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Title: When Love Calls
Author: Weyman, Stanley John, 1855-1928
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.

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                           WHEN LOVE CALLS


                          STANLEY J. WEYMAN

                  AUTHOR OF "A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE,"
                     "THE CASTLE INN," ETC., ETC.


                          BROWN AND COMPANY

                         144 Purchase Street


                          _Copyright, 1899_

                         By Brown and Company

                           University Press

               John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U. S. A.


       When Love Calls

          I. Her Story

         II. His Story

       A Strange Invitation

       The Invisible Portraits

       Along the Garonne

                           When Love Calls


                              HER STORY

"Clare," I said, "I wish that we had brought some better clothes, if
it were only one frock. You look the oddest figure."

And she did. She was lying head to head with me on the thick moss that
clothed one part of the river-bank above Breistolen near the Sogn
Fiord. We were staying at Breistolen, but there was no moss
thereabouts, nor in all the Sogn district, I often thought, so deep
and soft, and so dazzling orange and white and crimson as that
particular patch. It lay quite high upon the hills, and there were
great gray boulders peeping through the moss here and there, very fit
to break your legs if you were careless. Little more than a mile
higher up was the watershed, where our river, putting away with
reluctance a first thought of going down the farther slope towards
Bysberg, parted from its twin brother who was thither bound with
scores upon scores of puny green-backed fishlets; and instead, came
down our side gliding and swishing, and swirling faster and faster,
and deeper and wider, every hundred yards to Breistolen, full of
red-speckled yellow trout all half-a-pound apiece, and very good to

But they were not so sweet or toothsome to our girlish tastes as the
tawny-orange cloud-berries which Clare and I were eating as we lay. So
busy was she with the luscious pile we had gathered that I had to wait
for an answer. And then, "Speak for yourself," she said. "I'm sure you
look like a short-coated baby. He is somewhere up the river too."
Munch, munch, munch!

"Who is, you impertinent, greedy little chit?"

"Oh, you know," she answered. "Don't you wish you had your gray plush
here, Bab?"

I flung a look of calm disdain at her; but whether it was the berry
juice which stained our faces that took from its effect, or the free
mountain air which papa says saps the foundations of despotism, that
made her callous, at any rate she only laughed scornfully and got up
and went off down the stream with her rod, leaving me to finish the
cloud-berries, and stare lazily up at the snow patches on the
hillside--which somehow put me in mind of the gray plush--and follow
or not as I liked.

Clare has a wicked story of how I gave in to papa, and came to start
without anything but those rough clothes. She says he said--and Jack
Buchanan has told me that lawyers put no faith in anything that he
says she says, or she says he says, which proves how much truth there
is in this--that if Bab took none but her oldest clothes, and fished
all day and had no one to run upon her errands--he meant Jack and the
others, I suppose--she might possibly grow an inch in Norway. Just as
if I wanted to grow an inch! An inch indeed! I am five feet one and a
half high, and papa, who puts me an inch shorter, is the worst
measurer in the world. As for Miss Clare, she would give all her
inches for my eyes. So there!

After Clare left, it began to be dull and chilly. When I had pictured
to myself how nice it would be to dress for dinner again, and chosen
the frock I would wear upon the first evening, I grew tired of the
snow patches, and started up stream, stumbling and falling into holes,
and clambering over rocks, and only careful to save my rod and my
face. It was no occasion for the gray plush, but I had made up my mind
to reach a pool which lay, I knew, a little above me, having filched a
yellow-bodied fly from Clare's hat with a view to that particular

Our river did the oddest things hereabouts--pleased to be so young, I
suppose. It was not a great churning stream of snow water foaming and
milky, such as we had seen in some parts, streams that affected to be
always in flood, and had the look of forcing the rocks asunder and
clearing their path even while you watched them with your fingers in
your ears. Our river was none of these: still it was swifter than
English rivers are wont to be, and in parts deeper, and transparent as
glass. In one place it would sweep over a ledge and fall wreathed in
spray into a spreading lake of black, rock-bound water. Then it would
narrow again until, where you could almost jump across, it darted
smooth and unbroken down a polished shoot with a swoop like a
swallow's. Out of this it would hurry afresh to brawl along a gravelly
bed, skipping jauntily over first one and then another ridge of stones
that had silted up weir-wise and made as if they would bar the
channel. Under the lee of these there were lovely pools.

To be able to throw into mine, I had to walk out along the ridge on
which the water was shallow, yet sufficiently deep to cover my boots.
But I was well rewarded. The "forellin"--the Norse name for trout, and
as pretty as their girls' wavy fair hair--were rising so merrily that
I hooked and landed one in five minutes, the fly falling from its
mouth as it touched the stones. I hate taking out hooks. I used at one
time to leave the fly in the fish's mouth to be removed by papa at the
weighing house; until Clare pricked her tongue at dinner with an
almost new, red tackle, and was so mean as to keep it, though I
remembered then what I had done with it, and was certain it was
mine--which was nothing less than dishonest of her.

I had just got back to my place and made a fine cast, when there
came--not the leap, and splash, and tug which announced the
half-pounder--but a deep, rich gurgle as the fly was gently sucked
under, and then a quiet, growing strain upon the line, which began to
move away down the pool in a way that made the winch spin again and
filled me with mysterious pleasure. I was not conscious of striking or
of anything but that I had hooked a really good fish, and I clutched
the rod with both hands and set my feet as tightly as I could upon the
slippery gravel. The line moved up and down, and this way and that,
now steadily and as with a purpose, and then again with an eccentric
rush that made the top of the rod spring and bend so that I looked
for it to snap each moment. My hands began to grow numb, and the
landing-net, hitherto an ornament, fell out of my waist-belt and went
I knew not whither. I suppose I must have stepped unwittingly into
deeper water, for I felt that my skirts were afloat, and altogether
things were going dreadfully against me, when the presence of an ally
close at hand was announced by a cheery shout from the far side of the

"Keep up your point! Keep up your point!" some one cried briskly.
"That is better!"

The unexpected sound--it was a man's voice--did something to keep my
heart up. But for answer I could only shriek, "I can't! It will
break!" watching the top of my rod as it jigged up and down, very much
in the fashion of Clare performing what she calls a waltz. She dances
as badly as a man.

"No, it will not," he cried back, bluntly. "Keep it up, and let out a
little line with your fingers when he pulls hardest."

We were forced to shout and scream. The wind had risen and was adding
to the noise of the water. Soon I heard him wading behind me. "Where's
your landing net?" he asked, with the most provoking coolness.

"Oh, in the pool! Somewhere about. I am sure I don't know," I answered

What he said to this I could not catch, but it sounded rude. And then
he waded off to fetch, as I guessed, his own net. By the time he
reached me again I was in a sad plight, feet like ice, and hands
benumbed, while the wind, and rain, and hail, which had come down upon
us with a sudden violence, unknown, it is to be hoped, anywhere else,
were mottling my face all sorts of unbecoming colors. But the line was
taut. And wet and cold went for nothing five minutes later, when the
fish lay upon the bank, its prismatic sides slowly turning pale and
dull, and I knelt over it half in pity and half in triumph, but wholly
forgetful of the wind and rain.

"You did that very pluckily, little one," said the on-looker; "but I
am afraid you will suffer for it by and by. You must be chilled

Quickly as I looked up at him, I only met a good-humored smile. He did
not mean to be rude. And, after all, when I was in such a mess it was
not possible that he could see what I was like. He was wet enough
himself. The rain was streaming from the brim of the soft hat which he
had turned down to shelter his face, and trickling from his chin, and
turning his shabby Norfolk jacket a darker shade. As for his hands,
they looked red and knuckly enough, and he had been wading almost to
his waist. But he looked, I don't know why, all the stronger and
manlier and nicer for these things, because, perhaps, he cared for
them not one whit. What I looked like myself I dared not think. My
skirts were as short as short could be, and they were soaked: most of
my hair was unplaited, my gloves were split, and my sodden boots were
out of shape. I was forced, too, to shiver and shake from cold; which
was provoking, for I knew it made me seem half as small again.

"Thank you, I am a little cold, Mr.----, Mr.----," I said, grave, only
my teeth would chatter so that he laughed outright as he took me up

"Herapath. And to whom have I the honor of speaking?"

"I am Miss Guest," I said, miserably. It was too cold to be frigid to

"Commonly called Bab, I think," the wretch answered. "The walls of our
hut are not soundproof, you see. But, come, the sooner you get back to
dry clothes and the stove, the better, Bab. You can cross the river
just below, and cut off half-a-mile that way."

"I can't," I said, obstinately. Bab, indeed! How dared he?

"Oh, yes, you can," with intolerable good-temper. "You shall take your
rod and I the prey. You cannot be wetter than you are now."

He had his way, of course, since I did not foresee that at the ford he
would lift me up bodily and carry me over the deeper part without a
pretence of asking leave, or a word of apology. It was done so quickly
that I had no time to remonstrate. Still I was not going to let it
pass, and when I had shaken myself straight again, I said, with all
the haughtiness I could assume, "Don't you think, Mr. Herapath, that
it would have been more--more--"

"Polite to offer to carry you over, child? No, not at all. It will be
wiser and warmer for you to run down the hill. Come along!"

And without more ado, while I was still choking with rage, he seized
my hands and set off at a trot, lugging me through the sloppy places
much as I have seen a nurse drag a fractious child down Constitution
Hill. It was not wonderful that I soon lost the little breath his
speech had left me, and was powerless to complain when we reached the
bridge. I could only thank heaven that there was no sign of Clare. I
think I should have died of mortification if she had seen us come down
the hill hand-in-hand in that ridiculous fashion. But she had gone
home, and at any rate I escaped that degradation.

A wet stool-car and wetter pony were dimly visible on the bridge; to
which, as we came up, a damp urchin creeping from some crevice added
himself. I was pushed in as if I had no will of my own, the gentleman
sprang up beside me, the boy tucked himself away somewhere behind, and
the little "teste" set off at a canter, so deceived by the driver's
excellent imitation of "Pss," the Norse for "Tchk," that in ten
minutes we were at home.

"Well, I never!" Clare said, surveying me from a respectful distance,
when at last I was safe in our room. "I would not be seen in such a
state by a man for all the fish in the sea!"

And she looked so tall, and trim, and neat, that it was the more
provoking. At the moment I was too miserable to answer her, and had to
find comfort in promising myself, that when we were back in Bolton
Gardens I would see that Fräulein kept Miss Clare's pretty nose to the
grindstone though it were ever so much her last term, or Jack were
ever so fond of her. Papa was in the plot against me, too. What right
had he to thank Mr. Herapath for bringing "his little girl" home safe?
He can be pompous enough at times. I never knew a stout Queen's
Counsel--and papa is stout--who was not, any more than a thin one, who
did not contradict. It is in their patents, I think.

Mr. Herapath dined with us that evening--if fish and potatoes and
boiled eggs, and sour bread and pancakes, and claret and coffee can be
called a dinner--but nothing I could do, though I made the best of my
wretched frock and was as stiff as Clare herself, could alter his
first impression. It was too bad: he had no eyes! He either could not
or would not see any one but the draggled Bab--fifteen at most and a
very tom-boy--whom he had carried across the river. He styled Clare,
who talked Baedeker to him in her primmest and most precocious way,
Miss Guest, and once at least during the evening dubbed me plain Bab.
I tried to freeze him with a look then, and papa gave him a taste of
the pompous manner, saying coldly that I was older than I seemed. But
it was not a bit of use: I could see that he set it all down to the
grand airs of a spoiled child. If I had put my hair up, it might have
opened his eyes, but Clare teased me about it and I was too proud for

When I asked him if he was fond of dancing, he said good-naturedly, "I
don't visit very much, Miss Bab. I am generally engaged in the

Here was a chance. I was going to say that that no doubt was the
reason why I had never met him, when papa ruthlessly cut me short by
asking, "You are not in the law?"

"No," he replied. "I am in the London Fire Brigade."

I think that we all upon the instant saw him in a helmet sitting at
the door of the fire station by St. Martin's Church. Clare turned
crimson and papa seemed on a sudden to call his patent to mind. The
moment before I had been as angry as angry could be with our guest,
but I was not going to look on and see him snubbed when he was dining
with us and all. So I rushed into the gap as quickly as surprise would
let me with "Good gracious, how nice! Do tell me all about a fire!"

It made matters--my matters--worse, for I could have cried with
vexation when I read in his face next moment that he had looked for
their astonishment; while the ungrateful fellow set down my eager
remark to mere childish ignorance.

"Some time I will," he said with a quiet smile _de haut en bas_; "but
I do not often attend one in person. I am Captain ----'s private
secretary, aide-de-camp, and general factotum."

And it turned out that he was the son of a certain Canon Herapath, so
that papa lost sight of his patent box altogether, and they set to
discussing Mr. Gladstone, while I slipped off to bed feeling as small
as I ever did in my life and out of temper with everybody. It was a
long time since I had been used to young men talking politics to papa,
when they could talk--politics--to me.

Possibly I deserved the week of vexation which followed; but it was
almost more than I could bear. He--Mr. Herapath, of course--was always
about fishing or lounging outside the little white posting-house,
taking walks and meals with us, and seeming heartily to enjoy papa's
society. He came with us when we drove to the top of the pass to get a
glimpse of the Sulethid peak; and it looked so brilliantly clear and
softly beautiful as it seemed to float, just tinged with color, in a
far-off atmosphere of its own, beyond the dark ranges of nearer hills,
that I began to think at once of the drawing-room in Bolton Gardens
with a cosy fire burning, and afternoon tea coming up. The tears came
into my eyes, and he saw them before I could turn away from the view;
and said to papa that he feared his little girl was tired as well as
cold--and so spoiled all my pleasure. I looked back afterwards as papa
and I drove down: he was walking by Clare's carcole and they were
laughing heartily.

And that was the way always. He was such an elder brother to me--a
thing I never had and do not want--that a dozen times a day I set my
teeth viciously together and said to myself that if ever we met in
London--but what nonsense that was, because, of course, it mattered
nothing to me what he was thinking, only he had no right to be so
rudely familiar. That was all; but it was quite enough to make me
dislike him.

However, a sunny morning in the holidays is a cheerful thing, and when
I strolled down stream with my rod on the day after our expedition, I
felt I could enjoy myself very nearly as much as I had before his
coming spoiled our party. I dawdled along, now trying a pool, now
clambering up the hillsides to pick raspberries, and now counting the
magpies that flew across, feeling altogether very placid and good and
contented. I had chosen the lower river because Mr. Herapath usually
fished the upper part, and I would not be ruffled this nice day. So I
was the more vexed to come suddenly upon him fishing; and fishing
where he had no right to be. Papa had spoken to him about the danger
of it, and he had as good as said he would not do it again. Yet there
he was, thinking, I dare say, that we should not know. It was a spot
where one bank rose into quite a cliff, frowning over a deep pool at
the foot of some falls. Close to the cliff the water still ran with
the speed of a mill-race, so fast as to endanger a good swimmer. But
on the far side of this current there was a bit of slack water which
was tempting enough to have set some one's wits to work to devise
means to fish it, which from the top of the cliff was impossible. Just
above the water was a ledge, a foot wide, perhaps, which might have
done, only it did not reach to this end of the cliff. However, that
foolhardy person had espied this, and got over the gap by bridging the
latter with a bit of plank, and then had drowned himself or gone away,
in either case leaving his board to tempt others to do likewise.

And there was Mr. Herapath fishing from the ledge. It made me giddy to
look at him. The rock overhung the water so much that he could not
stand upright; the first person who got there must surely have learned
to curl himself up from much sleeping in Norwegian beds, which were
short for me. I thought of this oddly enough as I watched him, and
laughed, and was for going on. But when I had walked a few yards,
meaning to pass round the rear of the cliff, I began to fancy all
sorts of foolish things would happen. I felt sure that I should have
no more peace or pleasure if I left him there. I hesitated. Yes, I
would. I would go down, and ask him to leave the place; and, of
course, he would do it.

I lost no time, but ran down the slope smartly and carelessly. My way
lay over loose shale mingled with large stones, and it was steep. It
is wonderful how quickly an accident happens; how swiftly a thing that
cannot be undone is done, and we are left wishing--oh, so vainly--that
we could put the world, and all things in it, back by a few seconds. I
was checking myself near the bottom, when a big stone on which I
stepped moved under me. The shale began to slip in a mass, and the
stone to roll. It was all done in a moment. I stayed myself, that was
easy enough, but the stone took two bounds, jumped sideways, struck
the piece of board which was only resting lightly at either end, and
before I could take it all in the little bridge plunged end first into
the current, which swept it out of sight in an instant.

He threw up his hands in affright, for he had turned, and we both saw
it happen. He made indeed as if he would try to save it, but that was
impossible; and then, while I cowered in dismay, he waved his arm to
me in the direction of home--again and again. The roar of the falls
drowned what he said, but I guessed his meaning. I could not help him
myself, but I could fetch help. It was three miles to Breistolen,
rough, rocky ones, and I doubted whether he could keep his cramped
position with that noise deafening him, and the endless whirling
stream before his eyes, while I was going and coming. But there was no
better way I could think of; and even as I wavered, he signalled to me
again imperatively. For an instant everything seemed to go round with
me, but it was not the time for that yet, and I tried to collect
myself, and harden my heart. Up the bank I went steadily, and once at
the top set off at a run homewards.

I cannot tell at all how I did it; how I passed over the uneven
ground, or whether I went quickly or slowly save by the reckoning papa
made afterwards. I can only remember one long hurrying scramble; now I
panted uphill, now I ran down, now I was on my face in a hole,
breathless and half-stunned, and now I was up to my knees in water. I
slipped and dropped down places I should at other times have shrunk
from, and hurt myself so that I bore the marks for months. But I
thought nothing of these things: all my being was spent in hurrying on
for his life, the clamor of every cataract I passed seeming to stop my
heart's beating with very fear. So I reached Breistolen and panted
over the bridge and up to the little white house lying so quiet in the
afternoon sunshine, papa's stool-car even then at the door ready to
take him to some favorite pool. Somehow I made him understand in
broken words that Herapath was in danger, drowning already, for all I
knew, and then I seized a great pole which was leaning against the
porch, and climbed into the car. Papa was not slow either; he snatched
a coil of rope from the luggage, and away we went, a man and boy whom
he had hastily called running behind us. We had lost very little time,
but so much may happen in so little time.

We were forced to leave the car a quarter of a mile from that part of
the river, and walk or run the rest of the way. We all ran, even papa,
as I had never known him run before. My heart sank at the groan he let
escape him when I pointed out the spot. We came to it one by one and
we all looked. The ledge was empty. Jem Herapath was gone. I suppose
it startled me. At any rate I could only look at the water in a dazed
way, and cry quietly without much feeling that it was my doing; while
the men, shouting to one another in strange, hushed voices, searched
about for any sign of his fate--"Jem! Jem Herapath!" So he had written
his name only yesterday in the travellers' book at the posting-house,
and I had sullenly watched him from the window, and then had sneaked
to the book and read it. That was yesterday, and now! Oh, Jem, to hear
you say "Bab" once more!

"Bab! Why, Miss Bab, what is the matter?"

Safe and sound! Yes, there he was when I turned, safe, and strong, and
cool, rod in hand, and a quiet smile in his eyes. Just as I had seen
him yesterday, and thought never to see him again; and saying "Bab"
exactly as of old, so that something in my throat--it may have been
anger at his rudeness, but I do not think it was--prevented me saying
a word until all the others came round us, and a babel of Norse and
English, and something that was neither, yet both, set in.

"But how is this?" objected my father when he could be heard, "you are
quite dry, my boy?"

"Dry! Why not, sir? For goodness' sake, what is the matter?"

"The matter! Didn't you fall in, or something of the kind?" papa
asked, bewildered by this new aspect of the case.

"It does not look like it, does it? Your daughter gave me a very
uncomfortable start by nearly doing so."

Every one looked at him for an explanation. "How did you manage to get
from the ledge?" I said feebly. Where was the mistake? I had not
dreamed it.

"From the ledge? Why, by the other end, to be sure, so that I had to
walk back round the hill. Still I did not mind, for I was thankful
that it was the plank and not you that fell in.

"I--I thought--you could not get from the ledge," I muttered. The
possibility of getting off at the other end had never occurred to me,
and so I had made such a simpleton of myself. It was too absurd, too
ridiculous. It was no wonder that they all screamed with laughter at
the fool's errand they had come upon, and stamped about and clung to
one another. But when he laughed too--and he did until the tears came
into his eyes--there was not an ache or pain in my body--and I had cut
my wrist to the bone against a splinter of rock--that hurt me one-half
as much. Surely he might have seen another side to it. But he did not;
and so I managed to hide my bandaged wrist from him, and papa drove me
home. There I broke down entirely, and Clare put me to bed, and petted
me, and was very good to me. And when I came down next day, with an
ache in every part of me, he was gone.

"He asked me to tell you," said Clare, not looking up from the fly she
was tying at the window, "that he thought you were the bravest girl he
had ever met."

So he understood now, when others had explained it to him. "No,
Clare," I said coldly, "he did not say that exactly; he said 'the
bravest little girl.'" For indeed, lying upstairs with the window
open, I had heard him set off on his long drive to Laerdalsören. As
for papa, he was half-proud and half-ashamed of my foolishness, and
wholly at a loss to think how I could have made the mistake.

"You've generally some common-sense, my dear," he said that day at
dinner, "and how in the world you could have been so ready to fancy
the man was in danger, I--can--not--imagine!"

"Papa," put in Clare, suddenly, "your elbow is upsetting the salt."

And as I had to move my seat just then to avoid the glare of the stove
which was falling on my face, we never thought it out.


                              HIS STORY

I was not dining out much at that time, partly because my acquaintance
in town was limited, and something too because I cared little for it.
But these were pleasant people, the old gentleman witty and amusing,
the children, lively girls, nice to look at and good to talk with. The
party had too a holiday flavor about them wholesome to recall in
Scotland Yard: and as I had thought, play-time over, I should see no
more of them, I was proportionately pleased to find that Mr. Guest had
not forgotten me, and pleased also--shrewdly expecting that we might
kill our fish over again--to regard his invitation to dinner at a
quarter-to-eight as a royal command.

But if I took it so, I was sadly wanting in the regal courtesy to
match. What with one delay owing to work that would admit of none,
and another caused by a cabman strange to the ways of town, it was
twenty-five minutes after the hour named, when I reached Bolton
Gardens. A stately man, so like the Queen's Counsel, that it was plain
upon whom the latter modelled himself, ushered me straight into the
dining-room, where Guest greeted me very kindly, and met my excuses by
apologies on his part--for preferring, I suppose, the comfort of
eleven people to mine. Then he took me down the table, and said, "My
daughter," and Miss Guest shook hands with me and pointed to the chair
at her left. I had still, as I unfolded my napkin, to say "Clear, if
you please," and then I was free to turn and apologize to her, being a
little shy, and, as I have said, a somewhat infrequent diner out.

I think that I never saw so remarkable a likeness--to her younger
sister--in my life. She might have been little Bab herself, but for
her dress and some striking differences. Miss Guest could not be more
than eighteen, in form almost as fairy-like as the little one, with
the same child-like, innocent look on her face. She had the big, gray
eyes, too, that were so charming in Bab; but in her they were more
soft and tender and thoughtful, and a thousand times more charming.
Her hair too was brown and wavy: only, instead of hanging loose or in
a pig-tail anywhere and anyhow in a fashion I well remembered, it was
coiled in a coronal on the shapely little head, that was so Greek, and
in its gracious, stately, old-fashioned pose, so unlike Bab's. Her
dress, of some creamy, gauzy stuff, revealed the prettiest white
throat in the world, and arms decked in pearls, and, so far, no more
recalled my little fishing-mate than the sedate self-possession and
assured dignity of this girl, as she talked to her other neighbor,
suggested Bab making pancakes and chattering with the landlady's
children in her strangely and wonderfully acquired Norse. It was not
Bab in fact: and yet it almost might have been: an etherealized,
queenly, womanly Bab. Who presently turned to me--

"Have you quite settled down after your holiday?" she asked, staying
the apologies I was for pouring into her ear.

"I had until this evening, but the sight of your father is like a
breath of fiord air. I hope your sisters are well."

"My sisters?" she murmured wonderingly, her fork half-way to her
pretty mouth and her attitude one of questioning.

"Yes," I said rather puzzled. "You know they were with your father
when I had the good fortune to meet him. Miss Clare and Bab."

"Eh?" dropping her fork on the plate with a great clatter.

"Yes, Miss Guest, Miss Clare and Miss Bab."

I really began to feel uncomfortable. Her color rose, and she looked
me in the face in a half-proud, half-fearful way as if she resented
the inquiry. It was a relief to me, when, with some show of confusion,
she at length stammered, "Oh, yes, I beg your pardon, of course they
were! How very foolish of me. They are quite well, thank you," and so
was silent again. But I understood now. Mr. Guest had omitted to
mention my name, and she had taken me for some one else of whose
holiday she knew. I gathered from the aspect of the table and the room
that the Guests saw a good deal of company, and it was a very natural
mistake, though by the grave look she bent upon her plate it was clear
that the young hostess was taking herself to task for it: not without,
if I might judge from the lurking smile at the corners of her mouth, a
humorous sense of the slip, and perhaps of the difference between
myself and the gentleman whose part I had been unwittingly supporting.
Meanwhile I had a chance of looking at her unchecked; and thought of
Dresden china, she was so frail and pretty.

"You were nearly drowned, or something of the kind, were you not?" she
asked, after an interval during which we had both talked to others.

"Well, not precisely. Your sister fancied I was in danger, and behaved
in the pluckiest manner--so bravely that I can almost feel sorry that
the danger was not there to dignify her heroism."

"That was like her," she answered in a tone just a little scornful.
"You must have thought her a terrible tomboy."

While she was speaking there came one of those dreadful lulls in the
talk, and Mr. Guest overhearing, cried, "Who is that you are abusing,
my dear? Let us all share in the sport. If it's Clare, I think I can
name one who is a far worse hoyden upon occasion."

"It is no one of whom you have ever heard, papa," she answered,
archly. "It is a person in whom Mr.--Mr. Herapath--" I had murmured my
name as she stumbled--"and I are interested. Now tell me, did you not
think so?" she murmured, graciously leaning the slightest bit towards
me, and opening her eyes as they looked into mine in a way that to a
man who had spent the day in a dusty room in Great Scotland Yard was
sufficiently intoxicating.

"No," I said, lowering my voice in imitation of hers. "No, Miss Guest,
I did not think so at all. I thought your sister a brave little thing,
rather careless as children are apt to be, but likely to grow into a
charming girl."

I wondered, marking how she bit her lip and refrained from assent,
whether, impossible as it must seem to any one looking in her face,
there might not be something of the shrew about my beautiful neighbor.
Her tone when she spoke of her sister seemed to impart no great

"So that is your opinion?" she said, after a pause. "Do you know,"
with a laughing glance, "that some people think I am like her."

"Yes?" I answered, gravely. "Well, I should be able to judge, who have
seen you both and yet am not an old friend. And I think you are both
like and unlike. Your sister has very beautiful eyes"--she lowered
hers swiftly--"and hair like yours, but her manner and style were very
different. I can no more fancy Bab in your place than I can picture
you, Miss Guest, as I saw her for the first time--and on many after
occasions," I added, laughing as much to cover my own hardihood as at
the queer little figure I had conjured up.

"Thank you, Mr. Herapath," she replied, with coldness, though she had
blushed darkly to her ears. "That, I think, must be enough of
compliments, for to-night--as you are not an old friend." And she
turned away, leaving me to curse my folly in saying so much, when our
acquaintance was as yet in the bud, and as susceptible to over-warmth
as to a temperature below zero.

A moment later the ladies left us. The flush I had brought to her
cheek still lingered there, as she swept past me with a wondrous show
of dignity in one so young. Mr. Guest came down and took her place,
and we talked of the "land of berries," and our adventures there,
while the rest--older friends--listened indulgently or struck in from
time to time with their own biggest fish and deadliest flies.

I used to wonder why women like to visit dusty chambers; why they get
more joy--I am fain to think they do--out of a scrambling tea up three
pairs of stairs in Pump Court, than from the very same materials--and
comfort withal--in their own house. I imagine it is for the same
reason that the bachelor finds a singular charm in a lady's
drawing-room, and there, if anywhere, sees her with a reverent mind. A
charm and a subservience which I felt to the full in the Guests'
drawing-room--a room rich in subdued colors and a cunning blending of
luxury and comfort. Yet it depressed me. I felt alone. Mr. Guest had
passed on to others and I stood aside, the sense that I was not of
these people troubling me in a manner as new as it was absurd: for I
had been in the habit of rather despising "society." Miss Guest was at
the piano, the centre of a circle of soft light, which showed up also
a keen-faced, dark-whiskered man leaning over her with the air of one
used to the position. Every one else was so fully engaged that I may
have looked, as well as felt, forlorn, and meeting her eyes could have
fancied she was regarding me with amusement--almost triumph. It must
have been mere fancy, bred of self-consciousness, for the next moment
she beckoned me to her, and said to her cavalier:

"There, Jack, Mr. Herapath is going to talk to me about Norway now, so
that I don't want you any longer. Perhaps you won't mind stepping up
to the schoolroom--Fräulein and Clare are there--and telling Clare,
that--that--oh, anything."

There is no piece of ill-breeding so bad to my mind as for a man who
is at home in a house to flaunt his favor in the face of other guests.
That young lawyer's manner as he left her, and the smile of perfect
intelligence which passed between them, were such a breach of good
manners as would have ruffled any one. They ruffled me--yes, me,
although it was no concern of mine what she called him, or how he
conducted himself--so that I could do nothing but stand by the piano
and sulk. One bear makes another, you know.

She did not speak; and I, content to watch the slender hands stealing
over the keys, would not, until my eyes fell upon her right wrist. She
had put off her bracelets and so disclosed a scar upon it, something
about which--not its newness--so startled me that I said abruptly:
"That is very strange! Pray tell me how you did it?"

She looked up, saw what I meant, and stopping hastily, put on her
bracelets; to all appearance so vexed by my thoughtless question, and
anxious to hide the mark, that I was quick to add humbly, "I asked
because your sister hurt her wrist in nearly the same place on the day
when she thought I was in trouble, and the coincidence struck me."

"Yes, I remember," looking at me, I thought, with a certain suspicion,
as though she were not sure that I was giving the right motive. "I did
this much in the same way. By falling, I mean. Isn't it a hateful

No, it was no disfigurement. Even to her, with a woman's love of
conquest, it must have seemed anything but a disfigurement had she
known what the quiet, awkward man at her side was thinking, who stood
looking shyly at it and found no words to contradict her, though she
asked him twice, and thought him stupid enough. A great longing to
kiss that soft, scarred wrist was on me--and Miss Guest had added
another to the number of her slaves. I don't know now why that little
scar should have so touched me any more than I then could guess why,
being a commonplace person, I should fall in love at first sight, and
feel no surprise at my condition, but only a half consciousness
(seeming fully to justify it) that in some former state of being I had
met my love, and read her thoughts, and learned her moods; and come to
know the bright womanly spirit that looked from her frank eyes as well
as if she were an old, old friend. And so vivid was this sensation,
that once or twice, then and afterwards, when I would meet her glance,
another name than hers trembled on my tongue and passed away before I
could shape it into sound.

After an interval, "Are you going to the Goldmace's dance?"

"No," I answered her, humbly. "I go out so little."

"Indeed," with an odd smile not too kindly; "I wish--no I don't--that
we could say the same. We are engaged, I think--" she paused, her
attention divided between myself and Boccherini's minuet, the low
strains of which she was sending through the room--"for every
afternoon--this week--except Saturday. By the way, Mr. Herapath--do
you remember what was the name--Bab told me you teased her with?"

"Wee bonnie Bab," I answered absently. My thoughts had gone forward to
Saturday. "We are always dropping to-day's substance for the shadow of
to-morrow; like the dog--a dog was it not?--in the fable."

"Oh, yes, wee bonnie Bab," she murmured softly. "Poor Bab!" and
suddenly cut short Boccherini's music and our chat by striking a
terrific discord and laughing merrily at my start of discomfiture.
Every one took it as a signal to leave. They all seemed to be going to
meet her again next day, or the day after that; they engaged her for
dances, and made up a party for the law courts, and tossed to and fro
a score of laughing catch-words, that were beyond my comprehension.
They all did this, except myself.

And yet I went away with something before me--that call upon Saturday
afternoon. Quite unreasonably I fancied I should see her alone. And
so when the day came and I stood outside the opening door of the
drawing-room, and heard voices and laughter within, I was hurt and
aggrieved beyond measure. There was quite a party, and a merry one,
assembled, who were playing at some game, as it seemed to me, for I
caught sight of Clare whipping off an impromptu bandage from her eyes,
and striving by her stiffest air to give the lie to a pair of flushed
cheeks. The black-whiskered man was there, and two men of his kind,
and a German governess, and a very old lady in a wheel-chair, who was
called "grandmamma," and Miss Guest herself looking, in the prettiest
dress of silvery plush, to the full as bright and fair and graceful as
I had been picturing her each hour since we parted.

She dropped me a stately courtesy. "Will you play the part of Miss
Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs, Mr. Herapath, while I act honest
Burchell, and say 'Fudge!' or will you burn nuts and play games with
neighbor Flamborough? You will join us, won't you? Clare does not so
misbehave every day, only it is such a wet afternoon and so cold and
wretched, and we did not think there would be any more callers--and
tea will be up in five minutes."

She did not think there would be any more callers! Something in her
smile belied the words and taught me that she had thought--she had
known--that there would be one more caller--one who would burn nuts
and play games with her, though Rome itself were afire, and Tooley
Street and the Mile End Road to boot.

It was a simple game enough, and not likely, one would say, to afford
much risk of that burning the fingers, which gave a zest to the Vicar
of Wakefield's nuts. One sat in the middle blindfolded, while the rest
disguised their own or assumed each other's voices, and spoke one by
one some gibe or quip at his expense. When he succeeded in naming the
speaker, the detected satirist put on the poke, and in his turn heard
things good--if he had a conceit of himself--for his soul's health.
Now this _rôle_ unhappily soon fell to me, and proved a heavy one,
because I was not so familiar with the others' voices as were the
rest; and Miss Guest--whose faintest tones I thought to have
known--had a wondrous knack of cheating me, now taking off Clare's
voice, and now--after the door had been opened to admit the tea--her
father's. So I failed again and again to earn my release. But when a
voice behind me cried with well-feigned eagerness--

"How nice! Do tell me all about a fire!"

Though no fresh creaking at the door had reached me, nor warning been
given of an addition to the players, I had not the smallest doubt who
was the speaker; but exclaimed at once, "That is Bab! Now I cry you
mercy. I am right this time. That was Bab!"

I looked for a burst of applause and laughter, such as had before
attended a good thrust home, but none came. On the contrary, with my
words so odd a silence fell upon the room that it was clear that
something was wrong, and I pulled off my handkerchief in haste,
repeating, "That was Bab, I am sure."

But if it was, I could not see her. What had come over them all?
Jack's face wore a provoking smile, and his friends were clearly bent
upon sniggering. Clare looked horrified, and grandmamma gently
titillated, while Miss Guest, who had risen and half turned away
towards the windows, seemed to be in a state of proud confusion. What
was the matter?

"I beg every one's pardon by anticipation," I said, looking round in a
bewildered way: "but have I said anything wrong?"

"Oh, dear no," cried the fellow they called Jack, with a familiarity
that was in the worst taste--as if I had meant to apologize to him!
"Most natural thing in the world!"

"Jack, how dare you?" exclaimed Miss Guest, stamping her foot.

"Well it seemed all right. It sounded very natural, I am sure."

"Oh, you are unbearable! Why don't you say something, Clare?"

"Mr. Herapath, I am sure that you did not know that my name was

"Certainly not," I cried. "What a strange thing!"

"But it is, and that is why grandmamma is looking so shocked, and Mr.
Buchanan is wearing threadbare an old friend's privilege of being
rude. I freely forgive you if you will make allowance for him. And you
shall come off the stool of repentance and have your tea first, since
you are the greatest stranger. It is a stupid game after all!"

She would hear no apologies from me. And when I would have asked why
her sister bore the same name, and thus excused myself, she was intent
upon tea-making, and the few moments I could with decency add to my
call gave me scant opportunity. I blush to think how I eked them out,
by what subservience to Clare, by what a slavish anxiety to help even
Jack to muffins--each piece I hoped might choke him. How slow I was to
find hat and gloves, calling to mind with terrible vividness, as I
turned my back upon the circle, that again and again in my experience,
an acquaintance begun by a dinner had ended with the consequent call.
And so I should have gone--it might have been so here--but that the
door-handle was stiff, and Miss Guest came to my aid, as I fumbled
with it. "We are always at home on Saturdays, if you like to call, Mr.
Herapath," she murmured carelessly, not lifting her eyes--and I found
myself in the street.

So carelessly she said it, that with a sudden change of feeling I
vowed I would not call. Why should I? Why should I worry myself with
the sight of those other fellows parading their favor? With the babble
of that society chit-chat, which I had so often scorned, and--and
still scorned, and had no part or concern in. They were not people
to suit me, or do me good. I would not go, I said, and repeated it
firmly on Monday and Tuesday; on Wednesday only so far modified it
that I thought at some distant time to leave a card--to avoid
discourtesy;--on Friday preferred an earlier date as wiser and more
polite, and on Saturday walked shame-faced down the street and knocked
and rang, and went upstairs--to taste a pleasant misery. Yes, and on
the next Saturday too, and the next, and the next; and that one on
which we all went to the theatre, and that other one on which Mr.
Guest kept me to dinner. Ay, and on other days that were not
Saturdays, among which two stand high out of the waters of
forgetfulness--high days indeed--days like twin pillars of Hercules,
through which I thought to reach, as did the seamen of old, I knew not
what treasures of unknown lands stretching away under the setting sun.
First that one on which I found Barbara Guest alone and blurted out
that I had the audacity to wish to make her my wife; and then heard,
before I had well--or badly--told my tale, the wheels of grandmamma's
chair outside.

"Hush!" the girl said, her face turned from me. "Hush, Mr. Herapath.
You don't know me, indeed. You have seen so little of me. Please say
nothing more about it. You are completely under a delusion."

"It is no delusion that I love you, Barbara!" I cried.

"It is, it is," she repeated, freeing her hand. "There, if you will
not take an answer--come--come at three to-morrow. But mind, I promise
you nothing--I promise you nothing," she added feverishly, and fled
from the room, leaving me to talk to grandmamma as best, and escape as
quickly as, I might.

I longed for a great fire that evening, and failing one, tired myself
by tramping unknown streets of the East-end, striving to teach myself
that any trouble to-morrow might bring was but a shadow, a sentiment,
a thing not to be mentioned in the same breath with the want and toil
of which I caught glimpses up each street and lane that opened to
right and left. In the main, of course, I failed: but the effort did
me good, sending me home tired out, to sleep as soundly as if I were
going to be hanged next day, and not--which is a very different
thing--to be put upon my trial.

"I will tell Miss Guest you are here, sir," the man said. I looked at
all the little things in the room which I had come to know well--her
workbasket, the music upon the piano, the table-easel, her
photograph--and wondered if I were to see them no more, or if they
were to become a part of my every-day life. Then I heard her come in,
and turned quickly, feeling that I should learn my fate from her

"Bab!" The word was rung from me perforce. And then we stood and
looked at one another, she with a strange pride and defiance in her
eyes, though her cheek was dark with blushes, and I with wonder and
perplexity in mine,--wonder and perplexity that quickly grew into a
conviction, a certainty that the girl standing before me in the
short-skirted brown dress with tangled hair and loose neck-ribbon was
the Bab I had known in Norway; and yet that the eyes--I could not
mistake them now, no matter what unaccustomed look they might
wear--were Barbara Guest's!

"Miss Guest--Barbara," I stammered, grappling with the truth, "why
have you played this trick upon me?"

"It is Miss Guest and Barbara now," she cried, with a mocking
courtesy. "Do you remember, Mr. Herapath, when it was Bab? When you
treated me as a kind of toy, and a plaything, with which you might be
as intimate as you liked; and hurt my feelings--yes, it is weak to
confess it, I know--day by day, and hour by hour?"

"But surely, that is forgiven now?" I said, dazed by an attack so
sudden and so bitter. "It is atonement enough that I am at your feet
now, Barbara!"

"You are not," she retorted hotly. "Don't say you have offered love to
me, who am the same with the child you teased at Breistolen. You have
fallen in love with my fine clothes, and my pearls and my maid's work,
not with me. You have fancied the girl you saw other men make much of.
But you have not loved the woman who might have prized that which Miss
Guest has never learned to value."

"How old are you?" I said, hoarsely.

"Nineteen!" she snapped out. And then for a moment we were both

"I begin to understand now," I answered slowly as soon as I could
conquer something in my throat. "Long ago when I hardly knew you, I
hurt your woman's pride; and since that you have plotted----"

"No, you have tricked yourself!"

"And schemed to bring me to your feet that you might have the pleasure
of trampling on me. Miss Guest, your triumph is complete, more
complete than you are able to understand. I loved you this morning
above all the world--as my own life--as every hope I had. See, I tell
you this that you may have a moment's keener pleasure when I am gone."

"Don't! Don't!" she cried, throwing herself into a chair and covering
her face.

"You have won a man's heart and cast it aside to gratify an old pique.
You may rest content now, for there is nothing wanting to your
vengeance. You have given me as much pain as a woman, the vainest and
the most heartless, can give a man. Good-by."

And with that I was leaving her, fighting my own pain and passion, so
that the little hands she raised as though they would ward off my
words were nothing to me. I felt a savage delight in seeing that I
could hurt her, which deadened my own grief. The victory was not all
with her lying there sobbing. Only where was my hat? Let me get my hat
and go. Let me escape from this room wherein every trifle upon which
my eye rested awoke some memory that was a pang. Let me get away, and
have done with it all.

Where was the hat? I had brought it up. I could not go without it. It
must be under her chair, by all that was unlucky, for it was nowhere
else. I could not stand and wait, and so I had to go up to her, with
cold words of apology upon my lips, and being close to her and seeing
on her wrist, half hidden by fallen hair, the scar she had brought
home from Norway, I don't know how it was that I fell on my knees by
her and cried:

"Oh, Bab, I loved you so! Let us part friends."

For a moment, silence. Then she whispered, her hand in mine, "Why did
you not say Bab to begin? I only told you that Miss Guest had not
learned to value your love."

"And Bab?" I murmured, my brain in a whirl.

"Learned long ago, poor girl!"

And the fair, tear-stained face of my tyrant looked into mine for a
moment, and then came quite naturally to its resting place.

"Now," she said, when I was leaving, "you may have your hat, sir."

"I believe," I replied, "that you sat upon this chair on purpose."

And Bab blushed. I believe she did.

                         A Strange Invitation

I have friends who tell me that they seldom walk the streets of London
without wondering what is passing behind the house-fronts; without
picturing a comedy here, a love-scene there, and behind the dingy cane
blinds a something ill-defined, a something odd and _bizarre_. They
experience--if you believe them--a sense of loneliness out in the
street, an impatience of the sameness of all these many houses, their
dull bricks and discreet windows, and a longing that some one would
step out and ask them to enter and see the play.

Well, I have never felt any of these things; but as I was passing
through Fitzhardinge Square about half-past ten o'clock one evening in
last July, after dining, if I remember rightly, in Baker Street,
something happened to me which I fancy may be of interest to such

I was passing through the square from north to south, and to avoid a
small crowd, which some reception had drawn together, I left the
pavement and struck across the road to the path round the oval garden;
which, by the way, contains a few of the finest trees in London. This
part was in deep shadow, so that when I presently emerged from it and
recrossed the road to the pavement near the top of Fitzhardinge
Street, I had an advantage over any persons on the pavement. They were
under the lamps, while I, coming from beneath the trees, was almost

The door of the house immediately in front of me as I crossed was
open, and an elderly manservant out of livery was standing at it,
looking up and down the pavement by turns. It was his air of furtive
anxiety that drew my attention to him. He was not like a man looking
for a cab, or waiting for his sweetheart; and I had my eye upon him as
I stepped upon the pavement before him. But my surprise was great when
he uttered a low exclamation of dismay at sight of me and made as if
he would escape; while his face, in the full glare of the light, grew
so pale and terror-stricken that he might before have been completely
at his ease. I was astonished and instinctively stood still returning
his gaze; for perhaps twenty seconds we remained so, he speechless,
and his hands fallen by his side. Then, before I could move on, as I
was in the act of doing, he cried, "Oh! Mr. George! Oh! Mr. George!"
in a tone that rang out in the stillness rather as a wail than an
ordinary cry.

My name, my surname I mean, is George. For a moment I took the address
to myself, forgetting that the man was a stranger, and my heart began
to beat more quickly with fear of what might have happened. "What is
it?" I exclaimed. "What is it?" and I shook back from the lower part
of my face the silk muffler I was wearing. The evening was close, but
I had been suffering from a sore throat.

He came nearer and peered more closely at me, and I dismissed my fear;
for I thought that I could see the discovery of his mistake dawning
upon him. His pallid face, on which the pallor was the more noticeable
as his plump features were those of a man with whom the world as a
rule went well, regained some of its lost color, and a sigh of relief
passed his lips. But this feeling was only momentary. The joy of
escape from whatever blow he had thought imminent gave place at once
to his previous state of miserable expectancy of something or other.

"You took me for another person," I said, preparing to pass on. At
that moment I could have sworn--I would have given one hundred to one
twice over--that he was going to say Yes. To my intense astonishment,
he did not. With a very visible effort he said, "No!"

"Eh! What?" I exclaimed. I had taken a step or two.

"No, sir."

"Then what is it?" I said. "What do you want, my good fellow?"

Watching his shuffling, indeterminate manner, I wondered if he were
sane. His next answer reassured me on that point. There was an almost
desperate deliberation about its manner. "My master wishes to see you,
sir, if you will kindly walk in for five minutes," was what he said.

I should have replied, "Who is your master?" if I had been wise; or
cried, "Nonsense!" and gone my way. But the mind when it is spurred by
a sudden emergency often overruns the more obvious course to adopt a
worse. It was possible that one of my intimates had taken the house,
and said in his butler's presence that he wished to see me. Thinking
of that I answered, "Are you sure of this? Have you not made a
mistake, my man?"

With an obstinate sullenness that was new in him he said, No, he had
not. Would I please to walk in? He stepped briskly forward as he
spoke, and induced me by a kind of gentle urgency to enter the house,
taking from me with the ease of a trained servant my hat, coat, and
muffler. Finding himself in the course of his duties he gained more
composure; while I, being thus treated, lost my sense of the
strangeness of the proceeding, and only awoke to a full consciousness
of my position when he had softly shut the door behind us and was in
the act of putting up the chain.

Then I confess I looked round a little alarmed at my precipitancy. But
I found the hall spacious, lofty, and dark-panelled, the ordinary hall
of an old London house. The big fireplace was filled with plants in
flower. There were rugs on the floor and a number of chairs with
painted crests on the backs, and in a corner was an old sedan chair,
its poles upright against the wall.

No other servants were visible, it is true. But apart from this all
was in order, all was quiet, and any idea of violence was manifestly

At the same time the affair seemed of the strangest. Why should the
butler in charge of a well-arranged and handsome house--the house of
an ordinary wealthy gentleman--why should he loiter about the open
doorway as if anxious to feel the presence of his kind? Why should he
show such nervous excitement and terror as I had witnessed? Why should
he introduce a stranger?

I had reached this point when he led the way upstairs. The staircase
was wide, the steps were low and broad. On either side at the head of
the flight stood a beautiful Venus of white Parian marble. They were
not common reproductions, and I paused. I could see beyond them a
Hercules and a Meleager of bronze, and delicately tinted draperies and
ottomans that under the light of a silver hanging-lamp?--a gem from
Malta--changed a mere lobby to a fairies' nook. The sight filled me
with a certain suspicion; which was dispelled, however, when my hand
rested for an instant upon the reddish pedestal that supported one of
the statues. The cold touch of the marble was enough for me. The
pillars were not of composite; of which they certainly would have
consisted in a gaming-house, or worse.

Three steps carried me across the lobby to a curtained doorway by
which the servant was waiting. I saw that the "shakes" were upon
him again. His impatience was so ill-concealed that I was not
surprised--though I was taken aback--when he dropped the mask
altogether, and as I passed him--it being now too late for me to
retreat undiscovered, if the room were occupied--laid a trembling hand
upon my arm and thrust his face close to mine. "Ask how he is! Say
anything," he whispered trembling, "no matter what, sir! Only, for the
love of heaven, stay five minutes!"

He gave me a gentle push forward as he spoke--pleasant all this!--and
announced in a loud, quavering voice, "Mr. George!"--which was true
enough. I found myself walking round a screen at the same time that
something in the room, a long, dimly-lighted room, fell with a brisk,
rattling sound, and there was the scuffling noise of a person, still
hidden from me by the screen, rising to his feet in haste.

Next moment I was face to face with two men. One, a handsome, elderly
gentleman, who wore gray moustaches and would have seemed in place at
a service club, was still in his chair regarding me with a perfectly
calm, unmoved face, as if my entrance at that hour were the commonest
incident of his life. The other had risen and stood looking at me
askance. He was five-and-twenty years younger than his companion and
as good-looking in a different way. But now his face was white and
drawn, distorted by the same expression of terror--ay, and a darker
and fiercer terror than that which I had already seen upon the
servant's features; it was the face of one in a desperate strait. He
looked as a man looks who has put all he has in the world upon an
outsider--and done it twice. In that quiet drawing-room by the side of
his placid companion, with nothing whatever in their surroundings to
account for his emotion, his panic-stricken face shocked me

They were in evening dress; and between them was a chess-table, its
men in disorder: almost touching this was another small table bearing
a tray of Apollinaris water and spirits. On this the young man was
resting one hand as if but for its support he would have fallen.

To add one more fact, I had never seen either of them in my life.

Or wait; could that be true? If so, it must be indeed a nightmare I
was suffering. For the elder man broke the silence by addressing me in
a quiet ordinary tone that exactly matched his face. "Sit down,
George," he said, "don't stand there. I did not expect you this
evening." He held out his hand, without rising from his chair, and I
advanced and shook it in silence. "I thought you were in Liverpool.
How are you?" he continued.

"Very well, I thank you," I muttered mechanically.

"Not very well, I should say," he retorted. "You are as hoarse as a
raven. You have a bad cold at best. It is nothing worse, my boy, is
it?" with anxiety.

"No, a throat cough; nothing else," I murmured, resigning myself to
this astonishing reception--this evident concern for my welfare on the
part of a man whom I had never seen in my life.

"That is well!" he answered cheerily. Not only did my presence cause
him no surprise. It gave him, without doubt, actual pleasure!

It was otherwise with his companion; grimly and painfully so indeed.
He had made no advances to me, spoken no word, scarcely altered his
position. His eyes he had never taken from me. Yet in him there was a
change. He had discovered, exactly as had the butler before him,
his mistake. The sickly terror was gone from his face, and a
half-frightened malevolence not much more pleasant to witness had
taken its place. Why this did not break out in any active form was
part of the general mystery given to me to solve. I could only surmise
from glances which he later cast from time to time towards the door,
and from the occasional faint creaking of a board in that direction,
that his self-restraint had to do with my friend the butler. The
inconsequences of dreamland ran through it all: why the elder man
remained in error; why the younger with that passion on his face was
tongue-tied; why the great house was so still; why the servant should
have mixed me up with this business at all--these were questions as
unanswerable, one as the other.

And the fog in my mind grew denser when the old gentleman turned from
me as if my presence were a usual thing, and rapped the table before
him impatiently. "Now, Gerald!" cried he in sharp tones, "have you put
those pieces back? Good heavens! I am glad that I have not nerves like
yours! Don't remember the squares, boy? Here, give them to me!" With a
hasty gesture of his hand, something like a mesmeric pass over the
board, he set down the half-dozen pieces with a rapid tap! tap! tap!
which made it abundantly clear that he, at any rate, had no doubt of
their former positions.

"You will not mind sitting by until we have finished the game?" he
continued, speaking to me, and in a voice I fancied more genial than
that which he had used to Gerald. "You are anxious to talk to me about
your letter, George?" he went on when I did not answer. "The fact is
that I have not read the inclosure. Barnes, as usual, read the outer
letter to me, in which you said the matter was private and of grave
importance; and I intended to go to Laura to-morrow, as you suggested,
and get her to read the news to me. Now you have returned so soon, I
am glad that I did not trouble her."

"Just so, sir," I said, listening with all my ears; and wondering.

"Well, I hope there is nothing very bad the matter, my boy?" he
replied. "However--Gerald! it is your move!--ten minutes more of such
play as your brother's, and I shall be at your service."

Gerald made a hurried move. The piece rattled upon the board as if he
had been playing the castanets. His father made him take it back. I
sat watching the two in wonder and silence. What did it all mean? Why
should Barnes--doubtless behind the screen listening--read the outer
letter? Why must Laura be employed to read the inner? Why could not
this cultivated and refined gentleman before me read his--Ah! That
much was disclosed to me. A mere turn of the hand did it. He had made
another of those passes over the board, and I learned from it what an
ordinary examination would not have detected. He, the old soldier with
the placid face and light-blue eyes, was blind! Quite blind!

I began to see more clearly now, and from this moment I took up, at
any rate in my own mind, a different position. Possibly the servant
who had impelled me into the middle of this had had his own good
reasons for doing so, as I now began to discern. But with a clue to
the labyrinth in my hand I could no longer move passively at any
other's impulse. I must act for myself. For a while I sat still and
made no sign. My suspicions were presently confirmed. The elder man
more than once scolded his opponent for playing slowly; in one of
these intervals he took from an inside pocket of his dress waistcoat a
small packet.

"You had better take your letter, George," he said. "If there are, as
you mentioned, originals in it, they will be more safe with you than
with me. You can tell me all about it, _viva voce_, now you are here.
Gerald will leave us alone presently."

He held the papers towards me. To take them would be to take an active
part in the imposture, and I hesitated, my own hand half outstretched.
But my eyes fell at the critical instant upon Master Gerald's face,
and my scruples took themselves off. He was eyeing the packet with an
intense greed, and a trembling longing--a very itching of the fingers
and toes, to fall upon the prey--that put an end to my doubts. I rose
and took the papers. With a quiet, but I think significant, look in
his direction, I placed them in the breast-pocket of my evening coat.
I had no safer receptacle about me, or into that they would have gone.

"Very well, sir," I said. "There is no particular hurry. I think the
matter will keep, as things now are, until to-morrow."

"To be sure. You ought not to be out with such a cold at night, my
boy," he answered. "You will find a decanter of the Scotch whiskey you
gave me last Christmas on the tray. Will you have some hot water and a
lemon, George? The servants are all at the theatre--Gerald begged a
holiday for them--but Barnes will get you the things in a minute."

"Thank you; I won't trouble him. I will take some with cold water," I
replied, thinking I should gain in this way what I wanted--time to
think: five minutes to myself, while they played.

But I was out in my reckoning. "I will have mine now too," he said.
"Will you mix it, Gerald?"

Gerald jumped up to do it with tolerable alacrity. I sat still,
preferring to help myself, when he should have attended to his
father--if his father it was. I felt more easy now that I had those
papers in my pocket. The more I thought of it, the more certain I
became that they were the object aimed at by whatever devilry was on
foot; and that possession of them gave me the whip-hand. My young
gentleman might snarl and show his teeth, but the prize had escaped

Perhaps I was a little too confident: a little too contemptuous of my
opponent; a little too proud of the firmness with which I had taken at
one and the same time the responsibility and the post of vantage. A
creak of the board behind the screen roused me from my thoughts. It
fell upon my ear trumpet-tongued: a sudden note of warning. I glanced
up with a start, and a conviction that I was being caught napping, and
looked instinctively towards the young man. He was busy at the tray,
his back to me. Relieved of my fear of I did not know what--perhaps a
desperate attack upon my pocket, I was removing my eyes, when, in
doing so, I caught sight of his reflection in a small mirror beyond
him. Ah!

What was he busy about? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, at the moment. He
was standing motionless--I could fancy him breathless also--a strange
listening expression on his face; which seemed to me to have faded to
a grayish tinge. His left hand was clasping a half-filled tumbler: the
other was at his waistcoat pocket. So he stood during perhaps a second
or two, a small lamp upon the tray before him illumining his handsome
figure; and then his eyes, glancing up, met the reflection of mine in
the mirror. Swiftly as the thought itself could pass from brain to
limb, the hand which had been resting in the pocket flashed with a
clatter among the glasses; and turning almost as quickly, he brought
one of the latter to the chess-table, and set it down unsteadily.

What had I seen! Nothing; actually nothing. Just what Gerald had been
doing. Yet my heart was going as many strokes to the minute as a
losing crew. I rose abruptly.

"Wait a moment, sir," I said, as the elder man laid his hand upon the
glass, "I don't think that Gerald has mixed this quite as you like

He had already lifted it to his lips. I looked from him to Gerald.
That young gentleman's color, though he faced me hardily, shifted more
than once, and he seemed to be swallowing a succession of over-sized
fives-balls; but his eyes met mine in a vicious kind of smile that was
not without its gleam of triumph. I was persuaded that all was right
even before his father said so.

"Perhaps you have mixed for me, Gerald?" I suggested pleasantly.

"No!" he answered in sullen defiance. He filled a glass with
something--perhaps it was water--and drank it, his back towards me. He
had not spoken so much as a single word to me before.

The blind man's ear recognized the tone now. "I wish you boys would
agree better," he said wearily. "Gerald, go to bed. I would as soon
play chess with an idiot from Earlswood. Generally you can play the
game if you are good for nothing else; but since your brother came in,
you have not made a move which any one not an imbecile would make. Go
to bed, boy! Go to bed!"

I had stepped to the table while he was speaking. One of the glasses
was full. I lifted it with seeming unconcern to my nose. There was
whiskey in it as well as water. Then _had_ Gerald mixed for me? At any
rate, I put the tumbler aside, and helped myself afresh. When I set
the glass down empty, my mind was made up.

"Gerald does not seem inclined to move, sir, so I will," I said
quietly. "I will call in the morning and discuss that matter, if it
will suit you. But to-night I feel inclined to get to bed early."

"Quite right, my boy. I would ask you to take a bed here instead of
turning out, but I suppose that Laura will be expecting you. Come in
any time to-morrow morning. Shall Barnes call a cab for you?"

"I think I will walk," I answered, shaking the proffered hand. "By the
way, sir," I added, "have you heard who is the new Home Secretary?"

"Yes, Henry Matthews," he replied. "Gerald told me. He had heard it at
the Club."

"It is to be hoped that he will have no womanish scruples about
capital punishment," I said, as if I were incidentally considering the
appointment. And with that last shot at Mr. Gerald--he turned green, I
thought, a color which does not go well with a black moustache--I
walked out of the room, so peaceful, so cosy, so softly lighted, as it
looked, I remember; and downstairs. I hoped that I had paralyzed the
young fellow, and might leave the house without molestation.

But as I gained the foot of the stairs he tapped me on the shoulder. I
saw then, looking at him, that I had mistaken my man. Every trace of
the sullen defiance which had marked his manner throughout the
interview upstairs was gone. His face was still pale, but it wore a
gentle smile as we confronted one another under the hall lamp. "I have
not the pleasure of knowing you, but let me thank you for your help,"
he said, in a low voice, yet with a kind of frank spontaneity.
"Barnes's idea of bringing you in was a splendid one, and I am
immensely obliged to you."

"Don't mention it," I answered stiffly, proceeding with my
preparations for going out, as if he were not there; although I must
confess that this complete change in him exercised my mind no little.

"I feel so sure that we may rely upon your discretion," he went on,
ignoring my tone, "that I need say nothing about that. Of course we
owe you an explanation, but as your cold is really yours and not my
brother's, you will not mind if I read you the riddle to-morrow
instead of keeping you from your bed to-night?"

"It will do equally well--indeed better," I said, putting on my
overcoat, and buttoning it carefully across my chest, while I affected
to be looking with curiosity at the sedan chair.

He pointed lightly to the place where the packet lay. "You are
forgetting the papers," he reminded me. His tone almost compelled the
answer, "To be sure."

But I had pretty well made up my mind, and I answered instead, "Not at
all. They are quite safe, thank you."

"But you don't--I beg your pardon--" he said, opening his eyes very
wide, as if some new light were beginning to shine upon his mind and
he could scarcely believe its revelations. "You don't really mean that
you are going to take those papers away with you?"


"My dear sir!" he remonstrated earnestly. "This is preposterous. Pray
forgive me the reminder, but those papers, as my father gave you to
understand, are private papers, which he supposed himself to be
handing to my brother, George."

"Just so!" was all I said. And I took a step towards the door.

"You really mean to take them?" he asked seriously.

"I do; unless you can satisfactorily explain the part I have played
this evening. And also make it clear to me that you have a right to
the possession of the papers."

"Confound it! If I must do so to-night, I must!" he said reluctantly.
"I trust to your honor, sir, to keep the explanation secret." I bowed,
and he resumed. "My elder brother and I are in business together.
Lately we have had losses which have crippled us so severely that we
decided to disclose them to Sir Charles and ask his help. George did
so yesterday by letter, giving certain notes of our liabilities. You
ask why he did not make such a statement by word of mouth? Because he
had to go to Liverpool at a moment's notice to make a last effort to
arrange the matter. And as for me," with a curious grimace, "my father
would as soon discuss business with his dog! Sooner!"

"Well?" I said. He had paused, and was absently flicking the blossoms
off the geraniums in the fireplace with his pocket-handkerchief,
looking moodily at his work the while. I cannot remember noticing the
handkerchief, yet I seem to be able to see it now. It had a red
border, and was heavily scented with white rose. "Well?"

"Well," he continued, with a visible effort, "my father has been
ailing lately, and this morning his usual doctor made him see
Bristowe. He is an authority on heart-disease, as you doubtless know;
and his opinion is," he added in a lower voice and with some emotion,
"that even a slight shock may prove fatal."

I began to feel hot and uncomfortable. What was I to think? The packet
was becoming as lead in my pocket.

"Of course," he resumed more briskly, "that threw our difficulties
into the shade at once; and my first impulse was to get these papers
from him. Don't you see that? All day I have been trying in vain to
effect it. I took Barnes, who is an old servant, partially into my
confidence, but we could think of no plan. My father, like many people
who have lost their sight, is jealous, and I was at my wits' end, when
Barnes brought you up. Your likeness," he added in a parenthesis,
looking at me reflectively, "to George put the idea into his head, I
fancy? Yes, it must have been so. When I heard you announced, for a
moment I thought you were George."

"And you called up a look of the warmest welcome," I put in dryly.

He colored, but answered almost immediately, "I was afraid that he
would assume that the governor had read his letter, and blurt out
something about it. Good Lord! if you knew the funk in which I have
been all the evening lest my father should ask either of us to read
the letter!" and he gathered up his handkerchief with a sigh of
relief, and wiped his forehead.

"I could see it very plainly," I answered, going slowly in my mind
over what he had told me. If the truth must be confessed, I was in no
slight quandary what I should do, or what I should believe. Was this
really the key to it all? Dared I doubt it, or that that which I had
constructed was a mare's nest,--the mere framework of a mare's nest.
For the life of me I could not tell!

"Well?" he said presently, looking up with an offended air. "Is there
anything else I can explain? or will you have the kindness to return
my property to me now?"

"There is one thing about which I should like to ask a question," I

"Ask on," he replied; and I wondered whether there was not a little
too much of bravado in the tone of sufferance he assumed.

"Why do you carry--" I went on, raising my eyes to his, and pausing on
the word an instant--"that little medicament--you know what I mean--in
your waistcoat pocket, my friend?"

He perceptibly flinched. "I don't quite--quite understand," he began
to stammer. Then he changed his tone and went on rapidly, "No! I will
be frank with you, Mr.-- Mr.--"

"George," I said, calmly.

"Ah, indeed?" a trifle surprised, "Mr. George! Well, it is something
Bristowe gave me this morning to be administered to my father--without
his knowledge, if possible--whenever he grows excited. I did not think
that you had seen it."

Nor had I. I had only inferred its presence. But having inferred
rightly once, I was inclined to trust my inference farther. Moreover
while he gave this explanation, his breath came and went so quickly
that my former suspicions returned. I was ready for him when he said,
"Now I will trouble you, if you please, for those papers!" and held
out his hand.

"I cannot give them to you," I replied, point blank.

"You cannot give them to me now?" he repeated.

"No. Moreover the packet is sealed. I do not see, on second thoughts,
what harm I can do you--now that it is out of your father's hands--by
keeping it until to-morrow, when I will return it to your brother,
from whom it came."

"He will not be in London," he answered doggedly. He stepped between
me and the door with looks which I did not like. At the same time I
felt that some allowance must be made for a man treated in this way.

"I am sorry," I said, "but I cannot do what you ask. I will do this,
however. If you think the delay of importance, and will give me your
brother's address in Liverpool, I will undertake to post the letters
to him at once."

He considered the offer, eyeing me the while with the same disfavor
which he had exhibited in the drawing-room. At last he said slowly,
"If you will do that?"

"I will," I repeated. "I will do it immediately."

He gave me the direction--"George Ritherdon, at the London and
North-Western Hotel, Liverpool," and in return I gave him my own name
and address. Then I parted from him, with a civil good-night on either
side--and little liking I fancy--the clocks striking midnight, and the
servants coming in as I passed out into the cool darkness of the

Late as it was, I went straight to my club, determined that as I had
assumed the responsibility there should be no laches on my part. There
I placed the packet, together with a short note explaining how it came
into my possession, in an outer envelope, and dropped the whole duly
directed and stamped into the nearest pillar box. I could not register
it at that hour, and rather than wait until next morning, I omitted
the precaution, merely requesting Mr. Ritherdon to acknowledge its

Well, some days passed during which it may be imagined that I thought
no little about my odd experience. It was the story of the Lady and
the Tiger over again. I had the choice of two alternatives at least. I
might either believe the young fellow's story, which certainly had the
merit of explaining in a fairly probable manner an occurrence of so
odd a character as not to lend itself freely to explanation. Or I
might disbelieve his story, plausible in its very strangeness as it
was, in favor of my own vague suspicions. Which was I to do?

Well, I set out by preferring the former alternative. This
notwithstanding that I had to some extent committed myself against it
by withholding the papers. But with each day that passed without
bringing me an answer from Liverpool, I leaned more and more to the
other side. I began to pin my faith to the tiger, adding each morning
a point to the odds in the animal's favor. So it went on until ten
days had passed.

Then a little out of curiosity, but more, I gravely declare, because I
thought it the right thing to do, I resolved to seek out George
Ritherdon. I had no difficulty in learning where he might be found. I
turned up the firm of Ritherdon Brothers (George and Gerald),
cotton-spinners and India merchants, in the first directory I
consulted. And about noon the next day I called at their place of
business, and sent in my card to the senior partner. I waited five
minutes--curiously scanned by the porter, who no doubt saw a likeness
between me and his employer--and then I was admitted to the latter's

He was a tall man with a fair beard, not one whit like Gerald, and yet
tolerably good-looking; if I say more I shall seem to be describing
myself. I fancied him to be balder about the temples, however, and
grayer and more careworn than the man I am in the habit of seeing in
my shaving-glass. His eyes, too, had a hard look, and he seemed in
ill-health. All these things I took in later. At the time I only
noticed his clothes. "So the old gentleman is dead," I thought, "and
the young one's tale is true after all!" George Ritherdon was in deep

"I wrote to you," I began, taking the seat to which he pointed, "about
a fortnight ago."

He looked at my card, which he held in his hand. "I think not," he
said slowly.

"Yes," I repeated. "You were then at the London and North-Western
Hotel, at Liverpool."

He was stepping to his writing-table, but he stopped abruptly. "I was
in Liverpool," he answered in a different tone, "but I was not at
that hotel. You are thinking of my brother, are you not?"

"No," I said, "it was your brother who told me you were there."

"Perhaps you had better explain what was the subject of your letter,"
he suggested, speaking in the weary tone of one returning to a painful
matter. "I have been through a great trouble lately, and this may well
have been overlooked."

I said I would, and as briefly as possible I told the main facts of my
strange visit in Fitzhardinge Square. He was much moved, walking up
and down the room as he listened, and giving vent to exclamations from
time to time, until I came to the arrangement I had finally made with
his brother. Then he raised his hand as one might do in pain.

"Enough!" he said abruptly. "Barnes told me a rambling tale of some
stranger. I understand it all now."

"So do I, I think!" I replied dryly. "Your brother went to Liverpool,
and received the papers in your name?"

He murmured what I took for "Yes." But he did not utter a single word
of acknowledgement to me, or of reprobation of his brother's deceit. I
thought some such word should have been spoken; and I let my feelings
carry me away. "Let me tell you," I said warmly, "that your brother is

"Hush!" he said, holding up his hand again. "He is dead."

"Dead!" I repeated, shocked and amazed.

"Have you not read of it in the papers? It is in all the papers," he
said wearily. "He committed suicide--God forgive me for it!--at
Liverpool, at the hotel you have mentioned, and the day after you saw

And so it was. He had committed some serious forgery--he had always
been wild, though his father, slow to see it, had only lately closed
his purse to him--and the forged signatures had come into his
brother's power. He had cheated his brother before. There had long
been bad blood between them, the one being as cold, business-like, and
masterful as the other was idle and jealous.

"I told him," the elder said to me, shading his eyes with his hand,
"that I should let him be prosecuted--that I would not protect or
shelter him. The threat nearly drove him mad; and while it was hanging
over him, I wrote to disclose the matter to Sir Charles. Gerald
thought his last chance lay in recovering this letter unread. The
proofs against him destroyed, he might laugh at me. His first attempts
failed; and then he planned with Barnes's cognizance to get possession
of the packet by drugging my father's whiskey. Barnes's courage
deserted him; he called you in, and--and you know the rest."

"But," I said softly, "your brother did get the letter--at Liverpool."

George Ritherdon groaned. "Yes," he said, "he did. But the proofs were
not enclosed. After writing the outside letter I changed my mind, and
withheld them, explaining my reasons within. He found his plot laid in
vain; and it was under the shock of this disappointment--the packet
lay before him re-sealed and directed to me--that he--that he did it.
Poor Gerald!"

"Poor Gerald!" I said. What else remained to be said?

It may be a survival of superstition, yet when I dine in Baker Street
now, I take some care to go home by any other route than that through
Fitzhardinge Square.

                       The Invisible Portraits.

On a certain morning in last June I was stooping to fasten a
shoe-lace, having taken advantage for the purpose of the step of a
corner house in St. James's Square, when a man passing behind me

"Well!" said he, aloud, after a short pause during which I wondered--I
could not see him--what he was doing, "the meanness of these rich folk
is disgusting! Not a coat of paint for a twelvemonth! I should be
ashamed to own a house and leave it like that!"

The man was a stranger to me, and his words seemed as uncalled for as
they were ill-natured. But being thus challenged I looked at the
house. It was a great stone mansion with a balustrade atop, with many
windows and a long stretch of area railings. And certainly it was
shabby. I turned from it to the critic. He was shabby too--a little
red-nosed man wearing a bad hat. "It is just possible," I suggested,
"that the owner may be a poor man and unable to keep it in order."

"Ugh! What has that to do with it?" my new friend answered
contemptuously. "He ought to think of the public."

"And your hat?" I asked with winning politeness. "It strikes me, an
unprejudiced observer, as a bad hat. Why do you not get a new one?"

"Cannot afford it!" he snapped out, his dull eyes sparkling with rage.

"Cannot afford it? But, my good man, you ought to think of the

"You tom-cat! What have you to do with my hat? Smother you!" was his
kindly answer; and he went on his way muttering things uncomplimentary.

I was about to go mine, and was first falling back to gain a better
view of the house in question, when a chuckle close to me betrayed the
presence of a listener, a thin, gray-haired man, who, hidden by a
pillar of the porch, must have heard our discussion. His hands were
engaged with a white tablecloth, from which he had been shaking the
crumbs. He had the air of an upper servant of the best class. As our
eyes met he spoke.

"Neatly put, sir, if I may take the liberty of saying so," he observed
with a quiet dignity it was a pleasure to witness, "and we are very
much obliged to you. The man was a snob, sir."

"I am afraid he was," I answered; "and a fool too."

"And a fool, sir. Answer a fool after his folly. You did that, and he
was nowhere; nowhere at all, except in the swearing line. Now might I
ask," he continued, "if you are an American, sir?"

"No, I am not," I answered; "but I have spent some time in the

I could have fancied that he sighed.

"I thought--but never mind, sir," he began. "I was wrong. It is
curious how very much alike gentlemen, that are real gentlemen, speak.
Now, I dare swear, sir, that you have a taste for pictures."

I was inclined to humor the old fellow's mood.

"I like a good picture, I admit," I said.

"Then perhaps you would not be offended if I asked you to step inside
and look at one or two," he suggested timidly. "I would not take a
liberty, sir, but there are some Van Dycks and a Rubens in the
dining-room that cost a mint of money in their day, I have heard; and
there is no one else in the house but my wife and myself."

It was a strange invitation, strangely brought about. But I saw no
reason for myself why I should not accept it, and I followed him into
the hall. It was spacious, but sparely furnished. The matted floor had
a cold look, and so had the gaunt stand which seemed to be a fixture,
and boasted but one umbrella, one sunshade, and one dog-whip. As I
passed a half-open door I caught a glimpse of a small room prettily
furnished, with dainty prints and water-colors on the walls. But these
were of a common order. A dozen replicas of each and all might be seen
in a walk through Bond Street. Even this oasis of taste and comfort
told the same story as had the bare hall and dreary exterior, and laid
as it were a finger on one's heart. I trod softly as I followed my
guide along the strip of matting towards the rear of the house.

He opened a door at the inner end of the hall, and led me into a large
and lofty room, built out from the back, as a state dining-room or
ball-room. At present it rather resembled the latter, for it was
without furniture. "Now," said the old man, turning and respectfully
touching my sleeve to gain my attention, "now you will not consider
your labor lost in coming to see that, sir. It is a portrait of the
second Lord Wetherby by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and is judged to be one
of the finest specimens of his style in existence."

I was lost in astonishment; amazed, almost appalled. My companion
stood by my side, his face wearing a placid smile of satisfaction, his
hand pointing slightly upwards to the blank wall before us. The blank
wall! Of any picture, there or elsewhere in the room, there was no
sign. I turned to him and then from him, and I felt very sick at
heart. The poor old fellow was--must be--mad. I gazed blankly at the
blank wall. "By Van Dyck?" I repeated mechanically.

"Yes, sir, by Van Dyck?" he replied, in the most matter-of-fact
tone imaginable. "So, too, is this one;" he moved as he spoke a few
feet to his left. "The second peer's first wife in the costume of a
lady-in-waiting. This portrait and the last are in as good a state of
preservation as on the day they were painted."

Oh, certainly mad! And yet so graphic was his manner, so crisp and
realistic were his words, that I rubbed my eyes; and looked and looked
again, and almost fancied that Lord Walter and Anne, his wife, grew
into shape before me on the wall. Almost, but not quite; and it was
with a heart full of wondering pity that I accompanied the old man, in
whose manner there was no trace of wildness or excitement, round the
walls; visiting in turn the Cuyp which my lord bought in Holland, the
Rubens, the four Lawrences, and the Philips--a very Barmecide feast of
art. I could not doubt that the old man saw the pictures. But I saw
only bare walls.

"Now I think you have seen them, family portraits and all," he
concluded, as we came to the doorway again; stating the fact, which
was no fact, with complacent pride. "They are fine pictures, sir.
They, at least, are left, although the house is not what it was."

"Very fine pictures," I remarked. I was minded to learn if he were
sane on other points. "Lord Wetherby," I said, "I should suppose that
he is not in London?"

"I do not know sir, one way or the other," the servant answered with a
new air of reserve. "This is not his lordship's house. Mrs. Wigram, my
late lord's daughter-in-law, lives here."

"But this is the Wetherbys' town house," I persisted. I knew so much.

"It was my late lord's house. At his son's marriage it was settled
upon Mrs. Wigram, and little enough besides, God knows!" he exclaimed
querulously. "It was Mr. Alfred's wish that some land should be
settled upon his wife, but there was none out of the entail, and my
lord, who did not like the match, though he lived to be fond enough of
the mistress afterwards, said, 'Settle the house in town!' in a bitter
kind of joke like. So the house was settled, and five hundred pounds a
year. Mr. Alfred died abroad, as you may know, sir, and my lord was
not long in following him."

He was closing the shutters of one window after another as he spoke.
The room had sunk into deep gloom. I could imagine now that the
pictures were really where he fancied them. "And Lord Wetherby, the
late peer," I asked, after a pause, "did he leave his daughter-in-law

"My lord died suddenly, leaving no will," he replied sadly. "That
is how it all is. And the present peer, who was only a second
cousin--well, I say nothing about him." A reticence which was well
calculated to consign his lordship to the lowest deep.

"He did not help?" I asked.

"Devil a bit, begging your pardon, sir. But there! it is not my place
to talk of these things. I doubt I have wearied you with talk about
the family. It is not my way," he added, as if wondering at himself,
"only something in what you said seemed to touch a chord like."

By this time we were outside the room, standing at the inner end of
the hall, while he fumbled with the lock of the door. Short passages
ending in swing doors ran out right and left from this point, and
through one of these a tidy, middle-aged woman wearing an apron
suddenly emerged. At sight of me she looked greatly astonished. "I
have been showing the gentleman the pictures," said my guide, who was
still occupied with the door.

A quick flash of pain altered and hardened the woman's face. "I have
been very much interested, madam," I said softly.

Her gaze left me to dwell upon the old man with infinite affection.
"John had no right to bring you in, sir," she said primly. "I have
never known him do such a thing before, and--Lord a mercy! there is
the mistress's knock. Go, John, and let her in; and this gentleman,"
with an inquisitive look at me, "will not mind stepping a bit aside,
while her ladyship goes upstairs."

"Certainly not," I answered. I hastened to draw back into one of the
side passages, into the darkest corner of it, and there stood leaning
against the cool panels, my hat in my hand.

In the short pause which ensued before John opened the door she
whispered to me, "You have not told him, sir?"

"About the pictures?"

"Yes, sir. He is blind, you see."

"Blind?" I exclaimed.

"Yes, sir, this year and more; and when the pictures were taken
away--by the present earl--that he had known all his life, and been so
proud to show to people just the same as if they had been his own,
why, it seemed a shame to tell him. I have never had the heart to do
it, and he thinks they are there to this day."

Blind! I had never thought of that; and while I was grasping the idea
now, and fitting it to the facts, a light footstep sounded in the
hall, and a woman's voice on the stairs; such a voice and such a
footstep that, as it seemed to me, a man, if nothing else were left to
him, might find home in them alone. "Your mistress," I said presently,
when the sounds had died away upon the floor above, "has a sweet
voice; but has not something annoyed her?

"Well, I never should have thought that you would have noticed that!"
exclaimed the housekeeper, who was, I dare say, many other things
besides housekeeper. "You have a sharp ear, sir; that I will say. Yes,
there is a something has gone wrong; but to think that an American
gentleman should have noticed it!"

"I am not an American," I said, perhaps testily.

"Oh, indeed, sir! I beg your pardon, I am sure. It was just your way
of speaking made me think it," she replied; and then there came a
second louder rap at the door as John, who had gone upstairs with his
mistress, came down in a leisurely fashion.

"That is Lord Wetherby, drat him!" he said, on his wife calling to him
in a low voice. He was ignorant, I think, of my presence. "He is to be
shown into the library, and the mistress will see him there in five
minutes; and you are to go to her room. Oh, rap away!" he added,
turning towards the door, and shaking his fist at it. "There is many a
better man than you has waited longer at that door."

"Hush, John. Do you not see the gentleman?" interposed his wife, with
the simplicity of habit. "He will show you out," she added rapidly to
me, "as soon as his lordship has gone in, if you do not mind waiting
another minute."

"Not at all," I said, drawing back into the corner as they went on
their errands; but though I said, "Not at all," mine was an odd
position. The way in which I had come into the house, and my present
situation in a kind of hiding, would have made most men only anxious
to extricate themselves. But I, while listening to John parleying with
some one at the door, conceived a strange desire, or a desire which
would have been strange in any other man, to see this thing to the
end--conceived it and acted upon it.

The library? That was the room on the right of the hall, opposite to
Mrs. Wigram's sitting-room. Probably, nay I was certain, it had
another door opening on the passage in which I stood. It would cost me
but a step or two to confirm my opinion. When John ushered in the
visitor by one door I had already, by way of the other, ensconced
myself behind a screen, that I seemed to know would face it. I was
going to listen. Perhaps I had my reasons. Perhaps--but there, what
matter? I, as a fact, listened.

The room was spacious, but sombre, wainscoted and vaulted with oak.
Its only visible occupant was a thin, dark man of middle size, with a
narrow face, and a stubborn feather of black hair rising above his
forehead; a man of Welsh type. He was standing with his back to the
light, a roll of papers in one hand. The fingers of the other,
drumming upon the table, betrayed that he was both out of temper and
ill at ease. While I was still scanning him stealthily--I had never
seen him before--the door was opened, and Mrs. Wigram came in. I sank
back behind the screen. I think some words passed, some greeting of
the most formal, but though the room was still, I failed to hear it,
and when I recovered myself he was speaking.

"I am here at your wish, Mrs. Wigram, and your service, too," he was
saying, with an effort at gallantry which sat very ill upon him,
"although I think it would have been better if we had left the matter
to our solicitors."


"Yes. I fancied you were aware of my opinion."

"I was; and I perfectly understand, Lord Wetherby, your preference for
that course," she replied, with sarcastic coldness, which did not hide
her dislike for him. "You naturally shrink from telling me your terms
face to face."

"Now, Mrs. Wigram! Now, Mrs. Wigram! Is not this a tone to be
deprecated?" he answered, lifting his hands. "I come to you as a man
of business upon business."

"Business! Does that mean wringing advantage from my weakness?" she

He shrugged his shoulders. "I do deprecate this tone," he repeated. "I
come in plain English to make you an offer; one which you can accept
or refuse as you please. I offer you five hundred a year for this
house. It is immensely too large for your needs, and too expensive for
your income, and yet you have in strictness no power to let it. Very
well, I, who can release you from that restriction, offer you five
hundred a year for the house. What can be more fair?"

"Fair? In plain English, Lord Wetherby, you are the only possible
purchaser, and you fix the price. Is that fair? The house would let
easily for twelve hundred."

"Possibly," he retorted, "if it were in the open market. But it is

"No," she answered rapidly. "And you, having the forty thousand a year
which, had my husband lived, would have been his and mine; you who, a
poor man, have stepped into this inheritance--you offer me five
hundred for the family house! For shame, my lord! for shame!"

"We are not acting a play," he said doggedly, showing that her words
had stung him in some degree. "The law is the law. I ask for nothing
but my rights, and one of those I am willing to waive in your favor.
You have my offer."

"And if I refuse it? If I let the house? You will not dare to enforce
the restriction."

"Try me," he rejoined, again drumming with his fingers upon the table.
"Try me, and you will see."

"If my husband had lived----"

"But he did not live," he broke in, losing patience, "and that makes
all the difference. Now, for Heaven's sake, Mrs. Wigram, do not make a
scene! Do you accept my offer?"

For a moment she had seemed about to break down, but her pride coming
to the rescue, she recovered herself with wonderful quickness.

"I have no choice," she said with dignity.

"I am glad you accept," he answered, so much relieved that he gave way
to an absurd burst of generosity. "Come!" he cried, "we will say
guineas instead of pounds, and have done with it!"

She looked at him in wonder. "No, Lord Wetherby," she said, "I
accepted your terms. I prefer to keep to them. You said that you would
bring the necessary papers with you. If you have done so I will sign
them now, and my servants can witness them."

"I have the draft and the lawyer's clerk is no doubt in the house," he
answered. "I left directions for him to be here at eleven."

"I do not think he is in the house," the lady answered. "I should know
if he were here."

"Not here!" he cried angrily. "Why not, I wonder! But I have the
skeleton lease; it is very short, and to save delay I will fill in the
particulars, names, and so forth myself, if you will permit me to do
so. It will not take me twenty minutes."

"As you please. You will find a pen and ink on the table. If you will
kindly ring the bell when you are ready, I will come and bring the

"Thank you. You are very good," he said smoothly; adding, when she had
left the room, "and the devil take your impudence, madam! As for your
cursed pride--well, it has saved me twenty-five pounds a year, and so
you are welcome to it. I was a fool to make the offer." And with that,
now grumbling at the absence of the lawyer's clerk, and now
congratulating himself on the saving of a lawyer's fee, my lord sat
down to his task.

A hansom cab on its way to the East India Club rattled through the
square, and under cover of the noise I stole out from behind the
screen, and stood in the middle of the room looking down at the
unconscious worker. If for a minute I felt strongly the desire to
raise my hand and give my lordship such a surprise as he had never in
his life experienced, any other man might have felt the same; and as
it was I put it away and only looked quietly about me. Some rays of
sunshine piercing the corner pane of a dulled window fell on and
glorified the Wetherby coat-of-arms blazoned over the wide fireplace,
and so created the one bright spot in the bare, dismantled room, which
had once, unless the tiers of empty shelves and the yet lingering odor
of Russia lied, been lined from floor to ceiling with books. My lord
had taken the furniture; my lord had taken the books; my lord had
taken--nothing but his rights.

Retreating softly to the door by which I had entered, and rattling the
handle, I advanced afresh into the room. "Will your lordship allow
me?" I said, after I had in vain coughed twice to gain his attention.

He turned hastily and looked at me with a face full of suspicion. Some
surprise on finding another person in the room and close to him was
natural; but possibly also there was something in the atmosphere of
that house which threw his nerves off their balance. "Who are you?" he
cried in a tone which matched his face.

"You left orders, my lord," I explained, "with Messrs. Duggan and
Poole that a clerk should attend here at eleven. I very much regret
that some delay has unavoidably been caused."

"Oh, you are the clerk!" he replied ungraciously. "You do not look
much like a lawyer's clerk."

Involuntarily I glanced aside, and saw in a mirror the reflection of a
tall man with a thick beard and moustaches, gray eyes, and an ugly
scar seaming the face from nose to ear. "Yet I hope to give you full
satisfaction, my lord," I murmured, dropping my eyes. "It was
understood that you needed a confidential clerk."

"Well, well, sir, to your work!" he replied irritably. "Better late
than never; and after all it may be preferable for you to be here and
see it duly executed. Only you will not forget," he continued hastily,
with a glance at the papers, "that I have myself copied four-well,
three--three full folios, sir, for which an allowance must be made.
But there! Get on with your work. The handwriting will speak for

I obeyed, and wrote on steadily, while the earl walked up and down the
room, or stood at a window. Upstairs sat Mrs. Wigram, schooling
herself, I dare swear, to take this one favor that was no favor from
the man who had dealt out to her such hard measure. Outside a casual
passer through the square glanced up at the great house, and seeing
the bent head of the secretary and the figure of his companion moving
to and fro, saw, as he thought, nothing unusual; nor had any
presentiment--how should he?--of the strange scene which the room with
the dingy windows was about to witness.

I had been writing for perhaps five minutes when Lord Wetherby stopped
in his passage behind me and looked over my shoulder. With a jerk his
eye-glasses fell, touching my shoulder.

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed, "I have seen your handwriting
somewhere; and lately too. Where could it have been?"

"Probably among the family papers, my lord," I answered. "I have
several times been engaged in the family business in the time of the
late Lord Wetherby."

"Indeed." There was both curiosity and suspicion in his utterance of
the word. "You knew him?"

"Yes, my lord. I have written for him in this very room, and he has
walked up and down, and dictated to me, as you might be doing now," I

His lordship stopped his pacing to and fro, and retreated to the
window on the instant. But I could see that he was interested, and I
was not surprised when he continued with transparent carelessness. "A
strange coincidence. And may I ask what it was upon which you were

"At that time?" I answered, looking him full in the face. "It was a
will, my lord."

He started and frowned, and abruptly resumed his walk up and down. But
I saw that he had a better conscience than I had given him the credit
of possessing. My shot had not struck fairly where I had looked to
place it; and finding this was so, I turned the thing over afresh,
while I pursued my copying. When I had finished, I asked him--I think
he was busy at the time cursing the absence of tact in the lower
orders--if he would go through the instrument; and he took my seat.

Where I stood behind him, I was not far from the fireplace. While he
muttered to himself the legal jargon in which he was as well versed as
a lawyer bred in an office, I moved to it; and, neither missed nor
suspected, stood looking from his bent figure to the blazoned shield,
which formed part of the mantelpiece. If I wavered, my hesitation
lasted but a few seconds. Then, raising my voice, I called sharply,
"My lord, there used to be here--"

He turned swiftly, and saw where I was. "What the deuce are you doing
there, sir?" he cried in boundless astonishment, rising to his feet
and coming towards me, the pen in his hand and his face aflame with
anger. "You forget--"

"A safe--a concealed safe for papers," I continued, cutting him short
in my turn. "I have seen the late Lord Wetherby place papers in it
more than once. The spring worked from here. You touch this knob."

"Leave it alone, sir!" cried the peer furiously.

He spoke too late. The shield had swung gently outwards on a hinge,
door-fashion, and where it had been, gaped a small open safe lined
with cement. The rays of sunshine, that a few minutes before had
picked out so brightly the gaudy quarterings, now fell on a large
envelope which lay apart on a shelf. It was as clean as if it had been
put there that morning. No doubt the safe was air-tight. I laid my
hand upon it. "My lord!" I cried, turning to look at him with
ill-concealed exultation, "here is a paper--I think, a will!"

A moment before the veins of his forehead had been swollen, his face
dark with the rush of blood. His anger died down, at sight of the
packet, with strange abruptness. He regained his self-control, and a
moment saw him pale and calm, all show of resentment confined to a
wicked gleam in his eye. "A will!" he repeated, with a certain kind of
dignity, though the hand he stretched out to take the envelope shook.
"Indeed, then it is my place to examine it. I am the heir-at-law, and
I am within my rights, sir."

I feared that he was going to put the parcel into his pocket and
dismiss me, and I was considering what course I should take in that
event, when instead he carried the envelope to the table by the window
and tore off the cover without ceremony. "It is not in your
handwriting?" were his first words; and he looked at me with a
distrust that was almost superstitious. No doubt my sudden entrance,
my ominous talk, and my discovery seemed to him to savor of the devil.

"No," I replied unmoved. "I told your lordship that I had written a
will at the late Lord Wetherby's dictation. I did not say--for how
could I know?--that it was this one."

"Ah!" He hastily smoothed the sheets, and ran his eyes over their
contents. When he reached the last page there was a dark scowl on his
face, and he stood a while staring at the signatures; not now reading,
I think, but collecting his thoughts. "You know the provisions of
this?" he presently burst forth with violence, dashing the back of his
hand against the paper. "I say, sir, you know the provisions of this?"

"I do not, my lord," I answered. Nor did I.

"The unjust provisions of this will," he repeated, passing over my
negative as if it had not been uttered. "Fifty thousand pounds to a
woman who had not a penny when she married his son! Aye, and the
interest on another hundred thousand for her life! Why, it is a
prodigious income, an abnormal income--for a woman! And out of whose
pocket is it to come? Out of mine, every stiver of it! It is
monstrous! I say it is! How am I to keep up the title on the income
left to me, I should like to know?"

I marvelled. I remembered how rich he was. I could not refrain from
suggesting that he had still remaining all the real property. "And," I
added, "I understood, my lord, that the testator's personalty was
sworn under four hundred thousand pounds."

"You talk nonsense!" he snarled. "Look at the legacies! Five thousand
here, and a thousand there, and hundreds like berries on a bush! It is
a fortune, a decent fortune, clean frittered away! A barren title is
all that will be left to me!"

What was he going to do? His face was gloomy, his hands were
twitching. "Who are the witnesses, my lord?" I asked in a low voice.

So low--for under certain conditions a tone conveys much, very
much--that he shot a stealthy glance towards the door before he
answered, "John Williams."

"Blind," I replied in the same low tone.

"William Williams."

"He is dead. He was Mr. Alfred's valet. I remember reading in the
newspaper that he was with his master, and was killed by the Indians
at the same time."

"True. I remember that that was the case," he answered huskily. "And
the handwriting is Lord Wetherby's." I assented. Then for fully a
minute we were silent, while he bent over the will, and I stood behind
him looking down at him with thoughts in my mind which he could as
little fathom as could the senseless wood upon which I leaned. Yet I
too mistook him. I thought him, to be plain, a scoundrel; and--well,
so he was--but a mean one. "What is to be done?" he muttered at
length, speaking rather to himself than to me.

I answered softly, "I am a poor man, my lord," while inwardly I was
quoting "_quem Deus vult perdere_."

My words startled him. He answered hurriedly, "Just so! just so! So
shall I be when this cursed paper takes effect. A very poor man! A
hundred and fifty thousand gone at a blow! But there, she shall have
it! She shall have every penny of it; only," he concluded slowly, "I
do not see what difference one more day will make."

I followed his downcast eyes, which moved from the will before him to
the agreement for the lease of the house; and I did see what
difference a day would make. I saw and understood and wondered. He had
not the courage to suppress the will; but if he could gain a slight
advantage by withholding it for a few hours, he had the mind to do
that. Mrs. Wigram, a rich woman, would no longer let the house; she
would be under no compulsion to do so; and my lord would lose a cheap
residence as well as his hundred and fifty thousand pounds. To the
latter loss he could resign himself with a sigh; but he could not bear
to forego the petty gain for which he had schemed. "I think I
understand, my lord," I replied.

"Of course," he resumed nervously, "you must be rewarded for making
this discovery. I will see that it is so. You may depend upon me. I
will mention the case to Mrs. Wigram, and--and, in fact, my friend,
you may depend upon me.

"That will not do," I said firmly. "If that be all, I had better go to
Mrs. Wigram at once, and claim my reward a day earlier."

He grew very red in the face at receiving this check. "You will not in
that event get my good word," he said.

"Which has no weight with the lady," I answered politely but plainly.

"How dare you speak so to me?" his lordship cried. "You are an
impertinent fellow! But there! How much do you want?"

"A hundred pounds."

"A hundred pounds for a mere day's delay, which will do no one any

"Except Mrs. Wigram," I retorted dryly. "Come, Lord Wetherby, this
lease is worth a thousand a year to you. Mrs. Wigram, as you well
know, will not voluntarily let the house to you. If you would have
Wetherby House you must pay me. That is the long and the short of it."

"You are an impertinent fellow!" he repeated.

"So you have said before, my lord."

I expected him to burst into a furious passion, but I suppose there
was a something of power in my tone, beyond the mere defiance which
the words expressed; for, instead of doing so, he eyed me with a
thoughtful, malevolent gaze, and paused to consider. "You are at Poole
and Duggan's," he said slowly. "How was it that they did not search
this cupboard, with which you were acquainted?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I have not been in the house since Lord
Wetherby died," I said. "My employers did not consult me when the
papers he left were examined."

"You are not a member of the firm?"

"No, I am not," I answered. I was thinking that, so far as I knew
those respectable gentlemen, no one of them would have helped my lord
in this for ten times a hundred pounds. My lord! Faugh!

He seemed satisfied, and taking out a note-case laid on the table a
little pile of notes. "There is your money," he said, counting them
over with reluctant fingers. "Be good enough to put the will and
envelope back into the cupboard. Tomorrow you will oblige me by
rediscovering it--you can manage that, no doubt--and giving
information at once to Messrs. Duggan and Poole, or Mrs. Wigram, as
you please. Now," he continued, when I had obeyed him, "will you be
good enough to ask the servants to tell Mrs. Wigram that I am

There was a slight noise behind us. "I am here," said some one. I am
sure that we both jumped at the sound, for though I did not look that
way, I knew that the voice was Mrs. Wigram's, and that she was in the
room. "I have come to tell you, Lord Wetherby," she went on, "that I
have an engagement from home at twelve. Do I understand, however, that
you are ready? If so, I will call in Mrs. Williams."

"The papers are ready for signature," the peer answered, betraying
some confusion, "and I am ready to sign. I shall be glad to have the
matter settled as agreed." Then he turned to me, where I had fallen
back, as seemed becoming, to the end of the room, and said, "Be good
enough to ring the bell if Mrs. Wigram permit it."

As I moved to the fireplace to do so, I was conscious that the lady
was regarding me with some faint surprise. But when I had regained my
position and looked towards her, she was standing near the window
gazing steadily out into the square, an expression of disdain rendered
by face and figure. Shall I confess that it was a joy to me to see her
fair head so high, and to read even in the outline of her girlish form
a contempt which I, and I only, knew to be so justly based? For
myself, I leant against the edge of the screen by the door, and
perhaps my hundred pounds lay heavily on my heart. As for him, he
fidgeted with his papers, although they were all in order, and was
visibly impatient to get his bit of knavery accomplished. Oh! he was a
worthy man! And Welshman!

"Perhaps," he presently suggested, for the sake of saying something,
"while your servant is coming, you will read the agreement, Mrs.
Wigram. It is very short, and, as you know, your solicitors have
already seen it in the draft."

She bowed, and took the paper negligently. She read some way down
the first sheet with a smile, half careless, half contemptuous. Then I
saw her stop--she had turned her back to the window to obtain more
light--and dwell on a particular sentence. I saw--God! I had forgotten
the handwriting!--I saw her gray eyes grow large and fear leap into
them as she grasped the paper with her other hand, and stepped nearer
to the peer's side. "Who," she cried, "who wrote this? Tell me! Do you
hear? Tell me quickly!"

He was nervous on his own account, wrapt in his own piece of scheming,
and obtuse.

"I wrote it," he said, with maddening complacency. He put up his
glasses and glanced at the top of the page she held out to him. "I
wrote it myself, and I can assure you that it is quite right, and a
faithful copy. You do not think--"

"Think! Think! no, no! This, I mean! Who wrote this?" she cried, awe
in her face, and a suppliant tone,--strange as addressed to that
man,--in her voice.

He was confounded by her vehemence, as well as hampered by his own
evil conscience.

"The clerk, Mrs. Wigram, the clerk," he said petulantly, still in his
fog of selfishness. "The clerk from Messrs. Duggan and Poole's."

"Where is he?" she cried out breathlessly. I think she did not believe

"Where is he?" he repeated in querulous surprise. "Why here, of
course. Where should he be, madam? He will witness my signature."

Would he? Signatures! It was little of signatures I recked at that
moment. I was praying to Heaven that my folly might be forgiven me,
and that my lightly planned vengeance might not fall on my own head.
"Joy does not kill," I was saying to myself, repeating it over and
over again, and clinging to it desperately. "Joy does not kill!" But
oh! was it true in the face of that white-lipped woman?

"Here!" She did not say more, but gazing at me with great dazed eyes,
she raised her hand, and beckoned to me. And I had no choice but to
obey--to go nearer to her, out into the light.

"Mrs. Wigram," I said hoarsely, my voice sounding to me only as a
whisper, "I have news of your late--of your husband. It is good news."

"Good news?" Did she faintly echo my words? or, as her face from which
all color had passed peered into mine, and searched it in infinite
hope and infinite fear, did our two minds speak without need of
physical lips? "Good news?"

"Yes," I whispered, "he is alive. The Indians did not--"

"Alfred!" Her cry rang through the room, and with it I caught her in
my arms as she fell. Beard and long hair, and scar and sunburn, and
strange dress--these which had deceived others--were no disguise to
her--my wife. I bore her gently to the couch, and hung over her in a
new paroxysm of fear. "A doctor! Quick! A doctor!" I cried to Mrs.
Williams, who was already kneeling beside her. "Do not tell me," I
added piteously, "that I have killed her."

"No! no! no!" the good woman answered, the tears running down her
face. "Joy does not kill!"

An hour later this fear had been lifted from me, and I was walking up
and down the library alone with my thankfulness; glad to be alone, yet
more glad, more thankful still, when John came in with a beaming face.
"You have come to tell me--" I cried eagerly, pleased that the tidings
had come by his lips--"to go to her? That she will see me?"

"Her ladyship is sitting up," he replied.

"And Lord Wetherby?" I asked, pausing at the door to put the question.
"He left the house at once?"

"Yes, my lord, Mr. Wigram has been gone some time."

                          Along the Garonne.

We ascend the valley of the Garonne on our way to Pau, which we
intended to use as a base of operations against the Pyrenees. Our
route, as originally mapped out, lay by sea to Bordeaux, which is
three days from Liverpool; and thence by rail to our destination, a
journey merely of hours. But at the last moment we determined to
postpone our stay at Pau, and instead to wander along the banks of the
Garonne for a time, familiarizing ourselves with the ways of the
country. Then, when we had rubbed off our insular corners against the
Great French Politeness, and perfected our grasp of the language in
talk with the Agenois villagers, we proposed to drop gently into Pau,
armed at all points, and scarcely distinguishable from Frenchmen.

So we planned: and so it came about that we were free to enjoy
ourselves and look about us critically, as the smoky little tender
bore us up the wide channel of the Gironde from Pauillac, where our
ship bound for South America had contemptuously dropped us, to
Bordeaux itself. A little below the city, the Gironde, which is really
the estuary of the Garonne and Dordogne, shrinks to the Garonne pure
and simple, but under either name it seems equally a waste of turbid
clay-laden waters. On our left hand a bright sun--the month was
November--shone warmly on a line of low hills, formed of reddish
earth, and broken by great marl quarries. Woods climbed about these,
and here and there a village or a little town nestled under them. On
our right the bank lay low, and was fringed with willows, the country
behind it being flattish, planted as it seemed to us with dead
thorn-bushes, and dotted sparely with modern castellated houses.
Nevertheless it was towards this modest, almost dreary landscape
that we gazed; it was of it we all spoke, and to it referred, as we
named names famous as Austerlitz or Waterloo, names familiar in our
mouths--and our butlers'--as household words. For are not more people
versed in claret than in history? And this commonplace landscape, this
western bank of the Gironde, a mere peninsula lying between the river
and the low Atlantic coast, is called Medoc, and embraces all the
best known Bordeaux vineyards in the world. It seems as if a single
parish--say St. George's, Hanover Square, for that is a big one--might
hold them all. There, see, is Château Lafitte. The vineyards of St.
Estéphe and St. Julien we have just passed. Léoville and Latour are
not far off. And now we are passing the Château of Margaux itself, and
gaining experience, are beginning to learn that all those little
thorn-bushes stuck about the fallows, as though to protect the
ground-game from poachers' nets, are vines--vines of the _premier
crû!_ The vintage is over. The grapes, black, sour things, about the
size of currants, have all been picked. Where we had looked to see the
endless interlacings of greenery, and swelling clusters dropping
fatness on a carpet of turf, we find only reddish fallows, and rows of
dead gooseberry bushes.

But never mind, even though this be but the first of many
disillusions, and though the "sunny south" become hourly a more
humorous catchword. To-day the sun _is_ warm, the breeze is soft, the
custom-house officers are civil. We air--but with the caution due to
convalescents, or those of tender years--our shaky, tottering French,
and get English answers. So we stride across the broad quays of
Bordeaux, our hearts before us, our luggage behind, and ourselves in
the best of spirits and tempers.

Bordeaux, as we saw it, was a cheerful, busy city, full of wide
streets and open spaces and handsome buildings; a bright clean, airy,
city with little smoke, an immense water frontage, and one very fine
bridge: a pleasant etherealized Liverpool, in fact. The white blouses
and blue trousers of the workmen, the soldiers' uniforms, the bare
heads of some women and the gay 'kerchiefs, worn chignon-wise, of
others, gave picturesqueness to the crowds circling about the
kiosques, and reminded us, from time to time, that we were in a
southern city. Not unnecessarily; for the thermometer fell on the day
after our arrival to fifty degrees; and rain fell too, and we were
quick to discover the true cause of French vivacity. The French have
no fires at home. Consequently, when it is cold--and it often is very
cold, even as far South as Bordeaux--their only resource is to go out,
and jump about in such faint sunshine as they can find, and so make
believe to be warm. Every one in Bordeaux seemed to be doing this that

We saw a number of churches, but I have jumbled them together in my
mind, and dare not distinguish between the beauties of St. Seurin and
St. Croix, St. Michel or the Cathedral. Only I attended a service on
Sunday morning, and, having heard that no Frenchmen now went to
church, noted with interest that of a large congregation one in every
four was a man. But then Bordeaux is perhaps the most orthodox city in
France, and primitive ideas, good and bad, still prevail in this
southwestern province, peopled by descendants of the Huguenots and
Albigenses, by devout Basques and simple Navarrese. And two things
also in Bordeaux I remember--the semi-circular remains of a Roman
amphitheatre, which no one visiting Bordeaux should omit to see; and,
secondly, a lofty, detached spire of singular lightness and grace. It
is called the Peyberland, and was built by Pierre Berland, who must
have been an English subject.

His name strikes the vein of thought which was uppermost in my mind at
Bordeaux. I found it impossible to forget that it had been for three
centuries a half English city, and the capital of a half English
province, ruled by an English king; or that up the wide Gironde,
between the marly banks, Edward the Black Prince must many a time have
sailed in state. Sir John Chandos and Sir Walter Manny, and many
another English worthy, knew these streets as well as they knew
Eastcheap or Aldgate. John of Gaunt and Talbot of Shrewsbury dwelt
here, as much at home and at their ease as in York or Leicester. It is
impossible not to wonder at those old Englishmen; not to think of them
with pride, as we remember how firmly, the roving blood of Dane and
Norman young in their veins, they grasped this prize; how long they
clung to it, how boldly they flaunted the French lilies in the eyes of
France; how cheerfully they crowded year by year to cross the bay in
open boats! And then what cosmopolitans they were, with their manors
in Devon and Aquitane, their houses in London and Bordeaux; with
perhaps a snug little box at Calais, and a farm or two in Maine. How
trippingly French and Provençal, and the rougher English, passed over
their tongues. They founded no empire--on the contrary they lost one.
But they were the immediate ancestors of Elizabeth's sea-dogs, for all
that. In holding Guienne through those three centuries their strength
was wasted. When they lost it (1451), they turned upon one another,
and the Wars of the Roses took up half a century. After that they
needed half-a-century's holiday to recruit themselves; and then out
flashed the Vikings' spirit again--this time to better purpose--and
under Drake and Grenville and Hawkins, they, the men of Poitiers and
Sluys, made the greater England.

Even in Bordeaux they have left some traces of their work. They built
this cathedral which stands here, in the third city of France. Their
leopards are not yet effaced from the walls of yonder castle. Their
dogs--_les dogues des Anglais_, our waiter dubbed them, on seeing us
fondle them--play about the streets, and sniff with a special
friendliness at English calves. Indeed, I never saw such a place for
bull-dogs--chiefly brindled ones--as Bordeaux. We drank a toast after
dinner the evening before we left. It was, _Les dogues des Anglais!_

Bordeaux, being like London too high on the river to get the
sea-breeze, has its Brighton at Arcachon. To reach the latter from the
city, a railway passes some thirty miles westward across a tract of
light, sandy soil, thinly clothed with woods. As you glide through
these, now in sunshine, now in shade, you catch a glimpse here and
there of clearings and wooden shanties, and groups of peasants leaning
on axes. Then, scarcely descending, you find yourself on the seashore,
with the Bay of Biscay before you. Nearer, a basin of deepest blue,
almost cut off from the outer sea by a reef of the dunes, forms a
glorified harbor. Along this basin runs a broad beach, backed by a row
of magnificent hotels with spacious terraces; and behind these lie two
or three streets of rather paltry shops and restaurants. Having seen
all this--the _plage_, the hotels, the terraces, the streets--you
fancy you have seen Arcachon, and are inclined to be disappointed. But
this is not Arcachon proper, which lies at the back of all this, and
at the back even of that fairy-like Casino that rises on the abrupt
slope of the sand-dunes behind us, and seemed the rear of all things.
For on the land-side of the Casino is a forest of pines and larches,
wild, far stretching, and apparently illimitable: a forest that is
perpetually running up one sand-hill and down another, as if it were
trying to get a view of the sea, and were not easily satisfied. And
amid the vivid greens and dull blues of the foliage, glitter here and
there and everywhere the daintiest of Swiss chalets or Indian
bungalows, bright boxes of wood and stucco, colored and painted, and
fretted and carved so delicately that one would infer that rain never
fell here; or else that these were not intended for out-of-door wear.
Mere toys they seem, set in smooth lawns. Flowers glow about them, and
the scent of the pines is everywhere, and everywhere are shady aisles
of trees hung with white mosses, and leading into the gloom of the
forest. Nature and luxury have come together here; the result is
that soft, languid, southern beauty, Mademoiselle Arcachon--of the
Théâtre des Folies Bordelaises. Yet is her constitution tolerably
strong--thanks to the Atlantic breezes, though the sun was bright on
the day we visited her, the wind was cold and the thermometer scarcely
above forty degrees. This in early November.

The next evening saw us enter a very different place in a different
way. For leaving Bordeaux we reached La Réole on foot and at dusk,
welcomed only by the fantastic rays of a few swinging oil lamps. La
Réole is the antipodes to Arcachon. It is a small, ancient town,
which, small as it is, has a great place in Froissart and Davila, and
still frowns bravely down upon the rich plain of the Garonne. It
stands on a steep, cloven hill that rises sheer from the wide, yellow,
rush-bordered river about forty miles above Bordeaux. On the crest
above the Garonne stands a castle once English, and in size and
position not unlike that at Chepstow. Beside it are a church, a modern
château, and a _place_ of modern houses. Upon the second crest, and in
the cleft between the two, are huddled together the steep alleys and
crazy tottering houses, all corners and gables, of the old town. A
stream on which are several mills pours through the ravine, being
overhung by tall, delapidated houses of three stories, with as many
sets of wooden balconies and outside stairs. One might almost step
across the water from one balcony to another, so much do the houses
bulge. We took infinite delight in the old-world quaintness of this
scene, in the air of decay that hung about all things, in the
crumbling coats of arms, the wavy, tiled roofs, the sinking houses,
the swinging lanterns; above all in the gray walls of the castle,
brightened here and there by the pure discs of a rose bush, or the
green of ivy.

Froissart has a very pretty story--and a strange story too--to tell of
La Réole. He says that Sir Walter Manny being with the English
besieging it, "was reminded of his father;" that he had heard in his
infancy that he had been buried there, or in that neighborhood. (Is
there not a pleasant smack about that "was reminded of," and that
dubious "he had heard in his infancy"?) The elder Manny, the
chronicler explains, had unluckily wounded to death in a tournament at
Cambray a Gascon knight; and by way of penance had agreed to go on a
pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostella, at Santiago in
Spain. On his return he passed near La Réole, and hearing that the
brother of the King of France was besieging it, stayed to visit him;
and going home one night from the royal hotel to his lodgings, was
waylaid and murdered. The Gascon's kinsmen were strongly suspected of
the foul deed; but they were powerful, "and none took the part of the
Lord of Manny." So he was buried in a small chapel outside La Réole;
and was almost forgotten when his son, being in the neighborhood,
raked up the old story, and offered a reward of a hundred crowns to
any one who could show him the grave. This an old man volunteered to
do, and took Sir Walter to a tomb which was further identified by a
Latin inscription. Thereupon, the son, as pious as brave--a subject of
Queen Philippa of Hainault, I fear, and not a trueborn Englishman,
though he died in London, was buried in the Charter House, and left
his lands "on either side of the sea" to the Earl of Pembroke--had the
remains conveyed to Valenciennes in Hainault, and buried there.

And so the story ends. But is it not a quaint and pretty story, and
does it not smack of the times when the knight errant was one day
tourneying at Cambray, and the next kneeling at Santiago, and on the
third was waylaid at La Réole? And does it not plaintively suggest
how, after long days of waiting, the news, still dim and uncertain,
came through to the quiet castle in Hainault, news so dim, so
uncertain, that the good son, when chance brought him to the scene of
his father's death, could but faintly remember that it had happened
there or thereabouts?

We seemed to be for a few days in a world of dying things. If La Réole
was old and decadent, and showed few signs of former strength, the
next place to which we came was still farther gone in decay. Port St.
Marie is a straggling town lying low in a bend of the river. Most of
its houses--they are large, with heavy doorways--are built in
frameworks of wood after the style of our black and white houses, and
have the spaces between the beams filled with bricks; long, thin
bricks of close texture and the old Roman shape, set sometimes on end,
sometimes lengthwise, more often aslant; any way so that they may fill
the interstices. A large number of these houses are of three stories;
and each upper story projecting two or three feet beyond the one below
it, the buildings seem really nodding to their fall. Many were empty,
with unglazed windows, and flapping shutters, and sinking corners; and
yet the stout timbers, seasoned perhaps when Simon de Montfort was
governor of Guienne and had his court in Bordeaux, held together, and
bound up the crumbling clay. Above one door ran the legend "_Le
Couronné dut devoir_," a sufficiently chivalrous motto. Above others
were battered stone shields. On all was the stamp of assured ruin.
Neglect and poverty were written large everywhere. Time had touched
the place with no caressing hand, such as

              Makes old bareness picturesque,
              And tufts with grass a feudal tower,

but with mean and sordid fingers; and the result was pitifully dreary.
It made our hearts ache. The very people we saw in the streets looked
pallid and hopeless, like people going down the hill. Such a town, so
desolate, so moribund, does not exist, thank heaven, in our more
populous England. Yet in our way we enjoyed it. We gloated with
something of the zest of ghouls over its decay, until having cloyed
our souls with sadness, we got hurriedly away into the sunshine and
the fields, where the patient, fawn-colored oxen were dragging the
plough, and the countryman stood leaning on his goad to see us pass
between the rows of poplars. No doubt he thought us mad to be toiling
out of St. Marie with our faces set countrywards, when no great
distance off lay the railway, which would take us in a few hours to
Bordeaux, to the delights of café and boulevard. "Oh! but they are
droll, these English!"

Any one leaving St. Marie must remark a singular, conical hill which
rises abruptly from the plain before him. It is topped by a wooden
steeple, while the dark outlines of walls and towers form a crown
about its summit, and a row of cypresses rising solemnly above the
lower buildings impart something of mystery to the place. It seemed to
me like nothing so much as Mont St. Michel. In vain we ransacked our
guide books. We could find no word of this fortress town which looked
down on road and river; only in our map we discovered that its name
was Clermont Dessus. Nothing daunted, however, we discovered a field
path, and, climbing the hill, passed through a ruined gateway into the
silence of the place. On three sides the walls were yet fairly
perfect, and within them stood some fifty houses, many in ruins, more
empty, a few inhabited. The floor of one was on a level with the roof
of another, and the only means of access was by steep, tortuous
alleys. The church had been partially restored, but was old and still
bore marks of violent usage. The graveyard on a terrace displayed
twenty-four cypresses, and an ancient stone cross. Above all this rose
the ruins of a castle, smaller than that at La Réole and with traces
of more recent occupation. Woodwork and iron still remained adhering
to the walls. What, we wondered, had been its history. A few women and
children were the only human creatures it held, and we could gather
nothing from them save that it belonged, or had belonged, to the
"Seigneur." For our climb, however, we felt amply rewarded by the view
over the valley of the Garonne, and so ran quickly down the hill and
stepped out stubbornly for Agen, which we reached after twice losing
our way through a too ardent desire to cling to a pleasant green path
by the river.

It was dark when, footsore and tired, we gained the principal street;
and we failed to discover our hotel. "Would you direct us to the Hôtel
de St. Jean?" I asked a decent-looking man who was passing.

"How, monsieur?" he replied, after so long a pause that I feared he
did not understand me; "the Hôtel de St. Jean no longer exists. It has
been closed a year and more."

We looked at each other in silent disgust; and he looked at us. We
were fairly tired out. "Would you have the kindness, then, to tell us
which is the best hotel?" I said with resignation.

"I will conduct you to the Hôtel de St.----," he answered, quickly.
"It is an hotel of the first class."

But when I saw the Hôtel de St. ----, we knew him for a swindler. It
was a miserable place, and we would have none of it. We courteously
said that we did not like it. He insisted. We broke away from him, and
in a few minutes came upon the Hôtel de St. Jean, its doors open to
welcome us, and the light pouring ruddily from its windows. The story
is trivial: I tell it because it was my ill-luck more than once to
fall into the hands of this kind of tout, and be deceived by the tale
that the house to which I had been advised to go was shut. On one
occasion, at Guelmah, in Algeria, I was lured while inquiring for the
Hôtel d'Orient into the Hôtel Auriol, a miserable place. In the
morning I looked out of my window, and to my astonishment saw the name
of the hotel in which I believed myself to be staring me in the face,
painted up in large letters over the door of a house on the farther
side of the square. I rubbed my eyes and wondered, and it was not
until I stood in the open, and read the name of one and the other,
that I recognized with a hearty laugh how I had been taken in.

From Agen, on a fine, sunny morning, we went by rail to Moissac. Here,
attached to the church, is the most delightful cloister in the world,
a cloister rich in arches and capitals of delicate tracery poised on
slender shafts, and half hidden by luxuriant creepers, through which
the light falls soft and green-tinged, as in some sea-grotto. It is a
place for rest and reflection, perfectly adapted to a hot climate;
whereas, he who has only seen the dull, dank portico enclosing danker
grave-stones, the play-ground of cats--which in England we call a
cloister--does not know what the thing is. This church boasted also a
quaint doorway enriched with the more or less coarse designs in which
the monks of yore took pleasure: a doorway reputed to be one of the
most curious in France.

From Moissac we went on foot to Castel Sarrasin, sometimes by the
Tarn, but for the most part by the side of the great canal; and
always, whether by the latter or the river, moving in a soft symphony
of various greens, green streams, green poplars--and oh! such vistas
of them!--green willows, green banks--all mingled together and fading
into one another, and harmoniously blending as the evening fell with
the pale pea-green of the eastern sky. It was a peaceful and silent
walk through a world of restful hues.

From Castel Sarrasin, once no doubt a stronghold of the Moors, to
Montauban we went by train. Montauban, on the Tarn, is a busy place,
but a picturesque one also. Standing on a rough, steep hill, the town
is seamed and cleft by strange, deep valleys with precipitous sides.
Crazy houses with roofs of tiles, so time-stained that they have the
precise appearance of strips of bark, fill these ravines and lean
against their walls. Gardens cling to the ledges of the rocks. Shrubs
and flowers clothe the crannies. Wooden balconies hang everywhere--and
clothes-lines. We were there on market-day, and watched with amusement
the teams of oxen--all fawn-colored--coming in for sale, or dragging
into town the lumbering carts (much like timber-wagons, with boxes
about the middle) in which Madame sat with her produce about her.
Monsieur walked before the oxen, his goad on his shoulder, and a white
nightcap on his head. Oxen push, they do not pull. They shove inwards
against one another, the near legs of the near ox and the off legs of
the off ox being protruded at a considerable angle to get a good
purchase. Very frequently only the feet so used are shod. The driver
always goes before them, and as they follow with lowered heads, they
are perfect images of patient resignation.

An old farmer, stout and jolly-looking, presently met us loitering on
the bridge, and after a long period of staring, spoke to us. "Are you
Germans?" he asked.

"No," I replied with courteous determination, "we are English." He
still eyed us with some suspicion, and after a pause fell to
questioning us about our country. Had we bread, and what kind of
bread? had we any railways?

"Yes," I answered proudly to this last, "we have trains that travel at
the rate of a hundred _kilomètres_ an hour!" A trifling exaggeration
it may be, but human and pardonable.

He gravely nodded his head, however, as if he believed it, and meant
to pose his wife and neighbors with it when he reached home. "You have
grapes and wine?" he continued.

"We grow grapes under glass," I explained, "in glass houses. In the
open air it is generally too cold for them."

"What!" he exclaimed, his jovial face clouding over as it occurred to
him that I was not in earnest. "Will you kindly say that again?"

I did as he wished. But when I had made the matter as clear as I
could, he answered stoutly, "No! It is impossible! Either I do not
understand you, or you do not understand me!" And he went on his way
in a passion. He could believe in the Irish Mail; but the cultivation
of vines under glass was a thing outside his ideas of the world's

From the _place_ at Montauban, an open space pleasantly laid out on
the brow of the hill, it is said that the Pyrenees can be seen on a
fine day. We had a fine day, but we saw no sign of the mountains--our
land at Beulah--though we looked long and lingeringly.

Attracted by a name which seemed familiar to us, and had a ring about
it as of feudal and knightly times, we made a diversion from here to
Cahors on the Lot, an old city standing in a fertile basin, among
bare, brown hills. We were disappointed in the first appearance of the
town. The river still runs round three sides of it, but the ramparts
have been turned into gardens where they have not been levelled; only
one tower of the castle survives; and though there are some
picturesque houses, the town is for the most part modern, and devoted
to Gambetta who was born in it. The cathedral, surmounted by one heavy
tower, backed by three domes in a row, is imposing in its bulky
ugliness. Its floor is much lower than the marketplace without: so
that on entering through the west door you find a flight of steps
before you, and the congregation at your feet immersed in candlelit
gloom. These steps at the Sunday morning service were crowded by
kneeling hucksters and market-women with their baskets, who had
quietly entered as a matter of course from the market, which was in
full swing without, and were devoutly telling their beads, or
listening to a sermon preached by a bishop--a Count-Bishop, too, whose
pastoral ring was still a prominent feature in the scene, so skilfully
did he wave and display it. At Cahors we were much pleased with one of
the bridges, from which rise three Flemish-looking towers. They form
as many gateways, and from every point of view are singularly
picturesque. This bridge may have stood there in its present state
when Henry of Navarre did at Cahors his most famous deed. A strong
garrison was at the time holding the city for the Catholic party, but
Henry, smarting under the loss of La Réole, which had been betrayed by
its governor, determined to seize Cahors. Accordingly he came to it
with fourteen hundred men, and leaving one half of this force outside
to cover his night attack, blew in a gate with a petard and entered
with the rest, being himself the seventh to pass in. A furious battle
in the streets ensued, but when day broke, the Huguenots had mastered
a small part of the city only, and reinforcements for the enemy
arriving, Henry's followers begged him to retire. "No!" he answered,
fighting on with his back to a shop, "I will not retire! My only
retreat from this town shall be the retreat of my soul from my body!"
He kept his word. Street by street and house by house, he reduced the
town, neither side asking or giving quarter. But it was not until the
fifth night after his entrance that he completely mastered the place,
a feat which is generally allowed to stand highest among his warlike

At Cahors it was that we first came under the influence of his name;
but thereafter it grew and grew, a bigger factor in the past, a more
prominent object in our thoughts in the present, the farther south we
travelled; until at Pau, his birthplace and capital, the son of Jeanne
d'Albret, _the Béarnais_, the Navarrese, the Protector of the
Religion, _Henri Quatre_, Henry the Great, seemed to fill all past
history, and dwarf all other figures. We have in English story no
royal personage, no prominent life even, at once so picturesque, so
rich in surprises, so lovable, and so blameworthy. Hot-blooded and
cool-headed, daring to rashness, astute to meanness, a professor and a
profligate, merciful, affectionate, yet letting nothing intervene
between him and his aims--who that is man shall judge him? Surely the
wine which Henry's father raised to his new-born lips, the cold water
which was dashed in his hour-old face, the national song his mother
sang at his birth, did really reproduce themselves in his life.

Leaving Cahors in the evening, we slept at a small village called
Lelbenque, and were on foot before eight next day, and on our way
across the hills to Caylus. The country through which we passed in the
fresh morning air, a range of bleak lime-stone heights sparsely
covered with oak trees, seemed thinly peopled, and little tilled. Here
and there in the wooded depths of a valley, we came upon a sparkling
brook and a few comfortable farm-houses nestling among fruit trees,
and protected by abrupt limestone walls from the cold winds which
swept across the uplands. The distance to Caylus was sixteen miles.
There were no inns, and as we had breakfasted rather meagrely on
coffee and bread, we were driven to beg something at one of the
farm-houses. There were only women at home, and these were with reason
astonished to see foreign tramps in that out-of-the-way district. They
seemed even a little afraid of us, but we got what we wanted
notwithstanding the growling of the dogs; and our offer of payment was
declined with suspicious abruptness. I fancy that they suspected us of
wanting change.

About mid-day we passed over the last ridge of the uplands, and saw
below us a narrow fertile valley squeezed in between mountain-walls.
Halfway through this gorge and in the middle of it, a hill or rock
rose abruptly almost to the height of a thousand feet. On this,
lording it over the road, stood Caylus, its houses and gardens
descending terrace by terrace from the castle-nucleus on the crest
almost to the road. Very old was the church, about the porch of
which are carved green animals in the act of nibbling one another's
tails under the superintendence of St. Michael. We took it for St.
Michael. Old, too, seemed the great stone house opposite, known as the
_Maison du Loup_, and bearing uncouth masks and figures of wolves in
high relief on its front. Older still we judged the market-place to
be, which built of wood rests on stone pillars; and the heavy Arcade
or "Row" which stands in the same tiny square with it, and the
beetle-browed wynds that lead to it--all old, gray, heavy,
time-stained, but still solid. In the market hall we noticed three
ancient corn-measures; hollows scooped out in stones that formed part
of the fabric of the hall, with to each a horizontal outlet or spout
at the side, through which the grain when measured might escape into
bag or basket. Even while we were examining these we remarked women
sitting outside the doors about us, removing the grain from stalks of
maize, and plaiting various articles with the straw.

The weather-beaten castle belongs to Madame St. Cyr, but was occupied
when we visited it by Mr. Wilton, an Englishman, who was not at home.
His housekeeper, however, kindly allowed us to go over the building,
and we found the view from the leads of the keep--used, I suspect, as
a smoking-room--very charming. Caylus, to sum up, is difficult of
access and is not even named in "Murray," but I can highly recommend
it as a quaint example of a mediæval town, such as cannot now be found
in England without much searching.

From it we passed by means of a top-heavy, jingling country coach to
St. Anthonin, and so by rail to Albi on the Tarn, Albi of the
Albigenses, the unhappy sect whose fate confutes the saying that the
blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. About Albi, from which
place they took their name, they grew and flourished in the latter
half of the twelfth century. But seventy years later, notwithstanding
the attempt which their feudal lord, Raymond of Toulouse, made to
protect them, they were virtually extinct. Save that they dissented
from the Romish Church, their very doctrines are now unknown or to be
found only in the writings of their enemies, and their story and
fortunes are too often confounded with those of the Waldenses. Simon
de Montfort, the father of our Simon de Montfort, took a conspicuous
part in the cruel deeds which attended their suppression. At the fall
of Beziers, heretic and churchman were put to the sword together.
"Slay all--God will know His own," said the gentle Abbot Arnold. And
in a sense wisely: for it is only the man of half measures who fails
as a persecutor. To be perfectly ruthless, perfectly thorough in the
work, is to be successful also. At any rate at Albi, which, like
Cahors, stands among hills, there are no traces of the Albigenses
left; not even such a story as rings about the name of Beziers with
fire. Rather the great cathedral proclaims Rome's victory. Built
externally of bricks, it is a huge blind oblong with an apsidal end. A
swelling base and rounded buttresses add to its heavy appearance. Yet
it is very lofty. The monstrous red tower hung about with giddy
balconies rises nearly to the height of three hundred feet, while the
church itself, the lower part of which has no openings or windows,
seems half that height. In a word, the whole is as much a fortress as
a cathedral. Lofty flights of steps lead to a raised porch, formed by
three arches decorated with carvings lately and successfully restored.
Entering the church through this we find the interior a striking
sight. In shape it is a vast hall surrounded by chapels in two
stories, and with a choir screened off at one end. The interior still
remains in the state to which our Puritans objected, the state
probably characterized more churches than we now imagine. It is
covered from ceiling to floor with frescoes and paintings and
scrollwork, some gaudy, some subdued, some good, some bad. The very
statues are painted and gilded, and although here and there the effect
is garish and unpleasing, I do not agree that the appearance of the
whole, as the vast mass of color presents itself to the eyes, broken
by the exquisite carvings of the stone screen or a bevy of tinted
marbles, is absolutely unharmonious. I found it more pleasing than I
expected. And then what would have been the effect of these plain
walls in their naked monotony?

The paintings are mainly of the date of Francis I., say about 1520.
Two frescoes of Hell and the Passions, done by Italian artists, cover
the west end--cover acres of it as it seems; and in a chapel, among
other anachronisms is a notable picture of Christ, in which He is
figured in a hat and feather and the dress of a courtier of the time
in the midst of Roman soldiers who are kicking Him along. A great
store of information as to the dresses and customs of the early part
of the sixteenth century is laid up here, to be ransacked by any one
who will take the trouble to closely inspect this huge interior. The
groups painted upon the walls, groups of people fighting, tourneying,
feasting, dancing, dying--ay, and doing many things scarcely adapted
to church decoration--are to be counted by thousands; as are the gold
stars that stud the bright blue ceiling. There is something suggestive
in the portrayal of these things in this place; they seem to tell of a
faith which, with all its scandals, abuses, and laxity, was bound up
intimately with the life of the people, with their joys as well as
their griefs; and so smacked of One who did not consider the price of
sparrows as beneath knowledge.

At any rate we were pleased with these things. The interior of Albi
Cathedral may not be in the best taste. It may be meretricious, it may
be gilt rather than of gold. But it is curious; it is almost unique;
it is a museum in itself; and to an Englishman accustomed to the cold
if correct lines of a Gothic church, its warmth and color afford a not
unwelcome change.

At Auch we arrived at night, and found it to be an old-fashioned
archiepiscopal city on the summit and southern slope of a precipitous
hill. Here we came upon the first traces--a Spanish pedler, a
Navarrese bonnet--of that strange borderland between Spain and Western
France in which three languages and a dozen _patois_, French, Spanish,
Basque, the Langue d'Oc, the Langue d'Or, and Gascon and Provençal and
the tongue of Andorra, and I know not what others, are fighting for
the mastery: where two great nations now peaceably march, dividing
between them the wild country where the kingdom of Navarre once sat
enthroned on hills with the free Basque communities about her. It is a
country rich in memories of independence, of strife; of brigandage, of
romance; of the free life of the hunter; a land of snow-clad peaks and
deep valleys, and rolling, wooded hills full of creatures elsewhere
extinct, bears, and izards, and, shall I add, Basques. Here are
Roncesvalles and the Bidassoa, Fontarabia and Orthez, San Sebastian
and the Isle of Peacocks. Moor and Paladin, Scot and Spaniard,
Charlemagne and Wellington, have all passed this way and left deep

And Auch stands on the verge of this strange country; an old city, but
full of energy and with no trace of decay. From the river, flights of
wide steps with spacious landings, gay with flowers and fountains,
climb the southern face of the hill, which the best road-maker would
find impracticable. At the head of these steps and commanding
extensive prospects stands the cathedral, a beacon to all the country
between it and the skirts of the mountains. The building is fine, but
its pride lies in the wood carvings of the unrivalled choir. My guide,
an ex-soldier, also pointed out with pride some cymbals presented to
the cathedral by the first Napoleon: trophies, so he told me, of the
Egyptian campaign.

We wandered out in the afternoon to the brow of a ridge of hills
lying on the far side of the river, and throwing ourselves down upon
some heather and bracken--it was a warm and sunny but not very clear
day--began to cast speculative glances towards Spain. But while we
thought that we were looking southwards our eyes were really turned
too much to the east. And presently we discovered this in a strange
way. For glancing by chance towards the skyline on our right, we saw,
first, a brown autumnal landscape of woods and hills, and beyond this
a long, gray cloud, the horizon, as we thought; and above that--ah!
what was it we saw above that? A line of silvery peaks, gleaming in a
gray, sheeny atmosphere of their own, so pure, so soft, so far above
this world of ours, that as the words "The Pyrenees!" broke the first
moments of astonished silence, we felt that for once the thing long
looked for had passed our expectations! Our hearts fastened upon the
distance. The pleasant landscape spread out before us lost its charms.
It was homely, it was flat, it was commonplace, it was of the earth
earthy, beside the serene beauty of the snowy crests and untrodden
wastes that shone and sparkled in that far distance, and anon grew
cold and dim as the veil of cloud was drawn before them even while we

When they were gone, we felt that nothing save the mountains would now
satisfy us. We had a craving for them, such as I have sometimes felt
for the sea. A sudden conviction that we were wasting our time in a
world of small things, while the wonders of the hills lay close at
hand, overwhelmed us. We hurried homewards, talking of peaks, and
glaciers, and passes, of Cauteret and Gavarnie, Mont Perdu and the Pic
du Midi; and packed in the same state of pleasant excitement. The next
morning saw us passing through the same country, rich in autumn tints,
in leafy bottoms, and rippling streams, which we had seen stretched
out before us. And the evening saw us stand on the famous Place
Royale, hard by the castle where Henry of Navarre was born, feasting
our eyes on the cold, bright tints of the great mountains, seen sharp
and clear above the Jurance hills, and listening to the rushing waters
of the Gave. Our Garonne pilgrimage was over.

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