Now it was in his arms, his treasure, his treasure—but he must open it—quick, quick, before his poor old heart break with joy!
With trembling fingers Baragladin fumbled at the lid of the box—would it open? would it open? Yes... yes!... it was opening, it was opening... oh! oh!...
Baragladin gave a great sob which seemed to tear his breast asunder, and it was to him as though he had suddenly become a little boy once more, for in the precious casket Baragladin had found his youth! and with it the extraordinary, inconceivable rapture he had felt that early spring evening so long, long ago.
His body seemed to lose weight, the years, the heavy years to roll off his shoulders, he was a child, a little child once more!
A heavenly light streamed in upon him from all sides at once, and looking up he saw the mysterious glory of the rainbow curving its many-coloured arch above his head. And standing upon that translucent, shimmering, glittering bridge, he saw angels, many angels, and upon their golden harps those angels were playing Baragladin's Hymn to the Rainbow, Baragladin's great hymn of praise.
Waves of melody enveloped him, louder, ever louder; ever more rapturous, the wondrous, joyous rioting tune with its long cry of desire breaking again and again through its joy, the tune the little gipsy boy had created out of the bubbling gratitude of his heart, his tune... yes, his tune, his tune...!
Arms outstretched in a gesture of thanksgiving, Baragladin fell to the ground. Indeed the joy had been too great, too great for his heart, for his old, old heart to bear, therefore did the heart of the weary wanderer break in two....
Thus did those of his clan find their old chief when the sun was sinking, and when the sky was the colour of flame—lying with head amongst the willow roots did they find him, and beside him a casket strangely wrought in gold and precious stones, the colour of the rainbow.... And beneath him, when they turned him over, lay his old violin which had cracked right in two....
But on the old, old man's face was the smile of a child.
1 "Lunca," the flat
wooded borders of a river, or small meadow with trees in