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THE STORY OF A IVAIF AND STRAY.
AUTHOR OF 'CHANDOS,' 'CECIL CASTLEMAINE'S GAGE,' 'STRATHMORE,
'Held IN BONDAGE, ETC.
THE STORY OF A WAIF AND STRAY.
It was autumn; a rich golden autumn of Francp, with the glow of burning sunsets, and the scarlet pomp of reddened woods, and the purple and the yellow of grapes gathered for the winepress, and the luscious dreamy odour of over-ripened fruits crushed, by careless passing feet, upon the orchard-mosses. Afar off, in the full noonday, the winding road was white and hot with dust; but here in a nook of forest land, in a dell of leafy growth between the vineyards which encompassed it, the air was cool and the sunlight broken with shade, while, through its stillness where the boughs threw the shadow darkest, a little torrent leapt and splashed, making music as it went, and washing round the base of an old ivy-grown stone tower that had fallen to ruin in the midst of its green nest.
There was no sound except one, beside that of the bright tumbling stream, though now and then there came in from the distance the ring of a convent-clock's bells, or the laugh of a young girl at work among the vines ;—no sound except one, and that was the quick, sharp, gleeful crack of nuts iu a monkey's teeth. There were squirrels by the score there in that solitary place who had right, hereditary and indisputable they would have said, to all the nuts that the boughs bore and the grasses hid; but Mistigri was no recogniser of rights dirine; she loved nuts and cared little how she got them, and she sat aloft in her glory, or swung herself from twig to twig, crushing and eating and flinging the shells away with all that gleeful self-satisfaction of which a little black monkey is to the full as capable, after successful piracy, as any conquering sovereign.