The Knife and the Naked Chalk

by Rudyard Kipling

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THE CHILDREN went to the seaside for a month, and lived in a flint village on the bare windy chalk Downs, quite thirty miles away from home. They made friends with an old shepherd, called Mr Dudeney, who had known their Father when their Father was little. He did not talk like their own people in the Weald of Sussex, and he used different names for farm things, but he understood how they felt, and let them go with him. He had a tiny cottage about half a mile from the village, where his wife made mead from thyme honey, and nursed sick lambs in front of a coal fire, while Old Jim, who was Mr Dudeney’s sheep-dog’s father, lay at the door. They brought up beef bones for Old Jim (you must never give a sheep-dog mutton bones), and if Mr Dudeney happened to be far in the Downs, Mrs Dudeney would tell the dog to take them to him, and he did.One August afternoon when the village water-cart had made the street smell specially townified, they went to look for their shepherd as usual, and, as usual, Old Jim crawled over the doorstep and took them in charge. The sun was hot, the dry grass was very slippery, and the distances were very distant.‘It’s just like the sea,’ said Una, when Old Jim halted in the shade of a lonely flint barn on a bare rise. ‘You see where you’re going, and—you go there, and there’s nothing between.’

Dan slipped off his shoes. ‘When we get home I shall sit in the woods all day,’ he said.

‘Whuff!’ said Old Jim, to show he was ready, and struck across a long rolling stretch of turf. Presently he asked for his beefbone.

‘Not yet,’ said Dan. ‘Where’s Mr Dudeney? Where’s Master?’ Old Jim looked as if he thought they were mad, and asked again.

‘Don’t you give it him,’ Una cried. ‘I’m not going to be left howling in a desert.’

‘Show, boy! Show!’ said Dan, for the Downs seemed as bare as the palm of your hand.

Old Jim sighed, and trotted forward. Soon they spied the blob of Mr Dudeney’s hat against the sky a long way off.

‘Right! All right!’ said Dan. Old Jim wheeled round, took his bone carefully between his blunted teeth, and returned to the shadow of the old barn, looking just like a wolf. The children went on. Two kestrels hung bivvering and squealing above them. A gull flapped lazily along the white edge of the cliffs. The curves of the Downs shook a little in the heat, and so did Mr Dudeney’s distant head.

They walked toward it very slowly and found themselves staring into a horseshoe-shaped hollow a hundred feet deep, whose steep sides were laced with tangled sheep-tracks. The flock grazed on the flat at the bottom, under charge of Young Jim. Mr Dudeney sat comfortably knitting on the edge of the slope, his crook between his knees. They told him what Old Jim had done.

‘Ah, he thought you could see my head as soon as he did. The closeter you be to the turf the more you see things. You look warm-like,’said Mr Dudeney.

‘We be,’ said Una, flopping down. ‘And tired.’

‘Set beside o’ me here. The shadow’ll begin to stretch out in a little while, and a heat-shake o’ wind will come up with it that’ll overlay your eyes like so much wool.’

‘We don’t want to sleep,’ said Una indignantly; but she settled herself as she spoke, in the first strip of early afternoon shade.

‘O’ course not. You come to talk with me same as your father used. He didn’t need no dog to guide him to Norton Pit.’

‘Well, he belonged here,’ said Dan, and laid himself down at length on the turf.

‘He did. And what beats me is why he went off to live among them messy trees in the Weald, when he might ha’ stayed here and looked all about him. There’s no profit to trees. They draw the lightning, and sheep shelter under ’em, and so, like as not, you’ll lose a half-score ewes struck dead in one storm. Tck! Your father knew that.’

‘Trees aren’t messy.’ Una rose on her elbow. ‘And what about firewood? I don’t like coal.’

‘Eh? You lie a piece more uphill and you’ll lie more natural,’ said Mr Dudeney, with his provoking deaf smile. ‘Now press your face down and smell to the turf. That’s Southdown thyme which makes our Southdown mutton beyond compare, and, my mother told me, ’twill cure anything except broken necks, or hearts. I forget which.’

They sniffed, and somehow forgot to lift their cheeks from the soft thymy cushions.

‘You don’t get nothing like that in the Weald. Watercress, maybe?’ said Mr Dudeney.

‘But we’ve water—brooks full of it—where you paddle in hot weather,’ Una replied, watching a yellow-and-violet-banded snail-shell close to her eye.

‘Brooks flood. Then you must shift your sheep—let alone foot-rot afterward. I put more dependence on a dew-pond any day.’

‘How’s a dew-pond made?’ said Dan, and tilted his hat over his eyes. Mr Dudeney explained.

The air trembled a little as though it could not make up its mind whether to slide into the Pit or move across the open. But it seemed easiest to go downhill, and the children felt one soft puff after another slip and sidle down the slope in fragrant breaths that baffed on their eyelids. The little whisper of the sea by the cliffs joined with the whisper of the wind over the grass, the hum of insects in the thyme, the ruffle and rustle of the flock below, and a thickish mutter deep in the very chalk beneath them. Mr Dudeney stopped explaining, and went on with his knitting. They were roused by voices. The shadow had crept halfway down the steep side of Norton Pit, and on the edge of it, his back to them, Puck sat beside a half-naked man who seemed busy at some work. The wind had dropped, and in that funnel of ground every least noise and movement reached them like whispers up a water-pipe.

‘That is clever,’ said Puck, leaning over. ‘How truly you shape it!’

‘Yes, but what does The Beast care for a brittle flint tip? Bah!’ The man flicked something contemptuously over his shoulder. It fell between Dan and Una—a beautiful dark-blue flint arrow-head still hot from the maker’s hand.

The man reached for another stone, and worked away like a thrush with a snail-shell.

‘Flint work is fool’s work,’ he said at last. ‘One does it because one always did it; but when it comes to dealing with The Beast—no good!’ He shook his shaggy head.

‘The Beast was dealt with long ago. He has gone,’ said Puck.

‘He’ll be back at lambing time. I know him.’ He chipped very carefully, and the flints squeaked.

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‘Not he. Children can lie out on the Chalk now all day through and go home safe.’

‘Can they? Well, call The Beast by his True Name, and I’ll believe it,’ the man replied.

‘Surely!’ Puck leaped to his feet, curved his hands round his mouth and shouted: ‘Wolf! Wolf!’

Norton Pit threw back the echo from its dry sides—‘Wuff!’ Wuff!’ like Young jim’s bark.

‘You see? You hear?’ said Puck. ‘Nobody answers. Grey Shepherd is gone. Feet-in-the-Night has run off. There are no more wolves.’

‘Wonderful!’ The man wiped his forehead as though he were hot. ‘Who drove him away? You?’

‘Many men through many years, each working in his own country. Were you one of them?’ Puck answered.

The man slid his sheepskin cloak to his waist, and without a word pointed to his side, which was all seamed and blotched with scars. His arms, too, were dimpled from shoulder to elbow with horrible white dimples.

‘I see,’ said Puck. ‘It is The Beast’s mark. What did you use against him?’

‘Hand, hammer, and spear, as our fathers did before us.’

‘So? Then how’—Puck twitched aside the man’s dark-brown cloak—‘how did a Flint-worker come by that? Show, man, show!’ He held out his little hand.

The man slipped a long dark iron knife, almost a short sword, from his belt, and after breathing on it, handed it hilt-first to Puck, who took it with his head on one side, as you should when you look at the works of a watch, squinted down the dark blade, and very delicately rubbed his forefinger from the point to the hilt.

‘Good!’ said he, in a surprised tone.

‘It should be. The Children of the Night made it,’ the man answered.

‘So I see by the iron. What might it have cost you?’

‘This!’ The man raised his hand to his cheek. Puck whistled like a Weald starling.

‘By the Great Rings of the Chalk!’ he cried. ‘Was that your price? Turn sunward that I may see better, and shut your eye.’ He slipped his hand beneath the man’s chin and swung him till he faced the children up the slope. They saw that his right eye was gone, and the eyelid lay shrunk. Quickly Puck turned him round again, and the two sat down.

‘It was for the sheep. The sheep are the people,’ said the man, in an ashamed voice. ‘What else could I have done? You know, Old One.’

Puck sighed a little fluttering sigh. ‘Take the knife. I listen.’

The man bowed his head, drove the knife into the turf, and while it still quivered said: ‘This is witness between us that I speak the thing that has been. Before my Knife and the Naked Chalk I speak. Touch!’

Puck laid a hand on the hilt. It stopped shaking. The children wriggled a little nearer.

‘I am of the People of the Worked Flint. I am the one son of the Priestess who sells the Winds to the Men of the Sea. I am the Buyer of the Knife—the Keeper of the People,’ the man began, in a sort of singing shout. ‘These are my names in this country of the Naked Chalk, between the Trees and the Sea.’

‘Yours was a great country. Your names are great too,’ said Puck.

‘One cannot feed some things on names and songs.’ The man hit himself on the chest. ‘It is better—always better—to count one’s children safe round the fire, their Mother among them.’

‘Ahai!’ said Puck. ‘I think this will be a very old tale.’

‘I warm myself and eat at any fire that I choose, but there is no one to light me a fire or cook my meat. I sold all that when I bought the Magic Knife for my people. it was not right that The Beast should master man. What else could I have done?’

‘I hear. I know. I listen,’ said Puck.

‘When I was old enough to take my place in the Sheepguard, The Beast gnawed all our country like a bone between his teeth. He came in behind the flocks at watering-time, and watched them round the Dew-ponds; he leaped into the folds between our knees at the shearing; he walked out alongside the grazing flocks, and chose his meat on the hoof while our boys threw flints at him; he crept by night into the huts, and licked the babe from between the mother’s hands; he called his companions and pulled down men in broad daylight on the Naked Chalk. No—not always did he do so! This was his cunning! He would go away for a while to let us forget him. A year—two years perhaps—we neither smelt, nor heard, nor saw him. When our flocks had increased; when our men did not always look behind them; when children strayed from the fenced places; when our women walked alone to draw water—back, back, back came the Curse of the Chalk, Grey Shepherd, Feet-in-the-Night—The Beast, The Beast, The Beast!

‘He laughed at our little brittle arrows and our poor blunt spears. He learned to run in under the stroke of the hammer. I think he knew when there was a flaw in the flint. Often it does not show till you bring it down on his snout. Then—Pouf! —the false flint falls all to flinders, and you are left with the hammer-handle in your fist, and his teeth in your flank! I have felt them. At evening, too, in the dew, or when it has misted and rained, your spear-head lashings slack off, though you have kept them beneath your cloak all day. You are alone—but so close to the home ponds that you stop to tighten the sinews with hands, teeth, and a piece of driftwood. You bend over and pull—so! That is the minute for which he has followed you since the stars went out. “Aarh!” he “Wurr-aarh!” he says.’ (Norton Pit gave back the growl like a pack of real wolves.) ‘Then he is on your right shoulder feeling for the vein in your neck, and—perhaps your sheep run on without you. To fight The Beast is nothing, but to be despised by The Beast when he fights you—that is like his teeth in the heart! Old One, why is it that men desire so greatly, and can do so little?’

‘I do not know. Did you desire so much?’ said Puck.

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‘I desired to master The Beast. It is not right that The Beast should master man. But my people were afraid. Even, my Mother, the Priestess, was afraid when I told her what I desired. We were accustomed to be afraid of The Beast. When I was made a man, and a maiden—she was a Priestess—waited for me at the Dew-ponds, The Beast flitted from off the Chalk. Perhaps it was a sickness; perhaps he had gone to his Gods to learn how to do us new harm. But he went, and we breathed more freely. The women sang again; the children were not so much guarded; our flocks grazed far out. I took mine yonder’—he pointed inland to the hazy line of the Weald—‘where the new grass was best. They grazed north. I followed till we were close to the Trees’—he lowered his voice—‘close there where the Children of the Night live.’ He pointed north again.

‘Ah, now I remember a thing,’ said Puck. ‘Tell me, why did your people fear the Trees so extremely?’

‘Because the Gods hate the Trees and strike them with lightning. We can see them burning for days all along the Chalk’s edge. Besides, all the Chalk knows that the Children of the Night, though they worship our Gods, are magicians. When a man goes into their country, they change his spirit; they put words into his mouth; they make him like talking water. But a voice in my heart told me to go toward the north. While I watched my sheep there I saw three Beasts chasing a man, who ran toward the Trees. By this I knew he was a Child of the Night. We Flint-workers fear the Trees more than we fear The Beast. He had no hammer. He carried a knife like this one. A Beast leaped at him. He stretched out his knife. The Beast fell dead. The other Beasts ran away howling, which they would never have done from a Flint-worker. The man went in among the Trees. I looked for the dead Beast. He had been killed in a new way—by a single deep, clean cut, without bruise or tear, which had split his bad heart. Wonderful! So I saw that the man’s knife was magic, and I thought how to get it,—thought strongly how to get it.

‘When I brought the flocks to the shearing, my Mother the Priestess asked me, “What is the new thing which you have seen and I see in your face?” I said, “It is a sorrow to me”; and she answered, “All new things are sorrow. Sit in my place, and eat sorrow.” I sat down in her place by the fire, where she talks to the ghosts in winter, and two voices spoke in my heart. One voice said, “Ask the Children of the Night for the Magic Knife. It is not fit that The Beast should master man.” I listened to that voice.

‘One voice said, “If you go among the Trees, the Children of the Night will change your spirit. Eat and sleep here.” The other voice said, “Ask for the Knife.” I listened to that voice.

‘I said to my Mother in the morning, “I go away to find a thing for the people, but I do not know whether I shall return in my own shape.” She answered, “Whether you live or die, or are made different, I am your Mother.”’

‘True,’ said Puck. ‘The Old Ones themselves cannot change men’s mothers even if they would.’

‘Let us thank the Old Ones! I spoke to my Maiden, the Priestess who waited for me at the Dew-ponds. She promised fine things too.’ The man laughed. ‘I went away to that place where I had seen the magician with the knife. I lay out two days on the short grass before I ventured among the Trees. I felt my way before me with a stick. I was afraid of the terrible talking Trees. I was afraid of the ghosts in the branches; of the soft ground underfoot; of the red and black waters. I was afraid, above all, of the Change. It came!’

They saw him wipe his forehead once again, and his strong back-muscles quivered till he laid his hand on the knife-hilt.

‘A fire without a flame burned in my head; an evil taste grew in my mouth; my eyelids shut hot over my eyes; my breath was hot between my teeth, and my hands were like the hands of a stranger. I was made to sing songs and to mock the Trees, though I was afraid of them. At the same time I saw myself laughing, and I was very sad for this fine young man, who was myself. Ah! The Children of the Night know magic.’

‘I think that is done by the Spirits of the Mist. They change a man, if he sleeps among them,’ said Puck. ‘Had you slept in any mists?’

‘Yes—but I know it was the Children of the Night. After three days I saw a red light behind the Trees, and I heard a heavy noise. I saw the Children of the Night dig red stones from a hole, and lay them in fires. The stones melted like tallow, and the men beat the soft stuff with hammers. I wished to speak to these men, but the words were changed in my mouth, and all I could say was, “Do not make that noise. It hurts my head.” By this I knew that I was bewitched, and I clung to the Trees, and prayed the Children of the Night to take off their spells. They were cruel. They asked me many questions which they would never allow me to answer. They changed my words between my teeth till I wept. Then they led me into a hut and covered the floor with hot stones and dashed water on the stones, and sang charms till the sweat poured off me like water. I slept. When I waked, my own spirit—not the strange, shouting thing—was back in my body, and I was like a cool bright stone on the shingle between the sea and the sunshine. The magicians came to hear me—women and men—each wearing a Magic Knife. Their Priestess was their Ears and their Mouth.

‘I spoke. I spoke many words that went smoothly along like sheep in order when their shepherd, standing on a mound, can count those coming, and those far off getting ready to come. I asked for Magic Knives for my people. I said that my people would bring meat, and milk, and wool, and lay them in the short grass outside the Trees, if the Children of the Night would leave Magic Knives for our people to take away. They were pleased. Their Priestess said, “For whose sake have you come?” I answered, “The sheep are the people. If The Beast kills our sheep, our people die. So I come for a Magic Knife to kill The Beast.”

‘She said, “We do not know if our God will let us trade with the people of the Naked Chalk. Wait till we have asked.”

‘When they came back from the Question-place (their Gods are our Gods), their Priestess said, “The God needs a proof that your words are true.” I said, “What is the proof?” She said, “The God says that if you have come for the sake of your people you will give him your right eye to be put out; but if you have come for any other reason you will not give it. This proof is between you and the God. We ourselves are sorry.”

‘I said, “This is a hard proof. Is there no other road?”

‘She said, “Yes. You can go back to your people with your two eyes in your head if you choose. But then you will not get any Magic Knives for your people.”

‘I said, “It would be easier if I knew that I were to be killed.”

‘She said, “Perhaps the God knew this too. See! I have made my knife hot.”

‘I said, “Be quick, then!” With her knife heated in the flame she put out my right eye. She herself did it. I am the son of a Priestess. She was a Priestess. It was not work for any common man.’

‘True! Most true,’ said Puck. ‘No common man’s work that. And, afterwards?’

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‘Afterwards I did not see out of that eye any more. I found also that a one eye does not tell you truly where things are. Try it!’

At this Dan put his hand over one eye, and reached for the flint arrow-head on the grass. He missed it by inches. ‘It’s true,’ he whispered to Una. ‘You can’t judge distances a bit with only one eye.’

Puck was evidently making the same experiment, for the man laughed at him.

‘I know it is so,’ said he. ‘Even now I am not always sure of my blow. I stayed with the Children of the Night till my eye healed. They said I was the son of Tyr, the God who put his right hand in a Beast’s mouth. They showed me how they melted their red stone and made the Magic Knives of it. They told me the charms they sang over the fires and at the beatings. I can sing many charms.’ Then he began to laugh like a boy.

‘I was thinking of my journey home,’ he said, ’and of the surprised Beast. He had come back to the Chalk. I saw him—I smelt his lairs as soon as ever I left the Trees. He did not know I had the Magic Knife—I hid it under my cloak—the Knife that the Priestess gave me. Ho! Ho! That happy day was too short! See! A Beast would wind me. “Wow!” he would say. “Here is my Flint-worker!” He would come leaping, tail in air; he would roll; he would lay his head between his paws out of merriness of heart at his warm, waiting meal. He would leap—and, oh, his eye in mid-leap when he saw—when he saw the knife held ready for him! It pierced his hide as a rush pierces curdled milk. Often he had no time to howl. I did not trouble to flay any beasts I killed. Sometimes I missed my blow. Then I took my little flint hammer and beat out his brains as he cowered. He made no fight. He knew the Knife! But The Beast is very cunning. Before evening all The Beasts had smelt the blood on my knife, and were running from me like hares. They knew! Then I walked as a man should—the Master of The Beast!

‘So came I back to my Mother’s house. There was a lamb to be killed. I cut it in two halves with my knife, and I told her all my tale. She said, “This is the work of a God.” I kissed her and laughed. I went to my Maiden who waited for me at the Dew-ponds. There was a lamb to be killed. I cut it in two halves with my knife, and told her all my tale. She said, “It is the work of a God.” I laughed, but she pushed me away, and being on my blind side, ran off before I could kiss her. I went to the Men of the Sheepguard at watering-time. There was a sheep to be killed for their meat. I cut it in two halves with my knife, and told them all my tale. They said, “It is the work of a God.” I said, “We talk too much about Gods. Let us eat and be happy, and tomorrow I will take you to the Children of the Night, and each man will find a Magic Knife. “

‘I was glad to smell our sheep again; to see the broad sky from edge to edge, and to hear the sea. I slept beneath the stars in my cloak. The men talked among themselves.

‘I led them, the next day, to the Trees, taking with me meat, wool, and curdled milk, as I had promised. We found the Magic Knives laid out on the grass, as the Children of the Night had promised. They watched us from among the Trees. Their Priestess called to me and said, “How is it with your people?” I said “Their hearts are changed. I cannot see their hearts as I used to.” She said, “That is because you have only one eye. Come to me and I will be both your eyes.” But I said, “I must show my people how to use their knives against The Beast, as you showed me how to use my knife.” I said this because the Magic Knife does not balance like the flint. She said, “What you have done, you have done for the sake of a woman, and not for the sake of your people.” I asked of her, “Then why did the God accept my right eye, and why are you so angry?” She answered, “Because any man can lie to a God, but no man can lie to a woman. And I am not angry with you. I am only very sorrowful for you. Wait a little, and you will see out of your one eye why I am sorry. So she hid herself.

‘I went back with my people, each one carrying his Knife, and making it sing in the air—tssee-sssse. The Flint never sings. It mutters—ump-ump. The Beast heard. The Beast saw. He knew! Everywhere he ran away from us. We all laughed. As we walked over the grass my Mother’s brother—the Chief on the Men’s Side—he took off his Chief’s necklace of yellow sea-stones.’

‘How? Eh? Oh, I remember! Amber,’ said Puck.

‘And would have put them on my neck. I said, “No, I am content. What does my one eye matter if my other eye sees fat sheep and fat children running about safely?” My Mother’s brother said to them, “I told you he would never take such things.” Then they began to sing a song in the Old Tongue—The Song of Tyr. I sang with them, but my Mother’s brother said, “This is your song, O Buyer of the Knife. Let us sing it, Tyr.”

‘Even then I did not understand, till I saw that—that no man stepped on my shadow; and I knew that they thought me to be a God, like the God Tyr, who gave his right hand to conquer a Great Beast.’

‘By the Fire in the Belly of the Flint was that so?’ Puck rapped out.

‘By my Knife and the Naked Chalk, so it was! They made way for my shadow as though it had been a Priestess walking to the Barrows of the Dead. I was afraid. I said to myself, “My Mother and my Maiden will know I am not Tyr.” But still I was afraid, with the fear of a man who falls into a steep flint-pit while he runs, and feels that it will be hard to climb out.

‘When we came to the Dew-ponds all our people were there. The men showed their knives and told their tale. The sheep guards also had seen The Beast flying from us. The Beast went west across the river in packs—howling! He knew the Knife had come to the Naked Chalk at last—at last! He knew! So my work was done. I looked for my Maiden among the Priestesses. She looked at me, but she did not smile. She made the sign to me that our Priestesses must make when they sacrifice to the Old Dead in the Barrows. I would have spoken, but my Mother’s brother made himself my Mouth, as though I had been one of the Old Dead in the Barrows for whom our Priests speak to the people on Midsummer Mornings.’

‘I remember. Well I remember those Midsummer Mornings!’ said Puck.

‘Then I went away angrily to my Mother’s house. She would have knelt before me. Then I was more angry, but she said, “Only a God would have spoken to me thus, a Priestess. A man would have feared the punishment of the Gods.” I looked at her and I laughed. I could not stop my unhappy laughing. They called me from the door by the name of Tyr himself. A young man with whom I had watched my first flocks, and chipped my first arrow, and fought my first Beast, called me by that name in the Old Tongue. He asked my leave to take my Maiden. His eyes were lowered, his hands were on his forehead. He was full of the fear of a God, but of me, a man, he had no fear when he asked. I did not kill him. I said, “Call the maiden.” She came also without fear—this very one that had waited for me, that had talked with me, by our Dew-ponds. Being a Priestess, she lifted her eyes to me. As I look on a hill or a cloud, so she looked at me. She spoke in the Old Tongue which Priestesses use when they make prayers to the Old Dead in the Barrows. She asked leave that she might light the fire in my companion’s house—and that I should bless their children. I did not kill her. I heard my own voice, little and cold, say, “Let it be as you desire,” and they went away hand in hand. My heart grew little and cold; a wind shouted in my ears; my eye darkened. I said to my Mother, “Can a God die?” I heard her say, “What is it? What is it, my son?” and I fell into darkness full of hammer-noises. I was not.’

‘Oh, poor—poor God!’ said Puck. ‘And your wise Mother?’

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‘She knew. As soon as I dropped she knew. When my spirit came back I heard her whisper in my ear, “Whether you live or die, or are made different, I am your Mother.” That was good—better even than the water she gave me and the going away of the sickness. Though I was ashamed to have fallen down, yet I was very glad. She was glad too. Neither of us wished to lose the other. There is only the one Mother for the one son. I heaped the fire for her, and barred the doors, and sat at her feet as before I went away, and she combed my hair, and sang.

‘I said at last, “What is to be done to the people who say that I am Tyr?”

‘She said, “He who has done a God-like thing must bear himself like a God. I see no way out of it. The people are now your sheep till you die. You cannot drive them off.”

‘I said, “This is a heavier sheep than I can lift.” She said, “In time it will grow easy. In time perhaps you will not lay it down for any maiden anywhere. Be wise—be very wise, my son, for nothing is left you except the words, and the songs, and the worship of a God.”

‘Oh, poor God!’ said Puck. ‘But those are not altogether bad things.’

‘I know they are not; but I would sell them all—all—all for one small child of my own, smearing himself with the ashes of our own house-fire.’

He wrenched his knife from the turf, thrust it into his belt and stood up.

‘And yet, what else could I have done?’ he said. ‘The sheep are the people.’

‘It is a very old tale,’ Puck answered. ‘I have heard the like of it not only on the Naked Chalk, but also among the Trees—under Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.’

The afternoon shadows filled all the quiet emptiness of Norton Pit. The children heard the sheep-bells and Young jim’s busy bark above them, and they scrambled up the slope to the level.

‘We let you have your sleep out,’ said Mr Dudeney, as the flock scattered before them. ‘It’s making for tea-time now.’

‘Look what I’ve found, said Dan, and held up a little blue flint arrow-head as fresh as though it had been chipped that very day.

‘Oh,’ said Mr Dudeney, ‘the closeter you be to the turf the more you’re apt to see things. I’ve found ’em often. Some says the fairies made ’em, but I says they was made by folks like ourselves—only a goodish time back. They’re lucky to keep. Now, you couldn’t ever have slept—not to any profit—among your father’s trees same as you’ve laid out on Naked Chalk—could you?’

‘One doesn’t want to sleep in the woods,’ said Una.

‘Then what’s the good of ’em?’ said Mr Dudeney. ‘Might as well set in the barn all day. Fetch ’em ‘long, Jim boy!’

The Downs, that looked so bare and hot when they came, were full of delicious little shadow-dimples; the smell of the thyme and the salt mixed together on the south-west drift from the still sea; their eyes dazzled with the low sun, and the long grass under it looked golden. The sheep knew where their fold was, so Young Jim came back to his master, and they all four strolled home, the scabious-heads swishing about their ankles, and their shadows streaking behind them like the shadows of giants.