Supposedly based on the heroine of the Childe Waters ballad, the pregnant Ellen Burd is unavoidably reminiscent of Lena Grove from Light in August -- a troublesome ancestry that Katie Lyle handles better than might be expected. Golden-haired, daisy-clean Ellen loves the plant lore and potion wisdom of the mountain folk (""the last civilized people. . .""), and she loves John Waters for reasons known only to her own heart and apparently not open to question by Ellen or anyone else. When Ellen tells John that she is pregnant, he scarcely remembers the occasion or her. and he is bewildered by her calm assurance that they will marry. Nevertheless, Ellen follows John when he runs away to hide and nurse his guilt at a friend's small communal farm home; she grows larger day by day under his resentful eyes, tracks down the men who have stolen his horse even though her labor is beginning and, of course, wins John by her persistence. Ellen's harmony with the natural world of the mountains not only molds, but is, her character, and her dreamy moonshine purity is leavened occasionally by cold reality -- as when she is humiliated by John and nearly begins to doubt her course. Her presence has just enough poetry and timeless assurance to make Ellen a memorable metaphor of fidelity -- though we still can't put aside our uneasy suspicion that a love so totally unconscious of its object must be largely childish self-indulgence.