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The Database of Ornament

THE roads met and crossed in front of an angle of wayside
grass, across which ran the wall of an olive-farm. Along the
top of this wall a dozen or more pollard cypresses grew
together, the elastic forwardness of their growth restrained
by informal wattles. Two cypresses, unstinted in height,
stood erect at either end of the dark hedge, with beautiful formality like
towers, a little in advance of the others, since the wall made a shallow
curve just where they rose. Against the wall, half-way up its grey surface,
a stone seat had been built, a seat transformed by weather and use almost
to a natural object.

    It seemed as if the builders expected that many people would sit down
on the long bench at that place ; yet as I approached I only saw one
figure in the centre—a woman’s. Her dress was dark and her thin fingers
lay on it at the knee, quite white and without movement of any kind. Her
feet had such hold of the ground they seemed to chain it. But the veil
round her head was fluttering and milky, her pale eyeballs drew in the
light till they were full of its beatitude, and the whole face conveyed to the
beholder such activity of an indwelling mind, in spite of the unusual
features, that the impression weighed down one’s breath. She seemed to
be a goddess, to belong to the universe just by the way she sat in that
common afternoon glow, beside that bit of wall.

    I could not speak to her, and she did not move to look at me, although
I felt she drew me into her eyes, as she drew the light. I stood before her,
because I had to choose my road, for I was at crossways in my journey.
Should I turn to right or left? As I hesitated and cast about, a most
singular sense came over me that the seat was crowded. I could see
nothing; but as one feels there is teeming life in the grass, or in the stream,
when one’s perception is sensitive with its own life, so I felt that seat
occupied by presences, from the woman’s figure in the centre to the cypress
towers at each end. And I knew that as I was drawn into the goddess’s
eyes like the light, so these unseen companions of hers hung on my
choice as earthly things hang on the changes of the weather. With a fear
that was nearly blind, and intensity that was actual anguish, I made my
choice. . . . . I will not say whether to right or left.

    But I had not gone far along the road, before all the fierce dogs in the
neighbouring farms began to howl in chorus, as if it had been midnight
instead of afternoon. I looked back—the woman was gone and the seat
was empty with the extreme voidness of a church at mid-day.

    Then the truth came to me clear.

    I had been in the presence of Hecate—the dogs howled again—of
Hecate and the Souls of the Dead who wander with her.

    I sank down on my new road—if with adoration or mere collapse I
cannot tell.

    Ye Fates of the Wheel of Necessity, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropa, ye
are nothing as compared with the Fate of the Crossways, Hecate, who
wanders with the Dead.

    The dogs no longer howled, but whimpered, and I went on direct.

11                                                                                MICHAEL FIELD.


MLA citation:

Field, Michael. “The Fate of the Crossways.” The Dial, vol. 5, 1897, p. 11. Dial Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.