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Title: Between the Dark and the Daylight
Author: Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
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 "Between the Dark and the Daylight" ***

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[Illustration: THEIR JOINT STUDY OF HER
DANCING-CARD DID NOT HELP THEM OUT]

BETWEEN THE DARK
AND THE DAYLIGHT

Romances

BY
W.D. HOWELLS
1907



CONTENTS


CHAP.
I.    A SLEEP AND A FORGETTING
II.   THE EIDOLONS OF BROOKS ALFORD
III.  A MEMORY THAT WORKED OVERTIME
IV.   A CASE OF METAPHANTASMIA
V.    EDITHA
VI.   BRAYBRIDGE'S OFFER
VII.  THE CHICK OF THE EASTER EGG



ILLUSTRATIONS


THEIR JOINT STUDY OF HER DANCING-CARD DID NOT HELP THEM OUT

A LIVELY MATRON, OF AS YOUTHFUL A TEMPERAMENT AS THE LIVELY GIRLS SHE
BROUGHT IN HER TRAIN, BURST UPON THEM

"SHE SHOOK HER HEAD, AND SAID,... 'NOBODY HAS BEEN HERE, EXCEPT--'"

"NO BURGLAR COULD HAVE MISSED ME IF HE HAD WANTED AN EASY MARK"

"'YOU SHALL NOT SAY THAT!'"

"SHE GLARED AT EDITHA. 'WHAT YOU GOT THAT BLACK ON FOR?'"



I

A SLEEP AND A FORGETTING


I

Matthew Lanfear had stopped off, between Genoa and Nice, at San Remo in
the interest of a friend who had come over on the steamer with him, and
who wished him to test the air before settling there for the winter with
an invalid wife. She was one of those neurasthenics who really carry
their climate--always a bad one--with them, but she had set her mind on
San Remo; and Lanfear was willing to pass a few days in the place making
the observations which he felt pretty sure would be adverse.

His train was rather late, and the sunset was fading from the French sky
beyond the Italian shore when he got out of his car and looked round for
a porter to take his valise. His roving eye lighted on the anxious
figure, which as fully as the anxious face, of a short, stout, elderly
man expressed a sort of distraction, as he stood loaded down with
umbrellas, bags, bundles, and wraps, and seemed unable to arrest the
movements of a tall young girl, with a travelling-shawl trailing from
her arm, who had the effect of escaping from him towards a bench beside
the door of the waiting-room. When she reached it, in spite of his
appeals, she sat down with an absent air, and looked as far withdrawn
from the bustle of the platform and from the snuffling train as if on
some quiet garden seat along with her own thoughts.

In his fat frenzy, which Lanfear felt to be pathetic, the old gentleman
glanced at him, and then abruptly demanded: "Are you an American?"

We knew each other abroad in some mystical way, and Lanfear did not try
to deny the fact.

"Oh, well, then," the stranger said, as if the fact made everything
right, "will you kindly tell my daughter, on that bench by the door
yonder"--he pointed with a bag, and dropped a roll of rugs from under
his arm--"that I'll be with her as soon as I've looked after the trunks?
Tell her not to move till I come. Heigh! Here! Take hold of these, will
you?" He caught the sleeve of a _facchino_ who came wandering by, and
heaped him with his burdens, and then pushed ahead of the man in the
direction of the baggage-room with a sort of mastery of the situation
which struck Lanfear as springing from desperation rather than
experience.

Lanfear stood a moment hesitating. Then a glance at the girl on the
bench, drooping a little forward in freeing her face from the veil that
hung from her pretty hat, together with a sense of something quaintly
charming in the confidence shown him on such purely compatriotic
grounds, decided him to do just what he had been asked. The girl had got
her veil up by this time, and as he came near, she turned from looking
at the sunset over the stretch of wall beyond the halting train, and met
his dubious face with a smile.

"It _is_ beautiful, isn't it?" she said. "I know I shall get well, here,
if they have such sunsets every day."

There was something so convincingly normal in her expression that
Lanfear dismissed a painful conjecture. "I beg your pardon," he said.
"I am afraid there's some mistake. I haven't the pleasure--You must
excuse me, but your father wished me to ask you to wait here for him
till he had got his baggage--"

"My father?" the girl stopped him with a sort of a frowning perplexity
in the stare she gave him. "My father isn't here!"

"I beg your pardon," Lanfear said. "I must have misunderstood. A
gentleman who got out of the train with you--a short, stout gentleman
with gray hair--I understood him to say you were his daughter--requested
me to bring this message--"

The girl shook her head. "I don't know him. It must be a mistake."

"The mistake is mine, no doubt. It may have been some one else whom he
pointed out, and I have blundered. I'm very sorry if I seem to have
intruded--"

"What place is this?" the girl asked, without noticing his excuses.

"San Remo," Lanfear answered. "If you didn't intend to stop here, your
train will be leaving in a moment."

"I meant to get off, I suppose," she said. "I don't believe I'm going
any farther." She leaned back against the bars of the bench, and put up
one of her slim arms along the top.

There was something wrong. Lanfear now felt that, in spite of her
perfect tranquillity and self-possession; perhaps because of it. He had
no business to stay there talking with her, but he had not quite the
right to leave her, though practically he had got his dismissal, and
apparently she was quite capable of taking care of herself, or could
have been so in a country where any woman's defencelessness was not any
man's advantage. He could not go away without some effort to be of use.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "Can I help you in calling a carriage; or
looking after your hand-baggage--it will be getting dark--perhaps your
maid--"

"My _maid_!" The girl frowned again, with a measure of the amazement
which she showed when he mentioned her father. "_I_ have no maid!"

Lanfear blurted desperately out: "You are alone? You came--you are going
to stay here--alone?"

"Quite alone," she said, with a passivity in which there was no
resentment, and no feeling unless it were a certain color of dignity.
Almost at the same time, with a glance beside and beyond him, she called
out joyfully: "Ah, there you are!" and Lanfear turned, and saw scuffling
and heard puffing towards them the short, stout elderly gentleman who
had sent him to her. "I knew you would come before long!"

"Well, I thought it was pretty long, myself," the gentleman said, and
then he courteously referred himself to Lanfear. "I'm afraid this
gentleman has found it rather long, too; but I couldn't manage it a
moment sooner."

Lanfear said: "Not at all. I wish I could have been of any use to--"

"My daughter--Miss Gerald, Mr.--"

"Lanfear--Dr. Lanfear," he said, accepting the introduction; and the
girl bowed.

"Oh, doctor, eh?" the father said, with a certain impression. "Going to
stop here?"

"A few days," Lanfear answered, making way for the forward movement
which the others began.

"Well, well! I'm very much obliged to you, very much, indeed; and I'm
sure my daughter is."

The girl said, "Oh yes, indeed," rather indifferently, and then as they
passed him, while he stood lifting his hat, she turned radiantly on him.
"Thank you, ever so much!" she said, with the gentle voice which he had
already thought charming.

The father called back: "I hope we shall meet again. We are going to the
Sardegna."

Lanfear had been going to the Sardegna himself, but while he bowed he
now decided upon another hotel.

The mystery, whatever it was, that the brave, little, fat father was
carrying off so bluffly, had clearly the morbid quality of unhealth in
it, and Lanfear could not give himself freely to a young pleasure in the
girl's dark beauty of eyes and hair, her pale, irregular, piquant face,
her slender figure and flowing walk. He was in the presence of something
else, something that appealed to his scientific side, to that which was
humane more than that which was human in him, and abashed him in the
other feeling. Unless she was out of her mind there was no way of
accounting for her behavior, except by some caprice which was itself
scarcely short of insanity. She must have thought she knew him when he
approached, and when she addressed him those first words; but when he
had tried to set her right she had not changed; and why had she denied
her father, and then hailed him with joy when he came back to her? She
had known that she intended to stop at San Remo, but she had not known
where she had stopped when she asked what place it was. She was
consciously an invalid of some sort, for she spoke of getting well under
sunsets like that which had now waned, but what sort of invalid was she?


II

Lanfear's question persisted through the night, and it helped, with the
coughing in the next room, to make a bad night for him. None of the
hotels in San Remo receive consumptive patients, but none are without
somewhere a bronchial cough. If it is in the room next yours it keeps
you awake, but it is not pulmonary; you may comfort yourself in your
vigils with that fact. Lanfear, however, fancied he had got a poor
dinner, and in the morning he did not like his coffee. He thought he had
let a foolish scruple keep him from the Grand Hotel Sardegna, and he
walked down towards it along the palm-flanked promenade, in the gay
morning light, with the tideless sea on the other hand lapping the rough
beach beyond the lines of the railroad which borders it. On his way he
met files of the beautiful Ligurian women, moving straight under the
burdens balanced on their heads, or bestriding the donkeys laden with
wine-casks in the roadway, or following beside the carts which the
donkeys drew. Ladies of all nations, in the summer fashions of London,
Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, and New York thronged the path. The sky
was of a blue so deep, so liquid that it seemed to him he could scoop it
in his hand and pour it out again like water. Seaward, he glanced at the
fishing-boats lying motionless in the offing, and the coastwise steamer
that runs between Nice and Genoa trailing a thin plume of smoke between
him and their white sails. With the more definite purpose of making sure
of the Grand Hotel Sardegna, he scanned the different villa slopes that
showed their level lines of white and yellow and dull pink through the
gray tropical greenery on the different levels of the hills. He was duly
rewarded by the sight of the bold legend topping its cornice, and when
he let his eye descend the garden to a little pavilion on the wall
overlooking the road, he saw his acquaintances of the evening before
making a belated breakfast. The father recognized Lanfear first and
spoke to his daughter, who looked up from her coffee and down towards
him where he wavered, lifting his hat, and bowed smiling to him. He had
no reason to cross the roadway towards the white stairway which climbed
from it to the hotel grounds, but he did so. The father leaned out over
the wall, and called down to him: "Won't you come up and join us,
doctor?"

"Why, yes!" Lanfear consented, and in another moment he was shaking
hands with the girl, to whom, he noticed, her father named him again. He
had in his glad sense of her white morning dress and her hat of
green-leafed lace, a feeling that she was somehow meeting him as a
friend of indefinite date in an intimacy unconditioned by any past or
future time. Her pleasure in his being there was as frank as her
father's, and there was a pretty trust of him in every word and tone
which forbade misinterpretation.

"I was just talking about you, doctor," the father began, "and saying
what a pity you hadn't come to our hotel. It's a capital place."

"_I've_ been thinking it was a pity I went to mine," Lanfear returned,
"though I'm in San Remo for such a short time it's scarcely worth while
to change."

"Well, perhaps if you came here, you might stay longer. I guess we're
booked for the winter, Nannie?" He referred the question to his
daughter, who asked Lanfear if he would not have some coffee.

"I was going to say I had had my coffee, but I'm not sure it _was_
coffee," Lanfear began, and he consented, with some demur, banal enough,
about the trouble.

"Well, that's right, then, and no trouble at all," Mr. Gerald broke in
upon him. "Here comes a fellow looking for a chance to bring you some,"
and he called to a waiter wandering distractedly about with a "Heigh!"
that might have been offensive from a less obviously inoffensive man.
"Can you get our friend here a cup and saucer, and some of this good
coffee?" he asked, as the waiter approached.

"Yes, certainly, sir," the man answered in careful English. "Is it not,
perhaps, Mr. and Misses Gerald?" he smilingly insinuated, offering some
cards.

"Miss Gerald," the father corrected him as he took the cards. "Why,
hello, Nannie! Here are the Bells! Where are they?" he demanded of the
waiter. "Bring them here, and a lot more cups and saucers. Or, hold on!
I'd better go myself, Nannie, hadn't I? Of course! You get the crockery,
waiter. Where did you say they were?" He bustled up from his chair,
without waiting for a distinct reply, and apologized to Lanfear in
hurrying away. "You'll excuse me, doctor! I'll be back in half a minute.
Friends of ours that came over on the same boat. I must see them, of
course, but I don't believe they'll stay. Nannie, don't let Dr. Lanfear
get away. I want to have some talk with him. You tell him he'd better
come to the Sardegna, here."

Lanfear and Miss Gerald sat a moment in the silence which is apt to
follow with young people when they are unexpectedly left to themselves.
She kept absently pushing the cards her father had given her up and down
on the table between her thumb and forefinger, and Lanfear noted the
translucence of her long, thin hand in the sunshine striking across the
painted iron surface of the garden movable. The translucence had a
pathos for his intelligence which the pensive tilt of her head enhanced.
She stopped toying with the cards, and looked at the addresses on them.

"What strange things names are!" she said, as if musing on the fact,
with a sigh which he thought disproportioned to the depth of her
remark.

"They seem rather irrelevant at times," he admitted, with a smile.
"They're mere tags, labels, which can be attached to one as well as
another; they seem to belong equally to anybody."

"That is what I always say to myself," she agreed, with more interest
than he found explicable.

"But finally," he returned, "they're all that's left us, if they're left
themselves. They are the only signs to the few who knew us that we ever
existed. They stand for our characters, our personality, our mind, our
soul."

She said, "That is very true," and then she suddenly gave him the cards.
"Do you know these people?"

"I? I thought they were friends of yours," he replied, astonished.

[Illustration: A LIVELY MATRON, OF AS YOUTHFUL A TEMPERAMENT AS THE
LIVELY GIRLS SHE BROUGHT IN HER TRAIN, BURST UPON THEM]

"That is what papa thinks," Miss Gerald said, and while she sat dreamily
absent, a rustle of skirts and a flutter of voices pierced from the
surrounding shrubbery, and then a lively matron, of as youthful a
temperament as the lively girls she brought in her train, burst upon
them, and Miss Gerald was passed from one embrace to another until all
four had kissed her. She returned their greeting, and shared, in her
quieter way, their raptures at their encounter.

"Such a hunt as we've had for you!" the matron shouted. "We've been
up-stairs and down-stairs and in my lady's chamber, all over the hotel.
Where's your father? Ah, they did get our cards to you!" and by that
token Lanfear knew that these ladies were the Bells. He had stood up in
a sort of expectancy, but Miss Gerald did not introduce him, and a
shadow of embarrassment passed over the party which she seemed to feel
least, though he fancied a sort of entreaty in the glance that she let
pass over him.

"I suppose he's gone to look for _us_!" Mrs. Bell saved the situation
with a protecting laugh. Miss Gerald colored intelligently, and Lanfear
could not let Mrs. Bell's implication pass.

"If it is Mrs. Bell," he said, "I can answer that he has. I met you at
Magnolia some years ago, Mrs. Bell. Dr. Lanfear."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Dr. Lanfear," Miss Gerald said. "I couldn't
think--"

"Of my tag, my label?" he laughed back. "It isn't very distinctly
lettered."

Mrs. Bell was not much minding them jointly. She was singling Lanfear
out for the expression of her pleasure in seeing him again, and
recalling the incidents of her summer at Magnolia before, it seemed, any
of her girls were out. She presented them collectively, and the eldest
of them charmingly reminded Lanfear that he had once had the magnanimity
to dance with her when she sat, in a little girl's forlorn despair of
being danced with, at one of those desolate hops of the good old Osprey
House.

"Yes; and now," her mother followed, "we can't wait a moment longer, if
we're to get our train for Monte Carlo, girls. We're not going to play,
doctor," she made time to explain, "but we are going to look on. Will
you tell your father, dear," she said, taking the girl's hands
caressingly in hers, and drawing her to her motherly bosom, "that we
found you, and did our best to find him? We can't wait now--our carriage
is champing the bit at the foot of the stairs--but we're coming back in
a week, and then we'll do our best to look you up again." She included
Lanfear in her good-bye, and all her girls said good-bye in the same
way, and with a whisking of skirts and twitter of voices they vanished
through the shrubbery, and faded into the general silence and general
sound like a bevy of birds which had swept near and passed by.

Miss Gerald sank quietly into her place, and sat as if nothing had
happened, except that she looked a little paler to Lanfear, who remained
on foot trying to piece together their interrupted tête-à-tête, but not
succeeding, when her father reappeared, red and breathless, and wiping
his forehead. "Have they been here, Nannie?" he asked. "I've been
following them all over the place, and the _portier_ told me just now
that he had seen a party of ladies coming down this way."

He got it all out, not so clearly as those women had got everything in,
Lanfear reflected, but unmistakably enough as to the fact, and he looked
at his daughter as he repeated: "Haven't the Bells been here?"

[Illustration: "SHE SHOOK HER HEAD, AND SAID,... 'NOBODY HAS BEEN HERE,
EXCEPT--'"]

She shook her head, and said, with her delicate quiet: "Nobody has been
here, except--" She glanced at Lanfear, who smiled, but saw no opening
for himself in the strange situation. Then she said: "I think I will go
and lie down a while, now, papa. I'm rather tired. Good-bye," she said,
giving Lanfear her hand; it felt limp and cold; and then she turned to
her father again. "Don't you come, papa! I can get back perfectly well
by myself. Stay with--"

"I will go with you," her father said, "and if Dr. Lanfear doesn't mind
coming--"

"Certainly I will come," Lanfear said, and he passed to the girl's
right; she had taken her father's arm; but he wished to offer more
support if it were needed. When they had climbed to the open flowery
space before the hotel, she seemed aware of the groups of people about.
She took her hand from her father's arm, as if unwilling to attract
their notice by seeming to need its help, and swept up the gravelled
path between him and Lanfear, with her flowing walk.

Her father fell back, as they entered the hotel door, and murmured to
Lanfear: "Will you wait till I come down?" ... "I wanted to tell you
about my daughter," he explained, when he came back after the quarter of
an hour which Lanfear had found rather intense. "It's useless to pretend
you wouldn't have noticed--Had nobody been with you after I left you,
down there?" He twisted his head in the direction of the pavilion, where
they had been breakfasting.

"Yes; Mrs. Bell and her daughters," Lanfear answered, simply.

"Of course! Why do you suppose my daughter denied it?" Mr. Gerald asked.

"I suppose she--had her reasons," Lanfear answered, lamely enough.

"No _reason_, I'm afraid," Mr. Gerald said, and he broke out hopelessly:
"She has her mind sound enough, but not--not her memory. She had
forgotten that they were there! Are you going to stay in San Remo?" he
asked, with an effect of interrupting himself, as if in the wish to put
off something, or to make the ground sure before he went on.

"Why," Lanfear said, "I hadn't thought of it. I stopped--I was going to
Nice--to test the air for a friend who wishes to bring his invalid wife
here, if I approve--but I have just been asking myself why I should go
to Nice when I could stay at San Remo. The place takes my fancy. I'm
something of an invalid myself--at least I'm on my vacation--and I find
a charm in it, if nothing better. Perhaps a charm is enough. It used to
be, in primitive medicine."

He was talking to what he felt was not an undivided attention in Mr.
Gerald, who said, "I'm glad of it," and then added: "I should like to
consult you professionally. I know your reputation in New York--though
I'm not a New-Yorker myself--and I don't know any of the doctors here. I
suppose I've done rather a wild thing in coming off the way I have,
with my daughter; but I felt that I must do something, and I hoped--I
felt as if it were getting away from our trouble. It's most fortunate my
meeting you, if you can look into the case, and help me out with a
nurse, if she's needed, and all that!" To a certain hesitation in
Lanfear's face, he added: "Of course, I'm asking your professional help.
My name is Abner Gerald--Abner L. Gerald--perhaps you know my standing,
and that I'm able to--"

"Oh, it isn't a question of that! I shall be glad to do anything I can,"
Lanfear said, with a little pang which he tried to keep silent in
orienting himself anew towards the girl, whose loveliness he had felt
before he had felt her piteousness.

"But before you go further I ought to say that you must have been
thinking of my uncle, the first Matthew Lanfear, when you spoke of my
reputation; I haven't got any yet; I've only got my uncle's name."

"Oh!" Mr. Gerald said, disappointedly, but after a blank moment he
apparently took courage. "You're in the same line, though?"

"If you mean the psychopathic line, without being exactly an alienist,
well, yes," Lanfear admitted.

"That's exactly what I mean," the elder said, with renewed hopefulness.
"I'm quite willing to risk myself with a man of the same name as Dr.
Lanfear. I should like," he said, hurrying on, as if to override any
further reluctance of Lanfear's, "to tell you her story, and then--"

"By all means," Lanfear consented, and he put on an air of professional
deference, while the older man began with a face set for the task.

"It's a long story, or it's a short story, as you choose to make it.
We'll make it long, if necessary, later, but now I'll make it short.
Five months ago my wife was killed before my daughter's eyes--"

He stopped; Lanfear breathed a gentle "Oh!" and Gerald blurted out:

"Accident--grade crossing--Don't!" he winced at the kindness in
Lanfear's eyes, and panted on. "That's over! What happened to _her_--to
my daughter--was that she fainted from the shock. When she woke--it was
more like a sleep than a swoon--she didn't remember what had happened."
Lanfear nodded, with a gravely interested face. "She didn't remember
anything that had ever happened before. She knew me, because I was there
with her; but she didn't know that she ever had a mother, because she
was not there with her. You see?"

"I can imagine," Lanfear assented.

"The whole of her life before the--accident was wiped out as to the
facts, as completely as if it had never been; and now every day, every
hour, every minute, as it passes, goes with that past. But her
faculties--"

"Yes?" Lanfear prompted in the pause which Mr. Gerald made.

"Her intellect--the working powers of her mind, apart from anything like
remembering, are as perfect as if she were in full possession of her
memory. I believe," the father said, with a pride that had its pathos,
"no one can talk with her and not feel that she has a beautiful mind,
that she can think better than most girls of her age. She reads, or she
lets me read to her, and until it has time to fade, she appreciates it
all more fully than I do. At Genoa, where I took her to the palaces for
the pictures, I saw that she had kept her feeling for art. When she
plays--you will hear her play--it is like composing the music for
herself; she does not seem to remember the pieces, she seems to
improvise them. You understand?"

Lanfear said that he understood, for he could not disappoint the
expectation of the father's boastful love: all that was left him of the
ambitions he must once have had for his child.

The poor, little, stout, unpicturesque elderly man got up and began to
walk to and fro in the room which he had turned into with Lanfear, and
to say, more to himself than to Lanfear, as if balancing one thing
against another: "The merciful thing is that she has been saved from the
horror and the sorrow. She knows no more of either than she knows of her
mother's love for her. They were very much alike in looks and mind, and
they were always together more like persons of the same age--sisters, or
girl friends; but she has lost all knowledge of that, as of other
things. And then there is the question whether she won't some time,
sooner or later, come into both the horror and the sorrow." He stopped
and looked at Lanfear. "She has these sudden fits of drowsiness, when
she _must_ sleep; and I never see her wake from them without being
afraid that she has wakened to everything--that she has got back into
her full self, and taken up the terrible burden that my old shoulders
are used to. What do you think?"

Lanfear felt the appeal so keenly that in the effort to answer
faithfully he was aware of being harsher than he meant. "That is a
chance we can't forecast. But it is a chance. The fact that the
drowsiness recurs periodically--"

"It doesn't," the father pleaded. "We don't know when it will come on."

"It scarcely matters. The periodicity wouldn't affect the possible
result which you dread. I don't say that it is probable. But it's one
of the possibilities. It has," Lanfear added, "its logic."

"Ah, its logic!"

"Its logic, yes. My business, of course, would be to restore her to
health at any risk. So far as her mind is affected--"

"Her mind is not affected!" the father retorted.

"I beg your pardon--her memory--it might be restored with her physical
health. You understand that? It is a chance; it might or it might not
happen."

The father was apparently facing a risk which he had not squarely faced
before. "I suppose so," he faltered. After a moment he added, with more
courage: "You must do the best you can, at any risk."

Lanfear rose, too. He said, with returning kindness in his tones, if not
his words: "I should like to study the case, Mr. Gerald. It's very
interesting, and--and--if you'll forgive me--very touching."

"Thank you."

"If you decide to stay in San Remo, I will--Do you suppose I could get
a room in this hotel? I don't like mine."

"Why, I haven't any doubt you can. Shall we ask?"


III

It was from the Hotel Sardegna that Lanfear satisfied his conscience by
pushing his search for climate on behalf of his friend's neurasthenic
wife. He decided that Ospedaletti, with a milder air and more sheltered
seat in its valley of palms, would be better for her than San Remo. He
wrote his friend to that effect, and then there was no preoccupation to
hinder him in his devotion to the case of Miss Gerald. He put the case
first in the order of interest rather purposely, and even with a sense
of effort, though he could not deny to himself that a like case related
to a different personality might have been less absorbing. But he tried
to keep his scientific duty to it pure of that certain painful pleasure
which, as a young man not much over thirty, he must feel in the strange
affliction of a young and beautiful girl.

Though there was no present question of medicine, he could be installed
near her, as the friend that her father insisted upon making him,
without contravention of the social formalities. His care of her hardly
differed from that of her father, except that it involved a closer and
more premeditated study. They did not try to keep her from the sort of
association which, in a large hotel of the type of the Sardegna, entails
no sort of obligation to intimacy. They sat together at the long table,
midway of the dining-room, which maintained the tradition of the old
table-d'hôte against the small tables ranged along the walls. Gerald had
an amiable old man's liking for talk, and Lanfear saw that he willingly
escaped, among their changing companions, from the pressure of his
anxieties. He left his daughter very much to Lanfear, during these
excursions, but Lanfear was far from meaning to keep her to himself. He
thought it better that she should follow her father in his forays among
their neighbors, and he encouraged her to continue such talk with them
as she might be brought into. He tried to guard her future encounters
with them, so that she should not show more than a young girl's usual
diffidence at a second meeting; and in the frequent substitution of one
presence for another across the table, she was fairly safe.

A natural light-heartedness, of which he had glimpses from the first,
returned to her. One night, at the dance given by some of the guests to
some others, she went through the gayety in joyous triumph. She danced
mostly with Lanfear, but she had other partners, and she won a pleasing
popularity by the American quality of her waltzing. Lanfear had already
noted that her forgetfulness was not always so constant or so inclusive
as her father had taught him to expect; Mr. Gerald's statement had been
the large, general fact from which there was sometimes a shrinking in
the particulars. While the warmth of an agreeable experience lasted, her
mind kept record of it, slight or full; if the experience were
unpleasant the memory was more apt to fade at once. After that dance she
repeated to her father the little compliments paid her, and told him,
laughing, they were to reward him for sitting up so late as her
chaperon. Emotions persisted in her consciousness as the tremor lasts in
a smitten cord, but events left little trace. She retained a sense of
personalities; she was lastingly sensible of temperaments; but names
were nothing to her. She could not tell her father who had said the nice
things to her, and their joint study of her dancing-card did not help
them out.

Her relation to Lanfear, though it might be a subject of international
scrutiny, was hardly a subject of censure. He was known as Dr. Lanfear,
but he was not at first known as her physician; he was conjectured her
cousin or something like that; he might even be her betrothed in the
peculiar American arrangement of such affairs. Personally people saw in
him a serious-looking young man, better dressed and better mannered than
they thought most Americans, and unquestionably handsomer, with his
Spanish skin and eyes, and his brown beard of the Vandyke cut which was
then already beginning to be rather belated.

Other Americans in the hotel were few and transitory; and if the English
had any mind about Miss Gerald different from their mind about other
girls, it would be perhaps to the effect that she was quite mad; by this
they would mean that she was a little odd; but for the rest they had
apparently no mind about her. With the help of one of the English ladies
her father had replaced the homesick Irish maid whom he had sent back to
New York from Genoa, with an Italian, and in the shelter of her gay
affection and ignorant sympathy Miss Gerald had a security supplemented
by the easy social environment. If she did not look very well, she did
not differ from most other American women in that; and if she seemed to
confide herself more severely to the safe-keeping of her physician, that
was the way of all women patients.

Whether the Bells found the spectacle of depravity at Monte Carlo more
attractive than the smiling face of nature at San Remo or not, they did
not return, but sent for their baggage from their hotel, and were not
seen again by the Geralds. Lanfear's friend with the invalid wife wrote
from Ospedaletti, with apologies which inculpated him for the
disappointment, that she had found the air impossible in a single day,
and they were off for Cannes. Lanfear and the Geralds, therefore,
continued together in the hotel without fear or obligation to others,
and in an immunity in which their right to breakfast exclusively in that
pavilion on the garden wall was almost explicitly conceded. No one,
after a few mornings of tacit possession, would have disputed their
claim, and there, day after day, in the mild monotony of the December
sunshine, they sat and drank their coffee, and talked of the sights
which the peasants in the street, and the tourists in the promenade
beyond it, afforded. The rows of stumpy palms which separated the road
from the walk were not so high but that they had the whole lift of the
sea to the horizon where it lost itself in a sky that curved blue as
turquoise to the zenith overhead. The sun rose from its morning bath on
the left, and sank to its evening bath on the right, and in making its
climb of the spacious arc between, shed a heat as great as that of
summer, but not the heat of summer, on the pretty world of villas and
hotels, towered over by the olive-gray slopes of the pine-clad heights
behind and above them. From these tops a fine, keen cold fell with the
waning afternoon, which sharpened through the sunset till the dusk; but
in the morning the change was from the chill to the glow, and they could
sit in their pavilion, under the willowy droop of the eucalyptus-trees
which have brought the Southern Pacific to the Riviera, with increasing
comfort.

In the restlessness of an elderly man, Gerald sometimes left the young
people to their intolerable delays over their coffee, and walked off
into the little stone and stucco city below, or went and sat with his
cigar on one of the benches under the palm-lined promenade, which the
pale northern consumptives shared with the swarthy peasant girls resting
from their burdens, and the wrinkled grandmothers of their race
passively or actively begging from the strangers.

While she kept her father in sight it seemed that Miss Gerald could
maintain her hold of his identity, and one morning she said, with the
tender fondness for him which touched Lanfear: "When he sits there among
those sick people and poor people, then he knows they are in the world."

She turned with a question graver in her look than usual, and he said:
"Yes, we might help them oftener if we could remember that their misery
was going on all the time, like some great natural process, day or dark,
heat or cold, which seems to stop when we stop thinking of it. Nothing,
for us, at least, exists unless it is recalled to us."

"Yes," she said, in her turn, "I have noticed that. But don't you
sometimes--sometimes"--she knit her forehead, as if to keep her thought
from escaping--"have a feeling as if what you were doing, or saying, or
seeing, had all happened before, just as it is now?"

"Oh yes; that occurs to every one."

"But don't you--don't you have hints of things, of ideas, as if you had
known them, in some previous existence--"

She stopped, and Lanfear recognized, with a kind of impatience, the
experience which young people make much of when they have it, and
sometimes pretend to when they have merely heard of it. But there could
be no pose or pretence in her. He smilingly suggested:

    "'For something is, or something seems,
      Like glimpses of forgotten dreams.'

These weird impressions are no more than that, probably."

"Ah, I don't believe it," the girl said. "They are too real for that.
They come too often, and they make me feel as if they would come more
fully, some time. If there was a life before this--do you believe there
was?--they may be things that happened there. Or they may be things that
will happen in a life after this. You believe in _that_, don't you?"

"In a life after this, or their happening in it?"

"Well, both."

Lanfear evaded her, partly. "They could be premonitions, prophecies, of
a future life, as easily as fragmentary records of a past life. I
suppose we do not begin to be immortal merely after death."

"No." She lingered out the word in dreamy absence, as if what they had
been saying had already passed from her thought.

"But, Miss Gerald," Lanfear ventured, "have these impressions of yours
grown more definite--fuller, as you say--of late?"

"My impressions?" She frowned at him, as if the look of interest, more
intense than usual in his eyes, annoyed her. "I don't know what you
mean."

Lanfear felt bound to follow up her lead, whether she wished it or not.
"A good third of our lives here is passed in sleep. I'm not always sure
that we are right in treating the mental--for certainly they are
mental--experiences of that time as altogether trivial, or
insignificant."

She seemed to understand now, and she protested: "But I don't mean
dreams. I mean things that really happened, or that really will happen."

"Like something you can give me an instance of? Are they painful things,
or pleasant, mostly?"

She hesitated. "They are things that you know happen to other people,
but you can't believe would ever happen to you."

"Do they come when you are just drowsing, or just waking from a drowse?"

"They are not dreams," she said, almost with vexation.

"Yes, yes, I understand," he hesitated to retrieve himself. "But _I_
have had floating illusions, just before I fell asleep, or when I was
sensible of not being quite awake, which seemed to differ from dreams.
They were not so dramatic, but they were more pictorial; they were more
visual than the things in dreams."

"Yes," she assented. "They are something like that. But I should not
call them illusions."

"No. And they represent scenes, events?"

"You said yourself they were not dramatic."

"I meant, represent pictorially."

"No; they are like the landscape that flies back from your train or
towards it. I can't explain it," she ended, rising with what he felt a
displeasure in his pursuit.


IV

He reported what had passed to her father when Mr. Gerald came back from
his stroll into the town, with his hands full of English papers; Gerald
had even found a New York paper at the news-stand; and he listened with
an apparent postponement of interest.

"I think," Lanfear said, "that she has some shadowy recollection, or
rather that the facts come to her in a jarred, confused way--the
elements of pictures, not pictures. But I am afraid that my inquiry has
offended her."

"I guess not," Gerald said, dryly, as if annoyed. "What makes you think
so?"

"Merely her manner. And I don't know that anything is to be gained by
such an inquiry."

"Perhaps not," Gerald allowed, with an inattention which vexed Lanfear
in his turn.

The elderly man looked up, from where he sat provisionally in the hotel
veranda, into Lanfear's face; Lanfear had remained standing. "_I_ don't
believe she's offended. Or she won't be long. One thing, she'll forget
it."

He was right enough, apparently. Miss Gerald came out of the hotel door
towards them, smiling equally for both, with the indefinable difference
between cognition and recognition habitual in her look. She was dressed
for a walk, and she seemed to expect them to go with her. She beamed
gently upon Lanfear; there was no trace of umbrage in her sunny gayety.
Her face had, as always, its lurking pathos, but in its appeal to
Lanfear now there were only trust and the wish of pleasing him.

They started side by side for their walk, while her father drove beside
them in one of the little public carriages, mounting to the Berigo Road,
through a street of the older San Remo, and issuing on a bare little
piazza looking towards the walls and roofs of the mediaeval city,
clustered together like cliff-dwellings, and down on the gardens that
fell from the villas and the hotels. A parapet kept the path on the
roadside nearest the declivities, and from point to point benches were
put for the convenient enjoyment of the prospect. Mr. Gerald preferred
to take his pleasure from the greater elevation of the seat in his
victoria; his daughter and Lanfear leaned on the wall, and looked up to
the sky and out to the sea, both of the same blue.

The palms and eucalyptus-trees darkened about the villas; the bits of
vineyard, in their lingering crimson or lingering gold, and the orchards
of peaches and persimmons enriched with the varying reds of their
ripening leaves and fruits the enchanting color scheme. The rose and
geranium hedges were in bloom; the feathery green of the pepper-trees
was warmed by the red-purple of their grape-like clusters of blossoms;
the perfume of lemon flowers wandered vaguely upwards from some point
which they could not fix.

Nothing of all the beauty seemed lost upon the girl, so bereft that she
could enjoy no part of it from association. Lanfear observed that she
was not fatigued by any such effort as he was always helplessly making
to match what he saw with something he had seen before. Now, when this
effort betrayed itself, she said, smiling: "How strange it is that you
see things for what they are like, and not for what they are!"

"Yes, it's a defect, I'm afraid, sometimes. Perhaps--"

"Perhaps what?" she prompted him in the pause he made.

"Nothing. I was wondering whether in some other possible life our
consciousness would not be more independent of what we have been than it
seems to be here." She looked askingly at him. "I mean whether there
shall not be something absolute in our existence, whether it shall not
realize itself more in each experience of the moment, and not be always
seeking to verify itself from the past."

"Isn't that what you think is the way with me already?" She turned upon
him smiling, and he perceived that in her New York version of a Parisian
costume, with her lace hat of summer make and texture and the vivid
parasol she twirled upon her shoulder, she was not only a very pretty
girl, but a fashionable one. There was something touching in the fact,
and a little bewildering. To the pretty girl, the fashionable girl, he
could have answered with a joke, but the stricken intelligence had a
claim to his seriousness. Now, especially, he noted what had from time
to time urged itself upon his perception. If the broken ties which once
bound her to the past were beginning to knit again, her recovery
otherwise was not apparent. As she stood there her beauty had signally
the distinction of fragility, the delicacy of shattered nerves in which
there was yet no visible return to strength. A feeling, which had
intimated itself before, a sense as of being in the presence of a
disembodied spirit, possessed him, and brought, in its contradiction of
an accepted theory, a suggestion that was destined to become conviction.
He had always said to himself that there could be no persistence of
personality, of character, of identity, of consciousness, except through
memory; yet here, to the last implication of temperament, they all
persisted. The soul that was passing in its integrity through time
without the helps, the crutches, of remembrance by which his own
personality supported itself, why should not it pass so through eternity
without that loss of identity which was equivalent to annihilation?

Her waiting eyes recalled him from his inquiry, and with an effort he
answered, "Yes, I think you do have your being here and now, Miss
Gerald, to an unusual degree."

"And you don't think that is wrong?"

"Wrong? Why? How?"

"Oh, I don't know." She looked round, and her eye fell upon her father
waiting for them in his carriage beside the walk. The sight supplied her
with the notion which Lanfear perceived would not have occurred
otherwise. "Then why doesn't papa want me to remember things?"

"I don't know," Lanfear temporized. "Doesn't he?"

"I can't always tell. Should--should _you_ wish me to remember more than
I do?"

"I?"

She looked at him with entreaty. "Do you think it would make my father
happier if I did?"

"That I can't say," Lanfear answered. "People are often the sadder for
what they remember. If I were your father--Excuse me! I don't mean
anything so absurd. But in his place--"

He stopped, and she said, as if she were satisfied with his broken
reply: "It is very curious. When I look at him--when I am with him--I
know him; but when he is away, I don't remember him." She seemed rather
interested in the fact than distressed by it; she even smiled.

"And me," he ventured, "is it the same with regard to me?"

She did not say; she asked, smiling: "Do you remember me when I am
away?"

"Yes!" he answered. "As perfectly as if you were with me. I can see you,
hear you, feel the touch of your hand, your dress--Good heavens!" he
added to himself under his breath. "What am I saying to this poor
child!"

In the instinct of escaping from himself he started forward, and she
moved with him. Mr. Gerald's watchful driver followed them with the
carriage.

"That is very strange," she said, lightly. "Is it so with you about
everyone?"

"No," he replied, briefly, almost harshly. He asked, abruptly: "Miss
Gerald, are there any times when you know people in their absence?"

"Just after I wake from a nap--yes. But it doesn't last. That is, it
seems to me it doesn't. I'm not sure."

As they followed the winding of the pleasant way, with the villas on the
slopes above and on the slopes below, she began to talk of them, and to
come into that knowledge of each which formed her remembrance of them
from former knowledge of them, but which he knew would fade when she
passed them.

The next morning, when she came down unwontedly late to breakfast in
their pavilion, she called gayly:

"Dr. Lanfear! It _is_ Dr. Lanfear?"

"I should be sorry if it were not, since you seem to expect it, Miss
Gerald."

"Oh, I just wanted to be sure. Hasn't my father been here, yet?" It was
the first time she had shown herself aware of her father except in his
presence, as it was the first time she had named Lanfear to his face.

He suppressed a remote stir of anxiety, and answered: "He went to get
his newspapers; he wished you not to wait. I hope you slept well?"

"Splendidly. But I was very tired last night; I don't know why,
exactly."

"We had rather a long walk."

"Did we have a walk yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Then it was _so_! I thought I had dreamed it. I was beginning to
remember something, and my father asked me what it was, and then I
couldn't remember. Do you believe I shall keep on remembering?"

"I don't see why you shouldn't."

"Should you wish me to?" she asked, in evident, however unconscious,
recurrence to their talk of the day before.

"Why not?"

She sighed. "I don't know. If it's like some of those dreams or gleams.
Is remembering pleasant?"

Lanfear thought for a moment. Then he said, in the honesty he thought
best to use with her: "For the most part I should say it was painful.
Life is tolerable enough while it passes, but when it is past, what
remains seems mostly to hurt and humiliate. I don't know why we should
remember so insistently the foolish things and wrong things we do, and
not recall the times when we acted, without an effort, wisely and
rightly." He thought he had gone too far, and he hedged a little. "I
don't mean that we _can't_ recall those times. We can and do, to console
and encourage ourselves; but they don't recur, without our willing, as
the others do."

She had poured herself a cup of coffee, and she played with the spoon in
her saucer while she seemed to listen. But she could not have been
listening, for when she put down her spoon and leaned back in her chair,
she said: "In those dreams the things come from such a very far way
back, and they don't belong to a life that is like this. They belong to
a life like what you hear the life after this is. We are the same as we
are here; but the things are different. We haven't the same rules, the
same wishes--I can't explain."

"You mean that we are differently conditioned?"

"Yes. And if you can understand, I feel as if I remembered long back of
this, and long forward of this. But one can't remember forward!"

"That wouldn't be remembrance; no, it would be prescience; and your
consciousness here, as you were saying yesterday, is through knowing,
not remembering."

She stared at him. "Was that yesterday? I thought it was--to-morrow."
She rubbed her hand across her forehead as people do when they wish to
clear their minds. Then she sighed deeply. "It tires me so. And yet I
can't help trying." A light broke over her face at the sound of a step
on the gravel walk near by, and she said, laughing, without looking
round: "That is papa! I knew it was his step."


V

Such return of memory as she now had was like memory in what we call the
lower lives. It increased, fluctuantly, with an ebb in which it almost
disappeared, but with a flow that in its advance carried it beyond its
last flood-tide mark. After the first triumph in which she could address
Lanfear by his name, and could greet her father as her father, there
were lapses in which she knew them as before, without naming them.
Except mechanically to repeat the names of other people when reminded of
them, she did not pass beyond cognition to recognition. Events still
left no trace upon her; or if they did she was not sure whether they
were things she had dreamed or experienced. But her memory grew stronger
in the region where the bird knows its way home to the nest, or the bee
to the hive. She had an unerring instinct for places where she had once
been, and she found her way to them again without the help from the
association which sometimes failed Lanfear. Their walks were always
taken with her father's company in his carriage, but they sometimes left
him at a point of the Berigo Road, and after a long détour among the
vineyards and olive orchards of the heights above, rejoined him at
another point they had agreed upon with him. One afternoon, when Lanfear
had climbed the rough pave of the footways with her to one of the
summits, they stopped to rest on the wall of a terrace, where they sat
watching the changing light on the sea, through a break in the trees.
The shadows surprised them on their height, and they had to make their
way among them over the farm paths and by the dry beds of the torrents
to the carriage road far below. They had been that walk only once
before, and Lanfear failed of his reckoning, except the downward course
which must bring them out on the high-road at last. But Miss Gerald's
instinct saved them where his reason failed. She did not remember, but
she knew the way, and she led him on as if she were inventing it, or as
if it had been indelibly traced upon her mind and she had only to follow
the mystical lines within to be sure of her course. She confessed to
being very tired, and each step must have increased her fatigue, but
each step seemed to clear her perception of the next to be taken.

Suddenly, when Lanfear was blaming himself for bringing all this upon
her, and then for trusting to her guidance, he recognized a certain
peasant's house, and in a few moments they had descended the
olive-orchard terraces to a broken cistern in the clear twilight beyond
the dusk. She suddenly halted him. "There, there! It happened
then--now--this instant!"

"What?"

"That feeling of being here before! There is the curb of the old
cistern; and the place where the terrace wall is broken; and the path up
to the vineyard--Don't you feel it, too?" she demanded, with a
joyousness which had no pleasure for him.

"Yes, certainly. We were here last week. We went up the path to the
farm-house to get some water."

"Yes, now I am remembering--remembering!" She stood with eagerly parted
lips, and glancing quickly round with glowing eyes, whose light faded in
the same instant. "No!" she said, mournfully, "it's gone."

A sound of wheels in the road ceased, and her father's voice called:
"Don't you want to take my place, and let me walk awhile, Nannie?"

"No. You come to me, papa. Something very strange has happened;
something you will be surprised at. Hurry!" She seemed to be joking, as
he was, while she beckoned him impatiently towards her.

He had left his carriage, and he came up with a heavy man's quickened
pace. "Well, what is the wonderful thing?" he panted out.

She stared blankly at him, without replying, and they silently made
their way to Mr. Gerald's carriage.

"I lost the way, and Miss Gerald found it," Lanfear explained, as he
helped her to the place beside her father.

She said nothing, and almost with sinking into the seat, she sank into
that deep slumber which from time to time overtook her.

"I didn't know we had gone so far--or rather that we had waited so long
before we started down the hills," Lanfear apologized in an involuntary
whisper.

"Oh, it's all right," her father said, trying to adjust the girl's
fallen head to his shoulder. "Get in and help me--"

Lanfear obeyed, and lent a physician's skilled aid, which left the
cumbrous efforts of her father to the blame he freely bestowed on them.
"You'll have to come here on the other side," he said. "There's room
enough for all three. Or, hold on! Let me take your place." He took the
place in front, and left her to Lanfear's care, with the trust which was
the physician's right, and with a sense of the girl's dependence in
which she was still a child to him.

They did not speak till well on the way home. Then the father leaned
forward and whispered huskily: "Do you think she's as strong as she
was?"

Lanfear waited, as if thinking the facts over. He murmured back: "No.
She's better. She's not so strong."

"Yes," the father murmured. "I understand."

What Gerald understood by Lanfear's words might not have been their
meaning, but what Lanfear meant was that there was now an interfusion of
the past and present in her daily experience. She still did not
remember, but she had moments in which she hovered upon such knowledge
of what had happened as she had of actual events. When she was stronger
she seemed farther from this knowledge; when she was weaker she was
nearer it. So it seemed to him in that region where he could be sure of
his own duty when he looked upon it singly as concern for her health. No
inquiry for the psychological possibilities must be suffered to divide
his effort for her physical recovery, though there might come with this
a cessation of the timeless dream-state in which she had her being, and
she might sharply realize the past, as the anaesthete realizes his
return to agony from insensibility. The quality of her mind was as
different from the thing called culture as her manner from convention. A
simplicity beyond the simplicity of childhood was one with a poetic
color in her absolute ideas. But this must cease with her restoration to
the strength in which she could alone come into full and clear
self-consciousness. So far as Lanfear could give reality to his
occupation with her disability, he was ministering to a mind diseased;
not to "rase out its written trouble," but if possible to restore the
obliterated record, and enable her to spell its tragic characters. If he
could, he would have shrunk from this office; but all the more because
he specially had to do with the mystical side of medicine, he always
tried to keep his relation to her free from personal feeling, and his
aim single and matter-of-fact.

It was hard to do this; and there was a glamour in the very
topographical and meteorological environment. The autumn was a long
delight in which the constant sea, the constant sky, knew almost as
little variance as the unchanging Alps. The days passed in a procession
of sunny splendor, neither hot nor cold, nor of the temper of any
determinate season, unless it were an abiding spring-time. The flowers
bloomed, and the grass kept green in a reverie of May. But one afternoon
of January, while Lanfear was going about in a thin coat and panama hat,
a soft, fresh wind began to blow from the east. It increased till
sunset, and then fell. In the morning he looked out on a world in which
the spring had stiffened overnight into winter. A thick frost painted
the leaves and flowers; icicles hung from pipes and vents; the frozen
streams flashed back from their arrested flow the sun as it shone from
the cold heaven, and blighted and blackened the hedges of geranium and
rose, the borders of heliotrope, the fields of pinks. The leaves of the
bananas hung limp about their stems; the palms rattled like skeletons in
the wind when it began to blow again over the shrunken landscape.


VI

The caprice of a climate which vaunted itself perpetual summer was a
godsend to all the strangers strong enough to bear it without suffering.
For the sick an indoor life of huddling about the ineffectual fires of
the south began, and lasted for the fortnight that elapsed before the
Riviera got back its advertised temperature. Miss Gerald had drooped in
the milder weather; but the cold braced and lifted her, and with its
help she now pushed her walks farther, and was eager every day for some
excursion to the little towns that whitened along the shores, or the
villages that glimmered from the olive-orchards of the hills. Once she
said to Lanfear, when they were climbing through the brisk, clear air:
"It seems to me as if I had been here before. Have I?"

"No. This is the first time."

She said no more, but seemed disappointed in his answer, and he
suggested: "Perhaps it is the cold that reminds you of our winters at
home, and makes you feel that the scene is familiar."

"Yes, that is it!" she returned, joyously. "Was there snow, there, like
that on the mountains yonder?"

"A good deal more, I fancy. That will be gone in a few days, and at
home, you know, our snow lasts for weeks."

"Then that is what I was thinking of," she said, and she ran strongly
and lightly forward. "Come!"

When the harsh weather passed and the mild climate returned there was no
lapse of her strength. A bloom, palely pink as the flowers that began to
flush the almond-trees, came upon her delicate beauty, a light like that
of the lengthening days dawned in her eyes. She had an instinct for the
earliest violets among the grass under the olives; she was first to hear
the blackcaps singing in the garden-tops; and nothing that was novel in
her experience seemed alien to it. This was the sum of what Lanfear got
by the questioning which he needlessly tried to keep indirect. She knew
that she was his patient, and in what manner, and she had let him divine
that her loss of memory was suffering as well as deprivation. She had
not merely the fatigue which we all undergo from the effort to recall
things, and which sometimes reaches exhaustion; but there was apparently
in the void of her oblivion a perpetual rumor of events, names,
sensations, like--Lanfear felt that he inadequately conjectured--the
subjective noises which are always in the ears of the deaf. Sometimes,
in the distress of it, she turned to him for help, and when he was able
to guess what she was striving for, a radiant relief and gratitude
transfigured her face. But this could not last, and he learned to note
how soon the stress and tension of her effort returned. His compassion
for her at such times involved a temptation, or rather a question, which
he had to silence by a direct effort of his will. Would it be worse,
would it be greater anguish for her to know at once the past that now
tormented her consciousness with its broken and meaningless
reverberations? Then he realized that it was impossible to help her even
through the hazard of telling her what had befallen; that no such effect
as was to be desired could be anticipated from the outside.

If he turned to her father for counsel or instruction, or even a
participation in his responsibility, he was met by an optimistic
patience which exasperated him, if it did not complicate the case. Once,
when Lanfear forbearingly tried to share with him his anxiety for the
effect of a successful event, he was formed to be outright, and remind
him, in so many words, that the girl's restoration might be through
anguish which he could not measure.

Gerald faltered aghast; then he said: "It mustn't come to that; you
mustn't let it."

"How do you expect me to prevent it?" Lanfear demanded, in his vexation.

Gerald caught his breath. "If she gets well, she will remember?"

"I don't say that. It seems probable. Do you wish her being to remain
bereft of one-half its powers?"

"Oh, how do I know what I want?" the poor man groaned. "I only know that
I trust you entirely, Doctor Lanfear. Whatever you think best will be
best and wisest, no matter what the outcome is."

He got away from Lanfear with these hopeless words, and again Lanfear
perceived that the case was left wholly to him. His consolation was the
charm of the girl's companionship, the delight of a nature knowing
itself from moment to moment as if newly created. For her, as nearly as
he could put the fact into words, the actual moment contained the past
and the future as well as the present. When he saw in her the
persistence of an exquisite personality independent of the means by
which he realized his own continuous identity, he sometimes felt as if
in the presence of some angel so long freed from earthly allegiance that
it had left all record behind, as we leave here the records of our first
years. If an echo of the past reached her, it was apt to be trivial and
insignificant, like those unimportant experiences of our remotest
childhood, which remain to us from a world outlived.

It was not an insipid perfection of character which reported itself in
these celestial terms, and Lanfear conjectured that angelic immortality,
if such a thing were, could not imply perfection except at the cost of
one-half of human character. When the girl wore a dress that she saw
pleased him more than another, there was a responsive pleasure in her
eyes, which he could have called vanity if he would; and she had at
times a wilfulness which he could have accused of being obstinacy. She
showed a certain jealousy of any experiences of his apart from her own,
not because they included others, but because they excluded her. He was
aware of an involuntary vigilance in her, which could not leave his
motives any more than his actions unsearched. But in her conditioning
she could not repent; she could only offer him at some other time the
unconscious reparation of her obedience. The self-criticism which the
child has not learned she had forgotten, but in her oblivion the wish to
please existed as perfectly as in the ignorance of childhood.

This, so far as he could ever put into words, was the interior of the
world where he dwelt apart with her. Its exterior continued very like
that of other worlds where two young people have their being. Now and
then a more transitory guest at the Grand Hotel Sardegna perhaps fancied
it the iridescent orb which takes the color of the morning sky, and is
destined, in the course of nature, to the danger of collapse in which
planetary space abounds. Some rumor of this could not fail to reach
Lanfear, but he ignored it as best he could in always speaking gravely
of Miss Gerald as his patient, and authoritatively treating her as such.
He convinced some of these witnesses against their senses; for the
others, he felt that it mattered little what they thought, since, if it
reached her, it could not pierce her isolation for more than the instant
in which the impression from absent things remained to her.

A more positive embarrassment, of a kind Lanfear was not prepared for,
beset him in an incident which would have been more touching if he had
been less singly concerned for the girl. A pretty English boy, with the
dawn of a peachy bloom on his young cheeks, and an impulsiveness
commoner with English youth than our own, talked with Miss Gerald one
evening and the next day sent her an armful of flowers with his card. He
followed this attention with a call at her father's apartment, and after
Miss Gerald seemed to know him, and they had, as he told Lanfear, a
delightful time together, she took up his card from the table where it
was lying, and asked him if he could tell her who that gentleman was.
The poor fellow's inference was that she was making fun of him, and he
came to Lanfear, as an obvious friend of the family, for an explanation.
He reported the incident, with indignant tears standing in his eyes:
"What did she mean by it? If she took my flowers, she must have known
that--that--they--And to pretend to forget my name! Oh, I say, it's too
bad! She could have got rid of me without that. Girls have ways enough,
you know."

"Yes, yes," Lanfear assented, slowly, to gain time. "I can assure you
that Miss Gerald didn't mean anything that could wound you. She isn't
very well--she's rather odd--"

"Do you mean that she's out of her mind? She can talk as well as any
one--better!"

"No, not that. But she's often in pain--greatly in pain when she can't
recall a name, and I've no doubt she was trying to recall yours with the
help of your card. She would be the last in the world to be indifferent
to your feelings. I imagine she scarcely knew what she was doing at the
moment."

"Then, do you think--do you suppose--it would be any good my trying to
see her again? If she wouldn't be indifferent to my feelings, do you
think there would be any hope--Really, you know, I would give anything
to believe that my feelings wouldn't offend her. You understand me?"

"Perhaps I do."

"I've never met a more charming girl and--she isn't engaged, is she? She
isn't engaged to you? I don't mean to press the question, but it's a
question of life and death with me, you know."

Lanfear thought he saw his way out of the coil. "I can tell you, quite
as frankly as you ask, that Miss Gerald isn't engaged to _me_."

"Then it's somebody else--somebody in America! Well, I hope she'll be
happy; _I_ never shall." He offered his hand to Lanfear. "I'm off."

"Oh, here's the doctor, now," a voice said behind them where they stood
by the garden wall, and they turned to confront Gerald with his
daughter.

"Why! Are you going?" she said to the Englishman, and she put out her
hand to him.

"Yes, Mr. Evers is going." Lanfear came to the rescue.

"Oh, I'm sorry," the girl said, and the youth responded.

"That's very good of you. I--good-by! I hope you'll be very happy--I--"
He turned abruptly away, and ran into the hotel.

"What has he been crying for?" Miss Gerald asked, turning from a long
look after him.

Lanfear did not know quite what to say; but he hazarded saying: "He was
hurt that you had forgotten him when he came to see you this afternoon."

"Did he come to see me?" she asked; and Lanfear exchanged looks of
anxiety, pain, and reassurance with her father. "I am so sorry. Shall I
go after him and tell him?"

"No; I explained; he's all right," Lanfear said.

"You want to be careful, Nannie," her father added, "about people's
feelings when you meet them, and afterwards seem not to know them."

"But I _do_ know them, papa," she remonstrated.

"You want to be careful," her father repeated.

"I will--I will, indeed." Her lips quivered, and the tears came, which
Lanfear had to keep from flowing by what quick turn he could give to
something else.

An obscure sense of the painful incident must have lingered with her
after its memory had perished. One afternoon when Lanfear and her father
went with her to the military concert in the sycamore-planted piazza
near the Vacherie Suisse, where they often came for a cup of tea, she
startled them by bowing gayly to a young lieutenant of engineers
standing there with some other officers, and making the most of the
prospect of pretty foreigners which the place afforded. The lieutenant
returned the bow with interest, and his eyes did not leave their party
as long as they remained. Within the bounds of deference for her, it was
evident that his comrades were joking about the honor done him by this
charming girl. When the Geralds started homeward Lanfear was aware of a
trio of officers following them, not conspicuously, but unmistakably;
and after that, he could not start on his walks with Miss Gerald and her
father without the sense that the young lieutenant was hovering
somewhere in their path, waiting in the hopes of another bow from her.
The officer was apparently not discouraged by his failure to win
recognition from her, and what was amounting to annoyance for Lanfear
reached the point where he felt he must share it with her father. He had
nearly as much trouble in imparting it to him as he might have had with
Miss Gerald herself. He managed, but when he required her father to put
a stop to it he perceived that Gerald was as helpless as she would have
been. He first wished to verify the fact from its beginning with her,
but this was not easy.

"Nannie," he said, "why did you bow to that officer the other day?"

"What officer, papa? When?"

"You know; there by the band-stand, at the Swiss Dairy."

She stared blankly at him, and it was clear that it was all as if it had
not been with her. He insisted, and then she said: "Perhaps I thought I
knew him, and was afraid I should hurt his feelings if I didn't
recognize him. But I don't remember it at all." The curves of her mouth
drooped, and her eyes grieved, so that her father had not the heart to
say more. She left them, and when he was alone with Lanfear he said:

"You see how it is!"

"Yes, I saw how it was before. But what do you wish to do?"

"Do you mean that he will keep it up?"

"Decidedly, he'll keep it up. He has every right to from his point of
view."

"Oh, well, then, my dear fellow, you must stop it, somehow. You'll know
how to do it."

"I?" said Lanfear, indignantly; but his vexation was not so great that
he did not feel a certain pleasure in fulfilling this strangest part of
his professional duty, when at the beginning of their next excursion he
put Miss Gerald into the victoria with her father and fell back to the
point at which he had seen the lieutenant waiting to haunt their farther
progress. He put himself plumply in front of the officer and demanded in
very blunt Italian: "What do you want?"

The lieutenant stared him over with potential offence, in which his
delicately pencilled mustache took the shape of a light sneer, and
demanded in his turn, in English much better than Lanfear's Italian:
"What right have you to ask?"

"The right of Miss Gerald's physician. She is an invalid in my charge."

A change quite indefinable except as the visible transition from coxcomb
to gentleman passed over the young lieutenant's comely face. "An
invalid?" he faltered.

"Yes," Lanfear began; and then, with a rush of confidence which the
change in the officer's face justified, "one very strangely, very
tragically afflicted. Since she saw her mother killed in an accident a
year ago she remembers nothing. She bowed to you because she saw you
looking at her, and supposed you must be an acquaintance. May I assure
you that you are altogether mistaken?"

The lieutenant brought his heels together, and bent low. "I beg her
pardon with all my heart. I am very, very sorry. I will do anything I
can. I would like to stop that. May I bring my mother to call on Miss
Gerald?"

He offered his hand, and Lanfear wrung it hard, a lump of gratitude in
his throat choking any particular utterance, while a fine shame for his
late hostile intention covered him.

When the lieutenant came, with all possible circumstance, bringing the
countess, his mother, Mr. Gerald overwhelmed them with hospitality of
every form. The Italian lady responded effusively, and more sincerely
cooed and murmured her compassionate interest in his daughter. Then all
parted the best of friends; but when it was over, Miss Gerald did not
know what it had been about. She had not remembered the lieutenant or
her father's vexation, or any phase of the incident which was now
closed. Nothing remained of it but the lieutenant's right, which he
gravely exercised, of saluting them respectfully whenever he met them.


VII

Earlier, Lanfear had never allowed himself to be far out of call from
Miss Gerald's father, especially during the daytime slumbers into which
she fell, and from which they both always dreaded her awakening. But as
the days went on and the event continued the same he allowed himself
greater range. Formerly the three went their walks or drives together,
but now he sometimes went alone. In these absences he found relief from
the stress of his constant vigilance; he was able to cast off the bond
which enslaves the physician to his patient, and which he must ignore at
times for mere self-preservation's sake; but there was always a lurking
anxiety, which, though he refused to let it define itself to him,
shortened the time and space he tried to put between them.

One afternoon in April, when he left her sleeping, he was aware of
somewhat recklessly placing himself out of reach in a lonely excursion
to a village demolished by the earthquake of 1887, and abandoned
himself, in the impressions and incidents of his visit to the ruin, to a
luxury of impersonal melancholy which the physician cannot often allow
himself. At last, his care found him, and drove him home full of a
sharper fear than he had yet felt since the first days. But Mr. Gerald
was tranquilly smoking under a palm in the hotel garden, and met him
with an easy smile. "She woke once, and said she had had such a pleasant
dream. Now she's off again. Do you think we'd better wake her for
dinner? I suppose she's getting up her strength in this way. Her
sleeping so much is a good symptom, isn't it?"

Lanfear smiled forlornly; neither of them, in view of the possible
eventualities, could have said what result they wished the symptoms to
favor. But he said: "Decidedly I wouldn't wake her"; and he spent a
night of restless sleep penetrated by a nervous expectation which the
morning, when it came, rather mockingly defeated.

Miss Gerald appeared promptly at breakfast in their pavilion, with a
fresher and gayer look than usual, and to her father's "Well, Nannie,
you _have_ had a nap, this time," she answered, smiling:

"Have I? It isn't afternoon, is it?"

"No, it's morning. You've napped it all night."

She said: "I can't tell whether I've been asleep or not, sometimes; but
now I know I have been; and I feel so rested. Where are we going
to-day?"

She turned to Lanfear while her father answered: "I guess the doctor
won't want to go very far, to-day, after his expedition yesterday
afternoon."

"Ah," she said, "I _knew_ you had been somewhere! Was it very far? Are
you too tired?"

"It was rather far, but I'm not tired. I shouldn't advise Possana,
though."

"Possana?" she repeated. "What is Possana?"

He told her, and then at a jealous look in her eyes he added an account
of his excursion. He heightened, if anything, its difficulties, in
making light of them as no difficulties for him, and at the end she
said, gently: "Shall we go this morning?"

"Let the doctor rest this morning, Nannie," her father interrupted,
whimsically, but with what Lanfear knew to be an inner yielding to her
will. "Or if you won't let _him_, let _me_. I don't want to go anywhere
this morning."

Lanfear thought that he did not wish her to go at all, and hoped that by
the afternoon she would have forgotten Possana. She sighed, but in her
sigh there was no concession. Then, with the chance of a returning
drowse to save him from openly thwarting her will, he merely suggested:
"There's plenty of time in the afternoon; the days are so long now; and
we can get the sunset from the hills."

"Yes, that will be nice," she said, but he perceived that she did not
assent willingly; and there was an effect of resolution in the readiness
with which she appeared dressed for the expedition after luncheon. She
clearly did not know where they were going, but when she turned to
Lanfear with her look of entreaty, he had not the heart to join her
father in any conspiracy against her. He beckoned the carriage which had
become conscious in its eager driver from the moment she showed herself
at the hotel door, and they set out.

When they had left the higher level of the hotel and began their clatter
through the long street of the town, Lanfear noted that she seemed to
feel as much as himself the quaintness of the little city, rising on one
hand, with its narrow alleys under successive arches between the high,
dark houses, to the hills, and dropping on the other to sea from the
commonplace of the principal thoroughfare, with its pink and white and
saffron hotels and shops. Beyond the town their course lay under villa
walls, covered with vines and topped by pavilions, and opening finally
along a stretch of the old Cornice road.

"But this," she said, at a certain point, "is where we were yesterday!"

"This is where the doctor was yesterday," her father said, behind his
cigar.

"And wasn't I with you?" she asked Lanfear.

He said, playfully: "To-day you are. I mustn't be selfish and have you
every day."

"Ah, you are laughing at me; but I know I was here yesterday."

Her father set his lips in patience, and Lanfear did not insist.

They had halted at this point because, across a wide valley on the
shoulder of an approaching height, the ruined village of Possana showed,
and lower down and nearer the seat the new town which its people had
built when they escaped from the destruction of their world-old home.

World-old it all was, with reference to the human life of it; but the
spring-time was immortally young in the landscape. Over the expanses of
green and brown fields, and hovering about the gray and white cottages,
was a mist of peach and cherry blossoms. Above these the hoar olives
thickened, and the vines climbed from terrace to terrace. The valley
narrowed inland, and ceased in the embrace of the hills drawing
mysteriously together in the distances.

"I think we've got the best part of it here, Miss Gerald," Lanfear broke
the common silence by saying. "You couldn't see much more of Possana
after you got there."

"Besides," her father ventured a pleasantry which jarred on the younger
man, "if you were there with the doctor yesterday, you won't want to
make the climb again to-day. Give it up, Nannie!"

"Oh no," she said, "I can't give it up."

"Well, then, we must go on, I suppose. Where do we begin our climb?"

Lanfear explained that he had been obliged to leave his carriage at the
foot of the hill, and climb to Possana Nuova by the donkey-paths of the
peasants. He had then walked to the ruins of Possana Vecchia, but he
suggested that they might find donkeys to carry them on from the new
town.

"Well, I hope so," Mr. Gerald grumbled. But at Possana Nuova no
saddle-donkeys were to be had, and he announced, at the café where they
stopped for the negotiation, that he would wait for the young people to
go on to Possana Vecchia, and tell him about it when they got back. In
the meantime he would watch the game of ball, which, in the piazza
before the café, appeared to have engaged the energies of the male
population. Lanfear was still inwardly demurring, when a stalwart
peasant girl came in and announced that she had one donkey which they
could have with her own services driving it. She had no saddle, but
there was a pad on which the young lady could ride.

"Oh, well, take it for Nannie," Mr. Gerald directed; "only don't be gone
too long."

They set out with Miss Gerald reclining in the kind of litter which the
donkey proved to be equipped with. Lanfear went beside her, the peasant
girl came behind, and at times ran forward to instruct them in the
points they seemed to be looking at. For the most part the landscape
opened beneath them, but in the azure distances it climbed into Alpine
heights which the recent snows had now left to the gloom of their pines.
On the slopes of the nearer hills little towns clung, here and there;
closer yet farm-houses showed themselves among the vines and olives.

It was very simple, as the life in it must always have been; and Lanfear
wondered if the elemental charm of the scene made itself felt by his
companion as they climbed the angles of the inclines, in a silence
broken only by the picking of the donkey's hoofs on the rude mosaic of
the pavement, and the panting of the peasant girl at its heels. On the
top of the last upward stretch they stopped for the view, and Miss
Gerald asked abruptly: "Why were you so sad?"

"When was I sad?" he asked, in turn.

"I don't know. Weren't you sad?"

"When I was here yesterday, you mean?" She smiled on his fortunate
guess, and he said: "Oh, I don't know. It might have begun with
thinking--

    'Of old, unhappy, far-off things,
     And battles long ago.'

You know the pirates used to come sailing over the peaceful sea yonder
from Africa, to harry these coasts, and carry off as many as they could
capture into slavery in Tunis and Algiers. It was a long, dumb kind of
misery that scarcely made an echo in history, but it haunted my fancy
yesterday, and I saw these valleys full of the flight and the pursuit
which used to fill them, up to the walls of the villages, perched on the
heights where men could have built only for safety. Then, I got to
thinking of other things--"

"And thinking of things in the past always makes you sad," she said, in
pensive reflection. "If it were not for the wearying of always trying to
remember, I don't believe I should want my memory back. And of course to
be like other people," she ended with a sigh.

It was on his tongue to say that he would not have her so; but he
checked himself, and said, lamely enough: "Perhaps you will be like
them, sometime."

She startled him by answering irrelevantly: "You know my mother is dead.
She died a long while ago; I suppose I must have been very little."

She spoke as if the fact scarcely concerned her, and Lanfear drew a
breath of relief in his surprise. He asked, at another tangent: "What
made you think I was sad yesterday?"

"Oh, I knew, somehow. I think that I always know when you are sad; I
can't tell you how, but I feel it."

"Then I must cheer up," Lanfear said. "If I could only see you strong
and well, Miss Gerald, like this girl--"

They both looked at the peasant, and she laughed in sympathy with their
smiling, and beat the donkey a little for pleasure; it did not mind.

"But you will be--you will be! We must hurry on, now, or your father
will be getting anxious."

They pushed forward on the road, which was now level and wider than it
had been. As they drew near the town, whose ruin began more and more to
reveal itself in the roofless walls and windowless casements, they saw a
man coming towards them, at whose approach Lanfear instinctively put
himself forward. The man did not look at them, but passed, frowning
darkly, and muttering and gesticulating.

Miss Gerald turned in her litter and followed him with a long gaze. The
peasant girl said gayly in Italian: "He is mad; the earthquake made him
mad," and urged the donkey forward.

Lanfear, in the interest of science, habitually forbade himself the
luxury of anything like foreboding, but now, with the passing of the
madman, he felt distinctively a lift from his spirit. He no longer
experienced the vague dread which had followed him towards Possana, and
made him glad of any delay that kept them from it.

They entered the crooked, narrow street leading abruptly from the open
country without any suburban hesitation into the heart of the ruin,
which kept a vivid image of uninterrupted mediaeval life. There, till
within the actual generation, people had dwelt, winter and summer, as
they had dwelt from the beginning of Christian times, with nothing to
intimate a domestic or civic advance. This street must have been the
main thoroughfare, for stone-paved lanes, still narrower, wound from it
here and there, while it kept a fairly direct course to the little
piazza on a height in the midst of the town. Two churches and a simple
town house partly enclosed it with their seamed and shattered façades.
The dwellings here were more ruinous than on the thoroughfare, and some
were tumbled in heaps. But Lanfear pushed open the door of one of the
churches, and found himself in an interior which, except that it was
roofless, could not have been greatly changed since the people had
flocked into it to pray for safety from the earthquake. The high altar
stood unshaken; around the frieze a succession of stucco cherubs
perched, under the open sky, in celestial security.

He had learned to look for the unexpected in Miss Gerald, and he could
not have said that it was with surprise he now found her as capable of
the emotions which the place inspired, as himself. He made sure of
saying: "The earthquake, you know," and she responded with compassion:

"Oh yes; and perhaps that poor man was here, praying with the rest, when
it happened. How strange it must all have seemed to them, here where
they lived so safely always! They thought such a dreadful thing could
happen to others, but not to them. That is the way!"

It seemed to Lanfear once more that she was on the verge of the
knowledge so long kept from her. But she went confidently on like a
sleepwalker who saves himself from dangers that would be death to him in
waking. She spoke of the earthquake as if she had been reading or
hearing of it; but he doubted if, with her broken memory, this could be
so. It was rather as if she was exploring his own mind in the way of
which he had more than once been sensible, and making use of his
memory. From time to time she spoke of remembering, but he knew that
this was as the blind speak of seeing.

He was anxious to get away, and at last they came out to where they had
left the peasant girl waiting beside her donkey. She was not there, and
after trying this way and that in the tangle of alleys, Lanfear decided
to take the thoroughfare which they had come up by and trust to the
chance of finding her at its foot. But he failed even of his search for
the street: he came out again and again at the point he had started
from.

"What is the matter?" she asked at the annoyance he could not keep out
of his face.

He laughed. "Oh, merely that we're lost. But we will wait here till that
girl chooses to come back for us. Only it's getting late, and Mr.
Gerald--"

"Why, I know the way down," she said, and started quickly in a direction
which, as they kept it, he recognized as the route by which he had
emerged from the town the day before. He had once more the sense of his
memory being used by her, as if being blind, she had taken his hand for
guidance, or as if being herself disabled from writing, she had directed
a pen in his grasp to form the words she desired to put down. In some
mystical sort the effect was hers, but the means was his.

They found the girl waiting with the donkey by the roadside beyond the
last house. She explained that, not being able to follow them into the
church with her donkey, she had decided to come where they found her and
wait for them there.

"Does no one at all live here?" Lanfear asked, carelessly.

"Among the owls and the spectres? I would not pass a night here for a
lemonade! My mother," she went on, with a natural pride in the event,
"was lost in the earthquake. They found her with me before her breast,
and her arms stretched out keeping the stones away." She vividly
dramatized the fact. "I was alive, but she was dead."

"Tell her," Miss Gerald said, "that my mother is dead, too."

"Ah, poor little thing!" the girl said, when the message was delivered,
and she put her beast in motion, chattering gayly to Miss Gerald in the
bond of their common orphanhood.

The return was down-hill, and they went back in half the time it had
taken them to come. But even with this speed they were late, and the
twilight was deepening when the last turn of their road brought them in
sight of the new village. There a wild noise of cries for help burst
upon the air, mixed with the shrill sound of maniac gibbering. They saw
a boy running towards the town, and nearer them a man struggling with
another, whom he had caught about the middle, and was dragging towards
the side of the road where it dropped, hundreds of feet, into the gorge
below.

The donkey-girl called out: "Oh, the madman! He is killing the signor!"

Lanfear shouted. The madman flung Gerald to the ground, and fled
shrieking. Miss Gerald had leaped from her seat, and followed Lanfear as
he ran forward to the prostrate form. She did not look at it, but within
a few paces she clutched her hands in her hair, and screamed out: "Oh,
my mother is killed!" and sank, as if sinking down into the earth, in a
swoon.

"No, no; it's all right, Nannie! Look after her, Lanfear! I'm not hurt.
I let myself go in that fellow's hands, and I fell softly. It was a
good thing he didn't drop me over the edge." Gerald gathered himself up
nimbly enough, and lent Lanfear his help with the girl. The situation
explained itself, almost without his incoherent additions, to the effect
that he had become anxious, and had started out with the boy for a
guide, to meet them, and had met the lunatic, who suddenly attacked him.
While he talked, Lanfear was feeling the girl's pulse, and now and then
putting his ear to her heart. With a glance at her father: "You're
bleeding, Mr. Gerald," he said.

"So I am," the old man answered, smiling, as he wiped a red stream from
his face with his handkerchief. "But I am not hurt--"

"Better let me tie it up," Lanfear said, taking the handkerchief from
him. He felt the unselfish quality in a man whom he had not always
thought heroic, and he bound the gash above his forehead with a
reverence mingling with his professional gentleness. The donkey-girl had
not ceased to cry out and bless herself, but suddenly, as her care was
needed in getting Miss Gerald back to the litter, she became a part of
the silence in which the procession made its way slowly into Possana
Nuova, Lanfear going on one side, and Mr. Gerald on the other to support
his daughter in her place. There was a sort of muted outcry of the whole
population awaiting them at the door of the locanda where they had
halted before, and which now had the distinction of offering them
shelter in a room especially devoted to the poor young lady, who still
remained in her swoon.

When the landlord could prevail with his fellow-townsmen and townswomen
to disperse in her interest, and had imposed silence upon his customers
indoors, Lanfear began his vigil beside his patient in as great quiet
as he could anywhere have had. Once during the evening the public
physician of the district looked in, but he agreed with Lanfear that
nothing was to be done which he was not doing in his greater experience
of the case. From time to time Gerald had suggested sending for some San
Remo physician in consultation. Lanfear had always approved, and then
Gerald had not persisted. He was strongly excited, and anxious not so
much for his daughter's recovery from her swoon, which he did not doubt,
as for the effect upon her when she should have come to herself.

It was this which he wished to discuss, sitting fallen back into his
chair, or walking up and down the room, with his head bound with a
bloody handkerchief, and looking, with a sort of alien picturesqueness,
like a kindly brigand.

Lanfear did not leave his place beside the bed where the girl lay, white
and still as if dead. An inexpressible compassion for the poor man
filled his heart. Whatever the event should be, it would be tragical for
him. "Go to sleep, Mr. Gerald," he said. "Your waking can do no good. I
will keep watch, and if need be, I'll call you. Try to make yourself
easy on that couch."

"I shall not sleep," the old man answered. "How could I?" Nevertheless,
he adjusted himself to the hard pillows of the lounge where he had been
sitting and drowsed among them. He woke just before dawn with a start.
"I thought she had come to, and knew everything! What a nightmare! Did I
groan? Is there any change?"

Lanfear, sitting by the bed, in the light of the wasting candle, which
threw a grotesque shadow of him on the wall, shook his head. After a
moment he asked: "How long did you tell me her swoon had lasted after
the accident to her mother?"

"I don't think she recovered consciousness for two days, and then she
remembered nothing. What do you think are the chances of her remembering
now?"

"I don't know. But there's a kind of psychopathic logic--If she lost her
memory through one great shock, she might find it through another."

"Yes, yes!" the father said, rising and walking to and fro, in his
anguish. "That was what I thought--what I was afraid of. If I could die
myself, and save her from living through it--I don't know what I'm
saying! But if--but if--if she could somehow be kept from it a little
longer! But she can't, she can't! She must know it now when she wakes."

Lanfear had put up his hand, and taken the girl's slim wrist quietly
between his thumb and finger, holding it so while her father talked on.

"I suppose it's been a sort of weakness--a sort of wickedness--in me to
wish to keep it from her; but I _have_ wished that, doctor; you must
have seen it, and I can't deny it. We ought to bear what is sent us in
this world, and if we escape we must pay for our escape. It has cost her
half her being, I know it; but it hasn't cost her her reason, and I'm
afraid for that, if she comes into her memory now. Still, you must
do--But no one can do anything either to hinder or to help!"

He was talking in a husky undertone, and brokenly, incoherently. He made
an appeal, which Lanfear seemed not to hear, where he remained immovable
with his hand on the girl's pulse.

"Do you think I am to blame for wishing her never to know it, though
without it she must remain deprived of one whole side of life? Do you
think my wishing that can have had anything to do with keeping her--But
this faint _may_ pass and she may wake from it just as she has been. It
is logical that she should remember; but is it certain that she will?"

A murmur, so very faint as to be almost no sound at all, came like a
response from the girl's lips, and she all but imperceptibly stirred.
Her father neither heard nor saw, but Lanfear started forward. He made a
sudden clutch at the girl's wrist with the hand that had not left it and
then remained motionless. "She will never remember now--here."

He fell on his knees beside the bed and began to sob. "Oh, my dearest!
My poor girl! My love!" still keeping her wrist in his hand, and laying
his head tenderly on her arm. Suddenly he started, with a shout: "The
pulse!" and fell forward, crushing his ear against her heart, and
listened with bursts of: "It's beating! She isn't dead! She's alive!"
Then he lifted her in his arms, and it was in his embrace that she
opened her eyes, and while she clung to him, entreated:

"My father! Where is he?"

A dread fell upon both the men, blighting the joy with which they
welcomed her back to life. She took her father's head between her hands,
and kissed his bruised face. "I thought you were dead; and I thought
that mamma--" She stopped, and they waited breathless. "But that was
long ago, wasn't it?"

"Yes," her father eagerly assented. "Very long ago."

"I remember," she sighed. "I thought that I was killed, too. Was it
_all_ a dream?" Her father and Lanfear looked at each other. Which
should speak? "This is Doctor Lanfear, isn't it?" she asked, with a dim
smile. "And I'm not dreaming now, am I?" He had released her from his
arms, but she held his hand fast. "I know it is you, and papa; and yes,
I remember everything. That terrible pain of forgetting is gone! It's
beautiful! But did he hurt you badly, papa? I saw him, and I wanted to
call to you. But mamma--"

However the change from the oblivion of the past had been operated, it
had been mercifully wrought. As far as Lanfear could note it, in the
rapture of the new revelation to her which it scarcely needed words to
establish, the process was a gradual return from actual facts to the
things of yesterday and then to the things of the day before, and so
back to the tragedy in which she had been stricken. There was no sudden
burst of remembrance, but a slow unveiling of the reality in which her
spirit was mystically fortified against it. At times it seemed to him
that the effect was accomplished in her by supernatural agencies such
as, he remembered once somewhere reading, attend the souls of those
lately dead, and explore their minds till every thought and deed of
their earthly lives, from the last to the first, is revealed to them out
of an inner memory which can never, any jot or tittle, perish. It was as
if this had remained in her intact from the blow that shattered her
outer remembrance. When the final, long-dreaded horror was reached, it
was already a sorrow of the past, suffered and accepted with the
resignation which is the close of grief, as of every other passion.

Love had come to her help in the time of her need, but not love alone
helped her live back to the hour of that supreme experience and beyond
it. In the absorbing interest of her own renascence, the shock, more
than the injury which her father had undergone, was ignored, if not
neglected. Lanfear had not, indeed, neglected it; but he could not help
ignoring it in his happiness, as he remembered afterwards in the
self-reproach which he would not let the girl share with him. Nothing,
he realized, could have availed if everything had been done which he did
not do; but it remained a pang with him that he had so dimly felt his
duty to the gentle old man, even while he did it. Gerald lived to
witness his daughter's perfect recovery of the self so long lost to her;
he lived, with a joy more explicit than their own, to see her the wife
of the man to whom she was dearer than love alone could have made her.
He lived beyond that time, rejoicing, if it may be so said, in the fond
memories of her mother which he had been so long forbidden by her
affliction to recall. Then, after the spring of the Riviera had whitened
into summer, and San Remo hid, as well as it could, its sunny glare
behind its pines and palms, Gerald suffered one long afternoon through
the heat till the breathless evening, and went early to bed. He had been
full of plans for spending the rest of the summer at the little place in
New England where his daughter knew that her mother lay. In the morning
he did not wake.

"He gave his life that I might have mine!" she lamented in the first
wild grief.

"No, don't say that, Nannie," her husband protested, calling her by the
pet name which her father always used. "He is dead; but if we owe each
other to his loss, it is because he was given, not because he gave
himself."

"Oh, I know, I know!" she wailed. "But he would gladly have given
himself for me."

That, perhaps, Lanfear could not have denied, and he had no wish to do
so. He had a prescience of happiness for her which the future did not
belie; and he divined that a woman must not be forbidden the extremes
within which she means to rest her soul.



II

THE EIDOLONS OF BROOKS ALFORD


I should like to give the story of Alford's experiences just as Wanhope
told it, sitting with us before the glowing hearth in the Turkish room,
one night after the other diners at our club had gone away to digest
their dinners at the theatre, or in their bachelor apartments up-town,
or on the late trains which they were taking north, south, and west; or
had hurried back to their offices to spend the time stolen from rest in
overwork for which their famished nerves would duly revenge themselves.
It was undoubtedly overwork which preceded Alford's experiences if it
did not cause them, for he was pretty well broken from it when he took
himself off in the early summer, to put the pieces together as best he
could by the seaside. But this was a fact which Wanhope was not obliged
to note to us, and there were certain other commonplaces of our
knowledge of Alford which he could omit without omitting anything
essential to our understanding of the facts which he dealt with so
delicately, so electly, almost affectionately, coaxing each point into
the fittest light, and then lifting his phrase from it, and letting it
stand alone in our consciousness. I remember particularly how he touched
upon the love-affair which was supposed to have so much to do with
Alford's break-up, and how he dismissed it to its proper place in the
story. As he talked on, with scarcely an interruption either from the
eager credulity of Rulledge or the doubt of Minver, I heard with a
sensuous comfort--I can use no other word--the far-off click of the
dishes in the club kitchen, putting away till next day, with the musical
murmur of a smitten glass or the jingle of a dropped spoon. But if I
should try to render his words, I should spoil their impression in the
vain attempt, and I feel that it is best to give the story as best I can
in words of my own, so far from responsive to the requisitions of the
occult incident.

The first intimation Alford had of the strange effect, which from first
to last was rather an obsession than a possession of his, was after a
morning of idle satisfaction spent in watching the target practice from
the fort in the neighborhood of the little fishing-village where he was
spending the summer. The target was two or three miles out in the open
water beyond the harbor, and he found his pleasure in watching the smoke
of the gun for that discrete interval before the report reached him, and
then for that somewhat longer interval before he saw the magnificent
splash of the shot which, as it plunged into the sea, sent a fan-shaped
fountain thirty or forty feet into the air. He did not know and he did
not care whether the target was ever hit or not. That fact was no part
of his concern. His affair was to watch the burst of smoke from the fort
and then to watch the upward gush of water, almost as light and vaporous
to the eye, where the ball struck. He did not miss one of the shots
fired during the forenoon, and when he met the other people who sat down
with him at the midday dinner in the hotel, his talk with them was
naturally of the morning's practice. They one and all declared it a
great nuisance, and said that it had shattered their nerves terribly,
which was not perhaps so strange, since they were all women. But when
they asked him in his quality of nervous wreck whether he had not
suffered from the prolonged and repeated explosions, too, he found
himself able to say no, that he had enjoyed every moment of the firing.
He added that he did not believe he had even noticed the noise after the
first shot, he was so wholly taken with the beauty of the fountain-burst
from the sea which followed; and as he spoke the fan-like spray rose and
expanded itself before his eyes, quite blotting out the visage of a
young widow across the table. In his swift recognition of the fact and
his reflection upon it, he realized that the effect was quite as if he
had been looking at some intense light, almost as if he had been looking
at the sun, and that the illusion which had blotted out the agreeable
reality opposite was of the quality of those flying shapes which repeat
themselves here, there, and everywhere that one looks, after lifting the
gaze from a dazzling object. When his consciousness had duly registered
this perception, there instantly followed a recognition of the fact that
the eidolon now filling his vision was not the effect of the dazzled
eyes, but of a mental process, of thinking how the thing which it
reported had looked.

By the time Alford had co-ordinated this reflection with the other, the
eidolon had faded from the lady's face, which again presented itself in
uninterrupted loveliness with the added attraction of a distinct pout.

"Well, Mr. Alford!" she bantered him.

"Oh, I beg your pardon! I was thinking--"

"Not of what I was saying," she broke in, laughingly, forgivingly.

"No, I certainly wasn't," he assented, with such a sense of approaching
creepiness in his experience that when she challenged him to say what
he _was_ thinking of, he could not, or would not; she professed to
believe that he would not.

In the joking that followed he soon lost the sense of approaching
creepiness, and began to be proud of what had happened to him as out of
the ordinary, as a species of psychological ecstasy almost of spiritual
value. From time to time he tried, by thinking of the splash and upward
gush from the cannon-shot's plunge in the sea, to recall the vision, but
it would not come again, and at the end of an afternoon somewhat
distraughtly spent he decided to put the matter away, as one of the odd
things of no significance which happen in life and must be dealt with as
mysteries none the less trifling because they are inexplicable.

"Well, you've got over it?" the widow joked him as he drew up towards
her, smiling from her rocker on the veranda after supper. At first, all
the women in the hotel had petted him; but with their own cares and
ailments to reclaim them they let the invalid fall to the peculiar
charge of the childless widow who had nothing else to do, and was so
well and strong that she could look after the invalid Professor of
Archaeology (at the Champlain University) without the fatigues they must
feel.

"Yes, I've got over it," he said.

"And what was it?" she boldly pursued.

He was about to say, and then he could not.

"You won't tell?"

"Not yet," he answered. He added, after a moment, "I don't believe I
can."

"Because it's confidential?"

"No; not exactly that. Because it's impossible."

"Oh, that's simple enough. I understand exactly what you mean. Well, if
ever it becomes less difficult, remember that I should always like to
know. It seemed a little--personal."

"How in the world?"

"Well, when one is stared at in that way--"

"Did I stare?"

"Don't you _always_ stare? But in this case you stared as if there was
something wrong with my hair."

"There wasn't," Alford protested, simple-heartedly. Then he recollected
his sophistication to say: "Unless its being of that particular shade
between brown and red was wrong."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Alford! After that I _must_ believe you."

They talked on the veranda till the night fell, and then they came in
among the lamps, in the parlor, and she sat down with a certain
provisionality, putting herself sideways on a light chair by a window,
and as she chatted and laughed with one cheek towards him she now and
then beat the back of her chair with her open hand. The other people
were reading or severely playing cards, and they, too, kept their tones
down to a respectful level, while she lingered, and when she rose and
said good-night he went out and took some turns on the veranda before
going up to bed. She was certainly, he realized, a very pretty woman,
and very graceful and very amusing, and though she probably knew all
about it, she was the franker and honester for her knowledge.

He had arrived at this conclusion just as he turned the switch of the
electric light inside his door, and in the first flash of the carbon
film he saw her sitting beside the window in such a chair as she had
taken and in the very pose which she had kept in the parlor. Her
half-averted face was lit as from laughing, and she had her hand lifted
as if to beat the back of her chair.

"Good Heavens, Mrs. Yarrow!" he said, in a sort of whispered shout,
while he mechanically closed the door behind him as if to keep the fact
to himself. "What in the world are you doing here?"

Then she was not there. Nothing was there; not even a chair beside the
window.

Alford dropped weakly into the only chair in the room, which stood next
the door by the head of his bed, and abandoned himself a helpless prey
to the logic of the events.

It was at this point, which I have been able to give in Wanhope's exact
words, that, in the ensuing pause, Rulledge asked, as if he thought some
detail might be denied him: "And what was the logic of the events?"

Minver gave a fleering laugh. "Don't be premature, Rulledge. If you have
the logic now, you will spoil everything. You can't have the moral until
you've had the whole story. Go on, Wanhope. You're so much more
interesting than usual that I won't ask how you got hold of all these
compromising minutiae."

"Of course," Wanhope returned, "they're not for the general ear. I go
rather further, for the sake of the curious fact, than I should be
warranted in doing if I did not know my audience so well."

We joined in a murmur of gratification, and he went on to say that
Alford's first coherent thought was that he was dreaming one of those
unwarranted dreams in which we make our acquaintance privy to all sorts
of strange incidents. Then he knew that he was not dreaming, and that
his eye had merely externated a mental vision, as in the case of the
cannon-shot splash of which he had seen the phantom as soon as it was
mentioned. He remembered afterwards asking himself in a sort of terror
how far it was going to go with him; how far his thought was going to
report itself objectively hereafter, and what were the reasonable
implications of his abnormal experiences. He did not know just how long
he sat by his bedside trying to think, only to have his conclusions whir
away like a flock of startled birds when he approached them. He went to
bed because he was exhausted rather than because he was sleepy, but he
could not recall a moment of wakefulness after his head touched the
pillow.

He woke surprisingly refreshed, but at the belated breakfast where he
found Mrs. Yarrow still lingering he thought her looking not well. She
confessed, listlessly, that she had not rested well. She was not sure,
she said, whether the sea air agreed with her; she might try the
mountains a little later. She was not inclined to talk, and that day he
scarcely spoke with her except in commonplaces at the table. They had no
return to the little mystery they had mocked together the day before.

More days passed, and Alford had no recurrence of his visions. His
acquaintance with Mrs. Yarrow made no further advance; there was no one
else in the hotel who interested him, and he bored himself. At the same
time his recovery seemed retarded; he lost tone, and after a fortnight
he ran up to talk himself over with his doctor in Boston. He rather
thought he would mention his eidolons, and ask if they were at all
related to the condition of his nerves. It was a keen disappointment,
but it ought not to have been a surprise, for him to find that his
doctor was off on his summer vacation. The caretaker who opened the door
to Alford named a young physician in the same block of Marlborough
Street who had his doctor's practice for the summer, but Alford had not
the heart to go to this alternate.

He started down to his hotel on a late afternoon train that would bring
him to the station after dusk, and before he reached it the lamps had
been lighted in his car. Alford sat in a sparsely peopled smoker, where
he had found a place away from the crowd in the other coaches, and
looked out of the window into the reflected interior of his car, which
now and then thinned away and let him see the weeds and gravel of the
railroad banks, with the bushes that topped them and the woods that
backed them. The train at one point stopped rather suddenly and then
went on, for no reason that he ever cared to inquire; but as it slowly
moved forward again he was reminded of something he had seen one night
in going to New York just before the train drew into Springfield. It had
then made such another apparently reasonless stop; but before it resumed
its course Alford saw from his window a group of trainmen, and his own
Pullman conductor with his lantern on his arm, bending over the figure
of a man defined in his dark clothing against the snow of the bank where
he lay propped. His face was waxen white, and Alford noted how
particularly black the mustache looked traversing the pallid visage. He
never knew whether the man was killed or merely stunned; you learn
nothing with certainty of such things on trains; but now, as he thought
of the incident, its eidolon showed itself outside of his mind, and
followed him in every detail, even to a snowy stretch of the embankment,
until the increasing speed of the train seemed to sweep it back out of
sight.

Alford turned his eyes to the interior of the smoker, which, except for
two or three dozing commuters and a noisy euchre-party, had been empty
of everything but the fumes and stale odors of tobacco, and found it
swarming with visions, the eidolons of everything he remembered from his
past life. Whatever had once strongly impressed itself upon his nerves
was reported there again as instantly as he thought of it. It was
largely a whirling chaos, a kaleidoscopic jumble of facts; but from time
to time some more memorable and important experience visualized itself
alone. Such was the death-bed of the little sister whom he had been
wakened, a child, to see going to heaven, as they told him. Such was the
pathetic, foolish face of the girl whom long ago he had made believe he
cared for, and then had abruptly broken with: he saw again, with
heartache, her silly, tender amaze when he said he was going away. Such
was the look of mute astonishment, of gentle reproach, in the eyes of
the friend, now long dead, whom in a moment of insensate fury he had
struck on the mouth, and who put his hand to his bleeding lips as he
bent that gaze of wonder and bewilderment upon him. But it was not alone
the dreadful impressions that reported themselves. There were others, as
vivid, which came back in the original joyousness: the face of his
mother looking up at him from the crowd on a day of college triumph when
he was delivering the valedictory of his class; the collective gayety of
the whole table on a particularly delightful evening at his dining-club;
his own image in the glass as he caught sight of it on coming home
accepted by the woman who afterwards jilted him; the transport which
lighted up his father's visage when he stepped ashore from the vessel
which had been rumored lost, and he could be verified by the senses as
still alive; the comical, bashful ecstasy of the good fellow, his
ancient chum, in telling him he had had a son born the night before, and
the mother was doing well, and how he laughed and danced, and skipped
into the air.

The smoker was full of these eidolons and of others which came and went
with constant vicissitude. But what was of a greater weirdness than
seeing them within it was seeing them without in that reflection of the
interior which travelled with it through the summer night, and repeated
it, now dimly, now brilliantly, in every detail. Alford sat in a daze,
with a smile which he was aware of, fixed and stiff as if in plaster, on
his face, and with his gaze bent on this or that eidolon, and then on
all of them together. He was not so much afraid of them as of being
noticed by the other passengers in the smoker, to whom he knew he might
look very queer. He said to himself that he was making the whole thing,
but the very subjectivity was what filled him with a deep and hopeless
dread. At last the train ceased its long leaping through the dark, and
with its coming to a stand the whole illusion vanished. He heard a gay
voice which he knew bidding some one good-bye who was getting into the
car just back of the smoker, and as he descended to the platform he
almost walked into the arms of Mrs. Yarrow.

"Why, Mr. Alford! We had given you up. We thought you wouldn't come back
till to-morrow--or perhaps ever. What in the world will you do for
supper? The kitchen fires were out ages ago!"

In the light of the station electrics she beamed upon him, and he felt
glad at heart, as if he had been saved from something, a mortal danger
or a threatened shame. But he could not speak at once; his teeth closed
with tetanic force upon each other. Later, as they walked to the hotel,
through the warm, soft night in which the south wind was roaming the
starless heavens for rain, he found his voice, and although he felt that
he was speaking unnaturally, he made out to answer the lively questions
with which she pelted him too thickly to expect them to be answered
severally. She told him all the news of the day, and when she began on
yesterday's news she checked herself with a laugh and said she had
forgotten that he had only been gone since morning. "But now," she said,
"you see how you've been missed--how _any_ man must be missed in a hotel
full of women."

She took charge of him when they got to the house, and said if he would
go boldly into the dining-room, where they detected, as they approached,
one lamp scantly shining from the else darkened windows, she would beard
the lioness in her den, by which she meant the cook in the kitchen, and
see what she could get him for supper. Apparently she could get nothing
warm, for when a reluctant waitress appeared it was with such a chilly
refection on her tray that Alford, though he was not very hungry,
returned from interrogating the obscurity for eidolons, and shivered at
it. At the same time the swing-door of the long, dim room opened to
admit a gush of the outer radiance on which Mrs. Yarrow drifted in with
a chafing-dish in one hand and a tea-basket in the other. She floated
tiltingly towards him like, he thought, a pretty little ship, and sent a
cheery hail before.

"I've been trying to get somebody to join you at a premature
Welsh-rarebit and a belated cup of tea, but I can't tear one of the
tabbies from their cards or the kittens from their gambols in the
amusement-hall in the basement. Do you mind so very much having it
alone? Because you'll have to, whether you do or not. Unless you call me
company, when I'm merely cook."

She put her utensils on the table beside the forbidding tray the
waitress had left, and helped lift herself by pressing one hand on the
top of a chair towards the electric, which she flashed up to keep the
dismal lamp in countenance. Alford let her do it. He durst not, he
felt, stir from his place, lest any movement should summon back the
eidolons; and now in the sudden glare of light he shyly, slyly searched
the room for them. Not one, fair or foul, showed itself, and slowly he
felt a great weight lifting from his heart. In its place there sprang up
a joyous gratitude towards Mrs. Yarrow, who had saved him from them,
from himself. An inexpressible tenderness filled his breast; the tears
rose to his eyes; a soft glow enveloped his whole being, a warmth of
hope, a freshness of life renewed, encompassed him. He wished to take
her in his arms, to tell her how he loved her; and as she bustled about,
lighting the lamp of her chafing-dish, and kindling the little
spirit-stove she had brought with her to make tea, he let his gaze dwell
upon every pose, every motion of her with a glad hunger in which no
smallest detail was lost. He now believed that without her he must die,
without her he could not wish to live.

"Jove," Rulledge broke in at this point of Wanhope's story, which I am
telling again so badly, "I think Alford was in luck."

Minver gave a harsh cackle. "The only thing Rulledge finds fault with in
this club is 'the lack of woman's nursing and the lack of woman's
tears.' Nothing is wanting to his enjoyment of his victuals but the fact
that they are not served by a neat-handed Phyllis, like Alford's."

Rulledge glanced towards Wanhope, and innocently inquired, "Was that her
first name?"

Minver burst into a scream, and Rulledge looked red and silly for having
given himself away; but he made an excursion to the buffet outside, and
returned with a sandwich with which he supported himself stolidly under
Minver's derision, until Wanhope came to his relief by resuming his
story, or rather his study, of Alford's strange experience.

Mrs. Yarrow first gave Alford his tea, as being of a prompter brew than
the rarebit, but she was very quick and apt with that, too; and pretty
soon she leaned forward, and in the glow from the lamp under the
chafing-dish, which spiritualized her charming face with its thin
radiance, puffed the flame out with her pouted lips, and drew back with
a long-sighed "There! That will make you see your grandmother, if
anything will."

"My grandmother?" Alford repeated.

"Yes. Wouldn't you like to?" Mrs.. Yarrow asked, pouring the thick
composition over the toast (rescued stone-cold from the frigid tray) on
Alford's plate. "I'm sure I should like to see mine--dear old gran! Not
that I ever saw her--either of her--or should know how she looked. Did
you ever see yours--either of her?" she pursued, impulsively.

"Oh yes," Alford answered, looking intently at her, but with so little
speculation in the eyes he glared so with that he knew her to be uneasy
under them.

She laughed a little, and stayed her hand on the bail of the teapot.
"Which of her?"

"Oh, both!"

"And--and--did she look so much like _me_?" she said, with an added
laugh, that he perceived had an hysterical note in it. "You're letting
your rarebit get cold!"

He laughed himself, now, a great laugh of relaxation, of relief. "Not
the least in the world! She was not exactly a phantom of delight."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Alford. Now, it's your tea's getting cold."

They laughed together, and he gave himself to his victual with a relish
that she visibly enjoyed. When that question of his grandmother had been
pushed he thought of an awful experience of his childhood, which left on
his infant mind an indelible impression, a scar, to remain from the
original wound forever. He had been caught in a lie, the first he could
remember, but by no means the last, by many immemorable thousands. His
poor little wickedness had impugned the veracity of both these terrible
old ladies, who, habitually at odds with each other, now united, for
once, against him. He could always see himself, a mean little
blubbering-faced rascal, stealing guilty looks of imploring at their
faces, set unmercifully against him, one in sorrow and one in anger,
requiring his mother to whip him, and insisting till he was led, loudly
roaring, into the parlor, and there made a liar of for all time, so far
as fear could do it.

When Mrs. Yarrow asked if he had ever seen his grandmother he expected
instantly to see her, in duplicate, and as a sole refuge, but with
little hope that it would save him, he kept his eyes fast on hers, and
to his unspeakable joy it did avail. No other face, of sorrow or of
anger, rose between them. For the time his thought was quit of its
consequence; no eidolon outwardly repeated his inward vision. A warm
gush of gratitude seemed to burst from his heart, and to bathe his whole
being, and then to flow in a tide of ineffable tenderness towards Mrs.
Yarrow, and involve her and bear them together heavenward. It was not
passion, it was not love, he perceived well enough; it was the utterance
of a vital conviction that she had saved him from an overwhelming
subjective horror, and that in her sweet objectivity there was a
security and peace to be found nowhere else.

He greedily ate every atom of his rarebit, he absorbed every drop of
the moisture in the teapot, so that when she shook it and shook it, and
then tried to pour something from it, there was no slightest dribble at
the spout. But they lingered, talking and laughing, and perhaps they
might never have left the place if the hard handmaiden who had brought
the tea-tray had not first tried putting her head in at the swing-door
from the kitchen, and then, later, come boldly in and taken the tray
away.

Mrs. Yarrow waited self-respectfully for her disappearance, and then she
said, "I'm afraid that was a hint, Mr. Alford."

"It seemed like one," he owned.

They went out together, gayly chatting, but she would not encourage the
movement he made towards the veranda. She remained firmly attached to
the newel-post of the stairs, and at the first chance he gave her she
said good-night and bounded lightly upward. At the turn of the stairs
she stopped and looked laughing down at him over the rail. "I hope you
won't see your grandmother."

"Oh, not a bit of it," he called back. He felt that he failed to give
his reply the quality of epigram, but he was not unhappy in his failure.

Many light-hearted days followed this joyous evening. No eidolons
haunted Alford's horizon, perhaps because Mrs. Yarrow filled his whole
heaven. She was very constantly with him, guiding his wavering steps up
the hill of recovery, which he climbed with more and more activity, and
keeping him company in those valleys of relapse into which he now and
then fell back from the difficult steeps. It came to be tacitly, or at
least passively, conceded by the other ladies that she had somehow
earned the exclusive right to what had once been the common charge; or
that if one of their number had a claim to keep Mr. Alford from killing
himself by all sorts of imprudences, which in his case amounted to
impieties, it was certainly Mrs. Yarrow. They did not put this in terms,
but they felt it and acted it.

She was all the safer guardian for a delicate invalid because she
loathed manly sports so entirely that she did not even pretend to like
them, as most women, poor things, think themselves obliged to do. In her
hands there was no danger that he would be tempted to excesses in golf.
She was really afraid of all boats, but she was willing to go out with
him in the sail-boat of a superannuated skipper, because to sit talking
in the stern and stoop for the vagaries of the boom in tacking was such
good exercise. She would join him in fishing from the rotting pier, but
with no certainty which was a cunner and which was a sculpin, when she
caught it, and with an equal horror of both the nasty, wriggling things.
When they went a walk together, her notion of a healthful tramp was to
find a nice place among the sweet-fern or the pine-needles, and sit down
in it and talk, or make a lap, to which he could bring the berries he
gathered for her to arrange in the shallow leaf-trays she pinned
together with twigs. She really preferred a rocking-chair on the veranda
to anything else; but if he wished to go to those other excesses, she
would go with him, to keep him out of mischief.

There could be only one credible reading of the situation, but Alford
let the summer pass in this pleasant dreaming without waking up till too
late to the pleasanter reality. It will seem strange enough, but it is
true, that it was no part of his dream to fancy that Mrs. Yarrow was in
love with him. He knew very well, long before the end, that he was in
love with her; but, remaining in the dark otherwise, he considered only
himself in forbearing verbally to make love to her.

"Well!" Rulledge snarled at this point, "he _was_ a chump."

Wanhope at the moment opposed nothing directly to the censure, but said
that something pathetically reproachful in Mrs. Yarrow's smiling looks
penetrated to Alford as she nodded gayly from the car window to him in
the little group which had assembled to see her off at the station when
she left, by no means the first of their happy hotel circle to go.

"Somebody," Rulledge burst out again, "ought to have kicked him."

"What's become," Minver asked, "of all the dear maids and widows that
you've failed to marry at the end of each summer, Rulledge?"

The satire involved flattery so sweet that Rulledge could not perhaps
wish to make any retort. He frowned sternly, and said, with a face
averted from Minver: "Go on, Wanhope!"

Wanhope here permitted himself a philosophical excursion in which I will
not accompany him. It was apparently to prepare us for the dramatic fact
which followed, and which I suppose he was trying rather to work away
from than work up to. It included some facts which he had failed to
touch on before, and which led to a discussion very interesting in
itself, but of a range too great for the limits I am trying to keep
here. It seems that Alford had been stayed from declaring his love not
only because he doubted of its nature, but also because he questioned
whether a man in his broken health had any right to offer himself to a
woman, and because from a yet finer scruple he hesitated in his poverty
to ask the hand of a rich woman. On the first point, we were pretty well
agreed, but on the second we divided again, especially Rulledge and
Minver, who held, the one, that his hesitation did Alford honor, and
quite relieved him from the imputation of being a chump; and the other
that he was an ass to keep quiet for any such silly reason. Minver
contended that every woman had a right, whether rich or poor, to the man
who loved her; and, moreover, there were now so many rich women that, if
they were not allowed to marry poor men, their chances of marriage were
indefinitely reduced. What better could a widow do with the money she
had inherited from a husband she probably did not love than give it to a
man like Alford--or to an ass like Alford, Minver corrected himself.

His _reductio ad absurdum_ allowed Wanhope to resume with a laugh, and
say that Alford waited at the station in the singleness to which the
tactful dispersion of the others had left him, and watched the train
rapidly dwindle in the perspective, till an abrupt turn of the road
carried it out of sight. Then he lifted his eyes with a long sigh, and
looked round. Everywhere he saw Mrs. Yarrow's smiling face with that
inner pathos. It swarmed upon him from all points; and wherever he
turned it repeated itself in the distances like that succession of faces
you see when you stand between two mirrors.

It was not merely a lapse from his lately hopeful state with Alford, it
was a collapse. The man withered and dwindled away, till he felt that he
must audibly rattle in his clothes as he walked by people. He did not
walk much. Mostly he remained shrunken in the arm-chair where he used to
sit beside Mrs. Yarrow's rocker, and the ladies, the older and the
older-fashioned, who were "sticking it out" at the hotel till it should
close on the 15th of September, observed him, some compassionately,
some censoriously, but all in the same conviction.

"It's plain to be seen what ails Mr. Alford, _now_."

"Well, I guess it _is_."

"_I_ guess so."

"I _guess_ it is."

"Seems kind of heartless, her going and leaving him so."

"Like a sick kitten!"

"Well, I should say as _much_."

"Your eyes bother you, Mr. Alford?" one of them chanted, breaking from
their discussion of him to appeal directly to him. He was rubbing his
eyes, to relieve himself for the moment from the intolerable affliction
of those swarming eidolons, which, whenever he thought of this thing or
that, thickened about him. They now no longer displaced one another, but
those which came first remained fadedly beside or behind the fresher
appearances, like the earlier rainbow which loses depth and color when a
later arch defines itself.

"Yes," he said, glad of the subterfuge. "They annoy me a good deal of
late."

"You want to get fitted for a good pair of glasses. I kept letting it
go, when I first began to get old-sighted."

Another lady came to Alford's rescue. "I guess Mr. Alford has no need to
get fitted for old sight yet a while. You got little spidery
things--specks and dots--in your eyes?"

"Yes--multitudes," he said, hopelessly.

"Well, I'll tell you what: you want to build up. That was the way with
me, and the oculist said it was from getting all run down. I built up,
and the first thing I knew my sight was as clear as a bell. You want to
build up."

"You want to go to the mountains," a third interposed. "That's where
Mrs. Yarrow's gone, and I guess it'll do her more good than sticking it
out here would ever have done."

Alford would have been glad enough to go to the mountains, but with
those illusions hovering closer and closer about him, he had no longer
the courage, the strength. He had barely enough of either to get away to
Boston. He found his doctor this time, after winning and losing the
wager he made himself that he would not have returned to town yet, and
the good-fortune was almost too much for his shaken nerves. The cordial
of his friend's greeting--they had been chums at Harvard--completed his
overthrow. As he sank upon the professional sofa, where so many other
cases had been diagnosticated, he broke into tears. "Hello, old fellow!"
the doctor said, encouragingly, and more tenderly than he would have
dealt with some women. "What's up?"

"Jim," Alford found voice to say, "I'm afraid I'm losing my mind."

The doctor smiled provisionally. "Well, that's _one_ of the signs you're
not. Can you say how?"

"Oh yes. In a minute," Alford sobbed, and when he had got the better of
himself he told his friend the whole story. In the direct examination he
suppressed Mrs. Yarrow's part, but when the doctor, who had listened
with smiling seriousness, began to cross-examine him with the question,
"And you don't remember that any outside influence affected the
recurrence of the illusions, or did anything to prevent it?" Alford
answered promptly: "Oh yes. There was a woman who did."

"A woman? What sort of a woman?"

Alford told.

"That is very curious," the doctor said. "I know a man who used to have
a distressing dream. He broke it up by telling his wife about it every
morning after he had dreamt it."

"Unluckily, she isn't my wife," Alford said, gloomily.

"But when she was with you, you got rid of the illusions?"

"At first, I used to see hers; then I stopped seeing any."

"Did you ever tell her of them?"

"No; I didn't."

"Never tell anybody?"

"No one but you."

"And do you see them now?"

"No."

"Do you think, because you've told me of them?"

"It seems so."

The doctor was silent for a marked space. Then he asked, smiling: "Well,
why not?"

"Why not what?"

"Tell your wife."

"How, my wife?"

"By marriage."

Alford looked dazed. "Do you mean Mrs. Yarrow?"

"If that's her name, and she's a widow."

"And do you think it would be the fair thing for a man on the verge of
insanity--a physical and mental wreck--to ask a woman to marry him?"

"In your case, yes. In the first place, you're not so bad as all that.
You need nothing but rest for your body and change for your mind. I
believe you'll get rid of your illusions as soon as you form the habit
of speaking of them promptly when they begin to trouble you. You ought
to speak of them to some one. You can't always have me around, and Mrs.
Yarrow would be the next best thing."

"She's rich, and you know what I am. I'll have to borrow the money to
rest on, I'm so poor."

"Not if you marry it."

Alford rose, somewhat more vigorously than he had sat down. But that day
he did not go beyond ascertaining that Mrs. Yarrow was in town. He found
out the fact from the maid at her door, who said that she was nearly
always at home after dinner, and, without waiting for the evening of
another day, Alford went to call upon her.

She said, coming down to him in a rather old-fashioned, impersonal
drawing-room which looked distinctly as if it had been left to her: "I
was so glad to get your card. When did you leave Woodbeach?"

"Mrs. Yarrow," he returned, as if that were the answer, "I think I owe
you an explanation."

"Pay it!" she bantered, putting out her hand.

"I'm so poverty-stricken that I don't know whether I can. Did you ever
notice anything odd about me?"

His directness seemed to have a right to directness from her. "I noticed
that you stared a good deal--or used to. But people _do_ stare."

"I stared because I saw things."

"Saw things?"

"I saw whatever I thought of. Whatever came into my mind was externated
in a vision."

She smiled, he could not make out whether uneasily or not. "It sounds
rather creepy, doesn't it? But it's very interesting."

"That's what the doctor said; I've been to see him this morning. May I
tell you about my visions? They're not so creepy as they sound, I
believe, and I don't think they'll keep you awake."

"Yes, do," she said. "I should like of all things to hear about them.
Perhaps I've been one of them."

"You have."

"Oh! Isn't that rather personal?"

"I hope not offensively."

He went on to tell her, with even greater fulness than he had told the
doctor. She listened with the interest women take in anything weird, and
with a compassion for him which she did not conceal so perfectly but
that he saw it. At the end he said: "You may wonder that I come to you
with all this, which must sound like the ravings of a madman."

"No--no," she hesitated.

"I came because I wished you to know everything about me
before--before--I wouldn't have come, you'll believe me, if I hadn't had
the doctor's assurance that my trouble was merely a part of my being
physically out of kilter, and had nothing to do with my sanity--Good
Heavens! What am I saying? But the thought has tormented me so! And in
the midst of it I've allowed myself to--Mrs. Yarrow, I love you. Don't
you know that?"

Alford may have had a divided mind in this declaration, but after that
one word Mrs. Yarrow had no mind for anything else. He went on.

"I'm not only sick--so sick that I sha'n't be able to do any work for a
year at least--but I'm poor, so poor that I can't afford to be sick."

She lifted her eyes and looked at him, where she sat oddly aloof from
those possessions of hers, to which she seemed so little related, and
said, with a smile quivering at the corners of her pretty mouth, "I
don't see what that has to do with it."

"What do you mean?" He stared at her hard.

"Am I in duplicate or triplicate, this time?"

"No, you're only one, and there's none like you! I could never see any
one else while I looked at you!" he cried, only half aware of his
poetry, and meaning what he said very literally.

But she took only the poetry. "I shouldn't wish you to," she said, and
she laughed.

He could not believe yet in his good-fortune. His countenance fell. "I'm
afraid I don't understand, or that you don't. It doesn't seem as if I
could get to the end of my unworthiness, which isn't voluntary. It seems
altogether too base. I can't let you say what you do, if you mean it,
till you know that I come to you in despair as well as in love. You
saved me from the fear I was in, again and again, and I believe that
without you I shall--Ah, it seems very base! But the doctor--If I could
always tell some one--if I could tell _you_ when these things were
obsessing me--haunting me--they would cease--"

Mrs. Yarrow rose, with rather a piteous smile. "Then, I am a
prescription!" She hoped, woman-like, that she was solely a passion; but
is any woman worth having, ever solely a passion?

"Don't!" Alford implored, rising too. "Don't, in mercy, take it that
way! It's only that I wish you to know everything that's in me; to know
how utterly helpless and worthless I am. You needn't have a pang in
throwing such a thing away."

She put out her hand to him, but at arm's-length. "I sha'n't throw you
away--at least, not to-night. I want to think." It was a way of saying
she wished him to go, and he had no desire to stay. He asked if he might
come again, and she said, "Oh yes."

"To-morrow?"

"Not to-morrow, perhaps. When I send. Was it _young_ Doctor Enderby?"

They had rather a sad, dry parting; and when her door closed upon him he
felt that it had shut him out forever. His shame and his defeat were so
great that he did not think of his eidolons, and they did not come to
trouble him. He woke in the morning, asking himself, bitterly, if he
were cured already. His humiliation was such that he closed his eyes to
the light, and wished he might never again open them to it.

The question that Mrs. Yarrow had to ask Dr. Enderby was not the
question he had instantly forecast for her when she put aside her veil
in his office and told him who she was. She did not seem anxious to be
assured of Alford's mental condition, or as to any risks in marrying
him. Her inquiry was much more psychological; it was almost impersonal,
and yet Dr. Enderby thought she looked as if she had been crying.

She had a difficulty in formulating her question, and when it came it
was almost a speculation.

"Women," she said, a little hoarsely, "have no right, I suppose, to
expect the ideal in life. The best they can do seems to be to make the
real look like it."

Dr. Enderby reflected. "Well, yes. But I don't know that I ever put it
to myself in just those terms."

Then she remarked, as if that were the next thing: "You've known Mr.
Alford a long time."

"We were at school together, and we shared the same rooms in Harvard."

"He is very sincere," she added, as if this were relevant.

"He's a man who likes to have a little worse than the worst known about
him. One might say he was excessively sincere." Enderby divined that
Alford had been bungling the matter, and he was willing to help him out
if he could.

Mrs. Yarrow fixed dimly beautiful eyes upon him. "I don't know," she
said, "why it wouldn't be ideal--as much ideal as anything--to give
one's self absolutely to--to--a duty--or not duty, exactly; I don't mean
that. Especially," she added, showing a light through the mist, "if one
wanted to do it."

Then he knew she had made up her mind, and though on some accounts he
would have liked to laugh with her, on other accounts he felt that he
owed it to her to be serious.

"If women could not fulfil the ideal in that way--if they did not
constantly do it--there would be no marriages for love."

"Do you think so?" she asked, with a shaking voice. "But men--men are
ideal, too."

"Not as women are--except now and then some fool like Alford." Now,
indeed, he laughed, and he began to praise Alford from his heart, so
delicately, so tenderly, so reverently, that Mrs. Yarrow laughed too
before he was done, and cried a little, and when she rose to leave she
could not speak; but clung to his hand, on turning away, and so flung it
from behind her with a gesture that Enderby thought pretty.

At this point, Wanhope stopped as if that were the end.

"And did she let Alford come to see her again?" Rulledge, at once
romantic and literal, demanded.

"Oh yes. At any rate, they were married that fall. They are--I believe
he's pursuing his archaeological studies there--living in Athens."

"Together?" Minver smoothly inquired.

At this expression of cynicism Rulledge gave him a look that would have
incinerated another. Wanhope went out with Minver, and then, after a
moment's daze, Rulledge exclaimed: "Jove! I forgot to ask him whether
it's stopped Alford's illusions!"



III

A MEMORY THAT WORKED OVERTIME


Minver's brother took down from the top of the low bookshelf a small
painting on panel, which he first studied in the obverse, and then
turned and contemplated on the back with the same dreamy smile. "I don't
see how that got _here_," he said, absently.

"Well," Minver returned, "you don't expect _me_ to tell you, except on
the principle that any one would naturally know more about anything of
yours than you would." He took it from his brother and looked at the
front of it. "It isn't bad. It's pretty good!" He turned it round. "Why,
it's one of old Blakey's! How did _you_ come by it?"

"Stole it, probably," Minver's brother said, still thoughtfully. Then
with an effect of recollecting: "No, come to think of it," he added,
"Blakey gave it to me." The Minvers played these little comedies
together, quite as much to satisfy their tenderness for each other as to
give their friends pleasure. "Think you're the only painter that gets me
to take his truck as a gift? He gave it to me, let's see, about ten
years ago, when he was trying to make a die of it, and failed; I thought
he would succeed. But it's been in my wife's room nearly ever since, and
what I can't understand is what she's doing with it down here."

"Probably to make trouble for you, somehow," Minver suggested.

"No, I don't think it's _that_, quite," his brother returned, with a
false air of scrupulosity, which was part of their game with each other.
He looked some more at the picture, and then he glanced from it at me.
"There's a very curious story connected with that sketch."

"Oh, well, tell it," Minver said. "Tell it! I suppose I can stand it
again. Acton's never heard it, I believe. But you needn't make a show of
sparing him. I _couldn't_ stand that."

"I certainly haven't heard the story," I said, "and if I had I would be
too polite to own it."

Minver's brother looked towards the open door over his shoulder, and
Minver interpreted for him: "She's not coming. I'll give you due
warning."

"It was before we were married, but not much before, and the picture was
a sort of wedding present for my wife, though Blakey made a show of
giving it to me. Said he had painted it for me, because he had a
prophetic soul, and felt in his bones that I was going to want a picture
of the place where I first met her. You see, it's the little villa her
mother had taken that winter on the Viale Petrarca, just outside of
Florence. It _was_ the first place I met her, but not the last."

"Don't be obvious," Minver ordered.

His brother did not mind him. "I thought it was mighty nice of Blakey.
He was barking away, all the time he was talking, and when he wasn't
coughing he was so hoarse he could hardly speak above a whisper; but he
kept talking on, and wishing me happy, and fending off my gratitude,
while he was finding a piece of manila paper to wrap the sketch in, and
then hunting for a piece of string to tie it. When he handed it to me at
last, he gasped out: 'I don't mind her knowing that I partly meant it as
the place where _she_ first met _you_, too. I'm not ashamed of it as a
bit of color. Anyway, I sha'n't live to do anything better.'

"'Oh, yes, you will,' I came back in that lying way we think is kind
with dying people. I suppose it is; anyway, it turned out all right with
Blakey, as he'll testify if you look him up when you go to Florence. By
the way, he lives in that villa _now_."

"No?" I said. "How charming!"

Minver's brother went on: "I made up my mind to be awfully careful of
that picture, and not let it out of my hand till I left it with 'her'
mother, to be put among the other wedding presents that were
accumulating at their house in Exeter Street. So I held it on my lap
going in by train from Lexington, where Blakey lived, and when I got out
at the old Lowell Depot--North Station, now--and got into the little
tinkle-tankle horse-car that took me up to where I was to get the Back
Bay car--Those were the prehistoric times before trolleys, and there
were odds in horse-cars. We considered the blue-painted Back Bay cars
very swell. _You_ remember them?" he asked Minver.

"Not when I can help it," Minver answered. "When I broke with Boston,
and went to New York, I burnt my horse-cars behind me, and never wanted
to know what they looked like, one from another."

"Well, as I was saying," Minver's brother went on, without regarding his
impatriotism, "when I got into the horse-car at the depot, I rushed for
a corner seat, and I put the picture, with its face next the car-end,
between me and the wall, and kept my hand on it; and when I changed to
the Back Bay car, I did the same thing. There was a florist's just
there, and I couldn't resist some Mayflowers in the window; I was in
that condition, you know, when flowers seemed to be made for her, and I
had to take her own to her wherever I found them. I put the bunch
between my knees, and kept one hand on it, while I kept my other hand on
the picture at my side. I was feeling first-rate, and when General
Filbert got in after we started, and stood before me hanging by a strap
and talking down to me, I had the decency to propose giving him my seat,
as he was about ten years older."

"Sure?" Minver asked.

"Well, say fifteen. I don't pretend to be a chicken, and never did. But
he wouldn't hear of it. Said I had a bundle, and winked at the bunch of
Mayflowers. We had such a jolly talk that I let the car carry me a block
by and had to get out at Gloucester and run back to Exeter. I rang, and,
when the maid came to the door, there I stood with nothing but the
Mayflowers in my hand."

"Good _coup de théâtre_," Minver jeered. "Curtain?"

His brother disdained reply, or was too much absorbed in his tale to
think of any. "When the girl opened the door and I discovered my fix I
burst out, 'Good Lord!' and I stuck the bunch of flowers at her, and
turned and ran. I suppose I must have had some notion of overtaking the
car with my picture in it. But the best I could do was to let the next
one overtake me several blocks down Marlborough Street, and carry me to
the little jumping-off station on Westchester Park, as we used to call
it in those days, at the end of the Back Bay line.

"As I pushed into the railroad office, I bet myself that the picture
would not be there, and, sure enough, I won."

"You were always a lucky dog," Minver said.

"But the man in charge was very encouraging, and said it was sure to be
turned in; and he asked me what time the car had passed the corner of
Gloucester Street. I happened to know, and then he said, Oh yes, that
conductor was a substitute, and he wouldn't be on again till morning;
then he would be certain to bring the picture with him. I was not to
worry, for it would be all right. Nothing left in the Back Bay cars was
ever lost; the character of the abutters was guarantee for that, and
they were practically the only passengers. The conductors and the
drivers were as honest as the passengers, and I could consider myself in
the hands of friends.

"He was so reassuring that I went away smiling at my fears, and
promising to be round bright and early, as soon, the official
suggested--the morrow being Sunday--as soon as the men and horses had
had their baked beans.

"Still, after dinner, I had a lurking anxiety, which I turned into a
friendly impulse to go and call on Mrs. Filbert, whom I really owed a
bread-and-butter visit, and who, I knew, would not mind my coming in the
evening. The general, she said, had been telling her of our pleasant
chat in the car, and would be glad to smoke his after-dinner cigar with
me, and why wouldn't I come into the library?

"We were so very jolly together, all three, that I made light of my
misadventure about the picture. The general inquired about the flowers
first. He remembered the flowers perfectly, and hoped they were
acceptable; he thought he remembered the picture, too, now I mentioned
it; but he would not have noticed it so much, there by my side, with my
hand on it. I would be sure to get it. He gave several instances,
personal to him and his friends, of recoveries of lost articles; it was
really astonishing how careful the horse-car people were, especially on
the Back Bay line. I would find my picture all right at the Westchester
Park station in the morning; never fear.

"I feared so little that I slept well, and even overslept; and I went to
get my picture quite confidently, and I could hardly believe it had not
been turned in yet, though the station-master told me so. The substitute
conductor had not seen it, but more than likely it was at the stables,
where the cleaners would have found it in the car and turned it in. He
was as robustly cheerful about it as ever, and offered to send an
inquiry by the next car; but I said, Why shouldn't I go myself; and he
said that was a good idea. So I went, and it was well I did, for my
picture was not there, and I had saved time by going. It was not there,
but the head man said I need not worry a mite about it; I was certain to
get it sooner or later; it would be turned in, to a dead certainty. We
became rather confidential, and I went so far as to explain about
wanting to make my inquiries very quietly on Blakey's account: he would
be annoyed if he heard of its loss, and it might react unfavorably on
his health.

"The head man said that was so; and he would tell me what I wanted to
do: I wanted to go to the Company's General Offices in Milk Street, and
tell them about it. That was where everything went as a last resort, and
he would bet any money that I would see my picture there the first thing
I got inside the door. I thanked him with the fervor I thought he
merited, and said I would go at once.

"'Well,' he said, 'you don't want to go to-day, you know. The offices
are not open Sunday. And to-morrow's a holiday. But you're all right.
You'll find your picture there, don't you have any doubts about it.'

"That was my next to last Sunday supper with my wife, before she became
my wife, at her mother's house, and I went to the feast with as little
gayety as I suppose any young man ever carried to a supper of the kind.
I was told, afterwards, that my behavior up to a certain point was so
suggestive either of secret crime or of secret regret, that the only
question was whether they should have in the police or I should be given
back my engagement ring and advised to go. Luckily I ceased to bear my
anguish just in time.

"The fact is, I could not stand it any longer, and as soon as I was
alone with her I made a clean breast of it; partially clean, that is: I
suppose a fellow never tells _all_ to a girl, if he truly loves her."
Minver's brother glanced round at us and gathered the harvest of our
approving smiles. "I said to her, 'I've been having a wedding present.'
'Well,' she said, 'you've come as near having no use for a wedding
present as anybody _I_ know. Was having a wedding present what made you
so gloomy at supper? Who gave it to you, anyway?' 'Old Blakey.' 'A
painting?' 'Yes--a sketch.' 'What of?' This was where I qualified. I
said: 'Oh, just one of those Sorrento things of his.' You see, if I told
her that it was the villa where we first met, and then said I had left
it in the horse-car, she would take it as proof positive that I did not
really care anything about her or I never could have forgotten it."

"You were wise as far as you went," Minver said. "Go on."

"Well, I told her the whole story circumstantially: how I had kept the
sketch religiously in my lap in the train, and then held it down with my
hand all the while beside me in the first horse-car, and did the same
thing in the Back Bay car I changed to; and felt of it the whole time I
was talking with General Filbert, and then left it there when I got out
to leave the flowers at her door, when the awful fact came over me like
a flash. 'Yes,' she said, 'Norah said you poked the flowers at her
without a word, and she had to guess they were for me.'

"I had got my story pretty glib by this time; I had reeled it off with
increasing particulars to the Westchester Park station-master, and the
head man at the stables, and General Filbert, and I was so
letter-perfect that I had a vision of the whole thing, especially of my
talking with the general while I kept my hand on the picture--and then
all was dark.

"At the end she said we must advertise for the picture. I said it would
kill Blakey if he saw it; and she said: No matter, _let_ it kill him; it
would show him that we valued his gift, and were moving heaven and earth
to find it; and, at any rate, it would kill _me_ if I kept myself in
suspense. I said I should not care for that; but with her sympathy I
guessed I could live through the night, and I was sure I should find the
thing at the Milk Street office in the morning.

"'Why,' said she, 'to-morrow it'll be shut!' and then I didn't really
know what to say, and I agreed to drawing up an advertisement then and
there, so as not to lose an instant's time after I had been at the Milk
Street office on Tuesday and found the picture had not been turned in.
She said I could dictate the advertisement and she would write it down,
and she asked: 'Which one of his Sorrento things was it? You must
describe it exactly, you know.' That made me feel awfully, and I said I
was not going to have my next-to-last Sunday evening with her spoiled by
writing advertisements; and I got away, somehow, with all sorts of
comforting reassurances from her. I could see that she was feigning them
to encourage me.

"The next morning, I simply could not keep away from the Milk Street
office, and my unreasonable impatience was rewarded by finding it at
least ajar, if not open. There was the nicest kind of a young fellow
there, and he said he was not officially present; but what could he do
for me? Then I told him the whole story, with details I had not thought
of before; and he was just as enthusiastic about my getting my picture
as the Westchester Park station-master or the head man of the stables.
It was morally certain to be turned in, the first thing in the morning;
but he would take a description of it, and send out inquiries to all the
conductors and drivers and car-cleaners, and make a special thing of it.
He entered into the spirit of the affair, and I felt that I had such a
friend in him that I confided a little more and hinted at the double
interest I had in the picture. I didn't pretend that it was one of
Blakey's Sorrento things, but I gave him a full and true description of
it, with its length, breadth, and thickness, in exact measure."

Here Minver's brother stopped and lost himself in contemplation of the
sketch, as he held it at arm's-length.

"Well, did you get your picture?" I prompted, after a moment.

"Oh yes," he said, with a quick turn towards me. "This is it. A District
Messenger brought it round the first thing Tuesday morning. He brought
it," Minver's brother added, with a certain effectiveness, "from the
florist's, where I had stopped to get those Mayflowers. I had left it
there."

"You've told it very well, this time, Joe," Minver said. "But Acton here
is waiting for the psychology. Poor old Wanhope ought to be here," he
added to me. He looked about for a match to light his pipe, and his
brother jerked his head in the direction of the chimney.

"Box on the mantel. Yes," he sighed, "that was really something very
curious. You see, I had invented the whole history of the case from the
time I got into the Back Bay car with my flowers. Absolutely nothing had
happened of all I had remembered till I got out of the car. I did not
put the picture beside me at the end of the car; I did not keep my hand
on it while I talked with General Filbert; I did not leave it behind me
when I left the car. Nothing of the kind happened. I had already left it
at the florist's, and that whole passage of experience which was so
vividly and circumstantially stamped in my memory that I related it four
or five times over, and would have made oath to every detail of it, was
pure invention, or, rather, it was something less positive: the reflex
of the first half of my horse-car experience, when I really did put the
picture in the corner next me, and did keep my hand on it."

"Very strange," I was beginning, but just then the door opened and Mrs.
Minver came in, and I was presented.

She gave me a distracted hand, as she said to her husband: "Have you
been telling the story about that picture again?" He was still holding
it. "Silly!"

She was a mighty pretty woman, but full of vim and fun and sense.

"It's one of the most curious freaks of memory I ever heard of, Mrs.
Minver," I said.

Then she showed that she was proud of it, though she had called him
silly. "Have you told," she demanded of her husband, "how oddly your
memory behaved about the subject of the picture, too?"

"I have again eaten that particular piece of humble-pie," Minver's
brother replied.

"Well," she said to me, "_I_ think he was simply so possessed with the
awfulness of having lost the picture that all the rest took place
prophetically, but unconsciously."

"By a species of inverted presentiment?" I suggested.

"Yes," she assented, slowly, as if the formulation were new to her, but
not unacceptable. "Something of that kind. I never heard of anybody else
having it."

Minver had got his pipe alight, and was enjoying it. "_I_ think Joe was
simply off his nut, for the time being."



IV

A CASE OF METAPHANTASMIA


The stranger was a guest of Halson's, and Halson himself was a
comparative stranger, for he was of recent election to our dining-club,
and was better known to Minver than to the rest of our little group,
though one could not be sure that he was very well known to Minver. The
stranger had been dining with Halson, and we had found the two smoking
together, with their cups of black coffee at their elbows, before the
smouldering fire in the Turkish room when we came in from dinner--my
friend Wanhope the psychologist, Rulledge the sentimentalist, Minver the
painter, and myself. It struck me for the first time that a fire on the
hearth was out of keeping with a Turkish room, but I felt that the cups
of black coffee restored the lost balance in some measure.

Before we had settled into our wonted places--in fact, almost as we
entered--Halson looked over his shoulder and said: "Mr. Wanhope, I want
you to hear this story of my friend's. Go on, Newton--or, rather, go
back and begin again--and I'll introduce you afterwards."

The stranger made a becoming show of deprecation. He said he did not
think the story would bear immediate repetition, or was even worth
telling once, but, if we had nothing better to do, perhaps we might do
worse than hear it; the most he could say for it was that the thing
really happened. He wore a large, drooping, gray mustache, which, with
the imperial below it, quite hid his mouth, and gave him, somehow, a
martial effect, besides accurately dating him of the period between the
latest sixties and earliest seventies, when his beard would have been
black; I liked his mustache not being stubbed in the modern manner, but
allowed to fall heavily over his lips, and then branch away from the
corners of his mouth as far as it would. He lighted the cigar which
Halson gave him, and, blowing the bitten-off tip towards the fire,
began:

"It was about that time when we first had a ten-o'clock night train from
Boston to New York. Train used to start at nine, and lag along round by
Springfield, and get into the old Twenty-sixth Street Station here at
six in the morning, where they let you sleep as long as you liked. They
call you up now at half-past five, and, if you don't turn out, they haul
you back to Mott Haven, or New Haven, I'm not sure which. I used to go
into Boston and turn in at the old Worcester Depot, as we called it
then, just about the time the train began to move, and I usually got a
fine night's rest in the course of the nine or ten hours we were on the
way to New York; it didn't seem quite the same after we began saying
Albany Depot: shortened up the run, somehow.

[Illustration: "NO BURGLAR COULD HAVE MISSED ME IF HE HAD WANTED AN EASY
MARK"]

"But that night I wasn't very sleepy, and the porter had got the place
so piping hot with the big stoves, one at each end of the car, to keep
the good, old-fashioned Christmas cold out, that I thought I should be
more comfortable with a smoke before I went to bed; and, anyhow, I could
get away from the heat better in the smoking-room. I hated to be leaving
home on Christmas Eve, for I never had done that before, and I hated to
be leaving my wife alone with the children and the two girls in our
little house in Cambridge. Before I started in on the old horse-car for
Boston, I had helped her to tuck the young ones in and to fill the
stockings hung along the wall over the register--the nearest we could
come to a fireplace--and I thought those stockings looked very weird,
five of them, dangling lumpily down, and I kept seeing them, and her
sitting up sewing in front of them, and afraid to go to bed on account
of burglars. I suppose she was shyer of burglars than any woman ever was
that had never seen a sign of them. She was always calling me up, to go
down-stairs and put them out, and I used to wander all over the house,
from attic to cellar, in my nighty, with a lamp in one hand and a poker
in the other, so that no burglar could have missed me if he had wanted
an easy mark. I always kept a lamp and a poker handy."

The stranger heaved a sigh as of fond reminiscence, and looked round for
the sympathy which in our company of bachelors he failed of; even the
sympathetic Rulledge failed of the necessary experience to move him in
compassionate response.

"Well," the stranger went on, a little damped perhaps by his failure,
but supported apparently by the interest of the fact in hand, "I had the
smoking-room to myself for a while, and then a fellow put his head in
that I thought I knew after I had thought I didn't know him. He dawned
on me more and more, and I had to acknowledge to myself, by and by, that
it was a man named Melford, whom I used to room with in Holworthy at
Harvard; that is, we had an apartment of two bedrooms and a study; and I
suppose there were never two fellows knew less of each other than we did
at the end of our four years together. I can't say what Melford knew of
me, but the most I knew of Melford was his particular brand of
nightmare."

Wanhope gave the first sign of his interest in the matter. He took his
cigar from his lips, and softly emitted an "Ah!"

Rulledge went further and interrogatively repeated the word "Nightmare?"

"Nightmare," the stranger continued, firmly. "The curious thing about it
was that I never exactly knew the subject of his nightmare, and a more
curious thing yet was Melford himself never knew it, when I woke him up.
He said he couldn't make out anything but a kind of scraping in a
door-lock. His theory was that in his childhood it had been a much
completer thing, but that the circumstances had broken down in a sort of
decadence, and now there was nothing left of it but that scraping in the
door-lock, like somebody trying to turn a misfit key. I used to throw
things at his door, and once I tried a cold-water douche from the
pitcher, when he was very hard to waken; but that was rather brutal, and
after a while I used to let him roar himself awake; he would always do
it, if I trusted to nature; and before our junior year was out I got so
that I could sleep through, pretty calmly; I would just say to myself
when he fetched me to the surface with a yell, 'That's Melford
dreaming,' and doze off sweetly."

"Jove!" Rulledge said, "I don't see how you could stand it."

"There's everything in habit, Rulledge," Minver put in. "Perhaps our
friend only dreamt that he heard a dream."

"That's quite possible," the stranger owned, politely. "But the case is
superficially as I state it. However, it was all past, long ago, when I
recognized Melford in the smoking-room that night: it must have been ten
or a dozen years. I was wearing a full beard then, and so was he; we
wore as much beard as we could in those days. I had been through the
war since college, and he had been in California, most of the time, and,
as he told me, he had been up north, in Alaska, just after we bought it,
and hurt his eyes--had snow-blindness--and he wore spectacles. In fact,
I had to do most of the recognizing, but after we found out who we were
we were rather comfortable; and I liked him better than I remembered to
have liked him in our college days. I don't suppose there was ever much
harm in him; it was only my grudge about his nightmare. We talked along
and smoked along for about an hour, and I could hear the porter outside,
making up the berths, and the train rumbled away towards Framingham, and
then towards Worcester, and I began to be sleepy, and to think I would
go to bed myself; and just then the door of the smoking-room opened, and
a young girl put in her face a moment, and said: 'Oh, I beg your pardon.
I thought it was the stateroom,' and then she shut the door, and I
realized that she looked like a girl I used to know."

The stranger stopped, and I fancied from a note in his voice that this
girl was perhaps like an early love. We silently waited for him to
resume how and when he would. He sighed, and after an appreciable
interval he began again. "It is curious how things are related to one
another. My wife had never seen her, and yet, somehow, this girl that
looked like the one I mean brought my mind back to my wife with a quick
turn, after I had forgotten her in my talk with Melford for the time
being. I thought how lonely she was in that little house of ours in
Cambridge, on rather an outlying street, and I knew she was thinking of
me, and hating to have me away on Christmas Eve, which isn't such a
lively time after you're grown up and begin to look back on a good many
other Christmas Eves, when you were a child yourself; in fact, I don't
know a dismaler night in the whole year. I stepped out on the platform
before I began to turn in, for a mouthful of the night air, and I found
it was spitting snow--a regular Christmas Eve of the true pattern; and I
didn't believe, from the business feel of those hard little pellets,
that it was going to stop in a hurry, and I thought if we got into New
York on time we should be lucky. The snow made me think of a night when
my wife was sure there were burglars in the house; and in fact I heard
their tramping on the stairs myself--thump, thump, thump, and then a
stop, and then down again. Of course it was the slide and thud of the
snow from the roof of the main part of the house to the roof of the
kitchen, which was in an L, a story lower, but it was as good an
imitation of burglars as I want to hear at one o'clock in the morning;
and the recollection of it made me more anxious about my wife, not
because I believed she was in danger, but because I knew how frightened
she must be.

"When I went back into the car, that girl passed me on the way to her
stateroom, and I concluded that she was the only woman on board, and her
friends had taken the stateroom for her, so that she needn't feel
strange. I usually go to bed in a sleeper as I do in my own house, but
that night I somehow couldn't. I got to thinking of accidents, and I
thought how disagreeable it would be to turn out into the snow in my
nighty. I ended by turning in with my clothes on, all except my coat;
and, in spite of the red-hot stoves, I wasn't any too warm. I had a
berth in the middle of the car, and just as I was parting my curtains to
lie down, old Melford came to take the lower berth opposite. It made me
laugh a little, and I was glad of the relief. 'Why, hello, Melford,'
said I. 'This is like the old Holworthy times.' 'Yes, isn't it?' said
he, and then I asked something that I had kept myself from asking all
through our talk in the smoking-room, because I knew he was rather
sensitive about it, or used to be. 'Do you ever have that regulation
nightmare of yours nowadays, Melford? He gave a laugh, and said: 'I
haven't had it, I suppose, once in ten years. What made you think of
it?' I said: 'Oh, I don't know. It just came into my mind. Well,
good-night, old fellow. I hope you'll rest well,' and suddenly I began
to feel light-hearted again, and I went to sleep as gayly as ever I did
in my life."

The stranger paused again, and Wanhope said: "Those swift transitions of
mood are very interesting. Of course they occur in that remote region of
the mind where all incidents and sensations are of one quality, and
things of the most opposite character unite in a common origin. No one
that I remember has attempted to trace such effects to their causes, and
then back again from their causes, which would be much more important."

"Yes, I dare say," Minver put in. "But if they all amount to the same
thing in the end, what difference would it make?"

"It would perhaps establish the identity of good and evil," Wanhope
suggested.

"Oh, the sinners are convinced of that already," Minver said, while
Rulledge glanced quickly from one to the other.

The stranger looked rather dazed, and Rulledge said: "Well, I don't
suppose that was the conclusion of the whole matter?"

"Oh no," the stranger answered, "that was only the beginning of the
conclusion. I didn't go to sleep at once, though I felt so much at
peace. In fact, Melford beat me, and I could hear him far in advance,
steaming and whistling away, in a style that I recalled as
characteristic, over a space of intervening years that I hadn't
definitely summed up yet. It made me think of a night near Narragansett
Bay, where two friends of mine and I had had a mighty good dinner at a
sort of wild club-house, and had hurried into our bunks, each one so as
to get the start of the others, for the fellows that were left behind
knew they had no chance of sleep after the first began to get in his
work. I laughed, and I suppose I must have gone to sleep almost
simultaneously, for I don't recollect anything afterwards till I was
wakened by a kind of muffled bellow, that I remembered only too well. It
was the unfailing sign of Melford's nightmare.

"I was ready to swear, and I was ashamed for the fellow who had no more
self-control than that: when a fellow snores, or has a nightmare, you
always think first off that he needn't have had it if he had tried. As
usual, I knew Melford didn't know what his nightmare was about, and that
made me madder still, to have him bellowing into the air like that, with
no particular aim. All at once there came a piercing scream from the
stateroom, and then I knew that the girl there had heard Melford and
been scared out of a year's growth."

The stranger made a little break, and Wanhope asked, "Could you make out
what she screamed, or was it quite inarticulate?"

"It was plain enough, and it gave me a clew, somehow, to what Melford's
nightmare was about. She was calling out, 'Help! help! help! Burglars!'
till I thought she would raise the roof of the car."

"And did she wake anybody?" Rulledge inquired.

"That was the strange part of it. Not a soul stirred, and after the
first burst the girl seemed to quiet down again and yield the floor to
Melford, who kept bellowing steadily away. I was so furious that I
reached out across the aisle to shake him, but the attempt was too much
for me. I lost my balance and fell out of my berth onto the floor. You
may imagine the state of mind I was in. I gathered myself up and pulled
Melford's curtains open and was just going to fall on him tooth and
nail, when I was nearly taken off my feet again by an apparition: well,
it looked like an apparition, but it was a tall fellow in his
nighty--for it was twenty years before pajamas--and he had a small dark
lantern in his hand, such as we used to carry in those days so as to
read in our berths when we couldn't sleep. He was gritting his teeth,
and growling between them: 'Out o' this! Out o' this! I'm going to shoot
to kill, you blasted thieves!' I could see by the strange look in his
eyes that he was sleep-walking, and I didn't wait to see if he had a
pistol. I popped in behind the curtains, and found myself on top of
another fellow, for I had popped into the wrong berth in my confusion.
The man started up and yelled: 'Oh, don't kill me! There's my watch on
the stand, and all the money in the house is in my pantaloons pocket.
The silver's in the sideboard down-stairs, and it's plated, anyway.'
Then I understood what his complaint was, and I rolled onto the floor
again. By that time every man in the car was out of his berth, too,
except Melford, who was devoting himself strictly to business; and every
man was grabbing some other, and shouting, 'Police!' or 'Burglars!' or
'Help!' or 'Murder!' just as the fancy took him."

"Most extraordinary!" Wanhope commented as the stranger paused for
breath.

In the intensity of our interest, we had crowded close upon him, except
Minver, who sat with his head thrown back, and that cynical cast in his
eye which always exasperated Rulledge; and Halson, who stood smiling
proudly, as if the stranger's story did him as his sponsor credit
personally.

"Yes," the stranger owned, "but I don't know that there wasn't something
more extraordinary still. From time to time the girl in the stateroom
kept piping up, with a shriek for help. She had got past the burglar
stage, but she wanted to be saved, anyhow, from some danger which she
didn't specify. It went through me that it was very strange nobody
called the porter, and I set up a shout of 'Porter!' on my own account.
I decided that if there were burglars the porter was the man to put them
out, and that if there were no burglars the porter could relieve our
groundless fears. Sure enough, he came rushing in, as soon as I called
for him, from the little corner by the smoking-room where he was
blacking boots between dozes. He was wide enough awake, if having his
eyes open meant that, and he had a shoe on one hand and a shoe-brush in
the other. But he merely joined in the general up-roar and shouted for
the police."

"Excuse me," Wanhope interposed. "I wish to be clear as to the facts.
You had reasoned it out that the porter could quiet the tumult?"

"Never reasoned anything out so clearly in my life."

"But what was your theory of the situation? That your friend, Mr.
Melford, had a nightmare in which he was dreaming of burglars?"

"I hadn't a doubt of it."

"And that by a species of dream-transference the nightmare was
communicated to the young lady in the stateroom?"

"Well--yes."

"And that her call for help and her cry of burglars acted as a sort of
hypnotic suggestion with the other sleepers, and they began to be
afflicted with the same nightmare?"

"I don't know that I ever put it to myself so distinctly, but it appears
to me now that I must have reached some such conclusion."

"That is very interesting, very interesting indeed. I beg your pardon.
Please go on," Wanhope courteously entreated.

"I don't remember just where I was," the stranger faltered.

Rulledge returned with an accuracy which obliged us all: "'The porter
merely joined in the general uproar and shouted for the police.'"

"Oh yes," the stranger assented. "Then I didn't know what to do, for a
minute. The porter was a pretty thick-headed darky, but he was
lion-hearted; and his idea was to lay hold of a burglar wherever he
could find him. There were plenty of burglars in the aisle there, or
people that were afraid of burglars, and they seemed to think the porter
had a good idea. They had hold of one another already, and now began to
pull up and down the aisles in a way that reminded me of the
old-fashioned mesmeric lecturers, when they told their subjects that
they were this or that, and set them to acting the part. I remembered
how once when the mesmerist gave out that they were at a horse--race,
and his subjects all got astride of their chairs, and galloped up and
down the hall like a lot of little boys on laths. I thought of that now,
and although it was rather a serious business, for I didn't know what
minute they would come to blows, I couldn't help laughing. The sight was
weird enough. Every one looked like a somnambulist as he pulled and
hauled. The young lady in the stateroom was doing her full share. She
was screaming, 'Won't somebody let me out?' and hammering on the door. I
guess it was her screaming and hammering that brought the conductor at
last, or maybe he just came round in the course of nature to take up the
tickets. It was before the time when they took the tickets at the gate,
and you used to stick them into a little slot at the side of your berth,
and the conductor came along and took them in the night, somewhere
between Worcester and Springfield, I should say."

"I remember," Rulledge assented, but very carefully, so as not to
interrupt the flow of the narrative. "Used to wake up everybody in the
car."

"Exactly," the stranger said. "But this time they were all wide awake to
receive him, or fast asleep, and dreaming their roles. He came along
with the wire of his lantern over his arm, the way the old-time
conductors did, and calling out, 'Tickets!' just as if it was broad day,
and he believed every man was trying to beat his way to New York. The
oddest thing about it was that the sleep-walkers all stopped their
pulling and hauling a moment, and each man reached down to the little
slot alongside of his berth and handed over his ticket. Then they took
hold and began pulling and hauling again. I suppose the conductor asked
what the matter was; but I couldn't hear him, and I couldn't make out
exactly what he did say. But the passengers understood, and they all
shouted 'Burglars!' and that girl in the stateroom gave a shriek that
you could have heard from one end of the train to the other, and
hammered on the door, and wanted to be let out.

"It seemed to take the conductor by surprise, and he faced towards the
stateroom and let the lantern slip off his arm, and it dropped onto the
floor and went out; I remember thinking what a good thing it didn't set
the car on fire. But there in the dark--for the car lamps went out at
the same time with the lantern--I could hear those fellows pulling and
hauling up and down the aisle and scuffling over the floor, and through
all Melford bellowing away, like an orchestral accompaniment to a combat
in Wagner opera, but getting quieter and quieter till his bellow died
away altogether. At the same time the row in the aisle of the car
stopped, and there was perfect silence, and I could hear the snow
rattling against my window. Then I went off into a sound sleep, and
never woke till we got into New York."

The stranger seemed to have reached the end of his story, or at least to
have exhausted the interest it had for him, and he smoked on, holding
his knee between his hands and looking thoughtfully into the fire.

He had left us rather breathless, or, better said, blank, and each
looked at the other for some initiative; then we united in looking at
Wanhope; that is, Rulledge and I did. Minver rose and stretched himself
with what I must describe as a sardonic yawn; Halson had stolen away
before the end, as one to whom the end was known. Wanhope seemed by no
means averse to the inquiry delegated to him, but only to be formulating
its terms. At last he said:

"I don't remember hearing of any case of this kind before.
Thought-transference is a sufficiently ascertained phenomenon--the
insistence of a conscious mind upon a certain fact until it penetrates
the unconscious mind of another and is adopted as its own. But in the
dream state the mind seems passive, and becomes the prey of this or that
self-suggestion, without the power of imparting it to another dreaming
mind. Yet here we have positive proof of such an effect. It appears that
the victim of a particularly terrific nightmare was able to share its
horrors--or rather unable _not_ to share them--with a whole sleeping-car
full of people whose brains helplessly took up the same theme, and
dreamed it, as we may say, to the same conclusions. I said proof, but of
course we can't accept a single instance as establishing a scientific
certainty. I don't question the veracity of Mr.--"

"Newton," the stranger suggested.

"Newton's experience," Wanhope continued, "but we must wait for a good
many cases of the kind before we can accept what I may call
metaphantasmia as being equally established with thought-transference.
If we could it would throw light upon a whole series of most curious
phenomena, as, for instance, the privity of a person dreamed about to
the incident created by the dreamer."

"That would be rather dreadful, wouldn't it?" I ventured. "We do dream
such scandalous, such compromising things about people."

"All that," Wanhope gently insisted, "could have nothing to do with the
fact. That alone is to be considered in an inquiry of the kind. One is
never obliged to tell one's dreams. I wonder"--he turned to the
stranger, who sat absently staring into the fire--"if you happened to
speak to your friend about his nightmare in the morning, and whether he
was by any chance aware of the participation of the others in it?"

"I certainly spoke to him pretty plainly when we got into New York."

"And what did he say?"

"He said he had never slept better in his life, and he couldn't remember
having a trace of nightmare. He said he heard _me_ groaning at one time,
but I stopped just as he woke, and so he didn't rouse me as he thought
of doing. It was at Hartford, and he went to sleep again, and slept
through without a break."

"And what was your conclusion from that?" Wanhope asked.

"That he was lying, I should say," Rulledge replied for the stranger.

Wanhope still waited, and the stranger said, "I suppose one conclusion
might be that I had dreamed the whole thing myself."

"Then you wish me to infer," the psychologist pursued, "that the entire
incident was a figment of your sleeping brain? That there was no sort of
sleeping thought-transference, no metaphantasmia, no--Excuse me. Do you
remember verifying your impression of being between Worcester and
Springfield when the affair occurred, by looking at your watch, for
instance?"

The stranger suddenly pulled out his watch at the word. "Good Heavens!"
he called out. "It's twenty minutes of eleven, and I have to take the
eleven-o'clock train to Boston. I must bid you good-evening, gentlemen.
I've just time to get it if I can catch a cab. Good-night, good-night. I
hope if you come to Boston--eh--Good-night! Sometimes," he called over
his shoulder, "I've thought it might have been that girl in the
stateroom that started the dreaming."

He had wrung our hands one after another, and now he ran out of the
room.

Rulledge said, in appeal to Wanhope: "I don't see how his being the
dreamer invalidates the case, if his dreams affected the others."

"Well," Wanhope answered, thoughtfully, "that depends."

"And what do you think of its being the girl in the stateroom?"

"That would be very interesting."



V

EDITHA


The air was thick with the war feeling, like the electricity of a storm
which has not yet burst. Editha sat looking out into the hot spring
afternoon, with her lips parted, and panting with the intensity of the
question whether she could let him go. She had decided that she could
not let him stay, when she saw him at the end of the still leafless
avenue, making slowly up towards the house, with his head down and his
figure relaxed. She ran impatiently out on the veranda, to the edge of
the steps, and imperatively demanded greater haste of him with her will
before she called aloud to him: "George!"

He had quickened his pace in mystical response to her mystical urgence,
before he could have heard her; now he looked up and answered, "Well?"

"Oh, how united we are!" she exulted, and then she swooped down the
steps to him. "What is it?" she cried.

"It's war," he said, and he pulled her up to him and kissed her.

She kissed him back intensely, but irrelevantly, as to their passion,
and uttered from deep in her throat. "How glorious!"

"It's war," he repeated, without consenting to her sense of it; and she
did not know just what to think at first. She never knew what to think
of him; that made his mystery, his charm. All through their courtship,
which was contemporaneous with the growth of the war feeling, she had
been puzzled by his want of seriousness about it. He seemed to despise
it even more than he abhorred it. She could have understood his
abhorring any sort of bloodshed; that would have been a survival of his
old life when he thought he would be a minister, and before he changed
and took up the law. But making light of a cause so high and noble
seemed to show a want of earnestness at the core of his being. Not but
that she felt herself able to cope with a congenital defect of that
sort, and make his love for her save him from himself. Now perhaps the
miracle was already wrought in him. In the presence of the tremendous
fact that he announced, all triviality seemed to have gone out of him;
she began to feel that. He sank down on the top step, and wiped his
forehead with his handkerchief, while she poured out upon him her
question of the origin and authenticity of his news.

All the while, in her duplex emotioning, she was aware that now at the
very beginning she must put a guard upon herself against urging him, by
any word or act, to take the part that her whole soul willed him to
take, for the completion of her ideal of him. He was very nearly perfect
as he was, and he must be allowed to perfect himself. But he was
peculiar, and he might very well be reasoned out of his peculiarity.
Before her reasoning went her emotioning: her nature pulling upon his
nature, her womanhood upon his manhood, without her knowing the means
she was using to the end she was willing. She had always supposed that
the man who won her would have done something to win her; she did not
know what, but something. George Gearson had simply asked her for her
love, on the way home from a concert, and she gave her love to him,
without, as it were, thinking. But now, it flashed upon her, if he could
do something worthy to _have_ won her--be a hero, _her_ hero--it would
be even better than if he had done it before asking her; it would be
grander. Besides, she had believed in the war from the beginning.

"But don't you see, dearest," she said, "that it wouldn't have come to
this if it hadn't been in the order of Providence? And I call any war
glorious that is for the liberation of people who have been struggling
for years against the cruelest oppression. Don't you think so, too?"

"I suppose so," he returned, languidly. "But war! Is it glorious to
break the peace of the world?"

"That ignoble peace! It was no peace at all, with that crime and shame
at our very gates." She was conscious of parroting the current phrases
of the newspapers, but it was no time to pick and choose her words. She
must sacrifice anything to the high ideal she had for him, and after a
good deal of rapid argument she ended with the climax: "But now it
doesn't matter about the how or why. Since the war has come, all that is
gone. There are no two sides any more. There is nothing now but our
country."

He sat with his eyes closed and his head leant back against the veranda,
and he remarked, with a vague smile, as if musing aloud, "Our
country--right or wrong."

"Yes, right or wrong!" she returned, fervidly. "I'll go and get you some
lemonade." She rose rustling, and whisked away; when she came back with
two tall glasses of clouded liquid on a tray, and the ice clucking in
them, he still sat as she had left him, and she said, as if there had
been no interruption: "But there is no question of wrong in this case.
I call it a sacred war. A war for liberty and humanity, if ever there
was one. And I know you will see it just as I do, yet."

He took half the lemonade at a gulp, and he answered as he set the glass
down: "I know you always have the highest ideal. When I differ from you
I ought to doubt myself."

A generous sob rose in Editha's throat for the humility of a man, so
very nearly perfect, who was willing to put himself below her.

Besides, she felt, more subliminally, that he was never so near slipping
through her fingers as when he took that meek way.

"You shall not say that! Only, for once I happen to be right." She
seized his hand in her two hands, and poured her soul from her eyes into
his. "Don't you think so?" she entreated him.

[Illustration: "'YOU SHALL NOT SAY THAT!'"]

He released his hand and drank the rest of his lemonade, and she added,
"Have mine, too," but he shook his head in answering, "I've no business
to think so, unless I act so, too."

Her heart stopped a beat before it pulsed on with leaps that she felt in
her neck. She had noticed that strange thing in men: they seemed to feel
bound to do what they believed, and not think a thing was finished when
they said it, as girls did. She knew what was in his mind, but she
pretended not, and she said, "Oh, I am not sure," and then faltered.

He went on as if to himself, without apparently heeding her: "There's
only one way of proving one's faith in a thing like this."

She could not say that she understood, but she did understand.

He went on again. "If I believed--if I felt as you do about this
war--Do you wish me to feel as you do?"

Now she was really not sure; so she said: "George, I don't know what you
mean."

He seemed to muse away from her as before.

"There is a sort of fascination in it. I suppose that at the bottom of
his heart every man would like at times to have his courage tested, to
see how he would act."

"How can you talk in that ghastly way?"

"It _is_ rather morbid. Still, that's what it comes to, unless you're
swept away by ambition or driven by conviction. I haven't the conviction
or the ambition, and the other thing is what it comes to with me. I
ought to have been a preacher, after all; then I couldn't have asked it
of myself, as I must, now I'm a lawyer. And you believe it's a holy war,
Editha?" he suddenly addressed her. "Oh, I know you do! But you wish me
to believe so, too?"

She hardly knew whether he was mocking or not, in the ironical way he
always had with her plainer mind. But the only thing was to be outspoken
with him.

"George, I wish you to believe whatever you think is true, at any and
every cost. If I've tried to talk you into anything, I take it all
back."

"Oh, I know that, Editha. I know how sincere you are, and how--I wish I
had your undoubting spirit! I'll think it over; I'd like to believe as
you do. But I don't, now; I don't, indeed. It isn't this war alone;
though this seems peculiarly wanton and needless; but it's every war--so
stupid; it makes me sick. Why shouldn't this thing have been settled
reasonably?"

"Because," she said, very throatily again, "God meant it to be war."

"You think it was God? Yes, I suppose that is what people will say."

"Do you suppose it would have been war if God hadn't meant it?"

"I don't know. Sometimes it seems as if God had put this world into
men's keeping to work it as they pleased."

"Now, George, that is blasphemy."

"Well, I won't blaspheme. I'll try to believe in your pocket
Providence," he said, and then he rose to go.

"Why don't you stay to dinner?" Dinner at Balcom's Works was at one
o'clock.

"I'll come back to supper, if you'll let me. Perhaps I shall bring you a
convert."

"Well, you may come back, on that condition."

"All right. If I don't come, you'll understand."

He went away without kissing her, and she felt it a suspension of their
engagement. It all interested her intensely; she was undergoing a
tremendous experience, and she was being equal to it. While she stood
looking after him, her mother came out through one of the long windows
onto the veranda, with a catlike softness and vagueness.

"Why didn't he stay to dinner?"

"Because--because--war has been declared," Editha pronounced, without
turning.

Her mother said, "Oh, my!" and then said nothing more until she had sat
down in one of the large Shaker chairs and rocked herself for some time.
Then she closed whatever tacit passage of thought there had been in her
mind with the spoken words: "Well, I hope _he_ won't go."

"And _I_ hope he _will_," the girl said, and confronted her mother with
a stormy exaltation that would have frightened any creature less
unimpressionable than a cat.

Her mother rocked herself again for an interval of cogitation. What she
arrived at in speech was: "Well, I guess you've done a wicked thing,
Editha Balcom."

The girl said, as she passed indoors through the same window her mother
had come out by: "I haven't done anything--yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

In her room, she put together all her letters and gifts from Gearson,
down to the withered petals of the first flower he had offered, with
that timidity of his veiled in that irony of his. In the heart of the
packet she enshrined her engagement ring which she had restored to the
pretty box he had brought it her in. Then she sat down, if not calmly
yet strongly, and wrote:

     "GEORGE:--I understood when you left me. But I think we had better
     emphasize your meaning that if we cannot be one in everything we
     had better be one in nothing. So I am sending these things for your
     keeping till you have made up your mind.

     "I shall always love you, and therefore I shall never marry any one
     else. But the man I marry must love his country first of all, and
     be able to say to me,

         "'I could not love thee, dear, so much,
           Loved I not honor more.'

     "There is no honor above America with me. In this great hour there
     is no other honor.

     "Your heart will make my words clear to you. I had never expected
     to say so much, but it has come upon me that I must say the utmost.

     EDITHA."

She thought she had worded her letter well, worded it in a way that
could not be bettered; all had been implied and nothing expressed.

She had it ready to send with the packet she had tied with red, white,
and blue ribbon, when it occurred to her that she was not just to him,
that she was not giving him a fair chance. He had said he would go and
think it over, and she was not waiting. She was pushing, threatening,
compelling. That was not a woman's part. She must leave him free, free,
free. She could not accept for her country or herself a forced
sacrifice.

In writing her letter she had satisfied the impulse from which it
sprang; she could well afford to wait till he had thought it over. She
put the packet and the letter by, and rested serene in the consciousness
of having done what was laid upon her by her love itself to do, and yet
used patience, mercy, justice.

She had her reward. Gearson did not come to tea, but she had given him
till morning, when, late at night there came up from the village the
sound of a fife and drum, with a tumult of voices, in shouting, singing,
and laughing. The noise drew nearer and nearer; it reached the street
end of the avenue; there it silenced itself, and one voice, the voice
she knew best, rose over the silence. It fell; the air was filled with
cheers; the fife and drum struck up, with the shouting, singing, and
laughing again, but now retreating; and a single figure came hurrying up
the avenue.

She ran down to meet her lover and clung to him. He was very gay, and he
put his arm round her with a boisterous laugh. "Well, you must call me
Captain now; or Cap, if you prefer; that's what the boys call me. Yes,
we've had a meeting at the town-hall, and everybody has volunteered; and
they selected me for captain, and I'm going to the war, the big war, the
glorious war, the holy war ordained by the pocket Providence that
blesses butchery. Come along; let's tell the whole family about it. Call
them from their downy beds, father, mother, Aunt Hitty, and all the
folks!"

But when they mounted the veranda steps he did not wait for a larger
audience; he poured the story out upon Editha alone.

"There was a lot of speaking, and then some of the fools set up a shout
for me. It was all going one way, and I thought it would be a good joke
to sprinkle a little cold water on them. But you can't do that with a
crowd that adores you. The first thing I knew I was sprinkling hell-fire
on them. 'Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.' That was the style.
Now that it had come to the fight, there were no two parties; there was
one country, and the thing was to fight to a finish as quick as
possible. I suggested volunteering then and there, and I wrote my name
first of all on the roster. Then they elected me--that's all. I wish I
had some ice-water."

She left him walking up and down the veranda, while she ran for the
ice-pitcher and a goblet, and when she came back he was still walking up
and down, shouting the story he had told her to her father and mother,
who had come out more sketchily dressed than they commonly were by day.
He drank goblet after goblet of the ice-water without noticing who was
giving it, and kept on talking, and laughing through his talk wildly.
"It's astonishing," he said, "how well the worse reason looks when you
try to make it appear the better. Why, I believe I was the first convert
to the war in that crowd to-night! I never thought I should like to kill
a man; but now I shouldn't care; and the smokeless powder lets you see
the man drop that you kill. It's all for the country! What a thing it is
to have a country that _can't_ be wrong, but if it is, is right,
anyway!"

Editha had a great, vital thought, an inspiration. She set down the
ice-pitcher on the veranda floor, and ran up-stairs and got the letter
she had written him. When at last he noisily bade her father and mother,
"Well, goodnight. I forgot I woke you up; I sha'n't want any sleep
myself," she followed him down the avenue to the gate. There, after the
whirling words that seemed to fly away from her thoughts and refuse to
serve them, she made a last effort to solemnize the moment that seemed
so crazy, and pressed the letter she had written upon him.

"What's this?" he said. "Want me to mail it?"

"No, no. It's for you. I wrote it after you went this morning. Keep
it--keep it--and read it sometime--" She thought, and then her
inspiration came: "Read it if ever you doubt what you've done, or fear
that I regret your having done it. Read it after you've started."

They strained each other in embraces that seemed as ineffective as their
words, and he kissed her face with quick, hot breaths that were so
unlike him, that made her feel as if she had lost her old lover and
found a stranger in his place. The stranger said: "What a gorgeous
flower you are, with your red hair, and your blue eyes that look black
now, and your face with the color painted out by the white moonshine!
Let me hold you under the chin, to see whether I love blood, you
tiger-lily!" Then he laughed Gearson's laugh, and released her, scared
and giddy. Within her wilfulness she had been frightened by a sense of
subtler force in him, and mystically mastered as she had never been
before.

She ran all the way back to the house, and mounted the steps panting.
Her mother and father were talking of the great affair. Her mother said:
"Wa'n't Mr. Gearson in rather of an excited state of mind? Didn't you
think he acted curious?"

"Well, not for a man who'd just been elected captain and had set 'em up
for the whole of Company A," her father chuckled back.

"What in the world do you mean, Mr. Balcom? Oh! There's Editha!" She
offered to follow the girl indoors.

"Don't come, mother!" Editha called, vanishing.

Mrs. Balcom remained to reproach her husband. "I don't see much of
anything to laugh at."

"Well, it's catching. Caught it from Gearson. I guess it won't be much
of a war, and I guess Gearson don't think so, either. The other fellows
will back down as soon as they see we mean it. I wouldn't lose any sleep
over it. I'm going back to bed, myself."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gearson came again next afternoon, looking pale and rather sick, but
quite himself, even to his languid irony. "I guess I'd better tell you,
Editha, that I consecrated myself to your god of battles last night by
pouring too many libations to him down my own throat. But I'm all right
now. One has to carry off the excitement, somehow."

"Promise me," she commanded, "that you'll never touch it again!"

"What! Not let the cannikin clink? Not let the soldier drink? Well, I
promise."

"You don't belong to yourself now; you don't even belong to _me_. You
belong to your country, and you have a sacred charge to keep yourself
strong and well for your country's sake. I have been thinking, thinking
all night and all day long."

"You look as if you had been crying a little, too," he said, with his
queer smile.

"That's all past. I've been thinking, and worshipping _you_. Don't you
suppose I know all that you've been through, to come to this? I've
followed you every step from your old theories and opinions."

"Well, you've had a long row to hoe."

"And I know you've done this from the highest motives--"

"Oh, there won't be much pettifogging to do till this cruel war is--"

"And you haven't simply done it for my sake. I couldn't respect you if
you had."

"Well, then we'll say I haven't. A man that hasn't got his own respect
intact wants the respect of all the other people he can corner. But we
won't go into that. I'm in for the thing now, and we've got to face our
future. My idea is that this isn't going to be a very protracted
struggle; we shall just scare the enemy to death before it comes to a
fight at all. But we must provide for contingencies, Editha. If anything
happens to me--"

"Oh, George!" She clung to him, sobbing.

"I don't want you to feel foolishly bound to my memory. I should hate
that, wherever I happened to be."

"I am yours, for time and eternity--time and eternity." She liked the
words; they satisfied her famine for phrases.

"Well, say eternity; that's all right; but time's another thing; and I'm
talking about time. But there is something! My mother! If anything
happens--"

She winced, and he laughed. "You're not the bold soldier-girl of
yesterday!" Then he sobered. "If anything happens, I want you to help my
mother out. She won't like my doing this thing. She brought me up to
think war a fool thing as well as a bad thing. My father was in the
Civil War; all through it; lost his arm in it." She thrilled with the
sense of the arm round her; what if that should be lost? He laughed as
if divining her: "Oh, it doesn't run in the family, as far as I know!"
Then he added, gravely: "He came home with misgivings about war, and
they grew on him. I guess he and mother agreed between them that I was
to be brought up in his final mind about it; but that was before my
time. I only knew him from my mother's report of him and his opinions; I
don't know whether they were hers first; but they were hers last. This
will be a blow to her. I shall have to write and tell her--"

He stopped, and she asked: "Would you like me to write, too, George?"

"I don't believe that would do. No, I'll do the writing. She'll
understand a little if I say that I thought the way to minimize it was
to make war on the largest possible scale at once--that I felt I must
have been helping on the war somehow if I hadn't helped keep it from
coming, and I knew I hadn't; when it came, I had no right to stay out of
it."

Whether his sophistries satisfied him or not, they satisfied her. She
clung to his breast, and whispered, with closed eyes and quivering lips:
"Yes, yes, yes!"

"But if anything should happen, you might go to her and see what you
could do for her. You know? It's rather far off; she can't leave her
chair--"

"Oh, I'll go, if it's the ends of the earth! But nothing will happen!
Nothing _can_! I--"

She felt herself lifted with his rising, and Gearson was saying, with
his arm still round her, to her father: "Well, we're off at once, Mr.
Balcom. We're to be formally accepted at the capital, and then bunched
up with the rest somehow, and sent into camp somewhere, and got to the
front as soon as possible. We all want to be in the van, of course;
we're the first company to report to the Governor. I came to tell
Editha, but I hadn't got round to it."

       *       *       *       *       *

She saw him again for a moment at the capital, in the station, just
before the train started southward with his regiment. He looked well, in
his uniform, and very soldierly, but somehow girlish, too, with his
clean-shaven face and slim figure. The manly eyes and the strong voice
satisfied her, and his preoccupation with some unexpected details of
duty flattered her. Other girls were weeping and bemoaning themselves,
but she felt a sort of noble distinction in the abstraction, the almost
unconsciousness, with which they parted. Only at the last moment he
said: "Don't forget my mother. It mayn't be such a walk-over as I
supposed," and he laughed at the notion.

He waved his hand to her as the train moved off--she knew it among a
score of hands that were waved to other girls from the platform of the
car, for it held a letter which she knew was hers. Then he went inside
the car to read it, doubtless, and she did not see him again. But she
felt safe for him through the strength of what she called her love. What
she called her God, always speaking the name in a deep voice and with
the implication of a mutual understanding, would watch over him and keep
him and bring him back to her. If with an empty sleeve, then he should
have three arms instead of two, for both of hers should be his for life.
She did not see, though, why she should always be thinking of the arm
his father had lost.

There were not many letters from him, but they were such as she could
have wished, and she put her whole strength into making hers such as she
imagined he could have wished, glorifying and supporting him. She wrote
to his mother glorifying him as their hero, but the brief answer she got
was merely to the effect that Mrs. Gearson was not well enough to write
herself, and thanking her for her letter by the hand of some one who
called herself "Yrs truly, Mrs. W.J. Andrews."

Editha determined not to be hurt, but to write again quite as if the
answer had been all she expected. Before it seemed as if she could have
written, there came news of the first skirmish, and in the list of the
killed, which was telegraphed as a trifling loss on our side, was
Gearson's name. There was a frantic time of trying to make out that it
might be, must be, some other Gearson; but the name and the company and
the regiment and the State were too definitely given.

Then there was a lapse into depths out of which it seemed as if she
never could rise again; then a lift into clouds far above all grief,
black clouds, that blotted out the sun, but where she soared with him,
with George--George! She had the fever that she expected of herself, but
she did not die in it; she was not even delirious, and it did not last
long. When she was well enough to leave her bed, her one thought was of
George's mother, of his strangely worded wish that she should go to her
and see what she could do for her. In the exaltation of the duty laid
upon her--it buoyed her up instead of burdening her--she rapidly
recovered.

Her father went with her on the long railroad journey from northern New
York to western Iowa; he had business out at Davenport, and he said he
could just as well go then as any other time; and he went with her to
the little country town where George's mother lived in a little house
on the edge of the illimitable cornfields, under trees pushed to a top
of the rolling prairie. George's father had settled there after the
Civil War, as so many other old soldiers had done; but they were Eastern
people, and Editha fancied touches of the East in the June rose
overhanging the front door, and the garden with early summer flowers
stretching from the gate of the paling fence.

It was very low inside the house, and so dim, with the closed blinds,
that they could scarcely see one another: Editha tall and black in her
crapes which filled the air with the smell of their dyes; her father
standing decorously apart with his hat on his forearm, as at funerals; a
woman rested in a deep arm-chair, and the woman who had let the
strangers in stood behind the chair.

The seated woman turned her head round and up, and asked the woman
behind her chair: "_Who_ did you say?"

Editha, if she had done what she expected of herself, would have gone
down on her knees at the feet of the seated figure and said, "I am
George's Editha," for answer.

But instead of her own voice she heard that other woman's voice, saying:
"Well, I don't know as I _did_ get the name just right. I guess I'll
have to make a little more light in here," and she went and pushed two
of the shutters ajar.

Then Editha's father said, in his public will-now-address-a-few-remarks
tone: "My name is Balcom, ma'am--Junius H. Balcom, of Balcom's Works,
New York; my daughter--"

"Oh!" the seated woman broke in, with a powerful voice, the voice that
always surprised Editha from Gearson's slender frame. "Let me see you.
Stand round where the light can strike on your face," and Editha dumbly
obeyed. "So, you're Editha Balcom," she sighed.

"Yes," Editha said, more like a culprit than a comforter.

"What did you come for?" Mrs. Gearson asked.

Editha's face quivered and her knees shook. "I came--because--because
George--" She could go no further.

"Yes," the mother said, "he told me he had asked you to come if he got
killed. You didn't expect that, I suppose, when you sent him."

"I would rather have died myself than done it!" Editha said, with more
truth in her deep voice than she ordinarily found in it. "I tried to
leave him free--"

"Yes, that letter of yours, that came back with his other things, left
him free."

Editha saw now where George's irony came from.

"It was not to be read before--unless--until--I told him so," she
faltered.

"Of course, he wouldn't read a letter of yours, under the circumstances,
till he thought you wanted him to. Been sick?" the woman abruptly
demanded.

"Very sick," Editha said, with self-pity.

"Daughter's life," her father interposed, "was almost despaired of, at
one time."

Mrs. Gearson gave him no heed. "I suppose you would have been glad to
die, such a brave person as you! I don't believe _he_ was glad to die.
He was always a timid boy, that way; he was afraid of a good many
things; but if he was afraid he did what he made up his mind to. I
suppose he made up his mind to go, but I knew what it cost him by what
it cost me when I heard of it. I had been through _one_ war before.
When you sent him you didn't expect he would get killed."

The voice seemed to compassionate Editha, and it was time. "No," she
huskily murmured.

"No, girls don't; women don't, when they give their men up to their
country. They think they'll come marching back, somehow, just as gay as
they went, or if it's an empty sleeve, or even an empty pantaloon, it's
all the more glory, and they're so much the prouder of them, poor
things!"

The tears began to run down Editha's face; she had not wept till then;
but it was now such a relief to be understood that the tears came.

"No, you didn't expect him to get killed," Mrs. Gearson repeated, in a
voice which was startlingly like George's again. "You just expected him
to kill some one else, some of those foreigners, that weren't there
because they had any say about it, but because they had to be there,
poor wretches--conscripts, or whatever they call 'em. You thought it
would be all right for my George, _your_ George, to kill the sons of
those miserable mothers and the husbands of those girls that you would
never see the faces of." The woman lifted her powerful voice in a
psalmlike note. "I thank my God he didn't live to do it! I thank my God
they killed him first, and that he ain't livin' with their blood on his
hands!" She dropped her eyes, which she had raised with her voice, and
glared at Editha. "What you got that black on for?" She lifted herself
by her powerful arms so high that her helpless body seemed to hang limp
its full length. "Take it off, take it off, before I tear it from your
back!"

[Illustration: "SHE GLARED AT EDITHA. 'WHAT YOU GOT THAT BLACK ON
FOR?'"]

       *       *       *       *       *

The lady who was passing the summer near Balcom's Works was sketching
Editha's beauty, which lent itself wonderfully to the effects of a
colorist. It had come to that confidence which is rather apt to grow
between artist and sitter, and Editha had told her everything.

"To think of your having such a tragedy in your life!" the lady said.
She added: "I suppose there are people who feel that way about war. But
when you consider the good this war has done--how much it has done for
the country! I can't understand such people, for my part. And when you
had come all the way out there to console her--got up out of a sick-bed!
Well!"

"I think," Editha said, magnanimously, "she wasn't quite in her right
mind; and so did papa."

"Yes," the lady said, looking at Editha's lips in nature and then at her
lips in art, and giving an empirical touch to them in the picture. "But
how dreadful of her! How perfectly--excuse me--how _vulgar_!"

A light broke upon Editha in the darkness which she felt had been
without a gleam of brightness for weeks and months. The mystery that had
bewildered her was solved by the word; and from that moment she rose
from grovelling in shame and self-pity, and began to live again in the
ideal.



VI

BRAYBRIDGE'S OFFER


We had ordered our dinners and were sitting in the Turkish room at the
club, waiting to be called, each in his turn, to the dining-room. It was
always a cosey place, whether you found yourself in it with cigars and
coffee after dinner, or with whatever liquid or solid appetizer you
preferred in the half-hour or more that must pass before dinner after
you had made out your menu. It intimated an exclusive possession in the
three or four who happened first to find themselves together in it, and
it invited the philosophic mind to contemplation more than any other
spot in the club.

Our rather limited little down-town dining-club was almost a celibate
community at most times. A few husbands and fathers joined us at lunch;
but at dinner we were nearly always a company of bachelors, dropping in
an hour or so before we wished to dine, and ordering from a bill of fare
what we liked. Some dozed away in the intervening time; some read the
evening papers or played chess; I preferred the chance society of the
Turkish room. I could be pretty sure of finding Wanhope there in these
sympathetic moments, and where Wanhope was there would probably be
Rulledge, passively willing to listen and agree, and Minver ready to
interrupt and dispute. I myself liked to look in and linger for either
the reasoning or the bickering, as it happened, and now, seeing the
three there together, I took a provisional seat behind the painter, who
made no sign of knowing I was present. Rulledge was eating a caviar
sandwich, which he had brought from the afternoon tea-table near by, and
he greedily incited Wanhope to go on, in the polite pause which the
psychologist had let follow on my appearance, with what he was saying. I
was not surprised to find that his talk related to a fact just then
intensely interesting to the few, rapidly becoming the many, who were
privy to it; though Wanhope had the air of stooping to it from a higher
range of thinking.

"I shouldn't have supposed, somehow," he said, with a knot of
deprecation between his fine eyes, "that he would have had the pluck."

"Perhaps he hadn't," Minver suggested.

Wanhope waited for a thoughtful moment of censure eventuating in
toleration. "You mean that she--"

"I don't see why you say that, Minver," Rulledge interposed,
chivalrously, with his mouth full of sandwich.

"I didn't say it," Minver contradicted.

"You implied it; and I don't think it's fair. It's easy enough to build
up a report of that kind on the half-knowledge of rumor which is all
that any outsider can have in the case."

"So far," Minver said, with unbroken tranquillity, "as any such edifice
has been erected, you are the architect, Rulledge. I shouldn't think you
would like to go round insinuating that sort of thing. Here is Acton,"
and he now acknowledged my presence with a backward twist of his head,
"on the alert for material already. You ought to be more careful where
Acton is, Rulledge."

"It would be great copy if it were true," I owned.

Wanhope regarded us all three, in this play of our qualities, with the
scientific impartiality of a bacteriologist in the study of a culture
offering some peculiar incidents. He took up a point as remote as might
be from the personal appeal. "It is curious how little we know of such
matters, after all the love-making and marrying in life and all the
inquiry of the poets and novelists." He addressed himself in this turn
of his thought, half playful, half earnest, to me, as if I united with
the functions of both a responsibility for their shortcomings.

"Yes," Minver said, facing about towards me. "How do you excuse yourself
for your ignorance in matters where you're always professionally making
such a bluff of knowledge? After all the marriages you have brought
about in literature, can you say positively and specifically how they
are brought about in life?"

"No, I can't," I admitted. "I might say that a writer of fiction is a
good deal like a minister who continually marries people without knowing
why."

"No, you couldn't, my dear fellow," the painter retorted. "It's part of
your swindle to assume that you _do_ know why. You ought to find out."

Wanhope interposed concretely, or as concretely as he could: "The
important thing would always be to find which of the lovers the
confession, tacit or explicit, began with."

"Acton ought to go round and collect human documents bearing on the
question. He ought to have got together thousands of specimens from
nature. He ought to have gone to all the married couples he knew, and
asked them just how their passion was confessed; he ought to have sent
out printed circulars, with tabulated questions. Why don't you do it,
Acton?"

I returned, as seriously as could have been expected:

"Perhaps it would be thought rather intimate. People don't like to talk
of such things."

"They're ashamed," Minver declared. "The lovers don't either of them, in
a given case, like to let others know how much the woman had to do with
making the offer, and how little the man."

Minver's point provoked both Wanhope and myself to begin a remark at the
same time. We begged each other's pardon, and Wanhope insisted that I
should go on.

"Oh, merely this," I said. "I don't think they're so much ashamed as
that they have forgotten the different stages. You were going to say--?"

"Very much what you said. It's astonishing how people forget the vital
things and remember trifles. Or perhaps as we advance from stage to
stage what once seemed the vital things turn to trifles. Nothing can be
more vital in the history of a man and a woman than how they became
husband and wife, and yet not merely the details, but the main fact,
would seem to escape record if not recollection. The next generations
knows nothing of it."

"That appears to let Acton out," Minver said. "But how do _you_ know
what you were saying, Wanhope?"

"I've ventured to make some inquiries in that region at one time. Not
directly, of course. At second and third hand. It isn't inconceivable,
if we conceive of a life after this, that a man should forget, in its
more important interests and occupations, just how he quitted this
world, or at least the particulars of the article of death. Of course,
we must suppose a good portion of eternity to have elapsed." Wanhope
continued, dreamily, with a deep breath almost equivalent to something
so unscientific as a sigh: "Women are charming, and in nothing more
than the perpetual challenge they form for us. They are born defying us
to match ourselves with them."

"Do you mean that Miss Hazelwood--" Rulledge began, but Minver's laugh
arrested him.

"Nothing so concrete, I'm afraid," Wanhope gently returned. "I mean, to
match them in graciousness, in loveliness, in all the agile contests of
spirit and plays of fancy. It's pathetic to see them caught up into
something more serious in that other game, which they are so good at."

"They seem rather to like it, though, some of them, if you mean the game
of love," Minver said. "Especially when they're not in earnest about
it."

"Oh, there are plenty of spoiled women," Wanhope admitted. "But I don't
mean flirting. I suppose that the average unspoiled woman is rather
frightened than otherwise when she knows that a man is in love with
her."

"Do you suppose she always knows it first?" Rulledge asked.

"You may be sure," Minver answered for Wanhope, "that if she didn't know
it, _he_ never would." Then Wanhope answered for himself:

"I think that generally she sees it coming. In that sort of wireless
telegraphy, that reaching out of two natures through space towards each
other, her more sensitive apparatus probably feels the appeal of his
before he is conscious of having made any appeal."

"And her first impulse is to escape the appeal?" I suggested.

"Yes," Wanhope admitted, after a thoughtful reluctance.

"Even when she is half aware of having invited it?"

"If she is not spoiled she is never aware of having invited it. Take
the case in point; we won't mention any names. She is sailing through
time, through youthful space, with her electrical lures, the natural
equipment of every charming woman, all out, and suddenly, somewhere from
the unknown, she feels the shock of a response in the gulfs of air where
there had been no life before. But she can't be said to have knowingly
searched the void for any presence."

"Oh, I'm not sure about that, Professor," Minver put in. "Go a little
slower, if you expect me to follow you."

"It's all a mystery, the most beautiful mystery of life," Wanhope
resumed. "I don't believe I could make out the case as I feel it to be."

"Braybridge's part of the case is rather plain, isn't it?" I invited
him.

"I'm not sure of that. No man's part of any case is plain, if you look
at it carefully. The most that you can say of Braybridge is that he is
rather a simple nature. But nothing," the psychologist added, with one
of his deep breaths, "is so complex as a simple nature."

"Well," Minver contended, "Braybridge is plain, if his case isn't."

"Plain? Is he plain?" Wanhope asked, as if asking himself.

"My dear fellow, you agnostics doubt everything!"

"I should have said picturesque. Picturesque, with the sort of
unbeautifulness that takes the fancy of women more than Greek
proportion. I think it would require a girl peculiarly feminine to feel
the attraction of such a man--the fascination of his being grizzled and
slovenly and rugged. She would have to be rather a wild, shy girl to do
that, and it would have to be through her fear of him that she would
divine his fear of her. But what I have heard is that they met under
rather exceptional circumstances. It was at a house in the Adirondacks,
where Braybridge was, somewhat in the quality of a bull in a china-shop.
He was lugged in by the host, as an old friend, and was suffered by the
hostess as a friend quite too old for her. At any rate, as I heard (and
I don't vouch for the facts, all of them), Braybridge found himself at
odds with the gay young people who made up the hostess's end of the
party, and was watching for a chance to--"

Wanhope cast about for the word, and Minver supplied it--"Pull out."

"Yes. But when he had found it Miss Hazelwood took it from him."

"I don't understand," Rulledge said.

"When he came in to breakfast, the third morning, prepared with an
excuse for cutting his week down to the dimensions it had reached, he
saw her sitting alone at the table. She had risen early as a consequence
of having arrived late the night before; and when Braybridge found
himself in for it, he forgot that he meant to go away, and said
good-morning, as if they knew each other. Their hostess found them
talking over the length of the table in a sort of mutual fright, and
introduced them. But it's rather difficult reporting a lady verbatim at
second hand. I really had the facts from Welkin, who had them from his
wife. The sum of her impressions was that Braybridge and Miss Hazelwood
were getting a kind of comfort out of their mutual terror because one
was as badly frightened as the other. It was a novel experience for
both. Ever seen her?"

We looked at one another. Minver said: "I never wanted to paint any one
so much. It was at the spring show of the American Artists. There was a
jam of people; but this girl--I've understood it was she--looked as
much alone as if there were nobody else there. She might have been a
startled doe in the North Woods suddenly coming out on a
twenty-thousand-dollar camp, with a lot of twenty-million-dollar people
on the veranda."

"And you wanted to do her as The Startled Doe," I said. "Good selling
name."

"Don't reduce it to the vulgarity of fiction. I admit it would be a
selling name."

"Go on, Wanhope," Rulledge puffed impatiently. "Though I don't see how
there could be another soul in the universe as constitutionally scared
of men as Braybridge is of women."

"In the universe nothing is wasted, I suppose. Everything has its
complement, its response. For every bashful man, there must be a bashful
woman," Wanhope returned.

"Or a bold one," Minver suggested.

"No; the response must be in kind to be truly complemental. Through the
sense of their reciprocal timidity they divine that they needn't be
afraid."

"Oh! _That's_ the way you get out of it!"

"Well?" Rulledge urged.

"I'm afraid," Wanhope modestly confessed, "that from this point I shall
have to be largely conjectural. Welkin wasn't able to be very definite,
except as to moments, and he had his data almost altogether from his
wife. Braybridge had told him overnight that he thought of going, and he
had said he mustn't think of it; but he supposed Braybridge had spoken
of it to Mrs. Welkin, and he began by saying to his wife that he hoped
she had refused to hear of Braybridge's going. She said she hadn't heard
of it, but now she would refuse without hearing, and she didn't give
Braybridge any chance to protest. If people went in the middle of their
week, what would become of other people? She was not going to have the
equilibrium of her party disturbed, and that was all about it. Welkin
thought it was odd that Braybridge didn't insist; and he made a long
story of it. But the grain of wheat in his bushel of chaff was that Miss
Hazelwood seemed to be fascinated by Braybridge from the first. When
Mrs. Welkin scared him into saying that he would stay his week out, the
business practically was done. They went picnicking that day in each
other's charge; and after Braybridge left he wrote back to her, as Mrs.
Welkin knew from the letters that passed through her hands, and--Well,
their engagement has come out, and--" Wanhope paused, with an air that
was at first indefinite, and then definitive.

"You don't mean," Rulledge burst out in a note of deep wrong, "that
that's all you know about it?"

"Yes, that's all I know," Wanhope confessed, as if somewhat surprised
himself at the fact.

"Well!"

Wanhope tried to offer the only reparation in his power. "I can
conjecture--we can all conjecture--"

He hesitated; then: "Well, go on with your conjecture," Rulledge said,
forgivingly.

"Why--" Wanhope began again; but at that moment a man who had been
elected the year before, and then gone off on a long absence, put his
head in between the dull-red hangings of the doorway. It was Halson,
whom I did not know very well, but liked better than I knew. His eyes
were dancing with what seemed the inextinguishable gayety of his
temperament, rather than any present occasion, and his smile carried his
little mustache well away from his handsome teeth. "Private?"

"Come in! come in!" Minver called to him. "Thought you were in Japan?"

"My dear fellow," Halson answered, "you must brush up your contemporary
history. It's more than a fortnight since I was in Japan." He shook
hands with me, and I introduced him to Rulledge and Wanhope. He said at
once: "Well, what is it? Question of Braybridge's engagement? It's
humiliating to a man to come back from the antipodes and find the nation
absorbed in a parochial problem like that. Everybody I've met here
to-night has asked me, the first thing, if I'd heard of it, and if I
knew how it could have happened."

"And do you?" Rulledge asked.

"I can give a pretty good guess," Halson said, running his merry eyes
over our faces.

"Anybody can give a good guess," Rulledge said. "Wanhope is doing it
now."

"Don't let me interrupt." Halson turned to him politely.

"Not at all. I'd rather hear your guess, if you know Braybridge better
than I," Wanhope said.

"Well," Halson compromised, "perhaps I've known him longer." He asked,
with an effect of coming to business: "Where were you?"

"Tell him, Rulledge," Minver ordered, and Rulledge apparently asked
nothing better. He told him, in detail, all we knew from any source,
down to the moment of Wanhope's arrested conjecture.

"He did leave you at an anxious point, didn't he?" Halson smiled to the
rest of us at Rulledge's expense, and then said: "Well, I think I can
help you out a little. Any of you know the lady?"

"By sight, Minver does," Rulledge answered for us. "Wants to paint her."

"Of course," Halson said, with intelligence. "But I doubt if he'd find
her as paintable as she looks, at first. She's beautiful, but her charm
is spiritual."

"Sometimes we try for that," the painter interposed.

"And sometimes you get it. But you'll allow it's difficult. That's all I
meant. I've known her--let me see--for twelve years, at least; ever
since I first went West. She was about eleven then, and her father was
bringing her up on the ranch. Her aunt came along by and by and took her
to Europe--mother dead before Hazelwood went out there. But the girl was
always homesick for the ranch; she pined for it; and after they had kept
her in Germany three or four years they let her come back and run wild
again--wild as a flower does, or a vine, not a domesticated animal."

"Go slow, Halson. This is getting too much for the romantic Rulledge."

"Rulledge can bear up against the facts, I guess, Minver," Halson said,
almost austerely. "Her father died two years ago, and then she _had_ to
come East, for her aunt simply _wouldn't_ live on the ranch. She brought
her on here, and brought her out; I was at the coming-out tea; but the
girl didn't take to the New York thing at all; I could see it from the
start; she wanted to get away from it with me, and talk about the
ranch."

"She felt that she was with the only genuine person among those
conventional people."

Halson laughed at Minver's thrust, and went on amiably: "I don't suppose
that till she met Braybridge she was ever quite at her ease with any
man--or woman, for that matter. I imagine, as you've done, that it was
his fear of her that gave her courage. She met him on equal terms. Isn't
that it?"

Wanhope assented to the question referred to him with a nod.

"And when they got lost from the rest of the party at that picnic--"

"Lost?" Rulledge demanded.

"Why, yes. Didn't you know? But I ought to go back. They said there
never was anything prettier than the way she unconsciously went for
Braybridge the whole day. She wanted him, and she was a child who wanted
things frankly when she did want them. Then his being ten or fifteen
years older than she was, and so large and simple, made it natural for a
shy girl like her to assort herself with him when all the rest were
assorting themselves, as people do at such things. The consensus of
testimony is that she did it with the most transparent unconsciousness,
and--"

"Who are your authorities?" Minver asked; Rulledge threw himself back on
the divan and beat the cushions with impatience.

"Is it essential to give them?"

"Oh no. I merely wondered. Go on."

"The authorities are all right. She had disappeared with him before the
others noticed. It was a thing that happened; there was no design in it;
that would have been out of character. They had got to the end of the
wood-road, and into the thick of the trees where there wasn't even a
trail, and they walked round looking for a way out till they were turned
completely. They decided that the only way was to keep walking, and by
and by they heard the sound of chopping. It was some Canucks clearing a
piece of the woods, and when she spoke to them in French they gave them
full directions, and Braybridge soon found the path again."

Halson paused, and I said: "But that isn't all?"

"Oh no." He continued thoughtfully silent for a little while before he
resumed. "The amazing thing is that they got lost again, and that when
they tried going back to the Canucks they couldn't find the way."

"Why didn't they follow the sound of the chopping?" I asked.

"The Canucks had stopped, for the time being. Besides, Braybridge was
rather ashamed, and he thought if they went straight on they would be
sure to come out somewhere. But that was where he made a mistake. They
couldn't go on straight; they went round and round, and came on their
own footsteps--or hers, which he recognized from the narrow tread and
the dint of the little heels in the damp places."

Wanhope roused himself with a kindling eye. "That is very interesting,
the movement in a circle of people who have lost their way. It has often
been observed, but I don't know that it has ever been explained.
Sometimes the circle is smaller, sometimes it is larger, but I believe
it is always a circle."

"Isn't it," I queried, "like any other error in life? We go round and
round, and commit the old sins over again."

"That is very interesting," Wanhope allowed.

"But do lost people really always walk in a vicious circle?" Minver
asked.

Rulledge would not let Wanhope answer. "Go on, Halson," he said.

Halson roused himself from the revery in which he was sitting with
glazed eyes. "Well, what made it a little more anxious was that he had
heard of bears on that mountain, and the green afternoon light among the
trees was perceptibly paling. He suggested shouting, but she wouldn't
let him; she said it would be ridiculous if the others heard them, and
useless if they didn't. So they tramped on till--till the accident
happened."

"The accident!" Rulledge exclaimed, in the voice of our joint emotion.

"He stepped on a loose stone and turned his foot," Halson explained. "It
wasn't a sprain, luckily, but it hurt enough. He turned so white that
she noticed it, and asked him what was the matter. Of course that shut
his mouth the closer, but it morally doubled his motive, and he kept
himself from crying out till the sudden pain of the wrench was over. He
said merely that he thought he had heard something, and he had an awful
ringing in his ears; but he didn't mean that, and he started on again.
The worst was trying to walk without limping, and to talk cheerfully and
encouragingly with that agony tearing at him. But he managed somehow,
and he was congratulating himself on his success when he tumbled down in
a dead faint."

"Oh, come now!" Minver protested.

"It _is_ like an old-fashioned story, where things are operated by
accident instead of motive, isn't it?" Halson smiled with radiant
recognition.

"Fact will always imitate fiction, if you give her time enough," I said.

"Had they got back to the other picnickers?" Rulledge asked, with a
tense voice.

"In sound, but not in sight of them. She wasn't going to bring him into
camp in that state; besides, she couldn't. She got some water out of the
trout-brook they'd been fishing--more water than trout in it--and
sprinkled his face, and he came to, and got on his legs just in time to
pull on to the others, who were organizing a search-party to go after
them. From that point on she dropped Braybridge like a hot coal; and as
there was nothing of the flirt in her, she simply kept with the women,
the older girls, and the tabbies, and left Braybridge to worry along
with the secret of his turned ankle. He doesn't know how he ever got
home alive; but he did, somehow, manage to reach the wagons that had
brought them to the edge of the woods, and then he was all right till
they got to the house. But still she said nothing about his accident,
and he couldn't; and he pleaded an early start for town the next
morning, and got off to bed as soon as he could."

"I shouldn't have thought he could have stirred in the morning,"
Rulledge employed Halson's pause to say.

"Well, this beaver _had_ to," Halson said. "He was not the only early
riser. He found Miss Hazelwood at the station before him."

"What!" Rulledge shouted. I confess the fact rather roused me, too; and
Wanhope's eyes kindled with a scientific pleasure.

"She came right towards him. 'Mr. Braybridge,' says she, 'I couldn't let
you go without explaining my very strange behavior. I didn't choose to
have these people laughing at the notion of _my_ having played the part
of your preserver. It was bad enough being lost with you; I couldn't
bring you into ridicule with them by the disproportion they'd have felt
in my efforts for you after you turned your foot. So I simply had to
ignore the incident. Don't you see?' Braybridge glanced at her, and he
had never felt so big and bulky before, or seen her so slender and
little. He said, 'It _would_ have seemed rather absurd,' and he broke
out and laughed, while she broke down and cried, and asked him to
forgive her, and whether it had hurt him very much; and said she knew he
could bear to keep it from the others by the way he had kept it from her
till he fainted. She implied that he was morally as well as physically
gigantic, and it was as much as he could do to keep from taking her in
his arms on the spot."

"It would have been edifying to the groom that had driven her to the
station," Minver cynically suggested.

"Groom nothing!" Halson returned with spirit. "She paddled herself
across the lake, and walked from the boat-landing to the station."

"Jove!" Rulledge exploded in uncontrollable enthusiasm.

"She turned round as soon as she had got through with her hymn of
praise--it made Braybridge feel awfully flat--and ran back through the
bushes to the boat-landing, and--that was the last he saw of her till he
met her in town this fall."

"And when--and when--did he offer himself?" Rulledge entreated,
breathlessly. "How--"

"Yes, that's the point, Halson," Minver interposed. "Your story is all
very well, as far as it goes; but Rulledge here has been insinuating
that it was Miss Hazelwood who made the offer, and he wants you to bear
him out."

Rulledge winced at the outrage, but he would not stay Halson's answer
even for the sake of righting himself.

"I _have_ heard," Minver went on, "that Braybridge insisted on paddling
the canoe back to the other shore for her, and that it was on the way
that he offered himself." We others stared at Minver in astonishment.
Halson glanced covertly towards him with his gay eyes. "Then that wasn't
true?"

"How did you hear it?" Halson asked.

"Oh, never mind. Is it true?"

"Well, I know there's that version," Halson said, evasively. "The
engagement is only just out, as you know. As to the offer--the when and
the how--I don't know that I'm exactly at liberty to say."

"I don't see why," Minver urged. "You might stretch a point for
Rulledge's sake."

Halson looked down, and then he glanced at Minver after a furtive
passage of his eye over Rulledge's intense face. "There was something
rather nice happened after--But, really, now!"

"Oh, go on!" Minver called out in contempt of his scruple.

"I haven't the right--Well, I suppose I'm on safe ground here? It won't
go any further, of course; and it _was_ so pretty! After she had pushed
off in her canoe, you know, Braybridge--he'd followed her down to the
shore of the lake--found her handkerchief in a bush where it had caught,
and he held it up, and called out to her. She looked round and saw it,
and called back: 'Never mind. I can't return for it now.' Then
Braybridge plucked up his courage, and asked if he might keep it, and
she said 'Yes,' over her shoulder, and then she stopped paddling, and
said: 'No, no, you mustn't, you mustn't! You can send it to me.' He
asked where, and she said: 'In New York--in the fall--at the
Walholland.' Braybridge never knew how he dared, but he shouted after
her--she was paddling on again--'May I _bring_ it?' and she called over
her shoulder again, without fully facing him, but her profile was
enough: 'If you can't get any one to bring it for you.' The words barely
reached him, but he'd have caught them if they'd been whispered; and he
watched her across the lake and into the bushes, and then broke for his
train. He was just in time."

Halson beamed for pleasure upon us, and even Minver said: "Yes, that's
rather nice." After a moment he added: "Rulledge thinks she put it
there."

"You're too bad, Minver," Halson protested. "The charm of the whole
thing was her perfect innocence. She isn't capable of the slightest
finesse. I've known her from a child, and I know what I say."

"That innocence of girlhood," Wanhope said, "is very interesting. It's
astonishing how much experience it survives. Some women carry it into
old age with them. It's never been scientifically studied--"

"Yes," Minver allowed. "There would be a fortune for the novelist who
could work a type of innocence for all it was worth. Here's Acton always
dealing with the most rancid flirtatiousness, and missing the sweetness
and beauty of a girlhood which does the cheekiest things without knowing
what it's about, and fetches down its game whenever it shuts its eyes
and fires at nothing. But I don't see how all this touches the point
that Rulledge makes, or decides which finally made the offer."

"Well, hadn't the offer already been made?"

"But how?"

"Oh, in the usual way."

"What is the usual way?"

"I thought everybody knew _that_. Of course, it was _from_ Braybridge
finally, but I suppose it's always six of one and half a dozen of the
other in these cases, isn't it? I dare say he couldn't get any one to
take her the handkerchief. My dinner?" Halson looked up at the silent
waiter, who had stolen upon us and was bowing towards him.

"Look here, Halson," Minver detained him, "how is it none of the rest of
us have heard all those details?"

"_I_ don't know where you've been, Minver. Everybody knows the main
facts," Halson said, escaping.

Wanhope observed, musingly: "I suppose he's quite right about the
reciprocality of the offer, as we call it. There's probably, in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, a perfect understanding before
there's an explanation. In many cases the offer and the acceptance must
really be tacit."

"Yes," I ventured, "and I don't know why we're so severe with women when
they seem to take the initiative. It's merely, after all, the call of
the maiden bird, and there's nothing lovelier or more endearing in
nature than that."

"Maiden bird is good, Acton," Minver approved. "Why don't you institute
a class of fiction where the love-making is all done by the maiden
birds, as you call them--or the widow birds? It would be tremendously
popular with both sexes. It would lift an immense responsibility off the
birds who've been expected to shoulder it heretofore if it could be
introduced into real life."

Rulledge fetched a long, simple-hearted sigh. "Well, it's a charming
story. How well he told it!"

The waiter came again, and this time signalled to Minver.

"Yes," he said, as he rose. "What a pity you can't believe a word Halson
says."

"Do you mean--" we began simultaneously.

"That he built the whole thing from the ground up, with the start that
we had given him. Why, you poor things! Who could have told him how it
all happened? Braybridge? Or the girl? As Wanhope began by saying,
people don't speak of their love-making, even when they distinctly
remember it."

"Yes, but see here, Minver!" Rulledge said, with a dazed look. "If it's
all a fake of his, how came _you_ to have heard of Braybridge paddling
the canoe back for her?"

"That was the fake that tested the fake. When he adopted it, I _knew_ he
was lying, because I was lying myself. And then the cheapness of the
whole thing! I wonder that didn't strike you. It's the stuff that a
thousand summer-girl stories have been spun out of. Acton might have
thought he was writing it!"

He went away, leaving us to a blank silence, till Wanhope managed to
say: "That inventive habit of mind is very curious. It would be
interesting to know just how far it imposes on the inventor himself--how
much he believes of his own fiction."

"I don't see," Rulledge said, gloomily, "why they're so long with my
dinner." Then he burst out: "I believe every word Halson said! If
there's any fake in the thing, it's the fake that Minver owned to."



VII

THE CHICK OF THE EASTER EGG


The old fellow who told that story of dream-transference on a
sleeping-car at Christmas-time was again at the club on Easter Eve.
Halson had put him up for the winter, under the easy rule we had, and he
had taken very naturally to the Turkish room for his after-dinner coffee
and cigar. We all rather liked him, though it was Minver's pose to be
critical of the simple friendliness with which he made himself at home
among us, and to feign a wish that there were fewer trains between
Boston and New York, so that old Newton (that was his name) could have a
better chance of staying away. But we noticed that Minver was always a
willing listener to Newton's talk, and that he sometimes hospitably
offered to share his tobacco with the Bostonian. When brought to book
for his inconsistency by Rulledge, he said he was merely welcoming the
new blood, if not young blood, that Newton was infusing into our body,
which had grown anaemic on Wanhope's psychology and Rulledge's romance;
or, anyway, it was a change.

Newton now began by saying abruptly, in a fashion he had, "We used to
hear a good deal in Boston about your Easter Parade here in New York. Do
you still keep it up?"

No one else answering, Minver replied, presently, "I believe it is still
going on. I understand that it's composed mostly of milliners out to
see one another's new hats, and generous Jewesses who are willing to
contribute the 'dark and bright' of the beauty in which they walk to the
observance of an alien faith. It's rather astonishing how the synagogue
takes to the feasts of the church. If it were not for that, I don't know
what would become of Christmas."

"What do you mean by their walking in beauty?" Rulledge asked over his
shoulder.

"I shall never have the measure of your ignorance, Rulledge. You don't
even know Byron's lines on Hebrew loveliness?

    "'She walks in beauty like the night
        Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
      And all that's best of dark and bright
        Meets in her aspect and her eyes.'"

"Pretty good," Rulledge assented. "And they _are_ splendid, sometimes.
But what has the Easter Parade got to do with it?" he asked Newton.

"Oh, only what everything has with everything else. I was thinking of
Easter-time long ago and far away, and naturally I thought of Easter now
and here. I saw your Parade once, and it seemed to me one of the great
social spectacles. But you can't keep anything in New York, if it's
good; if it's bad, you can."

"You come from Boston, I think you said, Mr. Newton," Minver breathed
blandly through his smoke.

"Oh, I'm not a _real_ Bostonian," our guest replied. "I'm not abusing
you on behalf of a city that I'm a native proprietor of. If I were, I
shouldn't perhaps make your decadent Easter Parade my point of attack,
though I think it's a pity to let it spoil. I came from a part of the
country where we used to make a great deal of Easter, when we were boys,
at least so far as eggs went. I don't know whether the grown people
observed the day then, and I don't know whether the boys keep it now; I
haven't been back at Easter-time for several generations. But when I was
a boy it was a serious thing. In that soft Southwestern latitude the
grass had pretty well greened up by Easter, even when it came in March,
and grass colors eggs a very nice yellow; it used to worry me that it
didn't color them green. When the grass hadn't got along far enough,
winter wheat would do as well. I don't remember what color onion husks
would give; but we used onion husks, too. Some mothers would let the
boys get logwood from the drug-store, and that made the eggs a fine,
bold purplish black. But the greatest egg of all was a calico egg, that
you got by coaxing your grandmother (your mother's mother) or your aunt
(your mother's sister) to sew up in a tight cover of brilliant calico.
When that was boiled long enough the colors came off in a perfect
pattern on the egg. Very few boys could get such eggs; when they did,
they put them away in bureau drawers till they ripened and the mothers
smelt them, and threw them out of the window as quickly as possible.
Always, after breakfast, Easter Morning, we came out on the street and
fought eggs. We pitted the little ends of the eggs against one another,
and the fellow whose egg cracked the other fellow's egg won it, and he
carried it off. I remember grass and wheat colored eggs in such trials
of strength, and onion and logwood colored eggs; but never calico eggs;
_they_ were too precious to be risked; it would have seemed wicked.

"I don't know," the Boston man went musingly on, "why I should remember
these things so relentlessly; I've forgotten all the important things
that happened to me then; but perhaps these were the important things.
Who knows? I only know I've always had a soft spot in my heart for
Easter, not so much because of the calico eggs, perhaps, as because of
the grandmothers and the aunts. I suppose the simple life is full of
such aunts and grandmothers still; but you don't find them in hotel
apartments, or even in flats consisting of seven large, light rooms and
bath." We all recognized the language of the advertisements, and laughed
in sympathy with our guest, who perhaps laughed out of proportion with a
pleasantry of that size.

When he had subdued his mirth, he resumed at a point apparently very
remote from that where he had started.

"There was one of those winters in Cambridge, where I lived then, that
seemed tougher than any other we could remember, and they were all
pretty tough winters there in those times. There were forty snowfalls
between Thanksgiving and Fast Day--you don't know what Fast Day is in
New York, and we didn't, either, as far as the fasting went--and the
cold kept on and on till we couldn't, or said we couldn't, stand it any
longer. So, along about the middle of March somewhere, we picked up the
children and started south. In those days New York seemed pretty far
south to us; and when we got here we found everything on wheels that we
had left on runners in Boston. But the next day it began to snow, and we
said we must go a little farther to meet the spring. I don't know
exactly what it was made us pitch on Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; but we had
a notion we should find it interesting, and, at any rate, a total change
from our old environment. We had been reading something about the
Moravians, and we knew that it was the capital of Moravianism, with the
largest Moravian congregation in the world; I think it was Longfellow's
'Hymn of the Moravian Nuns' that set us to reading about the sect; and
we had somehow heard that the Sun Inn, at Bethlehem, was the finest
old-fashioned public house anywhere. At any rate, we had the faith of
our youthful years, and we put out for Bethlehem.

"We arrived just at dusk, but not so late that we couldn't see the
hospitable figure of a man coming out of the Sun to meet us at the
omnibus door and to shake hands with each of us. It was the very
pleasantest and sweetest welcome we ever had at a public house; and
though we found the Sun a large, modern hotel, we easily accepted the
landlord's assurance that the old Inn was built up inside of the hotel,
just as it was when Washington stayed in it; and after a mighty good
supper we went to our rooms, which were piping warm from two good
base-burner stoves. It was not exactly the vernal air we had expected of
Bethlehem when we left New York; but you can't have everything in this
world, and, with the snowbanks along the streets outside, we were very
glad to have the base-burners.

"We went to bed pretty early, and I fell into one of those exemplary
sleeps that begin with no margin of waking after your head touches the
pillow, or before that, even, and I woke from a dream of heavenly music
that translated itself into the earthly notes of bugles. It made me sit
up with the instant realization that we had arrived in Bethlehem on
Easter Eve, and that this was Easter Morning. We had read of the
beautiful observance of the feast by the Moravians, and, while I was
hurrying on my clothes beside my faithful base-burner, I kept quite
superfluously wondering at myself for not having thought of it, and so
made sure of being called. I had waked just in time, though I hadn't
deserved to do so, and ought, by right, to have missed it all. I tried
to make my wife come with me; but after the family is of a certain size
a woman, if she is a real woman, thinks her husband can see things for
her, and generally sends him out to reconnoitre and report. Besides, my
wife couldn't have left the children without waking them, to tell them
she was going, and then all five of them would have wanted to come with
us, including the baby; and we should have had no end of a time
convincing them of the impossibility. We were a good deal bound up in
the children, and we hated to lie to them when we could possibly avoid
it. So I went alone.

"I asked the night porter, who was still on duty, the way I wanted to
take, but there were so many people in the streets going the same
direction that I couldn't have missed it, anyhow; and pretty soon we
came to the old Moravian cemetery, which was in the heart of the town;
and there we found most of the Moravian congregation drawn up on three
sides of the square, waiting and facing the east, which was beginning to
redden. Of all the cemeteries I have seen, that was the most beautiful,
because it was the simplest and humblest. Generally a cemetery is a
dreadful place, with headstones and footstones and shafts and tombs
scattered about, and looking like a field full of granite and marble
stumps from the clearing of a petrified forest. But here all the
memorial tablets lay flat with the earth. None of the dead were assumed
to be worthier of remembrance than another; they all rested at regular
intervals, with their tablets on their breasts, like shields, in their
sleep after the battle of life. I was thinking how right and wise this
was, and feeling the purity of the conception like a quality of the
keen, clear air of the morning, which seemed to be breathing straight
from the sky, when suddenly the sun blazed up from the horizon like a
fire, and the instant it appeared the horns of the band began to blow
and the people burst into a hymn--a thousand voices, for all I know. It
was the sublimest thing I ever heard, and I don't know that there's
anything to match it for dignity and solemnity in any religious rite. It
made the tears come, for I thought how those people were of a church of
missionaries and martyrs from the beginning, and I felt as if I were
standing in sight and hearing of the first Christians after Christ. It
was as if He were risen there 'in the midst of them.'"

Rulledge looked round on the rest of us, with an air of acquiring merit
from the Bostonian's poetry, but Minver's gravity was proof against the
chance of mocking Rulledge, and I think we all felt alike. Wanhope
seemed especially interested, though he said nothing.

"When I went home I told my wife about it as well as I could, but,
though she entered into the spirit of it, she was rather preoccupied.
The children had all wakened, as they did sometimes, in a body, and were
storming joyfully around the rooms, as if it were Christmas; and she was
trying to get them dressed. 'Do tell them what Easter is like; they've
never seen it kept before,' she said; and I tried to do so, while I took
a hand, as a young father will, and tried to get them into their
clothes. I don't think I dwelt much on the religious observance of the
day, but I dug up some of my profane associations with it in early life,
and told them about coloring eggs, and fighting them, and all that;
there in New England, in those days, they had never seen or heard of
such a thing as an Easter egg.

"I don't think my reminiscences quieted them much. They were all on
fire--the oldest hoy and girl, and the twins, and even the two-year-old
that we called the baby--to go out and buy some eggs and get the
landlord to let them color them in the hotel kitchen. I had a deal of
ado to make them wait till after breakfast, but I managed, somehow; and
when we had finished--it was a mighty good Pennsylvania breakfast, such
as we could eat with impunity in those halcyon days: rich coffee, steak,
sausage, eggs, applebutter, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup--we got
their out-door togs on them, while they were all stamping and shouting
round and had to be caught and overcoated, and fur-capped and hooded
simultaneously, and managed to get them into the street together. Ever
been in Bethlehem?"

We all had to own our neglect of this piece of travel; and Newton, after
a moment of silent forgiveness, said:

"Well, I don't know how it is now, but twenty-five or thirty years ago
it was the most interesting town in America. It wasn't the old Moravian
community that it had been twenty-five years before that, when none but
Moravians could buy property there; but it was like the Sun Hotel, and
just as that had grown round and over the old Sun Inn, the prosperous
manufacturing town, with its iron-foundries and zinc-foundries, and all
the rest of it, had grown round and over the original Moravian village.
If you wanted a breath of perfect strangeness, with an American quality
in it at the same time, you couldn't have gone to any place where you
could have had it on such terms as you could in Bethlehem. I can't begin
to go into details, but one thing was hearing German spoken everywhere
in the street: not the German of Germany, but the Pennsylvania German,
with its broad vowels and broken-down grammatical forms, and its English
vocables and interjections, which you caught in the sentences which came
to you, like _av coorse_, and _yes_ and _no_ for _ja_ and _nein_. There
were stores where they spoke no English, and others where they made a
specialty of it; and I suppose when we sallied out that bright Sunday
morning, with the baby holding onto a hand of each of us between us, and
the twins going in front with their brother and sister, we were almost
as foreign as we should have been in a village on the Rhine or the Elbe.

"We got a little acquainted with the people, after awhile, and I heard
some stories of the country folks that I thought were pretty good. One
was about an old German farmer on whose land a prospecting metallurgist
found zinc ore; the scientific man brought him the bright yellow button
by which the zinc proved its existence in its union with copper, and the
old fellow asked in an awestricken whisper: 'Is it a gold-mine?' 'No,
no. Guess again.' 'Then it's a _brass-mine_!' But before they began to
find zinc there in the lovely Lehigh Valley--you can stand by an open
zinc-mine and look down into it where the rock and earth are left
standing, and you seem to be looking down into a range of sharp mountain
peaks and pinnacles--it was the richest farming region in the whole fat
State of Pennsylvania; and there was a young farmer who owned a vast
tract of it, and who went to fetch home a young wife from Philadelphia
way, somewhere. He drove there and back in his own buggy, and when he
reached the top overlooking the valley, with his bride, he stopped his
horse, and pointed with his whip. 'There,' he said, 'as far as the sky
is blue, it's all ours!' I thought that was fine."

"Fine?" I couldn't help bursting out; "it's a stroke of poetry."

Minver cut in: "The thrifty Acton making a note of it for future use in
literature."

"Eh!" Newton queried. "Oh! I don't mind. You're welcome to it, Mr.
Acton. It's a pity somebody shouldn't use it, and of course _I_ can't."

"Acton will send you a copy with the usual forty-per-cent. discount and
ten off for cash," the painter said.

They had their little laugh at my expense, and then Newton took up his
tale again. "Well, as I was saying--By the way, what _was_ I saying?"

The story-loving Rulledge remembered. "You went out with your wife and
children for Easter eggs."

"Oh yes. Thank you. Well, of course, in a town geographically American,
the shops were all shut on Sunday, and we couldn't buy even an Easter
egg on Easter Sunday. But one of the stores had the shade of its
show-window up, and the children simply glued themselves to it in such a
fascination that we could hardly unstick them. That window was full of
all kinds of Easter things--I don't remember what all; but there were
Easter eggs in every imaginable color and pattern, and besides these
there were whole troops of toy rabbits. I had forgotten that the natural
offspring of Easter eggs is rabbits; but I took a brace, and remembered
the fact and announced it to the children. They immediately demanded an
explanation, with all sorts of scientific particulars, which I gave
them, as reckless of the truth as I thought my wife would suffer without
contradicting me. I had to say that while Easter eggs mostly hatched
rabbits, there were instances in which they hatched other things, as,
for instance, handfuls of eagles and half-eagles and double-eagles,
especially in the case of the golden eggs that the goose laid. They knew
all about that goose; but I had to tell them what those unfamiliar
pieces of American coinage were, and promise to give them one each when
they grew up, if they were good. That only partially satisfied them, and
they wanted to know specifically what other kinds of things Easter eggs
would hatch if properly treated. Each one had a preference; the baby
always preferred what the last one said; and _she_ wanted an ostrich,
the same as her big brother; he was seven then.

"I don't really know how we lived through the day; I mean the children,
for my wife and I went to the Moravian church, and had a good long
Sunday nap in the afternoon, while the children were pining for Monday
morning, when they could buy eggs and begin to color them, so that they
could hatch just the right kind of Easter things. When I woke up I had
to fall in with a theory they had agreed to between them that any kind
of two-legged or four-legged chick that hatched from an Easter egg would
wear the same color, or the same kind of spots or stripes, that the egg
had.

"I found that they had arranged to have calico eggs, and they were going
to have their mother cover them with the same sort of cotton prints that
I had said my grandmother and aunts used, and they meant to buy the
calico in the morning at the same time that they bought the eggs. We had
some tin vessels of water on our stoves to take the dryness out of the
hot air, and they had decided that they would boil their eggs in these,
and not trouble the landlord for the use of his kitchen.

"There was nothing in this scheme wanting but their mother's consent--I
agreed to it on the spot--but when she understood that they each
expected to have two eggs apiece, with one apiece for us, she said she
never could cover a dozen eggs in the world, and that the only way would
be for them to go in the morning with us, and choose each the handsomest
egg they could out of the eggs in that shop-window. They met this
proposition rather blankly at first; but on reflection the big brother
said it would be a shame to spoil mamma's Easter by making her work all
day, and besides it would keep till that night, anyway, before they
could begin to have any fun with their eggs; and then the rest all said
the same thing, ending with the baby: and accepted the inevitable with
joy, and set about living through the day as well as they could.

"They had us up pretty early the next morning--that is, they had me up;
their mother said that I had brought it on myself, and richly deserved
it for exciting their imaginations, and I had to go out with the two
oldest and the twins to choose the eggs; we got off from the baby by
promising to let her have two, and she didn't understand very well,
anyway, and was awfully sleepy. We were a pretty long time choosing the
six eggs, and I don't remember now just what they were; but they were
certainly joyous eggs; and--By the way, I don't know why I'm boring a
brand of hardened bachelors like you with all these domestic details?"

"Oh, don't mind _us_," Minver responded to his general appeal. "We may
not understand the feelings of a father, but we are all mothers at
heart, especially Rulledge. Go on. It's very exciting," he urged, not
very ironically, and Newton went on.

"Well, I don't believe I could say just how the havoc began. They put
away their eggs very carefully after they had made their mother admire
them, and shown the baby how hers were the prettiest, and they each
said in succession that they must be very precious of them, for if you
shook an egg, or anything, it wouldn't hatch; and it was their plan to
take these home and set an unemployed pullet, belonging to the big
brother, to hatching them in the coop that he had built of laths for her
in the back yard with his own hands. But long before the afternoon was
over, the evil one had entered Eden, and tempted the boy to try fighting
eggs with these treasured specimens, as I had told we boys used to fight
eggs in my town in the southwest. He held a conquering course through
the encounter with three eggs, but met his Waterloo with a regular
Blücher belonging to the baby. Then he instantly changed sides; and
smashed his Blücher against the last egg left. By that time all the
other children were in tears, the baby roaring powerfully in ignorant
sympathy, and the victor steeped in silent gloom. His mother made him
gather up the ruins from the floor, and put them in the stove, and she
took possession of the victorious egg, and said she would keep it till
we got back to Cambridge herself, and not let one of them touch it. I
can tell you it was a tragical time. I wanted to go out and buy them
another set of eggs, and spring them for a surprise on them in the
morning, after they had suffered enough that night. But she said that if
I dared to dream of such a thing--which would be the ruin of the
children's character, by taking away the consequences of their
folly--she should do, she did not know what, to me. Of course she was
right, and I gave in, and helped the children forget all about it, so
that by the time we got back to Cambridge I had forgotten about it
myself.

"I don't know what it was reminded the boy of that remaining Easter egg
unless it was the sight of the unemployed pullet in her coop, which he
visited the first thing; and I don't know how he managed to wheedle his
mother out of it; but the first night after I came home from
business--it was rather late and the children had gone to bed--she told
me that ridiculous boy, as she called him in self-exculpation, had
actually put the egg under his pullet, and all the children were wild to
see what it would hatch. 'And now,' she said, severely, 'what are you
going to do? You have filled their heads with those ideas, and I suppose
you will have to invent some nonsense or other to fool them, and make
them believe that it has hatched a giraffe, or an elephant, or
something; they won't be satisfied with anything less.' I said we should
have to try something smaller, for I didn't think we could manage a
chick of that size on our lot; and that I should trust in Providence.
Then she said it was all very well to laugh; and that I couldn't get out
of it that way, and I needn't think it.

"I didn't, much. But the children understood that it took three weeks
for an egg to hatch, and anyway the pullet was so intermittent in her
attentions to the Easter egg, only sitting on it at night, or when held
down by hand in the day, that there was plenty of time. One evening when
I came out from Boston, I was met by a doleful deputation at the front
gate, with the news that when the coop was visited that morning after
breakfast--they visited the coop every morning before they went to
school--the pullet was found perched on a cross-bar in a high state of
nerves, and the shell of the Easter egg broken and entirely eaten out.
Probably a rat had got in and done it, or, more hopefully, a mink, such
as used to attack eggs in the town where I was a boy. We went out and
viewed the wreck, as a first step towards a better situation; and
suddenly a thought struck me. 'Children,' I said, 'what did you really
expect that egg to hatch, anyway?' They looked askance at one another,
and at last the boy said: 'Well, you know, papa, an egg that's been
cooked--' And then we all laughed together, and I knew they had been
making believe as much as I had, and no more expected the impossible of
a boiled egg than I did."

"That was charming!" Wanhope broke out. "There is nothing more
interesting than the way children join in hypnotizing themselves with
the illusions which their parents think _they_ have created without
their help. In fact, it is very doubtful whether at any age we have any
illusions except those of our own creation; we--"

"Let him go on, Wanhope," Minver dictated; and Newton continued.

"It was rather nice. I asked them if their mother knew about the egg;
and they said that of course they couldn't help telling her; and I said:
'Well, then, I'll tell you what: we must make her believe that the chick
hatched out and got away--' The boy stopped me: 'Do you think that would
be exactly true, papa?' 'Well, not _exactly_ true; but it's only for the
time being. We can tell her the exact truth afterwards,' and then I laid
my plan before them. They said it was perfectly splendid, and would be
the greatest kind of joke on mamma, and one that she would like as much
as anybody. The thing was to keep it from her till it was done, and they
all promised that they wouldn't tell; but I could see that they were
bursting with the secret the whole evening.

"The next day was Saturday, when I always went home early, and I had the
two oldest children come in with the second-girl, who left them to take
lunch with me. They had chocolate and ice-cream, and after lunch we
went around to a milliner's shop in West Street, where my wife and I had
stopped a long five minutes the week before we went to Bethlehem,
adoring an Easter bonnet that we saw in the window. I wanted her to buy
it; but she said, No, if we were going that expensive journey, we
couldn't afford it, and she must do without, that spring. I showed it to
them, and 'Now, children,' I said, 'what do you think of that for the
chick that your Easter egg hatched?' And they said it was the most
beautiful bonnet they had ever seen, and it would just exactly suit
mamma. But I saw they were holding something back, and I said, sharply,
'Well?' and they both guiltily faltered out: 'The _bird_, you know,
papa,' and I remembered that they belonged to the society of Bird
Defenders, who in that day were pledged against the decorative use of
dead birds or killing them for anything but food. 'Why, confound it,' I
said, 'the bird is the very thing that makes it an Easter-egg chick!'
but I saw that their honest little hearts were troubled, and I said
again: 'Confound it! Let's go in and hear what the milliner has to say.'
Well, the long and short of it was that the milliner tried a bunch of
forget-me-nots over the bluebird that we all agreed was a thousand times
better, and that if it were substituted would only cost three dollars
more, and we took our Easter-egg chick home in a blaze of glory, the
children carrying the bandbox by the string between them.

"Of course we had a great time opening it, and their mother acted her
part so well that I knew she was acting, and after the little ones were
in bed I taxed her with it. 'Know? Of course I knew!' she said. 'Did you
think they would let you _deceive_ me? They're true New-Englanders, and
they told me all about it last night, when I was saying their prayers
with them.' 'Well,' I said, 'they let you deceive _me_; they must be
true Westerners, too, for they didn't tell me a word of your knowing.' I
rather had her there, but she said: 'Oh, you goose--' We were young
people in those days, and goose meant everything. But, really, I'm
ashamed of getting off all this to you hardened bachelors, as I said
before--"

"If you tell many more such stories in this club," Minver said,
severely, "you won't leave a bachelor in it. And Rulledge will be the
first to get married."



THE END





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