Livette had not fallen asleep. When Renaud had disappeared into the night, she quietly closed her windows and, throwing herself on her bed, her face on the cushions, she wept in horror.

Meanwhile—while Livette was weeping and Renaud, terrified, ran across the moor, believing himself to be pursued by the gypsy—the gypsy—she, was asleep.

The two beings whose lives she was beginning to desolate were already suffering a thousand deaths, and she, under one of her tribe’s carts, in her camp spaced out around the village, was sleeping, fully clothed, tranquil, her pretty enigmatic face smiling at the stars of this beautiful May night.

When Renaud had left her at sunset, quite naked on the beach, she had slowly stretched out her tawny arms in the sun, enjoying the sensation of being naked in the open air, of feeling caressed by the sea breeze which was drying on her the water rolling in heavy pearls…. Then, slowly, she had dressed again, well{117}slowly, in order to delay the moment of being again caught in the embarrassment of her clothes, in order to enjoy the ease of her body like a free animal.

She had then walked along the beach, imprinting her bare, shapely foot in the sands covered at equal intervals by the thin sheet of the wave which, little by little, melted the imprint.

The last caress of the sea on his feet, where a little of the shiny sand stuck, enchanted him. She laughed in the water, played with her, sometimes avoiding her with a sudden leap, sometimes going towards her, teasing her.

She seemed to see, in the undulating folds of the ripples, the familiar serpents which she sometimes charmed to the sound of a flute, which then came to wrap themselves around her arms, around her neck, and which now awaited her, lying on wool at the bottom of their trunk, in his cart.

Of Renaud, she was no longer thinking, already. She was entirely present, always, never having any regrets or remorse for any past—having only fleeting forecasts, at the moment when passion and self-interest demanded it. Her thoughts were short, as if jerky; and its depth, its power, its enigma, was to have no heart, nor, consequently, no conscience.

The men and women who approached her might fear or hope for something from her, he{118}to suppose such a resolution, to try to thwart her plan, but she had none, which deceived them in advance.

She confused and triumphed at first by indifference; then, as she suddenly arose from her indolence, like an animal, according to an appetite, a whim, she always baffled all defenses—her attack, her decisions, her skills, her lies, being always spontaneous , sprang from circumstances as they presented themselves.

No, she didn’t plan anything in advance, coldly; she never prepared any long-term plan; but all of a sudden she could, if need be, invent one, and execute it on the spot, all in one breath, or even begin the execution furiously, which she abandoned almost immediately out of boredom. , only to think about it the day when a movement of passion suddenly brought him back to it.

She was like a spider which, in the twinkling of an eye, would pull out its entire web, to bind the fly to flight; or else she stretched out a first thread, which she forgot until the occasion aroused in her the idea of ​​stretching out a second.

And, thus made, it was less bad and worse than others, because it was more changeable than the mirror of water, the color of time.

Fatalistic, the gypsy told herself that what must happen{119}happens, and no, never, she had bothered to plan a plan of revenge. She first posed a threat, knowing full well that the terror inspired by a prediction is a first misfortune that prepares others by troubling minds, hearts, judgments. Then something untoward always happens “within the year”, which comes to collaborate with sorcerers and which people attribute to the “bad luck” cast upon them. It’s on them, indeed, because they believe it. Finally, if the occasion presents itself, one helps the malice of fate, with a word, a gesture, a trifle—and if the occasion arises, it is because it was written from all eternity, fixed from advance in destiny!

Being all instinct, the gypsy had no other secret than not having one.

She went about her joy, the satisfaction of revenge, hatred or love, without taking anything or anyone into account; and, thus similar to beasts, she became, being a human creature, formidable to civilized beings, like nature. These creatures are relentless. The gypsy loved life and lived it like an animal, without thinking about it. This is the poor and profound mystery of the Sphinx. She proceeds in the manner of the brute, close to low origins, in spite of her beautiful human face, where the eyes, troubled like those of Pan, seem veiled with lies because they are{120}veiled to themselves from their own unknown, from their waiting uncertainty. Look at the eye of goats and heifers. It is deep like cunning and strong Bestiality, lurking in the shadows of the sacred grove. Life wants to live. She is there, ambushed. Sure of herself, she expects. The human beast, in addition to the tricks of the fox or the tiger, has the floor. Nothing is more appalling than speech without conscience.

In the end, the Zinzara was always sincere without ever appearing to be so, because her versatility put her at odds with herself from hour to hour.

The caress and the wound that one received from her, blow after blow, proved neither that she had feigned love nor that she had feigned hatred…. She had alternately, from one minute to the the other, hated and loved, or rather, without loving or hating, she had taken pleasure in herself, with contradictory sincerities—very naively.

She had something of the ape, which, at the moment when, at the top of the tree, she cradles with a human air her child tenderly pressed between her arms, opens them abruptly, and lets the forgotten infant fall to pick a fruit. which is offered to her.

She cared about herself and only saw herself about everything and everyone.

The gypsy was fearsome like a hidden spirit{121}in an element of which he would be the servant. It had the force of a thunderbolt, of an earthquake, of a fatal event, impossible to foresee, to parry.

The viper is not mean. She does not prepare her venom. She has it. Let’s bother her, she bit before she decided to.

Like torpedoes or gymnotes, the Egyptian could launch shots of deadly electricity. As soon as we approached it—out of necessity. It could also happen to her to amuse herself at the game of spreading her malign power around her, for nothing, to see the effects, because it was her hour and her day, her whim.

To defend herself and to play, she had the same means.

It could not have been fatal. She mustn’t be thinking of you, that’s all. It was already good fortune not to be looked at by her.

Although the daughter of a race which places a high price on chastity, she was not chaste, not that she loved voluptuousness above all, but she held it as a means of domination, all the more sure because she made less of it. Always superior, in her coldness, to the desire she inspired, it was in this that she really felt queen, witch,—a{122}little goddess, by the devil! The caresses of a free bath pleased him better than others. She was like the females of the lambrusques which are fertilized by the wind.

Like the mares of the Camargue, who often gather on the shores of the sea to breathe the open sea, when she opened her lips to the salty breeze, on these beautiful May evenings, she felt happier than any kiss. of man. The wandering soul of his race breathed on his lips, in the air, with the freedom of space, an unknown, empty and infinite hope.

Thus made, she knew she was both disturbing and protected by something that emanated from her. It filled her with pride. In his smile, there was that pride. There was also the perpetual recollection of things experienced, known only to her and to a certain number of men, who did not know each other.

Their ignorance, her work, made her smile like the rest. And that smile was irony and contempt. She knew his strength and all their weakness. So she was always smiling.

She reigned, without any other policy, over her wandering tribe in squads, changing, like a real queen, from favorite, at random from the occasions around her and from the impressions in herself, but letting each believer believe.{123}one of them he was, that he had been the only one loved, if not the first.

To deceive zingari—beautiful success of zingara!

And there was, among the fifteen or twenty children of her troop, a young dauphin descended from this queen, but, since he had left the womb, she took no more heed of him than a bitch to her little destiny. to become her male.

When she had arrived near her camp, quite moved by the contact of the wave whose salt, drying, crunching on her, pressed her voluptuous skin everywhere, the gypsy, lukewarm in all her being, had looked towards one of her gypsies, a young man with bronze skin, a sparse, curly beard.

And at nightfall—when they had eaten the soup which had boiled in the pot suspended from three sloping stakes, in the open air—the zingaro slipped near the zingara.

It was the moment when, through her, two beings suffered in the depths of their consciousness, when Livette and Renaud looked at each other and already no longer recognized each other.

The betrothed, her victims, struggled under the evil spell cast by her gaze, at the very moment when that gaze seemed to soften in response to the one with which her lover was covering her, on the back of the ditch, under the faint light of the stars.{124}

Renaud, at that hour, dreamed of seeing the nudity of the gypsy again, of conquering her, wondering, at the memory of this slender and young form, if this were not a virgin, although a girl on the high road; confusedly calling a strange, entire, absolute love, the triumphal possession of a new being, of a heifer hitherto fierce, wicked even to bulls; of a mare who would have known neither brake nor rider’s saddle, and who would have remained rebellious to the stallion….

Renaud dreamed of all that, but there was no Renaud for Zinzara.

Zinzara, just at this hour, in the grass wet with dew, writhed like the conger eel of legends which comes out of the seas to indulge in the tangled caresses of the earth serpents.

Two days Livette waited, wondering what was going on. Finally tired of searching without guessing, she set out for Les Saintes on the morning of the third day. There, she thought, I may have some news. His father, this time, saddled him with a good old horse.

“You will go,” he told her, “at noon to Tonin, the fisherman, to eat the bouillabaisse.” Notify him, when you arrive, with a greeting from me.

Livette, on horseback, on the road, gazed all around her at the tranquil, verdant plain,{125}cheerful, dazzling with two lights, that which fell from the sky, that which, everywhere, rose from the waters.

In the rays, the dance of the mouïssales was joyful. When the mouïssales dance, they make the music of their ball with their wings, and all over the plain, on calm days, on the golden threads of light, there is a humming of a guitar. There were also, in the air, great long very fine threads, threads of the Virgin, coming from no one knows where, which flew, softly undulating, as if, made visible, some tiny chanterelles of the invisible instrument which the little musicians of the air play, went away, broken, at the whim of a breath.

From very far perhaps, they came, these sons. Perhaps in the woods of the Moors, in the Estérel, lived the hard-working “aragnes” who patiently spun them. A breath of air, very gently, had taken them, and now they were traveling.

Livette watched them float gently, and thought of a tale her grandmother had told her. These threads, according to the grandmother, came from the coats that the three saints had presented to the wind like veils. The wind from the sea, blowing them up, had frayed them a little, very finely; and forever, above the Camargue beach, where the Church of the Saints is built, they float, these frail threads, once caught in the weft of miraculous coats. At-{126}above the country, they constantly float, like so many signs of blessing, but you see them very rarely, and when, by chance, one fine day, you see them, it means that an unknown happiness is for you in the ‘air.

And Livette’s soul, in the transparent blue of this morning, swayed suspended from each of these passing threads; but however much the little girl tried to give herself confidence, she felt her heart was too heavy to remain bound for long to these vanished things. She was scared, darling, and felt hidden signs against her.

Alas! poor thing, while above her head flew golden threads, somewhere around her the black spider had woven its trap to snare her like a fly.

Still thinking, Livette advanced and ended by distinguishing, far in front of her, around the steeple of the Saintes, the whirling swallows and the swifts. From so far away, it looked like the theft of mussels. And, with swifts and swallows, flew gulls. All these wings, large and small, sometimes seen from below and dark, sometimes seen from above and shining, turned, veered, waltzed, crossed, tangling their circle in a hundred ways. It was spring and morning games in the cool light of the sky.{127}

To get news, Livette thought of going through the public cistern, because it was the time when the girls and women of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer go to get the supply of water.

At the entrance to the village, she saw the camp of the gypsies on her right, but turned her head away.

At this moment she met, going into the water, two women who walked with a very regular step, between the two bars which they carried at arm’s length, and from which is suspended, just in the middle, by its two horns, the retort. “It’s time for water,” thought Livette, and, at the pace of her horse, she followed them.

“Hello, mademoiselle,” the two women had said in passing, because everyone knew her, the pretty girl from the Chateau d’Avignon.

In front of the cistern, there was still no one. The two women waited. Livette with them.

“Do you walk around like that, mademoiselle?” Are you looking for someone, so morning?

“Yes,” said Livette, “I’m taking a walk, and since it’s water time, I’m stopping here for a moment. For sure, friends that I have in Les Saintes will come there in turn.

They were all three silent; and, intently for the first time, having nothing else to do there, Livette gazed at the crest of carved stone which is{128}right in the middle of the great arched wall of the cistern. These are the arms of the city, and, as you might imagine, we see a boat represented there, a boat without mast or oars, where the two Marys, Jacobé and Salomé, are standing.

“I’ve often wondered,” said Livette, “why the images only ever show two saints in the boat. After all, didn’t our mothers always tell us there were three of them? Were they three, yes or no?

“There were certainly three of them, beautiful innocent,” said the older of the two women, “but Sara was the servant, and the honor is not due to her!”

“If the third was Saint Sare, then it wasn’t three Maries?” I have always heard, however, that Marie-Magdeleine was one of them, and that, leaving here, she went to die at Sainte-Baume.

“Yes, she was, Marie-Magdeleine, and many others with her!” Lazare was also in this boat, but, once ashore, each pulled his own way: Marie-Magdeleine went to La Baume, and the two Maries stayed with us with Sara. It is then that a spring springs from the sand, by the grace of our Lord. When building the church, the spring was enclosed in the middle.

“Faith, we would have done well to leave the spring outside the church!”

-And why? is the water spoiled?…{129}

“She is only good on the feast day.

“And yet!… And there are so few of them!”

—We would have asked the saints to make it abundant and good…. If we all put ourselves to it with our prayers, we would have obtained that.

“A miracle more or less!”

“Miracles, my dear, are only for strangers.

“And that’s what it takes, neighbour. If it were otherwise, let us see, foreigners would no longer come—and, without them, what would the country live on? poor us! Where are our crops, the rest of us? Our wheat, our oats, where are they, say, good people? Without the saints, this country would be a cursed country! One feast day a year, and the pilgrims (God bless!) fill our purse.

—The days of miracles are only too rare…. Two feasts a year are needed!

“What are you going to say there, fool that you are?” Two parties a year, Good Mother! It would be the death of the pilgrimage. For the use to be maintained, it must be what it is, and nothing should change. Our men know it well. Remember the visit paid to us, with these great ladies, by the Archbishop of Aix, twenty years ago.

And once more was told the story of the{130}visit made to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer by the Archbishop of Aix, twenty or thirty years ago.

One May 24, with some old ladies of the nobility of Aix, the archbishop arrived at Les Saintes. But this May 24 happened to be the 25th, in the evening!… Everyone can be wrong!… So that instead of going down at four o’clock, the shrines were reassembled that day, and when entered the church, with the beautiful ladies, farewell my saints! They had already been hoisted, at the end of their ropes, in the midst of hymns, in the upper chapel.

-Well! said the archbishop to the priest, they will come down for us.

The priest was about to obey, but the rumor of the affair had already spread through the village!… Ah! misery of me, what a rascally train!

-How! said the old Saintins! We would bring down the shrines on a day other than the 24th! But if, then, the thing is so easy and frequent, why do you want the unfortunates, from all corners of Provence and the world, to come to us on the appointed day? No, no, that would be, do you understand, the ruin of the country!

To end with a word, the muskets were taken, and the Saints, in arms, in the church itself, imposed on the prince of the Church the sovereign will of the people of the Saints.{131}

“Very well,” they said, “because it is through rarity that miracles remain precious.

One of the women having told this story, well known to everyone, all of them began, as soon as she fell silent, to break their great silence with beautiful outbursts of voice, approving who better better the revolt of the Saintins against the bishops who want to abuse of the good will of the two Marys.

“It doesn’t matter,” said one of the old women suddenly, “we are happy now to have, instead of the brackish spring which gave the saints to drink, a good cistern made of good stone.” I remember the time when we took water from the pousaraque (artificial pond) as the people on our farms still do. The water from the Rhone, which came there by the roubine, was always so muddy that it was thick enough to cut with a knife!

-Bah! she had time to deposit in our jars.

“It’s funny, however, to be so unhappy for the water in a country so wet!” said a young woman who was arriving. This water is misery! Saint Sare, the servant, must know for herself that there is enough work in the houses, without wasting her time waiting in front of closed taps…. Saint Sare, protect us, and open the fountain!

The women began to laugh.{132}

Almost all the Saints’ housewives were gathered there now. A last group arrived. Some carried jars without handles on their heads, with a graceful rocking of the head and the whole body. Themselves, hands on hips, looked like living amphoras. Others, a jug on their head, still carried a jug in each hand, the green “dourgue”, with a handle and a neck; others wooden buckets, others retorts, each having chosen more or less large vases, according to the needs of her household.

“What pot are you bringing here, Felicite?”

And to laugh.

She who was thus challenged replied:

“I broke my pitcher, poor me!” And since I needed water, I took the pot that I found, an old pot that I have always seen in our house, behind the door. If it holds water, that’ll be enough for today, honey!

—Take it to the priest, for his library; it is an antique that is worth the money!

Félicité, in fact, came into the water this morning with a real Roman amphora, found in the sands of the Rhone, barely a little chewed up, a two-thousand-year-old jar!

At Les Saintes, each family—it depends—is entitled, per day, to one or two retorts of water from{133}cistern…. The door of the Fountain did not open.

Livette, on her horse, dreamy and sad, among the chatter, was still waiting for her friends.

“What were you saying, over here?” questioned, on arriving, the latest arrivals.

And informed, each one, on the saints and the servant Sara, said her idea and her word, without worrying about the words of the others,—so much so that the cackling of the girls and women seemed here a Ramadan of annoyances and of jays picked up in one of those clumps of pines which are isolated in the middle of the Camargue.

“I’m asking you if it’s fair,” cried one of the women, “not to put the portrait of Saint Sara everywhere too!” A saint is a saint, and where there is a saint, there is no servant!

“Saints are not proud!” and to be in painting or not, Saint Sara doesn’t care a bit!

“That she doesn’t care, that’s possible, but it’s an affront to her!”

—Hey! said another, the good King Rene and the Pope knew what they were doing, thus arranging things. Sarah was Pontius Pilate’s wife, and it was she who had advised her husband to wash his hands of the crime of the pagans!

A murmur of reprobation ran among the gossips.{134}

—Ah! here is old Rosine, who will bring us to agreement.

On her motionless horse, Livette vaguely listened to these things. She was distracted and interested.

When old Rosine, very deaf, had finally understood what was wanted of her, and that she had to explain herself about Sara the servant:

—Ah! my children, she said, God knows his own, and Sara is certainly a great saint….

Rosine, here, made the sign of the cross, and was immediately imitated by all the old women.

“But,” added Rosine, “Sara was a pagan from Egypt, and not a Jewess from Judea; and the Gentiles, you see, are far behind the Jews in the esteem of the world. Don’t you see that the Jews are scattered everywhere, but everywhere stop and become masters by the force of avarice? This is their way of being blessed by their Lord. But the pagans of Egypt, on the contrary, are wanderers and poor although thieves, and more dispersed and more accursed than the Jews…. Well, you see, my children, Saint Sarah is their saint, yes, the holy pagans of Egypt! She is a not very Catholic saint, the one who, to pay for her passage to the boatman, gave him, with the ease, I think, of a former sinner—the spectacle of her naked body! She therefore passes precisely after the two Maries, because there are rows in{135} the sky. And that is why the bones of Saint Sara are not between the planks of the large reliquary of the church, but under the panes of the very small reliquary which is in the crypt, as one would say in the cellar. The cellar is a good enough place—under the feet of Christians—for gypsies of misfortune! and it is right that it be so.

“Rosine has spoken well!” one of the women cried. The frequent visit of gipsies is the misfortune of the country. When our pilgrims arrive, rich and poor, do you think they will be very happy to find all these malefactors settled here, who, so skilfully, know how to steal handkerchiefs and purses? Do you believe that doesn’t take us out of the world? How many people might come who do not want to be compromised in such neighborhood!

-Oh that! come on, let’s go! said a hunchback, those who have faith don’t stop on the way for so little! And those who, having a bad disease, hope to cure it with us, are not afraid of these thieves nor of their vermin. Take away my hump, you great saints, and I’ll take care of removing myself, one after the other, my lice and my fleas!

There was an enormous burst of laughter which, as if by magic, stopped immediately. women{136} ran to take, not without small quarrels for the priority,—their rank in file.

Finally some young girls who were friends of Livette arrived.

Seeing them coming from a little far away, she went to meet them.

When Livette had left:

“What is she looking for, La Livette, on horseback so early?” the women said to themselves.

“Hey,” said the hunchback, “her beggar Renaud, then! He’s not used to being tied like a goat to a picket, and to keep him faithful she’ll have a hard time, the little one, despite her fine dowry!… From a distance, the other day, on the beach, Rampal, you know, the good-natured gardian—saw him, this Renaud, chatting with a gypsy who was not dressed for winter!

“She didn’t have any furs or a coat or anything else, poor me! she was to bathe as God made her…. One must be wary of the plain. You don’t think you’ve been seen because you think you can see very far yourself, but a tuft of engane is enough for the snout (the lizard) to hide its two gazing eyes.

And the women whisper, soon with stifled laughter.

During this time:

“No, no,” said her two friends to Livette, “we haven’t seen your promise, my beauty; but{137}already, against the church, the bleachers are being prepared for the ferrade, and to be here soon, he cannot miss it.

At this moment, a bizarre music rose nearby. They were flute sounds, which, gently modulated at first, suddenly turned into heart-rending cries. A dull, grave, calm, singular knock supported them, seemed to encourage the sick heart, which, in acute complaints, called for help….

—Ah! here are the Bohemians and their devilish music, listen, Livette!… Go take a look,… it’s so funny. We will join you presently.

“And my horse?” said Livette.

“If you won’t be here for long, there’s a big fixed iron in the shape of a bracelet in the wall of the church, newly sealed for the fence bars of the ferrade. Tie it there, your horse, and don’t be afraid it will fly away. We will recognize it as yours, by the beautiful letters in copper nails that you had put on the pommel.

To the iron of the church wall, Livette hitched her horse, and rode towards the music of the Bohemians. It seemed to her that there she would know something. Now, Zinzara, the Egyptian, had seen Livette arrive in the village—and her music was only to attract her, and, if Renaud was there, her betrothed with her. Why? to see;—to unite, for a moment,{138}without fixed purpose, on the same point of the vast world she was traversing, two of the characters with whom she “amused her time”; to give yourself the comedy of life, and see the rest of it come to life, with the desire to make it turn out badly, at random. She loved the “strange” that comes out of the jumble of circumstances.

La Zinzara was turning a kaleidoscope whose field was vast like the horizon of her eternal journey, and whose pieces of glass, variously colored, were living souls. her, fate. Women’s games, witch games.