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gently the stream glides o'er the gravelly bed! Now I swear by the NYMPHS, I will here leave my garments, and plunge, even to my bosom, in the delicious flood.
IRIS. But if any one shou'd come! If we shou'd be seen!
EGLA. There is no path that leads to this bank. This fruitful tree, that seems to have left the rank to bend its spreading branches o'er the flood-this tree will cover us with its thickest shade. We are here concealed in a verdant grot that no mortal eye can penetrate. These branches, that the zephyrs gently wave, open but by intervals to admit the tender rays of day, then sudden close again.
IRIS. Well, EGLA, what thou darest, I also dare.
The shepherdesses laid their garments at the foot of the tree, and, seiz'd with a gentle shuddering, they entered the lambent flood. The waves surrounded first their curvated knees, but soon their alabaster bosoms lav'd. They then seated themselves on the stones that the stream had left near its banks.
EGLA. IRIS, I feel a gaiety of heart! my spirits are all alert! What shall we do? Let us sing some pretty songs.
IRIS. Can you think of it? Would you that they hear us from the neighbouring hills?
EGLA. Well, then let us talk softly. What must we do? Tell me some story. IRIS. A story!
EGLA. Yes, some secret and diverting history. You tell first, and I will tell one after, in my turn. IRIS. I know one that is pleasant enough;
EGLA. IRIS, be assured, these leaves are not more secret than am I.
IRIS. Well, then. The other day I was coming down the hill, driving my sheep to the pasture that borders on the sea. There is, you know, a large cherry-tree that stands on the side of the hill.While I was--But am I not a fool thus to disclose my greatest secret?
EGLA. O shall not I recount thee also the most hidden secret of my heart?
IRIS. Well. Whilst I descended the solitary path, I heard, on a sudden, a charming voice, that sung the sweetest tune. Surprised, and fearful, I stopp'd! I looked round me, but could not perceive any body! Upon my word, not any one! I continued my course, and came still nearer and nearer to the voice. I advanced still further; then it was behind me; for I had pass'd the cherry-tree, and from its clustering top it was that the melodious accents came. But what it sung! Oh, that I can never dare to tell, though I have not forgot the least syllable.
EGLA. You must absolutely tell me. Under these secret shades there can be no mystery, and young maidens, when they bathe, tell all.
IRIS. Well, then, I consent-But is it right thus to repeat the praises of ourselves? 'Tis true, we know that shepherds, when they praise us, keep
no bounds. As I descended the hill-I feel the colour glow in my cheeks-the voice thus sung:
"Who is that beauty whose shape is so elegant, and her gait so noble? Tell me, soft zephyrs, you who wanton in her locks, and in the folds of her floating robe. Who is she? Is it one of the GRACES? Ah! if it be, 'tis the most young and beauteous of them all.
"How the flow'ry sprigs of trefoil and of thyme softly bend to the impression of her steps! How the blue-bells and the sky-ting'd cyanus, that line the border of the path, incline their heads to kiss her lovely feet. I will pluck those flowers that kiss thy feet, and bend beneath thy steps, and of them form two garlands. One shall crown my brows, and the other will I offer to the god of LOVE.. "With what a timid air her black and lovely eyes survey the country round! O fear nothing. I am no vulture; my songs contain no fatal omens. Oh, that I cou'd utter sounds so sweet as might suspend thy steps! Why are not my notes as enchanting as the linnet's, and melodious as PHILOMELA's in the loveliest night of MAY? Has not her beauty more charms for me than the spring has for the nightingale, and for all the birds with which the groves resound?
"What fearest thou? Rather deign to check thy steps. Ye roses wild, turn aside your thorns, lest they wound her tender feet; but cou'd you lightly catch her robe, how pleasing would it be, some moments longer to detain the beauteous maid! But, alas, her steps she hastens. The tender zephyrs, who seem to feel my pains, in vain oppose
Her robe alone still flows behind.
"Of the most lovely fruit that this tree bears, I will a basket fill; and when, at night, the moon resplendent shines, I will suspend it to thy window. If thou deign'st to accept my present, of all the shepherds of these parts I shall be most blest. Thou flyest! Those trees will soon quite hide thee from my sight. I still behold the last fold of thy robe. But, alas! now, even now, the extremity of thy shadow disappears."
Thus sung the shepherd. With down-cast eyes I pursued the path, yet stole a look at the top of the tree, but its leaves were so thick, I cou'd discover no one. You may guess, EGLA, if I slept that night. I soon perceived a young shepherd fix a basket to the bars of my window; for the moon, that shone extremely bright, reflected his shadow on my couch. I blush'd, and my bosom panted. But, when the young shepherd was gone—was it not right to be sure I did not dream?—I went softly to the window, and, all trembling, I took the little basket. It was fill'd with the fairest cherries! Never have I tasted any so delicious! With the cherries there were rose-buds, and leaves of myrtle. Yes, dear EGLA-but who this shepherd was, that thy curiosity shall not yet know.
EGLA. Dost thou think I would ask thee? Was ever any one so mysterious? You will not tell me then that it was my brother; and that the basket he hung at thy window was a present I made him that very day? O, you are confounded-a blush,
more lovely than that of blooming roses, spreads o'er thee, from where the waves play against thy bosom to the locks of hair that crown thy forehead. You look on the water. Embrace me, dearest IRIS! Love my brother: I already regard thee as my sister.
IRIS. Should I have told thee my greatest secret, EGLA, if I did not love thee as myself?
EGLA. Well, be not concerned for thy confidence; I will now tell thee also the greatest secret of my heart. The first of MAY my father made a sacrifice to the god PAN. He invited to the feast his friend MENALCUs, who brought with him DAPHNIS, his youngest son. During the sacrifice DAPHNIS play'd on two flutes; and you know, IRIS, that no shepherd plays with greater skill. His hair, of a pale burnish'd gold, flow'd in curls upon his robe, more white than is the snow. Dress'd for the feast, he appear'd all lovely as the youthful god of DELOS. When the sacrifice was over, we went- -But, hark-I hear a noise in the groveit comes nearer to us!
IRIS. Hark! Yes, it comes nearer still. O NYMPHS protect us! Quickly let us take our garments, and fly to yonder grotto.
The affrighted shepherdesses fled, like two doves whom the hawk rapidly pursues through the mid air. It was, however, nothing but a fawn, timid as themselves, who came to quench his thirst in the refreshing stream.