On December 19th, 1889, Mrs. Arthur Chimes gave birth to a healthy little girl. Mrs. Chimes was proud beyond words; and relieved, as well. After several miscarriages-one because of poor health, and two because of an abusive husband-she had finally conceived; and although the child was not a boy, Mrs. Chimes was at peace with the world. She called the girl Cora Lucille, and a few weeks later she invited the reverend to christen the child. Reverend Duff was scheduled to come to River House on January 2nd, but the previous night he had engaged in perhaps more liquor than was wise. The mother waited and waited for the reverend, but he did not come. Chimes questioned his wife when she did not come to bed, and upon hearing her reason for waiting a while, Chimes declared,

'By God, any daughter of mine is above christening! Come to bed and forget the reverend. He can do nothing for Cora that she cannot do for herself.'

Mrs. Chimes abided by her husband's will, at least on the surface; but a year later, she again invited the reverend, and this time he came. It was at a time when Chimes was off on a hunting trip in Oxford, and his wife felt safe that he need never hear of the christening.

Reverend Duff came to River House, and took the babe to the river to bless her. He knelt in the water and held the girl under; and she struggled fiercely, so fiercely that a signet ring he wore on his right hand knocked against her forehead, and drew blood. When he went to make the sign of the cross, his hand came away bloody; and when he saw the mark upon her forehead, he became fearful and left quickly, pleading urgent cleric business. Ann Chimes saw nothing to be afraid of, and dismissed the incident from her thoughts. When Mr. Chimes returned from his trip, he traced the crescent scar on his babe's forehead and remarked, 'I think, Ann, that we will need a new nurse.'

'Yes, Arthur,' his wife replied sweetly.

'How did it happen to my little Cora,' Arthur continued, 'that she should come to bear such a mark upon her forehead? Almost as if a little pixie had touched her as she lay sleeping . . . I say again, wife, how did this mark come to be upon your daughter?'

Ann smiled up at her husband, who had risen to tower above her. 'Husband, the nurse was careless-'

She got no further before his hand found her cheek. She covered the burning mark with her own, smaller, darker hand, much as she covered the burning hatred for Arthur in her heart with darker, stranger emotions and longings.

'A new nurse,' her husband repeated on his way out of the room.

'Yes, dear,' Mrs. Chimes whispered in his wake. 'A new nurse.'

- - - - - - Cora Lucille grew into a strange, fay child, with long dark curls and large, slanted dark eyes. Her father called her his little fairy child; and with the strange petulant moods that took her, the description seemed apt. Her mother, who had a fair amount of strangeness in her-the Indian blood, the gossiping matrons claimed-taught her daughter strange rhymes and songs. One day, when little Cora was skipping down the lane from her house, she passed Reverend Duff, and when he hallooed her, she answered back,

'I mustn't be staying-

You mustn't keep me- I mustn't be saying- For you would keep me.'

The good Reverend, taken aback but still friendly, called to her, 'Oh little Mistress Chimes, and what would I be keeping you for now, aye?'

The child turned to look at him with her strange eyes, usually so full of mischief but now completely unreadable. 'Mother said I shouldn't tell,' she replied at length.

'Tell what?' Duff pressed, half teasing, half in earnest.

'Oh, but that would be telling!' the fairy child cried, and off she went down the lane away from him, singing,

'I have to get away- I said I couldn't stay- For then you would keep me- And no one shall ever keep me.'

Little Cora reached the bend in the lane, threw her head back, and cried, 'No, nor will anyone ever catch me!' before disappearing into the twilit trees. Reverend Duff clutched his Bible to his heart and hastened home.

- - - - -

Cora's first suitor was the stable boy, a lad a good five or six years her senior who went by the name of Ron. Cora was perhaps eleven the first time that Ron advanced on her; fortunately, Mrs. Chimes was watching her daughter from her bay window, and when she descried the stable boy chasing Cora about, she went out and spoke to the head groom, who put the boy to mucking out stalls. Later, when Mrs. Chimes spoke to Cora, Cora would say only that 'Ron was a great silly boy' whose mother 'aught to watch him better.' Mrs. Chimes laughed her silvery laugh before bending down to whisper in her daughter's little pearl ear. Cora seemed hesitant at first, but nodded her head vigorously as her mother continued.

As the two stood thus, with the mother bent to the girl's ear and the daughter in a state of earnest listening, Mr. Chimes happened to pass by. Although usually a loud man, he managed to silently slip to stand in the doorway. Ann Chimes, through some trick or fell magic, sensed her husband, and, kissing Cora, straightened to her small height and strode towards the door.

'Arthur, darling, you're back early. I hope the hunting party went well?' she said sweetly, closing the door to Cora's room behind her and rising on her toes to drop a light kiss on her husband's cheek.

'Yes, well,' he said uncertainly. 'Did you find things to occupy your time in my absence?'

Ann smiled her secret smile but made no reply. Chimes cursed absently at her silence, but his usual venom was not in it. 'Well, you witch, come to bed,' he ordered her, turning away towards their bedroom.

'Perhaps I shall work a little night magic, my love?' Anne whispered coaxingly, and smiled when she saw the shudder that went through him at her words.

- - - - - - - -

And now, dear reader, having explained about Ann Chimes, it seems only fair to explain about Arthur Chimes. For although he was lacking as a husband- alcoholic, abusive, and often absent-he made up for it as a father. He never raised his voice to Cora, nor his hand, and he always brought her little presents from his trips. At parties, she was allowed a seat next to her mother, where the guests could coo over her budding beauty. If a guest did not coo to Arthur's satisfaction-as, indeed, Lady Kessler did not-then the unfortunate person was never again entertained at the Chimes estate. Lady Kessler not only failed to make much over Cora, she even went so far as to say that children should not be heard or seen at all, especially not at their parent's dinner parties. 'Nuisances,' the unwise Lady K explained, 'should be kept where they belong: in the nursery.'

Arthur Chimes became so irate that he roared out, 'Well then, madam, find your way thither-'

At which point Cora's mother interrupted, '-and ne'er return!'

In the ensuing silence, little Cora could be heard to say, 'It's on the third floor, ma'am, won't you let me take you?'

- - - - - -

So you see, Arthur Chimes was not so really bad at heart-just very impatient and easily irritated. And his wife served as a constant irritant. Her unexplained silences, coy looks, and unpredictable behavior threw his whole organized world out of place. He felt that he had married a witch, and did not know how to come to terms with it. For Arthur Chimes was not a man to fall in love; he did not believe in sexual love; he did not understand passion. The only emotion he understood was desire. He had wanted Kiran from the first moment he met her; he had gotten her, but he had wanted an English wife. So she became Ann Chimes. He wanted children; he had one, a delightful daughter; and if Ann failed to produce a legitimate heir, he could always find a willing scullery maid. He did not desire wealth or estates, for he had both, and if he did not have them in profusion, he had them in sufficiency. He had power, of a sort, the sort that made other people want his company and his time. In his youth he was commanding, and as he approached middle age he still managed a sort of gruff appeal that made him popular with the youthful gentry as well as the older established members of the lower royalty. Once tall, blond, and slender, he now had a hint of a stoop about his broad shoulders, and the whisper of a gut. His hairline receded far enough to show more of his fine phrenology, which, on a lesser man, might have made him less handsome; and indeed, although no longer handsome, he still managed to pass as a striking older man, which was not lost on the wives of his cohorts. They sighed over the admirable Arthur, bragged about him to strangers, and excluded his wife as often as possible. 'Damn foreigners,' they whispered to each other. 'They say she's half Injun-they run around half undressed, you know- and cut people's scalps off . . .Poor Arthur!' If any of the admirable matrons suspected what Chimes was like as a husband-as perhaps some of them did-they kept it to themselves, and put down any misbehavior on the husband's part as normal due to the wife's general poor conduct.

Thus was Arthur deified; thus was Ann demonized.

- - - - -

Cora, meanwhile, fell somewhere in the social middle ground. She was something of a nonentity; her father championed her, her mother supported her in her dark and silent way, and the townsfolk rarely saw her, though they often heard her high, childish voice singing. Ron (the scorned stable boy) bragged about his young mistress to the other village urchins until the head groom overheard him, whereupon he was summarily dismissed from the Chimes estate.

Cora ceased to be a nonentity with her coming-out party at the age of sixteen. Several ladies and lords were in attendance, as well as a Dutchess and a Scottish Earl. All the eligible bachelors-and some not so eligible ones as well-came from all the wide sweeps of England, to see the famed Fairy Child; and not a one of them left but was dissatisfied. 'Lovely girl,' one of them, a chap from Wickham, was heard to say; 'yet so strange and lonely and lost; I should fear to fancy her. She belongs to the heart of a braver man than I.'

Another fellow, older and wiser, although superstitious, agreed: 'A man could drown in those eyes, fairy eyes, no earthly girl ever had such as could touch them.'

Mr. Chimes was proud of Cora's decorum and the widespread admiration for her beauty and grace, and if he heard any of the whispered words on her veiled air, he ignored them. Mrs. Chimes smiled her secret smile and was content.

Cora-Cora, England's very own Fairy-pretended indifference. But she was immensely dissatisfied with the whole affair. In her eyes, the c