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Title: Famous Modern Ghost Stories
Author: Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 [Contributor], Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914? [Contributor], Maupassant, Guy de, 1850-1893 [Contributor], Machen, Arthur, 1863-1947 [Contributor], Andreyev, Leonid Nikolayevich, 1871-1919 [Contributor], Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930 [Contributor], Le Gallienne, Richard, 1866-1947 [Contributor], Chambers, Robert W. (Robert William), 1865-1933 [Contributor], Blackwood, Algernon, 1869-1951 [Contributor], France, Anatole, 1844-1924 [Contributor], O'Brien, Fitz James, 1828-1862 [Contributor], Closser, Myla Jo [Contributor], Steele, Wilbur Daniel, 1886-1970 [Contributor], Harvey, F. W. (Frederick William), 1888-1957 [Contributor], Dunbar, Olivia Howard, 1873-1953 [Contributor], Scarborough, Dorothy, 1878-1935 [Compiler]
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.

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FAMOUS MODERN GHOST STORIES

Selected, with an Introduction by

DOROTHY SCARBOROUGH, PH.D.

     Lecturer in English, Columbia University

     Author of _The Supernatural In Modern English Fiction_, _Fugitive
     Verses_, _From A Southern Porch_, etc. Compiler of _Humorous Ghost
     Stories_

G.P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

1921



To

ASHLEY HORACE THORNDIKE, LITT. D.

PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

WHO GUIDED MY EARLIER STUDIES IN THE SUPERNATURAL



The Imperishable Ghost

INTRODUCTION


Ghosts are the true immortals, and the dead grow more alive all the
time. Wraiths have a greater vitality to-day than ever before. They are
far more numerous than at any time in the past, and people are more
interested in them. There are persons that claim to be acquainted with
specific spirits, to speak with them, to carry on correspondence with
them, and even some who insist that they are private secretaries to the
dead. Others of us mortals, more reserved, are content to keep such
distance as we may from even the shadow of a shade. But there's no
getting away from ghosts nowadays, for even if you shut your eyes to
them in actual life, you stumble over them in the books you read, you
see them on the stage and on the screen, and you hear them on the
lecture platform. Even a Lodge in any vast wilderness would have the
company of spirits. Man's love for the supernatural, which is one of the
most natural things about him, was never more marked than at present.
You may go a-ghosting in any company to-day, and all aspects of
literature, novels, short stories, poetry, and drama alike, reflect the
shadeless spirit. The latest census of the haunting world shows a vast
increase in population, which might be explained on various grounds.

Life is so inconveniently complex nowadays, what with income taxes and
other visitations of government, that it is hard for us to have the
added risk of wraiths, but there's no escaping. Many persons of to-day
are in the same mental state as one Mr. Boggs, told of in a magazine
story, a rural gentleman who was agitated over spectral visitants. He
had once talked at a séance with a speaker who claimed to be the spirit
of his brother, Wesley Boggs, but who conversed only on blue suspenders,
a subject not of vital interest to Wesley in the flesh. "Still," Mr.
Boggs reflected, "I'm not so darn sure!" In answer to a suggestion
regarding subliminal consciousness and dual personality as explanation
of the strange things that come bolting into life, he said, "It's crawly
any way you look at it. Ghosts inside you are as bad as ghosts outside
you." There are others to-day who are "not so darn sure!"

One may conjecture divers reasons for this multitude of ghosts in late
literature. Perhaps spooks are like small boys that rush to fires,
unwilling to miss anything, and craving new sensations. And we mortals
read about them to get vicarious thrills through the safe _medium_ of
fiction. The war made sensationalists of us all, and the drab
everydayness of mortal life bores us. Man's imagination, always bigger
than his environment, overleaps the barriers of time and space and
claims all worlds as eminent domain, so that literature, which he has
the power to create, as he cannot create his material surroundings,
possesses a dramatic intensity, an epic sweep, unknown in actuality. In
the last analysis, man is as great as his daydreams--or his nightmares!

Ghosts have always haunted literature, and doubtless always will.
Specters seem never to wear out or to die, but renew their tissue both
of person and of raiment, in marvelous fashion, so that their number
increases with a Malthusian relentlessness. We of to-day have the ghosts
that haunted our ancestors, as well as our own modern revenants, and
there's no earthly use trying to banish or exorcise them by such a
simple thing as disbelief in them. Schopenhauer asserts that a belief in
ghosts is born with man, that it is found in all ages and in all lands,
and that no one is free from it. Since accounts vary, and our earliest
antecedents were poor diarists, it is difficult to establish the
apostolic succession of spooks in actual life, but in literature, the
line reaches back as far as the primeval picture writing. A study of
animism in primitive culture shows many interesting links between the
past and the present in this matter. And anyhow, since man knows that
whether or not he has seen a ghost, presently he'll be one, he's
fascinated with the subject. And he creates ghosts, not merely in his
own image, but according to his dreams of power.

The more man knows of natural laws, the keener he is about the
supernatural. He may claim to have laid aside superstition, but he isn't
to be believed in that. Though he has discarded witchcraft and alchemy,
it is only that he may have more time for psychical research; true, he
no longer dabbles with ancient magic, but that is because the modern
types, as the ouija board, entertain him more. He dearly loves to
traffic with that other world of which he knows so little and concerning
which he is so curious.

Perhaps the war, or possibly an increase in class consciousness, or
unionization of spirits, or whatever, has greatly energized the ghost in
our day and given him both ambition and strength to do more things than
ever. Maybe "pep tablets" have been discovered on the other side as
well! No longer is the ghost content to be seen and not heard, to slink
around in shadowy corners as apologetically as poor relations. Wraiths
now have a rambunctious vitality and self-assurance that are
astonishing. Even the ghosts of folks dead so long they have forgotten
about themselves are yawning, stretching their skeletons, and starting
out to do a little haunting. Spooky creatures in such a wide diversity
are abroad to-day that one is sometimes at a loss to know what to do
"gin a body meet a body." Ghosts are entering all sorts of activities
now, so that mortals had better look alive, else they'll be crowded out
of their place in the shade. The dead are too much with us!

Modern ghosts are less simple and primitive than their ancestors, and
are developing complexes of various kinds. They are more democratic than
of old, and have more of a diversity of interests, so that mortals have
scarcely the ghost of a chance with them. They employ all the agencies
and mechanisms known to mortals, and have in addition their own methods
of transit and communication. Whereas in the past a ghost had to stalk
or glide to his haunts, now he limousines or airplanes, so that
naturally he can get in more work than before. He uses the wireless to
send his messages, and is expert in all manner of scientific lines.

In fact, his infernal efficiency and knowledge of science constitute the
worst terror of the current specter. Who can combat a ghost that knows
all about a chemical laboratory, that can add electricity to his other
shocks, and can employ all mortal and immortal agencies as his own?
Science itself is supernatural, as we see when we look at it properly.

Modern literature, especially the most recent, shows a revival of old
types of ghosts, together with the innovations of the new. There are
specters that take a real part in the plot complication, and those that
merely cast threatening looks at the living, or at least, are content to
speak a piece and depart. Some spirits are dumb, while others are highly
elocutionary.

Ghosts vary in many respects. Some are like the pallid shades of the
past, altogether unlike the living and with an unmistakable spectral
form--or lack of it. They sweep like mist through the air, or flutter
like dead leaves in the gale--a gale always accompanying them as part of
the stock furnishings. On the other hand, some revenants are so
successfully made up that one doesn't believe them when they pridefully
announce that they are wraiths. Some of them are, in fact, so alive that
they don't themselves know they're dead. It's going to be a great shock
to some of them one of these days to wake up and find out they're
demised!

Ghosts are more gregarious than in the past. Formerly a shade slunk off
by himself, as if ashamed of his profession, as if aware of the lack of
cordiality with which he would be received, knowing that mortals shunned
and feared him, and chary even of associating with his fellow-shades. He
wraithed all by himself. The specters of the past--save in scenes of the
lower world,--were usually solitary creatures, driven to haunt mortals
from very lonesomeness. Now we have a chance to study the mob psychology
of ghosts, for they come in madding crowds whenever they like.

Ghosts at present are showing an active interest not only in public
affairs, but in the arts as well. At least, we now have pictures and
writing attributed to them. Perhaps annoyed by some of the inaccuracies
published concerning them--for authors have in the past taken advantage
of the belief that ghosts couldn't write back--they have recently
developed itching pens. They use all manner of utensils for expression
now. There's the magic typewriter that spooks for John Kendrick Bangs,
the boardwalk that Patience Worth executes for Mrs. Curran, and
innumerable other specters that commandeer fountain pens and pencils and
brushes to give their versions of infinity. There's a passion on the
part of ghosts for being interviewed just now. At present
book-reviewers, for instance, had better be careful, lest the wraiths
take their own method of answering criticism. It isn't safe to speak or
write with anything but respect of ghosts now. _De mortuis nil nisi
bonum_, indeed! One should never make light of a shade.

Modern ghosts have a more pronounced personality than the specters of
the past. They have more strength, of mind as well as of body, than the
colorless revenants of earlier literature, and they produce a more vivid
effect on the beholder and the reader. They know more surely what they
wish to do, and they advance relentlessly and with economy of effort to
the effecting of their purpose, whether it be of pure horror, of beauty,
or pathos of humor. We have now many spirits in fiction that are
pathetic without frightfulness, many that move us with a sense of poetic
beauty rather than of curdling horror, who touch the heart as well as
the spine of the reader. And the humorous ghost is a distinctive shade
of to-day, with his quips and pranks and haunting grin. Whatever a
modern ghost wishes to do or to be, he is or does, with confidence and
success.

The spirit of to-day is terrifyingly visible or invisible at will. The
dreadful presence of a ghost that one cannot see is more unbearable than
the specter that one can locate and attempt to escape from. The
invisible haunting is represented in this volume by Fitz-James O'Brien's
_What Was It?_ one of the very best of the type, and one that has
strongly influenced others. O'Brien's story preceded Guy de Maupassant's
_Le Horla_ by several years, and must surely have suggested to
Maupassant as to Bierce, in his _The Damned Thing_, the power of evil
that can be felt but not seen.

The wraith of the present carries with him more vital energy than his
predecessors, is more athletic in his struggles with the unlucky wights
he visits, and can coerce mortals to do his will by the laying on of
hands as well as by the look or word. He speaks with more emphasis and
authority, as well as with more human naturalness, than the earlier
ghosts. He has not only all the force he possessed in life, but in many
instances has an access of power, which makes man a poor protagonist for
him. Algernon Blackwood's spirits of evil, for example, have a more
awful potentiality than any living person could have, and their will to
harm has been increased immeasurably by the accident of death. If the
facts bear out the fear that such is the case in life as in fiction,
some of our social customs will be reversed. A man will strive by all
means to keep his deadly enemy alive, lest death may endow him with
tenfold power to hurt. Dark discarnate passions, disembodied hates, work
evil where a simple ghost might be helpless and abashed. Algernon
Blackwood has command over the spirits of air and fire and wave, so that
his pages thrill with beauty and terror. He has handled almost all known
aspects of the supernatural, and from his many stories he has selected
for this volume _The Willows_ as the best example of his ghostly art.

Apparitions are more readily recognizable at present than in the past,
for they carry into eternity all the disfigurements or physical
peculiarities that the living bodies possessed--a fact discouraging to
all persons not conspicuous for good looks. Freckles and warts, long
noses and missing limbs distinguish the ghosts and aid in crucial
identification. The thrill of horror in Ambrose Bierce's story, _The
Middle Toe of the Right Foot_, is intensified by the fact that the dead
woman who comes back in revenge to haunt her murderer, has one toe
lacking as in life. And in a recent story a surgeon whose desire to
experiment has caused him needlessly to sacrifice a man's life on the
operating table, is haunted to death by the dismembered arm. Fiction
shows us various ghosts with half faces, and at least one notable spook
that comes in half. Such ability, it will be granted, must necessarily
increase the haunting power, for if a ghost may send a foot or an arm or
a leg to harry one person, he can dispatch his back-bone or his liver or
his heart to upset other human beings simultaneously in a sectional
haunting at once economically efficient and terrifying.

_The Beast with Five Fingers_, for instance, has a loathsome horror that
a complete skeleton or conventionally equipped wraith could not achieve.
Who can doubt that a bodiless hand leaping around on its errands of evil
has a menace that a complete six-foot frame could not duplicate? Yet, in
Quiller-Couch's _A Pair of Hands_, what pathos and beauty in the thought
of the child hands coming back to serve others in homely tasks! Surely
no housewife in these helpless days would object to being haunted in
such delicate fashion.

Ghosts of to-day have an originality that antique specters lacked. For
instance, what story of the past has the awful thrill in Andreyev's
_Lazarus_, that story of the man who came back from the grave, living,
yet dead, with the horror of the unknown so manifest in his face that
those who looked into his deep eyes met their doom? Present-day writers
skillfully combine various elements of awe with the supernatural, as
madness with the ghostly, adding to the chill of fear which each concept
gives. Wilbur Daniel Steele's _The Woman at Seven Brothers_ is an
instance of that method.

Poe's _Ligeia_, one of the best stories in any language, reveals the
unrelenting will of the dead to effect its desire,--the dead wife
triumphantly coming back to life through the second wife's body. Olivia
Howard Dunbar's _The Shell of Sense_ is another instance of jealousy
reaching beyond the grave. _The Messenger_, one of Robert W. Chambers's
early stories and an admirable example of the supernatural, has various
thrills, with its river of blood, its death's head moth, and the ancient
but very active skull of the Black Priest who was shot as a traitor to
his country, but lived on as an energetic and curseful ghost.

_The Shadows on the Wall_, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman,--which one
prominent librarian considers the best ghost story ever written,--is
original in the method of its horrific manifestation. Isn't it more
devastating to one's sanity to see the shadow of a revenge ghost cast on
the wall,--to know that a vindictive spirit is beside one but
invisible--than to see the specter himself? Under such circumstances,
the sight of a skeleton or a sheeted phantom would be downright
comforting.

_The Mass of Shadows_, by Anatole France, is an example of the modern
tendency to show phantoms in groups, as contrasted with the solitary
habits of ancient specters. Here the spirits of those who had sinned for
love could meet and celebrate mass together in one evening of the year.

The delicate beauty of many of the modern ghostly stories is apparent in
_The Haunted Orchard_, by Richard Le Gallienne, for this prose poem has
an appeal of tenderness rather than of terror. And everybody who has
had affection for a dog will appreciate the pathos of the little sketch,
by Myla J. Closser, _At the Gate_. The dog appears more frequently as a
ghost than does any other animal, perhaps because man feels that he is
nearer the human,--though the horse is as intelligent and as much
beloved. There is an innate pathos about a dog somehow, that makes his
appearance in ghostly form more credible and sympathetic, while the
ghost of any other animal would tend to have a comic connotation. Other
animals in fiction have power of magic--notably the cat--but they don't
appear as spirits. But the dog is seen as a pathetic symbol of
faithfulness, as a tragic sufferer, or as a terrible revenge ghost. Dogs
may come singly or in groups--Edith Wharton has five of different sorts
in _Kerfol_--or in packs, as in Eden Phillpotts's _Another Little Heath
Hound_.

An illuminating instance of the power of fiction over human faith is
furnished by the case of Arthur Machen's _The Bowmen_, included here.
This story it is which started the whole tissue of legendry concerning
supernatural aid given the allied armies during the war. This purely
fictitious account of an angel army that saved the day at Mons was so
vivid that its readers accepted it as truth and obstinately clung to
that idea in the face of Mr. Machen's persistent and bewildered
explanations that he had invented the whole thing. Editors wrote leading
articles about it, ministers preached sermons on it, and the general
public preferred to believe in the Mons angels rather than in Arthur
Machen. Mr. Machen has shown himself an artist in the supernatural, one
whom his generation has not been discerning enough to appreciate. Some
of his material is painfully morbid, but his pen is magic and his
inkwell holds many dark secrets.

In this collection I have attempted to include specimens of a few of the
distinctive types of modern ghosts, as well as to show the art of
individual stories. Examples of the humorous ghosts are omitted here, as
a number of them will be brought together in _Humorous Ghost Stories_,
the companion volume to this. The ghost lover who reads these pages will
think of others that he would like to see included--for I believe that
readers are more passionately attached to their own favorite ghost tales
than to any other form of literature. But critics will admit the
manifest impossibility of bringing together in one volume all the famous
examples of the art. Some of the well-known tales, particularly the
older ones on which copyright has expired, have been reprinted so often
as to be almost hackneyed, while others have been of necessity omitted
because of the limitations of space.

                                                                    D.S.

NEW YORK,
  March, 1921.



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION: THE IMPERISHABLE GHOST

THE WILLOWS
    BY ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

THE SHADOWS ON THE WALL
    BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN

THE MESSENGER
    BY ROBERT W. CHAMBERS

LAZARUS
    BY LEONID ANDREYEV

THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS
    BY W. F. HARVEY

THE MASS OF SHADOWS
    BY ANATOLE FRANCE

WHAT WAS IT?
    BY FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN

THE MIDDLE TOE OF THE RIGHT FOOT
    BY AMBROSE BIERCE

THE SHELL OF SENSE
    BY OLIVIA HOWARD DUNBAR

THE WOMAN AT SEVEN BROTHERS
    BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

AT THE GATE
    BY MYLA JO CLOSSER

LIGEIA
    BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

THE HAUNTED ORCHARD
    BY RICHARD LE GALLIENNE

THE BOWMEN
    BY ARTHUR MACHEN

A GHOST
    BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT



The Willows

BY ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

     From _The Listener_, by Algernon Blackwood. Published in America by
     E.P. Dutton, and in England by Everleigh Nash, Ltd. By permission
     of the publishers and Algernon Blackwood.


I

After leaving Vienna, and long before you come to Buda-Pesth, the Danube
enters a region of singular loneliness and desolation, where its waters
spread away on all sides regardless of a main channel, and the country
becomes a swamp for miles upon miles, covered by a vast sea of low
willow-bushes. On the big maps this deserted area is painted in a fluffy
blue, growing fainter in color as it leaves the banks, and across it may
be seen in large straggling letters the word _Sümpfe_, meaning marshes.

In high flood this great acreage of sand, shingle-beds, and willow-grown
islands is almost topped by the water, but in normal seasons the bushes
bend and rustle in the free winds, showing their silver leaves to the
sunshine in an ever-moving plain of bewildering beauty. These willows
never attain to the dignity of trees; they have no rigid trunks; they
remain humble bushes, with rounded tops and soft outline, swaying on
slender stems that answer to the least pressure of the wind; supple as
grasses, and so continually shifting that they somehow give the
impression that the entire plain is moving and _alive_. For the wind
sends waves rising and falling over the whole surface, waves of leaves
instead of waves of water, green swells like the sea, too, until the
branches turn and lift, and then silvery white as their under-side turns
to the sun.

Happy to slip beyond the control of stern banks, the Danube here wanders
about at will among the intricate network of channels intersecting the
islands everywhere with broad avenues down which the waters pour with a
shouting sound; making whirlpools, eddies, and foaming rapids; tearing
at the sandy banks; carrying away masses of shore and willow-clumps; and
forming new islands innumerable which shift daily in size and shape and
possess at best an impermanent life, since the flood-time obliterates
their very existence.

Properly speaking, this fascinating part of the river's life begins soon
after leaving Pressburg, and we, in our Canadian canoe, with gipsy tent
and frying-pan on board, reached it on the crest of a rising flood about
mid-July. That very same morning, when the sky was reddening before
sunrise, we had slipped swiftly through still-sleeping Vienna, leaving
it a couple of hours later a mere patch of smoke against the blue hills
of the Wienerwald on the horizon; we had breakfasted below Fischeramend
under a grove of birch trees roaring in the wind; and had then swept on
the tearing current past Orth, Hainburg, Petronell (the old Roman
Carnuntum of Marcus Aurelius), and so under the frowning heights of
Theben on a spur of the Carpathians, where the March steals in quietly
from the left and the frontier is crossed between Austria and Hungary.

Racing along at twelve kilometers an hour soon took us well into
Hungary, and the muddy waters--sure sign of flood--sent us aground on
many a shingle-bed, and twisted us like a cork in many a sudden belching
whirlpool before the towers of Pressburg (Hungarian, Poszóny) showed
against the sky; and then the canoe, leaping like a spirited horse, flew
at top speed under the gray walls, negotiated safely the sunken chain of
the Fliegende Brücke ferry, turned the corner sharply to the left, and
plunged on yellow foam into the wilderness of islands, sand-banks, and
swamp-land beyond--the land of the willows.

The change came suddenly, as when a series of bioscope pictures snaps
down on the streets of a town and shifts without warning into the
scenery of lake and forest. We entered the land of desolation on wings,
and in less than half an hour there was neither boat nor fishing-hut nor
red roof, nor any single sign of human habitation and civilization
within sight. The sense of remoteness from the world of human kind, the
utter isolation, the fascination of this singular world of willows,
winds, and waters, instantly laid its spell upon us both, so that we
allowed laughingly to one another that we ought by rights to have held
some special kind of passport to admit us, and that we had, somewhat
audaciously, come without asking leave into a separate little kingdom of
wonder and magic--a kingdom that was reserved for the use of others who
had a right to it, with everywhere unwritten warnings to trespassers for
those who had the imagination to discover them.

Though still early in the afternoon, the ceaseless buffetings of a most
tempestuous wind made us feel weary, and we at once began casting about
for a suitable camping-ground for the night. But the bewildering
character of the islands made landing difficult; the swirling flood
carried us in-shore and then swept us out again; the willow branches
tore our hands as we seized them to stop the canoe, and we pulled many a
yard of sandy bank into the water before at length we shot with a great
sideways blow from the wind into a backwater and managed to beach the
bows in a cloud of spray. Then we lay panting and laughing after our
exertions on hot yellow sand, sheltered from the wind, and in the full
blaze of a scorching sun, a cloudless blue sky above, and an immense
army of dancing, shouting willow bushes, closing in from all sides,
shining with spray and clapping their thousand little hands as though to
applaud the success of our efforts.

"What a river!" I said to my companion, thinking of all the way we had
traveled from the source in the Black Forest, and how we had often been
obliged to wade and push in the upper shallows at the beginning of June.

"Won't stand much nonsense now, will it?" he said, pulling the canoe a
little farther into safety up the sand, and then composing himself for a
nap.

I lay by his side, happy and peaceful in the bath of the
elements--water, wind, sand, and the great fire of the sun--thinking of
the long journey that lay behind us, and of the great stretch before us
to the Black Sea, and how lucky I was to have such a delightful and
charming traveling companion as my friend, the Swede.

We had made many similar journeys together, but the Danube, more than
any other river I knew, impressed us from the very beginning with its
_aliveness_. From its tiny bubbling entry into the world among the
pinewood gardens of Donaueschingen, until this moment when it began to
play the great river-game of losing itself among the deserted swamps,
unobserved, unrestrained, it had seemed to us like following the growth
of some living creature. Sleepy at first, but later developing violent
desires as it became conscious of its deep soul, it rolled, like some
huge fluid being, through all the countries we had passed, holding our
little craft on its mighty shoulders, playing roughly with us sometimes,
yet always friendly and well-meaning, till at length we had come
inevitably to regard it as a Great Personage.

How, indeed, could it be otherwise, since it told us so much of its
secret life? At night we heard it singing to the moon as we lay in our
tent, uttering that odd sibilant note peculiar to itself and said to be
caused by the rapid tearing of the pebbles along its bed, so great is
its hurrying speed. We knew, too, the voice of its gurgling whirlpools,
suddenly bubbling up on a surface previously quite calm; the roar of its
shallows and swift rapids; its constant steady thundering below all mere
surface sounds; and that ceaseless tearing of its icy waters at the
banks. How it stood up and shouted when the rains fell flat upon its
face! And how its laughter roared out when the wind blew upstream and
tried to stop its growing speed! We knew all its sounds and voices, its
tumblings and foamings, its unnecessary splashing against the bridges;
that self-conscious chatter when there were hills to look on; the
affected dignity of its speech when it passed through the little towns,
far too important to laugh; and all these faint, sweet whisperings when
the sun caught it fairly in some slow curve and poured down upon it till
the steam rose.

It was full of tricks, too, in its early life before the great world
knew it. There were places in the upper reaches among the Swabian
forests, when yet the first whispers of its destiny had not reached it,
where it elected to disappear through holes in the ground, to appear
again on the other side of the porous limestone hills and start a new
river with another name; leaving, too, so little water in its own bed
that we had to climb out and wade and push the canoe through miles of
shallows!

And a chief pleasure, in those early days of its irresponsible youth,
was to lie low, like Brer Fox, just before the little turbulent
tributaries came to join it from the Alps, and to refuse to acknowledge
them when in, but to run for miles side by side, the dividing line well
marked, the very levels different, the Danube utterly declining to
recognize the new-comer. Below Passau, however, it gave up this
particular trick, for there the Inn comes in with a thundering power
impossible to ignore, and so pushes and incommodes the parent river that
there is hardly room for them in the long twisting gorge that follows,
and the Danube is shoved this way and that against the cliffs, and
forced to hurry itself with great waves and much dashing to and fro in
order to get through in time. And during the fight our canoe slipped
down from its shoulder to its breast, and had the time of its life among
the struggling waves. But the Inn taught the old river a lesson, and
after Passau it no longer pretended to ignore new arrivals.

This was many days back, of course, and since then we had come to know
other aspects of the great creature, and across the Bavarian wheat plain
of Straubing she wandered so slowly under the blazing June sun that we
could well imagine only the surface inches were water, while below there
moved, concealed as by a silken mantle, a whole army of Undines,
passing silently and unseen down to the sea, and very leisurely too,
lest they be discovered.

Much, too, we forgave her because of her friendliness to the birds and
animals that haunted the shores. Cormorants lined the banks in lonely
places in rows like short black palings; gray crows crowded the
shingle-beds; storks stood fishing in the vistas of shallower water that
opened up between the islands, and hawks, swans, and marsh birds of all
sorts filled the air with glinting wings and singing, petulant cries. It
was impossible to feel annoyed with the river's vagaries after seeing a
deer leap with a splash into the water at sunrise and swim past the bows
of the canoe; and often we saw fawns peering at us from the underbrush,
or looked straight into the brown eyes of a stag as we charged full tilt
round a corner and entered another reach of the river. Foxes, too,
everywhere haunted the banks, tripping daintily among the driftwood and
disappearing so suddenly that it was impossible to see how they managed
it.

But now, after leaving Pressburg, everything changed a little, and the
Danube became more serious. It ceased trifling. It was halfway to the
Black Sea, within scenting distance almost of other, stranger countries
where no tricks would be permitted or understood. It became suddenly
grown-up, and claimed our respect and even our awe. It broke out into
three arms, for one thing, that only met again a hundred kilometers
farther down, and for a canoe there were no indications which one was
intended to be followed.

"If you take a side channel," said the Hungarian officer we met in the
Pressburg shop while buying provisions, "you may find yourselves, when
the flood subsides, forty miles from anywhere, high and dry, and you may
easily starve. There are no people, no farms, no fishermen. I warn you
not to continue. The river, too, is still rising, and this wind will
increase."

The rising river did not alarm us in the least, but the matter of being
left high and dry by a sudden subsidence of the waters might be serious,
and we had consequently laid in an extra stock of provisions. For the
rest, the officer's prophecy held true, and the wind, blowing down a
perfectly clear sky, increased steadily till it reached the dignity of a
westerly gale.

It was earlier than usual when we camped, for the sun was a good hour or
two from the horizon, and leaving my friend still asleep on the hot
sand, I wandered about in desultory examination of our hotel. The
island, I found, was less than an acre in extent, a mere sandy bank
standing some two or three feet above the level of the river. The far
end, pointing into the sunset, was covered with flying spray which the
tremendous wind drove off the crests of the broken waves. It was
triangular in shape, with the apex upstream.

I stood there for several minutes, watching the impetuous crimson flood
bearing down with a shouting roar, dashing in waves against the bank as
though to sweep it bodily away, and then swirling by in two foaming
streams on either side. The ground seemed to shake with the shock and
rush while the furious movement of the willow bushes as the wind poured
over them increased the curious illusion that the island itself actually
moved. Above, for a mile or two, I could see the great river descending
upon me: it was like looking up the slope of a sliding hill, white with
foam, and leaping up everywhere to show itself to the sun.

The rest of the island was too thickly grown with willows to make
walking pleasant, but I made the tour, nevertheless. From the lower end
the light, of course, changed, and the river looked dark and angry. Only
the backs of the flying waves were visible, streaked with foam, and
pushed forcibly by the great puffs of wind that fell upon them from
behind. For a short mile it was visible, pouring in and out among the
islands, and then disappearing with a huge sweep into the willows, which
closed about it like a herd of monstrous antediluvian creatures crowding
down to drink. They made me think of gigantic sponge-like growths that
sucked the river up into themselves. They caused it to vanish from
sight. They herded there together in such overpowering numbers.

Altogether it was an impressive scene, with its utter loneliness, its
bizarre suggestion; and as I gazed, long and curiously, a singular
emotion began stir somewhere in the depths of me. Midway in my delight
of the wild beauty, there crept unbidden and unexplained, a curious
feeling of disquietude, almost of alarm.

A rising river, perhaps, always suggests something of the ominous: many
of the little islands I saw before me would probably have been swept
away by the morning; this resistless, thundering flood of water touched
the sense of awe. Yet I was aware that my uneasiness lay deeper far than
the emotions of awe and wonder. It was not that I felt. Nor had it
directly to do with the power of the driving wind--this shouting
hurricane that might almost carry up a few acres of willows into the air
and scatter them like so much chaff over the landscape. The wind was
simply enjoying itself, for nothing rose out of the flat landscape to
stop it, and I was conscious of sharing its great game with a kind of
pleasurable excitement. Yet this novel emotion had nothing to do with
the wind. Indeed, so vague was the sense of distress I experienced, that
it was impossible to trace it to its source and deal with it
accordingly, though I was aware somehow that it had to do with my
realization of our utter insignificance before this unrestrained power
of the elements about me. The huge-grown river had something to do with
it too--a vague, unpleasant idea that we had somehow trifled with these
great elemental forces in whose power we lay helpless every hour of the
day and night. For here, indeed, they were gigantically at play
together, and the sight appealed to the imagination.

But my emotion, so far as I could understand it, seemed to attach itself
more particularly to the willow bushes, to these acres and acres of
willows, crowding, so thickly growing there, swarming everywhere the eye
could reach, pressing upon the river as though to suffocate it, standing
in dense array mile after mile beneath the sky, watching, waiting,
listening. And, apart quite from the elements, the willows connected
themselves subtly with my malaise, attacking the mind insidiously
somehow by reason of their vast numbers, and contriving in some way or
other to represent to the imagination a new and mighty power, a power,
moreover, not altogether friendly to us.

Great revelations of nature, of course, never fail to impress in one way
or another, and I was no stranger to moods of the kind. Mountains
overawe and oceans terrify, while the mystery of great forests exercises
a spell peculiarly its own. But all these, at one point or another,
somewhere link on intimately with human life and human experience. They
stir comprehensible, even if alarming, emotions. They tend on the whole
to exalt.

With this multitude of willows, however, it was something far different,
I felt. Some essence emanated from them that besieged the heart. A sense
of awe awakened, true, but of awe touched somewhere by a vague terror.
Their serried ranks growing everywhere darker about me as the shadows
deepened, moving furiously yet softly in the wind, woke in me the
curious and unwelcome suggestion that we had trespassed here upon the
borders of an alien world, a world where we were intruders, a world
where we were not wanted or invited to remain--where we ran grave risks
perhaps!

The feeling, however, though it refused to yield its meaning entirely to
analysis, did not at the time trouble me by passing into menace. Yet it
never left me quite, even during the very practical business of putting
up the tent in a hurricane of wind and building a fire for the stew-pot.
It remained, just enough to bother and perplex, and to rob a most
delightful camping-ground of a good portion of its charm. To my
companion, however, I said nothing, for he was a man I considered devoid
of imagination. In the first place, I could never have explained to him
what I meant, and in the second, he would have laughed stupidly at me if
I had.

There was a slight depression in the center of the island, and here we
pitched the tent. The surrounding willows broke the wind a bit.

"A poor camp," observed the imperturbable Swede when at last the tent
stood upright; "no stones and precious little firewood. I'm for moving
on early to-morrow--eh? This sand won't hold anything."

But the experience of a collapsing tent at midnight had taught us many
devices, and we made the cosy gipsy house as safe as possible, and then
set about collecting a store of wood to last till bedtime. Willow bushes
drop no branches, and driftwood was our only source of supply. We hunted
the shores pretty thoroughly. Everywhere the banks were crumbling as the
rising flood tore at them and carried away great portions with a splash
and a gurgle.

"The island's much smaller than when we landed," said the accurate
Swede. "It won't last long at this rate. We'd better drag the canoe
close to the tent, and be ready to start at a moment's notice. _I_ shall
sleep in my clothes."

He was a little distance off, climbing along the bank, and I heard his
rather jolly laugh as he spoke.

"By Jove!" I heard him call, a moment later, and turned to see what had
caused his exclamation; but for the moment he was hidden by the willows,
and I could not find him.

"What in the world's this?" I heard him cry again, and this time his
voice had become serious.

I ran up quickly and joined him on the bank. He was looking over the
river, pointing at something in the water.

"Good Heavens, it's a man's body!" he cried excitedly. "Look!"

A black thing, turning over and over in the foaming waves, swept rapidly
past. It kept disappearing and coming up to the surface again. It was
about twenty feet from the shore, and just as it was opposite to where
we stood it lurched round and looked straight at us. We saw its eyes
reflecting the sunset, and gleaming an odd yellow as the body turned
over. Then it gave a swift, gulping plunge, and dived out of sight in a
flash.

"An otter, by gad!" we exclaimed in the same breath, laughing.

It _was_ an otter, alive, and out on the hunt; yet it had looked exactly
like the body of a drowned man turning helplessly in the current. Far
below it came to the surface once again, and we saw its black skin, wet
and shining in the sunlight.

Then, too, just as we turned back, our arms full of driftwood, another
thing happened to recall us to the river bank. This time it really was a
man, and what was more, a man in a boat. Now a small boat on the Danube
was an unusual sight at any time, but here in this deserted region, and
at flood time, it was so unexpected as to constitute a real event. We
stood and stared.

Whether it was due to the slanting sunlight, or the refraction from the
wonderfully illumined water, I cannot say, but, whatever the cause, I
found it difficult to focus my sight properly upon the flying
apparition. It seemed, however, to be a man standing upright in a sort
of flat-bottomed boat, steering with a long oar, and being carried down
the opposite shore at a tremendous pace. He apparently was looking
across in our direction, but the distance was too great and the light
too uncertain for us to make out very plainly what he was about. It
seemed to me that he was gesticulating and making signs at us. His voice
came across the water to us shouting something furiously but the wind
drowned it so that no single word was audible. There was something
curious about the whole appearance--man, boat, signs, voice--that made
an impression on me out of all proportion to its cause.

"He's crossing himself!" I cried. "Look, he's making the sign of the
cross!"

"I believe you're right," the Swede said, shading his eyes with his hand
and watching the man out of sight. He seemed to be gone in a moment,
melting away down there into the sea of willows where the sun caught
them in the bend of the river and turned them into a great crimson wall
of beauty. Mist, too, had begun to rise, so that the air was hazy.

"But what in the world is he doing at nightfall on this flooded river?"
I said, half to myself. "Where is he going at such a time, and what did
he mean by his signs and shouting? D'you think he wished to warn us
about something?"

"He saw our smoke, and thought we were spirits probably," laughed my
companion. "These Hungarians believe in all sorts of rubbish: you
remember the shopwoman at Pressburg warning us that no one ever landed
here because it belonged to some sort of beings outside man's world! I
suppose they believe in fairies and elementals, possibly demons too.
That peasant in the boat saw people on the islands for the first time in
his life," he added, after a slight pause, "and it scared him, that's
all." The Swede's tone of voice was not convincing, and his manner
lacked something that was usually there. I noted the change instantly
while he talked, though without being able to label it precisely.

"If they had enough imagination," I laughed loudly--I remember trying to
make as much _noise_ as I could--"they might well people a place like
this with the old gods of antiquity. The Romans must have haunted all
this region more or less with their shrines and sacred groves and
elemental deities."

The subject dropped and we returned to our stew-pot, for my friend was
not given to imaginative conversation as a rule. Moreover, just then I
remember feeling distinctly glad that he was not imaginative; his
stolid, practical nature suddenly seemed to me welcome and comforting.
It was an admirable temperament, I felt: he could steer down rapids like
a red Indian, shoot dangerous bridges and whirlpools better than any
white man I ever saw in a canoe. He was a grand fellow for an
adventurous trip, a tower of strength when untoward things happened. I
looked at his strong face and light curly hair as he staggered along
under his pile of driftwood (twice the size of mine!), and I experienced
a feeling of relief. Yes, I was distinctly glad just then that the Swede
was--what he was, and that he never made remarks that suggested more
than they said.

"The river's still rising, though," he added, as if following out some
thoughts of his own, and dropping his load with a gasp. "This island
will be under water in two days if it goes on."

"I wish the _wind_ would go down," I said. "I don't care a fig for the
river."

The flood, indeed, had no terrors for us; we could get off at ten
minutes' notice, and the more water the better we liked it. It meant an
increasing current and the obliteration of the treacherous shingle-beds
that so often threatened to tear the bottom out of our canoe.

Contrary to our expectations, the wind did not go down with the sun. It
seemed to increase with the darkness, howling overhead and shaking the
willows round us like straws. Curious sounds accompanied it sometimes,
like the explosion of heavy guns, and it fell upon the water and the
island in great flat blows of immense power. It made me think of the
sounds a planet must make, could we only hear it, driving along through
space.

But the sky kept wholly clear of clouds, and soon after supper the full
moon rose up in the east and covered the river and the plain of shouting
willows with a light like the day.

We lay on the sandy patch beside the fire, smoking, listening to the
noises of the night round us, and talking happily of the journey we had
already made, and of our plans ahead. The map lay spread in the door of
the tent, but the high wind made it hard to study, and presently we
lowered the curtain and extinguished the lantern. The firelight was
enough to smoke and see each other's faces by, and the sparks flew about
overhead like fireworks. A few yards beyond, the river gurgled and
hissed, and from time to time a heavy splash announced the falling away
of further portions of the bank.

Our talk, I noticed, had to do with the far-away scenes and incidents of
our first camps in the Black Forest, or of other subjects altogether
remote from the present setting, for neither of us spoke of the actual
moment more than was necessary--almost as though we had agreed tacitly
to avoid discussion of the camp and its incidents. Neither the otter nor
the boatman, for instance, received the honor of a single mention,
though ordinarily these would have furnished discussion for the greater
part of the evening. They were, of course, distinct events in such a
place.

The scarcity of wood made it a business to keep the fire going, for the
wind, that drove the smoke in our faces wherever we sat, helped at the
same time to make a forced draught. We took it in turn to make foraging
expeditions into the darkness, and the quantity the Swede brought back
always made me feel that he took an absurdly long time finding it; for
the fact was I did not care much about being left alone, and yet it
always seemed to be my turn to grub about among the bushes or scramble
along the slippery banks in the moonlight. The long day's battle with
wind and water--such wind and such water!--had tired us both, and an
early bed was the obvious program. Yet neither of us made the move for
the tent. We lay there, tending the fire, talking in desultory fashion,
peering about us into the dense willow bushes, and listening to the
thunder of wind and river. The loneliness of the place had entered our
very bones, and silence seemed natural, for after a bit the sound of our
voices became a trifle unreal and forced; whispering would have been the
fitting mode of communication, I felt, and the human voice, always
rather absurd amid the roar of the elements, now carried with it
something almost illegitimate. It was like talking out loud in church,
or in some place where it was not lawful, perhaps not quite _safe_, to
be overheard.

The eeriness of this lonely island, set among a million willows, swept
by a hurricane, and surrounded by hurrying deep waters, touched us both,
I fancy. Untrodden by man, almost unknown to man, it lay there beneath
the moon, remote from human influence, on the frontier of another world,
an alien world, a world tenanted by willows only and the souls of
willows. And we, in our rashness, had dared to invade it, even to make
use of it! Something more than the power of its mystery stirred in me as
I lay on the sand, feet to fire, and peered up through the leaves at the
stars. For the last time I rose to get firewood.

"When this has burnt up," I said firmly, "I shall turn in," and my
companion watched me lazily as I moved off into the surrounding
shadows.

For an unimaginative man I thought he seemed unusually receptive that
night, unusually open to suggestion of things other than sensory. He too
was touched by the beauty and loneliness of the place. I was not
altogether pleased, I remember, to recognize this slight change in him,
and instead of immediately collecting sticks, I made my way to the far
point of the island where the moonlight on plain and river could be seen
to better advantage. The desire to be alone had come suddenly upon me;
my former dread returned in force; there was a vague feeling in me I
wished to face and probe to the bottom.

When I reached the point of sand jutting out among the waves, the spell
of the place descended upon me with a positive shock. No mere "scenery"
could have produced such an effect. There was something more here,
something to alarm.

I gazed across the waste of wild waters; I watched the whispering
willows; I heard the ceaseless beating of the tireless wind; and, one
and all, each in its own way, stirred in me this sensation of a strange
distress. But the _willows_ especially: for ever they went on chattering
and talking among themselves, laughing a little, shrilly crying out,
sometimes sighing--but what it was they made so much to-do about
belonged to the secret life of the great plain they inhabited. And it
was utterly alien to the world I knew, or to that of the wild yet
kindly elements. They made me think of a host of beings from another
plane of life, another evolution altogether, perhaps, all discussing a
mystery known only to themselves. I watched them moving busily together,
oddly shaking their big bushy heads, twirling their myriad leaves even
when there was no wind. They moved of their own will as though alive,
and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the
_horrible_.

There they stood in the moonlight, like a vast army surrounding our
camp, shaking their innumerable silver spears defiantly, formed all
ready for an attack.

The psychology of places, for some imaginations at least, is very vivid;
for the wanderer, especially, camps have their "note" either of welcome
or rejection. At first it may not always be apparent, because the busy
preparations of tent and cooking prevent, but with the first
pause--after supper usually--it comes and announces itself. And the note
of this willow-camp now became unmistakably plain to me: we were
interlopers, trespassers, we were not welcomed. The sense of
unfamiliarity grew upon me as I stood there watching. We touched the
frontier of a region where our presence was resented. For a night's
lodging we might perhaps be tolerated; but for a prolonged and
inquisitive stay--No! by all the gods of the trees and the wilderness,
no! We were the first human influences upon this island, and we were not
wanted. _The willows were against us_.

Strange thoughts like these, bizarre fancies, borne I know not whence,
found lodgment in my mind as I stood listening. What, I thought, if,
after all, these crouching willows proved to be alive; if suddenly they
should rise up, like a swarm of living creatures, marshaled by the gods
whose territory we had invaded, sweep towards us off the vast swamps,
booming overhead in the night--and then _settle down_! As I looked it
was so easy to imagine they actually moved, crept nearer, retreated a
little, huddled together in masses, hostile, waiting for the great wind
that should finally start them a-running. I could have sworn their
aspect changed a little, and their ranks deepened and pressed more
closely together.

The melancholy shrill cry of a night bird sounded overhead, and suddenly
I nearly lost my balance as the piece of bank I stood upon fell with a
great splash into the river, undermined by the flood. I stepped back
just in time, and went on hunting for firewood again, half laughing at
the odd fancies that crowded so thickly into my mind and cast their
spell upon me. I recall the Swede's remark about moving on next day, and
I was just thinking that I fully agreed with him, when I turned with a
start and saw the subject of my thoughts standing immediately in front
of me. He was quite close. The roar of the elements had covered his
approach.

"You've been gone so long," he shouted above the wind, "I thought
something must have happened to you."

But there was that in his tone, and a certain look in his face as well,
that conveyed to me more than his actual words, and in a flash I
understood the real reason for his coming. It was because the spell of
the place had entered his soul too, and he did not like being alone.

"River still rising," he cried, pointing to the flood in the moonlight,
"and the wind's simply awful."

He always said the same things, but it was the cry for companionship
that gave the real importance to his words.

"Lucky," I cried back, "our tent's in the hollow. I think it'll hold all
right." I added something about the difficulty of finding wood, in order
to explain my absence, but the wind caught my words and flung them
across the river, so that he did not hear, but just looked at me through
the branches, nodding his head.

"Lucky if we get away without disaster!" he shouted, or words to that
effect; and I remember feeling half angry with him for putting the
thought into words, for it was exactly what I felt myself. There was
disaster impending somewhere, and the sense of presentiment lay
unpleasantly upon me.

We went back to the fire and made a final blaze, poking it up with our
feet. We took a last look round. But for the wind the heat would have
been unpleasant. I put this thought into words, and I remember my
friend's reply struck me oddly: that he would rather have the heat, the
ordinary July weather, than this "diabolical wind."

Everything was snug for the night; the canoe lying turned over beside
the tent, with both yellow paddles beneath her; the provision sack
hanging from a willow stem, and the washed-up dishes removed to a safe
distance from the fire, all ready for the morning meal.

We smothered the embers of the fire with sand, and then turned in. The
flap of the tent door was up, and I saw the branches and the stars and
the white moonlight. The shaking willows and the heavy buffetings of the
wind against our taut little house were the last things I remembered as
sleep came down and covered all with its soft and delicious
forgetfulness.


II

Suddenly I found myself lying awake, peering from my sandy mattress
through the door of the tent. I looked at my watch pinned against the
canvas, and saw by the bright moonlight that it was past twelve
o'clock--the threshold of a new day--and I had therefore slept a couple
of hours. The Swede was asleep still beside me; the wind howled as
before something plucked at my heart and made me feel afraid. There was
a sense of disturbance in my immediate neighborhood.

I sat up quickly and looked out. The trees were swaying violently to and
fro as the gusts smote them, but our little bit of green canvas lay
snugly safe in the hollow, for the wind passed over it without meeting
enough resistance to make it vicious. The feeling of disquietude did not
pass however, and I crawled quietly out of the tent to see if our
belongings were safe. I moved carefully so as not to waken my companion.
A curious excitement was on me.

I was halfway out, kneeling on all fours, when my eye first took in that
the tops of the bushes opposite, with their moving tracery of leaves,
made shapes against the sky. I sat back on my haunches and stared. It
was incredible, surely, but there, opposite and slightly above me, were
shapes of some indeterminate sort among the willows, and as the branches
swayed in the wind they seemed to group themselves about these shapes,
forming a series of monstrous outlines that shifted rapidly beneath the
moon. Close, about fifty feet in front of me, I saw these things.

My first instinct was to waken my companion that he too might see them,
but something made me hesitate--the sudden realization, probably, that I
should not welcome corroboration; and meanwhile I crouched there staring
in amazement with smarting eyes. I was wide awake. I remember saying to
myself that I was _not_ dreaming.

They first became properly visible, these huge figures, just within the
tops of the bushes--immense bronze-colored, moving, and wholly
independent of the swaying of the branches. I saw them plainly and
noted, now I came to examine them more calmly, that they were very much
larger than human, and indeed that something in their appearance
proclaimed them to be _not human_ at all. Certainly they were not merely
the moving tracery of the branches against the moonlight. They shifted
independently. They rose upwards in a continuous stream from earth to
sky, vanishing utterly as soon as they reached the dark of the sky. They
were interlaced one with another, making a great column, and I saw their
limbs and huge bodies melting in and out of each other, forming this
serpentine line that bent and swayed and twisted spirally with the
contortions of the wind-tossed trees. They were nude, fluid shapes,
passing up the bushes, _within_ the leaves almost--rising up in a living
column into the heavens. Their faces I never could see. Unceasingly they
poured upwards, swaying in great bending curves, with a hue of dull
bronze upon their skins.

I stared, trying to force every atom of vision from my eyes. For a long
time I thought they _must_ every moment disappear and resolve themselves
into the movements of the branches and prove to be an optical illusion.
I searched everywhere for a proof of reality, when all the while I
understood quite well that the standard of reality had changed. For the
longer I looked the more certain I became that these figures were real
and living, though perhaps not according to the standards that the
camera and the biologist would insist upon.

Far from feeling fear, I was possessed with a sense of awe and wonder
such as I have never known. I seemed to be gazing at the personified
elemental forces of this haunted and primeval region. Our intrusion had
stirred the powers of the place into activity. It was we who were the
cause of the disturbance, and my brain filled to bursting with stories
and legends of the spirits and deities of places that have been
acknowledged and worshiped by men in all ages of the world's history.
But, before I could arrive at any possible explanation, something
impelled me to go farther out, and I crept forward on to the sand and
stood upright. I felt the ground still warm under my bare feet; the wind
tore at my hair and face; and the sound of the river burst upon my ears
with a sudden roar. These things, I knew, were real, and proved that my
senses were acting normally. Yet the figures still rose from earth to
heaven, silent, majestically, in a great spiral of grace and strength
that overwhelmed me at length with a genuine deep emotion of worship. I
felt that I must fall down and worship--absolutely worship.

Perhaps in another minute I might have done so, when a gust of wind
swept against me with such force that it blew me sideways, and I nearly
stumbled and fell. It seemed to shake the dream violently out of me. At
least it gave me another point of view somehow. The figures still
remained, still ascended into heaven from the heart of the night, but my
reason at last began to assert itself. It must be a subjective
experience, I argued--none the less real for that, but still subjective.
The moonlight and the branches combined to work out these pictures upon
the mirror of my imagination, and for some reason I projected them
outwards and made them appear objective. I knew this must be the case,
of course. I was the subject of a vivid and interesting hallucination. I
took courage, and began to move forward across the open patches of sand.
By Jove, though, was it all hallucination? Was it merely subjective? Did
not my reason argue in the old futile way from the little standard of
the known?

I only know that great column of figures ascended darkly into the sky
for what seemed a very long period of time, and with a very complete
measure of reality as most men are accustomed to gauge reality. Then
suddenly they were gone!

And, once they were gone and the immediate wonder of their great
presence had passed, fear came down upon me with a cold rush. The
esoteric meaning of this lonely and haunted region suddenly flamed up
within me and I began to tremble dreadfully. I took a quick look
round--a look of horror that came near to panic--calculating vainly ways
of escape; and then, realizing how helpless I was to achieve anything
really effective, I crept back silently into the tent and lay down again
upon my sandy mattress, first lowering the door-curtain to shut out the
sight of the willows in the moonlight, and then burying my head as
deeply as possible beneath the blankets to deaden the sound of the
terrifying wind.


III

As though further to convince me that I had not been dreaming, I
remember that it was a long time before I fell again into a troubled and
restless sleep; and even then only the upper crust of me slept, and
underneath there was something that never quite lost consciousness, but
lay alert and on the watch.

But this second time I jumped up with a genuine start of terror. It was
neither the wind nor the river that woke me, but the slow approach of
something that caused the sleeping portion of me to grow smaller and
smaller till at last it vanished altogether, and I found myself sitting
bolt upright--listening.

Outside there was a sound of multitudinous little patterings. They had
been coming, I was aware, for a long time, and in my sleep they had
first become audible. I sat there nervously wide awake as though I had
not slept at all. It seemed to me that my breathing came with
difficulty, and that there was a great weight upon the surface of my
body. In spite of the hot night, I felt clammy with cold and shivered.
Something surely was pressing steadily against the sides of the tent and
weighing down upon it from above. Was it the body of the wind? Was this
the pattering rain, the dripping of the leaves? The spray blown from
the river by the wind and gathering in big drops? I thought quickly of a
dozen things.

Then suddenly the explanation leaped into my mind: a bough from the
poplar, the only large tree on the island, had fallen with the wind.
Still half caught by the other branches, it would fall with the next
gust and crush us, and meanwhile its leaves brushed and tapped upon the
tight canvas surface of the tent. I raised the loose flap and rushed
out, calling to the Swede to follow.

But when I got out and stood upright I saw that the tent was free. There
was no hanging bough; there was no rain or spray; nothing approached.

A cold, gray light filtered down through the bushes and lay on the
faintly gleaming sand. Stars still crowded the sky directly overhead,
and the wind howled magnificently, but the fire no longer gave out any
glow, and I saw the east reddening in streaks through the trees. Several
hours must have passed since I stood there before, watching the
ascending figures, and the memory of it now came back to me horribly,
like an evil dream. Oh, how tired it made me feel, that ceaseless raging
wind! Yet, though the deep lassitude of a sleepless night was on me, my
nerves were tingling with the activity of an equally tireless
apprehension, and all idea of repose was out of the question. The river
I saw had risen further. Its thunder filled the air, and a fine spray
made itself felt through my thin sleeping shirt.

Yet nowhere did I discover the slightest evidences of anything to cause
alarm. This deep, prolonged disturbance in my heart remained wholly
unaccounted for.

My companion had not stirred when I called him, and there was no need to
waken him now. I looked about me carefully, noting everything: the
turned-over canoe; the yellow paddles--two of them, I'm certain; the
provision sack and the extra lantern hanging together from the tree;
and, crowding everywhere about me, enveloping all, the willows, those
endless, shaking willows. A bird uttered its morning cry, and a string
of duck passed with whirring flight overhead in the twilight. The sand
whirled, dry and stinging, about my bare feet in the wind.

I walked round the tent and then went out a little way into the bush, so
that I could see across the river to the farther landscape, and the same
profound yet indefinable emotion of distress seized upon me again as I
saw the interminable sea of bushes stretching to the horizon, looking
ghostly and unreal in the wan light of dawn. I walked softly here and
there, still puzzling over that odd sound of infinite pattering, and of
that pressure upon the tent that had wakened me. It _must_ have been the
wind, I reflected--the wind beating upon the loose, hot sand, driving
the dry particles smartly against the taut canvas--the wind dropping
heavily upon our fragile roof.

Yet all the time my nervousness and malaise increased appreciably.

I crossed over to the farther shore and noted how the coast line had
altered in the night, and what masses of sand the river had torn away. I
dipped my hands and feet into the cool current, and bathed my forehead.
Already there was a glow of sunrise in the sky and the exquisite
freshness of coming day. On my way back I passed purposely beneath the
very bushes where I had seen the column of figures rising into the air,
and midway among the clumps I suddenly found myself overtaken by a sense
of vast terror. From the shadows a large figure went swiftly by. Some
one passed me, as sure as ever man did....

It was a great staggering blow from the wind that helped me forward
again, and once out in the more open space, the sense of terror
diminished strangely. The winds were about and walking, I remember
saying to myself; for the winds often move like great presences under
the trees. And altogether the fear that hovered about me was such an
unknown and immense kind of fear, so unlike anything I had ever felt
before, that it woke a sense of awe and wonder in me that did much to
counteract its worst effects; and when I reached a high point in the
middle of the island from which I could see the wide stretch of river,
crimson in the sunrise, the whole magical beauty of it all was so
overpowering that a sort of wild yearning woke in me and almost brought
a cry up into the throat.

But this cry found no expression, for as my eyes wandered from the plain
beyond to the island round me and noted our little tent half hidden
among the willows, a dreadful discovery leaped out at me, compared to
which my terror of the walking winds seemed as nothing at all.

For a change, I thought, had somehow come about in the arrangement of
the landscape. It was not that my point of vantage gave me a different
view, but that an alteration had apparently been effected in the
relation of the tent to the willows, and of the willows to the tent.
Surely the bushes now crowded much closer--unnecessarily, unpleasantly
close. _They had moved nearer_.

Creeping with silent feet over the shifting sands, drawing imperceptibly
nearer by soft, unhurried movements, the willows had come closer during
the night. But had the wind moved them, or had they moved of themselves?
I recalled the sound of infinite small patterings and the pressure upon
the tent and upon my own heart that caused me to wake in terror. I
swayed for a moment in the wind like a tree, finding it hard to keep my
upright position on the sandy hillock. There was a suggestion here of
personal agency, of deliberate intention, of aggressive hostility, and
it terrified me into a sort of rigidity.

Then the reaction followed quickly. The idea was so bizarre, so absurd,
that I felt inclined to laugh. But the laughter came no more readily
than the cry, for the knowledge that my mind was so receptive to such
dangerous imaginings brought the additional terror that it was through
our minds and not through our physical bodies that the attack would
come, and was coming.

The wind buffeted me about, and, very quickly it seemed, the sun came up
over the horizon, for it was after four o'clock, and I must have stood
on that little pinnacle of sand longer than I knew, afraid to come down
at close quarters with the willows. I returned quietly, creepily, to the
tent, first taking another exhaustive look round and--yes, I confess
it--making a few measurements. I paced out on the warm sand the
distances between the willows and the tent, making a note of the
shortest distance particularly.

I crawled stealthily into my blankets. My companion, to all appearances,
still slept soundly, and I was glad that this was so. Provided my
experiences were not corroborated, I could find strength somehow to deny
them, perhaps. With the daylight I could persuade myself that it was all
a subjective hallucination, a fantasy of the night, a projection of the
excited imagination.

Nothing further came to disturb me, and I fell asleep almost at once,
utterly exhausted, yet still in dread of hearing again that weird sound
of multitudinous pattering, or of feeling the pressure upon my heart
that had made it difficult to breathe.


IV

The sun was high in the heavens when my companion woke me from a heavy
sleep and announced that the porridge was cooked and there was just
time to bathe. The grateful smell of frizzling bacon entered the tent
door.

"River still rising," he said, "and several islands out in midstream
have disappeared altogether. Our own island's much smaller."

"Any wood left?" I asked sleepily.

"The wood and the island will finish to-morrow in a dead heat," he
laughed, "but there's enough to last us till then."

I plunged in from the point of the island, which had indeed altered a
lot in size and shape during the night, and was swept down in a moment
to the landing place opposite the tent. The water was icy, and the banks
flew by like the country from an express train. Bathing under such
conditions was an exhilarating operation, and the terror of the night
seemed cleansed out of me by a process of evaporation in the brain. The
sun was blazing hot; not a cloud showed itself anywhere; the wind,
however, had not abated one little jot.

Quite suddenly then the implied meaning of the Swede's words flashed
across me, showing that he no longer wished to leave posthaste, and had
changed his mind. "Enough to last till to-morrow"--he assumed we should
stay on the island another night. It struck me as odd. The night before
he was so positive the other way. How had the change come about?

Great crumblings of the banks occurred at breakfast, with heavy
splashings and clouds of spray which the wind brought into our
frying-pan, and my fellow-traveler talked incessantly about the
difficulty the Vienna-Pesth steamers must have to find the channel in
flood. But the state of his mind interested and impressed me far more
than the state of the river or the difficulties of the steamers. He had
changed somehow since the evening before. His manner was different--a
trifle excited, a trifle shy, with a sort of suspicion about his voice
and gestures. I hardly know how to describe it now in cold blood, but at
the time I remember being quite certain of one thing, viz., that he had
become frightened!

He ate very little breakfast, and for once omitted to smoke his pipe. He
had the map spread open beside him, and kept studying its markings.

"We'd better get off sharp in an hour," I said presently, feeling for an
opening that must bring him indirectly to a partial confession at any
rate. And his answer puzzled me uncomfortably: "Rather! If they'll let
us."

"Who'll let us? The elements?" I asked quickly, with affected
indifference.

"The powers of this awful place, whoever they are," he replied, keeping
his eyes on the map. "The gods are here, if they are anywhere at all in
the world."

"The elements are always the true immortals," I replied, laughing as
naturally as I could manage, yet knowing quite well that my face
reflected my true feelings when he looked up gravely at me and spoke
across the smoke:

"We shall be fortunate if we get away without further disaster."

This was exactly what I had dreaded, and I screwed myself up to the
point of the direct question. It was like agreeing to allow the dentist
to extract the tooth; it _had_ to come anyhow in the long run, and the
rest was all pretense.

"Further disaster! Why, what's happened?"

"For one thing--the steering paddle's gone," he said quietly.

"The steering paddle gone!" I repeated, greatly excited, for this was
our rudder, and the Danube in flood without a rudder was suicide. "But
what----"

"And there's a tear in the bottom of the canoe," he added, with a
genuine little tremor in his voice.

I continued staring at him, able only to repeat the words in his face
somewhat foolishly. There, in the heat of the sun, and on this burning
sand, I was aware of a freezing atmosphere descending round us. I got up
to follow him, for he merely nodded his head gravely and led the way
towards the tent a few yards on the other side of the fireplace. The
canoe still lay there as I had last seen her in the night, ribs
uppermost, the paddles, or rather, _the_ paddle, on the sand beside her.

"There's only one," he said, stooping to pick it up. "And here's the
rent in the base-board."

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that I had clearly noticed
_two_ paddles a few hours before, but a second impulse made me think
better of it, and I said nothing. I approached to see.

There was a long, finely made tear in the bottom of the canoe where a
little slither of wood had been neatly taken clean out; it looked as if
the tooth of a sharp rock or snag had eaten down her length, and
investigation showed that the hole went through. Had we launched out in
her without observing it we must inevitably have foundered. At first the
water would have made the wood swell so as to close the hole, but once
out in midstream the water must have poured in, and the canoe, never
more than two inches above the surface, would have filled and sunk very
rapidly.

"There, you see, an attempt to prepare a victim for the sacrifice," I
heard him saying, more to himself than to me, "two victims rather," he
added as he bent over and ran his fingers along the slit.

I began to whistle--a thing I always do unconsciously when utterly
nonplused--and purposely paid no attention to his words. I was
determined to consider them foolish.

"It wasn't there last night," he said presently, straightening up from
his examination and looking anywhere but at me.

"We must have scratched her in landing, of course," I stopped whistling
to say, "The stones are very sharp----"

I stopped abruptly, for at that moment he turned round and met my eye
squarely. I knew just as well as he did how impossible my explanation
was. There were no stones, to begin with.

"And then there's this to explain too," he added quietly, handing me the
paddle and pointing to the blade.

A new and curious emotion spread freezingly over me as I took and
examined it. The blade was scraped down all over, beautifully scraped,
as though someone had sand-papered it with care, making it so thin that
the first vigorous stroke must have snapped it off at the elbow.

"One of us walked in his sleep and did this thing," I said feebly,
"or--or it has been filed by the constant stream of sand particles blown
against it by the wind, perhaps."

"Ah," said the Swede, turning away, laughing a little, "you can explain
everything!"

"The same wind that caught the steering paddle and flung it so near the
bank that it fell in with the next lump that crumbled," I called out
after him, absolutely determined to find an explanation for everything
he showed me.

"I see," he shouted back, turning his head to look at me before
disappearing among the willow bushes.

Once alone with these perplexing evidences of personal agency, I think
my first thought took the form of "One of us must have done this thing,
and it certainly was not I." But my second thought decided how
impossible it was to suppose, under all the circumstances, that either
of us had done it. That my companion, the trusted friend of a dozen
similar expeditions, could have knowingly had a hand in it, was a
suggestion not to be entertained for a moment. Equally absurd seemed the
explanation that this imperturbable and densely practical nature had
suddenly become insane and was busied with insane purposes.

Yet the fact remained that what disturbed me most, and kept my fear
actively alive even in this blaze of sunshine and wild beauty, was the
clear certainty that some curious alteration had come about in his
_mind_--that he was nervous, timid, suspicious, aware of goings on he
did not speak about, watching a series of secret and hitherto
unmentionable events--waiting, in a word, for a climax that he expected,
and, I thought, expected very soon. This grew up in my mind
intuitively--I hardly knew how.

I made a hurried examination of the tent and its surroundings, but the
measurements of the night remained the same. There were deep hollows
formed in the sand, I now noticed for the first time, basin-shaped and
of various depths and sizes, varying from that of a teacup to a large
bowl. The wind, no doubt, was responsible for these miniature craters,
just as it was for lifting the paddle and tossing it towards the water.
The rent in the canoe was the only thing that seemed quite inexplicable;
and, after all, it _was_ conceivable that a sharp point had caught it
when we landed. The examination I made of the shore did not assist this
theory, but all the same I clung to it with that diminishing portion of
my intelligence which I called my "reason." An explanation of some kind
was an absolute necessity, just as some working explanation of the
universe is necessary--however absurd--to the happiness of every
individual who seeks to do his duty in the world and face the problems
of life. The simile seemed to me at the time an exact parallel.

I at once set the pitch melting, and presently the Swede joined me at
the work, though under the best conditions in the world the canoe could
not be safe for traveling till the following day. I drew his attention
casually to the hollows in the sand.

"Yes," he said, "I know. They're all over the island. But _you_ can
explain them, no doubt!"

"Wind, of course," I answered without hesitation. "Have you never
watched those little whirlwinds in the street that twist and twirl
everything into a circle? This sand's loose enough to yield, that's
all."

He made no reply, and we worked on in silence for a bit. I watched him
surreptitiously all the time, and I had an idea he was watching me. He
seemed, too, to be always listening attentively to something I could not
hear, or perhaps for something that he expected to hear, for he kept
turning about and staring into the bushes, and up into the sky, and out
across the water where it was visible through the openings among the
willows. Sometimes he even put his hand to his ear and held it there for
several minutes. He said nothing to me, however, about it, and I asked
no questions. And meanwhile, as he mended that torn canoe with the skill
and address of a red Indian, I was glad to notice his absorption in the
work, for there was a vague dread in my heart that he would speak of the
changed aspect of the willows. And, if he had noticed _that_, my
imagination could no longer be held a sufficient explanation of it.

At length, after a long pause, he began to talk.

"Queer thing," he added in a hurried sort of voice, as though he wanted
to say something and get it over. "Queer thing, I mean, about that otter
last night."

I had expected something so totally different that he caught me with
surprise, and I looked up sharply.

"Shows how lonely this place is. Otters are awfully shy things--"

"I don't mean that, of course," he interrupted. "I mean--do you
think--did you think it really was an otter?"

"What else, in the name of Heaven, what else?"

"You know, I saw it before you did, and at first it seemed--so _much_
bigger than an otter."

"The sunset as you looked upstream magnified it, or something," I
replied.

He looked at me absently a moment, as though his mind were busy with
other thoughts.

"It had such extraordinary yellow eyes," he went on half to himself.

"That was the sun too," I laughed, a trifle boisterously. "I suppose
you'll wonder next if that fellow in the boat----"

I suddenly decided not to finish the sentence. He was in the act again
of listening, turning his head to the wind, and something in the
expression of his face made me halt. The subject dropped, and we went on
with our caulking. Apparently he had not noticed my unfinished sentence.
Five minutes later, however, he looked at me across the canoe, the
smoking pitch in his hand, his face exceedingly grave.

"I _did_ rather wonder, if you want to know," he said slowly, "what that
thing in the boat was. I remember thinking at the time it was not a man.
The whole business seemed to rise quite suddenly out of the water."

I laughed again boisterously in his face, but this time there was
impatience and a strain of anger too, in my feeling.

"Look here now," I cried, "this place is quite queer enough without
going out of our way to imagine things! That boat was an ordinary boat,
and the man in it was an ordinary man, and they were both going
downstream as fast as they could lick. And that otter _was_ an otter, so
don't let's play the fool about it!"

He looked steadily at me with the same grave expression. He was not in
the least annoyed. I took courage from his silence.

"And for heaven's sake," I went on, "don't keep pretending you hear
things, because it only gives me the jumps, and there's nothing to hear
but the river and this cursed old thundering wind."

"You _fool_!" he answered in a low, shocked voice, "you utter fool.
That's just the way all victims talk. As if you didn't understand just
as well as I do!" he sneered with scorn in his voice, and a sort of
resignation. "The best thing you can do is to keep quiet and try to hold
your mind as firm as possible. This feeble attempt at self-deception
only makes the truth harder when you're forced to meet it."

My little effort was over, and I found nothing more to say, for I knew
quite well his words were true, and that I was the fool, not _he_. Up to
a certain stage in the adventure he kept ahead of me easily, and I think
I felt annoyed to be out of it, to be thus proved less psychic, less
sensitive than himself to these extraordinary happenings, and half
ignorant all the time of what was going on under my very nose. _He knew_
from the very beginning, apparently. But at the moment I wholly missed
the point of his words about the necessity of there being a victim, and
that we ourselves were destined to satisfy the want. I dropped all
pretense thenceforward, but thenceforward likewise my fear increased
steadily to the climax.

"But you're quite right about one thing," he added, before the subject
passed, "and that is that we're wiser not to talk about it, or even to
think about it, because what one _thinks_ finds expression in words, and
what one _says_, happens."

That afternoon, while the canoe dried and hardened, we spent trying to
fish, testing the leak, collecting wood, and watching the enormous flood
of rising water. Masses of driftwood swept near our shores sometimes,
and we fished for them with long willow branches. The island grew
perceptibly smaller as the banks were torn away with great gulps and
splashes. The weather kept brilliantly fine till about four o'clock, and
then for the first time for three days the wind showed signs of abating.
Clouds began to gather in the southwest, spreading thence slowly over
the sky.

This lessening of the wind came as a great relief, for the incessant
roaring, banging, and thundering had irritated our nerves. Yet the
silence that came about five o'clock with its sudden cessation was in a
manner quite as oppressive. The booming of the river had everything its
own way then: it filled the air with deep murmurs, more musical than the
wind noises, but infinitely more monotonous. The wind held many notes,
rising, falling, always beating out some sort of great elemental tune;
whereas the river's song lay between three notes at most--dull pedal
notes, that held a lugubrious quality foreign to the wind, and somehow
seemed to me, in my then nervous state, to sound wonderfully well the
music of doom.

It was extraordinary, too, how the withdrawal suddenly of bright
sunlight took everything out of the landscape that made for
cheerfulness; and since this particular landscape had already managed to
convey the suggestion of something sinister, the change of course was
all the more unwelcome and noticeable. For me, I know, the darkening
outlook became distinctly more alarming, and I found myself more than
once calculating how soon after sunset the full moon would get up in the
east, and whether the gathering clouds would greatly interfere with her
lighting of the little island.

With this general hush of the wind--though it still indulged in
occasional brief gusts--the river seemed to me to grow blacker, the
willows to stand more densely together. The latter, too, kept up a sort
of independent movement of their own, rustling among themselves when no
wind stirred, and shaking oddly from the roots upwards. When common
objects in this way become charged with the suggestion of horror, they
stimulate the imagination far more than things of unusual appearance;
and these bushes, crowding huddled about us, assumed for me in the
darkness a bizarre _grotesquerie_ of appearance that lent to them
somehow the aspect of purposeful and living creatures. Their very
ordinariness, I felt, masked what was malignant and hostile to us. The
forces of the region drew nearer with the coming of night. They were
focusing upon our island, and more particularly upon ourselves. For
thus, somehow, in the terms of the imagination, did my really
indescribable sensations in this extraordinary place present themselves.

I had slept a good deal in the early afternoon, and had thus recovered
somewhat from the exhaustion of a disturbed night, but this only served
apparently to render me more susceptible than before to the obsessing
spell of the haunting. I fought against it, laughing at my feelings as
absurd and childish, with very obvious physiological explanations, yet,
in spite of every effort, they gained in strength upon me so that I
dreaded the night as a child lost in a forest must dread the approach of
darkness.

The canoe we had carefully covered with a waterproof sheet during the
day, and the one remaining paddle had been securely tied by the Swede to
the base of a tree, lest the wind should rob us of that too. From five
o'clock onwards I busied myself with the stew-pot and preparations for
dinner, it being my turn to cook that night. We had potatoes, onions,
bits of bacon fat to add flavour, and a general thick residue from
former stews at the bottom of the pot; with black bread broken up into
it the result was most excellent, and it was followed by a stew of plums
with sugar and a brew of strong tea with dried milk. A good pile of wood
lay close at hand, and the absence of wind made my duties easy. My
companion sat lazily watching me, dividing his attentions between
cleaning his pipe and giving useless advice--an admitted privilege of
the off-duty man. He had been very quiet all the afternoon, engaged in
re-caulking the canoe, strengthening the tent ropes, and fishing for
driftwood while I slept. No more talk about undesirable things had
passed between us, and I think his only remarks had to do with the
gradual destruction of the island, which he declared was now fully a
third smaller than when we first landed.

The pot had just begun to bubble when I heard his voice calling to me
from the bank, where he had wandered away without my noticing. I ran up.

"Come and listen," he said, "and see what you make of it." He held his
hand cupwise to his ear, as so often before.

"_Now_ do you hear anything?" he asked, watching me curiously.

We stood there, listening attentively together. At first I heard only
the deep note of the water and the hissings rising from its turbulent
surface. The willows, for once, were motionless and silent. Then a sound
began to reach my ears faintly, a peculiar sound--something like the
humming of a distant gong. It seemed to come across to us in the
darkness from the waste of swamps and willows opposite. It was repeated
at regular intervals, but it was certainly neither the sound of a bell
nor the hooting of a distant steamer. I can liken it to nothing so much
as to the sound of an immense gong, suspended far up in the sky,
repeating incessantly its muffled metallic note, soft and musical, as
it was repeatedly struck. My heart quickened as I listened.

"I've heard it all day," said my companion. "While you slept this
afternoon it came all round the island. I hunted it down, but could
never get near enough to see--to localize it correctly. Sometimes it was
overhead, and sometimes it seemed under the water. Once or twice, too, I
could have sworn it was not outside at all, but _within myself_--you
know--the way a sound in the fourth dimension is supposed to come."

I was too much puzzled to pay much attention to his words. I listened
carefully, striving to associate it with any known familiar sound I
could think of, but without success. It changed in direction, too,
coming nearer, and then sinking utterly away into remote distance. I
cannot say that it was ominous in quality, because to me it seemed
distinctly musical, yet I must admit it set going a distressing feeling
that made me wish I had never heard it.

"The wind blowing in those sand-funnels," I said, determined to find an
explanation, "or the bushes rubbing together after the storm perhaps."

"It comes off the whole swamp," my friend answered. "It comes from
everywhere at once." He ignored my explanations. "It comes from the
willow bushes somehow----"

"But now the wind has dropped," I objected "The willows can hardly make
a noise by themselves, can they?"

His answer frightened me, first because I had dreaded it, and secondly,
because I knew intuitively it was true.

"It is _because_ the wind has dropped we now hear it. It was drowned
before. It is the cry, I believe of the----"

I dashed back to my fire, warned by a sound of bubbling that the stew
was in danger, but determined at the same time to escape from further
conversation. I was resolute, if possible, to avoid the exchanging of
views. I dreaded, too, that he would begin again about the gods, or the
elemental forces, or something else disquieting, and I wanted to keep
myself well in hand for what might happen later. There was another night
to be faced before we escaped from this distressing place, and there was
no knowing yet what it might bring forth.

"Come and cut up bread for the pot," I called to him, vigorously
stirring the appetizing mixture. That stew-pot held sanity for us both,
and the thought made me laugh.

He came over slowly and took the provision sack from the tree, fumbling
in its mysterious depths, and then emptying the entire contents upon the
ground-sheet at his feet.

"Hurry up!" I cried; "it's boiling."

The Swede burst out into a roar of laughter that startled me. It was
forced laughter, not artificial exactly, but mirthless.

"There's nothing here!" he shouted, holding his sides.

"Bread, I mean."

"It's gone. There is no bread. They've taken it!"

I dropped the long spoon and ran up. Everything the sack had contained
lay upon the ground-sheet, but there was no loaf.

The whole dead weight of my growing fear fell upon me and shook me. Then
I burst out laughing too. It was the only thing to do: and the sound of
my own laughter also made me understand his. The strain of psychical
pressure caused it--this explosion of unnatural laughter in both of us;
it was an effort of repressed forces to seek relief; it was a temporary
safety valve. And with both of us it ceased quite suddenly.

"How criminally stupid of me!" I cried, still determined to be
consistent and find an explanation. "I clean forgot to buy a loaf at
Pressburg. That chattering woman put everything out of my head, and I
must have left it lying on the counter or----"

"The oatmeal, too, is much less than it was this morning," the Swede
interrupted.

Why in the world need he draw attention to it? I thought angrily.

"There's enough for to-morrow," I said, stirring vigorously, "and we can
get lots more at Komorn or Gran. In twenty-four hours we shall be miles
from here."

"I hope so--to God," he muttered, putting the things back into the sack,
"unless we're claimed first as victims for the sacrifice," he added
with a foolish laugh. He dragged the sack into the tent, for safety's
sake, I suppose, and I heard him mumbling on to himself, but so
indistinctly that it seemed quite natural for me to ignore his words.

Our meal was beyond question a gloomy one, and we ate it almost in
silence, avoiding one another's eyes, and keeping the fire bright. Then
we washed up and prepared for the night, and, once smoking, our minds
unoccupied with any definite duties, the apprehension I had felt all day
long became more and more acute. It was not then active fear, I think,
but the very vagueness of its origin distressed me far more than if I
had been able to ticket and face it squarely. The curious sound I have
likened to the note of a gong became now almost incessant, and filled
the stillness of the night with a faint, continuous ringing rather than
a series of distinct notes. At one time it was behind and at another
time in front of us. Sometimes I fancied it came from the bushes on our
left, and then again from the clumps on our right. More often it hovered
directly overhead like the whirring of wings. It was really everywhere
at once, behind, in front, at our sides and over our heads, completely
surrounding us. The sound really defies description. But nothing within
my knowledge is like that ceaseless muffled humming rising off the
deserted world of swamps and willows.

We sat smoking in comparative silence, the strain growing every minute
greater. The worst feature of the situation seemed to me that we did not
know what to expect, and could therefore make no sort of preparation by
way of defense. We could anticipate nothing. My explanations made in the
sunshine, moreover, now came to haunt me with their foolish and wholly
unsatisfactory nature, and it was more and more clear to me that some
kind of plain talk with my companion was inevitable, whether I liked it
or not. After all, we had to spend the night together, and to sleep in
the same tent side by side. I saw that I could not get along much longer
without the support of his mind, and for that, of course, plain talk was
imperative. As long as possible, however, I postponed this little
climax, and tried to ignore or laugh at the occasional sentences he
flung into the emptiness.

Some of these sentences, moreover, were confoundedly disquieting to me,
coming as they did to corroborate much that I felt myself:
corroboration, too--which made it so much more convincing--from a
totally different point of view. He composed such curious sentences, and
hurled them at me in such an inconsequential sort of way, as though his
main line of thought was secret to himself, and these fragments were the
bits he found it impossible to digest. He got rid of them by uttering
them. Speech relieved him. It was like being sick.

"There are things about us, I'm sure, that make for disorder,
disintegration, destruction, _our_ destruction," he said once, while the
fire blazed between us. "We've strayed out of a safe line somewhere."

And another time, when the gong sounds had come nearer, ringing much
louder than before, and directly over our heads, he said, as though
talking to himself:

"I don't think a phonograph would show any record of that. The sound
doesn't come to me by the ears at all. The vibrations reach me in
another manner altogether, and seem to be within me, which is precisely
how a fourth dimension sound might be supposed to make itself heard."

I purposely made no reply to this, but I sat up a little closer to the
fire and peered about me into the darkness. The clouds were massed all
over the sky and no trace of moonlight came through. Very still, too,
everything was, so that the river and the frogs had things all their own
way.

"It has that about it," he went on, "which is utterly out of common
experience. It is _unknown_. Only one thing describes it really: it is a
non-human sound; I mean a sound outside humanity."

Having rid himself of this indigestible morsel, he lay quiet for a time;
but he had so admirably expressed my own feeling that it was a relief to
have the thought out, and to have confined it by the limitation of words
from dangerous wandering to and fro in the mind.

The solitude of that Danube camping-place, can I ever forget it? The
feeling of being utterly alone on an empty planet! My thoughts ran
incessantly upon cities and the haunts of men. I would have given my
soul, as the saying is, for the "feel" of those Bavarian villages we had
passed through by the score; for the normal, human commonplaces,
peasants drinking beer, tables beneath the trees, hot sunshine, and a
ruined castle on the rocks behind the red-roofed church. Even the
tourists would have been welcome.

Yet what I felt of dread was no ordinary ghostly fear. It was infinitely
greater, stranger, and seemed to arise from some dim ancestral sense of
terror more profoundly disturbing than anything I had known or dreamed
of. We had "strayed," as the Swede put it, into some region or some set
of conditions where the risks were great, yet unintelligible to us;
where the frontiers of some unknown world lay close about us. It was a
spot held by the dwellers in some outer space, a sort of peephole whence
they could spy upon the earth, themselves unseen, a point where the veil
between had worn a little thin. As the final result of too long a
sojourn here, we should be carried over the border and deprived of what
we called "our lives," yet by mental, not physical, processes. In that
sense, as he said, we should be the victims of our adventure--a
sacrifice.

It took us in different fashion, each according to the measure of his
sensitiveness and powers of resistance. I translated it vaguely into a
personification of the mightily disturbed elements, investing them with
the horror of a deliberate and malefic purpose, resentful of our
audacious intrusion into their breeding-place; whereas my friend threw
it into the unoriginal form at first of a trespass on some ancient
shrine, some place where the old gods still held sway, where the
emotional forces of former worshipers still clung, and the ancestral
portion of him yielded to the old pagan spell.

At any rate, here was a place unpolluted by men, kept clean by the winds
from coarsening human influences, a place where spiritual agencies were
within reach and aggressive. Never, before or since, have I been so
attacked by indescribable suggestions of a "beyond region," of another
scheme of life, another evolution not parallel to the human. And in the
end our minds would succumb under the weight of the awful spell, and we
should be drawn across the frontier into _their_ world.

Small things testified to this amazing influence of the place, and now
in the silence round the fire they allowed themselves to be noted by the
mind. The very atmosphere had proved itself a magnifying medium to
distort every indication: the otter rolling in the current, the hurrying
boatman making signs, the shifting willows, one and all had been robbed
of its natural character, and revealed in something of its other
aspect--as it existed across the border in that other region. And this
changed aspect I felt was new not merely to me, but to the race. The
whole experience whose verge we touched was unknown to humanity at all.
It was a new order of experience, and in the true sense of the word
_unearthly_.

"It's the deliberate, calculating purpose that; reduces one's courage to
zero," the Swede said suddenly, as if he had been actually following my
thoughts. "Otherwise imagination might count for much. But the paddle,
the canoe, the lessening food----"

"Haven't I explained all that once?" I interrupted viciously.

"You have," he answered dryly; "you have indeed."

He made other remarks too, as usual, about what he called the "plain
determination to provide a victim"; but, having now arranged my thoughts
better, I recognized that this was simply the cry of his frightened soul
against the knowledge that he was being attacked in a vital part, and
that he would be somehow taken or destroyed. The situation called for a
courage and calmness of reasoning that neither of us could compass, and
I have never before been so clearly conscious of two persons in me--the
one that explained everything, and the other that laughed at such
foolish explanations, yet was horribly afraid.

Meanwhile, in the pitchy night the fire died down and the woodpile grew
small. Neither of us moved to replenish the stock, and the darkness
consequently came up very close to our faces. A few feet beyond the
circle of firelight it was inky black. Occasionally a stray puff of wind
set the billows shivering about us, but apart from this not very welcome
sound a deep and depressing silence reigned, broken only by the gurgling
of the river and the humming in the air overhead.

We both missed, I think, the shouting company of the winds.

At length, at a moment when a stray puff prolonged itself as though the
wind were about to rise again, I reached the point for me of saturation,
the point where it was absolutely necessary to find relief in plain
speech, or else to betray myself by some hysterical extravagance that
must have been far worse in its effect upon both of us. I kicked the
fire into a blaze, and turned to my companion abruptly. He looked up
with a start.

"I can't disguise it any longer," I said; "I don't like this place, and
the darkness, and the noises, and the awful feelings I get. There's
something here that beats me utterly. I'm in a blue funk, and that's the
plain truth. If the other shore was--different, I swear I'd be inclined
to swim for it!"

The Swede's face turned very white beneath the deep tan of sun and wind.
He stared straight at me and answered quietly, but his voice betrayed
his huge excitement by its unnatural calmness. For the moment, at any
rate, he was the strong man of the two. He was more phlegmatic, for one
thing.

"It's not a physical condition we can escape from by running away," he
replied, in the tone of a doctor diagnosing some grave disease; "we must
sit tight and wait. There are forces close here that could kill a herd
of elephants in a second as easily as you or I could squash a fly. Our
only chance is to keep perfectly still. Our insignificance perhaps may
save us."

I put a dozen questions into my expression of face, but found no words.
It was precisely like listening to an accurate description of a disease
whose symptoms had puzzled me.

"I mean that so far, although aware of our disturbing presence, they
have not _found_ us--not 'located' us, as the Americans say," he went
on. "They're blundering about like men hunting for a leak of gas. The
paddle and canoe and provisions prove that. I think they _feel_ us, but
cannot actually see us. We must keep our minds quiet--it's our minds
they feel. We must control our thoughts, or it's all up with us."

"Death you mean?" I stammered, icy with the horror of his suggestion.

"Worse--by far," he said. "Death, according to one's belief, means
either annihilation or release from the limitations of the senses, but
it involves no change of character. _You_ don't suddenly alter just
because the body's gone. But this means a radical alteration, a complete
change, a horrible loss of oneself by substitution--far worse than
death, and not even annihilation. We happen to have camped in a spot
where their region touches ours where the veil between has worn
thin"--horrors! he was using my very own phrase, my actual words--"so
that they are aware of our being in their neighborhood."

"But _who_ are aware?" I asked.

I forgot the shaking of the willows in the windless calm, the humming
overhead, everything except that I was waiting for an answer that I
dreaded more than I can possibly explain.

He lowered his voice at once to reply, leaning forward a little over the
fire, an indefinable change in his face that made me avoid his eyes and
look down upon the ground.

"All my life," he said, "I have been strangely, vividly conscious of
another region--not far removed from our own world in one sense, yet
wholly different in kind--where great things go on unceasingly, where
immense and terrible personalities hurry by, intent on vast purposes
compared to which earthly affairs, the rise and fall of nations, the
destinies of empires, the fate of armies and continents, are all as dust
in the balance; vast purposes, I mean, that deal directly with the soul,
and not indirectly with mere expressions of the soul--"

"I suggest just now--" I began, seeking to stop him, feeling as though I
was face to face with a madman. But he instantly overbore me with his
torrent that _had_ to come.

"You think," he said, "it is the spirits of the elements, and I thought
perhaps it was the old gods. But I tell you now it is--_neither_. These
would be comprehensible entities, for they have relations with men,
depending upon them for worship or sacrifice, whereas these beings who
are now about us have absolutely nothing to do with mankind, and it is
mere chance that their space happens just at this spot to touch our
own."

The mere conception, which his words somehow made so convincing, as I
listened to them there in the dark stillness of that lonely island, set
me shaking a little all over. I found it impossible to control my
movements.

"And what do you propose?" I began again.

"A sacrifice, a victim, might save us by distracting them until we could
get away," he went on, "just as the wolves stop to devour the dogs and
give the sleigh another start. But--I see no chance of any other victim
now."

I stared blankly at him. The gleam in his eyes was dreadful. Presently
he continued.

"It's the willows, of course. The willows _mask_ the others, but the
others are feeling about for us. If we let our minds betray our fear,
we're lost, lost utterly." He looked at me with an expression so calm,
so determined, so sincere, that I no longer had any doubts as to his
sanity. He was as sane as any man ever was. "If we can hold out through
the night," he added, "we may get off in the daylight unnoticed, or
rather, _undiscovered_."

"But you really think a sacrifice would----"

That gong-like humming came down very close over our heads as I spoke,
but it was my friend's scared face that really stopped my mouth.

"Hush!" he whispered, holding up his hand. "Do not mention them more
than you can help. Do not refer to them _by name_. To name is to reveal:
it is the inevitable clue, and our only hope lies in ignoring them, in
order that they may ignore us."

"Even in thought?" He was extraordinarily agitated.

"Especially in thought. Our thoughts make spirals in their world. We
must keep them _out of our minds_ at all costs if possible."

I raked the fire together to prevent the darkness having everything its
own way. I never longed for the sun as I longed for it then in the awful
blackness of that summer night.

"Were you awake all last night?" he went on suddenly.

"I slept badly a little after dawn," I replied evasively, trying to
follow his instructions, which I knew instinctively were true, "but the
wind, of course--"

"I know. But the wind won't account for all the noises."

"Then you heard it too?"

"The multiplying countless little footsteps I heard," he said, adding,
after a moment's hesitation, "and that other sound--"

"You mean above the tent, and the pressing down upon us of something
tremendous, gigantic?"

He nodded significantly.

"It was like the beginning of a sort of inner suffocation?" I said.

"Partly, yes. It seemed to me that the weight of the atmosphere had been
altered--had increased enormously, so that we should be crushed."

"And _that_," I went on, determined to have it all out, pointing upwards
where the gong-like note hummed ceaselessly, rising and falling like
wind. "What do you make of that?"

"It's _their_ sound," he whispered gravely. "It's the sound of their
world, the humming in their region. The division here is so thin that it
leaks through somehow. But, if you listen carefully, you'll find it's
not above so much as around us. It's in the willows. It's the willows
themselves humming, because here the willows have been made symbols of
the forces that are against us."

I could not follow exactly what he meant by this, yet the thought and
idea in my mind were beyond question the thought and idea in his. I
realized what he realized, only with less power of analysis than his. It
was on the tip of my tongue to tell him at last about my hallucination
of the ascending figures and the moving bushes, when he suddenly thrust
his face again close into mine across the firelight and began to speak
in a very earnest whisper. He amazed me by his calmness and pluck, his
apparent control of the situation. This man I had for years deemed
unimaginative, stolid!

"Now listen," he said. "The only thing for us to do is to go on as
though nothing had happened, follow our usual habits, go to bed, and so
forth; pretend we feel nothing and notice nothing. It is a question
wholly of the mind, and the less we think about them the better our
chance of escape. Above all, don't _think_, for what you think happens!"

"All right," I managed to reply, simply breathless with his words and
the strangeness of it all; "all right, I'll try, but tell me one thing
more first. Tell me what you make of those hollows in the ground all
about us, those sand-funnels?"

"No!" he cried, forgetting to whisper in his excitement. "I dare not,
simply dare not, put the thought into words. If you have not guessed I
am glad. Don't try to. _They_ have put it into my mind; try your hardest
to prevent their putting it into yours."

He sank his voice again to a whisper before he finished, and I did not
press him to explain. There was already just about as much horror in me
as I could hold. The conversation came to an end, and we smoked our
pipes busily in silence.

Then something happened, something unimportant apparently, as the way is
when the nerves are in a very great state of tension, and this small
thing for a brief space gave me an entirely different point of view. I
chanced to look down at my sand-shoe--the sort we used for the
canoe--and something to do with the hole at the toe suddenly recalled
to me the London shop where I had bought them, the difficulty the man
had in fitting me, and other details of the uninteresting but practical
operation. At once, in its train, followed a wholesome view of the
modern skeptical world I was accustomed to move in at home. I thought of
roast beef and ale, motor-cars, policemen, brass bands, and a dozen
other things that proclaimed the soul of ordinariness or utility. The
effect was immediate and astonishing even to myself. Psychologically, I
suppose, it was simply a sudden and violent reaction after the strain of
living in an atmosphere of things that to the normal consciousness must
seem impossible and incredible. But, whatever the cause, it momentarily
lifted the spell from my heart, and left me for the short space of a
minute feeling free and utterly unafraid. I looked up at my friend
opposite.

"You damned old pagan!" I cried, laughing aloud in his face. "You
imaginative idiot! You superstitious idolator! You----"

I stopped in the middle, seized anew by the old horror. I tried to
smother the sound of my voice as something sacrilegious. The Swede, of
course, heard it too--that strange cry overhead in the darkness--and
that sudden drop in the air as though something had come nearer.

He had turned ashen white under the tan. He stood bolt upright in front
of the fire, stiff as a rod, staring at me.

"After that," he said in a sort of helpless, frantic way, "we must go!
We can't stay now; we must strike camp this very instant and go on--down
the river."

He was talking, I saw, quite wildly, his words dictated by abject
terror--the terror he had resisted so long, but which had caught him at
last.

"In the dark?" I exclaimed, shaking with fear after my hysterical
outburst, but still realizing our position better than he did. "Sheer
madness! The river's in flood, and we've only got a single paddle.
Besides, we only go deeper into their country! There's nothing ahead for
fifty miles but willows, willows, willows!"

He sat down again in a state of semi-collapse. The positions, by one of
those kaleidoscopic changes nature loves, were suddenly reversed, and
the control of our forces passed over into my hands. His mind at last
had reached the point where it was beginning to weaken.

"What on earth possessed you to do such a thing?" he whispered, with the
awe of genuine terror in his voice and face.

I crossed round to his side of the fire. I took both his hands in mine,
kneeling down beside him and looking straight into his frightened eyes.

"We'll make one more blaze," I said firmly, "and then turn in for the
night. At sunrise we'll be off full speed for Komorn. Now, pull yourself
together a bit, and remember your own advice about _not thinking
fear_!"

He said no more, and I saw that he would agree and obey. In some
measure, too, it was a sort of relief to get up and make an excursion
into the darkness for more wood. We kept close together, almost
touching, groping among the bushes and along the bank. The humming
overhead never ceased, but seemed to me to grow louder as we increased
our distance from the fire. It was shivery work!

We were grubbing away in the middle of a thickish clump of willows where
some driftwood from a former flood had caught high among the branches,
when my body was seized in a grip that made me half drop upon the sand.
It was the Swede. He had fallen against me, and was clutching me for
support. I heard his breath coming and going in short gasps.

"Look! By my soul!" he whispered, and for the first time in my
experience I knew what it was to hear tears of terror in a human voice.
He was pointing to the fire, some fifty feet away. I followed the
direction of his finger, and I swear my heart missed a beat.

There, in front of the dim glow, _something was moving_.

I saw it through a veil that hung before my eyes like the gauze
drop-curtain used at the back of a theater--hazily a little. It was
neither a human figure nor an animal. To me it gave the strange
impression of being as large as several animals grouped together, like
horses, two or three, moving slowly. The Swede, too, got a similar
result, though expressing it differently, for he thought it was shaped
and sized like a clump of willow bushes, rounded at the top, and moving
all over upon its surface--"coiling upon itself like smoke," he said
afterwards.

"I watched it settle downwards through the bushes," he sobbed at me.
"Look, by God! It's coming this way! Oh, oh!"--he gave a kind of
whistling cry. "_They've found us_."

I gave one terrified glance, which just enabled me to see that the
shadowy form was swinging towards us through the bushes, and then I
collapsed backwards with a crash into the branches. These failed, of
course, to support my weight, so that with the Swede on the top of me we
fell in a struggling heap upon the sand. I really hardly knew what was
happening. I was conscious only of a sort of enveloping sensation of icy
fear that plucked the nerves out of their fleshly covering, twisted them
this way and that, and replaced them quivering. My eyes were tightly
shut; something in my throat choked me; a feeling that my consciousness
was expanding, extending out into space, swiftly gave way to another
feeling that I was losing it altogether, and about to die.

An acute spasm of pain passed through me, and I was aware that the Swede
had hold of me in such a way that he hurt me abominably. It was the way
he caught at me in falling.

But it was this pain, he declared afterwards, that saved me: it caused
me to _forget them_ and think of something else at the very instant when
they were about to find me. It concealed my mind from them at the moment
of discovery, yet just in time to evade their terrible seizing of me. He
himself, he says, actually swooned at the same moment, and that was what
saved him.

I only know that at a later time, how long or short is impossible to
say, I found myself scrambling up out of the slippery network of willow
branches, and saw my companion standing in front of me holding out a
hand to assist me. I stared at him in a dazed way, rubbing the arm he
had twisted for me. Nothing came to me to say, somehow.

"I lost consciousness for a moment or two," I heard him say. "That's
what saved me. It made me stop thinking about them."

"You nearly broke my arm in two," I said, uttering my only connected
thought at the moment. A numbness came over me.

"That's what saved _you_!" he replied. "Between us, we've managed to set
them off on a false tack somewhere. The humming has ceased. It's
gone--for the moment at any rate!"

A wave of hysterical laughter seized me again, and this time spread to
my friend too--great healing gusts of shaking laughter that brought a
tremendous sense of relief in their train. We made our way back to the
fire and put the wood on so that it blazed at once. Then we saw that the
tent had fallen over and lay in a tangled heap upon the ground.

We picked it up, and during the process tripped more than once and
caught our feet in sand.

"It's those sand-funnels," exclaimed the Swede, when the tent was up
again and the firelight lit up the ground for several yards about us.
"And look at the size of them!"

All round the tent and about the fireplace where we had seen the moving
shadows there were deep funnel-shaped hollows in the sand, exactly
similar to the ones we had already found over the island, only far
bigger and deeper, beautifully formed, and wide enough in some instances
to admit the whole of my foot and leg.

Neither of us said a word. We both knew that sleep was the safest thing
we could do, and to bed we went accordingly without further delay,
having first thrown sand on the fire and taken the provision sack and
the paddle inside the tent with us. The canoe, too, we propped in such a
way at the end of the tent that our feet touched it, and the least
motion would disturb and wake us.

In case of emergency, too, we again went to bed in our clothes, ready
for a sudden start.


V

It was my firm intention to lie awake all night and watch, but the
exhaustion of nerves and body decreed otherwise, and sleep after a while
came over me with a welcome blanket of oblivion. The fact that my
companion also slept quickened its approach. At first he fidgeted and
constantly sat up, asking me if I "heard this" or "heard that." He
tossed about on his cork mattress, and said the tent was moving and the
river had risen over the point of the island; but each time I went out
to look I returned with the report that all was well, and finally he
grew calmer and lay still. Then at length his breathing became regular
and I heard unmistakable sounds of snoring--the first and only time in
my life when snoring has been a welcome and calming influence.

This, I remember, was the last thought in my mind before dozing off.

A difficulty in breathing woke me, and I found the blanket over my face.
But something else besides the blanket was pressing upon me, and my
first thought was that my companion had rolled off his mattress on to my
own in his sleep. I called to him and sat up, and at the same moment it
came to me that the tent was _surrounded_. That sound of multitudinous
soft pattering was again audible outside, filling the night with horror.

I called again to him, louder than before. He did not answer, but I
missed the sound of his snoring, and also noticed that the flap of the
tent door was down. This was the unpardonable sin. I crawled out in the
darkness to hook it back securely, and it was then for the first time I
realized positively that the Swede was not there. He had gone.

I dashed out in a mad run, seized by a dreadful agitation, and the
moment I was out I plunged into a sort of torrent of humming that
surrounded me completely and came out of every quarter of the heavens at
once. It was that same familiar humming--gone mad! A swarm of great
invisible bees might have been about me in the air. The sound seemed to
thicken the very atmosphere, and I felt that my lungs worked with
difficulty.

But my friend was in danger, and I could not hesitate.

The dawn was just about to break, and a faint whitish light spread
upwards over the clouds from a thin strip of clear horizon. No wind
stirred. I could just make out the bushes and river beyond, and the pale
sandy patches. In my excitement I ran frantically to and fro about the
island, calling him by name, shouting at the top of my voice the first
words that came into my head. But the willows smothered my voice, and
the humming muffled it, so that the sound only traveled a few feet round
me. I plunged among the bushes, tripping headlong, tumbling over roots,
and scraping my face as I tore this way and that among the preventing
branches.

Then, quite unexpectedly, I came out upon the island's point and saw a
dark figure outlined between the water and the sky. It was the Swede.
And already he had one foot in the river! A moment more and he would
have taken the plunge.

I threw myself upon him, flinging my arms about his waist and dragging
him shorewards with all my strength. Of course he struggled furiously,
making a noise all the time just like that cursed humming, and using the
most outlandish phrases in his anger about "going _inside_ to Them," and
"taking the way of the water and the wind," and God only knows what more
besides, that I tried in vain to recall afterwards, but which turned me
sick with horror and amazement as I listened. But in the end I managed
to get him into the comparative safety of the tent, and flung him
breathless and cursing upon the mattress, where I held him until the fit
had passed.

I think the suddenness with which it all went and he grew calm,
coinciding as it did with the equally abrupt cessation of the humming
and pattering outside--I think this was almost the strangest part of the
whole business perhaps. For he just opened his eyes and turned his tired
face up to me so that the dawn threw a pale light upon it through the
doorway, and said, for all the world just like a frightened child:

"My life, old man--it's my life I owe you. But it's all over now anyhow.
They've found a victim in our place!"

Then he dropped back upon his blankets and went to sleep literally under
my eyes. He simply collapsed, and began to snore again as healthily as
though nothing had happened and he had never tried to offer his own life
as a sacrifice by drowning. And when the sunlight woke him three hours
later--hours of ceaseless vigil for me--it became so clear to me that he
remembered absolutely nothing of what he had attempted to do, that I
deemed it wise to hold my peace and ask no dangerous questions.

He woke naturally and easily, as I have said, when the sun was already
high in a windless hot sky, and he at once got up and set about the
preparation of the fire for breakfast. I followed him anxiously at
bathing, but he did not attempt to plunge in, merely dipping his head
and making some remark about the extra coldness of the water.

"River's falling at last," he said, "and I'm glad of it."

"The humming has stopped too," I said.

He looked up at me quietly with his normal expression. Evidently he
remembered everything except his own attempt at suicide.

"Everything has stopped," he said, "because----"

He hesitated. But I knew some reference to that remark he had made just
before he fainted was in his mind, and I was determined to know it.

"Because 'They've found another victim'?" I said, forcing a little
laugh.

"Exactly," he answered, "exactly! I feel as positive of it as though--as
though--I feel quite safe again, I mean," he finished.

He began to look curiously about him. The sunlight lay in hot patches
on the sand. There was no wind. The willows were motionless. He slowly
rose to feet.

"Come," he said; "I think if we look, we shall find it."

He started off on a run, and I followed him. He kept to the banks,
poking with a stick among the sandy bays and caves and little
back-waters, myself always close on his heels.

"Ah!" he exclaimed presently, "ah!"

The tone of his voice somehow brought back to me a vivid sense of the
horror of the last twenty-four hours, and I hurried up to join him. He
was pointing with his stick at a large black object that lay half in the
water and half on the sand. It appeared to be caught by some twisted
willow roots so that the river could not sweep it away. A few hours
before the spot must have been under water.

"See," he said quietly, "the victim that made our escape possible!"

And when I peered across his shoulder I saw that his stick rested on the
body of a man. He turned it over. It was the corpse of a peasant, and
the face was hidden in the sand. Clearly the man had been drowned but a
few hours before, and his body must have been swept down upon our island
somewhere about the hour of the dawn--_at the very time the fit had
passed_.

"We must give it a decent burial, you know."

"I suppose so," I replied. I shuddered a little in spite of myself, for
there was something about the appearance of that poor drowned man that
turned me cold.

The Swede glanced up sharply at me, and began clambering down the bank.
I followed him more leisurely. The current, I noticed, had torn away
much of the clothing from the body, so that the neck and part of the
chest lay bare.

Halfway down the bank my companion suddenly stopped and held up his hand
in warning; but either my foot slipped, or I had gained too much
momentum to bring myself quickly to a halt, for I bumped into him and
sent him forward with a sort of leap to save himself. We tumbled
together on to the hard sand so that our feet splashed into the water.
And, before anything could be done, we had collided a little heavily
against the corpse.

The Swede uttered a sharp cry. And I sprang back as if I had been shot.

At the moment we touched the body there arose from its surface the loud
sound of humming--the sound of several hummings--which passed with a
vast commotion as of winged things in the air about us and disappeared
upwards into the sky, growing fainter and fainter till they finally
ceased in the distance. It was exactly as though we had disturbed some
living yet invisible creatures at work.

My companion clutched me, and I think I clutched him, but before either
of us had time properly to recover from the unexpected shock, we saw
that a movement of the current was turning the corpse round so that it
became released from the grip of the willow roots. A moment later it had
turned completely over, the dead face uppermost, staring at the sky. It
lay on the edge of the main stream. In another moment it would be swept
away.

The Swede started to save it, shouting again something I did not catch
about a "proper burial" and then abruptly dropped upon his knees on the
sand and covered his eyes with his hands. I was beside him in an
instant.

I saw what he had seen.

For just as the body swung round to the current the face and the exposed
chest turned full towards us, and showed plainly how the skin and flesh
were indented with small hollows, beautifully formed, and exactly
similar in shape and kind to the sand-funnels that we had found all over
the island.

"Their mark!" I heard my companion mutter under his breath. "Their awful
mark!"

And when I turned my eyes again from his ghastly face to the river, the
current had done its work, and the body had been swept away into
midstream and was already beyond our reach and almost out of sight,
turning over and over on the waves like an otter.



The Shadows on the Wall

BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN

     From _The Wind in the Rose-bush_, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.
     Copyright by Harper and Brothers. By permission of the publishers
     and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.


"Henry had words with Edward in the study the night before Edward died,"
said Caroline Glynn.

She spoke not with acrimony, but with grave severity. Rebecca Ann Glynn
gasped by way of assent. She sat in a wide flounce of black silk in the
corner of the sofa, and rolled terrified eyes from her sister Caroline
to her sister Mrs. Stephen Brigham, who had been Emma Glynn, the one
beauty of the family. The latter was beautiful still, with a large,
splendid, full-blown beauty, she filled a great rocking-chair with her
superb bulk of femininity, and swayed gently back and forth, her black
silks whispering and her black frills fluttering. Even the shock of
death--for her brother Edward lay dead in the house--could not disturb
her outward serenity of demeanor.

But even her expression of masterly placidity changed before her sister
Caroline's announcement and her sister Rebecca Ann's gasp of terror and
distress in response.

"I think Henry might have controlled his temper, when poor Edward was so
near his end," she said with an asperity which disturbed slightly the
roseate curves of her beautiful mouth.

"Of course he did not _know_," murmured Rebecca Ann in a faint tone.

"Of course he did not know it," said Caroline quickly. She turned on her
sister with a strange, sharp look of suspicion. Then she shrank as if
from the other's possible answer.

Rebecca gasped again. The married sister, Mrs. Emma Brigham, was now
sitting up straight in her chair; she had ceased rocking, and was eyeing
them both intently with a sudden accentuation of family likeness in her
face.

"What do you mean?" said she impartially to them both. Then she, too,
seemed to shrink before a possible answer. She even laughed an evasive
sort of laugh.

"Nobody means anything," said Caroline firmly. She rose and crossed the
room toward the door with grim decisiveness.

"Where are you going?" asked Mrs. Brigham.

"I have something to see to," replied Caroline, and the others at once
knew by her tone that she had some solemn and sad duty to perform in the
chamber of death.

"Oh," said Mrs. Brigham.

After the door had closed behind Caroline, she turned to Rebecca.

"Did Henry have many words with him?" she asked.

"They were talking very loud," replied Rebecca evasively.

Mrs. Brigham looked at her. She had not resumed rocking. She still sat
up straight, with a slight knitting of intensity on her fair forehead,
between the pretty rippling curves of her auburn hair.

"Did you--ever hear anything?" she asked in a low voice with a glance
toward the door.

"I was just across the hall in the south parlor, and that door was open
and this door ajar," replied Rebecca with a slight flush.

"Then you must have----"

"I couldn't help it."

"Everything?"

"Most of it."

"What was it?"

"The old story."

"I suppose Henry was mad, as he always was, because Edward was living on
here for nothing, when he had wasted all the money father left him."

Rebecca nodded, with a fearful glance at the door.

When Emma spoke again her voice was still more hushed. "I know how he
felt," said she. "It must have looked to him as if Edward was living at
his expense, but he wasn't."

"No, he wasn't."

"And Edward had a right here according to the terms of father's will,
and Henry ought to have remembered it."

"Yes, he ought."

"Did he say hard things?"

"Pretty hard, from what I heard."

"What?"

"I heard him tell Edward that he had no business here at all, and he
thought he had better go away."

"What did Edward say?"

"That he would stay here as long as he lived and afterward, too, if he
was a mind to, and he would like to see Henry get him out; and then----"

"What?"

"Then he laughed."

"What did Henry say?"

"I didn't hear him say anything, but----"

"But what?"

"I saw him when he came out of this room."

"He looked mad?"

"You've seen him when he looked so."

Emma nodded. The expression of horror on her face had deepened.

"Do you remember that time he killed the cat because she had scratched
him?"

"Yes. Don't!"

Then Caroline reentered the room; she went up to the stove, in which a
wood fire was burning--it was a cold, gloomy day of fall--and she warmed
her hands, which were reddened from recent washing in cold water.

Mrs. Brigham looked at her and hesitated. She glanced at the door, which
was still ajar; it did not easily shut, being still swollen with the
damp weather of the summer. She rose and pushed it together with a sharp
thud, which jarred the house. Rebecca started painfully with a
half-exclamation. Caroline looked at her disapprovingly.

"It is time you controlled your nerves, Rebecca," she said.

Mrs. Brigham, returning from the closed door, said imperiously that it
ought to be fixed, it shut so hard.

"It will shrink enough after we have had the fire a few days," replied
Caroline.

"I think Henry ought to be ashamed of himself for talking as he did to
Edward," said Mrs. Brigham abruptly, but in an almost inaudible voice.

"Hush," said Caroline, with a glance of actual fear at the closed door.

"Nobody can hear with the door shut. I say again I think Henry ought to
be ashamed of himself. I shouldn't think he'd ever get over it, having
words with poor Edward the very night before he died. Edward was enough
sight better disposition than Henry, with all his faults."

"I never heard him speak a cross word, unless he spoke cross to Henry
that last night. I don't know but he did from what Rebecca overheard."

"Not so much cross, as sort of soft, and sweet, and aggravating,"
sniffed Rebecca.

"What do you really think ailed Edward?" asked Emma in hardly more than
a whisper. She did not look at her sister.

"I know you said that he had terrible pains in his stomach, and had
spasms, but what do you think made him have them?"

"Henry called it gastric trouble. You know Edward has always had
dyspepsia."

Mrs. Brigham hesitated a moment. "Was there any talk of
an--examination?" said she.

Then Caroline turned on her fiercely.

"No," said she in a terrible voice. "No."

The three sisters' souls seemed to meet on one common ground of
terrified understanding through their eyes.

The old-fashioned latch of the door was heard to rattle, and a push from
without made the door shake ineffectually. "It's Henry," Rebecca sighed
rather than whispered. Mrs. Brigham settled herself, after a noiseless
rush across the floor, into her rocking-chair again, and was swaying
back and forth with her head comfortably leaning back, when the door at
last yielded and Henry Glynn entered. He cast a covertly sharp,
comprehensive glance at Mrs. Brigham with her elaborate calm; at Rebecca
quietly huddled in the corner of the sofa with her handkerchief to her
face and only one small uncovered reddened ear as attentive as a dog's,
and at Caroline sitting with a strained composure in her armchair by the
stove. She met his eyes quite firmly with a look of inscrutable fear,
and defiance of the fear and of him.

Henry Glynn looked more like this sister than the others. Both had the
same hard delicacy of form and aquilinity of feature. They confronted
each other with the pitiless immovability of two statues in whose
marble lineaments emotions were fixed for all eternity.

Then Henry Glynn smiled and the smile transformed his face. He looked
suddenly years younger, and an almost boyish recklessness appeared in
his face. He flung himself into a chair with a gesture which was
bewildering from its incongruity with his general appearance. He leaned
his head back, flung one leg over the other, and looked laughingly at
Mrs. Brigham.

"I declare, Emma, you grow younger every year," he said.

She flushed a little, and her placid mouth widened at the corners. She
was susceptible to praise.

"Our thoughts to-day ought to belong to the one of us who will _never_
grow older," said Caroline in a hard voice.

Henry looked at her, still smiling. "Of course, we none of us forget
that," said he, in a deep, gentle voice; "but we have to speak to the
living, Caroline, and I have not seen Emma for a long time, and the
living are as dear as the dead."

"Not to me," said Caroline.

She rose and went abruptly out of the room again. Rebecca also rose and
hurried after her, sobbing loudly.

Henry looked slowly after them.

"Caroline is completely unstrung," said he.

Mrs. Brigham rocked. A confidence in him inspired by his manner was
stealing over her. Out of that confidence she spoke quite easily and
naturally.

"His death was very sudden," said she.

Henry's eyelids quivered slightly but his gaze was unswerving.

"Yes," said he, "it was very sudden. He was sick only a few hours."

"What did you call it?"

"Gastric."

"You did not think of an examination?"

"There was no need. I am perfectly certain as to the cause of his
death."

Suddenly Mrs. Brigham felt a creep as of some live horror over her very
soul. Her flesh prickled with cold, before an inflection of his voice.
She rose, tottering on weak knees.

"Where are you going?" asked Henry in a strange, breathless voice.

Mrs. Brigham said something incoherent about some sewing which she had
to do--some black for the funeral--and was out of the room. She went up
to the front chamber which she occupied. Caroline was there. She went
close to her and took her hands, and the two sisters looked at each
other.

"Don't speak, don't, I won't have it!" said Caroline finally in an awful
whisper.

"I won't," replied Emma.

That afternoon the three sisters were in the study.

Mrs. Brigham was hemming some black material. At last she laid her work
on her lap.

"It's no use, I cannot see to sew another stitch until we have a light,"
said she.

Caroline, who was writing some letters at the table, turned to Rebecca,
in her usual place on the sofa.

"Rebecca, you had better get a lamp," she said.

Rebecca started up; even in the dusk her face showed her agitation.

"It doesn't seem to me that we need a lamp quite yet," she said in a
piteous, pleading voice like a child's.

"Yes, we do," returned Mrs. Brigham peremptorily. "I can't see to sew
another stitch."

Rebecca rose and left the room. Presently she entered with a lamp. She
set it on the table, an old-fashioned card-table which was placed
against the opposite wall from the window. That opposite wall was taken
up with three doors; the one small space was occupied by the table.

"What have you put that lamp over there for?" asked Mrs. Brigham, with
more of impatience than her voice usually revealed. "Why didn't you set
it in the hall, and have done with it? Neither Caroline nor I can see if
it is on that table."

"I thought perhaps you would move," replied Rebecca hoarsely.

"If I do move, we can't both sit at that table. Caroline has her paper
all spread around. Why don't you set the lamp on the study table in the
middle of the room, then we can both see?"

Rebecca hesitated. Her face was very pale. She looked with an appeal
that was fairly agonizing at her sister Caroline.

"Why don't you put the lamp on this table, as she says?" asked Caroline,
almost fiercely. "Why do you act so, Rebecca?"

Rebecca took the lamp and set it on the table in the middle of the room
without another word. Then she seated herself on the sofa and placed a
hand over her eyes as if to shade them, and remained so.

"Does the light hurt your eyes, and is that the reason why you didn't
want the lamp?" asked Mrs. Brigham kindly.

"I always like to sit in the dark," replied Rebecca chokingly. Then she
snatched her handkerchief hastily from her pocket and began to weep.
Caroline continued to write, Mrs. Brigham to sew.

Suddenly Mrs. Brigham as she sewed glanced at the opposite wall. The
glance became a steady stare. She looked intently, her work suspended in
her hands. Then she looked away again and took a few more stitches, then
she looked again, and again turned to her task. At last she laid her
work in her lap and stared concentratedly. She looked from the wall
round the room, taking note of the various objects. Then she turned to
her sisters.

"What _is_ that?" said she.

"What?" asked Caroline harshly.

"That strange shadow on the wall," replied Mrs. Brigham.

Rebecca sat with her face hidden; Caroline dipped her pen in the
inkstand.

"Why don't you turn around and look?" asked Mrs. Brigham in a wondering
and somewhat aggrieved way.

"I am in a hurry to finish this letter," replied Caroline shortly.

Mrs. Brigham rose, her work slipping to the floor, and began walking
round the room, moving various articles of furniture, with her eyes on
the shadow.

Then suddenly she shrieked out:

"Look at this awful shadow! What is it? Caroline, look, look! Rebecca,
look! What is it?"

All Mrs. Brigham's triumphant placidity was gone. Her handsome face was
livid with horror. She stood stiffly pointing at the shadow.

Then after a shuddering glance at the wall Rebecca burst out in a wild
wail.

"Oh, Caroline, there it is again, there it is again!"

"Caroline Glynn, you look!" said Mrs. Brigham. "Look! What is that
dreadful shadow?"

Caroline rose, turned, and stood confronting the wall.

"How should I know?" she said.

"It has been there every night since he died!" cried Rebecca.

"Every night?"

"Yes; he died Thursday and this is Saturday; that makes three nights,"
said Caroline rigidly. She stood as if holding her calm with a vise of
concentrated will.

"It--it looks like--like--" stammered Mrs. Brigham in a tone of intense
horror.

"I know what it looks like well enough," said Caroline. "I've got eyes
in my head."

"It looks like Edward," burst out Rebecca in a sort of frenzy of fear.
"Only----"

"Yes, it does," assented Mrs. Brigham, whose horror-stricken tone
matched her sisters', "only--Oh, it is awful! What is it, Caroline?"

"I ask you again, how should I know?" replied Caroline. "I see it there
like you. How should I know any more than you?"

"It _must_ be something in the room," said Mrs. Brigham, staring wildly
around.

"We moved everything in the room the first night it came," said Rebecca;
"it is not anything in the room."

Caroline turned upon her with a sort of fury. "Of course it is something
in the room," said she. "How you act! What do you mean talking so? Of
course it is something in the room."

"Of course it is," agreed Mrs. Brigham, looking at Caroline
suspiciously. "It must be something in the room."

"It is not anything in the room," repeated Rebecca with obstinate
horror.

The door opened suddenly and Henry Glynn entered. He began to speak,
then his eyes followed the direction of the others. He stood staring at
the shadow on the wall.

"What is that?" he demanded in a strange voice.

"It must be due to something in the room," Mrs. Brigham said faintly.

Henry Glynn stood and stared a moment longer. His face showed a gamut of
emotions. Horror, conviction, then furious incredulity. Suddenly he
began hastening hither and thither about the room. He moved the
furniture with fierce jerks, turning ever to see the effect upon the
shadow on the wall. Not a line of its terrible outlines wavered.

"It must be something in the room!" he declared in a voice which seemed
to snap like a lash.

His face changed, the inmost secrecy of his nature seemed evident upon
his face, until one almost lost sight of his lineaments. Rebecca stood
close to her sofa, regarding him with woeful, fascinated eyes. Mrs.
Brigham clutched Caroline's hand. They both stood in a corner out of his
way. For a few moments he raged about the room like a caged wild animal.
He moved every piece of furniture; when the moving of a piece did not
affect the shadow he flung it to the floor.

Then suddenly he desisted. He laughed.

"What an absurdity," he said easily. "Such a to-do about a shadow."

"That's so," assented Mrs. Brigham, in a scared voice which she tried to
make natural. As she spoke she lifted a chair near her.

"I think you have broken the chair that Edward was fond of," said
Caroline.

Terror and wrath were struggling for expression on her face. Her mouth
was set, her eyes shrinking. Henry lifted the chair with a show of
anxiety.

"Just as good as ever," he said pleasantly. He laughed again, looking at
his sisters. "Did I scare you?" he said. "I should think you might be
used to me by this time. You know my way of wanting to leap to the
bottom of a mystery, and that shadow does look--queer, like--and I
thought if there was any way of accounting for it I would like to
without any delay."

"You don't seem to have succeeded," remarked Caroline dryly, with a
slight glance at the wall.

Henry's eyes followed hers and he quivered perceptibly.

"Oh, there is no accounting for shadows," he said, and he laughed again.
"A man is a fool to try to account for shadows."

Then the supper bell rang, and they all left the room, but Henry kept
his back to the wall--as did, indeed, the others.

Henry led the way with an alert motion like a boy; Rebecca brought up
the rear. She could scarcely walk, her knees trembled so.

"I can't sit in that room again this evening," she whispered to Caroline
after supper.

"Very well; we will sit in the south room," replied Caroline. "I think
we will sit in the south parlor," she said aloud; "it isn't as damp as
the study, and I have a cold."

So they all sat in the south room with their sewing. Henry read the
newspaper, his chair drawn close to the lamp on the table. About nine
o'clock he rose abruptly and crossed the hall to the study. The three
sisters looked at one another. Mrs. Brigham rose, folded her rustling
skirts compactly round her, and began tiptoeing toward the door.

"What are you going to do?" inquired Rebecca agitatedly.

"I am going to see what he is about," replied Mrs. Brigham cautiously.

As she spoke she pointed to the study door across the hall; it was ajar.
Henry had striven to pull it together behind him, but it had somehow
swollen beyond the limit with curious speed. It was still ajar and a
streak of light showed from top to bottom.

Mrs. Brigham folded her skirts so tightly that her bulk with its
swelling curves was revealed in a black silk sheath, and she went with a
slow toddle across the hall to the study door. She stood there, her eye
at the crack.

In the south room Rebecca stopped sewing and sat watching with dilated
eyes. Caroline sewed steadily. What Mrs. Brigham, standing at the crack
in the study door, saw was this:

Henry Glynn, evidently reasoning that the source of the strange shadow
must be between the table on which the lamp stood and the wall, was
making systematic passes and thrusts with an old sword which had
belonged to his father all over and through the intervening space. Not
an inch was left unpierced. He seemed to have divided the space into
mathematical sections. He brandished the sword with a sort of cold fury
and calculation; the blade gave out flashes of light, the shadow
remained unmoved. Mrs. Brigham, watching, felt herself cold with horror.

Finally Henry ceased and stood with the sword in hand and raised as if
to strike, surveying the shadow on the wall threateningly. Mrs. Brigham
toddled back across the hall and shut the south room door behind her
before she related what she had seen.

"He looked like a demon," she said again. "Have you got any of that old
wine in the house, Caroline? I don't feel as if I could stand much
more."

"Yes, there's plenty," said Caroline; "you can have some when you go to
bed."

"I think we had all better take some," said Mrs. Brigham. "Oh, Caroline,
what----"

"Don't ask; don't speak," said Caroline.

"No, I'm not going to," replied Mrs. Brigham; "but----"

Soon the three sisters went to their chambers and the south parlor was
deserted. Caroline called to Henry in the study to put out the light
before he came upstairs. They had been gone about an hour when he came
into the room bringing the lamp which had stood in the study. He set it
on the table, and waited a few minutes, pacing up and down. His face was
terrible, his fair complexion showed livid, and his blue eyes seemed
dark blanks of awful reflections.

Then he took up the lamp and returned to the library. He set the lamp on
the center table and the shadow sprang out on the wall. Again he studied
the furniture and moved it about, but deliberately, with none of his
former frenzy. Nothing affected the shadow. Then he returned to the
south room with the lamp and again waited. Again he returned to the
study and placed the lamp on the table, and the shadow sprang out upon
the wall. It was midnight before he went upstairs. Mrs. Brigham and the
other sisters, who could not sleep, heard him.

The next day was the funeral. That evening the family sat in the south
room. Some relatives were with them. Nobody entered the study until
Henry carried a lamp in there after the others had retired for the
night. He saw again the shadow on the wall leap to an awful life before
the light.

The next morning at breakfast Henry Glynn announced that he had to go to
the city for three days. The sisters looked at him with surprise. He
very seldom left home, and just now his practice had been neglected on
account of Edward's death.

"How can you leave your patients now?" asked Mrs. Brigham wonderingly.

"I don't know how to, but there is no other way," replied Henry easily.
"I have had a telegram from Dr. Mitford."

"Consultation?" inquired Mrs. Brigham.

"I have business," replied Henry.

Doctor Mitford was an old classmate of his who lived in a neighboring
city and who occasionally called upon him in the case of a consultation.

After he had gone, Mrs. Brigham said to Caroline that, after all, Henry
had not said that he was going to consult with Doctor Mitford, and she
thought it very strange.

"Everything is very strange," said Rebecca with a shudder.

"What do you mean?" inquired Caroline.

"Nothing," replied Rebecca.

Nobody entered the study that day, nor the next. The third day Henry was
expected home, but he did not arrive and the last train from the city
had come.

"I call it pretty queer work," said Mrs. Brigham. "The idea of a doctor
leaving his patients at such a time as this, and the idea of a
consultation lasting three days! There is no sense in it, and _now_ he
has not come. I don't understand it, for my part."

"I don't either," said Rebecca.

They were all in the south parlor. There was no light in the study; the
door was ajar.

Presently Mrs. Brigham rose--she could not have told why; something
seemed to impel her--some will outside her own. She went out of the
room, again wrapping her rustling skirts round that she might pass
noiselessly, and began pushing at the swollen door of the study.

"She has not got any lamp," said Rebecca in a shaking voice.

Caroline, who was writing letters, rose again, took the only remaining
lamp in the room, and followed her sister. Rebecca had risen, but she
stood trembling, not venturing to follow.

The doorbell rang, but the others did not hear it; it was on the south
door on the other side of the house from the study. Rebecca, after
hesitating until the bell rang the second time, went to the door; she
remembered that the servant was out.

Caroline and her sister Emma entered the study. Caroline set the lamp on
the table. They looked at the wall, and there were two shadows. The
sisters stood clutching each other, staring at the awful things on the
wall. Then Rebecca came in, staggering, with a telegram in her hand.
"Here is--a telegram," she gasped. "Henry is--dead."



The Messenger

BY ROBERT W. CHAMBERS

    Little gray messenger,
    Robed like painted Death,
    Your robe is dust.
    Whom do you seek
    Among lilies and closed buds
      At dusk?

    Among lilies and closed buds
      At dusk,
    Whom do you seek,
    Little gray messenger,
    Robed in the awful panoply
    Of painted Death?
                                                                  R.W.C.

     From _The Mystery of Choice_, by Robert W. Chambers. Published,
     1897, by D. Appleton and Company. Copyright by Robert W. Chambers.
     By permission of Robert W. Chambers.



        All-wise,
    Hast thou seen all there is to see with thy two eyes?
      Dost thou know all there is to know, and so,
        Omniscient,
    Darest thou still to say thy brother lies?
                                                                  R.W.C.


I

"The bullet entered here," said Max Fortin, and he placed his middle
finger over a smooth hole exactly in the center of the forehead.

I sat down upon a mound of dry seaweed and unslung my fowling piece.

The little chemist cautiously felt the edges of the shot-hole, first
with his middle finger, and then with his thumb.

"Let me see the skull again," said I.

Max Fortin picked it up from the sod.

"It's like all the others," he repeated, wiping his glasses on his
handkerchief. "I thought you might care to see one of the skulls, so I
brought this over from the gravel pit. The men from Bannalec are digging
yet. They ought to stop."

"How many skulls are there altogether?" I inquired.

"They found thirty-eight skulls; there are thirty-nine noted in the
list. They lie piled up in the gravel pit on the edge of Le Bihan's
wheat field. The men are at work yet. Le Bihan is going to stop them."

"Let's go over," said I; and I picked up my gun and started across the
cliffs, Portin on one side, Môme on the other.

"Who has the list?" I asked, lighting my pipe. "You say there is a
list?"

"The list was found rolled up in a brass cylinder," said the chemist. He
added: "You should not smoke here. You know that if a single spark
drifted into the wheat--"

"Ah, but I have a cover to my pipe," said I, smiling.

Fortin watched me as I closed the pepper-box arrangement over the
glowing bowl of the pipe. Then he continued:

"The list was made out on thick yellow paper; the brass tube has
preserved it. It is as fresh to-day as it was in 1760. You shall see
it."

"Is that the date?"

"The list is dated 'April, 1760.' The Brigadier Durand has it. It is not
written in French."

"Not written in French!" I exclaimed.

"No," replied Fortin solemnly, "it is written in Breton."

"But," I protested, "the Breton language was never written or printed in
1760."

"Except by priests," said the chemist.

"I have heard of but one priest who ever wrote the Breton language," I
began.

Fortin stole a glance at my face.

"You mean--the Black Priest?" he asked.

I nodded.

Fortin opened his mouth to speak again, hesitated, and finally shut his
teeth obstinately over the wheat stem that he was chewing.

"And the Black Priest?" I suggested encouragingly. But I knew it was
useless; for it is easier to move the stars from their courses than to
make an obstinate Breton talk. We walked on for a minute or two in
silence.

"Where is the Brigadier Durand?" I asked, motioning Môme to come out of
the wheat, which he was trampling as though it were heather. As I spoke
we came in sight of the farther edge of the wheat field and the dark,
wet mass of cliffs beyond.

"Durand is down there--you can see him; he stands just behind the mayor
of St. Gildas."

"I see," said I; and we struck straight down, following a sun-baked
cattle path across the heather.

When we reached the edge of the wheat field, Le Bihan, the mayor of St.
Gildas, called to me, and I tucked my gun under my arm and skirted the
wheat to where he stood.

"Thirty-eight skulls," he said in his thin, high-pitched voice; "there
is but one more, and I am opposed to further search. I suppose Fortin
told you?"

I shook hands with him, and returned the salute of the Brigadier Durand.

"I am opposed to further search," repeated Le Bihan, nervously picking
at the mass of silver buttons which covered the front of his velvet and
broadcloth jacket like a breastplate of scale armor.

Durand pursed up his lips, twisted his tremendous mustache, and hooked
his thumbs in his saber belt.

"As for me," he said, "I am in favor of further search."

"Further search for what--for the thirty-ninth skull?" I asked.

Le Bihan nodded. Durand frowned at the sunlit sea, rocking like a bowl
of molten gold from the cliffs to the horizon. I followed his eyes. On
the dark glistening cliffs, silhouetted against the glare of the sea,
sat a cormorant, black, motionless, its horrible head raised toward
heaven.

"Where is that list, Durand?" I asked.

The gendarme rummaged in his despatch pouch and produced a brass
cylinder about a foot long. Very gravely he unscrewed the head and
dumped out a scroll of thick yellow paper closely covered with writing
on both sides. At a nod from Le Bihan he handed me the scroll. But I
could make nothing of the coarse writing, now faded to a dull brown.

"Come, come, Le Bihan," I said impatiently, "translate it, won't you?
You and Max Fortin make a lot of mystery out of nothing, it seems."

Le Bihan went to the edge of the pit where the three Bannalec men were
digging, gave an order or two in Breton, and turned to me.

As I came to the edge of the pit the Bannalec men were removing a square
piece of sailcloth from what appeared to be a pile of cobblestones.

"Look!" said Le Bihan shrilly. I looked. The pile below was a heap of
skulls. After a moment I clambered down the gravel sides of the pit and
walked over to the men of Bannalec. They saluted me gravely, leaning on
their picks and shovels, and wiping their sweating faces with sunburned
hands.

"How many?" said I in Breton.

"Thirty-eight," they replied.

I glanced around. Beyond the heap of skulls lay two piles of human
bones. Beside these was a mound of broken, rusted bits of iron and
steel. Looking closer, I saw that this mound was composed of rusty
bayonets, saber blades, scythe blades, with here and there a tarnished
buckle attached to a bit of leather hard as iron.

I picked up a couple of buttons and a belt plate. The buttons bore the
royal arms of England; the belt plate was emblazoned with the English
arms and also with the number "27."

"I have heard my grandfather speak of the terrible English regiment, the
27th Foot, which landed and stormed the fort up there," said one of the
Bannalec men.

"Oh!" said I; "then these are the bones of English soldiers?"

"Yes," said the men of Bannalec.

Le Bihan was calling to me from the edge of the pit above, and I handed
the belt plate and buttons to the men and climbed the side of the
excavation.

"Well," said I, trying to prevent Môme from leaping up and licking my
face as I emerged from the pit, "I suppose you know what these bones
are. What are you going to do with them?"

"There was a man," said Le Bihan angrily, "an Englishman, who passed
here in a dog-cart on his way to Quimper about an hour ago, and what do
you suppose he wished to do?"

"Buy the relics?" I asked, smiling.

"Exactly--the pig!" piped the mayor of St. Gildas. "Jean Marie Tregunc,
who found the bones, was standing there where Max Fortin stands, and do
you know what he answered? He spat upon the ground, and said: 'Pig of an
Englishman, do you take me for a desecrator of graves?'"

I knew Tregunc, a sober, blue-eyed Breton, who lived from one year's end
to the other without being able to afford a single bit of meat for a
meal.

"How much did the Englishman offer Tregunc?" I asked.

"Two hundred francs for the skulls alone."

I thought of the relic hunters and the relic buyers on the battlefields
of our civil war.

"Seventeen hundred and sixty is long ago," I said.

"Respect for the dead can never die," said Fortin.

"And the English soldiers came here to kill your fathers and burn your
homes," I continued.

"They were murderers and thieves, but--they are dead," said Tregunc,
coming up from the beach below, his long sea rake balanced on his
dripping jersey.

"How much do you earn every year, Jean Marie?" I asked, turning to shake
hands with him.

"Two hundred and twenty francs, monsieur."

"Forty-five dollars a year," I said. "Bah! you are worth more, Jean.
Will you take care of my garden for me? My wife wished me to ask you. I
think it would be worth one hundred francs a month to you and to me.
Come on, Le Bihan--come along, Fortin--and you, Durand. I want somebody
to translate that list into French for me."

Tregunc stood gazing at me, his blue eyes dilated.

"You may begin at once," I said, smiling, "if the salary suits you?"

"It suits," said Tregunc, fumbling for his pipe in a silly way that
annoyed Le Bihan.

"Then go and begin your work," cried the mayor impatiently; and Tregunc
started across the moors toward St. Gildas, taking off his
velvet-ribboned cap to me and gripping his sea rake very hard.

"You offer him more than my salary," said the mayor, after a moment's
contemplation of his silver buttons.

"Pooh!" said I, "what do you do for your salary except play dominoes
with Max Portin at the Groix Inn?"

Le Bihan turned red, but Durand rattled his saber and winked at Max
Fortin, and I slipped my arm through the arm of the sulky magistrate,
laughing.

"There's a shady spot under the cliff," I said; "come on, Le Bihan, and
read me what is in the scroll."

In a few moments we reached the shadow of the cliff, and I threw myself
upon the turf, chin on hand, to listen.

The gendarme, Durand, also sat down, twisting his mustache into
needlelike points. Fortin leaned against the cliff, polishing his
glasses and examining us with vague, near-sighted eyes; and Le Bihan,
the mayor, planted himself in our midst, rolling up the scroll and
tucking it under his arm.

"First of all," he began in a shrill voice, "I am going to light my
pipe, and while lighting it I shall tell you what I have heard about the
attack on the fort yonder. My father told me; his father told him."

He jerked his head in the direction of the ruined fort, a small, square
stone structure on the sea cliff, now nothing but crumbling walls. Then
he slowly produced a tobacco pouch, a bit of flint and tinder, and a
long-stemmed pipe fitted with a microscopical bowl of baked clay. To
fill such a pipe requires ten minutes' close attention. To smoke it to a
finish takes but four puffs. It is very Breton, this Breton pipe. It is
the crystallization of everything Breton.

"Go on," said I, lighting a cigarette.

"The fort," said the mayor, "was built by Louis XIV, and was dismantled
twice by the English. Louis XV restored it in 1730. In 1760 it was
carried by assault by the English. They came across from the island of
Groix--three shiploads, and they stormed the fort and sacked St. Julien
yonder, and they started to burn St. Gildas--you can see the marks of
their bullets on my house yet; but the men of Bannalec and the men of
Lorient fell upon them with pike and scythe and blunderbuss, and those
who did not run away lie there below in the gravel pit now--thirty-eight
of them."

"And the thirty-ninth skull?" I asked, finishing my cigarette.

The mayor had succeeded in filling his pipe, and now he began to put his
tobacco pouch away.

"The thirty-ninth skull," he mumbled, holding the pipe stem between his
defective teeth--"the thirty-ninth skull is no business of mine. I have
told the Bannalec men to cease digging."

"But what is--whose is the missing skull?" I persisted curiously.

The mayor was busy trying to strike a spark to his tinder. Presently he
set it aglow, applied it to his pipe, took the prescribed four puffs,
knocked the ashes out of the bowl, and gravely replaced the pipe in his
pocket.

"The missing skull?" he asked.


"Yes," said I, impatiently.

The mayor slowly unrolled the scroll and began to read, translating from
the Breton into French. And this is what he read:


                                        "ON THE CLIFFS OF ST. GILDAS,
                                           APRIL 13, 1760.

"On this day, by order of the Count of Soisic, general in chief of the
Breton forces now lying in Kerselec Forest, the bodies of thirty-eight
English soldiers of the 27th, 50th, and 72d regiments of Foot were
buried in this spot, together with their arms and equipments."

The mayor paused and glanced at me reflectively.

"Go on, Le Bihan," I said.

"With them," continued the mayor, turning the scroll and reading on the
other side, "was buried the body of that vile traitor who betrayed the
fort to the English. The manner of his death was as follows: By order of
the most noble Count of Soisic, the traitor was first branded upon the
forehead with the brand of an arrowhead. The iron burned through the
flesh and was pressed heavily so that the brand should even burn into
the bone of the skull. The traitor was then led out and bidden to
kneel. He admitted having guided the English from the island of Groix.
Although a priest and a Frenchman, he had violated his priestly office
to aid him in discovering the password to the fort. This password he
extorted during confession from a young Breton girl who was in the habit
of rowing across from the island of Groix to visit her husband in the
fort. When the fort fell, this young girl, crazed by the death of her
husband, sought the Count of Soisic and told how the priest had forced
her to confess to him all she knew about the fort. The priest was
arrested at St. Gildas as he was about to cross the river to Lorient.
When arrested he cursed the girl, Marie Trevec----"

"What!" I exclaimed, "Marie Trevec!"

"Marie Trevec," repeated Le Bihan; "the priest cursed Marie Trevec, and
all her family and descendants. He was shot as he knelt, having a mask
of leather over his face, because the Bretons who composed the squad of
execution refused to fire at a priest unless his face was concealed. The
priest was l'Abbé Sorgue, commonly known as the Black Priest on account
of his dark face and swarthy eyebrows. He was buried with a stake
through his heart."

Le Bihan paused, hesitated, looked at me, and handed the manuscript back
to Durand. The gendarme took it and slipped it into the brass cylinder.

"So," said I, "the thirty-ninth skull is the skull of the Black
Priest."

"Yes," said Fortin. "I hope they won't find it."

"I have forbidden them to proceed," said the mayor querulously. "You
heard me, Max Fortin."

I rose and picked up my gun. Môme came and pushed his head into my hand.

"That's a fine dog," observed Durand, also rising.

"Why don't you wish to find his skull?" I asked Le Bihan. "It would be
curious to see whether the arrow brand really burned into the bone."

"There is something in that scroll that I didn't read to you," said the
mayor grimly. "Do you wish to know what it is?"

"Of course," I replied in surprise.

"Give me the scroll again, Durand," he said; then he read from the
bottom: "I, l'Abbé Sorgue, forced to write the above by my executioners,
have written it in my own blood; and with it I leave my curse. My curse
on St. Gildas, on Marie Trevec, and on her descendants. I will come back
to St. Gildas when my remains are disturbed. Woe to that Englishman whom
my branded skull shall touch!"

"What rot!" I said. "Do you believe it was really written in his own
blood?"

"I am going to test it," said Fortin, "at the request of Monsieur le
Maire. I am not anxious for the job, however."

"See," said Le Bihan, holding out the scroll to me, "it is signed,
'L'Abbé Sorgue.'"

I glanced curiously over the paper.

"It must be the Black Priest," I said. "He was the only man who wrote in
the Breton language. This is a wonderfully interesting discovery, for
now, at last, the mystery of the Black Priest's disappearance is cleared
up. You will, of course, send this scroll to Paris, Le Bihan?"

"No," said the mayor obstinately, "it shall be buried in the pit below
where the rest of the Black Priest lies."

I looked at him and recognized that argument would be useless. But still
I said, "It will be a loss to history, Monsieur Le Bihan."

"All the worse for history, then," said the enlightened Mayor of St.
Gildas.

We had sauntered back to the gravel pit while speaking. The men of
Bannalec were carrying the bones of the English soldiers toward the St.
Gildas cemetery, on the cliffs to the east, where already a knot of
white-coiffed women stood in attitudes of prayer; and I saw the somber
robe of a priest among the crosses of the little graveyard.

"They were thieves and assassins; they are dead now," muttered Max
Fortin.

"Respect the dead," repeated the Mayor of St. Gildas, looking after the
Bannalec men.

"It was written in that scroll that Marie Trevec, of Groix Island, was
cursed by the priest--she and her descendants," I said, touching Le
Bihan on the arm. "There was a Marie Trevec who married an Yves Trevec
of St. Gildas----"

"It is the same," said Le Bihan, looking at me obliquely.

"Oh!" said I; "then they were ancestors of my wife."

"Do you fear the curse?" asked Le Bihan.

"What?" I laughed.

"There was the case of the Purple Emperor," said Max Fortin timidly.

Startled for a moment, I faced him, then shrugged my shoulders and
kicked at a smooth bit of rock which lay near the edge of the pit,
almost embedded in gravel.

"Do you suppose the Purple-Emperor drank himself crazy because he was
descended from Marie Trevec?" I asked contemptuously.

"Of course not," said Max Fortin hastily.

"Of course not," piped the mayor. "I only--Hellow! what's that you're
kicking?"

"What?" said I, glancing down, at the same time involuntarily giving
another kick. The smooth bit of rock dislodged itself and rolled out of
the loosened gravel at my feet.

"The thirty-ninth skull!" I exclaimed. "By jingo, it's the noddle of the
Black Priest! See! there is the arrowhead branded on the front!"

The mayor stepped back. Max Fortin also retreated. There was a pause,
during which I looked at them, and they looked anywhere but at me.

"I don't like it," said the mayor at last, in a husky, high voice. "I
don't like it! The scroll says he will come back to St. Gildas when his
remains are disturbed. I--I don't like it, Monsieur Darrel--"

"Bosh!" said I; "the poor wicked devil is where he can't get out. For
Heaven's sake, Le Bihan, what is this stuff you are talking in the year
of grace 1896?"

The mayor gave me a look.

"And he says 'Englishman.' You are an Englishman, Monsieur Darrel," he
announced.

"You know better. You know I'm an American."

"It's all the same," said the Mayor of St. Gildas, obstinately.

"No, it isn't!" I answered, much exasperated, and deliberately pushed
the skull till it rolled into the bottom of the gravel pit below.

"Cover it up," said I; "bury the scroll with it too, if you insist, but
I think you ought to send it to Paris. Don't look so gloomy, Fortin,
unless you believe in werewolves and ghosts. Hey! what the--what the
devil's the matter with you, anyway? What are you staring at, Le Bihan?"

"Come, come," muttered the mayor in a low, tremulous voice, "it's time
we got out of this. Did you see? Did you see, Fortin?"

"I saw," whispered Max Fortin, pallid with fright.

The two men were almost running across the sunny pasture now, and I
hastened after them, demanding to know what was the matter.

"Matter!" chattered the mayor, gasping with exasperation and terror.
"The skull is rolling up hill again," and he burst into a terrified
gallop, Max Fortin followed close behind.

I watched them stampeding across the pasture, then turned toward the
gravel pit, mystified, incredulous. The skull was lying on the edge of
the pit, exactly where it had been before I pushed it over the edge. For
a second I stared at it; a singular chilly feeling crept up my spinal
column, and I turned and walked away, sweat starting from the root of
every hair on my head. Before I had gone twenty paces the absurdity of
the whole thing struck me. I halted, hot with shame and annoyance, and
retraced my steps.

There lay the skull.

"I rolled a stone down instead of the skull," I muttered to myself. Then
with the butt of my gun I pushed the skull over the edge of the pit and
watched it roll to the bottom; and as it struck the bottom of the pit,
Môme, my dog, suddenly whipped his tail between his legs, whimpered, and
made off across the moor.

"Môme!" I shouted, angry and astonished; but the dog only fled the
faster, and I ceased calling from sheer surprise.

"What the mischief is the matter with that dog!" I thought. He had never
before played me such a trick.

Mechanically I glanced into the pit, but I could not see the skull. I
looked down. The skull lay at my feet again, touching them.

"Good heavens!" I stammered, and struck at it blindly with my gunstock.
The ghastly thing flew into the air, whirling over and over, and rolled
again down the sides of the pit to the bottom. Breathlessly I stared at
it, then, confused and scarcely comprehending, I stepped back from the
pit, still facing it, one, ten, twenty paces, my eyes almost starting
from my head, as though I expected to see the thing roll up from the
bottom of the pit under my very gaze. At last I turned my back to the
pit and strode out across the gorse-covered moorland toward my home. As
I reached the road that winds from St. Gildas to St. Julien I gave one
hasty glance at the pit over my shoulder. The sun shone hot on the sod
about the excavation. There was something white and bare and round on
the turf at the edge of the pit. It might have been a stone; there were
plenty of them lying about.


II

When I entered my garden I saw Môme sprawling on the stone doorstep. He
eyed me sideways and flopped his tail.

"Are you not mortified, you idiot dog?" I said, looking about the upper
windows for Lys.

Môme rolled over on his back and raised one deprecating forepaw, as
though to ward off calamity.

"Don't act as though I was in the habit of beating you to death," I
said, disgusted. I had never in my life raised whip to the brute. "But
you are a fool dog," I continued. "No, you needn't come to be babied and
wept over; Lys can do that, if she insists, but I am ashamed of you, and
you can go to the devil."

Môme slunk off into the house, and I followed, mounting directly to my
wife's boudoir. It was empty.

"Where has she gone?" I said, looking hard at Môme, who had followed me.
"Oh! I see you don't know. Don't pretend you do. Come off that lounge!
Do you think Lys wants tan-colored hairs all over her lounge?"

I rang the bell for Catherine and Fine, but they didn't know where
"madame" had gone; so I went into my room, bathed, exchanged my somewhat
grimy shooting clothes for a suit of warm, soft knickerbockers, and,
after lingering some extra moments over my toilet--for I was particular,
now that I had married Lys--I went down to the garden and took a chair
out under the fig-trees.

"Where can she be?" I wondered, Môme came sneaking out to be comforted,
and I forgave him for Lys's sake, whereupon he frisked.

"You bounding cur," said I, "now what on earth started you off across
the moor? If you do it again I'll push you along with a charge of dust
shot."

As yet I had scarcely dared think about the ghastly hallucination of
which I had been a victim, but now I faced it squarely, flushing a
little with mortification at the thought of my hasty retreat from the
gravel pit.

"To think," I said aloud, "that those old woman's tales of Max Fortin
and Le Bihan should have actually made me see what didn't exist at all!
I lost my nerve like a schoolboy in a dark bedroom." For I knew now that
I had mistaken a round stone for a skull each time, and had pushed a
couple of big pebbles into the pit instead of the skull itself.

"By jingo!" said I, "I'm nervous; my liver must be in a devil of a
condition if I see such things when I'm awake! Lys will know what to
give me."

I felt mortified and irritated and sulky, and thought disgustedly of Le
Bihan and Max Fortin.

But after a while I ceased speculating, dismissed the mayor, the
chemist, and the skull from my mind, and smoked pensively, watching the
sun low dipping in the western ocean. As the twilight fell for a moment
over ocean and moorland, a wistful, restless happiness filled my heart,
the happiness that all men know--all men who have loved.

Slowly the purple mist crept out over the sea; the cliffs darkened; the
forest was shrouded.

Suddenly the sky above burned with the afterglow, and the world was
alight again.

Cloud after cloud caught the rose dye; the cliffs were tinted with it;
moor and pasture, heather and forest burned and pulsated with the
gentle flush. I saw the gulls turning and tossing above the sand bar,
their snowy wings tipped with pink; I saw the sea swallows sheering the
surface of the still river, stained to its placid depths with warm
reflections of the clouds. The twitter of drowsy hedge birds broke out
in the stillness; a salmon rolled its shining side above tidewater.

The interminable monotone of the ocean intensified the silence. I sat
motionless, holding my breath as one who listens to the first low rumor
of an organ. All at once the pure whistle of a nightingale cut the
silence, and the first moonbeam silvered the wastes of mist-hung waters.

I raised my head.

Lys stood before me in the garden.

When we had kissed each other, we linked arms and moved up and down the
gravel walks, watching the moonbeams sparkle on the sand bar as the tide
ebbed and ebbed. The broad beds of white pinks about us were atremble
with hovering white moths; the October roses hung all abloom, perfuming
the salt wind.

"Sweetheart," I said, "where is Yvonne? Has she promised to spend
Christmas with us?"

"Yes, Dick; she drove me down from Plougat this afternoon. She sent her
love to you. I am not jealous. What did you shoot?"

"A hare and four partridges. They are in the gun room. I told Catherine
not to touch them until you had seen them."

Now I suppose I knew that Lys could not be particularly enthusiastic
over game or guns; but she pretended she was, and always scornfully
denied that it was for my sake and not for the pure love of sport. So
she dragged me off to inspect the rather meager game bag, and she paid
me pretty compliments, and gave a little cry of delight and pity as I
lifted the enormous hare out of the sack by his ears.

"He'll eat no more of our lettuce," I said attempting to justify the
assassination.

"Unhappy little bunny--and what a beauty! O Dick, you are a splendid
shot, are you not?"

I evaded the question and hauled out a partridge.

"Poor little dead things'" said Lys in a whisper; "it seems a
pity--doesn't it, Dick? But then you are so clever----"

"We'll have them broiled," I said guardedly, "tell Catherine."

Catherine came in to take away the game, and presently 'Fine Lelocard,
Lys's maid, announced dinner, and Lys tripped away to her boudoir.

I stood an instant contemplating her blissfully, thinking, "My boy,
you're the happiest fellow in the world--you're in love with your wife'"

I walked into the dining-room, beamed at the plates, walked out again;
met Tregunc in the hallway, beamed on him; glanced into the kitchen,
beamed at Catherine, and went up stairs, still beaming.

Before I could knock at Lys's door it opened, and Lys came hastily out.
When she saw me she gave a little cry of relief, and nestled close to my
breast.

"There is something peering in at my window," she said.

"What!" I cried angrily.

"A man, I think, disguised as a priest, and he has a mask on. He must
have climbed up by the bay tree."

I was down the stairs and out of doors in no time. The moonlit garden
was absolutely deserted. Tregunc came up, and together we searched the
hedge and shrubbery around the house and out to the road.

"Jean Marie," said I at length, "loose my bulldog--he knows you--and
take your supper on the porch where you can watch. My wife says the
fellow is disguised as a priest, and wears a mask."

Tregunc showed his white teeth in a smile. "He will not care to venture
in here again, I think, Monsieur Darrel."

I went back and found Lys seated quietly at the table.

"The soup is ready, dear," she said. "Don't worry; it was only some
foolish lout from Bannalec. No one in St. Gildas or St. Julien would do
such a thing."

I was too much exasperated to reply at first, but Lys treated it as a
stupid joke, and after a while I began to look at it in that light.

Lys told me about Yvonne, and reminded me of my promise to have Herbert
Stuart down to meet her.

"You wicked diplomat!" I protested. "Herbert is in Paris, and hard at
work for the Salon."

"Don't you think he might spare a week to flirt with the prettiest girl
in Finistere?" inquired Lys innocently.

"Prettiest girl! Not much!" I said.

"Who is, then?" urged Lys.

I laughed a trifle sheepishly.

"I suppose you mean me, Dick," said Lys, coloring up.

"Now I bore you, don't I?"

"Bore me? Ah, no, Dick."

After coffee and cigarettes were served I spoke about Tregunc, and Lys
approved.

"Poor Jean! He will be glad, won't he? What a dear fellow you are!"

"Nonsense," said I; "we need a gardener; you said so yourself, Lys."

But Lys leaned over and kissed me, and then bent down and hugged
Môme--who whistled through his nose in sentimental appreciation.

"I am a very happy woman," said Lys.

"Môme was a very bad dog to-day," I observed.

"Poor Môme!" said Lys, smiling.

When dinner was over and Môme lay snoring before the blaze--for the
October nights are often chilly in Finistere--Lys curled up in the
chimney corner with her embroidery, and gave me a swift glance from
under her dropping lashes.

"You look like a schoolgirl, Lys," I said teasingly. "I don't believe
you are sixteen yet."

She pushed back her heavy burnished hair thoughtfully. Her wrist was as
white as surf foam.

"Have we been married four years? I don't believe it," I said.

She gave me another swift glance and touched the embroidery on her knee,
smiling faintly.

"I see," said I, also smiling at the embroidered garment. "Do you think
it will fit?"

"Fit?" repeated Lys. Then she laughed

"And," I persisted, "are you perfectly sure that you--er--we shall need
it?"

"Perfectly," said Lys. A delicate color touched her cheeks and neck. She
held up the little garment, all fluffy with misty lace and wrought with
quaint embroidery.

"It is very gorgeous," said I; "don't use your eyes too much, dearest.
May I smoke a pipe?"

"Of course," she said selecting a skein of pale blue silk.

For a while I sat and smoked in silence, watching her slender fingers
among the tinted silks and thread of gold.

Presently she spoke: "What did you say your crest is, Dick?"

"My crest? Oh, something or other rampant on a something or other----"

"Dick!"

"Dearest?"

"Don't be flippant."

"But I really forget. It's an ordinary crest; everybody in New York has
them. No family should be without 'em."

"You are disagreeable, Dick. Send Josephine upstairs for my album."

"Are you going to put that crest on the--the--whatever it is?"

"I am; and my own crest, too."

I thought of the Purple Emperor and wondered a little.

"You didn't know I had one, did you?" she smiled.

"What is it?" I replied evasively.

"You shall see. Ring for Josephine."

I rang, and, when 'Fine appeared, Lys gave her some orders in a low
voice, and Josephine trotted away, bobbing her white-coiffed head with a
"Bien, Madame!"

After a few minutes she returned, bearing a tattered, musty volume, from
which the gold and blue had mostly disappeared.

I took the book in my hands and examined the ancient emblazoned covers.

"Lilies!" I exclaimed.

"Fleur-de-lis," said my wife demurely.

"Oh!" said I, astonished, and opened the book.

"You have never before seen this book?" asked Lys, with a touch of
malice in her eyes.

"You know I haven't. Hello! What's this? Oho! So there should be a de
before Trevec? Lys de Trevec? Then why in the world did the Purple
Emperor----"

"Dick!" cried Lys.

"All right," said I. "Shall I read about the Sieur de Trevec who rode to
Saladin's tent alone to seek for medicine for St. Louise? Or shall I
read about--what is it? Oh, here it is, all down in black and
white--about the Marquis de Trevec who drowned himself before Alva's
eyes rather than surrender the banner of the fleur-de-lis to Spain? It's
all written here. But, dear, how about that soldier named Trevec who was
killed in the old fort on the cliff yonder?"

"He dropped the de, and the Trevecs since then have been Republicans,"
said Lys--"all except me."

"That's quite right," said I; "it is time that we Republicans should
agree upon some feudal system. My dear, I drink to the king!" and I
raised my wine glass and looked at Lys.

"To the king," said Lys, flushing. She smoothed out the tiny garment on
her knees; she touched the glass with her lips; her eyes were very
sweet. I drained the glass to the king.

After a silence I said: "I will tell the king stories. His majesty shall
be amused."

"His majesty," repeated Lys softly.

"Or hers," I laughed. "Who knows?"

"Who knows?" murmured Lys; with a gentle sigh.

"I know some stories about Jack the Giant-Killer," I announced. "Do
you, Lys?"

"I? No, not about a giant-killer, but I know all about the werewolf, and
Jeanne-la-Flamme, and the Man in Purple Tatters, and--O dear me, I know
lots more."

"You are very wise," said I. "I shall teach his majesty, English."

"And I Breton," cried Lys jealously.

"I shall bring playthings to the king," said I--"big green lizards from
the gorse, little gray mullets to swim in glass globes, baby rabbits
from the forest of Kerselec----"

"And I," said Lys, "will bring the first primrose, the first branch of
aubepine, the first jonquil, to the king--my king."

"Our king," said I; and there was peace in Finistere.

I lay back, idly turning the leaves of the curious old volume.

"I am looking," said I, "for the crest."

"The crest, dear? It is a priest's head with an arrow-shaped mark on the
forehead, on a field----"

I sat up and stared at my wife.

"Dick, whatever is the matter?" she smiled. "The story is there in that
book. Do you care to read it? No? Shall I tell it to you? Well, then: It
happened in the third crusade. There was a monk whom men called the
Black Priest. He turned apostate, and sold himself to the enemies of
Christ. A Sieur de Trevec burst into the Saracen camp, at the head of
only one hundred lances, and carried the Black Priest away out of the
very midst of their army."

"So that is how you come by the crest," I said quietly; but I thought of
the branded skull in the gravel pit, and wondered.

"Yes," said Lys. "The Sieur de Trevec cut the Black Priest's head off,
but first he branded him with an arrow mark on the forehead. The book
says it was a pious action, and the Sieur de Trevec got great merit by
it. But I think it was cruel, the branding," she sighed.

"Did you ever hear of any other Black Priest?"

"Yes. There was one in the last century, here in St. Gildas. He cast a
white shadow in the sun. He wrote in the Breton language. Chronicles,
too, I believe. I never saw them. His name was the same as that of the
old chronicler, and of the other priest, Jacques Sorgue. Some said he
was a lineal descendant of the traitor. Of course the first Black Priest
was bad enough for anything. But if he did have a child, it need not
have been the ancestor of the last Jacques Sorgue. They say he was so
good he was not allowed to die, but was caught up to heaven one day,"
added Lys, with believing eyes.

I smiled.

"But he disappeared," persisted Lys.

"I'm afraid his journey was in another direction," I said jestingly, and
thoughtlessly told her the story of the morning. I had utterly
forgotten the masked man at her window, but before I finished I
remembered him fast enough, and realized what I had done as I saw her
face whiten.

"Lys," I urged tenderly, "that was only some clumsy clown's trick. You
said so yourself. You are not superstitious, my dear?"

Her eyes were on mine. She slowly drew the little gold cross from her
bosom and kissed it. But her lips trembled as they pressed the symbol of
faith.


III

About nine o'clock the next morning I walked into the Groix Inn and sat
down at the long discolored oaken table, nodding good-day to Marianne
Bruyere, who in turn bobbed her white coiffe at me.

"My clever Bannalec maid," said I, "what is good for a stirrup-cup at
the Groix Inn?"

"Schist?" she inquired in Breton.

"With a dash of red wine, then," I replied.

She brought the delicious Quimperle cider, and I poured a little
Bordeaux into it. Marianne watched me with laughing black eyes.

"What makes your cheeks so red, Marianne?" I asked. "Has Jean Marie been
here?"

"We are to be married, Monsieur Darrel," she laughed.

"Ah! Since when has Jean Marie Tregunc lost his head?"

"His head? Oh, Monsieur Darrel--his heart, you mean!"

"So I do," said I. "Jean Marie is a practical fellow."

"It is all due to your kindness--" began the girl, but I raised my hand
and held up the glass.

"It's due to himself. To your happiness, Marianne"; and I took a hearty
draught of the schist. "Now," said I, "tell me where I can find Le Bihan
and Max Fortin."

"Monsieur Le Bihan and Monsieur Fortin are above in the broad room. I
believe they are examining the Red Admiral's effects."

"To send them to Paris? Oh, I know. May I go up, Marianne?"

"And God go with you," smiled the girl.

When I knocked at the door of the broad room above little Max Fortin
opened it. Dust covered his spectacles and nose; his hat, with the tiny
velvet ribbons fluttering, was all awry.

"Come in, Monsieur Darrel," he said; "the mayor and I are packing up the
effects of the Purple Emperor and of the poor Red Admiral."

"The collections?" I asked, entering the room. "You must be very careful
in packing those butterfly cases; the slightest jar might break wings
and antennas, you know."

Le Bihan shook hands with me and pointed to the great pile of boxes.

"They're all cork lined," he said, "but Fortin and I are putting felt
around each box. The Entomological Society of Paris pays the freight."

The combined collection of the Red Admiral and the Purple Emperor made a
magnificent display.

I lifted and inspected case after case set with gorgeous butterflies and
moths, each specimen carefully labelled with the name in Latin. There
were cases filled with crimson tiger moths all aflame with color; cases
devoted to the common yellow butterflies; symphonies in orange and pale
yellow; cases of soft gray and dun-colored sphinx moths; and cases of
grayish nettle-bed butterflies of the numerous family of Vanessa.

All alone in a great case by itself was pinned the purple emperor, the
Apatura Iris, that fatal specimen that had given the Purple Emperor his
name and quietus.

I remembered the butterfly, and stood looking at it with bent eyebrows.

Le Bihan glanced up from the floor where he was nailing down the lid of
a box full of cases.

"It is settled, then," said he, "that madame, your wife, gives the
Purple Emperor's entire Collection to the city of Paris?"

I nodded.

"Without accepting anything for it?"

"It is a gift," I said.

"Including the purple emperor there in the case? That butterfly is
worth a great deal of money," persisted Le Bihan.

"You don't suppose that we would wish to sell that specimen, do you?" I
answered a trifle sharply.

"If I were you I should destroy it," said the mayor in his high-pitched
voice.

"That would be nonsense," said I, "like your burying the brass cylinder
and scroll yesterday."

"It was not nonsense," said Le Bihan doggedly, "and I should prefer not
to discuss the subject of the scroll."

I looked at Max Portin, who immediately avoided my eyes.

"You are a pair of superstitious old women," said I, digging my hands
into my pockets; "you swallow every nursery tale that is invented."

"What of it?" said Le Bihan sulkily; "there's more truth than lies in
most of 'em."

"Oh!" I sneered, "does the Mayor of St. Gildas and St. Julien believe in
the loup-garou?"

"No, not in the loup-garou."

"In what, then--Jeanne-la-Flamme?"

"That," said Le Bihan with conviction, "is history."

"The devil it is!" said I; "and perhaps, Monsieur the mayor, your faith
in giants is unimpaired?"

"There were giants--everybody knows it," growled Max Fortin.

"And you a chemist!" I observed scornfully.

"Listen, Monsieur Darrel," squeaked Le Bihan; "you know yourself that
the Purple Emperor was a scientific man. Now suppose I should tell you
that he always refused to include in his collection a Death's
Messenger?"

"A what?" I exclaimed.

"You know what I mean--that moth that flies by night; some call it the
Death's Head, but in St. Gildas we call it 'Death's Messenger.'"

"Oh!" said I, "you mean that big sphinx moth that is commonly known as
the 'death's-head moth.' Why the mischief should the people here call it
death's messenger?"

"For hundreds of years it has been known as death's messenger in St.
Gildas," said Max Fortin. "Even Froissart speaks of it in his
commentaries on Jacques Sorgue's _Chronicles_. The book is in your
library."

"Sorgue? And who was Jacques Sorgue? I never read his book."

"Jacques Sorgue [Transcriber's note: the original reads "Sorque"] was the
son of some unfrocked priest--I forget. It was during the crusades."

"Good Heavens!" I burst out, "I've been hearing of nothing but crusades
and priests and death and sorcery ever since I kicked that skull into
the gravel pit, and I am tired of it, I tell you frankly. One would
think we lived in the dark ages. Do you know what year of our Lord it
is, Le Bihan?"

"Eighteen hundred and ninety-six," replied the mayor.

"And yet you two hulking men are afraid of a death's-head moth."

"I don't care to have one fly into the window," said Max Fortin; "it
means evil to the house and the people in it."

"God alone knows why he marked one of his creatures with a yellow
death's head on the back," observed Le Bihan piously, "but I take it
that he meant it as a warning; and I propose to profit by it," he added
triumphantly.

"See here, Le Bihan," I said; "by a stretch of imagination one can make
out a skull on the thorax of a certain big sphinx moth. What of it?"

"It is a bad thing to touch," said the mayor wagging his head.

"It squeaks when handled," added Max Fortin.

"Some creatures squeak all the time," I observed, looking hard at Le
Bihan.

"Pigs," added the mayor.

"Yes, and asses," I replied. "Listen, Le Bihan: do you mean to tell me
that you saw that skull roll uphill yesterday?"

The mayor shut his mouth tightly and picked up his hammer.

"Don't be obstinate," I said; "I asked you a question."

"And I refuse to answer," snapped Le Bihan. "Fortin saw what I saw; let
him talk about it."

I looked searchingly at the little chemist.

"I don't say that I saw it actually roll up out of the pit, all by
itself," said Fortin with a shiver, "but--but then, how did it come up
out of the pit, if it didn't roll up all by itself?"

"It didn't come up at all; that was a yellow cobblestone that you
mistook for the skull again," I replied. "You were nervous, Max."

"A--a very curious cobblestone, Monsieur Darrel," said Fortin.

"I also was a victim to the same hallucination," I continued, "and I
regret to say that I took the trouble to roll two innocent cobblestones
into the gravel pit, imagining each time that it was the skull I was
rolling."

"It was," observed Le Bihan with a morose shrug.

"It just shows," said I, ignoring the mayor's remark, "how easy it is to
fix up a train of coincidences so that the result seems to savor of the
supernatural. Now, last night my wife imagined that she saw a priest in
a mask peer in at her window----"

Fortin and Le Bihan scrambled hastily from their knees, dropping hammer
and nails.

"W-h-a-t--what's that?" demanded the mayor.

I repeated what I had said. Max Fortin turned livid.

"My God!" muttered Le Bihan, "the Black Priest is in St. Gildas!"

"D-don't you--you know the old prophecy?" stammered Fortin; "Froissart
quotes it from Jacques Sorgue:

    "'When the Black Priest rises from the dead,
    St. Gildas folk shall shriek in bed;
    When the Black Priest rises from his grave,
    May the good God St. Gildas save!'"

"Aristide Le Bihan," I said angrily, "and you, Max Fortin, I've got
enough of this nonsense! Some foolish lout from Bannalec has been in St.
Gildas playing tricks to frighten old fools like you. If you have
nothing better to talk about than nursery legends I'll wait until you
come to your senses. Good-morning." And I walked out, more disturbed
than I cared to acknowledge to myself.

The day had become misty and overcast. Heavy, wet clouds hung in the
east. I heard the surf thundering against the cliffs, and the gray gulls
squealed as they tossed and turned high in the sky. The tide was
creeping across the river sands, higher, higher, and I saw the seaweed
floating on the beach, and the lancons springing from the foam, silvery
threadlike flashes in the gloom. Curlew were flying up the river in twos
and threes; the timid sea swallows skimmed across the moors toward some
quiet, lonely pool, safe from the coming tempest. In every hedge field
birds were gathering, huddling together, twittering restlessly.

When I reached the cliffs I sat down, resting my chin on my clenched
hands. Already a vast curtain of rain, sweeping across the ocean miles
away, hid the island of Groix. To the east, behind the white semaphore
on the hills, black clouds crowded up over the horizon. After a little
the thunder boomed, dull, distant, and slender skeins of lightning
unraveled across the crest of the coming storm. Under the cliff at my
feet the surf rushed foaming over the shore, and the lancons jumped and
skipped and quivered until they seemed to be but the reflections of the
meshed lightning.

I turned to the east. It was raining over Groix, it was raining at
Sainte Barbe, it was raining now at the semaphore. High in the storm
whirl a few gulls pitched; a nearer cloud trailed veils of rain in its
wake; the sky was spattered with lightning; the thunder boomed.

As I rose to go, a cold raindrop fell upon the back of my hand, and
another, and yet another on my face. I gave a last glance at the sea,
where the waves were bursting into strange white shapes that seemed to
fling out menacing arms toward me. Then something moved on the cliff,
something black as the black rock it clutched--a filthy cormorant,
craning its hideous head at the sky.

Slowly I plodded homeward across the somber moorland, where the gorse
stems glimmered with a dull metallic green, and the heather, no longer
violet and purple, hung drenched and dun-colored among the dreary rocks.
The wet turf creaked under my heavy boots, the black-thorn scraped and
grated against knee and elbow. Over all lay a strange light, pallid,
ghastly, where the sea spray whirled across the landscape and drove into
my face until it grew numb with the cold. In broad bands, rank after
rank, billow on billow, the rain burst out across the endless moors, and
yet there was no wind to drive it at such a pace.

Lys stood at the door as I turned into the garden, motioning me to
hasten; and then for the first time I became conscious that I was soaked
to the skin.

"However in the world did you come to stay out when such a storm
threatened?" she said. "Oh, you are dripping! Go quickly and change; I
have laid your warm underwear on the bed, Dick."

I kissed my wife, and went upstairs to change my dripping clothes for
something more comfortable.

When I returned to the morning room there was a driftwood fire on the
hearth, and Lys sat in the chimney corner embroidering.

"Catherine tells me that the fishing fleet from Lorient is out. Do you
think they are in danger, dear?" asked Lys, raising her blue eyes to
mine as I entered.

"There is no wind, and there will be no sea," said I, looking out of the
window. Far across the moor I could see the black cliffs looming in the
mist.

"How it rains!" murmured Lys; "come to the fire, Dick."

I threw myself on the fur rug, my hands in my pockets, my head on Lys's
knees.

"Tell me a story," I said. "I feel like a boy of ten."

Lys raised a finger to her scarlet lips. I always waited for her to do
that.

"Will you be very still, then?" she said.

"Still as death."

"Death," echoed a voice, very softly.

"Did you speak, Lys?" I asked, turning so that I could see her face.

"No; did you, Dick?"

"Who said 'death'?" I asked, startled.

"Death," echoed a voice, softly.

I sprang up and looked about. Lys rose too, her needles and embroidery
falling to the floor. She seemed about to faint, leaning heavily on me,
and I led her to the window and opened it a little way to give her air.
As I did so the chain lightning split the zenith, the thunder crashed,
and a sheet of rain swept into the room, driving with it something that
fluttered--something that flapped, and squeaked, and beat upon the rug
with soft, moist wings.

We bent over it together, Lys clinging to me, and we saw that it was a
death's-head moth drenched with rain.

The dark day passed slowly as we sat beside the fire, hand in hand, her
head against my breast, speaking of sorrow and mystery and death. For
Lys believed that there were things on earth that none might understand,
things that must be nameless forever and ever, until God rolls up the
scroll of life and all is ended. We spoke of hope and fear and faith,
and the mystery of the saints; we spoke of the beginning and the end, of
the shadow of sin, of omens, and of love. The moth still lay on the
floor quivering its somber wings in the warmth of the fire, the skull
and ribs clearly etched upon its neck and body.

"If it is a messenger of death to this house," I said, "why should we
fear, Lys?"

"Death should be welcome to those who love God," murmured Lys, and she
drew the cross from her breast and kissed it.

"The moth might die if I threw it out into the storm," I said after a
silence.

"Let it remain," sighed Lys.

Late that night my wife lay sleeping, and I sat beside her bed and read
in the Chronicle of Jacques Sorgue. I shaded the candle, but Lys grew
restless, and finally I took the book down into the morning room, where
the ashes of the fire rustled and whitened on the hearth.

The death's-head moth lay on the rug before the fire where I had left
it. At first I thought it was dead, but when I looked closer I saw a
lambent fire in its amber eyes. The straight white shadow it cast across
the floor wavered as the candle flickered.

The pages of the Chronicle of Jacques Sorgue were damp and sticky; the
illuminated gold and blue initials left flakes of azure and gilt where
my hand brushed them.

"It is not paper at all; it is thin parchment," I said to myself; and I
held the discolored page close to the candle flame and read, translating
laboriously:

"I, Jacques Sorgue, saw all these things. And I saw the Black Mass
celebrated in the chapel of St. Gildas-on-the-Cliff. And it was said by
the Abbé Sorgue, my kinsman: for which deadly sin the apostate priest
was seized by the most noble Marquis of Plougastel and by him condemned
to be burned with hot irons, until his seared soul quit its body and fly
to its master the devil. But when the Black Priest lay in the crypt of
Plougastel, his master Satan came at night and set him free, and carried
him across land and sea to Mahmoud, which is Soldan or Saladin. And I,
Jacques Sorgue, traveling afterward by sea, beheld with my own eyes my
kinsman, the Black Priest of St. Gildas, borne along in the air upon a
vast black wing, which was the wing of his master Satan. And this was
seen also by two men of the crew."

I turned the page. The wings of the moth on the floor began to quiver. I
read on and on, my eyes blurring under the shifting candle flame. I read
of battles and of saints, and I learned how the Great Soldan made his
pact with Satan, and then I came to the Sieur de Trevec, and read how he
seized the Black Priest in the midst of Saladin's tents and carried him
away and cut off his head first branding him on the forehead. "And
before he suffered," said the Chronicle, "he cursed the Sieur de Trevec
and his descendants, and he said he would surely return to St. Gildas.
'For the violence you do to me, I will do violence to you. For the evil
I suffer at your hands, I will work evil on you and your descendants.
Woe to your children, Sieur de Trevec!'" There was a whirr, a beating of
strong wings, and my candle flashed up as in a sudden breeze. A humming
filled the room; the great moth darted hither and thither, beating,
buzzing, on ceiling and wall. I flung down my book and stepped forward.
Now it lay fluttering upon the window sill, and for a moment I had it
under my hand, but the thing squeaked and I shrank back. Then suddenly
it darted across the candle flame; the light flared and went out, and at
the same moment a shadow moved in the darkness outside. I raised my eyes
to the window. A masked face was peering in at me.

Quick as thought I whipped out my revolver and fired every cartridge,
but the face advanced beyond the window, the glass melting away before
it like mist, and through the smoke of my revolver I saw something creep
swiftly into the room. Then I tried to cry out, but the thing was at my
throat, and I fell backward among the ashes of the hearth.

       *       *       *       *       *

When my eyes unclosed I was lying on the hearth, my head among the cold
ashes. Slowly I got on my knees, rose painfully, and groped my way to a
chair. On the floor lay my revolver, shining in the pale light of early
morning. My mind clearing by degrees, I looked, shuddering, at the
window. The glass was unbroken. I stooped stiffly, picked up my revolver
and opened the cylinder. Every cartridge had been fired. Mechanically I
closed the cylinder and placed the revolver in my pocket. The book, the
Chronicles of Jacques Sorgue, lay on the table beside me, and as I
started to close it I glanced at the page. It was all splashed with
rain, and the lettering had run, so that the page was merely a confused
blur of gold and red and black. As I stumbled toward the door I cast a
fearful glance over my shoulder. The death's-head moth crawled shivering
on the rug.


IV

The sun was about three hours high. I must have slept, for I was aroused
by the sudden gallop of horses under our window. People were shouting
and calling in the road. I sprang up and opened the sash. Le Bihan was
there, an image of helplessness, and Max Fortin stood beside him
polishing his glasses. Some gendarmes had just arrived from Quimperle,
and I could hear them around the corner of the house, stamping, and
rattling their sabres and carbines, as they led their horses into my
stable.

Lys sat up, murmuring half-sleepy, half-anxious questions.

"I don't know," I answered. "I am going out to see what it means."

"It is like the day they came to arrest you," Lys said, giving me a
troubled look. But I kissed her and laughed at her until she smiled too.
Then I flung on coat and cap and hurried down the stairs.

The first person I saw standing in the road was the Brigadier Durand.

"Hello!" said I, "have you come to arrest me again? What the devil is
all this fuss about, anyway?"

"We were telegraphed for an hour ago," said Durand briskly, "and for a
sufficient reason, I think. Look there, Monsieur Darrel!"

He pointed to the ground almost under my feet.

"Good heavens!" I cried, "where did that puddle of blood come from?"

"That's what I want to know, Monsieur Darrel. Max Fortin found it at
daybreak. See, it's splashed all over the grass, too. A trail of it
leads into your garden, across the flower beds to your very window, the
one that opens from the morning room. There is another trail leading
from this spot across the road to the cliffs, then to the gravel pit,
and thence across the moor to the forest of Kerselec. We are going to
mount in a minute and search the bosquets. Will you join us? Bon Dieu!
but the fellow bled like an ox. Max Fortin says it's human blood, or I
should not have believed it."

The little chemist of Quimperle came up at that moment, rubbing his
glasses with a colored handkerchief.

"Yes, it is human blood," he said, "but one thing puzzles me: the
corpuscles are yellow. I never saw any human blood before with yellow
corpuscles. But your English Doctor Thompson asserts that he has----"

"Well, it's human blood, anyway--isn't it?" insisted Durand,
impatiently.

"Ye-es," admitted Max Fortin.

"Then it's my business to trail it," said the big gendarme, and he
called his men and gave the order to mount.

"Did you hear anything last night?" asked Durand of me.

"I heard the rain. I wonder the rain did not wash away these traces."

"They must have come after the rain ceased. See this thick splash, how
it lies over and weighs down the wet grass blades. Pah!"

It was a heavy, evil-looking clot, and I stepped back from it, my throat
closing in disgust.

"My theory," said the brigadier, "is this: Some of those Biribi
fishermen, probably the Icelanders, got an extra glass of cognac into
their hides and quarreled on the road. Some of them were slashed, and
staggered to your house. But there is only one trail, and yet--and yet,
how could all that blood come from only one person? Well, the wounded
man, let us say, staggered first to your house and then back here, and
he wandered off, drunk and dying, God knows where. That's my theory."

"A very good one," said I calmly. "And you are going to trail him?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"At once. Will you come?"

"Not now. I'll gallop over by-and-bye. You are going to the edge of the
Kerselec forest?"

"Yes; you will hear us calling. Are you coming, Max Fortin? And you, Le
Bihan? Good; take the dog-cart."

The big gendarme tramped around the corner to the stable and presently
returned mounted on a strong gray horse, his sabre shone on his saddle;
his pale yellow and white facings were spotless. The little crowd of
white-coiffed women with their children fell back as Durand touched
spurs and clattered away followed by his two troopers. Soon after Le
Bihan and Max Fortin also departed in the mayor's dingy dog-cart.

"Are you coming?" piped Le Bihan shrilly.

"In a quarter of an hour," I replied, and went back to the house.

When I opened the door of the morning room the death's-head moth was
beating its strong wings against the window. For a second I hesitated,
then walked over and opened the sash. The creature fluttered out,
whirred over the flower beds a moment, then darted across the moorland
toward the sea. I called the servants together and questioned them.
Josephine, Catherine, Jean Marie Tregunc, not one of them had heard the
slightest disturbance during the night. Then I told Jean Marie to saddle
my horse, and while I was speaking Lys came down.

"Dearest," I began, going to her.

"You must tell me everything you know, Dick," she interrupted, looking
me earnestly in the face.

"But there is nothing to tell--only a drunken brawl, and some one
wounded."

"And you are going to ride--where, Dick?"

"Well, over to the edge of Kerselec forest. Durand and the mayor, and
Max Fortin, have gone on, following a--a trail."

"What trail?"

"Some blood."

"Where did they find it?"

"Out in the road there." Lys crossed herself.

"Does it come near our house?"

"Yes."

"How near?"

"It comes up to the morning room window," said I, giving in.

Her hand on my arm grew heavy. "I dreamed last night----"

"So did I--" but I thought of the empty cartridges in my revolver, and
stopped.

"I dreamed that you were in great danger, and I could not move hand or
foot to save you; but you had your revolver, and I called out to you to
fire----"

"I did fire!" I cried excitedly.

"You--you fired?"

I took her in my arms. "My darling," I said "something strange has
happened--something that I cannot understand as yet. But, of course,
there is an explanation. Last night I thought I fired at the Black
Priest."

"Ah!" gasped Lys.

"Is that what you dreamed?"

"Yes, yes, that was it! I begged you to fire----"

"And I did."

Her heart was beating against my breast. I held her close in silence.

"Dick," she said at length, "perhaps you killed the--the thing."

"If it was human I did not miss," I answered grimly. "And it was human,"
I went on, pulling myself together, ashamed of having so nearly gone to
pieces. "Of course it was human! The whole affair is plain enough. Not a
drunken brawl, as Durand thinks; it was a drunken lout's practical joke,
for which he has suffered. I suppose I must have filled him pretty full
of bullets, and he has crawled away to die in Kerselec forest. It's a
terrible affair; I'm sorry I fired so hastily; but that idiot Le Bihan
and Max Fortin have been working on my nerves till I am as hysterical as
a schoolgirl," I ended angrily.

"You fired--but the window glass was not shattered," said Lys in a low
voice.

"Well, the window was open, then. And as for the--the rest--I've got
nervous indigestion, and a doctor will settle the Black Priest for me,
Lys."

I glanced out of the window at Tregunc waiting with my horse at the
gate.

"Dearest, I think I had better go to join Durand and the others."

"I will go, too."

"Oh, no!"

"Yes, Dick."

"Don't, Lys."

"I shall suffer every moment you are away."

"The ride is too fatiguing, and we can't tell what unpleasant sight you
may come upon. Lys, you don't really think there is anything
supernatural in this affair?"

"Dick," she answered gently, "I am a Bretonne." With both arms around my
neck, my wife said, "Death is the gift of God. I do not fear it when we
are together. But alone--oh, my husband, I should fear a God who could
take you away from me!"

We kissed each other soberly, simply, like two children. Then Lys
hurried away to change her gown, and I paced up and down the garden
waiting for her.

She came, drawing on her slender gauntlets. I swung her into the saddle,
gave a hasty order to Jean Marie, and mounted.

Now, to quail under thoughts of terror on a morning like this, with Lys
in the saddle beside me, no matter what had happened or might happen
was impossible. Moreover, Môme came sneaking after us. I asked Tregunc
to catch him, for I was afraid he might be brained by our horses' hoofs
if he followed, but the wily puppy dodged and bolted after Lys, who was
trotting along the highroad. "Never mind," I thought; "if he's hit he'll
live, for he has no brains to lose."

Lys was waiting for me in the road beside the Shrine of Our Lady of St.
Gildas when I joined her. She crossed herself, I doffed my cap, then we
shook out our bridles and galloped toward the forest of Kerselec.

We said very little as we rode. I always loved to watch Lys in the
saddle. Her exquisite figure and lovely face were the incarnation of
youth and grace; her curling hair glistened like threaded gold.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the spoiled puppy Môme come bounding
cheerfully alongside, oblivious of our horses' heels. Our road swung
close to the cliffs. A filthy cormorant rose from the black rocks and
flapped heavily across our path. Lys's horse reared, but she pulled him
down, and pointed at the bird with her riding crop.

"I see," said I; "it seems to be going our way. Curious to see a
cormorant in a forest, isn't it?"

"It is a bad sign," said Lys. "You know the Morbihan proverb: 'When the
cormorant turns from the sea, Death laughs in the forest, and wise
woodsmen build boats.'"

"I wish," said I sincerely, "that there were fewer proverbs in
Brittany."

We were in sight of the forest now; across the gorse I could see the
sparkle of gendarmes' trappings, and the glitter of Le Bihan's
silver-buttoned jacket. The hedge was low and we took it without
difficulty, and trotted across the moor to where Le Bihan and Durand
stood gesticulating.

They bowed ceremoniously to Lys as we rode up.

"The trail is horrible--it is a river," said the mayor in his squeaky
voice. "Monsieur Darrel, I think perhaps madame would scarcely care to
come any nearer."

Lys drew bridle and looked at me.

"It is horrible!" said Durand, walking up beside me; "it looks as though
a bleeding regiment had passed this way. The trail winds and winds about
here in the thickets; we lose it at times, but we always find it again.
I can't understand how one man--no, nor twenty--could bleed like that!"

A halloo, answered by another, sounded from the depths of the forest.

"It's my men; they are following the trail," muttered the brigadier.
"God alone knows what is at the end!"

"Shall we gallop back, Lys?" I asked.

"No; let us ride along the western edge of the woods and dismount. The
sun is so hot now, and I should like to rest for a moment," she said.

"The western forest is clear of anything disagreeable," said Durand.

"Very well," I answered; "call me, Le Bihan, if you find anything."

Lys wheeled her mare, and I followed across the springy heather, Môme
trotting cheerfully in the rear.

We entered the sunny woods about a quarter of a kilometer from where we
left Durand. I took Lys from her horse, flung both bridles over a limb,
and, giving my wife my arm, aided her to a flat mossy rock which
overhung a shallow brook gurgling among the beech trees. Lys sat down
and drew off her gauntlets. Môme pushed his head into her lap, received
an undeserved caress, and came doubtfully toward me. I was weak enough
to condone his offense, but I made him lie down at my feet, greatly to
his disgust.

I rested my head on Lys's knees, looking up at the sky through the
crossed branches of the trees.

"I suppose I have killed him," I said. "It shocks me terribly, Lys."

"You could not have known, dear. He may have been a robber,
and--if--not--did--have you ever fired your revolver since that day four
years ago when the Red Admiral's son tried to kill you? But I know you
have not."

"No," said I, wondering. "It's a fact, I have not. Why?"

"And don't you remember that I asked you to let me load it for you the
day when Yves went off, swearing to kill you and his father?"

"Yes, I do remember. Well?"

"Well, I--I took the cartridges first to St. Gildas chapel and dipped
them in holy water. You must not laugh, Dick," said Lys gently, laying
her cool hands on my lips.

"Laugh, my darling!"

Overhead the October sky was pale amethyst, and the sunlight burned like
orange flame through the yellow leaves of beech and oak. Gnats and
midges danced and wavered overhead; a spider dropped from a twig halfway
to the ground and hung suspended on the end of his gossamer thread.

"Are you sleepy, dear?" asked Lys, bending over me.

"I am--a little; I scarcely slept two hours last night," I answered.

"You may sleep, if you wish," said Lys, and touched my eyes caressingly.

"Is my head heavy on your knees?"

"No, Dick."

I was already in a half doze; still I heard the brook babbling under the
beeches and the humming of forest flies overhead. Presently even these
were stilled.

The next thing I knew I was sitting bolt upright, my ears ringing with a
scream, and I saw Lys cowering beside me, covering her white face with
both hands.

As I sprang to my feet she cried again and clung to my knees. I saw my
dog rush growling into a thicket, then I heard him whimper, and he came
backing out, whining, ears flat, tail down. I stooped and disengaged
Lys's hand.

"Don't go, Dick!" she cried. "O God, it's the Black Priest!"

In a moment I had leaped across the brook and pushed my way into the
thicket. It was empty. I stared about me; I scanned every tree trunk,
every bush. Suddenly I saw him. He was seated on a fallen log, his head
resting in his hands, his rusty black robe gathered around him. For a
moment my hair stirred under my cap; sweat started on forehead and cheek
bone; then I recovered my reason, and understood that the man was human
and was probably wounded to death. Ay, to death; for there at my feet,
lay the wet trail of blood, over leaves and stones, down into the little
hollow, across to the figure in black resting silently under the trees.

I saw that he could not escape even if he had the strength, for before
him, almost at his very feet, lay a deep, shining swamp.

As I stepped forward my foot broke a twig. At the sound the figure
started a little, then its head fell forward again. Its face was masked.
Walking up to the man, I bade him tell where he was wounded. Durand and
the others broke through the thicket at the same moment and hurried to
my side.

"Who are you who hide a masked face in a priest's robe?" said the
gendarme loudly.

There was no answer.

"See--see the stiff blood all over his robe," muttered Le Bihan to
Fortin.

"He will not speak," said I.

"He may be too badly wounded," whispered Le Bihan.

"I saw him raise his head," I said, "my wife saw him creep up here."

Durand stepped forward and touched the figure.

"Speak!" he said.

"Speak!" quavered Fortin.

Durand waited a moment, then with a sudden upward movement he stripped
off the mask and threw back the man's head. We were looking into the eye
sockets of a skull. Durand stood rigid; the mayor shrieked. The skeleton
burst out from its rotting robes and collapsed on the ground before us.
From between the staring ribs and the grinning teeth spurted a torrent
of black blood, showering the shrinking grasses; then the thing
shuddered, and fell over into the black ooze of the bog. Little bubbles
of iridescent air appeared from the mud; the bones were slowly engulfed,
and, as the last fragments sank out of sight, up from the depths and
along the bank crept a creature, shiny, shivering, quivering its wings.

It was a death's-head moth.

       *       *       *       *       *

I wish I had time to tell you how Lys outgrew superstitions--for she
never knew the truth about the affair, and she never will know, since
she has promised not to read this book. I wish I might tell you about
the king and his coronation, and how the coronation robe fitted. I wish
that I were able to write how Yvonne and Herbert Stuart rode to a boar
hunt in Quimperle, and how the hounds raced the quarry right through the
town, overturning three gendarmes, the notary, and an old woman. But I
am becoming garrulous and Lys is calling me to come and hear the king
say that he is sleepy. And his highness shall not be kept waiting.


THE KING'S CRADLE SONG

      Seal with a seal of gold
      The scroll of a life unrolled;
    Swathe him deep in his purple stole;
    Ashes of diamonds, crystalled coal,
      Drops of gold in each scented fold.

    Crimson wings of the Little Death,
    Stir his hair with your silken breath;
    Flaming wings of sins to be,
    Splendid pinions of prophecy,
      Smother his eyes with hues and dyes,
    While the white moon spins and the winds arise,
      And the stars drip through the skies.

      Wave, O wings of the Little Death!
      Seal his sight and stifle his breath,
    Cover his breast with the gemmed shroud pressed;
    From north to north, from west to west,
      Wave, O wings of the Little Death!
    Till the white moon reels in the cracking skies,
      And the ghosts of God arise.



Lazarus

BY LEONID ANDREYEV

TRANSLATED BY ABRAHAM YARMOLINSKY

     From _Lazarus and the Gentleman from San Francisco_. Published by
     The Stratford Company. By permission of the publishers.


I

When Lazarus left the grave, where, for three days and three nights he
had been under the enigmatical sway of death, and returned alive to his
dwelling, for a long time no one noticed in him those sinister oddities,
which, as time went on, made his very name a terror. Gladdened
unspeakably by the sight of him who had been returned to life, those
near to him caressed him unceasingly, and satiated their burning desire
to serve him, in solicitude for his food and drink and garments. And
they dressed him gorgeously, in bright colors of hope and laughter, and
when, like to a bridegroom in his bridal vestures, he sat again among
them at the table, and again ate and drank, they wept, overwhelmed with
tenderness. And they summoned the neighbors to look at him who had risen
miraculously from the dead. These came and shared the serene joy of the
hosts. Strangers from far-off towns and hamlets came and adored the
miracle in tempestuous words. Like to a beehive was the house of Mary
and Martha.

Whatever was found new in Lazarus' face and gestures was thought to be
some trace of a grave illness and of the shocks recently experienced.
Evidently, the destruction wrought by death on the corpse was only
arrested by the miraculous power, but its effects were still apparent;
and what death had succeeded in doing with Lazarus' face and body, was
like an artist's unfinished sketch seen under thin glass. On Lazarus'
temples, under his eyes, and in the hollows of his cheeks, lay a deep
and cadaverous blueness; cadaverously blue also were his long fingers,
and around his fingernails, grown long in the grave, the blue had become
purple and dark. On his lips the skin, swollen in the grave, had burst
in places, and thin, reddish cracks were formed, shining as though
covered with transparent mica. And he had grown stout. His body, puffed
up in the grave, retained its monstrous size and showed those frightful
swellings, in which one sensed the presence of the rank liquid of
decomposition. But the heavy corpse-like odor which penetrated Lazarus'
graveclothes and, it seemed, his very body, soon entirely disappeared,
the blue spots on his face and hands grew paler, and the reddish cracks
closed up, although they never disappeared altogether. That is how
Lazarus looked when he appeared before people, in his second life, but
his face looked natural to those who had seen him in the coffin.

In addition to the changes in his appearance, Lazarus' temper seemed to
have undergone a transformation, but this circumstance startled no one
and attracted no attention. Before his death Lazarus had always been
cheerful and carefree, fond of laughter and a merry joke. It was because
of this brightness and cheerfulness, with not a touch of malice and
darkness, that the Master had grown so fond of him. But now Lazarus had
grown grave and taciturn, he never jested, himself, nor responded with
laughter to other people's jokes; and the words which he uttered, very
infrequently, were the plainest, most ordinary, and necessary words, as
deprived of depth and significance, as those sounds with which animals
express pain and pleasure, thirst and hunger. They were the words that
one can say all one's life, and yet they give no indication of what
pains and gladdens the depths of the soul.

Thus, with the face of a corpse which for three days had been under the
heavy sway of death, dark and taciturn, already appallingly transformed,
but still unrecognized by anyone in his new self, he was sitting at the
feasting table, among friends and relatives, and his gorgeous nuptial
garments glittered with yellow gold and bloody scarlet. Broad waves of
jubilation, now soft, now tempestuously sonorous surged around him; warm
glances of love were reaching out for his face, still cold with the
coldness of the grave; and a friend's warm palm caressed his blue, heavy
hand. And music played the tympanum and the pipe, the cithara and the
harp. It was as though bees hummed, grasshoppers chirped and birds
warbled over the happy house of Mary and Martha.


II

One of the guests incautiously lifted the veil. By a thoughtless word he
broke the serene charm and uncovered the truth in all its naked
ugliness. Ere the thought formed itself in his mind, his lips uttered
with a smile:

"Why dost thou not tell us what happened yonder?"

And all grew silent, startled by the question. It was as if it occurred
to them only now that for three days Lazarus had been dead, and they
looked at him, anxiously awaiting his answer. But Lazarus kept silence.

"Thou dost not wish to tell us,"--wondered the man, "is it so terrible
yonder?"

And again his thought came after his words. Had it been otherwise, he
would not have asked this question, which at that very moment oppressed
his heart with its insufferable horror. Uneasiness seized all present,
and with a feeling of heavy weariness they awaited Lazarus' words, but
he was silent, sternly and coldly, and his eyes were lowered. And as if
for the first time, they noticed the frightful blueness of his face and
his repulsive obesity. On the table, as though forgotten by Lazarus,
rested his bluish-purple wrist, and to this all eyes turned, as if it
were from it that the awaited answer was to come. The musicians were
still playing, but now the silence reached them too, and even as water
extinguishes scattered embers, so were their merry tunes extinguished in
the silence. The pipe grew silent; the voices of the sonorous tympanum
and the murmuring harp died away; and as if the strings had burst, the
cithara answered with a tremulous, broken note. Silence.

"Thou dost not wish to say?" repeated the guest, unable to check his
chattering tongue. But the stillness remained unbroken, and the
bluish-purple hand rested motionless. And then he stirred slightly and
everyone felt relieved. He lifted up his eyes, and lo! straightway
embracing everything in one heavy glance, fraught with weariness and
horror, he looked at them,--Lazarus who had arisen from the dead.

It was the third day since Lazarus had left the grave. Ever since then
many had experienced the pernicious power of his eye, but neither those
who were crushed by it forever, nor those who found the strength to
resist in it the primordial sources of life,--which is as mysterious as
death,--never could they explain the horror which lay motionless in the
depth of his black pupils. Lazarus looked calmly and simply with no
desire to conceal anything, but also with no intention to say anything;
he looked coldly, as he who is infinitely indifferent to those alive.
Many carefree people came close to him without noticing him, and only
later did they learn with astonishment and fear who that calm stout man
was, that walked slowly by, almost touching them with his gorgeous and
dazzling garments. The sun did not cease shining, when he was looking,
nor did the fountain hush its murmur, and the sky overhead remained
cloudless and blue. But the man under the spell of his enigmatical look
heard no more the fountain and saw not the sky overhead. Sometimes, he
wept bitterly, sometimes he tore his hair and in frenzy called for help;
but more often it came to pass that apathetically and quietly he began
to die, and so he languished many years, before everybody's very eyes,
wasted away, colorless, flabby, dull, like a tree, silently drying up in
a stony soil. And of those who gazed at him, the ones who wept madly,
sometimes felt again the stir of life; the others never.

"So thou dost not wish to tell us what thou hast seen yonder?" repeated
the man. But now his voice was impassive and dull, and deadly gray
weariness showed in Lazarus' eyes. And deadly gray weariness covered
like dust all the faces, and with dull amazement the guests stared at
each other and did not understand wherefore they had gathered here and
sat at the rich table. The talk ceased. They thought it was time to go
home, but could not overcome the flaccid lazy weariness which glued
their muscles, and they kept on sitting there, yet apart and torn away
from each other, like pale fires scattered over a dark field.

But the musicians were paid to play and again they took their
instruments and again tunes full of studied mirth and studied sorrow
began to flow and to rise. They unfolded the customary melody but the
guests hearkened in dull amazement. Already they knew not wherefore is
it necessary, and why is it well, that people should pluck strings,
inflate their cheeks, blow in thin pipes, and produce a bizarre,
many-voiced noise.

"What bad music," said someone.

The musicians took offense and left. Following them, the guests left one
after another, for night was already come. And when placid darkness
encircled them and they began to breathe with more ease, suddenly
Lazarus' image loomed up before each one in formidable radiance: the
blue face of a corpse, grave-clothes gorgeous and resplendent, a cold
look, in the depths of which lay motionless an unknown horror. As though
petrified, they were standing far apart, and darkness enveloped them,
but in the darkness blazed brighter and brighter the supernatural vision
of him who for three days had been under the enigmatical sway of death.
For three days had he been dead: thrice had the sun risen and set, but
he had been dead; children had played, streams murmured over pebbles,
the wayfarer had lifted up hot dust in the highroad,--but he had been
dead. And now he is again among them,--touches them,--looks at
them,--looks at them! and through the black discs of his pupils, as
through darkened glass, stares the unknowable Yonder.


III

No one was taking care of Lazarus, for no friends no relatives were left
to him, and the great desert which encircled the holy city, came near
the very threshold of his dwelling. And the desert entered his house,
and stretched on his couch, like a wife and extinguished the fires. No
one was taking care of Lazarus. One after the other, his sisters--Mary
and Martha--forsook him. For a long while Martha was loath to abandon
him, for she knew not who would feed him and pity him, she wept and
prayed. But one night, when the wind was roaming in the desert and with
a hissing sound the cypresses were bending over the roof, she dressed
noiselessly and secretly left the house. Lazarus probably heard the door
slam; it banged against the side-post under the gusts of the desert
wind, but he did not rise to go out and to look at her that was
abandoning him. All the night long the cypresses hissed over his head
and plaintively thumped the door, letting in the cold, greedy desert.

Like a leper he was shunned by everyone, and it was proposed to tie a
bell to his neck, as is done with lepers, to warn people against sudden
meetings. But someone remarked, growing frightfully pale, that it would
be too horrible if by night the moaning of Lazarus' bell were suddenly
heard under the windows,--and so the project was abandoned.

And since he did not take care of himself, he would probably have
starved to death, had not the neighbors brought him food in fear of
something that they sensed but vaguely. The food was brought to him by
children; they were not afraid of Lazarus, nor did they mock him with
naive cruelty, as children are wont to do with the wretched and
miserable. They were indifferent to him, and Lazarus answered them with
the same coldness; he had no desire to caress the black little curls,
and to look into their innocent shining eyes. Given to Time and to the
Desert, his house was crumbling down, and long since had his famishing,
lowing goats wandered away to the neighboring pastures. And his bridal
garments became threadbare. Ever since that happy day, when the
musicians played, he had worn them unaware of the difference of the new
and the worn. The bright colors grew dull and faded; vicious dogs and
the sharp thorn of the Desert turned the tender fabric into rags.

By day, when the merciless sun slew all things alive, and even scorpions
sought shelter under stones and writhed there in a mad desire to sting,
he sat motionless under the sunrays, his blue face and the uncouth,
bushy beared lifted up, bathing in the fiery flood.

When people still talked to him, he was once asked:

"Poor Lazarus, does it please thee to sit thus and to stare at the
sun?"

And he had answered:

"Yes, it does."

So strong, it seemed, was the cold of his three days' grave, so deep the
darkness, that there was no heat on earth to warm Lazarus, nor a
splendor that could brighten the darkness of his eyes. That is what came
to the mind of those who spoke to Lazarus, and with a sigh they left
him.

And when the scarlet, flattened globe would lower, Lazarus would set out
for the desert and walk straight toward the sun, as though striving to
reach it. He always walked straight toward the sun and those who tried
to follow him and to spy upon what he was doing at night in the desert,
retained in their memory the black silhouette of a tall stout man
against the red background of an enormous flattened disc. Night pursued
them with her horrors, and so they did not learn of Lazarus' doings in
the desert, but the vision of the black on red was forever branded on
their brain. Just as a beast with a splinter in its eye furiously rubs
its muzzle with its paws, so they too foolishly rubbed their eyes, but
what Lazarus had given was indelible, and Death alone could efface it.

But there were people who lived far away, who never saw Lazarus and knew
of him only by report. With daring curiosity, which is stronger than
fear and feeds upon it, with hidden mockery, they would come to Lazarus
who was sitting in the sun and enter into conversation with him. By
this time Lazarus' appearance had changed for the better and was not so
terrible. The first minute they snapped their fingers and thought of how
stupid the inhabitants of the holy city were; but when the short talk
was over and they started homeward, their looks were such that the
inhabitants of the holy city recognized them at once and said:

"Look, there is one more fool on whom Lazarus has set his eye,"--and
they shook their heads regretfully, and lifted up their arms.

There came brave, intrepid warriors, with tinkling weapons; happy youths
came with laughter and song; busy tradesmen, jingling their money, ran
in for a moment, and haughty priests leaned their crosiers against
Lazarus' door, and they were all strangely changed, as they came back.
The same terrible shadow swooped down upon their souls and gave a new
appearance to the old familiar world.

Those who still had the desire to speak, expressed their feelings thus:

"All things tangible and visible grew hollow, light, and
transparent,--similar to lightsome shadows in the darkness of night;

"for, that great darkness, which holds the whole cosmos, was dispersed
neither by the sun or by the moon and the stars, but like an immense
black shroud enveloped the earth and, like a mother, embraced it;

"it penetrated all the bodies, iron and stone,--and the particles of
the bodies, having lost their ties, grew lonely; and it penetrated into
the depth of the particles, and the particles of particles became
lonely;

"for that great void, which encircles the cosmos, was not filled by
things visible: neither by the sun, nor by the moon and the stars, but
reigned unrestrained, penetrating everywhere, severing body from body,
particle from particle;

"in the void hollow trees spread hollow roots threatening a fantastic
fall; temples, palaces, and horses loomed up and they were hollow; and
in the void men moved about restlessly but they were light and hollow
like shadows;

"for, Time was no more, and the beginning of all things came near their
end: the building was still being built, and builders were still
hammering away, and its ruins were already seen and the void in its
place; the man was still being born, but already funeral candles were
burning at his head, and now they were extinguished, and there was the
void in place of the man and of the funeral candles.

"and wrapped by void and darkness the man in despair trembled in the
face of the Horror of the Infinite."

Thus spake the men who had still a desire to speak. But, surely, much
more could have told those who wished not to speak, and died in
silence.


IV

At that time there lived in Rome a renowned sculptor. In clay, marble,
and bronze he wrought bodies of gods and men, and such was their beauty,
that people called them immortal. But he himself was discontented and
asserted that there was something even more beautiful, that he could not
embody either in marble or in bronze. "I have not yet gathered the
glimmers of the moon, nor have I my fill of sunshine," he was wont to
say, "and there is no soul in my marble, no life in my beautiful
bronze." And when on moonlight nights he slowly walked along the road,
crossing the black shadows of cypresses, his white tunic glittering in
the moonshine, those who met him would laugh in a friendly way and say:

"Art thou going to gather moonshine, Aurelius? Why then didst thou not
fetch baskets?"

And he would answer, laughing and pointing to his eyes:

"Here are the baskets wherein I gather the sheen of the moon and the
glimmer of the sun."

And so it was: the moon glimmered in his eyes and the sun sparkled
therein. But he could not translate them into marble and therein lay the
serene tragedy of his life.

He was descended from an ancient patrician race, had a good wife and
children, and suffered from no want.

When the obscure rumor about Lazarus reached him, he consulted his wife
and friends and undertook the far journey to Judea to see him who had
miraculously risen from the dead. He was somewhat weary in those days
and he hoped that the road would sharpen his blunted senses. What was
said of Lazarus did not frighten him: he had pondered much over Death,
did not like it, but he disliked also those who confused it with life.

    "In this life,--life and beauty;
    beyond,--Death, the enigmatical"--

thought he, and there is no better thing for a man to do than to delight
in life and in the beauty of all things living. He had even a
vainglorious desire to convince Lazarus of the truth of his own view and
restore his soul to life, as his body had been restored. This seemed so
much easier because the rumors, shy and strange, did not render the
whole truth about Lazarus and but vaguely warned against something
frightful.

Lazarus had just risen from the stone in order to follow the sun which
was setting in the desert, when a rich Roman attended by an armed slave,
approached him and addressed him in a sonorous tone of voice:

"Lazarus!"

And Lazarus beheld a superb face, lit with glory, and arrayed in fine
clothes, and precious stones sparkling in the sun. The red light lent to
the Roman's face and head the appearance of gleaming bronze--that also
Lazarus noticed. He resumed obediently his place and lowered his weary
eyes.

"Yes, thou art ugly, my poor Lazarus,"--quietly said the Roman, playing
with his golden chain; "thou art even horrible, my poor friend; and
Death was not lazy that day when thou didst fall so heedlessly into his
hands. But thou art stout, and, as the great Cæsar used to say, fat
people are not ill-tempered; to tell the truth, I don't understand why
men fear thee. Permit me to spend the night in thy house; the hour is
late, and I have no shelter."

Never had anyone asked Lazarus' hospitality.

"I have no bed," said he.

"I am somewhat of a soldier and I can sleep sitting," the Roman
answered. "We shall build a fire."

"I have no fire."

"Then we shall have our talk in the darkness, like two friends. I think
thou wilt find a bottle of wine."

"I have no wine."

The Roman laughed.

"Now I see why thou art so somber and dislikest thy second life. No
wine! Why, then we shall do without it: there are words that make the
head go round better than the Falernian."

By a sign he dismissed the slave, and they remained all alone. And again
the sculptor started speaking, but it was as if, together with the
setting sun, life had left his words; and they grew pale and hollow, as
if they staggered on unsteady feet, as if they slipped and fell down,
drunk with the heavy lees of weariness and despair. And black chasms
grew up between the words--like far-off hints of the great void and the
great darkness.

"Now I am thy guest, and thou wilt not be unkind to me, Lazarus!"--said
he. "Hospitality is the duty even of those who for three days were dead.
Three days, I was told, thou didst rest in the grave. There it must be
cold ... and that is whence comes thy ill habit of going without fire
and wine. As to me, I like fire; it grows dark here so rapidly.... The
lines of thy eyebrows and forehead are quite, quite interesting: they
are like ruins of strange palaces, buried in ashes after an earthquake.
But why dost thou wear such ugly and queer garments? I have seen
bridegrooms in thy country, and they wear such clothes--are they not
funny--and terrible.... But art thou a bridegroom?"

The sun had already disappeared, a monstrous black shadow came running
from the east--it was as if gigantic bare feet began rumbling on the
sand, and the wind sent a cold wave along the backbone.

"In the darkness thou seemest still larger, Lazarus, as if thou hast
grown stouter in these moments. Dost thou feed on darkness, Lazarus? I
would fain have a little fire--at least a little fire, a little fire. I
feel somewhat chilly, your nights are so barbarously cold.... Were it
not so dark, I should say that thou wert looking at me, Lazarus. Yes, it
seems to me, thou art looking.... Why, thou art looking at me, I feel
it,--but there thou art smiling."

Night came, and filled the air with heavy blackness.

"How well it will be, when the sun will rise to-morrow anew.... I am a
great sculptor, thou knowest; that is how my friends call me. I create.
Yes, that is the word ... but I need daylight. I give life to the cold
marble, I melt sonorous bronze in fire, in bright hot fire.... Why didst
thou touch me with thy hand?"

"Come"--said Lazarus--"Thou art my guest."

And they went to the house. And a long night enveloped the earth.

The slave, seeing that his master did not come, went to seek him, when
the sun was already high in the sky. And he beheld his master side by
side with Lazarus: in profound silence were they sitting right under the
dazzling and scorching sunrays and looking upward. The slave began to
weep and cried out:

"My master, what has befallen thee, master?"

The very same day the sculptor left for Rome. On the way Aurelius was
pensive and taciturn, staring attentively at everything--the men, the
ship, the sea, as though trying to retain something. On the high sea a
storm burst upon them, and all through it Aurelius stayed on the deck
and eagerly scanned the seas looming near and sinking with a thud.

At home his friends were frightened at the change which had taken place
in Aurelius, but he calmed them, saying meaningly:

"I have found it."

And without changing the dusty clothes he wore on his journey, he fell
to work, and the marble obediently resounded under his sonorous hammer.
Long and eagerly worked he, admitting no one, until one morning he
announced that the work was ready and ordered his friends to be
summoned, severe critics and connoisseurs of art. And to meet them he
put on bright and gorgeous garments, that glittered with yellow
gold--and--scarlet byssus.

"Here is my work," said he thoughtfully.

His friends glanced and a shadow of profound sorrow covered their faces.
It was something monstrous, deprived of all the lines and shapes
familiar to the eye, but not without a hint at some new, strange image.

On a thin, crooked twig, or rather on an ugly likeness of a twig rested
askew a blind, ugly, shapeless, outspread mass of something utterly and
inconceivably distorted, a mad leap of wild and bizarre fragments, all
feebly and vainly striving to part from one another. And, as if by
chance, beneath one of the wildly-rent salients a butterfly was chiseled
with divine skill, all airy loveliness, delicacy, and beauty, with
transparent wings, which seemed to tremble with an impotent desire to
take flight.

"Wherefore this wonderful butterfly, Aurelius?" said somebody
falteringly.

"I know not"--was the sculptor's answer.

But it was necessary to tell the truth, and one of his friends who loved
him best said firmly:

"This is ugly, my poor friend. It must be destroyed. Give me the
hammer."

And with two strokes he broke the monstrous man into pieces, leaving
only the infinitely delicate butterfly untouched.

From that time on Aurelius created nothing. With profound indifference
he looked at marble and bronze, and on his former divine works, where
everlasting beauty rested. With the purpose of arousing his former
fervent passion for work and, awakening his deadened soul, his friends
took him to see other artists' beautiful works,--but he remained
indifferent as before, and the smile did not warm up his tightened lips.
And only after listening to lengthy talks about beauty, he would retort
wearily and indolently:

"But all this is a lie."

And by the day, when the sun was shining, he went into his magnificent,
skilfully built garden and having found a place without shadow, he
exposed his bare head to the glare and heat. Red and white butterflies
fluttered around; from the crooked lips of a drunken satyr, water
streamed down with a splash into a marble cistern, but he sat
motionless and silent,--like a pallid reflection of him who, in the
far-off distance, at the very gates of the stony desert, sat under the
fiery sun.


V

And now it came to pass that the great, deified Augustus himself
summoned Lazarus. The imperial messengers dressed him gorgeously, in
solemn nuptial clothes, as if Time had legalized them, and he was to
remain until his very death the bridegroom of an unknown bride. It was
as though an old, rotting coffin had been gilt and furnished with new,
gay tassels. And men, all in trim and bright attire, rode after him, as
if in bridal procession indeed, and those foremost trumpeted loudly,
bidding people to clear the way for the emperor's messengers. But
Lazarus' way was deserted: his native land cursed the hateful name of
him who had miraculously risen from the dead, and people scattered at
the very news of his appalling approach. The solitary voice of the brass
trumpets sounded in the motionless air, and the wilderness alone
responded with its languid echo.

Then Lazarus went by sea. And his was the most magnificently arrayed and
the most mournful ship that ever mirrored itself in the azure waves of
the Mediterranean Sea. Many were the travelers aboard, but like a tomb
was the ship, all silence and stillness, and the despairing water sobbed
at the steep, proudly curved prow. All alone sat Lazarus exposing his
head to the blaze of the sun, silently listening to the murmur and
splash of the wavelets, and afar seamen and messengers were sitting, a
vague group of weary shadows. Had the thunder burst and the wind
attacked the red sails, the ships would probably have perished, for none
of those aboard had either the will or the strength to struggle for
life. With a supreme effort some mariners would reach the board and
eagerly scan the blue, transparent deep, hoping to see a naiad's pink
shoulder flash in the hollow of an azure wave, or a drunken gay centaur
dash along and in frenzy splash the wave with his hoof. But the sea was
like a wilderness, and the deep was dumb and deserted.

With utter indifference did Lazarus set his feet on the street of the
eternal city. As though all her wealth, all the magnificence of her
palaces built by giants, all the resplendence, beauty, and music of her
refined life were but the echo of the wind in the wilderness, the
reflection of the desert quicksand. Chariots were dashing, and along the
streets were moving crowds of strong, fair, proud builders of the
eternal city and haughty participants in her life; a song sounded;
fountains and women laughed a pearly laughter; drunken philosophers
harangued, and the sober listened to them with a smile; hoofs struck the
stone pavements. And surrounded by cheerful noise, a stout, heavy man
was moving, a cold spot of silence and despair, and on his way he sowed
disgust, anger, and vague, gnawing weariness. Who dares to be sad in
Rome, wondered indignantly the citizens, and frowned. In two days the
entire city already knew all about him who had miraculously risen from
the dead, and shunned him shyly.

But some daring people there were, who wanted to test their strength,
and Lazarus obeyed their imprudent summons. Kept busy by state affairs,
the emperor constantly delayed the reception, and seven days did he who
had risen from the dead go about visiting others.

And Lazarus came to a cheerful Epicurean, and the host met him with
laughter on his lips:

"Drink, Lazarus, drink!"--shouted he. "Would not Augustus laugh to see
thee drunk!"

And half-naked drunken women laughed, and rose petals fell on Lazarus'
blue hands. But then the Epicurean looked into Lazarus' eyes, and his
gaiety ended forever. Drunkard remained he for the rest of his life;
never did he drink, yet forever was he drunk. But instead of the gay
reverie which wine brings with it, frightful dreams began to haunt him,
the sole food of his stricken spirit. Day and night he lived in the
poisonous vapors of his nightmares, and death itself was not more
frightful than her raving, monstrous forerunners.

And Lazarus came to a youth and his beloved, who loved each other and
were most beautiful in their passions. Proudly and strongly embracing
his love, the youth said with serene regret:

"Look at us, Lazarus, and share our joy. Is there anything stronger
than love?"

And Lazarus looked. And for the rest of their life they kept on loving
each other, but their passion grew gloomy and joyless, like those
funeral cypresses whose roots feed on the decay of the graves and whose
black summits in a still evening hour seek in vain to reach the sky.
Thrown by the unknown forces of life into each other's embraces, they
mingled tears with kisses, voluptuous pleasures with pain, and they felt
themselves doubly slaves, obedient slaves to life, and patient servants
of the silent Nothingness. Ever united, ever severed, they blazed like
sparks and like sparks lost themselves in the boundless Dark.

And Lazarus came to a haughty sage, and the sage said to him:

"I know all the horrors thou canst reveal to me. Is there anything thou
canst frighten me with?"

But before long the sage felt that the knowledge of horror was far from
being the horror itself, and that the vision of Death, was not Death.
And he felt that wisdom and folly are equal before the face of Infinity,
for Infinity knows them not. And it vanished, the dividing-line between
knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, top and bottom, and the
shapeless thought hung suspended in the void. Then the sage clutched his
gray head and cried out frantically:

"I cannot think! I cannot think!"

Thus under the indifferent glance for him, who miraculously had risen
from the dead, perished everything that asserts life, its significance
and joys. And it was suggested that it was dangerous to let him see the
emperor, that it was better to kill him and, having buried him secretly,
to tell the emperor that he had disappeared no one knew whither. Already
swords were being whetted and youths devoted to the public welfare
prepared for the murder, when Augustus ordered Lazarus to be brought
before him next morning, thus destroying the cruel plans.

If there was no way of getting rid of Lazarus, at least it was possible
to soften the terrible impression his face produced. With this in view,
skillful painters, barbers, and artists were summoned, and all night
long they were busy over Lazarus' head. They cropped his beard, curled
it, and gave it a tidy, agreeable appearance. By means of paints they
concealed the corpse-like blueness of his hands and face. Repulsive were
the wrinkles of suffering that furrowed his old face, and they were
puttied, painted, and smoothed; then, over the smooth background,
wrinkles of good-tempered laughter and pleasant, carefree mirth were
skillfully painted with fine brushes.

Lazarus submitted indifferently to everything that was done to him. Soon
he was turned into a becomingly stout, venerable old man, into a quiet
and kind grandfather of numerous offspring. It seemed that the smile,
with which only a while ago he was spinning funny yarns, was still
lingering on his lips, and that in the corner of his eye serene
tenderness was hiding, the companion of old age. But people did not dare
change his nuptial garments, and they could not change his eyes, two
dark and frightful glasses through which looked at men, the unknowable
Yonder.


VI

Lazarus was not moved by the magnificence of the imperial palace. It was
as though he saw no difference between the crumbling house, closely
pressed by the desert, and the stone palace, solid and fair, and
indifferently he passed into it. And the hard marble of the floors under
his feet grew similar to the quicksand of the desert, and the multitude
of richly dressed and haughty men became like void air under his glance.
No one looked into his face, as Lazarus passed by, fearing to fall under
the appalling influence of his eyes; but when the sound of his heavy
footsteps had sufficiently died down, the courtiers raised their heads
and with fearful curiosity examined the figure of a stout, tall,
slightly bent old man, who was slowly penetrating into the very heart of
the imperial palace. Were Death itself passing, it would be faced with
no greater fear: for until then the dead alone knew Death, and those
alive knew Life only--and there was no bridge between them. But this
extraordinary man, although alive, knew Death, and enigmatical,
appalling, was his cursed knowledge. "Woe," people thought, "he will
take the life of our great, deified Augustus," and they sent curses
after Lazarus, who meanwhile kept on advancing into the interior of the
palace.

Already did the emperor know who Lazarus was, and prepared to meet him.
But the monarch was a brave man, and felt his own tremendous,
unconquerable power, and in his fatal duel with him who had miraculously
risen from the dead he wanted not to invoke human help. And so he met
Lazarus face to face:

"Lift not thine eyes upon me, Lazarus," he ordered. "I heard thy face is
like that of Medusa and turns into stone whomsoever thou lookest at.
Now, I wish to see thee and to have a talk with thee, before I turn into
stone,"--added he in a tone of kingly jesting, not devoid of fear.

Coming close to him, he carefully examined Lazarus' face and his strange
festal garments. And although he had a keen eye, he was deceived by his
appearance.

"So. Thou dost not appear terrible, my venerable old man. But the worse
for us, if horror assumes such a respectable and pleasant air. Now let
us have a talk."

Augustus sat, and questioning Lazarus with his eye as much as with
words, started the conversation:

"Why didst thou not greet me as thou enteredst?"

Lazarus answered indifferent:

"I knew not it was necessary."

"Art thou a Christian?"

"No."

Augustus approvingly shook his head.

"That is good. I do not like Christians. They shake the tree of life
before it is covered with fruit, and disperse its odorous bloom to the
winds. But who art thou?"

With a visible effort Lazarus answered:

"I was dead."

"I had heard that. But who art thou now?"

Lazarus was silent, but at last repeated in a tone of weary apathy:

"I was dead."

"Listen to me, stranger," said the emperor, distinctly and severely
giving utterance to the thought that had come to him at the beginning,
"my realm is the realm of Life, my people are of the living, not of the
dead. Thou art here one too many. I know not who thou art and what thou
sawest there; but, if thou liest, I hate thy lies, and if thou tellst
the truth, I hate thy truth. In my bosom I feel the throb of life; I
feel strength in my arm, and my proud thoughts, like eagles, pierce the
space. And yonder in the shelter of my rule, under the protection of
laws created by me, people live and toil and rejoice. Dost thou hear the
battle-cry, the challenge men throw into the face of the future?"

Augustus, as in prayer, stretched forth his arms and exclaimed
solemnly:

"Be blessed, O great and divine Life!"

Lazarus was silent, and with growing sternness the emperor went on:

"Thou art not wanted here, miserable remnant, snatched from under
Death's teeth, thou inspirest weariness and disgust with life; like a
caterpillar in the fields, thou gloatest on the rich ear of joy and
belchest out the drivel of despair and sorrow. Thy truth is like a rusty
sword in the hands of a nightly murderer,--and as a murderer thou shalt
be executed. But before that, let me look into thine eyes. Perchance,
only cowards are afraid of them, but in the brave they awake the thirst
for strife and victory; then thou shalt be rewarded, not executed....
Now, look at me, Lazarus."

At first it appeared to the deified Augustus that a friend was looking
at him,--so soft, so tenderly fascinating was Lazarus' glance. It
promised not horror, but sweet rest and the Infinite seemed to him a
tender mistress, a compassionate sister, a mother. But stronger and
stronger grew its embraces, and already the mouth, greedy of hissing
kisses, interfered with the monarch's breathing, and already to the
surface of the soft tissues of the body came the iron of the bones and
tightened its merciless circle,--and unknown fangs, blunt and cold,
touched his heart and sank into it with slow indolence.

"It pains," said the deified Augustus, growing pale. "But look at me,
Lazarus, look."

It was as though some heavy gates, ever closed, were slowly moving
apart, and through the growing interstice the appalling horror of the
Infinite poured in slowly and steadily. Like two shadows there entered
the shoreless void and the unfathomable darkness; they extinguished the
sun, ravished the earth from under the feet, and the roof from over the
head. No more did the frozen heart ache.

"Look, look, Lazarus," ordered Augustus tottering.

Time stood still, and the beginning of each thing grew frightfully near
to its end. Augustus' throne just erected, crumbled down, and the void
was already in the place of the throne and of Augustus. Noiselessly did
Rome crumble down, and a new city stood on its site and it too was
swallowed by the void. Like fantastic giants, cities, states, and
countries fell down and vanished in the void darkness--and with
uttermost indifference did the insatiable black womb of the Infinite
swallow them.

"Halt!"--ordered the emperor.

In his voice sounded already a note of indifference, his hands dropped
in languor, and in the vain struggle with the onrushing darkness his
fiery eyes now blazed up, and now went out.

"My life thou hast taken from me, Lazarus,"--said he in a spiritless,
feeble voice.

And these words of hopelessness saved him. He remembered his people,
whose shield he was destined to be, and keen salutary pain pierced his
deadened heart. "They are doomed to death," he thought wearily. "Serene
shadows in the darkness of the Infinite," thought he, and horror grew
upon him. "Frail vessels with living seething blood with a heart that
knows sorrow and also great joy," said he in his heart, and tenderness
pervaded it.

Thus pondering and oscillating between the poles of Life and Death, he
slowly came back to life, to find in its suffering and in its joys a
shield against the darkness of the void and the horror of the Infinite.

"No, thou hast not murdered me, Lazarus," said he firmly, "but I will
take thy life. Be gone."

That evening the deified Augustus partook of his meats and drinks with
particular joy. Now and then his lifted hand remained suspended in the
air, and a dull glimmer replaced the bright sheen of his fiery eye. It
was the cold wave of Horror that surged at his feet. Defeated, but not
undone, ever awaiting its hour, that Horror stood at the emperor's
bedside, like a black shadow all through his life; it swayed his nights,
but yielded the days to the sorrows and joys of life.

The following day, the hangman with a hot iron burned out Lazarus' eyes.
Then he was sent home. The deified Augustus dared not kill him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lazarus returned to the desert, and the wilderness met him with hissing
gusts of wind and the heat of the blazing sun. Again he was sitting on a
stone, his rough, bushy beard lifted up; and the two black holes in
place of his eyes looked at the sky with an expression of dull terror.
Afar-off the holy city stirred noisily and restlessly, but around him
everything was deserted and dumb. No one approached the place where
lived he who had miraculously risen from the dead, and long since his
neighbors had forsaken their houses. Driven by the hot iron into the
depth of his skull, his cursed knowledge hid there in an ambush. As
though leaping out from an ambush it plunged its thousand invisible eyes
into the man,--and no one dared look at Lazarus.

And in the evening, when the sun, reddening and growing wider, would
come nearer and nearer the western horizon, the blind Lazarus would
slowly follow it. He would stumble against stones and fall, stout and
weak as he was; would rise heavily to his feet and walk on again; and on
the red screen of the sunset his black body and outspread hands would
form a monstrous likeness of a cross.

And it came to pass that once he went out and did not come back. Thus
seemingly ended the second life of him who for three days had been under
the enigmatical sway of death, and rose miraculously from the dead.



The Beast with Five Fingers

BY W.F. HARVEY

     From _The New Decameron_, by Various Hands. Copyright, 1919, by
     Robert M. McBride and Company. By permission of the publishers.


When I was a little boy I once went with my father to call on Adrian
Borlsover. I played on the floor with a black spaniel while my father
appealed for a subscription. Just before we left my father said, "Mr.
Borlsover, may my son here shake hands with you? It will be a thing to
look back upon with pride when he grows to be a man."

I came up to the bed on which the old man was lying and put my hand in
his, awed by the still beauty of his face. He spoke to me kindly, and
hoped that I should always try to please my father. Then he placed his
right hand on my head and asked for a blessing to rest upon me. "Amen!"
said my father, and I followed him out of the room, feeling as if I
wanted to cry. But my father was in excellent spirits.

"That old gentleman, Jim," said he, "is the most wonderful man in the
whole town. For ten years he has been quite blind."

"But I saw his eyes," I said. "They were ever so black and shiny; they
weren't shut up like Nora's puppies. Can't he see at all?"

And so I learnt for the first time that a man might have eyes that
looked dark and beautiful and shining without being able to see.

"Just like Mrs. Tomlinson has big ears," I said, "and can't hear at all
except when Mr. Tomlinson shouts."

"Jim," said my father, "it's not right to talk about a lady's ears.
Remember what Mr. Borlsover said about pleasing me and being a good
boy."

That was the only time I saw Adrian Borlsover. I soon forgot about him
and the hand which he laid in blessing on my head. But for a week I
prayed that those dark tender eyes might see.

"His spaniel may have puppies," I said in my prayers, "and he will never
be able to know how funny they look with their eyes all closed up.
Please let old Mr. Borlsover see."

       *       *       *       *       *

Adrian Borlsover, as my father had said, was a wonderful man. He came of
an eccentric family. Borlsovers' sons, for some reason, always seemed to
marry very ordinary women, which perhaps accounted for the fact that no
Borlsover had been a genius, and only one Borlsover had been mad. But
they were great champions of little causes, generous patrons of odd
sciences, founders of querulous sects, trustworthy guides to the bypath
meadows of erudition.

Adrian was an authority on the fertilization of orchids. He had held at
one time the family living at Borlsover Conyers, until a congenital
weakness of the lungs obliged him to seek a less rigorous climate in the
sunny south coast watering-place where I had seen him. Occasionally he
would relieve one or other of the local clergy. My father described him
as a fine preacher, who gave long and inspiring sermons from what many
men would have considered unprofitable texts. "An excellent proof," he
would add, "of the truth of the doctrine of direct verbal inspiration."

Adrian Borlsover was exceedingly clever with his hands. His penmanship
was exquisite. He illustrated all his scientific papers, made his own
woodcuts, and carved the reredos that is at present the chief feature of
interest in the church at Borlsover Conyers. He had an exceedingly
clever knack in cutting silhouettes for young ladies and paper pigs and
cows for little children, and made more than one complicated wind
instrument of his own devising.

When he was fifty years old Adrian Borlsover lost his sight. In a
wonderfully short time he had adapted himself to the new conditions of
life. He quickly learned to read Braille. So marvelous indeed was his
sense of touch that he was still able to maintain his interest in
botany. The mere passing of his long supple fingers over a flower was
sufficient means for its identification, though occasionally he would
use his lips. I have found several letters of his among my father's
correspondence. In no case was there anything to show that he was
afflicted with blindness and this in spite of the fact that he exercised
undue economy in the spacing of lines. Towards the close of his life the
old man was credited with powers of touch that seemed almost uncanny: it
has been said that he could tell at once the color of a ribbon placed
between his fingers. My father would neither confirm nor deny the story.


I

Adrian Borlsover was a bachelor. His elder brother George had married
late in life, leaving one son, Eustace, who lived in the gloomy Georgian
mansion at Borlsover Conyers, where he could work undisturbed in
collecting material for his great book on heredity.

Like his uncle, he was a remarkable man. The Borlsovers had always been
born naturalists, but Eustace possessed in a special degree the power of
systematizing his knowledge. He had received his university education in
Germany, and then, after post-graduate work in Vienna and Naples, had
traveled for four years in South America and the East, getting together
a huge store of material for a new study into the processes of
variation.

He lived alone at Borlsover Conyers with Saunders his secretary, a man
who bore a somewhat dubious reputation in the district, but whose
powers as a mathematician, combined with his business abilities, were
invaluable to Eustace.

Uncle and nephew saw little of each other. The visits of Eustace were
confined to a week in the summer or autumn: long weeks, that dragged
almost as slowly as the bath-chair in which the old man was drawn along
the sunny sea front. In their way the two men were fond of each other,
though their intimacy would doubtless have been greater had they shared
the same religious views. Adrian held to the old-fashioned evangelical
dogmas of his early manhood; his nephew for many years had been thinking
of embracing Buddhism. Both men possessed, too, the reticence the
Borlsovers had always shown, and which their enemies sometimes called
hypocrisy. With Adrian it was a reticence as to the things he had left
undone; but with Eustace it seemed that the curtain which he was so
careful to leave undrawn hid something more than a half-empty chamber.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two years before his death Adrian Borlsover developed, unknown to
himself, the not uncommon power of automatic writing. Eustace made the
discovery by accident. Adrian was sitting reading in bed, the forefinger
of his left hand tracing the Braille characters, when his nephew noticed
that a pencil the old man held in his right hand was moving slowly along
the opposite page. He left his seat in the window and sat down beside
the bed. The right hand continued to move, and now he could see plainly
that they were letters and words which it was forming.

"Adrian Borlsover," wrote the hand, "Eustace Borlsover, George
Borlsover, Francis Borlsover Sigismund Borlsover, Adrian Borlsover,
Eustace Borlsover, Saville Borlsover. B, for Borlsover. Honesty is the
Best Policy. Beautiful Belinda Borlsover."

"What curious nonsense!" said Eustace to himself.

"King George the Third ascended the throne in 1760," wrote the hand.
"Crowd, a noun of multitude; a collection of individuals--Adrian
Borlsover, Eustace Borlsover."

"It seems to me," said his uncle, closing the book, "that you had much
better make the most of the afternoon sunshine and take your walk now."
"I think perhaps I will," Eustace answered as he picked up the volume.
"I won't go far, and when I come back I can read to you those articles
in _Nature_ about which we were speaking."

He went along the promenade, but stopped at the first shelter, and
seating himself in the corner best protected from the wind, he examined
the book at leisure. Nearly every page was scored with a meaningless
jungle of pencil marks: rows of capital letters, short words, long
words, complete sentences, copy-book tags. The whole thing, in fact, had
the appearance of a copy-book, and on a more careful scrutiny Eustace
thought that there was ample evidence to show that the handwriting at
the beginning of the book, good though it was was not nearly so good as
the handwriting at the end.

He left his uncle at the end of October, with a promise to return early
in December. It seemed to him quite clear that the old man's power of
automatic writing was developing rapidly, and for the first time he
looked forward to a visit that combined duty with interest.

But on his return he was at first disappointed. His uncle, he thought,
looked older. He was listless too, preferring others to read to him and
dictating nearly all his letters. Not until the day before he left had
Eustace an opportunity of observing Adrian Borlsover's new-found
faculty.

The old man, propped up in bed with pillows, had sunk into a light
sleep. His two hands lay on the coverlet, his left hand tightly clasping
his right. Eustace took an empty manuscript book and placed a pencil
within reach of the fingers of the right hand. They snatched at it
eagerly; then dropped the pencil to unloose the left hand from its
restraining grasp.

"Perhaps to prevent interference I had better hold that hand," said
Eustace to himself, as he watched the pencil. Almost immediately it
began to write.

"Blundering Borlsovers, unnecessarily unnatural, extraordinarily
eccentric, culpably curious."

"Who are you?" asked Eustace, in a low voice.

"Never you mind," wrote the hand of Adrian.

"Is it my uncle who is writing?"

"Oh, my prophetic soul, mine uncle."

"Is it anyone I know?"

"Silly Eustace, you'll see me very soon."

"When shall I see you?"

"When poor old Adrian's dead."

"Where shall I see you?"

"Where shall you not?"

Instead of speaking his next question, Borlsover wrote it. "What is the
time?"

The fingers dropped the pencil and moved three or four times across the
paper. Then, picking up the pencil, they wrote:

"Ten minutes before four. Put your book away, Eustace. Adrian mustn't
find us working at this sort of thing. He doesn't know what to make of
it, and I won't have poor old Adrian disturbed. _Au revoir_."

Adrian Borlsover awoke with a start.

"I've been dreaming again," he said; "such queer dreams of leaguered
cities and forgotten towns. You were mixed up in this one, Eustace,
though I can't remember how. Eustace, I want to warn you. Don't walk in
doubtful paths. Choose your friends well. Your poor grandfather----"

A fit of coughing put an end to what he was saying, but Eustace saw that
the hand was still writing. He managed unnoticed to draw the book away.
"I'll light the gas," he said, "and ring for tea." On the other side of
the bed curtain he saw the last sentences that had been written.

"It's too late, Adrian," he read. "We're friends already; aren't we,
Eustace Borlsover?"

On the following day Eustace Borlsover left. He thought his uncle looked
ill when he said good-by, and the old man spoke despondently of the
failure his life had been.

"Nonsense, uncle!" said his nephew. "You have got over your difficulties
in a way not one in a hundred thousand would have done. Every one
marvels at your splendid perseverance in teaching your hand to take the
place of your lost sight. To me it's been a revelation of the
possibilities of education."

"Education," said his uncle dreamily, as if the word had started a new
train of thought, "education is good so long as you know to whom and for
what purpose you give it. But with the lower orders of men, the base and
more sordid spirits, I have grave doubts as to its results. Well,
good-by, Eustace, I may not see you again. You are a true Borlsover,
with all the Borlsover faults. Marry, Eustace. Marry some good, sensible
girl. And if by any chance I don't see you again, my will is at my
solicitor's. I've not left you any legacy, because I know you're well
provided for, but I thought you might like to have my books. Oh, and
there's just one other thing. You know, before the end people often lose
control over themselves and make absurd requests. Don't pay any
attention to them, Eustace. Good-by!" and he held out his hand. Eustace
took it. It remained in his a fraction of a second longer than he had
expected, and gripped him with a virility that was surprising. There
was, too, in its touch a subtle sense of intimacy.

"Why, uncle!" he said, "I shall see you alive and well for many long
years to come."

Two months later Adrian Borlsover died.


II

Eustace Borlsover was in Naples at the time. He read the obituary notice
in the _Morning Post_ on the day announced for the funeral.

"Poor old fellow!" he said. "I wonder where I shall find room for all
his books."

The question occurred to him again with greater force when three days
later he found himself standing in the library at Borlsover Conyers, a
huge room built for use, and not for beauty, in the year of Waterloo by
a Borlsover who was an ardent admirer of the great Napoleon. It was
arranged on the plan of many college libraries, with tall, projecting
bookcases forming deep recesses of dusty silence, fit graves for the old
hates of forgotten controversy, the dead passions of forgotten lives. At
the end of the room, behind the bust of some unknown eighteenth-century
divine, an ugly iron corkscrew stair led to a shelf-lined gallery.
Nearly every shelf was full.

"I must talk to Saunders about it," said Eustace. "I suppose that it
will be necessary to have the billiard-room fitted up with book cases."

The two men met for the first time after many weeks in the dining-room
that evening.

"Hullo!" said Eustace, standing before the fire with his hands in his
pockets. "How goes the world, Saunders? Why these dress togs?" He
himself was wearing an old shooting-jacket. He did not believe in
mourning, as he had told his uncle on his last visit; and though he
usually went in for quiet-colored ties, he wore this evening one of an
ugly red, in order to shock Morton the butler, and to make them thrash
out the whole question of mourning for themselves in the servants' hall.
Eustace was a true Borlsover. "The world," said Saunders, "goes the same
as usual, confoundedly slow. The dress togs are accounted for by an
invitation from Captain Lockwood to bridge."

"How are you getting there?"

"I've told your coachman to drive me in your carriage. Any objection?"

"Oh, dear me, no! We've had all things in common for far too many years
for me to raise objections at this hour of the day."

"You'll find your correspondence in the library," went on Saunders.
"Most of it I've seen to. There are a few private letters I haven't
opened. There's also a box with a rat, or something, inside it that
came by the evening post. Very likely it's the six-toed albino. I didn't
look, because I didn't want to mess up my things but I should gather
from the way it's jumping about that it's pretty hungry."

"Oh, I'll see to it," said Eustace, "while you and the Captain earn an
honest penny."

Dinner over and Saunders gone, Eustace went into the library. Though the
fire had been lit the room was by no means cheerful.

"We'll have all the lights on at any rate," he said, as he turned the
switches. "And, Morton," he added, when the butler brought the coffee,
"get me a screwdriver or something to undo this box. Whatever the animal
is, he's kicking up the deuce of a row. What is it? Why are you
dawdling?"

"If you please, sir, when the postman brought it he told me that they'd
bored the holes in the lid at the post-office. There were no breathin'
holes in the lid, sir, and they didn't want the animal to die. That is
all, sir."

"It's culpably careless of the man, whoever he was," said Eustace, as he
removed the screws, "packing an animal like this in a wooden box with no
means of getting air. Confound it all! I meant to ask Morton to bring me
a cage to put it in. Now I suppose I shall have to get one myself."

He placed a heavy book on the lid from which the screws had been
removed, and went into the billiard-room. As he came back into the
library with an empty cage in his hand he heard the sound of something
falling, and then of something scuttling along the floor.

"Bother it! The beast's got out. How in the world am I to find it again
in this library!"

To search for it did indeed seem hopeless. He tried to follow the sound
of the scuttling in one of the recesses where the animal seemed to be
running behind the books in the shelves, but it was impossible to locate
it. Eustace resolved to go on quietly reading. Very likely the animal
might gain confidence and show itself. Saunders seemed to have dealt in
his usual methodical manner with most of the correspondence. There were
still the private letters.

What was that? Two sharp clicks and the lights in the hideous candelabra
that hung from the ceiling suddenly went out.

"I wonder if something has gone wrong with the fuse," said Eustace, as
he went to the switches by the door. Then he stopped. There was a noise
at the other end of the room, as if something was crawling up the iron
corkscrew stair. "If it's gone into the gallery," he said, "well and
good." He hastily turned on the lights, crossed the room, and climbed up
the stair. But he could see nothing. His grandfather had placed a little
gate at the top of the stair, so that children could run and romp in the
gallery without fear of accident. This Eustace closed, and having
considerably narrowed the circle of his search, returned to his desk by
the fire.

How gloomy the library was! There was no sense of intimacy about the
room. The few busts that an eighteenth-century Borlsover had brought
back from the grand tour, might have been in keeping in the old library.
Here they seemed out of place. They made the room feel cold, in spite of
the heavy red damask curtains and great gilt cornices.

With a crash two heavy books fell from the gallery to the floor; then,
as Borlsover looked, another and yet another.

"Very well; you'll starve for this, my beauty!" he said. "We'll do some
little experiments on the metabolism of rats deprived of water. Go on!
Chuck them down! I think I've got the upper hand." He turned once again
to his correspondence. The letter was from the family solicitor. It
spoke of his uncle's death and of the valuable collection of books that
had been left to him in the will.

"There was one request," he read, "which certainly came as a surprise to
me. As you know, Mr. Adrian Borlsover had left instructions that his
body was to be buried in as simple a manner as possible at Eastbourne.
He expressed a desire that there should be neither wreaths nor flowers
of any kind, and hoped that his friends and relatives would not consider
it necessary to wear mourning. The day before his death we received a
letter canceling these instructions. He wished his body to be embalmed
(he gave us the address of the man we were to employ--Pennifer, Ludgate
Hill), with orders that his right hand was to be sent to you, stating
that it was at your special request. The other arrangements as to the
funeral remained unaltered."

"Good Lord!" said Eustace; "what in the world was the old boy driving
at? And what in the name of all that's holy is that?"

Someone was in the gallery. Someone had pulled the cord attached to one
of the blinds, and it had rolled up with a snap. Someone must be in the
gallery, for a second blind did the same. Someone must be walking round
the gallery, for one after the other the blinds sprang up, letting in
the moonlight.

"I haven't got to the bottom of this yet," said Eustace, "but I will do
before the night is very much older," and he hurried up the corkscrew
stair. He had just got to the top when the lights went out a second
time, and he heard again the scuttling along the floor. Quickly he stole
on tiptoe in the dim moonshine in the direction of the noise, feeling as
he went for one of the switches. His fingers touched the metal knob at
last. He turned on the electric light.

About ten yards in front of him, crawling along the floor, was a man's
hand. Eustace stared at it in utter astonishment. It was moving quickly,
in the manner of a geometer caterpillar, the fingers humped up one
moment, flattened out the next; the thumb appeared to give a crab-like
motion to the whole. While he was looking, too surprised to stir, the
hand disappeared round the corner Eustace ran forward. He no longer saw
it, but he could hear it as it squeezed its way behind the books on one
of the shelves. A heavy volume had been displaced. There was a gap in
the row of books where it had got in. In his fear lest it should escape
him again, he seized the first book that came to his hand and plugged it
into the hole. Then, emptying two shelves of their contents, he took the
wooden boards and propped them up in front to make his barrier doubly
sure.

"I wish Saunders was back," he said; "one can't tackle this sort of
thing alone." It was after eleven, and there seemed little likelihood of
Saunders returning before twelve. He did not dare to leave the shelf
unwatched, even to run downstairs to ring the bell. Morton the butler
often used to come round about eleven to see that the windows were
fastened, but he might not come. Eustace was thoroughly unstrung. At
last he heard steps down below.

"Morton!" he shouted; "Morton!"

"Sir?"

"Has Mr. Saunders got back yet?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Well, bring me some brandy, and hurry up about it. I'm up here in the
gallery, you duffer."

"Thanks," said Eustace, as he emptied the glass. "Don't go to bed yet,
Morton. There are a lot of books that have fallen down by accident;
bring them up and put them back in their shelves."

Morton had never seen Borlsover in so talkative a mood as on that night.
"Here," said Eustace, when the books had been put back and dusted, "you
might hold up these boards for me, Morton. That beast in the box got
out, and I've been chasing it all over the place."

"I think I can hear it chawing at the books, sir. They're not valuable,
I hope? I think that's the carriage, sir; I'll go and call Mr.
Saunders."

It seemed to Eustace that he was away for five minutes, but it could
hardly have been more than one when he returned with Saunders. "All
right, Morton, you can go now. I'm up here, Saunders."

"What's all the row?" asked Saunders, as he lounged forward with his
hands in his pockets. The luck had been with him all the evening. He was
completely satisfied, both with himself and with Captain Lockwood's
taste in wines. "What's the matter? You look to me to be in an absolute
blue funk."

"That old devil of an uncle of mine," began Eustace--"oh, I can't
explain it all. It's his hand that's been playing old Harry all the
evening. But I've got it cornered behind these books. You've got to help
me catch it."

"What's up with you, Eustace? What's the game?"

"It's no game, you silly idiot! If you don't believe me take out one of
those books and put your hand in and feel."

"All right," said Saunders; "but wait till I've rolled up my sleeve. The
accumulated dust of centuries, eh?" He took off his coat, knelt down,
and thrust his arm along the shelf.

"There's something there right enough," he said. "It's got a funny
stumpy end to it, whatever it is, and nips like a crab. Ah, no, you
don't!" He pulled his hand out in a flash. "Shove in a book quickly. Now
it can't get out."

"What was it?" asked Eustace.

"It was something that wanted very much to get hold of me. I felt what
seemed like a thumb and forefinger. Give me some brandy."

"How are we to get it out of there?"

"What about a landing net?"

"No good. It would be too smart for us. I tell you, Saunders, it can
cover the ground far faster than I can walk. But I think I see how we
can manage it. The two books at the end of the shelf are big ones that
go right back against the wall. The others are very thin. I'll take out
one at a time, and you slide the rest along until we have it squashed
between the end two."

It certainly seemed to be the best plan. One by one, as they took out
the books, the space behind grew smaller and smaller. There was
something in it that was certainly very much alive. Once they caught
sight of fingers pressing outward for a way of escape. At last they had
it pressed between the two big books.

"There's muscle there, if there isn't flesh and blood," said Saunders,
as he held them together. "It seems to be a hand right enough, too. I
suppose this is a sort of infectious hallucination. I've read about such
cases before."

"Infectious fiddlesticks!" said Eustace, his face white with anger;
"bring the thing downstairs. We'll get it back into the box."

It was not altogether easy, but they were successful at last. "Drive in
the screws," said Eustace, "we won't run any risks. Put the box in this
old desk of mine. There's nothing in it that I want. Here's the key.
Thank goodness, there's nothing wrong with the lock."

"Quite a lively evening," said Saunders. "Now let's hear more about your
uncle."

They sat up together until early morning. Saunders had no desire for
sleep. Eustace was trying to explain and to forget: to conceal from
himself a fear that he had never felt before--the fear of walking alone
down the long corridor to his bedroom.


III

"Whatever it was," said Eustace to Saunders on the following morning, "I
propose that we drop the subject. There's nothing to keep us here for
the next ten days. We'll motor up to the Lakes and get some climbing."

"And see nobody all day, and sit bored to death with each other every
night. Not for me thanks. Why not run up to town? Run's the exact word
in this case, isn't it? We're both in such a blessed funk. Pull yourself
together Eustace, and let's have another look at the hand."

"As you like," said Eustace; "there's the key." They went into the
library and opened the desk. The box was as they had left it on the
previous night.

"What are you waiting for?" asked Eustace.

"I am waiting for you to volunteer to open the lid. However, since you
seem to funk it, allow me. There doesn't seem to be the likelihood of
any rumpus this morning, at all events." He opened the lid and picked
out the hand.

"Cold?" asked Eustace.

"Tepid. A bit below blood-heat by the feel. Soft and supple too. If it's
the embalming, it's a sort of embalming I've never seen before. Is it
your uncle's hand?"

"Oh, yes, it's his all right," said Eustace. "I should know those long
thin fingers anywhere. Put it back in the box, Saunders. Never mind
about the screws. I'll lock the desk, so that there'll be no chance of
its getting out. We'll compromise by motoring up to town for a week. If
we get off soon after lunch we ought to be at Grantham or Stamford by
night."

"Right," said Saunders; "and to-morrow--Oh, well, by to-morrow we shall
have forgotten all about this beastly thing."

If when the morrow came they had not forgotten, it was certainly true
that at the end of the week they were able to tell a very vivid ghost
story at the little supper Eustace gave on Hallow E'en.

"You don't want us to believe that it's true, Mr. Borlsover? How
perfectly awful!"

"I'll take my oath on it, and so would Saunders here; wouldn't you, old
chap?"

"Any number of oaths," said Saunders. "It was a long thin hand, you
know, and it gripped me just like that."

"Don't Mr. Saunders! Don't! How perfectly horrid! Now tell us another
one, do. Only a really creepy one, please!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Here's a pretty mess!" said Eustace on the following day as he threw a
letter across the table to Saunders. "It's your affair, though. Mrs.
Merrit, if I understand it, gives a month's notice."

"Oh, that's quite absurd on Mrs. Merrit's part," Saunders replied. "She
doesn't know what she's talking about. Let's see what she says."


"DEAR SIR," he read, "this is to let you know that I must give you a
month's notice as from Tuesday the 13th. For a long time I've felt the
place too big for me, but when Jane Parfit, and Emma Laidlaw go off
with scarcely as much as an 'if you please,' after frightening the wits
out of the other girls, so that they can't turn out a room by themselves
or walk alone down the stairs for fear of treading on half-frozen toads
or hearing it run along the passages at night, all I can say is that
it's no place for me. So I must ask you, Mr. Borlsover, sir, to find a
new housekeeper that has no objection to large and lonely houses, which
some people do say, not that I believe them for a minute, my poor mother
always having been a Wesleyan, are haunted.

                                "Yours faithfully,
                                     ELIZABETH MERRIT.


"P.S.--I should be obliged if you would give my respects to Mr.
Saunders. I hope that he won't run no risks with his cold."


"Saunders," said Eustace, "you've always had a wonderful way with you in
dealing with servants. You mustn't let poor old Merrit go."

"Of course she shan't go," said Saunders. "She's probably only angling
for a rise in salary. I'll write to her this morning."

"No; there's nothing like a personal interview. We've had enough of
town. We'll go back to-morrow, and you must work your cold for all it's
worth. Don't forget that it's got on to the chest, and will require
weeks of feeding up and nursing."

"All right. I think I can manage Mrs. Merrit."

But Mrs. Merrit was more obstinate than he had thought. She was very
sorry to hear of Mr. Saunders's cold, and how he lay awake all night in
London coughing; very sorry indeed. She'd change his room for him
gladly, and get the south room aired. And wouldn't he have a basin of
hot bread and milk last thing at night? But she was afraid that she
would have to leave at the end of the month.

"Try her with an increase of salary," was the advice of Eustace.

It was no use. Mrs. Merrit was obdurate, though she knew of a Mrs.
Handyside who had been housekeeper to Lord Gargrave, who might be glad
to come at the salary mentioned.

"What's the matter with the servants, Morton?" asked Eustace that
evening when he brought the coffee into the library. "What's all this
about Mrs. Merrit wanting to leave?"

"If you please, sir, I was going to mention it myself. I have a
confession to make, sir. When I found your note asking me to open that
desk and take out the box with the rat, I broke the lock as you told me,
and was glad to do it, because I could hear the animal in the box making
a great noise, and I thought it wanted food. So I took out the box, sir,
and got a cage, and was going to transfer it, when the animal got away."

"What in the world are you talking about? I never wrote any such note."

"Excuse me, sir, it was the note I picked up here on the floor on the
day you and Mr. Saunders left. I have it in my pocket now."

It certainly seemed to be in Eustace's handwriting. It was written in
pencil, and began somewhat abruptly.

"Get a hammer, Morton," he read, "or some other tool, and break open the
lock in the old desk in the library. Take out the box that is inside.
You need not do anything else. The lid is already open. Eustace
Borlsover."

"And you opened the desk?"

"Yes, sir; and as I was getting the cage ready the animal hopped out."

"What animal?"

"The animal inside the box, sir."

"What did it look like?"

"Well, sir, I couldn't tell you," said Morton nervously; "my back was
turned, and it was halfway down the room when I looked up."

"What was its color?" asked Saunders; "black?"

"Oh, no, sir, a grayish white. It crept along in a very funny way, sir.
I don't think it had a tail."

"What did you do then?"

"I tried to catch it, but it was no use. So I set the rat-traps and kept
the library shut. Then that girl Emma Laidlaw left the door open when
she was cleaning, and I think it must have escaped."

"And you think it was the animal that's been frightening the maids?"

"Well, no, sir, not quite. They said it was--you'll excuse me, sir--a
hand that they saw. Emma trod on it once at the bottom of the stairs.
She thought then it was a half-frozen toad, only white. And then Parfit
was washing up the dishes in the scullery. She wasn't thinking about
anything in particular. It was close on dusk. She took her hands out of
the water and was drying them absent-minded like on the roller towel,
when she found that she was drying someone else's hand as well, only
colder than hers."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed Saunders.

"Exactly, sir; that's what I told her; but we couldn't get her to stop."

"You don't believe all this?" said Eustace, turning suddenly towards the
butler.

"Me, sir? Oh, no, sir! I've not seen anything."

"Nor heard anything?"

"Well, sir, if you must know, the bells do ring at odd times, and
there's nobody there when we go; and when we go round to draw the blinds
of a night, as often as not somebody's been there before us. But as I
says to Mrs. Merrit, a young monkey might do wonderful things, and we
all know that Mr. Borlsover has had some strange animals about the
place."

"Very well, Morton, that will do."

"What do you make of it?" asked Saunders when they were alone. "I mean
of the letter he said you wrote."

"Oh, that's simple enough," said Eustace. "See the paper it's written
on? I stopped using that years ago, but there were a few odd sheets and
envelopes left in the old desk. We never fastened up the lid of the box
before locking it in. The hand got out, found a pencil, wrote this note,
and shoved it through a crack on to the floor where Morton found it.
That's plain as daylight."

"But the hand couldn't write?"

"Couldn't it? You've not seen it do the things I've seen," and he told
Saunders more of what had happened at Eastbourne.

"Well," said Saunders, "in that case we have at least an explanation of
the legacy. It was the hand which wrote unknown to your uncle that
letter to your solicitor, bequeathing itself to you. Your uncle had no
more to do with that request than I. In fact, it would seem that he had
some idea of this automatic writing, and feared it."

"Then if it's not my uncle, what is it?"

"I suppose some people might say that a disembodied spirit had got your
uncle to educate and prepare a little body for it. Now it's got into
that little body and is off on its own."

"Well, what are we to do?"

"We'll keep our eyes open," said Saunders, "and try to catch it. If we
can't do that, we shall have to wait till the bally clockwork runs
down. After all, if it's flesh and blood, it can't live for ever."

For two days nothing happened. Then Saunders saw it sliding down the
banister in the hall. He was taken unawares, and lost a full second
before he started in pursuit, only to find that the thing had escaped
him. Three days later, Eustace, writing alone in the library at night,
saw it sitting on an open book at the other end of the room. The fingers
crept over the page, feeling the print as if it were reading; but before
he had time to get up from his seat, it had taken the alarm and was
pulling itself up the curtains. Eustace watched it grimly as it hung on
to the cornice with three fingers, flicking thumb and forefinger at him
in an expression of scornful derision.

"I know what I'll do," he said. "If I only get it into the open I'll set
the dogs on to it."

He spoke to Saunders of the suggestion.

"It's jolly good idea," he said; "only we won't wait till we find it out
of doors. We'll get the dogs. There are the two terriers and the
under-keeper's Irish mongrel that's on to rats like a flash. Your
spaniel has not got spirit enough for this sort of game." They brought
the dogs into the house, and the keeper's Irish mongrel chewed up the
slippers, and the terriers tripped up Morton as he waited at table; but
all three were welcome. Even false security is better than no security
at all.

For a fortnight nothing happened. Then the hand was caught, not by the
dogs, but by Mrs. Merrit's gray parrot. The bird was in the habit of
periodically removing the pins that kept its seed and water tins in
place, and of escaping through the holes in the side of the cage. When
once at liberty Peter would show no inclination to return, and would
often be about the house for days. Now, after six consecutive weeks of
captivity, Peter had again discovered a new means of unloosing his bolts
and was at large, exploring the tapestried forests of the curtains and
singing songs in praise of liberty from cornice and picture rail.

"It's no use your trying to catch him," said Eustace to Mrs. Merrit, as
she came into the study one afternoon towards dusk with a step-ladder.
"You'd much better leave Peter alone. Starve him into surrender, Mrs.
Merrit, and don't leave bananas and seed about for him to peck at when
he fancies he's hungry. You're far too softhearted."

"Well, sir, I see he's right out of reach now on that picture rail, so
if you wouldn't mind closing the door, sir, when you leave the room,
I'll bring his cage in to-night and put some meat inside it. He's that
fond of meat, though it does make him pull out his feathers to suck the
quills. They _do_ say that if you cook--"

"Never mind, Mrs. Merrit," said Eustace, who was busy writing. "That
will do; I'll keep an eye on the bird."

There was silence in the room, unbroken but for the continuous whisper
of his pen.

"Scratch poor Peter," said the bird. "Scratch poor old Peter!"

"Be quiet, you beastly bird!"

"Poor old Peter! Scratch poor Peter, do."

"I'm more likely to wring your neck if I get hold of you." He looked up
at the picture rail, and there was the hand holding on to a hook with
three fingers, and slowly scratching the head of the parrot with the
fourth. Eustace ran to the bell and pressed it hard; then across to the
window, which he closed with a bang. Frightened by the noise the parrot
shook its wings preparatory to flight, and as it did so the fingers of
the hand got hold of it by the throat. There was a shrill scream from
Peter as he fluttered across the room, wheeling round in circles that
ever descended, borne down under the weight that clung to him. The bird
dropped at last quite suddenly, and Eustace saw fingers and feathers
rolled into an inextricable mass on the floor. The struggle abruptly
ceased as finger and thumb squeezed the neck; the bird's eyes rolled up
to show the whites, and there was a faint, half-choked gurgle. But
before the fingers had time to loose their hold, Eustace had them in his
own.

"Send Mr. Saunders here at once," he said to the maid who came in answer
to the bell. "Tell him I want him immediately."

Then he went with the hand to the fire. There was a ragged gash across
the back where the bird's beak had torn it, but no blood oozed from the
wound. He noticed with disgust that the nails had grown long and
discolored.

"I'll burn the beastly thing," he said. But he could not burn it. He
tried to throw it into the flames, but his own hands, as if restrained
by some old primitive feeling, would not let him. And so Saunders found
him pale and irresolute, with the hand still clasped tightly in his
fingers.

"I've got it at last," he said in a tone of triumph.

"Good; let's have a look at it."

"Not when it's loose. Get me some nails and a hammer and a board of some
sort."

"Can you hold it all right?"

"Yes, the thing's quite limp; tired out with throttling poor old Peter,
I should say."

"And now," said Saunders when he returned with the things, "what are we
going to do?"

"Drive a nail through it first, so that it can't get away; then we can
take our time over examining it."

"Do it yourself," said Saunders. "I don't mind helping you with
guinea-pigs occasionally when there's something to be learned; partly
because I don't fear a guinea-pig's revenge. This thing's different."

"All right, you miserable skunk. I won't forget the way you've stood by
me."

He took up a nail, and before Saunders had realised what he was doing
had driven it through the hand, deep into the board.

"Oh, my aunt," he giggled hysterically, "look at it now," for the hand
was writhing in agonized contortions, squirming and wriggling upon the
nail like a worm upon the hook.

"Well," said Saunders, "you've done it now. I'll leave you to examine
it."

"Don't go, in heaven's name. Cover it up, man, cover it up! Shove a
cloth over it! Here!" and he pulled off the antimacassar from the back
of a chair and wrapped the board in it. "Now get the keys from my pocket
and open the safe. Chuck the other things out. Oh, Lord, it's getting
itself into frightful knots! and open it quick!" He threw the thing in
and banged the door.

"We'll keep it there till it dies," he said. "May I burn in hell if I
ever open the door of that safe again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Merrit departed at the end of the month. Her successor certainly
was more successful in the management of the servants. Early in her rule
she declared that she would stand no nonsense, and gossip soon withered
and died. Eustace Borlsover went back to his old way of life. Old habits
crept over and covered his new experience. He was, if anything, less
morose, and showed a greater inclination to take his natural part in
country society.

"I shouldn't be surprised if he marries one of these days," said
Saunders. "Well, I'm in no hurry for such an event. I know Eustace far
too well for the future Mrs. Borlsover to like me It will be the same
old story again: a long friendship slowly made--marriage--and a long
friendship quickly forgotten."


IV

But Eustace Borlsover did not follow the advice of his uncle and marry.
He was too fond of old slippers and tobacco. The cooking, too, under
Mrs. Handyside's management was excellent, and she seemed, too, to have
a heaven-sent faculty in knowing when to stop dusting.

Little by little the old life resumed its old power. Then came the
burglary. The men, it was said, broke into the house by way of the
conservatory. It was really little more than an attempt, for they only
succeeded in carrying away a few pieces of plate from the pantry. The
safe in the study was certainly found open and empty, but, as Mr.
Borlsover informed the police inspector, he had kept nothing of value in
it during the last six months.

"Then you're lucky in getting off so easily, sir," the man replied. "By
the way they have gone about their business, I should say they were
experienced cracksmen. They must have caught the alarm when they were
just beginning their evening's work."

"Yes," said Eustace, "I suppose I am lucky."

"I've no doubt," said the inspector, "that we shall be able to trace
the men. I've said that they must have been old hands at the game. The
way they got in and opened the safe shows that. But there's one little
thing that puzzles me. One of them was careless enough not to wear
gloves, and I'm bothered if I know what he was trying to do. I've traced
his finger-marks on the new varnish on the window sashes in every one of
the downstairs rooms. They are very distinct ones too."

"Right hand or left, or both?" asked Eustace.

"Oh, right every time. That's the funny thing. He must have been a
foolhardy fellow, and I rather think it was him that wrote that." He
took out a slip of paper from his pocket. "That's what he wrote, sir.
'I've got out, Eustace Borlsover, but I'll be back before long.' Some
gaol bird just escaped, I suppose. It will make it all the easier for us
to trace him. Do you know the writing, sir?"

"No," said Eustace; "it's not the writing of anyone I know."

"I'm not going to stay here any longer," said Eustace to Saunders at
luncheon. "I've got on far better during the last six months than ever I
expected, but I'm not going to run the risk of seeing that thing again.
I shall go up to town this afternoon. Get Morton to put my things
together, and join me with the car at Brighton on the day after
to-morrow. And bring the proofs of those two papers with you. We'll run
over them together."

"How long are you going to be away?"

"I can't say for certain, but be prepared to stay for some time. We've
stuck to work pretty closely through the summer, and I for one need a
holiday. I'll engage the rooms at Brighton. You'll find it best to break
the journey at Hitchin. I'll wire to you there at the Crown to tell you
the Brighton address."

The house he chose at Brighton was in a terrace. He had been there
before. It was kept by his old college gyp, a man of discreet silence,
who was admirably partnered by an excellent cook. The rooms were on the
first floor. The two bedrooms were at the back, and opened out of each
other. "Saunders can have the smaller one, though it is the only one
with a fireplace," he said. "I'll stick to the larger of the two, since
it's got a bathroom adjoining. I wonder what time he'll arrive with the
car."

Saunders came about seven, cold and cross and dirty. "We'll light the
fire in the dining-room," said Eustace, "and get Prince to unpack some
of the things while we are at dinner. What were the roads like?"

"Rotten; swimming with mud, and a beastly cold wind against us all day.
And this is July. Dear old England!"

"Yes," said Eustace, "I think we might do worse than leave dear old
England for a few months."

They turned in soon after twelve.

"You oughtn't to feel cold, Saunders," said Eustace, "when you can
afford to sport a great cat-skin lined coat like this. You do yourself
very well, all things considered. Look at those gloves, for instance.
Who could possibly feel cold when wearing them?"

"They are far too clumsy though for driving. Try them on and see," and
he tossed them through the door on to Eustace's bed, and went on with
his unpacking. A minute later he heard a shrill cry of terror. "Oh,
Lord," he heard, "it's in the glove! Quick, Saunders, quick!" Then came
a smacking thud. Eustace had thrown it from him. "I've chucked it into
the bathroom," he gasped, "it's hit the wall and fallen into the bath.
Come now if you want to help." Saunders, with a lighted candle in his
hand, looked over the edge of the bath. There it was, old and maimed,
dumb and blind, with a ragged hole in the middle, crawling, staggering,
trying to creep up the slippery sides, only to fall back helpless.

"Stay there," said Saunders. "I'll empty a collar box or something, and
we'll jam it in. It can't get out while I'm away."

"Yes, it can," shouted Eustace. "It's getting out now. It's climbing up
the plug chain. No, you brute, you filthy brute, you don't! Come back,
Saunders, it's getting away from me. I can't hold it; it's all slippery.
Curse its claw! Shut the window, you idiot! The top too, as well as the
bottom. You utter idiot! It's got out!" There was the sound of
something dropping on to the hard flagstones below, and Eustace fell
back fainting.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a fortnight he was ill.

"I don't know what to make of it," the doctor said to Saunders. "I can
only suppose that Mr. Borlsover has suffered some great emotional shock.
You had better let me send someone to help you nurse him. And by all
means indulge that whim of his never to be left alone in the dark. I
would keep a light burning all night if I were you. But he _must_ have
more fresh air. It's perfectly absurd this hatred of open windows."

Eustace, however, would have no one with him but Saunders. "I don't want
the other men," he said. "They'd smuggle it in somehow. I know they
would."

"Don't worry about it, old chap. This sort of thing can't go on
indefinitely. You know I saw it this time as well as you. It wasn't half
so active. It won't go on living much longer, especially after that
fall. I heard it hit the flags myself. As soon as you're a bit stronger
we'll leave this place; not bag and baggage, but with only the clothes
on our backs, so that it won't be able to hide anywhere. We'll escape it
that way. We won't give any address, and we won't have any parcels sent
after us. Cheer up, Eustace! You'll be well enough to leave in a day or
two. The doctor says I can take you out in a chair to-morrow."

"What have I done?" asked Eustace. "Why does it come after me? I'm no
worse than other men. I'm no worse than you, Saunders; you know I'm not.
It was you who were at the bottom of that dirty business in San Diego,
and that was fifteen years ago."

"It's not that, of course," said Saunders. "We are in the twentieth
century, and even the parsons have dropped the idea of your old sins
finding you out. Before you caught the hand in the library it was filled
with pure malevolence--to you and all mankind. After you spiked it
through with that nail it naturally forgot about other people, and
concentrated its attention on you. It was shut up in the safe, you know,
for nearly six months. That gives plenty of time for thinking of
revenge."

Eustace Borlsover would not leave his room, but he thought that there
might be something in Saunders's suggestion to leave Brighton without
notice. He began rapidly to regain his strength.

"We'll go on the first of September," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening of August 31st was oppressively warm. Though at midday the
windows had been wide open, they had been shut an hour or so before
dusk. Mrs. Prince had long since ceased to wonder at the strange habits
of the gentlemen on the first floor. Soon after their arrival she had
been told to take down the heavy window curtains in the two bedrooms,
and day by day the rooms had seemed to grow more bare. Nothing was left
lying about.

"Mr. Borlsover doesn't like to have any place where dirt can collect,"
Saunders had said as an excuse. "He likes to see into all the corners of
the room."

"Couldn't I open the window just a little?" he said to Eustace that
evening. "We're simply roasting in here, you know."

"No, leave well alone. We're not a couple of boarding-school misses
fresh from a course of hygiene lectures. Get the chessboard out."

They sat down and played. At ten o'clock Mrs. Prince came to the door
with a note. "I am sorry I didn't bring it before," she said, "but it
was left in the letter-box."

"Open it, Saunders, and see if it wants answering."

It was very brief. There was neither address nor signature.


"Will eleven o'clock to-night be suitable for our last appointment?"


"Who is it from?" asked Borlsover.

"It was meant for me," said Saunders. "There's no answer, Mrs. Prince,"
and he put the paper into his pocket. "A dunning letter from a tailor; I
suppose he must have got wind of our leaving."

It was a clever lie, and Eustace asked no more questions. They went on
with their game.

On the landing outside Saunders could hear the grandfather's clock
whispering the seconds, blurting out the quarter-hours.

"Check!" said Eustace. The clock struck eleven. At the same time there
was a gentle knocking on the door; it seemed to come from the bottom
panel.

"Who's there?" asked Eustace.

There was no answer.

"Mrs. Prince, is that you?"

"She is up above," said Saunders; "I can hear her walking about the
room."

"Then lock the door; bolt it too. Your move, Saunders."

While Saunders sat with his eyes on the chessboard, Eustace walked over
to the window and examined the fastenings. He did the same in Saunders's
room and the bathroom. There were no doors between the three rooms, or
he would have shut and locked them too.

"Now, Saunders," he said, "don't stay all night over your move. I've had
time to smoke one cigarette already. It's bad to keep an invalid
waiting. There's only one possible thing for you to do. What was that?"

"The ivy blowing against the window. There, it's your move now,
Eustace."

"It wasn't the ivy, you idiot. It was someone tapping at the window,"
and he pulled up the blind. On the outer side of the window, clinging to
the sash, was the hand.

"What is it that it's holding?"

"It's a pocket-knife. It's going to try to open the window by pushing
back the fastener with the blade."

"Well, let it try," said Eustace. "Those fasteners screw down; they
can't be opened that way. Anyhow, we'll close the shutters. It's your
move, Saunders. I've played."

But Saunders found it impossible to fix his attention on the game. He
could not understand Eustace, who seemed all at once to have lost his
fear. "What do you say to some wine?" he asked. "You seem to be taking
things coolly, but I don't mind confessing that I'm in a blessed funk."

"You've no need to be. There's nothing supernatural about that hand,
Saunders. I mean it seems to be governed by the laws of time and space.
It's not the sort of thing that vanishes into thin air or slides through
oaken doors. And since that's so, I defy it to get in here. We'll leave
the place in the morning. I for one have bottomed the depths of fear.
Fill your glass, man! The windows are all shuttered, the door is locked
and bolted. Pledge me my uncle Adrian! Drink, man! What are you waiting
for?"

Saunders was standing with his glass half raised. "It can get in," he
said hoarsely; "it can get in! We've forgotten. There's the fireplace in
my bedroom. It will come down the chimney."

"Quick!" said Eustace, as he rushed into the other room; "we haven't a
minute to lose. What can we do? Light the fire, Saunders. Give me a
match, quick!"

"They must be all in the other room. I'll get them."

"Hurry, man, for goodness' sake! Look in the bookcase! Look in the
bathroom! Here, come and stand here; I'll look."

"Be quick!" shouted Saunders. "I can hear something!"

"Then plug a sheet from your bed up the chimney. No, here's a match." He
had found one at last that had slipped into a crack in the floor.

"Is the fire laid? Good, but it may not burn. I know--the oil from that
old reading-lamp and this cotton-wool. Now the match, quick! Pull the
sheet away, you fool! We don't want it now."

There was a great roar from the grate as the flames shot up. Saunders
had been a fraction of a second too late with the sheet. The oil had
fallen on to it. It, too, was burning.

"The whole place will be on fire!" cried Eustace, as he tried to beat
out the flames with a blanket. "It's no good! I can't manage it. You
must open the door, Saunders, and get help."

Saunders ran to the door and fumbled with the bolts. The key was stiff
in the lock.

"Hurry!" shouted Eustace; "the whole place is ablaze!"

The key turned in the lock at last. For half a second Saunders stopped
to look back. Afterwards he could never be quite sure as to what he had
seen, but at the time he thought that something black and charred was
creeping slowly, very slowly, from the mass of flames towards Eustace
Borlsover. For a moment he thought of returning to his friend, but the
noise and the smell of the burning sent him running down the passage
crying, "Fire! Fire!" He rushed to the telephone to summon help, and
then back to the bathroom--he should have thought of that before--for
water. As he burst open the bedroom door there came a scream of terror
which ended suddenly, and then the sound of a heavy fall.



The Mass of Shadows

BY ANATOLE FRANCE

     From _Mother of Pearl_, by Anatole France. Copyright by John Lane
     Company. By permission of the publishers.


This tale the sacristan of the church of St. Eulalie at Neuville
d'Aumont told me, as we sat under the arbor of the White Horse, one fine
summer evening, drinking a bottle of old wine to the health of the dead
man, now very much at his ease, whom that very morning he had borne to
the grave with full honors, beneath a pall powdered with smart silver
tears.

"My poor father who is dead" (it is the sacristan who is speaking,) "was
in his lifetime a grave-digger. He was of an agreeable disposition, the
result, no doubt, of the calling he followed, for it has often been
pointed out that people who work in cemeteries are of a jovial turn.
Death has no terrors for them; they never give it a thought. I, for
instance, monsieur, enter a cemetery at night as little perturbed as
though it were the arbor of the White Horse. And if by chance I meet
with a ghost, I don't disturb myself in the least about it, for I
reflect that he may just as likely have business of his own to attend to
as I. I know the habits of the dead, and I know their character.
Indeed, so far as that goes, I know things of which the priests
themselves are ignorant. If I were to tell you all I have seen, you
would be astounded. But a still tongue makes a wise head, and my father,
who, all the same, delighted in spinning a yarn, did not disclose a
twentieth part of what he knew. To make up for this he often repeated
the same stories, and to my knowledge he told the story of Catherine
Fontaine at least a hundred times.

"Catherine Fontaine was an old maid whom he well remembered having seen
when he was a mere child. I should not be surprised if there were still,
perhaps, three old fellows in the district who could remember having
heard folks speak of her, for she was very well known and of excellent
reputation, though poor enough. She lived at the corner of the Rue aux
Nonnes, in the turret which is still to be seen there, and which formed
part of an old half-ruined mansion looking on to the garden of the
Ursuline nuns. On that turret can still be traced certain figures and
half-obliterated inscriptions. The late curé of St. Eulalie, Monsieur
Levasseur, asserted that there are the words in Latin, _Love is stronger
than death_, 'which is to be understood,' so he would add, 'of divine
love.'

"Catherine Fontaine lived by herself in this tiny apartment. She was a
lace-maker. You know, of course, that the lace made in our part of the
world was formerly held in high esteem. No one knew anything of her
relatives or friends. It was reported that when she was eighteen years
of age she had loved the young Chevalier d'Aumont-Cléry, and had been
secretly affianced to him. But decent folk didn't believe a word of it,
and said it was nothing but a tale concocted because Catherine
Fontaine's demeanor was that of a lady rather than that of a working
woman, and because, moreover, she possessed beneath her white locks the
remains of great beauty. Her expression was sorrowful, and on one finger
she wore one of those rings fashioned by the goldsmith into the
semblance of two tiny hands clasped together. In former days folks were
accustomed to exchange such rings at their betrothal ceremony. I am sure
you know the sort of thing I mean.

"Catherine Fontaine lived a saintly life. She spent a great deal of time
in churches, and every morning, whatever might be the weather, she went
to assist at the six o'clock Mass at St. Eulalie.

"Now one December night, whilst she was in her little chamber, she was
awakened by the sound of bells, and nothing doubting that they were
ringing for the first Mass, the pious woman dressed herself, and came
downstairs and out into the street. The night was so obscure that not
even the walls of the houses were visible, and not a ray of light shone
from the murky sky. And such was the silence amid this black darkness,
that there was not even the sound of a distant dog barking, and a
feeling of aloofness from every living creature was perceptible. But
Catherine Fontaine knew well every single stone she stepped on, and, as
she could have found her way to the church with her eyes shut, she
reached without difficulty the corner of the Rue aux Nonnes and the Rue
de la Paroisse, where the timbered house stands with the tree of Jesse
carved on one of its massive beams. When she reached this spot she
perceived that the church doors were open, and that a great light was
streaming out from the wax tapers. She resumed her journey, and when she
had passed through the porch she found herself in the midst of a vast
congregation which entirely filled the church. But she did not recognize
any of the worshipers and was surprised to observe that all of these
people were dressed in velvets and brocades, with feathers in their
hats, and that they wore swords in the fashion of days gone by. Here
were gentlemen who carried tall canes with gold knobs, and ladies with
lace caps fastened with coronet-shaped combs. Chevaliers of the Order of
St. Louis extended their hands to these ladies, who concealed behind
their fans painted faces, of which only the powdered brow and the patch
at the corner of the eye were visible! All of them proceeded to take
their places without the slightest sound, and as they moved neither the
sound of their footsteps on the pavement, nor the rustle of their
garments could be heard. The lower places were filled with a crowd of
young artisans in brown jackets, dimity breeches, and blue stockings,
with their arms round the waists of pretty blushing girls who lowered
their eyes. Near the holy water stoups peasant women, in scarlet
petticoats and laced bodices, sat upon the ground as immovable as
domestic animals, whilst young lads, standing up behind them, stared out
from wide-open eyes and twirled their hats round and round on their
fingers, and all these sorrowful countenances seemed centred irremovably
on one and the same thought, at once sweet and sorrowful. On her knees,
in her accustomed place, Catherine Fontaine saw the priest advance
toward the altar, preceded by two servers. She recognized neither priest
nor clerks. The Mass began. It was a silent Mass, during which neither
the sound of the moving lips nor the tinkle of the bell was audible.
Catherine Fontaine felt that she was under the observation and the
influence also of her mysterious neighbor, and when, scarcely turning
her head, she stole a glance at him, she recognized the young Chevalier
d'Aumont-Cléry, who had once loved her, and who had been dead for five
and forty years. She recognized him by a small mark which he had over
the left ear, and above all by the shadow which his long black eyelashes
cast upon his cheeks. He was dressed in his hunting clothes, scarlet
with gold lace, the very clothes he wore that day when he met her in St.
Leonard's Wood, begged of her a drink, and stole a kiss. He had
preserved his youth and good looks. When he smiled, he still displayed
magnificent teeth. Catherine said to him in an undertone:

"'Monseigneur, you who were my friend, and to whom in days gone by I
gave all that a girl holds most dear, may God keep you in His grace! O,
that He would at length inspire me with regret for the sin I committed
in yielding to you; for it is a fact that, though my hair is white and I
approach my end, I have not yet repented of having loved you. But, dear
dead friend and noble seigneur, tell me, who are these folk, habited
after the antique fashion, who are here assisting at this silent Mass?'

"The Chevalier d'Aumont-Cléry replied in a voice feebler than a breath,
but none the less crystal clear:

"'Catherine, these men and women are souls from purgatory who have
grieved God by sinning as we ourselves sinned through love of the
creature, but who are not on that account cast off by God, inasmuch as
their sin, like ours, was not deliberate.

"'Whilst separated from those whom they loved upon earth, they are
purified in the cleansing fires of purgatory, they suffer the pangs of
absence, which is for them the most cruel of tortures. They are so
unhappy that an angel from heaven takes pity upon their love-torment. By
the permission of the Most High, for one hour in the night, he reunites
each year lover to loved in their parish church, where they are
permitted to assist at the Mass of Shadows, hand clasped in hand. These
are the facts. If it has been granted to me to see thee before thy
death, Catherine, it is a boon which is bestowed by God's special
permission.'

"And Catherine Fontaine answered him:

"'I would die gladly enough, dear, dead lord, if I might recover the
beauty that was mine when I gave you to drink in the forest.'

"Whilst they thus conversed under their breath, a very old canon was
taking the collection and proffering to the worshipers a great copper
dish, wherein they let fall, each in his turn, ancient coins which have
long since ceased to pass current: écus of six livres, florins, ducats
and ducatoons, jacobuses and rose-nobles, and the pieces fell silently
into the dish. When at length it was placed before the Chevalier, he
dropped into it a louis which made no more sound than had the other
pieces of gold and silver.

"Then the old canon stopped before Catherine Fontaine, who fumbled in
her pocket without being able to find a farthing. Then, being unwilling
to allow the dish to pass without an offering from herself, she slipped
from her finger the ring which the Chevalier had given her the day
before his death, and cast it into the copper bowl. As the golden ring
fell, a sound like the heavy clang of a bell rang out, and on the stroke
of this reverberation the Chevalier, the canon, the celebrant, the
servers, the ladies and their cavaliers, the whole assembly vanished
utterly; the candles guttered out, and Catherine Fontaine was left alone
in the darkness."

Having concluded his narrative after this fashion, the sacristan drank a
long draught of wine, remained pensive for a moment, and then resumed
his talk in these words:

"I have told you this tale exactly as my father has told it to me over
and over again, and I believe that it is authentic, because it agrees in
all respects with what I have observed of the manners and customs
peculiar to those who have passed away. I have associated a good deal
with the dead ever since my childhood, and I know that they are
accustomed to return to what they have loved.

"It is on this account that the miserly dead wander at night in the
neighborhood of the treasures they conceal during their life time. They
keep a strict watch over their gold; but the trouble they give
themselves, far from being of service to them, turns to their
disadvantage; and it is not a rare thing at all to come upon money
buried in the ground on digging in a place haunted by a ghost. In the
same way deceased husbands come by night to harass their wives who have
made a second matrimonial venture, and I could easily name several who
have kept a better watch over their wives since death than they ever did
while living.

"That sort of thing is blameworthy, for in all fairness the dead have no
business to stir up jealousies. Still I do but tell you what I have
observed myself. It is a matter to take into account if one marries a
widow. Besides, the tale I have told you is vouchsafed for in the
manner following:

"The morning after that extraordinary night Catherine Fontaine was
discovered dead in her chamber. And the beadle attached to St. Eulalie
found in the copper bowl used for the collection a gold ring with two
clasped hands. Besides, I'm not the kind of man to make jokes. Suppose
we order another bottle of wine?..."



What Was It?

BY FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN


It is, I confess, with considerable diffidence, that I approach the
strange narrative which I am about to relate. The events which I purpose
detailing are of so extraordinary a character that I am quite prepared
to meet with an unusual amount of incredulity and scorn. I accept all
such beforehand. I have, I trust, the literary courage to face unbelief.
I have, after mature consideration resolved to narrate, in as simple and
straightforward a manner as I can compass, some facts that passed under
my observation, in the month of July last, and which, in the annals of
the mysteries of physical science, are wholly unparalleled.

I live at No. ---- Twenty-sixth Street, in New York. The house is in some
respects a curious one. It has enjoyed for the last two years the
reputation of being haunted. It is a large and stately residence,
surrounded by what was once a garden, but which is now only a green
enclosure used for bleaching clothes. The dry basin of what has been a
fountain, and a few fruit trees ragged and unpruned, indicate that this
spot in past days was a pleasant, shady retreat, filled with fruits and
flowers and the sweet murmur of waters.

The house is very spacious. A hall of noble size leads to a large spiral
staircase winding through its center, while the various apartments are
of imposing dimensions. It was built some fifteen or twenty years since
by Mr. A----, the well-known New York merchant, who five years ago threw
the commercial world into convulsions by a stupendous bank fraud. Mr.
A----, as everyone knows, escaped to Europe, and died not long after, of
a broken heart. Almost immediately after the news of his decease reached
this country and was verified, the report spread in Twenty-sixth Street
that No. ---- was haunted. Legal measures had dispossessed the widow of
its former owner, and it was inhabited merely by a caretaker and his
wife, placed there by the house agent into whose hands it had passed for
the purposes of renting or sale. These people declared that they were
troubled with unnatural noises. Doors were opened without any visible
agency. The remnants of furniture scattered through the various rooms
were, during the night, piled one upon the other by unknown hands.
Invisible feet passed up and down the stairs in broad daylight,
accompanied by the rustle of unseen silk dresses, and the gliding of
viewless hands along the massive balusters. The caretaker and his wife
declared they would live there no longer. The house agent laughed,
dismissed them, and put others in their place. The noises and
supernatural manifestations continued. The neighborhood caught up the
story, and the house remained untenanted for three years. Several
persons negotiated for it; but, somehow, always before the bargain was
closed they heard the unpleasant rumors and declined to treat any
further.

It was in this state of things that my landlady, who at that time kept a
boarding-house in Bleecker Street, and who wished to move further up
town, conceived the bold idea of renting No. ---- Twenty-sixth Street.
Happening to have in her house rather a plucky and philosophical set of
boarders, she laid her scheme before us, stating candidly everything she
had heard respecting the ghostly qualities of the establishment to which
she wished to remove us. With the exception of two timid persons,--a
sea-captain and a returned Californian, who immediately gave notice that
they would leave,--all of Mrs. Moffat's guests declared that they would
accompany her in her chivalric incursion into the abode of spirits.

Our removal was effected in the month of May, and we were charmed with
our new residence. The portion of Twenty-sixth Street where our house is
situated, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, is one of the pleasantest
localities in New York. The gardens back of the houses, running down
nearly to the Hudson, form, in the summer time, a perfect avenue of
verdure. The air is pure and invigorating, sweeping, as it does,
straight across the river from the Weehawken heights, and even the
ragged garden which surrounded the house, although displaying on washing
days rather too much clothesline, still gave us a piece of greensward to
look at, and a cool retreat in the summer evenings, where we smoked our
cigars in the dusk, and watched the fireflies flashing their dark
lanterns in the long grass.

Of course we had no sooner established ourselves at No. ---- than we
began to expect ghosts. We absolutely awaited their advent with
eagerness. Our dinner conversation was supernatural. One of the
boarders, who had purchased Mrs. Crowe's _Night Side of Nature_ for his
own private delectation, was regarded as a public enemy by the entire
household for not having bought twenty copies. The man led a life of
supreme wretchedness while he was reading this volume. A system of
espionage was established, of which he was the victim. If he
incautiously laid the book down for an instant and left the room, it was
immediately seized and read aloud in secret places to a select few. I
found myself a person of immense importance, it having leaked out that I
was tolerably well versed in the history of supernaturalism, and had
once written a story the foundation of which was a ghost. If a table or
a wainscot panel happened to warp when we were assembled in the large
drawing-room, there was an instant silence, and everyone was prepared
for an immediate clanking of chains and a spectral form.

After a month of psychological excitement, it was with the utmost
dissatisfaction that we were forced to acknowledge that nothing in the
remotest degree approaching the supernatural had manifested itself. Once
the black butler asseverated that his candle had been blown out by some
invisible agency while he was undressing himself for the night; but as I
had more than once discovered this colored gentleman in a condition when
one candle must have appeared to him like two, thought it possible that,
by going a step further in his potations, he might have reversed this
phenomenon, and seen no candle at all where he ought to have beheld one.

Things were in this state when an accident took place so awful and
inexplicable in its character that my reason fairly reels at the bare
memory of the occurrence. It was the tenth of July. After dinner was
over I repaired, with my friend Dr. Hammond, to the garden to smoke my
evening pipe. Independent of certain mental sympathies which existed
between the Doctor and myself, we were linked together by a vice. We
both smoked opium. We knew each other's secret, and respected it. We
enjoyed together that wonderful expansion of thought, that marvelous
intensifying of the perceptive faculties, that boundless feeling of
existence when we seem to have points of contact with the whole
universe,--in short, that unimaginable spiritual bliss, which I would
not surrender for a throne, and which I hope you, reader, will
never--never taste.

Those hours of opium happiness which the Doctor and I spent together in
secret were regulated with a scientific accuracy. We did not blindly
smoke the drug of paradise, and leave our dreams to chance. While
smoking, we carefully steered our conversation through the brightest and
calmest channels of thought. We talked of the East, and endeavored to
recall the magical panorama of its glowing scenery. We criticized the
most sensuous poets,--those who painted life ruddy with health, brimming
with passion, happy in the possession of youth and strength and beauty.
If we talked of Shakespeare's _Tempest_, we lingered over Ariel, and
avoided Caliban. Like the Guebers, we turned our faces to the East, and
saw only the sunny side of the world.

This skillful coloring of our train of thought produced in our
subsequent visions a corresponding tone. The splendors of Arabian
fairyland dyed our dreams. We paced the narrow strip of grass with the
tread and port of kings. The song of the _rana arborea_, while he clung
to the bark of the ragged plum-tree, sounded like the strains of divine
musicians. Houses, walls, and streets melted like rain clouds, and
vistas of unimaginable glory stretched away before us. It was a
rapturous companionship. We enjoyed the vast delight more perfectly
because, even in our most ecstatic moments, we were conscious of each
other's presence. Our pleasures, while individual, were still twin,
vibrating and moving in musical accord.

On the evening in question, the tenth of July, the Doctor and myself
drifted into an unusually metaphysical mood. We lit our large
meerschaums, filled with fine Turkish tobacco, in the core of which
burned a little black nut of opium, that, like the nut in the fairy
tale, held within its narrow limits wonders beyond the reach of kings;
we paced to and fro, conversing. A strange perversity dominated the
currents of our thought. They would _not_ flow through the sun-lit
channels into which we strove to divert them. For some unaccountable
reason, they constantly diverged into dark and lonesome beds, where a
continual gloom brooded. It was in vain that, after our old fashion, we
flung ourselves on the shores of the East, and talked of its gay
bazaars, of the splendors of the time of Haroun, of harems and golden
palaces. Black afreets continually arose from the depths of our talk,
and expanded, like the one the fisherman released from the copper
vessel, until they blotted everything bright from our vision.
Insensibly, we yielded to the occult force that swayed us, and indulged
in gloomy speculation. We had talked some time upon the proneness of the
human mind to mysticism, and the almost universal love of the terrible,
when Hammond suddenly said to me. "What do you consider to be the
greatest element of terror?"

The question puzzled me. That many things were terrible, I knew.
Stumbling over a corpse in the dark; beholding, as I once did, a woman
floating down a deep and rapid river, with wildly lifted arms, and
awful, upturned face, uttering, as she drifted, shrieks that rent one's
heart while we, spectators, stood frozen at a window which overhung the
river at a height of sixty feet, unable to make the slightest effort to
save her, but dumbly watching her last supreme agony and her
disappearance. A shattered wreck, with no life visible, encountered
floating listlessly on the ocean, is a terrible object, for it suggests
a huge terror, the proportions of which are veiled. But it now struck
me, for the first time, that there must be one great and ruling
embodiment of fear,--a King of Terrors, to which all others must
succumb. What might it be? To what train of circumstances would it owe
its existence?

"I confess, Hammond," I replied to my friend, "I never considered the
subject before. That there must be one Something more terrible than any
other thing, I feel. I cannot attempt, however, even the most vague
definition."

"I am somewhat like you, Harry," he answered. "I feel my capacity to
experience a terror greater than anything yet conceived by the human
mind;--something combining in fearful and unnatural amalgamation
hitherto supposed incompatible elements. The calling of the voices in
Brockden Brown's novel of _Wieland_ is awful; so is the picture of the
Dweller of the Threshold, in Bulwer's _Zanoni_; but," he added, shaking
his head gloomily, "there is something more horrible still than those."

"Look here, Hammond," I rejoined, "let us drop this kind of talk, for
Heaven's sake! We shall suffer for it, depend on it."

"I don't know what's the matter with me to-night," he replied, "but my
brain is running upon all sorts of weird and awful thoughts. I feel as
if I could write a story like Hoffman, to-night, if I were only master
of a literary style."

"Well, if we are going to be Hoffmanesque in our talk, I'm off to bed.
Opium and nightmares should never be brought together. How sultry it is!
Good-night, Hammond."

"Good-night, Harry. Pleasant dreams to you."

"To you, gloomy wretch, afreets, ghouls, and enchanters."

We parted, and each sought his respective chamber. I undressed quickly
and got into bed, taking with me, according to my usual custom, a book,
over which I generally read myself to sleep. I opened the volume as soon
as I had laid my head upon the pillow, and instantly flung it to the
other side of the room. It was Goudon's _History of Monsters_,--a
curious French work, which I had lately imported from Paris, but which,
in the state of mind I had then reached, was anything but an agreeable
companion. I resolved to go to sleep at once; so, turning down my gas
until nothing but a little blue point of light glimmered on the top of
the tube, I composed myself to rest.

The room was in total darkness. The atom of gas that still remained
alight did not illuminate a distance of three inches round the burner. I
desperately drew my arm across my eyes, as if to shut out even the
darkness, and tried to think of nothing. It was in vain. The confounded
themes touched on by Hammond in the garden kept obtruding themselves on
my brain. I battled against them. I erected ramparts of would-be
blackness of intellect to keep them out. They still crowded upon me.
While I was lying still as a corpse, hoping that by a perfect physical
inaction I should hasten mental repose, an awful incident occurred. A
Something dropped, as it seemed, from the ceiling, plumb upon my chest,
and the next instant I felt two bony hands encircling my throat,
endeavoring to choke me.

I am no coward, and am possessed of considerable physical strength. The
suddenness of the attack, instead of stunning me, strung every nerve to
its highest tension. My body acted from instinct, before my brain had
time to realize the terrors of my position. In an instant I wound two
muscular arms around the creature, and squeezed it, with all the
strength of despair, against my chest. In a few seconds the bony hands
that had fastened on my throat loosened their hold, and I was free to
breathe once more. Then commenced a struggle of awful intensity.
Immersed in the most profound darkness, totally ignorant of the nature
of the Thing by which I was so suddenly attacked, finding my grasp
slipping every moment, by reason, it seemed to me, of the entire
nakedness of my assailant, bitten with sharp teeth in the shoulder,
neck, and chest, having every moment to protect my throat against a pair
of sinewy, agile hands, which my utmost efforts could not
confine,--these were a combination of circumstances to combat which
required all the strength, skill, and courage that I possessed.

At last, after a silent, deadly, exhausting struggle, I got my assailant
under by a series of incredible efforts of strength. Once pinned, with
my knee on what I made out to be its chest, I knew that I was victor. I
rested for a moment to breathe. I heard the creature beneath me panting
in the darkness, and felt the violent throbbing of a heart. It was
apparently as exhausted as I was; that was one comfort. At this moment I
remembered that I usually placed under my pillow, before going to bed, a
large yellow silk pocket handkerchief. I felt for it instantly; it was
there. In a few seconds more I had, after a fashion, pinioned the
creature's arms.

I now felt tolerably secure. There was nothing more to be done but to
turn on the gas, and, having first seen what my midnight assailant was
like, arouse the household. I will confess to being actuated by a
certain pride in not giving the alarm before; I wished to make the
capture alone and unaided.

Never losing my hold for an instant, I slipped from the bed to the
floor, dragging my captive with me. I had but a few steps to make to
reach the gas-burner; these I made with the greatest caution, holding
the creature in a grip like a vice. At last I got within arm's length of
the tiny speck of blue light which told me where the gas-burner lay.
Quick as lightning I released my grasp with one hand and let on the full
flood of light. Then I turned to look at my captive.

I cannot even attempt to give any definition of my sensations the
instant after I turned on the gas. I suppose I must have shrieked with
terror, for in less than a minute afterward my room was crowded with the
inmates of the house. I shudder now as I think of that awful moment. _I
saw nothing_! Yes; I had one arm firmly clasped round a breathing,
panting, corporeal shape, my other hand gripped with all its strength a
throat as warm, as apparently fleshy, as my own; and yet, with this
living substance in my grasp, with its body pressed against my own, and
all in the bright glare of a large jet of gas, I absolutely beheld
nothing! Not even an outline,--a vapor!

I do not, even at this hour, realize the situation in which I found
myself. I cannot recall the astounding incident thoroughly. Imagination
in vain tries to compass the awful paradox.

It breathed. I felt its warm breath upon my cheek. It struggled
fiercely. It had hands. They clutched me. Its skin was smooth, like my
own. There it lay, pressed close up against me, solid as stone,--and
yet utterly invisible!

I wonder that I did not faint or go mad on the instant. Some wonderful
instinct must have sustained me; for, absolutely, in place of loosening
my hold on the terrible Enigma, I seemed to gain an additional strength
in my moment of horror, and tightened my grasp with such wonderful force
that I felt the creature shivering with agony.

Just then Hammond entered my room at the head of the household. As soon
as he beheld my face--which, I suppose, must have been an awful sight to
look at--he hastened forward, crying, "Great heaven, Harry! what has
happened?"

"Hammond! Hammond!" I cried, "come here. O, this is awful! I have been
attacked in bed by something or other, which I have hold of; but I can't
see it,--I can't see it!"

Hammond, doubtless struck by the unfeigned horror expressed in my
countenance, made one or two steps forward with an anxious yet puzzled
expression. A very audible titter burst from the remainder of my
visitors. This suppressed laughter made me furious. To laugh at a human
being in my position! It was the worst species of cruelty. _Now_, I can
understand why the appearance of a man struggling violently, as it would
seem, with an airy nothing, and calling for assistance against a vision,
should have appeared ludicrous. _Then_, so great was my rage against the
mocking crowd that had I the power I would have stricken them dead
where they stood.

"Hammond! Hammond!" I cried again, despairingly, "for God's sake come to
me. I can hold the--the thing but a short while longer. It is
overpowering me. Help me! Help me!"

"Harry," whispered Hammond, approaching me, "you have been smoking too
much opium."

"I swear to you, Hammond, that this is no vision," I answered, in the
same low tone. "Don't you see how it shakes my whole frame with its
struggles? If you don't believe me, convince yourself. Feel it,--touch
it."

Hammond advanced and laid his hand in the spot I indicated. A wild cry
of horror burst from him. He had felt it!

In a moment he had discovered somewhere in my room a long piece of cord,
and was the next instant winding it and knotting it about the body of
the unseen being that I clasped in my arms.

"Harry," he said, in a hoarse, agitated voice, for, though he preserved
his presence of mind, he was deeply moved, "Harry, it's all safe now.
You may let go, old fellow, if you're tired. The Thing can't move."

I was utterly exhausted, and I gladly loosed my hold.

Hammond stood holding the ends of the cord that bound the Invisible,
twisted round his hand, while before him, self-supporting as it were, he
beheld a rope laced and interlaced, and stretching tightly around a
vacant space. I never saw a man look so thoroughly stricken with awe.
Nevertheless his face expressed all the courage and determination which
I knew him to possess. His lips, although white, were set firmly, and
one could perceive at a glance that, although stricken with fear, he was
not daunted.

The confusion that ensued among the guests of the house who were
witnesses of this extraordinary scene between Hammond and myself,--who
beheld the pantomime of binding this struggling Something,--who beheld
me almost sinking from physical exhaustion when my task of jailer was
over,--the confusion and terror that took possession of the bystanders,
when they saw all this, was beyond description. The weaker ones fled
from the apartment. The few who remained clustered near the door and
could not be induced to approach Hammond and his Charge. Still
incredulity broke out through their terror. They had not the courage to
satisfy themselves, and yet they doubted. It was in vain that I begged
of some of the men to come near and convince themselves by touch of the
existence in that room of a living being which was invisible. They were
incredulous, but did not dare to undeceive themselves. How could a
solid, living, breathing body be invisible, they asked. My reply was
this. I gave a sign to Hammond, and both of us--conquering our fearful
repugnance to touch the invisible creature--lifted it from the ground,
manacled as it was, and took it to my bed. Its weight was about that of
a boy of fourteen.

"Now my friends," I said, as Hammond and myself held the creature
suspended over the bed, "I can give you self-evident proof that here is
a solid, ponderable body, which, nevertheless, you cannot see. Be good
enough to watch the surface of the bed attentively."

I was astonished at my own courage in treating this strange event so
calmly; but I had recovered from my first terror, and felt a sort of
scientific pride in the affair, which dominated every other feeling.

The eyes of the bystanders were immediately fixed on my bed. At a given
signal Hammond and I let the creature fall. There was a dull sound of a
heavy body alighting on a soft mass. The timbers of the bed creaked. A
deep impression marked itself distinctly on the pillow, and on the bed
itself. The crowd who witnessed this gave a low cry, and rushed from the
room. Hammond and I were left alone with our Mystery.

We remained silent for some time, listening to the low, irregular
breathing of the creature on the bed, and watching the rustle of the
bedclothes as it impotently struggled to free itself from confinement.
Then Hammond spoke.

"Harry, this is awful."

"Ay, awful."

"But not unaccountable."

"Not unaccountable! What do you mean? Such a thing has never occurred
since the birth of the world. I know not what to think, Hammond. God
grant that I am not mad, and that this is not an insane fantasy!"

"Let us reason a little, Harry. Here is a solid body which we touch, but
which we cannot see. The fact is so unusual that it strikes us with
terror. Is there no parallel, though, for such a phenomenon? Take a
piece of pure glass. It is tangible and transparent. A certain chemical
coarseness is all that prevents its being so entirely transparent as to
be totally invisible. It is not _theoretically impossible_, mind you, to
make a glass which shall not reflect a single ray of light,--a glass so
pure and homogeneous in its atoms that the rays from the sun will pass
through it as they do through the air, refracted but not reflected. We
do not see the air, and yet we feel it."

"That's all very well, Hammond, but these are inanimate substances.
Glass does not breathe, air does not breathe. _This_ thing has a heart
that palpitates,--a will that moves it,--lungs that play, and inspire
and respire."

"You forget the phenomena of which we have so often heard of late,"
answered the Doctor, gravely. "At the meetings called 'spirit circles,'
invisible hands have been thrust into the hands of those persons round
the table,--warm, fleshly hands that seemed to pulsate with mortal
life."

"What? Do you think, then, that this thing is----"

"I don't know what it is," was the solemn reply; "but please the gods I
will, with your assistance, thoroughly investigate it."

We watched together, smoking many pipes, all night long, by the bedside
of the unearthly being that tossed and panted until it was apparently
wearied out. Then we learned by the low, regular breathing that it
slept.

The next morning the house was all astir. The boarders congregated on
the landing outside my room, and Hammond and myself were lions. We had
to answer a thousand questions as to the state of our extraordinary
prisoner, for as yet not one person in the house except ourselves could
be I induced to set foot in the apartment.

The creature was awake. This was evidenced by the convulsive manner in
which the bedclothes were moved in its efforts to escape. There was
something truly terrible in beholding, as it were, those second-hand
indications of the terrible writhings and agonized struggles for liberty
which themselves were invisible.

Hammond and myself had racked our brains during the long night to
discover some means by which we might realize the shape and general
appearance of the Enigma. As well as we could make out by passing our
hands over the creature's form, its outlines and lineaments were human.
There was a mouth; a round, smooth head without hair; a nose, which,
however, was little elevated above the cheeks; and its hands and feet
felt like those of a boy. At first we thought of placing the being on a
smooth surface and tracing its outlines with chalk, as shoemakers trace
the outline of the foot. This plan was given up as being of no value.
Such an outline would give not the slightest idea of its conformation.

A happy thought struck me. We would take a cast of it in plaster of
Paris. This would give us the solid figure, and satisfy all our wishes.
But how to do it? The movements of the creature would disturb the
setting of the plastic covering, and distort the mold. Another thought.
Why not give it chloroform? It had respiratory organs,--that was evident
by its breathing. Once reduced to a state of insensibility, we could do
with it what we would. Doctor X---- was sent for; and after the worthy
physician had recovered from the first shock of amazement, he proceeded
to administer the chloroform. In three minutes afterward we were enabled
to remove the fetters from the creature's body, and a modeler was busily
engaged in covering the invisible form with the moist clay. In five
minutes more we had a mold, and before evening a rough facsimile of the
Mystery. It was shaped like a man--distorted, uncouth, and horrible, but
still a man. It was small, not over four feet and some inches in height,
and its limbs revealed a muscular development that was unparalleled. Its
face surpassed in hideousness anything I had ever seen. Gustav Doré, or
Callot, or Tony Johannot, never conceived anything so horrible. There
is a face in one of the latter's illustrations to _Un Voyage où il vous
plaira_, which somewhat approaches the countenance of this creature, but
does not equal it. It was the physiognomy of what I should fancy a ghoul
might be. It looked as if it was capable of feeding on human flesh.

Having satisfied our curiosity, and bound every one in the house to
secrecy, it became a question what was to be done with our Enigma? It
was impossible that we should keep such a horror in our house; it was
equally impossible that such an awful being should be let loose upon the
world. I confess that I would have gladly voted for the creature's
destruction. But who would shoulder the responsibility? Who would
undertake the execution of this horrible semblance of a human being? Day
after day this question was deliberated gravely. The boarders all left
the house. Mrs. Moffat was in despair, and threatened Hammond and myself
with all sorts of legal penalties if we did not remove the Horror. Our
answer was, "We will go if you like, but we decline taking this creature
with us. Remove it yourself if you please. It appeared in your house. On
you the responsibility rests." To this there was, of course, no answer.
Mrs. Moffat could not obtain for love or money a person who would even
approach the Mystery.

The most singular part of the affair was that we were entirely ignorant
of what the creature habitually fed on. Everything in the way of
nutriment that we could think of was placed before it, but was never
touched. It was awful to stand by, day after day, and see the clothes
toss, and hear the hard breathing, and know that it was starving.

Ten, twelve days, a fortnight passed, and it still lived. The pulsations
of the heart, however, were daily growing fainter, and had now nearly
ceased. It was evident that the creature was dying for want of
sustenance. While this terrible life-struggle was going on, I felt
miserable. I could not sleep. Horrible as the creature was, it was
pitiful to think of the pangs it was suffering.

At last it died. Hammond and I found it cold and stiff one morning in
the bed. The heart had ceased to beat, the lungs to inspire. We hastened
to bury it in the garden. It was a strange funeral, the dropping of that
viewless corpse into the damp hole. The cast of its form I gave to
Doctor X----, who keeps it in his museum in Tenth Street.

As I am on the eve of a long journey from which I may not return, I have
drawn up this narrative of an event the most singular that has ever come
to my knowledge.



The Middle Toe of the Right Foot

BY AMBROSE BIERCE

     From _Can Such Things Be?_ by Ambrose Bierce. Copyright by the
     Neale Publishing Company. By permission of the publishers.


I

It is well known that the old Manton house is haunted. In all the rural
district near about, and even in the town of Marshall, a mile away, not
one person of unbiased mind entertains a doubt of it; incredulity is
confined to those opinionated persons who will be called "cranks" as
soon as the useful word shall have penetrated the intellectual demesne
of the Marshall _Advance_. The evidence that the house is haunted is of
two kinds; the testimony of disinterested witnesses who have had ocular
proof, and that of the house itself. The former may be disregarded and
ruled out on any of the various grounds of objection which may be urged
against it by the ingenious; but facts within the observation of all are
material and controlling.

In the first place the Manton house has been unoccupied by mortals for
more than ten years, and with its outbuildings is slowly falling into
decay--a circumstance which in itself the judicious will hardly venture
to ignore. It stands a little way off the loneliest reach of the
Marshall and Harriston road, in an opening which was once a farm and is
still disfigured with strips of rotting fence and half covered with
brambles overrunning a stony and sterile soil long unacquainted with the
plow. The house itself is in tolerably good condition, though badly
weather-stained and in dire need of attention from the glazier, the
smaller male population of the region having attested in the manner of
its kind its disapproval of dwelling without dwellers. It is two stories
in height, nearly square, its front pierced by a single doorway flanked
on each side by a window boarded up to the very top. Corresponding
windows above, not protected, serve to admit light and rain to the rooms
of the upper floor. Grass and weeds grow pretty rankly all about, and a
few shade trees, somewhat the worse for wind, and leaning all in one
direction, seem to be making a concerted effort to run away. In short,
as the Marshall town humorist explained in the columns of the _Advance_,
"the proposition that the Manton house is badly haunted is the only
logical conclusion from the premises." The fact that in this dwelling
Mr. Manton thought it expedient one night some ten years ago to rise and
cut the throats of his wife and two small children, removing at once to
another part of the country, has no doubt done its share in directing
public attention to the fitness of the place for supernatural phenomena.

To this house, one summer evening, came four men in a wagon. Three of
them promptly alighted, and the one who had been driving hitched the
team to the only remaining post of what had been a fence. The fourth
remained seated in the wagon. "Come," said one of his companions,
approaching him, while the others moved away in the direction of the
dwelling--"this is the place."

The man addressed did not move. "By God!" he said harshly, "this is a
trick, and it looks to me as if you were in it."

"Perhaps I am," the other said, looking him straight in the face and
speaking in a tone which had something of contempt in it. "You will
remember, however, that the choice of place was with your own assent
left to the other side. Of course if you are afraid of spooks--"

"I am afraid of nothing," the man interrupted with another oath, and
sprang to the ground. The two then joined the others at the door, which
one of them had already opened with some difficulty, caused by rust of
lock and hinge. All entered. Inside it was dark, but the man who had
unlocked the door produced a candle and matches and made a light. He
then unlocked a door on their right as they stood in the passage. This
gave them entrance to a large, square room that the candle but dimly
lighted. The floor had a thick carpeting of dust, which partly muffled
their footfalls. Cobwebs were in the angles of the walls and depended
from the ceiling like strips of rotting lace making undulatory movements
in the disturbed air. The room had two windows in adjoining sides, but
from neither could anything be seen except the rough inner surfaces of
boards a few inches from the glass. There was no fireplace, no
furniture; there was nothing: besides the cobwebs and the dust, the four
men were the only objects there which were not a part of the structure.

Strange enough they looked in the yellow light of the candle. The one
who had so reluctantly alighted was especially spectacular--he might
have been called sensational. He was of middle age, heavily built, deep
chested, and broad shouldered. Looking at his figure, one would have
said that he had a giant's strength; at his features, that he would use
it like a giant. He was clean shaven, his hair rather closely cropped
and gray. His low forehead was seamed with wrinkles above the eyes, and
over the nose these became vertical. The heavy black brows followed the
same law, saved from meeting only by an upward turn at what would
otherwise have been the point of contact. Deeply sunken beneath these,
glowed in the obscure light a pair of eyes of uncertain color, but
obviously enough too small. There was something forbidding in their
expression, which was not bettered by the cruel mouth and wide jaw. The
nose was well enough, as noses go; one does not expect much of noses.
All that was sinister in the man's face seemed accentuated by an
unnatural pallor--he appeared altogether bloodless.

The appearance of the other men was sufficiently commonplace; they were
such persons as one meets and forgets that he met. All were younger than
the man described, between whom and the eldest of the others, who stood
apart, there was apparently no kindly feeling. They avoided looking at
each other.

"Gentlemen," said the man holding the candle and keys, "I believe
everything is right. Are you ready, Mr. Rosser?"

The man standing apart from the group bowed and smiled.

"And you, Mr. Grossmith?"

The heavy man bowed and scowled.

"You will be pleased to remove your outer clothing."

Their hats, coats, waistcoats, and neckwear were soon removed and thrown
outside the door, in the passage. The man with the candle now nodded,
and the fourth man--he who had urged Grossmith to leave the
wagon--produced from the pocket of his overcoat two long,
murderous-looking bowie-knives, which he drew now from their leather
scabbards.

"They are exactly alike," he said, presenting one to each of the two
principals--for by this time the dullest observer would have understood
the nature of this meeting. It was to be a duel to the death.

Each combatant took a knife, examined it critically near the candle and
tested the strength of the blade and handle across his lifted knee. Their
persons were then searched in turn, each by the second of the other.

"If it is agreeable to you, Mr. Grossmith," said the man holding the
light, "you will place yourself in that corner."

He indicated the angle of the room farthest from the door, whither
Grossmith retired, his second parting from him with a grasp of the hand
which had nothing of cordiality in it. In the angle nearest the door Mr.
Rosser stationed himself, and after a whispered consultation his second
left him, joining the other near the door. At that moment the candle was
suddenly extinguished, leaving all in profound darkness. This may have
been done by a draught from the opened door; whatever the cause, the
effect was startling.

"Gentlemen," said a voice which sounded strangely unfamiliar in the
altered condition affecting the relations of the senses--"gentlemen, you
will not move until you hear the closing of the outer door."

A sound of trampling ensued, then the closing of the inner door; and
finally the outer one closed with a concussion which shook the entire
building.

A few minutes afterward a belated farmer's boy met a light wagon which
was being driven furiously toward the town of Marshall. He declared that
behind the two figures on the front seat stood a third, with its hands
upon the bowed shoulders of the others, who appeared to struggle vainly
to free themselves from its grasp. This figure, unlike the others, was
clad in white, and had undoubtedly boarded the wagon as it passed the
haunted house. As the lad could boast a considerable former experience
with the supernatural thereabouts his word had the weight justly due to
the testimony of an expert. The story (in connection with the next day's
events) eventually appeared in the _Advance_, with some slight literary
embellishments and a concluding intimation that the gentlemen referred
to would be allowed the use of the paper's columns for their version of
the night's adventure. But the privilege remained without a claimant.


II

The events that led up to this "duel in the dark" were simple enough.
One evening three young men of the town of Marshall were sitting in a
quiet corner of the porch of the village hotel, smoking and discussing
such matters as three educated young men of a Southern village would
naturally find interesting. Their names were King, Sancher, and Rosser.
At a little distance, within easy hearing, but taking no part in the
conversation, sat a fourth. He was a stranger to the others. They
merely knew that on his arrival by the stage-coach that afternoon he had
written in the hotel register the name of Robert Grossmith. He had not
been observed to speak to anyone except the hotel clerk. He seemed,
indeed, singularly fond of his own company--or, as the _personnel_ of
the _Advance_ expressed it, "grossly addicted to evil associations." But
then it should be said in justice to the stranger that the _personnel_
was himself of a too convivial disposition fairly to judge one
differently gifted, and had, moreover, experienced a slight rebuff in an
effort at an "interview."

"I hate any kind of deformity in a woman," said King, "whether natural
or--acquired. I have a theory that any physical defect has its
correlative mental and moral defect."

"I infer, then," said Rosser, gravely, "that a lady lacking the moral
advantage of a nose would find the struggle to become Mrs. King an
arduous enterprise."

"Of course you may put it that way," was the reply; "but, seriously, I
once threw over a most charming girl on learning quite accidentally that
she had suffered amputation of a toe. My conduct was brutal if you like,
but if I had married that girl I should have been miserable for life and
should have made her so."

"Whereas," said Sancher, with a light laugh, "by marrying a gentleman of
more liberal view she escaped with a parted throat."

"Ah, you know to whom I refer. Yes, she married Manton, but I don't know
about his liberality; I'm not sure but he cut her throat because he
discovered that she lacked that excellent thing in woman, the middle toe
of the right foot."

"Look at that chap!" said Rosser in a low voice, his eyes fixed upon the
stranger.

That chap was obviously listening intently to the conversation.

"Damn his impudence!" muttered King--"what ought we to do?"

"That's an easy one," Rosser replied, rising. "Sir," he continued,
addressing the stranger, "I think it would be better if you would remove
your chair to the other end of the veranda. The presence of gentlemen is
evidently an unfamiliar situation to you."

The man sprang to his feet and strode forward with clenched hands, his
face white with rage. All were now standing. Sancher stepped between the
belligerents.

"You are hasty and unjust," he said to Rosser; "this gentleman has done
nothing to deserve such language."

But Rosser would not withdraw a word. By the custom of the country and
the time there could be but one outcome to the quarrel.

"I demand the satisfaction due to a gentleman," said the stranger, who
had become more calm. "I have not an acquaintance in this region.
Perhaps you, sir," bowing to Sancher, "will be kind enough to represent
me in this matter."

Sancher accepted the trust--somewhat reluctantly it must be confessed,
for the man's appearance and manner were not at all to his liking. King,
who during the colloquy had hardly removed his eyes from the stranger's
face and had not spoken a word, consented with a nod to act for Rosser,
and the upshot of it was that, the principals having retired, a meeting
was arranged for the next evening. The nature of the arrangements has
been already disclosed. The duel with knives in a dark room was once a
commoner feature of Southwestern life than it is likely to be again. How
thin a veneering of "chivalry" covered the essential brutality of the
code under which such encounters were possible we shall see.


III

In the blaze of a midsummer noonday the old Manton house was hardly true
to its traditions. It was of the earth, earthy. The sunshine caressed it
warmly and affectionately, with evident disregard of its bad reputation.
The grass greening all the expanse in its front seemed to grow, not
rankly, but with a natural and joyous exuberance, and the weeds
blossomed quite like plants. Full of charming lights and shadows and
populous with pleasant-voiced birds, the neglected shade trees no longer
struggled to run away, but bent reverently beneath their burdens of sun
and song. Even in the glassless upper windows was an expression of peace
and contentment, due to the light within. Over the stony fields the
visible heat danced with a lively tremor incompatible with the gravity
which is an attribute of the supernatural.

Such was the aspect under which the place presented itself to Sheriff
Adams and two other men who had come out from Marshall to look at it.
One of these men was Mr. King, the sheriff's deputy; the other, whose
name was Brewer, was a brother of the late Mrs. Manton. Under a
beneficent law of the State relating to property which has been for a
certain period abandoned by an owner whose residence cannot be
ascertained, the sheriff was legal custodian of the Manton farm and
appurtenances thereunto belonging. His present visit was in mere
perfunctory compliance with some order of a court in which Mr. Brewer
had an action to get possession of the property as heir to his deceased
sister. By a mere coincidence, the visit was made on the day after the
night that Deputy King had unlocked the house for another and very
different purpose. His presence now was not of his own choosing: he had
been ordered to accompany his superior, and at the moment could think of
nothing more prudent than simulated alacrity in obedience to the
command.

Carelessly opening the front door, which to his surprise was not locked,
the sheriff was amazed to see, lying on the floor of the passage into
which it opened, a confused heap of men's apparel. Examination showed it
to consist of two hats, and the same number of coats, waistcoats, and
scarves all in a remarkably good state of preservation, albeit somewhat
defiled by the dust in which they lay. Mr. Brewer was equally
astonished, but Mr. King's emotion is not of record. With a new and
lively interest in his own actions the sheriff now unlatched and pushed
open a door on the right, and the three entered. The room was apparently
vacant--no; as their eyes became accustomed to the dimmer light
something was visible in the farthest angle of the wall. It was a human
figure--that of a man crouching close in the corner. Something in the
attitude made the intruders halt when they had barely passed the
threshold. The figure more and more clearly defined itself. The man was
upon one knee, his back in the angle of the wall, his shoulders elevated
to the level of his ears, his hands before his face, palms outward, the
fingers spread and crooked like claws; the white face turned upward on
the retracted neck had an expression of unutterable fright, the mouth
half open, the eyes incredibly expanded. He was stone dead. Yet with the
exception of a bowie-knife, which had evidently fallen from his own
hand, not another object was in the room.

In thick dust that covered the floor were some confused footprints near
the door and along the wall through which it opened. Along one of the
adjoining walls, too, past the boarded-up windows was the trail made by
the man himself in reaching his corner. Instinctively in approaching the
body the three men followed that trail. The sheriff grasped one of the
outthrown arms; it was as rigid as iron, and the application of a gentle
force rocked the entire body without altering the relation of its parts.
Brewer, pale with excitement, gazed intently into the distorted face.
"God of mercy!" he suddenly cried, "it is Manton!"

"You are right," said King, with an evident attempt at calmness: "I knew
Manton. He then wore a full beard and his hair long, but this is he."

He might have added: "I recognized him when he challenged Rosser. I told
Rosser and Sancher who he was before we played him this horrible trick.
When Rosser left this dark room at our heels, forgetting his outer
clothing in the excitement, and driving away with us in his shirt
sleeves--all through the discreditable proceedings we knew with whom we
were dealing, murderer and coward that he was!"

But nothing of this did Mr. King say. With his better light he was
trying to penetrate the mystery of the man's death. That he had not once
moved from the corner where he had been stationed; that his posture was
that of neither attack nor defense; that he had dropped his weapon; that
he had obviously perished of sheer horror of something that he
_saw_--these were circumstances which Mr. King's disturbed intelligence
could not rightly comprehend.

Groping in intellectual darkness for a clew to his maze of doubt, his
gaze, directed mechanically downward in the way of one who ponders
momentous matters, fell upon something which, there, in the light of day
and in the presence of living companions, affected him with terror. In
the dust of years that lay thick upon the floor--leading from the door
by which they had entered, straight across the room to within a yard of
Manton's crouching corpse--were three parallel lines of
footprints--light but definite impressions of bare feet, the outer ones
those of small children, the inner a woman's. From the point at which
they ended they did not return; they pointed all one way. Brewer, who
had observed them at the same moment, was leaning forward in an attitude
of rapt attention, horribly pale.

"Look at that!" he cried, pointing with both hands at the nearest print
of the woman's right foot, where she had apparently stopped and stood.
"The middle toe is missing--it was Gertrude!"

Gertrude was the late Mrs. Manton, sister to Mr. Brewer.



The Shell of Sense

BY OLIVIA HOWARD DUNBAR

     From Harper's Magazine, December, 1908. By permission of Harper and
     Brothers and Olivia Howard Dunbar.


It was intolerably unchanged, the dim, dark-toned room. In an agony of
recognition my glance ran from one to another of the comfortable,
familiar things that my earthly life had been passed among. Incredibly
distant from it all as I essentially was. I noted sharply that the very
gaps that I myself had left in my bookshelves still stood unfilled; that
the delicate fingers of the ferns that I had tended were still stretched
futilely toward the light; that the soft agreeable chuckle of my own
little clock, like some elderly woman with whom conversation has become
automatic, was undiminished.

Unchanged--or so it seemed at first. But there were certain trivial
differences that shortly smote me. The windows were closed too tightly;
for I had always kept the house very cool, although I had known that
Theresa preferred warm rooms. And my work-basket was in disorder; it was
preposterous that so small a thing should hurt me so. Then, for this was
my first experience of the shadow-folded transition, the odd alteration
of my emotions bewildered me. For at one moment the place seemed so
humanly familiar, so distinctly my own proper envelope, that for love of
it I could have laid my cheek against the wall; while in the next I was
miserably conscious of strange new shrillnesses. How could they be
endured--and had I ever endured them?--those harsh influences that I now
perceived at the window; light and color so blinding that they obscured
the form of the wind, tumult so discordant that one could scarcely hear
the roses open in the garden below?

But Theresa did not seem to mind any of these things. Disorder, it is
true, the dear child had never minded. She was sitting all this time at
my desk--at _my_ desk--occupied, I could only too easily surmise how. In
the light of my own habits of precision it was plain that that sombre
correspondence should have been attended to before; but I believe that I
did not really reproach Theresa, for I knew that her notes, when she did
write them, were perhaps less perfunctory than mine. She finished the
last one as I watched her, and added it to the heap of black-bordered
envelopes that lay on the desk. Poor girl! I saw now that they had cost
her tears. Yet, living beside her day after day, year after year, I had
never discovered what deep tenderness my sister possessed. Toward each
other it had been our habit to display only a temperate affection, and I
remember having always thought it distinctly fortunate for Theresa,
since she was denied my happiness, that she could live so easily and
pleasantly without emotions of the devastating sort.... And now, for the
first time, I was really to behold her.... Could it be Theresa, after
all, this tangle of subdued turbulences? Let no one suppose that it is
an easy thing to bear, the relentlessly lucid understanding that I then
first exercised; or that, in its first enfranchisement, the timid vision
does not yearn for its old screens and mists.

Suddenly, as Theresa sat there, her head, filled with its tender
thoughts of me, held in her gentle hands, I felt Allan's step on the
carpeted stair outside. Theresa felt it, too,--but how? for it was not
audible. She gave a start, swept the black envelopes out of sight, and
pretended to be writing in a little book. Then I forgot to watch her any
longer in my absorption in Allan's coming. It was he, of course, that I
was awaiting. It was for him that I had made this first lonely,
frightened effort to return, to recover.... It was not that I had
supposed he would allow himself to recognize my presence, for I had long
been sufficiently familiar with his hard and fast denials of the
invisible. He was so reasonable always, so sane--so blindfolded. But I
had hoped that because of his very rejection of the ether that now
contained me I could perhaps all the more safely, the more secretly,
watch him, linger near him. He was near now, very near,--but why did
Theresa, sitting there in the room that had never belonged to her,
appropriate for herself his coming? It was so manifestly I who had
drawn him, I whom he had come to seek.

The door was ajar. He knocked softly at it "Are you there, Theresa?" he
called. He expected to find her, then, there in my room? I shrank back,
fearing, almost, to stay.

"I shall have finished in a moment," Theresa told him, and he sat down
to wait for her.

No spirit still unreleased can understand the pang that I felt with
Allan sitting almost within my touch. Almost irresistibly the wish beset
me to let him for an instant feel my nearness. Then I checked myself,
remembering--oh, absurd, piteous human fears!--that my too unguarded
closeness might alarm him. It was not so remote a time that I myself had
known them, those blind, uncouth timidities. I came, therefore, somewhat
nearer--but I did not touch him. I merely leaned toward him and with
incredible softness whispered his name. That much I could not have
forborne; the spell of life was still too strong in me.

But it gave him no comfort, no delight. "Theresa!" he called, in a voice
dreadful with alarm--and in that instant the last veil fell, and
desperately, scarce believingly, I beheld how it stood between them,
those two.

She turned to him that gentle look of hers.

"Forgive me," came from him hoarsely. "But I had suddenly the
most--unaccountable sensation. Can there be too many windows open? There
is such a--chill--about."

"There are no windows open," Theresa assured him. "I took care to shut
out the chill. You are not well, Allan!"

"Perhaps not." He embraced the suggestion. "And yet I feel no illness
apart from this abominable sensation that persists--persists....
Theresa, you must tell me: do I fancy it, or do you, too,
feel--something--strange here?"

"Oh, there is something very strange here," she half sobbed. "There
always will be."

"Good heavens, child, I didn't mean that!" He rose and stood looking
about him. "I know, of course, that you have your beliefs, and I respect
them, but you know equally well that I have nothing of the sort!
So--don't let us conjure up anything inexplicable."

I stayed impalpably, imponderably near him. Wretched and bereft though I
was, I could not have left him while he stood denying me.

"What I mean," he went on, in his low, distinct voice, "is a special, an
almost ominous sense of cold. Upon my soul, Theresa,"--he paused--"if I
_were_ superstitious, if I _were_ a woman, I should probably imagine it
to seem--a presence!"

He spoke the last word very faintly, but Theresa shrank from it
nevertheless.

"_Don't_ say that, Allan!" she cried out. "Don't think it, I beg of you!
I've tried so hard myself not to think it--and you must help me. You
know it is only perturbed, uneasy spirits that wander. With her it is
quite different. She has always been so happy--she must still be."

I listened, stunned, to Theresa's sweet dogmatism. From what blind
distances came her confident misapprehensions, how dense, both for her
and for Allan, was the separating vapor!

Allan frowned. "Don't take me literally, Theresa," he explained; and I,
who a moment before had almost touched him, now held myself aloof and
heard him with a strange untried pity, new born in me. "I'm not speaking
of what you call--spirits. It's something much more terrible." He
allowed his head to sink heavily on his chest. "If I did not positively
know that I had never done her any harm, I should suppose myself to be
suffering from guilt, from remorse.... Theresa, you know better than I,
perhaps. Was she content, always? Did she believe in me?"

"Believe in you?--when she knew you to be so good!--when you adored
her!"

"She thought that? She said it? Then what in Heaven's name ails
me?--unless it is all as you believe, Theresa, and she knows now what
she didn't know then, poor dear, and minds----"

"Minds what? What do you mean, Allan?"

I, who with my perhaps illegitimate advantage saw so clear, knew that he
had not meant to tell her: I did him that justice, even in my first
jealousy. If I had not tortured him so by clinging near him, he would
not have told her. But the moment came, and overflowed, and he did tell
her--passionate, tumultuous story that it was. During all our life
together, Allan's and mine, he had spared me, had kept me wrapped in the
white cloak of an unblemished loyalty. But it would have been kinder, I
now bitterly thought, if, like many husbands, he had years ago found for
the story he now poured forth some clandestine listener; I should not
have known. But he was faithful and good, and so he waited till I, mute
and chained, was there to hear him. So well did I know him, as I
thought, so thoroughly had he once been mine, that I saw it in his eyes,
heard it in his voice, before the words came. And yet, when it came, it
lashed me with the whips of an unbearable humiliation. For I, his wife,
had not known how greatly he could love.

And that Theresa, soft little traitor, should, in her still way, have
cared too! Where was the iron in her, I moaned within my stricken
spirit, where the steadfastness? From the moment he bade her, she turned
her soft little petals up to him--and my last delusion was spent. It was
intolerable; and none the less so that in another moment she had,
prompted by some belated thought of me, renounced him. Allan was hers,
yet she put him from her; and it was my part to watch them both.

Then in the anguish of it all I remembered, awkward, untutored spirit
that I was, that I now had the Great Recourse. Whatever human things
were unbearable, I had no need to bear. I ceased, therefore, to make
the effort that kept me with them. The pitiless poignancy was dulled,
the sounds and the light ceased, the lovers faded from me, and again I
was mercifully drawn into the dim, infinite spaces.

       *       *       *       *       *

There followed a period whose length I cannot measure and during which I
was able to make no progress in the difficult, dizzying experience of
release. "Earth-bound" my jealousy relentlessly kept me. Though my two
dear ones had forsworn each other, I could not trust them, for theirs
seemed to me an affectation of a more than mortal magnanimity. Without a
ghostly sentinel to prick them with sharp fears and recollections, who
could believe that they would keep to it? Of the efficacy of my own
vigilance, so long as I might choose to exercise it, I could have no
doubt, for I had by this time come to have a dreadful exultation in the
new power that lived in me. Repeated delicate experiment had taught me
how a touch or a breath, a wish or a whisper, could control Allan's
acts, could keep him from Theresa. I could manifest myself as palely, as
transiently, as a thought. I could produce the merest necessary flicker,
like the shadow of a just-opened leaf, on his trembling, tortured
consciousness. And these unrealized perceptions of me he interpreted, as
I had known that he would, as his soul's inevitable penance. He had come
to believe that he had done evil in silently loving Theresa all these
years, and it was my vengeance to allow him to believe this, to prod
him ever to believe it afresh.

I am conscious that this frame of mind was not continuous in me. For I
remember, too, that when Allan and Theresa were safely apart and
sufficiently miserable I loved them as dearly as I ever had, more dearly
perhaps. For it was impossible that I should not perceive, in my new
emancipation, that they were, each of them, something more and greater
than the two beings I had once ignorantly pictured them. For years they
had practiced a selflessness of which I could once scarcely have
conceived, and which even now I could only admire without entering into
its mystery. While I had lived solely for myself, these two divine
creatures had lived exquisitely for me. They had granted me everything,
themselves nothing. For my undeserving sake their lives had been a
constant torment of renunciation--a torment they had not sought to
alleviate by the exchange of a single glance of understanding. There
were even marvelous moments when, from the depths of my newly informed
heart, I pitied them--poor creatures, who, withheld from the infinite
solaces that I had come to know, were still utterly within that

                            Shell of sense
    So frail, so piteously contrived for pain.

Within it, yes; yet exercising qualities that so sublimely transcended
it. Yet the shy, hesitating compassion that thus had birth in me was
far from being able to defeat the earlier, earthlier emotion. The two, I
recognized, were in a sort of conflict; and I, regarding it, assumed
that the conflict would never end; that for years, as Allan and Theresa
reckoned time, I should be obliged to withhold myself from the great
spaces and linger suffering, grudging, shamed, where they lingered.

       *       *       *       *       *

It can never have been explained, I suppose, what, to devitalized
perception such as mine, the contact of mortal beings with each other
appears to be. Once to have exercised this sense-freed perception is to
realize that the gift of prophecy, although the subject of such frequent
marvel, is no longer mysterious. The merest glance of our sensitive and
uncloyed vision can detect the strength of the relation between two
beings, and therefore instantly calculate its duration. If you see a
heavy weight suspended from a slender string, you can know, without any
wizardry, that in a few moments the string will snap; well, such, if you
admit the analogy, is prophecy, is foreknowledge. And it was thus that I
saw it with Theresa and Allan. For it was perfectly visible to me that
they would very little longer have the strength to preserve, near each
other, the denuded impersonal relation that they, and that I, behind
them, insisted on; and that they would have to separate. It was my
sister, perhaps the more sensitive, who first realized this. It had now
become possible for me to observe them almost constantly, the effort
necessary to visit them had so greatly diminished; so that I watched
her, poor, anguished girl, prepare to leave him. I saw each reluctant
movement that she made. I saw her eyes, worn from self-searching; I
heard her step grown timid from inexplicable fears; I entered her very
heart and heard its pitiful, wild beating. And still I did not
interfere.

For at this time I had a wonderful, almost demoniacal sense of disposing
of matters to suit my own selfish will. At any moment I could have
checked their miseries, could have restored happiness and peace. Yet it
gave me, and I could weep to admit it, a monstrous joy to know that
Theresa thought she was leaving Allan of her own free intention, when it
was I who was contriving, arranging, insisting.... And yet she
wretchedly felt my presence near her; I am certain of that.

A few days before the time of her intended departure my sister told
Allan that she must speak with him after dinner. Our beautiful old house
branched out from a circular hall with great arched doors at either end;
and it was through the rear doorway that always in summer, after dinner,
we passed out into the garden adjoining. As usual, therefore, when the
hour came, Theresa led the way. That dreadful daytime brilliance that in
my present state I found so hard to endure was now becoming softer. A
delicate, capricious twilight breeze danced inconsequently through
languidly whispering leaves. Lovely pale flowers blossomed like little
moons in the dusk, and over them the breath of mignonette hung heavily.
It was a perfect place--and it had so long been ours, Allan's and mine.
It made me restless and a little wicked that those two should be there
together now.

For a little they walked about together, speaking of common, daily
things. Then suddenly Theresa burst out:

"I am going away, Allan. I have stayed to do everything that needed to
be done. Now your mother will be here to care for you, and it is time
for me to go."

He stared at her and stood still. Theresa had been there so long, she so
definitely, to his mind, belonged there. And she was, as I also had
jealously known, so lovely there, the small, dark, dainty creature, in
the old hall, on the wide staircases, in the garden.... Life there
without Theresa, even the intentionally remote, the perpetually
renounced Theresa--he had not dreamed of it, he could not, so suddenly,
conceive of it.

"Sit here," he said, and drew her down beside him on a bench, "and tell
me what it means, why you are going. Is it because of something that I
have been--have done?"

She hesitated. I wondered if she would dare tell him. She looked out and
away from him, and he waited long for her to speak.

The pale stars were sliding into their places. The whispering of the
leaves was almost hushed. All about them it was still and shadowy and
sweet. It was that wonderful moment when, for lack of a visible horizon,
the not yet darkened world seems infinitely greater--a moment when
anything can happen, anything be believed in. To me, watching,
listening, hovering, there came a dreadful purpose and a dreadful
courage. Suppose for one moment, Theresa should not only feel, but _see_
me--would she dare to tell him then?

There came a brief space of terrible effort, all my fluttering,
uncertain forces strained to the utmost. The instant of my struggle was
endlessly long and the transition seemed to take place outside me--as
one sitting in a train, motionless, sees the leagues of earth float by.
And then, in a bright, terrible flash I knew I had achieved it--I had
_attained visibility_. Shuddering, insubstantial, but luminously
apparent, I stood there before them. And for the instant that I
maintained the visible state I looked straight into Theresa's soul.

She gave a cry. And then, thing of silly, cruel impulses that I was, I
saw what I had done. The very thing that I wished to avert I had
precipitated. For Allan, in his sudden terror and pity, had bent and
caught her in his arms. For the first time they were together; and it
was I who had brought them.

Then, to his whispered urging to tell the reason of her cry, Theresa
said:

"Frances was here. You did not see her, standing there, under the
lilacs, with no smile on her face?"

"My dear, my dear!" was all that Allan said. I had so long now lived
invisibly with them, he knew that she was right.

"I suppose you know what it means?" she asked him, calmly.

"Dear Theresa," Allan said, slowly, "if you and I should go away
somewhere, could we not evade all this ghostliness? And will you come
with me?"

"Distance would not banish her," my sister confidently asserted. And
then she said, softly: "Have you thought what a lonely, awesome thing it
must be to be so newly dead? Pity her, Allan. We who are warm and alive
should pity her. She loves you still,--that is the meaning of it all,
you know--and she wants us to understand that for that reason we must
keep apart. Oh, it was so plain in her white face as she stood there.
And you did not see her?"

"It was your face that I saw," Allan solemnly told her--oh, how
different he had grown from the Allan that I had known!--"and yours is
the only face that I shall ever see." And again he drew her to him.

She sprang from him. "You are defying her, Allan!" she cried. "And you
must not. It is her right to keep us apart, if she wishes. It must be as
she insists. I shall go, as I told you. And, Allan, I beg of you, leave
me the courage to do as she demands!"

They stood facing each other in the deep dusk, and the wounds that I had
dealt them gaped red and accusing. "We must pity her," Theresa had said.
And as I remembered that extraordinary speech, and saw the agony in her
face, and the greater agony in Allan's, there came the great irreparable
cleavage between mortality and me. In a swift, merciful flame the last
of my mortal emotions--gross and tenacious they must have been--was
consumed. My cold grasp of Allan loosened and a new unearthly love of
him bloomed in my heart.

I was now, however, in a difficulty with which my experience in the
newer state was scarcely sufficient to deal. How could I make it plain
to Allan and Theresa that I wished to bring them together, to heal the
wounds that I had made?

Pityingly, remorsefully, I lingered near them all that night and the
next day. And by that time had brought myself to the point of a great
determination. In the little time that was left, before Theresa should
be gone and Allan bereft and desolate, I saw the one way that lay open
to me to convince them of my acquiescence in their destiny.

In the deepest darkness and silence of the next night I made a greater
effort than it will ever be necessary for me to make again. When they
think of me, Allan and Theresa, I pray now that they will recall what I
did that night, and that my thousand frustrations and selfishnesses may
shrivel and be blown from their indulgent memories.

Yet the following morning, as she had planned, Theresa appeared at
breakfast dressed for her journey. Above in her room there were the
sounds of departure. They spoke little during the brief meal, but when
it was ended Allan said:

"Theresa, there is half an hour before you go. Will you come upstairs
with me? I had a dream that I must tell you of."

"Allan!" She looked at him, frightened, but went with him. "It was of
Frances you dreamed," she said, quietly, as they entered the library
together.

"Did I say it was a dream? But I was awake--thoroughly awake. I had not
been sleeping well, and I heard, twice, the striking of the clock. And
as I lay there, looking out at the stars, and thinking--thinking of you,
Theresa,--she came to me, stood there before me, in my room. It was no
sheeted specter, you understand; it was Frances, literally she. In some
inexplicable fashion I seemed to be aware that she wanted to make me
know something, and I waited, watching her face. After a few moments it
came. She did not speak, precisely. That is, I am sure I heard no sound.
Yet the words that came from her were definite enough. She said: 'Don't
let Theresa leave you. Take her and keep her.' Then she went away. Was
that a dream?"

"I had not meant to tell you," Theresa eagerly answered, "but now I
must. It is too wonderful. What time did your clock strike, Allan?"

"One, the last time."

"Yes; it was then that I awoke. And she had been with me. I had not seen
her, but her arm had been about me and her kiss was on my cheek. Oh. I
knew; it was unmistakable. And the sound of her voice was with me."

"Then she bade you, too----"

"Yes, to stay with you. I am glad we told each other." She smiled
tearfully and began to fasten her wrap.

"But you are not going--_now!_" Allan cried. "You know that you cannot,
now that she has asked you to stay."

"Then you believe, as I do, that it was she?" Theresa demanded.

"I can never understand, but I know," he answered her. "And now you will
not go?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I am freed. There will be no further semblance of me in my old home, no
sound of my voice, no dimmest echo of my earthly self. They have no
further need of me, the two that I have brought together. Theirs is the
fullest joy that the dwellers in the shell of sense can know. Mine is
the transcendent joy of the unseen spaces.



The Woman at Seven Brothers

BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

     From _Land's End_, by Wilbur Daniel Steele. Copyright, 1908, by
     Harper and Brothers. By permission of the publishers and Wilbur
     Daniel Steele.


I tell you sir, I was innocent. I didn't know any more about the world
at twenty-two than some do at twelve. My uncle and aunt in Duxbury
brought me up strict; I studied hard in high school, I worked hard after
hours, and I went to church twice on Sundays, and I can't see it's right
to put me in a place like this, with crazy people. Oh yes, I know
they're crazy--you can't tell _me._ As for what they said in court about
finding her with her husband, that's the Inspector's lie, sir, because
he's down on me, and wants to make it look like my fault.

No, sir, I can't say as I thought she was handsome--not at first. For
one thing, her lips were too thin and white, and her color was bad. I'll
tell you a fact, sir; that first day I came off to the Light I was
sitting on my cot in the store-room (that's where the assistant keeper
sleeps at the Seven Brothers), as lonesome as I could be, away from home
for the first time, and the water all around me, and, even though it
was a calm day, pounding enough on the ledge to send a kind of a
_woom-woom-woom_ whining up through all that solid rock of the tower.
And when old Fedderson poked his head down from the living-room with the
sunshine above making a kind of bright frame around his hair and
whiskers, to give me a cheery, "Make yourself to home, son!" I remember
I said to myself: "_He's_ all right. I'll get along with _him_. But his
wife's enough to sour milk." That was queer, because she was so much
under him in age--'long about twenty-eight or so, and him nearer fifty.
But that's what I said, sir.

Of course that feeling wore off, same as any feeling will wear off
sooner or later in a place like the Seven Brothers. Cooped up in a place
like that you come to know folks so well that you forget what they _do_
look like. There was a long time I never noticed her, any more than
you'd notice the cat. We used to sit of an evening around the table, as
if you were Fedderson there, and me here, and her somewhere back there,
in the rocker, knitting. Fedderson would be working on his
Jacob's-ladder, and I'd be reading. He'd been working on that
Jacob's-ladder a year, I guess, and every time the Inspector came off
with the tender he was so astonished to see how good that ladder was
that the old man would go to work and make it better. That's all he
lived for.

If I was reading, as I say, I daren't take my eyes off the book, or
Fedderson had me. And then he'd begin--what the Inspector said about
him. How surprised the member of the board had been, that time, to see
everything so clean about the light. What the Inspector had said about
Fedderson's being stuck here in a second-class light--best keeper on the
coast. And so on and so on, till either he or I had to go aloft and have
a look at the wicks.

He'd been there twenty-three years, all told, and he'd got used to the
feeling that he was kept down unfair--so used to it, I guess, that he
fed on it, and told himself how folks ashore would talk when he was dead
and gone--best keeper on the coast--kept down unfair. Not that he said
that to me. No, he was far too loyal and humble and respectful, doing
his duty without complaint, as anybody could see.

And all that time, night after night, hardly ever a word out of the
woman. As I remember it, she seemed more like a piece of furniture than
anything else--not even a very good cook, nor over and above tidy. One
day, when he and I were trimming the lamp, he passed the remark that his
_first_ wife used to dust the lens and take a pride in it. Not that he
said a word against Anna, though. He never said a word against any
living mortal; he was too upright.

I don't know how it came about; or, rather, I _do_ know, but it was so
sudden, and so far away from my thoughts, that it shocked me, like the
world turned over. It was at prayers. That night I remember Fedderson
was uncommon long-winded. We'd had a batch of newspapers out by the
tender, and at such times the old man always made a long watch of it,
getting the world straightened out. For one thing, the United States
minister to Turkey was dead. Well, from him and his soul, Fedderson got
on to Turkey and the Presbyterian college there, and from that to
heathen in general. He rambled on and on, like the surf on the ledge,
_woom-woom-woom_, never coming to an end.

You know how you'll be at prayers sometimes. My mind strayed. I counted
the canes in the chair-seat where I was kneeling; I plaited a corner of
the table-cloth between my fingers for a spell, and by and by my eyes
went wandering up the back of the chair.

The woman, sir, was looking at me. Her chair was back to mine, close,
and both our heads were down in the shadow under the edge of the table,
with Fedderson clear over on the other side by the stove. And there were
her two eyes hunting mine between the spindles in the shadow. You won't
believe me, sir, but I tell you I felt like jumping to my feet and
running out of the room--it was so queer.

I don't know what her husband was praying about after that. His voice
didn't mean anything, no more than the seas on the ledge away down
there. I went to work to count the canes in the seat again, but all my
eyes were in the top of my head. It got so I couldn't stand it. We were
at the Lord's prayer, saying it singsong together, when I had to look up
again. And there her two eyes were, between the spindles, hunting mine.
Just then all of us were saying, "Forgive us our trespasses--" I thought
of it afterward.

When we got up she was turned the other way, but I couldn't help seeing
her cheeks were red. It was terrible. I wondered if Fedderson would
notice, though I might have known he wouldn't--not him. He was in too
much of a hurry to get at his Jacob's-ladder, and then he had to tell me
for the tenth time what the Inspector'd said that day about getting him
another light--Kingdom Come, maybe, he said.

I made some excuse or other and got away. Once in the store-room, I sat
down on my cot and stayed there a long time, feeling queerer than
anything. I read a chapter in the Bible, I don't know why. After I'd got
my boots off I sat with them in my hands for as much as an hour, I
guess, staring at the oil-tank and its lopsided shadow on the wall. I
tell you, sir, I was shocked. I was only twenty-two remember, and I was
shocked and horrified.

And when I did turn in, finally, I didn't sleep at all well. Two or
three times I came to, sitting straight up in bed. Once I got up and
opened the outer door to have a look. The water was like glass, dim,
without a breath of wind, and the moon just going down. Over on the
black shore I made out two lights in a village, like a pair of eyes
watching. Lonely? My, yes! Lonely and nervous. I had a horror of her,
sir. The dinghy-boat hung on its davits just there in front of the door,
and for a minute I had an awful hankering to climb into it, lower away,
and row off, no matter where. It sounds foolish.

Well, it seemed foolish next morning, with the sun shining and
everything as usual--Fedderson sucking his pen and wagging his head over
his eternal "log," and his wife down in the rocker with her head in the
newspaper, and her breakfast work still waiting. I guess that jarred it
out of me more than anything else--sight of her slouched down there,
with her stringy, yellow hair and her dusty apron and the pale back of
her neck, reading the Society Notes. _Society Notes_! Think of it! For
the first time since I came to Seven Brothers I wanted to laugh.

I guess I did laugh when I went aloft to clean the lamp and found
everything so free and breezy, gulls flying high and little whitecaps
making under a westerly. It was like feeling a big load dropped off your
shoulders. Fedderson came up with his dust-rag and cocked his head at
me.

"What's the matter, Ray?" said he.

"Nothing," said I. And then I couldn't help it. "Seems kind of out of
place for society notes," said I, "out here at Seven Brothers."

He was the other side of the lens, and when he looked at me he had a
thousand eyes, all sober. For a minute I thought he was going on
dusting, but then he came out and sat down on a sill.

"Sometimes," said he, "I get to thinking it may be a mite dull for her
out here. She's pretty young, Ray. Not much more'n a girl, hardly."

"Not much more'n a _girl!_" It gave me a turn, sir, as though I'd seen
my aunt in short dresses.

"It's a good home for her, though," he went on slow. "I've seen a lot
worse ashore, Ray. Of course if I could get a shore light----"

"Kingdom Come's a shore light."

He looked at me out of his deep-set eyes, and then he turned them around
the light-room, where he'd been so long.

"No," said he, wagging his head. "It ain't for such as me."

I never saw so humble a man.

"But look here," he went on, more cheerful. "As I was telling her just
now, a month from yesterday's our fourth anniversary, and I'm going to
take her ashore for the day and give her a holiday--new hat and
everything. A girl wants a mite of excitement now and then, Ray."

There it was again, that "girl." It gave me the fidgets, sir. I had to
do something about it. It's close quarters for last names in a light,
and I'd taken to calling him Uncle Matt soon after I came. Now, when I
was at table that noon I spoke over to where she was standing by the
stove, getting him another help of chowder.

"I guess I'll have some, too, _Aunt_ Anna," said I, matter of fact.

She never said a word nor gave a sign--just stood there kind of
round-shouldered, dipping the chowder. And that night at prayers I
hitched my chair around the table, with its back the other way.

You get awful lazy in a lighthouse, some ways. No matter how much
tinkering you've got, there's still a lot of time and there's such
a thing as too much reading. The changes in weather get monotonous,
too, by and by; the light burns the same on a thick night as it
does on a fair one. Of course there's the ships, north-bound,
south-bound--wind-jammers, freighters, passenger-boats full of
people. In the watches at night you can see their lights go by, and
wonder what they are, how they're laden, where they'll fetch up,
and all. I used to do that almost every evening when it was my first
watch, sitting out on the walk-around up there with my legs hanging
over the edge and my chin propped on the railing--lazy. The Boston
boat was the prettiest to see, with her three tiers of port-holes
lit, like a string of pearls wrapped round and round a woman's
neck--well away, too, for the ledge must have made a couple of
hundred fathoms off the Light, like a white dog-tooth of a breaker,
even on the darkest night.

Well, I was lolling there one night, as I say, watching the Boston boat
go by, not thinking of anything special, when I heard the door on the
other side of the tower open and footsteps coming around to me.

By and by I nodded toward the boat and passed the remark that she was
fetching in uncommon close to-night. No answer. I made nothing of that,
for oftentimes Fedderson wouldn't answer, and after I'd watched the
lights crawling on through the dark a spell, just to make conversation I
said I guessed there'd be a bit of weather before long.

"I've noticed," said I, "when there's weather coming on, and the wind in
the northeast, you can hear the orchestra playing aboard of her just
over there. I make it out now. Do you?"

"Yes. Oh--yes--! _I hear it all right!_"

You can imagine I started. It wasn't him, but _her_.
And there was something in the way she said that speech,
sir--something--well--unnatural. Like a hungry animal snapping
at a person's hand.

I turned and looked at her sidewise. She was standing by the railing,
leaning a little outward, the top of her from the waist picked out
bright by the lens behind her. I didn't know what in the world to say,
and yet I had a feeling I ought not to sit there mum.

"I wonder," said I, "what that captain's thinking of, fetching in so
handy to-night. It's no way. I tell you, if 'twasn't for this light,
she'd go to work and pile up on the ledge some thick night----"

She turned at that and stared straight into the lens. I didn't like the
look of her face. Somehow, with its edges cut hard all around and its
two eyes closed down to slits, like a cat's, it made a kind of mask.

"And then," I went on, uneasy enough--"and then where'd all their music
be of a sudden, and their goings-on and their singing----"

"And dancing!" She clipped me off so quick it took my breath.

"D-d-dancing?" said I.

"That's dance-music," said she. She was looking at the boat again.

"How do you know?" I felt I had to keep on talking.

Well, sir--she laughed. I looked at her. She had on a shawl of some
stuff or other that shined in the light; she had it pulled tight around
her with her two hands in front at her breast, and I saw her shoulders
swaying in tune.

"How do I _know_?" she cried. Then she laughed again, the same kind of a
laugh. It was queer, sir, to see her, and to hear her. She turned, as
quick as that, and leaned toward me. "Don't you know how to dance, Ray?"
said she.

"N-no," I managed, and I was going to say "_Aunt Anna_," but the thing
choked in my throat.

I tell you she was looking square at me all the time with her two eyes
and moving with the music as if she didn't know it. By heavens, sir, it
came over me of a sudden that she wasn't so bad-looking, after all. I
guess I must have sounded like a fool.

"You--you see," said I, "she's cleared the rip there now, and the
music's gone. You--you hear?"

"Yes," said she, turning back slow. "That's where it stops every
night--night after night--it stops just there--at the rip."

When she spoke again her voice was different. I never heard the like of
it, thin and taut as a thread. It made me shiver, sir.

"I hate 'em!" That's what she said. "I hate 'em all. I'd like to see 'em
dead. I'd love to see 'em torn apart on the rocks, night after night. I
could bathe my hands in their blood, night after night."

And do you know, sir, I saw it with my own eyes, her hands moving in
each other above the rail. But it was her voice, though. I didn't know
what to do, or what to say, so I poked my head through the railing and
looked down at the water. I don't think I'm a coward, sir, but it was
like a cold--ice-cold--hand, taking hold of my beating heart.

When I looked up finally, she was gone. By and by I went in and had a
look at the lamp, hardly knowing what I was about. Then, seeing by my
watch it was time for the old man to come on duty, I started to go
below. In the Seven Brothers, you understand, the stair goes down in a
spiral through a well against the south wall and first there's the door
to the keeper's room and then you come to another, and that's the
living-room, and then down to the store-room. And at night, if you don't
carry a lantern, it's as black as the pit.

Well, down I went, sliding my hand along the rail, and as usual I
stopped to give a rap on the keeper's door, in case he was taking a nap
after supper. Sometimes he did.

I stood there, blind as a bat, with my mind still up on the walk-around.
There was no answer to my knock. I hadn't expected any. Just from habit,
and with my right foot already hanging down for the next step, I reached
out to give the door one more tap for luck.

Do you know, sir, my hand didn't fetch up on anything. The door had been
there a second before, and now the door wasn't there. My hand just went
on going through the dark, on and on, and I didn't seem to have sense or
power enough to stop it. There didn't seem any air in the well to
breathe, and my ears were drumming to the surf--that's how scared I was.
And then my hand touched the flesh of a face, and something in the dark
said, "Oh!" no louder than a sigh.

Next thing I knew, sir, I was down in the living-room, warm and
yellow-lit, with Fedderson cocking his head at me across the table,
where he was at that eternal Jacob's-ladder of his.

"What's the matter, Ray?" said he. "Lord's sake, Ray!"

"Nothing," said I. Then I think I told him I was sick. That night I
wrote a letter to A.L. Peters, the grain-dealer in Duxbury, asking for a
job--even though it wouldn't go ashore for a couple of weeks, just the
writing of it made me feel better.

It's hard to tell you how those two weeks went by. I don't know why, but
I felt like hiding in a corner all the time. I had to come to meals, but
I didn't look at her, though, not once, unless it was by accident.
Fedderson thought I was still ailing and nagged me to death with advice
and so on. One thing I took care not to do, I can tell you, and that was
to knock on his door till I'd made certain he wasn't below in the
living-room--though I was tempted to.

Yes, sir; that's a queer thing, and I wouldn't tell you if I hadn't set
out to give you the truth. Night after night, stopping there on the
landing in that black pit, the air gone out of my lungs and the surf
drumming in my ears and sweat standing cold on my neck--and one hand
lifting up in the air--God forgive me, sir! Maybe I did wrong not to
look at her more, drooping about her work in her gingham apron, with her
hair stringing.

When the Inspector came off with the tender, that time, I told him I
was through. That's when he took the dislike to me, I guess, for he
looked at me kind of sneering and said, soft as I was, I'd have to put
up with it till next relief. And then, said he, there'd be a whole
house-cleaning at Seven Brothers, because he'd gotten Fedderson the
berth at Kingdom Come. And with that he slapped the old man on the back.

I wish you could have seen Fedderson, sir. He sat down on my cot as if
his knees had given 'way. Happy? You'd think he'd be happy, with all his
dreams come true. Yes, he was happy, beaming all over--for a minute.
Then, sir, he began to shrivel up. It was like seeing a man cut down in
his prime before your eyes. He began to wag his head.

"No," said he. "No, no; it's not for such as me. I'm good enough for
Seven Brothers, and that's all, Mr. Bayliss. That's all."

And for all the Inspector could say, that's what he stuck to. He'd
figured himself a martyr so many years, nursed that injustice like a
mother with her first-born, sir; and now in his old age, so to speak,
they weren't to rob him of it. Fedderson was going to wear out his life
in a second-class light, and folks would talk--that was his idea. I
heard him hailing down as the tender was casting off:

"See you to-morrow, Mr. Bayliss. Yep. Coming ashore with the wife for a
spree. Anniversary. Yep."

But he didn't sound much like a spree. They _had_, robbed him, partly,
after all. I wondered what _she_ thought about it. I didn't know till
night. She didn't show up to supper, which Fedderson and I got
ourselves--had a headache, be said. It was my early watch. I went and
lit up and came back to read a spell. He was finishing off the
Jacob's-ladder, and thoughtful, like a man that's lost a treasure. Once
or twice I caught him looking about the room on the sly. It was
pathetic, sir.

Going up the second time, I stepped out on the walk-around to have a
look at things. She was there on the seaward side, wrapped in that silky
thing. A fair sea was running across the ledge and it was coming on a
little thick--not too thick. Off to the right the Boston boat was
blowing, _whroom-whroom!_ Creeping up on us, quarter-speed. There was
another fellow behind her, and a fisherman's conch farther offshore.

I don't know why, but I stopped beside her and leaned on the rail. She
didn't appear to notice me, one way or another. We stood and we stood,
listening to the whistles, and the longer we stood the more it got on my
nerves, her not noticing me. I suppose she'd been too much on my mind
lately. I began to be put out. I scraped my feet. I coughed. By and by I
said out loud:

"Look here, I guess I better get out the fog-horn and give those fellows
a toot."

"Why?" said she, without moving her head--calm as that.

"_Why?_" It gave me a turn, sir. For a minute I stared at her. "Why?
Because if she don't pick up this light before very many minutes she'll
be too close in to wear--tide'll have her on the rocks--that's why!"

I couldn't see her face, but I could see one of her silk shoulders lift
a little, like a shrug. And there I kept on staring at her, a dumb one,
sure enough. I know what brought me to was hearing the Boston boat's
three sharp toots as she picked up the light--mad as anything--and swung
her helm a-port. I turned away from her, sweat stringing down my face,
and walked around to the door. It was just as well, too, for the
feed-pipe was plugged in the lamp and the wicks were popping. She'd have
been out in another five minutes, sir.

When I'd finished, I saw that woman standing in the doorway. Her eyes
were bright. I had a horror of her, sir, a living horror.

"If only the light had been out," said she, low and sweet.

"God forgive you," said I. "You don't know what you're saying."

She went down the stair into the well, winding out of sight, and as long
as I could see her, her eyes were watching mine. When I went, myself,
after a few minutes, she was waiting for me on that first landing,
standing still in the dark. She took hold of my hand, though I tried to
get it away.

"Good-by," said she in my ear.

"Good-by?" said I. I didn't understand.

"You heard what he said to-day--about Kingdom Come? Be it so--on his own
head. I'll never come back here. Once I set foot ashore--I've got
friends in Brightonboro, Ray."

I got away from her and started on down. But I stopped. "Brightonboro?"
I whispered back. "Why do you tell _me_?" My throat was raw to the
words, like a sore.

"So you'd know," said she.

Well, sir, I saw them off next morning, down that new Jacob's-ladder
into the dinghy-boat, her in a dress of blue velvet and him in his best
cutaway and derby--rowing away, smaller and smaller, the two of them.
And then I went back and sat on my cot, leaving the door open and the
ladder still hanging down the wall, along with the boat-falls.

I don't know whether it was relief, or what. I suppose I must have been
worked up even more than I'd thought those past weeks, for now it was
all over I was like a rag. I got down on my knees, sir, and prayed to
God for the salvation of my soul, and when I got up and climbed to the
living-room it was half past twelve by the clock. There was rain on the
windows and the sea was running blue-black under the sun. I'd sat there
all that time not knowing there was a squall.

It was funny; the glass stood high, but those black squalls kept coming
and going all afternoon, while I was at work up in the light-room. And I
worked hard, to keep myself busy. First thing I knew it was five, and no
sign of the boat yet. It began to get dim and kind of purplish-gray over
the land. The sun was down. I lit up, made everything snug, and got out
the night-glasses to have another look for that boat. He'd said he
intended to get back before five. No sign. And then, standing there, it
came over me that of course he wouldn't be coming off--he'd be hunting
_her_, poor old fool. It looked like I had to stand two men's watches
that night.

Never mind. I felt like myself again, even if I hadn't had any dinner or
supper. Pride came to me that night on the walk-around, watching the
boats go by--little boats, big boats, the Boston boat with all her
pearls and her dance-music. They couldn't see me; they didn't know who I
was; but to the last of them, they depended on _me_. They say a man must
be born again. Well, I was born again. I breathed deep in the wind.

Dawn broke hard and red as a dying coal. I put out the light and started
to go below. Born again; yes, sir. I felt so good I whistled in the
well, and when I came to the first door on the stair I reached out in
the dark to give it a rap for luck. And then, sir, the hair prickled all
over my scalp, when I found my hand just going on and on through the
air, the same as it had gone once before, and all of a sudden I wanted
to yell, because I thought I was going to touch flesh. It's funny what
their just forgetting to close their door did to me, isn't it?

Well, I reached for the latch and pulled it to with a bang and ran down
as if a ghost was after me. I got up some coffee and bread and bacon for
breakfast. I drank the coffee. But somehow I couldn't eat, all along of
that open door. The light in the room was blood. I got to thinking. I
thought how she'd talked about those men, women, and children on the
rocks, and how she'd made to bathe her hands over the rail. I almost
jumped out of my chair then; it seemed for a wink she was there beside
the stove watching me with that queer half-smile--really, I seemed to
see her for a flash across the red table-cloth in the red light of dawn.

"Look here!" said I to myself, sharp enough; and then I gave myself a
good laugh and went below. There I took a look out of the door, which
was still open, with the ladder hanging down. I made sure to see the
poor old fool come pulling around the point before very long now.

My boots were hurting a little, and, taking them off, I lay down on the
cot to rest, and somehow I went to sleep. I had horrible dreams. I saw
her again standing in that blood-red kitchen, and she seemed to be
washing her hands, and the surf on the ledge was whining up the tower,
louder and louder all the time, and what it whined was, "Night after
night--night after night." What woke me was cold water in my face.

The store-room was in gloom. That scared me at first; I thought night
had come, and remembered the light. But then I saw the gloom was of a
storm. The floor was shining wet, and the water in my face was spray,
flung up through the open door. When I ran to close it, it almost made
me dizzy to see the gray-and-white breakers marching past. The land was
gone; the sky shut down heavy overhead; there was a piece of wreckage on
the back of a swell, and the Jacob's-ladder was carried clean away. How
that sea had picked up so quick I can't think. I looked at my watch and
it wasn't four in the afternoon yet.

When I closed the door, sir, it was almost dark in the store-room. I'd
never been in the Light before in a gale of wind. I wondered why I was
shivering so, till I found it was the floor below me shivering, and the
walls and stair. Horrible crunchings and grindings ran away up the
tower, and now and then there was a great thud somewhere, like a
cannon-shot in a cave. I tell you, sir, I was alone, and I was in a
mortal fright for a minute or so. And yet I had to get myself together.
There was the light up there not tended to, and an early dark coming on
and a heavy night and all, and I had to go. And I had to pass that door.

You'll say it's foolish, sir, and maybe it _was_ foolish. Maybe it was
because I hadn't eaten. But I began thinking of that door up there the
minute I set foot on the stair, and all the way up through that howling
dark well I dreaded to pass it. I told myself I wouldn't stop. I didn't
stop. I felt the landing underfoot and I went on, four steps, five--and
then I couldn't. I turned and went back. I put out my hand and it went
on into nothing. That door, sir, was open again.

I left it be; I went on up to the light-room and set to work. It was
Bedlam there, sir, screeching Bedlam, but I took no notice. I kept my
eyes down. I trimmed those seven wicks, sir, as neat as ever they were
trimmed; I polished the brass till it shone, and I dusted the lens. It
wasn't till that was done that I let myself look back to see who it was
standing there, half out of sight in the well. It was her, sir.

"Where'd you come from?" I asked. I remember my voice was sharp.

"Up Jacob's-ladder," said she, and hers was like the syrup of flowers.

I shook my head. I was savage, sir. "The ladder's carried away."

"I cast it off," said she, with a smile.

"Then," said I, "you must have come while I was asleep." Another thought
came on me heavy as a ton of lead. "And where's _he_?" said I. "Where's
the boat?"

"He's drowned," said she, as easy as that. "And I let the boat go
adrift. You wouldn't hear me when I called."

"But look here," said I. "If you came through the store-room, why didn't
you wake me up? Tell me that!" It sounds foolish enough, me standing
like a lawyer in court, trying to prove she _couldn't_ be there.

She didn't answer for a moment. I guess she sighed, though I couldn't
hear for the gale, and her eyes grew soft, sir, so soft.

"I couldn't," said she. "You looked so peaceful--dear one."

My cheeks and neck went hot, sir, as if a warm iron was laid on them. I
didn't know what to say. I began to stammer, "What do you mean--" but
she was going back down the stair, out of sight. My God sir, and I used
not to think she was good-looking!

I started to follow her. I wanted to know what she meant. Then I said to
myself, "If I don't go--if I wait here--she'll come back." And I went to
the weather side and stood looking out of the window. Not that there was
much to see. It was growing dark, and the Seven Brothers looked like the
mane of a running horse, a great, vast, white horse running into the
wind. The air was a-welter with it. I caught one peep of a fisherman,
lying down flat trying to weather the ledge, and I said, "God help them
all to-night," and then I went hot at sound of that "God."

I was right about her, though. She was back again. I wanted her to speak
first, before I turned, but she wouldn't. I didn't hear her go out; I
didn't know what she was up to till I saw her coming outside on the
walk-around, drenched wet already. I pounded on the glass for her to
come in and not be a fool; if she heard she gave no sign of it.

There she stood, and there I stood watching her. Lord, sir--was it just
that I'd never had eyes to see? Or are there women who bloom? Her
clothes were shining on her, like a carving, and her hair was let down
like a golden curtain tossing and streaming in the gale, and there she
stood with her lips half open, drinking, and her eyes half closed,
gazing straight away over the Seven Brothers, and her shoulders swaying,
as if in tune with the wind and water and all the ruin. And when I
looked at her hands over the rail, sir, they were moving in each other
as if they bathed, and then I remembered, sir.

A cold horror took me. I knew now why she had come back again. She
wasn't a woman--she was a devil. I turned my back on her. I said to
myself: "It's time to light up. You've got to light up"--like that, over
and over, out loud. My hand was shivering so I could hardly find a
match; and when I scratched it, it only flared a second and then went
out in the back draught from the open door. She was standing in the
doorway, looking at me. It's queer, sir, but I felt like a child caught
in mischief.

"I--I--was going to light up," I managed to say, finally.

"Why?" said she. No, I can't say it as she did.

"_Why?_" said I. "_My God!_"

She came nearer, laughing, as if with pity, low, you know. "Your God?
And who is your God? What is God? What is anything on a night like
this?"

I drew back from her. All I could say anything about was the light.

"Why not the dark?" said she. "Dark is softer than
light--tenderer--dearer than light. From the dark up here, away up here
in the wind and storm, we can watch the ships go by, you and I. And you
love me so. You've loved me so long, Ray."

"I never have!" I struck out at her. "I don't! I don't!"

Her voice was lower than ever, but there was the same laughing pity in
it. "Oh yes, you have." And she was near me again.

"I have?" I yelled. "I'll show you! I'll show you if I have!"

I got another match, sir, and scratched it on the brass. I gave it to
the first wick, the little wick that's inside all the others. It bloomed
like a yellow flower. "I _have_?" I yelled, and gave it to the next.

Then there was a shadow, and I saw she was leaning beside me, her two
elbows on the brass, her two arms stretched out above the wicks, her
bare forearms and wrists and hands. I gave a gasp:

"Take care! You'll burn them! For God's sake----"

She didn't move or speak. The match burned my fingers and went out, and
all I could do was stare at those arms of hers, helpless. I'd never
noticed her arms before. They were rounded and graceful and covered with
a soft down, like a breath of gold. Then I heard her speaking close to
my ear.

"Pretty arms," she said. "Pretty arms!"

I turned. Her eyes were fixed on mine. They seemed heavy, as if with
sleep, and yet between their lids they were two wells, deep and deep,
and as if they held all the things I'd ever thought or dreamed in them.
I looked away from them, at her lips. Her lips were red as poppies,
heavy with redness. They moved, and I heard them speaking:

"Poor boy, you love me so, and you want to kiss me--don't you?"

"No," said I. But I couldn't turn around. I looked at her hair. I'd
always thought it was stringy hair. Some hair curls naturally with damp,
they say, and perhaps that was it, for there were pearls of wet on it,
and it was thick and shimmering around her face, making soft shadows by
the temples. There was green in it, queer strands of green like braids.

"What is it?" said I.

"Nothing but weed," said she, with that slow, sleepy smile.

Somehow or other I felt calmer than I had any time. "Look here," said I.
"I'm going to light this lamp." I took out a match, scratched it, and
touched the third wick. The flame ran around, bigger than the other two
together. But still her arms hung there. I bit my lip. "By God, I will!"
said I to myself, and I lit the fourth.

It was fierce, sir, fierce! And yet those arms never trembled. I had to
look around at her. Her eyes were still looking into mine, so deep and
deep, and her red lips were still smiling with that queer, sleepy droop;
the only thing was that tears were raining down her cheeks--big, glowing
round, jewel tears. It wasn't human, sir. It was like a dream.

"Pretty arms," she sighed, and then, as if those words had broken
something in her heart, there came a great sob bursting from her lips.
To hear it drove me mad. I reached to drag her away, but she was too
quick, sir; she cringed from me and slipped out from between my hands.
It was like she faded away, sir, and went down in a bundle, nursing her
poor arms and mourning over them with those terrible, broken sobs.

The sound of them took the manhood out of me--you'd have been the same,
sir. I knelt down beside her on the floor and covered my face.

"Please!" I moaned. "Please! Please!" That's all I could say. I wanted
her to forgive me. I reached out a hand, blind, for forgiveness, and I
couldn't find her anywhere. I had hurt her so, and she was afraid of
me, of _me_, sir, who loved her so deep it drove me crazy.

I could see her down the stair, though it was dim and my eyes were
filled with tears. I stumbled after her, crying, "Please! Please!" The
little wicks I'd lit were blowing in the wind from the door and smoking
the glass beside them black. One went out. I pleaded with them, the same
as I would plead with a human being. I said I'd be back in a second. I
promised. And I went on down the stair, crying like a baby because I'd
hurt her, and she was afraid of me--of _me_, sir.

She had gone into her room. The door was closed against me and I could
hear her sobbing beyond it, broken-hearted. My heart was broken too. I
beat on the door with my palms. I begged her to forgive me. I told her I
loved her. And all the answer was that sobbing in the dark.

And then I lifted the latch and went in, groping, pleading.
"Dearest--please! Because I love you!"

I heard her speak down near the floor. There wasn't any anger in her
voice; nothing but sadness and despair.

"No," said she. "You don't love me, Ray. You never have."

"I do! I have!"

"No, no," said she, as if she was tired out.

"Where are you?" I was groping for her. I thought, and lit a match. She
had got to the door and was standing there as if ready to fly. I went
toward her, and she made me stop. She took my breath away. "I hurt your
arms," said I, in a dream.

"No," said she, hardly moving her lips. She held them out to the match's
light for me to look and there was never a scar on them--not even that
soft, golden down was singed, sir. "You can't hurt my body," said she,
sad as anything. "Only my heart, Ray; my poor heart."

I tell you again, she took my breath away. I lit another match. "How can
you be so beautiful?" I wondered.

She answered in riddles--but oh, the sadness of her, sir.

"Because," said she, "I've always so wanted to be."

"How come your eyes so heavy?" said I.

"Because I've seen so many things I never dreamed of," said she.

"How come your hair so thick?"

"It's the seaweed makes it thick," said she smiling queer, queer.

"How come seaweed there?"

"Out of the bottom of the sea."

She talked in riddles, but it was like poetry to hear her, or a song.

"How come your lips so red?" said I.

"Because they've wanted so long to be kissed."

Fire was on me, sir. I reached out to catch her, but she was gone, out
of the door and down the stair. I followed, stumbling. I must have
tripped on the turn, for I remember going through the air and fetching
up with a crash, and I didn't know anything for a spell--how long I
can't say. When I came to, she was there, somewhere, bending over me,
crooning, "My love--my love--" under her breath like, a song.

But then when I got up, she was not where my arms went; she was down the
stair again, just ahead of me. I followed her. I was tottering and dizzy
and full of pain. I tried to catch up with her in the dark of the
store-room, but she was too quick for me, sir, always a little too quick
for me. Oh, she was cruel to me, sir. I kept bumping against things,
hurting myself still worse, and it was cold and wet and a horrible noise
all the while, sir; and then, sir, I found the door was open, and a sea
had parted the hinges.

I don't know how it all went, sir. I'd tell you if I could, but it's all
so blurred--sometimes it seems more like a dream. I couldn't find her
any more; I couldn't hear her; I went all over, everywhere. Once, I
remember, I found myself hanging out of that door between the davits,
looking down into those big black seas and crying like a baby. It's all
riddles and blur. I can't seem to tell you much, sir. It was all--all--I
don't know.

I was talking to somebody else--not her. It was the Inspector. I hardly
knew it was the Inspector. His face was as gray as a blanket, and his
eyes were bloodshot, and his lips were twisted. His left wrist hung
down, awkward. It was broken coming aboard the Light in that sea. Yes,
we were in the living-room. Yes, sir, it was daylight--gray daylight. I
tell you, sir, the man looked crazy to me. He was waving his good arm
toward the weather windows, and what he was saying, over and over, was
this:

"_Look what you done, damn you! Look what you done_!"

And what I was saying was this:

"_I've lost her_!"

I didn't pay any attention to him, nor him to me. By and by he did,
though. He stopped his talking all of a sudden, and his eyes looked like
the devil's eyes. He put them up close to mine. He grabbed my arm with
his good hand, and I cried, I was so weak.

"Johnson," said he, "is that it? By the living God--if you got a woman
out here, Johnson!"

"No," said I. "I've lost her."

"What do you mean--lost her?"

"It was dark," said I--and it's funny how my head was clearing up--"and
the door was open--the store-room door--and I was after her--and I guess
she stumbled, maybe--and I lost her."

"Johnson," said he, "what do you mean? You sound crazy--downright crazy.
Who?"

"Her," said I. "Fedderson's wife."

"_Who?_"

"Her," said I. And with that he gave my arm another jerk.

"Listen," said he, like a tiger. "Don't try that on me. It won't do any
good--that kind of lies--not where _you're_ going to. Fedderson and his
wife, too--the both of 'em's drowned deader 'n a door-nail."

"I know," said I, nodding my head. I was so calm it made him wild.

"You're crazy! Crazy as a loon, Johnson!" And he was chewing his lip
red. "I know, because it was me that found the old man laying on Back
Water Flats yesterday morning--_me!_ And she'd been with him in the
boat, too, because he had a piece of her jacket tore off, tangled in his
arm."

"I know," said I, nodding again, like that.

"You know _what_, you _crazy, murdering fool_?" Those were his words to
me, sir.

"I know," said I, "what I know."

"And _I_ know," said he, "what _I_ know."

And there you are, sir. He's Inspector. I'm--nobody.



At the Gate

BY MYLA JO CLOSSER

     From the _Century Magazine_. By permission of the Century Company
     and Myla J. Closser.


A shaggy Airedale scented his way along the highroad. He had not been
there before, but he was guided by the trail of his brethren who had
preceded him. He had gone unwillingly upon this journey, yet with the
perfect training of dogs he had accepted it without complaint. The path
had been lonely, and his heart would have failed him, traveling as he
must without his people, had not these traces of countless dogs before
him promised companionship of a sort at the end of the road.

The landscape had appeared arid at first, for the translation from
recent agony into freedom from pain had been so numbing in its swiftness
that it was some time before he could fully appreciate the pleasant
dog-country through which he was passing. There were woods with leaves
upon the ground through which to scurry, long grassy slopes for extended
runs, and lakes into which he might plunge for sticks and bring them
back to--But he did not complete his thought, for the boy was not with
him. A little wave of homesickness possessed him.

It made his mind easier to see far ahead a great gate as high as the
heavens, wide enough for all. He understood that only man built such
barriers and by straining his eyes he fancied he could discern humans
passing through to whatever lay beyond. He broke into a run that he
might the more quickly gain this inclosure made beautiful by men and
women; but his thoughts outran his pace, and he remembered that he had
left the family behind, and again this lovely new compound became not
perfect, since it would lack the family.

The scent of the dogs grew very strong now, and coming nearer, he
discovered, to his astonishment that of the myriads of those who had
arrived ahead of him thousands were still gathered on the outside of the
portal. They sat in a wide circle spreading out on each side of the
entrance, big, little, curly, handsome, mongrel, thoroughbred dogs of
every age, complexion, and personality. All were apparently waiting for
something, someone, and at the pad of the Airedale's feet on the hard
road they arose and looked in his direction.

That the interest passed as soon as they discovered the new-comer to be
a dog puzzled him. In his former dwelling-place a four-footed brother
was greeted with enthusiasm when he was a friend, with suspicious
diplomacy when a stranger, and with sharp reproof when an enemy; but
never had he been utterly ignored.

He remembered something that he had read many times on great buildings
with lofty entrances. "Dogs not admitted," the signs had said, and he
feared this might be the reason for the waiting circle outside the gate.
It might be that this noble portal stood as the dividing-line between
mere dogs and humans. But he had been a member of the family, romping
with them in the living-room, sitting at meals with them in the
dining-room, going upstairs at night with them, and the thought that he
was to be "kept out" would be unendurable.

He despised the passive dogs. They should be treating a barrier after
the fashion of their old country, leaping against it, barking, and
scratching the nicely painted door. He bounded up the last little hill
to set them an example, for he was still full of the rebellion of the
world; but he found no door to leap against. He could see beyond the
entrance dear masses of people, yet no dog crossed the threshold. They
continued in their patient ring, their gaze upon the winding road.

He now advanced cautiously to examine the gate. It occurred to him that
it must be fly-time in this region, and he did not wish to make himself
ridiculous before all these strangers by trying to bolt through an
invisible mesh like the one that had baffled him when he was a little
chap. Yet there were no screens, and despair entered his soul. What
bitter punishment these poor beasts must have suffered before they
learned to stay on this side the arch that led to human beings! What
had they done on earth to merit this? Stolen bones troubled his
conscience, runaway days, sleeping in the best chair until the key
clicked in the lock. These were sins.

At that moment an English bull-terrier, white, with liver-colored spots
and a jaunty manner, approached him, snuffling in a friendly way. No
sooner had the bull-terrier smelt his collar than he fell to expressing
his joy at meeting him. The Airedale's reserve was quite thawed by this
welcome, though he did not know just what to make of it.

"I know you! I know you!" exclaimed the bull-terrier, adding
inconsequently, "What's your name?"

"Tam o'Shanter. They call me Tammy," was the answer, with a pardonable
break in the voice.

"I know them," said the bull-terrier. "Nice folks."

"Best ever," said the Airedale, trying to be nonchalant, and scratching
a flea which was not there. "I don't remember you. When did you know
them?"

"About fourteen tags ago, when they were first married. We keep track of
time here by the license-tags. I had four."

"This is my first and only one. You were before my time, I guess." He
felt young and shy.

"Come for a walk, and tell me all about them," was his new friend's
invitation.

"Aren't we allowed in there?" asked Tam, looking toward the gate.

"Sure. You can go in whenever you want to. Some of us do at first, but
we don't stay."

"Like it better outside?"

"No, no; it isn't that."

"Then why are all you fellows hanging around here? Any old dog can see
it's better beyond the arch."

"You see, we're waiting for our folks to come."

The Airedale grasped it at once, and nodded understandingly.

"I felt that way when I came along the road. It wouldn't be what it's
supposed to be without them. It wouldn't be the perfect place."

"Not to us," said the bull-terrier.

"Fine! I've stolen bones, but it must be that I have been forgiven, if
I'm to see them here again. It's the great good place all right. But
look here," he added as a new thought struck him, "do they wait for us?"

The older inhabitant coughed in slight embarrassment.

"The humans couldn't do that very well. It wouldn't be the thing to have
them hang around outside for just a dog--not dignified."

"Quite right," agreed Tam. "I'm glad they go straight to their mansions.
I'd--I'd hate to have them missing me as I am missing them." He sighed.
"But, then, they wouldn't have to wait so long."

"Oh, well, they're getting on. Don't be discouraged," comforted the
terrier. "And in the meantime it's like a big hotel in summer--watching
the new arrivals. See, there is something doing now."

All the dogs were aroused to excitement by a little figure making its
way uncertainly up the last slope. Half of them started to meet it,
crowding about in a loving, eager pack.

"Look out; don't scare it," cautioned the older animals, while word was
passed to those farthest from the gate: "Quick! Quick! A baby's come!"

Before they had entirely assembled, however, a gaunt yellow hound pushed
through the crowd, gave one sniff at the small child, and with a yelp of
joy crouched at its feet. The baby embraced the hound in recognition,
and the two moved toward the gate. Just outside the hound stopped to
speak to an aristocratic St. Bernard who had been friendly:

"Sorry to leave you, old fellow," he said, "but I'm going in to watch
over the kid. You see, I'm all she has up here."

The bull-terrier looked at the Airedale for appreciation.

"That's the way we do it," he said proudly.

"Yes, but--" the Airedale put his head on one side in perplexity.

"Yes, but what?" asked the guide.

"The dogs that don't have any people--the nobodies' dogs?"

"That's the best of all. Oh, everything is thought out here. Crouch
down,--you must be tired,--and watch," said the bull-terrier.

Soon they spied another small form making the turn in the road. He wore
a Boy Scout's uniform, but he was a little fearful, for all that, so new
was this adventure. The dogs rose again and snuffled, but the better
groomed of the circle held back, and in their place a pack of odds and
ends of the company ran down to meet him. The Boy Scout was reassured by
their friendly attitude, and after petting them impartially, he chose an
old-fashioned black and tan, and the two passed in.

Tam looked questioningly.

"They didn't know each other!" he exclaimed.

"But they've always wanted to. That's one of the boys who used to beg
for a dog, but his father wouldn't let him have one. So all our strays
wait for just such little fellows to come along. Every boy gets a dog,
and every dog gets a master."

"I expect the boy's father would like to know that now," commented the
Airedale. "No doubt he thinks quite often, 'I wish I'd let him have a
dog.'"

The bull-terrier laughed.

"You're pretty near the earth yet, aren't you?"

Tam admitted it.

"I've a lot of sympathy with fathers and with boys, having them both in
the family, and a mother as well."

The bull-terrier leaped up in astonishment.

"You don't mean to say they keep a boy?"

"Sure; greatest boy on earth. Ten this year."

"Well, well, this is news! I wish they'd kept a boy when I was there."

The Airedale looked at his new friend intently.

"See here, who are you?" he demanded.

But the other hurried on:

"I used to run away from them just to play with a boy. They'd punish me,
and I always wanted to tell them it was their fault for not getting
one."

"Who are you, anyway?" repeated Tam. "Talking all this interest in me,
too. Whose dog _were_ you?"

"You've already guessed. I see it in your quivering snout. I'm the old
dog that had to leave them about ten years ago."

"Their old dog Bully?"

"Yes, I'm Bully." They nosed each other with deeper affection, then
strolled about the glades shoulder to shoulder. Bully the more eagerly
pressed for news. "Tell me, how are they getting along?"

"Very well indeed; they've paid for the house."

"I--I suppose you occupy the kennel?"

"No. They said they couldn't stand it to see another dog in your old
place."

Bully stopped to howl gently.

"That touches me. It's generous in you to tell it. To think they missed
me!"

For a little while they went on in silence, but as evening fell, and
the light from the golden streets inside of the city gave the only glow
to the scene, Bully grew nervous and suggested that they go back.

"We can't see so well at night, and I like to be pretty close to the
path, especially toward morning."

Tam assented.

"And I will point them out. You might not know them just at first."

"Oh, we know them. Sometimes the babies have so grown up they're rather
hazy in their recollection of how we look. They think we're bigger than
we are; but you can't fool us dogs."

"It's understood," Tam cunningly arranged, "that when he or she arrives
you'll sort of make them feel at home while I wait for the boy?"

"That's the best plan," assented Bully, kindly. "And if by any chance
the little fellow should come first,--there's been a lot of them this
summer--of course you'll introduce me?"

"I shall be proud to do it."

And so with muzzles sunk between their paws, and with their eyes
straining down the pilgrims' road, they wait outside the gate.



Ligeia

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

     And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the
     mystery of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will
     pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not
     yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only
     through the weakness of his feeble will.--_Joseph Glanvill._


I cannot, for my soul, remember how, when, or even precisely where, I
first became acquainted with the lady Ligeia. Long years have since
elapsed, and my memory is feeble through much suffering. Or, perhaps, I
cannot _now_ bring these points to mind, because, in truth, the
character of my beloved, her rare learning, her singular yet placid cast
of beauty, and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her low
musical language, made their way into my heart by paces so steadily and
stealthily progressive, that they have been unnoticed and unknown. Yet I
believe that I met her first and most frequently in some large, old,
decaying city near the Rhine. Of her family--I have surely heard her
speak. That it is of a remotely ancient date cannot be doubted. Ligeia!
Ligeia! Buried in studies of a nature more than all else adapted to
deaden impressions of the outward world, it is by that sweet word
alone--by Ligeia--that I bring before mine eyes in fancy the image of
her who is no more. And now, while I write, a recollection flashes upon
me that I have _never known_ the paternal name of her who was my friend
and my bethrothed, and who became the partner of my studies, and finally
the wife of my bosom. Was it a playful charge on the part of my Ligeia?
or was it a test of my strength of affection, that I should institute no
inquiries upon this point? or was it rather a caprice of my own--a
wildly romantic offering on the shrine of the most passionate devotion?
I but indistinctly recall the fact itself--what wonder that I have
utterly forgotten the circumstances which originated or attended it?
And, indeed, if ever that spirit which is entitled _Romance_--if ever
she, the wan misty-winged _Ashtophet_ of idolatrous Egypt, presided, as
they tell, over marriages ill-omened, then most surely she presided over
mine.

There is one dear topic, however, on which my memory fails me not. It
is the _person_ of Ligeia. In stature she was tall, somewhat
slender, and, in her latter days, even emaciated. I would in vain
attempt to portray the majesty, the quiet ease of her demeanor, or the
incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall. She came
and departed as a shadow. I was never made aware of her entrance into
my closed study, save by the dear music of her low sweet voice, as she
placed her marble hand upon my shoulder. In beauty of face no maiden
ever equaled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream--an airy and
spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the phantasies which
hovered about the slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos. Yet her
features were not of that regular mold which we have been falsely taught
to worship in the classical labors of the heathen. "There is no exquisite
beauty," says Bacon, Lord Verulam, speaking truly of all the forms and
_genera_ of beauty, "without some _strangeness_ in the proportion."
Yet, although I saw that the features of Ligeia were not of a classic
regularity--although I perceived that her loveliness was indeed
"exquisite," and felt that there was much of "strangeness" pervading it,
yet I have tried in vain to detect the irregularity and to trace home my
own perception of "the strange." I examined the contour of the lofty and
pale forehead--it was faultless--how cold indeed that word when applied
to a majesty so divine!--the skin rivaling the purest ivory, the
commanding extent and repose, the gentle prominence of the regions above
the temples; and then the raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant, and
naturally-curling tresses, setting forth the full force of the Homeric
epithet, "hyacinthine!" I looked at the delicate outlines of the
nose--and nowhere but in the graceful medallions of the Hebrews had I
beheld a similar perfection. There were the same luxurious smoothness of
surface, the same scarcely perceptible tendency to the aquiline, the
same harmoniously curved nostrils speaking the free spirit. I regarded
the sweet mouth. Here was indeed the triumph of all things heavenly--the
magnificent turn of the short upper lip--the soft, voluptuous slumber of
the under--the dimples which sported, and the color which spoke--the
teeth glancing back, with a brilliancy almost startling, every ray of
the holy light which fell upon them in her serene and placid yet most
exultingly radiant of all smiles. I scrutinized the formation of the
chin--and, here, too, I found the gentleness of breadth, the softness
and the majesty, the fullness and the spirituality, of the Greek--the
contour which the god Apollo revealed but in a dream, to Cleomenes, the
son of the Athenian. And then I peered into the large eyes of Ligeia.

For eyes we have no models in the remotely antique. It might have been,
too, that in these eyes of my beloved lay the secret to which Lord
Verulam alludes. They were, I must believe, far larger than the ordinary
eyes of our own race. They were even fuller than the fullest of the
gazelle eyes of the tribe of the valley of Nourjahad. Yet it was only at
intervals--in moments of intense excitement--that this peculiarity
became more than slightly noticeable in Ligeia. And at such moments was
her beauty--in my heated fancy thus it appeared perhaps--the beauty of
beings either above or apart from the earth--the beauty of the fabulous
Houri of the Turk. The hue of the orbs was the most brilliant of black,
and, far over them, hung jetty lashes of great length. The brows,
slightly irregular in outline, had the same tint. The "strangeness,"
however, which I found in the eyes was of a nature distinct from the
formation, or the color, or the brilliancy of the features, and must,
after all, be referred to the _expression_. Ah, word of no meaning!
behind whose vast latitude of mere sound we intrench our ignorance of so
much of the spiritual. The expression of the eyes of Ligeia! How for
long hours have I pondered upon it! How have I, through the whole of a
midsummer night, struggled to fathom it! What was it--that something
more profound than the well of Democritus--which lay far within the
pupils of my beloved? What _was_ it? I was possessed with a passion to
discover. Those eyes! those large, those shining, those divine orbs!
they became to me twin stars of Leda, and I to them devoutest of
astrologers.

There is no point, among the many incomprehensible anomalies of the
science of mind, more thrillingly exciting than the fact--never, I
believe, noticed in the schools--than in our endeavors to recall to
memory something long forgotten, we often find ourselves _upon the very
verge_ of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to remember. And
thus how frequently, in my intense scrutiny of Ligeia's eyes, have I
felt approaching the full knowledge of their expression--felt it
approaching--yet not quite be mine--and so at length entirely depart!
And (strange, oh, strangest mystery of all!) I found, in the commonest
objects of the universe, a circle of analogies to that expression. I
mean to say that, subsequently to the period when Ligeia's beauty passed
into my spirit, there dwelling as in a shrine, I derived, from many
existences in the material world, a sentiment such as I felt always
around, within me, by her large and luminous orbs. Yet not the more
could I define that sentiment, or analyze, or even steadily view it. I
recognized it, let me repeat, sometimes in the survey of a rapidly
growing vine--in the contemplation of a moth, a butterfly, a chrysalis,
a stream of running water. I have felt it in the ocean--in the falling
of a meteor. I have felt it in the glances of unusually aged people. And
there are one or two stars in heaven (one especially, a star of the
sixth magnitude, double and changeable, to be found near the large star
in Lyra) in a telescopic scrutiny of which I have been made aware of the
feeling. I have been filled with it by certain sounds from stringed
instruments, and not unfrequently by passages from books. Among
innumerable other instances, I well remember something in a volume of
Joseph Glanvill, which (perhaps merely from its quaintness--who shall
say?) never failed to inspire me with the sentiment: "And the will
therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will,
with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by
nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto
death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will."

Length of years and subsequent reflection have enabled me to trace,
indeed, some remote connection between this passage in the English
moralist and a portion of the character of Ligeia. An _intensity_ in
thought, action, or speech was possibly, in her, a result, or at least
an index, of that gigantic volition which, during our long intercourse,
failed to give other and more immediate evidence of its existence. Of
all the women whom I have ever known, she, the outwardly calm, the
ever-placid Ligeia, was the most violently a prey to the tumultuous
vultures of stern passion. And of such passion I could form no estimate,
save by the miraculous expansion of those eyes which at once so
delighted and appalled me,--by the almost magical melody, modulation,
distinctness, and placidity of her very low voice,--and by the fierce
energy (rendered doubly effective by contrast with her manner of
utterance) of the wild words which she habitually uttered.

I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia: it was immense--such as I have
never known in woman. In the classical tongues was she deeply
proficient, and as far as my own acquaintance extended in regard to the
modern dialects of Europe, I have never known her at fault. Indeed upon
any theme of the most admired because simply the most abstruse of the
boasted erudition of the Academy, have I _ever_ found Ligeia at fault?
How singularly--how thrillingly, this one point in the nature of my wife
has forced itself, at this late period only, upon my attention! I said
her knowledge was such as I have never known in woman--but where
breathes the man who has traversed, and successfully, _all_ the wide
areas of moral, physical, and mathematical science? I saw not then what
I now clearly perceive that the acquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic,
were astounding; yet I was sufficiently aware of her infinite supremacy
to resign myself, with a child-like confidence, to her guidance through
the chaotic world of metaphysical investigation at which I was most
busily occupied during the earlier years of our marriage. With how vast
a triumph--with how vivid a delight--with how much of all that is
ethereal in hope did I _feel_, as she bent over me in studies but little
sought--but less known,--that delicious vista by slow degrees expanding
before me, down whose long, gorgeous, and all untrodden path, I might at
length pass onward to the goal of a wisdom too divinely precious not to
be forbidden.

How poignant, then, must have been the grief with which, after some
years, I beheld my well-grounded expectations take wings to themselves
and fly away! Without Ligeia I was but as a child groping benighted. Her
presence, her readings alone, rendered vividly luminous the many
mysteries of the transcendentalism in which we were immersed. Wanting
the radiant luster of her eyes, letters, lambent and golden, grew duller
than Saturnian lead. And now those eyes shone less and less frequently
upon the pages over which I pored. Ligeia grew ill. The wild eyes blazed
with a too--too glorious effulgence; the pale fingers became of the
transparent waxen hue of the grave; and the blue veins upon the lofty
forehead swelled and sank impetuously with the tides of the most gentle
emotion. I saw that she must die--and I struggled desperately in spirit
with the grim Azrael. And the struggles of the passionate wife were, to
my astonishment, even more energetic than my own. There had been much in
her stern nature to impress me with the belief that, to her, death would
have come without its terrors; but not so. Words are impotent to convey
any just idea of the fierceness of resistance with which she wrestled
with the Shadow. I groaned in anguish at the pitiable spectacle. I would
have soothed--I would have reasoned; but in the intensity of her wild
desire for life--for life--_but_ for life--solace and reason were alike
the uttermost of folly. Yet not until the last instance, amid the most
convulsive writhings of her fierce spirit, was shaken the external
placidity of her demeanor. Her voice grew more gentle--grew more
low--yet I would not wish to dwell upon the wild meaning of the quietly
uttered words. My brain reeled as I hearkened, entranced, to a melody
more than mortal--to assumptions and aspirations which mortality had
never before known.

That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been
easily aware that, in a bosom such as hers, love would have reigned no
ordinary passion. But in death only was I fully impressed with the
strength of her affection. For long hours, detaining my hand, would she
pour out before me the overflowing of a heart whose more than passionate
devotion amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be so blessed by
such confessions?--how had I deserved to be so cursed with the removal
of my beloved in the hour of my making them? But upon this subject I
cannot bear to dilate. Let me say only, that in Ligeia's more than
womanly abandonment to a love, alas! all unmerited, all unworthily
bestowed, I at length, recognized the principle of her longing, with so
wildly earnest a desire, for the life which was now fleeing so rapidly
away. It is this wild longing--it is this eager vehemence of desire for
life--_but_ for life--that I have no power to portray--no utterance
capable of expressing.

At high noon of the night in which she departed, beckoning me,
peremptorily, to her side, she bade me repeat certain verses composed by
herself not many days before. I obeyed her. They were these:--

    Lo! 'tis a gala night
      Within the lonesome latter years!
    An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
      In veils, and drowned in tears,
    Sit in a theatre, to see
      A play of hopes and fears,
    While the orchestra breathes fitfully
      The music of the spheres.

    Mimes, in the form of God on high,
      Mutter and mumble low,
    And hither and thither fly;
      Mere puppets they, who come and go
    At bidding of vast formless things
      That shift the scenery to and fro,
    Flapping from out their condor wings
      Invisible Wo!

    That motley drama!--oh, be sure
      It shall not be forgot!
    With its Phantom chased for evermore
      By a crowd that seize it not,
    Through a circle that ever returneth in
      To the self-same spot;
    And much of Madness, and more of Sin
      And Horror, the soul of the plot!

    But see, amid the mimic rout,
      A crawling shape intrude!
    A blood-red thing that writhes from out
      The scenic solitude!
    It writhes!--it writhes!--with mortal pangs
      The mimes become its food,
    And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
      In human gore imbued.

    Out--out are the lights--out all:
      And over each quivering form,
    The curtain, a funeral pall,
      Comes down with the rush of a storm--
    And the angels, all pallid and wan,
      Uprising, unveiling, affirm
    That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
      And its hero, the conqueror Worm.

"O God!" half shrieked Ligeia, leaping to her feet and extending her
arms aloft with a spasmodic movement, as I made an end of these
lines--"O God! O Divine Father!--shall these things be undeviatingly
so?--shall this conqueror be not once conquered? Are we not part and
parcel in Thee? Who--who knoweth the mysteries of the will with its
vigor? Man doth not yield him to the angels, _nor unto death utterly_,
save only through the weakness of his feeble will."

And now, as if exhausted with emotion, she suffered her white arms to
fall, and returned solemnly to her bed of death. And as she breathed her
last sighs, there came mingled with them a low murmur from her lips. I
bent to them my ear, and distinguished, again, the concluding words of
the passage in Glanvill: "_Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor
unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will._"

She died: and I, crushed into the very dust with sorrow, could no longer
endure the lonely desolation of my dwelling in the dim and decaying
city by the Rhine. I had no lack of what the world calls wealth. Ligeia
had brought me far more, very far more, than ordinarily falls to the lot
of mortals. After a few months, therefore, of weary and aimless
wandering, I purchased and put in some repair, an abbey, which I shall
not name, in one of the wildest and least frequented portions of fair
England. The gloomy and dreary grandeur of the building, the almost
savage aspect of the domain, the many melancholy and time-honored
memories connected with both, had much in unison with the feelings of
utter abandonment which had driven me into that remote and unsocial
region of the country. Yet although the external abbey, with its verdant
decay hanging about it, suffered but little alteration, I gave way, with
a child-like perversity, and perchance with a faint hope of alleviating
my sorrows, to a display of more than regal magnificence within. For
such follies, even in childhood, I had imbibed a taste, and now they
came back to me as if in the dotage of grief. Alas, I feel how much even
of incipient madness might have been discovered in the gorgeous and
fantastic draperies, in the solemn carvings of Egypt, in the wild
cornices and furniture, in the Bedlam patterns of the carpets of tufted
gold! I had become a bounden slave in the trammels of opium, and my
labors and my orders had taken a coloring from my dreams. But these
absurdities I must not pause to detail. Let me speak only of that one
chamber, ever accursed, whither, in a moment of mental alienation, I led
from the altar as my bride--as the successor of the unforgotten
Ligeia--the fair-haired and blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion, of
Tremaine.

There is no individual portion of the architecture and decoration of
that bridal chamber which is not visibly before me. Where were the souls
of the haughty family of the bride, when, through thirst of gold, they
permitted to pass the threshold of an apartment _so_ bedecked, a maiden
and a daughter so beloved? I have said, that I minutely remember the
details of the chamber--yet I am sadly forgetful on topics of deep
moment; and here there was no system, no keeping, in the fantastic
display to take hold upon the memory. The room lay in a high turret of
the castellated abbey, was pentagonal in shape, and of capacious size.
Occupying the whole southern face of the pentagonal was the sole
window--an immense sheet of unbroken glass from Venice--a single pane,
and tinted of a leaden hue, so that the rays of either the sun or moon
passing through it, fell with a ghastly luster on the objects within.
Over the upper portion of this huge window extended the trellis-work of
an aged vine, which clambered up the massy walls of the turret. The
ceiling, of gloomy-looking oak, was excessively lofty, vaulted, and
elaborately fretted with the wildest and most grotesque specimens of a
semi-Gothic, semi-Druidical device. From out the most central recess of
this melancholy vaulting, depended, by a single chain of gold with long
links, a huge censer of the same metal, Saracenic in pattern, and with
many perforations so contrived that there writhed in and out of them, as
if endued with a serpent vitality, a continual succession of
parti-colored fires.

Some few ottomans and golden candelabra, of Eastern figure, were in
various stations about; and there was the couch, too--the bridal
couch--of an Indian model, and low, and sculptured of solid ebony, with
a pall-like canopy above. In each of the angles of the chamber stood on
end a gigantic sarcophagus of black granite, from the tombs of the kings
over against Luxor, with their aged lids full of immemorial sculpture.
But in the draping of the apartment lay, alas! the chief phantasy of
all. The lofty walls, gigantic in height--even unproportionably so--were
hung from summit to foot, in vast folds, with a heavy and
massive-looking tapestry--tapestry of a material which was found alike
as a carpet on the floor, as a covering for the ottomans and the ebony
bed, as a canopy for the bed, and as the gorgeous volutes of the
curtains which partially shaded the window. The material was the richest
cloth of gold. It was spotted all over, at irregular intervals, with
arabesque figures, about a foot in diameter, and wrought upon the cloth
in patterns of the most jetty black. But these figures partook of the
true character of the arabesque only when regarded from a single point
of view. By a contrivance now common, and indeed traceable to a very
remote period of antiquity, they were made changeable in aspect. To one
entering the room, they bore the appearance of simple monstrosities; but
upon a farther advance, this appearance gradually departed; and, step by
step, as the visitor moved his station in the chamber, he saw himself
surrounded by an endless succession of the ghastly forms which belong to
the superstition of the Norman, or arise in the guilty slumbers of the
monk. The phantasmagoric effect was vastly heightened by the artificial
introduction of a strong continual current of wind behind the
draperies--giving a hideous and uneasy animation to the whole.

In halls such as these--in a bridal chamber such as this--I passed, with
the Lady of Tremaine, the unhallowed hours of the first month of our
marriage--passed them with but little disquietude. That my wife dreaded
the fierce moodiness of my temper--that she shunned me, and loved me but
little--I could not help perceiving; but it gave me rather pleasure than
otherwise. I loathed her with a hatred belonging more to demon than to
man. My memory flew back (oh, with what intensity of regret!) to Ligeia,
the beloved, the august, the beautiful, the entombed. I reveled in
recollections of her purity, of her wisdom, of her lofty--her ethereal
nature, of her passionate, her idolatrous love. Now, then, did my spirit
fully and freely burn with more than all the fires of her own. In the
excitement of my opium dreams (for I was habitually fettered in the
shackles of the drug), I would call aloud upon her name, during the
silence of the night, or among the sheltered recesses of the glens by
day, as if, through the wild eagerness, the solemn passion, the
consuming ardor of my longing for the departed, I could restore her to
the pathways she had abandoned--ah, _could_ it be forever?--upon the
earth.

About the commencement of the second month of the marriage, the Lady
Rowena was attacked with sudden illness, from which her recovery was
slow. The fever which consumed her rendered her nights uneasy; and in
her perturbed state of half-slumber, she spoke of sounds, and of
motions, in and about the chamber of the turret, which I concluded had
no origin save in the distemper of her fancy, or perhaps in the
phantasmagoric influences of the chamber itself. She became at length
convalescent--finally, well. Yet but a second more violent disorder
again threw her upon a bed of suffering; and from this attack her frame,
at all times feeble, never altogether recovered. Her illnesses were,
after this epoch, of alarming character, and of more alarming
recurrence, defying alike the knowledge and the great exertions of her
physicians. With the increase of the chronic disease, which had thus,
apparently, taken too sure hold upon her constitution to be eradicated
by human means, I could not fail to observe a similar increase in the
nervous irritation of her temperament, and in her excitability by
trivial causes of fear. She spoke again, and now more frequently and
pertinaciously, of the sounds--of the slight sounds--and of the unusual
motions among the tapestries, to which she had formerly alluded.

One night, near the closing in of September, she pressed this
distressing subject with more than usual emphasis upon my attention. She
had just awakened from an unquiet slumber, and I had been watching, with
feelings half of anxiety, half of vague terror, the workings of her
emaciated countenance. I sat by the side of her ebony bed, upon one of
the ottomans of India. She partly arose, and spoke, in an earnest low
whisper, of sounds which she _then_ heard, but which I could not
hear--of motions which she _then_ saw, but which I could not perceive.
The wind was rushing hurriedly behind the tapestries, and I wished to
show her (what, let me confess it, I could not _all_ believe) that those
almost inarticulate breathings, and those very gentle variations of the
figures upon the wall, were but the natural effects of that customary
rushing of the wind. But a deadly pallor, overspreading her face, had
proved to me that my exertions to reassure her would be fruitless. She
appeared to be fainting, and no attendants were within call. I
remembered where was deposited a decanter of light wine which had been
ordered by her physicians, and hastened across the chamber to procure
it. But, as I stepped beneath the light of the censer, two
circumstances of a startling nature attracted my attention. I had felt
that some palpable although invisible object had passed lightly by my
person; and I saw that there lay upon the golden carpet, in the very
middle of the rich luster thrown from the censer, a shadow--a faint,
indefinite shadow of angelic aspect--such as might be fancied for the
shadow of a shade. But I was wild with the excitement of an immoderate
dose of opium, and heeded these things but little, nor spoke of them to
Rowena. Having found the wine, I recrossed the chamber, and poured out a
gobletful, which I held to the lips of the fainting lady. She had now
partially recovered, however, and took the vessel herself, while I sank
upon an ottoman near me, with my eyes fastened upon her person. It was
then that I became distinctly aware of a gentle footfall upon the
carpet, and near the couch; and in a second thereafter, as Rowena was in
the act of raising the wine to her lips, I saw, or may have dreamed that
I saw, fall within the goblet, as if from some invisible spring in the
atmosphere of the room, three or four large drops of a brilliant and
ruby colored fluid. If this I saw--not so Rowena. She swallowed the wine
unhesitatingly, and I forebore to speak to her of a circumstance which
must, after all, I considered, have been but the suggestion of a vivid
imagination, rendered morbidly active by the terror of the lady, by the
opium, and by the hour.

Yet I cannot conceal [Transcriber's note: The original reads "coneal".]
it from my own perception that, immediately subsequent to the fall of
the ruby drops, a rapid change for the worse took place in the disorder
of my wife; so that, on the third subsequent night, the hands of her
menials prepared her for the tomb, and on the fourth, I sat alone, with
her shrouded body, in that fantastic chamber which had received her as
my bride. Wild visions, opium-engendered, flitted, shadow-like, before
me. I gazed with unquiet eye upon the sarcophagi in the angles of the
room, upon the varying figures of the drapery, and upon the writhing of
the parti-colored fires in the censer overhead. My eyes then fell, as I
called to mind the circumstances of a former night, to the spot beneath
the glare of the censer where I had seen the faint traces of the shadow.
It was there, however, no longer; and breathing with greater freedom, I
turned my glances to the pallid and rigid figure upon the bed. Then
rushed upon me a thousand memories of Ligeia--and then came back upon my
heart, with the turbulent violence of a flood, the whole of that
unutterable woe with which I had regarded _her_ thus enshrouded. The
night waned; and still, with a bosom full of bitter thoughts of the one
only and supremely beloved, I remained gazing upon the body of Rowena.

It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had
taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct,
startled me from my revery. I _felt_ that it came from the bed of
ebony--the bed of death. I listened in an agony of superstitious
terror--but there was no repetition of the sound. I strained my vision
to detect any motion in the corpse--but there was not the slightest
perceptible. Yet I could not have been deceived. I _had_ heard the
noise, however faint, and my soul was awakened within me. I resolutely
and perseveringly kept my attention riveted upon the body. Many minutes
elapsed before any circumstance occurred tending to throw light upon the
mystery. At length it became evident that a slight, a very feeble, and
barely noticeable tinge of color had flushed up within the cheeks, and
along the sunken small veins of the eyelids. Through a species of
unutterable horror and awe, for which the language of mortality has no
sufficiently energetic expression, I felt my heart cease to beat, my
limbs grow rigid where I sat. Yet a sense of duty finally operated to
restore my self-possession. I could no longer doubt that we had been
precipitate in our preparations--that Rowena still lived. It was
necessary that some immediate exertion be made; yet the turret was
altogether apart from the portion of the abbey tenanted by the
servants--there were none within call--I had no means of summoning them
to my aid without leaving the room for many minutes--and this I could
not venture to do. I therefore struggled alone in my endeavors to call
back the spirit still hovering. In a short period it was certain,
however, that a relapse had taken place; the color disappeared from both
eyelid and cheek, leaving a wanness even more than that of marble; the
lips became doubly shriveled and pinched up in the ghastly expression of
death; a repulsive clamminess and coldness overspread rapidly the
surface of the body; and all the usual rigorous stiffness immediately
supervened. I fell back with a shudder upon the couch from which I had
been so startlingly aroused, and again gave myself up to passionate
waking visions of Ligeia.

An hour thus elapsed, when (could it be possible?) I was a second time
aware of some vague sound issuing from the region of the bed. I
listened--in extremity of horror. The sound came again--it was a sigh.
Rushing to the corpse, I saw--distinctly saw--a tremor upon the lips. In
a minute afterward they relaxed, disclosing a bright line of the pearly
teeth. Amazement now struggled in my bosom with the profound awe which
had hitherto reigned there alone. I felt that my vision grew dim, that
my reason wandered; and it was only by a violent effort that I at length
succeeded in nerving myself to the task which duty thus once more had
pointed out. There was now a partial glow upon the forehead and upon the
cheek and throat; a perceptible warmth pervaded the whole frame; there
was even a slight pulsation at the heart. The lady _lived_; and with
redoubled ardor I betook myself to the task of restoration. I chafed and
bathed the temples and the hands and used every exertion which
experience, and no little medical reading, could suggest. But in vain.
Suddenly, the color fled, the pulsation ceased, the lips resumed the
expression of the dead, and, in an instant afterward, the whole body
took upon itself the icy chilliness, the livid hue, the intense
rigidity, the sunken outline, and all the loathsome peculiarities of
that which has been, for many days, a tenant of the tomb.

And again I sunk into visions of Ligeia--and again (what marvel that I
shudder while I write?), _again_ there reached my ears a low sob from
the region of the ebony bed. But why shall I minutely detail the
unspeakable horrors of that night? Why shall I pause to relate how, time
after time, until near the period of the gray dawn, this hideous drama
of revivification was repeated; how each terrific relapse was only into
a sterner and apparently more irredeemable death; how each agony wore
the aspect of a struggle with some invisible foe; and how each struggle
was succeeded by I know not what of wild change in the personal
appearance of the corpse? Let me hurry to a conclusion.

The greater part of the fearful night had worn away, and she who had
been dead once again stirred--and now more vigorously than hitherto,
although arousing from a dissolution more appalling in its utter
hopelessness than any. I had long ceased to struggle or to move, and
remained sitting rigidly upon the ottoman, a helpless prey to a whirl
of violent emotions, of which extreme awe was perhaps the least
terrible, the least consuming. The corpse, I repeat, stirred, and now
more vigorously than before. The hues of life flushed up with unwonted
energy into the countenance--the limbs relaxed--and, save that the
eyelids were yet pressed heavily together, and that the bandages and
draperies of the grave still imparted their charnel character to the
figure, I might have dreamed that Rowena had indeed shaken off, utterly,
the fetters of Death. But if this idea was not, even then, altogether
adopted, I could at least doubt no longer, when, arising from the bed,
tottering, with feeble steps, with closed eyes, and with the manner of
one bewildered in a dream, the thing that was enshrouded advanced boldly
and palpably into the middle of the apartment.

I trembled not--I stirred not--for a crowd of unutterable fancies
connected with the air, the stature, the demeanor, of the figure,
rushing hurriedly through my brain, had paralyzed--had chilled me into
stone. I stirred not--but gazed upon the apparition. There was a mad
disorder in my thoughts--a tumult unappeasable. Could it, indeed, be the
_living_ Rowena who confronted me? Could it, indeed, be Rowena _at
all_--the fair-haired, the blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine?
Why, _why_ should I doubt it? The bandage lay heavily about the
mouth--but then might it not be the mouth of the breathing Lady of
Tremaine? And the cheeks--there were the roses as in her noon of
life--yes, these might indeed be the fair cheeks of the living Lady of
Tremaine. And the chin, with its dimples, as in health, might it not be
hers?--but _had she then grown taller since her malady?_ What
inexpressible madness seized me with that thought? One bound, and I had
reached her feet! Shrinking from my touch, she let fall from her head,
unloosened, the ghastly cerements which had confined it, and there
streamed forth into the rushing atmosphere of the chamber huge masses of
long and disheveled hair; _it was blacker than the raven wings of
midnight._ And now slowly opened _the eyes_ of the figure which stood
before me. "Here then, at least," I shrieked aloud, "can I never--can I
never be mistaken--these are the full, and the black, and the wild
eyes--of my lost love--of the Lady--of the LADY LIGEIA."



The Haunted Orchard

BY RICHARD LE GALLIENNE

     From _Harper's Magazine_, January, 1912. By permission of Harper
     and Brothers and Richard Le Gallienne.


Spring was once more in the world. As she sang to herself in the faraway
woodlands her voice reached even the ears of the city, weary with the
long winter. Daffodils flowered at the entrances to the Subway,
furniture removing vans blocked the side streets, children clustered
like blossoms on the doorsteps, the open cars were running, and the cry
of the "cash clo'" man was once more heard in the land.

Yes, it was the spring, and the city dreamed wistfully of lilacs and the
dewy piping of birds in gnarled old apple-trees, of dogwood lighting up
with sudden silver the thickening woods, of water-plants unfolding their
glossy scrolls in pools of morning freshness.

On Sunday mornings, the outbound trains were thronged with eager
pilgrims, hastening out of the city, to behold once more the ancient
marvel of the spring; and, on Sunday evenings, the railway termini were
aflower with banners of blossom from rifled woodland and orchard carried
in the hands of the returning pilgrims, whose eyes still shone with the
spring magic, in whose ears still sang the fairy music.

And as I beheld these signs of the vernal equinox I knew that I, too,
must follow the music, forsake awhile the beautiful siren we call the
city, and in the green silences meet once more my sweetheart Solitude.

As the train drew out of the Grand Central, I hummed to myself,

    "I've a neater, sweeter maiden, in a greener, cleaner land"

and so I said good-by to the city, and went forth with beating heart to
meet the spring.

I had been told of an almost forgotten corner on the south coast of
Connecticut, where the spring and I could live in an inviolate
loneliness--a place uninhabited save by birds and blossoms, woods and
thick grass, and an occasional silent farmer, and pervaded by the breath
and shimmer of the Sound.

Nor had rumor lied, for when the train set me down at my destination I
stepped out into the most wonderful green hush, a leafy Sabbath silence
through which the very train, as it went farther on its way, seemed to
steal as noiselessly as possible for fear of breaking the spell.

After a winter in the town, to be dropped thus suddenly into the intense
quiet of the country-side makes an almost ghostly impression upon one,
as of an enchanted silence, a silence that listens and watches but
never speaks, finger on lip. There is a spectral quality about
everything upon which the eye falls: the woods, like great green clouds,
the wayside flowers, the still farm-houses half lost in orchard
bloom--all seem to exist in a dream. Everything is so still, everything
so supernaturally green. Nothing moves or talks, except the gentle
susurrus of the spring wind swaying the young buds high up in the quiet
sky, or a bird now and again, or a little brook singing softly to itself
among the crowding rushes.

Though, from the houses one notes here and there, there are evidently
human inhabitants of this green silence, none are to be seen. I have
often wondered where the countryfolk hide themselves, as I have walked
hour after hour, past farm and croft and lonely door-yards, and never
caught sight of a human face. If you should want to ask the way, a
farmer is as shy as a squirrel, and if you knock at a farm-house door,
all is as silent as a rabbit-warren.

As I walked along in the enchanted stillness, I came at length to a
quaint old farm-house--"old Colonial" in its architecture--embowered in
white lilacs, and surrounded by an orchard of ancient apple-trees which
cast a rich shade on the deep spring grass. The orchard had the
impressiveness of those old religious groves, dedicated to the strange
worship of sylvan gods, gods to be found now only in Horace or Catullus,
and in the hearts of young poets to whom the beautiful antique Latin is
still dear.

The old house seemed already the abode of Solitude. As I lifted the
latch of the white gate and walked across the forgotten grass, and up on
to the veranda already festooned with wistaria, and looked into the
window, I saw Solitude sitting by an old piano, on which no composer
later than Bach had ever been played.

In other words, the house was empty; and going round to the back, where
old barns and stables leaned together as if falling asleep, I found a
broken pane, and so climbed in and walked through the echoing rooms. The
house was very lonely. Evidently no one had lived in it for a long time.
Yet it was all ready for some occupant, for whom it seemed to be
waiting. Quaint old four-poster bedsteads stood in three rooms--dimity
curtains and spotless linen--old oak chests and mahogany presses; and,
opening drawers in Chippendale sideboards, I came upon beautiful frail
old silver and exquisite china that set me thinking of a beautiful
grandmother of mine, made out of old lace and laughing wrinkles and
mischievous old blue eyes.

There was one little room that particularly interested me, a tiny
bedroom all white, and at the window the red roses were already in bud.
But what caught my eye with peculiar sympathy was a small bookcase, in
which were some twenty or thirty volumes, wearing the same forgotten
expression--forgotten and yet cared for--which lay like a kind of
memorial charm upon everything in the old house. Yes, everything seemed
forgotten and yet everything, curiously--even religiously--remembered. I
took out book after book from the shelves, once or twice flowers fell
out from the pages--and I caught sight of a delicate handwriting here
and there and frail markings. It was evidently the little intimate
library of a young girl. What surprised me most was to find that quite
half the books were in French--French poets and French romancers: a
charming, very rare edition of Ronsard, a beautifully printed edition of
Alfred de Musset, and a copy of Théophile Gautier's _Mademoiselle de
Maupin_. How did these exotic books come to be there alone in a deserted
New England farm-house?

This question was to be answered later in a strange way. Meanwhile I had
fallen in love with the sad, old, silent place, and as I closed the
white gate and was once more on the road, I looked about for someone who
could tell me whether or not this house of ghosts might be rented for
the summer by a comparatively living man.

I was referred to a fine old New England farm-house shining white
through the trees a quarter of a mile away. There I met an ancient
couple, a typical New England farmer and his wife; the old man, lean,
chin-bearded, with keen gray eyes flickering occasionally with a shrewd
humor, the old lady with a kindly old face of the withered-apple type
and ruddy. They were evidently prosperous people, but their minds--for
some reason I could not at the moment divine--seemed to be divided
between their New England desire to drive a hard bargain and their
disinclination to let the house at all.

Over and over again they spoke of the loneliness of the place. They
feared I would find it very lonely. No one had lived in it for a long
time, and so on. It seemed to me that afterwards I understood their
curious hesitation, but at the moment only regarded it as a part of the
circuitous New England method of bargaining. At all events, the rent I
offered finally overcame their disinclination, whatever its cause, and
so I came into possession--for four months--of that silent old house,
with the white lilacs, and the drowsy barns, and the old piano, and the
strange orchard; and, as the summer came on, and the year changed its
name from May to June, I used to lie under the apple-trees in the
afternoons, dreamily reading some old book, and through half-sleepy
eyelids watching the silken shimmer of the Sound.

I had lived in the old house for about a month, when one afternoon a
strange thing happened to me. I remember the date well. It was the
afternoon of Tuesday, June 13th. I was reading, or rather dipping here
and there, in Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_. As I read, I remember
that a little unripe apple, with a petal or two of blossom still
clinging to it, fell upon the old yellow page. Then I suppose I must
have fallen into a dream, though it seemed to me that both my eyes and
my ears were wide open, for I suddenly became aware of a beautiful
young voice singing very softly somewhere among the leaves. The singing
was very frail, almost imperceptible, as though it came out of the air.
It came and went fitfully, like the elusive fragrance of sweetbrier--as
though a girl was walking to and fro, dreamily humming to herself in the
still afternoon. Yet there was no one to be seen. The orchard had never
seemed more lonely. And another fact that struck me as strange was that
the words that floated to me out of the aerial music were French, half
sad, half gay snatches of some long-dead singer of old France, I looked
about for the origin of the sweet sounds, but in vain. Could it be the
birds that were singing in French in this strange orchard? Presently the
voice seemed to come quite close to me, so near that it might have been
the voice of a dryad singing to me out of the tree against which I was
leaning. And this time I distinctly caught the words of the sad little
song:

    _"Chante, rossignol, chante,
    Toi qui as le coeur gai;
    Tu as le coeur à rire,
    Moi, je l'ai-t-à pleurer."_

But, though the voice was at my shoulder, I could see no one, and then
the singing stopped with what sounded like a sob; and a moment or two
later I seemed to hear a sound of sobbing far down the orchard. Then
there followed silence, and I was left to ponder on the strange
occurrence. Naturally, I decided that it was just a day-dream between
sleeping and waking over the pages of an old book; yet when next day and
the day after the invisible singer was in the orchard again, I could not
be satisfied with such mere matter-of-fact explanation.

    _"A la claire fontaine,"_

went the voice to and fro through the thick orchard boughs,

    _"M'en allant promener,
    J'ai trouvé l'eau si belle
    Que je m'y suis baigné,
    Lui y a longtemps que je t'aime,
    Jamais je ne t'oubliai."_

It was certainly uncanny to hear that voice going to and fro the
orchard, there somewhere amid the bright sun-dazzled boughs--yet not a
human creature to be seen--not another house even within half a mile.
The most materialistic mind could hardly but conclude that here was
something "not dreamed of in our philosophy." It seemed to me that the
only reasonable explanation was the entirely irrational one--that my
orchard was haunted: haunted by some beautiful young spirit, with some
sorrow of lost joy that would not let her sleep quietly in her grave.

And next day I had a curious confirmation of my theory. Once more I was
lying under my favorite apple-tree, half reading and half watching the
Sound, lulled into a dream by the whir of insects and the spices called
up from the earth by the hot sun. As I bent over the page, I suddenly
had the startling impression that someone was leaning over my shoulder
and reading with me, and that a girl's long hair was falling over me
down on to the page. The book was the Ronsard I had found in the little
bedroom. I turned, but again there was nothing there. Yet this time I
knew that I had not been dreaming, and I cried out:

"Poor child! tell me of your grief--that I may help your sorrowing heart
to rest."

But, of course, there was no answer; yet that night I dreamed a strange
dream. I thought I was in the orchard again in the afternoon and once
again heard the strange singing--but this time, as I looked up, the
singer was no longer invisible. Coming toward me was a young girl with
wonderful blue eyes filled with tears and gold hair that fell to her
waist. She wore a straight, white robe that might have been a shroud or
a bridal dress. She appeared not to see me, though she came directly to
the tree where I was sitting. And there she knelt and buried her face in
the grass and sobbed as if her heart would break. Her long hair fell
over her like a mantle, and in my dream I stroked it pityingly and
murmured words of comfort for a sorrow I did not understand.... Then I
woke suddenly as one does from dreams. The moon was shining brightly
into the room. Rising from my bed, I looked out into the orchard. It was
almost as bright as day. I could plainly see the tree of which I had
been dreaming, and then a fantastic notion possessed me. Slipping on my
clothes, I went out into one of the old barns and found a spade. Then I
went to the tree where I had seen the girl weeping in my dream and dug
down at its foot.

I had dug little more than a foot when my spade struck upon some hard
substance, and in a few more moments I had uncovered and exhumed a small
box, which, on examination, proved to be one of those pretty
old-fashioned Chippendale work-boxes used by our grandmothers to keep
their thimbles and needles in, their reels of cotton and skeins of silk.
After smoothing down the little grave in which I had found it, I carried
the box into the house, and under the lamplight examined its contents.

Then at once I understood why that sad young spirit went to and fro the
orchard singing those little French songs--for the treasure-trove I had
found under the apple-tree, the buried treasure of an unquiet, suffering
soul, proved to be a number of love-letters written mostly in French in
a very picturesque hand--letters, too, written but some five or six
years before. Perhaps I should not have read them--yet I read them with
such reverence for the beautiful, impassioned love that animated them,
and literally made them "smell sweet and blossom in the dust," that I
felt I had the sanction of the dead to make myself the confidant of
their story. Among the letters were little songs, two of which I had
heard the strange young voice singing in the orchard, and, of course,
there were many withered flowers and such like remembrances of bygone
rapture.

Not that night could I make out all the story, though it was not
difficult to define its essential tragedy, and later on a gossip in the
neighborhood and a headstone in the churchyard told me the rest. The
unquiet young soul that had sung so wistfully to and fro the orchard was
my landlord's daughter. She was the only child of her parents, a
beautiful, willful girl, exotically unlike those from whom she was
sprung and among whom she lived with a disdainful air of exile. She was,
as a child, a little creature of fairy fancies, and as she grew up it
was plain to her father and mother that she had come from another world
than theirs. To them she seemed like a child in an old fairy-tale
strangely found on his hearth by some shepherd as he returns from the
fields at evening--a little fairy girl swaddled in fine linen, and
dowered with a mysterious bag of gold.

Soon she developed delicate spiritual needs to which her simple parents
were strangers. From long truancies in the woods she would come home
laden with mysterious flowers, and soon she came to ask for books and
pictures and music, of which the poor souls that had given her birth had
never heard. Finally she had her way, and went to study at a certain
fashionable college; and there the brief romance of her life began.
There she met a romantic young Frenchman who had read Ronsard to her and
written her those picturesque letters I had found in the old mahogany
work-box. And after a while the young Frenchman had gone back to France,
and the letters had ceased. Month by month went by, and at length one
day, as she sat wistful at the window, looking out at the foolish sunlit
road, a message came. He was dead. That headstone in the village
churchyard tells the rest. She was very young to die--scarcely nineteen
years; and the dead who have died young, with all their hopes and dreams
still like unfolded buds within their hearts, do not rest so quietly in
the grave as those who have gone through the long day from morning until
evening and are only too glad to sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day I took the little box to a quiet corner of the orchard, and
made a little pyre of fragrant boughs--for so I interpreted the wish of
that young, unquiet spirit--and the beautiful words are now safe, taken
up again into the aerial spaces from which they came.

But since then the birds sing no more little French songs in my old
orchard.



The Bowmen

BY ARTHUR MACHEN

     From _The Bowmen_, by Arthur Machen. Published in England by
     Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd., and in America by
     G.P. Putnam's Sons. By permission of the publishers and Arthur
     Machen.


It was during the Retreat of the Eighty Thousand, and the authority of
the Censorship is sufficient excuse for not being more explicit. But it
was on the most awful day of that awful time, on the day when ruin and
disaster came so near that their shadow fell over London far away; and,
without any certain news, the hearts of men failed within them and grew
faint; as if the agony of the army in the battlefield had entered into
their souls.


On this dreadful day, then, when three hundred thousand men in arms with
all their artillery swelled like a flood against the little English
company, there was one point above all other points in our battle line
that was for a time in awful danger, not merely of defeat, but of utter
annihilation. With the permission of the Censorship and of the military
expert, this corner may, perhaps, be described as a salient, and if this
angle were crushed and broken, then the English force as a whole would
be shattered, the Allied left would be turned, and Sedan would
inevitably follow.

All the morning the German guns had thundered and shrieked against this
corner, and against the thousand or so of men who held it. The men joked
at the shells, and found funny names for them, and had bets about them,
and greeted them with scraps of music-hall songs. But the shells came on
and burst, and tore good Englishmen limb from limb, and tore brother
from brother, and as the heat of the day increased so did the fury of
that terrific cannonade. There was no help, it seemed. The English
artillery was good, but there was not nearly enough of it; it was being
steadily battered into scrap iron.

There comes a moment in a storm at sea when people say to one another,
"It is at its worst; it can blow no harder," and then there is a blast
ten times more fierce than any before it. So it was in these British
trenches.

There were no stouter hearts in the whole world than the hearts of these
men; but even they were appalled as this seven-times-heated hell of the
German cannonade fell upon them and overwhelmed them and destroyed them.
And at this very moment they saw from their trenches that a tremendous
host was moving against their lines. Five hundred of the thousand
remained, and as far as they could see the German infantry was pressing
on against them, column upon column, a gray world of men, ten thousand
of them, as it appeared afterwards.

There was no hope at all. They shook hands, some of them. One man
improvised a new version of the battle-song, "Good-by, good-by to
Tipperary," ending with "And we shan't get there." And they all went on
firing steadily. The officer pointed out that such an opportunity for
high-class fancy shooting might never occur again; the Tipperary
humorist asked, "What price Sidney Street?" And the few machine guns did
their best. But everybody knew it was of no use. The dead gray bodies
lay in companies and battalions, as others came on and on and on, and
they swarmed and stirred, and advanced from beyond and beyond.

"World without end. Amen," said one of the British soldiers with some
irrelevance as he took aim and fired. And then he remembered--he says he
cannot think why or wherefore--a queer vegetarian restaurant in London
where he had once or twice eaten eccentric dishes of cutlets made of
lentils and nuts that pretended to be steak. On all the plates in this
restaurant there was printed a figure of St. George in blue, with the
motto, "_Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius_"--"May St. George be a present
help to the English." This soldier happened to know Latin and other
useless things, and now, as he fired at his man in the gray advancing
mass--three hundred yards away--he uttered the pious vegetarian motto.
He went on firing to the end, and at last Bill on his right had to clout
him cheerfully over the head to make him stop, pointing out as he did so
that the King's ammunition cost money and was not lightly to be wasted
in drilling funny patterns into dead Germans.

For as the Latin scholar uttered his invocation he felt something
between a shudder and an electric shock pass through his body. The roar
of the battle died down in his ears to a gentle murmur; instead of it,
he says, he heard a great voice and a shout louder than a thunder-peal
crying, "Array, array, array!"

His heart grew hot as a burning coal, it grew cold as ice within him, as
it seemed to him that a tumult of voices answered to his summons. He
heard, or seemed to hear, thousands shouting: "St. George! St. George!"

"Ha! Messire, ha! sweet Saint, grant us good deliverance!"

"St. George for merry England!"

"Harow! Harow! Monseigneur St. George, succor us!"

"Ha! St. George! Ha! St. George! a long bow and a strong bow."

"Heaven's Knight, aid us!"

And as the soldier heard these voices he saw before him, beyond the
trench, a long line of shapes, with a shining about them. They were like
men who drew the bow, and with another shout, their cloud of arrows flew
singing and tingling through the air towards the German hosts.

The other men in the trench were firing all the while. They had no hope;
but they aimed just as if they had been shooting at Bisley.

Suddenly one of them lifted up his voice in the plainest English.

"Gawd help us!" he bellowed to the man next to him, "but we're blooming
marvels! Look at those gray ... gentlemen, look at them! D'ye see them?
They're not going down in dozens nor in 'undreds; it's thousands, it is.
Look! look! there's a regiment gone while I'm talking to ye."

"Shut it!" the other soldier bellowed, taking aim, "what are ye gassing
about?"

But he gulped with astonishment even as he spoke, for, indeed, the gray
men were falling by the thousands. The English could hear the guttural
scream of the German officers, the crackle of their revolvers as they
shot the reluctant; and still line after line crashed to the earth.

All the while the Latin-bred soldier heard the cry:

"Harow! Harow! Monseigneur, dear Saint, quick to our aid! St. George
help us!"

"High Chevalier, defend us!"

The singing arrows fled so swift and thick that they darkened the air,
the heathen horde melted from before them.

"More machine guns!" Bill yelled to Tom.

"Don't hear them," Tom yelled back.

"But, thank God, anyway; they've got it in the neck."

In fact, there were ten thousand dead German soldiers left before that
salient of the English army, and consequently there was no Sedan. In
Germany, a country ruled by scientific principles, the Great General
Staff decided that the contemptible English must have employed shells
containing an unknown gas of a poisonous nature, as no wounds were
discernible on the bodies of the dead German soldiers. But the man who
knew what nuts tasted like when they called themselves steak knew also
that St. George had brought his Agincourt Bowmen to help the English.



A Ghost

BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT

     Translated for this volume by M. Charles Sommer.


We were speaking of sequestration, alluding to a recent lawsuit. It was
at the close of a friendly evening in a very old mansion in the Rue de
Grenelle, and each of the guests had a story to tell, which he assured
us was true.

Then the old Marquis de la Tour-Samuel, eighty-two years of age, rose
and came forward to lean on the mantelpiece. He told the following story
in his slightly quavering voice.

"I, also, have witnessed a strange thing--so strange that it has been
the nightmare of my life. It happened fifty-six years ago, and yet there
is not a month when I do not see it again in my dreams. From that day I
have borne a mark, a stamp of fear,--do you understand?

"Yes, for ten minutes I was a prey to terror, in such a way that ever
since a constant dread has remained in my soul. Unexpected sounds chill
me to the heart; objects which I can ill distinguish in the evening
shadows make me long to flee. I am afraid at night.

"No! I would not have owned such a thing before reaching my present
age. But now I may tell everything. One may fear imaginary dangers at
eighty-two years old. But before actual danger I have never turned back,
_mesdames_.

"That affair so upset my mind, filled me with such a deep, mysterious
unrest that I never could tell it. I kept it in that inmost part, that
corner where we conceal our sad, our shameful secrets, all the
weaknesses of our life which cannot be confessed.

"I will tell you that strange happening just as it took place, with no
attempt to explain it. Unless I went mad for one short hour it must be
explainable, though. Yet I was not mad, and I will prove it to you.
Imagine what you will. Here are the simple facts:

"It was in 1827, in July. I was quartered with my regiment in Rouen.

"One day, as I was strolling on the quay, I came across a man I believed
I recognized, though I could not place him with certainty. I
instinctively went more slowly, ready to pause. The stranger saw my
impulse, looked at me, and fell into my arms.

"It was a friend of my younger days, of whom I had been very fond. He
seemed to have become half a century older in the five years since I had
seen him. His hair was white, and he stooped in his walk, as if he were
exhausted. He understood my amazement and told me the story of his life.

"A terrible event had broken him down. He had fallen madly in love with
a young girl and married her in a kind of dreamlike ecstasy. After a
year of unalloyed bliss and unexhausted passion, she had died suddenly
of heart disease, no doubt killed by love itself.

"He had left the country on the very day of her funeral, and had come to
live in his hotel at Rouen. He remained there, solitary and desperate,
grief slowly mining him, so wretched that he constantly thought of
suicide.

"'As I thus came across you again,' he said, 'I shall ask a great favor
of you. I want you to go to my château and get some papers I urgently
need. They are in the writing-desk of my room, of _our_ room. I cannot
send a servant or a lawyer, as the errand must be kept private. I want
absolute silence.

"'I shall give you the key of the room, which I locked carefully myself
before leaving, and the key to the writing-desk. I shall also give you a
note for the gardener, who will let you in.

"'Come to breakfast with me to-morrow, and we'll talk the matter over.'

"I promised to render him that slight service. It would mean but a
pleasant excursion for me, his home not being more than twenty-five
miles from Rouen. I could go there in an hour on horseback.

"At ten o'clock the next day I was with him. We breakfasted alone
together, yet he did not utter more than twenty words. He asked me to
excuse him. The thought that I was going to visit the room where his
happiness lay shattered, upset him, he said. Indeed, he seemed
perturbed, worried, as if some mysterious struggle were taking place in
his soul.

"At last he explained exactly what I was to do. It was very simple. I
was to take two packages of letters and some papers, locked in the first
drawer at the right of the desk of which I had the key. He added:

"'I need not ask you not to glance at them.'

"I was almost hurt by his words, and told him so, rather sharply. He
stammered:

"'Forgive me. I suffer so much!'

"And tears came to his eyes.

"I left about one o'clock to accomplish my errand.

"The day was radiant, and I rushed through the meadows, listening to the
song of the larks, and the rhythmical beat of my sword on my
riding-boots.

"Then I entered the forest, and I set my horse to walking. Branches of
the trees softly caressed my face, and now and then I would catch a leaf
between my teeth and bite it with avidity, full of the joy of life, such
as fills you without reason, with a tumultuous happiness almost
indefinable, a kind of magical strength.

"As I neared the house I took out the letter for the gardener, and noted
with surprise that it was sealed. I was so amazed and so annoyed that I
almost turned back without fulfilling my mission. Then I thought that I
should thus display over-sensitiveness and bad taste. My friend might
have sealed it unconsciously, worried as he was.

"The manor looked as though it had been deserted the last twenty years.
The gate, wide-open and rotten, held, one wondered how. Grass filled the
paths; you could not tell the flower-beds from the lawn.

"At the noise I made kicking a shutter, an old man came out from a
side-door and was apparently amazed to see me there. I dismounted from
my horse and gave him the letter. He read it once or twice, turned it
over, looked at me with suspicion, and asked:

"'Well, what do you want?'

"I answered sharply:

"'You must know it as you have read your master's orders. I want to get
in the house.'

"He appeared overwhelmed. He said:

"'So--you are going in--in his room?'

"I was getting impatient.

"'_Parbleu!_ Do you intend to question me, by chance?'

"He stammered:

"'No--monsieur--only--it has not been opened since--since the death. If
you will wait five minutes, I will go in to see whether----'

"I interrupted angrily:

"'See here, are you joking? You can't go in that room, as I have the
key!'

"He no longer knew what to say.

"'Then, monsieur, I will show you the way.'

"'Show me the stairs and leave me alone. I can find it without your
help.'

"'But--still--monsieur----'

"Then I lost my temper.

"'Now be quiet! Else you'll be sorry!'

"I roughly pushed him aside and went into the house.

"I first went through the kitchen, then crossed two small rooms occupied
by the man and his wife. From there I stepped into a large hall. I went
up the stairs, and I recognized the door my friend had described to me.

"I opened it with ease and went in.

"The room was so dark that at first I could not distinguish anything. I
paused, arrested by that moldy and stale odor peculiar to deserted and
condemned rooms, of dead rooms. Then gradually my eyes grew accustomed
to the gloom, and I saw rather clearly a great room in disorder, a bed
without sheets having still its mattresses and pillows, one of which
bore the deep print of an elbow or a head, as if someone had just been
resting on it.

"The chairs seemed all in confusion. I noticed that a door, probably
that of a closet, had remained ajar.

"I first went to the window and opened it to get some light, but the
hinges of the outside shutters were so rusted that I could not loosen
them.

"I even tried to break them with my sword, but did not succeed. As those
fruitless attempts irritated me, and as my eyes were by now adjusted to
the dim light, I gave up hope of getting more light and went toward the
writing-desk.

"I sat down in an arm-chair, folded back the top, and opened the drawer.
It was full to the edge. I needed but three packages, which I knew how
to distinguish, and I started looking for them.

"I was straining my eyes to decipher the inscriptions, when I thought I
heard, or rather felt a rustle behind me. I took no notice, thinking a
draft had lifted some curtain. But a minute later, another movement,
almost indistinct, sent a disagreeable little shiver over my skin. It
was so ridiculous to be moved thus even so slightly, that I would not
turn round, being ashamed. I had just discovered the second package I
needed, and was on the point of reaching for the third, when a great and
sorrowful sigh, close to my shoulder, made me give a mad leap two yards
away. In my spring I had turned round, my hand on the hilt of my sword,
and surely had I not felt that, I should have fled like a coward.

"A tall woman, dressed in white, was facing me, standing behind the
chair in which I had sat a second before.

"Such a shudder ran through me that I almost fell back! Oh, no one who
has not felt them can understand those gruesome and ridiculous terrors!
The soul melts; your heart seems to stop; your whole body becomes limp
as a sponge, and your innermost parts seem collapsing.

"I do not believe in ghosts; and yet I broke down before the hideous
fear of the dead; and I suffered, oh, I suffered more in a few minutes,
in the irresistible anguish of supernatural dread, than I have suffered
in all the rest of my life!

"If she had not spoken, I might have died. But she did speak; she spoke
in a soft and plaintive voice which set my nerves vibrating. I could not
say that I regained my self-control. No, I was past knowing what I did;
but the kind of pride I have in me, as well as a military pride, helped
me to maintain, almost in spite of myself, an honorable countenance. I
was making a pose, a pose for myself, and for her, for her, whatever she
was, woman, or phantom. I realized this later, for at the time of the
apparition, I could think of nothing. I was afraid.

"She said:

"'Oh, you can be of great help to me, monsieur!'

"I tried to answer, but I was unable to utter one word. A vague sound
came from my throat.

"She continued:

"'Will you? You can save me, cure me. I suffer terribly. I always
suffer. I suffer, oh, I suffer!'

"And she sat down gently in my chair. She looked at me.

"'Will you?'

"I nodded my head, being still paralyzed.

"Then she handed me a woman's comb of tortoise-shell, and murmured:

"'Comb my hair! Oh, comb my hair! That will cure me. Look at my
head--how I suffer! And my hair--how it hurts!'

"Her loose hair, very long, very black, it seemed to me, hung over the
back of the chair, touching the floor.

"Why did I do it? Why did I, shivering, accept that comb, and why did I
take between my hands her long hair, which left on my skin a ghastly
impression of cold, as if I had handled serpents? I do not know.

"That feeling still clings about my fingers, and I shiver when I recall
it.

"I combed her, I handled, I know not how, that hair of ice. I bound and
unbound it; I plaited it as one plaits a horse's mane. She sighed, bent
her head, seemed happy.

"Suddenly she said, 'Thank you!' tore the comb from my hands, and fled
through the door which I had noticed was half opened.

"Left alone, I had for a few seconds the hazy feeling one feels in
waking up from a nightmare. Then I recovered myself. I ran to the window
and broke the shutters by my furious assault.

"A stream of light poured in. I rushed to the door through which that
being had gone. I found it locked and immovable.

"Then a fever of flight seized on me, a panic, the true panic of battle.
I quickly grasped the three packages of letters from the open desk; I
crossed the room running, I took the steps of the stairway four at a
time. I found myself outside, I don't know how, and seeing my horse
close by, I mounted in one leap and left at a full gallop.

"I didn't stop till I reached Rouen and drew up in front of my house.
Having thrown the reins to my orderly, I flew to my room and locked
myself in to think.

"Then for an hour I asked myself whether I had not been the victim of an
hallucination. Certainly I must have had one of those nervous shocks,
one of those brain disorders such as give rise to miracles, to which the
supernatural owes its strength.

"And I had almost concluded that it was a vision, an illusion of my
senses, when I came near to the window. My eyes by chance looked down.
My tunic was covered with hairs, long woman's hairs which had entangled
themselves around the buttons!

"I took them off one by one and threw them out of the window with
trembling fingers.

"I then called my orderly. I felt too perturbed, too moved, to go and
see my friend on that day. Besides, I needed to think over what I should
tell him.

"I had his letters delivered to him. He gave a receipt to the soldier.
He inquired after me and was told that I was not well. I had had a
sunstroke, or something. He seemed distressed.

"I went to see him the next day, early in the morning, bent on telling
him the truth. He had gone out the evening before and had not come
back.

"I returned the same day, but he had not been seen. I waited a week. He
did not come back. I notified the police. They searched for him
everywhere, but no one could find any trace of his passing or of his
retreat.

"A careful search was made in the deserted manor. No suspicious clue was
discovered.

"There was no sign that a woman had been concealed there.

"The inquest gave no result, and so the search went no further.

"And in fifty-six years I have learned nothing more. I never found out
the truth."





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