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Title: Stories of Mystery
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories of Mystery" ***

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18)***


      file which includes the original artistic decorations
      and two phrases in Greek.
      +-------------------------------------------------+
      |              Little Classics.                   |
      |                                                 |
      | Edited by ROSSITER JOHNSON. Each in one volume, |
      |  16mo, $1.00. The set, in box, $18.00.          |
      |                                                 |
      |  1. EXILE.              10. CHILDHOOD.          |
      |  2. INTELLECT.          11. HEROISM.            |
      |  3. TRAGEDY.            12. FORTUNE.            |
      |  4. LIFE.               13. NARRATIVE POEMS.    |
      |  5. LAUGHTER.           14. LYRICAL POEMS.      |
      |  6. LOVE.               15. MINOR POEMS.        |
      |  7. ROMANCE.            16. NATURE.             |
      |  8. MYSTERY.            17. HUMANITY.           |
      |  9. COMEDY.             18. AUTHORS.            |
      |                                                 |
      |             HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO.                |
      |             BOSTON AND NEW YORK.                |
      +-------------------------------------------------+



Eighth Volume

LITTLE CLASSICS

Edited by

ROSSITER JOHNSON

Mystery



Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge
1914

Copyright, 1875, by James R. Osgood & Co.
All Rights Reserved



CONTENTS.

   THE GHOST.                    _William D. O'Connor_

   THE FOUR-FIFTEEN EXPRESS      _Amelia B. Edwards_

   THE SIGNAL-MAN                _Charles Dickens_

   THE HAUNTED SHIPS             _Allan Cunningham_

   A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE       _Robert T. S. Lowell_

   THE INVISIBLE PRINCESS        _Francis O' Connor_

   THE ADVOCATE'S WEDDING-DAY    _Catherine Crowe_

   THE BIRTHMARK                 _Nathaniel Hawthorne_



THE GHOST.

BY WILLIAM D. O'CONNOR.


At the West End of Boston is a quarter of some fifty streets, more
or less, commonly known as Beacon Hill.

It is a rich and respectable quarter, sacred to the abodes of Our
First Citizens. The very houses have become sentient of its prevailing
character of riches and respectability; and, when the twilight
deepens on the place, or at high noon, if your vision is gifted, you
may see them as long rows of Our First Giants, with very corpulent
or very broad fronts, with solid-set feet of sidewalk ending in
square-toed curbstone, with an air about them as if they had thrust
their hard hands into their wealthy pockets forever, with a character
of arctic reserve, and portly dignity, and a well-dressed, full-fed,
self-satisfied, opulent, stony, repellent aspect to each, which
says plainly, "I belong to a rich family, of the very highest
respectability."

History, having much to say of Beacon Hill generally, has, on the
present occasion, something to say particularly of a certain street
which bends over the eminence, sloping steeply down to its base.
It is an old street,--quaint, quiet, and somewhat picturesque. It
was young once, though,--having been born before the Revolution,
and was then given to the city by its father, Mr. Middlecott, who
died without heirs, and did this much for posterity. Posterity
has not been grateful to Mr. Middlecott. The street bore his name
till he was dust, and then got the more aristocratic epithet of
Bowdoin. Posterity has paid him by effacing what would have been
his noblest epitaph. We may expect, after this, to see Faneuil
Hall robbed of its name, and called Smith Hall! Republics are
proverbially ungrateful. What safer claim to public remembrance
has the old Huguenot, Peter Faneuil, than the old Englishman, Mr.
Middlecott? Ghosts, it is said, have risen from the grave to reveal
wrongs done them by the living; but it needs no ghost from the
grave to prove the proverb about republics.

Bowdoin Street only differs from its kindred, in a certain shady, grave,
old-fogy, fossil aspect, just touched with a pensive solemnity, as if
it thought to itself, "I'm getting old, but I'm highly respectable;
that's a comfort." It has, moreover, a dejected, injured air, as
if it brooded solemnly on the wrong done to it by taking away its
original name and calling it Bowdoin; but as if, being a very
conservative street, it was resolved to keep a cautious silence on
the subject, lest the Union should go to pieces. Sometimes it wears
a profound and mysterious look, as if it could tell something if it
had a mind to, but thought it best not. Something of the ghost of
its father--it was the only child he ever had!--walking there all
the night, pausing at the corners to look up at the signs, which
bear a strange name, and wringing his ghostly hands in lamentation
at the wrong done his memory! Rumor told it in a whisper, many years
ago. Perhaps it was believed by a few of the oldest inhabitants
of the city; but the highly respectable quarter never heard of
it, and, if it had, would not have been bribed to believe it, by
any sum. Some one had said that some very old person had seen a
phantom there. Nobody knew who some one was. Nobody knew who the
very old person was. Nobody knew who had seen it, nor when, nor
how. The very rumor was spectral.

All this was many years ago. Since then it has been reported that
a ghost was seen there one bitter Christmas eve, two or three years
back. The twilight was already in the street; but the evening lamps
were not yet lighted in the windows, and the roofs and chimney-tops
were still distinct in the last clear light of the dropping day.
It was light enough, however, for one to read easily, from the
opposite sidewalk, "Dr. C. Renton," in black letters, on the silver
plate of a door, not far from the Gothic portal of the Swedenborgian
church. Near this door stood a misty figure, whose sad, spectral
eyes floated on vacancy, and whose long, shadowy white hair lifted
like an airy weft in the streaming wind. That was the ghost! It
stood near the door a long time, without any other than a shuddering
motion, as though it felt the searching blast, which swept furiously
from the north up the declivity of the street, rattling the shutters
in its headlong passage. Once or twice, when a passer-by, muffled
warmly from the bitter air, hurried past, the phantom shrank closer
to the wall, till he was gone. Its vague, mournful face seemed
to watch for some one. The twilight darkened gradually, but it
did not flit away. Patiently it kept its piteous look fixed in
one direction,--watching,--watching; and, while the howling wind
swept frantically through the chill air, it still seemed to shudder
in the piercing cold.

A light suddenly kindled in an opposite window. As if touched by a
gleam from the lamp, or as if by some subtle interior illumination,
the spectre became faintly luminous, and a thin smile seemed to
quiver over its features. At the same moment, a strong, energetic
figure--Dr. Renton himself--came in sight, striding down the slope
of the pavement to his own door, his overcoat thrown back, as if
the icy air were a tropical warmth to him, his hat set on the back
of his head, and the loose ends of a 'kerchief about his throat,
streaming in the nor'wester. The wind set up a howl the moment he
came in sight, and swept upon him; and a curious agitation began
on the part of the phantom. It glided rapidly to and fro, and moved
in circles, and then, with the same swift, silent motion, sailed
toward him, as if blown thither by the gale. Its long, thin arms,
with something like a pale flame spiring from the tips of the slender
fingers, were stretched out, as in greeting, while the wan smile
played over its face; and when he rushed by, unheedingly, it made
a futile effort to grasp the swinging arms with which he appeared
to buffet back the buffeting gale. Then it glided on by his side,
looking earnestly into his countenance, and moving its pallid lips
with agonized rapidity, as if it said, "Look at me--speak to me--speak
to me--see me!" But he kept his course with unconscious eyes, and
a vexed frown on his forehead betokening an irritated mind. The
light that had shone in the figure of the phantom darkened slowly,
till the form was only a pale shadow. The wind had suddenly lulled,
and no longer lifted its white hair. It still glided on with him,
its head drooping on its breast, and its long arms hanging by its
side; but when he reached the door, it suddenly sprang before him,
gazing fixedly into his eyes, while a convulsive motion flashed
over its grief-worn features, as if it had shrieked out a word.
He had his foot on the step at the moment. With a start, he put
his gloved hand to his forehead, while the vexed look went out
quickly on his face. The ghost watched him breathlessly. But the
irritated expression came back to his countenance more resolutely
than before, and he began to fumble in his pocket for a latch-key,
muttering petulantly, "What the devil is the matter with me now?"
It seemed to him that a voice had cried clearly, yet as from afar,
"Charles Renton!"--his own name. He had heard it in his startled
mind; but then, he knew he was in a highly wrought state of nervous
excitement, and his medical science, with that knowledge for a basis,
could have reared a formidable fortress of explanation against any
phenomenon, were it even more wonderful than this.

He entered the house; kicked the door to; pulled off his overcoat;
wrenched off his outer 'kerchief; slammed them on a branch of the
clothes-tree; banged his hat on top of them; wheeled about; pushed
in the door of his library; strode in, and, leaving the door ajar,
threw himself into an easy-chair, and sat there in the fire-reddened
dusk, with his white brows knit, and his arms tightly locked on his
breast. The ghost had followed him, sadly, and now stood motionless
in a corner of the room, its spectral hands crossed on its bosom,
and its white locks drooping down!

It was evident Dr. Renton was in a bad humor. The very library caught
contagion from him, and became grouty and sombre. The furniture
was grim and sullen and sulky; it made ugly shadows on the carpet
and on the wall, in allopathic quantity; it took the red gleams
from the fire on its polished surfaces in homoeopathic globules,
and got no good from them. The fire itself peered out sulkily from
the black bars of the grate, and seemed resolved not to burn the
fresh deposit of black coals at the top, but to take this as a good
time to remember that those coals had been bought in the summer at
five dollars a ton,--under price, mind you,--when poor people, who
cannot buy at advantage, but must get their firing in the winter,
would then have given nine or ten dollars for them. And so (glowered
the fire), I am determined to think of that outrage, and not to
light them, but to go out myself, directly! And the fire got into
such a spasm of glowing indignation over the injury, that it lit
a whole tier of black coals with a series of little explosions,
before it could cool down, and sent a crimson gleam over the moody
figure of its owner in the easy-chair, and over the solemn furniture,
and into the shadowy corner filled by the ghost.

The spectre did not move when Dr. Renton arose and lit the chandelier.
It stood there, still and gray, in the flood of mellow light. The
curtains were drawn, and the twilight without had deepened into
darkness. The fire was now burning in despite of itself, fanned
by the wintry gusts, which found their way down the chimney. Dr.
Renton stood with his back to it, his hands behind him, his bold
white forehead shaded by a careless lock of black hair, and knit
sternly; and the same frown in his handsome, open, searching dark
eyes. Tall and strong, with an erect port, and broad, firm shoulders,
high, resolute features, a commanding figure garbed in aristocratic
black, and not yet verging into the proportions of obesity,--take
him for all in all, a very fine and favorable specimen of the solid
men of Boston. And seen in contrast (oh! could he but have known
it!) with the attenuated figure of the poor, dim ghost!

Hark! a very light foot on the stairs,--a rich rustle of silks.
Everything still again,--Dr. Renton looking fixedly, with great
sternness, at the half-open door, whence a faint, delicious perfume
floats into the library. Somebody there, for certain. Somebody
peeping in with very bright, arch eyes. Dr. Renton knew it, and
prepared to maintain his ill-humor against the invader. His face
became triply armed with severity for the encounter. That's Netty,
I know, he thought. His daughter. So it was. In she bounded. Bright
little Netty! Gay little Netty! A dear and sweet little creature,
to be sure, with a delicate and pleasant beauty of face and figure,
it needed no costly silks to grace or heighten. There she stood.
Not a word from her merry lips, but a smile which stole over all
the solitary grimness of the library, and made everything better,
and brighter, and fairer, in a minute. It floated down into the
cavernous humor of Dr. Renton, and the gloom began to lighten
directly,--though he would not own it, nor relax a single feature.
But the wan ghost in the corner lifted its head to look at her,
and slowly brightened as to something worthy a spirit's love, and
a dim phantom's smiles. Now then, Dr. Renton! the lines are drawn,
and the foe is coming. Be martial, sir, as when you stand in the
ranks of the Cadets on training-days! Steady, and stand the charge!
So he did. He kept an inflexible front as she glided toward him,
softly, slowly, with her bright eyes smiling into his, and doing
dreadful execution. Then she put her white arms around his neck,
laid her dear, fair head on his breast, and peered up archly into
his stern visage. Spite of himself, he could not keep the fixed
lines on his face from breaking confusedly into a faint smile.
Somehow or other, his hands came from behind him, and rested on
her head. There! That's all. Dr. Renton surrendered at discretion!
One of the solid men of Boston was taken after a desperate
struggle,--internal, of course,--for he kissed her, and said, "Dear
little Netty!" and so she was.

The phantom watched her with a smile, and wavered and brightened
as if about to glide to her; but it grew still, and remained.

"Pa in the sulks to-night?" she asked, in the most winning, playful,
silvery voice.

"Pa's a fool," he answered in his deep chest-tones, with a vexed
good-humor; "and you know it."

"What's the matter with pa? What makes him be a great bear? Papa-sy,
dear," she continued, stroking his face with her little hands,
and patting him, very much as Beauty might have patted the Beast
after she fell in love with him; or as if he were a great baby.
In fact, he began to look then as if he were.

"Matter? Oh! everything's the matter, little Netty. The world goes
round too fast. My boots pinch. Somebody stole my umbrella last
year. And I've got a headache." He concluded this fanciful abstract
of his grievances by putting his arms around her, and kissing her
again. Then he sat down in the easy-chair, and took her fondly
on his knee.

"Pa's got a headache! It is t-o-o bad, so it is," she continued
in the same soothing, winning way, caressing his brow with her
tiny hands. "It's a horrid shame, so it is! P-o-o-r pa. Where does
it ache, papa-sy, dear? In the forehead? Cerebrum or cerebellum,
papa-sy? Occiput or sinciput, deary?"

"Bah! you little quiz," he replied, laughing and pinching her cheek,
"none of your nonsense! And what are you dressed up in this way
for, to-night? Silks, and laces, and essences, and what not! Where
are you going, fairy?"

"Going out with mother for the evening, Dr. Renton," she replied
briskly; "Mrs. Larrabee's party, papa-sy. Christmas eve, you know.
And what are you going to give me for a present, to-morrow, pa-sy?"

"To-morrow will tell, little Netty."

"Good! And what are you going to give me, so that I can make _my_
presents, Beary?"

"Ugh!" But he growled it in fun, and had a pocket-book out from his
breast-pocket directly after. Fives--tens--twenties--fifties--all
crisp, and nice, and new bank-notes.

"Will that be enough, Netty?" He held up a twenty. The smiling face
nodded assent, and the bright eyes twinkled.

"No, it won't. But _that_ will," he continued, giving her a fifty.

"Fifty dollars, Globe Bank, Boston!" exclaimed Netty, making great
eyes at him. "But we must take all we can get, pa-sy; mustn't we?
It's too much, though. Thank you all the same, pa-sy, nevertheless."
And she kissed him, and put the bill in a little bit of a portemonnaie
with a gay laugh.

"Well done, I declare!" he said, smilingly. "But you're going to
the party?"

"Pretty soon, pa."

He made no answer; but sat smiling at her. The phantom watched them,
silently.

"What made pa so cross and grim, to-night? Tell Netty--do," she
pleaded.

"Oh! because;--everything went wrong with me, to-day. There." And
he looked as sulky, at that moment, as he ever did in his life.

"No, no, pa-sy; that won't do. I want the particulars," continued
Netty, shaking her head, smilingly.

"Particulars! Well, then, Miss Nathalie Renton," he began, with
mock gravity, "your professional father is losing some of his oldest
patients. Everybody is in ruinous good health; and the grass is
growing in the graveyards."

"In the winter time, papa?--smart grass!"

"Not that I want practice," he went on, getting into soliloquy;
"or patients, either. A rich man who took to the profession simply
for the love of it, can't complain on that score. But to have an
interloping she-doctor take a family I've attended ten years, out
of my hands, and to hear the hodge-podge gabble about physiological
laws, and woman's rights, and no taxation without representation,
they learn from her,--well, it's too bad!"

"Is that all, pa-sy? Seems to me _I_'d like to vote, too," was Netty's
piquant rejoinder.

"Hoh! I'll warrant," growled her father. "Hope you'll vote the Whig
ticket, Netty, when you get your rights."

"Will the Union be dissolved, then, pa-sy,--when the Whigs are beaten?"

"Bah! you little plague," he growled, with a laugh. "But, then,
you women don't know anything about politics. So, there. As I was
saying, everything went wrong with me to-day. I've been speculating
in railroad stock, and singed my fingers. Then, old Tom Hollis
outbid me to-day, at Leonard's, on a rare medical work I had set
my eyes upon having. Confound him! Then, again, two of my houses
are tenantless, and there are folks in two others that won't pay
their rent, and I can't get them out. Out they'll go, though, or
I'll know why. And, to crown all--um-m. And I wish the Devil had
him! as he will."

"Had who, Beary-papa?"

"Him. I'll tell you. The street-floor of one of my houses in Hanover
Street lets for an oyster-room. They keep a bar there, and sell
liquor. Last night they had a grand row,--a drunken fight, and
one man was stabbed, it's thought fatally."

"O father!" Netty's bright eyes dilated with horror.

"Yes. I hope he won't die. At any rate, there's likely to be a
stir about the matter, and my name will be called into question,
then, as I'm the landlord. And folks will make a handle of it,
and there'll be the deuce to pay, generally."

He got back the stern, vexed frown, to his face, with the anticipation,
and beat the carpet with his foot. The ghost still watched from
the angle of the room, and seemed to darken, while its features
looked troubled.

"But, father," said Netty, a little tremulously, "I wouldn't let
my houses to such people. It's not right; is it? Why, it's horrid
to think of men getting drunk, and killing each other!"

Dr. Renton rubbed his hair into disorder, with vexation, and then
subsided into solemnity.

"I know it's not exactly right, Netty; but I can't help it. As I
said before, I wish the Devil had that barkeeper. I ought to have
ordered him out long ago, and then this wouldn't have happened.
I've increased his rent twice, hoping to get rid of him so; but
he pays without a murmur; and what am I to do? You see, he was
an occupant when the building came into my hands, and I let him
stay. He pays me a good, round rent; and, apart from his cursed
traffic, he's a good tenant. What can I do? It's a good thing for
him, and it's a good thing for me, pecuniarily. Confound him! Here's
a nice rumpus brewing!"

"Dear pa, I'm afraid it's not a good thing for you," said Netty,
caressing him and smoothing his tumbled hair. "Nor for him either.
I wouldn't mind the rent he pays you. I'd order him out. It's
bad money. There's blood on it."

She had grown pale, and her voice quivered. The phantom glided
over to them, and laid its spectral hand upon her forehead. The
shadowy eyes looked from under the misty hair into the doctor's
face, and the pale lips moved as if speaking the words heard only
in the silence of his heart,--"Hear her, hear her!"

"I must think of it," resumed Dr. Renton, coldly. "I'm resolved,
at all events, to warn him that if anything of this kind occurs
again, he must quit at once. I dislike to lose a profitable tenant;
for no other business would bring me the sum his does. Hang it,
everybody does the best he can with his property,--why shouldn't
I?"

The ghost, standing near them, drooped its head again on its breast,
and crossed its arms. Netty was silent. Dr. Renton continued,
petulantly,--

"A precious set of people I manage to get into my premises. There's
a woman hires a couple of rooms for a dwelling, overhead, in that
same building, and for three months I haven't got a cent from her.
I know these people's tricks. Her month's notice expires to-morrow,
and out she goes."

"Poor creature!" sighed Netty.

He knit his brow, and beat the carpet with his foot, in vexation.

"Perhaps she can't pay you, pa," trembled the sweet, silvery voice.
"You wouldn't turn her out in this cold winter, when she can't
pay you,--would you, pa?"

"Why don't she get another house, and swindle some one else?" he
replied, testily; "there's plenty of rooms to let."

"Perhaps she can't find one, pa," answered Netty.

"Humbug!" retorted her father; "I know better."

"Pa, dear, if I were you, I'd turn out that rumseller, and let the
poor woman stay a little longer; just a little, pa."

"Sha'n't do it. Hah! that would be scattering money out of both
pockets. Sha'n't do it. Out she shall go; and as for him,--well,
he'd better turn over a new leaf. There, let us leave the subject,
darling. It vexes me. How did we contrive to get into this train?
Bah!"

He drew her closer to him, and kissed her forehead. She sat quietly,
with her head on his shoulder, thinking very gravely.

"I feel queerly to-day, little Netty," he began, after a short
pause. "My nerves are all high-strung with the turn matters have
taken."

"How is it, papa? The headache?" she answered.

"Y-e-s--n-o--not exactly; I don't know," he said dubiously; then,
in an absent way, "it was that letter set me to think of him all
day, I suppose."

"Why, pa, I declare," cried Netty, starting up, "if I didn't forget
all about it, and I came down expressly to give it to you! Where
is it? Oh! here it is."

She drew from her pocket an old letter, faded to a pale yellow,
and gave it to him. The ghost started suddenly.

"Why, bless my soul! it's the very letter! Where did you get that,
Nathalie?" asked Dr. Renton.

"I found it on the stairs after dinner, pa."

"Yes, I do remember taking it up with me; I must have dropped it,"
he answered, musingly, gazing at the superscription. The ghost
was gazing at it, too, with startled interest.

"What beautiful writing it is, pa," murmured the young girl. "Who
wrote it to you? It looks yellow enough to have been written a
long time since."

"Fifteen years ago, Netty. When you were a baby. And the hand that
wrote it has been cold for all that time."

He spoke with a solemn sadness, as if memory lingered with the
heart of fifteen years ago, on an old grave. The dim figure by his
side had bowed its head, and all was still.

"It is strange," he resumed, speaking vacantly and slowly, "I have
not thought of him for so long a time, and to-day--especially this
evening--I have felt as if he were constantly near me. It is a
singular feeling."

He put his left hand to his forehead, and mused,--his right clasped
his daughter's shoulder. The phantom slowly raised its head, and
gazed at him with a look of unutterable tenderness.

"Who was he, father?" she asked with a hushed voice.

"A young man, an author, a poet. He had been my dearest friend,
when we were boys; and, though I lost sight of him for years,--he
led an erratic life,--we were friends when he died. Poor, poor
fellow! Well, he is at peace."

The stern voice had saddened, and was almost tremulous. The spectral
form was still.

"How did he die, father?"

"A long story, darling," he replied, gravely, "and a sad one. He
was very poor and proud. He was a genius,--that is, a person without
an atom of practical talent. His parents died, the last, his mother,
when he was near manhood. I was in college then. Thrown upon the
world, he picked up a scanty subsistence with his pen, for a time.
I could have got him a place in the counting-house, but he would
not take it; in fact, he wasn't fit for it. You can't harness
Pegasus to the cart, you know. Besides, he despised mercantile
life, without reason, of course; but he was always notional. His
love of literature was one of the rocks he foundered on. He was
n't successful; his best compositions were too delicate, fanciful,
to please the popular taste; and then he was full of the radical
and fanatical notions which infected so many people at that time
in New England, and infect them now, for that matter; and his
sublimated, impracticable ideas and principles, which he kept till
his dying day, and which, I confess, alienated me from him, always
staved off his chances of success. Consequently, he never rose
above the drudgery of some employment on newspapers. Then he was
terribly passionate, not without cause, I allow; but it wasn't
wise. What I mean is this: if he saw, or if he fancied he saw,
any wrong or injury done to any one, it was enough to throw him
into a frenzy; he would get black in the face and absolutely shriek
out his denunciations of the wrong-doer. I do believe he would
have visited his own brother with the most unsparing invective,
if that brother had laid a harming finger on a street-beggar, or
a colored man, or a poor person of any kind. I don't blame the
feeling; though with a man like him it was very apt to be a false
or mistaken one; but, at any rate, its exhibition wasn't sensible.
Well, as I was saying, he buffeted about in this world a long time,
poorly paid, fed, and clad; taking more care of other people than
he did of himself. Then mental suffering, physical exposure, and
want killed him."

The stern voice had grown softer than a child's. The same look of
unutterable tenderness brooded on the mournful face of the phantom
by his side; but its thin, shining hand was laid upon his head,
and its countenance had undergone a change. The form was still
undefined; but the features had become distinct. They were those
of a young man, beautiful and wan, and marked with great suffering.

A pause had fallen on the conversation, in which the father and
daughter heard the solemn sighing of the wintry wind around the
dwelling. The silence seemed scarcely broken by the voice of the
young girl.

"Dear father, this was very sad. Did you say he died of want?"

"Of want, my child, of hunger and cold. I don't doubt it. He had
wandered about, as I gather, houseless for a couple of days and
nights. It was in December, too. Some one found him, on a rainy
night, lying in the street, drenched and burning with fever, and had
him taken to the hospital. It appears that he had always cherished
a strange affection for me, though I had grown away from him; and
in his wild ravings he constantly mentioned my name, and they sent
for me. That was our first meeting after two years. I found him
in the hospital--dying. Heaven can witness that I felt all my old
love for him return then, but he was delirious, and never recognized
me. And, Nathalie, his hair,--it had been coal-black, and he wore
it very long,--he wouldn't let them cut it either; and as they
knew no skill could save him, they let him have his way,--his hair
was then as white as snow! God alone knows what that brain must
have suffered to blanch hair which had been as black as the wing
of a raven!"

He covered his eyes with his hand, and sat silently. The fingers
of the phantom still shone dimly on his head, and its white locks
drooped above him, like a weft of light.

"What was his name, father?" asked the pitying girl.

"George Feval. The very name sounds like fever. He died on Christmas
eve, fifteen years ago this night. It was on his death-bed, while
his mind was tossing on a sea of delirious fancies, that he wrote me
this long letter,--for to the last, I was uppermost in his thoughts.
It is a wild, incoherent thing, of course,--a strange mixture of
sense and madness. But I have kept it as a memorial of him. I have
not looked at it for years; but this morning I found it among my
papers, and somehow it has been in my mind all day."

He slowly unfolded the faded sheets, and sadly gazed at the writing.
His daughter had risen from her half-recumbent posture, and now
bent her graceful head over the leaves. The phantom covered its
face with its hands.

"What a beautiful manuscript it is, father!" she exclaimed. "The
writing is faultless."

"It is, indeed," he replied. "Would he had written his life as fairly!"

"Read it, father," said Nathalie.

"No, but I'll read you a detached passage here and there," he answered,
after a pause. "The rest you may read yourself some time, if you
wish. It is painful to me. Here's the beginning:--

"'_My Dear Charles Renton:--Adieu, and adieu. It is Christmas eve,
and I am going home. I am soon to exhale from my flesh, like the
spirit of a broken flower. Exultemus forever!_'

       *       *       *       *       *

"It is very wild. His mind was in a fever-craze. Here is a passage
that seems to refer to his own experience of life:--

"'_Your friendship was dear to me. I give you true love. Stocks
and returns. You are rich, but I did not wish to be your bounty's
pauper. Could I beg? I had my work to do for the world, but oh!
the world has no place for souls that can only love and suffer.
How many miles to Babylon? Threescore and ten. Not so far--not
near so far! Ask starvelings--they know._

       *       *       *       *       *

_I wanted to do the world good, and the world has killed me, Charles._'"

       *       *       *       *       *

"It frightens me," said Nathalie, as he paused.

"We will read no more," he replied sombrely. "It belongs to the
psychology of madness. To me, who knew him, there are gleams of
sense in it, and passages where the delirium of the language is
only a transparent veil on the meaning. All the remainder is devoted
to what he thought important advice to me. But it's all wild and
vague. Poor--poor George!"

The phantom still hid its face in its hands, as the doctor slowly
turned over the pages of the letter. Nathalie, bending over the
leaves, laid her finger on the last, and asked, "What are those
closing sentences, father? Read them."

"Oh! that is what he called his 'last counsel' to me. It's as wild
as the rest,--tinctured with the prevailing ideas of his career.
First he says, '_Farewell--farewell_'; then he bids me take his
'_counsel into memory on Christmas day_'; then after enumerating
all the wretched classes he can think of in the country, he says:
'_These are your sisters and your brothers,--love them all._' Here
he says, '_O friend, strong in wealth for so much good, take my
last counsel. In the name of the Saviour, I charge you be true
and tender to mankind._' He goes on to bid me '_live and labor
for the fallen, the neglected, the suffering, and the poor_'; and
finally ends by advising me to help upset any, or all, institutions,
laws, and so forth, that bear hardly on the fag-ends of society;
and tells me that what he calls 'a service to humanity' is worth
more to the doer than a service to anything else, or than anything
we can gain from the world. Ah, well! poor George."

"But isn't all that true, father?" said Netty; "it seems so."

"H'm," he murmured through his closed lips. Then, with a vague
smile, folding up the letter, meanwhile, he said, "Wild words,
Netty, wild words. I've no objection to charity, judiciously given;
but poor George's notions are not mine. Every man for himself, is a
good general rule. Every man for humanity, as George has it, and in
his acceptation of the principle, would send us all to the almshouse
pretty soon. The greatest good of the greatest number,--that's my
rule of action. There are plenty of good institutions for the
distressed, and I'm willing to help support 'em, and do. But as for
making a martyr of one's self, or tilting against the necessary evils
of society, or turning philanthropist at large, or any quixotism of
that sort, I don't believe in it. We didn't make the world, and
we can't mend it. Poor George. Well--he's at rest. The world was
n't the place for him."

They grew silent. The spectre glided slowly to the wall, and stood
as if it were thinking what, with Dr. Renton's rule of action, was
to become of the greatest good of the smallest number. Nathalie
sat on her father's knee, thinking only of George Feval, and of
his having been starved and grieved to death.

"Father," said Nathalie, softly, "I felt, while you were reading
the letter, as if he were near us. Didn't you? The room was so
light and still, and the wind sighed so."

"Netty, dear, I've felt that all day, I believe," he replied. "Hark!
there is the door-bell. Off goes the spirit-world, and here comes
the actual. Confound it! Some one to see me, I'll warrant, and
I'm not in the mood."

He got into a fret at once. Netty was not the Netty of an hour
ago, or she would have coaxed him out of it. But she did not notice
it now in her abstraction. She had risen at the tinkle of the bell,
and seated herself in a chair. Presently a nose, with a great pimple
on the end of it, appeared at the edge of the door, and a weak,
piping voice said, reckless of the proper tense, "There was a woman
wanted to see you, sir."

"Who is it, James?--no matter, show her in."

He got up with the vexed scowl on his face, and walked the room.
In a minute the library door opened again, and a pale, thin, rigid,
frozen-looking little woman, scantily clad, the weather being
considered, entered, and dropped a curt, awkward bow to Dr. Renton.

"O, Mrs. Miller! Good evening, ma'am. Sit down," he said, with a
cold, constrained civility.

The little woman faintly said, "Good evening, Dr. Renton," and
sat down stiffly, with her hands crossed before her, in the chair
nearest the wall. This was the obdurate tenant, who had paid no
rent for three months, and had a notice to quit, expiring to-morrow.

"Cold evening, ma'am," remarked Dr. Renton, in his hard way.

"Yes, sir, it is," was the cowed, awkward answer.

"Won't you sit near the fire, ma'am?" said Netty, gently; "you look
cold."

"No, miss, thank you. I'm not cold," was the faint reply. She was
cold, though, as well she might be with her poor, thin shawl, and
open bonnet, in such a bitter night as it was outside. And there
was a rigid, sharp, suffering look in her pinched features that
betokened she might have been hungry, too. "Poor people don't mind
the cold weather, miss," she said, with a weak smile, her voice
getting a little stronger. "They have to bear it, and they get
used to it."

She had not evidently borne it long enough to effect the point of
indifference. Netty looked at her with a tender pity. Dr. Renton
thought to himself, Hoh!--blazoning her poverty,--manufacturing
sympathy already,--the old trick; and steeled himself against any
attacks of that kind, looking jealously, meanwhile, at Netty.

"Well, Mrs. Miller," he said, "what is it this evening? I suppose
you've brought me my rent."

The little woman grew paler, and her voice seemed to fail on her
quivering lips. Netty cast a quick, beseeching look at her father.

"Nathalie, please to leave the room." We'll have no nonsense carried
on here, he thought, triumphantly, as Netty rose, and obeyed the
stern, decisive order, leaving the door ajar behind her.

He seated himself in his chair, and resolutely put his right leg
up to rest on his left knee. He did not look at his tenant's face,
determined that her piteous expressions (got up for the occasion,
of course) should be wasted on him.

"Well, Mrs. Miller," he said again.

"Dr. Renton," she began, faintly gathering her voice as she proceeded,
"I have come to see you about the rent. I am very sorry, sir, to
have made you wait, but we have been unfortunate."

"Sorry, ma'am," he replied, knowing what was coming; "but your
misfortunes are not my affair. We all have misfortunes, ma'am. But
we must pay our debts, you know."

"I expected to have got money from my husband before this, sir,"
she resumed, "and I wrote to him. I got a letter from him to-day,
sir, and it said that he sent me fifty dollars a month ago, in a
letter; and it appears that the post-office is to blame, or somebody,
for I never got it. It was nearly three months' wages, sir, and it
is very hard to lose it. If it had n't been for that your rent
would have been paid long ago, sir."

"Don't believe a word of _that_ story," thought Dr. Renton,
sententiously.

"I thought, sir," she continued, emboldened by his silence, "that
if you would be willing to wait a little longer, we would manage
to pay you soon, and not let it occur again. It has been a hard
winter with us, sir; firing is high, and provisions, and everything;
and we're only poor people, you know, and it's difficult to get
along."

The doctor made no reply.

"My husband was unfortunate, sir, in not being able to get employment
here," she resumed; "his being out of work in the autumn, threw us
all back, and we've got nothing to depend on but his earnings. The
family that he's in now, sir, don't give him very good pay,--only
twenty dollars a month, and his board,--but it was the best chance
he could get, and it was either go to Baltimore with them, or stay
at home and starve, and so he went, sir. It's been a hard time
with us, and one of the children is sick, now, with a fever, and
we don't hardly know how to make out a living. And so, sir, I have
come here this evening, leaving the children alone, to ask you if
you wouldn't be kind enough to wait a little longer, and we'll
hope to make it right with you in the end."

"Mrs. Miller," said Dr. Renton, with stern composure, "I have no
wish to question the truth of any statement you may make; but I
must tell you plainly, that I can't afford to let my houses for
nothing. I told you a month ago, that if you couldn't pay me my
rent, you must vacate the premises. You know very well that there
are plenty of tenants who are able and willing to pay when the
money comes due. You _know_ that."

He paused as he said this, and, glancing at her, saw her pale lips
falter. It shook the cruelty of his purpose a little, and he had a
vague feeling that he was doing wrong. Not without a proud struggle,
during which no word was spoken, could he beat it down. Meanwhile,
the phantom had advanced a pace toward the centre of the room.

"That is the state of the matter, ma'am," he resumed, coldly. "People
who will not pay me my rent must not live in my tenements. You
must move out. I have no more to say."

"Dr. Renton," she said, faintly, "I have a sick child,--how can
I move now? O, sir, it's Christmas eve,--don't be hard with us!"

Instead of touching him, this speech irritated him beyond measure.
Passing all considerations of her difficult position involved in
her piteous statement, his anger flashed at once on her implication
that he was unjust and unkind. So violent was his excitement that
it whirled away the words that rushed to his lips, and only fanned
the fury that sparkled from the whiteness of his face in his eyes.

"Be patient with us, sir," she continued; "we are poor, but we mean
to pay you; and we can't move now in this cold weather; please,
don't be hard with us, sir."

The fury now burst out on his face in a red and angry glow, and
the words came.

"Now, attend to me!" He rose to his feet. "I will not hear any
more from you. I know nothing of your poverty, nor of the condition
of your family. All I know is that you owe me three months' rent,
and that you can't or won't pay me. I say, therefore, leave the
premises to people who can and will. You have had your legal notice;
quit my house to-morrow; if you don't, your furniture shall be
put in the street. Mark me,--to-morrow!"

The phantom had rushed into the centre of the room. Standing face
to face with him,--dilating,--blackening,--its whole form shuddering
with a fury to which his own was tame,--the semblance of a shriek upon
its flashing lips, and on its writhing features, and an unearthly
anger streaming from its bright and terrible eyes,--it seemed to
throw down, with its tossing arms, mountains of hate and malediction
on the head of him whose words had smitten poverty and suffering,
and whose heavy hand was breaking up the barriers of a home.

Dr. Renton sank again into his chair. His tenant,--not a woman!--not
a sister in humanity!--but only his tenant; she sat crushed and
frightened by the wall. He knew it vaguely. Conscience was battling
in his heart with the stubborn devils that had entered there. The
phantom stood before him, like a dark cloud in the image of a man.
But its darkness was lightening slowly, and its ghostly anger had
passed away.

The poor woman, paler than before, had sat mute and trembling, with
all her hopes ruined. Yet her desperation forbade her to abandon
the chances of his mercy, and she now said,--

"Dr. Renton, you surely don't mean what you have told me. Won't
you bear with me a little longer, and we will yet make it all right
with you?"

"I have given you my answer," he returned, coldly; "I have no more
to add. I never take back anything I say--never!"

It was true. He never did--never! She half rose from her seat as if
to go; but weak and sickened with the bitter result of her visit,
she sunk down again with her head bowed. There was a pause. Then,
solemnly gliding across the lighted room, the phantom stole to her
side with a glory of compassion on its wasted features. Tenderly,
as a son to a mother, it bent over her; its spectral hands of light
rested upon her in caressing and benediction; its shadowy fall of
hair, once blanched by the anguish of living and loving, floated
on her throbbing brow; and resignation and comfort not of this
world sank upon her spirit, and consciousness grew dim within her,
and care and sorrow seemed to die.

He who had been so cruel and so hard, sat silent in black gloom.
The stern and sullen mood, from which had dropped but one fierce
flash of anger, still hung above the heat of his mind, like a dark
rack of thundercloud. It would have burst anew into a fury of rebuke,
had he but known his daughter was listening at the door, while the
colloquy went on. It might have flamed violently, had his tenant
made any further attempt to change his purpose. She had not. She
had left the room meekly, with the same curt, awkward bow that
marked her entrance. He recalled her manner very indistinctly;
for a feeling like a mist began to gather in his mind, and make
the occurrences of moments before uncertain.

Alone, now, he was yet oppressed with a sensation that something
was near him. Was it a spiritual instinct? for the phantom stood
by his side. It stood silent, with one hand raised above his head,
from which a pale flame seemed to flow downward to his brain; its
other hand pointed movelessly to the open letter on the table beside
him.

He took the sheets from the table, thinking, at the moment, only
of George Feval; but the first line on which his eye rested was,
"In the name of the Saviour, I charge you, be true and tender to
mankind!" And the words touched him like a low voice from the grave.
Their penetrant reproach pierced the hardness of his heart. He
tossed the letter back on the table. The very manner of the act
accused him of an insult to the dead. In a moment he took up the
faded sheets more reverently, but only to lay them down again.

He had not been well that day, and he now felt worse than before.
The pain in his head had given place to a strange sense of dilation,
and there was a silent, confused riot in his fevered brain, which
seemed to him like the incipience of insanity. Striving to divert
his mind from what had passed, by reflection on other themes, he
could not hold his thoughts; they came teeming but dim, and slipped
and fell away; and only the one circumstance of his recent cruelty,
mixed with remembrance of George Feval, recurred and clung with
vivid persistence. This tortured him. Sitting there, with arms
tightly interlocked, he resolved to wrench his mind down by sheer
will upon other things; and a savage pleasure at what at once seemed
success, took possession of him. In this mood, he heard soft footsteps
and the rustle of festal garments on the stairs, and had a fierce
complacency in being able to apprehend clearly that it was his
wife and daughter going out to the party. In a moment he heard the
controlled and even voice of Mrs. Renton,--a serene and polished
lady with whom he had lived for years in cold and civil alienation,
both seeing as little of each other as possible. With a scowl of
will upon his brow, he received her image distinctly into his mind,
even to the minutia of the dress and ornaments he knew she wore,
and felt an absolutely savage exultation in his ability to retain
it. Then came the sound of the closing of the hall door and the
rattle of receding wheels, and somehow it was Nathalie and not
his wife that he was holding so grimly in his thought, and with
her, salient and vivid as before, the tormenting remembrance of
his tenant, connected with the memory of George Feval. Springing
to his feet, he walked the room.

He had thrown himself on a sofa, still striving to be rid of his
remorseful visitations, when the library door opened, and the inside
man appeared, with his hand held bashfully over his nose. It flashed
on him at once that his tenant's husband was the servant of a family
like this fellow; and, irritated that the whole matter should be
thus broadly forced upon him in another way, he harshly asked him
what he wanted. The man only came in to say that Mrs. Renton and
the young lady had gone out for the evening, but that tea was laid
for him in the dining-room. He did not want any tea, and if anybody
called, he was not at home. With this charge, the man left the
room, closing the door behind him.

If he could but sleep a little! Rising from the sofa, he turned
the lights of the chandelier low, and screened the fire. The room
was still. The ghost stood, faintly radiant, in a remote corner. Dr.
Renton lay down again, but not to repose. Things he had forgotten
of his dead friend, now started up again in remembrance, fresh from
the grave of many years; and not one of them but linked itself
by some mysterious bond to something connected with his tenant,
and became an accusation.

He had lain thus for more than an hour, feeling more and more unmanned
by illness, and his mental excitement fast becoming intolerable,
when he heard a low strain of music, from the Swedenborgian chapel,
hard by. Its first impression was one of solemnity and rest, and its
first sense, in his mind, was of relief. Perhaps it was the music
of an evening meeting; or it might be that the organist and choir
had met for practice. Whatever its purpose, it breathed through his
heated fancy like a cool and fragrant wind. It was vague and sweet
and wandering at first, straying on into a strain more mysterious and
melancholy, but very shadowy and subdued, and evoking the innocent
and tender moods of early youth before worldliness had hardened
around his heart. Gradually, as he listened to it, the fires in
his brain were allayed, and all yielded to a sense of coolness
and repose. He seemed to sink from trance to trance of utter rest,
and yet was dimly aware that either something in his own condition,
or some supernatural accession of tone, was changing the music from
its proper quality to a harmony more infinite and awful. It was
still low and indeterminate and sweet, but had unaccountably and
strangely swelled into a gentle and sombre dirge, incommunicably
mournful, and filled with a dark significance that touched him in
his depth of rest with a secret tremor and awe. As he listened,
rapt and vaguely wondering, the sense of his tranced sinking seemed
to come to an end, and with the feeling of one who had been descending
for many hours, and at length lay motionless at the bottom of a
deep, dark chasm, he heard the music fail and cease.

A pause, and then it rose again, blended with the solemn voices
of the choir, sublimed and dilated now, reaching him as though
from weird night gulfs of the upper air, and charged with an
overmastering pathos as of the lamentations of angels. In the dimness
and silence, in the aroused and exalted condition of his being, the
strains seemed unearthly in their immense and desolate grandeur
of sorrow, and their mournful and dark significance was now for
him. Working within him the impression of vast, innumerable fleeing
shadows, thick-crowding memories of all the ways and deeds of an
existence fallen from its early dreams and aims, poured across
the midnight of his soul, and under the streaming melancholy of
the dirge, his life showed like some monstrous treason. It did not
terrify or madden him; he listened to it rapt utterly as in some
deadening ether of dream; yet feeling to his inmost core all its
powerful grief and accusation, and quietly aghast at the sinister
consciousness it gave him. Still it swelled, gathering and sounding
on into yet mightier pathos, till all at once it darkened and spread
wide in wild despair, and aspiring again into a pealing agony of
supplication, quivered and died away in a low and funereal sigh.

The tears streamed suddenly upon his face; his soul lightened and
turned dark within him; and, as one faints away, so consciousness
swooned, and he fell suddenly down a precipice of sleep. The music
rose again, a pensive and holy chant, and sounded on to its close,
unaffected by the action of his brain, for he slept and heard it no
more. He lay tranquilly, hardly seeming to breathe, in motionless
repose. The room was dim and silent, and the furniture took uncouth
shapes around him. The red glow upon the ceiling, from the screened
fire, showed the misty figure of the phantom kneeling by his side.
All light had gone from the spectral form. It knelt beside him,
mutely, as in prayer. Once it gazed at his quiet face with a mournful
tenderness, and its shadowy hands caressed his forehead. Then it
resumed its former attitude, and the slow hours crept by.

At last it rose and glided to the table, on which lay the open
letter. It seemed to try to lift the sheets with its misty hands,
but vainly. Next it essayed the lifting of a pen which lay there,
but failed. It was a piteous sight, to see its idle efforts on
these shapes of grosser matter, which appeared now to have to it
but the existence of illusions. Wandering about the shadowy room,
it wrung its phantom hands as in despair.

Presently it grew still. Then it passed quickly to his side, and
stood before him. He slept calmly. It placed one ghostly hand above
his forehead, and with the other pointed to the open letter. In
this attitude its shape grew momentarily more distinct. It began
to kindle into brightness. The pale flame again flowed from its
hand, streaming downward to his brain. A look of trouble darkened
the sleeping face. Stronger,--stronger; brighter,--brighter; until,
at last, it stood before him, a glorious shape of light, with an
awful look of commanding love in its shining features: and the
sleeper sprang to his feet with a cry!

The phantom had vanished. He saw nothing. His first impression
was, not that he had dreamed, but that, awaking in the familiar
room, he had seen the spirit of his dead friend, bright and awful by
his side, and that it had gone! In the flash of that quick change,
from sleeping to waking, he had detected, he thought, the unearthly
being that, he now felt, watched him from behind the air, and it
had vanished! The library was the same as in the moment of that
supernatural revealing; the open letter lay upon the table still;
only _that_ was gone which had made these common aspects terrible.
Then all the hard, strong scepticism of his nature, which had been
driven backward by the shock of his first conviction, recoiled,
and rushed within him, violently struggling for its former
vantage-ground; till, at length, it achieved the foothold for a
doubt. Could he have dreamed? The ghost, invisible, still watched
him. Yes, a dream,--only a dream; but, how vivid, how strange!
With a slow thrill creeping through his veins, the blood curdling
at his heart, a cold sweat starting on his forehead, he stared
through the dimness of the room. All was vacancy.

With a strong shudder, he strode forward, and turned up the flames
of the chandelier. A flood of garish light filled the apartment.
In a moment, remembering the letter to which the phantom of his
dream had pointed, he turned and took it from the table. The last
page lay upward, and every word of the solemn counsel at the end
seemed to dilate on the paper, and all its mighty meaning rushed
upon his soul. Trembling in his own despite, he laid it down and
moved away. A physician, he remembered that he was in a state of
violent nervous excitement, and thought that when he grew calmer
its effects would pass from him. But the hand that had touched
him had gone down deeper than the physician, and reached what God
had made.

He strove in vain. The very room, in its light and silence, and the
lurking sentiment of something watching him, became terrible. He
could not endure it. The devils in his heart, grown pusillanimous,
cowered beneath the flashing strokes of his aroused and terrible
conscience. He could not endure it. He must go out. He will walk
the streets. It is not late,--it is but ten o'clock. He will go.

The air of his dream still hung heavily about him. He was in the
street,--he hardly remembered how he had got there, or when; but
there he was, wrapped up from the searching cold, thinking, with a
quiet horror in his mind, of the darkened room he had left behind,
and haunted by the sense that something was groping about there
in the darkness, searching for him. The night was still and cold.
The full moon was in the zenith. Its icy splendor lay on the bare
streets, and on the walls of the dwellings. The lighted oblong
squares of curtained windows, here and there, seemed dim and waxen
in the frigid glory. The familiar aspect of the quarter had passed
away, leaving behind only a corpse-like neighborhood, whose huge,
dead features, staring rigidly through the thin, white shroud of
moonlight that covered all, left no breath upon the stainless skies.
Through the vast silence of the night he passed along; the very
sound of his footfalls was remote to his muffled sense.

Gradually, as he reached the first corner, he had an uneasy feeling
that a thing--a formless, unimaginable thing--was dogging him.
He had thought of going down to his club-room; but he now shrank
from entering, with this thing near him, the lighted rooms where
his set were busy with cards and billiards, over their liquors
and cigars, and where the heated air was full of their idle faces
and careless chatter, lest some one should bawl out that he was
pale, and ask him what was the matter, and he should answer,
tremblingly, that something was following him, and was near him
then! He must get rid of it first; he must walk quickly, and baffle
its pursuit by turning sharp corners, and plunging into devious
streets and crooked lanes, and so lose it!

It was difficult to reach through memory to the crazy chaos of
his mind on that night, and recall the route he took while haunted
by this feeling; but he afterward remembered that, without any
other purpose than to baffle his imaginary pursuer, he traversed
at a rapid pace a large portion of the moonlit city; always (he
knew not why) avoiding the more populous thoroughfares, and choosing
unfrequented and tortuous byways, but never ridding himself of
that horrible confusion of mind in which the faces of his dead
friend and the pale woman were strangely blended, nor of the fancy
that he was followed. Once, as he passed the hospital where Feval
died, a faint hint seemed to flash and vanish from the clouds of
his lunacy, and almost identify the dogging goblin with the figure
of his dream; but the conception instantly mixed with a disconnected
remembrance that this was Christmas eve, and then slipped from
him, and was lost. He did not pause there, but strode on. But just
there, what had been frightful became hideous. For at once he was
possessed with the conviction that the thing that lurked at a distance
behind him was quickening its movement, and coming up to seize
him. The dreadful fancy stung him like a goad, and, with a start,
he accelerated his flight, horribly conscious that what he feared
was slinking along in the shadow, close to the dark bulks of the
houses, resolutely pursuing, and bent on overtaking him. Faster!
His footfalls rang hollowly and loud on the moonlit pavement, and in
contrast with their rapid thuds he felt it as something peculiarly
terrible that the furtive thing behind slunk after him with soundless
feet. Faster, faster! Traversing only the most unfrequented streets,
and at that late hour of a cold winter night he met no one, and
with a terrifying consciousness that his pursuer was gaining on
him, he desperately strode on. He did not dare to look behind,
dreading less what he might see than the momentary loss of speed
the action might occasion. Faster, faster, faster! And all at once
he knew that the dogging thing had dropped its stealthy pace and
was racing up to him. With a bound he broke into a run, seeing,
hearing, heeding nothing, aware only that the other was silently
louping on his track two steps to his one; and with that frantic
apprehension upon him, he gained the next street, flung himself
around the corner with his back to the wall, and his arms convulsively
drawn up for a grapple; and felt something rush whirring past his
flank, striking him on the shoulder as it went by, with a buffet
that made a shock break through his frame. That shock restored
him to his senses. His delusion was suddenly shattered. The goblin
was gone. He was free.

He stood panting, like one just roused from some terrible dream,
wiping the reeking perspiration from his forehead, and thinking
confusedly and wearily what a fool he had been. He felt he had
wandered a long distance from his house, but had no distinct perception
of his whereabouts. He only knew he was in some thinly peopled
street, whose familiar aspect seemed lost to him in the magical
disguise the superb moonlight had thrown over all. Suddenly a film
seemed to drop from his eyes, as they became riveted on a lighted
window, on the opposite side of the way. He started, and a secret
terror crept over him, vaguely mixed with the memory of the shock
he had felt as he turned the last corner, and his distinct, awful
feeling that something invisible had passed him. At the same instant
he felt, and thrilled to feel, a touch, as of a light finger, on
his cheek. He was in Hanover Street. Before him was the house,--the
oyster-room staring at him through the lighted transparencies of
its two windows, like two square eyes, below; and his tenant's
light in a chamber above! The added shock which this discovery
gave to the heaving of his heart made him gasp for breath. Could
it be? Did he still dream? While he stood panting and staring at
the building the city clocks began to strike. Eleven o'clock; it
was ten when he came away; how he must have driven! His thoughts
caught up the word. Driven,--by what? Driven from his house in
horror, through street and lane, over half the city,--driven,--hunted
in terror, and smitten by a shock here! Driven,--driven! He could
not rid his mind of the word, nor of the meaning it suggested.
The pavements about him began to ring and echo with the tramp of
many feet, and the cold, brittle air was shivered with the noisy
voices that had roared and bawled applause and laughter at the
National Theatre all the evening, and were now singing and howling
homeward. Groups of rude men, and ruder boys, their breaths steaming
in the icy air, began to tramp by, jostling him as they passed,
till he was forced to draw back to the wall, and give them the
sidewalk. Dazed and giddy, in cold fear, and with the returning
sense of something near him, he stood and watched the groups that
pushed and tumbled in through the entrance of the oyster-room,
whistling and chattering as they went, and banging the door behind
them. He noticed that some came out presently, banging the door
harder, and went, smoking and shouting, down the street. Still
they poured in and out, while the street was startled with their
stimulated riot, and the bar-room within echoed their trampling
feet and hoarse voices. Then, as his glance wandered upward to
his tenant's window, he thought of the sick child, mixing this
hideous discord in the dreams of fever. The word brought up the name
and the thought of his dead friend. "In the name of the Saviour,
I charge you be true and tender to mankind!" The memory of these
words seemed to ring clearly, as if a voice had spoken them, above
the roar that suddenly rose in his mind. In that moment he felt
himself a wretched and most guilty man. He felt that his cruel
words had entered that humble home, to make desperate poverty more
desperate, to sicken sickness, and to sadden sorrow. Before him
was the dram-shop, let and licensed to nourish the worst and most
brutal appetites and instincts of human natures, at the sacrifice
of all their highest and holiest tendencies. The throng of tipplers
and drunkards was swarming through its hopeless door, to gulp the
fiery liquor whose fumes give all shames, vices, miseries, and
crimes a lawless strength and life, and change the man into the
pig or tiger. Murder was done, or nearly done, within those walls
last night. Within those walls no good was ever done; but daily,
unmitigated evil, whose results were reaching on to torture unborn
generations. He had consented to it all! He could not falter, or
equivocate, or evade, or excuse. His dead friend's words rang in his
conscience like the trump of the judgment angel. He was conquered.

Slowly, the resolve instantly to go in uprose within him, and with
it a change came upon his spirit, and the natural world, sadder than
before, but sweeter, seemed to come back to him. A great feeling
of relief flowed upon his mind. Pale and trembling still, he crossed
the street with a quick, unsteady step, entered a yard at the side
of the house, and, brushing by a host of white, rattling spectres of
frozen clothes, which dangled from lines in the enclosure, mounted
some wooden steps, and rang the bell. In a minute he heard footsteps
within, and saw the gleam of a lamp. His heart palpitated violently
as he heard the lock turning, lest the answerer of his summons
might be his tenant. The door opened, and, to his relief, he stood
before a rather decent-looking Irishman, bending forward in his
stocking-feet, with one boot and a lamp in his hand. The man stared
at him from a wild head of tumbled red hair, with a half-smile round
his loose open mouth, and said, "Begorra!" This was a second-floor
tenant.

Dr. Renton was relieved at the sight of him; but he rather failed
in an attempt at his rent-day suavity of manner, when he said,--

"Good evening, Mr. Flanagan. Do you think I can see Mrs. Miller
to-night?"

"She's up _there_, docther, anyway." Mr. Flanagan made a sudden
start for the stairs, with the boot and lamp at arm's length before
him, and stopped as suddenly. "Yull go up? or wud she come down to
ye?" There was as much anxious indecision in Mr. Flanagan's general
aspect, pending the reply, as if he had to answer the question
himself.

"I'll go up, Mr. Flanagan," returned Dr. Renton, stepping in, after
a pause, and shutting the door. "But I'm afraid she's in bed."

"Naw--she's not, sur." Mr. Flanagan made another feint with the boot
and lamp at the stairs, but stopped again in curious bewilderment,
and rubbed his head. Then, with another inspiration, and speaking
with such velocity that his words ran into each other, pell-mell,
he continued: "Th' small girl's sick, sur. Begorra, I wor just
pullin' on th' boots tuh gaw for the docther, in th' nixt streth,
an' summons him to her relehf, fur it's bad she is. A'id betther be
goan." Another start, and a movement to put on the boot instantly,
baffled by his getting the lamp into the leg of it, and involving
himself in difficulties in trying to get it out again without dropping
either, and stopped finally by Dr. Renton.

"You needn't go, Mr. Flanagan. I'll see to the child. Don't go."

He stepped slowly up the stairs, followed by the bewildered Flanagan.
All this time Dr. Renton was listening to the racket from the bar-room.
Clinking of glasses, rattling of dishes, trampling of feet, oaths
and laughter, and a confused din of coarse voices, mingling with
boisterous calls for oysters and drink, came, hardly deadened by
the partition walls, from the haunt below, and echoed through the
corridors. Loud enough within,--louder in the street without, where
the oysters and drink were reeling and roaring off to brutal dreams.
People trying to sleep here; a sick child up stairs. Listen! "_Two_
stew! _One_ roast! _Four_ ale! Hurry 'em up! _Three_ stew! _In_ number
six! _One_ fancy--_two_ roast! _One_ sling! Three brandy--_hot!
Two_ stew! _One_ whisk' _skin!_ Hurry 'em up! _What_ yeh _'bout!_
_Three_ brand' punch--_hot! Four_ stew! _What_-ye-e-h 'BOUT! _Two_
gin-cock-t'il! _One_ stew! Hu-r-r-y 'em up!" Clashing, rattling,
cursing, swearing, laughing, shouting, trampling, stumbling, driving,
slamming of doors. "Hu-r-ry 'em UP."

"Flanagan," said Dr. Renton, stopping at the first landing, "do
you have this noise every night?"

"Naise? Hoo! Divil a night, docther, but I'm wehked out ov me bed
wid 'em, Sundays an' all. Sure didn't they murdher wan of 'em,
out an' out, last night!"

"Is the man dead?"

"Dead? Troth he is. An' cowld."

"H'm"--through his compressed lips. "Flanagan, you needn't come
up. I know the door. Just hold the light for me here. There, that'll
do. Thank you." He whispered the last words from the top of the
second flight.

"Are ye there, docther?" Flanagan anxious to the last, and trying
to peer up at him with the lamplight in his eyes.

"Yes. That'll do. Thank you!" in the same whisper. Before he could
tap at the door, then darkening in the receding light, it opened
suddenly, and a big Irishwoman bounced out, and then whisked in
again, calling to some one in an inner room, "Here he is, Mrs.
Mill'r"; and then bounced out again, with a, "Walk royt in, if _you_
plaze; here's the choild"; and whisked in again, with a "Sure an'
Jehms was quick"; never once looking at him, and utterly unconscious
of the presence of her landlord. He had hardly stepped into the
room and taken off his hat, when Mrs. Miller came from the inner
chamber with a lamp in her hand. How she started! With her pale
face grown suddenly paler, and her hand on her bosom, she could
only exclaim, "Why, it's Dr. Renton!" and stand, still and dumb,
gazing with a frightened look at his face, whiter than her own.
Whereupon Mrs. Flanagan came bolting out again, with wild eyes and
a sort of stupefied horror in her good, coarse, Irish features;
and then, with some uncouth ejaculation, ran back, and was heard
to tumble over something within, and tumble something else over in
her fall, and gather herself up with a subdued howl, and subside.

"Mrs. Miller," began Dr. Renton, in a low, husky voice, glancing
at her frightened face, "I hope you'll be composed. I spoke to you
very harshly and rudely to-night; but I really was not myself--I
was in anger--and I ask your pardon. Please to overlook it all,
and--but I will speak of this presently; now--I am a physician;
will you let me look now at your sick child?"

He spoke hurriedly, but with evident sincerity. For a moment her
lips faltered; then a slow flush came up, with a quick change of
expression on her thin, worn face, and, reddening to painful scarlet,
died away in a deeper pallor.

"Dr. Renton," she said, hastily, "I have no ill-feeling for you,
sir, and I know you were hurt and vexed; and I know you have tried
to make it up to me again, sir, secretly. I know who it was, now;
but I can't take it, sir. You must take it back. You know it was
you sent it, sir?"

"Mrs. Miller," he replied, puzzled beyond measure, "I don't understand
you. What do you mean?"

"Don't deny it, sir. Please not to," she said imploringly, the
tears starting to her eyes. "I am very grateful,--indeed I am. But
I can't accept it. Do take it again."

"Mrs. Miller," he replied, in a hasty voice, "what do you mean? I
have sent you nothing,--nothing at all. I have, therefore, nothing
to receive again."

She looked at him fixedly, evidently impressed by the fervor of
his denial.

"You sent me nothing to-night, sir?" she asked, doubtfully.

"Nothing at any time, nothing," he answered, firmly.

It would have been folly to have disbelieved the truthful look of
his wondering face, and she turned away in amazement and confusion.
There was a long pause.

"I hope, Mrs. Miller, you will not refuse any assistance I can render
to your child," he said, at length.

She started, and replied, tremblingly and confusedly, "No, sir; we
shall be grateful to you, if you can save her"; and went quickly,
with a strange abstraction on her white face, into the inner room.
He followed her at once, and, hardly glancing at Mrs. Flanagan,
who sat there in stupefaction, with her apron over her head and
face, he laid his hat on a table, went to the bedside of the little
girl, and felt her head and pulse. He soon satisfied himself that
the little sufferer was in no danger, under proper remedies, and
now dashed down a prescription on a leaf from his pocket-book.
Mrs. Flanagan, who had come out from the retirement of her apron,
to stare stupidly at him during the examination, suddenly bobbed
up on her legs, with enlightened alacrity, when he asked if there
was any one that could go out to the apothecary's, and said, "Sure
I wull!" He had a little trouble to make her understand that the
prescription, which she took by the corner, holding it away from
her, as if it were going to explode presently, and staring at it
upside down, was to be left--"_left_, mind you, Mrs. Flanagan--with
the apothecary--Mr. Flint--at the nearest corner--and he will give
you some things, which you are to bring here." But she had shuffled
off at last with a confident, "Yis, sur--aw, I knoo," her head
nodding satisfied assent, and her big thumb covering the note on
the margin, "Charge to Dr. C. Renton, Bowdoin Street," (which,
_I_ know, could not keep it from the eyes of the angels!) and he
sat down to await her return.

"Mrs. Miller," he said, kindly, "don't be alarmed about your child.
She is doing well; and, after you have given her the medicine Mrs.
Flanagan will bring, you'll find her much better, to-morrow. She
must be kept cool and quiet, you know, and she'll be all right
soon."

"O Dr. Renton, I am very grateful," was the tremulous reply; "and
we will follow all directions, sir. It is hard to keep her quiet,
sir; we keep as still as we can, and the other children are very
still; but the street is very noisy all the daytime and evening,
sir, and--"

"I know it, Mrs. Miller. And I'm afraid those people down stairs
disturb you somewhat."

"They make some stir in the evening, sir; and it's rather loud
in the street sometimes, at night. The folks on the lower floors
are troubled a good deal, they say."

Well they may be. Listen to the bawling outside, now, cold as it
is. Hark! A hoarse group on the opposite sidewalk beginning a
song,--"Ro-o-l on, sil-ver mo-o-n--" The silver moon ceases to
roll in a sudden explosion of yells and laughter, sending up broken
fragments of curses, ribald jeers, whoopings, and cat-calls, high
into the night air. "Ga-l-a-ng! Hi-hi! What ye-e-h _'bout!_"

"This is outrageous, Mrs. Miller. Where's the watchman?"

She smiled faintly. "He takes one of them off occasionally, sir;
but he's afraid; they beat him sometimes." A long pause.

"Isn't your room rather cold, Mrs. Miller?" He glanced at the black
stove, dimly seen in the outer room. "It is necessary to keep the
rooms cool just now, but this air seems to me cold."

Receiving no answer, he looked at her, and saw the sad truth in
her averted face.

"I beg your pardon," he said quickly, flushing to the roots of his
hair. "I might have known, after what you said to me this evening."

"We had a little fire here to-day, sir," she said, struggling with
the pride and shame of poverty; "but we have been out of firing
for two or three days, and we owe the wharfman something now. The
two boys picked up a few chips; but the poor children find it hard
to get them, sir. Times are very hard with us, sir; indeed they
are. We'd have got along better, if my husband's money had come,
and your rent would have been paid--"

"Never mind the rent!--don't speak of that!" he broke in, with his
face all aglow. "Mrs. Miller, I haven't done right by you,--I know
it. Be frank with me. Are you in want of--have you--need of--food?"

No need of answer to that faintly stammered question. The thin,
rigid face was covered from his sight by the worn, wan hands, and
all the pride and shame of poverty, and all the frigid truth of
cold, hunger, anxiety, and sickened sorrow they had concealed, had
given way at last in a rush of tears. He could not speak. With a
smitten heart, he knew it all now. Ah! Dr. Renton, you know these
people's tricks? you know their lying blazon of poverty, to gather
sympathy?

"Mrs. Miller,"--she had ceased weeping, and as he spoke, she looked
at him, with the tear-stains still on her agitated face, half ashamed
that he had seen her,--"Mrs. Miller, I am sorry. This shall be
remedied. Don't tell me it sha'n't! Don't! I say it shall! Mrs.
Miller, I'm--I'm ashamed of myself. I am indeed."

"I am very grateful, sir, I'm sure," said she; "but we don't like
to take charity, though we need help; but we can get along now,
sir; for I suppose I must keep it, as you say you didn't send
it, and use it for the children's sake, and thank God for his good
mercy,--since I don't know, and never shall, where it came from,
now."

"Mrs. Miller," he said quickly, "you spoke in this way before;
and I don't know what you refer to. What do you mean by--_it?_"

"Oh! I forgot, sir: it puzzles me so. You see, sir, I was sitting
here after I got home from your house, thinking what I should do,
when Mrs. Flanagan came up stairs with a letter for me, that she said
a strange man left at the door for Mrs. Miller; and Mrs. Flanagan
couldn't describe him well, or understandingly; and it had no
direction at all, only the man inquired who was the landlord, and
if Mrs. Miller had a sick child, and then said the letter was for
me; and there was no writing inside the letter, but there was fifty
dollars. That's all, sir. It gave me a great shock, sir; and I
couldn't think who sent it, only when you came to-night, I thought
it was you; but you said it wasn't, and I never shall know who
it was, now. It seems as if the hand of God was in it, sir, for
it came when everything was darkest, and I was in despair."

"Why, Mrs. Miller," he slowly answered, "this is very mysterious.
The man inquired if I was the owner of the house--oh! no--he only
inquired who was--but then he knew I was the--oh! bother! I'm getting
nowhere. Let's see. Why, it must be some one you know, or that
knows your circumstances."

"But there's no one knows them but yourself; and I told you," she
replied; "no one else but the people in the house. It must have
been some rich person, for the letter was a gilt-edge sheet, and
there was perfume in it, sir."

"Strange," he murmured. "Well, I give it up. All is, I advise you to
keep it, and I'm very glad some one did his duty by you in your hour
of need, though I'm sorry it was not myself. Here's Mrs. Flanagan."

There was a good deal done, and a great burden lifted off an humble
heart--nay, two!--before Dr. Renton thought of going home. There
was a patient gained, likely to do Dr. Renton more good than any
patient he had lost. There was a kettle singing on the stove, and
blowing off a happier steam than any engine ever blew on that railroad
whose unmarketable stock had singed Dr. Renton's fingers. There
was a yellow gleam flickering from the blazing fire on the sober
binding of a good old Book upon a shelf with others, a rarer medical
work than ever slipped at auction from Dr. Renton's hands, since
it kept the sacred lore of Him who healed the sick, and fed the
hungry, and comforted the poor, and who was also the Physician
of souls.

And there were other offices performed, of lesser range than these,
before he rose to go. There were cooling mixtures blended for the
sick child; medicines arranged; directions given; and all the items
of her tendance orderly foreseen, and put in pigeon-holes of When
and How, for service.

At last he rose to go. "And now, Mrs. Miller," he said, "I'll come
here at ten in the morning, and see to our patient. She'll be nicely
by that time. And (listen to those brutes in the street!--twelve
o'clock, too--ah! there's the bell), as I was saying, my offence
to you being occasioned by your debt to me, I feel my receipt for
your debt should commence my reparation to you; and I'll bring it
to-morrow. Mrs. Miller, you don't quite come at me--what I mean
is--you owe me, under a notice to quit, three months' rent. Consider
that paid in full. I never will take a cent of it from you,--not
a copper. And I take back the notice. Stay in my house as long as
you like; the longer the better. But, up to this date, your rent's
paid. There. I hope you'll have as happy a Christmas as circumstances
will allow, and I mean you shall."

A flush of astonishment, of indefinable emotion, overspread her
face.

"Dr. Renton, stop, sir!" He was moving to the door. "Please, sir,
_do_ hear me! You are very good--but I can't allow you to--Dr.
Renton, we are able to pay you the rent, and we _will_, and we
_must_--here--now. O, sir, my gratefulness will never fail to
you--but here--here--be fair with me, sir, and _do_ take it."

She had hurried to a chest of drawers, and came back with the letter
which she had rustled apart with eager, trembling hands, and now,
unfolding the single banknote it had contained, she thrust it into
his fingers as they closed.

"Here, Mrs. Miller,"--she had drawn back with her arms locked on
her bosom, and he stepped forward,--"no, no. This sha'n't be.
Come, come, you must take it back. Good heavens!" He spoke low,
but his eyes blazed in the red glow which broke out on his face,
and the crisp note in his extended hand shook violently at her.
"Sooner than take this money from you, I would perish in the street!
What! Do you think I will rob you of the gift sent you by some
one who had a human heart for the distresses I was aggravating?
Sooner than-- Here, take it! O my God! what's this?"

The red glow on his face went out, with this exclamation, in a
pallor like marble, and he jerked back the note to his starting
eyes. Globe Bank--Boston--Fifty Dollars. For a minute he gazed at the
motionless bill in his hand. Then, with his hueless lips compressed,
he seized the blank letter from his astonished tenant, and looked at
it, turning it over and over. Grained letter-paper--gilt-edged--with
a favorite perfume in it. Where's Mrs. Flanagan? Outside the door,
sitting on the top of the stairs, with her apron over her head,
crying. Mrs. Flanagan! Here! In she tumbled, her big feet kicking
her skirts before her, and her eyes and face as red as a beet.

"Mrs. Flanagan, what kind of a looking man gave you this letter
at the door to-night?"

"A-w, Docther Rinton, dawn't ax me!--Bother, an' all, an' sure
an' I cudn't see him wud his fur-r hat, an' he a-ll boondled oop
wud his co-at oop on his e-ars, an' his big han'kershuf smotherin'
thuh mouth uv him, an' sorra a bit uv him tuh be looked at, sehvin'
thuh poomple on thuh ind uv his naws."

"The _what_ on the end of his nose?"

"Thuh poomple, sur."

"What does she mean, Mrs. Miller?" said the puzzled questioner,
turning to his tenant.

"I don't know, sir, indeed," was the reply. "She said that to me,
and I couldn't understand her."

"It's thuh poomple, docther. Dawn't ye knoo? Thuh big, flehmin
poomple oop there." She indicated the locality, by flattening the
rude tip of her own nose with her broad forefinger.

"Oh! the pimple! I have it." So he had. Netty, Netty!

He said nothing, but sat down in a chair, with his bold, white brow
knitted, and the warm tears in his dark eyes.

"You know who sent it, sir, don't you?" asked his wondering tenant,
catching the meaning of all this.

"Mrs. Miller, I do. But I cannot tell you. Take it, now, and use
it. It is doubly yours. There. Thank you."

She had taken it with an emotion in her face that gave a quicker
motion to his throbbing heart. He rose to his feet, hat in hand,
and turned away. The noise of a passing group of roysterers in
the street without came strangely loud into the silence of that
room.

"Good night, Mrs. Miller. I'll be here in the morning. Good night."

"Good night, sir. God bless you, sir!"

He turned around quickly. The warm tears in his dark eyes had flowed
on his face, which was pale; and his firm lip quivered.

"I hope He will, Mrs. Miller,--I hope He will. It should have been
said oftener."

He was on the outer threshold. Mrs. Flanagan had, somehow, got
there before him, with a lamp, and he followed her down through
the dancing shadows, with blurred eyes. On the lower landing he
stopped to hear the jar of some noisy wrangle, thick with oaths,
from the bar-room. He listened for a moment, and then turned to
the staring stupor of Mrs. Flanagan's rugged visage.

"Sure, they're at ut, docther, wud a wull," she said, smiling.

"Yes. Mrs. Flanagan, you'll stay up with Mrs. Miller to-night, won't
you?"

"Dade an' I wull, sur."

"That's right. Do. And make her try and sleep, for she must be
tired. Keep up a fire,--not too warm, you understand. There'll be
wood and coal coming to-morrow, and she'll pay you back."

"A-w, docther, dawn't noo!"

"Well, well. And--look here; have you got anything to eat in the
house? Yes; well, take it up stairs. Wake up those two boys, and
give them something to eat. Don't let Mrs. Miller stop you. Make
her eat something. Tell her I said she must. And, first of all, get
your bonnet, and go to that apothecary's,--Flint's,--for a bottle
of port wine, for Mrs. Miller. Hold on. There's the order." (He had
a leaf out of his pocket-book in a minute, and wrote it down.) "Go
with this the first thing. Ring Flint's bell, and he'll wake up.
And here's something for your own Christmas dinner, to-morrow." Out
of the roll of bills he drew one of the tens--Globe Bank--Boston--and
gave it to Mrs. Flanagan.

"A-w, dawn't noo, docther."

"Bother! It's for yourself, mind. Take it. There. And now unlock
the door. That's it. Good night, Mrs. Flanagan."

"An' meh thuh Hawly Vurgin hape bless'n's on ye, Docther Rinton,
wud a-ll thuh compliments uv thuh sehzin, for yur thuh--"

He lost the end of Mrs. Flanagan's parting benedictions in the
moonlit street. He did not pause till he was at the door of the
oyster-room. He paused then, to make way for a tipsy company of
four, who reeled out,--the gaslight from the bar-room on the edges
of their sodden, distorted faces,--giving three shouts and a yell,
as they slammed the door behind them.

He pushed after a party that was just entering. They went at once
for a drink to the upper end of the room, where a rowdy crew, with
cigars in their mouths, and liquor in their hands, stood before
the bar, in a knotty wrangle concerning some one who was killed.
Where is the keeper? O, there he is, mixing hot brandy punch for
two! Here, you, sir, go up quietly, and tell Mr. Rollins Dr. Renton
wants to see him. The waiter came back presently to say Mr. Rollins
would be right along. Twenty-five minutes past twelve. Oyster trade
nearly over. Gaudy-curtained booths on the left all empty but two.
Oyster-openers and waiters--three of them in all--nearly done for
the night, and two of them sparring and scuffling behind a pile of
oysters on the trough, with the colored print of the great prize
fight between Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan, in a veneered frame
above them on the wall. Blower up from the fire opposite the bar,
and stewpans and griddles empty and idle on the bench beside it,
among the unwashed bowls and dishes. Oyster trade nearly over.
Bar still busy.

Here comes Rollins in his shirt-sleeves, with an apron on. Thick-set,
muscular man,--frizzled head, low forehead, sharp, black eyes,
flabby face, with a false, greasy smile on it now, oiling over
a curious, stealthy expression of mingled surprise and inquiry,
as he sees his landlord here at this unusual hour.

"Come in here, Mr. Rollins; I want to speak to you."

"Yes, sir. Jim" (to the waiter), "go and tend bar." They sat down
in one of the booths, and lowered the curtain. Dr. Renton, at one
side of the table within, looking at Rollins, sitting leaning on
his folded arms, at the other side.

"Mr. Rollins, I am told the man who was stabbed here last night
is dead. Is that so?"

"Well, he is, Dr. Renton. Died this afternoon."

"Mr. Rollins, this is a serious matter; what are you going to do
about it?"

"Can't help it, sir. Who's a-goin' to touch _me?_ Called in a watchman.
Whole mess of 'em had cut. Who knows 'em? Nobody knows 'em. Man that
was stuck never see the fellers as stuck him in all his life till
then. Didn't know which one of 'em did it. Didn't know nothing.
Don't now, an' never will, 'nless he meets 'em in hell. That's
all. Feller's dead, an' who's a-goin' to touch _me?_ Can't do it.
Ca-n-'t do it."

"Mr. Rollins," said Dr. Renton, thoroughly disgusted with this man's
brutal indifference, "your lease expires in three days."

"Well, it does. Hope to make a renewal with you, Dr. Renton. Trade's
good here. Shouldn't mind more rent on, if you insist,--hope you
won't,--if it's anything in reason. Promise sollum, I sha'n't have
no more fightin' in here. Couldn't help this. Accidents _will_
happen, yo' know."

"Mr. Rollins, the case is this: if you didn't sell liquor here,
you'd have no murder done in your place,--murder, sir. That man
was murdered. It's your fault, and it's mine, too. I ought not to
have let you the place for your business. It _is_ a cursed traffic,
and you and I ought to have found it out long ago. _I_ have. I hope
_you_ will. Now, I advise you, as a friend, to give up selling rum
for the future; you see what it comes to,--don't you? At any rate,
I will not be responsible for the outrages that are perpetrated in
my building any more,--I will not have liquor sold here. I refuse
to renew your lease. In three days you must move."

"Dr. Renton, you hurt my feelin's. Now, how would you--"

"Mr. Rollins, I have spoken to you as a friend, and you have no
cause for pain. You must quit these premises when your lease expires.
I'm sorry I can't make you go before that. Make no appeals to me,
if you please. I am fixed. Now, sir, good night."

The curtain was pulled up, and Rollins rolled over to his beloved
bar, soothing his lacerated feelings by swearing like a pirate,
while Dr. Renton strode to the door, and went into the street,
homeward.

He walked fast through the magical moonlight, with a strange feeling
of sternness, and tenderness, and weariness, in his mind. In this
mood, the sensation of spiritual and physical fatigue gaining on
him, but a quiet moonlight in all his reveries, he reached his
house. He was just putting his latch-key in the door, when it was
opened by James, who stared at him for a second, and then dropped
his eyes, and put his hand before his nose. Dr. Renton compressed
his lips on an involuntary smile.

"Ah! James, you're up late. It's near one."

"I sat up for Mrs. Renton and the young lady, sir. They're just
come, and gone up stairs."

"All right, James. Take your lamp and come in here. I've got something
to say to you." The man followed him into the library at once, with
some wonder on his sleepy face.

"First, put some coal on that fire, and light the chandelier. I
shall not go up stairs to-night." The man obeyed. "Now, James,
sit down in that chair." He did so, beginning to look frightened
at Dr. Renton's grave manner.

"James,"--a long pause,--"I want you to tell me the truth. Where
did you go to-night? Come, I have found you out. Speak."

The man turned as white as a sheet, and looked wretched with the
whites of his bulging eyes, and the great pimple on his nose awfully
distinct in the livid hue of his features. He was a rather slavish
fellow, and thought he was going to lose his situation. Please
not to blame him, for he, too, was one of the poor.

"O Dr. Renton, excuse me, sir; I didn't mean doing any harm."

"James, my daughter gave you an undirected letter this evening; you
carried it to one of my houses in Hanover Street. Is that true?"

"Ye-yes, sir. I couldn't help it. I only did what she told me,
sir."

"James, if my daughter told you to set fire to this house, what
would you do?"

"I wouldn't do it, sir," he stammered, after some hesitation.

"You wouldn't? James, if my daughter ever tells you to set fire
to this house, do it, sir! Do it. At once. Do whatever she tells
you. Promptly. And I'll back you."

The man stared wildly at him, as he received this astonishing command.
Dr. Renton was perfectly grave, and had spoken slowly and seriously.
The man was at his wits' end.

"You'll do it, James,--will you?"

"Ye-yes, sir, certainly."

"That's right. James, you're a good fellow. James, you've got a
wife and children, hav'n't you?"

"Yes, sir, I have; living in the country, sir. In Chelsea, over
the ferry. For cheapness, sir."

"For cheapness, eh? Hard times, James? How is it?"

"Pretty hard, sir. Close, but toler'ble comfortable. Rub and go,
sir."

"Rub and go. Ve-r-y well. Rub and go. James, I'm going to raise
your wages--to-morrow. Generally, because you're a good servant.
Principally, because you carried that letter to-night, when my
daughter asked you. I sha'n't forget it. To-morrow, mind. And
if I can do anything for you, James, at any time, just tell me.
That's all. Now, you'd better go to bed. And a happy Christmas
to you!"

"Much obliged to you, sir. Same to you and many of 'em. Good night,
sir." And with Dr. Renton's "good-night" he stole up to bed, thoroughly
happy, and determined to obey Miss Renton's future instructions to
the letter. The shower of golden light which had been raining for
the last two hours had fallen even on him. It would fall all day
to-morrow in many places, and the day after, and for long years
to come. Would that it could broaden and increase to a general
deluge, and submerge the world!

Now the whole house was still, and its master was weary. He sat
there, quietly musing, feeling the sweet and tranquil presence
near him. Now the fire was screened, the lights were out, save
one dim glimmer, and he had lain down on the couch with the letter
in his hand, and slept the dreamless sleep of a child.

He slept until the gray dawn of Christmas day stole into the room,
and showed him the figure of his friend, a shape of glorious light,
standing by his side, and gazing at him with large and tender eyes!
He had no fear. All was deep, serene, and happy with the happiness of
heaven. Looking up into that beautiful, wan face,--so tranquil,--so
radiant; watching, with a childlike awe, the star-fire in those shadowy
eyes; smiling faintly, with a great, unutterable love thrilling
slowly through his frame, in answer to the smile of light that shone
upon the phantom countenance; so he passed a space of time which
seemed a calm eternity, till, at last, the communion of spirit
with spirit--of mortal love with love immortal--was perfected,
and the shining hands were laid on his forehead, as with a touch
of air. Then the phantom smiled, and, as its shining hands were
withdrawn, the thought of his daughter mingled in the vision. She
was bending over him! The dawn, the room, were the same. But the
ghost of Feval had gone out from earth, away to its own land!

"Father, dear father! Your eyes were open, and they did not look at
me. There is a light on your face, and your features are changed!
What is it,--what have you seen?"

"Hush, darling: here--kneel by me, for a little while, and be still.
I have seen the dead."

She knelt by him, burying her awe-struck face in his bosom, and
clung to him with all the fervor of her soul. He clasped her to
his breast, and for minutes all was still.

"Dear child, good and dear child!"

The voice was tremulous and low. She lifted her fair, bright
countenance, now convulsed with a secret trouble, and dimmed with
streaming tears, to his, and gazed on him. His eyes were shining;
but his pallid cheeks, like hers, were wet with tears. How still
the room was! How like a thought of solemn tenderness the pale
gray dawn! The world was far away, and his soul still wandered
in the peaceful awe of his dream. The world was coming back to
him,--but oh! how changed!--in the trouble of his daughter's face.

"Darling, what is it? Why are you here? Why are you weeping? Dear
child, the friend of my better days,--of the boyhood when I had
noble aims, and life was beautiful before me,--he has been here! I
have seen him. He has been with me--oh! for a good I cannot tell!"

"Father, dear father!"--he had risen, and sat upon the couch, but she
still knelt before him, weeping, and clasped his hands in hers,--"I
thought of you and of this letter, all the time. All last night
till I slept, and then I dreamed you were tearing it to pieces,
and trampling on it. I awoke, and lay thinking of you, and of ----.
And I thought I heard you come down stairs, and I came here to
find you. But you were lying here so quietly, with your eyes open,
and so strange a light on your face. And I knew,--I knew you were
dreaming of him, and that you saw him, for the letter lay beside
you. O father! forgive me, but do hear me! In the name of this
day,--it's Christmas day, father,--in the name of the time when
we must both die,--in the name of that time, father, hear me! That
poor woman last night,--O father! forgive me, but don't tear that
letter in pieces and trample it under foot! You know what I mean--you
know--you know. Don't tear it, and tread it under foot."

She clung to him, sobbing violently, her face buried in his hands.

"Hush, hush! It's all well,--it's all well. Here, sit by me. So.
I have--" His voice failed him, and he paused. But sitting by
him,--clinging to him,--her face hidden in his bosom,--she heard
the strong beating of his disenchanted heart.

"My child, I know your meaning. I will not tear the letter to pieces
and trample it under foot. God forgive me my life's slight to those
words. But I learned their value last night, in the house where
your blank letter had entered before me."

She started, and looked into his face steadfastly, while a bright
scarlet shot into her own.

"I know all, Netty,--all. Your secret was well kept, but it is
yours and mine now. It was well done, darling, well done. O, I
have been through strange mysteries of thought and life since that
starving woman sat here! Well--thank God!"

"Father, what have you done?" The flush had failed, but a glad
color still brightened her face, while the tears stood trembling
in her eyes.

"All that you wished yesterday," he answered. "And all that you
ever could have wished, henceforth I will do."

"O father!" She stopped. The bright scarlet shot again into her
face, but with an April shower of tears, and the rainbow of a smile.

"Listen to me, Netty, and I will tell you, and only you, what I
have done." Then, while she mutely listened, sitting by his side,
and the dawn of Christmas broadened into Christmas day, he told
her all.

And when he had told all, and emotion was stilled, they sat together
in silence for a time, she with her innocent head drooped upon his
shoulder, and her eyes closed, lost in tender and mystic reveries;
and he musing with a contrite heart. Till at last, the stir of
daily life began to waken in the quiet dwelling, and without, from
steeples in the frosty air, there was a sound of bells.

They rose silently, and stood, clinging to each other, side by side.

"Love, we must part," he said, gravely and tenderly. "Read me,
before we go, the closing lines of George Feval's letter. In the
spirit of this let me strive to live. Let it be for me the lesson
of the day. Let it also be the lesson of my life."

Her face was pale and lit with exaltation as she took the letter
from his hand. There was a pause, and then upon the thrilling and
tender silver of her voice, the words arose like solemn music:--

"_Farewell--farewell! But, oh! take my counsel into memory on Christmas
Day, and forever. Once again, the ancient prophecy of peace and
good-will shines on a world of wars and wrongs and woes. Its soft
ray shines into the darkness of a land wherein swarm slaves, poor
laborers, social pariahs, weeping women, homeless exiles, hunted
fugitives, despised aliens, drunkards, convicts, wicked children,
and Magdalens unredeemed. These are but the ghastliest figures
in that sad army of humanity which advances, by a dreadful road,
to the Golden Age of the poets' dream. These are your sisters and
your brothers. Love them all. Beware of wronging one of them by
word or deed. O friend! strong in wealth for so much good,--take
my last counsel. In the name of the Saviour, I charge you, be true
and tender to mankind. Come out from Babylon into manhood, and
live and labor for the fallen, the neglected, the suffering, and
the poor. Lover of arts, customs, laws, institutions, and forms of
society, love these things only as they help mankind! With stern
love, overturn them, or help to overturn them, when they become cruel
to a single--the humblest--human being. In the world's scale, social
position, influence, public power, the applause of majorities, heaps
of funded gold, services rendered to creeds, codes, sects, parties,
or federations--they weigh weight; but in God's scale--remember!--on
the day if hope, remember!--your least service to Humanity outweighs
them all._"



THE FOUR-FIFTEEN EXPRESS.

BY AMELIA B. EDWARDS.


I.

The events which I am about to relate took place between nine and
ten years ago. Sebastopol had fallen in the early spring; the peace
of Paris had been concluded since March; our commercial relations with
the Russian Empire were but recently renewed; and I, returning home
after my first northward journey since the war, was well pleased with
the prospect of spending the month of December under the hospitable
and thoroughly English roof of my excellent friend Jonathan Jelf,
Esquire, of Dumbleton Manor, Clayborough, East Anglia. Travelling
in the interests of the well-known firm in which it is my lot to
be a junior partner, I had been called upon to visit not only the
capitals of Russia and Poland, but had found it also necessary
to pass some weeks among the trading-ports of the Baltic; whence
it came that the year was already far spent before I again set
foot on English soil, and that, instead of shooting pheasants with
him, as I had hoped, in October, I came to be my friend's guest
during the more genial Christmastide.

My voyage over, and a few days given up to business in Liverpool
and London, I hastened down to Clayborough with all the delight of
a school-boy whose holidays are at hand. My way lay by the Great
East Anglian line as far as Clayborough station, where I was to
be met by one of the Dumbleton carriages and conveyed across the
remaining nine miles of country. It was a foggy afternoon, singularly
warm for the 4th of December, and I had arranged to leave London by
the 4.15 express. The early darkness of winter had already closed
in; the lamps were lighted in the carriages; a clinging damp dimmed
the windows, adhered to the door-handles, and pervaded all the
atmosphere; while the gas-jets at the neighboring bookstand diffused
a luminous haze that only served to make the gloom of the terminus
more visible. Having arrived some seven minutes before the starting of
the train, and, by the connivance of the guard, taken sole possession
of an empty compartment, I lighted my travelling-lamp, made myself
particularly snug, and settled down to the undisturbed enjoyment of
a book and a cigar. Great, therefore, was my disappointment when,
at the last moment, a gentleman came hurrying along the platform,
glanced into my carriage, opened the locked door with a private
key, and stepped in.

It struck me at the first glance that I had seen him before,--a
tall, spare man, thin-lipped, light-eyed, with an ungraceful stoop
in the shoulders, and scant gray hair worn somewhat long upon the
collar. He carried a light water-proof coat, an umbrella, and a
large brown japanned deed-box, which last he placed under the seat.
This done, he felt carefully in his breast-pocket, as if to make
certain of the safety of his purse or pocket-book; laid his umbrella
in the netting overhead; spread the water-proof across his knees;
and exchanged his hat for a travelling-cap of some Scotch material.
By this time the train was moving out of the station, and into
the faint gray of the wintry twilight beyond.

I now recognized my companion. I recognized him from the moment when
he removed his hat and uncovered the lofty, furrowed, and somewhat
narrow brow beneath. I had met him, as I distinctly remembered,
some three years before, at the very house for which, in all
probability, he was now bound, like myself. His name was Dwerrihouse;
he was a lawyer by profession; and, if I was not greatly mistaken,
was first-cousin to the wife of my host. I knew also that he was
a man eminently "well to do," both as regarded his professional
and private means. The Jelfs entertained him with that sort of
observant courtesy which falls to the lot of the rich relation;
the children made much of him; and the old butler, albeit somewhat
surly "to the general," treated him with deference. I thought,
observing him by the vague mixture of lamplight and twilight, that
Mrs. Jelf's cousin looked all the worse for the three years' wear
and tear which had gone over his head since our last meeting. He
was very pale, and had a restless light in his eye that I did not
remember to have observed before. The anxious lines, too, about
his mouth were deepened, and there was a cavernous, hollow look
about his cheeks and temples which seemed to speak of sickness or
sorrow. He had glanced at me as he came in, but without any gleam
of recognition in his face. Now he glanced again, as I fancied,
somewhat doubtfully. When he did so for the third or fourth time,
I ventured to address him.

"Mr. John Dwerrihouse, I think?"

"That is my name," he replied.

"I had the pleasure of meeting you at Dumbleton about three years
ago."

Mr. Dwerrihouse bowed.

"I thought I knew your face," he said. "But your name, I regret
to say--"

"Langford,--William Langford. I have known Jonathan Jelf since
we were boys together at Merchant Taylor's, and I generally spend
a few weeks at Dumbleton in the shooting-season. I suppose we are
bound for the same destination?"

"Not if you are on your way to the Manor," he replied. "I am travelling
upon business,--rather troublesome business, too,--whilst you,
doubtless, have only pleasure in view."

"Just so. I am in the habit of looking forward to this visit as
to the brightest three weeks in all the year."

"It is a pleasant house," said Mr. Dwerrihouse.

"The pleasantest I know."

"And Jelf is thoroughly hospitable."

"The best and kindest fellow in the world!"

"They have invited me to spend Christmas week with them," pursued
Mr. Dwerrihouse, after a moment's pause.

"And you are coming?"

"I cannot tell. It must depend on the issue of this business which I
have in hand. You have heard, perhaps, that we are about to construct
a branch line from Blackwater to Stockbridge."

I explained that I had been for some months away from England,
and had therefore heard nothing of the contemplated improvement.

Mr. Dwerrihouse smiled complacently.

"It _will_ be an improvement," he said; "a great improvement.
Stockbridge is a flourishing town, and needs but a more direct
railway communication with the metropolis to become an important
centre of commerce. This branch was my own idea. I brought the
project before the board, and have myself superintended the execution
of it up to the present time."

"You are an East Anglian director, I presume?"

"My interest in the company," replied Mr. Dwerrihouse, "is threefold.
I am a director; I am a considerable shareholder; and, as head of
the firm of Dwerrihouse, Dwerrihouse, and Craik, I am the company's
principal solicitor."

Loquacious, self-important, full of his pet project, and apparently
unable to talk on any other subject, Mr. Dwerrihouse then went on
to tell of the opposition he had encountered and the obstacles he
had overcome in the cause of the Stockbridge branch. I was entertained
with a multitude of local details and local grievances. The rapacity
of one squire; the impracticability of another; the indignation of
the rector whose glebe was threatened; the culpable indifference
of the Stockbridge townspeople, who could _not_ be brought to see
that their most vital interests hinged upon a junction with the
Great East Anglian line; the spite of the local newspaper; and the
unheard-of difficulties attending the Common question,--were each
and all laid before me with a circumstantiality that possessed
the deepest interest for my excellent fellow-traveller, but none
whatever for myself. From these, to my despair, he went on to more
intricate matters: to the approximate expenses of construction
per mile; to the estimates sent in by different contractors; to
the probable traffic returns of the new line; to the provisional
clauses of the new Act as enumerated in Schedule D of the company's
last half-yearly report; and so on, and on, and on, till my head
ached, and my attention flagged, and my eyes kept closing in spite
of every effort that I made to keep them open. At length I was
roused by these words:--

"Seventy-five thousand pounds, cash down."

"Seventy-five thousand pounds, cash down," I repeated, in the liveliest
tone I could assume. "That is a heavy sum."

"A heavy sum to carry here," replied Mr. Dwerrihouse, pointing
significantly to his breast-pocket; "but a mere fraction of what
we shall ultimately have to pay."

"You do not mean to say that you have seventy-five thousand pounds
at this moment upon your person?" I exclaimed.

"My good sir, have I not been telling you so for the last half-hour?"
said Mr. Dwerrihouse, testily.

"That money has to be paid over at half past eight o'clock this
evening, at the office of Sir Thomas's solicitors, on completion
of the deed of sale."

"But how will you get across by night from Blackwater to Stockbridge
with seventy-five thousand pounds in your pocket?"

"To Stockbridge!" echoed the lawyer. "I find I have made myself
very imperfectly understood. I thought I had explained how this
sum only carries us as far as Mallingford,--the first stage, as
it were, of our journey,--and how our route from Blackwater to
Mallingford lies entirely through Sir Thomas Liddell's property."

"I beg your pardon," I stammered. "I fear my thoughts were wandering.
So you only go as far as Mallingford to-night?"

"Precisely. I shall get a conveyance from the 'Blackwater Arms.'
And you?"

"O, Jelf sends a trap to meet me at Clayborough! Can I be the bearer
of any message from you?"

"You may say, if you please, Mr. Langford, that I wished I could
have been your companion all the way, and that I will come over,
if possible, before Christmas."

"Nothing more?"

Mr. Dwerrihouse smiled grimly. "Well," he said, "you may tell my
cousin that she need not burn the hall down in my honor _this_
time, and that I shall be obliged if she will order the blue-room
chimney to be swept before I arrive."

"That sounds tragic. Had you a conflagration on the occasion of
your last visit to Dumbleton?"

"Something like it. There had been no fire lighted in my bedroom
since the spring, the flue was foul, and the rooks had built in
it; so when I went up to dress for dinner, I found the room full
of smoke, and the chimney on fire. Are we already at Blackwater?"

The train had gradually come to a pause while Mr. Dwerrihouse was
speaking, and, on putting my head out of the window, I could see
the station some few hundred yards ahead. There was another train
before us blocking the way, and the guard was making use of the
delay to collect the Blackwater tickets. I had scarcely ascertained
our position, when the ruddy-faced official appeared at our
carriage-door.

"Tickets, sir!" said he.

"I am for Clayborough," I replied, holding out the tiny pink card.

He took it; glanced at it by the light of his little lantern; gave it
back; looked, as I fancied, somewhat sharply at my fellow-traveller,
and disappeared.

"He did not ask for yours," I said with some surprise.

"They never do," replied Mr. Dwerrihouse. "They all know me; and,
of course, I travel free."

"Blackwater! Blackwater!" cried the porter, running along the platform
beside us, as we glided into the station.

Mr. Dwerrihouse pulled out his deed-box, put his travelling-cap in
his pocket, resumed his hat, took down his umbrella, and prepared
to be gone.

"Many thanks, Mr. Langford, for your society," he said, with
old-fashioned courtesy. "I wish you a good evening."

"Good evening," I replied, putting out my hand.

But he either did not see it, or did not choose to see it, and,
slightly lifting his hat, stepped out upon the platform. Having
done this, he moved slowly away, and mingled with the departing
crowd.

Leaning forward to watch him out of sight, I trod upon something
which proved to be a cigar-case. It had fallen, no doubt, from
the pocket of his water-proof coat, and was made of dark morocco
leather, with a silver monogram upon the side. I sprang out of
the carriage just as the guard came up to lock me in.

"Is there one minute to spare?" I asked eagerly. "The gentleman
who travelled down with me from town has dropped his cigar-case;
he is not yet out of the station!"

"Just a minute and a half, sir," replied the guard. "You must be
quick."

I dashed along the platform as fast as my feet could carry me.
It was a large station, and Mr. Dwerrihouse had by this time got
more than half-way to the farther end.

I, however, saw him distinctly, moving slowly with the stream.
Then, as I drew nearer, I saw that he had met some friend,--that
they were talking as they walked,--that they presently fell back
somewhat from the crowd, and stood aside in earnest conversation.
I made straight for the spot where they were waiting. There was a
vivid gas-jet just above their heads, and the light fell full upon
their faces. I saw both distinctly,--the face of Mr. Dwerrihouse
and the face of his companion. Running, breathless, eager as I
was, getting in the way of porters and passengers, and fearful
every instant lest I should see the train going on without me,
I yet observed that the new-comer was considerably younger and
shorter than the director, that he was sandy-haired, mustachioed,
small-featured, and dressed in a close-cut suit of Scotch tweed.
I was now within a few yards of them. I ran against a stout
gentleman,--I was nearly knocked down by a luggage-truck,--I stumbled
over a carpet-bag,--I gained the spot just as the driver's whistle
warned me to return.

To my utter stupefaction they were no longer there. I had seen
them but two seconds before,--and they were gone! I stood still. I
looked to right and left. I saw no sign of them in any direction.
It was as if the platform had gaped and swallowed them.

"There were two gentlemen standing here a moment ago," I said to
a porter at my elbow; "which way can they have gone?"

"I saw no gentlemen, sir," replied the man.

The whistle shrilled out again. The guard, far up the platform,
held up his arm, and shouted to me to "Come on!"

"If you're going on by this train, sir," said the porter, "you must
run for it."

I did run for it, just gained the carriage as the train began to
move, was shoved in by the guard, and left breathless and bewildered,
with Mr. Dwerrihouse's cigar-case still in my hand.

It was the strangest disappearance in the world. It was like a
transformation trick in a pantomime. They were there one
moment,--palpably there, talking, with the gaslight full upon their
faces; and the next moment they were gone. There was no door near,--no
window,--no staircase. It was a mere slip of barren platform, tapestried
with big advertisements. Could anything be more mysterious?

It was not worth thinking about; and yet, for my life, I could
not help pondering upon it,--pondering, wondering, conjecturing,
turning it over and over in my mind, and beating my brains for a
solution of the enigma. I thought of it all the way from Blackwater
to Clayborough. I thought of it all the way from Clayborough to
Dumbleton, as I rattled along the smooth highway in a trim dog-cart
drawn by a splendid black mare, and driven by the silentest and
dapperest of East Anglian grooms.

We did the nine miles in something less than an hour, and pulled
up before the lodge-gates just as the church-clock was striking
half past seven. A couple of minutes more, and the warm glow of
the lighted hall was flooding out upon the gravel, a hearty grasp
was on my hand, and a clear jovial voice was bidding me "Welcome
to Dumbleton."

"And now, my dear fellow," said my host, when the first greeting
was over, "you have no time to spare. We dine at eight, and there
are people coming to meet you; so you must just get the dressing
business over as quickly as may be. By the way, you will meet some
acquaintances. The Biddulphs are coming, and Prendergast (Prendergast,
of the Skirmishers) is staying in the house. Adieu! Mrs. Jelf will
be expecting you in the drawing-room."

I was ushered to my room,--not the blue room, of which Mr. Dwerrihouse
had made disagreeable experience, but a pretty little bachelor's
chamber, hung with a delicate chintz, and made cheerful by a blazing
fire. I unlocked my portmanteau. I tried to be expeditious; but
the memory of my railway adventure haunted me. I could not get
free of it. I could not shake it off. It impeded me,--it worried
me,--it tripped me up,--it caused me to mislay my studs,--to mistie
my cravat,--to wrench the buttons off my gloves. Worst of all, it
made me so late that the party had all assembled before I reached
the drawing-room. I had scarcely paid my respects to Mrs. Jelf
when dinner was announced, and we paired off, some eight or ten
couples strong, into the dining-room.

I am not going to describe either the guests or the dinner. All
provincial parties bear the strictest family resemblance, and I
am not aware that an East Anglian banquet offers any exception
to the rule. There was the usual country baronet and his wife;
there were the usual country parsons and their wives; there was
the sempiternal turkey and haunch of venison. _Vanitas vanitatum._
There is nothing new under the sun.

I was placed about midway down the table. I had taken one rector's
wife down to dinner, and I had another at my left hand. They talked
across me, and their talk was about babies. It was dreadfully dull.
At length there came a pause. The entrées had just been removed,
and the turkey had come upon the scene. The conversation had all
along been of the languidest, but at this moment it happened to
have stagnated altogether. Jelf was carving the turkey. Mrs. Jelf
looked as if she was trying to think of something to say. Everybody
else was silent. Moved by an unlucky impulse, I thought I would
relate my adventure.

"By the way, Jelf," I began, "I came down part of the way to-day
with a friend of yours."

"Indeed!" said the master of the feast, slicing scientifically into
the breast of the turkey. "With whom, pray?"

"With one who bade me tell you that he should, if possible, pay
you a visit before Christmas."

"I cannot think who that could be," said my friend, smiling.

"It must be Major Thorp," suggested Mrs. Jelf.

I shook my head.

"It was not Major Thorp," I replied. "It was a near relation of
your own, Mrs. Jelf."

"Then I am more puzzled than ever," replied my hostess. "Pray tell
me who it was."

"It was no less a person than your cousin, Mr. John Dwerrihouse."

Jonathan Jelf laid down his knife and fork. Mrs. Jelf looked at
me in a strange, startled way, and said never a word.

"And he desired me to tell you, my dear madam, that you need not
take the trouble to burn the hall down in his honor this time; but
only to have the chimney of the blue room swept before his arrival."

Before I had reached the end of my sentence, I became aware of
something ominous in the faces of the guests. I felt I had said
something which I had better have left unsaid, and that for some
unexplained reason my words had evoked a general consternation. I
sat confounded, not daring to utter another syllable, and for at
least two whole minutes there was dead silence round the table.
Then Captain Prendergast came to the rescue.

"You have been abroad for some months, have you not, Mr. Langford?"
he said, with the desperation of one who flings himself into the
breach. "I heard you had been to Russia. Surely you have something
to tell us of the state and temper of the country after the war?"

I was heartily grateful to the gallant Skirmisher for this diversion
in my favor. I answered him, I fear, somewhat lamely; but he kept
the conversation up, and presently one or two others joined in,
and so the difficulty, whatever it might have been, was bridged
over. Bridged over, but not repaired. A something, an awkwardness,
a visible constraint, remained. The guests hitherto had been simply
dull; but now they were evidently uncomfortable and embarrassed.

The dessert had scarcely been placed upon the table when the ladies
left the room. I seized the opportunity to select a vacant chair
next Captain Prendergast.

"In Heaven's name," I whispered, "what was the matter just now?
What had I said?"

"You mentioned the name of John Dwerrihouse."

"What of that? I had seen him not two hours before."

"It is a most astounding circumstance that you should have seen
him," said Captain Prendergast. "Are you sure it was he?"

"As sure as of my own identity. We were talking all the way between
London and Blackwater. But why does that surprise you?"

"_Because_," replied Captain Prendergast, dropping his voice to
the lowest whisper,--"_because John Dwerrihouse absconded three
months ago, with seventy-five thousand pounds of the company's
money, and has never been heard of since._"

II.

John Dwerrihouse had absconded three months ago,--and I had seen him
only a few hours back. John Dwerrihouse had embezzled seventy-five
thousand pounds of the company's money, yet told me that he carried
that sum upon his person. Were ever facts so strangely incongruous,
so difficult to reconcile? How should he have ventured again into
the light of day? How dared he show himself along the line? Above
all, what had he been doing throughout those mysterious three months
of disappearance?

Perplexing questions these. Questions which at once suggested themselves
to the minds of all concerned, but which admitted of no easy solution.
I could find no reply to them. Captain Prendergast had not even a
suggestion to offer. Jonathan Jelf, who seized the first opportunity
of drawing me aside and learning all that I had to tell, was more
amazed and bewildered than either of us. He came to my room that
night, when all the guests were gone, and we talked the thing over
from every point of view; without, it must be confessed, arriving
at any kind of conclusion.

"I do not ask you," he said, "whether you can have mistaken your
man. That is impossible."

"As impossible as that I should mistake some stranger for yourself."

"It is not a question of looks or voice, but of facts. That he
should have alluded to the fire in the blue room is proof enough
of John Dwerrihouse's identity. How did he look?"

"Older, I thought. Considerably older, paler, and more anxious."

"He has had enough to make him look anxious, anyhow," said my friend,
gloomily; "be he innocent or guilty."

"I am inclined to believe that he is innocent," I replied. "He
showed no embarrassment when I addressed him, and no uneasiness
when the guard came round. His conversation was open to a fault.
I might almost say that he talked too freely of the business which
he had in hand."

"That again is strange; for I know no one more reticent on such
subjects. He actually told you that he had the seventy-five thousand
pounds in his pocket?"

"He did."

"Humph! My wife has an idea about it, and she may be right--"

"What idea?"

"Well, she fancies,--women are so clever, you know, at putting
themselves inside people's motives,--she fancies that he was tempted;
that he did actually take the money; and that he has been concealing
himself these three months in some wild part of the country,--struggling
possibly with his conscience all the time, and daring neither to
abscond with his booty nor to come back and restore it."

"But now that he has come back?"

"That is the point. She conceives that he has probably thrown himself
upon the company's mercy; made restitution of the money; and, being
forgiven, is permitted to carry the business through as if nothing
whatever had happened."

"The last," I replied, "is an impossible case. Mrs. Jelf thinks
like a generous and delicate-minded woman, but not in the least like
a board of railway directors. They would never carry forgiveness
so far."

"I fear not; and yet it is the only conjecture that bears a semblance
of likelihood. However, we can run over to Clayborough to-morrow,
and see if anything is to be learned. By the way, Prendergast tells
me you picked up his cigar-case."

"I did so, and here it is."

Jelf took the cigar-case, examined it by the light of the lamp, and
said at once that it was beyond doubt Mr. Dwerrihouse's property,
and that he remembered to have seen him use it.

"Here, too, is his monogram on the side," he added. "A big J transfixing
a capital D. He used to carry the same on his note-paper."

"It offers, at all events, a proof that I was not dreaming."

"Ay; but it is time you were asleep and dreaming now. I am ashamed
to have kept you up so long. Good night."

"Good night, and remember that I am more than ready to go with
you to Clayborough, or Blackwater, or London, or anywhere, if I
can be of the least service."

"Thanks! I know you mean it, old friend, and it may be that I shall
put you to the test. Once more, good night."

So we parted for that night, and met again in the breakfast-room at
half past eight next morning. It was a hurried, silent, uncomfortable
meal. None of us had slept well, and all were thinking of the same
subject. Mrs. Jelf had evidently been crying; Jelf was impatient
to be off; and both Captain Prendergast and myself felt ourselves
to be in the painful position of outsiders, who are involuntarily
brought into a domestic trouble. Within twenty minutes after we
had left the breakfast-table the dog-cart was brought round, and
my friend and I were on the road to Clayborough.

"Tell you what it is, Langford," he said, as we sped along between
the wintry hedges, "I do not much fancy to bring up Dwerrihouse's
name at Clayborough. All the officials know that he is my wife's
relation, and the subject just now is hardly a pleasant one. If
you don't much mind, we will take the 11.10 to Blackwater. It's
an important station, and we shall stand a far better chance of
picking up information there than at Clayborough."

So we took the 11.10, which happened to be an express, and, arriving
at Blackwater about a quarter before twelve, proceeded at once to
prosecute our inquiry.

We began by asking for the station-master,--a big, blunt, business-like
person, who at once averred that he knew Mr. John Dwerrihouse perfectly
well, and that there was no director on the line whom he had seen
and spoken to so frequently.

"He used to be down here two or three times a week, about three
months ago," said he, "when the new line was first set afoot; but
since then, you know, gentlemen--"

He paused, significantly.

Jelf flushed scarlet.

"Yes, yes," he said hurriedly, "we know all about that. The point
now to be ascertained is whether anything has been seen or heard
of him lately."

"Not to my knowledge," replied the station-master.

"He is not known to have been down the line any time yesterday,
for instance?"

The station-master shook his head.

"The East Anglian, sir," said he, "is about the last place where
he would dare to show himself. Why, there isn't a station-master,
there isn't a guard, there isn't a porter, who doesn't know
Mr. Dwerrihouse by sight as well as he knows his own face in the
looking-glass; or who wouldn't telegraph for the police as soon
as he had set eyes on him at any point along the line. Bless you,
sir! there's been a standing order out against him ever since the
twenty-fifth of September last."

"And yet," pursued my friend, "a gentleman who travelled down yesterday
from London to Clayborough by the afternoon express testifies that he
saw Mr. Dwerrihouse in the train, and that Mr. Dwerrihouse alighted
at Blackwater station."

"Quite impossible, sir," replied the station-master, promptly.

"Why impossible?"

"Because there is no station along the line where he is so well
known, or where he would run so great a risk. It would be just
running his head into the lion's mouth. He would have been mad to
come nigh Blackwater station; and if he had come, he would have
been arrested before he left the platform."

"Can you tell me who took the Blackwater tickets of that train?"

"I can, sir. It was the guard,--Benjamin Somers."

"And where can I find him?"

"You can find him, sir, by staying here, if you please, till one
o'clock. He will be coming through with the up express from Crampton,
which stays at Blackwater for ten minutes."

We waited for the up express, beguiling the time as best we could
by strolling along the Blackwater road till we came almost to the
outskirts of the town, from which the station was distant nearly a
couple of miles. By one o'clock we were back again upon the platform,
and waiting for the train. It came punctually, and I at once recognized
the ruddy-faced guard who had gone down with my train the evening
before.

"The gentlemen want to ask you something about Mr. Dwerrihouse,
Somers," said the station-master, by way of introduction.

The guard flashed a keen glance from my face to Jelf's, and back
again to mine.

"Mr. John Dwerrihouse, the late director?" said he, interrogatively.

"The same," replied my friend. "Should you know him if you saw him?"

"Anywhere, sir."

"Do you know if he was in the 4.15 express yesterday afternoon?"

"He was not, sir."

"How can you answer so positively?"

"Because I looked into every carriage, and saw every face in that
train, and I could take my oath that Mr. Dwerrihouse was not in
it. This gentleman was," he added, turning sharply upon me. "I
don't know that I ever saw him before in my life, but I remember
_his_ face perfectly. You nearly missed taking your seat in time
at this station, sir, and you got out at Clayborough."

"Quite true, guard," I replied; "but do you not also remember the
face of the gentleman who travelled down in the same carriage with
me as far as here?"

"It was my impression, sir, that you travelled down alone," said
Somers, with a look of some surprise.

"By no means. I had a fellow-traveller as far as Blackwater, and
it was in trying to restore him the cigar-case which he had dropped
in the carriage that I so nearly let you go on without me."

"I remember your saying something about a cigar-case, certainly,"
replied the guard, "but--"

"You asked for my ticket just before we entered the station."

"I did, sir."

"Then you must have seen him. He sat in the corner next the very
door to which you came."

"No, indeed. I saw no one."

I looked at Jelf. I began to think the guard was in the ex-director's
confidence, and paid for his silence.

"If I had seen another traveller I should have asked for his ticket,"
added Somers. "Did you see me ask for his ticket, sir?"

"I observed that you did not ask for it, but he explained that
by saying--" I hesitated. I feared I might be telling too much,
and so broke off abruptly.

The guard and the station-master exchanged glances. The former looked
impatiently at his watch.

"I am obliged to go on in four minutes more, sir," he said.

"One last question, then," interposed Jelf, with a sort of desperation.
"If this gentleman's fellow-traveller had been Mr. John Dwerrihouse,
and he had been sitting in the corner next the door by which you
took the tickets, could you have failed to see and recognize him?"

"No, sir; it would have been quite impossible."

"And you are certain you did _not_ see him?"

"As I said before, sir, I could take my oath I did not see him.
And if it wasn't that I don't like to contradict a gentleman, I
would say I could also take my oath that this gentleman was quite
alone in the carriage the whole way from London to Clayborough.
Why, sir," he added, dropping his voice so as to be inaudible to
the station-master, who had been called away to speak to some person
close by, "you expressly asked me to give you a compartment to
yourself, and I did so. I locked you in, and you were so good as
to give me something for myself."

"Yes; but Mr. Dwerrihouse had a key of his own."

"I never saw him, sir; I saw no one in that compartment but yourself.
Beg pardon, sir, my time's up."

And with this the ruddy guard touched his cap and was gone. In
another minute the heavy panting of the engine began afresh, and
the train glided slowly out of the station.

We looked at each other for some moments in silence. I was the first
to speak.

"Mr. Benjamin Somers knows more than he chooses to tell," I said.

"Humph! do you think so?"

"It must be. He could not have come to the door without seeing him.
It's impossible."

"There is one thing not impossible, my dear fellow."

"What is that?"

"That you may have fallen asleep, and dreamt the whole thing."

"Could I dream of a branch line that I had never heard of? Could
I dream of a hundred and one business details that had no kind of
interest for me? Could I dream of the seventy-five thousand pounds?"

"Perhaps you might have seen or heard some vague account of the
affair while you were abroad. It might have made no impression
upon you at the time, and might have come back to you in your
dreams,--recalled, perhaps, by the mere names of the stations on
the line."

"What about the fire in the chimney of the blue room,--should I
have heard of that during my journey?"

"Well, no; I admit there is a difficulty about that point."

"And what about the cigar-case?"

"Ay, by Jove! there is the cigar-case. That _is_ a stubborn fact.
Well, it's a mysterious affair, and it will need a better detective
than myself, I fancy, to clear it up. I suppose we may as well go
home."

III.

A week had not gone by when I received a letter from the Secretary
of the East Anglian Railway Company, requesting the favor of my
attendance at a special board meeting, not then many days distant.
No reasons were alleged, and no apologies offered, for this demand
upon my time; but they had heard, it was clear, of my inquiries
anent the missing director, and had a mind to put me through some
sort of official examination upon the subject. Being still a guest
at Dumbleton Hall, I had to go up to London for the purpose, and
Jonathan Jelf accompanied me. I found the direction of the Great
East Anglian line represented by a party of some twelve or fourteen
gentlemen seated in solemn conclave round a huge green-baize table,
in a gloomy board-room, adjoining the London terminus.

Being courteously received by the chairman (who at once began by
saying that certain statements of mine respecting Mr. John Dwerrihouse
had come to the knowledge of the direction, and that they in consequence
desired to confer with me on those points), we were placed at the
table, and the inquiry proceeded in due form.

I was first asked if I knew Mr. John Dwerrihouse, how long I had
been acquainted with him, and whether I could identify him at sight.
I was then asked when I had seen him last. To which I replied,
"On the fourth of this present month, December, eighteen hundred
and fifty-six." Then came the inquiry of where I had seen him on
that fourth day of December; to which I replied that I met him in
a first-class compartment of the 4.15 down express; that he got
in just as the train was leaving the London terminus, and that he
alighted at Blackwater station. The chairman then inquired whether
I had held any communication with my fellow-traveller; whereupon
I related, as nearly as I could remember it, the whole bulk and
substance of Mr. John Dwerrihouse's diffuse information respecting
the new branch line.

To all this the board listened with profound attention, while the
chairman presided and the secretary took notes. I then produced
the cigar-case. It was passed from hand to hand, and recognized by
all. There was not a man present who did not remember that plain
cigar-case with its silver monogram, or to whom it seemed anything
less than entirely corroborative of my evidence. When at length I
had told all that I had to tell, the chairman whispered something
to the secretary; the secretary touched a silver hand-bell; and
the guard, Benjamin Somers, was ushered into the room. He was then
examined as carefully as myself. He declared that he knew Mr. John
Dwerrihouse perfectly well; that he could not be mistaken in him;
that he remembered going down with the 4.15 express on the afternoon
in question; that he remembered me; and that, there being one or
two empty first-class compartments on that especial afternoon, he
had, in compliance with my request, placed me in a carriage by
myself. He was positive that I remained alone in that compartment
all the way from London to Clayborough. He was ready to take his
oath that Mr. Dwerrihouse was neither in that carriage with me,
nor in any compartment of that train. He remembered distinctly to
have examined my ticket at Blackwater; was certain that there was
no one else at that time in the carriage; could not have failed
to observe a second person, if there had been one; had that second
person been Mr. John Dwerrihouse, should have quietly double-locked
the door of the carriage, and have at once given information to the
Blackwater station-master. So clear, so decisive, so ready, was
Somers with this testimony, that the board looked fairly puzzled.

"You hear this person's statement, Mr. Langford," said the chairman.
"It contradicts yours in every particular. What have you to say
in reply?"

"I can only repeat what I said before. I am quite as positive of
the truth of my own assertions as Mr. Somers can be of the truth
of his."

"You say that Mr. Dwerrihouse alighted at Blackwater, and that
he was in possession of a private key. Are you sure that he had
not alighted by means of that key before the guard came round for
the tickets?"

"I am quite positive that he did not leave the carriage till the
train had fairly entered the station, and the other Blackwater
passengers alighted. I even saw that he was met there by a friend."

"Indeed! Did you see that person distinctly?"

"Quite distinctly."

"Can you describe his appearance?"

"I think so. He was short and very slight, sandy-haired, with a
bushy mustache and beard, and he wore a closely fitting suit of gray
tweed. His age I should take to be about thirty-eight or forty."

"Did Mr. Dwerrihouse leave the station in this person's company?"

"I cannot tell. I saw them walking together down the platform, and
then I saw them standing aside under a gas-jet, talking earnestly.
After that I lost sight of them quite suddenly; and just then my
train went on, and I with it"

The chairman and secretary conferred together in an undertone. The
directors whispered to each other. One or two looked suspiciously
at the guard. I could see that my evidence remained unshaken, and
that, like myself, they suspected some complicity between the guard
and the defaulter.

"How far did you conduct that 4.15 express on the day in question,
Somers?" asked the chairman.

"All through, sir," replied the guard; "from London to Crampton."

"How was it that you were not relieved at Clayborough? I thought
there was always a change of guards at Clayborough."

"There used to be, sir, till the new regulations came in force
last midsummer; since when, the guards in charge of express trains
go the whole way through."

The chairman turned to the secretary.

"I think it would be as well," he said, "if we had the day-book
to refer to upon this point."

Again the secretary touched the silver hand-bell, and desired the
porter in attendance to summon Mr. Raikes. From a word or two dropped
by another of the directors, I gathered that Mr. Raikes was one
of the under-secretaries.

He came,--a small, slight, sandy-haired, keen-eyed man, with an
eager, nervous manner, and a forest of light beard and mustache.
He just showed himself at the door of the board-room, and, being
requested to bring a certain day-book from a certain shelf in a
certain room, bowed and vanished.

He was there such a moment, and the surprise of seeing him was so
great and sudden, that it was not till the door had closed upon
him that I found voice to speak. He was no sooner gone, however,
than I sprang to my feet.

"That person," I said, "is the same who met Mr. Dwerrihouse upon
the platform at Blackwater!"

There was a general movement of surprise. The chairman looked grave,
and somewhat agitated.

"Take care, Mr. Langford," he said, "take care what you say!"

"I am as positive of his identity as of my own."

"Do you consider the consequences of your words? Do you consider
that you are bringing a charge of the gravest character against
one of the company's servants?"

"I am willing to be put upon my oath, if necessary. The man who
came to that door a minute since is the same whom I saw talking
with Mr. Dwerrihouse on the Blackwater platform. Were he twenty
times the company's servant, I could say neither more nor less."

The chairman turned again to the guard.

"Did you see Mr. Raikes in the train, or on the platform?" he asked.

Somers shook his head.

"I am confident Mr. Raikes was not in the train," he said; "and
I certainly did not see him on the platform."

The chairman turned next to the secretary.

"Mr. Raikes is in your office, Mr. Hunter," he said. "Can you remember
if he was absent on the fourth instant?"

"I do not think he was," replied the secretary; "but I am not prepared
to speak positively. I have been away most afternoons myself lately,
and Mr. Raikes might easily have absented himself if he had been
disposed."

At this moment the under-secretary returned with the day-book under
his arm.

"Be pleased to refer, Mr. Raikes," said the chairman, "to the entries
of the fourth instant, and see what Benjamin Somers's duties were
on that day."

Mr. Raikes threw open the cumbrous volume, and ran a practised eye
and finger down some three or four successive columns of entries.
Stopping suddenly at the foot of a page, he then read aloud that
Benjamin Somers had on that day conducted the 4.15 express from
London to Crampton.

The chairman leaned forward in his seat, looked the under-secretary
full in the face, and said, quite sharply and suddenly,--

"Where were _you_, Mr. Raikes, on the same afternoon?"

"_I_, sir?"

"You, Mr. Raikes. Where were you on the afternoon and evening of
the fourth of the present month?"

"Here, sir,--in Mr. Hunter's office. Where else should I be?"

There was a dash of trepidation in the under-secretary's voice as
he said this; but his look of surprise was natural enough.

"We have some reason for believing, Mr. Raikes, that you were absent
that afternoon without leave. Was this the case?"

"Certainly not, sir. I have not had a day's holiday since September.
Mr. Hunter will bear me out in this."

Mr. Hunter repeated what he had previously said on the subject,
but added that the clerks in the adjoining office would be certain
to know. Whereupon the senior clerk, a grave, middle-aged person,
in green glasses, was summoned and interrogated.

His testimony cleared the under-secretary at once. He declared
that Mr. Raikes had in no instance, to his knowledge, been absent
during office hours since his return from his annual holiday in
September.

I was confounded. The chairman turned to me with a smile, in which
a shade of covert annoyance was scarcely apparent.

"You hear, Mr. Langford?" he said.

"I hear, sir; but my conviction remains unshaken."

"I fear, Mr. Langford, that your convictions are very insufficiently
based," replied the chairman, with a doubtful cough. "I fear that
you 'dream dreams,' and mistake them for actual occurrences. It is
a dangerous habit of mind, and might lead to dangerous results.
Mr. Raikes here would have found himself in an unpleasant position,
had he not proved so satisfactory an _alibi_."

I was about to reply, but he gave me no time.

"I think, gentlemen," he went on to say, addressing the board,
"that we should be wasting time to push this inquiry further. Mr.
Langford's evidence would seem to be of an equal value throughout.
The testimony of Benjamin Somers disproves his first statement, and
the testimony of the last witness disproves his second. I think
we may conclude that Mr. Langford fell asleep in the train on the
occasion of his journey to Clayborough, and dreamt an unusually
vivid and circumstantial dream,--of which, however, we have now
heard quite enough."

There are few things more annoying than to find one's positive
convictions met with incredulity. I could not help feeling impatience
at the turn that affairs had taken. I was not proof against the
civil sarcasm of the chairman's manner. Most intolerable of all,
however, was the quiet smile lurking about the corners of Benjamin
Somers's mouth, and the half-triumphant, half-malicious gleam in
the eyes of the under-secretary. The man was evidently puzzled,
and somewhat alarmed. His looks seemed furtively to interrogate
me. Who was I? What did I want? Why had I come there to do him
an ill turn with his employers? What was it to me whether or no
he was absent without leave?

Seeing all this, and perhaps more irritated by it than the thing
deserved, I begged leave to detain the attention of the board for
a moment longer. Jelf plucked me impatiently by the sleeve.

"Better let the thing drop," he whispered. "The chairman's right
enough. You dreamt it; and the less said now the better."

I was not to be silenced, however, in this fashion. I had yet something
to say, and I would say it. It was to this effect: that dreams were
not usually productive of tangible results, and that I requested
to know in what way the chairman conceived I had evolved from my
dream so substantial and well-made a delusion as the cigar-case
which I had had the honor to place before him at the commencement
of our interview.

"The cigar-case, I admit, Mr. Langford," the chairman replied,
"is a very strong point in your evidence. It is your _only_ strong
point, however, and there is just a possibility that we may all
be misled by a mere accidental resemblance. Will you permit me
to see the case again?"

"It is unlikely," I said, as I handed it to him, "that any other
should bear precisely this monogram, and yet be in all other particulars
exactly similar."

The chairman examined it for a moment in silence, and then passed
it to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter turned it over and over, and shook
his head.

"This is no mere resemblance," he said. "It is John Dwerrihouse's
cigar-case to a certainty. I remember it perfectly. I have seen
it a hundred times."

"I believe I may say the same," added the chairman. "Yet how account
for the way in which Mr. Langford asserts that it came into his
possession?"

"I can only repeat," I replied, "that I found it on the floor of
the carriage after Mr. Dwerrihouse had alighted. It was in leaning
out to look after him that I trod upon it; and it was in running
after him for the purpose of restoring it that I saw--or believed
I saw--Mr. Raikes standing aside with him in earnest conversation."

Again I felt Jonathan Jelf plucking at my sleeve.

"Look at Raikes," he whispered,--"look at Raikes!"

I turned to where the under-secretary had been standing a moment
before, and saw him, white as death with lips trembling and livid,
stealing towards the door.

To conceive a sudden, strange, and indefinite suspicion; to fling
myself in his way; to take him by the shoulders as if he were a
child, and turn his craven face, perforce, towards the board, were
with me the work of an instant.

"Look at him!" I exclaimed. "Look at his face! I ask no better witness
to the truth of my words."

The chairman's brow darkened.

"Mr. Raikes," he said, sternly, "if you know anything, you had better
speak."

Vainly trying to wrench himself from my grasp, the under-secretary
stammered out an incoherent denial.

"Let me go," he said. "I know nothing,--you have no right to detain
me,--let me go!"

"Did you, or did you not, meet Mr. John Dwerrihouse at Blackwater
station? The charge brought against you is either true or false.
If true, you will do well to throw yourself upon the mercy of the
board, and make full confession of all that you know."

The under-secretary wrung his hands in an agony of helpless terror.

"I was away," he cried. "I was two hundred miles away at the time!
I know nothing about it--I have nothing to confess--I am innocent--I
call God to witness I am innocent!"

"Two hundred miles away!" echoed the chairman. "What do you mean?"

"I was in Devonshire. I had three weeks' leave of absence--I appeal
to Mr. Hunter--Mr. Hunter knows I had three weeks' leave of absence!
I was in Devonshire all the time--I can prove I was in Devonshire!"

Seeing him so abject, so incoherent, so wild with apprehension,
the directors began to whisper gravely among themselves; while
one got quietly up, and called the porter to guard the door.

"What has your being in Devonshire to do with the matter?" said
the chairman. "When were you in Devonshire?"

"Mr. Raikes took his leave in September," said the secretary; "about
the time when Mr. Dwerrihouse disappeared."

"I never even heard that he had disappeared till I came back!"

"That must remain to be proved," said the chairman. "I shall at
once put this matter in the hands of the police. In the mean while,
Mr. Raikes, being myself a magistrate, and used to deal with these
cases, I advise you to offer no resistance, but to confess while
confession may yet do you service. As for your accomplice--"

The frightened wretch fell upon his knees.

"I had no accomplice!" he cried. "Only have mercy upon me,--only
spare my life, and I will confess all! I didn't mean to harm him!
I didn't mean to hurt a hair of his head. Only have mercy upon
me, and let me go!"

The chairman rose in his place, pale and agitated. "Good heavens!"
he exclaimed, "what horrible mystery is this? What does it mean?"

"As sure as there is a God in heaven," said Jonathan Jelf, "it means
that murder has been done."

"No--no--no!" shrieked Raikes, still upon his knees, and cowering
like a beaten hound. "Not murder! No jury that ever sat could bring
it in murder. I thought I had only stunned him--I never meant to
do more than stun him! Manslaughter--manslaughter--not murder!"

Overcome by the horror of this unexpected revelation, the chairman
covered his face with his hand, and for a moment or two remained
silent.

"Miserable man," he said at length, "you have betrayed yourself."

"You bade me confess! You urged me to throw myself upon the mercy
of the board!"

"You have confessed to a crime which no one suspected you of having
committed," replied the chairman, "and which this board has no
power either to punish or forgive. All that I can do for you is to
advise you to submit to the law, to plead guilty, and to conceal
nothing. When did you do this deed?"

The guilty man rose to his feet, and leaned heavily against the
table. His answer came reluctantly, like the speech of one dreaming.

"On the twenty-second of September!"

On the twenty-second of September! I looked in Jonathan Jelf's
face, and he in mine. I felt my own paling with a strange sense
of wonder and dread. I saw his blanch suddenly, even to the lips.

"Merciful heaven!" he whispered, "_what was it, then, that you saw
in the train?_"


What was it that I saw in the train? That question remains unanswered
to this day. I have never been able to reply to it. I only know that
it bore the living likeness of the murdered man, whose body had
then been lying some ten weeks under a rough pile of branches, and
brambles, and rotting leaves, at the bottom of a deserted chalk-pit
about half-way between Blackwater and Mallingford. I know that it
spoke, and moved, and looked as that man spoke, and moved, and
looked in life; that I heard, or seemed to hear, things related
which I could never otherwise have learned; that I was guided, as
it were, by that vision on the platform to the identification of
the murderer; and that, a passive instrument myself, I was destined,
by means of these mysterious teachings, to bring about the ends of
justice. For these things I have never been able to account.

As for that matter of the cigar-case, it proved on inquiry, that
the carriage in which I travelled down that afternoon to Clayborough
had not been in use for several weeks, and was in point of fact
the same in which poor John Dwerrihouse had performed his last
journey. The case had, doubtless, been dropped by him, and had lain
unnoticed till I found it.

Upon the details of the murder I have no need to dwell. Those who
desire more ample particulars may find them, and the written confession
of Augustus Raikes, in the files of the Times for 1856. Enough
that the under-secretary, knowing the history of the new line,
and following the negotiation step by step through all its stages,
determined to waylay Mr. Dwerrihouse, rob him of the seventy-five
thousand pounds, and escape to America with his booty.

In order to effect these ends he obtained leave of absence a few
days before the time appointed for the payment of the money; secured
his passage across the Atlantic in a steamer advertised to start
on the twenty-third; provided himself with a heavily loaded
"life-preserver," and went down to Blackwater to await the arrival
of his victim. How he met him on the platform with a pretended
message from the board; how he offered to conduct him by a short
cut across the fields to Mallingford; how, having brought him to
a lonely place, he struck him down with the life-preserver, and
so killed him; and how, finding what he had done, he dragged the
body to the verge of an out-of-the-way chalk-pit, and there flung
it in, and piled it over with branches and brambles,--are facts
still fresh in the memories of those who, like the connoisseurs in
De Quincey's famous essay, regard murder as a fine art. Strangely
enough, the murderer, having done his work, was afraid to leave the
country. He declared that he had not intended to take the director's
life, but only to stun and rob him; and that, finding the blow
had killed, he dared not fly for fear of drawing down suspicion
upon his own head. As a mere robber he would have been safe in the
States, but as a murderer he would inevitably have been pursued,
and given up to justice. So he forfeited his passage, returned to
the office as usual at the end of his leave, and locked up his
ill-gotten thousands till a more convenient opportunity. In the
mean while he had the satisfaction of finding that Mr. Dwerrihouse
was universally believed to have absconded with the money, no one
knew how or whither.

Whether he meant murder or not, however, Mr. Augustus Raikes paid
the full penalty of his crime, and was hanged at the Old Bailey
in the second week in January, 1857. Those who desire to make his
further acquaintance may see him any day (admirably done in wax)
in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's exhibition, in Baker
Street. He is there to be found in the midst of a select society of
ladies and gentlemen of atrocious memory, dressed in the close-cut
tweed suit which he wore on the evening of the murder, and holding
in his hand the identical life-preserver with which he committed
it.



THE SIGNAL-MAN.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.


"Halloa! Below there!"

When he heard a voice thus calling to him, he was standing at the
door of his box, with a flag in his hand, furled round its short
pole. One would have thought, considering the nature of the ground,
that he could not have doubted from what quarter the voice came;
but, instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of the steep
cutting nearly over his head, he turned himself about and looked
down the Line. There was something remarkable in his manner of
doing so, though I could not have said, for my life, what. But I
know it was remarkable enough to attract my notice, even though
his figure was foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench,
and mine was high above him, and so steeped in the glow of an angry
sunset that I had shaded my eyes with my hand before I saw him at
all.

"Halloa! Below!"

From looking down the Line, he turned himself about again, and,
raising his eyes, saw my figure high above him.

"Is there any path by which I can come down and speak to you?"

He looked up at me without replying, and I looked down at him without
pressing him too soon with a repetition of my idle question. Just
then there came a vague vibration in the earth and air, quickly
changing into a violent pulsation, and an oncoming rush that caused
me to start back, as though it had force to draw me down. When
such vapor as rose to my height from this rapid train had passed
me and was skimming away over the landscape, I looked down again,
and saw him refurling the flag he had shown while the train went
by.

I repeated my inquiry. After a pause, during which he seemed to
regard me with fixed attention, he motioned with his rolled-up
flag towards a point on my level, some two or three hundred yards
distant. I called down to him, "All right!" and made for that point.
There, by dint of looking closely about me, I found a rough zigzag
descending path notched out; which I followed.

The cutting was extremely deep, and unusually precipitate. It was
made through a clammy stone that became oozier and wetter as I
went down. For these reasons, I found the way long enough to give
me time to recall a singular air of reluctance or compulsion with
which he had pointed out the path.

When I came down low enough upon the zigzag descent to see him
again, I saw that he was standing between the rails on the way by
which the train had lately passed, in an attitude as if he were
waiting for me to appear. He had his left hand at his chin, and
that left elbow rested on his right hand crossed over his breast.
His attitude was one of such expectation and watchfulness, that
I stopped a moment, wondering at it.

I resumed my downward way, and, stepping out upon the level of
the railroad and drawing nearer to him, saw that he was a dark,
sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows. His post
was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw. On either side,
a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip
of sky: the perspective one way, only a crooked prolongation of
this great dungeon; the shorter perspective in the other direction,
terminating in a gloomy red light, and the gloomier entrance to a
black tunnel, in whose massive architecture there was a barbarous,
depressing, and forbidding air. So little sunlight ever found its
way to this spot, and it had an earthy deadly smell; and so much
cold wind rushed through it, that it struck chill to me, as if
I had left the natural world.

Before he stirred, I was near enough to him to have touched him.
Not even then removing his eyes from mine, he stepped back one
step, and lifted his hand.

This was a lonesome post to occupy (I said), and it had riveted
my attention when I looked down from up yonder. A visitor was a
rarity, I should suppose; not an unwelcome rarity, I hoped? In
me, he merely saw a man who had been shut up within narrow limits
all his life, and who, being at last set free, had a newly awakened
interest in these great works. To such purpose I spoke to him;
but I am far from sure of the terms I used, for, besides that I
am not happy in opening any conversation, there was something in
the man that daunted me.

He directed a most curious look towards the red light near the
tunnel's mouth, and looked all about it, as if something were missing
from it, and then looked at me.

That light was part of his charge? Was it not?

He answered in a low voice, "Don't you know it is?"

The monstrous thought came into my mind, as I perused the fixed
eyes and the saturnine face, that this was a spirit, not a man.
I have speculated since whether there may have been infection in
his mind.

In my turn, I stepped back. But in making the action, I detected
in his eyes some latent fear of me. This put the monstrous thought
to flight.

"You look at me," I said, forcing a smile, "as if you had a dread
of me."

"I was doubtful," he returned, "whether I had seen you before."

"Where?"

He pointed to the red light he had looked at.

"There?" I said.

Intently watchful of me, he replied (but without sound), "Yes."

"My good fellow, what should I do there? However, be that as it
may, I never was there, you may swear."

"I think I may," he rejoined. "Yes, I am sure I may."

His manner cleared, like my own. He replied to my remarks with
readiness, and in well-chosen words. Had he much to do there? Yes;
that was to say, he had enough responsibility to bear; but exactness
and watchfulness were what was required of him, and of actual
work--manual labor--he had next to none. To change that signal,
to trim those lights, and to turn this iron handle now and then,
was all he had to do under that head. Regarding those many long
and lonely hours of which I seemed to make so much, he could only
say that the routine of his life had shaped itself into that form,
and he had grown used to it. He had taught himself a language down
here,--if only to know it by sight, and to have formed his own
crude ideas of its pronunciation, could be called learning it.
He had also worked at fractions and decimals, and tried a little
algebra; but he was, and had been as a boy, a poor hand at figures.
Was it necessary for him, when on duty, always to remain in that
channel of damp air, and could he never rise into the sunshine from
between those high stone walls? Why, that depended upon times and
circumstances. Under some conditions there would be less upon the
Line than under others, and the same held good as to certain hours
of the day and night. In bright weather, he did choose occasions
for getting a little above these lower shadows; but, being at all
times liable to be called by his electric bell, and at such times
listening for it with redoubled anxiety, the relief was less than
I would suppose.

He took me into his box, where there was a fire, a desk for an
official book in which he had to make certain entries, a telegraphic
instrument with its dial face and needles, and the little bell
of which he had spoken. On my trusting that he would excuse the
remark that he had been well educated, and (I hoped I might say
without offence) perhaps educated above that station, he observed
that instances of slight incongruity in such-wise would rarely be
found wanting among large bodies of men; that he had heard it was
so in workhouses, in the police force, even in that last desperate
resource, the army; and that he knew it was so, more or less, in any
great railway staff. He had been, when young (if I could believe
it, sitting in that hut; he scarcely could), a student of natural
philosophy, and had attended lectures; but he had run wild, misused
his opportunities, gone down, and never risen again. He had no
complaint to offer about that. He had made his bed, and he lay upon
it. It was far too late to make another.

All that I have here condensed he said in a quiet manner, with his
grave dark regards divided between me and the fire. He threw in
the word "Sir" from time to time, and especially when he referred
to his youth, as though to request me to understand that he claimed
to be nothing but what I found him. He was several times interrupted
by the little bell, and had to read off messages, and send replies.
Once he had to stand without the door and display a flag as a train
passed, and make some verbal communication to the driver. In the
discharge of his duties I observed him to be remarkably exact and
vigilant, breaking off his discourse at a syllable, and remaining
silent until what he had to do was done.

In a word, I should have set this man down as one of the safest
of men to be employed in that capacity, but for the circumstance
that while he was speaking to me he twice broke off with a fallen
color, turned his face towards the little bell when it did NOT
ring, opened the door of the hut (which was kept shut to exclude
the unhealthy damp), and looked out towards the red light near the
mouth of the tunnel. On both of those occasions he came back to
the fire with the inexplicable air upon him which I had remarked,
without being able to define, when we were so far asunder.

Said I, when I rose to leave him, "You almost make me think that
I have met with a contented man."

(I am afraid I must acknowledge that I said it to lead him on.)

"I believe I used to be so," he rejoined, in the low voice in which
he had first spoken; "but I am troubled, sir, I am troubled."

He would have recalled the words if he could. He had said them,
however, and I took them up quickly.

"With what? What is your trouble?"

"It is very difficult to impart, sir. It is very, very difficult
to speak of. If ever you make me another visit, I will try to tell
you."

"But I expressly intend to make you another visit. Say, when shall
it be?"

"I go off early in the morning, and I shall be on again at ten to-morrow
night, sir."

"I will come at eleven."

He thanked me, and went out at the door with me. "I'll show my
white light, sir," he said, in his peculiar low voice, "till you
have found the way up. When you have found it, don't call out!
And when you are at the top, don't call out!"

His manner seemed to make the place strike colder to me, but I said
no more than, "Very well."

"And when you come down to-morrow night, don't call out! Let me ask
you a parting question. What made you cry, 'Halloa! Below there!'
to-night?"

"Heaven knows," said I. "I cried something to that effect--"

"Not to that effect, sir. Those were the very words. I know them
well."

"Admit those were the very words. I said them, no doubt, because
I saw you below."

"For no other reason?"

"What other reason could I possibly have?"

"You had no feeling that they were conveyed to you in any supernatural
way?"

"No."

He wished me good night, and held up his light. I walked by the
side of the down Line of rails (with a very disagreeable sensation
of a train coming behind me), until I found the path. It was easier
to mount than to descend, and I got back to my inn without any
adventure.

Punctual to my appointment, I placed my foot on the first notch of
the zigzag next night, as the distant clocks were striking eleven.
He was waiting for me at the bottom, with his white light on.

"I have not called out," I said, when we came close together; "may
I speak now?"

"By all means, sir."

"Good night, then, and here's my hand."

"Good night, sir, and here's mine."

With that, we walked side by side to his box, entered it, closed
the door, and sat down by the fire.

"I have made up my mind, sir," he began, bending forward as soon
as we were seated, and speaking in a tone but a little above a
whisper, "that you shall not have to ask me twice what troubles
me. I took you for some one else yesterday evening. That troubles
me."

"That mistake?"

"No. That some one else."

"Who is it?"

"I don't know."

"Like me?"

"I don't know. I never saw the face. The left arm is across the
face, and the right arm is waved. Violently waved. This way."

I followed his action with my eyes, and it was the action of an
arm gesticulating with the utmost passion and vehemence: "For God's
sake clear the way!"

"One moonlight night," said the man, "I was sitting here, when
I heard a voice cry, 'Halloa! Below there!' I started up, looked
from that door, and saw this Some one else standing by the red
light near the tunnel, waving as I just now showed you. The voice
seemed hoarse with shouting, and it cried, 'Look out! Look out!'
And then again, 'Halloa! Below there! Look out!' I caught up my
lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure, calling, 'What's
wrong? What has happened? Where?' It stood just outside the blackness
of the tunnel. I advanced so close upon it that I wondered at its
keeping the sleeve across its eyes. I ran right up at it, and had
my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve away, when it was gone."

"Into the tunnel?" said I.

"No. I ran on into the tunnel, five hundred yards. I stopped and
held my lamp above my head, and saw the figures of the measured
distance, and saw the wet stains stealing down the walls and trickling
through the arch. I ran out again, faster than I had run in (for I
had a mortal abhorrence of the place upon me), and I looked all
round the red light with my own red light, and I went up the iron
ladder to the gallery atop of it, and I came down again, and ran
back here. I telegraphed both ways, 'An alarm has been given. Is
anything wrong?' The answer came back, both ways, 'All well.'"

Resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine, I
showed him how that this figure must be a deception of his sense of
sight, and how that figures, originating in disease of the delicate
nerves that minister to the functions of the eye, were known to have
often troubled patients, some of whom had become conscious of the
nature of their affliction, and had even proved it by experiments
upon themselves. "As to an imaginary cry," said I, "do but listen
for a moment to the wind in this unnatural valley while we speak
so low, and to the wild harp it makes of the telegraph wires!"

That was all very well, he returned, after we had sat listening
for a while, and he ought to know something of the wind and the
wires, he who so often passed long winter nights there, alone and
watching. But he would beg to remark that he had not finished.

I asked his pardon, and he slowly added these words, touching my
arm:--

"Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident on
this Line happened, and within ten hours the dead and wounded were
brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the figure
had stood."

A disagreeable shudder crept over me, but I did my best against
it. It was not to be denied, I rejoined, that this was a remarkable
coincidence, calculated deeply to impress the mind. But it was
unquestionable that remarkable coincidences did continually occur,
and they must be taken into account in dealing with such a subject.
Though to be sure I must admit, I added (for I thought I saw that
he was going to bring the objection to bear upon me), men of
common-sense did not allow much for coincidences in making the ordinary
calculations of life.

He again begged to remark that he had not finished.

I again begged his pardon for being betrayed into interruptions.

"This," he said, again laying his hand upon my arm, and glancing
over his shoulder with hollow eyes, "was just a year ago. Six or
seven months passed, and I had recovered from the surprise and
shock, when one morning, as the day was breaking, I, standing at
that door, looked towards the red light, and saw the spectre again."
He stopped, with a fixed look at me.

"Did it cry out?"

"No. It was silent."

"Did it wave its arm?"

"No. It leaned against the shaft of the light, with both hands before
the face. Like this."

Once more, I followed his action with my eyes. It was an action of
mourning. I have seen such an attitude in stone figures on tombs.

"Did you go up to it?"

"I came in and sat down, partly to collect my thoughts, partly
because it had turned me faint. When I went to the door again, daylight
was above me, and the ghost was gone."

"But nothing followed? Nothing came of this?"

He touched me on the arm with his forefinger twice or thrice, giving
a ghastly nod each time.

"That very day, as a train came out of the tunnel, I noticed, at a
carriage window on my side, what looked like a confusion of hands
and heads, and something waved. I saw it just in time to signal
the driver, Stop! He shut off, and put his brake on, but the train
drifted past here a hundred and fifty yards or more. I ran after it,
and as I went along heard terrible screams and cries. A beautiful
young lady had died instantaneously in one of the compartments, and
was brought in here, and laid down on this floor between us."

Involuntarily I pushed my chair back, as I looked from the boards
at which he pointed, to himself.

"True, sir. True. Precisely as it happened, so I tell it you."

I could think of nothing to say, to any purpose, and my mouth was
very dry. The wind and the wires took up the story with a long
lamenting wail.

He resumed. "Now, sir, mark this, and judge how my mind is troubled.
The spectre came back, a week ago. Ever since, it has been there,
now and again, by fits and starts."

"At the light?"

"At the Danger-light."

"What does it seem to do?"

He repeated, if possible with increased passion and vehemence, that
former gesticulation of "For God's sake clear the way!"

Then he went on. "I have no peace or rest for it. It calls to me,
for many minutes together, in an agonized manner, 'Below there!
Look out! Look out!' It stands waving to me. It rings my little
bell--"

I caught at that. "Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when
I was here, and you went to the door?"

"Twice."

"Why, see," said I, "how your imagination misleads you. My eyes
were on the bell, and my ears were open to the bell, and, if I am
a living man, it did NOT ring at those times. No, nor at any other
time, except when it was rung in the natural course of physical
things by the station communicating with you."

He shook his head. "I have never made a mistake as to that, yet,
sir. I have never confused the spectre's ring with the man's. The
ghost's ring is a strange vibration in the bell that it derives
from nothing else, and I have not asserted that the bell stirs to
the eye. I don't wonder that you failed to hear it. But _I_ heard
it."

"And did the spectre seem to be there, when you looked out?"

"It WAS there."

"Both times?"

He repeated firmly: "Both times."

"Will you come to the door with me, and look for it now?"

He bit his under-lip as though he were somewhat unwilling, but
arose. I opened the door, and stood on the step, while he stood
in the doorway. There was the Danger-light. There was the dismal
mouth of the tunnel. There were the high wet stone walls of the
cutting. There were the stars above them.

"Do you see it?" I asked him, taking particular note of his face.
His eyes were prominent and strained; but not very much more so,
perhaps, than my own had been when I had directed them earnestly
towards the same point.

"No," he answered. "It is not there."

"Agreed," said I.

We went in again, shut the door, and resumed our seats. I was thinking
how best to improve this advantage, if it might be called one, when
he took up the conversation in such a matter-of-course way, so
assuming that there could be no serious question of fact between
us, that I felt myself placed in the weakest of positions.

"By this time you will fully understand, sir," he said, "that what
troubles me so dreadfully is the question, What does the spectre
mean?"

I was not sure, I told him, that I did fully understand.

"What is its warning against?" he said, ruminating, with his eyes
on the fire, and only by times turning them on me. "What is the
danger? Where is the danger? There is danger overhanging, somewhere
on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen. It is not to be
doubted this third time, after what has gone before. But surely
this is a cruel haunting of _me_. What can _I_ do?"

He pulled out his handkerchief, and wiped the drops from his heated
forehead.

"If I telegraph Danger on either side of me, or on both, I can
give no reason for it," he went on, wiping the palms of his hands.
"I should get into trouble, and do no good. They would think I
was mad. This is the way it would work:--Message: 'Danger! Take
care!' Answer: 'What Danger? Where?' Message: 'Don't know. But
for God's sake take care!' They would displace me. What else could
they do?"

His pain of mind was most pitiable to see. It was the mental torture
of a conscientious man, oppressed beyond endurance by an unintelligible
responsibility involving life.

"When it first stood under the Danger-light," he went on, putting
his dark hair back from his head, and drawing his hands outward
across and across his temples in an extremity of feverish distress,
"why not tell me where that accident was to happen,--if it must
happen? Why not tell me how it could be averted,--if it could have
been averted? When on its second coming it hid its face, why not
tell me instead: 'She is going to die. Let them keep her at home'?
If it came, on those two occasions, only to show me that its warnings
were true, and so to prepare me for the third, why not warn me
plainly now? And I, Lord help me! A mere poor signal-man on this
solitary station! Why not go to somebody with credit to be believed,
and power to act?"

When I saw him in this state, I saw that for the poor man's sake,
as well as for the public safety, what I had to do for the time
was to compose his mind. Therefore, setting aside all question of
reality or unreality between us, I represented to him that whoever
thoroughly discharged his duty must do well, and that at least it
was his comfort that he understood his duty, though he did not
understand these confounding Appearances. In this effort I succeeded
far better than in the attempt to reason him out of his conviction.
He became calm; the occupations incidental to his post, as the
night advanced, began to make larger demands on his attention; and
I left him at two in the morning. I had offered to stay through
the night, but he would not hear of it.

That I more than once looked back at the red light as I ascended
the pathway, that I did not like the red light, and that I should
have slept but poorly if my bed had been under it, I see no reason
to conceal. Nor did I like the two sequences of the accident and
the dead girl. I see no reason to conceal that, either.

But what ran most in my thoughts was the consideration, how ought
I to act, having become the recipient of this disclosure? I had
proved the man to be intelligent, vigilant, painstaking, and exact;
but how long might he remain so, in his state of mind? Though in
a subordinate position, still he held a most important trust, and
would I (for instance) like to stake my own life on the chances
of his continuing to execute it with precision?

Unable to overcome a feeling that there would be something treacherous
in my communicating what he had told me to his superiors in the
Company, without first being plain with himself and proposing a
middle course to him, I ultimately resolved to offer to accompany
him (otherwise keeping his secret for the present) to the wisest
medical practitioner we could hear of in those parts, and to take
his opinion. A change in his time of duty would come round next
night, he had apprised me, and he would be off an hour or two after
sunrise, and on again soon after sunset. I had appointed to return
accordingly.

Next evening was a lovely evening, and I walked out early to enjoy
it. The sun was not yet quite down when I traversed the field-path
near the top of the deep cutting. I would extend my walk for an
hour, I said to myself, half an hour on and half an hour back,
and it would then be time to go to my signal-man's box.

Before pursuing my stroll I stepped to the brink, and mechanically
looked down, from the point from which I had first seen him. I
cannot describe the thrill that seized upon me, when, close at
the mouth of the tunnel, I saw the appearance of a man, with his
left sleeve across his eyes, passionately waving his right arm.

The nameless horror that oppressed me passed in a moment, for in
a moment I saw that this appearance of a man was a man indeed,
and that there was a little group of other men standing at a short
distance, to whom he seemed to be rehearsing the gesture he made.
The Danger-light was not yet lighted. Against its shaft, a little
low hut, entirely new to me, had been made of some wooden supports
and tarpaulin. It looked no bigger than a bed.

With an irresistible sense that something was wrong, with a flashing
self-reproachful fear that fatal mischief had come of my leaving
the man there, and causing no one to be sent to overlook or correct
what he did,--I descended the notched path with all the speed I
could make.

"What is the matter?" I asked the men.

"Signal-man killed this morning, sir."

"Not the man belonging to that box?"

"Yes, sir."

"Not the man I know?"

"You will recognize him, sir, if you knew him," said the man who
spoke for the others, solemnly uncovering his own head and raising
an end of the tarpaulin, "for his face is quite composed."

"O, how did this happen, how did this happen?" I asked, turning
from one to another as the hut closed in again.

"He was cut down by an engine, sir. No man in England knew his
work better. But somehow he was not clear of the outer rail. It
was just at broad day. He had struck the light, and had the lamp
in his hand. As the engine came out of the tunnel, his back was
towards her, and she cut him down. That man drove her, and was
showing how it happened. Show the gentleman, Tom."

The man, who wore a rough, dark dress, stepped back to his former
place at the mouth of the tunnel.

"Coming round the curve in the tunnel, sir," he said, "I saw him
at the end, like as if I saw him down a perspective-glass. There
was no time to check speed, and I knew him to be very careful. As
he didn't seem to take heed of the whistle, I shut it off when
we were running down upon him, and called to him as loud as I could
call."

"What did you say?"

"I said, Below there! Look out! Look out! For God's sake, clear
the way!"

I started.

"Ah! it was a dreadful time, sir. I never left off calling to him.
I put this arm before my eyes, not to see, and I waved this arm
to the last; but it was no use."


Without prolonging the narrative to dwell on any one of its curious
circumstances more than on any other, I may, in closing it, point
out the coincidence that the warning of the Engine-Driver included,
not only the words which the unfortunate signal-man had repeated to
me as haunting him, but also the words which I myself--not he--had
attached, and that only in my own mind, to the gesticulation he
had imitated.



THE HAUNTED SHIPS.

BY ALLAN CUNNINGHAM.


Along the sea of Solway, romantic on the Scottish side, with its
woodlands, its bays, its cliffs, and headlands,--and interesting on
the English side, with its many beautiful towns with their shadows
on the water, rich pastures, safe harbors, and numerous ships,--there
still linger many traditional stories of a maritime nature, most of
them connected with superstitions singularly wild and unusual. To
the curious these tales afford a rich fund of entertainment, from
the many diversities of the same story; some dry and barren, and
stripped of all the embellishments of poetry; others dressed out in
all the riches of a superstitious belief and haunted imagination. In
this they resemble the inland traditions of the peasants; but many
of the oral treasures of the Galwegian or the Cumbrian coast have
the stamp of the Dane and the Norseman upon them, and claim but a
remote or faint affinity with the legitimate legends of Caledonia.
Something like a rude prosaic outline of several of the most noted
of the Northern ballads, the adventures and depredations of the
old ocean kings, still lends life to the evening tale; and among
others, the story of the Haunted Ships is still popular among the
maritime peasantry.

One fine harvest evening I went on board the shallop of Richard
Faulder, of Allanbay; and, committing ourselves to the waters,
we allowed a gentle wind from the east to waft us at its pleasure
toward the Scottish coast. We passed the sharp promontory of Siddick;
and skirting the land within a stone-cast, glided along the shore
till we came within sight of the ruined Abbey of Sweetheart. The
green mountain of Criffell ascended beside us; and the bleat of the
flocks from its summit, together with the winding of the evening
horn of the reapers, came softened into something like music over
land and sea. We pushed our shallop into a deep and wooded bay,
and sat silently looking on the serene beauty of the place. The
moon glimmered in her rising through the tall shafts of the pines
of Caerlaverock; and the sky, with scarce a cloud, showered down
on wood, and headland, and bay, the twinkling beams of a thousand
stars, rendering every object visible. The tide, too, was coming
with that swift and silent swell observable when the wind is gentle;
the woody curves along the land were filling with the flood, till
it touched the green branches of the drooping trees; while in the
centre current the roll and the plunge of a thousand pellocks told
to the experienced fisherman that salmon were abundant.

As we looked, we saw an old man emerging from a path that winded to
the shore through a grove of doddered hazel; he carried a halve-net
on his back, while behind him came a girl, bearing a small harpoon with
which the fishers are remarkably dexterous in striking their prey.
The senior seated himself on a large gray stone, which overlooked the
bay, laid aside his bonnet, and submitted his bosom and neck to the
refreshing sea-breeze; and taking his harpoon from his attendant,
sat with the gravity and composure of a spirit of the flood, with
his ministering nymph behind him. We pushed our shallop to the
shore, and soon stood at their side.

"This is old Mark Macmoran, the mariner, with his grand-daughter
Barbara," said Richard Faulder, in a whisper that had something
of fear in it; "he knows every creek and cavern and quicksand in
Solway,--has seen the Spectre Hound that haunts the Isle of Man;
has heard him bark, and at every bark has seen a ship sink; and he
has seen, too, the Haunted Ships in full sail; and, if all tales
be true, he has sailed in them himself: he's an awful person."

Though I perceived in the communication of my friend something
of the superstition of the sailor, I could not help thinking that
common rumor had made a happy choice in singling out old Mark to
maintain her intercourse with the invisible world. His hair, which
seemed to have refused all intercourse with the comb, hung matted
upon his shoulders; a kind of mantle, or rather blanket, pinned
with a wooden skewer round his neck, fell mid-leg down, concealing
all his nether garments as far as a pair of hose, darned with yarn
of all conceivable colors, and a pair of shoes, patched and repaired
till nothing of the original structure remained, and clasped on
his feet with two massy silver buckles. If the dress of the old
man was rude and sordid, that of his grand-daughter was gay, and
even rich. She wore a bodice of fine wool, wrought round the bosom
with alternate leaf and lily, and a kirtle of the same fabric,
which, almost touching her white and delicate ankle, showed her
snowy feet, so fairy-light and round that they scarcely seemed
to touch the grass where she stood. Her hair, a natural ornament
which woman seeks much to improve, was of bright glossy brown,
and encumbered rather than adorned with a snood, set thick with
marine productions, among which the small clear pearl found in
the Solway was conspicuous. Nature had not trusted to a handsome
shape, and a sylph-like air, for young Barbara's influence over
the heart of man; but had bestowed a pair of large bright blue
eyes, swimming in liquid light, so full of love and gentleness
and joy, that all the sailors from Annanwater to far Saint Bees
acknowledged their power, and sung songs about the bonnie lass
of Mark Macmoran. She stood holding a small gaff-hook of polished
steel in her hand, and seemed not dissatisfied with the glances
I bestowed on her from time to time, and which I held more than
requited by a single glance of those eyes which retained so many
capricious hearts in subjection.

The tide, though rapidly augmenting, had not yet filled the bay at
our feet. The moon now streamed fairly over the tops of Caerlaverock
pines, and showed the expanse of ocean dimpling and swelling, on
which sloops and shallops came dancing, and displaying at every
turn their extent of white sail against the beam of the moon. I
looked on old Mark the Mariner, who, seated motionless on his gray
stone, kept his eye fixed on the increasing waters with a look of
seriousness and sorrow in which I saw little of the calculating
spirit of a mere fisherman. Though he looked on the coming tide,
his eyes seemed to dwell particularly on the black and decayed
hulls of two vessels, which, half immersed in the quicksand, still
addressed to every heart a tale of shipwreck and desolation. The
tide wheeled and foamed around them; and creeping inch by inch
up the side, at last fairly threw its waters over the top, and a
long and hollow eddy showed the resistance which the liquid element
received.

The moment they were fairly buried in the water, the old man clasped
his hands together, and said, "Blessed be the tide that will break
over and bury ye forever! Sad to mariners, and sorrowful to maids
and mothers, has the time been you have choked up this deep and
bonnie bay. For evil were you sent, and for evil have you continued.
Every season finds from you its song of sorrow and wail, its funeral
processions, and its shrouded corses. Woe to the land where the
wood grew that made ye! Cursed be the axe that hewed ye on the
mountains, the hands that joined ye together, the bay that ye first
swam in, and the wind that wafted ye here! Seven times have ye put
my life in peril, three fair sons have you swept from my side,
and two bonnie grand-bairns; and now, even now, your waters foam
and flash for my destruction, did I venture my infirm limbs in
quest of food in your deadly bay. I see by that ripple and that
foam, and hear by the sound and singing of your surge, that ye
yearn for another victim; but it shall not be me nor mine."

Even as the old mariner addressed himself to the wrecked ships, a
young man appeared at the southern extremity of the bay, holding
his halve-net in his hand, and hastening into the current. Mark
rose, and shouted, and waved him back from a place which, to a person
unacquainted with the dangers of the bay, real and superstitious,
seemed sufficiently perilous: his grand-daughter, too, added her
voice to his, and waved her white hands; but the more they strove,
the faster advanced the peasant, till he stood to his middle in the
water, while the tide increased every moment in depth and strength.
"Andrew, Andrew," cried the young woman, in a voice quavering with
emotion, "turn, turn, I tell you: O the ships, the Haunted Ships!"
But the appearance of a fine run of fish had more influence with
the peasant than the voice of bonnie Barbara, and forward he dashed,
net in hand. In a moment he was borne off his feet, and mingled
like foam with the water, and hurried toward the fatal eddies which
whirled and roared round the sunken ships. But he was a powerful
young man, and an expert swimmer: he seized on one of the projecting
ribs of the nearest hulk, and clinging to it with the grasp of
despair, uttered yell after yell, sustaining himself against the
prodigious rush of the current.

From a shealing of turf and straw, within the pitch of a bar from
the spot where we stood, came out an old woman bent with age, and
leaning on a crutch. "I heard the voice of that lad Andrew Lammie;
can the chield be drowning, that he skirls sae uncannilie?" said
the old woman, seating herself on the ground, and looking earnestly
at the water. "Ou aye," she continued, "he's doomed, he's doomed;
heart and hand can never save him; boats, ropes, and man's strength,
and wit, all vain! vain! he's doomed, he's doomed!"

By this time I had thrown myself into the shallop, followed reluctantly
by Richard Faulder, over whose courage and kindness of heart
superstition had great power; and with one push from the shore,
and some exertion in sculling, we came within a quoitcast of the
unfortunate fisherman. He stayed not to profit by our aid; for
when he perceived us near, he uttered a piercing shriek of joy,
and bounded toward us through the agitated element the full length
of an oar. I saw him for a second on the surface of the water;
but the eddying current sucked him down; and all I ever beheld
of him again was his hand held above the flood, and clutching in
agony at some imaginary aid. I sat gazing in horror on the vacant
sea before us: but a breathing time before, a human being, full
of youth and strength and hope, was there: his cries were still
ringing in my ears and echoing in the woods; and now nothing was
seen or heard save the turbulent expanse of water, and the sound of
its chafing on the shores. We pushed back our shallop, and resumed
our station on the cliff beside the old mariner and his descendant.

"Wherefore sought ye to peril your own lives fruitlessly," said
Mark, "in attempting to save the doomed? Whoso touches those infernal
ships, never survives to tell the tale. Woe to the man who is found
nigh them at midnight when the tide has subsided, and they arise
in their former beauty, with forecastle, and deck, and sail, and
pennon, and shroud! Then is seen the streaming of lights along
the water from their cabin windows, and then is heard the sound
of mirth and the clamor of tongues, and the infernal whoop and
halloo, and song, ringing far and wide. Woe to the man who comes
nigh them!"

To all this my Allanbay companion listened with a breathless attention.
I felt something touched with a superstition to which I partly
believed I had seen one victim offered up; and I inquired of the
old mariner, "How and when came these haunted ships there? To me
they seem but the melancholy relics of some unhappy voyagers, and
much more likely to warn people to shun destruction, than entice
and delude them to it."

"And so," said the old man with a smile, which had more of sorrow
in it than of mirth,--"and so, young man, these black and shattered
hulks seem to the eye of the multitude. But things are not what
they seem: that water, a kind and convenient servant to the wants
of man, which seems so smooth, and so dimpling, and so gentle,
has swallowed up a human soul even now; and the place which it
covers, so fair and so level, is a faithless quicksand, out of
which none escape. Things are otherwise than they seem. Had you
lived as long as I have had the sorrow to live; had you seen the
storms, and braved the perils, and endured the distresses which
have befallen me; had you sat gazing out on the dreary ocean at
midnight on a haunted coast; had you seen comrade after comrade,
brother after brother, and son after son, swept away by the merciless
ocean from your very side; had you seen the shapes of friends,
doomed to the wave and the quicksand, appearing to you in the dreams
and visions of the night,--then would your mind have been prepared
for crediting the maritime legends of mariners; and the two haunted
Danish ships would have had their terrors for you, as they have
for all who sojourn on this coast.

"Of the time and the cause of their destruction," continued the
old man, "I know nothing certain: they have stood as you have seen
them for uncounted time; and while all other ships wrecked on this
unhappy coast have gone to pieces, and rotted, and sunk away in a few
years, these two haunted hulks have neither sunk in the quicksand,
nor has a single spar or board been displaced. Maritime legend says,
that two ships of Denmark having had permission, for a time, to work
deeds of darkness and dolor on the deep, were at last condemned to
the whirlpool and the sunken rock, and were wrecked in this bonnie
bay, as a sign to seamen to be gentle and devout. The night when they
were lost was a harvest evening of uncommon mildness and beauty:
the sun had newly set; the moon came brighter and brighter out;
and the reapers, laying their sickles at the root of the standing
corn, stood on rock and bank, looking at the increasing magnitude
of the waters, for sea and land were visible from Saint Bees to
Barnhourie. The sails of two vessels were soon seen bent for the
Scottish coast; and with a speed outrunning the swiftest ship, they
approached the dangerous quicksands and headland of Borranpoint.
On the deck of the foremost ship not a living soul was seen, or
shape, unless something in darkness and form resembling a human
shadow could be called a shape, which flitted from extremity to
extremity of the ship, with the appearance of trimming the sails,
and directing the vessel's course. But the decks of its companion
were crowded with human shapes: the captain, and mate, and sailor,
and cabin-boy, all seemed there; and from them the sound of mirth
and minstrelsy echoed over land and water. The coast which they
skirted along was one of extreme danger; and the reapers shouted
to warn them to beware of sandbank and rock; but of this friendly
counsel no notice was taken, except that a large and famished dog,
which sat on the prow, answered every shout with a long, loud, and
melancholy howl. The deep sandbank of Carsethorn was expected to
arrest the career of these desperate navigators; but they passed,
with the celerity of waterfowl, over an obstruction which had wrecked
many pretty ships.

"Old men shook their heads and departed, saying, 'We have seen
the fiend sailing in a bottomless ship; let us go home and pray':
but one young and wilful man said, 'Fiend! I'll warrant it's nae
fiend, but douce Janet Withershins, the witch, holding a carouse
with some of her Cumberland cummers, and mickle red wine will be
spilt atween them. Dod I would gladly have a toothfu'! I'll warrant
it's nane o' your cauld, sour slae-water, like a bottle of Bailie
Skrinkie's port, but right drap-o'-my-heart's-blood stuff, that
would waken a body out of their last linen. I wonder where the
cummers will anchor their craft?'--'And I'll vow,' said another
rustic, 'the wine they quaff is none of your visionary drink, such
as a drouthie body has dished out to his lips in a dream; nor is
it shadowy and unsubstantial, like the vessels they sail in, which
are made out of a cockleshell or a cast-off slipper, or the paring
of a seaman's right thumb-nail. I once got a hansel out of a witch's
quaigh myself,--auld Marion Mathers, of Dustiefoot, whom they tried
to bury in the old kirkyard of Dunscore, but the cummer raise as
fast as they laid her down, and naewhere else would she lie but
in the bonnie green kirkyard of Kier, among douce and sponsible
fowk. So I'll vow that the wine of a witch's cup is as fell liquor
as ever did a kindly turn to a poor man's heart; and be they fiends,
or be they witches, if they have red wine asteer, I'll risk a drouket
sark for ae glorious tout on't.'--'Silence, ye sinners,' said the
minister's son of a neighboring parish, who united in his own person
his father's lack of devotion with his mother's love of liquor.
'Whisht!--speak as if ye had the fear of something holy before
ye. Let the vessels run their own way to destruction: who can stay
the eastern wind, and the current of the Solway sea? I can find
ye Scripture warrant for that: so let them try their strength on
Blawhooly rocks, and their might on the broad quicksand. There's a
surf running there would knock the ribs together of a galley built
by the imps of the pit, and commanded by the Prince of Darkness.
Bonnilie and bravely they sail away there; but before the blast
blows by they'll be wrecked: and red wine and strong brandy will
be as rife as dyke-water, and we'll drink the health of bonnie
Bell Blackness out of her left-foot slipper.'

"The speech of the young profligate was applauded by several of
his companions, and away they flew to the bay of Blawhooly, from
whence they never returned. The two vessels were observed all at
once to stop in the bosom of the bay on the spot where their hulls
now appear: the mirth and the minstrelsy waxed louder than ever;
and the forms of maidens, with instruments of music, and wine-cups
in their hands, thronged the decks. A boat was lowered; and the
same shadowy pilot who conducted the ships made it start toward
the shore with the rapidity of lightning, and its head knocked
against the bank where the four young men stood, who longed for
the unblest drink. They leaped in with a laugh, and with a laugh
were they welcomed on deck; wine-cups were given to each, and as
they raised them to their lips the vessels melted away beneath
their feet; and one loud shriek, mingled with laughter still louder,
was heard over land and water for many miles. Nothing more was heard
or seen till the morning, when the crowd who came to the beach saw
with fear and wonder the two Haunted Ships, such as they now seem,
masts and tackle gone; nor mark, nor sign, by which their name,
country, or destination could be known, was left remaining. Such is
the tradition of the mariners; and its truth has been attested by
many families whose sons and whose fathers have been drowned in
the haunted bay of Blawhooly."

"And trow ye," said the old woman, who, attracted from her hut by
the drowning cries of the young fisherman, had remained an auditor
of the mariner's legend,--"and trow ye, Mark Macmoran, that the
tale of the Haunted Ships is done? I can say no to that. Mickle
have mine ears heard; but more mine eyes have witnessed since I
came to dwell in this humble home by the side of the deep sea.
I mind the night weel: it was on Hallowmass eve: the nuts were
cracked, and the apples were eaten, and spell and charm were tried
at my fireside; till, wearied with diving into the dark waves of
futurity, the lads and lasses fairly took to the more visible blessings
of kind words, tender clasps, and gentle courtship. Soft words
in a maiden's ear, and a kindly kiss o' her lip, were old-world
matters to me, Mark Macmoran; though I mean not to say that I have
been free of the folly of daunering and daffin with a youth in
my day, and keeping tryste with him in dark and lonely places.
However, as I say, these times of enjoyment were passed and gone
with me; the mair's the pity that pleasure should fly sae fast
away,--and as I could nae make sport I thought I should not mar
any; so out I sauntered into the fresh cold air, and sat down behind
that old oak, and looked abroad on the wide sea. I had my ain sad
thoughts, ye may think, at the time: it was in that very bay my
blythe goodman perished, with seven more in his company, and on
that very bank where ye see the waves leaping and foaming, I saw
seven stately corses streeked, but the dearest was the eighth.
It was a woful sight to me, a widow, with four bonnie boys, with
nought to support them but these twa hands, and God's blessing,
and a cow's grass. I have never liked to live out of sight of this
bay since that time; and mony's the moonlight night I sit looking
on these watery mountains, and these waste shores; it does my heart
good, whatever it may do to my head. So ye see it was Hallowmass
night; and looking on sea and land sat I; and my heart wandering
to other thoughts soon made me forget my youthful company at hame.
It might be near the howe hour of the night; the tide was making,
and its singing brought strange old-world stories with it; and I
thought on the dangers that sailors endure, the fates they meet
with, and the fearful forms they see. My own blythe goodman had
seen sights that made him grave enough at times, though he aye
tried to laugh them away.

"Aweel, atween that very rock aneath us and the coming tide, I
saw, or thought I saw, for the tale is so dream-like, that the
whole might pass for a vision of the night, I saw the form of a
man: his plaid was gray; his face was gray; and his hair, which
hung low down till it nearly came to the middle of his back, was
as white as the white sea-foam. He began to howk and dig under the
bank; an' God be near me, thought I, this maun be the unblessed
spirit of Auld Adam Gowdgowpin, the miser, who is doomed to dig
for shipwrecked treasure, and count how many millions are hidden
forever from man's enjoyment. The Form found something which in
shape and hue seemed a left-foot slipper of brass; so down to the
tide he marched, and placing it on the water, whirled it thrice
round; and the infernal slipper dilated at every turn, till it
became a bonnie barge with its sails bent, and on board leaped
the form, and scudded swiftly away. He came to one of the Haunted
Ships; and striking it with his oar, a fair ship, with mast, and
canvas, and mariners, started up: he touched the other Haunted
Ship, and produced the like transformation; and away the three
spectre ships bounded, leaving a track of fire behind them on the
billows which was long unextinguished. Now was nae that a bonnie
and a fearful sight to see beneath the light of the Hallowmass
moon? But the tale is far frae finished; for mariners say that
once a year, on a certain night, if ye stand on the Borranpoint, ye
will see the infernal shallops coming snoring through the Solway;
ye will hear the same laugh, and song, and mirth, and minstrelsy,
which our ancestors heard; see them bound over the sandbanks and
sunken rocks like sea-gulls, cast their anchor in Blawhooly Bay,
while the shadowy figure lowers down the boat, and augments their
numbers with the four unhappy mortals, to whose memory a stone
stands in the kirkyard, with a sinking ship and a shoreless sea
cut upon it. Then the spectre ships vanish, and the drowning shriek
of mortals and the rejoicing laugh of fiends are heard, and the old
hulls are left as a memorial that the old spiritual kingdom has
not departed from the earth. But I maun away, and trim my little
cottage fire, and make it burn and blaze up bonnie, to warm the
crickets, and my cold and crazy bones, that maun soon be laid aneath
the green sod in the eerie kirkyard." And away the old dame tottered
to her cottage, secured the door on the inside, and soon the
hearth-flame was seen to glimmer and gleam through the key-hole
and window.

"I'll tell ye what," said the old mariner, in a subdued tone, and
with a shrewd and suspicious glance of his eye after the old sibyl,
"it's a word that may not very well be uttered, but there are many
mistakes made in evening stories if old Moll Moray there, where
she lives, knows not mickle more than she is willing to tell of
the Haunted Ships and their unhallowed mariners. She lives cannilie
and quietly; no one knows how she is fed or supported; but her
dress is aye whole, her cottage ever smokes, and her table lacks
neither of wine, white and red, nor of fowl and fish, and white
bread and brown. It was a dear scoff to Jock Matheson, when he
called old Moll the uncannie carline of Blawhooly: his boat ran
round and round in the centre of the Solway,--everybody said it
was enchanted,--and down it went head foremost: and had nae Jock
been a swimmer equal to a sheldrake, he would have fed the fish;
but I'll warrant it sobered the lad's speech; and he never reckoned
himself safe till he made auld Moll the present of a new kirtle
and a stone of cheese."

"O father," said his grand-daughter Barbara, "ye surely wrong poor
old Mary Moray; what use could it be to an old woman like her, who
has no wrongs to redress, no malice to work out against mankind,
and nothing to seek of enjoyment save a cannie hour and a quiet
grave,--what use could the fellowship of fiends, and the communion
of evil spirits, be to her? I know Jenny Primrose puts rowan-tree
above the door-head when she sees old Mary coming; I know the good
wife of Kittlenaket wears rowan-berry leaves in the headband of
her blue kirtle, and all for the sake of averting the unsonsie
glance of Mary's right ee; and I know that the auld laird of
Burntroutwater drives his seven cows to their pasture with a wand
of witch-tree, to keep Mary from milking them. But what has all
that to do with haunted shallops, visionary mariners, and bottomless
boats? I have heard myself as pleasant a tale about the Haunted
Ships and their unworldly crews, as any one would wish to hear
in a winter evening. It was told me by young Benjie Macharg, one
summer night, sitting on Arbiglandbank: the lad intended a sort
of love meeting; but all that he could talk of was about smearing
sheep and shearing sheep, and of the wife which the Norway elves
of the Haunted Ships made for his uncle Sandie Macharg. And I shall
tell ye the tale as the honest lad told it to me.

"Alexander Macharg, besides being the laird of three acres of peatmoss,
two kale gardens, and the owner of seven good milch cows, a pair of
horses, and six pet sheep, was the husband of one of the handsomest
women in seven parishes. Many a lad sighed the day he was brided;
and a Nithsdale laird and two Annandale moorland farmers drank
themselves to their last linen, as well as their last shilling,
through sorrow for her loss. But married was the dame; and home
she was carried, to bear rule over her home and her husband, as
an honest woman should. Now ye maun ken that though the flesh and
blood lovers of Alexander's bonnie wife all ceased to love and to
sue her after she became another's, there were certain admirers
who did not consider their claim at all abated, or their hopes
lessened, by the kirk's famous obstacle of matrimony. Ye have heard
how the devout minister of Tinwald had a fair son carried away,
and bedded against his liking to an unchristened bride, whom the
elves and the fairies provided; ye have heard how the bonnie bride
of the drunken laird of Soukitup was stolen by the fairies out at
the back-window of the bridal chamber, the time the bridegroom
was groping his way to the chamber-door; and ye have heard-- But
why need I multiply cases? such things in the ancient days were
as common as candle-light. So ye'll no hinder certain water-elves
and sea-fairies, who sometimes keep festival and summer mirth in
these old haunted hulks, from falling in love with the weel-faured
wife of Laird Macharg; and to their plots and contrivances they went
how they might accomplish to sunder man and wife; and sundering
such a man and such a wife was like sundering the green leaf from
the summer, or the fragrance from the flower.

"So it fell on a time that Laird Macharg took his halve-net on his
back, and his steel spear in his hand, and down to Blawhooly Bay
gaed he, and into the water he went right between the two haunted
hulks, and placing his net awaited the coming of the tide. The
night, ye maun ken, was mirk, and the wind lowne, and the singing
of the increasing waters among the shells and the pebbles was heard
for sundry miles. All at once lights began to glance and twinkle on
board the two Haunted Ships from every hole and seam, and presently
the sound as of a hatchet employed in squaring timber echoed far
and wide. But if the toil of these unearthly workmen amazed the
Laird, how much more was his amazement increased when a sharp shrill
voice called out, 'Ho! brother, what are you doing now?' A voice
still shriller responded from the other haunted ship, 'I'm making
a wife to Sandie Macharg!' and a loud quavering laugh running from
ship to ship, and from bank to bank, told the joy they expected
from their labor.

"Now the Laird, besides being a devout and a God-fearing man, was
shrewd and bold; and in plot, and contrivance, and skill in conducting
his designs, was fairly an overmatch for any dozen land-elves; but
the water-elves are far more subtle; besides, their haunts and
their dwellings being in the great deep, pursuit and detection is
hopeless if they succeed in carrying their prey to the waves. But
ye shall hear. Home flew the Laird, collected his family around
the hearth, spoke of the signs and the sins of the times, and talked
of mortification and prayer for averting calamity; and finally,
taking his father's Bible, brass clasps, black print, and covered
with calf-skin, from the shelf, he proceeded without let or stint
to perform domestic worship. I should have told ye that he bolted
and locked the door, shut up all inlet to the house, threw salt
into the fire, and proceeded in every way like a man skilful in
guarding against the plots of fairies and fiends. His wife looked
on all this with wonder; but she saw something in her husband's
looks that hindered her from intruding either question or advice,
and a wise woman was she.

"Near the mid-hour of the night the rush of a horse's feet was
heard, and the sound of a rider leaping from its back, and a heavy
knock came to the door, accompanied by a voice saying, 'The cummer
drink's hot, and the knave bairn is expected at Laird Laurie's
to-night; sae mount, goodwife, and come.'

"'Preserve me!' said the wife of Sandie Macharg; 'that's news indeed!
who could have thought it? the Laird has been heirless for seventeen
years! Now, Sandie, my man, fetch me my skirt and hood.'

"But he laid his arm round his wife's neck, and said, 'If all the
lairds in Galloway go heirless, over this door threshold shall you
not stir to-night; and I have said, and I have sworn it: seek not
to know why or wherefore; but, Lord, send us thy blessed mornlight.'
The wife looked for a moment in her husband's eyes, and desisted
from further entreaty.

"'But let us send a civil message to the gossips, Sandie; and hadnae
ye better say I am sair laid with a sudden sickness? though it's
sinful-like to send the poor messenger a mile agate with a lie
in his mouth without a glass of brandy.'

"'To such a messenger, and to those who sent him, no apology is
needed,' said the austere Laird, 'so let him depart.' And the clatter
of a horse's hoofs was heard, and the muttered imprecations of its
rider on the churlish treatment he had experienced.

"'Now, Sandie, my lad,' said his wife, laying an arm particularly
white and round about his neck as she spoke, 'are you not a queer
man and a stern? I have been your wedded wife now these three years;
and, beside my dower, have brought you three as bonnie bairns as
ever smiled aneath a summer sun. O man, you a douce man, and fitter
to be an elder than even Willie Greer himself, I have the minister's
ain word for't, to put on these hard-hearted looks, and gang waving
your arms that way, as if ye said, "I winna take the counsel of
sic a hempie as you"; I'm your ain leal wife, and will and maun
have an explanation.'

"To all this Sandie Macharg replied, 'It is written, "Wives, obey
your husbands"; but we have been stayed in our devotion, so let
us pray.' And down he knelt: his wife knelt also, for she was as
devout as bonnie; and beside them knelt their household, and all
lights were extinguished.

"'Now this beats a',' muttered his wife to herself; 'however, I
shall be obedient for a time; but if I dinna ken what all this
is for before the morn by sunket-time, my tongue is nae langer a
tongue, nor my hands worth wearing.'

"The voice of her husband in prayer interrupted this mental soliloquy;
and ardently did he beseech to be preserved from the wiles of the
fiends, and the snares of Satan; 'from witches, ghosts, goblins,
elves, fairies, spunkies, and water-kelpies; from the spectre shallop
of Solway; from spirits visible and invisible; from the Haunted Ships
and their unearthly tenants; from maritime spirits that plotted
against godly men, and fell in love with their wives--'

"'Nay, but His presence be near us!' said his wife in a low tone of
dismay. 'God guide my gudeman's wits: I never heard such a prayer
from human lips before. But, Sandie, my man, Lord's sake, rise:
what fearful light is this?--barn and byre and stable maun be in a
blaze; and Hawkie and Hurley,--Doddie, and Cherrie, and Damson-plum,
will be smoored with reek and scorched with flame.'

"And a flood of light, but not so gross as a common fire, which
ascended to heaven and filled all the court before the house, amply
justified the good wife's suspicions. But to the terrors of fire,
Sandie was as immovable as he was to the imaginary groans of the
barren wife of Laird Laurie; and he held his wife, and threatened
the weight of his right hand--and it was a heavy one--to all who
ventured abroad, or even unbolted the door. The neighing and prancing
of horses, and the bellowing of cows, augmented the horrors of the
night; and to any one who only heard the din, it seemed that the
whole onstead was in a blaze, and horses and cattle perishing in
the flame. All wiles, common or extraordinary, were put in practice
to entice or force the honest farmer and his wife to open the door;
and when the like success attended every new stratagem, silence
for a little while ensued, and a long, loud, and shrilling laugh
wound up the dramatic efforts of the night. In the morning, when
Laird Macharg went to the door, he found standing against one of
the pilasters a piece of black ship oak, rudely fashioned into
something like human form, and which skilful people declared would
have been clothed with seeming flesh and blood, and palmed upon him
by elfin adroitness for his wife, had he admitted his visitants.
A synod of wise men and women sat upon the woman of timber, and
she was finally ordered to be devoured by fire, and that in the
open air. A fire was soon made, and into it the elfin sculpture
was tossed from the prongs of two pairs of pitchforks. The blaze
that arose was awful to behold; and hissings, and burstings, and
loud cracklings, and strange noises, were heard in the midst of
the flame; and when the whole sank into ashes, a drinking-cup of
some precious metal was found; and this cup, fashioned no doubt
by elfin skill, but rendered harmless by the purification with
fire, the sons and daughters of Sandie Macharg and his wife drink
out of to this very day. Bless all bold men, say I, and obedient
wives!"



A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE.

BY ROBERT T. S. LOWELL.


I am a soldier: but my tale, this time, is not of war.

The man of whom the Muse talked to the blind bard of old had grown
wise in wayfaring. He had seen such men and cities as the sun shines
on, and the great wonders of land and sea; and he had visited the
farther countries, whose indwellers, having been once at home in
the green fields and under the sky and roofs of the cheery earth,
were now gone forth and forward into a dim and shadowed land, from
which they found no backward path to these old haunts, and their
old loves:--

   Eeri kai nephele kekalummenoi  oude pot autous
   Eelios phaethon kataderketai aktinessin.

   _Od_. XI.

At the Charter-House I learned the story of the King of Ithaca,
and read it for something better than a task; and since, though
I have never seen so many cities as the much-wandering man, nor
grown so wise, yet have heard and seen and remembered, for myself,
words and things from crowded streets and fairs and shows and
wave-washed quays and murmurous market-places, in many lands; and
for his Kimmerion andron demos,--his people wrapt in cloud and
vapor, whom "no glad sun finds with his beams,"--have been borne
along a perilous path through thick mists, among the crashing ice
of the Upper Atlantic, as well as sweltered upon a Southern sea,
and have learned something of men and something of God.

I was in Newfoundland, a lieutenant of Royal Engineers, in Major
Gore's time, and went about a good deal among the people, in surveying
for Government. One of my old friends there was Skipper Benjie
Westham, of Brigus, a shortish, stout, bald man, with a cheerful,
honest face and a kind voice; and he, mending a caplin-seine one
day, told me this story, which I will try to tell after him.

We were upon the high ground, beyond where the church stands now,
and Prudence, the fisherman's daughter, and Ralph Barrows, her
husband, were with Skipper Benjie when he began; and I had an hour
by the watch to spend. The neighborhood, all about, was still; the
only men who were in sight were so far off that we heard nothing
from them; no wind was stirring near us, and a slow sail could be
seen outside. Everything was right for listening and telling.

"I can tell 'ee what I sid[1] myself, Sir," said Skipper Benjie.
"It is n' like a story that's put down in books: it's on'y like
what we planters[2] tells of a winter's night or sech: but it's
_feelun_, mubbe, an' 'ee won't expect much off a man as could n'
never read,--not so much as Bible or Prayer-Book, even."

[Footnote 1: Saw.]

[Footnote 2: Fishermen.]

Skipper Benjie looked just like what he was thought: a true-hearted,
healthy man, a good fisherman and a good seaman. There was no need
of any one's saying it. So I only waited till he went on speaking.

"'T was one time I goed to th' Ice, Sir. I never goed but once, an'
't was a'most the first v'yage ever was, ef 't was n' the _very_
first; an' 't was the last for me, an' worse agen for the rest-part
o' that crew, that never goed no more! 'T was tarrible sad douns
wi' they!"

This preface was accompanied by some preliminary handling of the
caplin-seine, also, to find out the broken places and get them
about him. Ralph and Prudence deftly helped him. Then, making his
story wait, after this opening, he took one hole to begin at in
mending, chose his seat, and drew the seine up to his knee. At the
same time I got nearer to the fellowship of the family by persuading
the planter (who yielded with a pleasant smile) to let me try my
hand at the netting. Prudence quietly took to herself a share of
the work, and Ralph alone was unbusied.

"They calls th' Ice a wicked place,--Sundays an' weekin days all
alike; an' to my seemun it's a cruel, bloody place, jes' so well,--but
not all thinks alike, surely.--Rafe, lad, mubbe 'ee 'd ruther go
down coveways, an' overhaul the punt a bit."

Ralph, who perhaps had stood waiting for the very dismissal that he
now got, assented and left us three. Prudence, to be sure, looked
after him as if she would a good deal rather go with him than stay;
but she stayed, nevertheless, and worked at the seine. I interpreted
to myself Skipper Benjie's sending away of one of his hearers by
supposing that his son-in-law had often heard his tales; but the
planter explained himself:--

"'Ee sees, Sir, I knocked off goun to th' Ice becase 't was sech
a tarrible cruel place, to my seemun. They swiles[3] be so knowun
like,--as knowun as a dog, in a manner, an' lovun to their own,
like Christens, a'most, more than bastes; an' they'm got red blood,
for all they lives most-partly in water; an' then I found 'em so
friendly, when I was wantun friends badly. But I s'pose the
swile-fishery's needful; an' I knows, in course, that even Christens'
blood's got to be taken sometimes, when it's bad blood, an' I would
n' be childish about they things: on'y--ef it's me--when I can
live by fishun, I don' want to go an' club an' shoot an' cut an'
slash among poor harmless things that 'ould never harm man or 'oman,
an' 'ould cry great tears down for pity-sake, an' got a sound like
a Christen: I 'ould n' like to go a-swilun for gain,--not after
beun among 'em, way I was, anyways."

[Footnote 3: Seals.]

This apology made it plain that Skipper Benjie was large-hearted
enough, or indulgent enough, not to seek to strain others, even his
own family, up to his own way in everything; and it might easily
be thought that the young fisherman had different feelings about
sealing from those that the planter's story was meant to bring
out. All being ready, he began his tale again:--

"I shipped wi' Skipper Isra'l Gooden, from Carbonear; the schooner
was the Baccaloue, wi' forty men, all told. 'T was of a Sunday
morn'n 'e 'ould sail, twel'th day o' March, wi' another schooner
in company,--the Sparrow. There was a many of us was n' too good,
but we thowt wrong of 'e's takun the Lord's Day to 'e'sself. Wull,
Sir, afore I comed 'ome, I was in a great desert country, an' floated
on sea wi' a monstrous great raft that no man never made, creakun
an' crashun an' groanun an' tumblun an' wastun an' goun to pieces,
an' no man on her but me, an' full o' livun things,--dreadful!

"About a five hours out, 't was, we first sid the blink,[4] an'
comed up wi' th' Ice about off Cape Bonavis'. We fell in wi' it
south, an' worked up nothe along: but we did n' see swiles for two
or three days yet; on'y we was workun along; pokun the cakes of
ice away, an' haulun through wi' main strength sometimes, holdun
on wi' bights o' ropes out o' the bow; an' more times, agen, in
clear water: sometimes mist all round us, 'ee could n' see the
ship's len'th, sca'ce; an' more times snow, jes' so thick; an'
then a gale o' wind, mubbe, would a'most blow all the spars out
of her, seemunly.

[Footnote 4: A dull glare on the horizon, from the immense masses
of ice.]

"We kep' sight o' th' other schooner, most-partly; an' when we
did n' keep it, we'd get it agen. So one night 't was a beautiful
moonlight night: I think I never sid a moon so bright as that moon
was; an' such lovely sights a body 'ould n' think could be! Little
islands, an' bigger, agen, there was, on every hand, shinun so
bright, wi' great, awful-lookun shadows! an' then the sea all black,
between! They did look so beautiful as ef a body could go an' bide
on 'em, in' a manner; an' the sky was jes' so blue, an' the stars
all shinun out, an' the moon all so bright! I never looked upon
the like. An' so I stood in the bows; an' I don' know ef I thowt
o' God first, but I was thinkun o' my girl that I was troth-plight
wi' then, an' a many things, when all of a sudden we comed upon
the hardest ice we'd a-had; an' into it; an' then, wi' pokun an'
haulun, workun along. An' there was a cry goed up,--like the cry
of a babby, 't was, an' I thowt mubbe 't was a somethun had got
upon one o' they islands; but I said, agen, 'How could it?' an' one
John Harris said 'e thowt 't was a bird. Then another man (Moffis
'e's name was) started off wi' what they calls a gaff ('t is somethun
like a short boat-hook), over the bows, an' run; an' we sid un
strike, an' strike, an' we hard it go wump! wump! an' the cry goun
up so tarrible feelun, seemed as ef 'e was murderun some poor wild
Inden child 'e 'd a-found (on'y mubbe 'e would n' do so bad as
that: but there 've a-been tarrible bloody, cruel work wi' Indens
in my time), an' then 'e comed back wi' a white-coat[5] over 'e's
shoulder; an' the poor thing was n' dead, but cried an' soughed
like any poor little babby."

[Footnote 5: A young seal.]

The young wife was very restless at this point, and, though she
did not look up, I saw her tears. The stout fisherman smoothed out
the net a little upon his knee, and drew it in closer, and heaved
a great sigh: he did not look at his hearers.

"When 'e throwed it down, it walloped, an' cried, an' soughed,--an'
its poor eyes blinded wi' blood! ('Ee sees, Sir," said the planter,
by way of excusing his tenderness, "they swiles were friends to
I, after.) Dear, O dear! I could n' stand it; for 'e _might_ ha'
killed un; an' so 'e goes for a quart o' rum, for fetchun first
swile, an' I went an' put the poor thing out o' pain. I did n'
want to look at they beautiful islands no more, somehow. Bumby it
comed on thick, an' then snow.

"Nex' day swiles bawlun[6] every way, poor things! (I knowed their
voice, now,) but 't was blowun a gale o' wind, an' we under bare
poles, an' snow comun agen, so fast as ever it could come: but out
the men 'ould go, all mad like, an' my watch goed, an' so I mus'
go. (I did n' think what I was goun to!) The skipper never said
no; but to keep near the schooner, an' fetch in first we could,
close by; an' keep near the schooner.

[Footnote 6: Technical word for the crying of the seals.]

"So we got abroad, an' the men that was wi' me jes' began to knock
right an' left: 't was heartless to see an' hear it. They laved
two old uns an' a young whelp to me, as they runned by. The mother
did cry like a Christen, in a manner, an' the big tears 'ould run
down, an' they 'ould both be so brave for the poor whelp that 'ould
cuddle up an' cry; an' the mother looked this way an' that way,
wi' big, pooty, black eyes, to see what was the manun of it, when
they'd never doned any harm in God's world that 'E made, an' would
n', even ef you killed 'em: on'y the poor mother baste ketched
my gaff, that I was goun to strike wi', betwixt her teeth, an' I
could n' get it away. 'T was n' like fishun! (I was weak-hearted
like: I s'pose 't was wi' what was comun that I did n' know.) Then
comed a hail, all of a sudden, from the schooner (we had n' been
gone more 'n a five minutes, ef 't was so much,--no, not more 'n
a three); but I was glad to hear it come then, however: an' so
every man ran, one afore t' other. There the schooner was, tearun
through all, an' we runnun for dear life. I falled among the slob,[7]
and got out agen. 'T was another man pushun agen me doned it. I
could n' 'elp myself from goun in, an' when I got out I was astarn
of all, an' there was the schooner carryun on, right through to
clear water! So, hold of a bight o' line, or anything! an' they
swung up in over bows an' sides! an' swash! she struck the water,
an' was out o' sight in a minute, an' the snow drivun as ef 't
would bury her, an' a man laved behind on a pan of ice, an' the
great black say two fathom ahead, an' the storm-wind blowun 'im
into it!"

[Footnote 7: Broken ice, between large cakes, or against the shore.]

The planter stopped speaking. We had all gone along so with the
story, that the stout seafarer, as he wrought the whole scene up
about us, seemed instinctively to lean back and brace his feet
against the ground, and clutch his net. The young woman looked
up, this time; and the cold snow-blast seemed to howl through that
still summer's noon, and the terrific ice-fields and hills to be
crashing against the solid earth that we sat upon, and all things
round changed to the far-off stormy ocean and boundless frozen
wastes.

The planter began to speak again:--

"So I falled right down upon th' ice, sayun, 'Lard, help me! Lard,
help me!' an' crawlun away, wi' the snow in my face (I was afeard,
a'most, to stand), 'Lard, help me! Lard, help me!'

"'T was n' all hard ice, but many places lolly;[8] an' once I goed
right down wi' my hand-wristès an' my armès in cold water, part-ways
to the bottom o' th' ocean; and a'most head-first into un, as I'd
a-been in wi' my legs afore: but, thanks be to God! 'E helped me
out of un, but colder an' wetter agen.

[Footnote 8: Snow in water, not yet frozen, but looking like the
white ice.]

"In course I wanted to folly the schooner; so I runned up along,
a little ways from the edge, an' then I runned down along: but 't
was all great black ocean outside, an' she gone miles an' miles
away; an' by two hours' time, even ef she'd come to, itself, an'
all clear weather, I could n' never see her; an' ef she could come
back, she could n' never find me, more 'n I could find any one o'
they flakes o' snow. The schooner was gone, an' I was laved out
o' the world!

"Bumby, when I got on the big field agen, I stood up on my feet,
an' I sid that was my ship! She had n' e'er a sail, an' she had
n' e'er a spar, an' she had n' e'er a compass, an' she had n' e'er
a helm, an' she had n' no hold, an' she had n' no cabin. I could
n' sail her, nor I could n' steer her, nor I could n' anchor her,
nor bring her to, but she would go, wind or calm, an' she'd never
come to port, but out in th' ocean she'd go to pieces! I sid 't
was so, an' I must take it, an' do my best wi' it. 'T was jest a
great, white, frozen raft, driftun bodily away, wi' storm blowun
over, an' current runnun under, an' snow comun down so thick, an'
a poor Christen laved all alone wi' it. 'T would drift as long
as anything was of it, an' 't was n' likely there'd be any life
in the poor man by time th' ice goed to nawthun; an' the swiles
'ould swim back agen up to the Nothe!

"I was th' only one, seemunly, to be cast out alive, an' wi' the
dearest maid in the world (so I thought) waitun for me. I s'pose
'ee might ha' knowed somethun better, Sir; but I was n' larned,
an' I ran so fast as ever I could up the way I thowt home was,
an' I groaned, an' groaned, an' shook my handès, an' then I thowt,
'Mubbe I may be goun wrong way.' So I groaned to the Lard to stop
the snow. Then I on'y ran this way an' that way, an' groaned for
snow to knock off.[9] I knowed we was driftun mubbe a twenty leagues
a day, and anyways I wanted to be doun what I could, keepun up over
th' Ice so well as I could, Noofundland-ways, an' I might come
to somethun,--to a schooner or somethun; anyways I'd get up so
near as I could. So I looked for a lee. I s'pose 'ee 'd ha' knowed
better what to do, Sir," said the planter, here again appealing to
me, and showing by his question that he understood me, in spite
of my pea-jacket.

[Footnote 9: To stop.]

I had been so carried along with his story that I had felt as if
I were the man on the Ice, myself, and assured him, that, though I
could get along pretty well on land, _and could even do something
at netting_, I should have been very awkward in his place.

"Wull, Sir, I looked for a lee. ('T would n' ha' been so cold, to
say cold, ef it had n' a-blowed so tarrible hard.) First step, I
stumbled upon somethun in the snow, seemed soft, like a body! Then
I comed all together, hopun an' fearun an' all together. Down I goed
upon my knees to un, an' I smoothed away the snow, all tremblun,
an' there was a moan, as ef 't was a-livun.

"'O Lard!' I said, 'who's this? Be this one of our men?'

"But how could it? So I scraped the snow away, but 't was easy to
see 't was smaller than a man. There was n' no man on that dreadful
place but me! Wull, Sir, 't was a poor swile, wi' blood runnun
all under; an' I got my cuffs[10] an' sleeves all red wi' it. It
looked like a fellow-creatur's blood, a'most, an' I was a lost man,
left to die away out there in th' Ice, an' I said, 'Poor thing!
poor thing!' an' I did n' mind about the wind, or th' ice, or the
schooner goun away from me afore a gale (I _would_ n' mind about
'em), an' a poor lost Christen may show a good turn to a hurt thing,
ef 't was on'y a baste. So I smoothed away the snow wi' my cuffs,
an' I sid 't was a poor thing wi' her whelp close by her, an' her
tongue out, as ef she'd a-died fondlun an' lickun it; an' a great
puddle o' blood,--it looked tarrible heartless, when I was so nigh
to death, an' was n' hungry. An' then I feeled a stick, an' I thowt,
'It may be a help to me,' an' so I pulled un, an' it would n' come,
an' I found she was lyun on it; so I hauled agen, an' when it comed,
't was my gaff the poor baste had got away from me, an' got it
under her, an' she was a-lyun on it. Some o' the men, when they
was runnun for dear life, must ha' struck 'em, out o' madness like,
an' laved 'em to die where they was. 'T was the whelp was n' quite
dead. 'Ee'll think 't was foolish, Sir, but it seemed as though
they was somethun to me, an' I'd a-lost the last friendly thing
there was.

[Footnote 10: Mittens.]

"I found a big hummock an' sheltered under it, standun on my feet,
wi' nawthun to do but think, an' think, an' pray to God; an' so
I doned. I could n' help feelun to God then, surely. Nawthun to
do, an' no place to go, tull snow cleared away; but jes' drift
wi' the great Ice down from the Nothe, away down over the say,
a sixty mile a day, mubbe. I was n' a good Christen, an' I could
n' help a-thinkun o' home an' she I was troth-plight wi', an' I
doubled over myself an' groaned,--I could n' help it; but bumby
it comed into me to say my prayers, an' it seemed as thof she was
askun me to pray (an' she _was_ good, Sir, al'ays), an' I seemed
all opened, somehow, an' I knowed how to pray."

While the words were coming tenderly from the weather-beaten fisherman,
I could not help being moved, and glanced over toward the daughter's
seat; but she was gone, and, turning round, I saw her going quietly,
almost stealthily, and very quickly, _toward the cove_.

The father gave no heed to her leaving, but went on with his tale:--

"Then the wind began to fall down, an' the snow knocked off altogether,
an' the sun comed out; an' I sid th' Ice, field-ice an' icebargs,
an' every one of 'em flashun up as ef they'd kendled up a bonfire,
but no sign of a schooner! no sign of a schooner! nor no sign o'
man's douns, but on'y ice, every way, high an' low, an' some places
black water, in-among; an' on'y the poor swiles bawlun all over,
an' I standun amongst 'em.

"While I was lookun out, I sid a great icebarg (they calls 'em)
a quarter of a mile away, or thereabouts, standun up,--one end
a twenty fathom out o' water, an' about a forty fathom across,
wi' hills like, an' houses,--an' then, jest as ef 'e was alive
an' had tooked a notion in 'e'sself, seemunly, all of a sudden
'e rared up, an' turned over an' over, wi' a tarrible thunderun
noise, an' comed right on, breakun everything an' throwun up great
seas; 't was frightsome for a lone body away out among 'em! I stood
an' looked at un, but then agen I thowt I may jes' so well be goun
to thick ice an' over Noofundland-ways a piece, so well as I could.
So I said my bit of a prayer, an' told Un I could n' help myself;
an' I made my confession how bad I'd been, an' I was sorry, an ef
'E 'd be so pitiful an' forgive me; an' ef I mus' loss my life,
ef 'E 'd be so good as make me a good Christen first,--an' make
_they_ happy, in course.

"So then I started; an' first I goed to where my gaff was, by the
mother-swile an' her whelp. There was swiles every two or three
yards a'most, old uns an' young uns, all round everywhere; an'
I feeled shamed in a manner: but I got my gaff, an' cleaned un,
an' then, in God's name, I took the big swile, that was dead by
its dead whelp, an' hauled it away, where the t' other poor things
could n' si' me, an' I sculped[11] it, an' took the pelt;--for I
thowt I'd wear un, now the poor dead thing did n' want to make
oose of un no more,--an' partly becase 't was sech a lovun thing.
An' so I set out, walkun this way for a spurt, an' then t' other
way, keepun up mostly a Nor-norwest, so well as I could: sometimes
away round th' open, an' more times round a lump of ice, an' more
times, agen, off from one an' on to another, every minute. I did
n' feel hungry, for I drinked fresh water off th' ice. No schooner!
no schooner!

[Footnote 11: Skinned.]

"Bumby the sun was goun down: 't was slow work feelun my way along,
an' I did n' want to look about; but then agen I thowt God 'ad
made it to be sid; an' so I come to, an' turned all round, an'
looked; an' surely it seemed like another world, someway, 't was
so beautiful,--yellow, an' different sorts o' red, like the sky
itself in a manner, an' flashun like glass. So then it comed night;
an' I thowt I should n' go to bed, an' I may forget my prayers, an'
so I'd, mubbe, best say 'em right away; an' so I doned: 'Lighten
our darkness,' and others we was oosed to say; an' it comed into
my mind, the Lard said to Saint Peter, 'Why did n' 'ee have faith?'
when there was nawthun on the water for un to go on; an' I had ice
under foot,--'t was but frozen water, but 't was frozen,--an' I
thanked Un.

"I could n' help thinkun o' Brigus an' them I'd laved in it, an'
then I prayed for 'em; an' I could n' help cryun a'most; but then
I give over agen, an' would n' think, ef I could help it; on'y
tryun to say an odd psalm, all through singun-psalms an' other, for
I knowed a many of 'em by singun wi' Patience, on'y now I cared
more about 'em: I said that one,--

  'Sech as in ships an' brickle barks
     Into the seas descend,
   Their merchantun, through fearful floods,
     To compass an' to end:
   They men are force-put to behold
     The Lard's works, what they be;
   An' in the dreadful deep the same
     Most marvellous they see.'

An' I said a many more (I can't be accountable how many I said), an'
same uns many times, over: for I would keep on; an' 'ould sometimes
sing 'em very loud in my poor way.

"A poor baste (a silver fox 'e was) comed an' looked at me; an'
when I turned round, he walked away a piece, an' then 'e comed
back, an' looked.

"So I found a high piece, wi' a wall of ice atop for shelter, ef
it comed on to blow; an' so I stood, an' said, an' sung. I knowed
well I was on'y driftun away.

"It was tarrible lonely in the night, when night comed; it's no
use! 'T was tarrible lonely: but I 'ould n' think, ef I could help
it; an' I prayed a bit, an' kep' up my psalms, an' varses out o'
the Bible, I'd a-larned. I had n' a-prayed for sleep, but for wakun
all night, an' there I was, standun.

"The moon was out agen, so bright; an' all the hills of ice shinun
up to her; an' stars twinklun, so busy, all over; an' No'ther'
Lights goun up wi' a faint, blaze, seemunly, from th' ice, an'
meetun up aloft; an' sometimes a great groanun, an' more times
tarrible loud shriekun! There was great white fields, an' great
white hills, like countries, comun down to be destroyed; an' some
great bargs a-goun faster, an' tearun through, breakun others to
pieces; an' the groanun an' screechun,--ef all the dead that ever
was, wi' their white clothès--But no!" said the stout fisherman,
recalling himself from gazing, as he seemed to be, on the far-off
ghastly scene, in memory.

"No!--an' thank 'E's marcy, I'm sittun by my own room. 'E tooked
me off; but 't was a dreadful sight,--it's no use,--ef a body'd
let 'e'sself think! I sid a great black bear, an' hard un growl;
an' 't was feelun, like, to hear un so bold an' so stout, among
all they dreadful things, an' bumby the time 'ould come when 'e
could n' save 'e'sself, do what 'e woul'.

"An' more times 't was all still: on'y swiles bawlun, all over.
Ef it had n' a-been for they poor swiles, how could I stan' it?
Many's the one I'd a-ketched, daytime, an' talked to un, an' patted
un on the head, as ef they'd a-been dogs by the door, like; an'
they'd oose to shut their eyes, an' draw their poor foolish faces
together. It seemed neighbor-like to have some live thing.

"So I kep' awake, sayun an' singun, an' it was n' very cold; an'
so,--first thing I knowed, I started, an' there I was lyun in a
heap; an' I must have been asleep, an' did n' know how 't was,
nor how long I'd a-been so: an' some sort o' baste started away,
an' 'e must have waked me up; I could n' rightly see what 't was,
wi' sleepiness: an' then I hard a sound, sounded like breakers;
an' that waked me fairly. 'T was like a lee-shore; an' 't was a
comfort to think o' land, ef 't was on'y to be wrecked on itself:
but I did n' go, an' I stood an' listened to un; an' now an' agen
I'd walk a piece, back an' forth, an' back an' forth; an' so I
passed a many, many longsome hours, seemunly, tull night goed
down tarrible slowly, an' it comed up day o' t' other side: an'
there was n' no land; nawthun but great mountains meltun an' breakun
up, an' fields wastun away. I sid 't was a rollun barg made the
noise like breakers; throwun up great seas o' both sides of un;
no sight nor sign o' shore, nor ship, but dazun white,--enough
to blind a body,--an' I knowed 't was all floatun away, over the
say. Then I said my prayers, an' tooked a drink o' water, an' set
out agen for Nor-norwest: 't was all I could do. Sometimes snow,
an' more times fair agen; but no sign o' man's things, an' no sign
o' land, on'y white ice an' black water; an' ef a schooner was n'
into un a'ready, 't was n' likely they woul', for we was gettun
furder an' furder away. Tired I was wi' goun, though I had n' walked
more n' a twenty or thirty mile, mubbe, an' it all comun down so
fast as I could go up, an' faster, an' never stoppun! 'T was a
tarrible long journey up over the driftun ice, at sea! So, then
I went on a high bit to wait tull all was done; I thowt 't would
be last to melt, an' mubbe, I thowt 'e may capsize wi' me, when
I did n' know (for I don' say I was stouthearted); an' I prayed
Un to take care o' them I loved; an' the tears comed. Then I felt
somethun tryun to turn me round like, an' it seemed as ef _she_
was doun it, somehow, an' she seemed to be very nigh, somehow,
an' I did n' look.

"After a bit, I got up to look out where most swiles was, for company,
while I was livun: an' the first look struck me a'most like a bullet!
There I sid a sail! _'T was_ a sail, an' 't was like heaven openun,
an' God settun her down there. About three mile away she was, to
nothe'ard, in th' Ice.

"I could ha' sid, at first look, what schooner 't was; but I did
n' want to look hard at her. I kep' my peace, a spurt, an' then
I runned an' bawled out, 'Glory be to God!' an' then I stopped,
an' made proper thanks to Un. An' there she was, same as ef I'd
a-walked off from her an hour ago! It felt so long as ef I'd been
livun years, an' they would n' know me, sca'ce. Somehow, I did
n' think I could come up wi' her.

"I started, in the name o' God, wi' all my might, an' went, an'
went,--'t was a five mile, wi' goun round,--an' got her, thank
God! 'T was n' the Baccaloue (I sid that long before), 't was t'
other schooner, the Sparrow, repairun damages they'd got day before.
So that kep' 'em there, an' I'd a-been took from one an' brought
to t' other.

"I could n' do a hand's turn tull we got into the Bay agen,--I
was so clear beat out. The Sparrow kep' her men, an' fotch home
about thirty-eight hundred swiles, an' a poor man off th' Ice:
but they, poor fellows, that I went out wi', never comed no more:
an' I never went agen.

"I kep' the skin o' the poor baste, Sir: that's 'e on my cap."

When the planter had fairly finished his tale, it was a little
while before I could teach my eyes to see the things about me in
their places. The slow-going sail, outside, I at first saw as the
schooner that brought away the lost man from the Ice; the green
of the earth would not, at first, show itself through the white
with which the fancy covered it; and at first I could not quite
feel that the ground was fast under my feet. I even mistook one
of my own men (the sight of whom was to warn me that I was wanted
elsewhere) for one of the crew of the schooner Sparrow of a generation
ago.

I got the tale and its scene gathered away, presently, inside my
mind, and shook myself into a present association with surrounding
things, and took my leave. I went away the more gratified that I
had a chance of lifting my cap to a matron, dark-haired and comely
(who, I was sure, at a glance, had once been the maiden of Benjie
Westham's "troth-plight"), and receiving a handsome courtesy in
return.



THE INVISIBLE PRINCESS.

BY FRANCIS O'CONNOR.


I could be "as tedious as a king," in analyzing those chivalrous
instincts of masculine youth that lured me from college at nineteen,
and away over the watery deserts of the sea; and, like Dogberry,
"I could find in my heart to bestow it all of your worships." But
since, like the auditor of that worthy, you do not want it, I will
pass over the embarkation, which was tedious, over the sea-sickness,
which was more tedious, over the home-sickness, over the monotonous
duties assigned me, and the unvarying prospect of sea and sky, all so
tedious that I grew as morose after a time as a travelling Englishman.
Neither was coasting, with restricted liberty and much toil, amongst
people whose language I could not speak, quite all that my fancy
painted it,--although Genoa, Venice, the Bay of Naples,--crimsoned by
Vesuvius, and canopied by an Italian sky,--and the storied scenes
of Greece, all rich in beauties and historic associations, repaid
many discomforts at the time and remain to me forever as treasures
of memory the more precious for being dearly bought. But these,
with the pleasures and displeasures of Constantinople,--the limit
of our voyage,--I will pass over, to the midsummer eve when, with
all the arrangements for our return voyage completed, we swung
slowly out of the northern eddy of the Golden Horn into the clear
blue Bosphorus.

Already the lengthening shadows of a thousand domes and minarets
stretched across its waters, and glimpses of sunlight lay between
them, like golden clasps linking continent to continent. Around us
were ships and sailors from all parts of the habitable globe; while
through shine and shadow flitted boats and caiques innumerable, and
except where these, or the rising of a porpoise, or the dipping
of a gull, broke the surface of the water, it lay as smooth as a
mirror, reflecting its palace-guarded shores.

The men were lounging about the deck or leaning over the bulwarks,
listening to a neighboring crew chanting their vespers, while we
awaited the coming on board of our captain. Meanwhile the shadows
crept up the Asian hills, till the last sombre answering smile to
the sun's good-night faded from the cypress-trees above the graves
of Scutari.

Beside me, long in silent admiration of the scene, stood my messmates,
Fred Smith and Mike O'Hanlon,--two genuine specimens of Young New
York, the first of whom disappointed love had driven to sea, whither
also friendship and a reckless spirit of adventure had impelled
the second. Behind us was one, a just impression of whom--if I
could but convey it--would make what followed appear as possible
to you as it did to us who were long his companions. I never knew
to what country he belonged; for he spoke any language occasion
called for, with the same apparent ease and fluency. He was far
beyond the ordinary stature, yet it was only when you saw him in
comparison with other men that you observed anything gigantic in
his form. His hair was black, and hung in a smooth, heavy, even
wave down to his massive jaw, which was always clean shaved, if
indeed beard ever grew upon it. Neither could I guess his age;
for though he was apparently in manhood's prime, it often appeared
to me that the spirit I saw looking through his eyes must have
been looking from them for a thousand years.

And how I used to exult in watching him deal with matter! He never
took anything by the wrong end, nor failed to grasp a swinging
rope or a flapping sail, nor miscalculated the effort necessary
to the performance of whatever he undertook. He was silent, but
not morose. Yet there was something in his measured tones and the
gaze of his large gray eyes which Mike compared in their mingled
effects to the charms of sight and sound that the victims of the
rattlesnake's fascination are said to undergo. Whatever sensations
they occasioned, men shrank from renewing them, and the frankest and
boldest of the crew shunned occasions for addressing him. Stranger
still, this feeling, instead of wearing off by the close companionship
of our little bark, seemed to deepen and strengthen, until at length,
except myself, no one spoke to him who could avoid it. Even the
captain, when circumstances allowed him a choice, always directed
his orders to another, though this man's duties were performed
with the quiet promptness of a machine. If he was conscious of
anything peculiar in the behavior of his companions toward him,
he betrayed no indication of it. Such he was who stood listening,
with an appearance of interest unusual in him, to our otherwise
inconsequent chat.

"You are bidding a very silent adieu to the Genius of the East,"
I said.

"Yes," Fred answered, "it's her first actual revelation to me, but
it's a glorious one."

"Let those who love to decipher illegible inscriptions, to contemplate
a throttled centaur on a dilapidated frieze, or a carved acanthus
on a fallen capital, grope over the Acropolis and invoke Athenian
Pallas," said Mike; "but for me these painted seraglios and terraced,
bower-canopied gardens, vocal with nightingales and seeming to
impregnate the very air with the pleasures of desire, justify the
decision of Paris. Hurrah for Asiatic Venus!"

"You are no true Christian knight," I said. "Your Rinaldos and
Sir Guyons always waste your gardens of voluptuous delight, and
wipe out their abominations."

"Yes," he retorted, "all but the abomination of desolation."

"But do you consider," said Fred, "how many sweet birds may be
looking out through the bars of those bright lattice cages even
now, who can follow neither their hearts' desires nor their souls'
aspirations, but whom fate has degraded to be the slaves of some
miserable old Blue Beard?"

"Why don't you sail in and rescue some of them?" said Mike mockingly.
"Tell the old tyrant to his cerulean beard that he has too many
strings to his bow, and he will undoubtedly spare a bow-string to
twine around your manly neck. But I guess you had better, after
all, leave the Fatimas to their fate. The barriers that fence them
in from their hearts' desires and souls' aspirations here are not
more real, if more palpable, than those that guard them in our
land of boasted freedom; neither are they altogether secure from
sale and barter there; and as for us outside barbarians, I'd as
lief be shut out by palace walls from a beauty I can only imagine,
as by custom still more insurmountable from beauty set visibly
before me and enhanced with intellectual and social graces."

I cited the lady in the song, who says:--

   A tarry sailor I'll ne'er disdain,
   But always I will treat the same,

as proof that such exclusiveness was far from being the universal
rule at home, and encouraged him to rival the "swabber, the boatswain
and mate" for "Moll, Mag, Marion, and Margery."

"Or," said he, "like the jolly tar you quote, dismiss both your
songs as 'scurvy tunes,' and, swigging at a black jack, say: Here's
my comfort."

"I am not sure," said Fred bitterly, thinking of his own rejected
suit, "that Stephano's philosophy is not the best for wretches
like us."

"Yes," said Mike, "until after the Millennium. Then the march of
civilization will be ended, and the ranks may be broken. Then soft
hands and hard hands may clasp each other. Then rays from the purest
and most refined souls may shine through bright eyes without being
especially chilled for those whom a cold destiny makes especially
needful of their heart-warming influences. Then you, poor as you
are, may aspire to wed the daughter of a banker, and Joe or I may
seek to satisfy the heart's desires of the Sultan's daughter, without
Aladdin's lamp or Oberon's whistle."

Here our strange auditor came forward with a small tin whistle in
his hand, and gravely presenting it to Fred, he advised him to try
its note on the hard-hearted parent who opposed his happiness. In
the deepening twilight, Fred and Mike, putting their heads together,
read the following legend graven upon it:--

   O whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad!

We all laughed outright, except the donor.

"This is not Oberon's whistle, at any rate," I said.

"No," he answered, "the inspiration of this is from Mammon, whose
gates I understood shut Mr. Smith out from his true love. A single
blast on it will, I dare say, open them wide enough to let him
in."

"Then it's as good as money to you, Fred," said Mike.

"That's what our old boss used to tell us," answered Fred ruefully,
"when he gave us orders on a neighboring grocery, in lieu of cash
for our wages. But I must confess I have now, as I had then, a
prejudice in favor of the circulating medium."

"If so, whistle for it at once," said the other.

Fred looked at him, and then at Mike and me, with a puzzled expression
which seemed to ask: Is this a crazy freak, or an absurd, insulting
joke?

"Now," said the object of this scrutiny, turning to me, "I have a
talisman for you also, wherewith to entice the Sultan's daughter.
It is a ruby of rare size and color, and therefore valuable. But
the power of the spell it is said to possess remains to be tested.
I give it to you because in you, at this moment, are fulfilled
the conditions necessary to exercise this spell; which you do by
simply taking the jewel in your hand thus, and saying,--

   Come, O royal maiden, come to me this hour."

"And she'll come, of course," said Mike, bantering me in his turn.
"Now hoist your signal and hail the daughter of the Grand Turk,
and let Fred pipe for his princess at the same auspicious moment."

"Amen!" I said, holding up the gem till the moonbeams blushed red
in it, and calling out with a strange, impulsive sense of power,--

   "Come, O royal maiden, come to me this hour."

But no responsive tooting of the whistle echoed from the lips of
Fred. I looked toward him for an explanation of the silence, and
beheld him spitting out the fragments of the instrument, which
had gone to pieces in his mouth.

"What's all this?" he exclaimed, unrolling a little scroll of paper
that had been compressed within it, and holding it up to the light.
"See here, Joe, what do you make of this?"

"A draft for ten thousand pounds sterling, on the Bank of England,
duly signed and indorsed," I answered after scrutinizing it carefully.

We turned simultaneously for an explanation, but there was no one
to give it.

"I always suspected who _he_ was," said Mike, "but he's got no
hold on me,--no claim to a bond signed with _my_ blood. See, there
he goes!"

I looked, and saw a boat shooting across the stream with a swiftness
that argued some optical delusion. That unmistakable figure stood in
the stern, urging it with a single scull, and as it disappeared in
the confusion of boats and the darkness, a superstitious suspicion
crept over me that he might be the person Mike suggested. Soon the
captain came on board, and on learning the absence of the boat
and its occupant, he expressed considerable anxiety and impatience.
A breeze sprang up and began to curl the surface of the water,
and clouds obscured the moon. Then the wind freshened to a storm,
and lifted the waves on the channel, and roared in the cypress
forests above Pera and Scutari. Under the light sails already set,
the ship tugged hard at her cable. Yet the boat did not return.
The captain walked the deck nervously, and finally gave orders
to weigh anchor, when just as our bark, freed to the wind and the
current, sprang forward on her long voyage, the boat for which we
were looking shot suddenly under the prow, and in an instant our
mysterious comrade stepped in upon the deck from the bow-chains.
As he did so, the light of the mate's lantern fell full upon him,
and the scene it revealed will certainly never be forgotten by
anyone who witnessed it.

There he stood, looming out from the tempestuous darkness more
gigantic and terrible than ever, with the form of a beautiful girl,
gorgeously clad and flashing with jewels, held easily and firmly
by one encircling arm. His disengaged right hand was stained as
if with blood, and spots of the same sanguinary hue were on his
brow and his garments. The expression of his face was unmoved as
usual.

For a moment he permitted the slippered feet of the trembling girl
to rest upon the deck, though his arm still encompassed her shrinking
form, and, while her great dark eyes, dilated with horror, like
those of a captured bird, threw wild, eager glances to left and
right, as if in search of any desperate refuge from the terrors that
possessed her, he said in his usual quiet tones to the captain,--

"This is the passenger for whom I engaged the cabin. She will,
by your leave, take possession of it at once." So saying, he led
her gently forward and disappeared at the companion-way, conducted
by the captain.

Every face on deck had grown pale, and every heart throbbed with
the conviction that we had just beheld the consummation of a most
desperate and bloody deed. It was evident the girl had been snatched
suddenly from the harem of some palace, probably from the royal
seraglio itself, off which we had been lying. And the horror depicted
on her face, as well as the stains of blood on her abductor, told
with what ruthless violence. Here then, I thought, in all human
probability, was the royal maiden I had summoned; here was the
wildest vagary of my imagination realized. But how different from
the bright fancy was the woful reality!

Soon the captain returned on deck, pale and excited like the rest
of us, and ordered a rash amount of sail to be set. The mate, a
bluff, powerful man, swore an oath that we should first understand
the meaning of what had just transpired.

"I know no more about it than you do," avowed the captain, "except
that it's a piece of business very likely to bring all our heads
to the block unless we show a clean pair of heels for it. So now
avast jawing, and obey orders!"

"Never! boys," I said, "till we are assured of that girl's safety.
What's done cannot be helped; but if she suffers further wrong
in our midst, we ought all to be hanged as cowardly accessories
to it."

"Dismiss your uneasiness in that regard," said a voice behind us,
at whose sound there was a general start. "To keep her safe and
inviolate is more my right and interest than yours, and it must
therefore be my especial duty to do so; but if I fail in it, I
care not though you make my life the forfeit, nor by what mode you
exact it."

So saying, he took his place at the helm, a press of sail was set,
and the ship fairly rent her way through the sea of Marmora before
the tempest. But the ship, like all around, seemed to acknowledge
his controlling power; and when I turned in with my watch, my sleep
was undisturbed by any fear of wind or water, though it was full
of troubled dreams. Now a lovely form in royal vesture beckoned
to me from a lattice; anon the gleam of a lantern flickered across
the terribly familiar face of a gnome, bearing out of a dark cavern
an armful of the most precious jewels, which had a wild appealing in
their light that puzzled me; while the roaring of the sea pervaded
it all with a kind of dream harmony.

After a time, the fury of the tempest abated; but the ship still
fled onward before strong gales, through those famous seas we had
cruised so often in youthful fancy with the Greek and the Trojan,
and the fear of pursuit ceased to haunt us.

Meanwhile we saw no more of our lovely passenger. Her strange guardian
kept a watch beside her cabin door as vigilant as that of a sentinel
at his post, or a saint before his shrine. His eye never swept the
horizon behind us with an anxious gaze, as ours did, while we looked
for the smoke of a pursuing steamer. Neither did it kindle at sight
of the famous landmarks that measured our rapid course, each of which
we hailed with delight as another harbinger of safety. He had ceased
to perform the duties of a seaman, and devoted himself entirely to
the care of the INVISIBLE PRINCESS, as we grew to call her. But
though invisible to our eyes, hers was the pervading presence of
our thoughts. Not a wave rocked the ship, not a cloud overshadowed
it, not a morning breeze came fresh from the sea, or an evening
breeze brought fragrance from the shore, but was thought of in
some relation with her. There was none like her, we said, in the
broad continents to right of us, to left of us, or before us; and
we doubted if there was her like in the lands of enchantment we
had left behind. Her wondrous beauty, the flashing of the jewels
that encrusted her belt, and that seemed to gleam and sparkle all
over her picturesque attire, the haunting look of those great,
lustrous eyes, all the reminiscence of that eventful night,--how
fondly we recurred to them again and again in the forecastle or
the night-watch, and with what pleasure we recognized the first
indications that her trance of terror had passed, and that she
had resumed a living interest in the strange world around her.

First the open window of the cabin gave evidence that the balmy
air and the pleasant shores we skirted were no longer indifferent
to her; then came flitting glimpses of bright garments and brighter
eyes quickly withdrawn from observation into the depths of the
fairy grotto she inhabited; and finally, one beautiful moonlight
evening, while most of the crew were on deck watching the lurid
peak of Etna and the pavement of golden waves stretching toward
it, and listening not to premonitions of Scylla or Charybdis, but
to the song of the nightingales from the dim shore, or to tales
of Enceladus and the Cyclops from Fred, and whimsical comments
from Mike, she came hesitatingly forth, arousing an excitement and
curiosity among us as intense as if she were a ghost arising from
the tomb. Her dress was the same in which she had been brought among
us, without addition of yashmak or veil of any kind,--excepting
the mistiness of the moonlight,--to conceal her face, though there
was a shy drawing down of the tasselled cap or turban she wore,
that shadowed it somewhat.

I need hardly say how soon the glories of earth, sea, and sky,
which we had been contemplating, shrank into mere accessories around
that one central figure, as she stood gazing upon them through the
shrouds and spars from our deck. But, notwithstanding the beauty of
the scene and the hour, she did not hold her position long to enjoy
them. She had, in appearing thus before strange men, evidently by a
great effort, done that which she shrank from doing; but whether
in obedience to her own will or to that of another, we could not
guess. The ice thus broken, however, she was the INVISIBLE PRINCESS
no longer. Emboldened by two or three subsequent moonlight and
twilight ventures, she at length came out in the sunset, and I
doubt if the setting sun ever revealed a lovelier sight than greeted
our eyes on that evening. A glance in the clear light satisfied us
that the superhuman beauty we almost worshipped, and the splendor
that seemed too lavish to be real, were no mere glamor of lamplight
or moonlight, but surpassed in the reality all that our stunted,
sceptical, Western imaginations, even stimulated as they were,
had dared to anticipate.

I might attempt to describe her. I might tell you that her every
limb and every feature seemed perfect in its form and its harmony
with the others; that her complexion was a fresh, delicate bloom,
without spot or blemish; that the innumerable braids of her long,
black hair were ravishingly glossy and soft; that her great, dark
eyes were bewilderingly bright and wise, and expressive of everything
enchanting and good that eyes can express; that her smile,--but
no! her smile was an expression of her individuality too subtle
for words to catch; and without any power of revealing this
individuality, this all that distinguished her from merely mortal
woman and made her angelic, where is the use of attempting to describe
her? Of her garments, by a recurrence to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
for the names of them, I could give you a description, from the
golden-flowered, diamond-studded kerchief wreathed in her hair,
to the yellow Cinderella slippers that covered her fairy feet.
But the gauzy fabric that enfolded though it scarcely concealed
her bosom, the vest of white damask stuff inwoven and fringed with
gold and silver, the caftan, and the trousers of crimson embossed
and embroidered with flowers of the same gorgeous materials, all
were buttoned and guarded and overstrewn with jewels, while the
broad belt that confined them was literally encrusted with diamonds
and clasped by a magnificent bouquet of flowers wrought by the
lapidary from diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and pearls,
so exquisitely that the artist showed a skill in them almost worthy
of his materials.

From our ardent gaze the beautiful vision was soon withdrawn,--often
to reappear, however, in the bright, calm weather that followed,
each time with less of blushing and confusion in the beautiful
face; and at length, some of us began to flatter ourselves, with
a shy glance of interest and recognition for us in the luminous
eyes.

On her strange companion, also, her presence shed a beam that lightened
the darkness of our thoughts toward him. We marked the long, dark
lashes of her eyes rising and falling, now trustingly, now fearingly,
before that inscrutable countenance, as if her spirit wavered between
a dream of terror and a contentful awaking. And many imagined that,
as those dark eyes began to turn more lovingly and more longingly
toward him, the strange brilliance of his own became imbued with
their softness, while a faint auroral tinge seemed just ready to
change his countenance from marble to flesh and blood.

Thus day after day we crept along the European coast, enjoying a
dream of romance in which we could have gone on sailing contentedly
forever, our only cause of uneasiness being that, at some of the
numerous ports we touched, the magic presence on which the spell
depended might go from us, as it came to us, without ceremony or
warning, and leave us to cross the great ocean in the world of
intolerable loneliness that would settle on the ship when she was
gone. There was something like a patriotic aspiration in our desire
to transplant this brightest of Eastern blossoms to diffuse its
supreme beauty and sweetness in the West. And though we feared for
her the stormy autumn passage of the Atlantic, a load was taken
from every spirit when we left the Pillars of Hercules behind us
and pointed our prow straight out across the cloud-bound ocean.

Just as we lost sight of land, we were attacked by a most violent
storm, that buffeted us for many a day, during which we saw nothing
of our fair passenger, and we learned that she was seriously ill.
But never had invalid such a nurse as she. No one knew if he slept
or ate, and no one was allowed to share his office, and no one
obtruded on him the sorrow or sympathy which all felt in spite
of our engrossing battle for life against the tempest. For though
there was no change in his appearance or demeanor, all were conscious
that a deep feeling stirred his heart. Even when we doubted if
all our energies could preserve the vessel from being dashed back
upon the coast we had just left, he gave us neither help nor heed,
till in the final moment when we had given up all for lost, he
seized the helm and shot us into shelter and safety behind the reef
whereon we expected to go to pieces, through a channel which, in
the calm that followed the storm, we found it difficult to retrace
to the deep water, towing the ship with boats.

Again we got well out to sea, and were becalmed. For nearly a week,
not a breeze had broken the surface of the ocean. Then another
of those enchanting scenes we had feared to behold no more was
presented to us. The beautiful invalid, assisted by her now inseparable
companion, came upon the deck to watch the sunset. From her cheek
the bloom of health was gone; but the look of wild dread with which
hitherto she had never quite ceased to regard him who supported her
was gone also, and in its place the large, dark eyes were filled
by a glance of such indescribable gratitude and trust as only her
eyes could express. He, for the first time, looked neither more
nor less than a man. Her shrinking from our presence, too, had
disappeared, and her look of recognition now was unmistakable and
cordial. She had resumed her original garb, long disused as if
to avoid remark at the ports we visited, and its glowing colors
seemed to heighten the contrast between the pallid cheek and the
long, dark lashes that drooped languidly over them, as, wearied at
length by the unusual exertion, she sank heavily on her companion,
and was rather borne than assisted back to the cabin.

During another week of breezeless autumn calm, this strange drama
was re-enacted many times before us, with each time a deepening
of the tragic shades that were gathering above it. But even after
it became evident that the sweet evening air had no balm for the
drooping girl, she loved to look out on the glories of the sunset,
as if conscious that soon she should behold them no more forever.
And when her strength no longer enabled her to walk, her nurse
carried her out like a child in his arms.

But this also ceased after a time, and the hope that our transplanted
blossom would ever flourish on a new soil had already faded from the
bosom of the most sanguine among us, when one evening the guardian
genius of the cabin beckoned to me from its portal. My entrance
seemed to arouse the fair invalid, who was reclined upon a couch.
The enchanting halo of her perfect beauty was unabated by disease;
and she was surrounded by articles so rare, so costly, and in such
profusion, as to force themselves upon my attention even in that
first glance. A faint smile, and a recognition from those now too
bright eyes, were my welcome. But they did not rest upon me long;
for, as if by some fascination, those eyes seemed always turned
toward him, or, if by chance he was beyond their reach, to the
spot where they could first behold his return.

So this nursling of a palace, evidently dying out on the wide sea,
with only rough men about her, had neither a word nor a look of
reproach for the one who had dragged her forth to so wretched a
fate. Even in her mind's wanderings, she seldom went back to former
pomps or pleasures, and her tongue preferred rather to stumble
through the rough and unfamiliar language in which of late she
had been so terribly schooled, than to speak that of her youth.
Once, when after a short absence her attendant returned to her
side, she said,--

"My heart was trying to cross the waves that were between us, and
oh! how it was tossed upon them--and it ached, and--and--" Then,
giving a sigh of relief, she sank back, closed her eyes, and slumbered
restfully.

He disposed of the lamp he had just lighted, and then, with an
expression as inscrutable as ever, he stood looking down upon her.

While this scene was being enacted, I marked through the open portal
of the cabin--in one of those strange distractions that occur to
us amidst the most intense feelings of our lives--the stars above
us growing brighter and brighter as the shades of the twilight
deepened. Suddenly turning from the couch, he also, at a stride,
stood in full view of those bright revelations of the darkness; but
his eye sought them with no such abstracted regard as mine. Fixedly
and sternly he seemed to be watching among them some portentous
index of fate. Soon a change came over his countenance, and he
resumed his place beside the scarcely breathing form. Then the
fountains of the great deep within him were broken up, and the
rushing torrent of its emotions shook his whole frame and convulsed
his features. Stooping, he kissed the insensible girl passionately,
again and again, and he would, I believe, have clasped her to his
bosom if I, fearing for her the effects of his stormy transports,
had not caught his arm. He needed no explanation of my interruption,
neither was he startled or incensed by it, and he seemed more like
one reluctantly obeying some sudden restraining impulse of his
own than yielding to that of another.

"No," he said, "I must not cut short a single flicker of that bright
spirit; the wondrously beautiful vessel that it glorifies will be
cold clay soon enough! ashes from which no future Phoenix shall
arise. O," he exclaimed, "this sacrifice is too great, too great!
and for nothing! Even had she perished on the destined altar, an
accepted sacrifice, it were too great! But I tore her from home
and friends, and life itself, for this,--for nothing! O Destiny,
thou art a subtle adversary, and infinite are thy devices for our
overthrow! But I never reckoned on such an impediment as this
heart-weakness."

Then approaching me, he laid a hand upon my shoulder, and said:
"As the representative of the young, hopeful, living world she
is about to leave, I called you here that you and she might look
your last upon each other. Go now, and though your present emotion
accords duly with the part I have assigned you, see that you do
not play false to it hereafter by letting this woful event impress
you with too deep or too lasting a sorrow."

Then to my Ideal, so strangely found and lost, I looked and murmured
an adieu, and returned among my companions, reverenced as one who
had been in a hallowed place.

It was the third evening after this, to me, memorable visit. Streaks
of sable, with golden edges, barred the face of the setting sun,
and promised to our hopes a change of weather. But this indication,
important as it was after the long calm, was evidently not that which
the whole ship's crew, officers and men, were now discussing,--as the
converged attention of the scattered groups on the closed entrance
of that silent, mysterious cabin testified.

"I know," said O'Hanlon, answering to an objection from some one
in the group where he stood, "it would be like invading a sanctuary
to intrude there; but the conviction sometimes comes over me that
we have, all hands of us, from the captain down, acted in regard
to this matter with the incapacity of men in a nightmare. Fear is
a condition under which a true man should not breathe a moment
without contest; and yet I know we have been all, more or less
consciously, under its influence since this man came on board.
Out upon us! I will, for myself at least, break through this dream
of terror at once, by a tap at yonder door."

"It's the captain's place, not ours," said Smith, "to investigate
this affair. Don't be too impulsive; you will get yourself into
serious trouble."

"This is no matter of ordinary discipline," said the other; "the
captain has a more substantial awe of this man than you or I,--and
for more substantial reasons. He was aware of his wealth and power
when we were not. How, without his knowledge, could the treasures
worth a king's ransom, that adorn yonder coop, have been smuggled
in or arranged there? But I am resolved, right or wrong, to do
as I said."

I was questioning within myself whether to second him, when the
door toward which he was advancing slowly opened, and once more
the object of our discussion issued from it, and again in his arms
was the beautiful form to which they had proved such a fatal
resting-place. But none of the emotions of terror, trustfulness,
or affection, which had alternately thrilled it in that position,
did it now exhibit. The bright eyes were closed, the beautiful
features settled in lasting repose. The glossy hair was daintily
braided. The spotless garments were gracefully disposed. The jewels
glittered conspicuously, as if relieved from the outvying lustre of
her eyes. All, as in life, was pure and perfect; and as in life,
so in death, she was still a revelation of transcendent beauty.
A snowy winding-sheet, fringed with heavy coins, alternately of
gold and of silver, and looped with silken cords on which bunches
of the same precious metals hung as tassels, was so disposed that
he could enfold her in it without laying her from his arms.

Stepping to the side of the vessel, he stood holding her thus in
our view for a few moments; then, deftly and deliberately as usual,
he wrapped the preciously weighted linen around her, stepped easily
upon the bulwark, and with that perfect and deliberate poise so
peculiar to him, and with his burden clasped firmly to his breast,
he flung himself far clear of the ship, into the ocean, and was
seen no more.

Thus vanished like a dream the romance of my life. Indeed, but for
the lurid gleam of this strange jewel, a true type and testimony of
it, I might yet grow to persuade myself it was a dream, so wondrous
it becomes to me in memory.



THE ADVOCATE'S WEDDING-DAY.

BY CATHERINE CROWE.


Antoine de Chaulieu was the son of a poor gentleman of Normandy,
with a long genealogy, a short rent-roll, and a large family. Jacques
Rollet was the son of a brewer, who did not know who his grandfather
was; but he had a long purse, and only two children. As these youths
flourished in the early days of liberty, equality, and fraternity,
and were near neighbors, they naturally hated each other. Their enmity
commenced at school, where the delicate and refined De Chaulieu,
being the only _gentilhomme_ amongst the scholars, was the favorite
of the master (who was a bit of an aristocrat in his heart), although
he was about the worst dressed boy in the establishment, and never
had a sou to spend; whilst Jacques Rollet, sturdy and rough, with
smart clothes and plenty of money, got flogged six days in the week,
ostensibly for being stupid and not learning his lessons,--which
he did not,--but in reality for constantly quarrelling with and
insulting De Chaulieu, who had not strength to cope with him.

When they left the academy, the feud continued in all its vigor,
and was fostered by a thousand little circumstances, arising out
of the state of the times, till a separation ensued, in consequence
of an aunt of Antoine de Chaulieu's undertaking the expense of
sending him to Paris to study the law, and of maintaining him there
during the necessary period.

With the progress of events came some degree of reaction in favor
of birth and nobility; and then Antoine, who had passed for the
bar, began to hold up his head, and endeavor to push his fortunes;
but fate seemed against him. He felt certain that if he possessed
any gift in the world, it was that of eloquence, but he could get
no cause to plead; and his aunt dying inopportunely, first his
resources failed, and then his health. He had no sooner returned
to his home than, to complicate his difficulties completely, he
fell in love with Miss Natalie de Bellefonds, who had just returned
from Paris, where she had been completing her education. To expatiate
on the perfections of Mademoiselle Natalie would be a waste of
ink and paper; it is sufficient to say that she really was a very
charming girl, with a fortune which, though not large, would have
been a most desirable addition to De Chaulieu, who had nothing.
Neither was the fair Natalie indisposed to listen to his addresses;
but her father could not be expected to countenance the suit of
a gentleman, however well-born, who had not a ten-sous piece in
the world, and whose prospects were a blank.

Whilst the ambitious and love-sick barrister was thus pining in
unwelcome obscurity, his old acquaintance, Jacques Rollet, had
been acquiring an undesirable notoriety. There was nothing really
bad in Jacques; but having been bred up a democrat, with a hatred
of the nobility, he could not easily accommodate his rough humor
to treat them with civility when it was no longer safe to insult
them. The liberties he allowed himself whenever circumstances brought
him into contact with the higher classes of society, had led him
into many scrapes, out of which his father's money had in one way
or another released him; but that source of safety had now failed.
Old Rollet, having been too busy with the affairs of the nation to
attend to his business, had died insolvent, leaving his son with
nothing but his own wits to help him out of future difficulties;
and it was not long before their exercise was called for.

Claudine Rollet, his sister, who was a very pretty girl, had attracted
the attention of Mademoiselle de Bellefonds's brother, Alphonse;
and as he paid her more attention than from such a quarter was
agreeable to Jacques, the young men had had more than one quarrel
on the subject, on which occasion they had each, characteristically,
given vent to their enmity, the one in contemptuous monosyllables,
and the other in a volley of insulting words. But Claudine had
another lover, more nearly of her own condition of life; this was
Claperon, the deputy-governor of the Rouen jail, with whom she
had made acquaintance during one or two compulsory visits paid
by her brother to that functionary. Claudine, who was a bit of a
coquette, though she did not altogether reject his suit, gave him
little encouragement, so that, betwixt hopes and fears and doubts
and jealousies, poor Claperon led a very uneasy kind of life.

Affairs had been for some time in this position, when, one fine
morning, Alphonse de Bellefonds was not to be found in his chamber
when his servant went to call him; neither had his bed been slept
in. He had been observed to go out rather late on the previous
evening, but whether he had returned nobody could tell. He had not
appeared at supper, but that was too ordinary an event to awaken
suspicion; and little alarm was excited till several hours had
elapsed, when inquiries were instituted and a search commenced,
which terminated in the discovery of his body, a good deal mangled,
lying at the bottom of a pond which had belonged to the old brewery.

Before any investigation had been made, every person had jumped
to the conclusion that the young man had been murdered, and that
Jacques Rollet was the assassin. There was a strong presumption
in favor of that opinion, which further perquisitions tended to
confirm. Only the day before, Jacques had been heard to threaten
Monsieur de Bellefonds with speedy vengeance. On the fatal evening,
Alphonse and Claudine had been seen together in the neighborhood
of the now dismantled brewery; and as Jacques, betwixt poverty and
democracy, was in bad odor with the respectable part of society,
it was not easy for him to bring witnesses to character or to prove
an unexceptionable _alibi_. As for the Bellefonds and De Chaulieus,
and the aristocracy in general, they entertained no doubt of his
guilt; and finally, the magistrates coming to the same opinion,
Jacques Rollet was committed for trial at the next assizes, and
as a testimony of good-will, Antoine de Chaulieu was selected by
the injured family to conduct the prosecution.

Here, at last, was the opportunity he had sighed for. So interesting
a case, too, furnishing such ample occasion for passion, pathos,
indignation! And how eminently fortunate that the speech which
he set himself with ardor to prepare would be delivered in the
presence of the father and brother of his mistress, and perhaps
of the lady herself. The evidence against Jacques, it is true,
was altogether presumptive; there was no proof whatever that he
had committed the crime; and for his own part, he stoutly denied
it. But Antoine de Chaulieu entertained no doubt of his guilt,
and the speech he composed was certainly well calculated to carry
that conviction into the bosom of others. It was of the highest
importance to his own reputation that he should procure a verdict,
and he confidently assured the afflicted and enraged family of
the victim that their vengeance should be satisfied.

Under these circumstances, could anything be more unwelcome than
a piece of intelligence that was privately conveyed to him late on
the evening before the trial was to come on, which tended strongly
to exculpate the prisoner, without indicating any other person
as the criminal. Here was an opportunity lost. The first step of
the ladder on which he was to rise to fame, fortune, and a wife
was slipping from under his feet.

Of course so interesting a trial was anticipated with great eagerness
by the public; the court was crowded with all the beauty and fashion
of Rouen, and amongst the rest, doubly interesting in her mourning,
sat the fair Natalie, accompanied by her family.

The young advocate's heart beat high; he felt himself inspired by
the occasion; and although Jacques Rollet persisted in asserting
his innocence, founding his defence chiefly on circumstances which
were strongly corroborated by the information that had reached De
Chaulieu the preceding evening, he was nevertheless convicted.

In spite of the very strong doubts he privately entertained respecting
the justice of the verdict, even De Chaulieu himself, in the first
flush of success, amidst a crowd of congratulating friends and
the approving smiles of his mistress, felt gratified and happy;
his speech had, for the time being, not only convinced others but
himself; warmed with his own eloquence, he believed what he said.
But when the glow was over, and he found himself alone, he did not
feel so comfortable. A latent doubt of Rollet's guilt now pressed
strongly on his mind, and he felt that the blood of the innocent
would be on his head. It was true there was yet time to save the
life of the prisoner; but to admit Jacques innocent, was to take
the glory out of his own speech, and turn the sting of his argument
against himself. Besides, if he produced the witness who had secretly
given him the information, he should be self-condemned, for he could
not conceal that he had been aware of the circumstance before the
trial.

Matters having gone so far, therefore, it was necessary that Jacques
Rollet should die; and so the affair took its course; and early
one morning the guillotine was erected in the court-yard of the
gaol, three criminals ascended the scaffold, and three heads fell
into the basket, which were presently afterward, with the trunks
that had been attached to them, buried in a corner of the cemetery.

Antoine de Chaulieu was now fairly started in his career, and his
success was as rapid as the first step toward it had been tardy. He
took a pretty apartment in the Hôtel Marboeuf, Rue Grange Batelière,
and in a short time was looked upon as one of the most rising young
advocates in Paris. His success in one line brought him success
in another; he was soon a favorite in society, and an object of
interest to speculating mothers; but his affections still adhered
to his old love, Natalie de Bellefonds, whose family now gave their
assent to the match,--at least prospectively,--a circumstance which
furnished such additional incentive to his exertions, that in about
two years from his first brilliant speech he was in a sufficiently
flourishing condition to offer the young lady a suitable home.

In anticipation of the happy event, he engaged and furnished a
suite of apartments in the Rue de Helder; and as it was necessary
that the bride should come to Paris to provide her trousseau, it
was agreed that the wedding should take place there, instead of at
Bellefonds, as had been first projected,--an arrangement the more
desirable, that a press of business rendered Monsieur de Chaulieu's
absence from Paris inconvenient.

Brides and bridegrooms in France, except of the very high classes,
are not much in the habit of making those honeymoon excursions so
universal in this country. A day spent in visiting Versailles, or
St. Cloud, or even the public places of the city, is generally all
that precedes the settling down into the habits of daily life. In
the present instance, St. Denis was selected, from the circumstance
of Natalie's having a younger sister at school there, and also
because she had a particular desire to see the Abbey.

The wedding was to take place on a Thursday; and on the Wednesday
evening, having spent some hours most agreeably with Natalie, Antoine
de Chaulieu returned to spend his last night in his bachelor apartments.
His wardrobe and other small possessions had already been packed
up, and sent to his future home; and there was nothing left in
his room now but his new wedding suit, which he inspected with
considerable satisfaction before he undressed and lay down to sleep.

Sleep, however, was somewhat slow to visit him, and the clock had
struck one before he closed his eyes. When he opened them again,
it was broad daylight, and his first thought was, had he overslept
himself? He sat up in bed to look at the clock, which was exactly
opposite; and as he did so, in the large mirror over the fireplace,
he perceived a figure standing behind him. As the dilated eyes
met his own, he saw it was the face of Jacques Rollet. Overcome
with horror, he sank back on his pillow, and it was some minutes
before he ventured to look again in that direction; when he did
so, the figure had disappeared.

The sudden revulsion of feeling which such a vision was calculated
to occasion in a man elate with joy may be conceived. For some
time after the death of his former foe, he had been visited by
not infrequent twinges of conscience; but of late, borne along by
success and the hurry of Parisian life, these unpleasant remembrances
had grown rarer, till at length they had faded away altogether.
Nothing had been further from his thoughts than Jacques Rollet
when he closed his eyes on the preceding night, or when he opened
them to that sun which was to shine on what he expected to be the
happiest day of his life. Where were the high-strung nerves now,
the elastic frame, the bounding heart?

Heavily and slowly he arose from his bed, for it was time to do
so; and with a trembling hand and quivering knees he went through
the processes of the toilet, gashing his cheek with the razor,
and spilling the water over his well-polished boots. When he was
dressed, scarcely venturing to cast a glance in the mirror as he
passed it, he quitted the room and descended the stairs, taking
the key of the door with him, for the purpose of leaving it with
the porter; the man, however, being absent, he laid it on the table
in his lodge, and with a relaxed hand and languid step he proceeded
to the carriage which quickly conveyed him to the church, where
he was met by Natalie and her friends.

How difficult it was now to look happy, with that pallid face and
extinguished eye!

"How pale you are! Has anything happened? You are surely ill?" were
the exclamations that assailed him on all sides.

He tried to carry the thing off as well as he could, but he felt
that the movements he would have wished to appear alert were only
convulsive, and that the smiles with which he attempted to relax
his features were but distorted grimaces. However, the church was
not the place for further inquiries; and whilst Natalie gently
pressed his hand in token of sympathy, they advanced to the altar,
and the ceremony was performed; after which they stepped into the
carriages waiting at the door, and drove to the apartments of Madame
de Bellefonds, where an elegant _déjeuner_ was prepared.

"What ails you, my dear husband?" inquired Natalie, as soon as they
were alone.

"Nothing, love," he replied; "nothing, I assure you, but a restless
night and a little overwork, in order that I might have to-day
free to enjoy my happiness."

"Are you quite sure? Is there nothing else?"

"Nothing, indeed, and pray don't take notice of it; it only makes
me worse."

Natalie was not deceived, but she saw that what he said was
true,--notice made him worse; so she contented herself with observing
him quietly and saying nothing; but as he felt she was observing
him, she might almost better have spoken; words are often less
embarrassing things than too curious eyes.

When they reached Madame de Bellefonds' he had the same sort of
scrutiny to undergo, till he grew quite impatient under it, and
betrayed a degree of temper altogether unusual with him. Then everybody
looked astonished; some whispered their remarks, and others expressed
them by their wondering eyes, till his brow knit, and his pallid
cheeks became flushed with anger.

Neither could he divert attention by eating; his parched mouth
would not allow him to swallow anything but liquids, of which he
indulged in copious libations; and it was an exceeding relief to
him when the carriage which was to convey them to St. Denis, being
announced, furnished an excuse for hastily leaving the table.

Looking at his watch, he declared it was late; and Natalie, who saw
how eager he was to be gone, threw her shawl over her shoulders,
and bidding her friends good morning they hurried away.

It was a fine sunny day in June; and as they drove along the crowded
boulevards and through the Porte St. Denis, the young bride and
bridegroom, to avoid each other's eyes, affected to be gazing out
of the windows; but when they reached that part of the road where
there was nothing but trees on each side, they felt it necessary
to draw in their heads, and make an attempt at conversation.

De Chaulieu put his arm round his wife's waist, and tried to rouse
himself from his depression; but it had by this time so reacted
upon her, that she could not respond to his efforts; and thus the
conversation languished, till both felt glad when they reached their
destination, which would, at all events, furnish them something
to talk about.

Having quitted the carriage and ordered a dinner at the Hôtel de
l'Abbaye, the young couple proceeded to visit Mademoiselle de
Bellefonds, who was overjoyed to see her sister and new brother-in-law,
and doubly so when she found that they had obtained permission to
take her out to spend the afternoon with them.

As there is little to be seen at St. Denis but the Abbey, on quitting
that part of it devoted to education, they proceeded to visit the
church with its various objects of interest; and as De Chaulieu's
thoughts were now forced into another direction, his cheerfulness
began insensibly to return. Natalie looked so beautiful, too, and the
affection betwixt the two young sisters was so pleasant to behold!
And they spent a couple of hours wandering about with Hortense, who
was almost as well informed as the Suisse, till the brazen doors
were open which admitted them to the royal vault.

Satisfied at length with what they had seen, they began to think
of returning to the inn, the more especially as De Chaulieu, who
had not eaten a morsel of food since the previous evening, confessed
to being hungry; so they directed their steps to the door, lingering
here and there as they went to inspect a monument or a painting, when
happening to turn his head aside to see if his wife, who had stopped
to take a last look at the tomb of King Dagobert, was following,
he beheld with horror the face of Jacques Rollet appearing from
behind a column. At the same instant his wife joined him and took
his arm, inquiring if he was not very much delighted with what
he had seen. He attempted to say yes, but the word died upon his
lips; and staggering out of the door, he alleged that a sudden
faintness had overcome him.

They conducted him to the hotel, but Natalie now became seriously
alarmed; and well she might. His complexion looked ghastly, his
limbs shook, and his features bore an expression of indescribable
horror and anguish. What could be the meaning of so extraordinary
a change in the gay, witty, prosperous De Chaulieu, who, till that
morning, seemed not to have a care in the world? For, plead illness
as he might, she felt certain, from the expression of his features,
that his sufferings were not of the body, but of the mind; and
unable to imagine any reason for such extraordinary manifestations,
of which she had never before seen a symptom, but a sudden aversion
to herself, and regret for the step he had taken, her pride took the
alarm, and, concealing the distress she really felt, she began to
assume a haughty and reserved manner toward him, which he naturally
interpreted into an evidence of anger and contempt.

The dinner was placed upon the table, but De Chaulieu's appetite, of
which he had lately boasted, was quite gone; nor was his wife better
able to eat. The young sister alone did justice to the repast; but
although the bridegroom could not eat, he could swallow champagne
in such copious draughts that erelong the terror and remorse which
the apparition of Jacques Rollet had awakened in his breast were
drowned in intoxication.

Amazed and indignant, poor Natalie sat silently observing this elect
of her heart, till, overcome with disappointment and grief, she
quitted the room with her sister, and retired to another apartment,
where she gave free vent to her feelings in tears.

After passing a couple of hours in confidences and lamentations,
they recollected that the hours of liberty, granted as an especial
favor to Mademoiselle Hortense, had expired; but ashamed to exhibit
her husband in his present condition to the eyes of strangers,
Natalie prepared to reconduct her to the Maison Royal herself.
Looking into the dining-room as they passed, they saw De Chaulieu
lying on a sofa, fast asleep, in which state he continued when
his wife returned. At length the driver of their carriage begged
to know if monsieur and madame were ready to return to Paris, and
it became necessary to arouse him.

The transitory effects of the champagne had now subsided; but when
De Chaulieu recollected what had happened, nothing could exceed
his shame and mortification. So engrossing, indeed, were these
sensations, that they quite overpowered his previous ones, and,
in his present vexation, he for the moment forgot his fears. He
knelt at his wife's feet, begged her pardon a thousand times, swore
that he adored her, and declared that the illness and the effect of
the wine had been purely the consequences of fasting and overwork.

It was not the easiest thing in the world to reassure a woman whose
pride, affection, and taste had been so severely wounded; but Natalie
tried to believe, or to appear to do so, and a sort of reconciliation
ensued, not quite sincere on the part of the wife, and very humbling
on the part of the husband. Under these circumstances it was impossible
that he should recover his spirits or facility of manner; his gayety
was forced, his tenderness constrained; his heart was heavy within
him; and ever and anon the source whence all this disappointment
and woe had sprung would recur to his perplexed and tortured mind.

Thus mutually pained and distrustful, they returned to Paris, which
they reached about nine o'clock. In spite of her depression, Natalie,
who had not seen her new apartments, felt some curiosity about them,
whilst De Chaulieu anticipated a triumph in exhibiting the elegant
home he had prepared for her. With some alacrity, therefore, they
stepped out of the carriage, the gates of the hotel were thrown
open, the _concierge_ rang the bell which announced to the servants
that their master and mistress had arrived; and whilst these domestics
appeared above, holding lights over the balusters, Natalie, followed
by her husband, ascended the stairs.

But when they reached the landing-place of the first flight, they
saw the figure of a man standing in a corner, as if to make way for
them. The flash from above fell upon his face, and again Antoine
de Chaulieu recognized the features of Jacques Rollet.

From the circumstance of his wife preceding him, the figure was
not observed by De Chaulieu till he was lifting his foot to place
it on the top stair: the sudden shock caused him to miss the step,
and without uttering a sound, he fell back, and never stopped until
he reached the stones at the bottom.

The screams of Natalie brought the _concierge_ from below and the
maids from above, and an attempt was made to raise the unfortunate
man from the ground; but with cries of anguish he besought them
to desist.

"Let me," he said, "die here. O God! what a dreadful vengeance
is thine! Natalie, Natalie," he exclaimed to his wife, who was
kneeling beside him, "to win fame, and fortune, and yourself, I
committed a dreadful crime. With lying words I argued away the
life of a fellow-creature, whom, whilst I uttered them, I half
believed to be innocent; and now, when I have attained all I desired
and reached the summit of my hopes, the Almighty has sent him back
upon the earth to blast me with the sight. Three times this day--three
times this day! Again! Again! Again!" And as he spoke, his wild
and dilated eyes fixed themselves on one of the individuals that
surrounded him.

"He is delirious," said they.

"No," said the stranger, "what he says is true enough, at least in
part." And, bending over the expiring man, he added, "May Heaven
forgive you, Antoine de Chaulieu! I am no apparition, but the veritable
Jacques Rollet, who was saved by one who well knew my innocence. I
may name him, for he is beyond the reach of the law now: it was
Claperon, the jailer, who, in a fit of jealousy, had himself killed
Alphonse de Bellefonds."

"But--but there were three," gasped Antoine.

"Yes, a miserable idiot, who had been so long in confinement for
a murder that he was forgotten by the authorities, was substituted
for me. At length I obtained, through the assistance of my sister,
the position of _concierge_ in the Hôtel Marboeuf, in the Rue Grange
Bateliere. I entered on my new place yesterday evening, and was
desired to awaken the gentleman on the third floor at seven o'clock.
When I entered the room to do so, you were asleep; but before I
had time to speak, you awoke, and I recognized your features in
the glass. Knowing that I could not vindicate my innocence if you
chose to seize me, I fled, and seeing an omnibus starting for St.
Denis, I got on it with a vague idea of getting on to Calais and
crossing the Channel to England. But having only a franc or two in
my pocket, or indeed in the world, I did not know how to procure
the means of going forward; and whilst I was lounging about the
place, forming first one plan and then another, I saw you in the
church, and, concluding that you were in pursuit of me, I thought
the best way of eluding your vigilance was to make my way back to
Paris as fast as I could; so I set off instantly, and walked all
the way; but having no money to pay my night's lodging, I came
here to borrow a couple of livres of my sister Claudine, who is
a _brodeuse_ and resides _au cinquième_."

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed the dying man, "that sin is off my soul.
Natalie, dear wife, farewell! Forgive--forgive all."

These were the last words he uttered; the priest, who had been
summoned in haste, held up the cross before his failing sight; a
few strong convulsions shook the poor bruised and mangled frame;
and then all was still.



THE BIRTHMARK.

BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.


In the latter part of the last century there lived a man of science,
an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy, who
not long before our story opens had made experience of a spiritual
affinity more attractive than any chemical one. He had left his
laboratory to the care of an assistant, cleared his fine countenance
from the furnace-smoke, washed the stain of acids from his fingers,
and persuaded a beautiful woman to become his wife. In those days,
when the comparatively recent discovery of electricity and other
kindred mysteries of Nature seemed to open paths into the region
of miracle, it was not unusual for the love of science to rival
the love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy. The higher
intellect, the imagination, the spirit, and even the heart might
all find their congenial aliment in pursuits which, as some of their
ardent votaries believed, would ascend from one step of powerful
intelligence to another, until the philosopher should lay his hand
on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new worlds for
himself. We know not whether Aylmer possessed this degree of faith
in man's ultimate control over nature. He had devoted himself,
however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned
from them by any second passion. His love for his young wife might
prove the stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining
itself with his love of science and uniting the strength of the
latter to its own.

Such a union accordingly took place, and was attended with truly
remarkable consequences and a deeply impressive moral. One day,
very soon after their marriage, Aylmer sat gazing at his wife with
a trouble in his countenance that grew stronger until he spoke.

"Georgiana," said he, "has it never occurred to you that the mark
upon your cheek might be removed?"

"No, indeed," said she, smiling; but, perceiving the seriousness
of his manner, she blushed deeply. "To tell you the truth, it has
been so often called a charm, that I was simple enough to imagine
it might be so."

"Ah, upon another face perhaps it might," replied her husband;
"but never on yours. No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly
perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect,
which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks
me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection."

"Shocks you, my husband!" cried Georgiana, deeply hurt; at first
reddening with momentary anger, but then bursting into tears. "Then
why did you take me from my mother's side? You cannot love what
shocks you!"

To explain this conversation, it must be mentioned that in the
centre of Georgiana's left cheek there was a singular mark, deeply
interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face.
In the usual state of her complexion,--a healthy though delicate
bloom,--the mark wore a tint of deeper crimson, which imperfectly
defined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness. When she blushed
it gradually became more indistinct, and finally vanished amid
the triumphant rush of blood that bathed the whole cheek with its
brilliant glow. But if any shifting emotion caused her to turn
pale there was the mark again, a crimson stain upon the snow, in
what Aylmer sometimes deemed an almost fearful distinctness. Its
shape bore not a little similarity to the human hand, though of the
smallest pygmy size. Georgiana's lovers were wont to say that some
fairy at her birth hour had laid her tiny hand upon the infant's
cheek, and left this impress there in token of the magic endowments
that were to give her such sway over all hearts. Many a desperate
swain would have risked life for the privilege of pressing his lips
to the mysterious hand. It must not be concealed, however, that
the impression wrought by this fairy sign-manual varied exceedingly
according to the difference of temperament in the beholders. Some
fastidious persons--but they were exclusively of her own sex--affirmed
that the bloody hand, as they chose to call it, quite destroyed the
effect of Georgiana's beauty and rendered her countenance even
hideous. But it would be as reasonable to say that one of those
small blue stains which sometimes occur in the purest statuary
marble would convert the Eve of Powers to a monster. Masculine
observers, if the birthmark did not heighten their admiration,
contented themselves with wishing it away, that the world might
possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness without the semblance
of a flaw. After his marriage--for he thought little or nothing
of the matter before--Aylmer discovered that this was the case
with himself.

Had she been less beautiful,--if Envy's self could have found aught
else to sneer at,--he might have felt his affection heightened
by the prettiness of this mimic hand, now vaguely portrayed, now
lost, now stealing forth again and glimmering to and fro with every
pulse of emotion that throbbed within her heart; but, seeing her
otherwise so perfect, he found this one defect grow more and more
intolerable with every moment of their united lives. It was the
fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps
ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are
temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by
toil and pain. The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in
which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould,
degrading them into kindred with the lowest, and even with the
very brutes, like whom their visible frames return to dust. In
this manner, selecting it as the symbol of his wife's liability
to sin, sorrow, decay, and death, Aylmer's sombre imagination was
not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object, causing
him more trouble and horror than ever Georgiana's beauty, whether
of soul or sense, had given him delight.

At all the seasons which should have been their happiest he invariably,
and without intending it, nay, in spite of a purpose to the contrary,
reverted to this one disastrous topic. Trifling as it at first
appeared, it so connected itself with innumerable trains of thought
and modes of feeling that it became the central point of all. With
the morning twilight Aylmer opened his eyes upon his wife's face and
recognized the symbol of imperfection; and when they sat together
at the evening hearth his eyes wandered stealthily to her cheek, and
beheld, flickering with the blaze of the wood fire, the spectral
hand that wrote mortality where he would fain have worshipped.
Georgiana soon learned to shudder at his gaze. It needed but a
glance with the peculiar expression that his face often wore to
change the roses of her cheek into a deathlike paleness, amid which
the crimson hand was brought strongly out, like a bas-relief of
ruby on the whitest marble.

Late one night, when the lights were growing dim so as hardly to
betray the stain on the poor wife's cheek, she herself, for the
first time, voluntarily took up the subject.

"Do you remember, my dear Aylmer," said she, with a feeble attempt
at a smile, "have you any recollection, of a dream last night about
this odious hand?"

"None! none whatever!" replied Aylmer, starting; but then he added,
in a dry, cold tone, affected for the sake of concealing the real
depth of his emotion, "I might well dream of it; for, before I
fell asleep, it had taken a pretty firm hold of my fancy."

"And you did dream of it?" continued Georgiana, hastily; for she
dreaded lest a gush of tears should interrupt what she had to say.
"A terrible dream! I wonder that you can forget it. Is it possible
to forget this one expression?--'It is in her heart now; we must
have it out!' Reflect, my husband; for by all means I would have
you recall that dream."

The mind is in a sad state when Sleep, the all-involving, cannot
confine her spectres within the dim region of her sway, but suffers
them to break forth affrighting this actual life with secrets that
perchance belong to a deeper one. Aylmer now remembered his dream.
He had fancied himself with his servant Aminadab attempting an
operation for the removal of the birthmark; but the deeper went
the knife, the deeper sank the hand, until at length its tiny grasp
appeared to have caught hold of Georgiana's heart; whence, however,
her husband was inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it away.

When the dream had shaped itself perfectly in his memory, Aylmer
sat in his wife's presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often finds
its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep, and then speaks
with uncompromising directness of matters in regard to which we
practise an unconscious self-deception during our waking moments.
Until now he had not been aware of the tyrannizing influence acquired
by one idea over his mind, and of the lengths which he might find
in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace.

"Aylmer," resumed Georgiana, solemnly, "I know not what may be
the cost to both of us to rid me of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps
its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain
goes as deep as life itself. Again: do we know that there is a
possibility, on any terms, of unclasping the firm gripe of this
little hand which was laid upon me before I came into the world?"

"Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject,"
hastily interrupted Aylmer. "I am convinced of the perfect
practicability of its removal."

"If there be the remotest possibility of it," continued Georgiana,
"let the attempt be made, at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to
me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your
horror and disgust,--life is a burden which I would fling down
with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched
life! You have deep science. All the world bears witness of it.
You have achieved great wonders. Cannot you remove this little,
little mark, which I cover with the tips of two small fingers?
Is this beyond your power, for the sake of your own peace, and to
save your poor wife from madness?"

"Noblest, dearest, tenderest wife," cried Aylmer, rapturously,
"doubt not my power. I have already given this matter the deepest
thought,--thought which might almost have enlightened me to create
a being less perfect than yourself. Georgiana, you have led me
deeper than ever into the heart of science. I feel myself fully
competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as its fellow;
and then, most beloved, what will be my triumph when I shall have
corrected what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work! Even
Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not greater
ecstasy than mine will be."

"It is resolved, then," said Georgiana, faintly smiling. "And,
Aylmer, spare me not, though you should find the birthmark take
refuge in my heart at last."

Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek,--her right cheek,--not that
which bore the impress of the crimson hand.

The next day Aylmer apprised his wife of a plan that he had formed
whereby he might have opportunity for the intense thought and constant
watchfulness which the proposed operation would require; while
Georgiana, likewise, would enjoy the perfect repose essential to its
success. They were to seclude themselves in the extensive apartments
occupied by Aylmer as a laboratory, and where, during his toilsome
youth, he had made discoveries in the elemental powers of Nature
that had roused the admiration of all the learned societies in
Europe. Seated calmly in this laboratory, the pale philosopher
had investigated the secrets of the highest cloud region and of
the profoundest mines; he had satisfied himself of the causes that
kindled and kept alive the fires of the volcano; and had explained
the mystery of fountains, and how it is that they gush forth, some
so bright and pure, and others with such rich medicinal virtues,
from the dark bosom of the earth. Here, too, at an earlier period,
he had studied the wonders of the human frame, and attempted to
fathom the very process by which Nature assimilates all her precious
influences from earth and air, and from the spiritual world, to
create and foster man, her masterpiece. The latter pursuit, however,
Aylmer had long laid aside in unwilling recognition of the
truth--against which all seekers sooner or later stumble--that
our great creative Mother, while she amuses us with apparently
working in the broadest sunshine, is yet severely careful to keep
her own secrets, and, in spite of her pretended openness, shows us
nothing but results. She permits us, indeed, to mar, but seldom
to mend, and, like a jealous patentee, on no account to make. Now,
however, Aylmer resumed these half-forgotten investigations; not,
of course, with such hopes or wishes as first suggested them; but
because they involved much physiological truth and lay in the path
of his proposed scheme for the treatment of Georgiana.

As he led her over the threshold of the laboratory, Georgiana was
cold and tremulous. Aylmer looked cheerfully into her face, with
intent to reassure her, but was so startled with the intense glow
of the birthmark upon the whiteness of her cheek that he could
not restrain a strong convulsive shudder. His wife fainted.

"Aminadab! Aminadab!" shouted Aylmer, stamping violently on the
floor.

Forthwith there issued from an inner apartment a man of low stature,
but bulky frame, with shaggy hair hanging about his visage, which
was grimed with the vapors of the furnace. This personage had been
Aylmer's under-worker during his whole scientific career, and was
admirably fitted for that office by his great mechanical readiness,
and the skill with which, while incapable of comprehending a single
principle, he executed all the details of his master's experiments.
With his vast strength, his shaggy hair, his smoky aspect, and the
indescribable earthiness that incrusted him, he seemed to represent
man's physical nature; while Aylmer's slender figure and pale,
intellectual face were no less apt a type of the spiritual element.

"Throw open the door of the boudoir, Aminadab," said Aylmer, "and
burn a pastil."

"Yes, master," answered Aminadab, looking intently at the lifeless
form of Georgiana; and then he muttered to himself, "If she were
my wife, I'd never part with that birthmark."

When Georgiana recovered consciousness she found herself breathing
an atmosphere of penetrating fragrance, the gentle potency of which
had recalled her from her deathlike faintness. The scene around
her looked like enchantment. Aylmer had converted those smoky,
dingy, sombre rooms, where he had spent his brightest years in
recondite pursuits, into a series of beautiful apartments not unfit
to be the secluded abode of a lovely woman. The walls were hung
with gorgeous curtains, which imparted the combination of grandeur
and grace that no other species of adornment can achieve; and, as
they fell from the ceiling to the floor, their rich and ponderous
folds, concealing all angles and straight lines, appeared to shut
in the scene from infinite space. For aught Georgiana knew, it
might be a pavilion among the clouds. And Aylmer, excluding the
sunshine, which would have interfered with his chemical processes,
had supplied its place with perfumed lamps, emitting flames of
various hue, but all uniting in a soft, impurpled radiance. He
now knelt by his wife's side, watching her earnestly, but without
alarm; for he was confident in his science, and felt that he could
draw a magic circle round her within which no evil might intrude.

"Where am I? Ah, I remember," said Georgiana, faintly; and she
placed her hand over her cheek to hide the terrible mark from her
husband's eyes.

"Fear not, dearest!" exclaimed he. "Do not shrink from me! Believe
me, Georgiana, I even rejoice in this single imperfection, since
it will be such a rapture to remove it."

"O, spare me!" sadly replied his wife. "Pray do not look at it again.
I never can forget that convulsive shudder."

In order to soothe Georgiana, and, as it were, to release her mind
from the burden of actual things, Aylmer now put in practice some
of the light and playful secrets which science had taught him among
its profounder lore. Airy figures, absolutely bodiless ideas, and
forms of unsubstantial beauty came and danced before her, imprinting
their momentary footsteps on beams of light. Though she had some
indistinct idea of the method of these optical phenomena, still the
illusion was almost perfect enough to warrant the belief that her
husband possessed sway over the spiritual world. Then again, when
she felt a wish to look forth from her seclusion, immediately, as
if her thoughts were answered, the procession of external existence
flitted across a screen. The scenery and the figures of actual
life were perfectly represented, but with that bewitching yet
indescribable difference which always makes a picture, an image,
or a shadow so much more attractive than the original. When wearied
of this, Aylmer bade her cast her eyes upon a vessel containing a
quantity of earth. She did so, with little interest at first; but
was soon startled to perceive the germ of a plant shooting upward
from the soil. Then came the slender stalk; the leaves gradually
unfolded themselves; and amid them was a perfect and lovely flower.

"It is magical!" cried Georgiana. "I dare not touch it."

"Nay, pluck it," answered Aylmer,--"pluck it, and inhale its brief
perfume while you may. The flower will wither in a few moments
and leave nothing save its brown seed-vessels; but thence may be
perpetuated a race as ephemeral as itself."

But Georgiana had no sooner touched the flower than the whole plant
suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency
of fire.

"There was too powerful a stimulus," said Aylmer, thoughtfully.

To make up for this abortive experiment, he proposed to take her
portrait by a scientific process of his own invention. It was to be
effected by rays of light striking upon a polished plate of metal.
Georgiana assented; but, on looking at the result, was affrighted to
find the features of the portrait blurred and indefinable; while
the minute figure of a hand appeared where the cheek should have
been. Aylmer snatched the metallic plate and threw it into a jar
of corrosive acid.

Soon, however, he forgot these mortifying failures. In the intervals
of study and chemical experiment he came to her flushed and exhausted,
but seemed invigorated by her presence, and spoke in glowing language
of the resources of his art. He gave a history of the long dynasty
of the alchemists, who spent so many ages in quest of the universal
solvent by which the golden principle might be elicited from all
things vile and base. Aylmer appeared to believe that, by the plainest
scientific logic, it was altogether within the limits of possibility
to discover this long-sought medium. "But," he added, "a philosopher
who should go deep enough to acquire the power would attain too lofty
a wisdom to stoop to the exercise of it." Not less singular were
his opinions in regard to the elixir vitæ. He more than intimated
that it was at his option to concoct a liquid that should prolong
life for years, perhaps interminably; but that it would produce
a discord in Nature which all the world, and chiefly the quaffer
of the immortal nostrum, would find cause to curse.

"Aylmer, are you in earnest?" asked Georgiana, looking at him with
amazement and fear. "It is terrible to possess such power, or even
to dream of possessing it."

"O, do not tremble, my love!" said her husband. "I would not wrong
either you or myself by working such inharmonious effects upon our
lives; but I would have you consider how trifling, in comparison,
is the skill requisite to remove this little hand."

At the mention of the birthmark, Georgiana, as usual, shrank as
if a red-hot iron had touched her cheek.

Again Aylmer applied himself to his labors. She could hear his
voice in the distant furnace-room giving directions to Aminadab,
whose harsh, uncouth, misshapen tones were audible in response,
more like the grunt or growl of a brute than human speech. After
hours of absence, Aylmer reappeared and proposed that she should
now examine his cabinet of chemical products and natural treasures
of the earth. Among the former he showed her a small vial, in which,
he remarked, was contained a gentle yet most powerful fragrance,
capable of impregnating all the breezes that blow across a kingdom.
They were of inestimable value, the contents of that little vial;
and, as he said so, he threw some of the perfume into the air and
filled the room with piercing and invigorating delight.

"And what is this?" asked Georgiana, pointing to a small crystal
globe containing a gold-colored liquid. "It is so beautiful to
the eye that I could imagine it the elixir of life."

"In one sense it is," replied Aylmer; "or rather, the elixir of
immortality. It is the most precious poison that ever was concocted
in this world. By its aid I could apportion the lifetime of any
mortal at whom you might point your finger. The strength of the
dose would determine whether he were to linger out years, or drop
dead in the midst of a breath. No king on his guarded throne could
keep his life if I, in my private station, should deem that the
welfare of millions justified me in depriving him of it."

"Why do you keep such a terrific drug?" inquired Georgiana in horror.

"Do not mistrust me, dearest," said her husband, smiling; "its
virtuous potency is yet greater than its harmful one. But see!
here is a powerful cosmetic. With a few drops of this in a vase
of water, freckles may be washed away as easily as the hands are
cleansed. A stronger infusion would take the blood out of the cheek,
and leave the rosiest beauty a pale ghost."

"Is it with this lotion that you intend to bathe my cheek?" asked
Georgiana, anxiously.

"O, no," hastily replied her husband; "this is merely superficial.
Your case demands a remedy that shall go deeper."

In his interviews with Georgiana, Aylmer generally made minute
inquiries as to her sensations, and whether the confinement of
the rooms and the temperature of the atmosphere agreed with her.
These questions had such a particular drift that Georgiana began
to conjecture that she was already subjected to certain physical
influences, either breathed in with the fragrant air or taken with
her food. She fancied likewise, but it might be altogether fancy,
that there was a stirring up of her system,--a strange, indefinite
sensation creeping through her veins, and tingling, half painfully,
half pleasurably, at her heart. Still, whenever she dared to look
into the mirror, there she beheld herself pale as a white rose
and with the crimson birthmark stamped upon her cheek. Not even
Aylmer now hated it so much as she.

To dispel the tedium of the hours which her husband found it necessary
to devote to the processes of combination and analysis, Georgiana
turned over the volumes of his scientific library. In many dark
old tomes she met with chapters full of romance and poetry. They
were the works of the philosophers of the Middle Ages, such as
Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and the famous
friar who created the prophetic Brazen Head. All these antique
naturalists stood in advance of their centuries, yet were imbued
with some of their credulity, and therefore were believed, and
perhaps imagined themselves to have acquired from the investigation
of nature a power above nature, and from physics a sway over the
spiritual world. Hardly less curious and imaginative were the early
volumes of the Transactions of the Royal Society, in which the
members, knowing little of the limits of natural possibility, were
continually recording wonders or proposing methods whereby wonders
might be wrought.

But, to Georgiana, the most engrossing volume was a large folio from
her husband's own hand, in which he had recorded every experiment
of his scientific career, its original aim, the methods adopted
for its development, and its final success or failure, with the
circumstances to which either event was attributable. The book, in
truth, was both the history and emblem of his ardent, ambitious,
imaginative, yet practical and laborious life. He handled physical
details as if there were nothing beyond them; yet spiritualized
them all, and redeemed himself from materialism by his strong and
eager aspiration toward the infinite. In his grasp the veriest
clod of earth assumed a soul. Georgiana, as she read, reverenced
Aylmer and loved him more profoundly than ever, but with a less
entire dependence on his judgment than heretofore. Much as he had
accomplished, she could not but observe that his most splendid
successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the
ideal at which he aimed. His brightest diamonds were the merest
pebbles, and felt to be so by himself, in comparison with the
inestimable gems which lay hidden beyond his reach. The volume,
rich with achievements that had won renown for its author, was yet
as melancholy a record as ever mortal hand had penned. It was the
sad confession and continual exemplification of the shortcomings
of the composite man, the spirit burdened with clay and working
in matter, and of the despair that assails the higher nature at
finding itself so miserably thwarted by the earthly part. Perhaps
every man of genius, in whatever sphere, might recognize the image
of his own experience in Aylmer's journal.

So deeply did these reflections affect Georgiana, that she laid her
face upon the open volume and burst into tears. In this situation
she was found by her husband.

"It is dangerous to read in a sorcerer's books," said he with a
smile, though his countenance was uneasy and displeased. "Georgiana,
there are pages in that volume which I can scarcely glance over and
keep my senses. Take heed lest it prove as detrimental to you."

"It has made me worship you more than ever," said she.

"Ah, wait for this one success," rejoined he, "then worship me if
you will. I shall deem myself hardly unworthy of it. But come, I
have sought you for the luxury of your voice. Sing to me, dearest."

So she poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst
of his spirit. He then took his leave with a boyish exuberance of
gayety, assuring her that her seclusion would endure but a little
longer, and that the result was already certain. Scarcely had he
departed when Georgiana felt irresistibly impelled to follow him. She
had forgotten to inform Aylmer of a symptom which for two or three
hours past had begun to excite her attention. It was a sensation in
the fatal birthmark, not painful, but which induced a restlessness
throughout her system. Hastening after her husband, she intruded
for the first time into the laboratory.

The first thing that struck her eye was the furnace, that hot and
feverish worker, with the intense glow of its fire, which by the
quantities of soot clustered above it seemed to have been burning
for ages. There was a distilling apparatus in full operation. Around
the room were retorts, tubes, cylinders, crucibles, and other apparatus
of chemical research. An electrical machine stood ready for immediate
use. The atmosphere felt oppressively close, and was tainted with
gaseous odors which had been tormented forth by the processes of
science. The severe and homely simplicity of the apartment, with
its naked walls and brick pavement, looked strange, accustomed as
Georgiana had become to the fantastic elegance of her boudoir.
But what chiefly, indeed almost solely, drew her attention, was
the aspect of Aylmer himself.

He was pale as death, anxious and absorbed, and hung over the furnace
as if it depended upon his utmost watchfulness whether the liquid
which it was distilling should be the draught of immortal happiness
or misery. How different from the sanguine and joyous mien that
he had assumed for Georgiana's encouragement!

"Carefully now, Aminadab; carefully, thou human machine; carefully,
thou man of clay," muttered Aylmer, more to himself than his assistant.
"Now, if there be a thought too much or too little, it is all over."

"Ho! ho!" mumbled Aminadab. "Look, master! look!"

Aylmer raised his eyes hastily, and at first reddened, then grew
paler than ever, on beholding Georgiana. He rushed towards her
and seized her arm with a gripe that left the print of his fingers
upon it.

"Why do you come hither? Have you no trust in your husband?" cried
he, impetuously. "Would you throw the blight of that fatal birthmark
over my labors? It is not well done. Go, prying woman! go!"

"Nay, Aylmer," said Georgiana with the firmness of which she possessed
no stinted endowment, "it is not you that have a right to complain.
You mistrust your wife; you have concealed the anxiety with which
you watch the development of this experiment. Think not so unworthily
of me, my husband. Tell me all the risk we run, and fear not that
I shall shrink; for my share in it is far less than your own."

"No, no, Georgiana!" said Aylmer, impatiently; "it must not be."

"I submit," replied she, calmly. "And, Aylmer, I shall quaff whatever
draught you bring me; but it will be on the same principle that
would induce me to take a dose of poison if offered by your hand."

"My noble wife," said Aylmer, deeply moved, "I knew not the height
and depth of your nature until now. Nothing shall be concealed.
Know, then, that this crimson hand, superficial as it seems, has
clutched its grasp into your being with a strength of which I had
no previous conception. I have already administered agents powerful
enough to do aught except to change your entire physical system.
Only one thing remains to be tried. If that fail us we are ruined."

"Why did you hesitate to tell me this?" asked she.

"Because, Georgiana," said Aylmer, in a low voice, "there is danger."

"Danger? There is but one danger,--that this horrible stigma shall
be left upon my cheek!" cried Georgiana. "Remove it, remove it,
whatever be the cost, or we shall both go mad!"

"Heaven knows your words are too true," said Aylmer, sadly. "And
now, dearest, return to your boudoir. In a little while all will
be tested."

He conducted her back and took leave of her with a solemn tenderness
which spoke far more than his words how much was now at stake. After
his departure Georgiana became rapt in musings. She considered the
character of Aylmer, and did it completer justice than at any previous
moment. Her heart exulted, while it trembled, at his honorable
love,--so pure and lofty that it would accept nothing less than
perfection nor miserably make itself contented with an earthlier
nature than he had dreamed of. She felt how much more precious was
such a sentiment than that meaner kind which would have borne with
the imperfection for her sake, and have been guilty of treason to
holy love by degrading its perfect idea to the level of the actual;
and with her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she
might satisfy his highest and deepest conception. Longer than one
moment she well knew it could not be; for his spirit was ever on
the march, ever ascending, and each instant required something
that was beyond the scope of the instant before.

The sound of her husband's footsteps aroused her. He bore a crystal
goblet containing a liquor colorless as water, but bright enough
to be the draught of immortality. Aylmer was pale; but it seemed
rather the consequence of a highly wrought state of mind and tension
of spirit than of fear or doubt.

"The concoction of the draught has been perfect," said he, in answer
to Georgiana's look. "Unless all my science have deceived me, it
cannot fail."

"Save on your account, my dearest Aylmer," observed his wife, "I
might wish to put off this birthmark of mortality by relinquishing
mortality itself in preference to any other mode. Life is but a
sad possession to those who have attained precisely the degree of
moral advancement at which I stand. Were I weaker and blinder, it
might be happiness. Were I stronger, it might be endured hopefully.
But, being what I find myself, methinks I am of all mortals the
most fit to die."

"You are fit for heaven without tasting death!" replied her husband.
"But why do we speak of dying? The draught cannot fail. Behold
its effect upon this plant."

On the window-seat there stood a geranium diseased with yellow
blotches which had overspread all its leaves. Aylmer poured a small
quantity of the liquid upon the soil in which it grew. In a little
time, when the roots of the plant had taken up the moisture, the
unsightly blotches began to be extinguished in a living verdure.

"There needed no proof," said Georgiana, quietly. "Give me the
goblet. I joyfully stake all upon your word."

"Drink, then, thou lofty creature!" exclaimed Aylmer, with fervid
admiration. "There is no taint of imperfection on thy spirit. Thy
sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect."

She quaffed the liquid and returned the goblet to his hand.

"It is grateful," said she, with a placid smile. "Methinks it is
like water from a heavenly fountain; for it contains I know not what
of unobtrusive fragrance and deliciousness. It allays a feverish
thirst that had parched me for many days. Now, dearest, let me
sleep. My earthly senses are closing over my spirit like the leaves
around the heart of a rose at sunset."

She spoke the last words with a gentle reluctance, as if it required
almost more energy than she could command to pronounce the faint and
lingering syllables. Scarcely had they loitered through her lips
ere she was lost in slumber. Aylmer sat by her side, watching her
aspect with the emotions proper to a man the whole value of whose
existence was involved in the process now to be tested. Mingled with
this mood, however, was the philosophic investigation characteristic
of the man of science. Not the minutest symptom escaped him. A
heightened flush of the cheek, a slight irregularity of breath,
a quiver of the eyelid, a hardly perceptible tremor through the
frame,--such were the details which, as the moments passed, he
wrote down in his folio volume. Intense thought had set its stamp
upon every previous page of that volume; but the thoughts of years
were all concentrated upon the last.

While thus employed, he failed not to gaze often at the fatal hand,
and not without a shudder. Yet once, by a strange and unaccountable
impulse, he pressed it with his lips. His spirit recoiled, however,
in the very act; and Georgiana, out of the midst of her deep sleep,
moved uneasily and murmured as if in remonstrance. Again Aylmer
resumed his watch. Nor was it without avail. The crimson hand,
which at first had been strongly visible upon the marble paleness
of Georgiana's cheek, now grew more faintly outlined. She remained
not less pale than ever; but the birthmark, with every breath that
came and went, lost somewhat of its former distinctness. Its presence
had been awful; its departure was more awful still. Watch the stain
of the rainbow fading out of the sky, and you will know how that
mysterious symbol passed away.

"By Heaven! it is well-nigh gone!" said Aylmer to himself, in almost
irrepressible ecstasy. "I can scarcely trace it now. Success! success!
And now it is like the faintest rose color. The lightest flush of
blood across her cheek would overcome it. But she is so pale!"

He drew aside the window curtain and suffered the light of natural
day to fall into the room and rest upon her cheek. At the same
time he heard a gross, hoarse chuckle, which he had long known as
his servant Aminadab's expression of delight.

"Ah, clod! ah, earthly mass!" cried Aylmer, laughing in a sort
of frenzy, "you have served me well! Matter and spirit--earth and
heaven--have both done their part in this! Laugh, thing of the
senses! You have earned the right to laugh."

These exclamations broke Georgiana's sleep. She slowly unclosed
her eyes and gazed into the mirror which her husband had arranged
for that purpose. A faint smile flitted over her lips when she
recognized how barely perceptible was now that crimson hand which
had once blazed forth with such disastrous brilliancy as to scare
away all their happiness. But then her eyes sought Aylmer's face
with a trouble and anxiety that he could by no means account for.

"My poor Aylmer!" murmured she.

"Poor? Nay, richest, happiest, most favored!" exclaimed he. "My
peerless bride, it is successful! You are perfect!"

"My poor Aylmer," she repeated, with a more than human tenderness,
"you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that,
with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the
earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!"

Alas! it was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery
of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself
in union with a mortal frame. As the last crimson tint of the
birthmark--that sole token of human imperfection--faded from her
cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into
the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband,
took its heavenward flight. Then a hoarse, chuckling laugh was
heard again! Thus ever does the gross fatality of earth exult in
its invariable triumph over the immortal essence which, in this dim
sphere of half development, demands the completeness of a higher
state. Yet, had Aylmer reached a profounder wisdom, he need not thus
have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal
life of the self-same texture with the celestial. The momentary
circumstance was too strong for him; he failed to look beyond the
shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to
find the perfect future in the present.





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