She answered not in words, but in response to my question a new look came into her face; no longer restless and full of change in her expression, she was now as immovable as an alabaster statue; not a silken hair on her head trembled; her eyes were wide open, gazing fixedly before her; and when I looked into them they seemed to see and yet not to see me. They were like the clear, brilliant eyes of a bird, which reflect as in a miraculous mirror all the visible world but do not return our look and seem to see us merely as one of the thousand small details that make up the whole picture. Suddenly she darted out her hand like a flash, making me start at the unexpected motion, and quickly withdrawing it, held up a finger before me. From its tip a minute gossamer spider, about twice the bigness of a pin's head, appeared suspended from a fine, scarcely visible line three or four inches long.
"Look!" she exclaimed, with a bright glance at my face.
The small spider she had captured, anxious to be free, was falling, falling earthward, but could not reach the surface. Leaning her shoulder a little forward, she placed the finger-tip against it, but lightly, scarcely touching, and moving continuously, with a motion rapid as that of a fluttering moth's wing; while the spider, still paying out his line, remained suspended, rising and falling slightly at nearly the same distance from the ground. After a few moments she cried: "Drop down, little spider." Her finger's motion ceased, and the minute captive fell, to lose itself on the shaded ground.
"Do you not see?" she said to me, pointing to her shoulder. Just where the finger-tip had touched the garment a round shining spot appeared, looking like a silver coin on the cloth; but on touching it with my finger it seemed part of the original fabric, only whiter and more shiny on the grey ground, on account of the freshness of the web of which it had just been made.
And so all this curious and pretty performance, which seemed instinctive in its spontaneous quickness and dexterity, was merely intended to show me how she made her garments out of the fine floating lines of small gossamer spiders!
Before I could express my surprise and admiration she cried again, with startling suddenness: "Look!"
A minute shadowy form darted by, appearing like a dim line traced across the deep glossy more foliage, then on the lighter green foliage further away. She waved her hand in imitation of its swift, curving flight; then, dropping it, exclaimed: "Gone — oh, little thing!"
"What was it?" I asked, for it might have been a bird, a bird-like moth, or a bee.
"Did you not see? And you asked me to look into your eyes!"
"Ah, little squirrel Sakawinki, you remind me of that!" I said, passing my arm round her waist and drawing her a little closer. "Look into my eyes now and see if I am blind, and if there is nothing in them except an image of Rima like a small, small fly."
She shook her head and laughed a little mockingly, but made no effort to escape from my arm.
"Would you like me always to do what you wish, Rima — to follow you in the woods when you say 'Come' — to chase you round the tree to catch you, and lie down for you to throw leaves on me, and to be glad when you are glad?"
"Then let us make a compact. I shall do everything to please you, and you must promise to do everything to please me."
"Little things, Rima — none so hard as chasing you round a tree. Only to have you stand or sit by me and talk will make me happy. And to begin you must call me by my name — Abel."
"Is that your name? Oh, not your real name! Abel, Abel — what is that? It says nothing. I have called you by so many names — twenty, thirty — and no answer."
"Have you? But, dearest girl, every person has a name, one name he is called by. Your name, for instance, is Rima, is it not?"
"Rima! only Rima — to you? In the morning, in the evening... now in this place and in a little while where know I? ... in the night when you wake and it is dark, dark, and you see me all the same. Only Rima — oh, how strange!"
"What else, sweet girl? Your grandfather Nuflo calls you Rima."
"Nuflo?" She spoke as if putting a question to herself. "Is that an old man with two dogs that lives somewhere in the wood?" And then, with sudden petulance: "And you ask me to talk to you!"
"Oh, Rima, what can I say to you? Listen — "
"No, no," she exclaimed, quickly turning and putting her fingers on my mouth to stop my speech, while a sudden merry look shone in her eyes. "You shall listen when I speak, and do all I say. And tell me what to do to please you with your eyes — let me look in your eyes that are not blind."
She turned her face more towards me and with head a little thrown back and inclined to one side, gazing now full into my eyes as I had wished her to do. After a few moments she glanced away to the distant trees. But I could see into those divine orbs, and knew that she was not looking at any particular object. All the ever-varying expressions — inquisitive, petulant, troubled, shy, frolicsome had now vanished from the still face, and the look was inward and full of a strange, exquisite light, as if some new happiness or hope had touched her spirit.
Sinking my voice to a whisper, I said: "Tell me what you have seen in my eyes, Rima?"
She murmured in reply something melodious and inarticulate, then glanced at my face in a questioning way; but only for a moment, then her sweet eyes were again veiled under those drooping lashes.
"Listen, Rima," I said. "Was that a humming-bird we saw a little while ago? You are like that, now dark, a shadow in the shadow, seen for an instant, and then — gone, oh, little thing! And now in the sunshine standing still, how beautiful! — a thousand times more beautiful than the humming-bird. Listen, Rima, you are like all beautiful things in the wood — flower, and bird, and butterfly, and green leaf, and frond, and little silky-haired monkey high up in the trees. When I look at you I see them all — all and more, a thousand times, for I see Rima herself. And when I listen to Rima's voice, talking in a language I cannot understand, I hear the wind whispering in the leaves, the gurgling running water, the bee among the flowers, the organ-bird singing far, far away in the shadows of the trees. I hear them all, and more, for I hear Rima. Do you understand me now? Is it I speaking to you — have I answered you — have I come to you?"
She glanced at me again, her lips trembling, her eyes now clouded with some secret trouble. "Yes," she replied in a whisper, and then: "No, it is not you," and after a moment, doubtfully: "Is it you?"
But she did not wait to be answered: in a moment she was gone round the more; nor would she return again for all my calling.