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                                      A FRAGMENT.*

    When the Oread awoke by the hill-tarn the great heat
of the noon was over. The sweet fresh mountain-air,
fragrant with thyme and gale and blossoming heather,
balsamic with odours of pine and fir, blew softly across
the leagues of ling. The sky was of a deep, lustrous,
wind-washed azure, with a vast heart of sapphire, tur-
quoise-tinct where it caught the sun-flood southerly and
westerly. A few wisps of thin white vapour appeared
here and there, curled like fantastic sleighs or sweeping
aloft like tails of wild horses; then quickly became atten-
uated, or even all at once and mysteriously disappeared.
Far and near the grouse called, or rose from hollows in
the heather in abrupt flurries of flight, beating the hot
air with their wings with the echoing whirr of a steamer’s
paddles. The curlews wheeled above the water-courses,
crying plaintively; whence also came ever and again
the harsh resonance of the heron’s scream. Echoing
along the heights that rose sheer above the tarn rang
the vanishing whistling voice of the whaup, and, faint
but haunting-sweet as remote chimes, rose and fell in
the mountain-hollows the belling of the deer. A myriad
life thrilled the vast purple upland. Not a yard of
heather that was not as much alive, as wonderful and
mysterious, as a continent. The air palpitated with
the innumerable suspirations of plant and flower, insect
and bird and beast. Deep in the tarn the speckled
trout caught the glint of the wandering sunray; far
    * “The Oread” is a fragment of a similarly-named section from a
forthcoming volume by Mr. Charles Verlayne, entitled “LA MORT
S’AMUSE,” which, with a fantastic connecting thread of narrative, con-
sists of a series of “Barbaric Studies,” in each of which a recreation of
an antique type is attempted, but in striking contrast with and direct
relation to the life of today. Mr. Verlayne’s motive is at least original,
if, possibly in its treatment, as Paul Verlaine said of a certain piéce
de fantasie
by Rimbaud, un peu posterièure à cette époque.

                                                                      ED. The Pagan Review.

42                        THE PAGAN REVIEW

upon the heights the fleeces of the small hill-sheep
seemed like patches of snow in the sunlight: remote,
on the barren scaur beyond the highest pines, the eagle,
as he stared unwaveringly upon the wilderness beneath
him, shone resplendent as though compact of molten
gold inlaid with gems.

    Every sound, every sight, was part of the very life of
the Oread. All was beautiful: all was real. The high,
thin, almost inaudible scream of the eagle: the cluck
of the low-flying grouse: the floating note of the yellow-
hammer: the wind whistling through the gorse or whis-
pering among the canna and gale. and through the
honey-laden spires of heather: the myriad murmur from
the leagues of suns wept ling and from the dim grassy
savannahs that underlay that purple roof: each and all
were to her as innate voices.

    For a long time she lay in a happy suspension of all
thought or activity. Her gaze was fascinated by the
reflection of herself in the tarn. Lovely was the image.
The soft, delicately-rounded, white limbs, the flower-like
body, seemed doubly white against the wine-dark purple
of the bell-heather and the pale amethyst of the ling.
The large dark eyes dreamed upward from the white
face in the water like purple-blue pansies. Beautiful
as was the sunshine in the wind-lifted golden hair, that
was about her head as a glory of morning, eyen more
beautiful was the shimmer of gold and fleeting amber
shot through the rippled surface and clear-brown under-
calm of the tarn; where also was mirrored, with a subtler
beauty than above, the large sulphur-butterfly that
poised upon its yellow wings as it clung to her left
breast, ivory-white, small, and firm, immaculately curved
as the pale globed shells of Orient seas.

    Dim inarticulate thoughts passed through the mind
of the Oread as she lay visionarily intent by the moun-
tain-pool. Down what remote avenues of life she seemed
to look: from what immemorial past seemed to arise,
like flying shadows at dawn, recollections of the fires
of sunrise kindling along the mountain-summits, of the
flames of sunset burning from the beech-forests to the
last straggling pines aud thence to the rose-coloured
snows of the remotest peaks, of the long splendid

THE OREAD                                       43

pageant of day and night, of the voicing of the undying
wind, and the surpassing wonder of the interchange and
outgrowth of the seasons, from equinoctial clamour of
the spring to autumnal Euroclydon. Yet ever and again
drifted through her mind vague suggestions of life still
nearer to herself: white figures, seen in vanishing
glimpses of unpondered all-unconscious reverie, that
slipt from tree to tree in the high hill-groves, or leapt
before the wind upon the heights, with flying banners
of sunlit hair, or stooped to drink from the mountain-
pools which the deer forsook not at their approach.
Who, what, was this white shape, upon whose milky
skin the ruddy light shone as he stood on a high boulder
at sundown and looked meditatively upon the twilit
valleys and darksome underworld far below? Who were
these unremembered yet familiar sisters, so flowerlike
in their naked beauty, gathering moon flowers for gar-
lands, while their straying feet amid the dewy grass
made a silver shimmer as of gossamer-webs by the
waterfalls? Who was the lovely vision, so like that
mirrored in the tarn before her, who, stooping in the
evergreen-glade to drink the moonshine-dew, suddenly
lifted her head, listened intently, and smiled with such
wild shy joy?

    What meant those vague half-glimpses, those haunt-
ing illusive reminiscences of a past that was yet un-

    Troubled, though she knew it not, unconsciously per-
plexed, vaguely yearning with that nostalgia for her
ancestral kind which bad been born afresh and deeply
by the contemplation of her second self in the mountain-
pool, the Oread slowly rose, stretched her white arms,
with her hands spraying out her golden hair, and gazed
longingly into the blue haze at the hills.

    Suddenly she started, at the irruption of an unfamiliar
sound that was as it were caught up by the wind and
flung from corrie to corrie. It was not like the fall of
a stone, and it sounded strangely near. Stooping, she
plucked a sprig of gale: then, idly twisting it to and
fro, walked slowly till where a mountain-ash, ablaze with
scarlet berries, leant forward trom a high heathery bank
overlooking a wide hollow in the moors. A great dragon-

44                        THE PAGAN REVIEW

fly spun past her like an elf’s javelin. The small yellow-
brown bees circled round her and brushed against her
hair, excited by this new and strange flower that moved
about like the hill-sheep or the red deer. As she stood
under the shadow of the rowan and leant against its
gnarled trunk, two small blue butterflies wavered up
from the heather and danced fantastically above the
wind-sprent gold of her hair. She laughed, but frowned
as a swift swept past and snapt up one of the azure
dancers. With a quick gesture she broke off a branch
of the rowan, but by this time the other little blue
butterfly had wavered off into the sunlight.

    Holding the branch downward she smiled as she
saw the whiteness of her limbs beneath the tremulous
arrowy leaves and the thick clusters of scarlet and
vermilion berries. When the gnats, whirling in aerial
maze, came too near she raised the rowan-branch and
slowly waved them back: but suddenly her arm stiffened,
and she stood motionless, rigid, intent.

    On the moor-swell beneath her, a few hundred yards
away, browsed a majestically antlered stag and three or
four hinds: on the ridge beyond, quite visible from
where she stood, half crouched half lay an animal she
had never seen before. Her heart leapt within her:
for lo, here was another such as herself. No longer was
there but one Oread among the high hills. And yet—
and yet—there was some difference. It—he—

    But here she saw her fellow Oread lift a stick to his
shoulder: the next moment there was a flash, a little
cloud of smoke. and a terrifying explosive sound. With
mingled curiosity and dread she sprang aside from the
tree, and stood upon the verge of the slope. But now
a new terror came upon her, for almost simultaneously
she saw the stag stumble, throw back its head, recover,
and then, with a piercing bleating cry, roll over on the
heather, dead.

    Much she could not understand: who or what this
creature like herself was: why he too was not white-
skinned, but furred like a fox or the wild cattle: or
why and how he dealt death with noise and flame by
means of a stick. But suddenly all the passion of love
for the wild things of which she was one overcame her

THE OREAD                                       45

—a fury of resentment against this wanton slayer of
the beautiful deer who did no harm, this stealthy
murderer who seemed unable to leap or run. With a
shrill protesting cry she leapt down the slope, and
darted towards the spot where a young man, dazed
with bewilderment, stood staring at the extraordinary
apparition which the slaying of the stag seemed to have
called up.

    Strange thoughts flashed through the young man’s
mind. Was this lovely vision of womanhood a creation
of his perverted brain: was she some lost wanderer
upon the hills, bereft of her wits: was she, indeed, as
she looked, some supernatural creature, to consort with
whom, or even parley with, would be certain death?

    She stopped when she was about twenty paces from
him, suddenly abashed by a new fear, a profound amaze-
ment. He seemed, truly, an Oread like herself. Dark
though he was, with dark hair and dark eyes, and fair
and glad and welcome to look upon as was his face—
such a face as she vaguely realised she had been re-
calling, or dreaming of, when she lay by the tarn—
yet was he so extraordinary otherwise. A fur or shaggy
hide appeared to cover him from the neck downwards:
nevertheless it was as though it hung loosely upon his
body. Certainly he was better worth looking at, she
thought, than her own image in the mountain-pool:
and if only—

    As for him, his wild amazement gradually passed into
realisation that the beautiful naked girl before him was
a real creature of flesh and blood. With this recog-
nition came a surge of passionate admiration for her

    Dropping his gun, the young sportsman slowly ad-
vanced. The Oread looked at him mistrustfully, but at
the same time instinctively noted that he moved with
infinitely less ease and freedom than she did. Slowly
raising the rowan-branch, she waved to him to come
nearer; but when suddenly he broke into a run she
turned and fled.

    Almost immediately she was out of sight. The young
man stopped, stared, rubbed his eyes, and then with a
muttered exclamation, sprang forward in pursuit.

46                        THE PAGAN REVIEW

    As soon as he gained the slope where grew the rowan-
tree, he caught a glimpse of the Oread again. as she
stood motionless amidst a little sea of tall bracken. He
approached more cautiously this time, so as not to alarm
her; and as he drew nearer tried to allure her by
awkward signs of good-will. She greeted his entice-
ments with low, sweet, mocking laughter, and he could
see by the mischievous light in her beautiful eyes that
she fully realised her ability to evade him, and that she
enjoyed his discomfiture.

    Then he did a foolish thing. Overcome with heat
and excitement, and determined to capture at all hazards
this beautiful apparition, whether mortal woman or fay,
he rapidly unfastened and threw off his thick tweed
shooting coat.

    With a shrill cry of terror she took a step or two
backward, her lovely body quivering with fear at this
awful sight of a creature depriving itself of its hide. The
next moment she was off like the wind, her long hair
streaming behind her, all ashine in the sunglow.

    With panting breath and shaking limbs her pursuer
fled after her in vain chase. From slope to slope and
corrie to corrie he raced as though for his life; but at
last nature could no longer stand the strain, and he fell
forward exhausted. When, stumbling and breathing
hard like a driven deer narrowly escaped from the
hounds, he looked eagerly beyond and about him, not a
sign was there of the lovely vision he had so madly
followed. Yet for leagues in front of him and to either
side was nothing but the purple moor! He could scarce
believe that she could absolutely disappear therein!
Still, nowhere was she visible.

    Then it was that a great fear came upon him that he
had gone mad. Shaking and trembling, he once more
scanned the whole reach of his vision, but, seeing nought,
turned and made his way downward again. Once, twice
indeed, he thought he heard a rumour as of someone
following him, and even a sound as of low, mocking
laughter. But he would not look behind. Already he
feared this thing, this phantasm of his brain.

    It was not till he came upon his discarded coat that
some measure of reasonableness reassured him. He

THE OREAD                                       47

knew he was not mad: he knew he had seen and pur-
sued a real woman; and yet—

    Just then he caught sight of the tarn beside which
the Oread had rested during the noon heats. With a
cry of relief he went towards it, and then, having given
one backward glance, threw off all his clothes and sprang
into the cool, deep water. What a delight it was, after
his fever-heat and weariness: how absurd the idea of
madness, as with strong strokes he swam to and fro!

    At last, refreshed, and in his right mind, he emerged,
and stood, with outstretched arms, among the heather,
so that he might the more readily dry in the sunlight
and soft wind. So heedless was he that he failed to
perceive the slow advance, close behind him, of his
flying vision.

    With utmost ease the Oread had evaded him: with
equal ease she had followed him unobserved during his
ignominious retreat, and had watched him from a fern-
clump not more than a few score yards away. When
he suddenly threw off his clothes, a fresh access of fear
had almost made her fly again; but she had controlled
herself, as much from contempt of the inferior creature
as from passionate curiosity. But when he plunged
into the water, and swam like an otter, and came out
once more gleaming white as herself, she realised that
here was the true Oread. He had been ridiculously
disguised, that was all; had tried, mayhap, to ape some
other animal. All fear left her.

    She knew nothing now but a glad, welcoming joy,
a rapture of companionship. With outstretched arms,
and a sweet, loving look in her eyes, she went forward
to greet her longed-for mate.

    Warmed by the sun, and with a low, glad laugh
of sheer content, the young man turned to where his
clothes lay.

    He was face to face with the Oread.

            *                 *                 *                 *                *

MLA citation:

Verlayne, Charles [William Sharp]. “The Oread.” The Pagan Review, vol. 1, August 1892, pp. 41-47. The Pagan Review Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021.