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Title: Black Spirits and White - A Book of Ghost Stories
Author: Cram, Ralph Adams, 1863-1942
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Black Spirits and White - A Book of Ghost Stories" ***

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BLACK SPIRITS AND WHITE



     CARNATION SERIES

   Black Spirits & White

 _A Book of Ghost Stories_


            BY
     RALPH ADAMS CRAM


         [Device]


          CHICAGO
      STONE & KIMBALL

         MDCCCXCV



 COPYRIGHT, 1895, BY
  STONE AND KIMBALL


Transcriber's Note:

    Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. The oe
    ligature is represented by [oe].



    "BLACK SPIRITS AND WHITE,
      RED SPIRITS AND GRAY,
    MINGLE, MINGLE, MINGLE,
      YE THAT MINGLE MAY."



Contents


                               PAGE
 NO. 252 RUE M. LE PRINCE         3
 IN KROPFSBERG KEEP              33
 THE WHITE VILLA                 55
 SISTER MADDELENA                83
 NOTRE DAME DES EAUX            115
 THE DEAD VALLEY                133
 POSTSCRIPT                     151



No. 252 RUE M. LE PRINCE.



No. 252 Rue M. le Prince.


When in May, 1886, I found myself at last in Paris, I naturally
determined to throw myself on the charity of an old chum of mine, Eugene
Marie d'Ardeche, who had forsaken Boston a year or more ago on receiving
word of the death of an aunt who had left him such property as she
possessed. I fancy this windfall surprised him not a little, for the
relations between the aunt and nephew had never been cordial, judging
from Eugene's remarks touching the lady, who was, it seems, a more or
less wicked and witch-like old person, with a penchant for black magic,
at least such was the common report.

Why she should leave all her property to d'Ardeche, no one could tell,
unless it was that she felt his rather hobbledehoy tendencies towards
Buddhism and occultism might some day lead him to her own unhallowed
height of questionable illumination. To be sure d'Ardeche reviled her as
a bad old woman, being himself in that state of enthusiastic exaltation
which sometimes accompanies a boyish fancy for occultism; but in spite
of his distant and repellent attitude, Mlle. Blaye de Tartas made him
her sole heir, to the violent wrath of a questionable old party known to
infamy as the Sar Torrevieja, the "King of the Sorcerers." This
malevolent old portent, whose gray and crafty face was often seen in the
Rue M. le Prince during the life of Mlle. de Tartas had, it seems, fully
expected to enjoy her small wealth after her death; and when it appeared
that she had left him only the contents of the gloomy old house in the
Quartier Latin, giving the house itself and all else of which she died
possessed to her nephew in America, the Sar proceeded to remove
everything from the place, and then to curse it elaborately and
comprehensively, together with all those who should ever dwell therein.

Whereupon he disappeared.

This final episode was the last word I received from Eugene, but I knew
the number of the house, 252 Rue M. le Prince. So, after a day or two
given to a first cursory survey of Paris, I started across the Seine to
find Eugene and compel him to do the honors of the city.

Every one who knows the Latin Quarter knows the Rue M. le Prince,
running up the hill towards the Garden of the Luxembourg. It is full of
queer houses and odd corners,--or was in '86,--and certainly No. 252
was, when I found it, quite as queer as any. It was nothing but a
doorway, a black arch of old stone between and under two new houses
painted yellow. The effect of this bit of seventeenth-century masonry,
with its dirty old doors, and rusty broken lantern sticking gaunt and
grim out over the narrow sidewalk, was, in its frame of fresh plaster,
sinister in the extreme.

I wondered if I had made a mistake in the number; it was quite evident
that no one lived behind those cobwebs. I went into the doorway of one
of the new hôtels and interviewed the concierge.

No, M. d'Ardeche did not live there, though to be sure he owned the
mansion; he himself resided in Meudon, in the country house of the late
Mlle. de Tartas. Would Monsieur like the number and the street?

Monsieur would like them extremely, so I took the card that the
concierge wrote for me, and forthwith started for the river, in order
that I might take a steamboat for Meudon. By one of those coincidences
which happen so often, being quite inexplicable, I had not gone twenty
paces down the street before I ran directly into the arms of Eugene
d'Ardeche. In three minutes we were sitting in the queer little garden
of the Chien Bleu, drinking vermouth and absinthe, and talking it all
over.

"You do not live in your aunt's house?" I said at last, interrogatively.

"No, but if this sort of thing keeps on I shall have to. I like Meudon
much better, and the house is perfect, all furnished, and nothing in it
newer than the last century. You must come out with me to-night and see
it. I have got a jolly room fixed up for my Buddha. But there is
something wrong with this house opposite. I can't keep a tenant in
it,--not four days. I have had three, all within six months, but the
stories have gone around and a man would as soon think of hiring the
Cour des Comptes to live in as No. 252. It is notorious. The fact is,
it is haunted the worst way."

I laughed and ordered more vermouth.

"That is all right. It is haunted all the same, or enough to keep it
empty, and the funny part is that no one knows _how_ it is haunted.
Nothing is ever seen, nothing heard. As far as I can find out, people
just have the horrors there, and have them so bad they have to go to the
hospital afterwards. I have one ex-tenant in the Bicêtre now. So the
house stands empty, and as it covers considerable ground and is taxed
for a lot, I don't know what to do about it. I think I'll either give it
to that child of sin, Torrevieja, or else go and live in it myself. I
shouldn't mind the ghosts, I am sure."

"Did you ever stay there?"

"No, but I have always intended to, and in fact I came up here to-day to
see a couple of rake-hell fellows I know, Fargeau and Duchesne, doctors
in the Clinical Hospital beyond here, up by the Parc Mont Souris. They
promised that they would spend the night with me some time in my aunt's
house,--which is called around here, you must know, 'la Bouche
d'Enfer,'--and I thought perhaps they would make it this week, if they
can get off duty. Come up with me while I see them, and then we can go
across the river to Véfour's and have some luncheon, you can get your
things at the Chatham, and we will go out to Meudon, where of course you
will spend the night with me."

The plan suited me perfectly, so we went up to the hospital, found
Fargeau, who declared that he and Duchesne were ready for anything, the
nearer the real "bouche d'enfer" the better; that the following Thursday
they would both be off duty for the night, and that on that day they
would join in an attempt to outwit the devil and clear up the mystery of
No. 252.

"Does M. l'Américain go with us?" asked Fargeau.

"Why of course," I replied, "I intend to go, and you must not refuse me,
d'Ardeche; I decline to be put off. Here is a chance for you to do the
honors of your city in a manner which is faultless. Show me a real live
ghost, and I will forgive Paris for having lost the Jardin Mabille."

So it was settled.

Later we went down to Meudon and ate dinner in the terrace room of the
villa, which was all that d'Ardeche had said, and more, so utterly was
its atmosphere that of the seventeenth century. At dinner Eugene told me
more about his late aunt, and the queer goings on in the old house.

Mlle. Blaye lived, it seems, all alone, except for one female servant of
her own age; a severe, taciturn creature, with massive Breton features
and a Breton tongue, whenever she vouchsafed to use it. No one ever was
seen to enter the door of No. 252 except Jeanne the servant and the Sar
Torrevieja, the latter coming constantly from none knew whither, and
always entering, _never leaving_. Indeed, the neighbors, who for eleven
years had watched the old sorcerer sidle crab-wise up to the bell almost
every day, declared vociferously that _never_ had he been seen to leave
the house. Once, when they decided to keep absolute guard, the watcher,
none other than Maître Garceau of the Chien Bleu, after keeping his eyes
fixed on the door from ten o'clock one morning when the Sar arrived
until four in the afternoon, during which time the door was unopened (he
knew this, for had he not gummed a ten-centime stamp over the joint and
was not the stamp unbroken) nearly fell down when the sinister figure
of Torrevieja slid wickedly by him with a dry "Pardon, Monsieur!" and
disappeared again through the black doorway.

This was curious, for No. 252 was entirely surrounded by houses, its
only windows opening on a courtyard into which no eye could look from
the hôtels of the Rue M. le Prince and the Rue de l'Ecole, and the
mystery was one of the choice possessions of the Latin Quarter.

Once a year the austerity of the place was broken, and the denizens of
the whole quarter stood open-mouthed watching many carriages drive up to
No. 252, many of them private, not a few with crests on the door panels,
from all of them descending veiled female figures and men with coat
collars turned up. Then followed curious sounds of music from within,
and those whose houses joined the blank walls of No. 252 became for the
moment popular, for by placing the ear against the wall strange music
could distinctly be heard, and the sound of monotonous chanting voices
now and then. By dawn the last guest would have departed, and for
another year the hôtel of Mlle. de Tartas was ominously silent.

Eugene declared that he believed it was a celebration of
"Walpurgisnacht," and certainly appearances favored such a fancy.

"A queer thing about the whole affair is," he said, "the fact that every
one in the street swears that about a month ago, while I was out in
Concarneau for a visit, the music and voices were heard again, just as
when my revered aunt was in the flesh. The house was perfectly empty, as
I tell you, so it is quite possible that the good people were enjoying
an hallucination."

I must acknowledge that these stories did not reassure me; in fact, as
Thursday came near, I began to regret a little my determination to spend
the night in the house. I was too vain to back down, however, and the
perfect coolness of the two doctors, who ran down Tuesday to Meudon to
make a few arrangements, caused me to swear that I would die of fright
before I would flinch. I suppose I believed more or less in ghosts, I am
sure now that I am older I believe in them, there are in fact few things
I can _not_ believe. Two or three inexplicable things had happened to
me, and, although this was before my adventure with Rendel in Pæstum, I
had a strong predisposition to believe some things that I could not
explain, wherein I was out of sympathy with the age.

Well, to come to the memorable night of the twelfth of June, we had made
our preparations, and after depositing a big bag inside the doors of No.
252, went across to the Chien Bleu, where Fargeau and Duchesne turned up
promptly, and we sat down to the best dinner Père Garceau could create.

I remember I hardly felt that the conversation was in good taste. It
began with various stories of Indian fakirs and Oriental jugglery,
matters in which Eugene was curiously well read, swerved to the horrors
of the great Sepoy mutiny, and thus to reminiscences of the
dissecting-room. By this time we had drunk more or less, and Duchesne
launched into a photographic and Zolaesque account of the only time (as
he said) when he was possessed of the panic of fear; namely, one night
many years ago, when he was locked by accident into the dissecting-room
of the Loucine, together with several cadavers of a rather unpleasant
nature. I ventured to protest mildly against the choice of subjects,
the result being a perfect carnival of horrors, so that when we finally
drank our last _crème de cacao_ and started for "la Bouche d'Enfer," my
nerves were in a somewhat rocky condition.

It was just ten o'clock when we came into the street. A hot dead wind
drifted in great puffs through the city, and ragged masses of vapor
swept the purple sky; an unsavory night altogether, one of those nights
of hopeless lassitude when one feels, if one is at home, like doing
nothing but drink mint juleps and smoke cigarettes.

Eugene opened the creaking door, and tried to light one of the lanterns;
but the gusty wind blew out every match, and we finally had to close the
outer doors before we could get a light. At last we had all the lanterns
going, and I began to look around curiously. We were in a long, vaulted
passage, partly carriageway, partly footpath, perfectly bare but for the
street refuse which had drifted in with eddying winds. Beyond lay the
courtyard, a curious place rendered more curious still by the fitful
moonlight and the flashing of four dark lanterns. The place had
evidently been once a most noble palace. Opposite rose the oldest
portion, a three-story wall of the time of Francis I., with a great
wisteria vine covering half. The wings on either side were more modern,
seventeenth century, and ugly, while towards the street was nothing but
a flat unbroken wall.

The great bare court, littered with bits of paper blown in by the wind,
fragments of packing cases, and straw, mysterious with flashing lights
and flaunting shadows, while low masses of torn vapor drifted overhead,
hiding, then revealing the stars, and all in absolute silence, not even
the sounds of the streets entering this prison-like place, was weird and
uncanny in the extreme. I must confess that already I began to feel a
slight disposition towards the horrors, but with that curious
inconsequence which so often happens in the case of those who are
deliberately growing scared, I could think of nothing more reassuring
than those delicious verses of Lewis Carroll's:--

    "Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice,
      That alone should encourage the crew.
    Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice,
      What I tell you three times is true,"--

which kept repeating themselves over and over in my brain with feverish
insistence.

Even the medical students had stopped their chaffing, and were studying
the surroundings gravely.

"There is one thing certain," said Fargeau, "_anything_ might have
happened here without the slightest chance of discovery. Did ever you
see such a perfect place for lawlessness?"

"And _anything_ might happen here now, with the same certainty of
impunity," continued Duchesne, lighting his pipe, the snap of the match
making us all start. "D'Ardeche, your lamented relative was certainly
well fixed; she had full scope here for her traditional experiments in
demonology."

"Curse me if I don't believe that those same traditions were more or
less founded on fact," said Eugene. "I never saw this court under these
conditions before, but I could believe anything now. What's that!"

"Nothing but a door slamming," said Duchesne, loudly.

"Well, I wish doors wouldn't slam in houses that have been empty eleven
months."

"It is irritating," and Duchesne slipped his arm through mine; "but we
must take things as they come. Remember we have to deal not only with
the spectral lumber left here by your scarlet aunt, but as well with the
supererogatory curse of that hell-cat Torrevieja. Come on! let's get
inside before the hour arrives for the sheeted dead to squeak and gibber
in these lonely halls. Light your pipes, your tobacco is a sure
protection against 'your whoreson dead bodies'; light up and move on."

We opened the hall door and entered a vaulted stone vestibule, full of
dust, and cobwebby.

"There is nothing on this floor," said Eugene, "except servants' rooms
and offices, and I don't believe there is anything wrong with them. I
never heard that there was, any way. Let's go up stairs."

So far as we could see, the house was apparently perfectly uninteresting
inside, all eighteenth-century work, the façade of the main building
being, with the vestibule, the only portion of the Francis I. work.

"The place was burned during the Terror," said Eugene, "for my
great-uncle, from whom Mlle. de Tartas inherited it, was a good and true
Royalist; he went to Spain after the Revolution, and did not come back
until the accession of Charles X., when he restored the house, and then
died, enormously old. This explains why it is all so new."

The old Spanish sorcerer to whom Mlle. de Tartas had left her personal
property had done his work thoroughly. The house was absolutely empty,
even the wardrobes and bookcases built in had been carried away; we went
through room after room, finding all absolutely dismantled, only the
windows and doors with their casings, the parquet floors, and the florid
Renaissance mantels remaining.

"I feel better," remarked Fargeau. "The house may be haunted, but it
don't look it, certainly; it is the most respectable place imaginable."

"Just you wait," replied Eugene. "These are only the state apartments,
which my aunt seldom used, except, perhaps, on her annual
'Walpurgisnacht.' Come up stairs and I will show you a better _mise en
scène_."

On this floor, the rooms fronting the court, the sleeping-rooms, were
quite small,--("They are the bad rooms all the same," said
Eugene,)--four of them, all just as ordinary in appearance as those
below. A corridor ran behind them connecting with the wing corridor,
and from this opened a door, unlike any of the other doors in that it
was covered with green baize, somewhat moth-eaten. Eugene selected a key
from the bunch he carried, unlocked the door, and with some difficulty
forced it to swing inward; it was as heavy as the door of a safe.

"We are now," he said, "on the very threshold of hell itself; these
rooms in here were my scarlet aunt's unholy of unholies. I never let
them with the rest of the house, but keep them as a curiosity. I only
wish Torrevieja had kept out; as it was, he looted them, as he did the
rest of the house, and nothing is left but the walls and ceiling and
floor. They are something, however, and may suggest what the former
condition must have been. Tremble and enter."

The first apartment was a kind of anteroom, a cube of perhaps twenty
feet each way, without windows, and with no doors except that by which
we entered and another to the right. Walls, floor, and ceiling were
covered with a black lacquer, brilliantly polished, that flashed the
light of our lanterns in a thousand intricate reflections. It was like
the inside of an enormous Japanese box, and about as empty. From this
we passed to another room, and here we nearly dropped our lanterns. The
room was circular, thirty feet or so in diameter, covered by a
hemispherical dome; walls and ceiling were dark blue, spotted with gold
stars; and reaching from floor to floor across the dome stretched a
colossal figure in red lacquer of a nude woman kneeling, her legs
reaching out along the floor on either side, her head touching the
lintel of the door through which we had entered, her arms forming its
sides, with the fore arms extended and stretching along the walls until
they met the long feet. The most astounding, misshapen, absolutely
terrifying thing, I think, I ever saw. From the navel hung a great white
object, like the traditional roe's egg of the Arabian Nights. The floor
was of red lacquer, and in it was inlaid a pentagram the size of the
room, made of wide strips of brass. In the centre of this pentagram was
a circular disk of black stone, slightly saucer-shaped, with a small
outlet in the middle.

The effect of the room was simply crushing, with this gigantic red
figure crouched over it all, the staring eyes fixed on one, no matter
what his position. None of us spoke, so oppressive was the whole thing.

The third room was like the first in dimensions, but instead of being
black it was entirely sheathed with plates of brass, walls, ceiling, and
floor,--tarnished now, and turning green, but still brilliant under the
lantern light. In the middle stood an oblong altar of porphyry, its
longer dimensions on the axis of the suite of rooms, and at one end,
opposite the range of doors, a pedestal of black basalt.

This was all. Three rooms, stranger than these, even in their emptiness,
it would be hard to imagine. In Egypt, in India, they would not be
entirely out of place, but here in Paris, in a commonplace _hôtel_, in
the Rue M. le Prince, they were incredible.

We retraced our steps, Eugene closed the iron door with its baize
covering, and we went into one of the front chambers and sat down,
looking at each other.

"Nice party, your aunt," said Fargeau. "Nice old party, with amiable
tastes; I am glad we are not to spend the night in _those_ rooms."

"What do you suppose she did there?" inquired Duchesne. "I know more or
less about black art, but that series of rooms is too much for me."

"My impression is," said d'Ardeche, "that the brazen room was a kind of
sanctuary containing some image or other on the basalt base, while the
stone in front was really an altar,--what the nature of the sacrifice
might be I don't even guess. The round room may have been used for
invocations and incantations. The pentagram looks like it. Any way it is
all just about as queer and _fin de siècle_ as I can well imagine. Look
here, it is nearly twelve, let's dispose of ourselves, if we are going
to hunt this thing down."

The four chambers on this floor of the old house were those said to be
haunted, the wings being quite innocent, and, so far as we knew, the
floors below. It was arranged that we should each occupy a room, leaving
the doors open with the lights burning, and at the slightest cry or
knock we were all to rush at once to the room from which the warning
sound might come. There was no communication between the rooms to be
sure, but, as the doors all opened into the corridor, every sound was
plainly audible.

The last room fell to me, and I looked it over carefully.

It seemed innocent enough, a commonplace, square, rather lofty Parisian
sleeping-room, finished in wood painted white, with a small marble
mantel, a dusty floor of inlaid maple and cherry, walls hung with an
ordinary French paper, apparently quite new, and two deeply embrasured
windows looking out on the court.

I opened the swinging sash with some trouble, and sat down in the window
seat with my lantern beside me trained on the only door, which gave on
the corridor.

The wind had gone down, and it was very still without,--still and hot.
The masses of luminous vapor were gathering thickly overhead, no longer
urged by the gusty wind. The great masses of rank wisteria leaves, with
here and there a second blossoming of purple flowers, hung dead over the
window in the sluggish air. Across the roofs I could hear the sound of a
belated _fiacre_ in the streets below. I filled my pipe again and
waited.

For a time the voices of the men in the other rooms were a
companionship, and at first I shouted to them now and then, but my
voice echoed rather unpleasantly through the long corridors, and had a
suggestive way of reverberating around the left wing beside me, and
coming out at a broken window at its extremity like the voice of another
man. I soon gave up my attempts at conversation, and devoted myself to
the task of keeping awake.

It was not easy; why did I eat that lettuce salad at Père Garceau's? I
should have known better. It was making me irresistibly sleepy, and
wakefulness was absolutely necessary. It was certainly gratifying to
know that I could sleep, that my courage was by me to that extent, but
in the interests of science I must keep awake. But almost never, it
seemed, had sleep looked so desirable. Half a hundred times, nearly, I
would doze for an instant, only to awake with a start, and find my pipe
gone out. Nor did the exertion of relighting it pull me together. I
struck my match mechanically, and with the first puff dropped off again.
It was most vexing. I got up and walked around the room. It was most
annoying. My cramped position had almost put both my legs to sleep. I
could hardly stand. I felt numb, as though with cold. There was no
longer any sound from the other rooms, nor from without. I sank down in
my window seat. How dark it was growing! I turned up the lantern. That
pipe again, how obstinately it kept going out! and my last match was
gone. The lantern, too, was _that_ going out? I lifted my hand to turn
it up again. It felt like lead, and fell beside me.

_Then_ I awoke,--absolutely. I remembered the story of "The Haunters and
the Haunted." _This_ was the Horror. I tried to rise, to cry out. My
body was like lead, my tongue was paralyzed. I could hardly move my
eyes. And the light was going out. There was no question about that.
Darker and darker yet; little by little the pattern of the paper was
swallowed up in the advancing night. A prickling numbness gathered in
every nerve, my right arm slipped without feeling from my lap to my
side, and I could not raise it,--it swung helpless. A thin, keen humming
began in my head, like the cicadas on a hillside in September. The
darkness was coming fast.

Yes, this was it. Something was subjecting me, body and mind, to slow
paralysis. Physically I was already dead. If I could only hold my mind,
my consciousness, I might still be safe, but could I? Could I resist
the mad horror of this silence, the deepening dark, the creeping
numbness? I knew that, like the man in the ghost story, my only safety
lay here.

It had come at last. My body was dead, I could no longer move my eyes.
They were fixed in that last look on the place where the door had been,
now only a deepening of the dark.

Utter night: the last flicker of the lantern was gone. I sat and waited;
my mind was still keen, but how long would it last? There was a limit
even to the endurance of the utter panic of fear.

Then the end began. In the velvet blackness came two white eyes, milky,
opalescent, small, far away,--awful eyes, like a dead dream. More
beautiful than I can describe, the flakes of white flame moving from the
perimeter inward, disappearing in the centre, like a never ending flow
of opal water into a circular tunnel. I could not have moved my eyes had
I possessed the power: they devoured the fearful, beautiful things that
grew slowly, slowly larger, fixed on me, advancing, growing more
beautiful, the white flakes of light sweeping more swiftly into the
blazing vortices, the awful fascination deepening in its insane
intensity as the white, vibrating eyes grew nearer, larger.

Like a hideous and implacable engine of death the eyes of the unknown
Horror swelled and expanded until they were close before me, enormous,
terrible, and I felt a slow, cold, wet breath propelled with mechanical
regularity against my face, enveloping me in its fetid mist, in its
charnel-house deadliness.

With ordinary fear goes always a physical terror, but with me in the
presence of this unspeakable Thing was only the utter and awful terror
of the mind, the mad fear of a prolonged and ghostly nightmare. Again
and again I tried to shriek, to make some noise, but physically I was
utterly dead. I could only feel myself go mad with the terror of hideous
death. The eyes were close on me,--their movement so swift that they
seemed to be but palpitating flames, the dead breath was around me like
the depths of the deepest sea.

Suddenly a wet, icy mouth, like that of a dead cuttle-fish, shapeless,
jelly-like, fell over mine. The horror began slowly to draw my life from
me, but, as enormous and shuddering folds of palpitating jelly swept
sinuously around me, my will came back, my body awoke with the reaction
of final fear, and I closed with the nameless death that enfolded me.

What was it that I was fighting? My arms sunk through the unresisting
mass that was turning me to ice. Moment by moment new folds of cold
jelly swept round me, crushing me with the force of Titans. I fought to
wrest my mouth from this awful Thing that sealed it, but, if ever I
succeeded and caught a single breath, the wet, sucking mass closed over
my face again before I could cry out. I think I fought for hours,
desperately, insanely, in a silence that was more hideous than any
sound,--fought until I felt final death at hand, until the memory of all
my life rushed over me like a flood, until I no longer had strength to
wrench my face from that hellish succubus, until with a last mechanical
struggle I fell and yielded to death.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then I heard a voice say, "If he is dead, I can never forgive myself; I
was to blame."

Another replied, "He is not dead, I know we can save him if only we
reach the hospital in time. Drive like hell, _cocher_! twenty francs for
you, if you get there in three minutes."

Then there was night again, and nothingness, until I suddenly awoke and
stared around. I lay in a hospital ward, very white and sunny, some
yellow _fleurs-de-lis_ stood beside the head of the pallet, and a tall
sister of mercy sat by my side.

To tell the story in a few words, I was in the Hôtel Dieu, where the men
had taken me that fearful night of the twelfth of June. I asked for
Fargeau or Duchesne, and by and by the latter came, and sitting beside
the bed told me all that I did not know.

It seems that they had sat, each in his room, hour after hour, hearing
nothing, very much bored, and disappointed. Soon after two o'clock
Fargeau, who was in the next room, called to me to ask if I was awake. I
gave no reply, and, after shouting once or twice, he took his lantern
and came to investigate. The door was locked on the inside! He instantly
called d'Ardeche and Duchesne, and together they hurled themselves
against the door. It resisted. Within they could hear irregular
footsteps dashing here and there, with heavy breathing. Although frozen
with terror, they fought to destroy the door and finally succeeded by
using a great slab of marble that formed the shelf of the mantel in
Fargeau's room. As the door crashed in, they were suddenly hurled back
against the walls of the corridor, as though by an explosion, the
lanterns were extinguished, and they found themselves in utter silence
and darkness.

As soon as they recovered from the shock, they leaped into the room and
fell over my body in the middle of the floor. They lighted one of the
lanterns, and saw the strangest sight that can be imagined. The floor
and walls to the height of about six feet were running with something
that seemed like stagnant water, thick, glutinous, sickening. As for me,
I was drenched with the same cursed liquid. The odor of musk was
nauseating. They dragged me away, stripped off my clothing, wrapped me
in their coats, and hurried to the hospital, thinking me perhaps dead.
Soon after sunrise d'Ardeche left the hospital, being assured that I was
in a fair way to recovery, with time, and with Fargeau went up to
examine by daylight the traces of the adventure that was so nearly
fatal. They were too late. Fire engines were coming down the street as
they passed the Académie. A neighbor rushed up to d'Ardeche: "O
Monsieur! what misfortune, yet what fortune! It is true _la Bouche
d'Enfer_--I beg pardon, the residence of the lamented Mlle. de
Tartas,--was burned, but not wholly, only the ancient building. The
wings were saved, and for that great credit is due the brave firemen.
Monsieur will remember them, no doubt."

It was quite true. Whether a forgotten lantern, overturned in the
excitement, had done the work, or whether the origin of the fire was
more supernatural, it was certain that "the Mouth of Hell" was no more.
A last engine was pumping slowly as d'Ardeche came up; half a dozen
limp, and one distended, hose stretched through the _porte cochère_, and
within only the façade of Francis I. remained, draped still with the
black stems of the wisteria. Beyond lay a great vacancy, where thin
smoke was rising slowly. Every floor was gone, and the strange halls of
Mlle. Blaye de Tartas were only a memory.

With d'Ardeche I visited the place last year, but in the stead of the
ancient walls was then only a new and ordinary building, fresh and
respectable; yet the wonderful stories of the old _Bouche d'Enfer_ still
lingered in the quarter, and will hold there, I do not doubt, until the
Day of Judgment.



IN KROPFSBERG KEEP.



In Kropfsberg Keep.


To the traveller from Innsbrück to Munich, up the lovely valley of the
silver Inn, many castles appear, one after another, each on its beetling
cliff or gentle hill,--appear and disappear, melting into the dark fir
trees that grow so thickly on every side,--Laneck, Lichtwer, Ratholtz,
Tratzberg, Matzen, Kropfsberg, gathering close around the entrance to
the dark and wonderful Zillerthal.

But to us--Tom Rendel and myself--there are two castles only: not the
gorgeous and princely Ambras, nor the noble old Tratzberg, with its
crowded treasures of solemn and splendid mediævalism; but little Matzen,
where eager hospitality forms the new life of a never-dead chivalry, and
Kropfsberg, ruined, tottering, blasted by fire and smitten with
grievous years,--a dead thing, and haunted,--full of strange legends,
and eloquent of mystery and tragedy.

We were visiting the von C----s at Matzen, and gaining our first
wondering knowledge of the courtly, cordial castle life in the
Tyrol,--of the gentle and delicate hospitality of noble Austrians.
Brixleg had ceased to be but a mark on a map, and had become a place of
rest and delight, a home for homeless wanderers on the face of Europe,
while Schloss Matzen was a synonym for all that was gracious and kindly
and beautiful in life. The days moved on in a golden round of riding and
driving and shooting: down to Landl and Thiersee for chamois, across the
river to the magic Achensee, up the Zillerthal, across the Schmerner
Joch, even to the railway station at Steinach. And in the evenings after
the late dinners in the upper hall where the sleepy hounds leaned
against our chairs looking at us with suppliant eyes, in the evenings
when the fire was dying away in the hooded fireplace in the library,
stories. Stories, and legends, and fairy tales, while the stiff old
portraits changed countenance constantly under the flickering firelight,
and the sound of the drifting Inn came softly across the meadows far
below.

If ever I tell the Story of Schloss Matzen, then will be the time to
paint the too inadequate picture of this fair oasis in the desert of
travel and tourists and hotels; but just now it is Kropfsberg the Silent
that is of greater importance, for it was only in Matzen that the story
was told by Fräulein E----, the gold-haired niece of Frau von C----, one
hot evening in July, when we were sitting in the great west window of
the drawing-room after a long ride up the Stallenthal. All the windows
were open to catch the faint wind, and we had sat for a long time
watching the Otzethaler Alps turn rose-color over distant Innsbrück,
then deepen to violet as the sun went down and the white mists rose
slowly until Lichtwer and Laneck and Kropfsberg rose like craggy islands
in a silver sea.

And this is the story as Fräulein E---- told it to us,--the Story of
Kropfsberg Keep.

       *       *       *       *       *

A great many years ago, soon after my grandfather died, and Matzen came
to us, when I was a little girl, and so young that I remember nothing
of the affair except as something dreadful that frightened me very much,
two young men who had studied painting with my grandfather came down to
Brixleg from Munich, partly to paint, and partly to amuse
themselves,--"ghost-hunting" as they said, for they were very sensible
young men and prided themselves on it, laughing at all kinds of
"superstition," and particularly at that form which believed in ghosts
and feared them. They had never seen a real ghost, you know, and they
belonged to a certain set of people who believed nothing they had not
seen themselves,--which always seemed to me _very_ conceited. Well, they
knew that we had lots of beautiful castles here in the "lower valley,"
and they assumed, and rightly, that every castle has at least _one_
ghost story connected with it, so they chose this as their hunting
ground, only the game they sought was ghosts, not chamois. Their plan
was to visit every place that was supposed to be haunted, and to meet
every reputed ghost, and prove that it really was no ghost at all.

There was a little inn down in the village then, kept by an old man
named Peter Rosskopf, and the two young men made this their
headquarters. The very first night they began to draw from the old
innkeeper all that he knew of legends and ghost stories connected with
Brixleg and its castles, and as he was a most garrulous old gentleman he
filled them with the wildest delight by his stories of the ghosts of the
castles about the mouth of the Zillerthal. Of course the old man
believed every word he said, and you can imagine his horror and
amazement when, after telling his guests the particularly blood-curdling
story of Kropfsberg and its haunted keep, the elder of the two boys,
whose surname I have forgotten, but whose Christian name was Rupert,
calmly said, "Your story is most satisfactory: we will sleep in
Kropfsberg Keep to-morrow night, and you must provide us with all that
we may need to make ourselves comfortable."

The old man nearly fell into the fire. "What for a blockhead are you?"
he cried, with big eyes. "The keep is haunted by Count Albert's ghost, I
tell you!"

"That is why we are going there to-morrow night; we wish to make the
acquaintance of Count Albert."

"But there was a man stayed there once, and in the morning he was
dead."

"Very silly of him; there are two of us, and we carry revolvers."

"But it's a _ghost_, I tell you," almost screamed the innkeeper; "are
ghosts afraid of firearms?"

"Whether they are or not, we are _not_ afraid of _them_."

Here the younger boy broke in,--he was named Otto von Kleist. I remember
the name, for I had a music teacher once by that name. He abused the
poor old man shamefully; told him that they were going to spend the
night in Kropfsberg in spite of Count Albert and Peter Rosskopf, and
that he might as well make the most of it and earn his money with
cheerfulness.

In a word, they finally bullied the old fellow into submission, and when
the morning came he set about preparing for the suicide, as he
considered it, with sighs and mutterings and ominous shakings of the
head.

You know the condition of the castle now,--nothing but scorched walls
and crumbling piles of fallen masonry. Well, at the time I tell you of,
the keep was still partially preserved. It was finally burned out only a
few years ago by some wicked boys who came over from Jenbach to have a
good time. But when the ghost hunters came, though the two lower floors
had fallen into the crypt, the third floor remained. The peasants said
it _could_ not fall, but that it would stay until the Day of Judgment,
because it was in the room above that the wicked Count Albert sat
watching the flames destroy the great castle and his imprisoned guests,
and where he finally hung himself in a suit of armor that had belonged
to his mediæval ancestor, the first Count Kropfsberg.

No one dared touch him, and so he hung there for twelve years, and all
the time venturesome boys and daring men used to creep up the turret
steps and stare awfully through the chinks in the door at that ghostly
mass of steel that held within itself the body of a murderer and
suicide, slowly returning to the dust from which it was made. Finally it
disappeared, none knew whither, and for another dozen years the room
stood empty but for the old furniture and the rotting hangings.

So, when the two men climbed the stairway to the haunted room, they
found a very different state of things from what exists now. The room
was absolutely as it was left the night Count Albert burned the castle,
except that all trace of the suspended suit of armor and its ghastly
contents had vanished.

No one had dared to cross the threshold, and I suppose that for forty
years no living thing had entered that dreadful room.

On one side stood a vast canopied bed of black wood, the damask hangings
of which were covered with mould and mildew. All the clothing of the bed
was in perfect order, and on it lay a book, open, and face downward. The
only other furniture in the room consisted of several old chairs, a
carved oak chest, and a big inlaid table covered with books and papers,
and on one corner two or three bottles with dark solid sediment at the
bottom, and a glass, also dark with the dregs of wine that had been
poured out almost half a century before. The tapestry on the walls was
green with mould, but hardly torn or otherwise defaced, for although the
heavy dust of forty years lay on everything the room had been preserved
from further harm. No spider web was to be seen, no trace of nibbling
mice, not even a dead moth or fly on the sills of the diamond-paned
windows; life seemed to have shunned the room utterly and finally.

The men looked at the room curiously, and, I am sure, not without some
feelings of awe and unacknowledged fear; but, whatever they may have
felt of instinctive shrinking, they said nothing, and quickly set to
work to make the room passably inhabitable. They decided to touch
nothing that had not absolutely to be changed, and therefore they made
for themselves a bed in one corner with the mattress and linen from the
inn. In the great fireplace they piled a lot of wood on the caked ashes
of a fire dead for forty years, turned the old chest into a table, and
laid out on it all their arrangements for the evening's amusement: food,
two or three bottles of wine, pipes and tobacco, and the chess-board
that was their inseparable travelling companion.

All this they did themselves: the innkeeper would not even come within
the walls of the outer court; he insisted that he had washed his hands
of the whole affair, the silly dunderheads might go to their death their
own way. _He_ would not aid and abet them. One of the stable boys
brought the basket of food and the wood and the bed up the winding stone
stairs, to be sure, but neither money nor prayers nor threats would
bring him within the walls of the accursed place, and he stared
fearfully at the hare-brained boys as they worked around the dead old
room preparing for the night that was coming so fast.

At length everything was in readiness, and after a final visit to the
inn for dinner Rupert and Otto started at sunset for the Keep. Half the
village went with them, for Peter Rosskopf had babbled the whole story
to an open-mouthed crowd of wondering men and women, and as to an
execution the awe-struck crowd followed the two boys dumbly, curious to
see if they surely would put their plan into execution. But none went
farther than the outer doorway of the stairs, for it was already growing
twilight. In absolute silence they watched the two foolhardy youths with
their lives in their hands enter the terrible Keep, standing like a
tower in the midst of the piles of stones that had once formed walls
joining it with the mass of the castle beyond. When a moment later a
light showed itself in the high windows above, they sighed resignedly
and went their ways, to wait stolidly until morning should come and
prove the truth of their fears and warnings.

In the mean time the ghost hunters built a huge fire, lighted their
many candles, and sat down to await developments. Rupert afterwards told
my uncle that they really felt no fear whatever, only a contemptuous
curiosity, and they ate their supper with good appetite and an unusual
relish. It was a long evening. They played many games of chess, waiting
for midnight. Hour passed after hour, and nothing occurred to interrupt
the monotony of the evening. Ten, eleven, came and went,--it was almost
midnight. They piled more wood in the fireplace, lighted new candles,
looked to their pistols--and waited. The clocks in the village struck
twelve; the sound coming muffled through the high, deep-embrasured
windows. Nothing happened, nothing to break the heavy silence; and with
a feeling of disappointed relief they looked at each other and
acknowledged that they had met another rebuff.

Finally they decided that there was no use in sitting up and boring
themselves any longer, they had much better rest; so Otto threw himself
down on the mattress, falling almost immediately asleep. Rupert sat a
little longer, smoking, and watching the stars creep along behind the
shattered glass and the bent leads of the lofty windows; watching the
fire fall together, and the strange shadows move mysteriously on the
mouldering walls. The iron hook in the oak beam, that crossed the
ceiling midway, fascinated him, not with fear, but morbidly. So, it was
from that hook that for twelve years, twelve long years of changing
summer and winter, the body of Count Albert, murderer and suicide, hung
in its strange casing of mediæval steel; moving a little at first, and
turning gently while the fire died out on the hearth, while the ruins of
the castle grew cold, and horrified peasants sought for the bodies of
the score of gay, reckless, wicked guests whom Count Albert had gathered
in Kropfsberg for a last debauch, gathered to their terrible and
untimely death. What a strange and fiendish idea it was, the young,
handsome noble who had ruined himself and his family in the society of
the splendid debauchees, gathering them all together, men and women who
had known only love and pleasure, for a glorious and awful riot of
luxury, and then, when they were all dancing in the great ballroom,
locking the doors and burning the whole castle about them, the while he
sat in the great keep listening to their screams of agonized fear,
watching the fire sweep from wing to wing until the whole mighty mass
was one enormous and awful pyre, and then, clothing himself in his
great-great-grandfather's armor, hanging himself in the midst of the
ruins of what had been a proud and noble castle. So ended a great
family, a great house.

But that was forty years ago.

He was growing drowsy; the light flickered and flared in the fireplace;
one by one the candles went out; the shadows grew thick in the room. Why
did that great iron hook stand out so plainly? why did that dark shadow
dance and quiver so mockingly behind it?--why-- But he ceased to wonder
at anything. He was asleep.

It seemed to him that he woke almost immediately; the fire still burned,
though low and fitfully on the hearth. Otto was sleeping, breathing
quietly and regularly; the shadows had gathered close around him, thick
and murky; with every passing moment the light died in the fireplace; he
felt stiff with cold. In the utter silence he heard the clock in the
village strike two. He shivered with a sudden and irresistible feeling
of fear, and abruptly turned and looked towards the hook in the ceiling.

Yes, It was there. He knew that It would be. It seemed quite natural, he
would have been disappointed had he seen nothing; but now he knew that
the story was true, knew that he was wrong, and that the dead _do_
sometimes return to earth, for there, in the fast-deepening shadow, hung
the black mass of wrought steel, turning a little now and then, with the
light flickering on the tarnished and rusty metal. He watched it
quietly; he hardly felt afraid; it was rather a sentiment of sadness and
fatality that filled him, of gloomy forebodings of something unknown,
unimaginable. He sat and watched the thing disappear in the gathering
dark, his hand on his pistol as it lay by him on the great chest. There
was no sound but the regular breathing of the sleeping boy on the
mattress.

It had grown absolutely dark; a bat fluttered against the broken glass
of the window. He wondered if he was growing mad, for--he hesitated to
acknowledge it to himself--he heard music; far, curious music, a strange
and luxurious dance, very faint, very vague, but unmistakable.

Like a flash of lightning came a jagged line of fire down the blank wall
opposite him, a line that remained, that grew wider, that let a pale
cold light into the room, showing him now all its details,--the empty
fireplace, where a thin smoke rose in a spiral from a bit of charred
wood, the mass of the great bed, and, in the very middle, black against
the curious brightness, the armored man, or ghost, or devil, standing,
not suspended, beneath the rusty hook. And with the rending of the wall
the music grew more distinct, though sounding still very, very far away.

Count Albert raised his mailed hand and beckoned to him; then turned,
and stood in the riven wall.

Without a word, Rupert rose and followed him, his pistol in hand. Count
Albert passed through the mighty wall and disappeared in the unearthly
light. Rupert followed mechanically. He felt the crushing of the mortar
beneath his feet, the roughness of the jagged wall where he rested his
hand to steady himself.

The keep rose absolutely isolated among the ruins, yet on passing
through the wall Rupert found himself in a long, uneven corridor, the
floor of which was warped and sagging, while the walls were covered on
one side with big faded portraits of an inferior quality, like those in
the corridor that connects the Pitti and Uffizzi in Florence. Before him
moved the figure of Count Albert,--a black silhouette in the
ever-increasing light. And always the music grew stronger and stranger,
a mad, evil, seductive dance that bewitched even while it disgusted.

In a final blaze of vivid, intolerable light, in a burst of hellish
music that might have come from Bedlam, Rupert stepped from the corridor
into a vast and curious room where at first he saw nothing,
distinguished nothing but a mad, seething whirl of sweeping figures,
white, in a white room, under white light, Count Albert standing before
him, the only dark object to be seen. As his eyes grew accustomed to the
fearful brightness, he knew that he was looking on a dance such as the
damned might see in hell, but such as no living man had ever seen
before.

Around the long, narrow hall, under the fearful light that came from
nowhere, but was omnipresent, swept a rushing stream of unspeakable
horrors, dancing insanely, laughing, gibbering hideously; the dead of
forty years. White, polished skeletons, bare of flesh and vesture,
skeletons clothed in the dreadful rags of dried and rattling sinews, the
tags of tattering grave-clothes flaunting behind them. These were the
dead of many years ago. Then the dead of more recent times, with yellow
bones showing only here and there, the long and insecure hair of their
hideous heads writhing in the beating air. Then green and gray horrors,
bloated and shapeless, stained with earth or dripping with spattering
water; and here and there white, beautiful things, like chiselled ivory,
the dead of yesterday, locked it may be, in the mummy arms of rattling
skeletons.

Round and round the cursed room, a swaying, swirling maelstrom of death,
while the air grew thick with miasma, the floor foul with shreds of
shrouds, and yellow parchment, clattering bones, and wisps of tangled
hair.

And in the very midst of this ring of death, a sight not for words nor
for thought, a sight to blast forever the mind of the man who looked
upon it: a leaping, writhing dance of Count Albert's victims, the score
of beautiful women and reckless men who danced to their awful death
while the castle burned around them, charred and shapeless now, a living
charnel-house of nameless horror.

Count Albert, who had stood silent and gloomy, watching the dance of the
damned, turned to Rupert, and for the first time spoke.

"We are ready for you now; dance!"

A prancing horror, dead some dozen years, perhaps, flaunted from the
rushing river of the dead, and leered at Rupert with eyeless skull.

"Dance!"

Rupert stood frozen, motionless.

"Dance!"

His hard lips moved. "Not if the devil came from hell to make me."

Count Albert swept his vast two-handed sword into the f[oe]tid air while
the tide of corruption paused in its swirling, and swept down on Rupert
with gibbering grins.

The room, and the howling dead, and the black portent before him circled
dizzily around, as with a last effort of departing consciousness he
drew his pistol and fired full in the face of Count Albert.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perfect silence, perfect darkness; not a breath, not a sound: the dead
stillness of a long-sealed tomb. Rupert lay on his back, stunned,
helpless, his pistol clenched in his frozen hand, a smell of powder in
the black air. Where was he? Dead? In hell? He reached his hand out
cautiously; it fell on dusty boards. Outside, far away, a clock struck
three. Had he dreamed? Of course; but how ghastly a dream! With
chattering teeth he called softly,--

"Otto!"

There was no reply, and none when he called again and again. He
staggered weakly to his feet, groping for matches and candles. A panic
of abject terror came on him; the matches were gone! He turned towards
the fireplace: a single coal glowed in the white ashes. He swept a mass
of papers and dusty books from the table, and with trembling hands
cowered over the embers, until he succeeded in lighting the dry tinder.
Then he piled the old books on the blaze, and looked fearfully around.

No: It was gone,--thank God for that; the hook was empty.

But why did Otto sleep so soundly; why did he not awake?

He stepped unsteadily across the room in the flaring light of the
burning books, and knelt by the mattress.

       *       *       *       *       *

So they found him in the morning, when no one came to the inn from
Kropfsberg Keep, and the quaking Peter Rosskopf arranged a relief
party;--found him kneeling beside the mattress where Otto lay, shot in
the throat and quite dead.



THE WHITE VILLA.



The White Villa.


When we left Naples on the 8.10 train for Pæstum, Tom and I, we fully
intended returning by the 2.46. Not because two hours time seemed enough
wherein to exhaust the interests of those deathless ruins of a dead
civilization, but simply for the reason that, as our _Indicatore_
informed us, there was but one other train, and that at 6.11, which
would land us in Naples too late for the dinner at the Turners and the
San Carlo afterwards. Not that I cared in the least for the dinner or
the theatre; but then, I was not so obviously in Miss Turner's good
graces as Tom Rendel was, which made a difference.

However, we had promised, so that was an end of it.

This was in the spring of '88, and at that time the railroad, which was
being pushed onward to Reggio, whereby travellers to Sicily might be
spared the agonies of a night on the fickle Mediterranean, reached no
farther than Agropoli, some twenty miles beyond Pæstum; but although the
trains were as yet few and slow, we accepted the half-finished road with
gratitude, for it penetrated the very centre of Campanian brigandage,
and made it possible for us to see the matchless temples in safety,
while a few years before it was necessary for intending visitors to
obtain a military escort from the Government; and military escorts are
not for young architects.

So we set off contentedly, that white May morning, determined to make
the best of our few hours, little thinking that before we saw Naples
again we were to witness things that perhaps no American had ever seen
before.

For a moment, when we left the train at "Pesto," and started to walk up
the flowery lane leading to the temples, we were almost inclined to
curse this same railroad. We had thought, in our innocence, that we
should be alone, that no one else would think of enduring the long four
hours' ride from Naples just to spend two hours in the ruins of these
temples; but the event proved our unwisdom. We were _not_ alone. It was
a compact little party of conventional sight-seers that accompanied us.
The inevitable English family with the three daughters, prominent of
teeth, flowing of hair, aggressive of scarlet Murrays and Baedekers; the
two blond and untidy Germans; a French couple from the pages of _La Vie
Parisienne_; and our "old man of the sea," the white-bearded
Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania who had made our life miserable
in Rome at the time of the Pope's Jubilee. Fortunately for us, this
terrible old man had fastened himself upon a party of American
school-teachers travelling _en Cook_, and for the time we were safe; but
our vision of two hours of dreamy solitude faded lamentably away.

Yet how beautiful it was! this golden meadow walled with far, violet
mountains, breathless under a May sun; and in the midst, rising from
tangles of asphodel and acanthus, vast in the vacant plain, three
temples, one silver gray, one golden gray, and one flushed with
intangible rose. And all around nothing but velvet meadows stretching
from the dim mountains behind, away to the sea, that showed only as a
thin line of silver just over the edge of the still grass.

The tide of tourists swept noisily through the Basilica and the temple
of Poseidon across the meadow to the distant temple of Ceres, and Tom
and I were left alone to drink in all the fine wine of dreams that was
possible in the time left us. We gave but little space to examining the
temples the tourists had left, but in a few moments found ourselves
lying in the grass to the east of Poseidon, looking dimly out towards
the sea, heard now, but not seen,--a vague and pulsating murmur that
blended with the humming of bees all about us.

A small shepherd boy, with a woolly dog, made shy advances of
friendship, and in a little time we had set him to gathering flowers for
us: asphodels and bee-orchids, anemones, and the little thin green iris
so fairylike and frail. The murmur of the tourist crowd had merged
itself in the moan of the sea, and it was very still; suddenly I heard
the words I had been waiting for,--the suggestion I had refrained from
making myself, for I knew Thomas.

"I say, old man, shall we let the 2.46 go to thunder?"

I chuckled to myself. "But the Turners?"

"They be blowed, we can tell them we missed the train."

"That is just exactly what we shall do," I said, pulling out my watch,
"unless we start for the station right now."

But Tom drew an acanthus leaf across his face and showed no signs of
moving; so I filled my pipe again, and we missed the train.

As the sun dropped lower towards the sea, changing its silver line to
gold, we pulled ourselves together, and for an hour or more sketched
vigorously; but the mood was not on us. It was "too jolly fine to waste
time working," as Tom said; so we started off to explore the single
street of the squalid town of Pesto that was lost within the walls of
dead Poseidonia. It was not a pretty village,--if you can call a
rut-riven lane and a dozen houses a village,--nor were the inhabitants
thereof reassuring in appearance. There was no sign of a
church,--nothing but dirty huts, and in the midst, one of two stories,
rejoicing in the name of _Albergo del Sole_, the first story of which
was a black and cavernous smithy, where certain swarthy knaves, looking
like banditti out of a job, sat smoking sulkily.

"We might stay here all night," said Tom, grinning askance at this
choice company; but his suggestion was not received with enthusiasm.

Down where the lane from the station joined the main road stood the only
sign of modern civilization,--a great square structure, half villa, half
fortress, with round turrets on its four corners, and a ten-foot wall
surrounding it. There were no windows in its first story, so far as we
could see, and it had evidently been at one time the fortified villa of
some Campanian noble. Now, however, whether because brigandage had been
stamped out, or because the villa was empty and deserted, it was no
longer formidable; the gates of the great wall hung sagging on their
hinges, brambles growing all over them, and many of the windows in the
upper story were broken and black. It was a strange place, weird and
mysterious, and we looked at it curiously. "There is a story about that
place," said Tom, with conviction.

It was growing late: the sun was near the edge of the sea as we walked
down the ivy-grown walls of the vanished city for the last time, and as
we turned back, a red flush poured from the west, and painted the Doric
temples in pallid rose against the evanescent purple of the Apennines.
Already a thin mist was rising from the meadows, and the temples hung
pink in the misty grayness.

It was a sorrow to leave the beautiful things, but we could run no risk
of missing this last train, so we walked slowly back towards the
temples.

"What is that Johnny waving his arm at us for?" asked Tom, suddenly.

"How should I know? We are not on his land, and the walls don't matter."

We pulled out our watches simultaneously.

"What time are you?" I said.

"Six minutes before six."

"And I am seven minutes. It can't take us all that time to walk to the
station."

"Are you sure the train goes at 6.11?"

"Dead sure," I answered; and showed him the _Indicatore_.

By this time a woman and two children were shrieking at us hysterically;
but what they said I had no idea, their Italian being of a strange and
awful nature.

"Look here," I said, "let's run; perhaps our watches are both slow."

"Or--perhaps the time-table is changed."

Then we ran, and the populace cheered and shouted with enthusiasm; our
dignified run became a panic-stricken rout, for as we turned into the
lane, smoke was rising from beyond the bank that hid the railroad; a
bell rang; we were so near that we could hear the interrogative
_Pronte?_ the impatient _Partenza!_ and the definitive _Andiamo!_ But
the train was five hundred yards away, steaming towards Naples, when we
plunged into the station as the clock struck six, and yelled for the
station-master.

He came, and we indulged in crimination and recrimination.

When we could regard the situation calmly, it became apparent that the
time-table _had_ been changed two days before, the 6.11 now leaving at
5.58. A _facchino_ came in, and we four sat down and regarded the
situation judicially.

"Was there any other train?"

"No."

"Could we stay at the Albergo del Sole?"

A forefinger drawn across the throat by the Capo Stazione with a
significant "cluck" closed that question.

"Then we must stay with you here at the station."

"But, Signori, I am not married. I live here only with the _facchini_. I
have only one room to sleep in. It is impossible!"

"But we must sleep somewhere, likewise eat. What can we do?" and we
shifted the responsibility deftly on the shoulders of the poor old man,
who was growing excited again.

He trotted nervously up and down the station for a minute, then he
called the _facchino_. "Giuseppe, go up to the villa and ask if two
_forestieri_ who have missed the last train can stay there all night!"

Protests were useless. The _facchino_ was gone, and we waited anxiously
for his return. It seemed as though he would never come. Darkness had
fallen, and the moon was rising over the mountains. At last he appeared.

"The Signori may stay all night, and welcome; but they cannot come to
dinner, for there is nothing in the house to eat!"

This was not reassuring, and again the old station-master lost himself
in meditation. The results were admirable, for in a little time the
table in the waiting-room had been transformed into a dining-table, and
Tom and I were ravenously devouring a big omelette, and bread and
cheese, and drinking a most shocking sour wine as though it were Château
Yquem. A _facchino_ served us, with clumsy good-will; and when we had
induced our nervous old host to sit down with us and partake of his own
hospitality, we succeeded in forming a passably jolly dinner-party,
forgetting over our sour wine and cigarettes the coming hours from ten
until sunrise, which lay before us in a dubious mist.

It was with crowding apprehensions which we strove in vain to joke away
that we set out at last to retrace our steps to the mysterious villa,
the _facchino_ Giuseppe leading the way. By this time the moon was well
overhead, and just behind us as we tramped up the dewy lane, white in
the moonlight between the ink-black hedgerows on either side. How still
it was! Not a breath of air, not a sound of life; only the awful silence
that had lain almost unbroken for two thousand years over this vast
graveyard of a dead world.

As we passed between the shattered gates and wound our way in the
moonlight through the maze of gnarled fruit-trees, decaying farm
implements and piles of lumber, towards the small door that formed the
only opening in the first story of this deserted fortress, the cold
silence was shattered by the harsh baying of dogs somewhere in the
distance to the right, beyond the barns that formed one side of the
court. From the villa came neither light nor sound. Giuseppe knocked at
the weather-worn door, and the sound echoed cavernously within; but
there was no other reply. He knocked again and again, and at length we
heard the rasping jar of sliding bolts, and the door opened a little,
showing an old, old man, bent with age and gaunt with malaria. Over his
head he held a big Roman lamp, with three wicks, that cast strange
shadows on his face,--a face that was harmless in its senility, but
intolerably sad. He made no reply to our timid salutations, but motioned
tremblingly to us to enter; and with a last "good-night" to Giuseppe we
obeyed, and stood half-way up the stone stairs that led directly from
the door, while the old man tediously shot every bolt and adjusted the
heavy bar.

Then we followed him in the semi-darkness up the steps into what had
been the great hall of the villa. A fire was burning in a great
fireplace so beautiful in design that Tom and I looked at each other
with interest. By its fitful light we could see that we were in a huge
circular room covered by a flat, saucer-shaped dome,--a room that must
once have been superb and splendid, but that now was a lamentable wreck.
The frescoes on the dome were stained and mildewed, and here and there
the plaster was gone altogether; the carved doorways that led out on all
sides had lost half the gold with which they had once been covered, and
the floor was of brick, sunken into treacherous valleys. Rough chests,
piles of old newspapers, fragments of harnesses, farm implements, a heap
of rusty carbines and cutlasses, nameless litter of every possible kind,
made the room into a wilderness which under the firelight seemed even
more picturesque than it really was. And on this inexpressible confusion
of lumber the pale shapes of the seventeenth-century nymphs, startling
in their weather-stained nudity, looked down with vacant smiles.

For a few moments we warmed ourselves before the fire; and then, in the
same dejected silence, the old man led the way to one of the many doors,
handed us a brass lamp, and with a stiff bow turned his back on us.

Once in our room alone, Tom and I looked at each other with faces that
expressed the most complex emotions.

"Well, of all the rum goes," said Tom, "this is the rummiest go I ever
experienced!"

"Right, my boy; as you very justly remark, we are in for it. Help me
shut this door, and then we will reconnoitre, take account of stock, and
size up our chances."

But the door showed no sign of closing; it grated on the brick floor and
stuck in the warped casing, and it took our united efforts to jam the
two inches of oak into its place, and turn the enormous old key in its
rusty lock.

"Better now, much better now," said Tom; "now let us see where we are."

The room was easily twenty-five feet square, and high in proportion;
evidently it had been a state apartment, for the walls were covered with
carved panelling that had once been white and gold, with mirrors in the
panels, the wood now stained every imaginable color, the mirrors
cracked and broken, and dull with mildew. A big fire had just been
lighted in the fireplace, the shutters were closed, and although the
only furniture consisted of two massive bedsteads, and a chair with one
leg shorter than the others, the room seemed almost comfortable.

I opened one of the shutters, that closed the great windows that ran
from the floor almost to the ceiling, and nearly fell through the
cracked glass into the floorless balcony. "Tom, come here, quick," I
cried; and for a few minutes neither of us thought about our dubious
surroundings, for we were looking at Pæstum by moonlight.

A flat, white mist, like water, lay over the entire meadow; from the
midst rose against the blue-black sky the three ghostly temples, black
and silver in the vivid moonlight, floating, it seemed, in the fog; and
behind them, seen in broken glints between the pallid shafts, stretched
the line of the silver sea.

Perfect silence,--the silence of implacable death.

We watched the white tide of mist rise around the temples, until we were
chilled through, and so presently went to bed. There was but one door
in the room, and that was securely locked; the great windows were twenty
feet from the ground, so we felt reasonably safe from all possible
attack.

In a few minutes Tom was asleep and breathing audibly; but my
constitution is more nervous than his, and I lay awake for some little
time, thinking of our curious adventure and of its possible outcome.
Finally, I fell asleep,--for how long I do not know: but I woke with the
feeling that some one had tried the handle of the door. The fire had
fallen into a heap of coals which cast a red glow in the room, whereby I
could see dimly the outline of Tom's bed, the broken-legged chair in
front of the fireplace, and the door in its deep casing by the chimney,
directly in front of my bed. I sat up, nervous from my sudden awakening
under these strange circumstances, and stared at the door. The latch
rattled, and the door swung smoothly open. I began to shiver coldly.
That door was locked; Tom and I had all we could do to jam it together
and lock it. But we _did_ lock it; and now it was opening silently. In a
minute more it as silently closed.

Then I heard a footstep,--I swear I heard a footstep _in the room_, and
with it the _frou-frou_ of trailing skirts; my breath stopped and my
teeth grated against each other as I heard the soft footfalls and the
feminine rustle pass along the room towards the fireplace. My eyes saw
nothing; yet there was enough light in the room for me to distinguish
the pattern on the carved panels of the door. The steps stopped by the
fire, and I saw the broken-legged chair lean to the left, with a little
jar as its short leg touched the floor.

I sat still, frozen, motionless, staring at the vacancy that was filled
with such terror for me; and as I looked, the seat of the chair creaked,
and it came back to its upright position again.

And then the footsteps came down the room lightly, towards the window;
there was a pause, and then the great shutters swung back, and the white
moonlight poured in. Its brilliancy was unbroken by any shadow, by any
sign of material substance.

I tried to cry out, to make some sound, to awaken Tom; this sense of
utter loneliness in the presence of the Inexplicable was maddening. I
don't know whether my lips obeyed my will or no; at all events, Tom lay
motionless, with his deaf ear up, and gave no sign.

The shutters closed as silently as they had opened; the moonlight was
gone, the firelight also, and in utter darkness I waited. If I could
only _see_! If something were visible, I should not mind it so much; but
this ghastly hearing of every little sound, every rustle of a gown,
every breath, yet seeing nothing, was soul-destroying. I think in my
abject terror I prayed that I might see, only see; but the darkness was
unbroken.

Then the footsteps began to waver fitfully, and I heard the rustle of
garments sliding to the floor, the clatter of little shoes flung down,
the rattle of buttons, and of metal against wood.

Rigors shot over me, and my whole body shivered with collapse as I sank
back on the pillow, waiting with every nerve tense, listening with all
my life.

The coverlid was turned back beside me, and in another moment the great
bed sank a little as something slipped between the sheets with an
audible sigh.

I called to my aid every atom of remaining strength, and, with a cry
that shivered between my clattering teeth, I hurled myself headlong from
the bed on to the floor.

I must have lain for some time stunned and unconscious, for when I
finally came to myself it was cold in the room, there was no last glow
of lingering coals in the fireplace, and I was stiff with chill.

It all flashed over me like the haunting of a heavy dream. I laughed a
little at the dim memory, with the thought, "I must try to recollect all
the details; they will do to tell Tom," and rose stiffly to return to
bed, when--there it was again, and my heart stopped,--the hand on the
door.

I paused and listened. The door opened with a muffled creak, closed
again, and I heard the lock turn rustily. I would have died now before
getting into that bed again; but there was terror equally without; so I
stood trembling and listened,--listened to heavy, stealthy steps
creeping along on the other side of the bed. I clutched the coverlid,
staring across into the dark.

There was a rush in the air by my face, the sound of a blow, and
simultaneously a shriek, so awful, so despairing, so blood-curdling that
I felt my senses leaving me again as I sank crouching on the floor by
the bed.

And then began the awful duel, the duel of invisible, audible shapes;
of things that shrieked and raved, mingling thin, feminine cries with
low, stifled curses and indistinguishable words. Round and round the
room, footsteps chasing footsteps in the ghastly night, now away by
Tom's bed, now rushing swiftly down the great room until I felt the
flash of swirling drapery on my hard lips. Round and round, turning and
twisting till my brain whirled with the mad cries.

They were coming nearer. I felt the jar of their feet on the floor
beside me. Came one long, gurgling moan close over my head, and then,
crushing down upon me, the weight of a collapsing body; there was long
hair over my face, and in my staring eyes; and as awful silence
succeeded the less awful tumult, life went out, and I fell unfathomable
miles into nothingness.

The gray dawn was sifting through the chinks in the shutters when I
opened my eyes again. I lay stunned and faint, staring up at the mouldy
frescoes on the ceiling, struggling to gather together my wandering
senses and knit them into something like consciousness. But now as I
pulled myself little by little together there was no thought of dreams
before me. One after another the awful incidents of that unspeakable
night came back, and I lay incapable of movement, of action, trying to
piece together the whirling fragments of memory that circled dizzily
around me.

Little by little it grew lighter in the room. I could see the pallid
lines struggling through the shutters behind me, grow stronger along the
broken and dusty floor. The tarnished mirrors reflected dirtily the
growing daylight; a door closed, far away, and I heard the crowing of a
cock; then by and by the whistle of a passing train.

Years seemed to have passed since I first came into this terrible room.
I had lost the use of my tongue, my voice refused to obey my
panic-stricken desire to cry out; once or twice I tried in vain to force
an articulate sound through my rigid lips; and when at last a broken
whisper rewarded my feverish struggles, I felt a strange sense of great
victory. How soundly he slept! Ordinarily, rousing him was no easy task,
and now he revolted steadily against being awakened at this untimely
hour. It seemed to me that I had called him for ages almost, before I
heard him grunt sleepily and turn in bed.

"Tom," I cried weakly, "Tom, come and help me!"

"What do you want? what is the matter with you?"

"Don't ask, come and help me!"

"Fallen out of bed I guess;" and he laughed drowsily.

My abject terror lest he should go to sleep again gave me new strength.
Was it the actual physical paralysis born of killing fear that held me
down? I could not have raised my head from the floor on my life; I could
only cry out in deadly fear for Tom to come and help me.

"Why don't you get up and get into bed?" he answered, when I implored
him to come to me. "You have got a bad nightmare; wake up!"

But something in my voice roused him at last, and he came chuckling
across the room, stopping to throw open two of the great shutters and
let a burst of white light into the room. He climbed up on the bed and
peered over jeeringly. With the first glance the laugh died, and he
leaped the bed and bent over me.

"My God, man, what is the matter with you? You are hurt!"

"I don't know what is the matter; lift me up, get me away from here, and
I'll tell you all I know."

"But, old chap, you must be hurt awfully; the floor is covered with
blood!"

He lifted my head and held me in his powerful arms. I looked down: a
great red stain blotted the floor beside me.

But, apart from the black bruise on my head, there was no sign of a
wound on my body, nor stain of blood on my lips. In as few words as
possible I told him the whole story.

"Let's get out of this," he said when I had finished; "this is no place
for us. Brigands I can stand, but--"

He helped me to dress, and as soon as possible we forced open the heavy
door, the door I had seen turn so softly on its hinges only a few hours
before, and came out into the great circular hall, no less strange and
mysterious now in the half light of dawn than it had been by firelight.
The room was empty, for it must have been very early, although a fire
already blazed in the fireplace. We sat by the fire some time, seeing no
one. Presently slow footsteps sounded in the stairway, and the old man
entered, silent as the night before, nodding to us civilly, but showing
by no sign any surprise which he may have felt at our early rising. In
absolute silence he moved around, preparing coffee for us; and when at
last the frugal breakfast was ready, and we sat around the rough table
munching coarse bread and sipping the black coffee, he would reply to
our overtures only by monosyllables.

Any attempt at drawing from him some facts as to the history of the
villa was received with a grave and frigid repellence that baffled us;
and we were forced to say _addio_ with our hunger for some explanation
of the events of the night still unsatisfied.

But we saw the temples by sunrise, when the mistlike lambent opals
bathed the bases of the tall columns salmon in the morning light! It was
a rhapsody in the pale and unearthly colors of Puvis de Chavannes
vitalized and made glorious with splendid sunlight; the apotheosis of
mist; a vision never before seen, never to be forgotten. It was so
beautiful that the memory of my ghastly night paled and faded, and it
was Tom who assailed the station-master with questions while we waited
for the train from Agropoli.

Luckily he was more than loquacious, he was voluble under the
ameliorating influence of the money we forced upon him; and this, in few
words, was the story he told us while we sat on the platform smoking,
marvelling at the mists that rose to the east, now veiling, now
revealing the lavender Apennines.

"Is there a story of _La Villa Bianca_?"

"Ah, Signori, certainly; and a story very strange and very terrible. It
was much time ago, a hundred,--two hundred years; I do not know. Well,
the Duca di San Damiano married a lady so fair, so most beautiful that
she was called _La Luna di Pesto_; but she was of the people,--more, she
was of the banditti: her father was of Calabria, and a terror of the
Campagna. But the Duke was young, and he married her, and for her built
the white villa; and it was a wonder throughout Campania,--you have
seen? It is splendid now, even if a ruin. Well, it was less than a year
after they came to the villa before the Duke grew jealous,--jealous of
the new captain of the banditti who took the place of the father of _La
Luna_, himself killed in a great battle up there in the mountains. Was
there cause? Who shall know? But there were stories among the people of
terrible things in the villa, and how _La Luna_ was seen almost never
outside the walls. Then the Duke would go for many days to Napoli,
coming home only now and then to the villa that was become a fortress,
so many men guarded its never-opening gates. And once--it was in the
spring--the Duke came silently down from Napoli, and there, by the three
poplars you see away towards the north, his carriage was set upon by
armed men, and he was almost killed; but he had with him many guards,
and after a terrible fight the brigands were beaten off; but before him,
wounded, lay the captain,--the man whom he feared and hated. He looked
at him, lying there under the torchlight, and in his hand saw _his own
sword_. Then he became a devil: with the same sword he ran the brigand
through, leaped in the carriage, and, entering the villa, crept to the
chamber of _La Luna_, and killed her with the sword she had given to her
lover.

"This is all the story of the White Villa, except that the Duke came
never again to Pesto. He went back to the king at Napoli, and for many
years he was the scourge of the banditti of Campania; for the King made
him a general, and San Damiano was a name feared by the lawless and
loved by the peaceful, until he was killed in a battle down by Mormanno.

"And _La Luna_? Some say she comes back to the villa, once a year, when
the moon is full, in the month when she was slain; for the Duke buried
her, they say, with his own hands, in the garden that was once under the
window of her chamber; and as she died unshriven, so was she buried
without the pale of the Church. Therefore she cannot sleep in
peace,--_non è vero_? I do not know if the story is true, but this is
the story, Signori, and there is the train for Napoli. _Ah, grazie!
Signori, grazie tanto! A rivederci! Signori, a rivederci!_"



SISTER MADDELENA.



Sister Maddelena.


Across the valley of the Oreto from Monreale, on the slopes of the
mountains just above the little village of Parco, lies the old convent
of Sta. Catarina. From the cloister terrace at Monreale you can see its
pale walls and the slim campanile of its chapel rising from the crowded
citron and mulberry orchards that flourish, rank and wild, no longer
cared for by pious and loving hands. From the rough road that climbs the
mountains to Assunto, the convent is invisible, a gnarled and ragged
olive grove intervening, and a spur of cliffs as well, while from
Palermo one sees only the speck of white, flashing in the sun,
indistinguishable from the many similar gleams of desert monastery or
pauper village.

Partly because of this seclusion, partly by reason of its extreme
beauty, partly, it may be, because the present owners are more than
charming and gracious in their pressing hospitality, Sta. Catarina seems
to preserve an element of the poetic, almost magical; and as I drove
with the Cavaliere Valguanera one evening in March out of Palermo, along
the garden valley of the Oreto, then up the mountain side where the warm
light of the spring sunset swept across from Monreale, lying golden and
mellow on the luxuriant growth of figs, and olives, and orange-trees,
and fantastic cacti, and so up to where the path of the convent swung
off to the right round a dizzy point of cliff that reached out gaunt and
gray from the olives below,--as I drove thus in the balmy air, and saw
of a sudden a vision of creamy walls and orange roofs, draped in
fantastic festoons of roses, with a single curving palm-tree stuck black
and feathery against the gold sunset, it is hardly to be wondered at
that I should slip into a mood of visionary enjoyment, looking for a
time on the whole thing as the misty phantasm of a summer dream.

The Cavaliere had introduced himself to us,--Tom Rendel and me,--one
morning soon after we reached Palermo, when, in the first bewilderment
of architects in this paradise of art and color, we were working nobly
at our sketches in that dream of delight, the Capella Palatina. He was
himself an amateur archæologist, he told us, and passionately devoted to
his island; so he felt impelled to speak to any one whom he saw
appreciating the almost--and in a way fortunately--unknown beauties of
Palermo. In a little time we were fully acquainted, and talking like the
oldest friends. Of course he knew acquaintances of Rendel's,--some one
always does: this time they were officers on the tubby U. S. S.
"Quinebaug," that, during the summer of 1888, was trying to uphold the
maritime honor of the United States in European waters. Luckily for us,
one of the officers was a kind of cousin of Rendel's, and came from
Baltimore as well, so, as he had visited at the Cavaliere's place, we
were soon invited to do the same. It was in this way that, with the luck
that attends Rendel wherever he goes, we came to see something of
domestic life in Italy, and that I found myself involved in another of
those adventures for which I naturally sought so little.

I wonder if there is any other place in Sicily so faultless as Sta.
Catarina? Taormina is a paradise, an epitome of all that is beautiful in
Italy,--Venice excepted. Girgenti is a solemn epic, with its golden
temples between the sea and hills. Cefalù is wild and strange, and
Monreale a vision out of a fairy tale; but Sta. Catarina!--

Fancy a convent of creamy stone and rose-red brick perched on a ledge of
rock midway between earth and heaven, the cliff falling almost sheer to
the valley two hundred feet and more, the mountain rising behind
straight towards the sky; all the rocks covered with cactus and dwarf
fig-trees, the convent draped in smothering roses, and in front a
terrace with a fountain in the midst; and then--nothing--between you and
the sapphire sea, six miles away. Below stretches the Eden valley, the
Concha d'Oro, gold-green fig orchards alternating with smoke-blue
olives, the mountains rising on either hand and sinking undulously away
towards the bay where, like a magic city of ivory and nacre, Palermo
lies guarded by the twin mountains, Monte Pellegrino and Capo Zafferano,
arid rocks like dull amethysts, rose in sunlight, violet in shadow:
lions couchant, guarding the sleeping town.

Seen as we saw it for the first time that hot evening in March, with the
golden lambent light pouring down through the valley, making it in
verity a "shell of gold," sitting in Indian chairs on the terrace, with
the perfume of roses and jasmines all around us, the valley of the
Oreto, Palermo, Sta. Catarina, Monreale,--all were but parts of a dreamy
vision, like the heavenly city of Sir Percivale, to attain which he
passed across the golden bridge that burned after him as he vanished in
the intolerable light of the Beatific Vision.

It was all so unreal, so phantasmal, that I was not surprised in the
least when, late in the evening after the ladies had gone to their
rooms, and the Cavaliere, Tom, and I were stretched out in chairs on the
terrace, smoking lazily under the multitudinous stars, the Cavaliere
said, "There is something I really must tell you both before you go to
bed, so that you may be spared any unnecessary alarm."

"You are going to say that the place is haunted," said Rendel, feeling
vaguely on the floor beside him for his glass of Amaro: "thank you; it
is all it needs."

The Cavaliere smiled a little: "Yes, that is just it. Sta. Catarina is
really haunted; and much as my reason revolts against the idea as
superstitious and savoring of priestcraft, yet I must acknowledge I see
no way of avoiding the admission. I do not presume to offer any
explanations, I only state the fact; and the fact is that to-night one
or other of you will, in all human--or unhuman--probability, receive a
visit from Sister Maddelena. You need not be in the least afraid, the
apparition is perfectly gentle and harmless; and, moreover, having seen
it once, you will never see it again. No one sees the ghost, or whatever
it is, but once, and that usually the first night he spends in the
house. I myself saw the thing eight--nine years ago, when I first bought
the place from the Marchese di Muxaro; all my people have seen it,
nearly all my guests, so I think you may as well be prepared."

"Then tell us what to expect," I said; "what kind of a ghost is this
nocturnal visitor?"

"It is simple enough. Some time to-night you will suddenly awake and see
before you a Carmelite nun who will look fixedly at you, say distinctly
and very sadly, 'I cannot sleep,' and then vanish. That is all, it is
hardly worth speaking of, only some people are terribly frightened if
they are visited unwarned by strange apparitions; so I tell you this
that you may be prepared."

"This was a Carmelite convent, then?" I said.

"Yes; it was suppressed after the unification of Italy, and given to the
House of Muxaro; but the family died out, and I bought it. There is a
story about the ghostly nun, who was only a novice, and even that
unwillingly, which gives an interest to an otherwise very commonplace
and uninteresting ghost."

"I beg that you will tell it us," cried Rendel.

"There is a storm coming," I added. "See, the lightning is flashing
already up among the mountains at the head of the valley; if the story
is tragic, as it must be, now is just the time for it. You will tell it,
will you not?"

The Cavaliere smiled that slow, cryptic smile of his that was so
unfathomable.

"As you say, there is a shower coming, and as we have fierce tempests
here, we might not sleep; so perhaps we may as well sit up a little
longer, and I will tell you the story."

The air was utterly still, hot and oppressive; the rich, sick odor of
the oranges just bursting into bloom came up from the valley in a gently
rising tide. The sky, thick with stars, seemed mirrored in the rich
foliage below, so numerous were the glow-worms under the still trees,
and the fireflies that gleamed in the hot air. Lightning flashed
fitfully from the darkening west; but as yet no thunder broke the heavy
silence.

The Cavaliere lighted another cigar, and pulled a cushion under his head
so that he could look down to the distant lights of the city. "This is
the story," he said.

"Once upon a time, late in the last century, the Duca di Castiglione was
attached to the court of Charles III., King of the Two Sicilies, down at
Palermo. They tell me he was very ambitious, and, not content with
marrying his son to one of the ladies of the House of Tuscany, had
betrothed his only daughter, Rosalia, to Prince Antonio, a cousin of the
king. His whole life was wrapped up in the fame of his family, and he
quite forgot all domestic affection in his madness for dynastic glory.
His son was a worthy scion, cold and proud; but Rosalia was, according
to legend, utterly the reverse,--a passionate, beautiful girl, wilful
and headstrong, and careless of her family and the world.

"The time had nearly come for her to marry Prince Antonio, a typical
_roué_ of the Spanish court, when, through the treachery of a servant,
the Duke discovered that his daughter was in love with a young military
officer whose name I don't remember, and that an elopement had been
planned to take place the next night. The fury and dismay of the old
autocrat passed belief; he saw in a flash the downfall of all his hopes
of family aggrandizement through union with the royal house, and,
knowing well the spirit of his daughter, despaired of ever bringing her
to subjection. Nevertheless, he attacked her unmercifully, and, by
bullying and threats, by imprisonment, and even bodily chastisement, he
tried to break her spirit and bend her to his indomitable will. Through
his power at court he had the lover sent away to the mainland, and for
more than a year he held his daughter closely imprisoned in his palace
on the Toledo,--that one, you may remember, on the right, just beyond
the Via del Collegio dei Gesuiti, with the beautiful iron-work grilles
at all the windows, and the painted frieze. But nothing could move her,
nothing bend her stubborn will; and at last, furious at the girl he
could not govern, Castiglione sent her to this convent, then one of the
few houses of barefoot Carmelite nuns in Italy. He stipulated that she
should take the name of Maddelena, that he should never hear of her
again, and that she should be held an absolute prisoner in this
conventual castle.

"Rosalia--or Sister Maddelena, as she was now--believed her lover dead,
for her father had given her good proofs of this, and she believed him;
nevertheless she refused to marry another, and seized upon the convent
life as a blessed relief from the tyranny of her maniacal father.

"She lived here for four or five years; her name was forgotten at court
and in her father's palace. Rosalia di Castiglione was dead, and only
Sister Maddelena lived, a Carmelite nun, in her place.

"In 1798 Ferdinand IV. found himself driven from his throne on the
mainland, his kingdom divided, and he himself forced to flee to Sicily.
With him came the lover of the dead Rosalia, now high in military honor.
He on his part had thought Rosalia dead, and it was only by accident
that he found that she still lived, a Carmelite nun. Then began the
second act of the romance that until then had been only sadly
commonplace, but now became dark and tragic. Michele--Michele
Biscari,--that was his name; I remember now--haunted the region of the
convent, striving to communicate with Sister Maddelena; and at last,
from the cliffs over us, up there among the citrons--you will see by the
next flash of lightning--he saw her in the great cloister, recognized
her in her white habit, found her the same dark and splendid beauty of
six years before, only made more beautiful by her white habit and her
rigid life. By and by he found a day when she was alone, and tossed a
ring to her as she stood in the midst of the cloister. She looked up,
saw him, and from that moment lived only to love him in life as she had
loved his memory in the death she had thought had overtaken him.

"With the utmost craft they arranged their plans together. They could
not speak, for a word would have aroused the other inmates of the
convent. They could make signs only when Sister Maddelena was alone.
Michele could throw notes to her from the cliff,--a feat demanding a
strong arm, as you will see, if you measure the distance with your
eye,--and she could drop replies from the window over the cliff, which
he picked up at the bottom. Finally he succeeded in casting into the
cloister a coil of light rope. The girl fastened it to the bars of one
of the windows, and--so great is the madness of love--Biscari actually
climbed the rope from the valley to the window of the cell, a distance
of almost two hundred feet, with but three little craggy resting-places
in all that height. For nearly a month these nocturnal visits were
undiscovered, and Michele had almost completed his arrangements for
carrying the girl from Sta. Catarina and away to Spain, when
unfortunately one of the sisters, suspecting some mystery, from the
changed face of Sister Maddelena, began investigating, and at length
discovered the rope neatly coiled up by the nun's window, and hidden
under some clinging vines. She instantly told the Mother Superior; and
together they watched from a window in the crypt of the chapel,--the
only place, as you will see to-morrow, from which one could see the
window of Sister Maddelena's cell. They saw the figure of Michele
daringly ascending the slim rope; watched hour after hour, the Sister
remaining while the Superior went to say the hours in the chapel, at
each of which Sister Maddelena was present; and at last, at prime, just
as the sun was rising, they saw the figure slip down the rope, watched
the rope drawn up and concealed, and knew that Sister Maddelena was in
their hands for vengeance and punishment,--a criminal.

"The next day, by the order of the Mother Superior, Sister Maddelena was
imprisoned in one of the cells under the chapel, charged with her guilt,
and commanded to make full and complete confession. But not a word would
she say, although they offered her forgiveness if she would tell the
name of her lover. At last the Superior told her that after this fashion
would they act the coming night: she herself would be placed in the
crypt, tied in front of the window, her mouth gagged; that the rope
would be lowered, and the lover allowed to approach even to the sill of
her window, and at that moment the rope would be cut, and before her
eyes her lover would be dashed to death on the ragged cliffs. The plan
was feasible, and Sister Maddelena knew that the Mother was perfectly
capable of carrying it out. Her stubborn spirit was broken, and in the
only way possible; she begged for mercy, for the sparing of her lover.
The Mother Superior was deaf at first; at last she said, 'It is your
life or his. I will spare him on condition that you sacrifice your own
life.' Sister Maddelena accepted the terms joyfully, wrote a last
farewell to Michele, fastened the note to the rope, and with her own
hands cut the rope and saw it fall coiling down to the valley bed far
below.

"Then she silently prepared for death; and at midnight, while her lover
was wandering, mad with the horror of impotent fear, around the white
walls of the convent, Sister Maddelena, for love of Michele, gave up her
life. How, was never known. That she was indeed dead was only a
suspicion, for when Biscari finally compelled the civil authorities to
enter the convent, claiming that murder had been done there, they found
no sign. Sister Maddelena had been sent to the parent house of the
barefoot Carmelites at Avila in Spain, so the Superior stated, because
of her incorrigible contumacy. The old Duke of Castiglione refused to
stir hand or foot in the matter, and Michele, after fruitless attempts
to prove that the Superior of Sta. Catarina had caused the death, was
forced to leave Sicily. He sought in Spain for very long; but no sign of
the girl was to be found, and at last he died, exhausted with suffering
and sorrow.

"Even the name of Sister Maddelena was forgotten, and it was not until
the convents were suppressed, and this house came into the hands of the
Muxaros, that her story was remembered. It was then that the ghost began
to appear; and, an explanation being necessary, the story, or legend,
was obtained from one of the nuns who still lived after the suppression.
I think the fact--for it is a fact--of the ghost rather goes to prove
that Michele was right, and that poor Rosalia gave her life a sacrifice
for love,--whether in accordance with the terms of the legend or not, I
cannot say. One or the other of you will probably see her to-night. You
might ask her for the facts. Well, that is all the story of Sister
Maddelena, known in the world as Rosalia di Castiglione. Do you like
it?"

"It is admirable," said Rendel, enthusiastically. "But I fancy I should
rather look on it simply as a story, and not as a warning of what is
going to happen. I don't much fancy real ghosts myself."

"But the poor Sister is quite harmless;" and Valguanera rose, stretching
himself. "My servants say she wants a mass said over her, or something
of that kind; but I haven't much love for such priestly hocus-pocus,--I
beg your pardon" (turning to me), "I had forgotten that you were a
Catholic: forgive my rudeness."

"My dear Cavaliere, I beg you not to apologize. I am sorry you cannot
see things as I do; but don't for a moment think I am hypersensitive."

"I have an excuse,--perhaps you will say only an explanation; but I live
where I see all the absurdities and corruptions of the Church."

"Perhaps you let the accidents blind you to the essentials; but do not
let us quarrel to-night,--see, the storm is close on us. Shall we go
in?"

The stars were blotted out through nearly all the sky; low, thunderous
clouds, massed at the head of the valley, were sweeping over so close
that they seemed to brush the black pines on the mountain above us. To
the south and east the storm-clouds had shut down almost to the sea,
leaving a space of black sky where the moon in its last quarter was
rising just to the left of Monte Pellegrino,--a black silhouette against
the pallid moonlight. The rosy lightning flashed almost incessantly, and
through the fitful darkness came the sound of bells across the valley,
the rushing torrent below, and the dull roar of the approaching rain,
with a deep organ point of solemn thunder through it all.

We fled indoors from the coming tempest, and taking our candles, said
"good-night," and sought each his respective room.

My own was in the southern part of the old convent, giving on the
terrace we had just quitted, and about over the main doorway. The
rushing storm, as it swept down the valley with the swelling torrent
beneath, was very fascinating, and after wrapping myself in a
dressing-gown I stood for some time by the deeply embrasured window,
watching the blazing lightning and the beating rain whirled by fitful
gusts of wind around the spurs of the mountains. Gradually the violence
of the shower seemed to decrease, and I threw myself down on my bed in
the hot air, wondering if I really was to experience the ghostly visit
the Cavaliere so confidently predicted.

I had thought out the whole matter to my own satisfaction, and fancied I
knew exactly what I should do, in case Sister Maddelena came to visit
me. The story touched me: the thought of the poor faithful girl who
sacrificed herself for her lover,--himself, very likely, quite
unworthy,--and who now could never sleep for reason of her unquiet soul,
sent out into the storm of eternity without spiritual aid or counsel. I
could not sleep; for the still vivid lightning, the crowding thoughts of
the dead nun, and the shivering anticipation of my possible visitation,
made slumber quite out of the question. No suspicion of sleepiness had
visited me, when, perhaps an hour after midnight, came a sudden vivid
flash of lightning, and, as my dazzled eyes began to regain the power of
sight, I saw her as plainly as in life,--a tall figure, shrouded in the
white habit of the Carmelites, her head bent, her hands clasped before
her. In another flash of lightning she slowly raised her head and looked
at me long and earnestly. She was very beautiful, like the Virgin of
Beltraffio in the National Gallery,--more beautiful than I had supposed
possible, her deep, passionate eyes very tender and pitiful in their
pleading, beseeching glance. I hardly think I was frightened, or even
startled, but lay looking steadily at her as she stood in the beating
lightning.

Then she breathed, rather than articulated, with a voice that almost
brought tears, so infinitely sad and sorrowful was it, "I cannot sleep!"
and the liquid eyes grew more pitiful and questioning as bright tears
fell from them down the pale dark face.

The figure began to move slowly towards the door, its eyes fixed on mine
with a look that was weary and almost agonized. I leaped from the bed
and stood waiting. A look of utter gratitude swept over the face, and,
turning, the figure passed through the doorway.

Out into the shadow of the corridor it moved, like a drift of pallid
storm-cloud, and I followed, all natural and instinctive fear or
nervousness quite blotted out by the part I felt I was to play in giving
rest to a tortured soul. The corridors were velvet black; but the pale
figure floated before me always, an unerring guide, now but a thin mist
on the utter night, now white and clear in the bluish lightning through
some window or doorway.

Down the stairway into the lower hall, across the refectory, where the
great frescoed Crucifixion flared into sudden clearness under the fitful
lightning, out into the silent cloister.

It was very dark. I stumbled along the heaving bricks, now guiding
myself by a hand on the whitewashed wall, now by a touch on a column wet
with the storm. From all the eaves the rain was dripping on to the
pebbles at the foot of the arcade: a pigeon, startled from the capital
where it was sleeping, beat its way into the cloister close. Still the
white thing drifted before me to the farther side of the court, then
along the cloister at right angles, and paused before one of the many
doorways that led to the cells.

A sudden blaze of fierce lightning, the last now of the fleeting trail
of storm, leaped around us, and in the vivid light I saw the white face
turned again with the look of overwhelming desire, of beseeching pathos,
that had choked my throat with an involuntary sob when first I saw
Sister Maddelena. In the brief interval that ensued after the flash, and
before the roaring thunder burst like the crash of battle over the
trembling convent, I heard again the sorrowful words, "I cannot sleep,"
come from the impenetrable darkness. And when the lightning came again,
the white figure was gone.

I wandered around the courtyard, searching in vain for Sister Maddelena,
even until the moonlight broke through the torn and sweeping fringes of
the storm. I tried the door where the white figure vanished: it was
locked; but I had found what I sought, and, carefully noting its
location, went back to my room, but not to sleep.

In the morning the Cavaliere asked Rendel and me which of us had seen
the ghost, and I told him my story; then I asked him to grant me
permission to sift the thing to the bottom; and he courteously gave the
whole matter into my charge, promising that he would consent to
anything.

I could hardly wait to finish breakfast; but no sooner was this done
than, forgetting my morning pipe, I started with Rendel and the
Cavaliere to investigate.

"I am sure there is nothing in that cell," said Valguanera, when we came
in front of the door I had marked. "It is curious that you should have
chosen the door of the very cell that tradition assigns to Sister
Maddelena; but I have often examined that room myself, and I am sure
that there is no chance for anything to be concealed. In fact, I had the
floor taken up once, soon after I came here, knowing the room was that
of the mysterious Sister, and thinking that there, if anywhere, the
monastic crime would have taken place; still, we will go in, if you
like."

He unlocked the door, and we entered, one of us, at all events, with a
beating heart. The cell was very small, hardly eight feet square. There
certainly seemed no opportunity for concealing a body in the tiny place;
and although I sounded the floor and walls, all gave a solid, heavy
answer,--the unmistakable sound of masonry.

For the innocence of the floor the Cavaliere answered. He had, he said,
had it all removed, even to the curving surfaces of the vault below; yet
somewhere in this room the body of the murdered girl was concealed,--of
this I was certain. But where? There seemed no answer; and I was
compelled to give up the search for the moment, somewhat to the
amusement of Valguanera, who had watched curiously to see if I could
solve the mystery.

But I could not forget the subject, and towards noon started on another
tour of investigation. I procured the keys from the Cavaliere, and
examined the cells adjoining; they were apparently the same, each with
its window opposite the door, and nothing-- Stay, were they the same? I
hastened into the suspected cell; it was as I thought: this cell, being
on the corner, could have had two windows, yet only one was visible, and
that to the left, at right angles with the doorway. Was it imagination?
As I sounded the wall opposite the door, where the other window should
be, I fancied that the sound was a trifle less solid and dull. I was
becoming excited. I dashed back to the cell on the right, and, forcing
open the little window, thrust my head out.

It was found at last! In the smooth surface of the yellow wall was a
rough space, following approximately the shape of the other cell
windows, not plastered like the rest of the wall, but showing the shapes
of bricks through its thick coatings of whitewash. I turned with a gasp
of excitement and satisfaction: yes, the embrasure of the wall was deep
enough; what a wall it was!--four feet at least, and the opening of the
window reached to the floor, though the window itself was hardly three
feet square. I felt absolutely certain that the secret was solved, and
called the Cavaliere and Rendel, too excited to give them an explanation
of my theories.

They must have thought me mad when I suddenly began scraping away at the
solid wall in front of the door; but in a few minutes they understood
what I was about, for under the coatings of paint and plaster appeared
the original bricks; and as my architectural knowledge had led me
rightly, the space I had cleared was directly over a vertical joint
between firm, workmanlike masonry on one hand, and rough amateurish work
on the other, bricks laid anyway, and without order or science.

Rendel seized a pick, and was about to assail the rude wall, when I
stopped him.

"Let us be careful," I said; "who knows what we may find?" So we set to
work digging out the mortar around a brick at about the level of our
eyes.

How hard the mortar had become! But a brick yielded at last, and with
trembling fingers I detached it. Darkness within, yet beyond question
there was a cavity there, not a solid wall; and with infinite care we
removed another brick. Still the hole was too small to admit enough
light from the dimly illuminated cell. With a chisel we pried at the
sides of a large block of masonry, perhaps eight bricks in size. It
moved, and we softly slid it from its bed.

Valguanera, who was standing watching us as we lowered the bricks to the
floor, gave a sudden cry, a cry like that of a frightened
woman,--terrible, coming from him. Yet there was cause.

Framed by the ragged opening of the bricks, hardly seen in the dim
light, was a face, an ivory image, more beautiful than any antique bust,
but drawn and distorted by unspeakable agony: the lovely mouth half
open, as though gasping for breath; the eyes cast upward; and below,
slim chiselled hands crossed on the breast, but clutching the folds of
the white Carmelite habit, torture and agony visible in every tense
muscle, fighting against the determination of the rigid pose.

We stood there breathless, staring at the pitiful sight, fascinated,
bewitched. So this was the secret. With fiendish ingenuity, the rigid
ecclesiastics had blocked up the window, then forced the beautiful
creature to stand in the alcove, while with remorseless hands and iron
hearts they had shut her into a living tomb. I had read of such things
in romance; but to find the verity here, before my eyes--

Steps came down the cloister, and with a simultaneous thought we sprang
to the door and closed it behind us. The room was sacred; that awful
sight was not for curious eyes. The gardener was coming to ask some
trivial question of Valguanera. The Cavaliere cut him short. "Pietro, go
down to Parco and ask Padre Stefano to come here at once." (I thanked
him with a glance.) "Stay!" He turned to me: "Signore, it is already two
o'clock and too late for mass, is it not?"

I nodded.

Valguanera thought a moment, then he said, "Bring two horses; the Signor
Americano will go with you,--do you understand?" Then, turning to me,
"You will go, will you not? I think you can explain matters to Padre
Stefano better than I."

"Of course I will go, more than gladly." So it happened that after a
hasty luncheon I wound down the mountain to Parco, found Padre Stefano,
explained my errand to him, found him intensely eager and sympathetic,
and by five o'clock had him back at the convent with all that was
necessary for the resting of the soul of the dead girl.

In the warm twilight, with the last light of the sunset pouring into the
little cell through the window where almost a century ago Rosalia had
for the last time said farewell to her lover, we gathered together to
speed her tortured soul on its journey, so long delayed. Nothing was
omitted; all the needful offices of the Church were said by Padre
Stefano, while the light in the window died away, and the flickering
flames of the candles carried by two of the acolytes from San Francesco
threw fitful flashes of pallid light into the dark recess where the
white face had prayed to Heaven for a hundred years.

Finally, the Padre took the asperge from the hands of one of the
acolytes, and with a sign of the cross in benediction while he chanted
the _Asperges_, gently sprinkled the holy water on the upturned face.
Instantly the whole vision crumbled to dust, the face was gone, and
where once the candlelight had flickered on the perfect semblance of the
girl dead so very long, it now fell only on the rough bricks which
closed the window, bricks laid with frozen hearts by pitiless hands.

But our task was not done yet. It had been arranged that Padre Stefano
should remain at the convent all night, and that as soon as midnight
made it possible he should say the first mass for the repose of the
girl's soul. We sat on the terrace talking over the strange events of
the last crowded hours, and I noted with satisfaction that the Cavaliere
no longer spoke of the Church with that hardness, which had hurt me so
often. It is true that the Padre was with us nearly all the time; but
not only was Valguanera courteous, he was almost sympathetic; and I
wondered if it might not prove that more than one soul benefited by the
untoward events of the day.

With the aid of the astonished and delighted servants, and no little
help as well from Signora Valguanera, I fitted up the long cold Altar in
the chapel, and by midnight we had the gloomy sanctuary beautiful with
flowers and candles. It was a curiously solemn service, in the first
hour of the new day, in the midst of blazing candles and the thick
incense, the odor of the opening orange-blooms drifting up in the fresh
morning air, and mingling with the incense smoke and the perfume of
flowers within. Many prayers were said that night for the soul of the
dead girl, and I think many afterwards; for after the benediction I
remained for a little time in my place, and when I rose from my knees
and went towards the chapel door, I saw a figure kneeling still, and,
with a start, recognized the form of the Cavaliere. I smiled with quiet
satisfaction and gratitude, and went away softly, content with the chain
of events that now seemed finished.

The next day the alcove was again walled up, for the precious dust could
not be gathered together for transportation to consecrated ground; so I
went down to the little cemetery at Parco for a basket of earth, which
we cast in over the ashes of Sister Maddelena.

By and by, when Rendel and I went away, with great regret, Valguanera
came down to Palermo with us; and the last act that we performed in
Sicily was assisting him to order a tablet of marble, whereon was
carved this simple inscription:--

      HERE LIES THE BODY OF
     ROSALIA DI CASTIGLIONI,
             CALLED
       SISTER MADDELENA.
            HER SOUL
    IS WITH HIM WHO GAVE IT.

To this I added in thought:--

"Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone."



NOTRE DAME DES EAUX.



Notre Dame des Eaux.


West of St. Pol de Leon, on the sea-cliffs of Finisterre, stands the
ancient church of Notre Dame des Eaux. Five centuries of beating winds
and sweeping rains have moulded its angles, and worn its carvings and
sculpture down to the very semblance of the ragged cliffs themselves,
until even the Breton fisherman, looking lovingly from his boat as he
makes for the harbor of Morlaix, hardly can say where the crags end, and
where the church begins. The teeth of the winds of the sea have
devoured, bit by bit, the fine sculpture of the doorway and the thin
cusps of the window tracery; gray moss creeps caressingly over the worn
walls in ineffectual protection; gentle vines, turned crabbed by the
harsh beating of the fierce winds, clutch the crumbling buttresses,
climb up over the sinking roof, reach in even at the louvres of the
belfry, holding the little sanctuary safe in desperate arms against the
savage warfare of the sea and sky.

Many a time you may follow the rocky highway from St. Pol even around
the last land of France, and so to Brest, yet never see sign of Notre
Dame des Eaux; for it clings to a cliff somewhat lower than the road,
and between grows a stunted thicket of harsh and ragged trees, their
skeleton white branches, tortured and contorted, thrusting sorrowfully
out of the hard, dark foliage that still grows below, where the rise of
land below the highway gives some protection. You must leave the wood by
the two cottages of yellow stone, about twenty miles beyond St. Pol, and
go down to the right, around the old stone quarry; then, bearing to the
left by the little cliff path, you will, in a moment, see the pointed
roof of the tower of Notre Dame, and, later, come down to the side porch
among the crosses of the arid little graveyard.

It is worth the walk, for though the church has outwardly little but its
sad picturesqueness to repay the artist, within it is a dream and a
delight. A Norman nave of round, red stone piers and arches, a delicate
choir of the richest flamboyant, a High Altar of the time of Francis I.,
form only the mellow background and frame for carven tombs and dark old
pictures, hanging lamps of iron and brass, and black, heavily carved
choir-stalls of the Renaissance.

So has the little church lain unnoticed for many centuries; for the
horrors and follies of the Revolution have never come near, and the
hardy and faithful people of Finisterre have feared God and loved Our
Lady too well to harm her church. For many years it was the church of
the Comtes de Jarleuc; and these are their tombs that mellow year by
year under the warm light of the painted windows, given long ago by
Comte Robert de Jarleuc, when the heir of Poullaouen came safely to
shore in the harbor of Morlaix, having escaped from the Isle of Wight,
where he had lain captive after the awful defeat of the fleet of Charles
of Valois at Sluys. And now the heir of Poullaouen lies in a carven
tomb, forgetful of the world where he fought so nobly: the dynasty he
fought to establish, only a memory; the family he made glorious, a name;
the Château Poullaouen a single crag of riven masonry in the fields of
M. du Bois, mayor of Morlaix.

It was Julien, Comte de Bergerac, who rediscovered Notre Dame des Eaux,
and by his picture of its dreamy interior in the Salon of '86 brought
once more into notice this forgotten corner of the world. The next year
a party of painters settled themselves near by, roughing it as best they
could, and in the year following, Mme. de Bergerac and her daughter
Héloïse came with Julien, and, buying the old farm of Pontivy, on the
highway over Notre Dame, turned it into a summer house that almost made
amends for their lost château on the Dordogne, stolen from them as
virulent Royalists by the triumphant Republic in 1794.

Little by little a summer colony of painters gathered around Pontivy,
and it was not until the spring of 1890 that the peace of the colony was
broken. It was a sorrowful tragedy. Jean d'Yriex, the youngest and
merriest devil of all the jolly crew, became suddenly moody and morose.
At first this was attributed to his undisguised admiration for Mlle.
Héloïse, and was looked on as one of the vagaries of boyish passion; but
one day, while riding with M. de Bergerac, he suddenly seized the
bridle of Julien's horse, wrenched it from his hand, and, turning his
own horse's head towards the cliffs, lashed the terrified animals into a
gallop straight towards the brink. He was only thwarted in his mad
object by Julien, who with a quick blow sent him headlong in the dry
grass, and reined in the terrified animals hardly a yard from the
cliffs. When this happened, and no word of explanation was granted, only
a sullen silence that lasted for days, it became clear that poor Jean's
brain was wrong in some way. Héloïse devoted herself to him with
infinite patience,--though she felt no special affection for him, only
pity,--and while he was with her he seemed sane and quiet. But at night
some strange mania took possession of him. If he had worked on his Prix
de Rome picture in the daytime, while Héloïse sat by him, reading aloud
or singing a little, no matter how good the work, it would have vanished
in the morning, and he would again begin, only to erase his labor during
the night.

At last his growing insanity reached its climax; and one day in Notre
Dame, when he had painted better than usual, he suddenly stopped,
seized a palette knife, and slashed the great canvas in strips. Héloïse
sprang forward to stop him, and in crazy fury he turned on her, striking
at her throat with the palette knife. The thin steel snapped, and the
white throat showed only a scarlet scratch. Héloïse, without that
ordinary terror that would crush most women, grasped the thin wrists of
the madman, and, though he could easily have wrenched his hands away,
d'Yriex sank on his knees in a passion of tears. He shut himself in his
room at Pontivy, refusing to see any one, walking for hours up and down,
fighting against growing madness. Soon Dr. Charpentier came from Paris,
summoned by Mme. de Bergerac; and after one short, forced interview,
left at once for Paris, taking M. d'Yriex with him.

A few days later came a letter for Mme. de Bergerac, in which Dr.
Charpentier confessed that Jean had disappeared, that he had allowed him
too much liberty, owing to his apparent calmness, and that when the
train stopped at Le Mans he had slipped from him and utterly vanished.

During the summer, word came occasionally that no trace had been found
of the unhappy man, and at last the Pontivy colony realized that the
merry boy was dead. Had he lived he _must_ have been found, for the
exertions of the police were perfect; yet not the slightest trace was
discovered, and his lamentable death was acknowledged, not only by Mme.
de Bergerac and Jean's family,--sorrowing for the death of their
first-born, away in the warm hills of Lozère,--but by Dr. Charpentier as
well.

So the summer passed, and the autumn came, and at last the cold rains of
November--the skirmish line of the advancing army of winter--drove the
colony back to Paris.

It was the last day at Pontivy, and Mlle. Héloïse had come down to Notre
Dame for a last look at the beautiful shrine, a last prayer for the
repose of the tortured soul of poor Jean d'Yriex. The rains had ceased
for a time, and a warm stillness lay over the cliffs and on the creeping
sea, swaying and lapping around the ragged shore. Héloïse knelt very
long before the Altar of Our Lady of the Waters; and when she finally
rose, could not bring herself to leave as yet that place of sorrowful
beauty, all warm and golden with the last light of the declining sun.
She watched the old verger, Pierre Polou, stumping softly around the
darkening building, and spoke to him once, asking the hour; but he was
very deaf, as well as nearly blind, and he did not answer.

So she sat in the corner of the aisle by the Altar of Our Lady of the
Waters, watching the checkered light fade in the advancing shadows,
dreaming sad day-dreams of the dead summer, until the day-dreams merged
in night-dreams, and she fell asleep.

Then the last light of the early sunset died in the gleaming quarries of
the west window; Pierre Polou stumbled uncertainly through the dusky
shadow, locked the sagging doors of the mouldering south porch, and took
his way among the leaning crosses up to the highway and his little
cottage, a good mile away,--the nearest house to the lonely Church of
Notre Dame des Eaux.

With the setting of the sun great clouds rose swiftly from the sea; the
wind freshened, and the gaunt branches of the weather-worn trees in the
churchyard lashed themselves beseechingly before the coming storm. The
tide turned, and the waters at the foot of the rocks swept uneasily up
the narrow beach and caught at the weary cliffs, their sobbing growing
and deepening to a threatening, solemn roar. Whirls of dead leaves rose
in the churchyard, and threw themselves against the blank windows. The
winter and the night came down together.

Héloïse awoke, bewildered and wondering; in a moment she realized the
situation, and without fear or uneasiness. There was nothing to dread in
Notre Dame by night; the ghosts, if there were ghosts, would not trouble
her, and the doors were securely locked. It was foolish of her to fall
asleep, and her mother would be most uneasy at Pontivy if she realized
before dawn that Héloïse had not returned. On the other hand, she was in
the habit of wandering off to walk after dinner, often not coming home
until late, so it was quite possible that she might return before Madame
knew of her absence, for Polou came always to unlock the church for the
low mass at six o'clock; so she arose from her cramped position in the
aisle, and walked slowly up to the choir-rail, entered the chancel, and
felt her way to one of the stalls, on the south side, where there were
cushions and an easy back.

It was really very beautiful in Notre Dame by night; she had never
suspected how strange and solemn the little church could be when the
moon shone fitfully through the south windows, now bright and clear, now
blotted out by sweeping clouds. The nave was barred with the long
shadows of the heavy pillars, and when the moon came out she could see
far down almost to the west end. How still it was! Only a soft low
murmur without of the restless limbs of the trees, and of the creeping
sea.

It was very soothing, almost like a song; and Héloïse felt sleep coming
back to her as the clouds shut out the moon, and all the church grew
black.

She was drifting off into the last delicious moment of vanishing
consciousness, when she suddenly came fully awake, with a shock that
made every nerve tingle. In the midst of the far faint sounds of the
tempestuous night she had heard a footstep! Yet the church was utterly
empty, she was sure. And again! A footstep dragging and uncertain,
stealthy and cautious, but an unmistakable step, away in the blackest
shadow at the end of the church.

She sat up, frozen with the fear that comes at night and that is
overwhelming, her hands clutching the coarse carving of the arms of the
stall, staring down into the dark.

Again the footstep, and again,--slow, measured, one after another at
intervals of perhaps half a minute, growing a little louder each time, a
little nearer.

Would the darkness never be broken? Would the cloud never pass? Minute
after minute went like weary hours, and still the moon was hid, still
the dead branches rattled clatteringly on the high windows.
Unconsciously she moved, as under a magician's spell, down to the
choir-rail, straining her eyes to pierce the thick night. And the step,
it was very near! Ah, the moon at last! A white ray fell through the
westernmost window, painting a bar of light on the floor of sagging
stone. Then a second bar, then a third, and a fourth, and for a moment
Héloïse could have cried out with relief, for nothing broke the lines of
light,--no figure, no shadow. In another moment came a step, and from
the shadow of the last column appeared in the pallid moonlight the
figure of a man. The girl stared breathless, the moonlight falling on
her as she stood rigid against the low parapet. Another step and
another, and she saw before her--was it ghost or living man?--a white
mad face staring from matted hair and beard, a tall thin figure half
clothed in rags, limping as it stepped towards her with wounded feet.
From the dead face stared mad eyes that gleamed like the eyes of a cat,
fixed on hers with insane persistence, holding her, fascinating her as a
cat fascinates a bird.

One more step,--it was close before her now! those awful, luminous eyes
dilating and contracting in awful palpitations. And the moon was going
out; the shadows swept one by one over the windows; she stared at the
moonlit face for a last fascinated glance--Mother of God! it was---- The
shadow swept over them, and now only remained the blazing eyes and the
dim outline of a form that crouched waveringly before her as a cat
crouches, drawing its vibrating body together for the spring that blots
out the life of the victim.

In another instant the mad thing would leap; but just as the quiver
swept over the crouching body, Héloïse gathered all her strength into
one action of desperate terror.

"Jean, stop!"

The thing crouched before her paused, chattering softly to itself; then
it articulated dryly, and with all the trouble of a learning child, the
one word, "_Chantez!_"

Without a thought, Héloïse sang; it was the first thing that she
remembered, an old Provençal song that d'Yriex had always loved. While
she sang, the poor mad creature lay huddled at her feet, separated from
her only by the choir parapet, its dilating, contracting eyes never
moving for an instant. As the song died away, came again that awful
tremor, indicative of the coming death-spring, and again she sang,--this
time the old _Pange lingua_, its sonorous Latin sounding in the deserted
church like the voice of dead centuries.

And so she sang, on and on, hour after hour,--hymns and _chansons_,
folk-songs and bits from comic operas, songs of the boulevards
alternating with the _Tantum ergo_ and the _O Filii et Filiæ_. It
mattered little what she sang. At last it seemed to her that it mattered
little whether she sang or no; for her brain whirled round and round
like a dizzy maelstrom, her icy hands, griping the hard rail, alone
supported her dying body. She could hear no sound of her song; her body
was numb, her mouth parched, her lips cracked and bleeding; she felt
the drops of blood fall from her chin. And still she sang, with the
yellow palpitating eyes holding her as in a vice. If only she could
continue until dawn! It must be dawn so soon! The windows were growing
gray, the rain lashed outside, she could distinguish the features of the
horror before her; but the night of death was growing with the coming
day, blackness swept down upon her; she could sing no more, her tortured
lips made one last effort to form the words, "Mother of God, save me!"
and night and death came down like a crushing wave.

But her prayer was heard; the dawn had come, and Polou unlocked the
porch-door for Father Augustin just in time to hear the last agonized
cry. The maniac turned in the very act of leaping on his victim, and
sprang for the two men, who stopped in dumb amazement. Poor old Pierre
Polou went down at a blow; but Father Augustin was young and fearless,
and he grappled the mad animal with all his strength and will. It would
have gone ill even with him,--for no one can stand against the bestial
fury of a man in whom reason is dead,--had not some sudden impulse
seized the maniac, who pitched the priest aside with a single movement,
and, leaping through the door, vanished forever.

Did he hurl himself from the cliffs in the cold wet morning, or was he
doomed to wander, a wild beast, until, captured, he beat himself in vain
against the walls of some asylum, an unknown pauper lunatic? None ever
knew.

The colony at Pontivy was blotted out by the dreary tragedy, and Notre
Dame des Eaux sank once more into silence and solitude. Once a year
Father Augustin said mass for the repose of the soul of Jean d'Yriex;
but no other memory remained of the horror that blighted the lives of an
innocent girl and of a gray-haired mother mourning for her dead boy in
far Lozère.



THE DEAD VALLEY.



The Dead Valley.


I have a friend, Olof Ehrensvärd, a Swede by birth, who yet, by reason
of a strange and melancholy mischance of his early boyhood, has thrown
his lot with that of the New World. It is a curious story of a
headstrong boy and a proud and relentless family: the details do not
matter here, but they are sufficient to weave a web of romance around
the tall yellow-bearded man with the sad eyes and the voice that gives
itself perfectly to plaintive little Swedish songs remembered out of
childhood. In the winter evenings we play chess together, he and I, and
after some close, fierce battle has been fought to a finish--usually
with my own defeat--we fill our pipes again, and Ehrensvärd tells me
stories of the far, half-remembered days in the fatherland, before he
went to sea: stories that grow very strange and incredible as the night
deepens and the fire falls together, but stories that, nevertheless, I
fully believe.

One of them made a strong impression on me, so I set it down here, only
regretting that I cannot reproduce the curiously perfect English and the
delicate accent which to me increased the fascination of the tale. Yet,
as best I can remember it, here it is.

"I never told you how Nils and I went over the hills to Hallsberg, and
how we found the Dead Valley, did I? Well, this is the way it happened.
I must have been about twelve years old, and Nils Sjöberg, whose
father's estate joined ours, was a few months younger. We were
inseparable just at that time, and whatever we did, we did together.

"Once a week it was market day in Engelholm, and Nils and I went always
there to see the strange sights that the market gathered from all the
surrounding country. One day we quite lost our hearts, for an old man
from across the Elfborg had brought a little dog to sell, that seemed to
us the most beautiful dog in all the world. He was a round, woolly
puppy, so funny that Nils and I sat down on the ground and laughed at
him, until he came and played with us in so jolly a way that we felt
that there was only one really desirable thing in life, and that was the
little dog of the old man from across the hills. But alas! we had not
half money enough wherewith to buy him, so we were forced to beg the old
man not to sell him before the next market day, promising that we would
bring the money for him then. He gave us his word, and we ran home very
fast and implored our mothers to give us money for the little dog.

"We got the money, but we could not wait for the next market day.
Suppose the puppy should be sold! The thought frightened us so that we
begged and implored that we might be allowed to go over the hills to
Hallsberg where the old man lived, and get the little dog ourselves, and
at last they told us we might go. By starting early in the morning we
should reach Hallsberg by three o'clock, and it was arranged that we
should stay there that night with Nils's aunt, and, leaving by noon the
next day, be home again by sunset.

"Soon after sunrise we were on our way, after having received minute
instructions as to just what we should do in all possible and
impossible circumstances, and finally a repeated injunction that we
should start for home at the same hour the next day, so that we might
get safely back before nightfall.

"For us, it was magnificent sport, and we started off with our rifles,
full of the sense of our very great importance: yet the journey was
simple enough, along a good road, across the big hills we knew so well,
for Nils and I had shot over half the territory this side of the
dividing ridge of the Elfborg. Back of Engelholm lay a long valley, from
which rose the low mountains, and we had to cross this, and then follow
the road along the side of the hills for three or four miles, before a
narrow path branched off to the left, leading up through the pass.

"Nothing occurred of interest on the way over, and we reached Hallsberg
in due season, found to our inexpressible joy that the little dog was
not sold, secured him, and so went to the house of Nils's aunt to spend
the night.

"Why we did not leave early on the following day, I can't quite
remember; at all events, I know we stopped at a shooting range just
outside of the town, where most attractive pasteboard pigs were sliding
slowly through painted foliage, serving so as beautiful marks. The
result was that we did not get fairly started for home until afternoon,
and as we found ourselves at last pushing up the side of the mountain
with the sun dangerously near their summits, I think we were a little
scared at the prospect of the examination and possible punishment that
awaited us when we got home at midnight.

"Therefore we hurried as fast as possible up the mountain side, while
the blue dusk closed in about us, and the light died in the purple sky.
At first we had talked hilariously, and the little dog had leaped ahead
of us with the utmost joy. Latterly, however, a curious oppression came
on us; we did not speak or even whistle, while the dog fell behind,
following us with hesitation in every muscle.

"We had passed through the foothills and the low spurs of the mountains,
and were almost at the top of the main range, when life seemed to go out
of everything, leaving the world dead, so suddenly silent the forest
became, so stagnant the air. Instinctively we halted to listen.

"Perfect silence,--the crushing silence of deep forests at night; and
more, for always, even in the most impenetrable fastnesses of the wooded
mountains, is the multitudinous murmur of little lives, awakened by the
darkness, exaggerated and intensified by the stillness of the air and
the great dark: but here and now the silence seemed unbroken even by the
turn of a leaf, the movement of a twig, the note of night bird or
insect. I could hear the blood beat through my veins; and the crushing
of the grass under our feet as we advanced with hesitating steps sounded
like the falling of trees.

"And the air was stagnant,--dead. The atmosphere seemed to lie upon the
body like the weight of sea on a diver who has ventured too far into its
awful depths. What we usually call silence seems so only in relation to
the din of ordinary experience. This was silence in the absolute, and it
crushed the mind while it intensified the senses, bringing down the
awful weight of inextinguishable fear.

"I know that Nils and I stared towards each other in abject terror,
listening to our quick, heavy breathing, that sounded to our acute
senses like the fitful rush of waters. And the poor little dog we were
leading justified our terror. The black oppression seemed to crush him
even as it did us. He lay close on the ground, moaning feebly, and
dragging himself painfully and slowly closer to Nils's feet. I think
this exhibition of utter animal fear was the last touch, and must
inevitably have blasted our reason--mine anyway; but just then, as we
stood quaking on the bounds of madness, came a sound, so awful, so
ghastly, so horrible, that it seemed to rouse us from the dead spell
that was on us.

"In the depth of the silence came a cry, beginning as a low, sorrowful
moan, rising to a tremulous shriek, culminating in a yell that seemed to
tear the night in sunder and rend the world as by a cataclysm. So
fearful was it that I could not believe it had actual existence: it
passed previous experience, the powers of belief, and for a moment I
thought it the result of my own animal terror, an hallucination born of
tottering reason.

"A glance at Nils dispelled this thought in a flash. In the pale light
of the high stars he was the embodiment of all possible human fear,
quaking with an ague, his jaw fallen, his tongue out, his eyes
protruding like those of a hanged man. Without a word we fled, the
panic of fear giving us strength, and together, the little dog caught
close in Nils's arms, we sped down the side of the cursed
mountains,--anywhere, goal was of no account: we had but one impulse--to
get away from that place.

"So under the black trees and the far white stars that flashed through
the still leaves overhead, we leaped down the mountain side, regardless
of path or landmark, straight through the tangled underbrush, across
mountain streams, through fens and copses, anywhere, so only that our
course was downward.

"How long we ran thus, I have no idea, but by and by the forest fell
behind, and we found ourselves among the foothills, and fell exhausted
on the dry short grass, panting like tired dogs.

"It was lighter here in the open, and presently we looked around to see
where we were, and how we were to strike out in order to find the path
that would lead us home. We looked in vain for a familiar sign. Behind
us rose the great wall of black forest on the flank of the mountain:
before us lay the undulating mounds of low foothills, unbroken by trees
or rocks, and beyond, only the fall of black sky bright with
multitudinous stars that turned its velvet depth to a luminous gray.

"As I remember, we did not speak to each other once: the terror was too
heavy on us for that, but by and by we rose simultaneously and started
out across the hills.

"Still the same silence, the same dead, motionless air--air that was at
once sultry and chilling: a heavy heat struck through with an icy chill
that felt almost like the burning of frozen steel. Still carrying the
helpless dog, Nils pressed on through the hills, and I followed close
behind. At last, in front of us, rose a slope of moor touching the white
stars. We climbed it wearily, reached the top, and found ourselves
gazing down into a great, smooth valley, filled half way to the brim
with--what?

"As far as the eye could see stretched a level plain of ashy white,
faintly phosphorescent, a sea of velvet fog that lay like motionless
water, or rather like a floor of alabaster, so dense did it appear, so
seemingly capable of sustaining weight. If it were possible, I think
that sea of dead white mist struck even greater terror into my soul
than the heavy silence or the deadly cry--so ominous was it, so utterly
unreal, so phantasmal, so impossible, as it lay there like a dead ocean
under the steady stars. Yet through that mist _we must go_! there seemed
no other way home, and, shattered with abject fear, mad with the one
desire to get back, we started down the slope to where the sea of milky
mist ceased, sharp and distinct around the stems of the rough grass.

"I put one foot into the ghostly fog. A chill as of death struck through
me, stopping my heart, and I threw myself backward on the slope. At that
instant came again the shriek, close, close, right in our ears, in
ourselves, and far out across that damnable sea I saw the cold fog lift
like a water-spout and toss itself high in writhing convolutions towards
the sky. The stars began to grow dim as thick vapor swept across them,
and in the growing dark I saw a great, watery moon lift itself slowly
above the palpitating sea, vast and vague in the gathering mist.

"This was enough: we turned and fled along the margin of the white sea
that throbbed now with fitful motion below us, rising, rising, slowly
and steadily, driving us higher and higher up the side of the foothills.

"It was a race for life; that we knew. How we kept it up I cannot
understand, but we did, and at last we saw the white sea fall behind us
as we staggered up the end of the valley, and then down into a region
that we knew, and so into the old path. The last thing I remember was
hearing a strange voice, that of Nils, but horribly changed, stammer
brokenly, 'The dog is dead!' and then the whole world turned around
twice, slowly and resistlessly, and consciousness went out with a crash.

"It was some three weeks later, as I remember, that I awoke in my own
room, and found my mother sitting beside the bed. I could not think very
well at first, but as I slowly grew strong again, vague flashes of
recollection began to come to me, and little by little the whole
sequence of events of that awful night in the Dead Valley came back. All
that I could gain from what was told me was that three weeks before I
had been found in my own bed, raging sick, and that my illness grew fast
into brain fever. I tried to speak of the dread things that had happened
to me, but I saw at once that no one looked on them save as the
hauntings of a dying frenzy, and so I closed my mouth and kept my own
counsel.

"I must see Nils, however, and so I asked for him. My mother told me
that he also had been ill with a strange fever, but that he was now
quite well again. Presently they brought him in, and when we were alone
I began to speak to him of the night on the mountain. I shall never
forget the shock that struck me down on my pillow when the boy denied
everything: denied having gone with me, ever having heard the cry,
having seen the valley, or feeling the deadly chill of the ghostly fog.
Nothing would shake his determined ignorance, and in spite of myself I
was forced to admit that his denials came from no policy of concealment,
but from blank oblivion.

"My weakened brain was in a turmoil. Was it all but the floating
phantasm of delirium? Or had the horror of the real thing blotted Nils's
mind into blankness so far as the events of the night in the Dead Valley
were concerned? The latter explanation seemed the only one, else how
explain the sudden illness which in a night had struck us both down? I
said nothing more, either to Nils or to my own people, but waited, with
a growing determination that, once well again, I would find that valley
if it really existed.

"It was some weeks before I was really well enough to go, but finally,
late in September, I chose a bright, warm, still day, the last smile of
the dying summer, and started early in the morning along the path that
led to Hallsberg. I was sure I knew where the trail struck off to the
right, down which we had come from the valley of dead water, for a great
tree grew by the Hallsberg path at the point where, with a sense of
salvation, we had found the home road. Presently I saw it to the right,
a little distance ahead.

"I think the bright sunlight and the clear air had worked as a tonic to
me, for by the time I came to the foot of the great pine, I had quite
lost faith in the verity of the vision that haunted me, believing at
last that it was indeed but the nightmare of madness. Nevertheless, I
turned sharply to the right, at the base of the tree, into a narrow path
that led through a dense thicket. As I did so I tripped over something.
A swarm of flies sung into the air around me, and looking down I saw
the matted fleece, with the poor little bones thrusting through, of the
dog we had bought in Hallsberg.

"Then my courage went out with a puff, and I knew that it all was true,
and that now I was frightened. Pride and the desire for adventure urged
me on, however, and I pressed into the close thicket that barred my way.
The path was hardly visible: merely the worn road of some small beasts,
for, though it showed in the crisp grass, the bushes above grew thick
and hardly penetrable. The land rose slowly, and rising grew clearer,
until at last I came out on a great slope of hill, unbroken by trees or
shrubs, very like my memory of that rise of land we had topped in order
that we might find the dead valley and the icy fog. I looked at the sun;
it was bright and clear, and all around insects were humming in the
autumn air, and birds were darting to and fro. Surely there was no
danger, not until nightfall at least; so I began to whistle, and with a
rush mounted the last crest of brown hill.

"There lay the Dead Valley! A great oval basin, almost as smooth and
regular as though made by man. On all sides the grass crept over the
brink of the encircling hills, dusty green on the crests, then fading
into ashy brown, and so to a deadly white, this last color forming a
thin ring, running in a long line around the slope. And then? Nothing.
Bare, brown, hard earth, glittering with grains of alkali, but otherwise
dead and barren. Not a tuft of grass, not a stick of brushwood, not even
a stone, but only the vast expanse of beaten clay.

"In the midst of the basin, perhaps a mile and a half away, the level
expanse was broken by a great dead tree, rising leafless and gaunt into
the air. Without a moment's hesitation I started down into the valley
and made for this goal. Every particle of fear seemed to have left me,
and even the valley itself did not look so very terrifying. At all
events, I was driven by an overwhelming curiosity, and there seemed to
be but one thing in the world to do,--to get to that Tree! As I trudged
along over the hard earth, I noticed that the multitudinous voices of
birds and insects had died away. No bee or butterfly hovered through the
air, no insects leaped or crept over the dull earth. The very air itself
was stagnant.

"As I drew near the skeleton tree, I noticed the glint of sunlight on a
kind of white mound around its roots, and I wondered curiously. It was
not until I had come close that I saw its nature.

"All around the roots and barkless trunk was heaped a wilderness of
little bones. Tiny skulls of rodents and of birds, thousands of them,
rising about the dead tree and streaming off for several yards in all
directions, until the dreadful pile ended in isolated skulls and
scattered skeletons. Here and there a larger bone appeared,--the thigh
of a sheep, the hoofs of a horse, and to one side, grinning slowly, a
human skull.

"I stood quite still, staring with all my eyes, when suddenly the dense
silence was broken by a faint, forlorn cry high over my head. I looked
up and saw a great falcon turning and sailing downward just over the
tree. In a moment more she fell motionless on the bleaching bones.

"Horror struck me, and I rushed for home, my brain whirling, a strange
numbness growing in me. I ran steadily, on and on. At last I glanced up.
Where was the rise of hill? I looked around wildly. Close before me was
the dead tree with its pile of bones. I had circled it round and round,
and the valley wall was still a mile and a half away.

"I stood dazed and frozen. The sun was sinking, red and dull, towards
the line of hills. In the east the dark was growing fast. Was there
still time? _Time!_ It was not _that_ I wanted, it was _will_! My feet
seemed clogged as in a nightmare. I could hardly drag them over the
barren earth. And then I felt the slow chill creeping through me. I
looked down. Out of the earth a thin mist was rising, collecting in
little pools that grew ever larger until they joined here and there,
their currents swirling slowly like thin blue smoke. The western hills
halved the copper sun. When it was dark I should hear that shriek again,
and then I should die. I knew that, and with every remaining atom of
will I staggered towards the red west through the writhing mist that
crept clammily around my ankles, retarding my steps.

"And as I fought my way off from the Tree, the horror grew, until at
last I thought I was going to die. The silence pursued me like dumb
ghosts, the still air held my breath, the hellish fog caught at my feet
like cold hands.

"But I won! though not a moment too soon. As I crawled on my hands and
knees up the brown slope, I heard, far away and high in the air, the cry
that already had almost bereft me of reason. It was faint and vague, but
unmistakable in its horrible intensity. I glanced behind. The fog was
dense and pallid, heaving undulously up the brown slope. The sky was
gold under the setting sun, but below was the ashy gray of death. I
stood for a moment on the brink of this sea of hell, and then leaped
down the slope. The sunset opened before me, the night closed behind,
and as I crawled home weak and tired, darkness shut down on the Dead
Valley."



POSTSCRIPT.


There seem to be certain well-defined roots existing in all countries,
from which spring the current legends of the supernatural; and therefore
for the germs of the stories in this book the Author claims no
originality. These legends differ one from the other only in local color
and in individual treatment. If the Author has succeeded in clothing one
or two of these norms in some slightly new vesture, he is more than
content.

BOSTON, _July 3, 1895_.


THE END.



THE PRINTING WAS DONE AT THE LAKESIDE PRESS, CHICAGO, FOR STONE &
KIMBALL, PUBLISHERS.



 Concerning the Books
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     _1895-1896_


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THE PUBLICATIONS OF STONE & KIMBALL.


ADAMS, FRANCIS.

    Essays in Modernity. Crown 8vo. $1.25, net.               _Shortly._

ALLEN, GRANT.

    THE LOWER SLOPES. Reminiscences of Excursions round the Base of
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ARCHER, WILLIAM.

    See Green Tree Library, Vol. III.

BELL, LILIAN.

    A LITTLE SISTER TO THE WILDERNESS. By the author of "The Love
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BROWNE, E. S.

    See English Classics. Hajji Baba.

BURGESS, GILBERT.

    THE LOVE LETTERS OF MR. H. AND MISS R. 1775-1779. Edited, with an
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CARMAN, BLISS.

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CHATFIELD-TAYLOR, H. C.

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    THE COMEDIES OF WILLIAM CONGREVE. See English Classics.

CRAM, RALPH ADAMS.

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DAVIDSON, JOHN.

    PLAYS. An Unhistorical Pastoral; a Romantic Farce; Bruce, a
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    A JUNE ROMANCE. With a titlepage and tailpiece designed by Basil
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ENGLISH CLASSICS.

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    CRUMBLING IDOLS. Twelve essays on Art, dealing chiefly with
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GOSSE, EDMUND.

    IN RUSSET AND SILVER. Printed at the University Press on English
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    THE GOLDEN AGE. 16mo. Crushed buckram. 241 pp. $1.25.
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GREEN TREE LIBRARY.

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HAKE, THOMAS GORDON.

    SELECTIONS FROM THE POEMS OF THOMAS GORDON HAKE. Edited, with an
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HALE, EDWARD EVERETT.

    See Taylor.

HALL, GERTRUDE.

    See Green Tree Library, Vol. IV.

HALL, TOM.

    WHEN HEARTS ARE TRUMPS. Verses. With decorations by Will H. Bradley.
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    See Swing.

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IBSEN, HENRIK.

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MACKAY, ERIC.

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MORIER, JAMES.

    THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA OF ISPAHAN. See English Classics.

OSBOURNE, LLOYD.

    See Stevenson.

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    See Moulton.

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    A LOVER'S DIARY. Songs in Sequence. With a frontispiece by Will H.
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SANTAYANA, GEORGE.

    SONNETS AND OTHER POEMS. With titlepage designed by the author.
    Printed at the University Press on laid paper. 16mo. Buckram. 90 pp.
    Price, $1.25, net.                                   _Out of print._

SHARP, WILLIAM.

    VISTAS. See Green Tree Library, Vol. I.

    THE GYPSY CHRIST AND OTHER TALES. See Carnation Series, Vol. I.

SOUTHALL, J. E.

    THE STORY OF BLUEBEARD. Newly translated and elaborately
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SOUTHEY, ROBERT.

    ENGLISH SEAMEN. See English Classics.

STEDMAN, E. C.

    See Poe.

STERNE, LAURENCE.

    THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY. See English Classics.

STEVENSON, ROBERT LOUIS.

    THE LATER WORKS OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. Published in a uniform
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---- AND LLOYD OSBOURNE.

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    See Congreve.

SWING, DAVID.

    OLD PICTURES OF LIFE. With an introduction by Franklin H. Head. In
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TAYLOR, WINNIE LOUISE.

    HIS BROKEN SWORD. A novel. With an introduction by Edward Everett
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THOMPSON, MAURICE.

    LINCOLN'S GRAVE. A Poem. With a titlepage by George H. Hallowell.
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VERLAINE, PAUL.

    POEMS OF PAUL VERLAINE. See Green Tree Library, Vol. IV.

WHIBLEY, CHARLES.

    See Sterne.

WOODBERRY, GEORGE EDWARD.

    See Poe.

YEATS, W. B.

    THE LAND OF HEART'S DESIRE. A play. With a frontispiece by Aubrey
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