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Strange Device

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The bell tolled, long and low and mournful, and the echoes spilled down the valley. As one, the villagers stopped, and turned their eyes up the mountainside to the lonely chapel, and imagined that they saw the monks' black-robed figures against the last of the snow. The bell ceased; the echoes died, and the people returned to the labours of spring.

Two alone were left in the lane, a young woman, and an old man. They said nothing, but looked still towards the mountain-top.

At last, the woman spoke, crossing herself as if seeking absolution, but in angry tone: 'We could have done no more. You tried to stop him, and so did I.'

'Young men are foolish,' her grandfather agreed peaceably, as though the mountaineer's death were merely an inevitable consequence of his youth.

'This one, yes.'

The old man nodded. 'God keep his soul. What was he after?'

'Who knows? Honour, fame?' By her voice, she cared little for either.

'Perhaps it was the kind of thing that one does not find on this earth.'

His granddaughter snorted. 'Then why look for it here? Perhaps he was never going to find it; in which case, why bother us? At any rate, he stood a better chance of finding it had he not been searching in the dark.'