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Title: A Woman Named Smith
Author: Oemler, Marie Conway, 1879-1932
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 "A Woman Named Smith" ***

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A WOMAN NAMED SMITH

by

MARIE CONWAY OEMLER

Author of _Slippy McGee_, etc.

Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers New York

1919



[Frontispiece illustration: "Sophy," he said,
"I have found the lost key of Hynds House"]



                          To

               ELIZABETH HEYWARD OEMLER

              _Sometimes my Little Girl._


          When you were yet an Awful Baby,
          And bawled o' bed-time, I said "Maybe
          It is not best to spank or scold her:
          Suppose a fairy-tale were told her?"
          And gave you then, to my undoing,
          The wolf Red Riding-Hood pursuing;
          Sang Mother Goose her artless rhyming;
          Showed Jack the Magic Beanstalk climbing;
          Three Little Pigs were so appealing,
          You set up sympathetic squealing!
          Then, Bitsybet, you had your mother--
          _You bawled until I told another!_

          The Awful Baby's gone. Here lately
          You bear your little self sedately.
          You've shed your rompers; you want dresses
          Prinked out with frillies; fluff your tresses;
          Delight your daddy, aunts, and mother;
          And sisterly set straight your brother.
          Your bib-and-tucker days abolished,
          Your manners and your nails are polished.
          One baby trait remains, thank glory!
          You're still a glutton for a story.
          Still, Bitsybet, you beg another:
          So here's one for you from

                                  YOUR MOTHER.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

      I  THE SCARLET WITCH DEPARTS
     II  AND ARIEL MAKES MUSIC
    III  THE DEAR LITTLE GOD!
     IV  THE HYNDSES OF HYNDS HOUSE
      V  "THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF"
     VI  GLAMOURY
    VII  A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR
   VIII  PEACOCKS AND IVORY
     IX  THE JUDGMENT OF SPRING
      X  THE FOREST OF ARDEN
     XI  THE JINNEE INTERVENES
    XII  MAN PROPOSES
   XIII  FIRES OF YESTERDAY
    XIV  THE TALISMAN
     XV  THE HEART OF HYNDS HOUSE
    XVI  THE DEVILL HIS RAINBOW
   XVII  ON THE KNEES OF THE GODS
  XVIII  THE GREATEST GIFT
    XIX  DEEP WATERS
     XX  HARBOR



CHARACTERS


SOPHY: A woman named Smith.

ALICIA GAINES: Flower o' the Peach.

NICHOLAS JELNIK: Peacocks and Ivory.

DOCTOR RICHARD GEDDES: _Coeur-de-Lion._

THE AUTHOR: Himself.

THE SECRETARY: A Pleasant Person.

MISS EMMELINE PHELPS-PARSONS: of Boston, Massachusetts.

MISS MARTHA HOPKINS: "Clothed in White Samite."

JUDGE GATCHELL: The Law.

SCHMETZ AND RIEDRIECH: Workmen and Visionaries.

THE JINNEE: A Son of the Prophet.

SOPHRONISBA SCARLETT: "The Scarlett Witch."

THE HYNDSES OF HYNDS HOUSE.

PAYING GUESTS.

THE PEOPLE OF HYNDSVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA.

MARY MAGDALEN; QUEEN-OF-SHEEBA; FERNOLIA: Important Persons.

BORIS: A Russian Wolfhound.

THE BLACK FAMILY: A Witch's Cat's Kittens.

BEAUTIFUL DOG: Last but not Least.



A WOMAN NAMED SMITH


CHAPTER I

THE SCARLETT WITCH DEPARTS


If it had been humanly possible for Great-Aunt Sophronisba Scarlett
to lug her place in Hyndsville, South Carolina, along with her into
the next world, plump it squarely in the middle of the Elysian
Fields, plaster it over with "No Trespassing" signs, and then settle
herself down to a blissful eternity of serving writs upon the angels
for flying over her fences without permission, and setting the saved
by the ears in general, she would have done so and felt that heaven
was almost as desirable a place as South Carolina. But as even she
couldn't impose her will upon the next world, and there was nobody
in this one she hated less than she did me--possibly because she had
never laid eyes on me--she willed me Hynds House and what was left
of the Hynds fortune; tying this string to her bequest: I must
occupy Hynds House within six months, and I couldn't rent it, or
attempt to sell it, without forfeiture of the entire estate.

I can fancy the ancient beldam sniggering sardonically the while she
figured to herself the chagrined astonishment, the helpless wrath,
of her watchfully waiting neighbors, when they should discover that
historic Hynds House, dating from the beginning of things
Carolinian, had passed into the unpedigreed hands of a woman named
Smith. I can fancy her balefully exact perception of the attitude so
radically conservative a community must needs assume toward such an
intruder as myself, foisted upon it, so to speak, by an enemy who
never failed to turn the trick.

Because I'm not a Hynds, at all. Great Aunt Sophronisba was my aunt
not by blood but by marriage; she having, when she was no longer
what is known as a spring chicken, met my Great-Uncle Johnny
Scarlett and scandalized all Hyndsville by marrying him out of hand.

I have heard that she was insanely in love with him, and I believe
it; nothing short of an over-mastering passion could have induced
one of the haughty Hyndses to marry a person with such family
connections as his. For my father, George Smith, was a ruddy
English ship-chandler who pitched upon Boston for a home, and lived
with his family in the rooms above his shop; and my grandmother
Smith dropped her "aitches" with the cheerful ease of one to the
manner born, bless her stout old Cockney heart! I can remember her
hearing me my spelling-lesson of a night, her spectacles far down on
her old button of a nose, her white curls bobbing from under her
cap.

"What! Carn't spell 'saloon'? Listen, then, Miss: There's a hess and
a hay and a hell and two hoes and a henn! Now, then, d 'ye spell
it!"

Not that Mrs. Johnny ever accepted us. It was borne in upon the
Smiths that undesirable in-laws are outlaws. This despite the fact
that my mother's pink-and-white English face was a gentler copy of
what her uncle's had been in his youth; and that when I came along,
some years after the dear old man's death, I was named Sophronisba
at Mrs. Johnny's urgent request.

After Great-Uncle Johnny died, as if the last tie which bound her to
ordinary humanity had snapped, his widow retired into a seclusion
from which she emerged only to sue somebody. She said the world was
being turned topsyturvy by people who were allowed to misbehave to
their betters, and who needed to be taught a lesson and their proper
place; and that so long as she retained her faculties, she would do
her duty in that respect, please God!

She did her duty so well in that respect that the Hynds fortune,
which even civil war and reconstruction hadn't been able altogether
to wreck, dwindled to a mere fifteen thousand dollars; and she
wasn't on speaking terms with anybody but Judge Gatchell, her
lawyer. She would have quarreled with him, too, had she dared.

To the minister, who bearded her for her soul's sake every now and
then, she spoke in words brief and curt:

"You here again? Wanted to see me, hey? Well, you've done it. Now
get out!"

And in the meantime the years passed and my own immediate family
passed with them; but still the gaunt old woman lived on in her
gaunt old house, becoming in time a myth to me, and to Hyndsville as
well; where they referred to her, succinctly, as "the Scarlet
Witch." I heard from her directly only once, and that was the year
she sent me a red flannel petticoat for a Christmas present. After
that, as if she'd done her worst, she ignored me altogether.

My mother had wanted me to be a school-teacher, in her eyes the acme
of respectability. But as it happens, there are two things I
wouldn't be: one's a school-teacher, the other a minister's wife.
If I had to marry the average minister, I should infallibly hate all
church-goers; if I had to teach the average school-child and wrestle
with the average school-board, I should end by burning joss-sticks
to Herod.

So I disappointed my mother by becoming a typist. After her death I
secured a foothold in a New York house--I'd always wanted to live in
New York--and went up, step by step, from what may be called a
rookie in the outside office, to private secretary to the Head. And
I'd been a business woman for all of seventeen years when Great-Aunt
Sophronisba Scarlett departed at the age of ninety-eight years and
eleven months, and willed that I should take up my life in the house
where she had dropped hers.

"Oh, Sophy!" cried Alicia Gaines, the one person in the world who
didn't call me Miss Smith. "Oh, Sophy, it's like a fairy-story come
true! Think of falling heir to an old, old, old lady's old, old, old
house, in South Carolina! I hope there's a big old door with a
fan-light, and a Greeky front with white pillars, and a big old
hall, and a big old garden--"

"And an old stove that smokes and old windows that rattle and an old
roof that leaks, and maybe big, big old rats that squeak o' nights,"
I said darkly. For the first rapture of the astonishing news was
beginning to wear thin, and doubt was appearing in spots.

"Sophy Smith! Why, if such a wonderful, beautiful, unexpected thing
had happened to _me_--" Alicia's blue eyes misted. I have known her
since the day she was born, next door to us in Boston, and she is
the only person I have ever seen who can cry and look pretty while
she's doing it; also, she can cry and laugh at the same time, being
Irish. Some foolish people, who have been deceived by Alicia
Gaines's baby stare and complexion, have said she hasn't sense
enough to get in out of a shower of rain. This is, of course, a
libel. But what's the odds, when every male being in sight would
rush to her aid with an umbrella?

After her mother's death I fell heir to Alicia, who, like me, was an
only child, and without relatives. Lately, I'd gotten her into our
filing-department. She didn't belong in a business office, she whose
proper background should have been an adoring husband and the latest
thing in pink-and-white babies.

"But somebody's got to think of stoves and roofs and rats and such,
or there'd be no living in any old house," I reminded her,
practically. "My dear girl, don't you realize that this thing isn't
all beer and skittles?"

Alicia wrinkled her white forehead.

"Consider me, a hardy late-summer plant forced to uproot and
transplant myself to a soil which may not in the least agree with
me. Why, this means changing all my fixed habits, to trot off to
live in an old house that is probably haunted by the cross-grained
ghost of a lady of ninety-nine!"

"If I were a ghost, you'd be the very last person on earth I'd want
to tackle, Sophy," remarked Alicia, dimpling. "And as for that new
soil, why, you'll bloom in it! You--well, Sophy dear, up to now you
have been root-bound; you've never had a chance to grow, much less
to blossom. Now you can do both."

I who was confidential secretary to the Head, looked at the girl who
was admittedly the worst file-clerk on record; and she looked back
at me, nodding her bright head with young wisdom.

"I hope," she said, wistfully, "that there'll be all sorts of lovely
things in your house, Sophy,--old mirrors, old books, old pictures,
old furniture, old china. Lord send you'll find an attic! All my
life I've day-dreamed of finding an attic that's been shut up and
forgotten for ages and ages, and discovering all sorts of lovely
things in all sorts of hiding-places. When I think my day-dream may
come true for you, Sophy, it almost reconciles me to the pain of
parting from you; though what on earth I'm to do without you,
goodness only knows!" She was sitting on my bed, kimonoed,
slippered, and braided. And now she looked at me with a suddenly
quivering chin.

"Alicia," said I, "ever since I discovered that there's no mistake
about that lawyer's letter--that Hynds House is unaccountably, but
undoubtedly mine and I've got to live in it if I want to keep it--it
has been borne in upon me that you are just about the worst
file-clerk on earth. You're a navy-blue failure in a business
office. Business isn't your _motif_. Now, will you resign the job
you fill execrably, and accept one you can fill beyond all
praise--come South with me, share half-and-half whatever comes, and
help make that old house a happy home for us both?"

"Don't joke." Her lips went white. "Please, please, Sophy dear,
don't joke like that! I--well, I just couldn't bear it."

"I never joke," I said indignantly. "You little goose, did you
imagine for one minute that I contemplated leaving you here by
yourself, any more than I contemplate going down there by myself, if
I can help it? Stop to think for a moment, Alicia. You have been
like a little sister to me, ever since you were born. And--I'm
alone, except for you--and not in my first youth--and not
beautiful--and not gifted."

At that she hurled herself off my bed and cried upon my shoulder,
with her slim arms around my neck. Those young arms were beginning
to make me feel wistful. If things had been different--if I had been
lovely like the Scarletts, instead of looking like the Smiths--there
might have been--

Well, I don't look like the Scarletts; so there wasn't. The best I
could do was to drop a kiss on Alicia's forehead, where the bright
young hair begins to break into curls.

And that is how, neither of us having the faintest notion of what
was in store for us, Alicia Gaines and I turned our backs upon New
York and set our faces toward Hynds House.



CHAPTER II

AND ARIEL MAKES MUSIC


We had wired Judge Gatchell when to expect us, but the venerable
negro hackman who was on the lookout for us explained that the judge
had a "misery in the laigs" which confined him to his room, and that
he advised us to go to the hotel for a while.

We couldn't, for wasn't our own house waiting for us? A minute later
we had bundled into the ancient hack and were bumping and splashing
through unpaved streets, getting wet, gray glimpses of old houses in
old gardens, and every now and then a pink crape-myrtle blushing in
the pouring rain. Hyndsville was, it seemed, one of those sprawling,
easy-going old Carolina towns that liked plenty of elbow-room and
wasn't particular about architectural order. Hynds House itself was
on the extreme edge of things.

The hack presently stopped before a high iron gate in a waist-high
brick wall with a spiked iron railing on top of it, the whole
overrun with weeds and creepers. Of Hynds House itself one couldn't
see anything but a stack of chimneys above a forest of trees.

The gate creaked and groaned on its rusty hinges; then we were
walking up a weedy, rain-soaked path where untrimmed branches
slapped viciously at our faces, and tough brambles, like snares and
gins, tried to catch our feet. On each side was a jungle. Of a
sudden the path turned, widened into a fairly cleared space; and
Hynds House was before us.

We had expected a fair-sized dwelling-house in its garden. And there
confronted us, glooming under the gray and threatening sky that
seemed the only proper and fitting canopy for it, what looked like a
pile reared in medieval Europe rather than a home in America. Its
stained brick walls, partly covered with ivy and lichens; its
smokeless chimneys; its barred doors; its many shuttered windows,
like blind eyes--all appeared deliberately to thrust aside human
habitancy.

         _A residence for woman, child, and man,
          A dwelling-place,--and yet no habitation;
          A House,--but under some prodigious ban
          Of Excommunication._

Yet there was nothing ruinous about it, for the Hyndses had sought
to build it as the old Egyptians sought to build their temples--to
last forever, to defy time and decay. It was not only meant to be a
place for Hyndses to be born and live and die in: it was a monument
to Family Pride, a brick-and-granite symbol of place and power.

The walls were of an immense thickness, the corners further
strengthened with great blocks of granite. The house had but two
stories, with an attic under its sloping roofs, but it gave an
effect of height as well as of solidity. Behind it was another brick
building, the lower part of which had been used for stables and
carriage house, and the upper portion as quarters for the house
slaves, in the old days. Another smaller building, slate-roofed and
ivy covered, was the spring-house, with a clear, cold little spring
still bubbling away as merrily in its granite basin, as if all the
Hyndses were not dead and gone. And there was a deep well, protected
by a round stone wall, with a cupola-like roof supported by four
slender pillars. And everything was dank and weedy and splotched
with mildew and with mold.

          _O'er all there hung a shadow and a fear
             A sense of mystery the spirit daunted
           And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
             The place is Haunted!_

When we opened the great front door, above which was the fan-light
of Alicia's hope, just as the round front porch had the big pillars,
a damp and moldy air met us. The house had not been opened since
Sophronisba's funeral, and everything--stairs, settles, tables,
cabinets, pictures, the chairs backed inhospitably against the wall
as if to prevent anybody from sitting in them--was covered with a
shrouding pall of dust.

The hall was cross-shaped, the side passage running between the back
drawing-room and library on one side, and the dining-room and two
locked rooms on the other. It was a nice place, that side passage,
with a fireplace and settles; and beautiful windows opening upon the
tangled garden. All the down-stairs walls were paneled: precious
woods were not so hard to come by when Hynds House was built. It was
lovely, of course, but depressingly dark.

We got one of the big windows open, and let some stale damp air out
and some fresh damp air in. Then, having despatched our hackman for
certain necessities, Alicia and I turned and stared at each other,
another Alicia and Sophy staring back at us from a dim and dusty
mirror opposite. If, at that moment, I could have heard the familiar
buzzer at my elbow! If I could have heard the good everyday New York
"Miss Smith, attend to this, please"! God wot, if I had not
literally burned my bridges behind me--Oh, oh, I had!

"The garden around this house,"--Alicia spoke in a
whisper--"stretches to the end of the world and then laps over. It
hasn't been trimmed since Adam and Eve moved out. But those
crape-myrtle trees are quite the loveliest things left over from
Paradise, and I'm glad we came here to see them with our own eyes!
Brace up, Sophy! We'll feel heaps better when we've had something to
eat. Aren't you frightfully hungry, and doesn't a chill suspicion
strike you, somewhere around the wishbone, that if that Ancient
Mariner of a hackman doesn't get back soon we shall starve?"

At that moment, from somewhere--it seemed to us from up-stairs--a
sudden flood of sweetest sound poured goldenly through that sad,
dim, dusty house, as if a blithe spirit had slipped in unawares and
was bidding us welcome. For a few wonderful moments the exquisite
music filled the dark old place and banished gloom and neglect and
decay; then, with a pattering scamper, as of the bare, rosy feet of
a beloved and mischievous child making a rush for his crib, it went
as suddenly as it had come. There was nothing to break the silence
but the swishing downpour of the outside rain.

When I could speak: "It came from up-stairs! Somebody's playing a
violin up-stairs. I'm going up-stairs to find out who it is."

Alicia demurred: "It may be a real person, Sophy!--a real person
with a real violin. But I'd rather believe it's Ariel's self, come
out of those pink crape-myrtles. Don't go up-stairs, please, Sophy!"

"Nonsense!" said I. "Somebody's played a violin and I mean to know
who he is!"

And up-stairs I went, into a huge dark hall, with the cross-passage
cutting it, and closed doors everywhere. At the front end was a most
beautiful window, opening doorlike upon a tiny iron bird-cage of a
balcony, hung up Southern fashion under the roof of the pillared
front porch. At the rear a more ordinary door opened upon the broad
veranda that ran the full width of the house. Both door and window
were closed, and bolted on the inside, and the big, dark, dusty
rooms which I resolutely entered were quite empty, their fireplaces
boarded up, their windows close-shuttered. There was no sign
anywhere of violin or player. I went down-stairs just as wise as I
had gone up.

"I told you it was Ariel!" Alicia stood by the open window--our
windows are sunk into the walls, and cased with solid black walnut
as Impervious to decay as the granite itself--and leaned out to the
wet and dripping garden.

"Sophy," said she, in her high, sweet voice that carries like a
thrush's. "Sophy, the best thing about this world is, that the best
things in it aren't really _real_. This is one of its enchanted
places. Sycorax used to live in this house: that's what you feel
about it yet. But now she's gone, her spell is lifting, and Hynds
House is going to come alive and be young again!"

"At least," I grumbled, "admit that the dust inside and the rain
outside and the weeds and mud are real; and I'm really hungry!"

"Me too!" Alicia assented instantly and ungrammatically. "Oh, for a
square meal!" She thrust her charming head out far enough for the
rain to splatter on her bright hair and whip it into curls, and
bring a deeper shade of pink to her cheeks, and a deeper blue
to her eyes. "Ariel!" she fluted, "Spirit of the Violin, I'm
hungry--earthily, worm-of-the-dustly, unromantically hungry! Send us
something to eat."

"Why don't you rap on one of the tables," I suggested ironically,
"and call up your high spirits to do your bidding?"

"My high spirits won't be above making you a soothing cup of coffee
just as soon as that ancient African returns. In the meantime,
let's look around us."

People had forests to draw from when they built rooms like those in
Hynds House. There were eight of them on the first floor. On one
side the two drawing-rooms, the library, and behind that a room
evidently used for an office. We didn't know it then, of course, but
that library was treasure trove. Almost every book and pamphlet
covering the early American settlements, that is of any value at
all, is in Hynds House library; we have some pamphlets that even the
British Museum lacks.

The rooms had enough furniture to stock half a dozen antique-shops,
all of it in a shocking state, the brocades in tatters, the carvings
caked with dust. You couldn't see yourself in the tarnished mirrors,
the portraits were black with dirt, and most of the prints were
badly stained. Alicia swooped upon a pair of china dogs with mauve
eyes and black spots and sloppy red tongues, on a what-not in a
corner. She said she had been aching for a china dog ever since she
was born.

"Oh, Sophy!" cried she, dancing, "wasn't it heavenly of that old
soul to die and leave you two whole china dogs! I wouldn't want
sure-enough dogs that looked like these, but as china dogs they're
perfect! And cast your eyes about you, Sophy! Have you ever in all
your life seen a house that needed so much done to it as this house
does?

          "'If seven maids with seven mops,
              Swept it for half a year,
            Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
              'That that would make it clear?'
            'I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
              'And--'

"Sophy! I shall clean some of these windows myself. Did you know
that Queen Victoria, when she was a child, had the same virtuous
inclination? Well, she had, and you see how she turned out!"

"I don't believe it!"

"Don't be skeptical!--Look at that pink mustache-cup over there on
that little table! Who do you suppose had a mustache and drank out
of that cup? It couldn't have been Sophronisba herself? _I_
insist that it was a black-mustached Confederate with a red sash
around his waist. I adore Confederates! They're the most glamorous,
romantic figures in American history. I wish a black mustache went
along with the cup and the house; don't you? It would make things so
much more interesting!" And she began to sing, at the top of her
voice, in the sad and faded room that hadn't heard a singing voice
these many, many years:

          "'Arrah, Missis McGraw,' the Captain said,
           'Will ye make a sojer av your son Ted?
           Wid a g-r-rand mus-tache, an' a three-cocked hat,
           Wisha, Missis McGraw, wouldn't you like that!
          _You like that--tooroo looroo loo!_
          _Wisha, Missis McGraw, wouldn't you like that!_'"

If Great-Aunt Sophronisba's ghost, and the scandalized ghosts of all
the haughy Hyndses ever intended to walk, now was the accepted time!
And as if that graceless ballad were the signal for something to
happen, upon the hall window-shutter sounded three loud, imperative
knocks.

Alicia dashed down the hall.

"Sophy!" she called, breathlessly, "Sophy!"

Framed in the open window, with the dripping trees and the slanting
rain behind him, was the bizarre, the astounding figure of a
gnomelike negro in a terra-cotta robe fastened about the waist with
a girdle made of a twisted black shawl with the most beautiful
Persian border and fringe. A striped silk scarf was bound
turban-wise about his head, from which tufts of snowy wool
protruded. From his ears hung crescent-shaped silver ear-rings
studded with coral and turquoise; a necklace of the same barbaric
magnificence was about his neck, and his arms were covered with
bracelets. His deep-set eyes, his flat nose, his mouth set in a
thousand fine wrinkles, the whole aspect of him, breathed a sly and
impish drollery. He glanced from Alicia to me with the smiling
malice of a jinnee delighted to mystify mortals. Then with a rapid
movement he shifted the umbrella he carried over a large
linen-covered tray, eased the latter upon the deep window-ledge, and
beckoned with a very black and beringed hand.

"For _us_?" breathed Alicia.

With a fine flourish he swept aside the linen covering. And there
was golden-brown chicken, white rice, cream gravy, hot biscuit, cool
sliced tomatoes with sprigs of green parsley, fresh butter, fresh
cream, a great slab of heavenly cake, a wicker basket of Elberta
peaches, rain-cooled, odorous, delicious, and a pot of steaming
coffee. On the edge of the tray was a cluster of rain-washed roses.

"No," Alicia doubted, "this is not true: it can't be!--Sophy, do you
see it, too?"

He motioned her to take the tray; and his ear-rings swung, and all
his bracelets set up a silver tinkling. An automobile honked outside
in the street shut off by our garden trees, and a dog barked. Our
jinnee cocked a cautious head and a listening ear, thrust the tray
upon Alicia, and with inconceivable swiftness vanished around a
corner.

"Let's hurry and eat it before it, too, takes to its heels," said
Alicia, practically. Without further ado we dragged forward a small
table, and fell to. Aladdin probably tasted fare like that, the
first time he rubbed the magic lamp.

When we had polished the last chicken bone, and had that comfortable
feeling that nothing can give so thoroughly as a good meal, Alicia
carefully examined the china and silver.

"Old blue-and-white English china; English silver initialed 'R.H.G.'
Sophy, handle this prayerfully: it's an apostle spoon. Think of
having a jinnee fetch you your coffee, and of stirring it with an
apostle spoon."

She spoke reverently. Alicia is the sort who flattens her nose
against antique-shop windows, and would go without dessert for a
month of Sundays and trudge afoot to save carfare, if thereby she
might buy an old print, or a bit of pottery; just as I am content to
admire the print or the pottery in the shop window, feeling sure
that when they are finally sold to somebody better able to buy them,
something else I can admire just as much will take their place. Mine
is a philosophy not altogether to be despised, though Alicia rejects
it. She handled the blue-and-white ware with tender hands, laid the
silver together, and set the tray upon the window-ledge. Then, on a
leaf of my pocket memorandum--she never carries one of her own--she
scribbled the following absurdity and pinned it to the linen cover:

     Ariel, accept the gratitude of mortals set down hungry in
     the house of Sycorax. Gay and kind spirit, when we broke
     your bread you broke her spell: the wishbone of your chicken
     has cooked her goose! Maker of Music, Donator of Dinners,
     thanks!

"And now," said she, "having been serenaded, and satisfied with
nothing short of perfection, let's go up-stairs, Sophy, and decide
where we shall sleep to-night."

We chose the front room because of a gate-legged table that Alicia
wanted to say her prayers beside, and because of the particularly
fine portrait of a colonial gentleman above the mantel, a very
handsome man in claret-colored satin, with a vest of flowered gold
brocade, a gold-hilted sword upon which his fine fingers rested, and
a pair of silk-stockinged legs of which he seemed complacently
aware.

"I wish you weren't dead," Alicia told him regretfully. "Your taste
in clothes is above all praise, though I fancy you were somewhat too
vain of your legs, sir. I never knew before that men had legs like
that, did you, Sophy?"

"I take no pleasure in the legs of a man." I quoted the Psalmist
acridly enough.

"Don't pay any attention to Sophy," Alicia advised the portrait,
naughtily. "Just to prove how much we both admire you, you shall
have Ariel's roses." She had brought them up-stairs with us, and now
she walked over to the mantel to place them beneath the picture.

"Why!" exclaimed Alicia, "why!" and she held up nothing more
remarkable than a package of cigarettes, evidently left there
recently, for it was not dusty.

"I dare say Judge Gatchell forgot it, when he was looking over the
house. That reminds me: the silver you admired so much was marked
'G.' Then, in all probability, Judge Gatchell sent us that spread,
and very thoughtful it was of him, I must say."

"Rheumatic old judges don't smoke superfine cigarettes, Sophy, nor
send black tray-bearers in terra-cotta robes out on rainy days for
the entertainment of strange ladies. No: this is something, or
somebody, _young_. But since when did Ariel take to tobacco?"

"Let's go down-stairs," I suggested, "and wait for that old darky,
if he is a real darky and ever means to return." I did not fancy
those big forlorn rooms, with their great beds that didn't seem made
for people to sleep and dream in, but to stay awake and worry over
their sins--and then die in.

The down-stairs halls had grown darker, and the rain came down in a
gray sheet, so that the open window seemed a hole cut into it. The
tray we had left on the window-ledge was gone. In its place was
nothing more romantic than a freshly filled and trimmed kerosene
lamp, two candles, and a box of matches.

When our Jehu finally returned he rummaged out some firewood from
the sooty kitchen and built us a fire in the hall. He was a pleasant
old negro, garrulous and kindly, by name Adam King, or, as he
informed us, "Unc' Adam" to all Hyndsville folks.

"Uncle Adam," Alicia asked, while he was drying himself before the
blazing logs, "Uncle Adam, who's the violinist around here?"

Uncle Adam looked at the Yankee lady a bit doubtfully. The old
fellow was slightly deaf, but he would have died rather than admit
it.

"Wellum," he told us, "since ol' Mis' Scarlett's gone, folks does
say de doctor is. Dat's 'cause ob de Hynds' blood in 'im. All dem
Hyndses was natchelly de violentest kind o' pussons, an' Doctor, he
ain't behin' de do'." He rubbed his hands and chuckled. "Lawd, yes!
I know de Doctor, man an' boy, an' he suttinly rips an' ta'hs when
he's riled! You ought ter seen 'im de day ol' Mis' Scarlett let fly
wid 'er shot-gun an' blowed de tails spang off'n two of 'is hens an'
de haid off'n 'is prize rooster! De fowls come thoo' de haidge, an'
ol' Mis' grab 'er gun an' blaze away. De Doctor hear de squallation,
an' come flyin' outer de office an' right ovah de haidge. I 'uz
totin' fiahwood fo' ol' Mis' dat day, an' I drap een de bushes; it
ain't no place fo' sensible niggahs when white folks grab shot-guns.
Doctor see me an' holler: 'Adam! git outer dem bushes, you ol' fool!
You my witness what dis hellion's done to my fowls!'

"Ol' Mis' Scarlett she s'anter ter de winder wid 'er gun sort o'
hangin' loose, an' holler: 'Adam! Come outer dem bushes 'fo' I
pickle yo' hide! You my witness ob dis ruffian trispassin' on my
prop'ty an' cussin' an' seducin' a ol' woman widout 'er consent,'
she says. 'Has I retched my age,' says ol' Mis' Scarlett, 'to have
his fowls ruinin' my gyardin', an' him whut's a dunghill rooster
himself flyin' ovah my fences unbeknownst?'

"'If there evah was a leather-hided ol' hen ripe foh roastin' on
Beelzebub's own griddle, it's you, you gallows ol' witch!' says
Doctor, shakin' 'is fist up at her.

"'Aha! I got a plain case!' says ol' Mis', grim-like. 'I'll have a
warrant out foh you dis day, Geddes, you owdacious villyum!'

"And she done it. Yas'm. An' dey done sont de shariff atter me for
witness, all two bofe o' dem."

"Well, and what did you do?" I asked, curiously. I was getting a
side-light on Great-Aunt Sophronisba.

"Me? I got on muh knees an' wrastled wid de speret," said Uncle
Adam. "I done tuck mah troubles to de Lawd, whichin He _'bleeged_
ter know I cyant deal wid ol' Mis' Scarlett an' de Doctor. Missis, I
prayed!"

"Oh! And what happened then?"

The old man looked around him, cautiously, and lowered his voice:
"Wellum, Mis' Scarlett she tuck an' went an' up an' died. Yessum!
She done daid. An' next thing we-all heah, she 'd went an' lef de
Hynds place to youna, 'stead ob de Doctor, or dat furriner."

"She had Hynds relatives, then? I didn't know."

"Wellum, de Doctor an' ol' Mis' Scarlett wuz cousins. Dat's how come
dey could fight so powerful. Ain't you nevah had no relations to
fight wid, ma'ams?"

We explained, regretfully, that we hadn't.

"Den you ain't nevah knowed, an' you ain't nevah gwine ter knew,
whut real, sho-nough fightin' _is_," said Unc' Adam, with
conviction.

"You mentioned a foreigner," hinted Alicia.

The old man shook his head deprecatingly. "Don't seem lak I evah
able to rickermembah dat boy's name, nohow. His grampa' 'uz a Hynds,
likewise his ma, but she 'sisted on marryin' er furriner, an' de
boy takes atter de furriners 'stead er we-all. 'Taint de po' boy's
fault, but ol' Mis' Scarlett hated 'im wuss 'n pizen. De only notice
she take er de boy is ter warrant 'im fo' trispassin'. Dat 's how
come folkses ter say--" he paused suddenly.

"Well, what do folks say?" I wanted to know.

"Well, Missis," he admitted, "dey say it's natchel to fight wid yo'
kin whilst you 're livin', but 'taint natchel ter carry de fight
inter de grave-yahd. Dat's whut she done, ma'ams. An' folks is
outdone wid 'er, whichin' she ain't lef de Hynds place to de
Hyndses, but done tuhn it ovah ter--uh--ah--"

"To a Yankee woman named Smith?"

"Yessum, dat's it."

"Had either the Doctor or the foreigner any real claim or right to
this property, do you know?"

"No, ma'am, we-all 'lows dey ain't got no mo' law-right dan whut
you's got. Ol' Mis' Scarlett ain't _'bleeged_ ter lef it to de
Hyndses, but folks thinks she oughter done it, an' dey's powerful
riled 'cause she ain't. Dey minds dis wuss'n all de warrantin' an'
rampagin' an' rucusses she cut up whilst she wuz wid us."

"I see," said I, thoughtfully.

"Missises," said the old man, anxiously, "you-all ain't meanin' ter
stay hyuh to-night, is you?" He seemed really distressed at the
notion. "Lemme take you-all to de hotel, please, Missises! Don't
stay hyuh to-night!"

"Why not? What's the matter with this house?"

Again he looked around him, stealthily.

"It's h'anted!" said he, desperately. "Missis, listen: I 'uz comin'
home from prayer-meetin', 'bout two weeks ago, walkin' back er dis
same place in de dark ob de moon. An' all ob a suddin I hyuh de
pianner in de pahlor, _ting-a-ling-a-ling! ting-a-ling-a-ling!_ I
say, 'Who de name er Gawd in ol' Mis' Scarlett's pahlor, when dey
ain't nobody in it?' I look thoo de haidge, an' dey's one weenchy
light in de room, an' whilst I'm lookin', it goes out! An' de
pianner, she's a-playin' right along! Yessum, de pianner, she's er
tingalingin' by 'erself in de middle o' de night!"

"And who was playing it, Uncle Adam?"

"Dat's what I axin yit: who playin' Mis' Scarlett's pianner when dey
wasn't nobody in de house?"

"Why didn't you find out?"

"Who, me?" cried the old man, with horror. "If I could er borried a
extra pahr er laigs from er yaller dawg, I'd a did it right den, so 's
I could run twict faster 'n I done!--Whichin' please, ma'ams, lemme
take you-all ter de hotel."

When he saw that he couldn't prevail upon us to do so, he left us
regretfully, shaking his head. He would come back early in the
morning to do anything we might require. But he wouldn't stay
overnight in Hynds House for any consideration. No negro in the
county would.

"Alicia," said I, when we had had a cup of tea made over our spirit
lamp, and firelight and lamplight made the place less depressing and
eerie, "Alicia, that terrible old woman has played me, like an ace
up her sleeve, against her neighbors and her family. She has left me
a house that needs everything done to it except to burn it down and
rebuild it, and a garden that will have to be cleared out with
dynamite. And she has seen to it that I have the preconceived
prejudice of all Hyndsville."

Alicia's pretty, soft lips closed firmly.

"Here we are and here we stay!" she said determinedly. "Nobody's
been disinherited to make room for us. Sophy, in all our lives we
have never had a chance to make a real home. Well, then, Hynds House
is our chance, and I'd just like to see anybody take it away from
us!"

"Up, Guards, and at 'em!" said I, smiling at her tone. I am slower
than she, but even more stubborn, as the English are.

"Tell your admiral that if he gets in my way I will blow his ships
out of the water!" said Alicia, gallantly.

But when we went up-stairs, we took good care to lock our door, and
bolt it, too. Alicia said her prayers kneeling by the gate-legged
table, snuggled into bed between the clean sheets we had brought
with us, tucked a china dog under her chin, and went to sleep like
the child that she was. I said the Shepherd's Psalm and went to
sleep, too.

I was awakened suddenly, and found myself sitting up in bed, staring
wildly about the strange room. The house was breathlessly still. My
heart pounded against my ribs, the blood beat in my ears. I was
oppressed with a nameless terror, an anguished sense that something
had happened, something irremediable. The feeling was so strong that
my throat closed chokingly.

I am particular in thus setting it down, because it was an
experience that all of us under that roof had to undergo. You had to
fight it, shut your mind against it, oppose your will to it like a
stone wall, refuse to let it master you. Then, as if defeated, it
would go as suddenly, as inexplicably, as it had come.

That's what I did then, more by instinct than reason. But I was
exhausted when I finally got back to sleep.



CHAPTER III

THE DEAR LITTLE GOD!


When we went over Hynds House the next morning and took stock, I
began to entertain very, very peculiar feelings toward Great-Aunt
Sophronisba Scarlett, who, it would appear, had given me a white
elephant which I could neither hire out for its keep, nor yet sell
out of hand. I had to live in Hynds House, and Hynds House as it
stood wasn't to be lived in.

The rain had ceased, and from the outside jungle came innumerable
calls of birds, and fresh and woodsy odors; but the whole aspect of
the place was grim and forbidding. At the back, where there wasn't
such an overgrowth, the lane had been closed, barricaded with
barbed-wire entanglements, and fairly bristled with thistles and "No
Trespassing" signs.

"All this house needs is a mortuary tablet set up over the front
door."

But Alicia demurred.

"I'm not a bit disheartened," she declared stoutly. "There's just
one thing to be done to this house--first make it beautiful, and
then make it pay. It can be done. It's going to be done. It's _got_
to be done. And when it's done--we'll have a home. Vision it as it's
going to be, Sophy--rosewood and mahogany and walnut, old brass and
china and prints and portraits, the sort of things we've only been
able to dream of up to now. Why, this house has been waiting for us!
We were born to come here and make it over: it's _our_ house!"
Alicia, has the gay courage of the Irish.

The heavy iron knocker on the front door resounded clamorously.

"Uncle Adam thinks we've been ha'nted out of existence, and he's
hammering to wake the dead," said I.

But it wasn't Uncle Adam to whom we opened the door. An enormous,
square-shouldered man stood there, looking from me to Alicia with
bright, keen blue eyes behind glasses. He was so big, so
magnificently proportioned, that he held one's attention, at first,
by mere size. Then one had time to observe that although he hadn't
the sleek and careful grooming of successful New Yorkers, he wore
his clothes as, say, Coeur de Lion must have worn mail. He hadn't
the brisk business manner, either; but there radiated from him an
assured authority, as of one used to having his orders obeyed
without question. No one could pass him over with a casual eye. I
have known people who hated him frankly and heartily; I have known
people who adored him. I have never known any one who was lukewarm
where he was concerned.

"Which of you is Miss Smith?" he asked, in a very pleasant voice.
"Miss Smith, I'm your next-door neighbor, house to the right:
Doctor Richard Geddes, at your service."

We gave him to understand, with the usual polite commonplaces, that
we were pleased to make his acquaintance, and ushered him into the
dilapidated drawing-room.

"I'd have come over yesterday, when I learned you'd arrived, except
that my cook was suddenly seized with the notion she'd been
conjured, and I had to--er--stand by and persuade her she wasn't.
Swore she had my lunch ready, as usual; swore she'd placed it on a
tray, left it on the kitchen table for a few minutes, and when she
came back from the pantry, not ten feet away, the tray was gone.
Vanished. Disappeared. Nowhere to be found. She flopped on the floor
and howled. She weighs two hundred and forty pounds and I hadn't a
derrick handy. I had to roll her up on bed-slats. You've never had a
conjured two-hundred-and-forty-pounder on your hands, have you? No?
Well, then, don't. _But_ if you ever do, try a bed-slat. This
morning she discovered the tray in its usual place, dishes and
silver intact, nothing missing. She's looking for the end of the
world."

"O-o-h!" quavered Alicia, while I could feel my knees knocking
together. "O-o-o-h! How very, very singular! And--and was that all?"

"All! Wasn't that enough? I've had burned biscuit and muddy coffee,
because my cook's got liver and nerves, and insists it's her soul,"
said the doctor, grimly. "I've given her to understand that if she
hasn't got her soul saved before to-night, I'll physic it out of her
and hang her hide on the bushes, inside out, _salted_." He added,
hastily: "In the meantime, I hope you haven't fared too badly in
this mildewed jail?"

"Thank you, no," Alicia said demurely. "We have fared very well."

"Glad to hear it." The big man looked at her with the frank pleasure
all masculinity evinces at sight of Alicia. And then he asked,
abruptly:

"Has Jelnik called yet?--gray house on the other side of you.--No? I
dare say he's off on one of his prowls then. A bit of a lunatic, but
a very charming fellow, Jelnik, though your amiable predecessor,
Miss Smith, chose to consider him a sort of outlawed tom-cat, and
warned him off with a shot-gun." The doctor paused, stroked his
beard, and regarded me earnestly.

"Having heired the old girl's domain, I hope you won't consider it
necessary to heir her--er--prejudices," he remarked hopefully. "Bad
lot, Sophronisba. Very bad!"

"Mrs. Scarlett," I reminded him gently, "was my relative only by
marriage."

"Cousin of mine; mother's relative. Not on speaking-, only on
fighting-terms," he interjected.

I remembered what Uncle Adam had told us; and I'm afraid I eyed him
a bit harder than politeness warranted.

"I discern by your eye, Miss Smith," said the doctor, "that you
think a blood relation is more likely to walk in that old demon's
footsteps than an outsider is. My dear lady, under ordinary
circumstances and with _human_ neighbors, I'm as meek as Moses; I am
a lamb, a veritable lamb! As for your aunt, she was a man-eating,
saber-toothed tigress!"

"Not my aunt, Doctor Geddes; your cousin."

"Your aunt-by-marriage. It's just as bad. Anyhow, she preferred you
to any of us, didn't she?"

"Perhaps because she didn't know _me_."

"Have it so. _But_ she did whatever she did because she was an old
devil of a woman, and an old devil of a woman can give points to
Satan. If," cried the doctor, vehemently, "there is one great reason
why a man should be glad he's a man, it is because he will never
live to be an old woman!"

"That depends upon one's point of view," I told him firmly. "Now,
I'm glad I'm a woman because I shall never live to be an old man.
Old ladies are far, far nicer. Have you ever known an old lady who
thought herself captivating? Have you ever known any old man who
didn't think he could be if he wished?"

"Yes," shouted the doctor, "and no!--in both cases! There is no sex
in fools. There is no age limit, either."

"The Talmud says: 'An old woman in the house is a blessing; but an
old man is a nuisance.'"

"I don't give a bobtailed scat what the Talmud says. I know what I
know.--Miss Gaines, I leave it to you."

"Why, I like them both, when they're nice; and I'm sorry for them
both when they're not." And she added, with a naïve air of
confidence: "But I think I like young men better than either, as a
rule."

The doctor removed his hat again, and sat down. His eyebrows went
up, his eyes crinkled.

"Miss Alicia Gaines," he said genially, "I perceive you are a
girl-child of fine promise.--As for us, Miss Smith, what have we to
do with age and foolishness, who, as yet, have neither? Let's get
down to business. What are you going to do about the lane behind
Hynds House? We had the use of that lane this hundred years and
more, until the devil got too strong in Sophronisba and she shut it
up. Now, shall you keep the lane closed, or shall you dismiss the
injunctions?"

"I shall have to consult Judge Gatchell."

"Gatchell's a fossilized remains. He's got no more blood in his
liver than a flea. Gatchell would hang his grandmother on a point of
law. Why should you, or any other ordinarily intelligent person, be
guided by Gatchell?"

"By whom, then, shall I be guided? You?" I wondered.

"That's not in my line," replied the doctor, shortly, and thrust his
hands into his gloves. "In the meantime, ladies, I'm your next-door
neighbor; I have no wife to gossip about you, no children to annoy
you; I'm far enough away to keep you from smelling my pipe; and I
shall quarrel with you only when I can't help it. In return, I have
but one favor to beg of you: don't use a shot-gun on my prize
chickens! Get a dog and train him to chase them home, if they get
into your yard. Or catch them and throw them over the hedge. I'll
pay any damages within reason. And please send for your cat."

"We have a cat?"

"You have. After Sophronisba's death, Mandy took her in; or rather,
Mandy was afraid to turn her out, for it's bad luck to cross a
witch's cat. In return for this charity the hussy immediately
foisted upon us two wholly unnecessary kittens. Mandy wouldn't allow
them to be decently drowned, for it's worse luck yet to tamper with
a witch's cat's kittens, particularly when they're as black as the
hinges of Gehenna. Mandy thinks their mother had them black as a
delicate mark of respect for the late crone."

"Send them over, please. Black cats will just go with this house. It
was very thoughtful of that cat to have two black kittens ready for
us, and very kind of you to let them stay with you until we came."

"I? I abhor the whole tribe of cats!" cried the doctor. "Don't thank
my kindness: thank Mandy's idiocy, of which she has more than her
just share. To my mind, the best place for cats is under the grape
arbor."

"Let us strike a bargain. You keep your chickens in your own yard,
and we'll keep our cats in our own house."

"Compromise: you get a dog," suggested the doctor.

"Perhaps I may. I've always wanted a poodle."

"I said a _dog_!" said the doctor, lifting his lip. "A poodle! In
Hynds House! The lamented Sophronisba had a bloodhound."

"The lamented Sophronisba could have what she chose. This
Sophronisba prefers a poodle."

"_Sophronisba?_ What! Another one? Good God!" cried the doctor. "All
right! Get a poodle. Keep the cats. Get a parrot--and an orphan
with the itch--and a hyena--and a blunderbuss! _Her name is
Sophronisba_!--I--oh, Lord, where's Jelnik? I have got to go and
warn Jelnik!" And he made for the door.

At that Alicia laughed. Peal upon peal, like silver bells,
irrepressibly, infectiously, irresistibly, Alicia laughed. She cries
with her eyes open and her mouth shut, and she laughs with her eyes
shut and her mouth open. The effect is beyond all words enchanting.
The doctor paused in his headlong flight.

"All right: laugh!" he said, darkly. "But I shall warn Jelnik, none
the less!" And muttering: "_Sophronisba!_ Lord have mercy on us!
_Sophronisba!_" he departed hastily.

"What a nice neighbor!" commented Alicia. She added, musingly:
"Sophy, this is an enchanted place--a place where one has good
meals, bad advice, and black cats showered on one, free and gratis.
All one has to do is to stand still and take things as they come!"

"And hope one won't follow in the footsteps of one's predecessor,
who was an unmitigated old devil."

"At least," said Alicia, laughing, "_he_'ll never live to be an old
woman, will he, Sophy?"

"The man has the tact of a cannibal--"

"The shoulders of a Hercules--"

"An abominable temper--"

"And a beautiful beard. Somehow, Sophy, I rather approve of a beard,
on somebody his size. I decidedly approve of a beard!"

"If his miserable hens come over here, I shall most certainly--"

"Keep the eggs. We'll tell him so when he comes again."

"Comes again? What, and my name Sophronisba?"

"My own grandmother had the second sight; and _I_ don't need
spectacles," said Alicia. "Sophy, that man has come into our lives
to stay. I feel it in my bones! It's not an unpleasant feeling," she
finished gracelessly.

When Unc' Adam presently put in his appearance, he was profoundly
impressed and respectful: we were brisk, unhaunted, and unafraid,
after a night in Hynds House! The three colored women who had come
with him, induced by cupidity and curiosity to enter ol' Mis'
Scarlett's ill-omened domain, at first hung back. They were plainly
prepared to bolt at the first unusual noise.

Of the three, one--by name Mary Magdalen--proved to be a
heaven-born, predestinated cook; and her we persuaded, by bribery,
cajolery, and subornation of scruples, to remain with us
permanently. Only, she flatly refused to stay on the place
overnight. Darkness shouldn't catch Mary Magdalen under the Scarlett
Witch's roof-tree.

There are certain gifted beings who possess the secret of bringing
order out of chaos; for them the total depravity of inanimate
objects has no terrors; inanimate objects become docile to their
will. Such a one was Mary Magdalen. In two days she had transformed
a sooty cavern into a clean and orderly kitchen. For she was a
singing and a scourful woman, and her Sign was the speretual and the
scrubbing-brush. It is true that she put a precious old Spode
tea-pot on the stove and boiled the tea in it; that she hung her wig
and the dish-towel on the same nail; and that she immediately asked
for a white stocking foot to use as a coffee-bag.

"But don't you-all go bust no new pai'h," she advised economically.
"Ah 'd rathah make mah coffee in a ol' white stockin' foot any day,
jes' so you ain't done wo' out de toes too much."

"Sophy," said the horror-struck Alicia, "that woman must be watched
until we can buy a percolater. Suppose she's got 'a ol' white
stockin' foot' of her own!"

Despite which there never was, never will be, such another cook as
Mary Magdalen. It is true she wasn't amenable to discipline, and
reason wasn't her guiding-lamp. And nothing--not bribes, threats,
entreaties, prayers, orders, commands, moral suasion--could break
her of doing just what she wanted to do just when and how she wanted
to do it. You'd be entertaining your dearest enemies, serene in the
consciousness that your house was a credit to your good management;
and behold, Mary Magdalen in the drawing-room door, with her wig
askew and her hands rolled in her apron:

"Oh, Miss Sophy!"

"Well?" say you, resignedly, with a feigned smile; "what is it, Mary
Magdalen?"

"Miss Sophy, you know we-all's sugah?"

"Yes."

"Wellum, Miss Sophy, 't ain't any."

"I have already ordered more, Mary Magdalen."

"An' you know ouah flouah, Miss Sophy?"

"I--"

"Us ain't got a Gawd's speck!"

Then she would beam upon the visitors, all of whom were known to
her.

"Howdy, Miss Sally! How you-all comin' on? Ah comin' 'round to see
de baby soon 's Ah gits chanst." Or, "Lawsy me, Miss Jinny, dat boy
o' yo's is jes' natchelly bustin' outer da clo'es wid growin', ain't
he? He jes' de spit o' he pa, bless 'im!"

Which untoward confidence didn't seem to surprise our visitors. They
had Mary Magdalens of their own.

A few days later Doctor Geddes sent us Schmetz, the gardener, a
gnarled little man with a peppery temper, a torrential flow of
Alsatian French, and a tireless energy. I don't know why nor how
Schmetz had come to Hyndsville, except that somehow he had acquired
a small farm near by and couldn't get away from it. He explained to
us, gently but firmly, that if we wouldn't meddle after the manner
of women, but would leave his job in his own hands, it would be
better for us, and for the garden. We meekly acquiescing, he called
in helpers and with a wave of his hand set hoe and ax and spade to
work.

The weather had changed into days of deep blue skies, splendid days
full of the warmth of potential power; and nights filled with
fragrance, nights of fierce beauty, and the glamour of golden moons,
and the thrilling melody of that feathered Israfel, the
mocking-bird. Through our open windows immense moths, spirits of the
summer nights, drifted in on enameled and jeweled wings and circled
in a fire-worshiping dance around our light.

Those were wonderful days. For that was a house of surprises, a
house full of laid-by things. One never knew what one was going to
find. One morning it might be a Ridgway jug all delicate vine leaves
and faun heads, or an old blue-and-white English platter, or a piece
of fine salt-glaze. On the top shelf of a long-locked closet, pushed
back in the corner, you'd discover a full set of the most beautiful
sapphire glassware, and a pagoda work-box with ivory corners; and on
a lower shelf, wrapped in half a moth-eaten shawl, two glowing
luster jugs in proof condition. Mary Magdalen salvaged a fine china
sillabub stand, with little white-and-gold covered cups on it, from
a sooty box under a kitchen cupboard. A back drawer of the dusty
office desk yielded up half a dozen exquisite prints. And I'm sure
Alicia will remember even in heaven the ecstasy she experienced when
a battered bureau gave into her hands the adorable Bow figures of
Kitty Clive and Woodward the actor, she pink-and-white, petticoated
and furbelowed, lovely as when London went mad over her, and he
cocked-hatted and ruffled and dandified; and neither with so much as
the least littlest chip to mar their perfection.

Or a hair trunk would reveal little frocks stitched by hand, and a
pair of tiny flat slippers with strings gone to dust like the little
feet that had worn them. With these were two dolls, one dressed in
sprigged India muslin and lace, with a shepherdess hat glued on her
painted head; the other dressed in a poke-bonnet, a satin sack, and
a much-flounced skirt. They had evidently belonged to "Lydia, our
Darling Child," whose name, in unsteady letters, was painfully set
down in the printed picture-books at the bottom of the trunk. These
things that had belonged to a "darling child" so long dead lent the
grim old house a softening touch. Poor old house, whose little
children had all gone, so long ago!

It was the day we were taking up the beautiful old carpet in the
back drawing-room. Alicia was rejoicing for the thousandth time over
this treasure of hand-woven French art. Of a sudden, horrible yells
rose from the garden, and a shrieking negro went by the window like
an arrow. We caught "Murder!--Ol' Witch!--Corpses!" as he
disappeared. Uncle Adam, catching his panic, bolted with him; the
two negro women followed. Only Mary Magdalen, amazonian arms bare, a
rolling-pin grasped in a formidable fist, stood like a rock of
defense behind us.

"Ah jes' wants to catch any ol' corpses trapesin' 'round mah
kitchin, trackin' up mah clean flo', an Ah 'll suah settle day hash
once fo' all!" trumpeted Mary Magdalen.

Outside, Schmetz was jumping up and down, flapping his arms, and
screaming in voluble French:

"Name of a dog! Senseless Senegambians, remain! Iron-skulled
offspring of the union of a black mule and a pickax, cease to fly!"

"What is the matter? For heaven's sake? what is the matter?" I
shouted.

"We done dig up de corpses! We done fin' wha'h dat ol' witch 'oman
bury de bodies!" howled a workman in reply.

"Imbeciles, asses, beings without brains, listen to me!" shrieked
Schmetz, this time in good English. "This corpse is not alive! Never
yet was he alive! Return, sons of perdition, and assist me to raise
him--may he fall upon your brain-pans of donkeys!"

As if that had been all that was needed, the last wavering workman
flung down his shovel and took to his heels, running like a rabbit
and roaring as he ran.

"Schmetz!" called a clear and peremptory voice. "Schmetz! what's the
matter over there?"

"Ah! It is Monsieur Jelnik!" bawled Schmetz. "_Nom de Dieu_,
Monsieur Jelnik, come with a great quickness! I have dug from the
earth the leetle boy of stone--you know him, _hein_? Those niggers,
_sacrement_! they think they have uncovered the deceased corpse, the
victim of Madame the late mistress, with which she made her spells
of a sorceress."

"What!" said the voice. "You've found the statue, Schmetz? Ask, my
good fellow, if it is permitted that I come and view it."

"Why, of course!" said I, quickly.

"Thank you," said the voice.

There had been a great space cleared in our garden, and on the edge
of this, in removing a stubborn gum-tree, the negroes had uncovered
what they supposed to be the body of one murdered. Upon our knees,
with Schmetz helping us, we were trying to tear away the rotten
coverings, and the dirt and mold. And there, beautiful despite the
stains disfiguring him, lay the boy Love. The marble pedestal from
which he had been removed lay near him. On the base, decipherable,
was the sculptor's name, and on one side, in small letters,
"_Brought from Italy, 1803, by R.H._"

"Why, he is perfect!" cried Alicia, joyfully. "Oh, who could have
been so stupid and so cruel as to hide away something so lovely?
Poor dear little god, aren't you glad to get out of that grave and
come back to the sun? Aren't you grateful, little god, that Sophy
and I came to Hynds House?"

And at that moment a tall, slim, dark-skinned young man walked up,
hands behind his back, and stood there regarding us with eyes as
clear and cool as mountain water when the sunlight is upon it and
golden flecks come and go in its brown depths. The exquisitely
aquiline features, the small black mustache, an indescribably proud
and high-bred ease and grace of manner and bearing, were oddly
exotic and even more oddly fascinating. His slenderness was as
strong as a tempered sword-blade, his quietness was trained power in
repose. And the hair of his head was so black that a purplish shadow
rested upon it, and so thick that one was minded of Absalom:

     ... in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as
     Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot to the
     crown of his head there was no blemish in him.

     And when he polled his head (for it was at every year's end
     that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him,
     therefore he polled it:), he weighed the hair of his head at
     two hundred shekels after the king's weight.

He was so vivid and so new to me that my whole being was breathless
with the wonder of him. I knew, of course, that he did not belong
to _my_ world at all. King's sons are for princesses, for those
human birds of paradise that flash, beautiful and fortunate, in
larger spheres than those prosaic paths trodden by a workaday woman
named Smith.

"What have you found?" he asked, in a delightful voice.

Alicia looked up. Her face was like the break of day for youngness
and freshness, and a wisp of a bright curl misbehaved itself on her
cheek, a flirtatious curl that knew exactly how to make the most of
its opportunities. The young man's eyes approved of it.

"We have found Love!" cried Alicia, breathlessly. "Sophy and I have
found Love in our garden! Isn't it wonderful and impossible and
exciting and delightful? But it's true! And it just goes with this
whole place!" cried Alicia, morning-eyed and May-faced.

The young man's glance came back to me. I should hate to be
untruthful, and have to meet so straight a glance!

"Why, yes. It is impossible, and, like all impossible things,
perfectly true," he agreed, with the golden flecks dancing in and
out of his eyes and a slow and lazy smile, a sort of secret smile,
curving his beautiful, mocking mouth. "Fancy finding Love, of all
things, in Sophronisba's garden!" A fine black line of eyebrow went
up whimsically. "And now that you have found him," said Mr. Jelnik,
"hadn't you better let me help you set him up?"



CHAPTER IV

THE HYNDSES OF HYNDS HOUSE


When the fine weather had taken the kinks out of Judge Gatchell's
joints, he came to see us--a tall, thin, punctilious, saturnine old
gentleman with frosty Scotch eyes and the complexion of a pair of
washed khaki trousers. Chaos reigned in Hynds House then, and he was
forced to pick his way, like an elderly and cautious cat, between
piled-up chairs, tables, and rolls of carpet. In the most stately
manner he parted the tails of his skirted coat, seated himself upon
the sofa, placed his hat beside him, drew up the knees of his black
broadcloth trousers, took off and wiped his spectacles with great
thoroughness and deliberation upon a large silk handkerchief,
replaced them upon the middle of his Roman nose, cleared his throat,
pursed his lips, and drily but clearly talked business.

Great-Aunt Sophronisba would have left a much larger fortune had she
been less addicted to lawsuits. You wouldn't think an old soul of
almost a hundred could find very much chance to brew mischief,
would you? You didn't know Great-Aunt Sophronisba!

I was informed that the case of Scarlett vs. Geddes had been
automatically closed by the death of the plaintiff; _but_ I had
inherited along with Hynds House:

The case of Scarlett vs. The Vestry and Pastor of St. Polycarp's
Church, from whom Mrs. Scarlett sought to recover three
paintings--"Faith," "Hope," and "Charity"--which her father had
commissioned a visiting artist to paint, and had then presented to
St. Polycarp's, with the stipulation that they should "forever hang
in the sacred edifice, reminding the brethren of the Cardinal
Virtues of the Christian Religion."

They did hang in the church for a century. Then, when the Ladies'
Missionary Society was helping "do over" the parsonage, a faded
Faith, a dulled Hope, and a fly-specked Charity were transported
thither. Whereupon suit was immediately brought by the donor's
daughter, who averred that the church had lost all right and title
to the paintings by an action directly contrary to her father's
will, and insisted that they should be turned over to herself as
sole heiress. It was a nice little case, and called forth an
imposing array of counsel. Mrs. Scarlett had added a codicil to her
will, leaving _me_ her claim to the three paintings "fraudulently
withheld by the pastor and vestrymen of St. Polycarp's Church."

There was, too, the question of the lot on Lafayette Street, between
Zion Church on the one hand, and the Y.M.C.A. on the other. Both had
tried to buy it; and both had been refused with contumely. Instead,
that nice old lady ran up extra-sized bill-boards. Every time the
Zionist brethren looked out of their side windows of a Sunday, they
had ample opportunity to learn considerable about the art of
advertising on bill-boards. And if a circus happened to be coming to
Hyndsville, they could count on every child in their Sunday school
missing his lesson, unless the text, by a fortunate chance, happened
to touch upon the prophet Daniel.

And when the Y.M.C.A. people looked out of _their_ side windows,
Sophronisba's alluring bill-boards besought them to smoke only
certain cigarettes and to be sure to look for the trademark on their
playing-cards. Naturally, this made the Y.M.C.A. secretaries very,
very happy.

A weather-beaten picket fence protected the lot upon the street
front; the bill-boards formed the side attractions; and in the
center front was the monument, a stone of stumbling and offense. It
was a neat, plain granite obelisk, which bore this inscription:

             This Stone is Erected
               By the Affection
                      of
           Sophronisba Hynds Scarlett
        To Commemorate the Many Virtues
                      of
    The Most Perfect Gentleman in Hyndsville
                Her Bloodhound
                    NIPPER

"There should have been an open season for Sophronisba," Alicia said
with conviction. Then she put her head down and laughed.

The judge looked at her over his glasses, doubtfully. With a slight
edge to his voice he referred to the several prosecutions "for
wanton and wilful trespassings" upon the closed, barbed-wire lane
behind Hynds House. As the strip in question was not a public
thoroughfare, and Mrs. Scarlett had rock-ribbed titles covering it,
she could close it; and she did, greatly to the inconvenience of her
immediate neighbors, particularly Doctor Richard Geddes.

"There is something to be said for Mrs. Scarlett's methods," said
the judge dryly. "The Lafayette Street bill-boards are the
best-paying ones in Hyndsville. As to closing the lane, Miss Smith,
let me remind you that Doctor Geddes, although an estimable man and
a very able physician, is not at all backward in coming forward in a
quarrel. He greatly angered my late client."

"Nevertheless, that barbed wire comes down. He may use the lane
whenever he wants to," I decided.

The judge bowed. "And now," he said, politely, "let us take up the
case of Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, if you please. It was Mrs. Scarlett's
wish that you should be fully informed concerning Mr. Jelnik's
antecedents, that you might be on your guard."

"Against Mr. Jelnik? But, good heavens, why? Why?" I was beginning
to get angry. "Let me see: I am to make myself odious to Mr. Jelnik,
and I am to refuse to allow a physician to run his car through a
barren strip of weeds and sand, because they are her relatives and
she hated her relatives. I am to vex the souls of harmless
Christians with bill-posters of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
and I'm to pay taxes on a lot that's been turned into a cemetery for
a hound dog. I'm to fight St. Polycarp's Church, for a couple of
chromos I should probably loathe.--I don't like pictures of cardinal
virtues, anyhow. It altogether depends on who possesses them as to
whether I can stand for the cardinal virtues themselves."

"Faith looking up, and Charity looking down, and Hope hanging to an
anchor, _something_ like Britannia-Rules-the-Waves. Make the church
keep them, please, Sophy!" begged Alicia.

Judge Gatchell made an odd noise in his throat.

"One of my little granddaughters, taken to Saint Polycarp's by her
mother, asked, 'Mamma, who is that big woman up there with the
pick-axe?' And they told her," said the Judge, scathingly, "they
told her it was _Hope_!

"When the vestry came to me about the case, I reminded them that
Aholah and Aholibah were damned for doting upon paintings on the
wall, painted in vermilion, which in plain English is Scarlett!" A
covenanting gleam shot into his frosty eyes, and the old fighting
Scotch blood showed for a second in his lank cheek. He was a godly
man, and when he saw confusion in the ranks of the Philistines, he
rejoiced.

"I can't help who was damned," said I. "My job is to live in peace
with my neighbors. St. Polycarp's people may hang their Virtues
wherever they please, for all of me."

Did a faint, faint shade of regret flit over the parchment-like
face? It seemed so to me. But he said, composedly:

"You must act according to your best judgment. And now, please, let
us go back to Mr. Nicholas Jelnik."

We rather prided ourselves upon the possession of so pleasant a
neighbor, and we said so. He had helped us with our garden, and it
was he who selected the spot upon which the resurrected Love should
be set up.

"Ah, yes, the statue, brought from Italy by Richard Hynds, a great
grandfather of his. Did he tell you anything about Richard?" asked
the judge.

"Nothing."

"I shall have to go a long way back, more than a hundred years, to
make you understand," said the judge. "When I was a boy some of the
oldest folk here in Hyndsville used to say that Hynds House never
should have come to Freeman Hynds, Mrs. Scarlett's father; but to
Richard Hynds, his elder brother--that same Richard whose initials
are cut in the base of the statue he brought in his pagan
godlessness from Italy, and which his brother afterward buried,
wishing to remove all trace of him and his follies.

"You are to understand that it was the unwritten law of the Hyndses'
that this house should come to the eldest son. Primogeniture is of
course foreign to American ideas, but this is an old house, Miss
Smith. When it was built, American ideas hadn't been born. And the
Hyndses were a law to themselves.

"The then head of the house was James Hampden Hynds, a man of an
immense pride, a rigid sense of duty, and the nicest notions of
honor. He had two sons, Richard, and the younger brother, Freeman.
The daughters do not count: it is with these two sons we are
concerned.

"From every account Freeman Hynds was a good man, a quiet,
God-fearing, methodical man, attentive to his affairs, and
meticulously exact in all his dealings; not warm-hearted, perhaps,
but just. But as if the bad blood of the entire family had come to a
head in one man, Richard was born a roisterer and a spendthrift.

"He grew up a magnificent young scapegrace, reckless to the point of
madness, and with that inherent love of risk that is the very breath
of life to such men. Despite these defects there is no doubt that
his was one of those personalities that win love without effort. So
of course it was a foregone conclusion that he should win the girl
that his younger brother, among others, adored to distraction.

"His family hoped that his love for his young wife would change him
for the better. But there was something tamelessly wild in Richard
Hynds. He would have done very well, very well indeed, in the
_Golden Hind_ with Drake, or in the _Jesus_ with Morgan. He did not
fit in a gentler generation, and a mild life had no charm for him.
Gossip buzzed with his name, even in a day when gentlemen were
permitted to behave pretty much as they pleased.

"Up to this time there had never been anything altogether
unpardonable charged against him. But one fine morning the Hynds
jewels were missing. Remember that the Hyndses had always been a
wealthy and powerful family. The theft of those jewels was no
trumpery affair. For generations they had been adding to that
collection--sometimes a lustrous pearl, sometimes a flawless
emerald; once it was a sapphire that had belonged to a French queen,
once a pair of rubies that had hung in the ears of a duchess beloved
of King Charles.

"Richard's mother happened to be a meek and quiet body, deeply
religious, something of a Quakeress, so she wore them but seldom. It
was upon the occasion of a ball to be given in honor of Freeman's
twenty-first birthday that the question of what jewels his mother
should wear came up, and the strong-box in which they were kept was
opened. Only the settings remained.

"When the clamor quieted and sane questions began to be asked,
suspicion fastened upon Richard Hynds. His affairs were chaotic, his
needs imperative and desperate. He had been heard to ask his mother
if she intended wearing what he called 'the Hynds fortune' at
Freeman's ball. He knew, of course, where they were kept--in the
anteroom of his mother's apartment. It was not only possible but
easy for him to gain access to them.

"Let us consider the case without prejudice: Here is a young man--a
gambler, a wastrel--with pressing debts, and clamoring creditors
threatening what might be considered dishonor. Within reach of this
young man's hand are certain very valuable properties which he might
even consider his own, since they would in time descend to him. His
mother's resources are exhausted, his father's heart steeled against
further advancements. Cause and effect, you see--debts: missing
jewels.

"The case not only formed two factions in public opinion; it split
the Hynds family itself. His two sisters, and his cousin Jessamine,
raised in this house, believed him guilty. His mother and his wife
believed in his innocence and refused to hear a word against him.
These two things only did Richard Hynds salvage in that utter wreck
and catastrophe--his mother's faith and his wife's love.

"He lost his father's. This was a man, who, under his pleasant
exterior of a landed gentleman, was rigid and inflexible. He had
already borne a great deal, remember; but this was disgrace, an
indelible stain upon a stainless name. Therefore this father, who
was at the same time a just and good man, disinherited his favorite
child and eldest son. House, slaves, lands, money, the great
position of the head of a powerful family, came to Freeman Hynds,
my late client's father, born five years later than his brother, on
the twentieth day of September, 1785--a long time ago! a long time
ago!

"Richard was disgraced, and a beggar. And it seemed that the rod
that had lain in pickle for the Hyndses for their pride, was brought
forth to scourge them all. For Richard, desperate, distracted,
careless of what happened to him, rode out one day through a pelting
rain. Result, congested lungs; the poor wastrel, who had no wish to
live, was soon satisfactorily dead.

"When James Hampden got that news, he rose up from his chair, laid
the book he had been reading--it was Baxter's 'Saint's Rest'--down
on the library table and fell as if lightning had struck him.
Apoplexy, it was said; a thrust through the heart, I should call it.
Richard the sinner was none the less Richard his first-born.

"Hard upon the heels of these two disasters came a third, the case
of Jessamine Hynds. This Jessamine--a highly gifted, imperious
creature, proud as Lucifer, after the manner of the Hyndses--was an
orphan, reared in Hynds House. She was some several years older than
her cousins, to whom she was greatly attached. The trouble so preyed
upon her that she became melancholy, and one fine day disappeared
and was never afterward found. There was great hue and cry made for
her, and men riding hither and yon, for this was a Hynds woman, and
her story touched popular imagination, so that she is supposed,"
said the lawyer dryly, "to wander around Hynds House o' nights,
crying for Richard and searching for the lost jewels.

"After the death of James Hampden Hynds, it was discovered that he
had added a singular enough codicil to his will. This codicil
provided that in the event the jewels were found intact, and Richard
Hynds's innocence thereby incontrovertibly established, Hynds House
as it stood should revert to him as eldest son, after the custom of
the family. _But_ until the jewels were recovered, Richard and his
heirs were to have exactly--nothing. And nothing is what Richard and
his heirs got."

"And was he really guilty?" breathed Alicia. Her sympathy was
instantly with Richard. That is exactly like Alicia, who is sorry
for the fatted calf, and the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea, and
Esau swindled out of his birthright; had she been one of the wise
virgins she would have trimmed the lamps of all the foolish ones and
waked them up in time.

"In theory," said the judge, "a man is innocent until he is proved
guilty. In practice, he is guilty until he can prove his innocence."

"And was nothing, absolutely nothing, ever heard or known
further?--nothing that would justify his mother's faith, or comfort
his poor young wife's heart?"

"There was but one incident to which even the most credulous could
attach the slightest importance. You shall judge for yourself
whether it deserved any. Freeman Hynds, riding about the plantation
after his habit, was thrown from his horse and died from the
injuries sustained. He recovered consciousness for a few minutes
before he died; some said he never really regained it. Be that as it
may, the dying man cried out, in a voice of great anguish and
affliction: '_Richard! Brother Richard! The jewels--the jewels!_' He
struggled to say more, and failed; looked into the concerned faces
around him, with the awful look of the soul about to depart;
struggled to raise himself; and fell back upon his pillow a corpse.

"Some--they were in the majority--said, sensibly enough, that the
pain and disgrace of his brother's downfall had haunted the poor
gentleman's death-bed, and occasioned that last sad cry. Some few
said he had wished to confess a thing heavy upon his conscience, who
had taken his brother's place as Jacob took Esau's. Richard's wife,
of course, was of these latter. She went to her grave a passionate
believer in the innocence of her husband, whom she averred to have
been a deeply wronged and cruelly used man; and, for heaven's sake,
who do you suppose she claimed had wronged him? Freeman! She
couldn't prove anything; she hadn't the ghost of a clue to hang the
ghost of an accusation upon; yet, womanlike, she clung to her
notion, and she taught it to her son as one teaches a holy creed.

"The Hyndses were excellent haters. Freeman's daughter, born into an
atmosphere of family disruption, abhorred the very memory of her
uncle, and hated her uncle's wife, the woman who doubted and led
others to doubt her father's honesty. This hatred she discovered for
Richard's son, who, as he grew older, referred to Freeman as 'my
Uncle Judas.'

"This second Richard became in time a highly successful physician, a
man honored and beloved by this community. There was no wildness in
_him_, nor in his son, the third Richard. His granddaughter Sarah
Hynds married Professor Doctor Max Jelnik, the celebrated Viennese
alienist, whom she met abroad. Your next-door neighbor is Sarah's
son, born somewhere in Hungary, I believe. Both the young man's
parents are dead, and I understand he has led a vagrant and
irresponsible life, preferring to rove about rather than follow his
father's profession, to which he was educated.

"My late client, indeed, held that he had inherited the deplorable
characteristics of the first Richard. She asserted--she allowed
herself great freedom of speech--that you can't make a silk purse
out of a sow's ear. It displeased her that he should come to
Hyndsville. She thought it showed a malignant nature and a peculiar
shamelessness that he chose to reside next door to Hynds House, from
which his great-great-grandfather had been so ignominously driven.
Her first meeting with the young man bred in her an ineradicable
dislike."

Now what really happened is this: The fences having been neglected,
and in consequence fallen down, and the hedge broken in many places,
Mr. Jelnik, just come to Hyndsville, thoughtlessly and perhaps
ignorantly crossed the sacred Scarlett boundaries. Up-stairs behind
her blind, like an ancient spider in her web, the old lady spied
him. She flung open the window and leaned out.

"Who are you that prowl about other peoples' yards like a thievish
cat?" she demanded peremptorily.

The young man looked up, uncovering his beautiful head.

"I am Nicholas Jelnik. And I pray your pardon, Madame: I did not
mean to intrude," and he made as if to go.

"Jelnik!" said she, in a hoarse and croaking voice. "Jelnik! Aha! I
know your breed! I smell the blood in you--bad blood! rotten bad
blood! You've a bad face, young man: a scoundrelly face, the face of
a fellow whose grandfather robbed his house and shamed his name! And
why have you come near Hynds House, at this hour of the day? He, he,
he! _I_ know, _I_ know!"

Lost in astonishment, Jelnik remained staring up at her. The
apparition of this venerable vixen, who had hated Richard's son and
now hated him of a later generation, who had seen those that had
talked to Richard himself in his ill-fated lifetime, so stirred his
imagination that it deprived him of utterance. All he could do was
to stand still and stare and stare and stare. He had never seen
anybody so old--she was nearly a hundred, and looked a thousand--and
he stared at the old, old, wrinkled, yellow face, the unhuman face,
in which the beady black eyes burned with wicked fire; at the nearly
bald head, thinly covered with a floating wisp or so of wool-like
white hair; at the claw-like, shriveled, yellow hands, the stringy
neck, the whole sexless meager wreck of what had been a woman. It
was a stare made up of wonder, and instinctive dislike, and human
pity, and young disgust. She raised her voice:

"Did you not see those signs? Scoundrel, puppy, foreign-born poacher,
didn't you see my sign-boards?" And as she looked down at
him--Richard's blood alive and red in a youthful and beautiful body:
and _she_ what she was--she fell into one of those futile and
dreadful fits of rage to which the evil old are subject; and mumbled
with her skinny bags of lips, and shook and nodded her deathly head,
and waved her claw-like hands, screeching insults and abuse.

The pity died out of Jelnik's face. He regarded her with his
father's eyes, the calm, impersonal, passionless gaze of the trained
alienist. She was an unlovely exhibition, to be studied critically.
In some subtle manner she understood, for she jerked herself out of
her anger, and fell silent, regarding him with a glance as
brilliantly, deadly bright as a tarantula's. The cold, relentless
hate of that glance chilled him. He forced himself to bow to her
again, and to beat a dignified retreat, when his inclination was to
take to his heels like a school-boy caught pilfering apples.

The next morning a bailiff presented Mr. Nicholas Jelnik with a
notice forbidding him to enter the grounds of Hynds House without
the written permission of the owner, and threatening prosecution
should he disobey.

"The Hyndses, as I have said, are good haters," finished Judge
Gatchell.

"And so she left Hynds House to me," said I without, I am afraid,
much gratitude.

"It was hers, to dispose of as she chose." The lawyer spoke crisply.
"If you have any scruples, dismiss them. My late client understood
that it was far better for the estate to fall into the hands of a
sensible woman like yourself than into the keeping of a young man
with what foolish people like to call the artistic temperament,
which in plain English means a person who can't earn his salt in any
useful, sensible business.

"You doubt this? Let us consider this same artistic temperament and
its results," continued the judge, making a wry face. "Once or twice
it has been my bad fortune to meet it. One trifling scamp I have in
mind, painted. A house, a fence, a barn, even a sign-board? Not at
all, but messes he called 'The Sea,' one doesn't know why, save that
the things slightly resembled raw oysters. However, the women raved
over him. His laundress and his landlady had good cause to rave!

"He wrote, too. A text-book, a title, a will, a deed, a business
letter? Far from it! He wrote _poetry_, if you please! The little
wretch wrote _poetry_! That's what the artistic temperament leads a
man to! Bah! I hate, I despise, I abhor, the artistic temperament!"

We looked at the judge, open-mouthed. "Who would have thought the
old man to have had so much blood in him?"

"There have been times," admitted the judge, subsiding, "when I
radically disagreed with my late client; when I opposed her
strongly. But when she willed her whole estate to you, Miss Smith,
instead of to Nicholas Jelnik, I heartily approved. Understand, I
have no personal bias, no animosity against this young man; but he
is, I am told, more or less of an artist, and one might as well
leave an estate to an anarchist at once. I have expressed this
opinion to the town at large, and I seldom express my opinion
publicly," finished the old jurist stiffly.

I heard that opinion with mingled emotions.

"But we like Mr. Jelnik," I said at last. "The injunction against
him doesn't hold water. Personally, I feel like apologizing to him."

"Oh, no! One can't afford to cuddle an old vendetta, as Abishag
dry-nursed old King David. I always _hated_ Abishag!" Alicia said
naïvely.

"My late client," said the judge enigmatically, "hadn't counted on
_you_." He almost succeeded in looking human when he said it, and
his eyes upon Alicia weren't at all frosty. Then he folded his
papers, replaced them in his wallet, wiped his glasses, shot his
cuffs, hoped we'd find Hynds House all we'd hoped, hoped the town
would be to our liking, hoped he could be of further service to us,
bowed creakily, and took his departure.

"Sophy," said Alicia, after a long pause, "if ever I had to
rechristen this house, I'd call it Hornets' Nest."

       *       *       *       *       *

We had not attended church on our first Sunday, because we were too
tired. But on our second Sunday we plucked up heart of grace and
went to St. Polycarp's.

The old town wore an air of Sabbath peace and quietness infinitely
soothing to the spirit. People passed and repassed us. We knew they
knew who we were. The old gentlemen, indeed, bowed to us with
stately uncoverings of the head; the rest regarded us with the sort
of impersonal and perfunctory interest one bestows upon
uninteresting passing strangers. Nobody spoke to us, though the eyes
of the young men were not unaware of Alicia's fairness.

In a great city, of course, one takes that sort of thing for
granted; but in this small town, where everybody knew and spoke to
everybody else, the effect was chilling.

"Talk about the sunny South!" murmured Alicia. "Why, my teeth want
to chatter!"

During the services I was conscious of covert glances in our
direction, but whenever a pair of feminine eyes met mine, they slid
off like lizards and glided another way, with calculated Christian
indifference. They weren't hostile, nor unfriendly: they were just
deliberately indifferent. Nobody had the faintest notion of being
heedful of us strangers among them; and I should be sorry for angels
who expected to be entertained unawares in South Carolina!

When the congregation had filed out and gone about its leisurely
business, the minister and his wife came forward to greet us. They
were a bit nervous, remembering the diabolic uproar about Faith,
Hope, and Charity. Mr. Haile was a mild-mannered little man of the
saved-sheep type, with box-plaited teeth and a bleating voice. His
wife had the worried face and the anxious eyes of the minister's
helpmeet, and the painfully ready smile for newcomers who might, or
might not, prove desirable parishioners.

She wanted to be nice to us as a Christian woman to women, but not
too nice as the minister's wife of a church whose members looked
upon us as interlopers. I had deputed Judge Gatchell to inform the
trustees that the suit was dropped. I suppose Mrs. Haile was timid
about broaching the delicate subject, for she ignored it with a
nervous intensity that made me feel sorry for her. She and Mr. Haile
would call just as soon as it was convenient for us to receive
visitors; and then they shook hands with us, and I think they
breathed a sigh of relief.

"Oh, Sophy! And we've got to keep on going there!--next Sunday, and
Sunday after next Sunday, and maybe every Sunday after that until we
die! Perhaps after a while some of them will bow to us, or maybe
even say, 'How do you do?' _but_ we'll feel as if we'd been put in
cold storage every time we enter that door!" wailed Alicia.

"It is our Father's house," I reminded her.

"But I don't want to be made to feel like a spanked child, in
anybody's house!" Alicia said, resentfully.

"You say that because you're Irish."

"You say I say it because I'm Irish because you're English." Then
she screwed up her mouth like a coral button, and squinted her eyes:
"I'm Irish, and you're English, and we're both American. Sophy,
let's join my Irish and your English to our Yankee, and teach this
town a lesson!"

"Barkis is willin'. But in the meantime let's go home and see what
Mary Magdalen has for lunch."

We walked slowly, enjoying the calm, lovely late-summer day.
Hyndsville at its best was a big, green, sprawling old town, a
quaint, unpainted, leisurely, flowery, bird-haunted place, with
glorious trees, and do-as-they-please, independent gardens. Nobody
ever seemed to be in a hurry, and at first we used to wonder how
they ever got anything done, or kept pace with the moving world; yet
they did. Only, they did it without haste and without noise. And
they were _always_ polite. Though they should take your substance,
your reputation, or even, perhaps, your life, they would do it like
ladies and gentlemen.

We paused a while, just inside the big brick-pillared gate, and
looked up the oak-arched garden path toward our house. Of course one
can't expect an old fortress of a brick house that's been neglected
for more than three quarters of a century to look spick and span
inside of a brief fortnight, but already Hynds House was sitting up,
so to speak, and taking notice.

Life had begun to flow back into it. Mary Magdalen had brought a dog
with her--a yellow dog of unknown ancestry, of shamefaced demeanor,
a ropy tail, splay feet, and a rolling eye; named, she and heaven
alone knew why, Beautiful Dog.

He shunned Alicia and me because we were white people: Beautiful Dog
was intuitively aware that colored people's dogs must meet white
people with suspicion, aloofness, and reserve. When we fatuously
sought to make friends with him, he tucked his tail between his
legs, and shivered as if we made goose-flesh come out on his spine;
and once when I took him by his rope collar he fell down and
shrieked. But just let Mary Magdalen roll out an unctious, "Whah is
yuh, Beaut'ful Dawg?" and his ears and tail went up, he curveted,
and made uncouth movements with his splay feet, and grinned from ear
to ear.

Doctor Geddes's Mandy had brought over the black kittens and their
mother. Mary Magdalen made sure of their staying at home by the
simple process of buttering their paws. In South Carolina, when you
want a cat to stay in your house, you butter its paws and let it
lick the butter off leisurely, the while you whisper in its left
ear: "_Stay in my house for keeps, cat!_" The cat will ever
thereafter play Ruth to your Naomi.

Our cat was Mrs. Belinda Black, and her children were Potty Black
and Sir Thomas More Black, this last being a creature of noble mien
and a meditative turn of mind.

"Homage and praise to Bast, the cat-headed, the wise one, the great
goddess!" purred Alicia, stroking Mrs. Belinda Black's satiny head.
"And may Sekhet the Cat of the Sun aid me, a devotee at her shrine,
to butter the paws of some two-legged cats in Hyndsville!"

"You-all's dinnah 's waitin'." Mary Magdalen stubbornly held to the
notion that any meal eaten between breakfast and night was dinner;
lunch being sandwiches and fried chicken taken out of a basket at
church picnics and eaten out of one's hand, or lap, for choice.
"What was de text to-day, Miss Sophy? Ah sort o' likes to chaw easy
on a mout'ful o' text whilst Ah 'm washin' up mah dishes."

We gave her the text, which happened to be one that fills every
negro's heart with undiluted joy: "O ye dry bones, hear the word of
the Lord." And we had the satisfaction of hearing her rolling out,
to the clatter of pans and pots:

         "Dry bones in de valley,
            Ma-a-ah, La-a-awd!
          Whut yuh gwine do wid dem dry bones,
            Ma-ah-ah La-a-a-w-wd"

while we went up-stairs to change our frocks. We were still sharing
one room then, finding it more convenient. And there, in front of
our door, in a nest of ferns and mosses, was a great cluster of wild
flowers, summer's last and autumn's first children. They had been
gathered in no ordered garden, but taken from the skirts of the
fields and the bosom of the woods; and Carolina the opulent, the
beautiful, the free-handed, does not deck herself niggardly.

Alicia's face that had been so wistful lighted with a sudden joy.
She gave a happy cry:

"Ariel!" she cried, "Ariel! Oh, what a heavenly thing, what a
_human_ thing to do! And to-day, too, just when we need a little bit
of friendliness!" She looked around with a queer, shy smile.

"Ariel!" she called, "Ariel, no matter who comes, or goes, or what
happens in Hynds House, _we_ believe in you. Don't leave us, Ariel!
Maker of music, bringer of blossoms, stay!"



CHAPTER V

"THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF"


Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, with an uplift of his fine black brows and a
satirical smile, once diagnosed the case of Great-Aunt Sophronisba
Scarlett as "congenital Hyndsitis"; Doctor Richard Geddes said you'd
only to take a glance at her house to see that she was predestined
to be damned. _I_ know that she was so hidebound in her prejudices,
so virulently conservative, so constitutionally opposed to change,
that anything savoring of modernity was anathema to her.

That old woman would as lief have had what remained of her teeth
pulled out as have parted with anything once brought into Hynds
House. She preserved everything, good, bad, indifferent. You'd find
luster cider jugs, maybe a fine toby, old Chinese ginger jars, and
the quaintest of Dutch schnapps bottles, cheek by jowl with an iron
warming-pan, a bootjack, a rusty leather bellows, and a box packed
with empty patent-medicine bottles, under the pantry shelf. A
helmet creamer would be full of little rolls of twine, odd buttons,
a wad of beeswax, a piece of asafetida, elastic bands, and corks.
She had used a Ridgway platter with a view of the Hudson River on
it, as a dinner plate for her hound, for we found it wrapped up,
with "Nipper's platter" scrawled on the paper.

By and large, it wasn't an easy task to renovate a brick barracks
finished in 1735, and occupied for ninety-nine years by a lady of
Sophronisba's parts; though I sha'n't tell how we had to tackle it
room by room, nor of the sweating hours spent in, so to speak,
separating the sheep things from the goat things. I can't help
stopping for a minute, though, to gloat over the front drawing-room
that presently emerged, with a cleaned carpet that proved to be a
marvel of hand-woven French art, rosewood sofas and chairs
upholstered in royal blue and rubbed to satiny-browny blackness, two
gloriously inlaid tables, and a Venetian mirror between two windows.

We gave the place of honor on the white marble mantel to a porcelain
painting Alicia found in a work-box--the picture of a woman in gray
brocade sprigged with pink-and-blue posies, a lace fichu about her
slim shoulders, and a cap with a rose in it covering her parted
brown hair. The little boy leaning against her knees had darker blue
eyes, and fairer hair pushed back from a bold and manly forehead.
The painting was about the size of a modern cabinet photograph, and,
though pleasing and spirited, was evidently the work of a gifted
amateur. What gave it potent meaning and appeal was the inscription
lettered on the back:

          _Mrs. Lydia Hariott Hynds & Rich'd. Hynds Ag'd 7
               Paint'd for Col'nl. J.H. Hynds by his
                     Affec. Neece Jessamine_

You couldn't help loving him, the little "Richard Ag'd 7." There was
that in the face which won you instantly; it was so clear-eyed, so
gallant, so brave, so _honest_. So we gave him and his pretty, meek
mother the place of honor in the room that had once heard his
laughter and seen her tears. And we brought down-stairs the fine
painting of Colonel James Hampden, who was the splendid colonial in
claret-color that we had so much admired, and hung him and a smaller
painting marked, "Jessamine, Aged 22" where they could look down on
those two.

These were the only pictures allowed in that room, and they gave to
it an atmosphere flavored most sweetly of yesterday. Indeed, I think
they must have approved of the room altogether, for we hadn't
changed so much as we'd restored it. Even the glass shades that
use'd to shield their wax candles were in their old places. There
was their old-world atmosphere of stateliness; their Chinese jars,
their English vases, their beautiful old Chelsea figures; and the
sampler so painstakingly

            _Work'd by Ann Eliza Hynds
          Ag'd 9 Yrs. 2 Mos., Nov'r, 1757_

that had been carefully framed and mounted as a small fire-screen,
perhaps for Ann Eliza's lady mama or proud grandmother. It was such
human and intimate things, the mute mementoes of children who had
passed, that made us begin to love Hynds House, for all its bigness
and uncanniness and dilapidation.

We did discover one human touch laid upon the place by Sophronisba
herself. She had gathered together a full set of small, hand-colored
photographs of Confederate generals, wrapped them in a hand-made
Confederate flag, into which was tucked a receipt signed by Judah
Benjamin for Hynds silver melted into a bar and given to the Cause,
written, "The glory is departed," across the package, and hidden it.
Alicia, who had a hankering after Confederates, herself, put the
photographs in a leather-covered album at least as old as
themselves, and kept them sacredly. She said these were America's
own vanquished and vanished Trojans, and that one got a lump in the
throat remembering how

          Fallen are those walls that were so good,
          And corn grows now where Troy town stood.

Schmetz brought us our upholsterer, Riedriech the cabinet-maker,
most cunning of craftsmen, who knew all there is to know about old
furniture and just what should and shouldn't be done to it. In
addition he was a grizzled, bearded, shambling old angel who clung
to a reeking pipe and Utopian notions, a pestilent and whole-hearted
socialist who would call the President of the United States or the
president of the Plumbers' Union "Comrade" equally, and who put
propagandist literature in everything but our hair.

"Mr. Riedriech," you would say reproachfully, "yesterday I
discovered Karl Marx and Jean Jaurès lurking behind my coffee-pot
and Fourier under the butter-dish. To-day I find Karl Kautsky in
ambush behind the cream-jug and Frederick Engels under the rolls."

Riedriech would regard you paternally, placidly, benevolently,
through his large, brass-rimmed spectacles:

"So? Little by little the drop of water the granite wears away. I
give you the little leaflet, the little pamphlet, _und_ by and by
comes the little hole in your head."

Thank heaven the doctor next door didn't hear that!

Alicia knew how to handle the old visionary with innocent but
consummate skill. Looking at the kind old bear with her Irish eyes:

"It must be a wonderful thing to have such mastery of one's tools,
to know exactly what to do and how to do it," she would sigh.
"'Tisn't everybody can be a master craftsman!"

"I show you in a little while what iss cabinet-making!" he said
proudly. "I do more yet by you," he added charitably, "then make
over for you chairs and tables and such, already: I make over for
you your little mind."

The old socialist did indeed show us what cabinet-making can be. He
turned the office behind the library into a workroom, and from it
Sophronisba's tattered and torn and forlorn old things emerged,
piece by piece, in shining rosewood and walnut and mahogany majesty.
If you love old furniture; if it gives you a thrill just to touch a
period chair of incomparable grace, or the smooth surface of an old
table, or the curve of a carved sofa, you'll understand Alicia's
open rapture and my more sedate delight.

The tiled fireplace in the library was really the feature of
Hynds House. There wasn't any mantel: the fireplace was sunk into
the wall, and above it and the book-cases on each side was a
space filled with more relics than all the rest of the house
contained--portraits, signed and framed documents, letters, old
flags, and a whole arsenal of weapons. Above the fireplace hung the
portrait of Freeman Hynds--thin, dark, austere, more like a
Cameronian Scotsman than a Carolina gentleman of an easy habit of
life.

However, it was not portrait or relics that made the room
remarkable, but the tiles, each a portrait of a Revolutionary hero.
Laurens, Marion, Lafayette, Pulaski, von Steuben--there they were in
buff and blue, martial, in cocked hats, and with such awe-inspiring
noses! The center and largest tile was, of course, the Father of his
Country, without the hat, but with the nose, and above him the
original flag, with the thirteen stars for the thirteen weak-kneed
little states that were to grow into the great empire of freedom
that the high-nosed, high-hearted soldiers fought for and founded.
Alicia and I touched those tiles with reverence. They were the pride
of our hearts.

As often happens in the South, there were bedrooms on the lower
floor; two of them, in fact, on one side of the hall. The front one
had been not only locked but padlocked; the windows had been nailed
on the inside, and heavy wooden shutters nailed on the outside. So
long had the room been closed that dry-rot had set in. The silk
quilt on the four-poster was falling to pieces, the linen was as
yellow as beeswax, and the sheets made one think of the Flying
Dutchman's sails. This room was of almost monastic severity: an
ascetic or a stern soldier might have occupied it. Besides the bed
it contained four chairs, a clothes-press, a secretary, and a
shaving-stand. On a small table near the bed were a Wedgwood mortar
with a heavy pestle, a medicine glass, and a pewter candlestick
turned as black as iron. The press in the corner still held a few
clothes, threadbare and sleazy, and in the desk were some dry
letters and a Business Book--at least, that's how it was
marked--with lists of names, each having an occupation or task set
down opposite it, I suppose the names of long-dead slaves. On the
fly-leaf was written, in a neat and very legible hand, "_Freeman
Hynds_."

"Sophy!" Alicia's voice had an edge of awe. "This must have been his
room. I believe he died here, in this very bed. And afterward they
shut the room up; and it hasn't been opened until now."

We looked at the old bed, and seemed to see him there, trying to
raise himself, crying out so piteously upon dead Richard's name,
only to fall back a dead man himself. What had he wanted to tell, as
he lay there dying? His painted face in the library was not a bad
man's face. It was proud, stern, stubborn, bigoted; a dark, unhappy
face, but neither an evil nor a cruel one. What was it that really
lay between those two brothers? After more than a hundred years, we
were as much in the dark as they in whose day it had happened and
whose lives it had wrecked.

We built a fire in the long-disused chimney to take the dampness out
of the room, and forced open the windows to let in the good sun and
wind. Over in one corner, pushed in between the clothes-press and
the side wall, was, of all things, a prie-dieu; and upon it a dusty
Bible with his name on the fly-leaf. Nor was it a book kept for idle
show; it plainly had been read, perhaps wept over by a tortured
heart, for it fell open at that cry of all sad hearts, the
Fifty-first Psalm. I was moving this prie-dieu, when my foot slipped
on the bare floor and I dropped it with a crash. Fortunately it was
not injured. But what had looked like a mere line of carving on the
outer edge of the small shelf--rather a thick and heavy shelf now
that one examined it carefully--had been struck smartly, releasing a
cunning spring. There opened out a thin slit of a drawer, just big
enough to hold a flat book bound in leather and stamped with two
letters, "F.H." On the fly-leaf appeared, in his own neat, fine
script, "_The Diary of Freeman Hynds, Esqr._"

The thing seemed incredible, impossible. His own daughter had
evidently been unaware of the existence of this book, which he had
not had time to destroy. And we, as by a miracle, had fallen upon
it--and perhaps the truth!

It was written in so fine and small a hand as was only possible to
the users of goose-quill pens; and this tiny, faded, brown writing
on the yellowed pages covered a period of years. He had not been one
to waste words. Once or twice, as we hurriedly turned the pages,
appeared the name "Emily." Mostly it seemed a dry, uninteresting
thing, a mere memorandum, where a single entry might cover a whole
year.

It was impossible for us to stop our work to read it then and there,
or to do more than give it a cursory glance. We turned feverishly to
those years that covered, as we figured, the period of the Hynds
tragedy. And he had written:

     This day was Accus'd Rich'd. my Bro. of robbing us of our
     Jewells. He protests he knows Naught & my Mthr. believes him
     as doth Emily. Has a true Heart, Emily. Horrid Confusion &
     my Fthr. Confound'd.

Impatiently I turned over the pages, raging to read the end, my
heart pounding and fluttering.

     Two nights since dy'd Scipio, son of old Shooba's wife, the
     which did send for  me--

Thus far had I read, Alicia and I sitting head to head on the hall
stairs. In came Schmetz the gardener, raving, gesticulating, and
after him old Uncle Adam, stepping delicately, and with a placating
smile on his wrinkled countenance.

"Those bulbs that I have planted under the windows of you," raved
Schmetz, "the demon hens of _le docteur_ Geddes are with their paws
upturning! They upturn with rapidity and completeness, led by a
shameless hog of a rooster. Is it the orders of you that I devastate
those fowls, Mademoiselle?"

Schmetz was furiously angry, and small wonder. Those had been choice
bulbs, some of which he had presented me from his own cherished
store--freesias, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and the starred
narcissus, "such as Proserpine let fall, from Dis's wagon."

"Oh, our flowers!" wailed Alicia, springing to her feet; "and we
counting on those bulbs for Christmas!"

I shut Freeman's diary with a snap. Hens were more immediate.

"Put it in the drawer of the library table," called Alicia, running
out with Schmetz at her heels. "We'll read it to-night."

When I had done so, closing the door after me, I too ran outside,
where some enormous black-and-white hens, led by the biggest rooster
I had ever seen, were completing the utter destruction of our
flower bed.

We charged down upon them, and they ran to and fro, after the stupid
fashion of fowls. Back and forth Alicia, Schmetz, and I chased those
brutes; but Adam stood with folded hands, looking on from a safe and
sane distance. He refused to have anything to do with Geddes fowls
in ol' Mis' Scarlett's yard. Just then the huge rooster ran into my
skirts, all but upsetting me. It was the work of a strenuous moment
to seize him by the wings and so hold him.

Left to their own devices, the hens scuttled back to their own
domain through a break in the palings on our side of the hedge,
while in my hands the rooster squawked and plunged and kicked and
struggled; it was like trying to hold a feathered hyena.

I was very angry. I had lost my bulb bed. I couldn't wring the neck
of the raider, much as I should have liked to do so, but with an arm
made strong by a just and righteous rage I lifted that big brute
high above my head and hurled him over into his own yard. He sailed
through the air like a black and white plane.

"_Damn! Oh, damn!_" said somebody on the other side of the hedge.
There was a horrible grunt, as of one getting all the wind knocked
out of him, a scuffle, and the squawks of the big rooster, to which
the hens dutifully added a deafening chorus.

"The brute--has just about--murdered me!" grunted Doctor Richard
Geddes.

We stood in stricken silence. Swiftly, noiselessly, Uncle Adam faded
from sight, putting a solid section of Hynds House between himself
and what he felt was coming battle. Uncle Adam had no wish to have
to pray me to death, and he wasn't going to run any risks with
Doctor Richard Geddes. Where that irascible gentleman was concerned,
Uncle Adam, like Br'er Rabbit, would "trus' no mistakes."

A second later, red-faced, half-breathless, but with the light of
battle in his eyes, Doctor Geddes appeared, mounted on a ladder on
his side of the hedge.

"Who shot off that rooster?"

"_Monsieur le docteur_, the hens of you began this affray,"
explained Schmetz, politely. "They are fowls abandoned in their
morals, horrible in their habits, and shameless in their behavior.
And the husband of these wretches, Monsieur, is a bandit, a brigand,
an assassin, fit only to be guillotined. Observe, Monsieur, it
happened thus--"

"Schmetz," snapped the doctor, "shut up!--Now then, I want to know
who fired off that rooster."

"I did!" I said valiantly. "Look at my bulbs! Just look at my
bulbs!"

"Look at my stomach!" roared the doctor. "Just look at my stomach!"

"_Mon Dieu! O mon Dieu_!" cried Schmetz, dancing up and down.
"Monsieur, again I implore that you will remain calm and listen to
the voice of reason! Your hens, creatures malicious and accursed--"

"Why should I look at your horrid stomach?" said I, outraged. "I
think you had better get down off that ladder and go away!"

"Why should you? Because, you jade, you've all but driven a
twenty-pound rooster clean through it--beak, spurs and tail
feathers--that's why!" bawled the doctor. "Gad! I shall be black and
blue for a fortnight! I'm colicky now: I need a mustard-plaster!"

"_Two_ mustard-plasters," I insisted severely: "one on your tongue
and the other on your temper!"

"Temper?" flared the doctor, and flung up his arms. "_Temper?_
Here's a minx that's all but murdered me, and yet has the stark
effrontery to blather about temper! You've a bad one yourself, let
me tell you! You've the worst, outside of your late aunt--"

"Grand-aunt-in-law; your own cousin-by-blood, whom you greatly
resemble in that same matter of family temper, I am given to
understand."

"Gatchell told you that!" cried the doctor, wrathfully.
"Fish-blooded old mummy! _His_ place is in a Canopic jar! Gatchell
hasn't had a thought since 1845."

"Well, if he satisfied himself so long ago as 1845 that you have a
frightful temper and that your hens are unutterable nuisances, I see
no reason why he should change his mind," I said, frigidly. "You
have; and your hens are; and your rooster is a _demon_!"

"Straight out of the pit; undoubtedly they were hatched under
Satan's wings. Monsieur, believe me, Schmetz, when I tell you so."

"Didn't you ask me," I demanded, "to throw them over into your yard
when they invaded my premises? Very well: I threw one over and you
caught it. Why, then, should you complain?"

"Oh, yes, I caught it!" A horrible sneer twisted his countenance.

Schmetz fell to praying aloud. But he couldn't remember anything
save the grace before meat, so he prayed that, in a sonorous voice.
For he is a pious man.

The doctor's nose wrinkled and his lips stretched: "_Sophronisba!_"
he hissed, and, having hurled this hand-grenade, scuttled down the
ladder like a boy of ten.

Alicia sank upon the ground and rocked to and fro. For a minute I
wanted to catch her by the shoulders and shake her soundly; but
catching her eye instead, I also fell into helpless laughter.
Leaning on his spade, Schmetz stared at us, shaking his grizzled
head.

"Name of a cat!" murmured the puzzled Alsatian, and fell to
salvaging such bulbs as weren't utterly ruined. We were all busy at
this, when a head again appeared over the hedge--a big, leonine head
with a tossing mane and a tameless beard. An enormous pair of
shoulders followed, a tree-trunk of a leg was swung over, and Doctor
Richard Geddes dropped into our garden like a great cat. He strolled
over, hands in pockets, and looking down at grubbing us, asked
politely: "Making a garden?"

"Oh, no," Alicia told him sweetly, "we're laying out a chicken-run."

"Er--what I came over to say, is that I've got some fine bulbs,
myself, this year, particularly fine bulbs--eh, Schmetz?--and more
than I need for myself. Will you share them with me, Miss Smith?
Please! I--well, I'd be really grateful if you would," said this
overgrown boy.

"We'll be enchanted," Alicia said instantly. "When can we have
them, please?"

"Now!" cried the doctor, with brightening eyes. "By jingo, I'll get
'em this minute, and plant 'em for you, too!"

And he did. He was on his knees, trowel in hand, shouting to
Riedriech, who had come outside for a few minutes' happy arguing
with his good friend the doctor, that the socialist argument boiled
down amounts to about this--that one should do without boiled eggs
for breakfast now, in order that the proletariat may have baked hen
for dinner in the millennium; which is lunacy; anybody with a
modicum of brains--

"Brains!" snorted Riedriech. "What is it you know about brains? _No_
doctor knows what is on the inside of brains! You make tinkerings
mit the inside plumbings, _Gott bewahre_! and cut up womens and cats
and such-like poor little dumb beasts and says you, 'Now I know all
about the brains of man.' It is right there where you are wrong,
Comrade Geddes!"

"_Habet!_" said Comrade Geddes.

"Look you," said the old visionary, with sudden passion, "look you
on the little bulb here, so dirty and ugly you hide him in the
ground quick. So! But by and by comes up green shoots, and blossoms.
So it is with the great thoughts of men, the deep race-thoughts,
Comrade Geddes--seeds, bulbs, germs, all of them, in the ugly husks
of the common people. Out of our muck and grime they come, the
little green shoots which the fool will say is poison, maybe, but
which the wise know and labor and make room for. I, Riedriech, and
workers like me, we go into our graves nothing but husks. But it is
out of the buried hearts of us comes green things growing; and
then--_die Blumen! die Blumen!_" said the cabinet-maker, with a
still, far-away look.

"And," he finished, with a sad smile, "it is _our_ flowers that you
put in vases of gold on your altars. And you say, 'Listen: Jesus the
carpenter talks plain words to his fishermen friends.' And, 'Hush!
Burns the plowman makes songs in the field!'"

The doctor looked up, and his eyes were very tender; his smile made
me wonder. With a swift, friendly hand he patted the rougher hand of
the other. And it was at this opportune moment that Mary Magdalen
led around a corner of Hynds House no less personages than Mrs.
Haile and Miss Martha Hopkins. Their eyes fell upon Doctor Richard
Geddes. They looked at each other. They looked at Alicia and me. And
I knew their thoughts: "Sirens, both of you!" said Miss Hopkins's
eyes.

"How do you do, Doctor Geddes!" said both ladies, as demurely as
cats. _I_ should have felt like a boy caught stealing jam. He went
right on planting bulbs.

"Hello, Martha. What's on the carpet now?" he greeted that lady,
airily. "Writing another paper on 'The Ironic Note in Chivalry'? How
about 'The Effect of the Pre-Raphaelites upon the Feeble-minded'? Or
is it the 'Relation of the Child to Its Mother,' this time?"

"You will have your little joke, Doctor," smiled Miss Hopkins, a
dish-faced blonde with a cultured expression.

"Joke?" The doctor stared up at her. "Joke? Gad, I'd like to believe
it!" He turned to Alicia and me, politely: "Miss Hopkins," he
informed us, "moves among us clothed in white samite. She is our
center of culture; Hyndsville revolves around her."

He went on putting a bulb in the place prepared for it. His eyebrows
twitched slightly, but his mouth was smileless; Miss Hopkins was
smiling, and not at all displeased. Mrs. Haile was bland and blank,
as befits a minister's wife. Alicia's eyes were downcast, but a
wicked dimple came and went in her cheek. She looked ravishingly
pretty, the bright hair breaking into curls about her temples, her
young face colored like a rose. I do not blame Doctor Richard
Geddes for stopping in his work to stare at her with unabashed
pleasure, but I do not think it was diplomatic.

Mrs. Haile apologized for calling when we were so very busy. They
had just stopped in passing, because they were reorganizing their
missionary society and wanted to see if they couldn't interest us in
the good work. Their day-school in Mozambique needed another
teacher, and their hospital in Bechuanaland had to have more beds.

Doctor Geddes got to his feet, slapped our garden soil from his
knees, and shook his tawny mane. His eyes were no longer sweet.

"Miss Smith and Miss Gaines, thank you for the opportunity of
playing in the sand in pleasant company. Mrs. Haile, Miss Hopkins, I
go to attend some home-grown niggers who of course don't need a
hospital, nor even a decent school, in our Christian midst. Ladies,
good afternoon!" He made a fleering motion of the hand and was gone.
Mrs. Haile and Miss Hopkins smiled indulgently. Evidently, Doctor
Geddes was one brother they were willing to forgive though he
offended them until seventy times seven.

Alicia and Miss Martha Hopkins walked down the garden path together
and Mrs. Haile fell into step with me. In a low voice she thanked
me, hurriedly, for having dropped that dreadful suit. And were
we--she hesitated--were we going to be regular communicants?

I didn't want to go to St. Polycarp's any more, and it was on the
tip of my tongue to give a politely evasive reply, when our eyes met
and held each other. I saw the naked truth in hers--the pitiful
truth of the slim, poor, aristocratic little parish; the old church
overtaken and surpassed by its more modern and middle-class rivals;
and the minister's family struggling along on a salary that would
have made a hod-carrier strike. She was neatly dressed; she looked
like a gentle-woman, but one in straightened circumstances. I made a
rapid mental calculation.

"Why, yes, I think I can say we shall. Now, Mrs. Haile, I am a
business woman, and if I speak bluntly you must pardon it. Miss
Gaines and I can give two hundred dollars a year between us--fifty
for the church; one hundred and fifty to be added to the minister's
present salary."

I knew what that meant to her, and she must have known I knew, but
she didn't show it by so much as the quiver of an eyelash. Only a
faint, faint color showed in her sallow cheek, and she bowed,
half-formally, half-friendly.

"Thank you, Miss Smith," said she, gallantly. And she added, with a
glimmer of humor in her worried eyes: "As you say you're a business
woman, may I say I hope you will get your money's worth?"

At that I laughed, and she with me.

We walked down our garden path, chatting innocuously and amiably,
until of a sudden they caught sight of the little Love, the gay,
charming, naked little Love, holding his torch above his
curl-crowned head. You miss him, when you come up the broad drive
from the front gate, for Nicholas Jelnik put him in the secretest,
greenest, sweetest spot in all our garden, and you must go down a
winding path to find him.

"So it wasn't an idle tale: they did find it, really!" breathed Miss
Hopkins, staring with all her eyes. And I knew with great certainty
why _she_ had come to Hynds House that afternoon.

"Forgotten all these many years, and now here, like the dead come to
life!" murmured Mrs. Haile, abstractedly. "How strange!"

"It was said he bought it for his mother, because it looked so like
himself as a child," said Miss Hopkins. Then she remembered her
duty, held up two fingers before her eyes, and squinted through them
critically:

"Charming, but don't you think the pose strained? It's an example of
eighteenth-century work, placid enough, but it lacks that plastic,
fluidic serenity, that divine new touch of truth, that is
revivifying art since the great Rodin lighted the torch anew."

Heaven knows what else she said. It sounded like a paper on art to
me, and I have a terror of papers on art. They are, Alicia informs
me, purple piffle. Yet Alicia drank in every word Miss Hopkins
uttered, though the dimple came and went in her cheek.

"You seem interested in art, Miss Gaines." Having torn the poor
little peasant Love to tatters, Miss Hopkins descended to us
groundlings.

"I don't always seem to know what art is," admitted Alicia,
dovelike.

The lady who "moved among us clothed in white samite" smiled
encouragingly.

"That is because you are really little more than a child," she said
kindly. "When you begin to _grow_, you will improve your mind."

Alicia puckered her brows. "Ah, but I'm Irish!" she said, seriously,
"and the Irish hate to have to improve their minds. I imagine it
takes an able-bodied mind to stand intensive cultivation," she
added, guilelessly.

Miss Hopkins smiled: it was a masterpiece, that smile!

"But why, may I ask, did you choose such a situation for the
statue?" she inquired critically. "Now, _I_ should never dream of
tucking it in such an out-of-the-way place!"

The pucker came back to Alicia's brow.

"Shouldn't you?" she wondered. "I shall make a point of mentioning
that to Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, if you don't mind. You see, he chose
that spot, and we rather like it, ourselves."

Miss Hopkins stopped dead short, and Mrs. Haile started in spite of
herself. Evidently, the situation was beyond them. Didn't we _know_?
How much had Judge Gatchell seen fit to tell us? Alicia had dropped
a bomb-shell that before night would detonate in every house in
Hyndsville. They haven't very much to talk about in small towns,
except one another, and when a plump mouse of gossip frisks about
whisking his tail, why, it is cat nature to pounce upon it.

"Mr. Jelnik!" said Miss Hopkins, with an accent. "Oh, I see.
Well--he is a neighbor, of course. Certainly if Mr. Jelnik selected
that particular spot for the statue--he of all people has the best
right to do so--and to have his wishes considered."

"Of course. He has lived abroad, and seen everything of art there is
to see," Alicia agreed, placidly. Which wasn't at all what Miss
Hopkins meant.

We could see those two women turning the thing over and over in
their minds--Nicholas Jelnik, last heir and descendant of Richard
Hynds, tactily (perhaps even gladly; for had they not just witnessed
the behavior of Doctor Richard Geddes?) accepting the interlopers in
the house of his fathers! Nicholas Jelnik selecting the site for the
statue Richard had brought home in pride, and Freeman had buried in
sorrow! Miss Hopkins's stare dismissed me, shifted to Alicia, and
discovered the cause of this shameless surrender of family pride.
Her lips tightened. With politely cold hopes that we should like
Hyndsville, and warmer hopes that we would join the missionary
society, they left us.

"Wedge Number One: The poor dear heathen, Sophy!" smiled Alicia.
"The P.D.H. can be a very present help in times of social trouble,
can't he? I shall attend that missionary meeting, and take stock.
Incidentally (For goodness' sake, don't look so scandalized, Sophy
Smith! this is a fight for our lives, so to speak!) incidentally, I
shan't do the P.D.H. any harm. He won't be a bit worse than he was
before, which is promising." She put two fingers before her laughing
eyes, squinted through them, and drawled:

"You lack subtlety, Miss Smith. Cultivate your imagination, my
dear!" in Miss Hopkins's best voice.

Riedriech stuck his grizzled head out at a window, cautiously:

"Fräulein, she hass gone?" And seeing that the coast was clear,
he added, vehemently: "Cultivate the mindt! Cultivate the
imatchination! _Ach, lieber Gott! Dornröschen_, cultivate you the
_heart_. It iss not what the woman thinks, but what she loves, what
she feels, which makes of the world a home-place for men und
_kinder_." The good old Jew nodded his head vigorously at the girl,
smiled, and went back to his work. And Schmetz came and finished the
bulb bed by covering it carefully with two thicknesses of
chicken-wire.

That night, just before we went up-stairs, I went into the library
after Freeman Hynds's diary, which we were simply burning to read. I
opened the table drawer in which I had placed it. The drawer was
quite empty. The little flat book was gone.



CHAPTER VI

GLAMOURY


Alicia insisted that we were living in a fairy-story, and had better
enjoy every shining minute while it lasted. But, as I pointed out,
the cost of restoring Hynds House was appallingly real, so real that
it left a big, big hole in the bank-account. It is true that we who
never really had had a home since we were little children, and then
the most modest sort, had gotten such a home as comes to but few.
But--one doesn't get something for nothing!

We had done our part for Hynds House; now Hynds House had to do its
part for us. It had to earn its keep, and ours. We had known that
from the beginning, and Alicia mapped out the entire plan of how
it was to be done; a plan which I at first looked upon as the
fairy-storiest part of the whole thing!

To-night we sat facing each other across the library table, with a
great pile of receipted bills between us, the total of which made me
feel pale. Alicia, however, was cheerfully figuring away on her own
hook; and presently she shoved a list of addresses across to me.

The first two were the head of our old firm, and the one celebrity
I had ever seen or spoken to, a novelist and lecturer with
record-breaking best sellers to his account. He once had some
business dealings with our firm, and I attended to the details,
thereby winning his cantankerous approval. He had very bad manners,
of which he was totally unashamed, and very good morals, of which
he was somewhat doubtful, as they didn't smack of genius; a notion
that he was a superior sort of Sherlock Holmes, having the
truffle-hound's flair for discovering and following up clews and
unraveling mysteries, most of which didn't exist outside of his own
eager mind; and such a genuine passion for old and beautiful things
as Balzac had. It was upon this last foundation that Alicia was
building.

"He has written that the average wealthy modern home is a
combination of Pullman Palace Car and Gehenna. And that the
so-called crime wave which sweeps recurrently over American cities,
is very likely nothing more than the inevitable reaction of our
damnable house decorations upon our immature intellects." Alicia
repeated it dreamily. "I have chosen for him the upper southwestern
room with the sunset effect and the pineapple four-poster. It has a
claw-footed desk of block mahogany, three hand-carved walnut chairs,
two Rembrandt prints, and a French prie-dieu with a purple velvet
cover embroidered with green and gold swastikas. He has a purple
soul with gold tassels on it, himself, Sophy, and he should be
willing to pay a thumping price for it. That room is worth at least
two lectures and one best seller, not to mention what he'll get out
of the rest of the house."

"First catch your hare," I reminded her skeptically.

"First set your trap, and you can reckon on hare nature to do the
rest. A few good photographs of this house, along with the
information that it runs back to the beginning of things American
and has never been exploited, will fetch him at a hand-gallop. Add a
hint that we have our own brand of family spook, and you couldn't
keep him away if you tried. The only trouble is that he may walk off
with your brass tongs up his trouser-leg, or a print or two tucked
under his shirt."

We had decided that we would have a series of photographs of the
house, with all particularly good points stressed; such as, say, the
library fireplace, the fan-light window at the end of the upper
hall, the pillared front porch, and a corner of the drawing-room.

Also--and this was the great thing, calling for a heavy outlay--we
would advertise in some two or three of the ultra periodicals, the
advertisement to carry a stunning little cut of our front porch. We
decided to run the risk of expending more money than we could really
afford, because the people that advertisement was meant to attract
would in the long run pay for it.

"Our prices will be predacious, piratical, prohibitive, and
profitable. We shall stop just this side of highway robbery.
Therefore our demands will be cheerfully, nay, willingly met; and
everybody, including you and me, Sophy, will be satisfied and
happy!"

"_Boarders!_" said I, limply, "_boarders_--in Hynds House!"

"Perish the thought! We have possibly the most interesting and
beautiful old house in America. It's one of the few really historic
houses left in the whole South. It has seen the Indians, it has seen
the British, it has seen Sherman's men, and escaped them all. Well,
then, we propose to allow certain of the elect, who can afford it,
to come and live in Hynds House for a while. They will be willing to
pay a round sum for the privilege. That's all."

"Oh, is it, indeed! And will they?"

"Won't they, though!" Alicia spoke confidently. "Now draft me a
letter to the Head, setting forth the many reasons why himself, his
wife, their car, and her Chow, can't afford to miss Hynds House on
their trip South this season. You might explain that Mary Magdalen
is our cook, and the Queen of Sheba our hand-maid. Also, please help
me decide in which of these magazines we had better advertise
first."

"But the cost!" I wailed. "We have spent so sinfully much already!
And the place is eating its head off, with nothing coming in. Since
I took down those bill-boards, actually the price of that Lafayette
Street lot has gone down. Nobody seems anxious to buy it any more."

"Change your mind about selling it; hint that you're  considering an
ice-cream parlor and a movie theater," said the girl who'd been the
worst file-clerk. "In the meantime, Sophy, you have sense enough to
understand that we've spent so much money we've got to spend more to
get some of it back.--I vote we start in this one, Sophy," and she
laid her finger upon the most expensive and ultra of all the
magazines!

"But that is for _millionaires_!" said I, aghast.

"So is Hynds House," insisted Alicia, coolly. "How much did you say
was in the bank?"

I was afraid to hear my own voice mention that insignificant sum;
for, when one considered Hynds House, the little we had was
beggarly; so I wrote it down, and pushed the paper across to her.
Instead of looking scared, Alicia Gaines looked delighted!

"All that?" And round chin on pink palm, she fell to studying me
with as much curiosity as if she had just met me and were puzzled to
get at the real Me. Then she nodded, and snatching a sheet of paper,
began to figure again, pausing every now and then to regard me with
slitted eyes. At the end of ten strenuous minutes she pushed the
paper over to me, and watched me grow all but apoplectic as I
studied it. It was an entertaining list, beginning with a hat and
ending with silk stockings. With all sorts of wonderful things in
between--for me, you understand. Things like "One brown frock, with
something cloudy-yellow about it." ("Sophy, blondes can stand yellow
wonderfully well; I suggest a bronze, instead of a duller brown.")

"Why, I have plenty of clothes!" I protested.

"Business-woman-of-a-certain-age, general-utility,
will-stand-wear-and-tear clothes. Not a stitch of Hyndshousey
clothes among them. No _happy_, glad-I'm-alive-and-a woman clothes.
Here's where you cease to look merely useful, respectable, and
responsible, and begin to look the Lady of the Castle. There's quite
as much philosophy and good morals in looking like a butterfly as
there is in resembling a caterpillar."

"_Why_ should I have more clothes?" I demanded.

"Because." And she added, with a fleeting smile, "And then catch
your hare."

"Alicia!" said I, scandalized. "Alicia Gaines, do you realize I am
thirty-six years old?"

"You wouldn't be if you just had sense enough to forget to remember
it." This resentfully.

"No? Would you mind telling me how I might become such an
accomplished forgetter?"

"Why, there's nothing easier! When you really wish to forget to
remember something, Sophy, all you have to do is to remember to
forget it!" And then, with real earnestness: "Sophy, it's the better
part of wisdom to look like the job you want to hold down. Your job
is holding down Hynds House. And we are up against things, Sophy,
you and I. We have got to win out because it means--all this." Her
eyes swept over the beautiful old room with an immense pride and
affection.

"We have just _got_ to keep Hynds House, if only to teach these
Hyndsville women a lesson." She spoke after a pause. "Sophy, they
flatten their ears and arch their backs at sight of us; and whenever
there's a good chance for a wipe of a paw, why, we catch it across
the nose. Now I," she admitted frankly, "am naturally full of cat
feelings myself. I will not do what _you_ want to do--walk off
looking aggrieved, after the fashion of Old Dog Tray. I will repay
in kind, retaliate in true lady-cat manner. And these,"--she began
to smile--"these shall be our weapons of offense and defense. It
will be a gorgeous struggle; however, my forebears came from
Kilkenny!"

I laughed, but indeed I did not feel any too optimistic. Holding
down Hynds House was no easy task, and the town was not disposed to
make it easier for us. While we had been busy renovating, while our
hands were so full of work that every minute was occupied, we hadn't
felt our isolation. It was only when we had time to pause and look
around us, that the stubborn, quiet hostility of the town's attitude
to the new owner of Hynds House was borne in upon us.

Not that anything overt was done by any one. Nor was there the
slightest breach of politeness: they were as punctiliously polite
when chance brought us into contact with them, as well-bred folk are
to strangers whose further acquaintance they have no desire to
cultivate. The vestrymen of St. Polycarp's had expressed their
appreciation of Miss Smith's action in promptly dropping the suit
against them; she was welcome to come and worship God in their
church, and to do her duty by the heathen. Such ladies as happened
to belong to the missionary society spoke to us pleasantly in the
church vestibule. The minister and his wife were as sincerely,
duteously courteous. But that was all. Not a house in Hyndsville
opened its doors to us. They simply would not accept the interloper
that the malignity of the Scarlett Witch had put in possession of
that which should have gone back to Richard's last heir, or failing
him, to Richard Geddes.

The fact that these two descendants of the Hyndses did not seem to
see and do their duty as members of that illustrious family, but
shamelessly made friends with the aliens, did not raise us in the
town's estimation. Quite the contrary. Nor were they even faintly
angry with Mr. Jelnik and Doctor Geddes, who were, so to say,
unsuspicious Israelites coaxed into the Canaanitish camp.

I admit that I considered Doctor Richard Geddes undiplomatic in his
behavior. It never once occurred to that lordly gentleman, who had
had his own way ever since he was born, that he should stop now to
consider the feelings or the prejudices of Hyndsville. It wasn't
that he meant to champion _us_. It never occurred to him that we
needed championing. He simply liked us because he liked us. We
pleased him. That sufficed, so far as he was concerned.

I had begun really to like the doctor, myself. But I wished to
heaven he weren't, at that critical time, so tactless. For instance,
I have been peremptorily taken by an elbow and led willy-nilly to
his waiting car, on Lafayette Street, which is our principal
thoroughfare, under the calm, appraising, watching eyes of all
feminine Hyndsville. Not one of whom would fail to remark, casually:

"Oh, _did_ you see that Miss Smith with Doctor Geddes this morning?
Men are so unsuspicious, aren't they!"

I couldn't explain the situation to him, of course, any more than I
could explain to Mr. Nicholas Jelnik that _his_ presence in Hynds
House, while pleasing to us, was disquieting and displeasing to
others.

It was to be expected that this handsome young man, who kept his
affairs so strictly to himself that nobody knew anything about them,
should arouse the avid curiosity and hold the breathless interest of
a little town where everybody had always known everybody else's
business.

Why had he come to Hyndsville? To find the Hynds jewels, after a
century? Didn't he know that the Scarlett Witch had the eye of an
eagle for the glitter of gold and would long since have discovered
whatever of value had been in Hynds House? Why didn't he consult
older members of the community, who could furnish him with
immensely interesting side-lights on the Hyndses?

Mr. Jelnik never explained. He didn't ask anybody anything. He
didn't even employ Hyndsville negroes, who could be expected to
gossip: his household consisted of a stately bronze-colored
man-servant who was reputed to be a pagan, and the huge wolf-hound,
Boris, his constant companion.

When Doctor Geddes was delicately sounded, the big man explained
that he himself had but recently made the acquaintance of his young
kinsman; Jelnik was a first-rate chap, declared the doctor;
immensely clever, as befitted his father's son; altogether likeable,
but a bit of a lunatic, like all the Hyndses.

It was natural, too, that the young ladies in a small town where
young men are at a premium should have noticed this one particularly
and expected a like interest on his part. The inexplicable Jelnik
failed to exhibit it. There was but one house that he visited, and
that was Hynds House.

Whatever his reasons for this may have been, and the town named
several, the fact remains that Hynds House would never have been so
beautiful, the restoration wouldn't have been so nearly perfect, had
it not been for the critical taste of Mr. Jelnik. He had the
European knowledge of beautiful things, and, toward the finer graces
of life, the attitude of Paris, of Rome, of Vienna, rather than of
New York, of Chicago, or of, say, Atlanta.

There was a glamour about the man. Whatever he did or said had an
indefinable, delightful significance; what he left undone was full
of meaning. His mere presence ornamented and colored common moments
so that they glowed, and remained in the memory with a rainbow light
upon them. He was never hurried or flurried, any more than sun and
sky and trees and tides are; and he was just as vital, and quite as
baffling.

We accepted him at first as part of the fairy-story into which
Destiny had pitchforked us. He belonged to Hynds House, so to speak,
and there one might meet him upon common ground. But sometimes when
I happened to glance up I would find him watching us with those
reflective eyes that were so full of light and at the same time so
inscrutable. And then he would smile, his Dionysiac smile that made
him all at once so far off and so foreign that I knew, with a
sinking heart, that he didn't belong at all; that this beautiful and
brilliant bird of passage was lightening for but a very brief space
my sober skies.

Alicia said he made her think of peacocks and ivory. He delighted
and dazzled her, though he did not disquiet her as he did me,
perhaps because she, too, was young and beautiful, and I--wasn't.

It will be seen, then, that our position, take it by and large,
wasn't one that called for flags and buntings. Life didn't look a
bit rose-colored to me as I sat there that night, drafting a letter
to the Head. Of a sudden arose clamor in the hall, and howls,
hideously loud at that hour and in that quiet house. There came the
noise of running feet, and there burst into the lighted library,
with gray faces and rolling eyes, our two lately acquired colored
maids, Fernolia the thin one, and Queen of Sheba, fat and brown.

"Good heavens! What's the matter?" I asked, fearfully. It had been a
terrible task to break in those two handmaids, to train them _not_
to take part in the conversation at table, _not_ to take off cap,
and hair, not to do the thousand and one undisciplined and
disorderly things they did do.

"Ghostes! Sperets! Ha'nts!" chattered the colored women. "Ol' Mis'
Scarlett's walkin' in de ca'iage house!"

"Nonsense!" At the same time I felt myself turning pale, and
goose-flesh coming out on my spine.

"No, ma'am, Miss Sophy, 't ain't nonsense. It's ha'nts!" protested
Fernolia. She was the brighter of the two, but given to embroidering
her facts.

"Yessum, I done saw 'er," corroborated Queenasheeba. (That's how one
pronounced her name.)

The two occupied a very pleasant room above the carriage house, a
room that had overcome their unwillingness to stay overnight at
Hynds House. Queenasheeba was just dozing, when she was awakened by
Fernolia, who had been sitting by the window. Both of them, peering
through the scrim curtains, saw a tall white figure disappear into
the spring-house. A few minutes later, to their horror, they heard
Something moving downstairs in the carriage house--Something like
the clank of a chain--footsteps--and then silence. Almost paralyzed
with terror, the two women clung together. _Anything_ might be
expected of ol' Mis' Scarlett! However, nothing further happened.
With shaking hands Queenasheeba relighted the lamp. Then, snatching
up such clothes as they could grab, the two fled to us.

Mary Magdalen and Beautiful Dog always departed after dinner. Except
for the Black family and the two canaries, Alicia and I had big,
lonesome Hynds House to ourselves. Mr. Jelnik's gray cottage, set
amid Lombardy poplars and thick shrubberies, was some distance
away, and we didn't know whether Doctor Geddes was at home or not.
It is true we had firearms, a pair of pistols having been literally
forced upon us by the doctor, who fretted and fumed about our
staying there alone. Both of us were more afraid of those pistols
than of any possible ghostly intruder.

Nevertheless, I went up-stairs and fetched them. Alicia took one as
she might have taken a rattlesnake, and I held the other. Armed
thus, carrying torch-light and lantern, and with the two gray-faced,
half-clad negro women following us, one carrying our brass poker and
the other the tongs, we marched upon the carriage house.

The big barnlike place, lately cleaned and whitewashed, looked
painfully empty. In one of the stalls the hay purchased for our
recently acquired Jersey cow gave off a pleasant odor. Over in one
corner, in a neat, clean, orderly array, were Schmetz's tools. A
little farther on was our chicken feed, in covered barrels.

We went from empty stall to empty stall, to reassure the women;
there wasn't so much as a cobweb in any of them. All the down-stairs
windows were heavily barred with iron and further protected, like
the doors, with heavy oaken shutters studded with iron nail-heads.
The two small rooms in the rear had once been used as a jail for
recalcitrant slaves; they held now nothing deadlier than Schmetz's
flower pots and seedlings. Every shutter was closed, and the iron
bars looked reassuringly strong; also, the walls are three feet
thick.

"You were dreaming, you silly women! I told you you were dreaming!"
said I, and had turned to go, reassured and relieved, when Alicia's
nose wrinkled. I could hardly keep from sniffing, myself.

In the carriage-house was a faint, indeterminable scent, the ghost
of the ghost of fragrance, so elusive that one sensed rather than
smelled it, so pervasive and haunting that one could not miss it.
And it certainly had nothing to do with the wholesome odor of hay
and cow feed, or the smell of whitewash and oiled tools.

"Yes, you were dreaming." Alicia began to edge the colored women
toward the doors. "But as you've had a scare," she added pleasantly,
"I'll give you a new lace collar, Queenasheeba, and you a red
ribbon, Fernolia, to wear to church next Sunday, just to prove to
you that being awake is heaps better than having nightmares."

We padlocked the big doors after us, and went through the rooms
up-stairs. They, too, had been freshly cleaned and calcimined. And
they, too, were quite empty.

Despite which, Fernolia and Queenasheeba were firmly, tearfully,
shiveringly certain they had seen nothing less than ol' Mis'
Scarlett's ha'nt. They had the worst possible opinion of ol' Miss
Scarlett: she had been bad enough living--but as a spook! We had to
let them lug their bedding over and sleep in the room next to ours;
we had to give them sweet lavender to quiet their nerves. I am sure
they would have bolted incontinently if they hadn't been too scared
to venture outside.

"If I could catch that ghost I'd shake it!" declared Alicia. And we
went back to our figuring, with a sort of desperate courage. "_Now_
will you get those clothes, Sophy Smith?" she resumed, through her
teeth, and the pink came back to her cheek, and her eyes deepened.
"And do you agree to stick it out, you and I shoulder to shoulder,
town or no town, ha'nts or no ha'nts; and win out?"

"Yes!" said I.



CHAPTER VII

A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR


Wire from The Author, New York City, to Miss S. Smith, Hyndsville,
South Carolina:

     Photos received. Furniture noted. It's pretty, but is it
     art?

Wire from Miss Smith to The Author:

     What is Art?

Wire from The Author:

     Sometimes an invention of the devil. Is your stuff Madison
     Avenue or Grand Rapids? Reply.

Wire from Miss Smith:

     Madison Avenue and Grand Rapids hadn't been invented when
     Hynds House was furnished.

Wire from The Author:

     Maybe not, but mightn't be same furniture. Have been stung
     before. Can't be genuine. Too much of it.

Wire from Miss Smith:

     Please yourself.

Wire from The Author:

     Coming to investigate. Won't sleep in anything but pineapple
     bed; won't sit in anything but carved chair; can't pray
     without prie-dieu. If spurious will publicly gibbet you and
     probably burn your house down. Hold southwest room my
     arrival.

Alicia laughed, and cuddled those yellow slips.

"I knew this was an enchanted place!" she cried. "Oh, Sophy, it's
working! He's coming, he's coming, and he's the biggest ever, and
he's going to _stay_! Sophy, think of the advertising!"

"He will probably be detestable. Geniuses are generally horrid to
live with. And there will be something the matter with his
digestion; there is always something the matter with their
digestion."

"From swallowing all the flattery shoveled upon them, poor dears,"
Alicia explained charitably. "Don't worry about his digestion: leave
it to Mary Magdalen's waffles. Hooray! Hynds House stock is
booming!"

It was.

From the head of our firm:

     _My dear Miss Smith_:

     I have your interesting letter and the delightful
     photographs, which have so completely charmed Mrs.
     Westmacote and me that we have decided it wouldn't be good
     business to miss Hynds House on our trip South this year.

     Mrs. Westmacote asks if you could also accommodate a cousin
     of hers, Miss Emmeline Phelps-Parsons, a lady deeply
     interested in the colonial homes of America.

     You must allow me heartily to congratulate you upon your
     great good fortune in falling heir to such a wonderful old
     place; and to wish you many happy and prosperous years in
     it.

     I shall telegraph you when to expect us. With all good
     wishes,

                    Yours faithfully,
                       GEORGE PEABODY WESTMACOTE.

Letter from Miss Emmeline Phelps-Parsons, of Boston:

     _Dear Miss Smith_:

     My cousin Mrs. Westmacote, whom I have been visiting, showed
     me your letter and the enchanting photographs of your house
     which you were kind enough to send Mr. Westmacote. Hynds
     House is just the one place I have long been looking
     for!--an unspoiled colonial house, with historic
     associations!

     It is perfect! I must see with my own eyes those Chelsea
     figures on your drawing-room mantel, the luster and
     Washington jugs in the dining-room, and the cabinets in the
     hall.

                     Sincerely yours,
                        EMMELINE PHELPS-PARSONS.

     P.S. I hope it is really true that there is an Influence in
     Hynds House? I do so greatly long to come in contact with
     the Occult and the Unknown!

"Somewhere on the firing-line of fifty," mused Alicia. "A lady with
a soul. Don't you hear dear old Boston calling you, Sophy? Here's
one to put Miss Martha Hopkins's light under a bushel basket!"

We had several other inquirers; and chose from them Mr. Chetwynd
Harrison-Gore and his daughter, English folk "doing" America and
delighted to include a Carolina colonial house in their trip; a
suffrage leader, whose throat needed a rest; and Morenas, the
illustrator. It seemed that Hynds House offered to each one
something that had been craved for.

The Author pounced upon us two or three days before we expected him,
to take stock after his own fashion. I have heard The Author
commended for "the humor of his rare smile and the keen, kind
intellectuality of his remarkable eyes." Well, the smile was rare
enough; and of course there isn't any doubt about the man's
intellectuality. For the rest, he proved to be a tall, lanky,
stooping person, with a thin tanned face, outstanding ears, a high
nose, and long, blue-gray eyes half-hidden under drooping lids and
behind glasses. His hair was just hair. And he had the sort of
mustache that bristled like a cat's when he twisted his lip.

So far as monetary success, and efficacious press-agents, and the
adulation, admiration, emulation, and envy of his contemporaries
went, he had nothing to complain of. He was lionized, quoted,
courted, flattered, reviewed, viewed through rose-colored
spectacles; and disillusioned, discontented, cynical, selfish, and,
of course, most horribly bored. He was gun-shy of women; he
suspected them of wanting to marry him. He was wary of men; he
suspected them of wanting to exploit him. He loathed children, who
were generally obstreperous and unnecessary editions of parents he
didn't admire. He didn't even trust the beautiful works of men's
hands. They, even they, were too often faked! If you had dug up the
indubitable mummy of the first Pharaoh from under the oldest of the
pyramids, The Author would have turned him over on his back and
hunted for the trade-mark of The Modern Mummy-makers: London, Paris,
and New York; Catalogue on Request.

He stalked through Hynds House with slitted eyes and bristling
mustache--business of silent sleuth on the trail of the
furniture-fakir! He'd pause at each door and with an eagle glance
take a comprehensive survey; then, defensively, offensively, he
examined things in detail. From our rambling attics to our vast and
cavernous cellars did he go; and not a word crossed his lips until
he had completed this conandoyley examination. Then:

"Telegraph form if you have one, please," he requested briefly. "I
wish to wire for my car. Put Johnson in the room next mine.
Johnson's my secretary." He looked at Alicia, reflectively. "Amiable
ass, Johnson," he volunteered. Then he went over to the tiled
fireplace--we were in the library--and bent worshipfully before it.

"The finest bit of tile-work on this continent," he said, in a
hushed voice. "Absolutely perfect. And it belongs to a woman named
Smith!"

"We know just how you feel about it," Alicia told him
sympathetically, while The Author turned red to his ears. "I have
often felt like that myself, when something I particularly wanted
was bought by somebody I was sure couldn't properly appreciate it. I
dare say I was mistaken," admitted Alicia, "just as mistaken as you
are now in thinking that Sophy and I aren't worthy of those tiles.
We are--all the more so because we never before had anything like
them."

The spoiled darling of success looked at us intently; and a most
curious change came over his clever, bad-tempered face. His eyes are
as bright as ice, and have somewhat the same cold light in them. Now
a thaw set in and melted them, and a mottled red spread over his
sallow cheeks.

"Miss Gaines," he said, abruptly, "your doll-baby face does your
intelligence an injustice--Miss Smith, I apologize." And before the
astonished and indignant Alicia could summon a withering retort, he
added heartily: "This whole place is quite the real thing, you
know--almost too good to be true and too true to be good. Would you
mind telling me how you happened to think of letting me in on it,
eh?"

"Because we knew it _was_ the real thing," Alicia replied,
truthfully.

"Do you know,"--The Author was plainly pleased--"that that is one of
the very nicest things that's ever been said to me? Because I really
_do_ know above a bit about genuine stuff."

"It must be a great relief to you to hear something pleasant about
yourself that is also something true," I said with sympathy. The
Author grinned like a hyena, and Alicia giggled. "Because you must
be bored to extinction, having to listen to all sorts of people
ascribe to you all sorts of virtues that no one man could possibly
possess and remain human." I was remembering some of the fulsome
flubdub I'd read about him.

"Hark to her!" grinned The Author. "What! you don't believe all the
nice things you've read about me?"

"I do not."

"You don't in the least look or write like a dehumanized saint, you
know," supplemented Alicia, laughing.

"What _do_ I look like, then?" He sat on the edge of a table and
cuddled a bony knee. Behind his glasses his eyes began to twinkle.

"You look more like yourself than you do like your photographs,"
decided Alicia.

The Author threw up his hands.

"And now, tell me this, please: How, when, where, and from whom, did
you acquire the supreme art of aiding and abetting an old house to
grow young again without losing its character?"

"We were born," Alicia explained, "with the inherent desire to do
just what we have been able to do here. This house gave us our big
chance. But it wouldn't have been so--so in keeping with itself,"
she was feeling for the right words, "if it hadn't been for Mr.
Nicholas Jelnik."

The Author pricked up his intellectual ears. His eyes narrowed.

"Jelnik? I knew a Jelnik, an Austrian alienist; met him at dinner at
the American Ambassador's in Vienna; quiet, unassuming, pleasant
man, and one of the greatest doctors in Europe."

"Mr. Jelnik is Doctor Jelnik's son."

"What!" shrieked The Author. And with unfeigned amazement: "In the
name of high heaven, what is Jelnik's son doing _here_?"

"Mr. Jelnik's mother was a Miss Hynds. She met and married your
doctor abroad."

That sixth sense possessed by him to an unusual degree, warned him
that he was on the trail of Copy.

"May I ask questions?" he demanded.

"Of course."

"You inherited this property from an old aunt, I believe?"

"She wasn't my aunt, really. She married my mother's uncle, Johnny
Scarlett."

"I see. And Jelnik's mother was a Miss Hynds. How long has he been
here?"

"For some time before we came."

"Near neighbor of yours?"

"Yes," Alicia put in; "and Doctor Richard Geddes is our neighbor on
the other side. His grandmother was a Miss Hynds."

"Pardon a writer-man's curiosity," begged The Author, smiling. "But
this house is unusual, very unusual. While I am here I shall look up
its history. It should make good copy."

Having a pretty shrewd idea of The Author's powers of finding out
what he wanted to find out, we thought it better that he should hear
that history, as we knew it. If the mystery had ever been solved,
the tragedy of Hynds House would have had but passing interest for
The Author. But the undiscovered piqued and puzzled him and aroused
his combative egotism.

From the pictured face of Freeman--dark, stern, uncommunicative--he
trotted back to the drawing room to look again at the boyish face of
little Richard leaning against his pretty mother's knees; at the
haughty, handsome face of James Hampden; and at beautiful dark
Jessamine, who had a long black curl straying across the shoulder of
a blue frock, and a curled red lip, and a breast of snow.

"Freeman was not a crook; his face is hard, stern, bigoted,
secretive, but honest. Yet if he didn't do it himself what was he
trying to tell when death cut off his wind? If he did it, where did
he hide the plunder? Here in this house? His family must have known
every nook and cranny as well as he did himself, and he could be
sure they'd pull it to pieces in the search that would ensue.

"If Richard were the thief, to whom did he give the loot? If the
gems had been put upon the market, some trace of them must have been
discovered. Remains: Who got them? Where did they go?"

"That's what the unhappy people in this house asked a century ago,
and there was no answer," I remarked, soberly.

"And that poor woman Jessamine went mad trying to solve it!" he
said, looking at her with commiseration. And after a pause: "And so
the lady who left her husband's grandniece the house of her
forebears was Freeman's daughter: and the Austrian doctor's son is
Richard's great-great-grandson! I meet Jelnik _père_ in Vienna, and
come to Hyndsville, South Carolina, to meet Jelnik _fils_. H'm!
Decidedly, the situation has nice possibilities!"

Whereupon he took note-book and fountain-pen from his coat pocket
and in the most composed manner began to jot down the outstanding
features of Hynds House history.

"It will give me something to puzzle over while I'm here," he
remarked, complacently. It did!

The Author approved of Hynds House. It had all the charm of a new
and quaint field of exploration and research, and there was nothing
in it to offend his hypercritical judgment. I have a shrewd
suspicion that Mary Magdalen's cooking played no mean part in his
satisfaction. His prowess as a trencherman aroused the admiration
and respect of Fernolia, who waited on table. Fernolia had learned
to admire herself in her smart apron and cap, and to serve
creditably enough. Only twice did she fall from grace; once was the
morning The Author broke his own record for waffles. Fernolia,
excited and astonished, placed the last platter before him, raised
the cover with a flourish, and remarked with deep meaning:

"_Dem's all!_"

The second time was when we had what Mary Magdalen calls "mulatto
rice," which is a dish built upon a firm foundation of small strips
of bacon, onion, stewed tomatoes, and rice, and a later and last
addition of deliciously browned country sausages. Fernolia, beaming
upon The Author hospitably, broke her parole:

"You ain't called to skimp yo'self none on dat rice," she told him
confidentially. "De cook done put yo' name in de pot _big_. She say
she glad we-all got man in de house to 'preciate vittles. Yes-_suh_,
Ma'y Magdalen aim to make you bust yo' buttonholes whilst you hab de
chanst."

I am told that The Author always makes a great hit when he tells
that on himself, and is considered tremendously clever because he
can imitate Fernolia's soft South Carolina drawl.

Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, whom he managed to meet within the week,
aroused The Author's professional interest. For once his tried and
tested powers of turning other people's minds inside out failed
utterly. His innocent-sounding queries, his adroit leads, were
smilingly turned aside. The defense, so far as Mr. Jelnik was
concerned, was ridiculously simple: he didn't want to talk about
himself and he didn't do it.

He was perfectly willing to talk, when the humor seized him, and he
did talk, brilliantly, wittily, freely, and impersonally. The
egoistic "I" was conspicuous by its absence. And while he talked you
could see the agile antennæ of The Author's winged mind feeling
after the soul-string that might lead him through the mazes of this
unusual character. That he could be deftly diverted filled The
Author with chagrin mingled with wonder.

He manoeuvered for an invitation to the gray cottage and secured
it with suspicious ease; called, and had a glass of most excellent
wine in his host's simplest of bachelor living-rooms; made the
closer acquaintance of Boris--he didn't care for dogs--and of
self-contained, dark-faced Daoud, Mr. Jelnik's East Indian
man-servant; and came home dissatisfied and determined. He scented
"copy," and a born writer after copy is, next to an Apache after a
scalp or a Dyak after his enemy's head, the most ruthless of created
beings. He will pick his mother's naked soul to pieces, bore into
his wife's living brain, dissect his daughter's quivering heart,
tear across his sister's mind, rip up his father's life and his best
friend's character, lay bare the tomb itself, and make for himself
an ink of tears and blood that he may write what he finds. Of such
is the kingdom of Genius.

And in the meantime the wondrous news that The Author himself was
staying at Hynds House, percolated through Hyndsville and soaked to
the bone. The Author was too big a figure to be ignored, even by
South Carolina people. Something had to be done. But how shall one
become acquainted with a notoriously unfriendly and gun-shy
celebrity, a personage of such note that every utterance means
newspaper space; and at the same time manage utterly to ignore and
cast into outer darkness the people with whom the great one is
staying?

The town felt itself put upon its mettle. The first move was made by
Miss Martha Hopkins. It was understood that if anybody could clear
the way, carry a difficult position with skill and aplomb, that
somebody was Miss Martha Hopkins.

She didn't bear down directly upon The Author: that would have been
crude. She opened her campaign by a flank movement upon Alicia and
me, in her capacity of secretary and treasurer of the missionary
society.

Miss Hopkins sailed into Hynds House on a perfect afternoon, to
discuss with us a proposed rummage-sale which was to benefit the
heathen. She wasn't really worrying about the heathen: he had all
the rest of his benighted life to get himself saved in, hadn't he?
All the while she sat there and talked about him, she was really
loaded to the muzzle with pertinent remarks to affluent authors.

She had come with the hope of chancing upon the great man himself;
and, failing that, she meant to pump Alicia and me of enough
material to, say, enable her to use a part of her stock of pet
adjectives in the paper she would prepare for the next meeting of
the literary society. She had a pretty stock of adjectives--plump,
purple words like _lyric_, and _liquid_, and _plastic_, and
_subtile_, and _poignancy_, with every now and then a _chiaoscuro_
thrown in for good measure; and a whole melting-pot full of "rare
emotional experiences," "art that was almost intuitive in its
passion, so subtly did it"--oh, do all sorts of things!--and
"handling the plastic outlines of the theme with rare emotional
skill and mastery of technique," "purest lyricism lifted to heights
of poignancy,"--all that sort of stuff, you know. Next time a
writer, or, better still, a fiddler or a pianist comes to your town,
look in your home paper the morning after, and you'll see it.

As it happened, The Author was not at home. His secretary had
arrived a day or two before, and after unloading a systemful of copy
upon that faithful beast of burden, The Author had given himself a
half-holiday with old Riedriech, who knew quite enough about old
furniture to win his interest and affection.

Miss Hopkins, then, had Alicia and me to herself. Sedately we
discussed rummage-sales, and the effect of cotton shirts upon the
adolescent cannibal; and all the while Miss Hopkins was stealthily
watching doors and windows and hoping that high heaven would send
The Author to her hands. We hadn't so much as mentioned his name. It
pleased us to sit there and watch her trying to make us do so.

The iron knocker on the front door sounded. And ushered in by
Queenasheeba, there stood Nicholas Jelnik with great gray Boris
beside him, and beauty and glamour and romance upon him like a
light. Miss Hopkins had seen him on the streets, but hadn't met him
personally. I don't think she relished the fact that she had to come
to Hynds House to do so. Nor could she save herself from the crudity
of staring with all her eyes at this handsome offshoot of the
Hyndses, with what in a less polite person might well have been
called avid curiosity.

"Miss Leetchy," (he had gaily borrowed Fernolia's pronunciation of
Alicia's name), "I have brought you the butter-scotch your soul
hankers after. I fear you can never hope to grow up, Miss Leetchy,
while you cherish a jejune passion for butter-scotch."

"Oh, I don't know. It might have been fudge!" Alicia replied airily.
"But thank you, Mr. Jelnik: it was very nice of you to remember."

"Yes. I have such an excellent memory," said he, blandly. "Miss
Smith, this preserved ginger is laid at your shrine. If you offer me
a piece or two, I shall accept with thanks: I like preserved ginger,
myself.--Boris, you'll prefer butter-scotch. You may ask Miss Gaines
to give you a piece."

Miss Hopkins, it appeared, despised butter-scotch, and abhorred
preserved ginger.

"I saw The Author hiking across lots a while since. Nice,
open-hearted, neighborly man, The Author.--Oh, by the way, Miss
Smith: is it, or is it not written in the Book of Darwin that the
gadfly is one of the distinct evolutionary links in the descent of
man?"

"Good heavens, certainly not!" cried Miss Hopkins. And she looked
strangely upon Mr. Nicholas Jelnik.

"No? Thank you. I was in doubt," murmured Mr. Jelnik. The golden
flecks danced in and out of his eyes. "But we were speaking of The
Author: may I ask how The Author appeals to you as a human being,
Miss Hopkins?"

"I do not know him as a human being," Miss Hopkins admitted.

Mr. Jelnik looked surprised. His eyebrows went up.

"Oh, come, now!" he demurred. "He isn't so bad as all _that_!"

"Oh, dear me, no!" Alicia protested, in a shocked voice. "He may
have abrupt manners and say unexpected things, but he is perfectly
respectable, Miss Hopkins! There's never been a _breath_ against his
character. I thought you knew," purred the hussy, demurely. "Why,
he's dined at the White House, and lunched and motored and yachted
with royalties, and lectured before the D.A.R.'s themselves! And he
belongs to at least a dozen societies. There are,"--Alicia was
enjoying her naughty self immensely--"good authors and bad authors.
Sometimes the bad authors are good, and sometimes the good authors
are bad. But our author is more than either: he's It!"

"You entirely and strangely misunderstand me." Miss Hopkins spoke
with the deadly gentleness of suppressed fury. "I had no slightest
intention of reflecting upon the character of so eminent a writer,
with whose career, Miss Gaines, I am thoroughly familiar. I was
merely trying to explain that I had never met him."

"Oh, I see. Of course! I should have remembered that!"

Miss Hopkins's entire contempt for Alicia's mentality overcame any
suspicion she might have entertained. Also, she had come determined
to discover what she could about The Author, and she was not one
lightly to be put aside. She said, smiling tolerantly:

"Of course you should! But mayn't I congratulate _you_ upon knowing
him? Having him here in Hynds House almost justifies turning the old
place into a boarding-house, doesn't it?"

"The Author," Mr. Jelnik remarked gently, "has a very sensitive
soul. I shudder to think what the effect upon him would be were he
to hear himself referred to as a boarder. My dear Miss Hopkins,
never, never let him hear you designate him 'boarder'!"

"Who's talking about boarders?" asked a hearty voice, and Doctor
Richard Geddes came in like a gale of mountain air.

"Miss Hopkins. She thinks The Author's presence almost justifies the
turning of Hynds House into a boarding-house," answered Mr. Jelnik.
He added, thoughtfully, "Curious notion; isn't it?"

"Martha has plenty more," said the doctor, bluntly. "Boarding-house?
Well, supposing? What was it before? A hyena-cage, Martha, a
hyena-cage, into which you'd be the last to venture your nose, my
dear woman! I say, put on your bonnets, all of you, and let's have a
spin in the fresh air. The roads are gorgeous. You can come too,
Jelnik: there's room for five."

Mr. Jelnik was desolated: he had a pressing engagement. Miss Hopkins
rose precipitately. She also had an engagement; besides, she liked
to walk. People needed to walk more than they did. The reason why
one saw so many bad figures nowadays, was that people lolled around
in automobiles instead of walking.

"Well, walking is certainly good for you, Martha. It helps you to
reduce," the doctor agreed. Miss Hopkins said dryly that the little
walking she intended to do just then wouldn't affect her weight any.
And that Doctor Geddes should himself take to walking: men always
got fat as they neared fifty.

"Fat! Fifty!" roared the doctor, with enraged astonishment. "Why,
I'm not by some years as old as you are, Martha! You were several
classes ahead of me in school, don't you remember? I am exactly
thirty-nine years old, and as you know everything else, you ought to
know that!"

Miss Hopkins studied him with a balefully level eye.

"You really can't blame anybody for forgetting it, Richard," she
said, ambiguously.

"You are to recollect, Geddes, that a woman is always as young as
she looks," (Mr. Jelnik bowed, smilingly, to Miss Hopkins), "and a
man is older than he feels," he added, for the doctor's benefit.

"All right. Let's say I feel as good as Martha looks," the doctor's
momentary ill humor vanished. Miss Hopkins smiled. She had stuck her
claws into him and drawn blood; but her fur was still ruffled.

Mr. Jelnik made his adieus, Boris offering each of us a polite paw.

"And now," the doctor ordered briskly, "to your spinning, jades, to
your spinning! Into my car, the three of you! No, Martha, I will
_not_ take a refusal; you shall not walk: you've got to come along,
if I have to tuck you under my arm. I don't care if you never
reduce. What do you want to reduce for, anyhow? You're all right
just as you are! There! are you satisfied?"

We stood by passively while the masterful doctor heckled and hustled
the unhappy Center of Culture into his car. With heaven knows what
feelings, she found herself seated beside me, Sophy Smith, while
Alicia, beside the doctor, tossed gay remarks over her shoulder.
Miss Hopkins realized that all Hyndsville would witness what she
herself knew to be high-handed capture by force, but which must
hideously resemble capitulation; and she also realized that
explanations never explain.

I respected her misery enough to keep silent, and she made no
attempt to converse. Her hat slid forward at a rakish angle over one
ear, and her hair blew about her face in stringy wisps, as the
doctor broke the speed laws on the long, level stretches of quiet
roads. When we came to a rough spot she bounced up and down (one
might hear her breath exhaled in a--well, yes, in a grunt) but she
made no complaint, uttered no protest. She was a shackled and
voiceless victim, until we finally drew up at her own gate, after an
hour's jaunt, and allowed her to escape.

"Why, Martha, our little spin has given you a fine color!" remarked
the doctor, genuinely pleased. Two conspicuously red spots shone in
Miss Hopkins's cheeks, and her eyes were extremely bright. "We'll
have to take you out with us again," he added, genially.

"Shall you, Richard?" muttered Miss Hopkins, and scuttled up her
front path,

          Like one who in a lonesome wood
            Doth walk in fear and dread,
          Because he knows a frightful fiend
            Doth close behind him tread!

By and large, I should say that the honors were with Alicia.

The Author's secretary was pacing up and down the garden when we
reached home, with Potty Black careering after him and every now and
then dashing into the shrubbery to put to flight Beautiful Dog, who
was also enamored of the young man with the nice smile and the good
brown eyes. He had a great affection for animals, as they seemed to
understand.

Beautiful Dog laid aside, for his sake, his fear of white people,
and slunk after him fawningly, wagging what did duty as a tail, and
showing every tooth in an ear-to-ear grin. At sight of us, Beautiful
Dog gave a dismal yelp and disappeared.

"Let's sit in the library," coaxed the secretary. "I want you
please to allow me to hold in my hands your copy of 'Purchas his
Pilgrimes.' The Author dreams about that book out loud. Oh, yes,
another thing I want to ask you: what sort of perfume do you use,
and where do you get it?"

My scalp prickled.

"I noticed it in the upper hall last night," went on the secretary,
innocently. "It was pervasive, but at the same time so delicate, so
elusive, that I couldn't determine what it was. I am very sensitive
to perfumes."

"So are we," Alicia told him. "And if what you think you smelled is
what we think we smell, it isn't a--a regular perfume. It's a--a--a
something that belongs to Hynds House."

The library was flooded with the ruddy light of sunset. Every bit of
color in the big room stood out against a golden background, and a
great golden spear fell across the dark, brooding face of Freeman
Hynds above the old tiled fireplace. In that rosy glow he seemed to
look down at us with living eyes.

"Is that so?" The secretary stopped; and his head went up and his
nose wrinkled. For the "something that belonged to Hynds House"
walked upon the air with invisible feet.



CHAPTER VIII

PEACOCKS AND IVORY


"Sophy, do you remember the night we talked it over, and decided to
come here, and you were afraid of the new soil's effect upon
yourself?"

"Of course. Why?"

"Oh, because."

"Because why?"

"Just because.--I wish to gracious you had a little saving vanity,
Sophy Smith!"

"And what, then, is _this_?" I asked ironically, and rustled my
skirts. For the Westmacotes were to arrive that night, in time for
dinner, and I, standing before the mirror in my room, was what
Alicia called "really dressed" for the first time in my life.

"From your point of view, this is a business necessity. From mine,
it is applied morality. Why, Sophy, you're _stunning_! Here, sit
down: I have to loosen up that hair a bit."

"Now!" said she, when she had critically surveyed her finished work
and found it good, "Now, Sophy Smith, you are no longer efficient
and utilitarian; you are effective and decorative, thank heaven!"

Really, clothes do make a tremendous difference, after all. Why,
I--Well, I no longer looked root-bound.

"I said you'd put out new leaves and begin to bloom!" Alicia
exulted. We bowed to the Sophy in the glass, a small and slender
person with quantities of fair hair, a round white chin, and steady
blue eyes. For the rest, she had a short nose and the rather wide
mouth of a boy. She wasn't what you'd call a beautiful person, but
she wasn't displeasing to the eye.

"_Vale_, plain Sophy Smith!" cried Alicia, "_Ave_, dear Lady of
Hynds House! We who about to live salute you!"

The Westmacotes were delighted with Alicia. The Head had noticed her
just about as much as a Head notices a pale file-clerk in a white
shirt-waist and a black skirt. This radiant rose-maiden--"little
Dawn-rose," old Riedriech called her--was new to him; and so, I
fancy, was a Miss Smith in such a frock as I was wearing. He, as
well as his wife and Miss Phelps-Parsons, accepted us at our
face-value, with the background of Hynds House outlining us.

Miss Emmeline Phelps-Parsons was a lady with a soul. She said she
had psychic consciousness and a clear green aura, and that she had
been an Egyptian priestess in Thebes, in the time of Sesostris. In
proof of this she showed us a fine little bronze Osiris holding a
whip in one hand and the ankh in the other. ("My dear, the moment I
saw him, I knew I had once prayed to him!") and she always wore a
scarab ring. She had bought both in an antique-shop just off
Washington Street. I thought this rather a far cry from Thebes,
myself, but The Author insisted that if a Theban vestal of the time
of Sesostris _had_ to reincarnate, she would naturally and
inevitably come to life a Boston one.

The Author hadn't taken any too kindly to the notion of other people
coming to Hynds House. He grumbled that he had hoped he had at last
found a quiet haven, a place that fitted him like a glove; he
protested piercingly against having it "cluttered up with
uninteresting, gobbling, gabbling, ordinary people."

"You came too late. You should have been here with Great-Aunt
Sophronisba," Alicia told him, tartly. "You'd have been ideal
companions, both of you beware-of-the-doggy, hair-trigger-tempery,
all-to-your-selfish."

The Author gasped, and rubbed his eyes. Never, never, in all his
pampered life, had one so spoken to him.

"Why, of all the cheek!" exploded The Author. "Am I to be flouted
thus by a piece of pink-and-whiteness just escaped from the nursery
pap-spoon?"

"Out of the mouths of babes--" insinuated Alicia.

The Author grinned. And his grin is redeeming.

"Sweet-and near-twenty," he explained. "I am not exactly
all-to-myselfish, but I demand plenty of elbow-room in my existence.
Generally speaking, my own society bores me less than the society of
the mutable many. I like Hynds House. And I like you two women. You
are not tiresome to the ear, wearisome to the mind, nor displeasing
to the eye. I am even sensible of a distinct feeling of satisfaction
in knowing that you are somewhere around the house. You belong. But
I'm hanged if I want to see strangers come in. I object to
strangers. Why are strangers necessary?"

"For the same reason that you were."

"I?" The Author's eyebrows were almost lost in his hair. "My dear,
deluded child, I knew this house, and you, and Sophy Smith, before
you were born! I knew you," The Author declared unblushingly,
"before _I_ was born! Now, am I a stranger?"

"Then you ought to know why Sophy and I have just got to have
people, the sort of people who are coming." She paused. "_We_
haven't best-seller royalties piled up to the roof!"

"No," said The Author, bitterly, "but I have. That's why I am
forever plagued with strangers. That's why, when I discover a place
and people that suit me to perfection, I can't keep 'em to myself!
Oh, da--drat it all, anyhow!"

"But they aren't coming to see you. They're coming to see Hynds
House," Alicia reminded him soothingly. "Besides, I don't think
they're the sort of folks that care much for authors," she finished,
encouragingly.

"They'll care about _me_" grumbled The Author glumly. "But let 'em
come and be hanged to them! I shall take--"

"Soothing syrup?"

"Long walks!" snarled The Author. "I shall work all night and be
invisible all day."

The Westmacotes, as Alicia said, didn't greatly care for authors,
though they sat up and took polite notice of this one. (One owed
that to one's self-respect.) Only Miss Emmeline paid more than
passing attention to him, though her interest really centered in Mr.
Nicholas Jelnik, who was dining with us that night, as was Doctor
Richard Geddes.

Mr. Jelnik's presence had the effect of lightening The Author's
gloom. His eyes brightened, his dejection changed into alertness,
and there began that subtle game of under-the-surface thrust and
parry that seemed inevitable when the two met. Mr. Westmacote
listened with quiet enjoyment. His dinner was to his taste, Hynds
House more than came up to his expectations, Alicia was Cinderella
after the fairy's wand had passed over her, _I_ had ceased to be a
mere person and become a personage; and he found here such men as
Doctor Geddes, The Author, and Nicholas Jelnik. The Head smiled at
his wife, and was at peace with the world.

Miss Emmeline had already discovered the Lowestoft and Spode pieces
in our built-in cupboards; that there were two perfect apostle jugs
in the cabinet in the hall: that our Chelsea figures were lovelier
than any she had heretofore seen; and that Hynds House, in which
everything was genuine, had an atmosphere that appealed to her soul,
or maybe matched her clear-green aura. Anyhow, the house reached out
for Miss Emmeline as with hands and laid its spell upon her
enduringly.

She sat beside me, with Alicia's pet album of Confederate generals
on her knees.

"I never thought I'd have a sentimental regard for rebels," she
confessed. "But, oh, they were gallant and romantic figures, when
one looks at their old photographs here in Hynds House. I am
Massachusetts to the bone, but I don't want to hear 'Marching
through Georgia' while I'm here!"

Mr. Jelnik, overhearing her, laughed. "Perhaps I may find for you
something more in keeping with Hynds House," he said, and sauntered
over to the old piano. Unexpectedly it came to life. And he began to
sing:

          It was the silent, solemn hour
            When night and morning meet,
          In glided Margaret's grimly ghost,
            And stood at William's feet.
          Her face was like an April morn
            Clad in a wintry cloud:
          And clay-cold was her lily hand,
            That held her sable shroud.

The Author shaded his eyes with his hand, his gaze riveted upon the
singer. Alicia leaned forward, lips parted, face like an uplifted
flower, eyes large with wonder and delight. The Confederate generals
slid from Miss Emmeline's lap and lay face downward, forgotten.
Westmacote's faded little wife, who had no children, crept closer to
her big husband; and gently, unobtrusively, he reached out and took
her hand in his warm grasp.

          Why did you promise love to me
            And not that promise keep?
          Why did you swear mine eyes were bright,
            Yet leave those eyes to weep?
          Why did you say my face was fair,
            And yet that face forsake?
          How could you win my virgin heart,
            Yet leave that heart to break?

I am sure there is no lovelier and more touching ballad in all our
English treasury than that sad, simple, and most beautiful old song.
And he had set it to an air as simple and as perfect as its own
words, an old-world air that suited it and his rich and flexible
voice.

"Why, Jelnik!" exclaimed Doctor Geddes, in a voice of pure
astonishment, "I knew you could tinkle out a tune on a piano, but,
man, I didn't dream it was in you to sing like this!" And he stared
at his cousin.

"I'd make bold to swear that Mr. Jelnik has a dozen more surprises
up his sleeve, if he chose to let us see them," The Author said
pleasantly.

"My father's system of education included music. For which I praise
him in the gates," Mr. Jelnik replied casually.

"'Tinkle out a tune on a piano'!" breathed Alicia, and cast a look
of deep disdain upon the blundering doctor. "Why, I've never in all
my life heard anybody sing like that!"

But I saw him through a mist, and felt my heart ache and burn in my
breast, and wondered what he was doing here in my house that might
have been his house, and how I was going to walk through my life
after he had gone out of it.

I had a wild desire to run outside into the dark night and the
hushed garden, away from everybody and weep and weep, despairingly.
Because a veil had been torn from my eyes this night, and I knew
that the cruellest thing that can happen to a woman had happened to
me. There could be but one thing more bitter--that he or anybody
else in the world should know it.

So I sat there, dumb, while everybody else said pleasant things to
him, their voices sounding afar, far off.

After a while we went into the living-room where our new piano is,
and he played for us--Hungarian things, I think. Then he drifted
into Chopin, and Alicia stood by and turned his music for him.

"Those two," whispered Miss Emmeline, "are the most idyllic figures
I have ever seen." I think she sighed as she said it. "Youth is the
most beautiful thing in the world," she added.

The Westmacotes, weary after a long journey, retired early. Mr.
Jelnik and Doctor Geddes had gone off together. The secretary had to
finish a chapter. The Author lingered to ask, oddly enough, if I had
the original plan of Hynds House. Did I know who designed it?

"Why don't you interview Judge Gatchell?"

"I did. He was polite and friendly enough, but knows no more than
is strictly legal. He told me he found Hynds House here when he
arrived and expected to leave it here when he departed. And Geddes
knows no more. Geddes isn't interested in Hynds House by itself,"
finished The Author, with a crooked smile.

"Perhaps Mr. Jelnik may have some family papers."

"Perhaps he may. I'd give something for a whack at those papers,
Miss Smith."

"Why not ask him to let you see them, then?"

"Tut, tut!" said The Author, crossly, and took himself off.

When I was kimonoed, braided, and slippered, Alicia in like raiment
came in from her room next to mine, sat down on the floor, and
leaned her head against my knees, with her cheek against my hand.

For a while, as women do, we discussed the events of the evening.
Both of us had deep cause for gratification; yet both of us were
strangely subdued.

"Sophy, Peacocks and Ivory is a very wonderful person, isn't he?"
hesitated Alicia, after a long pause. She didn't lift her head; and
the cheek against my hand was warmer than usual.

"Yes," I agreed, quietly, "so wonderful that something never to be
replaced will have gone out of our lives when he goes away, and
doesn't come back any more. For that is what the Nicholas Jelniks
do, my dear."

"Is it?" Again she spoke after a pause. "I wonder! Somehow,
I--Sophy, he belongs here. He's--why, Sophy, he's a part of the
glamour."

"I'm afraid glamour hasn't part nor place in plain folks' lives."

"But we aren't plain folks any more, either, Sophy," she insisted.
"Why--why--_we're_ part of the glamour, too!"

"That is just about half true."

Alicia ignored this. She asked, instead:

"Did you hear what that great blundering doctor said about tinkling
out a tune on a piano?"

I could hear Mr. Jelnik praised by her or doubted by The Author. But
somehow I could not bear any criticism of Doctor Geddes just then. I
said stiffly:

"I have learned to appreciate Doctor Geddes."

"You are far too fair-minded not to." Presently: "Sophy?"

"Uh-huh."

"We aren't ever going to be sorry we came here--together--are we,
Sophy? And we won't ever let anybody come between us. Not anybody.
Not The Author--nor his secretary--nor whatever guests come--nor Mr.
Nicholas Jelnik--nor--nor Doctor Richard Geddes." Her head pressed
closer to my knees.

"We came first, you and I," said Alicia, in a muffled whisper. "We
are more to each other than any of them can be to us. You'll
remember that, won't you?"

"I will remember, you absurd Alicia!" But I did not ask my dear girl
what her incoherent words might mean. I did not ask why the soft
cheek against my hand was wet.

As I have said before, Hynds House is but two stories high, with
deep cellars under it, and an immense attic overhead; an attic all
cut up into nooks and corners, and twists and turns, and sloping
roofs and dormer windows, and two or three shallow steps going up
here, and two or three more going down there, and passages and doors
where you'd never look for them. We had never been able fully to
explore our attic. It was Ali Baba's cave to us, with half its
treasures unguessed and every trunk and box whispering, "Say 'Open,
Sesame,' to me, and see what you'll find!"

While I was sitting with Alicia's head against my knee, a light,
swift footstep sounded overhead in the attic, followed by a sort of
stumble, as if somebody had slipped on one of those unexpected
steps. Alicia rose quickly.

"Sophy," she breathed, "I have thought, once or twice, that I heard
somebody walking in the attic."

"We will soon find out who it is, then," said I. Noiselessly we
stole out into the hall, past the sleeping Westmacotes, and Miss
Emmeline Phelps-Parsons who so longed to come in closer contact with
the occult and unknown. We moved like ghosts, ourselves, our
felt-soled mules making no sound.

The Author opened his door just as we approached it, and held up an
imperious finger.

"Did you hear it, too?" he whispered. And walking ahead of us, he
stole up the cork-screw stairway at the end of the side hall, lifted
the latch of the attic door, and stepped inside.

It was frightfully dark up there. If you peered through the
uncurtained windows you could see tree-tops tossing like black waves
against the dark sky, and in between them rolling clouds, and little
bright patchwork spaces of stars. And it was so quiet you could hear
your heart beat, and your breathing seemed to rattle in your ears.
We strained our eyes, seeking to pierce the gloom, stealing forward
step by step. A board creaked, noisily; and then--I could have sworn
it--then something seemed to move across one of the dormer windows.
It was so vague, so shadowy, that one could not distinguish its
outline; one could only think that something moved.

The Author gave an exclamation and switched on his electric torch,
trying to focus the circle of light upon that particular window.
There was nothing there. Only, it seemed to me that something,
incredibly swift and silent, flashed down one of the bewildering
turns to which our attic is addicted. But when we ran forward, the
passage was empty. We brought up at the red brick square of one of
the chimney stacks.

Almost savagely The Author flashed his light over every inch of wall
and floor. Nothing. But on the close and musty air stole, not a
sound, but a scent.

The Author swung around and trotted back. The window across which we
thought we had seen something move was fastened from the inside, and
there were one or two wooden boxes and a leather-covered trunk in
the dormer recess. He sniffed hound-like around these, and with an
exclamation leaned over. Behind the trunk crouched--Potty Black,
with a mouse clamped in her jaws.

"For heaven's sake!" cried Alicia. "The cat! Sophy, what we heard
was the cat!"

"Let us go," said The Author. And feeling rather silly, we trailed
after him.

"You see," said I, "there is nothing. There never is anything."

"Come in my room for a minute," The Author whispered, and there was
that in his voice which made us obey.

Inside his door, he opened his hand. In his palm was a soiled and
crumpled scrap of tough, parchment-like paper about the size of an
ordinary playing-card, so frayed and creased that one had difficulty
in deciphering the writing on it. There clung to it a faint and
unforgetable scent.

"It was behind the trunk, partly under the cat's black paw. I
smelled it when I leaned over, and I thought we might as well have a
look at it." said The Author.

And on the following page is what The Author had found.

'"Shades of E.A. Poe, and Robert Louis the Beloved! What have we
here?" cried The Author, joyously, and stood on one leg like a
stork. "Was there a Hynds woman named Helen? 'Turn Hellen's Key
three tens and three?' Some keyhole! I say, Miss Smith, let me keep
this for a while, will you?"

"Do, Sophy, let him keep it!" pleaded Alicia.


          {~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}
          {         _Turne Hellens Keye_          }
          {        _Three Tennes & Three_         }
          {  _Ye Watcher in ye Darke Thoult See_  }
          {                                       }
          {                (*B*)                  }
          {                                       }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {            .  .  .  .  .              }
          {                                       }
          {        _As Neede Shall Rise_          }
          {           _So Mote It Bee_            }
          {                                       }
          '~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'

"I'll take the best care of it, Miss Smith; indeed I will!" The
Author promised. "Look here: I'll lock it in the clothes-closet, in
the breast pocket of my coat." As he spoke, he opened the
cedar-lined closet, that was almost as big as a modern hall bedroom,
and put the paper in the breast pocket of his coat. Locking the
door, he placed the key under his pillow, and beside it a new and
businesslike Colt automatic.

"There!" said The Author, confidently. "Nobody can get into that
closet without first tackling _me_. Now you girls go to bed.
To-morrow we'll tackle the unraveling."

And we, remembering of a sudden that we were pig-tailed and
kimonoed, and that The Author himself resembled a step-ladder with a
shawl draped around it, departed hurriedly.

He was late at the breakfast-table next morning. Gloom and
abstraction sat visibly upon him. He left his secretary to bear the
brunt of conversation with the Westmacotes and Miss Emmeline. For
once he failed to do justice to Mary Magdalen's hot biscuit, and
ignored Fernolia's astonished and concerned stare; even a whispered,
"Honey, is you-all got a misery anywheres?" failed to rouse him. I
found him, after a while, waiting for me in the library.

"Miss Smith,"--The Author strode restlessly up and down--"this house
has a peculiar effect upon people; a very peculiar effect. Since I
came here, I have learned to walk in my sleep." And seeing my look
of astonishment, "I walked in my sleep last night. And I took that
bit of doggerel out of my coat pocket, locked the closet door, and
replaced the key under my pillow."

"How strange! And where did you put it?" I wondered.

"Exactly: where did I put it?" repeated The Author, rumpling his
hair with both hands. "That's what I want to know, myself. I've
looked everywhere in my room, and in Johnson's, and I can't find
the thing. It's gone," and he stalked out, with his shoulders
hunched to his ears.

I sat still, staring out at the window. There was a thing I hadn't
told The Author, or even Alicia. I had no idea what the "bit of
doggerel" meant, if, indeed, it meant anything. But when I had held
Freeman Hynds's old diary in my hands, between the two pages
following the last entry had been a creased and soiled piece of
paper. I had seen it out of the tail of my eye, as the saying is. It
was only a glimpse, but one trained to handle many papers, as I had
been, has a quick and an accurate eye. And I knew that the paper
found by The Author in the attic, and now lost again, was the paper
I had seen in Freeman Hynds's diary.



CHAPTER IX

THE JUDGMENT OF SPRING


Judge Gatchell's nephews and nieces, brought by that punctilious
gentleman to call upon Miss Alicia Gaines, found her enchanting and
cried it to the circumambient air. It was as if the voice of April
had summoned the cohorts of Spring. For fresh-faced boys of a sudden
appeared in increasing numbers; and flower-faced girls came
fluttering into Hynds House like butterflies. They cared for its
history and its hatreds not a fig: what has April to do with last
November? The faith of Youth has a clearer-eyed wisdom, a sweeter,
sounder justice than the sourer verdict of the mature. For theirs is
the judgment of Spring. By this sign they conquer.

Susy Gatchell enlisted Mary Meade and Helen Fenwick, and these three
held all younger Hyndsville in the hollow of their pink palms. After
which, as Doctor Richard Geddes told me wrathfully, you "couldn't
put your foot down without running the risk of stepping on some
little cockerel trying to crow around Hynds House."

The tide was turning in our direction. Also, we were in daily
contact with really worth-while people, people that otherwise we
should have met only in books, magazines, and newspapers. And they
liked us. The amazing miracle was that we, also we, were their sort
of folk!

I knew I was being given unbuyable things. One could not live under
the same roof with thin dark Luis Morenas and view what magic his
pencil worked, without learning somewhat of the holiness of creative
work. One couldn't listen to The Author without being somewhat
brightened by his daring wit, his glowing genius; nor live face to
face with big Westmacote without revering the broadness of the
American master spirit, to which Big Business is only a part of the
Great Game. As for Miss Emmeline Phelps-Parsons, it didn't take
Alicia and me long to discover what real depths underlay that
Boston-spinster mind of hers.

And you simply couldn't breathe the same air with The
Suffragist--who appeared with two trunks, three valises, and a
type-writer, all covered with "Votes for Women!" stickers--without
an expansion of the chest. She gave you the impression of having
been dressed by machinery out of gear, and of then having been
whacked flat with a shovel. When she clapped on what she called a
hat, you wondered whether a heron hadn't built its nest on her
head. But when she began to speak, you listened with the ears of
your immortal soul stretched wide. Women worshiped her, though Mr.
Jelnik's eyes danced, and Westmacote's military mustache bristled a
bit, and she all but drove Doctor Richard Geddes, who had notions of
his own, out of his senses.

"Stop trying to argue with me, my dear man," she'd say in her rich
voice, "but come and let us reason together. I haven't heard one
word of reason from you yet!" And she'd let loose one of her
rollicking laughs that set the doctor's teeth on edge and made The
Author shudder. The Author snarled to me that she laughed like a
rolling-mill and reasoned like a head-on collision. He put her in
his new book, clothes and all. Just as Luis Morenas, with an edged
smile on his thin lips, made rapid-fire sketches of her. _He_ called
her "The Future-Maker."

Now, shouldn't Alicia and I have been happy? And yet we weren't.
Alicia's laugh wasn't so frequent. I would catch her watching me,
with an odd, troubled, anxious speculation in her eyes. She had a
habit of blushing suddenly, and as quickly paling. And quietly, but
none the less surely and definitely, she had begun to avoid Doctor
Richard Geddes. It wasn't that she ceased to be friendly; but she
placed between herself and him one of those women-built,
impalpable, impassable barriers which baffled, puzzled men are
unable to tear down. It was impossible, I thought, that she should
remain blind to his open passion for herself: he was anything but
subtle, was Richard of the Lionheart. A blind man could have told,
from the mere sound of his voice, a deaf man from the mere
expression of his eyes, that Alicia had the big doctor's whole
heart.

On his side, he was in deep waters. His ruddy color faded; his face
took on a fixed, grim intensity. And when he watched the girl
flirting now with this boy, now with that, after the innocent
fashion of natural girls, but always reserving a friendlier smile, a
more eager greeting, for Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, I was so sorry for
Doctor Richard that I couldn't help trying, covertly, to console
him.

It so happened that Miss Emmeline Phelps-Parsons, daughter of the
Puritans though she was, nevertheless had a distinct liking for what
she termed Episcopacy. She was pleased with old St. Polycarp's. She
liked Mrs. Haile, to whom she happened to mention that her
opportunities for studying the life of native women and children in
the East had been rather unusually good, since she had visited many
missionary stations in China and India. Things were languishing just
then, and Mrs. Haile looked at Miss Emmeline almost imploringly:
would she, could she, give the ladies a little lecture?--tell us
things first-hand, so to speak?

Miss Emmeline reflected. She looked at Alicia and me.

"Could we have it in your delightful library?" she wondered. "That
beautiful old room has a soul which speaks to mine. Dear Miss Smith,
would it be too much to ask you to let me have my little talk, a
very informal little lecture, in wonderful old Hynds House?"

Mrs. Haile turned a sort of greenish pink. It wasn't for her to
suggest, after that, that it might be better to have the lecture in
the parsonage; any more than for me to hint, without ungraciousness,
that it might be just as well not to have it in Hynds House. Alicia
shot me one quizzical, Irish-blue glance when I said, "Yes."

And that's how, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, all Hyndsville came
to Hynds House to hear Miss Emmeline Phelps-Parsons tell them "How
to Reach the Women of the East." Somehow, I rather think they were
as curious about two Yankee women as they were about those Eastern
women of whom Miss Emmeline was talking. I'm sure Hynds House was
just as interesting to them as Mohammedan harems and Indian zenanas.

Miss Emmeline really spoke well, and her audience was interested in
her, in her theme, and in Hynds House. The Suffragist picked up the
thread where the less gifted woman dropped it, and in simple, living
phrases drove home the great truth of the sisterhood of all women.

Which, of course, called for tea, and some of Mary Magdalen's
cookies. It was the cookies that caught The Author. Coming in from a
long and hungry prowl, he spied Fernolia crossing the hall with a
huge platter, got one tantalizing, mouth-watering odor, and dashed
after her, bent upon robbery. A second later he found himself in a
room full of women. Hyndsville was meeting The Author!

Alicia introduced him, pleasantly. And, "Talk about angels--" said
she, gaily, "We have just this minute stopped talking about the
heathen! And may I give you a cup of tea?"

"And a dozen or so cookies, please. Thank heaven for the heathen!
What is home without the heathen?--Without sugar, Miss Gaines,
without sugar! And for charity's sake, no lemon!"

He sipped his tea and munched his cookies, with his head on one side
and the air of a thievish jackdaw; and proceeded, after his wont, to
extract such pith as the situation offered.

"Doctor Johnson," Miss Martha Hopkins remembered, as she watched him
drinking his fourth cup of tea, "Doctor Johnson was also addicted
to tea-drinking. Most great literary men are, I believe."

"It isn't possible you consider old Johnson a great literary man!"
The Author's eyebrows climbed into his hair.

"Why! wasn't he?" Her eyes widened. She had as much respect for Dr.
Johnson as Miss Deborah Jenkyns had, though of course she never read
him. Life is too short.

"Why! was he?" asked The Author. "Outside of Boswell--and _he_ was a
fool--I've never known anybody who thought he amounted to much."

The Suffragist looked up. "Nelson had his Southey, Boswell had his
Johnson, and Mr. Modern Best-seller may well profit by their
example." And she smiled grimly.

The Author's lip lifted. "Oh, but you couldn't do it!" he purred.
"And if I offered you the job you'd excuse your incapacity on the
ground that there wasn't anything to write about. I know you!" He
took another cooky.

"Yes, I dare say I'd blurt out the truth. Women are like that,"
admitted The Suffragist.

"The female of the species is more deadly than the male," conceded
The Author. "Nevertheless," he raised his tea-cup gallantly, "To the
ladies!" He got up, leisurely. "And now I go," said he, "to paint
the lily and adorn the rose. In short, to set forth in adequate and
remunerative language the wit, wisdom, virtue, beauty, and
ornateness of woman as she thinks men think she is. Nature,"
reflected The Author, smiling at The Suffragist, "made me a writer.
The devil, the editors, and the women have made me a best-seller."
And he departed, a cooky in each hand.

That night one of the Gatchell boys took Alicia to a dance. She was
in blue and white, like an angel, and the Gatchell boy trod on air.
But to me came Doctor Richard Geddes, and threw himself into a
wing-chair.

"Sophronisba Two," he asked, we being alone in the library, "what
have I done to offend Alicia?"

"Is Alicia offended?"

"Isn't she?" wondered the doctor. "She won't let me get near enough
to find out," he added gloomily. "And it isn't just. She ought to
know that--well, that I'd rather cut off my right hand than give her
real cause for offense. I'm going to ask you a straight, man
question; is that girl a--a flirt? She is not a--jilt?"

"Heaven forbid!"

"Does she care for anybody else?"

"On my honor, I don't know."

"It couldn't be any of these whipper-snappers of boys: she's not
that sort," worried the doctor. "Sophy, is it--Jelnik?"

My heart stood still. I could make no reply.

"I don't know. My dear friend, I don't know!"

"It would be the most natural thing in the world," he reflected.
"Jelnik looks like Prince Charming himself. And, for all his surface
indolence, there's genius in the man. Why shouldn't she be taken
with him?"

We looked at each other.

"I see," said the doctor, quietly. "Now, little friend, what
concerns you and me is our dear girl's happiness. Does Jelnik care,
do you think?"

"I don't know!" I said again. I felt like one on the rack. It seemed
to me I could hear my heart-strings stretching and snapping. "But
what is one girl's affection to a man born to be loved by women?"

"He is indifferent to women, for the most part," the doctor said
thoughtfully. "He is so free from vanity, and at the same time so
reserved, that one has difficulty in getting at his real feelings."

"She, also, is free from petty vanity," I told him. "She has an
innocent, happy pleasure in her own youth and prettiness, but hers
is the unspoiled heart of a child."

"Who should know it better than I, that am a great hulking,
bad-tempered fellow twice her age!" groaned the doctor. "Yet, Sophy,
_I_ could make her happier than Jelnik could. Dear and lovely as she
is, she couldn't make him happy, either--Don't you think I'm a fool,
Sophy?"

"No," said I, smiling wanly; "I don't."

"This business of being in love is a damnable arrangement. Here was
I," he grumbled, "busy, reasonably happy, with a sound mind in a
sound body, and a digestion that was a credit to me. And along comes
a girl, and everything's changed! My work doesn't fill my days, my
food is bitter in my mouth, and I wake up in the night saying to
myself, 'You fool, you're chasing rainbows!' Sophy, don't you ever
fall in love with somebody you know you can't have! It's hell!"

I didn't tell him I knew it.

One of his men came to tell him he was needed urgently. As it meant
a thirty-mile trip and the night was cold, I made him wait for a cup
of coffee and an omelet."

"Miss Smith--"

"You said 'Sophy' a while ago. 'Sophy' sounds all right to me."

"It sounds fine to me, too, Sophy." And he reached out and seized my
hand with a grip that made me wince.

"I told you I was a bear!" he said, regretfully.

When Alicia returned, she came, as usual, to my room.

"I am tired!" she yawned, and curled herself up on the bed.

"Didn't you have a nice time?"

"Oh, I suppose so! Everybody was lovely to me, and I could have
divided my dances. These Southerners are easy to love, aren't they?
I find it very easy for me! And oh, Sophy, there's to be a picnic
day after to-morrow, at the Meade plantation, in my honor, if you
please! We go by automobile.--I never thought I could get tired
dancing, Sophy. But I am. Tired!"

"Go to bed and sleep it off."

"Did you have time to make out that grocery list? They've been
overcharging us on butter."

"Yes: I finished it after Doctor Geddes left"

"Oh! He was here, then?" She yawned again.

"Yes. But somebody sent for him, and he had to cut his visit short."

Alicia frowned.

"I wonder he keeps so healthy, running out at all hours of the
night; and heaven knows how he manages about meals! His cook told me
that sometimes he has to rush away in the middle of a meal, and
sometimes he misses one altogether."

"I remembered that, so I made him wait for a cup of coffee and an
omelet."

She reached over and squeezed my hand. "You're always thinking about
other people's comfort, Sophy." She paused, and looked at me
half-questioningly:

"I wish he had somebody to look after him," she said in a low voice,
"somebody like you." She added, as if to herself: "He takes two
lumps of sugar in his coffee, one in his tea, wants dry toast, and
likes his omelet _buttered_."

And when I stared at her, she slipped nearer, and laid her cheek
against mine.

"Sophy," in a soft whisper, "you've made up to me for my father and
my mother, and for the sisters and brothers I never had. We're all
sorts and conditions of folks, aren't we, Sophy?--but none like you,
Sophy; not any one of them all like you!"

At that moment, through the open window, there stole in on the night
air the faintest whisper of music. It wasn't mournful, it wasn't
joyful, but both together; a singing voice, a crying voice, wild and
sweet, part of the night and the trees and the wind, and part, I
think, of the secretest something in the human heart. We had no idea
where it came from; out of the sky, perhaps!

Somebody ran down-stairs, and a moment later the front door opened
softly. The Author had heard, and was afoot. But even as he stepped
outside, Ariel's ghostly music ceased. There was nothing; nobody;
only the night.



CHAPTER X

THE FOREST OF ARDEN


I had seen Alicia whirl away in the Meades' big car. I had seen the
Westmacotes and Miss Emmeline off on what they termed a nature-hunt.
The Author and his secretary were up to the eyes in a new chapter;
The Suffragist was spreading the glad tidings; and Riedriech and
Schmetz had Luis Morenas in hand for the afternoon, visioning the
United States of the World, while he snatched sketches of the
visionaries.

The Author, Mr. Johnson, and I, lunched together.

"Miss Smith," began The Author abruptly, "did you know this house
was built by British and French master masons? No? Well, it was.
Judge Gatchell's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were
solicitors for this estate, and the judge at last very kindly
allowed me to look through a great batch of papers in his
possession. From these I discovered that one of the Hyndses visited
England in 1727, joined the new lodge lately established there, and
brought one of the brethren, an architect, back to America with
him. Another came from France. These three planned and built this
house, and did it pretty well, too.

"This house-builder, Walsingham Hynds, made his house a sort of
lodge for the brethren, just as in later times his grandsons
sheltered the brethren of those societies that fathered the American
Revolution. Gatchell tells me there is a legend of the master of
Hynds House entertaining British officers and at the same time
hiding the forfeited rebels they were hunting. I'd like to know,"
The Author added, reflectively, "where he hid them."

"An old house like this has dozens of places where one could be
hidden without much danger of detection," remarked Mr. Johnson.

"I'm pretty sure of that," agreed The Author, emphatically.

"You should be, since you did a neat little bit of hiding on your
own account," Mr. Johnson reminded him.

The Author was nettled. He had never found the paper lost out of the
closet in his own room, though he had never given up a tentative
search for it.

"Well, it's confoundedly odd I never did such a thing before," he
grumbled.

"What is odd is that I myself was waked out of my sleep that night
by the most oppressive sense of misery and hopelessness I have ever
experienced," Mr. Johnson said seriously. "It was so overpowering
that it made me think of Saint Theresa's description of her torment
in that oven in the wall of hell which had by kindly forethought on
the part of the devil been arranged for her permanent tenancy. Of
course, it was just a nightmare," he added, doubtfully; "or perhaps
a fit of indigestion."

"Indigestion takes many forms," I remarked, as lightly as I could.
"And you must remember you've been warned that Hynds House is
haunted. Why, the servants insist they've seen ol' Mis' Scarlett's
h'ant!"

"Ah!" nodded The Author. "And I smell a mysterious perfume, I walk
in my sleep for the first and only time in my life, and I hide where
it can't be found a paper with an uncouth jingle and some dots on
it, Johnson and I have the same nightmare. And I have heard
footsteps. All hallucinations, of course! I will say this much for
Hynds House: I never had a hallucination until I came here. By the
way, did I merely imagine I heard a violin last night?"

"Oh, no: I heard it, too." Mr. Johnson looked at The Author with a
concerned face. "You're getting a bit off your nerves, Chief.
Anybody might play a violin."

"Anybody might, but few do play it as I thought I heard it played
last night. Who's the player, Miss Smith?"

"I haven't the slightest idea. Alicia thinks it's a spirit that
lives in the crape-myrtle trees."

I was beginning to be aweary of The Author's shrewd eyes and
persistent questioning, and I was heartily glad when he had to go
back to his work.

That was a gray and windless afternoon, and the house was full of
those bluish shadows that belong to gray days; it was charged, even
more than usual, with mystery: the whole atmosphere tingled with it
as with electricity. I couldn't read. I have never been able to play
upon any musical instrument, much as I love music. I do not sing,
either, except in a small-beer voice; and when I tried to sew I
pricked my fingers with the needle. I went into the kitchen,
consulted with Mary Magdalen as to the evening's dinner, weighed and
measured such ingredients as she needed, saw that the two maids were
following instructions, tried to make friends with Beautiful Dog,
until he howled with anguish and affliction and fled as from
pestilence; and, unable to endure the house any longer, put on my
hat and set out upon one of those aimless walks one takes in a land
where all walks are lovely.

Automobiles came and went upon the public road, and to escape them
I crossed a wooden foot-bridge spanning a weedy ditch, struck into a
path bordering a wide field followed it aimlessly for a while, and
before I knew it was in the Enchanted Wood.

The Enchanted Wood was carpeted with brown and sweet-smelling
pine-needles, with green clumps of honeysuckle breaking out here and
there in moist spots. There were cassena bushes, full of vivid
scarlet berries; and crooked, gray-green cedars; and brown boles of
pine-trees; and the shallowest, gayest, absurdest little thread of a
brook giggling as it went about its important business of keeping a
lip of woodland green.

It was very, very still there, somewhat as Gethsemane might have
been, I fancy. I had wanted to be alone, that I might wrestle with
my trouble. Yet now that I was facing it, my spirit quailed. Never
had I felt so desolate, or dreamed that the human heart could bear
such anguish.

If I had had the faintest warning, that I might have saved myself!
If I had never come to Hynds House at all, but had lived my busy,
matter-of-fact, quiet life! Yet the idea of never having seen him,
never having loved him, was more cruel than the cruellest suffering
that loving entailed. It was harder even than the thought that
Alicia and I cared for the same man, who perhaps cared for neither
of us. At that I fell into an agony of weeping.

That passed. I was spent and empty. But the calm of acceptance had
come. I wasn't to lose my grip, nor wear the willow. The idea of me,
Sophy Smith, wearing the willow, aroused my English common-sense. I
refused to be ridiculous.

And then I looked up and saw him coming toward me, his great dog
trotting at his side. I pulled myself together, and smiled; for
Boris was thrusting his friendly nose into my palm, and rubbing his
fine head against my shoulder, and his master had dropped lightly
down beside me.

I had not seen Mr. Jelnik for several days, and it struck me
painfully that the man was pale, that his step dragged, and the
brightness of his beauty was dimmed. He looked older, more careworn.
If he was glad to see me, it was at first a troubled gladness, for
he started, and bit his lip. I wondered, not with jealousy, but with
pain, if there was somebody, some beautiful and high-born lady, at
sight of whom his heart might have leaped as mine did now. Was it,
perhaps, to forget such a one that he had exiled himself?

"You are such a serene, restful little person!" he said presently,
and a change came over his tired face; "and I am such a restless
one! You soothe me like a cool hand on a hot forehead."

"Restless?--you? Why, I thought you the serenest person I had ever
known."

His mocking, gentle smile curved his lips. But his eyes were not
laughing. For a fleeting, flashing second the whirlpools and the
depths were bared in them. Then the veil fell, the surface lights
came out and danced.

"My father was an excellent teacher," he said, indifferently. "The
whole object of his training was self-control. He was really a very
wonderful man, my father. But he overlooked one highly important
factor in my make-up, my Hynds blood."

I made no reply. I was wondering, perplexedly, how I, I of all
people, should have been picked up and enmeshed in the web of these
Hyndses and their fate.

"Thank you," said he, gratefully, "for your silence. Most women
would have talked, for the good of my soul. Why don't you talk?"

"Because I have nothing to say."

"You evidently inherited a God-sent reticence from your British
forebears. The British have 'illuminating flashes of silence.' It is
one of their saving graces."

I proved it.

Mr. Jelnik, with a whimsical, sidewise glance, drew nearer.

"Why, instead of sitting at the foot of a pine-tree, which is also a
reticent creature, are you not sitting at the feet of our friend The
Author, who is perfectly willing to illumine the universe? Very
bright man, The Author. How do you like his secretary?"

"Mr. Johnson? Oh, very much indeed! He is charming!"

"I find him so myself. But he is melting wax before the fire of
feminine eyes. A man in love is a sorry spectacle!"

"Is he?"

"_Ach_, yes! Consider my cousin Richard Geddes, for instance."

At that I winced, remembering the doctor's eyes when he had spoken
of Alicia and of this man. I looked at Mr. Jelnik now, wonderingly.
If he knew that much, hadn't he any heart? He stopped short. A
wrinkle came between his black brows.

"I am not to speak lightly of my Cousin Richard, I perceive."

"No. Please, please, no!"

"I hadn't meant to. Richard," said Mr. Jelnik, gravely, "is a good
man."

"Oh, yes! Indeed, yes! And--and he has a deep affection for _you_,
Mr. Jelnik."

"We Hyndses are the deuce and all for affection. We take it in such
deadly earnest that we store up a fine lot of trouble for
ourselves." His face darkened.

I had been right, then, in supposing that there was somebody,
perhaps half the world away, for whom he cared. _And he didn't care
for Alicia._ I was sure of that.

"Don't go!" he begged, as I stirred. "Stay with me for a little
while: I need you. I am tired, I am bored, I am disgusted with
things as they are. There is nothing new under the sun, and all is
vanity and vexation of spirit. Also, I am fronting the forks of a
dilemma: Shall I shake the dust of Hyndsville from my foot, yield to
the _Wanderlust_ and go what our worthy friend Judge Gatchell calls
'tramping,' or shall I stay here yet awhile? I can't make up my
mind!"

"Do you want to go?"

"Yes and no. Hold: let's toss for it and let the fall of the coin
decide." He took from his pocket a thin silver foreign coin, and
showed it me.

"Heads, I go. Tails, I stay," he said, and tossed it into the air.
It fell beside me, out of his reach. With a swift hand I picked it
up.

"Well?" he asked, indifferently.

My hand shut down upon it. There was the sound of wind in my ears,
and my heart pounded, and my sight blurred. Then somebody--oh,
surely not I!--in a low, clear, modulated voice spoke:

"_You will have to stay, Mr. Jelnik_," said the voice, pleasantly.
"_It is tails._"

And all the while the inside Me, the real Me, was crying accusingly:
"Oh, _liar! liar! It is heads!_"

Did he smile? I do not know. He did not look at me for the minute,
but stared instead at the gray-blue, shadowed woods, the brown boles
of the pines, the bright trickle of water playing it was a real
brook.

"Tails it is. I stay," he said presently. And with a swift movement
he reached out and lightly patted my hand with the coin in it.

"Well, it's decided. You have got me for a next-door neighbor for a
while longer, Miss Smith. No, don't go yet."

So I stayed, who would have stayed in the Pit to be near him, or
walked out of heaven to follow him, had he called me.

"Do you know," he spoke in a plaintive voice--"that I haven't had
any lunch? I forgot to go home for lunch! Boris, go get me something
to eat, old chap!"

Boris hung out a tongue like a flag, looked in his man's eyes, and
vanished, running as only the thoroughbred wolf-hound can run.

"I am so tired! Should you mind if I kept my dog's place warm at
your feet, Miss Smith?" And he stretched his long length on the
pine-needles, his hands under his head, his face upturned.

"I wish I had a pillow!" he complained.

I scooped up an armful of the pine-needles, while he watched me
lazily, and packed it over and between the roots of the pine-tree.

"You're a Sister of Charity," said he, gratefully. "But I can't
afford to scratch my neck." And coolly he took a fold of my brown
silk skirt, patted it over the straw, and with a sigh of
satisfaction rested his head upon it.

"This is very pleasant!" he sighed. Presently: "Your hair looks just
as a woman's hair ought to look, under that brown hat," he said
drowsily, "soft and fair. And after this, I shall order some
brown-silk cushion-covers. I never knew anything could feel so
comfortable and restful!" He closed his eyes.

I sat there, hands locked tightly together, and looked down at his
beautiful head, his slim and boyish body; and I felt an aching sense
of resentment. No man has any business to be like that, and then
come into the life of a woman named Smith.

He did not move, nor did I. We might have been creatures motionless
under a spell, in that Enchanted Wood; until from the outside world
came Boris, carrying a wicker basket, in which sandwiches, fruit, a
small bottle of wine, and a silver drinking-cup had been carefully
packed.

"Boris is used to playing courier." His master patted him
affectionately. "Come, Miss Smith. By the way, that isn't your real
name, though. Your name is Woman-in-the-Woods. Mine is--"

"Fortunatus."

He raised his brows. "I was about to say 'Man-who-is-Hungry,'"
he finished, pleasantly. "I once knew an Indian named
Tail-feathers-going-over-the-Hill. It taught me the value of
being explicit as to one's name. Here, you shall have the cup,
and I'll drink out of the bottle. Some of these fine days,
Woman-in-the-Woods, I shall take you on a jaunt with me and
Boris."

"It sounds promising," I admitted, cautiously.

"It is more. You shall learn all the fine points of out-of-door
housekeeping.--Drink your wine, Woman-in-the-Woods. You were pale,
very pale, when I came upon you. I was afraid something had been
troubling you."

"Something troubles everybody."

"Oh, bromidic Miss Smith!--Drink your wine, please. And do not look
doubtfully upon that sandwich. My man knows how to build them."

His man did. The sandwich was manna. The wine evidently came from
heaven.

"Now you have a color. I say, is Morenas going to do you, too?"

"Good gracious, no! But he has sketched Alicia a dozen times at
least."

"And me," said Mr. Jelnik, gloomily. "There's no evading the brute.
I turn like a weathercock; and there he is, with corrugated brow and
slitted eyes, studying me! And the baleful eye of The Author also
pursues me. Between them, I feel skinned."

"Mr. Morenas says you are a rare but quite perfect type," I told
him, mischievously.

The young man shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. "Am I a type,
Woman-in-the-Woods?" he asked.

"Indeed, you are absolutely different from anybody else." And then,
terrified, I turned red.

"Oh, I know! You didn't mean it either as a brick-bat or a bouquet,
merely the truth as you see it. You are transparently truthful,
fundamentally truthful, and at the same time the American business
woman! You can't understand how that intrigues me!"

And then, quite simply and boyishly, he began to talk about
himself. I got glimpses of a boyhood spent partly in a stately home
in Vienna, and partly roaming about the great Hungarian estate which
his mother loved, and to which the two returned summer after summer,
until her death. Then student days, and after that, foot-loose
wanderings up and down the earth and across the seven seas.

His grandmother had dropped courtesies to kings; and mine had
dropped "aitches." His father had been a European celebrity, mine a
ship-chandler in Boston, U.S.A. Yet here we two were; and he might
have been a high-spirited and most beautiful little boy picnicking
with a sedate and old-maidish little girl.

"How old should you imagine me?" he flung the question like a
challenge, as if he had divined my thoughts.

"Oh, say, thirteen, going on fourteen."

"Dear Woman-in-the-Woods, I am thirty-three."

"You are older than I thought."

"You are younger than you think. And you betray the fact," he
smiled.

"I have never been very young; probably I shall never be very old."

"You will always be exactly the right age," said Nicholas Jelnik.
"For you will always be a little girl, and a young maiden, and a
grown woman, and a bit of an old maid, and something of a
grandmother. That is a wonderful, a very, very wonderful
combination!"

I looked at him with more than doubt. But no, he was not poking fun,
though the rich color had come into his cheek, and the golden lights
flickered mischievously in his eyes.

"And I forgot to add, also a business woman!" he finished gaily.
"_Herr Gott_, but it took a business woman to tackle old Hynds House
and gather together such folks as you have there now!"

"Alicia was the head and front of _that_. I merely helped."

"Alicia," said Mr. Jelnik, "is a darling girl. Alicia is everything
a girl ought to be." But there was not in eyes or voice that light
and tone that crept into Doctor Richard's when he named her. My dear
girl's tender face--so true and beautiful and loving--rose before
me, and all she had meant to me, been to me, crowded upon my heart.
I said what I had never intended to say to any one:

"Why, Alicia's my--my _child_, to me! Don't you understand?"

"Dear Woman, yes!" His voice was melted gold.

The ridiculous little brook went whish-whis-sssh; and the bluish
shadows melted into gray; and a chill came creeping, creeping, into
the air.

"Before you go," said Nicholas Jelnik, "I should like to give you a
talisman, to turn Miss Smith into Woman-in-the-Woods every now and
then." And with his pocket-knife he cut a sharp line down the thin
old coin he had tossed, worked at it for a few minutes with a pocket
file and a stone, and then with his fingers that looked so slim but
were strong as steel nippers. The coin broke in halves.

"Half for you," said Mr. Jelnik, "and half for me, to commemorate a
comradely afternoon, and to mark a decision. We'll consider it a
token, a charm, a talisman--what you will. And if ever I really and
truly need a Woman-in-the-Woods to help me, why, I'll send my half
to her; and she'll obey the summons instantly and without question.
And if ever she needs a man--like me, say--why, she'll send her
half, and he'll come, instantly and without question." He was
smiling as he spoke. Now he paused to look at me earnestly. "Because
we are going to be real friends, you and I; are we not?"

I hesitated. How could we two be real friends, when the balance
between us was so uneven, so unequal? He saw the hesitation,
momentary as it was, and looked at me with something of astonishment
and a hint of hurt.

"I have never," he said, proudly, "had to ask for friendship. Yet I
do desire yours, who are such a grave, brave, true little thing,
such a valiant-for-truth, stand-fast little thing! You have the one
quality that I, born wanderer, foot-loose rolling-stone, need most
in this world, unchanging, loyal, unquestioning steadfastness."

I considered this. It is true that I hold fast, for that is the
English way.

"But outside of that one thing," I told him, "I have nothing else."

"No?--She hasn't," said he, in a teasing tone, "anything to give,
except unbuyable truth. She has nothing to offer except Friendship's
very self!--this poor, poor Miss Smith!"

Now, heaven alone knows why, but at that my eyes filled with foolish
tears. If he saw them--and they ran down my cheek in spite of me--he
mercifully gave no sign. Instead he held out his fine brown hand,
and when I placed mine in it, he lifted it to his lips with foreign
grace.

"We two are friends, then--through thick and thin, above doubting,
and without fear or reproach. That is so, _hein_?"

"Yes!" I promised.

So, walking slowly, as if loath to go, we two went out of the
Enchanted Wood and left the Forest of Arden behind us.

When I was again in my own room, and had taken off the brown frock,
I held against my cheek, for a long, long minute, that fold against
which his head had rested; I fingered the broken coin; I looked long
and long at the hand his lips had touched; and though I had told a
shameless lie, I was not at all ashamed.

I have often read that women do not and cannot love men, but only
love to be loved by them. Only a man could have been stupid enough
to say that; and, then he didn't know. The woman hadn't told him.

"I say! Haven't you got on a new frock to-night? My word, it's
scrumptious!" remarked The Author, after dinner. I was wearing a
black-and-blue frock, and he had seen it before, as I explained with
some surprise.

He adjusted his glasses, frowned, and shook his head.

"I am becoming unobservant," he said crossly. "This place is playing
the very deuce with my mental processes! But stay: surely your hair
is arranged differently? It wasn't brought over your ears like that,
the first time I saw you, I know it wasn't!"

"It is curled a little and fluffed a little; that's what makes it
look different," I told him patiently.

"Then that frock is curled a little and fluffed a little, and that's
what makes it look different, too," The Author decided, and stared
at me critically. "You are improving," he told me, with
condescension.

"You are _not_!" I was goaded to reply.

The Author merely grinned.

"Do you know," he asked, "if that man Jelnik is coming to-night? I
hope so. Unusual man. Can't think why he buries himself here! Our
old friend Gatchell doesn't seem to admire him. I wonder why?"

"I can't possibly imagine," I replied equably, "unless it is that
the judge grows old."

"Hah!" The Author's eyebrows went up truculently. "And is it a sign
of advancing age and mental decrepitude not to admire this fellow?"

But I laughed at him.

"You're all alike, you women." A wicked light snapped into his eyes.
"Hear, dear lady, the Bard of the Congaree, the Poet Laureate of
South Carolina, Coogle for your benefit," hissed The Author, and
repeated, balefully:

          Alas, poor woman, with eyes of sparkling fire,
          Thy heart is often won by mankind's gay attire!
          So weak thou art, so very weak at best,
          Thou canst not look beyond a satin-lined vest!

          I've seen thee ofttimes cast a-winning glance,
          And be carried away, as it were within a trance,
          By the gay apparel of some dishonest youth
          Whose bosom heaved with not a single truth!

He was so outrageously funny that I forgave his impertinence. His
face relaxed, and his eyes twinkled. He was in high feather the
remainder of the evening. He was, in fact, so good-humoredly witty
that the boys and girls Alicia had brought home clustered about him
like golden bees.

"Miss Smith," whispered Miss Emmeline, under cover of their
laughter, "may I have a word with you?"

We drifted into the library; and she seated herself, folded her
hands, and said tremulously:

"My dear, my wish has been granted. I have really come in contact
with the Unknown! I have seen something, Miss Smith!" I looked at
her steadily. "Just before dawn," Miss Emmeline continued, "I woke
up, with a curious, indefinable, uneasy sense of trouble, as if
something had happened and I was remembering it, say. I saw how
foolish it was to allow a mere nightmare to worry me, though I am
not subject to nightmares, my conscience and my digestion being
quite all right, thank heaven! Gradually the impression faded. I was
just dropping to sleep again, when I heard the faintest imaginable
footfall, almost as if somebody were walking upon the air itself.
And then, Miss Smith, there stole across my room a figure. There was
nothing terrifying about it: it was merely a figure, that was all,
and so I was not frightened. It came from my clothes-closet, went
into the next room, and vanished. For when I arose and followed,
there was no trace of it. And the doors were locked. Now, was not
that remarkable?"

"Very," said I, with dry lips.

"I should have thought I was dreaming," went on Miss Emmeline, "save
that there lingered in the air, for some time, a faint and very
delicate--"

"Perfume," I finished.

Miss Emmeline started, and seized my hand.

"Then you have experienced it, too?"

"I have detected the perfume," I admitted, "but I have never seen
anything. Dear Miss Emmeline, would it be too much to ask you to
keep this to yourself, for a while at least? People are so easily
frightened; and wild stories spread and grow."

Miss Emmeline nodded. "Of course I'll keep it quiet," she promised
kindly. "I shall, however, write down the occurrence for the Society
for Psychical Research, without giving actual names and place." To
this I raised no objection. But it was with a troubled mind that I
left Miss Emmeline.

I was destined to hear one more confidence that night, unwittingly
this time. I had gone down-stairs to place, ready to Mary Magdalen's
hand in the morning, the materials for the breakfast. This entails
work, but it insures successful handling of household economics.
Having weighed and measured what was necessary, and seen that the
inquisitive Black family occupied their proper quarters on the lower
veranda, I went back up-stairs. The Author's door was slightly ajar,
and I could hear him walking up and down, as he does when he
dictates; for he is a restless man.

"Johnson," The Author was saying as I passed, my slippered feet
making no sound, "Johnson, that Sophy woman intrigues me. Hanged if
she doesn't, Johnson!"

"I like Miss Smith, myself. She reminds me very much of my mother,"
said Johnson's cordial voice in reply.

"But I don't like the way things look here, at all, Johnson!" fumed
The Author. "What's his game, anyhow? What's he after? What's he
here for? Does she know, or suspect? Or doesn't she, Johnson?" The
Author asked, earnestly. "Look here: somebody's got to protect that
Sophy woman against Nicholas Jelnik!"



CHAPTER XI

THE JINNEE INTERVENES


Just before he went back North, Luis Morenas good-naturedly agreed
to exhibit his new sketches for the delectation of such folk as we
cared to ask to view them--this to please Alicia, whom he called
Flower o' the Peach.

Now an exhibit of Morenas sketches would have been an art event in
the Biggest City itself. But think of it in Hyndsville, where few
worth-while things ever happened; and imagine the polite
wire-pulling for invitations that ensued!

It wasn't my fault that I couldn't ask the whole town to come to my
house to see those brilliant sketches. I would have done so with all
my heart, but there was a section of Hyndsville I couldn't reach. It
was locked up behind bars of pride and prejudice of its own
building; and losing by it, of course, since one can't be exclusive
without at the same time being excluded. To shut other folks out you
have first got to shut yourself in.

For instance, figure to yourself Miss Martha Hopkins. She had
visited as far north as Atlanta; and she had relatives in
Charleston, as she would have condescendingly informed arch-angels,
principalities, powers, thrones, and dominions. But she wasn't
blessed with much of this world's goods, and most of the time she
stayed home and improved her mind. She took herself with profound
seriousness. She seemed to think that the better part of wisdom
consists in knowing who said this and who didn't say that--"as Mr.
Arnold Bennett expresses it," "as Mr. H.G. Wells remarks," "as Mr.
James Huneker writes,"--she was the only person in all Hyndsville
who could write up music and art, and she wasn't even afraid to use
the word _sex_ in its most modern acceptance; though in South
Carolina you refer to the ladies as "the fair sex" if you're a
gentleman, and to the gentlemen as "the stronger sex" if you're a
lady. You understand that "male and female created He them," and you
let it go at that. Miss Martha Hopkins, then, was daring; she was
also exclusive.

I suppose if I had been younger I could have smiled at Miss Martha,
as Susy Gatchell and her graceless friends did, but somehow she
appeared to me a creature trying to peck at the world and peek at
the stars through the bars of a bird-cage. That's why, when I met
her a morning or two before the Morenas exhibit, I asked her if she
wouldn't like to see it. I knew that, once asked, she could be kept
away by nothing short of an earthquake or a deluge. Yet--

"Thank you, Miss Smith, I shall be glad to look over the sketches."
And she added blandly: "Four o'clock, did you say? Very well, I will
come. It is one's moral duty to encourage men of talent."

"Whoop!" cried The Author, joyously, when I told him that. "Revenge
yourself, Morenas: sketch her, man! sketch her!"

Morenas laughed. "Put her in one of your books and make her talk,"
he suggested slyly. "You have a genius for making a woman talk like
an idiot."

"That's because he does the talking for her, himself," said Alicia,
impudently.

"It pays, it pays!" smiled The Author. "I draw from life."

"Nature-fakir!" Alicia mocked.

"My dear fellow, _I_ draw. _You_ draw and quarter," said Morenas.

The Author flung out his arms, grandiloquently.

          You may as well try to change the course
            Of yonder sun
              To north, and south,
          As to try to subdue by criticism
            This heart of verse,
              Or close this mouth!

he cried, thumping his chest. "Come on, Johnson: let's leave these
knockers to fate--and Miss Martha Hopkins!"

Miss Martha Hopkins came, she saw, and she had a perfectly beautiful
time. As a matter of fact, everybody that could come, did come. And
the very smartest and prettiest of the younger set served tea. Oh,
yes, decidedly the tables were turning!

Despite which, Alicia and I were not happy. It seemed to me that a
veil had fallen between us, for we were shy with each other. Both
suffered, and each dreaded that the other should know.

I was grateful that The Author's mind was too taken up with Hynds
House history to focus itself upon us. The Author spent his spare
hours rummaging through such dusty and musty records as might throw
some light upon the Hyndses. In the old office were many faded
plantation and household books, and he was able to glean enough from
these to confirm the methodical carefulness of Freeman Hynds. There
were, too, dry receipts for "monies Paid by Mr. Rich. Hynds" for
some old slave; or a brief notice that "By Orders Mr. Richd. Hynds,
no Women shall be Whipt"; or "Bought by Mr. R. Hynds & Charg'd to
his Acct., one Crippl'd Black Childe namd Scipio from Vanham's Sale,
& Given to Sukey his Mother." Another time it would be a list of
Christmas gifts: "One Colour'd Head Kerchief for Nancy. One Flute
for Blind Sam. One Shoulder Cape for Kitty my Nurse. One
Horn-handl'd Knife for Agrippa. One Pckt. Tobacco & a Jorum of Rum
for Shooba."

Over against these items were others: "By Orders Mr. Freeman Hynds,
Juba to Receive Twenty light Lashes for Malingering; Black Tom to be
Shipt to River Bottom Plantation for the Chastning of his Spiritt;
Bread & Water & Irons 3 Dayes & Nights for Shooba for Frighting of
his Fellowes & other Evil Behaviour."

This was interesting enough, but not conclusive. All that The Author
could find only deepened his uncertainty, and this made him
abominably cross, an ill temper increased by the presence of Mr.
Nicholas Jelnik, who came and went, unruffled, aloof, with
inscrutable eyes and a gently mocking smile.

The Harrison-Gores came shortly after Morenas left. The Englishman
was a pink-faced old gentleman in a shabby Norfolk suit and with the
very thinnest legs on record--"mocking-bird legs," Fernolia called
them. His daughter was a gray-eyed Minerva with the skin of a baby
and the walk of a Highland piper. They found Carolina people
charming, and they secured some valuable data for their book, "The
Beginnings of American History." Everything in Hynds House pleased
them, even The Author.

Other people who do not enter into this story came and went during
that winter. But they were merely millionaires--people who motored
around the lovely country, ate Mary Magdalen's hot biscuit and fried
chicken, slept in our four-posters, paid their stiff bills
thankfully, and went about their business as good millionaires
should, and generally do. Only one out of them all was disagreeable;
he wanted to buy Hynds House out of hand for a proposed club of
which he was to be founder and president.

"It'd be just what the bunch would like," he told me. "All we'd have
to do would be to paint these wooden walls a nice cheerful light
color, change one room into a smoker, another into a billiard-room,
and a third into a grill, add some gun-racks and leather
wing-chairs, and we'd be right up to the minute in club-houses!"

When I explained that I couldn't sell he offered to compromise on
two of the carved marble mantels, the library tiles, and two inlaid
tables, "at double what you'd get from anybody else." And when I
wouldn't even let him have these trifles, he was disgusted and took
no pains to conceal it. He was rude to Alicia, who snubbed him with
terrible thoroughness, a proceeding which made him call loudly for
his "bill" and his car. The last we heard of him was his bullying
voice bawling at his sullen chauffeur.

"That pig," said The Author to me, with fury, "is undoubtedly the
lineal descendant of the one Gadarene swine that hadn't decency
enough to rush down the slope with the rest of the herd and drown
himself."

Busy as I was, it wasn't over easy for me to find time to revisit
that brown and sweet-smelling spot in the Forest of Arden where on a
gray afternoon, I had met Nicholas Jelnik and received from him a
kiss on the palm, and a broken coin. And I wanted to go back there,
as ghosts may desire to revisit the glimpses of the moon.

That is why, on the first free afternoon I had, I changed into the
selfsame brown frock, put on the brown hat with the yellow quill in
it, and slipped out of Hynds House alone. It wasn't a gray afternoon
this time, but a clear, bright, sun-shiny one, all blue and gold and
green, and with the pleasantest of friendly winds a-frolicking, and
a pine-scented air with a pungent and a vital bite to it.

I went along the highroad for a while, crossed the weedy, ferny
ditch that separated it from the fallow fields beyond, and struck
into the deserted foot-path that leads to the Enchanted Wood.

It was very lonesome, very peaceful. I could see the pine-trees I
love swaying and rocking against the blue, blue sky; I could catch
the low-hummed tune they crooned to themselves and the winds; I
could sniff a thousand woodsy odors. Spears of sunlight made bright
blobs on the brown grass; and every littlest bush and shrub wore a
shimmering halo, as you see the blessed ones backgrounded in old
pictures. There was a bird twittering somewhere; occasionally a twig
snapped with a quick, secret sharpness; and once a thin brown rabbit
took to his heels, right under my feet.

I stopped from time to time to sense the feel of the afternoon, to
drink the air and be healed. In a few minutes I should be within the
forest and hear the little brook giggling to itself as it scurried
over its brown pathway. And then I heard--something--and turned.

The deep and weedy ditch, crowded with high stalks of last year's
goldenrod and fennel, edged all that pathway, draining the entire
field. Crawling snakelike through it he had followed me. And now
here he was, suddenly erect on the path behind me, looking at me
with narrowed eyes under his flat forehead.

I wasn't afraid--at first. Nothing like him had ever crossed my
path, and I stared at him with more of disgust and aversion than
terror.

He was tall and bony, immensely powerful, and his black skin showed
with a grayish shine upon it through the rents in his rags. His
gray-black, horny toes protruded through what once had been shoes,
and a shapeless, colorless felt hat covered his bullet head. His
corded black arms emerged from the torn sleeves of his checked
shirt, and his hairy chest was naked. There came from him an
indescribable reek of tobacco, whisky, filthy clothes, and the
beastlike odor of an unclean body. He was beardless, and his
gorilla-like nostrils twitched, his forehead wrinkled. His eyes were
mere pin-points, with a sort of red glare far back in them; his
mouth was like a dirty red muzzle. He was a prowling tramp, of the
worst sort.

Involuntarily he stopped in his tracks as I faced him, his hands
hanging loosely at his sides. His eyes swept greedily over
me--silver mesh-purse, wrist-watch, the brooch at my throat, the
rings on my fingers.

"Whut yuh doin' hyuh, w'ite lady?" he asked in a thick voice, and
grinned. And quite suddenly such a fear as I had not dreamed could
be felt by a mortal took me by the heart and squeezed it as with an
iron hand.

"Whut foh yuh come by mah field, lil w'ite lady?" he purred. "Ah'm
takin' lil snooze in de ditch grass, an' dey yuh comes, wakin' me
up! Whut yuh wake me up for, w'ite gal?" Leering, he began with a
gliding, stealthy movement to advance.

"Stop!" cried I, in a voice that wasn't mine, it was so sharp and
thin and reedy. "Go back--where you came from! Don't you dare to
take another step! Go back!"

The hands hooked into outstretched claws. His head sunk between his
shoulders. Of the eyes, only red pin-points showed in the twitching
face. I stood stone-still, struck into utter immobility. My brain
was trying to urge me to fly, fly! This is the Black Death, Sophy!
the Black Death!

He, too, stood of a sudden stone-still, as if rooted to the ground.
His eyes widened, and stared, as if he saw something over and beyond
me. I didn't dare turn my head. It might be a trick, to divert
attention for a fatal second.

The claws clenched into balled fists, the lips drew back, showing
blackened and decayed teeth. Bristling like an aroused beast, his
forehead wrinkling, his nostrils twitching, he made an inarticulate,
growling, brute-like noise in his throat. His head twisted sideways.
Of a sudden the sweat burst out upon his face, and he began to back
away, warily.

And then something swift and dark sped by, bounding on light and
flying feet; something that must have come from my forest. It was
The Jinnee! God be praised, it was The Jinnee, his dark robe giving
an odd effect of flying, his eyes living vengeance, his face like
Fate carved in ebony.

I saw him leap, and close in upon the horror; I heard a sort of
wolfish yapping. The Black Death disappeared. And then I, too, was
falling, falling into infinite blackness and blankness, with one red
flash when I struck my head.

Half-conscious, half-hearing, altogether unseeing, I thought there
were two Voices near me. I couldn't understand what they said. One
of the Voices was gently and persistently applying cold and soothing
applications to my forehead. Another Voice chafed my hands. I
thought one said, "Achmet," and the other replied, "Sahib." I knew I
must be dreaming. But it was a pleasant dream enough.

Quite suddenly somebody said in good, anxious English:

"Thank God! you are better!"

I had opened my eyes. There was the whish-whish-whishing little
brook, the good brown pines, with their heavenly odor. And there was
the face of Nicholas Jelnik, bent over me. And beside him, gravely
concerned and troubled, Boris.

I looked from one to the other, both so clear-eyed, so kind, so
_safe_; and then I remembered.

"Sophy! Sophy!" He had his arms around me, in a close, protecting
clasp, while Boris pawed my skirts, and cried over me in loving,
honest dog fashion, and licked my wet cheek with his affectionate
tongue. I slipped my arm around the big dog's neck, and clung to the
two of them. And it seemed to me that while I clung thus, with my
head bent and my face hidden, one of them kissed my hair.

"It never occurred to me--that there might be danger for you," he
was whispering. "To have that horror come near you--oh, my God! Oh,
my God!"

I was terrified at sight of his face, dead-white, with eyes of
steel, and straight lips, and pinched nostrils; the terrible face of
the avenging white man, a face as inexorable as judgment. I hid my
own before it, and trembled; and yet was glad that I had seen it.

I stammered: "There was--a devil--and then a Jinnee came. And I
heard--sounds. Then I fell. Did--did The Jinnee--" My voice died in
my throat.

His eyes were ice, his mouth a grim, pale line.

"That has been attended to," he said composedly.

He blamed himself for having been thoughtless. "But I was so glad to
have you come here, that afternoon, that I could think of nothing
else!" And it seemed that this particular bit of woodland was his,
bought because its quiet beauty pleased him. He was in the habit of
coming here frequently; it had never occurred to him that danger
could lurk near it.

"I thought I heard--somebody calling somebody else 'Achmet.'" I told
him, confusedly. "And there was a Jinnee, really there was. And two
Voices. Who brought me here? Did you find me, over there?"

"You were not hard to carry," he said evasively.

"But The Jinnee?"

"The Jinnee did exactly what a good Jinnee always does, his duty.
Having done it, he disappeared. Didn't I tell you you're not to
think of what's happened? It is finished," said Mr. Jelnik,
peremptorily.

I asked no more questions.

"Do you think you are able to walk now?" he asked.

I tried to, with shaking knees. At the edge of the field I grew
faint again, and staggered, and was unpleasantly sick.

"You simply cannot appear in Hynds House in this shape, and invite
comment and question," said Mr. Jelnik, anxiously. His fine brows
wrinkled. "I have it: you will stop at my house for a few minutes,
and I'll give you a cordial, that will put you to rights."

I went staggering along beside him, making desperate efforts to hold
myself erect. The pathway squirmed and wriggled like a snake, the
trees and bushes bowed, the sky bobbed up and down.

He took me by by-paths so cunningly hidden that you might pass up
and down the highroad daily and never suspect their existence. We
went between cassenas and cedars and young laurels, branchy to the
roots. And then I was walking down a path bordered with Lombardy
poplars; and then I was sitting on a couch in Mr. Jelnik's
living-room, while he bathed my face with scented water, and
afterward held a small glass to my lips. The fluid I swallowed went
tingling through my whole body like friendly fire.

I stole a woman-glance around the room that The Author had been so
anxious to investigate. It was altogether a man's room, the scoured
floor partly covered with a handsome rug, and the divan on which I
was sitting covered with another. On both sides of the big fireplace
were crowded book-shelves, above which hung weapons gathered from
the four corners of the earth. There were two or three deep,
comfortable arm-chairs, a square table, a couple of Winchesters in a
corner, and near the window a flat, old-fashioned desk, above which
hung two small portraits, evidently his parents, for the gentleman
with stars and crosses on his braided uniform, a sword at his side,
and a plumed hat in his hand, bore a striking resemblance to Mr.
Jelnik; and the stately blond lady had a family resemblance to
Doctor Richard Geddes.

Mr. Jelnik touched a bell near the door, and a tall, copper-colored
man in spotless white appeared. At the merest gesture of an uplifted
finger the copper-colored one bowed, vanished, and returned ten
minutes later with a tiny cup of black coffee and a couple of thin
wafers.

"I shall have to insist upon the coffee; and I advise the wafers,"
said Mr. Jelnik, pleasantly. So I drank the coffee, nibbled the
wafers, and felt better.

The copper-colored man, standing still as a statue, waited until I
had finished, took the cup, bowed, and disappeared. He was a stately
impressive person, rather like a shah in disguise. Mr. Jelnik
addressed him as "Daoud."

I had risen. I was trying to straighten my sadly flattened brown
hat, and to smooth my frock, stained with damp earth, and water. A
quick step sounded on the porch, somebody knocked, and without
waiting for an answer, opened the door, impatiently, and strode into
the room. With a fold of my disheveled frock in my hand, I looked up
and met the angry and astonished eyes of The Author.



CHAPTER XII

MAN PROPOSES


The Author closed the door and leaned against it. His piercing
glance jumped from Nicholas Jelnik's face to mine, with a prolonged
and savage scrutiny. No detail of my appearance escaped him--my
reddened eyelids, my pallor, my nervousness, my dishevelment. His
eyes narrowed, his jaw hardened.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, roughly. "Come! At least one
may hope for the truth from _you_!"

Mr. Jelnik gave him a level look. There was that in it which brought
an angry red to The Author's thin face.

"Let me answer for her: just at present Miss Smith is getting ready
to go home."

The Author struggled to keep his rising temper in hand.

"I asked you a plain question, Miss Smith!" His peremptory tone
jangled my strained nerves.

"Mr. Jelnik has answered you: I am getting ready to go home."

The Author stamped.

"Don't talk nonsense! Again I ask you, what are you doing here? Have
you lost your senses? Why have you been weeping? It is plain that
you have been weeping. Miss Smith, why do I find you here--alone?"

"I do not like your manner of questioning me," I said, indignantly.

"My dear fellow," protested Mr. Jelnik, "you _are_ behaving
unmannerly, you know. The simple truth is, I was so fortunate
as to be of assistance to Miss Smith. She had an unpleasant
experience--fell and gave her head such a nasty bump, that it made
her faint. I'm afraid I splashed her a bit when I was trying to
revive her. I thought best to bring her here and give her a
stimulant. She didn't want to stagger home and alarm the whole
household unnecessarily."

"Is this true?" The Author asked me, rudely.

"You heard what Mr. Jelnik said!" I flamed.

"One allows somewhat more license to genius than might be accorded
ordinary mortals; but really, you know, there are limits," Mr.
Jelnik reminded him. "You're beginning to be rather a nuisance. It's
unfortunate to have to remind a man, in one's own house, that he's a
nuisance."

"I think you are, too!" I told The Author--"bursting into people's
houses like an East-Side policeman, asking outrageous questions in
an outrageous manner, and then questioning the answers one is
patient enough to give you! What right have you got to ask _any_
questions?"

"I'd rather like to know that, myself," put in Mr. Jelnik.

The Author straightened his shoulders, drew himself up to his full
height, and folded his arms. He is an impressively tall man.

"Should you?" said he, quietly. "Well, I'll tell you--the right of
an honest man to protect the woman he happens to want to marry."

I sat down, suddenly. I'm afraid my eyes popped, and I know my mouth
fell open. I had the doubtful satisfaction of seeing Mr. Nicholas
Jelnik's eyes and mouth open, too. After an astounded moment:

"Isn't this rather sudden?" wondered Mr. Jelnik. "Who'd suspect this
fellow of volcanic possibilities?"

"I do Miss Smith no dishonor when I ask her to be my wife," said The
Author, haughtily. "_I_ am no adventurer. She can never suspect _me_
of ulterior motives!"

"Heavens, no! Like Cæsar's wife, you are above suspicion; which, of
course, gives you the right to suspect everybody else! But you were
about to propose to Miss Smith in due form, were you not? Miss
Smith, you will permit me to withdraw? I have never before been a
third party to a proposal of marriage, and I confess I do not
exactly understand what is expected of me," said Mr. Jelnik,
delicately.

The Author smiled wryly.

"You succeed in making me appear a fool," he admitted. "That is no
mean achievement, young man! I merely wished to set myself straight
with Miss Smith, to leave her no room for doubt as to my absolute
honesty of purpose toward her; and you," said The Author, gulping,
"you have made me _bray_! I wish you'd clear out. You _are_ in the
way, if you want the truth. And," he added, clenching his hands,
"you can think yourself lucky that you're getting out with a whole
skin, da--confound you!"

Mr. Jelnik smiled so sweetly that I was terrified.

"Oh, a whole skin!" he repeated, thoughtfully. "My good sir, I was
born with a whole skin, and I rather expect to die with one." He
looked at The Author reflectively: "Of course, I don't know what
Miss Smith's feelings may be in regard to you, _but_ if I thought
you were seriously annoying her, I give you my word I should pitch
you out of the window without further ado. Miss Smith," he turned to
me, his eyes gentling with compassion, "I am more sorry than I can
say that you should be called upon to endure this further strain.
You will, I trust, forgive my unwilling share in it. Now, shall I
leave you?"

"No, stay," said I, flatly.

Mr. Jelnik sat down, and with unruffled composure, waited for The
Author to unbosom himself further.

"Miss Smith," The Author spoke after a pause,--and oh, I give him
credit for his courage at that trying moment!--"Miss Smith, I have
placed myself, and you also, in what appears to be rather an absurd
position. I am sorry. But I meant exactly what I said. I base my
right to question you upon the fact that I intended asking you to
marry me. You need a protector, if ever woman did. I offer you the
protection of my name."

I sat on the divan and stared at him owlishly. He went striding up
and down the room, pausing every now and then to look down at me.

"When I came to Hyndsville," he went on, "nothing was farther from
my thoughts than the desire to marry _anybody_. I have never
considered myself a marrying man. But I find myself liking you, Miss
Smith, better than I have ever liked any other woman, and for better
reasons. You would make me an excellent wife, the only sort of wife
a man like me could endure. And I think I should make you a good
husband. I am not really so great a bear," he added, hastily, "as
at times I appear to be. I should really try to make you happy. Now
then, what have you to say?"

What could any woman say in such circuit stances? _I_ said nothing,
but slid down on Nicholas Jelnik's divan and howled.

"Didn't I tell you she'd had a bad time and wasn't herself? Now I
hope you're satisfied!" raged Mr. Jelnik.

"It's as much your fault as mine!" snarled The Author. "Miss Smith,
for heaven's sake don't cry like that! My dear girl, stop it. You
run me distracted, Miss Smith!--Give her some vinegar or something,
Jelnik! Confound you, Jelnik!--why don't you do something? Burn a
feather under her nose! Make her stop it, Jelnik! She'll kill
herself, if she keeps on crying like that! Here!" cried The Author,
desperately; and tried to push back my hair and all but scalped me.

"Get away!" said Mr. Jelnik. "I'll try to quiet her. Miss Smith, if
you don't stop crying, I shall slap you! Do you understand me, Miss
Smith? Stop it this minute, or I shall slap you!" He thrust an arm
around my shoulders and pulled me erect, none too gently.

"I--I--I ca-ca-ca--n't!"

"You can!" he snapped. "Stop it! Sophy, _shut up!_"

I was so astonished that in the middle of a howl I blinked, and
gasped, and gulped, and stopped!

"Ring the bell, by the door," Mr. Jelnik told The Author, curtly.
And when Daoud appeared, he ordered: "Cordial--top shelf; and some
ice-water."

Five minutes later a forlorn and red-eyed wreck was sitting up
looking at two wretched, embarrassed men. Thank Heaven, they looked
just as miserable as they should have felt! Daoud brought me scented
water, and I bathed my face. Then I patted into shape the hair that
The Author had pulled awry, and said in the cold, accusing,
I-die-a-martyr-to-your-stupidity voice that women punish men with:

"I think I shall go home."

With a chastened, hang-dog air The Author rose to accompany me,
casting a withering look upon Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, who despised The
Author for a bungling and intrusive idiot, and let his glance convey
the fact. He was sorry for me, with a compassionate understanding of
what I had been through. But I wanted neither his sorrow nor his
compassion. He had punished The Author, but he hadn't saved _me_
from a ridiculous and painful situation. I gave him a limp hand, and
had the satisfaction of leaving him thoroughly uncomfortable.

When we reached our gate The Author, who had trudged beside me in
gloomy silence, laid his hand upon my arm.

"I shall not ask you to answer me at once. But I do ask you to
consider carefully what I have said, and to realize that I mean
every word of it. And--and--I'm sorry it came about in this wise,
Sophy," he finished, with a touch of compunction.

"So am I." And then I went up-stairs, and crept into bed. My head
ached frightfully, my heart throbbed and fluttered. I was so
unnerved that it seemed a burden to be alive. And then, mercifully,
I fell asleep, and didn't wake until Alicia brought me a
breakfast-tray the next morning.

"My goodness, Sophy, you must have had a terrific headache!" she
exclaimed. "Why, your lips are bloodless, and you've black circles
under your eyes!"

"I'm all right this morning," I said, hastily. "But you look pale,
yourself. Aren't you rather overdoing things, Leetchy?"

"No: I'm as sound as a trivet!" said she. And then: "Sophy, guess
who was here last evening." Her eyes began to shine. "Mrs. Cheshire
Scarboro; no less!" And she paused, to let that highly important
statement sink in.

Mrs. Cheshire Scarboro was the Leader of the Opposition. She'd had
a lifelong feud with old Sophronisba, who said that when the Lord
wanted to try himself out in the way of a fool, He made Cissy
Scarboro. They hated each other as only relations can hate.
Naturally, Mrs. Scarboro resented our presence in Hynds House. She
said Hyndsville ought to show us what it thought of the outrage.
Under her leadership, Hyndsville showed us.

Mrs. Scarboro was a very important person in Hyndsville. She ruled
the older and more conservative portion of it, and although the
younger set at times rebelled and went its own way, her power was
very real. That she had changed her mind, or at least her tactics,
in regard to us was important news.

"She came with Mr. and Mrs. Haile," Alicia continued. "It was the
first time she had ever been inside Hynds House. Think of that,
Sophy! There were some girls here, and a few boys, naturally, Jimmy
Scarboro among them. Should you think that accounted for his mama's
presence, Sophy? And we sat around like adoring mice, listening to
The Author's sky-rockets going off. Doctor Geddes wouldn't let us
sing, wouldn't even let us have music, because you mustn't be
disturbed. He thinks a whole lot of you, Sophy."

"I think a whole lot of him. I never thought I could like that man
as much as I do."

I was determined to show Miss Alicia Gaines that no matter how much,
or for whatever reasons she had changed for the worse toward him, I,
at least, had changed for the better. But she listened listlessly.
For which cause, being resentful, I said not one word to her about
The Author.

The thought of The Author confused me. I wasn't so much flattered as
astounded. He was not offering me a light honor: The Author's name
meant a great deal. Who, then, was I, a woman named Smith, to say
nay to this miraculous possibility? Was it not rather for me to
accept, meekly, the high gift that the gods in a sportive moment
chose to toss to me? Yea, verily. And yet-- My hand stole to the half
of a thin old foreign coin hidden in my breast.

The Author behaved with exemplary patience and dignity. He went
about his own work and left me to mine, and though I knew I was
under his hawklike watchfulness, his matter-of-fact manner set me at
my ease. You can't dread to meet a man, of a morning, who pays more
attention to his batter-cakes than to you.

I was just beginning to breathe freely, when Doctor Richard Geddes
came over one afternoon, and, finding me in our living-room with
only the Black family to keep me company, flung himself into an
arm-chair, seized Sir Thomas More Black by the scruff, and pulled
his whiskers and rubbed his fur the wrong way until Sir Thomas More
scratched him with thoroughness.

"Get out, then, you black hellion!" growled the doctor. Sir Thomas
More got out. He hadn't wanted to stay in the first place.

"Shall I bind your hand for you?" I asked. But the doctor refused.
He tapped his foot on the floor, and hemmed, and looked at me
strangely. Then:

"Sophronisba Two, you consider me a reasonably decent sort, don't
you?"

"That goes without saying."

"Think I'd make a woman a reasonably good husband?"

"I do," said I, truthfully. Whatever ailed the man?

"Good! And I," the doctor said, deliberately, "know that you'd make
any man more than a reasonably good wife. Should you like to be
mine, Sophronisba Two?"

The jump I gave threw Potty Black off my knees.

"You're ill, wandering in your wits, you poor man!" I was genuinely
alarmed. "Isn't there something I can do for you, doctor?"

"There is: you can marry me, if you want to," replied the doctor,
soberly. "Honestly, my dear girl, I'd be kind to you. I like and
admire and respect you more than I can tell you, Sophy."

"My dear friend," I said, when I caught my breath, "I like, admire,
and respect you, too. But people who marry each other need something
more than that. They--well, they need--love."

His shoulders twitched.

"This business of love is the devil's own invention!" he cried.
"It's safer and saner to like and respect people than to love them,
and lots harder. Now, what do you say to marrying me?"

"I say you had no such notion in your head the last time you and I
talked together. When did it seize you?" I demanded, suspiciously.

"I began to think about it seriously--er--ah--some days ago," he
said, reddening.

"What day, to be exact?"

"Well," said he, resentfully, "it occurred to me last Wednesday, if
you want to be so all-fired sure!"

"What happened last Wednesday to make you think of asking me to
marry you?"

The doctor looked at me very much as a little boy looks at a
grown-up who is holding a soapy wash-cloth in one hand and an ear in
the other.

"What do you want to know for?"

"Because. I just want to know because. Well?" He squirmed, and was
silent. "Was it because you have ceased to care for Alicia,
already?" His glare answered that question. "No? Why, then, didn't
you ask Alicia, instead of coming to me for second choice? Look
here, Doctor Richard Geddes: if I was not firmly and truly your
friend, I should be furious, do you understand? Or," I added,
darkly, "I might even revenge myself by taking you at your word!"

"Sophronisba Two!" The doctor looked at, me piteously.

"Why didn't you ask Alicia?" I persisted, inexorably.

"I did!" gulped the doctor. "But she said she couldn't. She said,
why didn't I care for you instead of her? You were so much
better--and--and I'd be happier with you, for I'd have the most
unselfish angel--" he stopped miserably.

"Well?"

"Well, I kept turning it over in my mind; and the more I thought of
it, the clearer I perceived that with a wife like you I'd be a
better and a more worth-while man. I--I think so much of you, Sophy,
that I'm telling you the whole truth," he finished.

"That's why I'm going to keep on being friends with you--better
friends than ever," I told him.

"You're going to marry me, then, Sophy?"

"Didn't you just hear me tell you I meant to keep on being friends
with you?"

"You won't, then?"

"I won't, then."

"Yet there are good reasons why you might reconsider your decision,"
he said, after a pause. "We are so diametrically opposed it would
seem inevitable we should marry each other. Why, Sophy, we've got
enough to quarrel happily about for the rest of our lives. For
instance, do you sleep with all your windows open?"

"I close two, and leave two open."

"Every window open, day and night, hot or cold, rain or shine," said
the doctor, firmly. "Do you use pillows?"

"Two."

"None at all. Sleep with your head flat. How many blankets?"

"Two, and a comfort."

"One army blanket, except in extremely cold weather," said the
doctor. "Do you like a pipe?"

"It always makes me sick. I peculiarly and particularly loathe and
detest a pipe."

"A pipe, my dear, deluded woman, is a comfort, a stay, a prop to a
man's soul, an aid to meditation and repose. I insist upon a
pipe--within moderation, of course. Do you like parrots? Sophy, are
you capable of supporting a parrot? I have already perceived your
reprehensible fondness for cats." He looked at his scratched hand.

"I have always wanted a parrot. I think they're the most--"

"Damnable brutes!" finished the doctor. "Gad, I'd as lief live in
the house with Sophronisba One! It is not moral to like a parrot.
What do you think of stewed rhubarb?"

I made a wry face. I abhor stewed rhubarb. Somehow, it always makes
me think of orphans in long-waisted gingham dresses with white china
buttons down the back. One way of punishing children for losing
their parents is to make them wear dark gingham dresses with china
buttons down the back and to eat stewed rhubarb for dessert.

"Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are," pronounced
the doctor. "It's a sign of moral rectitude to eat stewed rhubarb.
Now, as to science: what is your attitude toward evolution?"

"Well, I think plenty of men turn themselves into monkeys, but I
refuse to believe that God ever turned a monkey into a man."

"Ha!" mused the doctor, pulling his nose; "I see! Do you insist
upon a sacrosanct meal hour? Are your meal hours fixed, even as the
laws of the Medes and the Persians?"

"How else, pray, shall one run one's house with any degree of
system?" I wanted to know.

"Bunk!" snorted the doctor. "_I_ eat when I'm hungry! Now, lastly,
sister, tell me truthfully: are you a Democrat or a Republican?"

"I don't see much difference: they're both of them nothing but
_men_."

"I knew it!" The doctor shook his head with sad triumph. "She'd
scratch Brown, because she didn't like the expression of his ears,
and vote for Jones, because he had such beautiful whiskers! My dear,
dear woman, can't you see that it's almost a law of nature for you
and me, who don't agree about anything, to marry each other?"

"I don't even agree with you as to that!" said I, and fell into
helpless laughter.

"It rather looks like flying in the face of Providence not to," he
warned me. "In the meantime--"

"In the meantime, let us be grateful Alicia didn't put the notion
into your head to ask somebody who might have taken you seriously."

"That means you don't, and won't." He drew a long breath. "But
we're good friends; aren't we, Sophy?"

"If a man never does anything worse than ask a woman to marry him,
he will probably retain her friendship until she dies," I replied.

"Provided she refuses him," the doctor said, gratefully. And bending
down, he kissed me brotherly on the cheek, an honest and resounding
smack; at which opportune moment Alicia walked in.

Wholly unabashed, the doctor spoke pleasantly to Alicia, shook hands
with me effusively, and went off whistling. All was right with the
world. I'd refused him, you understand! Instead of being enraged and
offended, I found myself giggling.

That night, as Alicia didn't come in my room, I went into hers.

"I know what you've come to tell me, Sophy dear," she said,
directly. "I've seen it for some time. And I'm glad as glad--glad
with all my heart, Sophy." Her voice was tenderness itself, her eyes
melted. But the hand on my hand was cold. "I love you a great deal,
Sophy," she whispered. "More than anybody else in the world, I
think."

"And was it because you loved me, dear girl, that you put the absurd
notion of asking me to marry him into Doctor Geddes's head?"

"Absurd notion?" repeated Alicia. "Absurd notion? But he asked you!
Didn't he ask you?"

"As to that, he told me I could marry him if I wanted to," I
admitted. "Oh, Leetchy, it was funny, though! If you could have seen
the poor dear, trying to martyr himself, just to oblige you--"

"You _refused_ him?" breathlessly.

"Of course. There wasn't anything to say but 'No.'"

"But--I saw--"

"You saw him kiss me on the cheek? Honey, that wasn't love: that was
gratitude!"

"I don't understand!" stammered Alicia, twisting her hands. "Why,
you cared for him--I thought you cared."

"Of course I care for him! But not like that! Good heavens, Alicia,
however did you get such a notion? My dear, if I loved you less, or
him more, I should never, never be able to forgive either of you. As
it is, we'll forget it."

At that Alicia began to cry.

"Oh, what have I done?" she whimpered. "Sophy, you don't know--what
I've done!"

"You haven't done anything that can't be undone," said I,
comfortably. "You and I, my dear, fell into a Hynds House maze. Now
we're out of it!" And thinking she would be better by herself, I
kissed her good night.

Out of Hynds House maze, indeed! I had only to step back into my own
room to have it again enmesh me. For on the prie-dieu that had once
held Freeman Hynds's Bible and now held mine, was the lost diary.



CHAPTER XIII

FIRES OF YESTERDAY


I wasn't frightened, of course. There isn't anything terrifying in
finding a little old leather-covered book on a prie-dieu by one's
bedside. But it was some minutes before I could induce myself to
take up that yellowed old diary and examine it.

It begins the year of Freeman's return from college, "a Finish'd
Young Gentleman." He has refused to go abroad, considering that "our
Young Gentlemen have enough Fripperies & Fopperies at Home without
bringing worse Ones from Abroad." Brother Richard has been abroad
more than once, and Freeman does not "find him Improv'd save in
Outer Elegancies."

The only person that "much Travelling hath not Spoil'd," he finds,
is Mistress Emily Hope of Hope Plantation. "Shee was a Sweet Child,"
he remembers; and now that the dew of their youth is upon them both,
he finds her "of a Graceful and Delicate Shape, with the Most
Beautiful Countenance in the World, a Sweet & Modest Demeanour, a
Sprightly Wit, an Accomplish'd Mind, & a Heart Fix'd upon Virtue."

The estates are near each other, the families intimate friends.
Emily seems to like the boy. At any rate, she doesn't repel him. And
then returns Richard--the gay, the handsome, the irresistible
Richard--who adds to the stalwart comeliness of a colonial gentleman
the style, the grace, the cultivated manners of the Old World.

Almost fiercely Freeman notes the effect he produces, and how "Women
do catch an Admiration for him as't were a Pox."

Then he begins to set down, grimly, "The Sums my Father hath paid
for My Brother's Debts." A little later, he adds: "You Might Pour
the Atlantic Ocean full of Gold through his Pocketts & Overnight
would He empty Them." Richard, also, "Makes Choice of rake-hell
Companions," to his father's growing unease and indignation, his
mother's distress. But "Good God! how is all Forgiven the Beautiful,
the Gift'd!"

"Jezebel herself, that carries her Head so High, wears her Heart
upon her Sleeve, een like a simple Milkmaid! 'Tis a Rare Spectacle.
Sure there's a Fatality about this Man!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"This Day dress'd I in my new Blue Cloathes, the which become me not
Ill & riding over to Hope Plant'n did ask for Emily's Hand. Alas,
'Tis even as my Fears foretold! Shee loves me Not. 'Tis Richard
alone hath her Heart.

"I do Fear Shee will sup Sorrow & drink Tears that setts her
Affection upon the Unstable. Shee's too Mild, too Tender, hath not a
Firm enough Hand to restrain him. He should een have ta'en Madame
Jezebel. Hath a Grand Passion for him. Will not lightly wear the
Willow."

       *       *       *       *       *

"This Day did Richard my Brother Wed Emily Hope," he records, after
a six-months' silence. "All say 'tis a most Noble Mating. My Mother
in a Gown from London Town, & our Finest Gems, enow to make a
Dutchess envious of a Carolina Lady. My Father in high Spiritts.

"I danc'd with the Bridesmaids, but Salut'd not the Bride, the Which
noted Madame Jezebel. Was Handsomer than ever I did See her, many
thinking her Handsomer than the Bride. Had a great Following, the
which the Hussy treat'd with Disdain.

"'Have you Kiss'd the Bride, Sir?' says shee, a-mocking of me after
her Wont. 'What a Fine Thing is a Love-Match, Master Freeman!'

"'Have you Wish'd the Bridegroom Joy?' says I. The woman anger'd me.

"'May Heaven send him all the Happiness he Deserves!' cries shee.
'Sure, you'll echo that yourself, Master Freeman!' 'Tis a jibing
Wench. Would to God Richard had Wedded her!"

Then came dry notes of a visit to Kinsfolk in Virginia. Freeman
seems to have been away from home for some time. When he returns, it
is to chronicle in brief his brother's downward course. "They have
sold Hope Plantation and Most of the Slaves. 'Tis an evil Chance."

"I shall be Twenty-one next month, though I feel a Thousand. We
shall have a Ball, after the Custom of our House. 'Tis to be a Grand
Affair. I do think my Parents are somewhat Tender of Conscience to
meward. Though my Father Loves me not as he Loves my Brother, yet he
begins to Lean upon me more & More Heavily. My poor Mother is a
Little Envious of these Dry Virtues of mine, seeing her Darling is
like to come to Shipwreck for Lack of them. Yet had he Fortune &
Beauty & Emily!"

The next entry records the loss of the Hynds jewels. "'Tis a great
Mystery!" One is sorely puzzled here. There is no getting at what
Freeman really thinks. Coldly, tritely, he sets down the bald, bare
facts of the tragedies that wrecked the Hyndses.

With a strange lack of emotion he chronicles Richard's death, and
adds: "At the Pleasure of God his Birth fell upon a Wednesday, at
Sun-rising, the which was by some Accounted Favourable. His Death
came upon a Friday, at Noone, it Raining heavily."

Then comes his father's sudden death; and this curious item:

"Despite his Anguish & Affliction of Spiritt upon that Date, he did
tell me Part, after the Custom of our House, the morning of my
Twenty-first Birthday. Alas, when he was Stricken, upon the News of
Richard's Demise, he had no Chance to tell me All, nor was there
among his Papers the Keye nor any Clue to It. When J. call'd us, he
was Beyond Speech & shee Hystericall with Affright. Thus the Whole
Secret perishes, since Without the Keye & his Instructions 'twould
be Impossible to Proceed."

       *       *       *       *       *

"This evening came Capt. B., the worst of the Plundering Crew that
pluck'd Richard. 'Sirrah,' says he, impudently, 'thy Brother owe'd
me three thousand pounds.' And he pulls me out a great fistfull of
Billets.

"'Sirrah,' says I, 'my Brother owes his Wife and Orphan'd Infant
three thousand times more than that. There be Debts of Nature which
precede so-called Debts of Honour. Each billet in thy hand, thou
swindling runnigate, calls for a bullet. Begone, lest _I_ owe thee
a horse-whipping.'

"'Anan!' says he, 'and one of you a Thief! _That_ for Honour, in the
mouth of a Hynds!' And snapp'd me his fingers under my Nose.

"We arrang'd a Meeting, though 'T was Foolish to Risk myself, with
the Roof tottering over my Mother's Head. My fellow Pompey, Mr. G.
Dalzell, Mr. F. Mayne, & Dr. Baltassar Bobo with me. Two of his
scoundrelly Associates with him. His ball graz'd my arm above the
Elbow & Burnt the Linen of my Shirt. Mine Finish'd him. 'T was too
great an Honour & more than he Deserv'd, to die by the Hand of a
Gentleman."

A little later: "This morn disappear'd my Cozen Jessamine.

"Nothing discover'd of her Whereabouts," he records from time to
time.

"This morn saw I Emily & Richard's little Son. 'T is a Fine child,
much Resembling my Brother. Emily turn'd her Face away, drawing down
of her Widow's Weeds, & turn'd also the Babe's face aside. I felt
Embitter'd."

By this time he has taken over the whole Hynds estate as heir. He
mentions his sisters' marriages, notes that they have received their
dowers, and so dismisses them.

His mother has been dead some time when he marries. One wonders what
the bride was like, whom he commends for "Housekeeping Virtues, so
that the Servants instantly Obey, there is no Pilfering & Loitering,
& the House moves like Clockwork."

He must have been like clockwork, himself. There seems less and less
human emotion in him. The birth of his only child gets this:

"This day was born Sophronisba Harriott Hynds, nam'd for her
Estimable Mother. I am told 'Tis a fine healthy Child."

Casually thereafter he mentions "my Daughter." Twice her mother
"Requested me to Chastise her for Unchristian Temper," which
chastisement he seems to have administered with thoroughness and a
rattan, in his office. On the second occasion, "I whip'd her
Severely & did at the same Time admonish her to Ask Pardon of God.
Whereupon she Yell'd Aloud & did Seize the Calf of my Leg & Bite me,
Causing me Great Physical Pain and Mental Anguish. How sharper than
a Serpent's Tooth is an Ungrateful Child!"

(Oh, Ungrateful Child, I do not find it in my heart to blame you
overmuch. Somehow I can't feel sorry that you bit him, Sophronisba!)

"This day died my Wife, an Estimable Helpmeet. I shall sadly Lack
her Management of the House." In spite of which, he buys more land.
Life seems to run smoothly enough. "The Lord hath bless'd me with
Abundance. They that Spoke evil of me are Astonied & made Asham'd.
The Lord hath done it."

Then comes this last entry:

"Two nights since died Scipio, son of old Shooba's last Wife, the
which did send for me, Urgently entreating of my Presence. 'T was
ever a Simple-minded Creature & found a faithful Servant, wherefore
I did go to him.

"He was greatly in Dread of Dying, for that he was in mortal Terrour
of old Shooba, fearing to Meet that Evil Being outside of the Flesh.
Had been with Shooba when the wretched Creature passed away, a
harden'd Heathen among Convert'd & Profess'd Christians. Said he was
a Snake Soul.

"The man was craz'd with Fear, dreading Shooba to be even then in
the Room. And indeed the Tale he whisper'd me was enough to Craze a
Christian Man, & hath all but crack'd mine own Witts. If 't were not
for the Paper he slip't into my Palm, I should sett it down for a
Phantazy, one of old Shooba's evil Spells. Most merciful God, how
came he by that Paper if the Tale be untrue?

"Greatly am I upsett by this Improbable & Frightful Thing. Sure this
requires Prayer & Fasting, lest I be Delud'd."

Between the pages following this last entry was a piece of yellowed
paper, the paper that had been lost from the Author's coat pocket,
in the locked closet of his room.

After a while I managed to work the slit of a drawer open, and to
this hiding-place I returned Freeman's diary, and with it the
faintly scented bit of paper that The Author mourned.

       *       *       *       *       *

The failure of her matrimonial plans for me did not occasion Miss
Alicia Gaines overmuch grief. She seemed to have dismissed the whole
matter from her mind. Restored to her old time gaiety, she sang like
a thrush as she worked. She bubbled over with the sheer joy of
living, until the very sight of her gladdened one. And she simply
couldn't make her feet behave! She danced with the broom one
morning, to the great amusement of our scholarly old Englishman.

"I'm supposed to be somewhat of an old stick myself: why not try me,
instead of the broom?" he suggested slyly. Instantly she took him at
his word, and danced him up and down the hall until he was
breathless.

"This," panted the scholar, "is a fair sample of what the Irish do
to the English."

"We do lead you a pretty dance, don't we, dear John Bull?" dimpled
Alicia.

"You do, you engaging baggage!" he admitted. "But," he added, in a
tone of satisfaction, "we manage to keep step, my dear! Oh, yes, we
manage to keep step!" And he trotted off, chuckling.

"There are times," said The Author to me, darkly, "when the
terrifying tirelessness of youth gives me a vertigo. Come away, Miss
Smith. Leave that kitten to chase her own shadow up the wall."

          "Cross-patch, draw the latch,
           Sit by the fire and spin--yarns!"

chanted Alicia.

"Go away, you pink-and-white delusion!" said The Author, severely.
"You have made Scholarship and Wisdom put on cap and bells and
prance like a morris-dancer. Isn't that mischief enough for one
day?"

Alicia has a round, snow-white chin, and when she tilts it the curve
of her throat is distracting.

"On second thoughts," said The Author, critically, "I discover that
I do not wholly disapprove of you. Come outside. I wish to talk
about the venerable, and yet common design that tops every outside
window and door of this house.--What do you call that design, may I
ask?"

"Why, everybody knows the Greek fret!" said Alicia, staring at it.
"It's as old as the hills."

"Exactly," agreed The Author. "The Greek fret is as old as the hill.
And, with the single exception of the swastika, it is the design
most universally known to man. You may find it on a bit of ancient
Greek pottery, or on a crumbling wall in Yucatan. Many people refer
to it as the Greek key."

Something began to glimmer in my mind--the vaguest, most tenuous
shadow of an idea; a tantalizing, hide-and-seek phantom of a
thought.

          "_Turne Hellens Keye
          Three Tennes and Three_,"

he quoted the doggerel verse.

We looked at him mutely.

"It is a tiresome truism," he went on, reflectively, "that what lies
close to the eye often escapes observation. For instance, these
windows have been staring at me daily, each with its nice little
eyebrow of design, and I overlooked the design until my subconscious
mind suggested to me that here, in all probability, lies Hellen's
Keye."

I remembered the entry in Freeman's diary, concerning the loss of a
"Keye," which hadn't been found among his father's papers, and of a
secret which had died with the older man.

"I think I told you," said The Author, "that this house was built by
master masons, shortly after the Grand Lodge was established in
London. Thirty-three is rather a significant number. Yet, how to
apply it," he paused, frowning.

"Without disturbing a Watcher in the Dark?" Alicia made light of
The Authors itch for mystery. "Aren't you rather forgetting the
Watcher in the Dark? Teller of tales, isn't it moon-stuff you're
trying to spin?"

"Who talks of a Watcher in the Dark?" asked a pleasant voice.
Accompanied by Mr. Johnson, Mr. Nicholas Jelnik had strolled up
unperceived.

"The Author," Alicia explained, mischievously, "is trying to make
sense out of nonsense."

"That," said Mr. Jelnik, smiling, "is not an uncommon occupation."

"It's all about a bit of doggerel we found on a scrap of paper in
the attic," I told him. And I quoted it, adding: "There was a column
of dots under it. The Author laments that he lost it, before he had
chance to unravel it."

"I lost it, walking in my sleep," said The Author, disagreeably.

"And now he's trying to make us believe that the design in the
brick-work above our windows, just because it's the Greek fret, is
Hellen's Keye," Alicia said, jestingly.

"Well, you know, if a thing means _anything_, it's got to mean
_something_," put in Mr. Johnson.

"Ain't it the truth, though?" hissed The Author, with fury.

Mr. Johnson was saved from stammering explanations by the irruption
of Beautiful Dog, who at sound of his voice had wriggled, and
cringed, and fawned his way out of the shrubbery, cocking a wary eye
to see that none of the Black family was around. Beautiful Dog
rolled his eyes at his god, swung his tail, waggled his ears, made
uncouth movements with his splay feet, and grinned from ear to ear.
He was so utterly absurd that he claimed everybody's amused
attention.

"Why, old chap! You're rather glad to see your friends, aren't you?"
the secretary said in his pleasant voice.

Beautiful Dog yelped with rapture, darted back into the shrubbery,
and a moment later emerged and laid at his adored one's feet all his
treasure, a chewed slipper. He tried to say that precious as this
gift undoubtedly was, he gave it willingly, joyfully. But scenting
other white people too near, he backed off, and fled.

The Author's eyes followed him.

"I wonder if I'd have been equal to that, myself, if I'd been born a
nigger dog with an ingrained distrust of the white man?" he
questioned. "Gad! it comes near being the real thing, Johnson!"

The secretary looked at the slipper lying at his feet: "I wonder
where he found that, now?"

I was wondering the same thing, and so was Alicia.

"Let's show Beautiful Dog the Chinese politeness of being decent
enough not to accept his gift when he's decent enough to offer it,"
she suggested.

"Yes, throw it into the shrubbery and let him find it. That may
raise white people somewhat in his estimation," I added, hastily.

Instantly Mr. Jelnik picked it up and tossed it among the bushes.
His action seemed the merest polite compliance with my request, and
he barely glanced at the object he cast away. Yet it was really
worth a second glance. Chewed, frayed, and torn, it had once been of
finest red Morocco leather; and it was such a flat and heelless
slipper as no native Hyndsville foot had ever worn. It was The
Jinnee's slipper.



CHAPTER XIV

THE TALISMAN


Mrs. Cheshire Scarboro was far from the fool her cousin Sophronisba
had credited her with being. She had sufficient cleverness to
understand that Hyndsville wasn't big enough to hold two factions.
For a faction was forming with Hynds House as its storm-center, and
it was one which threatened Mrs. Scarboro's hitherto unquestioned
sovereignty. Jimmy Scarboro himself, a most personable youth, was
one of the ringleaders of revolt.

A weaker woman would have kept up the fight. Mrs. Scarboro
understood that to spend one's powers trying to hold an untenable
position is a proof not of valor but of stupidity. She quietly
declared a truce, sending out, in the form of an invitation to one
of her sacred card-parties, tentative notice that she would consider
joining forces. We recognized the olive-branch, seriously extended.
The next move was ours.

"There's a time to fight, and a time to leave off fighting," Alicia
decided. "Here's where we disarm. When these people come from under
the shade of the dear old family tree, they're quite human. We have
got to let them give themselves the opportunity to discover that
we're human, too."

It wasn't necessary to explain things to The Author, because a
portion of his brain is purely and cattily feminine. That's why he
is a genius. No man is a genius whose brain isn't bisexual.

"I shall have to lay aside a cherished prejudice and lend this lady
the light of my countenance, although I loathe card-parties. I abhor
cards, outside of draw-poker on shipboard, with a crook of sorts
sitting in to lend the game a fillip. Despite the fact that poor
Mrs. Scarboro couldn't lay hands on a decent crook to save her life,
I think I shall go, and thereby acquire merit," he concluded, with
the air of a martyr.

I looked at him gratefully.

"I'll wager that little Sophy thinks she wants to go because she
desires to be friends and neighbors. 'Behold how good and how
pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'--You're a
transparent person, you Sophy!"

"But I do desire to be friends with them. I have to live here all
the rest of my life, haven't I?"

"Not necessarily," replied The Author, arching his eyebrows. "For
instance, you can live in New York any time you want to, Sophy."

"I've never told you that you might call me Sophy," I parried,
hastily.

"Oh, but I like to call you Sophy," he responded airily. "And
really, you shouldn't mind. I've called people lots worse things
than Sophy, in my time! But then," he added, "I didn't happen to
like them. As for you, I find you a very likeable being, Sophy; upon
my word, extremely likeable!"

"Thank you," said I. I wasn't anxious to hear The Author tell me how
likable he found me; at least, not yet.

       *       *       *       *       *

For pride's sake as well as for the sake of custom--and in South
Carolina custom has all the power of a fetish--Mrs. Scarboro would
have died rather than vary by one jot or tittle her usual
refreshments, or wear a new frock, on that particular night. Yet the
occasion, despite its mild diversions, was distinctly epochal, in
that it marked the reunion of Hyndsville. Even Mr. Nicholas Jelnik,
for the first time, put in his decorative appearance, to The
Author's fidgety surprise. He played a highly creditable game of
bridge. And after a while he sang "Believe Me if All Those Endearing
Young Charms," so exquisitely that a hushed and rapturous silence
fell upon everybody, and the old ladies and gentlemen present held
their hands before misty eyes. They used to sing that song when the
old men were boy soldiers marching off to the tune of "The Bonnie
Blue Flag," and the old ladies were ringleted girls in hoop-skirts
bidding them good-by.

"My dear boy," Mrs. Scarboro told him, with great feeling, "you have
been forgetting that you're a cousin of mine. Your mother and I were
girls together. I want you to meet some other old friends of hers
and your grandfather's," and she carried him off to a group of those
wonderful old ladies who grow to purest perfection in South
Carolina--low-voiced lovely old ladies, dressed in black silk, with
cameo brooches at their throats, and lace caps on their white hair.

A little group of old gentlemen immediately foregathered with them.
They knew who was and wasn't kin to Sally Hynds's son, unto the
seventh generation.

"They've begun on the begats," chuckled The Author, "First Book of
Chronicles, Chapters One to Four."

"Jelnik's really kin to them, and he ought to pay for the
privilege," said Mr. Johnson.

The Author looked at the old ladies, on whose delicate withered
hands the wedding-rings hung loosely, and at the erect old gentlemen
with white goatees, and something whimsically tender came into his
clever face.

"It is worth the price," he said, very gently--for him.

"Now, that was your soul speaking!" said Miss Emmeline, warmly.
Instantly The Author wrinkled his nose, bristled his mustache, and
looked like a hyena. Miss Martha Hopkins, worshipfully observant of
the great man, caught his eye at that moment and thought he was
scowling at _her_. She looked so stricken that The Author presently
strolled over and sat down beside her, to her fluttering delight.
But discovering that she was wholly unacquainted with the original
verse of J. Gordon Coogler of Columbia, he first bitterly reproached
her for neglecting home-made talent, and then proceeded to make sure
that she would remember the Bard of the Congaree so long as she
lived.

"Not know Coogler!" cried The Author, shrilly; "ignorant of the bard
raised, so to speak, around your own door-step? Horrible! Listen to
this!" said he, accusingly:

          "Fair lady, on that snowy neck and half-clad bosom
           Which you so publicly reveal to man,
           There's not a single outward stain or speck.
           Would that you had given but half the care
           To the training of your intellect and heart,
           As you have given to that spotless neck!"

"Gracious Heavens!" gasped Miss Martha, who showed a modest
salt-cellar in the mildest of Vs.

"Is it possible you don't like him?" demanded The Author, amazedly.
"But, my dear woman! Coogler's--why, Coogler's ginger-pop to a
thirsty world!"

"I--I don't drink ginger-pop!" confessed the be-deviled Center of
Culture, foggily.

         "Alas! for the South, her books have grown fewer,
          She never was much given to literature,"

quoted The Author, pensively.

She was speechless. The shameless Author, fixing upon her a last
long, lingering look of sorrowful reproach, said with emotion:

          "From early youth to the frost of age
           Man's days have been a mixture
           Of all that constitutes in life
           A dark and gloomy picture."

And he stalked off, leaving Miss Martha Hopkins in a state of mind.

"Friend Author," Alicia murmured, as he paused beside her, "I wish
you were my own dear little boy for just five merry minutes. I'd
show you," she declared, divided between Irish mirth and human pity
for Miss Martha, "I'd show you what a hair-brush could accomplish!"

"Too late!" regretted The Author, shaking his head. "But," he
suggested, brightening, "couldn't you wish to be my own dear little
girl, instead?"

"This is so sudden!" murmured Alicia, coyly.

"Deluding devilette!" breathed The Author, "get thee behind me!"

That evening was the first time I had ever heard myself called
"pretty." I was used to "businesslike" and "efficient" and
"trustworthy"--all excellent terms, in their way, but not such happy
things, any one of them, as "pretty."

"What are you thinking of, Sophy?" asked The Author. "Something over
the hills and far away? Because you look as Maude Adams used to look
when she first played 'Peter Pan.'"

I hoped it might be true, because--

I looked up then and met Mr. Nicholas Jelnik's dark eyes. They were
falcon eyes, but now there was something in them that made me, to my
rage and confusion and chagrin, blush like a silly school-girl. When
I again ventured to glance in his direction he was patiently and
politely listening to a white-goateed, game-legged U.C.V. refight
the Civil War with so fiery a zest that he presently caught another
veteran a resounding crack on the funny-bone with the gold-headed
stick he was flourishing. Both gentlemen half rose, the one making
wry faces and rubbing his elbow, the other bowing and apologetic.

"Pahdon me, Majah! My deah suh, pahdon me! But I was just tellin'
this boy about the day in the Wilderness his grandfathah Hynds took
a Yankee bullet out of my leg with a paih of silvah scissahs and
bandaged it with the tail of his shirt.

"'I've lost my niggah and my instruments, Sam,' says the doctah,
'but that's no reason why the damyankees should have the
satisfaction of killin' a puffeckly good rebel, when there's not
enough to go around now. Hold your leg still,' says he, rollin' up
his sleeves, 'an' with the help of God and my scissahs and my
shirt-tail, I'll save it for you.' An' he did. I walked home from
Appomattox on that same leg, suh," said the veteran, and brought his
stick down on the toes of it with a force that made him utter a
muffled bellow.

The other, still nursing an outraged elbow, smiled sweetly.

"Thanks, Sam," he drawled.

The Author chuckled appreciatively. "And to think we Americans rush
abroad, when the republic of South Carolina is right next-door to
us!" he murmured.

A gentle change was creeping over Hynds House, perhaps because of
the delightful old ladies who had begun to come there. Old
gentlemen, too, formed the pleasant habit of dropping in, beguiled
by the artful Author, waited upon son-like by his secretary,
foregathered with as kith and kin by the Englishman, mint-juleped by
the three of them, enchanted by Alicia, and teaed and caked and
beloved by me. Even our cats adored them. The Black family could
spot a Confederate veteran as far off as the front gate, and would
rush wildly to meet him, rubbing and roaching and purring in and out
of his old legs. The Author insisted that their passion for U.C.V.'s
was an inherited trait with our cats, and that we ourselves were
merely acquired characteristics.

In April, just before Miss Emmeline was to return to Boston, and the
Englishman and his daughter were to go back home, Alicia and I
decided to give a farewell dance. It was to be in costume.

Hyndsville was pleasantly excited. Never had there been such
rummaging of attics, such searchings of old trunks! We rummaged our
attic, too. I selected a yellow brocade trimmed with seed-pearls and
cascades of lace, and Alicia chose a skimpy blue satin frock with a
round neck, an upstanding lace collar, and absurd little puffed
sleeves. The Englishman was a Puritan, his daughter a Quakeress,
Mr. Johnson a Huguenot Lover, Miss Emmeline a Colonial Lady, Doctor
Geddes a bearded and belted Boyar, and The Author a painfully
realistic Mephistopheles, his eyebrows corked upward and his
mustache waxed into points. Mr. Jelnik sent regrets.

We had waxed the floors, and moved most of the furniture out of the
big front drawing-room; and this and the wide halls were used for a
ball-room, just as they had been used in the old days. The older
people played cards in the living-room and library. Every now and
then, between pauses, some masked and brilliant figure, like a
bright ghost from the past, would steal in to look over their
shoulders and whisper in their ears.

But those grandparents weren't content to sit down and play cards
while others footed it. Not they! They danced the Lancers, and a
polka or two, and waltzed and dipped and bowed to "Comin' through
the Rye" while all the masqueraders lined up against the walls to
admire and applaud. And after the gayest sort of a buffet supper,
the prizes that had been won by a belle and a trooper of '61--she in
her grandmother's crinoline and he in his grandfather's gray
jacket--were turned over by acclaim to a sprightly lady of seventy
and her sprightlier partner of seventy-five, for coming disguised as
old folks. The Author made the presentation speech. He began it by
saying that in South Carolina any man might well be excused for
falling in love with his grandmother.

Then the oldsters began to depart, with laughter and gay good
nights. It had been a delightful affair, one of those affairs that
go with a swing and a rhythm all their own, and that one remembers
with a pleasant taste in the mouth.

Only the more indefatigable youngsters remained. They hadn't the
slightest intention of foregoing half a night's dancing. They danced
in the hall to the music of the victrola, while the regular
musicians were being fêted in the kitchen by Mary Magdalen,
Queenasheeba, and Fernolia.

I missed my fan, and went into the drawing-room to look for it. The
room was quite empty for the moment, and looked lonesome for all its
blazing lights. A cool, sweet night wind came in through the open
windows, refreshingly. And quite suddenly there was framed in one of
them a figure more exotic, more bizarre, than any of our maskers had
been.

His dark robe was folded over his breast, and the silver shaft of a
knife showed in his red girdle. His white wool stuck out from under
his red fez, and his ear-rings gleamed against his black cheeks, and
the bracelets on his wiry arms made a faint tinkling as he leaned
forward. Emboldened by his twinkling eyes, his crooked, friendly
smile, eager to question him, I drew nearer. He stretched out his
hand, and slipped into mine the half of a broken coin.



CHAPTER XV

THE HEART OF HYNDS HOUSE


I stood staring at the broken coin in my hand with a sort of
stupefaction, while The Jinnee moved slowly away from the window. I
had received a summons I could not ignore. Had I not promised,
smilingly indeed, but sincerely, to answer that call whenever and
however it should come?

The music had ceased for the moment, and the big hall was quite
empty, for the dancers had trooped into the dining-room, from which
came laughter and chattering voices, and the chink of silver and
china. The great front doors were wide open. I slipped unseen into
the darkly bright, whispering night.

The moon was high in the heavens, for it was past midnight; the wind
was chill upon my shoulders, the dew silvery under my feet. There
was an odor abroad--the ineffable odor of sleepily stirring spring,
of young new leaves budding, of tender grass, growing like a baby's
hair.

At some distance ahead I could just distinguish the dark figure of
the messenger, flitting soundless as a shadow. And then, to my
infinite relief, out of the shrubbery stepped Boris, and thrust his
doggy nose into my hand. I laid hold of his collar, and he trotted
sedately beside me.

I had half expected to be led to the gray-gabled cottage, but The
Jinnee stole along in the shadow of the hedge, stopped beside the
spring-house, and held up his hand.

"In the name of God!" said I, involuntarily.

"The compassionate, the merciful!" finished The Jinnee, and turning
to the east made a profound reverence. There was something so simple
and so sincere in his manner that my momentary fear subsided.

"But why have I been sent for? Why are _you_ here?" I wondered.

He folded his arms upon his breast, and in a sing-song voice,
curiously unlike any other I had ever heard, answered parrotlike:

"This is the word of the master: Take to the fair-haired lady the
broken coin, my sign, and she will remember her word to me. Verily,
for the sign's sake, she will follow without fear."

"The master is not ill, then?"

"In his body he is well. But of the spirit of man, and what help he
needs, there is but one judge, namely, God."

"He has need of me?"

"He sends the token by me, Achmet." And he stood there with a
motionless patience, waiting.

Achmet! I remembered an afternoon in the Enchanted Wood, and that
name ringing in my ears--Achmet!

"I will follow you," I said. And instantly The Jinnee pushed open
the unlocked door of the spring-house and stepped inside.

I hesitated for a moment, turning my head toward Hynds House,
blazing with lights. I could hear voices, laughter, snatches of
song. From the kitchen Mary Magdalen's great, rich, unctuous laugh
rolled out like an organ peal. Silhouetted against the lighted
library window was one of our big black cats, with an arched back
and an uplifted and expressive tail.

"I wait," said a quiet voice. And, clutching Boris by the collar, I
stepped inside the door.

It was dark in there; only a faint and broken light came through the
one window, set high in the wall. Boris's eyes were balls of fire,
and his feet made a stealthy, scuffling sound on the flagged floor.
The little spring bubbling in its stone basin was like a whispering,
secretive voice.

Achmet stooped down, over in one corner. Then, shading a very modern
flash-light with a fold of his robe, he showed me one of the square
flags lifted, and a black hole yawning in the floor.

I backed away. With a crooked, sly smile, The Jinnee snapped his
fingers at Boris. The big dog jerked himself free of my hand and
disappeared.

"Now!" said The Jinnee. And like one in a dream I gathered my
lace-trimmed skirts in my hand and backed down a spider-web stairway
that barely gave one foothold. Achmet waited until I reached the
bottom, then he, too, backed in, and I heard the flagstone fall to
over my head.

There was a moment of utter and awful blackness and stillness. I was
upon the point of shrieking, when something cold and friendly
touched my hand: Boris was nosing me. The Jinnee, at the bottom of
the steps, showed the light.

We were in a circular shaft, narrowing upward like an inverted
funnel. It was quite clean and dry, lined with hard cement.
Branching from it were two wedge-shaped openings, just wide enough
to allow one person at a time to walk through.

The Jinnee plunged into one of these, and Boris and I followed.
There was nothing else for us to do.

"This is safest way. If I come through house, I am seen. Not want
that," said Achmet, over his shoulder.

I made no reply. I was wondering what The Author would have said had
he seen us at that moment--The Jinnee shuffling ahead in heelless
slippers and Oriental dress, upon his woolly head a red fez with a
silver crescent on it, and on his breast a string of _saphies_,
verses from the Koran, in exquisite Arabic script, framed in flat
round pieces of silver and strung on a chain. Boris, larger and
nobler even than most of his breed, paced behind him. Then came I, a
slim blonde woman, with fair hair powdered, in a dress a century
old.

The passage wasn't quite six feet high, and so still that you
could hear the beating of your heart. Achmet's slippers went
_scuf-scuf-scuf_. Boris swayed from side to side, his tongue
lolling, his eyes phosphorescent. He resembled those ghost-hounds
of old stories, terrific beasts that follow the Wild Huntsman.

We went down some steps. I shouldn't have been surprised had I found
myself climbing the beanstalk after Jack. Dazedly I thought: "I'll
wake up in the morning and tell them at the breakfast-table what a
wonderful dream I had." I could fancy the Lady with the Soul
clasping her hands, and The Author crinkling his eyes, and Alicia
laughing.

This last passage, which, I learned afterward, ran under the
carriage house, presently crooked like an elbow and led us into a
windowless and stone-floored little room, under the cellar. On the
opposite side of the room was the opening of another such passage,
with stone steps leading to it. On these steps sat Nicholas Jelnik.

He got to his feet and stood looking at me. A momentary red rushed
to his cheek, and his eyes flashed. Boris, tongue out, tail wagging,
rubbed against him, and the master's hand dropped between the
speaking eyes with a swift caress.

"Good dog! You came with her!"

"And I. Am I not also a good dog?" asked The Jinnee, jealously.

Mr. Jelnik's reply I did not understand, but Achmet made a
respectful salutation, and his grin was the grin of a little boy.

"Sophy!" said Nicholas Jelnik, and his voice shook, "Sophy! Oh, I
knew you would come!" He gave a low, pleased laugh. "And now she is
here, she doesn't even ask why I have sent for her!"

"The mistress," said Achmet, "should have been of the Faith. May
Allah enlighten her!"

"Sit down here beside me for a few minutes, Sophy, and rest," said
Mr. Jelnik, seating himself. "And do not look so pale, my little
comrade."

"I thought--that you might be ill," I faltered. "I thought--that you
needed me."

"I am not ill, but I do need you," he said quickly, and took my hand
in a firm clasp. The touch of that hand brought me out of my
trance-like state. It was all right, and the most natural thing in
the world, that I should be sitting in this windowless vault, with
two candles and a shadowy lantern burning dimly in the still air, an
old black Jinnee squatting on his heels watching me, a great
wolf-hound stretched beside him. Wasn't Nicholas Jelnik holding my
hand?

"Sophy," he said directly, "I have found the lost Key of Hynds
House." I looked at him dumbly. "I have reached that point where I
can tell you everything, little friend. Thank Heaven you have come!"
But of a sudden his-forehead was damp.

"You will remember," he said, after a moment's silence, and still
holding my hand--and I think that now he held it as he had once held
his mother's--"when I talked to you about my childhood and my
mother, I told you she had made me more of an American than an
Austrian. This old home-town of her people, this old house, the
mystery that blackened the Hynds name, were as real to me as the
scenes and people that actually surrounded me.

"When I was older, she turned over to me all her family papers, and
I sifted and assorted and reduced them to system and order. I found
among them Richard Hynds's own brief account of the affair, and
copies of letters to his father, but the bulk of the papers
consisted of such data as his son and namesake could gather. This
formed a copious mass, for he had set down every least circumstance
that he thought might have any bearing upon his father's case. These
papers, guarded so jealously, bequeathed to his successors the
sacred task of righting Richard Hynds.

"In Richard's short statement, left for his little son, he, as
rightful heir of Hynds House, mentions the secret passages and tells
how they may be entered. He had been taught that much, himself, on
reaching his majority. But there was one vital secret that hadn't
been revealed to Richard, for not until the head of Hynds House knew
he was about to die did he give to his successor the Key to the
hidden room; the room concealed so cunningly that without the Key
one could never hope to find it. They planned and built wonderfully
well, those old master work-men. They meant that secret room to be
the strong-box, the inviolate hiding-place which should keep what
might be entrusted to it. It was, as it were, the heart of Hynds
House.

"Remember that Richard's father died of a stroke of apoplexy, and
without speaking. Thus Freeman would know no more than Richard did.
There was but one person alive who knew, and that was--"

"A slave?" I whispered, remembering Freeman's diary.

"A slave, an unlettered slave. How he discovered it I do not know.
But he did discover it. He knew, and the Hyndses did not. In regard
to this same slave, a curious item was set down by Richard's son:

"'This day Black Shooba's son told me of a heathen song Shooba made
before he died and swore him to forget not. 'Tis a strange chaunt:

          "I, Shooba, the Snake Soul, make me a Song.
           In the night I sing it for my Snake.
           My Snake showed me a Secret Thing.
           Two Eyes and Two Eyes looked upon One Eye.
           One Eye is open and sees, and sees not.
           This my Snake showed me, in the Dark.
           But the Strong Ones, the White Ones,
           They have no Snake. Ho! Never shall they see it!"'

"Sounds like a stark raving, doesn't it? One can fancy the doctor
feeling a bit ashamed of himself when he wrote it down.

"I rather fancied it raving, myself, until one day I came across--"
here he paused, and looked at me intently--"a yellowed slip of paper
between the pages of an old diary that had been accidentally
discovered. I knew then that there was really something to be
discovered, and that I had not been a visionary sentimentalist when
I yielded to my mother's last expressed wish that I should come
here and search.

"I suppose," he went on dreamily, "that it was in my blood, the
desire to come here to Hyndsville, like a homing bird. But when my
mother died, the ties that bound me to her country seemed to be in a
measure loosened. Then, too, the _Wanderlust_ had me in its grip. I
put aside the profession my father had bred me to, left my affairs
in what I thought capable hands, and indulged my desire to wander up
and down the earth and sail the seven seas. It was upon one of these
prowls that I came upon my old Achmet here, and induced a master who
didn't love him to part with him." And he looked at the old man with
whimsical tenderness.

"I am your slave," spoke up The Jinnee, sturdily. "I am the fostered
offspring of my master's bounty. May he live a thousand years!"

That shocked my Yankee ears. Achmet smiled his crooked smile.

"Why did the sahiba follow when I showed her a broken coin?" he
asked.

"Because I knew that Mr. Jelnik needed me."

"Even in the bowels of the earth?" I was silent.

"Because he is the master!" said The Jinnee. "Therefore you obeyed.
He is the master. Wherefore am I, Achmet, his slave." Oh, shame
upon you, Sophy Smith, for there was that in you, and that not the
least divine part, which was in full accord with black Achmet!

"Achmet's ideas are of the immutable East," said Mr. Jelnik, with a
faint smile. "He is archaic." And dismissing this persiflage with a
wave of the hand, he continued:

"Behold me, then, footing it up and down the highways and byways of
the world. But it was as if I had disobeyed the dead, and they would
give me no rest. So presently I stopped short and came to
Hyndsville.

"With Richard's directions in my possession, it was comparatively
easy for me to find the passageways, and after the old woman's death
I had chance to examine the house room by room. And sometimes,
Sophy, when I have been alone in this tragic old place--" he paused,
and looked at me with a puzzled frown--"it has seemed to me that
there were--well, secret influences, say; things outside of our
sphere. I have felt a sense of horror and despair descend upon my
spirit, a weight almost too heavy to bear. Sometimes it would be so
powerful, so insistent, so vivid, that I had to fly from it.

"Then I happened to remember something that a gipsy, an old, old man
reputed to be very wise, told me when I was a boy. He said that
troubled spirits can be soothed and sent hence by music. It is the
old and sure charm, as David found when he played upon the harp and
drove the evil spirit out of Saul the king. I brought my violin and
tried it. And," said the cosmopolitan Mr. Jelnik, "the gipsy was
right."

"Ah, yes, I see you know, now. It was I whom you heard playing, that
first day. It was I, touched by your plight in that forlorn and
dusty barracks, who gave you some slight relief. It was easy enough
for me to cut across to Geddes's house, reach in through his kitchen
window, lift his tray, and escape through the ragged hedges while
his cook's broad back was turned. Achmet was willing enough to play
the obliging Jinnee. You had your dinner, and I had a bit of
harmless amusement. It pleased me to hear Alicia call me Ariel. It
pleased me to stand by, to protect you, if that should be necessary.
Achmet and I took turns in safeguarding you at night.

"You will understand"--he gave me a straight, clear, proud
look--"that it was never my desire to mystify or to frighten you.
But I couldn't take you offhand into my confidence, could I? I had
to find out something more about you. Remember, too, that my search
in no wise jeopardizes your interests.

"Day after day, night after night, Sophy, I have pored over
old papers, or burrowed mole-like into the black recesses of
Hynds House. Bit by bit I have pieced scraps of evidence
together--Shooba's savage chant with Scipio's dying whisper in
Freeman's ear, and these two with a rude verse and a line of
dots. But there the thread snapped.

"Do you remember the morning you told me, The Author's guess that
'Hellen's Keye' was the Greek fret, the design over all the windows
and doors of Hynds House? The trail was plain then. I was to follow
the line of the Greek key for three and thirty turnings, when I
should come upon a sign. I tried and tried. And to-night--I reached
the end of it, Sophy. I found it." Again his forehead was damp, and
his pallor, if possible, deepened.

I rose as if on springs. The hair of my head rose, too, I thought,
and my scalp tingled.

"Found what?"

"The hidden room that the masters built for the master of Hynds
House." He stopped, and a shudder passed over him. His hand closed
upon mine, and it was deathly cold.

"You have been in a secret room?--here in Hynds House?" I asked
incredulously.

"Yes," said he in a whisper. "I opened the door--and went in. The
room hadn't been opened for a hundred years, Sophy. There was a
table in one corner, and I went over to it. There was something
else there, too, Sophy." He moistened his lips, and looked at me
with dilated eyes.

"What?" I asked; "in God's name, what?"

"The thief," said Nicholas Jelnik.



CHAPTER XVI

THE DEVILL HIS RAINBOW


I was taken with a cold grue.

"Is it--murder?" It seemed to me that the still room shook and
echoed to the barely whispered word, that the candles stirred and
flickered as in a wind of passing wings.

"Not in the sense you mean," he replied. "But whatever it may be,
Sophy, this thing has got to be met and faced by us two together. It
concerns you now, as well as me." He stood up as he spoke. "And
now," he asked, "are you strong enough to come with me?"

I gathered the living spirit within me and looked him in his eyes.

"Yes," I said steadily.

"Allah! but here is a woman a man may serve without shame to his
beard!" quoth The Jinnee, wagging his old white head. And with Boris
stretched beside him he resigned himself to wait with the tireless
patience of the East.

If the other passages had been narrow, that which we now entered was
worse. It was so narrow that the wall on each side seemed about to
close in and crush us, like those frightful sliding walls that
became a living coffin for the victims of medieval cruelty. Always
one was confronted by solid brick walls; and to turn back was to
meet others seemingly risen to cut off all escape. For this passage
follows the simple and yet intricate pattern of the Greek key. Thus:

    [Illustration: Plan of Passage and Secret Chamber]

I fancied myself doomed to spend a frightful eternity of burrowing
through brick wormholes which led nowhere. I lost all sense of
location, time, and direction. I wasn't even sure of my own identity
any more: things like this couldn't happen to a woman named Smith!
Just when I reached the stage where I was ready to drop down and lie
there unmoving until I died, he turned his head and gave me a
comradely smile of assurance and trust. I plucked up heart of grace
and staggered on. Of a sudden he stopped. The pale circle of the
flash-light moved up, inch by inch, steadied, and stayed on one
spot.

I found myself staring fixedly at the old and familiar enough symbol
of the rayed eye within the triangle. It was not commonplace or
familiar set up there in that secret and awesome place and seen by a
pale light. There was about it a stark and stern solemnity, such as
suggested the winged circle of immortality carved above the
rock-hewn doors of the tombs of Egyptian kings. Higher than a tall
man's head, it was painted on bricks of a lighter hue than the
surrounding ones, and when the light touched it it seemed to leap
out of the dark like a thing alive, a thing that watched with an
unwinking and terrifying intensity.

I remembered Shooba's savage chant of the One Eye that his Snake had
shown him; and the doggerel verse on the frayed paper in Freeman's
diary.

"The Watcher in the Dark!" I stammered; "the Watcher in the Dark!
Why--why, that paper was the Key itself!"

"Exactly. And a very simple key, though it took me a heartbreaking
length of time to turn it. The cipher was easy enough. It falls
apart into the figures three, five, seven, and nine; it was also
the simplest train of reasoning to apply these figures to the column
of dots. Only, I hadn't the remotest idea what the dots themselves
represented. Nor did it occur to me that the tortuous turnings of
any of the passageways of Hynds House might follow the pattern of
the Greek key, until The Author called your attention to the design
over the outside windows. Clever man, The Author!

"I lost the paper in the attic the night you heard me stumble on the
stairs. Fortunately, The Author put it in his coat in the closet and
locked the door on the outside. You can enter any room in the Hynds
House through those closet-walls, Sophy. They're paneled, remember.
I hated to have to go through The Author's pockets like a burglar,
but I had to have the key."

He handed me the flash-light.

"Now for the column of dots, each of which represents a brick," he
said, and began to count, from the first dark brick immediately
under the center of the triangle. At the third brick he paused; I
could see his fingers moving around the white line that, apparently,
held it in place. And that third brick, which looked so solidly
placed, turned as upon a pivot and swung out sideways. Still
counting from top to bottom, he paused at the fifth, the seventh,
and the ninth, and they, too, behaved in the same manner. As the
ninth one turned, that which had seemed a section of solid wall rose
soundlessly from the floor and left in its place an opening, a door,
as it were, some six feet high and about eighteen inches wide.

"It is not brick at all, but painted wood. A really wonderful bit of
work," explained Mr. Jelnik.

I could only stare, owlishly.

"You are wondering where we are?" He answered the unspoken question:
"Above the library, between the outside wall and the chimney-stacks.
You'd have to tear the house down to find it, without the Key." As
he spoke, he was lighting two of the candles Achmet had provided us
with, and although his hand was quite steady, he had become
frightfully pale. I, too, felt myself growing paler, felt again the
cold grue, as if the wind of death had stirred my hair.

"Reach into my breast pocket and you'll find a small vial. Put a
drop of the contents on your handkerchief and hold it against your
mouth for a moment," said Mr. Jelnik, with a sharp glance at me.

I obeyed mechanically. The scent had an indescribably tingling,
spicy odor, and left a cool and grateful sensation in one's parched
and dry throat. My blurred vision cleared, my dull and throbbing
head was relieved.

"An Alexandrine Copt gave me that," he said, watching its effect
with satisfaction. "He told me he had gotten it from a temple
papyrus, and that it was undoubtedly one of the lost perfumes of
Punt, used by the higher priesthood in their mysteries. Once a year
he sends me such a tiny vial as you see. I could hardly have
survived my searchings in this house, without that saving perfume.
Do you feel able to go on?"

"Yes."

"Come, then," and with that he stepped through the opening, and I
after him.

The room was not large--perhaps some nine feet high, some eight feet
wide. The walls were of such exquisitely grooved and polished red
mahogany that the candle-light was reflected in them as in mirrors;
one seemed to be surrounded by twinkling red stars. On each side of
the opening stood a tall and narrow cabinet, somewhat like a
high-boy, and in one corner was a chest with iron clasps and
handles. Over in another corner was a heavy, medium-sized square
table, on which stood a blackened candelabrum and a tarnished
silver-gilt cup. There were two chairs drawn up to this table. On
one of them, fallen forward, was something.

Mr. Jelnik placed the candles in the empty sconces. We two stood
looking down, he with pity, I with a mounting, sick horror, at the
thing before us--the poor, huddled thing that had lain there so
long. For it was not, as one might suppose at first glance, a frayed
and threadbare mantle flung across one corner of the table. By the
long black hair it was a woman, and a young woman.

She had on what must once have been a most beautiful brown silk
dress, trimmed with quantities of fine lace, and looped up over a
stiff brocaded petticoat. Her skeleton feet were in the smallest of
low-cut shoes, the tarnished silver buckles of which were set with
rhinestones. Her head rested on her arm, outflung across the table.
The other arm hung limp, and the fingers pointed downward, as if
accusingly. She had quantities of glorious black hair, and this
alone had death respected; nothing else of her loveliness remained.
Under her fleshless hand lay the soiled and yellowed papers she had
written, and over which, in biting mockery, she had kept watch and
ward.

"Who is it? Oh, God, God!--who is it?" I gasped, and heard my voice
rattling in my throat like a dying woman's. As, perhaps her voice
had rattled, here in the dark. The thought of her, sitting here in
awful loneliness these long, long years, while life, all unknowing,
ebbed and flowed within reach of her, made me shudder.

"It is Jessamine Hynds, lost Jessamine Hynds," said her kinsman of
a later day, looking down upon the wreck of her with compassion.

"But how--how--why did she come here? To die thus--Oh, my God! my
God!"

"I saw the papers under her hand, and her name written upon the
first page," he said. "What further things she has written, I do not
know. I waited, Sophy, until we should read it together." He smiled
at me wanly. "I could bear it better, with you beside me. You see
how much I need you!" And he took the papers from her and spread
them upon the table. What she had written I shall insert here, as
its properest place.

     I, Jessamine Hynds, Gentlewoman, being of sound Mind (though
     they do say I am mad) but of infirm Body, the which I am
     shortly to be rid of, do state and declare before God that
     it was I who did take the Hynds Jewells, being help'd
     thereto by black Shooba the witch doctor, who was my
     father's man before my Uncle James Bought him at the Publick
     Outcry of our Effects.

     As to the Why & Wherefore I have act'd thus, thou knowest,
     thou cruel God, who made me a beggar'd Orphan, a poor
     dependant in this House of Pride!

     Yet, God, thou knoweth I lov'd them well enow until Richard
     came home the last Time from Abroad, a Young Man in the
     Beauty of his Youth, who saw not Jessamine the poor Cozzen,
     but Jessamine the fair woman. He would have me sing him
     Ballads, he would hang Entranc'd upon the Spinet when I
     play'd. Now would he fetch me a flower for my hair, placing
     of it himself. And now 't was a knot of ribband for my
     dress, and himself fetch'd home broach and ear-rings for my
     Birthday Gift, saying in my ear no fairer woman's face had
     gladded his eyes since he left home. And by the clipt Hedge
     on a May night he kiss'd me. Alas, oh blind high God, alas,
     alas!

     'T was Wondrous to see how even the Servants did catch the
     Humour, they waiting upon me Marvelous ready. Until came my
     dear Aunt, smiling sickly, and laying of her Hand upon my
     Sholder said she must speak for mine own Good. Richard was
     but a young Man, wild & headlong, and I a fair Woman thrown
     in his Way in an empty betweenwhiles ere his own true love
     came. See to it, Jessamine, says she, that a Boy's
     short-liv'd Fancy makes not a mock of thee, at thy years,
     that should know better!

     Mine Uncle ever twitt'd me for liking of Books, & laugh'd
     when I beg'd I might have my Chance of Becoming an Artist.
     "What," says he, "a Hynds woman painting of strange folks
     their faces? Out upon thy notion, Jessamine!" And my Cozzens
     laugh'd and said, Ever did Gentlemen dislike a Learn'd
     Female. Should have gotten me a good Husband this Ten Years
     since but for my Shrew's Temper & Vanity of Books.

     To cure me they did Cruelly bait me to Marry the Pursy Ninny
     that hath the Plantation beyond the Hopes, he that hath been
     Ogling of me for years. Could scratch the Wretch his eyes
     Out! Puffeth with his mouth in a way hateful to me & hath
     pig's jowls. Yet were all they fair mad I should marry me
     this Paragon. Should have a home of mine Own, worthy a Lady.
     Aye,--and be out of the way, lest I lead Richard Astray.

     Mine Uncle chid me for Ingratitude to God in that I stamp'd
     my foot and said No! But Richard laugh'd at the idea of
     Jessamine wedding yon tun. Quoth Richard, "Let Jessamine be,
     all of ye! she is meat for his masters." Freeman smil'd
     sourly, & shrug'd. I love not Freeman, nor do I hate him
     overmuch though he call'd me "Madame Jezebel."

     And then came Emily home from Visiting of her Aunts in
     London Town. And they made a Marriage between her and
     Richard, Richard that was mine. He had lov'd me an they had
     let us be. Once pledg'd, he had held fast to his word. Nor
     would I, for his own Soul's sake, have let him go. There is
     none, none under the sun but me alone, was strong enough to
     have sav'd Richard.

     'T is true, as men judge such things, his Conduct to me was
     but Gallant Pleasantry, such as Fine Gentlemen do show to
     Favour'd Ladies. And he did Spare my Pride. Never did he
     show by word or Deed, or admit to any, that I had car'd more
     Deeply than he. But Emily knew. I knew she knew. Saw it in
     her Eyes, that look'd on me with Pity. I will not brok that
     any mortal Woman shall Pity me!

     Secretly I suffer'd, suffer'd so that a Burning fire crept &
     crept into my Brain and Stay'd, nor has left me, Day or
     Night. And in all the World was no one I might Weep before,
     or that would Comfort me and leave me Unasham'd, save
     Shooba, the witch doctor, whom the slaves Fear for that he
     hath a Snake-soul and makes Charms and casts Spells.

     'T is true, that Shooba hath a Spiritt. When it worketh upon
     him he is Dull and Overcast and may not Labour untill it be
     gone. And then will he rise and Speak strange and sometimes
     Terrible things, and Prophesy. In the old times my Father
     smil'd, and let him be. But here 't is otherwise. When
     Shooba's Spiritt made him Heavy and Sleepy, and when he woke
     again and Spoke, mine Uncle's new Overseer had the old man
     Whip't. Twice did this Happen before I knew of It.

     Then went I to the Overseer, with Indignation, and said:
     "Do not whip Shooba, any more. 'T is Monstrous, to Whip an
     old man that hath a Spiritt! 'T is not true he makes
     dissentions and plots Revolt among the slaves. 'T is not
     true he is lazy & will not Work. There is no better Workman
     than Shooba. 'T is only true you are a cruel man and misuse
     your Power."

     Flick'd with his Whip his worsted Stockings. Said in a
     hateful voice: "'Taint your place, Miss, to be a-giving of
     orders to the Overseer. I take orders only from them that
     has the right to Give 'em. When I think that old Nigger
     ought to be whipt, whipt he 'll be."

     Then march'd he to mine Uncle and ask'd was Mistress
     Jessamine to oversee the Overseer, and call him hard Names
     for the whipping of a Troublesome Nigger? And my Uncle fell
     into a Fury With me. Allowed the wretch to Triumph. Shooba
     was whipt again. I saw his Back.

     Once old Shooba cur'd me of a pestilent Fever, with Simples,
     when I was a little Child, and our Leech had given me Over,
     nor did he Bleed me once. Now Shooba's Back was Bleeding,
     and I might not help him!

     Now in the night I had gone secretly to his Hut to fetch him
     such poor little Comforts as I might secretly get & give. He
     took them, & look'd at me long & long, with his brooding,
     deep, strange eyes.

     "For the man that whipt me, I have sent forth my Snake. My
     Snake will have a Thing to say to him. The man will die.
     Then laughed he, and hugg'd his knees.--And 't is true
     Meekins the Overseer one week later was bitten by a Serpent
     in the Field and died an Unlovely Death.

     "Missy," whispered Shooba, "in my country when I young,
     chief get mad with chief more stronger, not fight with
     spears. Call Witch doctor and make Medicine. Stronger
     chief, him come dead one day soon. Maybe bumbye you and me
     make some Medicine?" My lips curl'd somewhat. Poor old
     Shooba making medicine against the Hyndses. "You go now and
     think some. I stay here, and think some, too. Maybe one time
     you find medicine. Maybe one time my Snake find."

     I went away, smiling sadly. 'T would need strong medicine to
     heal me and Shooba!

     Now Time pass'd, and they fell to planning for Freeman's
     Ball. 'T was to be a Grand affair, and there was Talk of my
     Aunt's Frock, and wearing of the Hynds Jewells. And
     Richard's Wife was to be Allow'd to wear the Queen's
     Emerald.

     Came Emily to me in secret, and says she, "Come, Jessamine,
     be Friends with me. My Mind is Fix'd you shall Outshine all
     the other Ladies. I have the very Frock for you, just new
     come from London, a lustrous thing will make you glow &
     Sparkle like a Ruby. We shall make it a State Secret,
     Jessamine. Not a word shall be breath'd, but you shall burst
     upon them all like a Meteor!"

     I do admit that ever was something Noble & Generous in
     Emily, that something in myself did Honour. I had thank'd
     her Thought, but that Richard came in & kiss'd her for it,
     saying he een Lov'd her the Better for that she lov'd his
     haughty Cozzen. But, O God, they Two went away Hand in Hand!
     He forgot me for her sake, so completely that he said not
     even, "Good-by."

     That night went I to Shooba secretly, and said, "Is thy
     Snake awake? For A Thought is in my mind." Then took we
     Counsel together. Shooba is a man most cunning in all manner
     of Herbs and Simples. They in Hynds House began for to sleep
     sweetly and soundly, but felt no ill Effects. Nay, they rose
     betimes most pleasantly rest'd & refresh'd.

     Then did Shooba and I, who thus had undisturb'd Access to
     my Aunt's room, work swiftly until Dawn. Three nights and a
     half night did we two work, before our Task was compleat'd,
     the Kernell's filch'd from the Nuts, and the Empty Shells
     left for my lady's adorning of herself at my lord's
     birth-night Ball.

     Oh, 't was a rare, rare Jest! I laugh'd and old Shooba
     laugh'd. And I did chap them atween my hands, those flaming
     Bawbles, as children chap chaff. And they did sparkle & glow
     like the Devill his Rainbow! All day was I Happy, Hugging of
     my Secret to my Heart.

     Emily had the brown dress brought Secretly into the House, &
     Made for me in mine Own Room. Once was she wishful I might
     wear one of the Hynds Rubies, just for one Night, but I chid
     her, saying that already the Frock was more than Enough.
     Indeed 't is a beautiful Dress. Will serve me well for a
     Shroud.

     Ever came the Ball nearer & nearer, and all we a-flutter, I
     with my hands overfull, my hours overcrowd'd, with Helping
     of them. I could not have slept in peace did I not know what
     was a-coming.

     And then open'd they the Safe in my Aunt's morning-room.
     Shall be such a Howling from the Damn'd on the Day of
     Judgment as went up from Hynds House that day! Makes me to
     think of the text, And there shall be weeping and wailing
     and gnashing of teeth.

     Lord, how did they run Hither & Thither, what Wailing &
     Reproaching & Accusing & Screeching! How did my dear Aunt's
     eyes grow Redder than ever Mine had been! How did my Proud
     Uncle find his Lofty Crest Lower'd, and was in that Honour
     of his Scourg'd more Cruelly than ever old Shooba's Back had
     been! How, too, was _her_ Happiness burst like a Bubble,
     that had been so rainbow Bright! In that house all wept save
     me alone. Nor did one of them so much as dream in 's sleep
     of suspecting Jessamine Hynds!

     And then--oh, God! oh, God--Richard, my Richard, that I
     Lov'd more than mine own Soul, died! As a Candle is snuff'd
     out, so went Richard that was so comely and so strong. I had
     only thought to Punish him, Make them all Suffer to Pay me
     for mine own Suffering. Never, never, had I meant that
     Richard should Die. 'Twas a Thunder-bolt upon my Head, 'twas
     Lightning splitting my Heart.

     'Twas I brought the News of Richard's death to my Uncle
     James. Was sitting in the Library pretending for to read.
     Then came I in, and clos'd the Door, and said:

     "_Richard is dead._" How the man star'd! Had a ruddy face,
     very Handsome. Before my eyes it pal'd and pinch'd. I said
     again: "Don't you understand? _Richard is dead._"

     As a tree falls, he fell. I knew his Time was come, and
     gently I rais'd him. He claw'd at his Breast and mouth'd
     "Richard--Freeman--Pocket-book--The Key, the Key!" Look'd at
     me piteously. 'Twould melt one's Heart to see his Eyes.

     I did thrust my hand into the breast of his blue
     Broad-cloath Coat, and draw forth his Pocket-Book. 'Twas in
     Dark Green leather, & upon it the Arms of our House. There
     were bank-notes in't, some silver, two or three folded
     papers, and one in a small silk Cover, put by itself. I saw
     his Fading Eyes brighten as I held it up. He maw'd,
     "Key--Freeman--" and puff'd with his Lips, and fell
     Unconscious. I slipt the Book back into his breast, put the
     silk-covered paper in mine own, and ran out of the Room,
     Calling Loudly for help.

     He dy'd that Night. And when I look'd at the "Key" 'twas
     naught but a silly Verse. Yet I was doubtful of Giving it to
     Freeman. Instead, I did show it to old Shooba.

     "I will ask my Snake if he knows anything of Keyes," said
     Shooba. And remembering the Overseer, I did not smile, but
     gave him the Paper. I like not to think of Shooba's Snake.

     Then buried we mine Uncle in the Hynds tomb and my Aunt was
     left to wander ghostlike, seeking for what she should never
     find.--Oh, why did not they leave Richard and me alone!

     I repent not. But I am Troubled because of Richard who comes
     in the Night and looks at me, and asks, without anger, only
     with Sorrow, "_Was it well done, Jessamine?_" I answer,
     weeping; "Richard, it was to be. You made me Love you,
     Richard, and you put me by. For which Cause, and for that
     their Pride was beyond Bearing, did I pull down the Roof of
     Hynds House over their heads, and these my Hands did push
     you into your Grave. But go you back to Sleep, my dearest
     Dear. I shall Find mine Own Grave shortly, and then I shall
     be able to come closer to you. When I am Dead, Richard, you
     will understand."

     Sometimes he will go, looking at me over his Sholder with
     Eyes so sad that for Pity I must weep mine own eyes Blind.
     But sometimes he will say, in a Voice none may hear but me:
     "Cruel, cruel Jessamine! You shall not come near me even
     when you are Dead: You shall be Farther from me than when we
     two walk'd Quick under the Sun. Never, never did you truly
     Love me: I know, the Dead being Wiser than the Living! 'T is
     Emily Lov'd me truest."

     And oh, thou awful, far-off God, I cannot make him
     Understand! And unless I can make him understand, I am lost!
     My misery, my misery! He will not listen. I am dying of this
     thing!

     Now did Shooba's Death-in-Life come upon him once more, and
     for a day and a night he lay Stark. And in the Sleep his
     Snake came and show'd him the untying of the Knot, and the
     Turning of the Keye. In proof whereof Shooba took me by the
     hand & Show'd me the Watcher in the Darke.

     "Do but one thing more for me, old Shooba: Put out the Fire
     in my Brain, Shooba, for I would Sleep. And I would Sleep
     here, in Secret, where none but the Watcher may see."

     For a while he ponder'd, Watching of me with still eyes.

     "Not good to stay awake too long. You shall Sleep," he said.

     Last night he Brought me the Pinch of Powder that is an Open
     Door. To what? I know not. But I go without Fear, because
     without Hope. So shall I sleep in the secret Chamber, and it
     maybe I shall Dream that Richard lightly Lov'd and as
     lightly Left me. Whereof Richard Died. And, that Freeman
     thinks his Brother Guilty and a Thief: A Hynds a Thief! so
     that Hynds House hangs Heavy above his head. And that Emily
     begins to Hate Freeman, who Loves her. She thinks he hath
     play'd Judas. I shall have Pleasant dreams!

     Never shall they Find where Shooba hid the Gems, between a
     night and a morning. Never shall any look upon my face more,
     nor read what I have written, nor know what I have done. I
     repent not, O God! What I am I am, Not I but Thou hast
     created me! Having liv'd mine own Life, I do die mine Own
     Death.

                                         JESSAMINE HYNDS.

"This is the Horror that we have--felt!" I babbled. "She's been
sitting here--by herself--all the time--" and my voice failed me,
remembering that dark and anguished sense of guilt and ruin, of
unease and terror, that at times fell upon one in the night like a
smothering garment. Cold drops came upon my forehead, when I
reflected that we had been living under the same roof with This, and
we all unknowing. And I began to whimper: "I cannot stay even one
night more under the same roof with her. I cannot! I cannot!"

"Sophy," said Nicholas Jelnik's quiet voice, "I brought you here
because I relied upon your courage, your common sense, and your
charity."

I gulped. In the most matter-of-fact manner, he gave me another
whiff of that incomparable perfume, and I felt my taut nerves
steady. Not untruthfully had the Coptic physician claimed magic
qualities for that perfume.

Mr. Jelnik said gently: "Had you been other than you are, I would
not have dared call you to my aid to-night. But when I discovered
the real thief--and she Jessamine Hynds--I could not bear that any
other eyes than yours should see her as she is. And--I want you to
be with me when I find the jewels."

The jewels? I blinked at him. Immersed in the tragedy of the woman
Jessamine, her piteous fate had put all thought of everything save
herself out of my mind.

"Shooba hid them, between a night and a morning. Shooba brought her
here, between a night and a morning. Where should the jewels be but
here?"

At his words the grim and mocking ghost of that terrible old
African, who had been whipped for falling into trances, and who had
so tragically revenged himself and his slighted mistress, seemed to
rise behind all that remained of her.

"Yes, he would put them where she could keep watch over them. Why
should she come here, make her way through those dreadful passages,
save for that? Think of her stealing out of her room in the dead of
night, coming alive to what she knew was her tomb, shutting that
door upon herself--" I looked at the tarnished cup, and hoped that
the witch doctor's potion had given her a speedy sleep. I looked at
the blackened candelabrum, and wondered whether that candle had gone
out before she had, or whether her head had fallen upon her arm, and
she had died wide-eyed in the black, black dark. The cold grue shook
me again, and I beat my hands together for terror and pity.

"Do not think of that!" said Mr. Jelnik. "Death rectifies human
wrongs, and all of them have long, long since been healed of their
hurts. Come, let us find the jewels. We are losing time."

We opened the cabinets first. They held papers that had been
precious in their day--old deeds, old charters and grants, with the
king's seals and the signatures of the Lords Proprietors upon them;
correspondence, a casual glance at which showed Revolutionary
activities--a hanging matter once, but harmless enough now; a box of
foreign coins, all gold; a charge, in medieval Latin, on fine
parchment, which exquisitely illuminated initial letters; a plain
silver chalice and a patten; some threadbare robes and regalia, and
a gavel; a most carefully done chart of the Hynds family, ending,
however, with Colonel James Hampden Hynds himself; two letters, and
a miniature of Charles the First; letters signed, "Yours, B.
Franklin," "Yours, John Hancock"; several from "Geo. Washington."

The chest held two uniforms, one British, the other buff and blue; a
pair of pistols, spurs, and a sword. The buff-and-blue uniform was
worn and stained, with a burnt and ragged hole in the breast. It had
belonged, said the slip pinned to it, to "Captain Lewis De Lacy
Hynds, my youngest Brother, the youngest of our House, who Fell
Gloriously at the Battle of Cowpens."

And that was all. Although we examined every inch of that floor,
every board of the walls, and made the most scrupulously careful
search of the cabinets and the chest. I even dared pass my hands
over Jessamine herself.

Shooba the witch doctor had done the unexpected. Wherever he might
have hidden them between a night and a morning, he had not hidden
the Hynds jewels in the secret room of Hynds House. And she who
alone could have solved the mystery and told us the truth, lay there
with a lipless mouth.



CHAPTER XVII

ON THE KNEES OF THE GODS


We gave over the futile search at last. Mr. Jelnik sat down and took
his head in his hands, for the moment a prey to overwhelming
disappointment. I could have wept for him. Presently:

"Is it so hard to lose that which you never possessed?" I ventured
to ask.

"It is always bitter to fail."

"But you haven't really failed. You have succeeded in proving that
both Richard and Freeman were the victims of an insane jealousy and
a terrible revenge."

"Jessamine's confession might well be set aside: insane people often
accuse themselves of crimes committed only in their own disordered
brains. The one indisputable proof would be the jewels in my hands."
He added, with a faint smile: "I should have liked to see those
accursed things made clean by your wearing them, Sophy."

"I don't want them!" I said, and my head went up. "I don't care
_that_ for all the Hynds jewels ever lost! I wouldn't have come here
to-night for their sake or mine, not if they were worth an empire's
ransom! I wanted them for Richard's sake, and--and yours."

"I know, I know. At first I wanted them for him and me, too.
Afterward I wanted them for him and for you, Sophy."

"For me? _I_ have no right to them. What have _I_ to do with Hynds
jewels?" And then I stopped. If Jessamine's confession were
true--and I believed in my heart that every word Jessamine had
written was the truth--what right had I to Hynds House itself? "As
to that, I have no right to Hynds House, either. It is yours," I
said.

He stared at me thoughtfully.

"It is yours," I repeated, gaining courage. "I am an outsider, to
whom this house was left from motives of malice and revenge. Mr.
Jelnik, this thing must be set straight. We will show Jessamine's
confession and clear Richard's name. We will bring Freeman's diary
forward to prove the truth of our assertions. Then you can come into
your own."

"Ah!" said Mr. Jelnik, gently, "I see. Quite simple, and perfectly
feasible. And after I have taken Hynds House, what of you? What do
you get?"

"I get out," I said briefly. And a horrid qualm came over me. Leave
Hynds House, forever? Go away from Hyndsville, leaving this
friendlier, pleasanter, happier life behind?

"You are forgetting my training," I reminded him, trying to keep my
voice steady. "I can always do what I did before I came here. I--I'm
really an excellent private secretary, Mr. Jelnik."

"That," said Mr. Jelnik, smiling curiously, "may very well be. But I
think the stars in their courses fought to bring you here. And I
really do not at all relish the notion of your turning backward into
a private secretary, although there is, of course, the alternative
of The Author. And what of Alicia?"

"Alicia's sense of justice is quite as well developed as mine," I
told him proudly.

"Alicia is a dear girl," he agreed. "But, my dear lady, your plan
wouldn't hold water in any court. This place isn't mine, legally or
morally, though the jewels would be if I could find them. If ever I
do find them, which is highly improbable, I may be tempted to make
you an offer of exchange."

"You don't want Hynds House? Richard's house? You won't take Hynds
House?"

"I don't want Hynds House. I won't take Hynds House. Further, if
anybody on earth but you made me such an offer, in such
circumstances, I should find it hard to forgive. Even from you I
hardly think I could bear it twice." A bright red showed in his
cheeks for an instant, his nostrils quivered, his whole face was a
blaze of pride. "What! Nicholas Jelnik accept gifts from women?"

"As good and proud men as Nicholas Jelnik have accepted gifts from
women, and been none the worse for it," said I, tartly. "You offered
me your jewels. Why shouldn't I offer you my house?--particularly
when it should have been your house. I also have my pride, Mr.
Jelnik!"

The hauteur went out of his face, and something sweet and quizzical
and boyish flooded it.

"Keep Hynds House, dear, dear Donna Quixotta," said he, gently. "You
have given me something I needed a thousand times more."

Now, although we had not found the jewels, we had found Jessamine
Hynds, and there remained to be done a thing that called for what
strength of will and courage we possessed. And we had need to make
haste. Already more time had been consumed than we bargained for.

Mr. Jelnik fetched a deep breath, and went over to the Thing in the
chair. There was in his manner neither repugnance nor horror,
nothing but an almost divine compassion. Never, never, had I
respected the courage, the honor, the mercy of man so greatly as I
did then.

It was a ghastly task; I do not like to remember it. In the hot, dry
air of the room without windows she had become, not a bleached
skeleton, but a shriveled, fleshless, blackened mummy. The hair
still clung tightly to the skull, the discolored skin was stretched
over the bony contour of the face; the lips had shriveled away from
the teeth, which showed in a sort of jeering grin. And--well, we had
to tie her hair, like a rope, around her chest and arms; and I tore
the ruffles off my petticoat, to tie her skirts at the knees and
ankles.

The brown frock was low-necked and short-sleeved, too. And the
picture of her, down-stairs, showed her with so red a lip, so round
an arm, so soft, so white a bosom!

     Thou might'st think thou hadst drunk the water of Paradise
     who had tasted the nectar of her lip.... The ends of her
     ringlets fell into the hand like as the sleeve of the
     generous in the hand of the needy.

Oh, Jessamine!

She had been so splendidly tall a woman, that as he held her grisly
head upon his shoulder the little shoes that rattled upon her
shriveled feet were well below his knees. One great rope of her
blue-black hair escaped and fell down the back of his white
coat, and as he moved it moved, too, with a lazy and languid
coquettishness horribly travesting youth and beauty. It was such
wonderful hair! Small wonder young Richard had praised its dark
splendor, and kissed its shining folds to his undoing!

"Jessamine," Nicholas Jelnik said as he bent over her, "you shall
have your chance to rest. You shall sleep under the open sky. Nature
shall have you, Jessamine, and make you over into something of
loveliness and of peace."

"Because she loved much, much shall be forgiven her," I whispered.
Ah! At the last, who but Him of Galilee shall speak for us?

Never, until I shall be what she was then, shall I be able to forget
that return journey. Mr. Jelnik walked ahead, holding her on one
arm, and carrying the flash-light with his free hand. I followed
with a candle that burned with a low and reddish glare and gave off
a heavy, waxy odor in the still air. Whenever the faintest draft
lifted the dull flame, we two living creatures seemed to recede into
darkness, while the light sought her out and stayed upon her. The
motion of his body shook her lightly, and she gave forth a dry and
stealthy rattling, an uneasy rustling. One hand hung down, with a
loose, loose bracelet jingling on the brittle brown wrist. And her
poor little feet with the rotting shoes upon them moved delicately,
as if they trod the impalpable air. Once her head struck, with a
hollow thud, as we turned a corner. It was almost more than flesh
and blood could bear,--like things you were afraid of when you were
a child in the dark--the candles melting audibly, and walls, walls,
pressing us in.

I think it took us years to reach the room where Achmet waited. At
sight of what the master bore, The Jinnee started up and called upon
God the Lord Paramount, Help of the Faithful. Then, like the fine
old fighter he was, he squared his shoulders, folded his arms, and
waited orders. Boris, with a deep-throated, smothered growl of fear
and protest, bared his teeth and sidled against him, bristling and
trembling.

We consulted briefly. Mr. Jelnik was for leaving her there in the
cellar room, until a fitter opportunity offered to give her
sepulture. But to this I vehemently objected. I could not have
stayed another hour in that house while I knew she was in it. I
wanted Jessamine Hynds consigned to the grave from which she had
been too long kept. I wanted her to sleep in the brown bosom of the
earth, with the impartial grass to cover her, and roses to blow over
her by and by, when summer should have come back to South Carolina.

Achmet led the way, and presently we were in the spring-house. When
I am feverish I dream of that last climb up the spidery stair, with
Jessamine's jaws widened into a soundless laugh, and The Jinnee's
light playing at hide-and-seek upon her.

I knelt down and plunged my face into the cold spring-water, and
drank and drank. How good it was! And how grateful to my lungs was
the outside air, so sweet, so fresh, so clean! I loved the friendly
trees waving in the good wind, I blessed the friendly stars.

We stopped at Mr. Jelnik's house, and the man Daoud appeared in
answer to a low-voiced summons and fetched me a most beautiful
shawl, which I found extremely comfortable. A stately and stoical
personage was Daoud, unlike shy black Achmet, who hid himself from
observation so thoroughly that people in Hyndsville were not aware
of his existence. I sat on the steps while for Jessamine Hynds was
fetched a length of canvas, a linen sheet, and a gray army blanket.
Achmet appeared with spades. And so we set out.

The old cemetery in Hyndsville, unlike the newer one in which folks
take a sort of ghastly pride, one lot differing from another lot in
glory, is an unpretentious place, enclosed by crumbling walls, the
iron gates of which have rusted ajar. It is a grassy, bird-haunted,
tree-shaded spot, with some dozen or so old family vaults, some
modest monuments that bear stately names, some raised marble slabs
supported on carved and slender legs, like Death's own little
card-tables, some stones let flat into the earth, with names and
dates long since erased by rain and wind and fallen leaf. Nobody
comes here any more. Sophronisba Scarlett was the first and last to
be interred in the old cemetery within the memory of the present
generation.

We went down dismal paths where the night wind sighed a miserere in
the cedars, and things of the dark scurried away with furtive
noises, or flapped ill-omened black wings overhead. In a corner
shaded by cypresses was the Hynds vault, a venerable affair with a
slate roof. Outside, in an inclosed space were some marble-covered
graves and in a corner the simplest of all, one marked "R.H." Emily
slept beside him, and their son beside her. But on the farther side,
next the wall, was room for one more sleeper. And here, while Mr.
Jelnik laid down his burden, Daoud and Achmet began to dig.

She lay there in the ghostly light and shade, so utterly cast aside
and forgotten, so unloved, so unwept, so far removed from every
human tie, that terror and pity filled my heart. While Daoud and
Achmet were making ready her bed, Nicholas Jelnik and I spread out
the length of canvas, and wrapped her securely in the sheet and
blanket. We folded her claws upon the empty breast in which had once
pulsed the passionate heart of Jessamine Hynds, and spread her hair
over what had been her face.

Over in a sheltered spot behind the vault clambered a huge,
overgrown, briery rose, and by some sweet impatience of nature one
shoot had budded before its time. I broke off the small, pale roses
and placed them in her grasp. But Mr. Jelnik took from his breast a
pearl and silver crucifix, and this, reverently, he laid upon hers.

"It was my father's grandmother's. She held it when she was dying.
She was an old saint. It would please her to know that her crucifix
should stay, one holy thing, with Jessamine Hynds."

"'_Verily, the gate of repentance is not nor shall be shut upon
God's creatures until the sun shall rise in the west_,'" The Jinnee
quoted his Prophet And he broke off two of his _saphies_, each with
a holy verse written upon it, and dropped them upon her out of pure
charity.

Daoud, who was intelligent and orthodox where Achmet was emotional
and tender, was evidently not altogether sure of the wisdom of this
proceeding; but he was not too orthodox to stand up arrow-straight,
face the East, and pray for her.

So we wrapped her, brown silk dress and yellowed laces, and long
black hair, in the strip of canvas, and gave her to the earth. The
last thing we saw, thank God! before the blanket fell over her for
the last time, was the silver crucifix shining out of the roses in
her hands.

Daoud and Achmet, their spades over their shoulders, left the
cemetery, the latter the strangest, quaintest, most outlandish
figure ever seen on a Carolina road. Mr. Jelnik and I, with Boris
close beside us, walked more slowly.

"Shall you go on with the search?" I ventured presently.

"But where shall I begin now?" he wondered. "I have searched
everything and every place searchable."

"If Shooba hid them anywhere outside of that room, it must have been
in some place that Jessamine herself knew and could get at if she
wished; some particular place where nobody would dream of looking
for them. Women always choose hiding-places like that, and the
notion would suit Shooba's grim humor," I said.

"They who knew every nook and cranny of the house searched it pretty
thoroughly at the time," he reminded me. "I have fine-combed it
myself."

"I am so sorry! I wanted you to find them. But the fact that you
didn't surely couldn't make very much difference to you. One's
happiness doesn't depend upon anything so problematical."

He hesitated. "Aside from their value, which is by no means
inconsiderable, I--well, they would have made certain things easier
for me. I should then have been in a better position to do what I
want to do."

"Oh! You had some definite plan which hinged upon your finding
them?"

He was silent for a space, as if considering within himself just how
far he could admit me into his confidence.

"At first, it was a matter of family pride with me to clear up this
mystery. Later--I wanted to have the Hynds jewels in my possession,
that I might ask the woman I love to marry me." His voice vibrated
like a violin string.

I took the blow standing. I did not wince, though it had come
unexpectedly. Of course I had known all along that there must be
some lady whom he loved, a woman of that world to which he himself
belonged. But I couldn't for the life of me imagine how the finding
or the not finding of the Hynds jewels could have any bearing upon
the case. I couldn't understand how any woman, any real woman, could
let such a thing come between her and Nicholas Jelnik.

When we had walked a little farther: "Doesn't she know you care for
her?"

"Who knows what any woman knows or thinks? She may really care for
another man."

"There is another man?"

"There is always another man. Her feeling for me may be nothing but
pure kindness, for she is kindness itself."

"Still, I think you should tell her," I said, with such a heavy
heart!

He shook his head. "There are reasons why my faith might be
questioned, my motives doubted; and I couldn't bear that."

"But if you are perfectly sure of your own feelings, if there is
absolutely no doubt in your mind that you love her--"

"Love her? I never thought," he said, "that any woman could mean so
much to a man! I never dreamed that just one woman could be in
herself all that a man needs to hold fast to! Love her? I have been
all over the world and I have seen many women in many lands, but
never any woman of them all, save that one, for me! It was a
revelation to me, that I could care so much. Ah! I wish I could make
it plain just how much I do care!"

I had not known until that moment how much the heart can bear of
anguish and not break.

"I hope she loves you just as much in return, Mr. Jelnik. I hope
with all my heart you will be happy, both of you."

"I hope she does! I hope we shall!" he cried, with ardor. "Why, if
I could be sure she cares for me, like that, if I could know that
all other men counted as little with her as all other women count
with me! But I am not sure. And I do not take it lightly, for my
woman must be more to me than most women mean to most men. Well, it
is on the knees of the gods."

I stole a covert glance at him as he walked beside me. It seemed to
me he had never been so beautiful. But his beauty hurt me. I felt
old, very, very old, and sad, and tired. The salt taste of tears was
in my mouth. My feet dragged.

We entered that strip of land which on a time old Sophronisba
barb-wired and barricaded against her neighbors, and which touched
the Jelnik grounds in the rear. We were to cut through his garden
and enter mine by the gap in the hedge behind the spring-house
and I hoped to get into the house and up-stairs to my own room
unperceived.

The gray cottage lay dark and silent, but there were lights in Hynds
House although the night was upon the verge of morning. A gray
light, upon which was stealing a primrose tinge, was already in the
sky. It was, in fact, four o'clock. I was so mortally tired that for
a moment I sat down on his steps.

"It's been pretty rough on you, Sophy. One woman in a thousand
could have gone through this night's experience without going to
pieces," said Mr. Jelnik, with feeling. And then:

"Sophy!" cried a frightened and hysterical voice. "Oh, is that you,
at last, Sophy?" And turning a corner of the gray cottage, Alicia,
Doctor Geddes, and The Author confronted us. They were still in
costume, and the Mephistophelian effect of The Author was such as
would turn any actor green with envy. Ensued a pregnant pause. It
was a lovely situation! It reduced me, for one, to idiocy.

"Sophy! Jelnik!" exploded Doctor Geddes, with a gesture of rage and
astonishment.

"Yes. It is I. What is the matter? Why aren't you home and in bed?
What are you doing here, at this hour?" I asked, stupidly.

Here The Author, all in red tights, cape, and doublet, snatched his
red cap with the cock's feather in it off his head, and bowed
diabolically:

"Let us ask you that same question: Why aren't _you_ home and in
bed? What are _you_ doing here at this hour?"

"After everybody had gone home, I ran up to your room,
Sophy--and--and you were gone. You weren't in the house. I looked
everywhere; and you'd disappeared, as if the earth had opened and
swallowed you." Alicia's voice was trembling.

"Oh, Sophy, I was so frightened, so horribly frightened! I kept
thinking every minute you must come. I kept looking and waiting, and
still you didn't come. I telephoned Doctor Geddes, when I couldn't
stand it any longer. And then The Author came down-stairs. And oh,
Sophy, there was such an unearthly, clammy, waiting sort of feeling
in the house--all those lights, all those empty rooms--I felt as if
something terrible must be happening!" She clung to me as she spoke,
kissing me, and shook, and wept. "And when you still didn't come,
and we couldn't find you anywhere, The Author suggested that we
should come over here and enlist Mr. Jelnik.

"When we got here, there wasn't a soul in this house. Not even the
dog. We went back to Hynds House, and walked through our garden, and
then came back here, because we didn't know what else to do. Oh,
Sophy!" I patted her shoulders, mumbling that she mustn't cry, it
was ail right.

"Miss Gaines, I am dreadfully sorry you should have been frightened.
But there really wasn't the least occasion for alarm. Because Miss
Smith was with _me_," said Mr. Jelnik calmly.

Alicia looked at him, trying to read his face in the wan light. Her
world, as it were, was rocking under her feet. She looked at me; and
I said nothing. To save my life I couldn't speak of Jessamine Hynds
then, nor talk coherently of that night's experience. I couldn't
betray Nicholas Jelnik's secrets, nor mention the Watcher in the
Dark, nor that dreadful red-walled room. So I merely patted Alicia's
shoulder, while she held fast to me as if I might again disappear.

"That is exactly what we should like you to explain, Mr. Jelnik, if
you please," said The Author, with deadly politeness. "You must
pardon us if we disagree with your assertion that Miss Gaines had no
real occasion for alarm."

"Miss Smith and I," said Mr. Jelnik, stiffening, at the tone, "found
it absolute necessary to leave Hynds House for a short while
to-night, to attend to--an affair of some importance to us both, but
which concerns no one else on earth." Under the grave politeness his
voice had an edge of irritation. "I repeat that I am sincerely sorry
Miss Alicia was frightened. For my share in that, I crave her
pardon. I ask all of you to accept this apology as an explanation
which is final."

"I for one shall do no such thing!" cried The Author, hotly. "Are
we impertinent children to be thus lightly dismissed? Of course, if
Miss Smith herself--"

"You have neither right nor authority to cross-question Miss Smith,"
interposed Mr. Jelnik, sharply. But Doctor Geddes broke in, with
mounting anger and astonishment:

"Of course we've got the right and the reason to question both of
you! You might just as well come off your high horse; you've behaved
very badly, Jelnik! To induce Sophy to scuttle off in the middle of
the night, without a word to anybody, and go wild-goose-chasing with
you, was an unworthy action. I wouldn't have believed it of you,
Jelnik; I thought you had more common sense--not to speak of Sophy
herself. Gad, I'd like to shake the pair of you!" And he stamped his
feet.

"Doctor Richard Geddes," said Mr. Jelnik, in dangerously low and
honeyed tones, "I find you insufferable. You have the instincts and
the manners of a navvy."

"Mr. Jelnik!" cried The Author. "Mr. Jelnik, honor me, please, by
considering my instincts and manners infinitely worse than Doctor
Geddes's. I, Mr. Jelnik, at this instant feel within me the
instincts of a cave man and I hone for the thigh-bone of an aurochs
to prove it to you. Do you know what I think of you, Mr. Jelnik? I
consider you a man without conscience and without scruples, sir!"

"My faith! The man even talks like a serial!" said Mr. Jelnik,
weariedly. "My dear, good sir, while we're by way of indulging in
personalities permit me to inform you that you annoy me by existing.
As to your behavior to Miss Smith--"

"_My_ behavior to Miss Smith?" shrieked The Author, stamping with
fury, "_my_ behavior to Miss Smith? You had better set about
explaining _your_ behavior to Miss Smith! You're a rascal, Mr.
Jelnik!"

"You, my dear sir, are worse: you're an ass," said Mr. Jelnik, and
fetched a sigh of tiredness. "Would to heaven somebody would fetch
you a halter!"

"Jelnik," choked Doctor Geddes, "a man who behaves as you're
behaving to-night runs the risk of getting himself shot. You're my
own cousin, but--"

Mr. Jelnik turned at bay.

"Doctor Geddes," said he, in a razor-edged voice, "it is no light
affliction to be kin to the Hyndses!--What do you want me to
explain? I have already told you it was necessary for Miss Smith and
me to attend to a matter that is none of your business. In return,
you hold us up like brigands. Would it make a dent in your armor of
righteous meddling, if I were to remind you that you are seriously
annoying Miss Smith?"

"Not a dent!" roared the doctor. "And if it annoys Sophy to be asked
a straight question by those who have her interest at heart, let her
be annoyed and take shame to herself!"

Alicia began to cry.

"Oh, Sophy!" wailed Alicia, "whatever is the matter with us, anyhow?
What is wrong, Sophy? Why are we quarreling? What are we quarreling
about, Sophy?"

I put my hands to my head. "I don't know. That is. I can't tell. I
mean. I can't think, at all!

"Doctor Geddes has spoken like an honest man," said The Author,
standing flat-footed in his pointed red shoes. "Mr. Jelnik, I ask
you plainly: Why do I find Miss Smith here at this hour? Why and
wherefore the mystery? Let me remind you that I have asked Miss
Smith to marry me, and that she hasn't as yet given me her answer,"
he finished, significantly.

"Why, Sophy!" gasped Alicia. "Why, Sophy Smith!"

"Holy Moses!" gasped Doctor Geddes. "What, man, you too? Well, then,
if it comes to that, I can call you to account, Jelnik, because _I_
asked Sophy to marry me, too. In my case she had sense enough to
say 'No' at once."

"You know he did, Sophy!" Alicia corroborated him tearfully. "You
told me so yourself, though you never so much as opened your mouth
about The Author; and I don't think that was a bit like you, Sophy.
And why you refused the doctor, I can't for the life of me imagine!"

"Can't you? Well, _I_ can," snorted the doctor, and drew Alicia
closer to him. She put both her hands around his arm.

"What!" gulped The Author, rocking on his red toes, and wrinkling
his nose until his waxed mustache stood out with infernal effect,
and his corked eyebrows climbed into his hair. "What! You, Geddes?
My sainted aunt! Why, man alive, I thought that you--that is I'd
have sworn that you--" Here The Author's breath mercifully failed
him.

I was dumb as a sheep in the hands of the slayers. I could only
blink at these dear people who were tormenting me. I thought of
Jessamine Hynds in her brown silk frock, with the crucifix in her
skeleton fingers and the earth fresh over her. And I couldn't say a
word. And while I stood thus silent, Mr. Nicholas Jelnik walked up
and took my hand in his warm and comforting clasp, and looked at me
with kindling, starry eyes, and laughed a deep-chested laugh.

"Gentlemen and Miss Gaines," said Mr. Jelnik, in a ringing and
vibrant voice, "permit me to inform you that I also have asked Miss
Smith to marry me. And she has done me the honor to accept me."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE GREATEST GIFT


The Author threw his short cape backward, laid one hand upon the
hilt of his sword, doffed his cap, and made a sweeping courtesy.

"Prettily played, Mr. Jelnik!" said he, admiringly. "May one be
permitted to congratulate you, upon your indubitably dramatic
instinct?"

"All things are permitted; but not all things are expedient," Mr.
Jelnik replied evenly.

"Oh, we know who can quote scripture!" cried The Author; and looked
longingly at the other's naked throat.

At which point Doctor Geddes, coming as it were out of a trance,
took the situation in hand.

"Have done with this nonsense!" he ordered sharply. "Alicia, get
Sophy home; she looks more dead than alive. Jelnik, your declaration
puts a new complexion on this affair; but let me tell you flatly I
don't like your method of announcing engagements."

"Suppose you waive criticism and look after Sophy," suggested Mr.
Jelnik. He walked up to his cousin and looked straight in his eyes:
"Richard, you're not such a fool as to dare doubt _us_?"

"Eh?" blinked the doctor, "what? Doubt _Sophy_? I should say not!
And you--oh, well, you're a bit of a fool yourself at times, Jelnik,
and this seems to be one of the times; but I don't doubt you.
However," said the doctor, grimly, "I should like to whale some
sense into you with a club!"

"An ax would be more to the point," murmured The Author,
regretfully.

"In the meantime, Richard," said Mr. Jelnik, with a faint smile,
"take Sophy home, please."

I have a vague recollection of swallowing something that the doctor
told me to swallow. Then came blessed oblivion, a sleep so profound
that I didn't even dream, and didn't awake until that afternoon; to
find the tender face of Alicia again bent over me.

I waited for her to ask at least one of the many questions she must
have been longing to ask. But Alicia shook her head.

"Sophy," said she, loyally, "you haven't got to tell me one single,
solitary thing unless you really want to. But--isn't this just a bit
sudden? I was--surprised."

"So was I."

"You see, Sophy, I never once dreamed--"

"That he cared for me? Neither did I."

"No. That you cared for him," Alicia puckered her brows.

"My dear girl," I was trying to feel my way toward letting her have
the truth, "listen: whether or not he is engaged to me, Mr. Nicholas
Jelnik really loves some lady that neither you nor I know. He told
me so himself."

It took Alicia some moments to recover from that!

"And yet you're going to marry him, Sophy?"

"You heard him announce our engagement."

"I can't understand!" sighed Alicia. "Oh, Sophy, sometimes I could
wish we had never come to Hynds House!"

"It had to be," I said dully.

"And--The Author?" ventured Alicia, after a pause. "He thinks you
belong to him by right of discovery. He doesn't accept Mr. Jelnik's
announcement as final. He told me this morning that his offer stood
until you actually married somebody else. The Author isn't used to
being crossed, and he doesn't quite know how to take it."

"It is on the knees of the gods," I repeated, weariedly.

Came a gentle tap at the door, and following it the fresh, kind face
of Miss Emmeline.

"Are you trying to rival the Seven Sleepers?" she asked, gaily, and
laid a bunch of carnations on my knees by way of offering. "Judge
Gatchell sent them to me this morning," she explained, with an
October blush. For the sallow old jurist had taken so great a liking
to the Boston reincarnation of a Theban vestal, and was in
consequence so rejuvenated, himself, that all Hyndsville was holding
up the hands of astonishment and biting the finger of conjecture.

"My dears," said Miss Emmeline, presently, "I want to tell you the
singular dream I had last night, or rather this morning. I was quite
tired, for I do not often dance," admitted Miss Emmeline, who had
nevertheless danced with a zest that rivaled that of the youngest,
"so I must have fallen asleep immediately upon retiring. Well, then,
I dreamed that all those old Hyndses whose portraits are down-stairs
were gathered together in the library, to bid farewell to a member
of the family who was going away--that beautiful creature who
disappeared and was never afterward found. Now, aren't dreams
absurd? She was setting out upon a long journey dressed in a
low-necked, short-sleeved brown silk dress trimmed with quantities
of fine lace. And for goodness' sake what do you think that woman
wore over it for a traveling-cloak? Nothing more or less than a gray
army blanket, a corner of which was thrown over her head like a
hood and quite concealed her face.

"She moved away slowly, holding her blanket as an Indian does.
And as she passed me by--for I was standing in the door--a fold
slipped, and what do you think she was holding to her breast? A
pearl-and-silver crucifix. You can't imagine how I felt when I saw
it!"

I knew how I felt when I had seen it, but that I couldn't tell Miss
Emmeline. Instead, I held the carnations to my face, to hide my
whitening lips. For once the Boston lady had come into actual
contact with the occult and the unknown.

"She went out by the back door," continued Miss Emmeline, "and I ran
to the window and saw her gray-blanketed figure disappear down the
lane, behind the hedge that separates Mr. Jelnik's grounds from
yours. And all the Hyndses called: '_Jessamine, good-by!_' But she
never turned her head once, nor spoke, nor gave a sign that she
heard. She just _went_, leaving me staring after her. I stared so
hard that I woke myself up. Now, my dears, wasn't that an odd sort
of dream? And so vivid, too! Why, I can hear those voices yet!"

"Well, I'm glad she went," said Alicia. "Ladies that do up their
heads in blankets and won't answer when they're spoken to, ought to
go."

Mrs. Scarboro, Judge Gatchell, and one of my old ladies were dining
with us that night, for which I thanked Heaven. Judge Gatchell
discovered in himself a fund of sly humor that astonished everybody,
and Miss Emmeline was like a November rose, sweet with a shy and
belated girlishness, rarer for a touch of frost. And The Author was
in a fairly good humor because they let him alone.

Mr. Nicholas Jelnik dutifully put in his appearance after dinner.
The Author was balefully polite to him, Alicia shyly friendly. I had
on a new frock, and the knowledge that it was becoming gave me a
courage I should otherwise have lacked. A new frock, pink powder,
and a smile, have saved many a fainting feminine soul where prayer
and fasting had failed.

The gentleman who had blandly announced my engagement to himself
only last night assumed no airs of proprietorship, but was placidly
content to let me sit and talk to Mr. Johnson, who was holding forth
on the merits of our Rhode Island Reds as against either barred
Plymouth Rocks or White Leghorns, and the variety of vegetables and
small fruits in our kitchen-garden, so admirably planned by Schmetz,
so carefully and neighborly looked after both by him and Riedriech.
From gardens, Mr. Johnson went to cattle; he had a delight in cows,
and our cow was a Jersey with a cream-colored complexion, large
black eyes, and the sentimental temperament. We called her the
Kissing Cow, because she couldn't see the secretary without trying
to bestow upon him slobbering salutes.

He paused in his homely talk to smile at something The Author had
just said. Then his eyes strayed to Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, being
talked to by Mrs. Scarboro and an apple-faced Confederate with
pellucid blue eyes and a renowned trigger-finger.

"That is the most gifted--and detached--human being I have ever
known," said the secretary. "But it is his misfortune to have no
saving responsibilities. What he needs is to fall in love with the
right woman and marry her."

"You mean he should marry some great lady, some dazzling beauty?
Naturally."

"Heaven forbid!" said the secretary, with unexpected vigor. "No, no,
Miss Smith, that is not what such a man as Nicholas Jelnik needs!"

"But it may be what he wants," said I.

"I should never think so, myself," Mr. Johnson replied thoughtfully;
"and I have seen a good deal of him. No, Jelnik doesn't want great
beauty; he has enough of it himself. For the same reason, he doesn't
want brilliant qualities. He needs quiet, dependable goodness, the
changeless and unswerving affection of a steadfast heart."

But I could not agree with this simple-minded young man, who had in
himself the qualities he named. Why, if Nicholas Jelnik asked only
for a changeless love, _I_ could have given him full measure, even
to the running over thereof!

"What was Johnson talking to you about, that you both looked so
earnest?" Mr. Jelnik wanted to know presently.

"Oh, just things; flowers and fruits and animals."

"And people?"

"People always end by talking about people."

"Johnson's opinions are generally sound, because he himself is sound
to the core," said Mr. Jelnik, quietly.

"Miss Emmeline says he has got a limpid soul. The Author says it's
really a sound liver. However that may be, one couldn't live in the
same house with him without conceiving a real affection for him. He
is a very easy person to love."

Mr. Jelnik's eyebrows went up. "Don't love him too much, please,
Sophy. If you feel that you really ought to love somebody, love
_me_." The golden lights were in his eyes.

At that moment I both loved and hated him.

"Mr. Jelnik," said I, in as low a tone as his own, "it isn't fair to
talk to me like this. You did what you did to save me from
annoyance--and--and--misunderstanding. But you are perfectly free:
I have no idea of holding you to such an engagement, no, nor of
feeling myself bound by it, either."

"I understand, perfectly, Sophy," he said, after a pause. "And now,
may I ask you one or two plain questions, please?"

"I think you may."

"You never cared for Geddes?"

"Good heavens, no! Besides, he--"

"Wants Alicia? That's obvious. But what about The Author? I'm not
enamored of him, myself, but he's an immensely able and clever man.
How many brilliant social lights would be willing to shine at the
head of his table! What are you going to do about The Author,
Sophy?"

"What are _you_ going to do about the lady you are really in love
with?" I countered.

"I'm waiting to find out," said he, coolly. "Answer my question,
please: Do you imagine you love him, Sophy?"

"It is not unpleasant to me that he should wish me to do so," I
admitted.

"I see. You are trying to persuade yourself that you should accept
him."

"I am not growing younger," I said, with an effort. "Remember, too,
that Alicia will be leaving me presently, and I shall then be
utterly alone. That is not a pleasing prospect--not to a woman."

"Nor to a man, either, but better that than a loveless marriage." He
reflected for a moment. "If you are sure you care for the man, tell
him truthfully every incident of last night. Otherwise, I do not
feel like sharing my affairs with him; I do not want to drag
Jessamine Hynds out of her grave to gratify his curiosity. For he
has the curiosity of a cat, along with the obstinacy of a mule."

I smiled, wanly. "I gather that I'm not to tell him anything. What
further?" I wanted to know, not without irony.

"This, then: that you keep on being engaged to me."

I looked at him incredulously.

"For the time being, Sophy, submit to my tentative claim. If you
decide to let your--ah--common sense induce you to make what must be
called a brilliant marriage, tell me, and I will go at once. In the
meantime, Sophy, I am your friend, to whom your happiness is as dear
as his own. Will you believe that?"

It was not in me to doubt him. "Yes," I said. "And if--the lady you
told me about--you understand--you will tell me, too, will you not?
I should like to know, for your happiness is as much to me as mine
could possibly be to you."

"That's the most promising thing you've said yet," he said. "All
right, Sophy: the minute I find out she cares more for me than she
does for anybody else, I shall certainly let you know. In the
meanwhile, don't let being engaged bear too heavily on your spirits.
_I_ find it very pleasant and exhilarating!"

"I don't think you ought to talk like that," I demurred.

"I can't help it: I never was engaged before, and it goes to my
tongue."

"I never was, either. But it doesn't go to _mine_," I reminded him,
with dignity.

"Sophy, you are the only woman in the world who can reproach a man
with her nose and get away with it," he said irrelevantly. "You have
the most eloquent little nose, Sophy!"

I looked at him reprovingly.

"I adore being engaged to you, Sophy," said he, unabashed. "Being
engaged to you has a naïve freshness that enchants me. It's
romantic, it has the sharp tang of uncertainty, the zest of high
adventure. Think how exciting it's going to be to wake o' mornings
thinking: 'Here is a whole magic day to be engaged to Sophy in!' By
the way, would you mind addressing me as 'Nicholas'? It is customary
under the circumstances, I believe."

"I do not like the name of Nicholas."

"I feared so, seeing the extreme care with which you avoid it. That
is why I suggest that you should immediately begin to use it.
Practice makes perfect. Observe with what ease I manage to say
'Sophy' already," he said airily. "I'm glad your hair's just that
blonde, and soft, Sophy. I couldn't possibly be engaged to a woman
who didn't have hair like yours."

I looked at his, and said with conviction:

"How absurd! Black hair is incomparably more beautiful!"

His eyes danced.

"Sophy!" said he, in a thrilling whisper, "Sophy, _The Author's hair
is brindle_!"

I got up and incontinently left him. And I saw with stern joy how
Mrs. Scarboro again seized upon and made him listen to tales of his
grandfather, until in desperation he fled to the piano, and played
Hungarian music with such effect that even The Author was moved to
rapture.

"Jelnik!" said The Author, enthusiastically, "I shall put you in my
next book. Gad, man, what a magnificent scoundrel I shall make of
you!" A remark which scandalized Mrs. Scarboro and startled my dear
old lady, but didn't phase Mr. Jelnik.

I found myself growing more and more confounded and confused. Was I,
or wasn't I, engaged to a man who had never asked me to marry him?
In the vernacular, I didn't know where I was at any more.

Alicia added to this confusion.

"Sophy," said she, some time later, "isn't it just possible you
misunderstood Mr. Jelnik? About his being in love with somebody
else, I mean."

"I don't know what makes you think so."

"Don't you? I'll show you," she said, and swung me around to face a
mirror. "_That's_ what makes me think so. Sophy Smith, unless he's a
liar--and Peacocks and Ivory couldn't be a liar to save his
life--the woman Nicholas Jelnik loves looks back at you every time
you look in the glass."

I shook my head. I have never been able to tell pleasant lies to
myself.

"Well, we'll see what we'll see! I told you once before that you
hadn't caught up with the change in yourself." And she kissed me and
laughed. It came to me that she couldn't have cared much for him,
herself, to be able to laugh that light-heartedly.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Miss Emmeline and the English folk were leaving Hynds House,
everybody in Hyndsville turned out to say "Good-by." Even our lanky
old Judge was on hand, with a great bunch of carnations and a huge
box of bonbons for Miss Emmeline.

"Sophy," Miss Emmeline said, smiling, "I don't see anything left for
me to do but come back to Hyndsville, do you?"

"No, I don't. And come soon. Hynds House won't feel the same without
you. I thought of all she had taught me by just being her fine,
frank self, and looked at her gratefully. She looked back at me
quizzically, and of a sudden she slipped her arm around my
shoulders.

"Sophy Smith," said she, softly, "I have met many women in my time,
many far more brilliant and beautiful, and what the world calls
gifted, than you. But I have met none with a greater capacity for
unselfish loving. It's easy enough to win love, a harder thing to
keep it, but divinest of all to give it and keep on giving it. And
there's where your great gift lies, Sophy." And she kissed me, with
misty eyes, and such a tender face!

That put such a friendly, warm glow in my heart that I was sorry to
part even with the Englishman's daughter, Athena though she was, and
I mortally afraid of her. As for her father, he was bewailing the
parting with Alicia, whose Irishness was a manna in the wilderness
to him.

"It's like saying good-by to the Fountain of Youth," he lamented.
"You're more than a pretty girl: you're the eternal feminine in
Irish!"

"She's the Eternal Irish in proper English, that's what she is!"
said The Author darkly, and looked so wise that everybody looked
respectful, though nobody knew what he meant. Perhaps he didn't
know, himself.

After the train had gone, Doctor Geddes hustled us into his waiting
car.

"I'm going to take you for a quiet spin in the country, to make the
better acquaintance of Madame Spring-in-Carolina," he said. A few
minutes later he swung the car into a lonesome and lovely road edged
with pines, and sassafras, and sumach, and cassena bushes, and
festooned with vines. Madame Spring-in-Carolina had coaxed the green
things to come out and grow, and the people of the sky to try their
jeweled wings in her fine new sunlight. The Judas-tree was red, the
dogwood white, the honey-locust a breath from Eden. A blossomy wind
came out of the heart of the world, and there were birds everywhere,
impudently eloquent.

We didn't want to talk, or even to think; we just wanted to be alive
and glad with everything else. The very car seemed to feel something
of this intoxication, for as it went flying down the road it hummed
and purred and sang snatches of the Song of Speed to itself. We
turned a corner, I remember. And then there was a frightful lurch
and jar, and the big car bounded into the air, and turned over in
the ditch. I remember the rear wheels turning with a grinding,
spitting noise.

When I woke up, Alicia was sitting by the side of the road, with the
doctor's head in her lap, and I was lying on the grass near by. Her
eyes were big and blank in a bloodless face, and the curling ends of
her long bright hair hung in the dust. There was a cruel red mark on
her forehead. Otherwise she was quite uninjured. I wasn't conscious
of any pain myself--not then, at least.

"Sophy," Alicia said, impersonally, "Doctor Geddes is dead." And she
fell to stroking his cheek lightly, with one finger; "quite dead.
Without one word to me, Sophy!"

The figure on the ground looked dreadfully still and helpless. There
was something ghastly wrong in seeing so strong a man lie so still
and helpless. And the road, an unfrequented one, was unutterably
lonesome. There was nothing, nobody in sight--nothing but the
buzzard, black against the blue sky, tipping his wings to the wind.

"You must go for help," I mumbled.

"I dare not leave him. I know he's dead, Sophy. But--he might open
his eyes, just once more. You see, he didn't know, before he--died,
that I was very much in love with him--oh, terribly in love with
him, Sophy!--from the first time I saw him standing in our door. I
thought you cared for him, too, Sophy dear--and I sent him away from
me-- And now he has gotten himself killed." With a gentle touch she
pushed back the thick reddish hair from his forehead. She looked at
me imploringly: "Don't let him be dead, Sophy! For God's sake,
Sophy, don't let him be dead! Make him open his eyes, Sophy!"

A negro teamster came upon us, recognized the doctor, shrieked, and
set off for help, lashing his mules into a mad run. But Alicia never
moved, and I huddled beside her, numb and silent, looking at the
white face upon her knees. With all the impatience wiped out, it was
a fine face, at once strong and sweet.

"Richard," said Alicia, "Richard, if I had been killed, and you
begged and prayed me from your breaking heart to listen to you, to
understand that you'd cared for me, only me, all along, _somehow_
I'd manage to let you know I understood. Richard, listen to me! Open
your eyes, Richard. Please, please, Richard, open your eyes!"

Her voice was so piteous that I fell to weeping. And, by the mercy
of God, Richard opened his eyes and stared with blue blankness
straight into Alicia's quivering, anguished face.

"Richard," said she, bending down to him, "my dear, dear love, keep
your eyes open just a little longer, until I can make you
understand. Oh, Richard, I cared! Indeed, indeed, I cared!"

The blue stare never wavered. It gathered intensity.

"Don't, don't look at me like that, Richard!" cried Alicia,
beginning to sob wildly. "Don't--don't look so--so _angelic_, dear.
Look like your own self at me, Richard! Oh, darling, for our dear
God's mercy's sake, please, please try to look bad-tempered just
once more!"

His pale lips twitched curiously. He sighed. Then he murmured
something that sounded like "not sure."

"Not sure?" wept Alicia. "Oh, my heart, my heart!"

"I think--could die in peace--say 'I love you, Richard,'" murmured
the doctor.

"Oh, I do, I do love you, Richard--_frightfully_!" sobbed Alicia. "I
love you with all my heart!"

The corpse sat up, and for a dead man he showed considerable life.
Painfully he rose, and stood staggering on his feet, big, pale,
shaken, with a bump the size of an egg on the side of his head, but
with such shining blue eyes! He put out a big hand and lifted
Alicia from the ground.

"Leetchy," said Doctor Geddes, "if you ever take back what you've
said I shall be sorry I wasn't killed. But I don't mind staying
alive if you'll keep on loving me. If I stay alive, will you marry
me, Leetchy?"

"If you don't, I can't m-m-marry any-anybody at all!" wailed Alicia.

"Amen!" said the doctor. "Now stop crying, and put your hand into my
pocket, and you'll find something that's been owing you this long
time, Leetchy."

Alicia blinked, and rubbed her eyes, then slipped her hand into his
breast pocket and drew forth a small, square, satin-lined box; an
inviting box.

"Richard!" she exclaimed, "why, Richard!" Then: "Of all the
impudence!" cried Alicia, scandalized. "Why, you haven't even
_asked_ me! Whoever in this world heard of buying a girl's ring
before she's said 'Yes'?"

"Alicia," said Doctor Richard Geddes, "I'm your Man, and you know
it. And you're my Girl, and I know it. Here, let's see if this thing
fits."

Meekly Alicia, the impudent, the flirt, held out her slim hand.

"That's settled, thank God!" said the doctor. And he swept her
clear off her feet, and kissed her with thoroughness and enthusiasm.

"Richard! People are coming! They'll see you!"

"Let 'em!"

I sat there quietly, and stared at the two of them with a sort of
vacant watchfulness. My hat was gone, my hairpins had taken unto
themselves wings, and my hair, covered with dust, hung about me like
a veil. I was just beginning to be conscious of pain. It was a
shuddering pain, new and cruel, and I winced. The next minute Alicia
was kneeling beside me, and her face had again become quite
colorless.

"Sophy!" her voice sounded shrill and far off. "Sophy, you said you
were all right!--Richard, look at Sophy!"

I felt the doctor's swift, deft hands upon me. And more pain. People
were arriving now. Cars stopped, and excited men and women
surrounded us. One tall figure leaped from the first car and reached
us ahead of all others.

"Geddes!" cried a voice. "Thank God, Geddes! We were told you'd been
killed outright! Alicia all right, too?" Then: "Sophy!" This time it
was a cry of terror. "Never tell me it's Sophy!"

I saw his face bent over me. Then a red mist came, and then
everything went dark.



CHAPTER XIX

DEEP WATERS


Somewhere, far, far off, a faint and feeble little light glimmered,
one small point of light in vast blackness. In the whole universe
there wasn't anything or anybody but just that tiny light, and swift
black water, and drowning me. Something deep within me--I think
occultists call it the body-spirit--was clamoring frantically to
hold fast to the light, because if that went under I should go
under, too. I tried to keep my eyes upon the trembling spark.

Whereupon the light changed to a sound, the monotonous insistence of
which forced me to be worriedly aware of it. It was--why, it was a
voice, calling, over and over and over again, "_Sophy! Sophy!_"

Somebody was calling _me_. With an immense effort I managed to raise
my eyelids. I was lying in a bed, and caught a drowsy, fleeting
glimpse of four posts.

          Four posts upon my bed,
          Four angels for my head,
          Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
          Bless the bed that I lie on!

Granny used to say that for me at night; only she had said "four
hangels for my 'ead," at which I used to giggle into my pillows. I
hadn't felt so close to Granny since I was little Sophy, in the
rooms over our shop in Boston. She was somewhere around me; if I
went to sleep now, she'd be there when I woke up in the morning. But
the sound that was a calling voice wouldn't let me go to sleep.
Slowly, heavily, I managed to get my eyes open again.

"Look at me!" said the voice imperiously. Two large dark eyes caught
my wavering glance and held it, as in a vise. "Sophy! Sophy! _I need
you._"

Said another voice, then, brokenly: "For mercy's sake, Jelnik, let
her go in peace!"

"No, she sha'n't die. I won't have it!--Sophy, come back! It is I
who call you, Sophy. Come back!"

My stiff lips moved. "Must go--sleep," I tried to say.

"No, I forbid you to go to sleep, Sophy!" His dark eyes, full of
life and compelling power, held my tired and dimmed ones, his firm,
warm hands held my cold and inert fingers. "My love, my dear love,
stay. You have got to stay, Sophy. Don't you understand? You can't
go, Sophy!"

My dulled brain stumblingly laid hold upon a thought: _Nicholas
Jelnik was calling me. He was calling me because he loved me._ One
simply can't go down into sleep and darkness, when a miracle like
that is climbing like the morning-star into one's skies.

"Stay!" he said, his lips against my ear. "Sophy! My love, my dear
love, stay!"

But although he held me close, I could feel myself being drawn away.
There must have been that in my straining glance that made him
aware, for of a sudden he cried out, lifted me bodily in his arms,
and kissed me on the mouth.

My heart quite stopped beating, as a spent runner pauses, that he
may gather new strength to go on. With a sigh I fell back; but not
into the water and the dark.

"By God, you've pulled her through, Jelnik!" cried the voice of
Richard Geddes.

Came vague sounds, stirs, movements, hands upon me. Then oblivion
again.

I woke up one pleasant forenoon to find a brisk and capable young
woman in white sitting in my room, her head bent over the piece of
linen she was hemming. She was a healthy, handsome young woman, with
hard, firm cheeks, hard, firm lips, and professional eyes and
glasses. She glanced up and met my wan stare.

"What are you doing here, if you please?" I asked politely.

"I have been nursing you, Miss Smith. You have been quite ill, you
know."

I lay there looking at that self-contained, trained young woman,
with feelings of almost ludicrous astonishment. I remembered the
skidding car; and Richard Geddes lying with his head on Alicia's
knees, and how we had both thought him dead; and myself sitting in
the dust; and then the pain. But it was astounding news that I had
been very badly hurt full three weeks ago!

Alicia stole in and, seeing me awake, tried to smile, but cried
instead, with a wet cheek against my hand. A few minutes later
Doctor Geddes himself appeared. It was enough to scandalize any
self-contained nurse to see a six-foot-three doctor behave in the
most abandoned and unbedside manner!

"Sophy!" gulped the doctor, "oh, deuce take you, Sophronisba Two,
what do you mean by scaring honest folks half out of their wits?"

The nurse was destined to receive another shock. Richard of the Lion
Heart dropped down on his knees beside Alicia, and laid his bearded
cheek against my wan one, and for a while couldn't speak. Alicia
tried to get her slender arms around him, and couldn't.

"I think," ventured the nurse, in level tones, "that the patient
had better not be excited. Shall I give her a stimulant, doctor?"

"The patient's on the highroad to getting well," said the doctor.
"And we're the best of all stimulants, aren't we, Sophy?"

When I began to get stronger, the dream which had haunted my illness
came back with astonishing vividness and haunted my waking hours. I
knew it was a dream, for of course I hadn't been in black water, I
hadn't strained toward a light upon the flood, and of course, I
hadn't really heard Nicholas Jelnik calling my name; and the kiss
was part of the fantasy. I watched him stealthily, this cool,
collected, impersonal young man, to whom even the efficient nurse
was astonishingly respectful, and pure laughter seized me at the
idea of _his_ crying aloud, being as agitated, as passionate, as
fiercely insistent, as he had been in the vision.

I ventured to put a part of the vagary to the acid test:

"Alicia, I wasn't thrown out again, into water, was I?"

"No. That was delirium, dear. You were frightfully ill for a while,
Sophy." Her face paled. "So ill that The Author fled, because he
wouldn't stay in the house and see--what we expected to see. He said
it would permanently shatter his nerves. But he has wired every day
since."

"It was sensible of him to go. And it's kind of him to wire." I said
no more about the water.

"Everybody has been kind. And it wasn't duty kindness, either. It
was kind kindness!" said Alicia, lucidly. "Do you know what they're
saying in Hyndsville now? They're saying old Sophronisba played a
joke on herself." She left me to digest that as best I might.

It isn't pleasant to be ill anywhere. But it isn't altogether
unpleasant to be on the sick list in South Carolina. Everybody is
anxious about you. Old ladies with palm-leaf fans in their tireless
hands come and sit with you. They aren't brilliant old ladies, you
understand. I know some whose secular library consists of the
Complete Works of John Esten Cooke, Gilmore Simms's War Poems of the
South, and a thumbed copy of Father Ryan. But add to these the
Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Imitation of Christ, and
it doesn't make such a bad showing. It's astonishing how soothing
the companionship of women fed upon this pabulum can be, when the
things of the world are of necessity set aside for a space, and the
simpler things of the spirit draw near.

Old gentlemen in well-brushed clothes and immaculate, exquisitely
darned linen, call daily with small gifts of fruit and flowers, and
send you messages from which you infer that the sun won't be able to
shine properly until you come outside again. And there isn't a
housekeeper of your acquaintance who hasn't got you on her mind:
there are sent to you steaming bowls of perfect soup, flaky rolls
and golden cake, jeweled jellies, and cool, enticing, trembly things
in glass dishes. And when you can sit up for more than an hour or
two at a time, why, then you know what it really means to have South
Carolina neighbors.

Doctor Geddes made me spend my days in the garden that Schmetz had
labored upon with such loving-kindness, and that in consequence was
become a marvel of bloom and scent. Every butterfly in South
Carolina must have visited that garden. I hadn't known there were
that many butterflies in the world. All the florist-shop windows in
New York, that I had once paused before with envy and longing, were
stinted and poor and pale before the living, out-o'-doors wonder of
it. Florist shops haven't any bees, nor birds, nor butterflies, nor
trees that wave their green branches at you like friendly hands.

A flowering vine festooned the marble Love, and one great scarlet
spray of bloom flamed upon his marble torch, "so lyrically," Miss
Martha Hopkins said, that she was moved to write a poem about it. I
thought it a very nice poem, and I said so, when she read it to us.
But Doctor Geddes, who doesn't care for poetry, except Robert
Burns's, rubbed his nose.

"Oh, well, your grandmother and your aunts used to make
antimacassars and wall-pockets and paper flowers," he ruminated.
"Why shouldn't you make poetry if you feel like it?"

"You are to be pitied, Richard," said Miss Martha, with crushing
charity. "Such a disposition! And the older you grow the worse it
gets."

"Confound it, Martha!--"

"I do," said she.

Alicia looked at Richard with impersonal eyes. She looked at the
ruffled center of culture.

"Don't pay any attention to him, Miss Martha," she said, with a
charming smile. "Your poem is very pretty, and he knows it."

"He means well," said Miss Martha, resignedly.

"Now, you look here, Martha!" the doctor said angrily, "I won't have
anybody telling me to my face I mean well. You might as well call me
a fool outright."

"You are far from being a fool, Richard. And you do mean well.
Everybody knows that."

He turned appealingly to his dear Leetchy, and received his first
lesson in Domestic Science.

"Miss Martha is right, Richard," she decided.

"Leetchy," the doctor asked, when the mollified Miss Hopkins had
departed, "why did Martha go off grinning?"

"How should I know?" wondered Alicia, innocently. Then she looked at
him with Irish eyes: "Have you had your lunch, dear?" she asked.

"Lunch?" He looked bewildered.

"Because I'm going to fix Sophy's lunch now, and you may have yours
with her, if you like. I love to wait on you, Richard," she added,
and a beautiful color flooded her face.

He caught his breath. When she went back to the house, his eyes
followed her adoringly.

"Sophy," he said, huskily, "what does she see in me? Do you think
I'm good enough for _her_, Sophy?"

"I think you are quite good enough even for Alicia."

When he had gone, Alicia sat with her head against my knees. Of late
a touching gravity, a sweet seriousness, had settled upon her. Her
love for the big doctor was singularly clear-eyed and far-seeing.
There were going to be times when every ounce of skill, tact,
patience, love itself, would be called upon, for the reins must be
gossamer-light, invisible, but always firm and sure, that should
guide and tone down so impatient and fiery a nature as his. It was
very easy to love him; it wasn't always going to be easy to live
with him, and Alicia knew it. But she also knew, with a faith beyond
all failing, that this was her high, destined, heaven-ordained job.

"Sophy darlin', I'm deplorably young, am I not?" she sighed.

"You'll get over it."

"Do you think I'll make him a good wife, Sophy?"

"I am absolutely certain," I said, "that you'll make him a good
husband. Which is far more important."

Alicia hugged my knees, and laughed. Then, seeing Mr. Nicholas
Jelnik approaching, she scrambled to her feet, picked up the tray of
empty dishes, and went back to the house.

Neither she nor the doctor had asked me so much as one question
about Mr. Jelnik. As if by tacit understanding that subject was
avoided. And because I hadn't anything to tell them, I, too, held my
peace.

He raised my hand to his lips, dropped into a chair, and bared his
forehead to the soft wind.

"How good that feels!" he sighed. "Fräulein, may one smoke?" And
receiving permission he smoked for a while, comfortably, leaning
back with half-closed eyes.

"Achmet salaams to you, _hanoum_," he said presently. "You have won
his heart of a true believer. Even Daoud demands daily news of you."

"I particularly like The Jinnee. I should like to have him around
me. And Daoud is highly ornamental."

"When is The Author coming back? Or is he coming back?" he asked
abruptly.

"Oh, yes. He will be here for the wedding. So will Miss Emmeline."

After a long pause, and with an evident effort:

"I have been thinking," he said, "that perhaps it was unfortunate I
came between you and The Author. Perhaps," he added deliberately,
"it would have been better had you let your common sense gain the
day."

I don't know why, but just at that moment the dear and haunting
dream of having been lifted out of deep waters and kissed back to
life, cradled in this man's arms, came to me with peculiar
poignancy. Of a sudden I laughed aloud.

"Oh, I'm just remembering a dream I had, when I was ill," I told
him, in answer to his look of surprise.

"It must have been a very amusing dream," said he, staring at me
thoughtfully.

"Oh, very! Quite absurd. But go on. You were by way of advising me
to marry The Author, were you not?"

His hands on the arms of the wicker chair clenched. He half rose,
thought better of it, and sank back.

"I was saying that it might have been better for you," he said,
breathing quickly. "In all probability you would have accepted him,
had I not been here to--blunder into the affair."

"He mightn't have asked me, if you hadn't been here to blunder into
the affair," said I, composedly. "Let us drop the subject, please. I
shall never marry The Author." It gave me a sense of relief and
freedom to hear myself say that. "I can't marry The Author."

He went pale. "Sophy--you can't marry me, either," he said.

"Of course not." I wondered at myself for being so calm and
collected. "I knew that all along. You care for another woman. You
told me so, you know."

"I told you no such thing," he said. "I told you I cared for a
woman, but that there was another man. Now I've just been told she
has no idea of accepting the other man. In spite of all he has to
offer, she isn't going to marry him." His face was at once ecstatic
and tortured. "_Why_ won't you marry the other man, Sophy?"

"Because of a dream I dreamed, when I was sick," I said
noncommittally.

"Ah! And did you dream that somebody called you--and held you--and
wouldn't let you go?"

"I never told you!" I cried.

"No need, Sophy. It was to me you came back." Of a sudden his head
drooped. "And now I can't marry you!"

"Why can't you?"

"Because I'm a beggar."

Nicholas Jelnik a beggar couldn't find lodgment in my brain. I could
only stare at him incredulously.

"I learned some time ago that things were not altogether right over
yonder, but I hadn't the ghost of an idea that my entire estate was
involved; that while I'd been 'tramping'--I'll use Judge Gatchell's
word--the men in whose hands I placed too much power had taken
advantage of it. A very common, every-day story, you see.

"Remains the fact that I'm stripped to the bone. The estate's wiped
out. And," he added, with a grave smile, "I haven't even discovered
the mythical Hynds jewels. Now you see, Sophy, why I can't marry
you."

"I see why you think you can't."

He flushed to the roots of his black hair. Hynds-Jelnik pride rose
in arms.

"I should cut rather a sorry figure marrying the owner of Hynds
House, in the present circumstances," he said curtly. "You will
remember that The Author called me an adventurer! I have told you I
have nothing."

"Aren't you forgetting your profession?"

"No. But I neglected that, too, Sophy. The _Wanderlust_ had me in
its grip."

"What do you propose to do?"

"I shall leave here, put in some months of hard study, and then
fight my way upward. My father was the greatest alienist of his
generation, and I was trained under his eye. But in the meantime--"

"Yes. In the meantime, what of _me_?" I asked.

He winced as if he had been struck. "You are free," he said, in a
whisper.

"I am free to be free, and you're free to set me free. You never
asked me to marry you, in the first place," I agreed quietly.

Stupefaction seized him. He put his hands to his head.

"Why, Sophy! Why, Sophy!" he stammered. Of a sudden he straightened
his shoulders, and stood erect: "Miss Smith," he said, with grave
politeness, "will you do me the honor to marry me?" and he waited.

"It is rather a belated request, Mr. Jelnik. Besides, you haven't
told me why you want to marry me," said I, sedately.

"You are well aware that I love you, Sophy. And I think you care for
me in return. Why did you turn that coin when it meant 'Go,' and bid
me, instead, 'Stay'? Was it because you cared, Sophy?"

"Yes, Mr. Jelnik: it was because I cared. I cared enough to tell
a--a lie. And--I shall say yes to your other question, Mr. Jelnik."

But he shook his head. "Ah, no, my dear! You'd be called upon to
make too many sacrifices. I couldn't bear that!"

"A man needn't be worried about the sacrifices a woman makes for him
when she knows he loves her."

"Not in normal circumstances; not when he can give as much as he
takes."

"Hynds House," I said, "is costing me a steep and bitter price, Mr.
Jelnik!"

"Do I not also pay?" he asked fiercely.

"Oh, you have your pride!" said I, wearily; "Hynds pride!"

"A poor enough possession, Sophy, but all that remains to me," he
said gently. "Is it a light thing for Nicholas Jelnik to say to the
woman he loves, 'I cannot marry you: I am a beggar'? Is it such a
small sacrifice to give you up, Sophy?"

"It would appear so."

"You crucify me!" he said, in a choking voice. "Good God, don't you
understand that I love you?"

"I don't understand anything, except that you are going away from
me. And I have waited for you all my life," I said.

"And I for you! and I for you!" he said passionately. "Don't make it
too hard for me, Sophy!"

"If you go away from me," I gasped, "I think I shall die.
Nicholas--I can't bear it! It was easier for me when I thought you
loved somebody else. But now that I know you love _me_" and I
paused.

He took a step forward, but stopped. His arms fell to his sides.

"Not as a beggar!" he said. "Not as a beggar! Never that, for
Nicholas Jelnik! I love you too much for that, Sophy. I love you not
only for yourself, but for my own best self, too, my dearest."

For a moment he stood there, regarding me fixedly. It was a long
look, of suffering, of love, of pride, of unyielding resolve. Then
he lifted my hand to his lips, bowed, and left me.

I sat staring over the garden. I wondered if, somewhere on the other
side of things, Great-Aunt Sophronisba wasn't snickering.



CHAPTER XX

HARBOR


"My faith, but I'm glad you're entirely well again, Sophy!" wrote
The Author, in his small, fine, hypercritical script. "You make the
world a pleasanter place by being alive in it. People like you
should inculcate in themselves the fixed and unalterable habit of
being alive. They should firmly refuse to be anything else. I call
this to your attention, in the hope that you will see your bounden
duty and do it.

"When I thought you were going to quit, I ran away. That was a
calamity I could not stand by and witness, without disaster.
However, Jelnik stayed!

"Your nurse (I do not like Miss Ransome, though I respect, admire,
and fear her. Her emotions are carbolized, her heart is sterilized,
her personality has the mathematical perfection of something turned
out by a super-machine: like, say, the last word in machine-guns.
None of the divine imperfection of your hand-wrought, artist-stuff
there! I forgive her for existing, because she is intelligent and
useful, two things that, without lying like a Christian and a
gentleman, one may not say of many women, and seldom of one woman at
the same time), your nurse gave me a highly interesting, impersonal,
scientific account of what happened after my flight. Her testimony
was all the more valuable in that she was, as she said, only
'psychologically interested.' She reminded me that Empedocles is
said to have recalled a young woman from death by the same means,
i.e., the insistent repetition of her name; which proved to Miss
Ransome that the poor old ancients had 'anticipated, though of
course unscientifically, some of the principles of modern
psychology.' _Eheu!_

"It proved something else to me, Sophy--that I had too willingly
underestimated Mr. Nicholas Jelnik. There is very much more to that
young man than I like to admit.

"He would have made such a perfect villain: I could have made a work
of art of him, as a villain! And now I can't, because he isn't. This
chagrins me. It upsets my notions of the fitness of things. More
yet: he loves you, Sophy, more than I do, or ever could.

"Does this astound you? Come and let us reason together: the spirit
moves me to speak out in meeting.

"You are the only woman I have ever been willing to marry. That I
should wish to marry you astonished me far, far more than it did
you. At the same time it delighted me by its very unexpectedness. It
gave me a brand-new emotion, and brand-new emotions aren't every-day
affairs, let me tell you! You brought something naïve, unusual,
fresh, perplexing, into a bored existence. And then you refused to
spoil it! That added to the quality of the unusualness. The ninety
and nine would have subjected me to the acid test of matrimony, with
the later and inevitable alimony. The saving hundredth sees to it
that I shall keep my illusions! O rare dear wise Sophy! How shall I
repay you?

"For I shall be able to indulge in day-dreams now. I shall not grow
old cynically. There _are_ unselfish, true-hearted, valiant women.
There _are_ women who will not marry men for position, name, fame,
power, money; no, nor for anything but love. How do I know? Because
you don't love me, my dear. But you do love Nicholas Jelnik. You had
not come back from the gates of death else, Sophy.

"Marry him. You will bring him the quiet strength and sureness he
needs. A temperamental man, a finely organized, highly gifted,
sensitive, and intellectual man needs just such affection as yours,
as unshakable as the sun, as faithful as the fixed stars. That you
should love him almost makes me believe in the direct intervention
of divine Providence in his behalf. My own innate and troublesome
decency forces me to add that he is worth it. He has altogether
_too_ much, confound him!

"Do you know that while you lay ill, he came and told me about the
finding of Jessamine Hynds, showed me her statement, told me, in
short, the whole story? I was consumed with envy, malice, and all
uncharitableness; to think that such a thing should or could happen
right under my nose, and I all unwitting! And you, too, Sophy, went
through such an experience! I'd give a year of my life to have been
with you.

"When Jelnik had finished, and I'd caught my breath, I apologized
for having been a dam' nuisance. He explained, delicately,
soothingly, with exquisite politeness, that literary folks of
consequence _have_ to be dam' nuisances at times. It's the price
they pay.

"And now let me speak to you, my little Sophy, as your loving and
loyal friend: _Hold fast to Jelnik._ I knew his father. The position
he occupied wasn't exactly royal, but the elect addressed him as
'thou.' And you have learned somewhat of the Hyndses. In consequence,
your Jelnik is a mixture of South-Carolina-Viennese-Hynds-Jelnik
pride, beside which Satan's is as mild, meek, and innocuous as a
properly raised Anglican curate. Don't meet his pride with pride.
Meet it with _you_, Sophy. Most of us have been loved in our time,
but how few of us have been permitted really to love! That you have
in full measure this heavenliest of all powers, is your hope and his.

"There are times I'm almost sorry you didn't love _me_, Sophy. I
should then have passed my days in a state of pleasant bewilderment,
trying to figure out how the deuce it happened. Or should I, though?
H'm! I might have gotten used to being married to you, and that
would have spelled boredom. The thought makes me shudder.

"Johnson and I are coming down for Leetchy's wedding, of course.
That pink-and-white piece of Irishry will rule Geddes to perfection.
There's the steel under the velvet, the cat's claws under that satin
paw of hers--more power to it! I have two prints and a piece of
Cloisonné for her that I am sorely tempted to keep for myself. I
have more than once bought things to give to friends, and then found
myself unable to do so. I shouldn't be able to give these to anybody
but one of the ladies of Hynds House.

"Johnson mopes. The youngest Meade girl, she with the dimples, the
pink cheeks, the fluffy hair, and the fluffier brains, is the cause.
He sighs for everything and everybody. For Mary Magdalen's batter
cakes. For the Black family. For the Kissing Cow, and for Beautiful
Dog. Hynds House is a fatal place!

"So we are coming back to it, as soon as we may. I kiss your hand,
Madame, and beg you to understand that so long as we two live you
are never going to be able, for any considerable length of time, to
get rid of,
             Your affectionate friend,
                                THE AUTHOR."

I was able to read between the lines, and my heart warmed to The
Author. At the same time the letter saddened me, in so far as it
referred to Mr. Jelnik.

Refuse to let him go? But I couldn't keep him. I knew now that he
had to go, that it was the best thing, the only thing. Doctor Geddes
helped me to see that. The doctor tried, at first, to keep his
cousin in Hyndsville. Why shouldn't Nicholas go into partnership
with him? Why shouldn't Nicholas share everything the open-hearted,
open-handed doctor had?

Mr. Jelnik smiled, thanked him, and put the offer by. And I knew he
was right.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been a rainy day and was now one of those afternoons that
have the rawness of autumn, though summer is still present. It was
so chilly that a fire burned in the library fireplace, before which
I was sitting. The wind was from the northeast, and the trees and
bushes slanted before it. Potty Black and I had the library all to
our alone-selves, for Alicia was spending the day with Mary Meade,
one of her bridesmaids.

The wedding was less than six weeks off, and preparations were under
way. It was to be a home wedding, the first to take place in Hynds
House since Richard's day, and somehow that lent the occasion the
rose color of romance. It was thus a part of Hynds House history,
something Hyndsville couldn't take lightly. Alicia's wedding was a
town affair, in which everybody was delightfully interested.

Besides, the bridegroom himself was a Hynds on his mother's side, as
Hyndsville ladies remembered, when they sat on our front porch
working on wonderful bits of embroidered things for the bride. It
was then I learned in fullest detail the whole history of
Hyndsville, of the Hyndses, and of Great-Aunt Sophronisba in
particular. I fancy that the Witch of Endor's neighbors must have
had just such an opinion of her as these Hyndsville folk had of
Great-Aunt Sophronisba.

South Carolina people always talk in terms of three generations.
When they say something about you, they remember something about
your mother or your grandfather at the same time, and they tell
that, too. There is a fearsome frankness about the conversation of
the born South Carolinian that The Author says is only to be matched
in an English country house when the county families are gathered
together. Like this, for instance:

"No, my dear, I can't say I'm surprised at Sally's running away and
getting married. Let's see: her grandfather was a Dampier, wasn't
he? Didn't one of the Dampiers murder somebody, or something like
that? It seems to me I have heard dear Mama relate some such
circumstance."

"Oh, _no_, Mary! It wasn't _murder_! He shot one of the Abercrombies
in a duel, that's all. He was really a very fine man! They had a
dispute about a horse, and Mr. Abercrombie struck Mr. Dampier's
little negro groom over the head with his crop. After that, of
course, there was nothing to do but challenge him. You must be
thinking of Barton Bailey, Eliza DuFour's grandfather on her
mother's side. _He_ was a complete scoundrel. His poor wife (she was
a Garrett; very dull, poor thing, like all the Garretts, but at
least the Garretts were honest, which is more than even charity can
say for the Baileys) his wife led a martyr's life with him. Or
maybe you're thinking of Tiger Bill Pendarvis. A most _awful_
person!--almost an out-law!"

Mrs. Scarboro looked up, bit off a thread, and said placidly:

"Oh, awful! He was a cousin of mine on dear Papa's side of the
family. Papa and Mama used to say that they never could understand
why Cousin Sophronisba Hynds didn't pick out Tiger Bill instead of
pouncing upon a perfectly innocent little Englishman."

I sat and listened. One thing was joyously clear and plain to me.
They liked and trusted me enough now to talk about their own people
before me, which is the high sign of fellowship in South Carolina.
But learn, O outsider, that silence is golden, so far as _you_ are
concerned. Wisely did I hold my peace, and devoutly thank the Lord
that times had changed for the better.

For a great deal of that change I had to thank my dear girl, so much
more clever and tactful than I. And so I would not cloud her last
days with me by letting her see that I was unhappy. Only, I was glad
this afternoon to be by myself for a breathing-space. It rests one's
face occasionally to take off one's smile. I took off mine, then,
and let down the corners of my mouth.

The door leading to the hall was half open. The house was full of
blue-gray shadows, and had a drowsy hush upon it, a pleasanter hush
than it used to know. One heard the rushing wind outside, and above
it Mary Magdalen singing one of her interminable "speretuals."

A slinking shadow stole through the hall, a wary yellow head
appeared in the door, and Beautiful Dog sneaked into the room.
Beautiful Dog had not known a happy day since the departure of Mr.
Johnson. Not all the coddlings of the cook, nor the blandishments of
sympathetic housemaids consoled him for the absence of his god. He
grew thinner, if that could be possible. His tail hung at half-mast,
his ears were a signal of mourning. Queenasheeba said he looked like
"sumpin' 'at happened to a dawg."

One hope sustained Beautiful Dog's drooping spirit--the hope that he
might suddenly turn a corner, or enter a room, and find the adored
Johnson smiling kindly at him. Wherefore he dared the to-be-shunned
presence of other white people. He nerved himself to enter tabooed
domains. Love sustained him. He knew he had no business there, just
as our cats knew it and, whenever they caught him at it, visited
swift and dire punishment upon him. Beautiful Dog dared even the
cats, those black nightmares of his existence.

He met my glance, paused, and cringed. But as I made no hostile
movement, and seemed disposed to be friendly, Beautiful Dog grinned
half-heartedly, wagged his rope of a tail dejectedly, and advanced
farther. Then he paused again, head on one side, ears forlornly
flopping, and made an awkward motion with his fore paws, expressive
of doubtful trust and painful inquiry. His god had been wont to
choose this particular room by preference. Did I know where he was?
When he was coming back?

Beautiful Dog glanced wistfully at the empty chair over by the
window. Once or twice his god had allowed him to lie beside that
chair while he read, and if Beautiful Dog happened to raise his
head, a kind hand happened to fall upon it. He hadn't forgotten. His
desire now was to sneak over to the chair and sniff at it. Perhaps
by some exquisite miracle his man might suddenly appear in his old
place. Can't miracles happen for Beautiful Dogs as well as for other
folks, when times and seasons are propitious?

Beautiful Dog took another step toward the chair. And then there
paced into the library, and caught him in the rear, his arch
enemy--Sir Thomas More Black. The great cat took one look at the
nigger dog trespassing upon forbidden ground. You could see Sir
Thomas More swell with rage and astonishment, and then lengthen out
like an accordion. Without a sound he launched himself upon the
intruder. And at the same instant and actuated by the same motive,
Potty Black, who had been sweetly and peacefully dozing on my lap,
rose up with slitted eyes, bottle-brushed her tail, and hurled
herself into the fray.

Attacked front and rear, Beautiful Dog was at hideous disadvantage.
He launched himself sidewise; he didn't even have time to howl. He
fell over his own splay feet as he ran, butted into chairs and
tables, twisted, turned, whirled, dodged, but always presented just
the right spot to be clawed. He couldn't dash to the door and
escape: the cats were too swift for him. They kept their bewildered
victim circling around the middle of the room.

I was sorry for Beautiful Dog, for my sleek, petted, purring pussies
had turned into raging black tornadoes edged with a lightning of
claws. If the aristocratic Black Family had been raised in
Hooligan's Alley itself, on the soft side of the ash-bins, they
couldn't have behaved more villainously. Alas! they were _cats_,
just as people are people.

I snatched up the brass-headed poker, the readiest thing to my hand.
I merely wished to shoo off the Blacks with it. But as I rose from
my chair with a _scat_! upon my lips, Beautiful Dog, seeing out of
the tail of his eye a chance to escape, dashed headlong into me. He
came with such force that I fell backward, and the poker flew out of
my hand and came _crack_! upon the sacred tiles of Hynds House
library. There was an ominous clatter, for no less than the Father
of his Country himself had fallen out of his place. At the same
instant Beautiful Dog gained the door, with both cats upon his hind
quarters; with one prolonged yell of terror he made for safety and
Mary Magdalen.

I picked myself and the tile up. Thank Heaven, it wasn't broken. The
blow had loosened the cement that held it in place, and where it had
been was a small square hole.

I looked at that hole doubtfully. There oughtn't to be any hole
there at all. That was a curious way to fix tiles, such precious
tiles as ours. I slipped my hand in and tentatively tested the black
wall, and discovered that the other tiles, as might be expected, had
been properly put in; that is, against a solid background.

I put my hand farther into the aperture. It was larger than might be
expected, and most cunningly contrived--a hollow space some ten
inches in width, and possibly a foot deep. There was something in
it.

Now I am mortally afraid of rats and mice, and what I had touched
had the sleazy feel of frayed silk. It might be a rat's nest! I took
a sliver of lightwood from the fire, and with this examined the
black interior, before I ventured my fingers again. It wasn't a
rat's nest in the corner. It was a package. A package, or rather a
sizable buckskin bag carefully tied together with thongs of the same
material, and this wrapped in a piece of silk that tore and went to
pieces even as I fingered it.

Even then I didn't guess! I thought it was, perhaps, a Revolutionary
hoard, maybe such another collection of old coins as we had found in
the room without windows.

The silk dropped away like rotting leaves, but the buckskin bag was
stout and in perfect condition. So many and so hard were the knots
in the thongs that I had to use my penknife to cut them. And having
done so, I poured the contents of the bag on the library table.

It was, as I have said, a gray day. But the fires of a century's
sunsets flamed and flashed in that library! Ruby, sapphire, diamond,
emerald, pearl--how they glowed and glimmered! How they shone and
sparkled! For the moment there fell upon me that madness that jewels
bring upon women, a sort of wild delight in their hard, bright
beauty, an ecstasy, an intoxication. I poured them from one hand to
the other, I held the greatest to my cheek. The loveliness of them
went to my head. "I did chap them atween my hands, as children chap
chaff. They did glow like the Devill his rainbow," Jessamine had
said. And remembering her, the delight vanished.

With stunning force the meaning of this discovery came home to me. I
had found the unfindable! This, this was where Shooba had hidden
them between a night and a morning, Shooba the "skilfullest workman
on Hynds place." One fancied him here, in the dead of night, while
all Hynds House slept a drugged sleep. It would suit his sardonic
humor, his impish malice, to hide them where the Hyndses must pass
them daily; and, himself a slave, to hide them behind the pictured
semblance of Washington. The grim irony of the thing! And not the
cunning of man, but the antics of a cur, a yellow nigger dog, had
outwitted the cunning of the old witch doctor! Beautiful Dog had
brought to light that which Jessamine had died alone in the dark
rather than reveal.

There was one thing more in the buckskin bag, wrapped separately.
When I got this separate package open, I found three frayed, black
feathers bound together with a strand of black hair, a piece of
yellow wax with two slivers of what I think was bone thrust through
it crosswise, and a small semblance of a snake, rudely carved out of
wood. There was, too, some dust, or powder, that must once have
been leaves, or perhaps roots. These unchancy things and the bag
that held them I dropped into the fire, breathing a sigh of relief
to see its red tooth seize upon them. The wax made a hissing noise,
and the dust of leaves, or whatever it was, burned with a bright,
fierce flame.

Then with feverish haste I got the Hynds jewels back into the
buckskin bag. I hadn't the faintest notion as to their actual value,
though I knew it must be considerable--enough to make up to Nicholas
Jelnik the losses he had sustained; enough to decide his fate--and
mine. Even now he was packing to go; even now there were "For Sale"
signs on the gray cottage.

I ran into our living-room, snatched my sewing-bag from the
sewing-stand, and dropped the heavy bag into it. That looked more
commonplace.

The clamor from the kitchen, incident upon Beautiful Dog's having
taken refuge under Mary Magdalen's skirts, had died down. I knew
that Beautiful Dog was licking his wounds after defeat, and the
Black cats, sedate and mild-mannered, were licking their paws after
victory. I determined that from that afternoon Beautiful Dog should
become an honored and important institution in Hynds House. If I had
to choose a new family escutcheon, I think I should insist upon
having Beautiful Dog rampant upon it!

When I went outside, the garden was a gray-green gloom of flying
leaves and twisting tree-branches bending before the stiff northeast
gale. It was wild weather--weather that sent the blood tingling
through the veins and whipped red into one's cheeks.

I got into Mr. Jelnik's grounds through the hedge behind the
spring-house, and ran like a hare through his garden. I had to
hammer upon his door before I could make Achmet hear me, so loud and
surf-like was the noise of the wind in the trees.

The Jinnee stepped back and salaamed, his hands upon his breast.
Then he laid a finger upon his lips, for from up-stairs came the
wailing outcry of a violin.

The Jinnee looked thin and old. His garments hung loose upon his
shrunken frame. There was trouble in that house, he told me. The
master had wished to send Daoud away. Daoud had refused to go. To
leave one's lord when calamity came upon him was to shame one's
beard. It was the act of the infidel, not the behavior of the
faithful, and Daoud had threatened to shave his beard, put on the
dress of a pilgrim, and beg his way from Hyndsville to Mecca. He was
even now kneeling upon a prayer-mat reciting a four-bow prayer. As
for the master, for two days he had not eaten; he merely swallowed
a cup of coffee in the morning because Achmet wept. This afternoon
he had fled to his violin for relief. Verily, God was afflicting
them! "The bad fortune of the good turns his face to heaven, even as
the good fortune of the bad bends his head to the earth. It is the
will of God: _Islam_!" said The Jinnee, simply.

"I must see Mr. Jelnik, now, this minute! I have news for him," I
said hastily.

The Jinnee looked doubtful. Plainly, he didn't want his master
disturbed, even by me. "I have never seen him like this before," he
told me. "Listen!"

Came the cries of the violin, heart-rending cries of regret and
despair, followed by furious protests; then a nobler grief, and
love, and longing.

"After a while it will pray for him. Then Satan the stoned, whom may
God confound, will depart from him," said Achmet.

"But in the meantime I must see him, immediately."

"He goes to-morrow. That is why he is afflicted to-day," said The
Jinnee. "I think, _hanoum_, he would go without seeing you again. It
is a grievous thing to say to one's beloved, 'I leave you.' I have
said it. I was young then. I am old now, but I have not forgotten."

I unfastened the chain from my neck. A half-coin swung from it as a
pendant.

"Place this in his hand. It is a sign. It has power to lay the evil
spirit which troubles this house," I told him gravely.

He seized upon it with an eager hand. "In the name of God!" said The
Jinnee, and fairly flew out of the room.

A minute later, his violin grasped in one hand, my chain in the
other, Nicholas Jelnik appeared. His appearance shocked me. The mask
was off; here was stark and naked misery.

"Nicholas!" I said, "Nicholas!"

"You should not have come!" he said roughly. "Why have you come? I
did not want you to see me--thus. Is it not enough for me to
suffer?" And he made an impatient, imploring gesture. His lips
quivered.

"Put aside the violin, Ariel," I said. "But keep the coin."

He stiffened, as if he braced himself for further blows. But he laid
aside the violin, and with a supreme effort of will got himself in
hand. That early training in self-control worked a miracle now. Here
was no longer the wild, white-lipped musician, but a pale, proud
young man who faced me with stately politeness.

"I have another gift for you, Nicholas Jelnik." To save my life I
couldn't keep my voice from shaking, my eyes from glittering, my
cheeks from flaming. "Do not go, old Jinnee. Stay and see what gift
I bring the master."

Then it occurred to me that it would be dangerous should strange or
greedy eyes look upon what my sewing-bag hid. The thought frightened
me."

"You are sure there is none to see? Achmet, there is no stranger
around?"

"We are alone," said the black man, quietly. Both of them seemed
astonished and concerned.

Reassured, I drew forth the heavy buckskin bag and placed it in
Nicholas Jelnik's hands.

"From Hynds House--and me--and oh, Nicholas, from Beautiful Dog,
too!" I said, and laughed and cried.

For the moment he didn't understand. He thought it some loving
woman-foolishness of Sophy's, some woman-gift she had made for him.
I knew, for he gave me a glance of tenderness. And then he opened
the bag, and staggered like a drunken man, and sank into the nearest
chair, trembling like a leaf in the wind. The Hynds fortune had come
back to the last of Richard's blood.

When the mist cleared from my eyes, I saw old Achmet on the floor,
with his hands upraised and tears running down his black cheeks
like rain, unashamedly and unaffectedly pouring out praises and
thanksgivings to his Creator.

"Hold out your skirts, Sophy!" cried Nicholas Jelnik, and poured the
glittering things into my lap, boyishly. He was beautiful again,
radiant and young-eyed as the choiring cherubim. There were two
exquisite, pear-shaped ear-ring drops among the Hynds jewels, and
these he took, threaded upon my chain on either side the broken
coin, and hung around my neck. He held a ruby against my lip and
turquoises near my eyes, and laughed.

"These for Hynds House, Sophy!" he cried, and laughed again to see
my lips tremble. "What? It is not these you want? Choose for
yourself, then. I promised you the best of them, you know."

"I want none of them," I said.

"No? Take them, then, Achmet, and put them away," said Mr. Jelnik,
in a matter-of-fact voice. "You will guard them for me, for the time
being. And tell Daoud I have changed my mind about sending him away.
He can change his about shaving his beard, and save himself the
trouble of begging his way to Mecca."

I stood up in silence, and held out my skirt apron-wise, while The
Jinnee as silently removed the Hynds jewels. Then he tied the
buckskin bag, concealed it in a fold of his robe, and left the room.

"Now, Sophy," said Mr. Jelnik, facing me, "you offered Hynds House
to me once, and I refused it because I didn't have the price. I told
you at the time that if ever I had the Hynds jewels in my
possession, I might be tempted to make you an offer of exchange. I
am going to make you an offer now. I should like to live in Hynds
House, Sophy. I don't think I could be happy anywhere else. You see,
Sophy, I'm going to spend the rest of my life here in America,
become an American citizen. Now, what about Hynds House?"

"You may have it," I said.

"At my own price?" he demanded.

"At your own price. Did you think I would haggle with you?"

"No. It's I who intend to haggle with you. I'm going to make a
tremendous bargain. There's something that must go with the house.
Something that's worth more than all the Hyndses ever had in all
their lives. _You_, Sophy. My sweetheart, come!" And he stood there
shining-eyed, and held out his arms.

"Once I sent for you. Once I called you. And both times you came to
me, Sophy. You came because you are mine. _Come!_" said Nicholas
Jelnik. And the golden lights danced in and out of his eyes that
were like brown mountain water when the sun is upon it, and his hair
was like Absalom's.

     _In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as
     Absalom for his beauty; from the sole of his foot to the
     crown of his head there was no blemish in him._

And caught by the surge and power, as it were of the very wave of
life itself, I was swept into those outstretched arms.





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