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Title: A Sortnight of Folly
Author: Thompson, Maurice, 1844-1901
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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  A Fortnight of Folly

  BY
  MAURICE THOMPSON

  AUTHOR OF
  "Alice of Old Vincennes," "A Banker of Bankersville," etc.

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  STREET & SMITH, PUBLISHERS



  Copyright, 1888
  By THE ALDEN PUBLISHING COMPANY

  Copyright, 1902
  By STREET & SMITH

  A Fortnight of Folly



CONTENTS


  A FORTNIGHT OF FOLLY.
  THE TALE OF A SCULPTOR, by HUGH CONWAY
  CARRISTON'S GIFT.



A FORTNIGHT OF FOLLY.


I.

The Hotel Helicon stood on a great rock promontory that jutted far out
into a sea of air whose currents and eddies filled a wide, wild valley
in the midst of our southern mountain region. It was a new hotel, built
by a Cincinnati man who founded his fortune in natural gas speculations,
and who had conceived the bright thought of making the house famous at
the start by a stroke of rare liberality.

Viewing the large building from any favorable point in the valley, it
looked like a huge white bird sitting with outstretched wings on the
gray rock far up against the tender blue sky. All around it the forests
were thick and green, the ravines deep and gloomy and the rocks tumbled
into fantastic heaps. When you reached it, which was after a whole day
of hard zig-zag climbing, you found it a rather plain three-story house,
whose broad verandas were worried with a mass of jig-saw fancies and
whose windows glared at you between wide open green Venetian shutters.
Everything look new, almost raw, from the stumps of fresh-cut trees on
the lawn and the rope swings and long benches, upon which the paint
was scarcely dry, to the resonant floor of the spacious halls and the
cedar-fragrant hand-rail of the stairway.

There were springs among the rocks. Here the water trickled out with a
red gleam of iron oxide, there it sparkled with an excess of carbonic
acid, and yonder it bubbled up all the more limpid and clear on account
of the offensive sulphuretted hydrogen it was bringing forth. Masses
of fern, great cushions of cool moss and tangles of blooming shrubs
and vines fringed the sides of the little ravines down which the
spring-streams sang their way to the silver thread of a river in the
valley.

It was altogether a dizzy perch, a strange, inconvenient, out-of-the-way
spot for a summer hotel. You reached it all out of breath, confused as
to the points of the compass and disappointed, in every sense of the
word, with what at first glance struck you as a colossal pretense,
empty, raw, vulgar, loud--a great trap into which you had been inveigled
by an eloquent hand-bill! Hotel Helicon, as a name for the place, was
considered a happy one. It had come to the proprietor, as if in a dream,
one day as he sat smoking. He slapped his thigh with his hand and sprang
to his feet. The word that went so smoothly with hotel, as he fancied,
had no special meaning in his mind, for the gas man had never been
guilty of classical lore-study, but it furnished a taking alliteration.

"Hotel Helicon, Hotel Helicon," he repeated; "that's just a dandy name.
Hotel Helicon on Mount Boab, open for the season! If that doesn't get
'em I'll back down."

His plans matured themselves very rapidly in his mind. One brilliant
idea followed another in swift succession, until at last he fell upon
the scheme of making Hotel Helicon free for the initial season to a
select company of authors chosen from among the most brilliant and
famous in our country.

"Zounds!" he exclaimed, all to himself, "but won't that be a darling old
advertisement! I'll have a few sprightly newspaper people along with
'em, too, to do the interviewing and puffing. By jacks, it's just the
wrinkle to a dot!"

Mr. Gaslucky was of the opinion that, like Napoleon, he was in the hands
of irresistible destiny which would ensure the success of whatever he
might undertake; still he was also a realist and depended largely upon
tricks for his results. He had felt the great value of what he liked to
term legitimate advertising, and he was fond of saying to himself that
any scheme would succeed if properly set before the world. He regarded
it a maxim that anything which can be clearly described is a fact. His
realism was the gospel of success, he declared, and needed but to be
stated to be adopted by all the world.

From the first he saw how his hotel was to be an intellectual focus;
moreover he designed to have it radiate its own glory like a star set
upon Mt. Boab.

The difficulties inherent in this project were from the first quite
apparent to Mr. Gaslucky, but he was full of expedients and cunning.
He had come out of the lowest stratum of life, fighting his way up to
success, and his knowledge of human nature was accurate if not very
broad.

Early in the summer, about the first days of June, in fact, certain
well-known and somewhat distinguished American authors received by
due course of mail an autograph letter from Mr. Gaslucky, which was
substantially as follows:

  CINCINNATI, O., May 30, 1887.

  MY DEAR SIR:

  The Hotel Helicon, situated on the Lencadian promontory, far up the
  height of Mt. Boab and overlooking the glorious valley of the Big
  Mash River, amid the grandest scenery of the Cumberland Mountains,
  where at their southern extremity they break into awful peaks,
  chasms and escarpments, is now thrown open to a few favored guests
  for the summer. The proprietor in a spirit of liberality (and for
  the purpose of making this charming hotel known to a select public)
  is issuing a few special invitations to distinguished people to come
  and spend the summer free of charge. You are cordially and urgently
  invited. The Hotel Helicon is a place to delight the artist and the
  _litterateur_. It is high, airy, cool, surrounded by wild scenes,
  good shooting and fishing at hand, incomparable mineral springs,
  baths, grottos, dark ravines and indeed everything engaging to the
  imagination. The proprietor will exhaust effort to make his chosen
  guests happy. The rooms are new, sweet, beautifully furnished and
  altogether comfortable, and the table will have every delicacy of
  the season served in the best style. There will be no uninvited
  guests, all will be chosen from the most exalted class. Come, and
  for one season taste the sweets of the dews of Helicon, without
  money and without price.

  If you accept this earnest and cordial invitation, notify me at
  once. Hotel Helicon is at your command.

  Truly yours,
  ISAIAH R. GASLUCKY.

It is needless to say that this letter was the product of a professional
advertising agent employed for the occasion by the proprietor of Hotel
Helicon. The reader will observe the earmarks of the creation and
readily recognize the source. Of course, when the letter was addressed
to a woman there was a change, not only in the gender of the terms, but
in the tone, which took on a more persuasive color. The attractions
of the place were described in more poetic phrasing and a cunningly
half-hidden thread of romance, about picturesque mountaineers and
retired and reformed bandits, was woven in.

Naturally enough, each individual who received this rather uncommon
letter, read it askance, at first, suspecting a trick, but the
newspapers soon cleared the matter up by announcing that Mr. Isaiah
Gaslucky, of Cincinnati, had "conceived the happy idea of making his
new and picturesque Hotel Helicon free this season to a small and
select company of distinguished guests. The hotel will not be open to
the public until next year."

And thus it came to pass that in midsummer such a company as never
before was assembled, met on Mt. Boab and made the halls of Hotel
Helicon gay with their colors and noisy with their mirth. The woods,
the dizzy cliffs, the bubbling springs, the cool hollows, the windy
peaks and the mossy nooks were filled with song, laughter, murmuring
under-tones of sentiment, or something a little sweeter and warmer, and
there were literary conversations, and critical talks, and jolly satire
bandied about, with some scraps of adventure and some bits of rather
ludicrous mishap thrown in for variety.

Over all hung a summer sky, for the most part cloudless, and the days
were as sweet as the nights were delicious.


II.

In the afternoon of a breezy day, at the time when the shadows were
taking full possession of the valley, the coach arrived at Hotel Helicon
from the little railway station at the foot of Mt. Boab.

A man, the only passenger, alighted from his perch beside the driver and
for a moment stood as if a little dazed by what he saw.

He was very short, rather round and stout, and bore himself quietly,
almost demurely. His head was large, his feet and hands were small and
his face wore the expression of an habitual good humor amounting nearly
to jolliness, albeit two vertical wrinkles between his brows hinted of a
sturdy will seated behind a heavy Napoleonic forehead. The stubby tufts
of grizzled hair that formed his mustaches shaded a mouth and chin at
once strong and pleasing. He impressed the group of people on the hotel
veranda most favorably, and at once a little buzz of inquiry circulated.
No one knew him.

That this was an important arrival could not be doubted; it was felt at
once and profoundly. Great men carry an air of individuality about with
them; each, like a planet, has his own peculiar atmosphere by which his
light is modified. There was no mistaking the light in this instance; it
indicated a luminary of the first magnitude.

Unfortunately the guests at Hotel Helicon were not required to record
their names in a register, therefore the new comer could bide his own
time to make himself known.

Miss Alice Moyne, of Virginia, the beautiful young author of two or
three picturesque short stories lately published in a popular magazine,
was in conversation with Hartley Crane, the rising poet from Kentucky,
just at the moment when this new arrival caused a flutter on the
veranda.

"Oh, I do wonder if he can be Edgar De Vere?" she exclaimed.

"No," said Hartley Crane, "I have seen De Vere; he is as large and as
fascinating as his romances. That little pudgy individual could never
make a great romantic fiction like _Solway Moss_, by De Vere."

"But that is a superb head," whispered Miss Moyne, "the head of a
master, a genius."

"Oh, there are heads and heads, genius and genius," replied Crane. "I
guess the new-comer off as a newspaper man from Chicago or New York. It
requires first-class genius to be a good reporter."

The stranger under discussion was now giving some directions to a porter
regarding his luggage. This he did with that peculiar readiness, or
sleight, so to call it, which belongs to none but the veteran traveler.
A moment later he came up the wooden steps of the hotel, cast a
comprehensive but apparently indifferent glance over the group of guests
and passed into the hall, where they heard him say to the boy in
waiting: "My room is 24."

"That is the reserved room," remarked two or three persons at once.

Great expectations hung about room 24; much guessing had been indulged
in considering who was to be the happy and exalted person chosen to
occupy it. Now he had arrived, an utter stranger to them all. Everybody
looked inquiry.

"Who can he be?"

"It must be Mark Twain," suggested little Mrs. Philpot, of Memphis.

"Oh, no; Mark Twain is tall, and very handsome; I know Mark," said
Crane.

"How strange!" ejaculated Miss Moyne, and when everybody laughed, she
colored a little and added hastily:

"I didn't mean that it was strange that Mr. Crane should know Mr. Twain,
but----"

They drowned her voice with their laughter and hand-clapping.

They were not always in this very light mood at Hotel Helicon, but just
now they all felt in a trivial vein. It was as if the new guest had
brought a breath of frivolous humor along with him and had blown it over
them as he passed by.

Room 24 was the choice one of Hotel Helicon. Every guest wanted it, on
account of its convenience, its size and the superb view its windows
afforded; but from the first it had been reserved for this favored
individual whose arrival added greater mystery to the matter.

As the sun disappeared behind the western mountains, and the great gulf
of the valley became a sea of purplish gloom, conversation clung in half
whispers to the subject who meantime was arraying himself in evening
dress for dinner, posing before the large mirror in room 24 and smiling
humorously at himself as one who, criticising his own foibles, still
holds to them with a fortitude almost Christian.

He parted his hair in the middle, but the line of division was very
slight, and he left a pretty, half-curled short wisp hanging over the
centre of his forehead. The wide collar that hid his short neck creased
his heavy well-turned jaws, giving to his chin the appearance of being
propped up. Although he was quite stout, his head was so broad and his
feet so small that he appeared to taper from top to toe in a way that
emphasized very forcibly his expression of blended dignity and jollity,
youth and middle age, sincerity and levity. When he had finished his
toilet, he sat down by the best window in the best room of Hotel
Helicon, and gazed out over the dusky valley to where a line of
quivering silver light played fantastically along the line of peaks that
notched the delicate blue of the evening sky. The breeze came in, cool
and sweet, with a sort of champagne sparkle in its freshness and purity.
It whetted his appetite and blew the dust of travel out of his mind. He
was glad when the dinner hour arrived.

The long table was nearly full when he went down, and he was given a
seat between Miss Moyne and little Mrs. Philpot. By that secret cerebral
trick we all know, but which none of us can explain, he was aware that
the company had just been discussing him. In fact, someone had ventured
to wonder if he were Mr. Howells, whereupon Mr. Crane had promptly said
that he knew Mr. Howells quite well, and that although in a general
way the new-comer was not unlike the famous realist, he was far from
identical with him.

Laurens Peck, the bushy-bearded New England critic, whispered in
someone's ear that it appeared as if Crane knew everybody, but that
the poet's lively imagination had aided him more than his eyes, in all
probability. "Fact is," said he, "a Kentuckian soon gets so that he
_thinks_ he has been everywhere and seen everybody, whether he has or
not."

Out of this remark grew a serious affair which it will be my duty to
record at the proper place.

Little Mrs. Philpot, who wore gold eye-glasses and had elongated dimples
in her cheeks and chin, dexterously managed to have a word or two with
the stranger, who smiled upon her graciously without attempting to enter
into a conversation. Miss Moyne fared a little better, for she had the
charm of grace and beauty to aid her, attended by one of those puffs
of good luck which come to none but the young and the beautiful. Mr.
B. Hobbs Lucas, a large and awkward historian from New York, knocked
over a bottle of claret with his elbow, and the liquor shot with an
enthusiastic sparkle diagonally across the table in order to fall on
Miss Moyne's lap.

With that celerity which in very short and stout persons appears to
be spontaneous, a sort of elastic quality, the gentleman from room 24
interposed his suddenly outspread napkin. The historian flung himself
across the board after the bottle, clawing rather wildly and upsetting
things generally. It was but a momentary scene, such as children at
school and guests at a summer hotel make more or less merry over, still
it drew forth from the genial man of room 24 a remark which slipped into
Miss Moyne's ear with the familiarity of well trained humor.

"A deluge of wine in a free hotel!" he exclaimed, just above a whisper.
"Such generosity is nearly shocking."

"I am sorry you mention it," said Miss Moyne, with her brightest and
calmest smile; "I have been idealizing the place. A gush of grape-juice
on Helicon is a picturesque thing to contemplate."

"But a lap-full of claret on Mt. Boab is not so fine, eh? What a farce
poetry is! What a humbug is romance!"

The historian had sunk back in his chair and was scowling at the purple
stain which kept slowly spreading through the fiber of the cloth.

"I always do something," he sighed, and his sincerity was obvious.

"And always with _aplomb_," remarked little Mrs. Philpot.

"It would be a genius who could knock over a claret bottle with grace,"
added Peck. "Now a jug of ale----"

"I was present at table once with Mr. Emerson," began the Kentucky poet,
but nobody heard the rest. A waiter came with a heavy napkin to cover
the stain, and as he bent over the table he forced the man from room 24
to incline very close to Miss Moyne.

"To think of making an instance of Emerson!" he murmured. "Emerson who
died before he discovered that men and women have to eat, or that wine
will stain a new dress!"

"But then he discovered so many things----" she began.

"Please mention one of them," he glibly interrupted. "What did Emerson
ever discover? Did he ever pen a single truth?"

    "Aloft in secret veins of air
    Blows the sweet breath of song,"

she replied. "He trod the very headlands of truth. But you are not
serious----" she checked herself, recollecting that she was speaking to
a stranger.

"Not serious but emphatically in earnest," he went on, in the same
genial tone with which he had begun. "There isn't a thing but cunning
phrase-form in anything the man ever wrote. He didn't know how to
represent life."

"Oh, I see," Miss Moyne ventured, "you are a realist."

It is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the peculiar shade of
contempt she conveyed through the words. She lifted her head a little
higher and her beauty rose apace. It was as if she had stamped her
little foot and exclaimed: "Of all things I detest realism--of all men,
I hate realists."

"But I kept the wine off your dress!" he urged, as though he had
heard her thought. "There's nothing good but what is real. Romance is
lie-tissue. Reality is truth-tissue."

"Permit me to thank you for your good intentions," she said, with a
flash of irony; "you held the napkin just in the right position, but
the wine never fell from the table. Still your kindness lost nothing in
quality because the danger was imaginary."

When dinner was over, Miss Moyne sought out Hartley Crane, the Kentucky
poet who knew everybody, and suggested that perhaps the stranger was
Mr. Arthur Selby, the analytical novelist whose name was on everybody's
tongue.

"But Arthur Selby is thin and bald and has a receding chin. I met him
often at the--I forget the club in New York," said Crane. "It's more
likely that he's some reporter. He's a snob, anyway."

"Dear me, no, not a snob, Mr. Crane; he is the most American man I ever
met," replied Miss Moyne.

"But Americans are the worst of all snobs," he insisted, "especially
literary Americans. They adore everything that's foreign and pity
everything that's home-made."

As he said this he was remembering how Tennyson's and Browning's poems
were overshadowing his own, even in Kentucky. From the ring of his voice
Miss Moyne suspected something of this sort, and adroitly changed the
subject.


III.

It might be imagined that a hotel full of authors would be sure to
generate some flashes of disagreement, but, for a time at least,
everything went on charmingly at Hotel Helicon. True enough, the name of
the occupant of room 24 remained a vexatious secret which kept growing
more and more absorbing as certain very cunningly devised schemes for
its exposure were easily thwarted; but even this gave the gentleman
a most excellent excuse for nagging the ladies in regard to feminine
curiosity and lack of generalship. Under the circumstances it was not to
be expected that everybody should be strictly guarded in the phrasing
of speech, still so genial and good-humored was the nameless man and so
engaging was his way of evading or turning aside every thrust, that he
steadily won favor. Little Mrs. Philpot, whose seven year old daughter
(a bright and sweet little child) had become the pet of Hotel Helicon,
was enthusiastic in her pursuit of the stranger's name, and at last she
hit upon a plan that promised immediate success. She giggled all to
herself, like a high-school girl, instead of like a widow of thirty, as
she contemplated certain victory.

"Now do you think you can remember, dear?" she said to May, the child,
after having explained over and over again what she wished her to do.

"Yeth," said May, who lisped charmingly in the sweetest of child voices.

"Well, what must you say?"

"I muth thay: Pleathe write your--your----"

"Autograph."

"Yeth, your au--to--graph in my album."

"That's right, autograph, autograph, don't forget. Now let me hear you
say it."

"Pleathe write your autograph in my book."

Mrs. Philpot caught the child to her breast and kissed it vigorously,
and not long afterward little May went forth to try the experiment. She
was armed with her mother's autograph album. When she approached her
victim he thought he never had seen so lovely a child. The mother had
not spared pains to give most effect to the little thing's delicate and
appealing beauty by an artistic arrangement of the shining gold hair and
by the simplest but cunningest tricks of color and drapery.

With that bird-like shyness so winning in a really beautiful little
girl, May walked up to the stranger and made a funny, hesitating
courtesy. He looked at her askance, his smiling face shooting forth a
ray of tenderness along with a gleam of shrewd suspicion, as he made out
the album in her dimpled little hand.

"Good morning, little one," he said cheerily. "Have you come to make a
call?"

He held out both hands and looked so kindly and good that she smiled
until dimples just like her mother's played over her cheeks and chin.
Half sidewise she crept into his arms and held up the book.

"Pleathe write your photograph in my book," she murmured.

He took her very gently on his knee, chuckling vigorously, his heavy
jaws shaking and coloring.

"Who told you to come?" he inquired, with a guilty cunning twinkle in
his gray eyes.

"Mama told me," was the prompt answer.

Again the man chuckled, and, between the shame he felt for having
betrayed the child and delight at the success of his perfidy, he grew
quite red in the face. He took the autograph album and turned its stiff,
ragged-edged leaves, glancing at the names.

"Ah, this is your mama's book, is it?" he went on.

"Yeth it is," said May.

"And I must write my name in it?"

"No, your--your----"

"Well what?"

"I don't 'member."

He took from his pocket a stylographic pen and dashed a picturesque sign
manual across a page.

While the ink was drying he tenderly kissed the child's forehead and
then rested his chin on her bright hair. He could hear the clack of
balls and mallets and the creak of a lazy swing down below on the
so-called lawn, and a hum of voices arose from the veranda. He looked
through the open window and saw, as in a dream, blue peaks set against
a shining rim of sky with a wisp of vultures slowly wheeling about in
a filmy, sheeny space.

"Mama said I muthn't stay," apologized the child, slipping down from his
knee, which she had found uncomfortably short.

He pulled himself together from a diffused state of revery and beamed
upon her again with his cheerful smile.

She turned near the door and dropped another comical little courtesy,
bobbing her curly head till her hair twinkled like a tangle of
starbeams on a brook-ripple, then she darted away, book in hand.

Little Mrs. Philpot snatched the album from May, as she ran to her, and
greedily rustled the leaves in search of the new record, finding which
she gazed at it while her face irradiated every shade of expression
between sudden delight and utter perplexity. In fact she could not
decipher the autograph, although the handwriting surely was not bad.
Loath as she naturally was to sharing her secret with her friends,
curiosity at length prevailed and she sought help. Everybody in turn
tried to make out the two short words, all in vain till Crane, by the
poet's subtle vision, cleared up the mystery, at least to his own
satisfaction.

"Gaspard Dufour is the name," he asserted, with considerable show of
conscious superiority. "A Canadian, I think. In fact I imperfectly
recall meeting him once at a dinner given by the Governor General to
Lord Rosenthal at Quebec. He writes plays."

"Another romance out of the whole cloth by the Bourbon æsthete!"
whispered the critic. "There's no such a Canadian as Gaspard Dufour,
and besides the man's a Westerner rather over-Bostonized. I can tell
by his voice and his mixed manners."

"But Mrs. Hope would know him," suggested the person addressed. "She
meets all the Hub _literati_, you know."

"_Literati!_" snarled the critic, putting an end to further discussion.

A few minutes later Mr. Gaspard Dufour came down and passed out of the
hotel, taking his way into the nearest ravine. He wore a very short coat
and a slouch hat. In his hand he carried a bundle of fishing-rod joints.
A man of his build looks far from dignified in such dress, at best; but
nothing could have accentuated more sharply his absurd grotesqueness of
appearance than the peculiar waddling gait he assumed as he descended
the steep place and passed out of sight, a fish basket bobbing beside
him and a red kerchief shining around his throat.

Everybody looked at his neighbor and smiled inquisitively. Now that they
had discovered his name, the question arose: What had Gaspard Dufour
ever done that he should be accorded the place of honor in Hotel
Helicon. No one (save Crane, in a shadowy way) had ever heard of him
before. No doubt they all felt a little twinge of resentment; but
Dufour, disappearing down the ravine, had in some unaccountable way
deepened his significance.


IV.

Everybody knows that a mountain hotel has no local color, no sympathy
with its environment, no gift of making its guests feel that they are
anywhere in particular. It is all very delightful to be held aloft on
the shoulder of a giant almost within reach of the sky; but the charm of
the thing is not referable to any definite, visible cause, such as one
readily bases one's love of the sea-side on, or such as accounts for our
delight in the life of a great city. No matter how fine the effect of
clouds and peaks and sky and gorge, no matter how pure and exhilarating
the air, or how blue the filmy deeps of distance, or how mossy the
rocks, or how sweet the water, or how cool the wooded vales, the hotel
stands there in an indefinite way, with no _raison d'etre_ visible in
its make-up, but with an obvious impudence gleaming from its windows.
One cannot deport one's self at such a place as if born there. The
situation demands--nay, exacts behavior somewhat special and peculiar.
No lonely island in the sea is quite as isolated and out of the world
as the top of any mountain, nor can any amount of man's effort soften
in the least the savage individuality of mountain scenery so as to
render those high places familiar or homelike or genuinely habitable.
Delightful enough and fascinating enough all mountain hotels surely are;
but the sensation that living in one of them induces is the romantic
consciousness of being in a degree "out of space, out of time." No doubt
this feeling was heightened and intensified in the case of the guests at
Hotel Helicon who were enjoying the added novelty of entire freedom from
the petty economies that usually dog the footsteps and haunt the very
dreams of the average summer sojourner. At all events, they were mostly
a light-hearted set given over to a freedom of speech and action which
would have horrified them on any lower plane.

Scarcely had Gaspard Dufour passed beyond sight down the ravine in
search of a trout-brook, than he became the subject of free discussion.
Nothing strictly impolite was said about him; but everybody in some way
expressed amazement at everybody's ignorance of a man whose importance
was apparent and whose name vaguely and tauntingly suggested to each one
of them a half-recollection of having seen it in connection with some
notable literary sensation.

"Is there a member of the French institute by the name of Dufour?"
inquired R. Hobbs Lucas, the historian, thoughtfully knitting his heavy
brows.

"I am sure not," said Hartley Crane, "for I met most of the members when
I was last at Paris and I do not recall the name."

"There goes that Bourbon again," muttered Laurens Peck, the critic; "if
one should mention Xenophon, that fellow would claim a personal
acquaintance with him!"

It was plain enough that Peck did not value Crane very highly, and Crane
certainly treated Peck very coolly. Miss Moyne, however, was blissfully
unaware that she was the cause of this trouble, and for that matter the
men themselves would have denied with indignant fervor any thing of the
kind. Both of them were stalwart and rather handsome, the Kentuckian
dark and passionate looking, the New Yorker fair, cool and willful
in appearance. Miss Moyne had been pleased with them both, without a
special thought of either, whilst they were going rapidly into the worry
and rapture of love, with no care for anybody but her.

She was beautiful and good, sweet-voiced, gentle, more inclined to
listen than to talk, and so she captivated everybody from the first.

"I think it would be quite interesting," she said, "if it should turn
out that Mr. Dufour is a genuine foreign author, like Tolstoï or Daudet
or----"

"Realists, and nobody but realists," interposed Mrs. Philpot; "why don't
you say Zola, and have done with it?"

"Well, Zola, then, if it must be," Miss Moyne responded; "for, barring
my American breeding and my Southern conservatism, I am nearly in
sympathy with--no, not that exactly, but we are so timid. I should like
to feel a change in the literary air."

"Oh, you talk just as Arthur Selby writes in his critical papers. He's
all the time trying to prove that fiction is truth and that truth is
fiction. He lauds Zola's and Dostoieffsky's filthy novels to the skies;
but in his own novels he's as prudish and Puritanish as if he had been
born on Plymouth Rock instead of on an Illinois prairie."

"I wonder why he is not a guest here," some one remarked. "I should have
thought that our landlord would have had _him_ at all hazards. Just now
Selby is monopolizing the field of American fiction. In fact I think he
claims the earth."

"It is so easy to assume," said Guilford Ferris, whose romances always
commanded eulogy from the press, but invariably fell dead on the market;
"but I am told that Selby makes almost nothing from the sales of his
books."

"But the magazines pay him handsomely," said Miss Moyne.

"Yes, they do," replied Ferris, pulling his long brown mustache
reflectively, "and I can't see why. He really is not popular; there is
no enthusiasm for his fiction."

"It's a mere vogue, begotten by the critics," said Hartley Crane.
"Criticism is at a very low ebb in America. Our critics are all either
ignorant or given over to putting on English and French airs."

Ferris opened his eyes in a quiet way and glanced at Peck who, however,
did not appear to notice the remark.

"There's a set of them in Boston and New York," Crane went on, "who
watch the _Revue de Deux Mondes_ and the London _Atheneum_, ready to
take the cue from them. Even American books must stand or fall by the
turn of the foreign thumb."

"That is a very ancient grumble," said Ferris, in a tone indicative of
impartial indifference.

"Take these crude, loose, awkward, almost obscene Russian novels,"
continued Crane, "and see what a furor the critics of New York and
Boston have fermented in their behalf, all because it chanced that a
_coterie_ of Parisian literary _roués_ fancied the filthy imaginings of
Dostoieffsky and the raw vulgarity of Tolstoï. What would they say of
_you_, Ferris, if _you_ should write so low and dirty a story as _Crime
and Its Punishment_ by Dostoieffsky?"

"Oh, I don't know, and, begging your grace, I don't care a straw,"
Ferris replied; "the publishers would steal all my profits in any
event."

"Do you really believe that?" inquired Peck.

"Believe it? I know it," said Ferris. "When did you ever know of a
publisher advertising a book as in its fiftieth thousand so long as the
author had any royalty on the sales? The only book of mine that ever had
a run was one I sold outright in the manuscript to George Dunkirk & Co.,
who publish all my works. That puerile effort is now in its ninetieth
thousand, while the best of the other six has not yet shown up two
thousand! Do you catch the point?"

"But what difference can printing a statement of the books sold make,
anyway?" innocently inquired Miss Moyne.

Ferris laughed.

"All the difference in the world," he said; "the publisher would have to
account to the author for all those thousands, don't you see."

"But they have to account, anyhow," replied Miss Moyne, with a perplexed
smile.

"Account!" exclaimed Ferris, contemptuously; "account! yes, they have to
account."

"But they account to me," Miss Moyne gently insisted.

"Who are your publishers?" he demanded.

"George Dunkirk & Co.," was the answer.

"Well," said he, "I'll wager you anything I can come within twenty of
guessing the sales up to date of your book. It has sold just eleven
hundred and forty copies."

She laughed merrily and betrayed the dangerous closeness of his guess by
coloring a little.

"Oh, its invariably just eleven hundred and forty copies, no matter what
kind of a book it is, or what publisher has it," he continued; "I've
investigated and have settled the matter."

The historian was suddenly thoughtful, little Mrs. Philpot appeared to
be making some abstruse calculation, Crane was silently gazing at the
ground and Peck, with grim humor in his small eyes, remarked that eleven
hundred and forty was a pretty high average upon the whole.

Just at this point a figure appeared in the little roadway where it made
its last turn lapsing from the wood toward the hotel. A rather tall,
slender and angular young woman, bearing a red leather bag in one hand
and a blue silk umbrella in the other, strode forward with the pace of a
_tragedienne_. She wore a bright silk dress, leaf-green in color, and a
black bonnet, of nearly the Salvation Army pattern, was set far back on
her head, giving full play to a mass of short, fine, loosely tumbled
yellow hair.

She was very much out of breath from her walk up the mountain, but there
was a plucky smile on her rather sallow face and an enterprising gleam
in her light eyes.

She walked right into the hotel, as if she had always lived there, and
they heard her talking volubly to the servant as she was following him
to a room.

Everybody felt a waft of free Western air and knew that Hotel Helicon
had received another interesting guest, original if not typical, with
qualities that soon must make themselves respected in a degree.

"Walked from the station?" Mrs. Philpot ventured, in querulous, though
kindly interrogation.

"Up the mountain?" Miss Moyne added, with a deprecatory inflection.

"And carried that bag!" exclaimed all the rest.


V

Gaspard Dufour, whose accumulations of adipose tissue appeared to serve
him a good turn, as he descended the steep, rocky ravine, hummed a droll
tune which was broken at intervals by sundry missteps and down-sittings
and side-wise bumps against the jutting crags. He perspired freely,
mopping his brow meantime with a vast silk kerchief that hung loosely
about his short neck.

The wood grew denser as he descended and a damp, mouldy odor pervaded
the spaces underneath the commingling boughs of the oaks, pines, cedars,
and sassafras. Here and there a lizard scampered around a tree-hole
or darted under the fallen leaves. Overhead certain shadowy flittings
betrayed the presence of an occasional small bird, demurely going about
its business of food-getting. The main elements of the surroundings,
however, were gloom and silence. The breeze-currents astir in the valley
and rippling over the gray peaks of Mt. Boab could not enter the leafy
chambers of this wooded gorge. Heat of a peculiarly sultry sort seemed
to be stored here, for as Dufour proceeded he began at length to gasp
for breath, and it was with such relief as none but the suffocating can
fully appreciate, that he emerged into an open space surrounded, almost,
with butting limestone cliffs, but cut across by a noisy little stream
that went bubbling down into the valley through a cleft bedecked with
ferns and sprinkled with perennial dew from a succession of gentle
cascades. The ideal trout-brook was this, so far as appearances
could go. At the foot of each tiny water-fall was a swirling pool,
semi-opaque, giving forth emerald flashes and silver glints, and bearing
little cones of creamy foam round and round on its bosom. A thousand
noises, every one a water-note, rising all along the line of the brook's
broken current, clashed together with an effect like that of hearing a
far-off multitude applauding or some distant army rushing on a charge.

So much out of breath and so deluged with perspiration was Dufour that
he flung himself upon the ground beside the brook and lay there panting
and mopping his face. Overhead the bit of sky was like turquoise, below
a slender glimpse of the valley shone between the rock walls, like a
sketch subdued almost to monochrome of crepuscular purple. A fitful
breath of cool air fell into the place, fanning the man's almost purple
cheeks and forehead, while a wood-thrush, whose liquid voice might have
been regarded as part of the water-tumult, sang in a thorn tree hard by.

In a half-reclining attitude, Dufour gave himself over to the delicious
effect of all this, indulging at the same time in the impolite and
ridiculous, but quite Shakespearian, habit of soliloquizing.

"Jingo!" he remarked, "Jingo! but isn't this a daisy prospect for trout!
If those pools aren't full of the beauties, then there's nothing in
Waltonian lore and life isn't worth living. Ha! Jingo! there went one
clean above the water--a ten ouncer, at least!"

He sprang at his rod as if to break it to pieces, and the facility with
which he fitted the joints and the reel and run the line and tied the
cast was really a wonder.

"I knew they were here," he muttered, "just as soon as I laid my eyes on
the water. Who ever did see such another brook!"

At the third cast of the fly, a brown hackle, by the way, up came a
trout with a somersault and a misty gleam of royal purple and silver,
attended by a spray of water and a short bubbling sound. Dufour struck
deftly, hooking the beautiful fish very insecurely through the edge of
the lower lip. Immediately the reel began to sing and the rod to quiver,
while Dufour's eyes glared almost savagely and his lips pursed with
comical intensity.

Round and round flew the trout, now rushing to the bottom of the pool,
now whisking under a projecting ledge and anon flinging itself clean
above the water and shaking itself convulsively.

The angler was led hither and thither by his active prey, the exercise
bedewing his face again with perspiration, whilst his feet felt the cool
bath of water and the soothing embrace of tangled water-grass. The mere
switch of a bamboo rod, bent almost into a loop, shook like a rush in a
wind.

Dufour was ill prepared to formulate a polite response when, at the
height of his sport, a gentle but curiously earnest voice exclaimed:

"Snatch 'im out, snatch 'im out, dog gone yer clumsy hide! Snatch 'im
out, er I'll do it for ye!"

The trout must have heard, for as the angler turned to get a hasty
glance at the stranger, up it leaped and by a desperate shake broke the
snell.

"Confound you!" cried Dufour, his face redder than ever. "Confound your
meddlesome tongue, why didn't you keep still till I landed him?"

There was a tableau set against the gray, lichen-bossed rocks. Two men
glaring at each other. The new-comer was a tall, athletic, brown-faced
mountaineer, bearing a gun and wearing two heavy revolvers. He towered
above Dufour and gazed down upon him as if about to execute him. The
latter did not quail, but grew angrier instead.

"You ought to have better sense than to interfere with my sport in such
a way! Who are you, anyway?" he cried in a hot, fierce tone.

The mountaineer stood silent for a moment, as if collecting words enough
for what he felt like saying, then:

"See yer," he drawled, rather musically, "ef I take ye by the scruff o'
yer neck an' the heel o' yer stockin' an' jest chuck ye inter thet
puddle, ye'll begin to surmise who I air, ye saucy little duck-legged
minny-catcher, you!"

Dufour, remembering his long training years ago at the Gentlemen's
Glove-Club, squared himself with fists in position, having flung aside
his tackle. In his righteous rage he forgot that his adversary was not
only his superior in stature but also heavily armed.

"Well, thet' ther' do beat me!" said the mountaineer, with an
incredulous ring in his voice. "The very idee! W'y ye little aggervatin'
banty rooster, a puttin' up yer props at me! W'y I'll jest eternally and
everlastin'ly wring yer neck an' swob the face o' nature wi' ye!"

What followed was about as indescribable as a whirlwind in dry grass.
The two men appeared to coalesce for a single wild, whirling, resounding
instant, and then the mountaineer went over headlong into the middle
of the pool with a great plash and disappeared. Dufour, in a truly
gladiatorial attitude, gazed fiercely at the large dimple in which his
antagonist was buried for the instant, but out of which he presently
projected himself with great promptness, then, as a new thought came to
him, he seized the fallen gun of the mountaineer, cocked it and leveled
it upon its owner. There was a peculiar meaning in his words as he
stormed out:

"Lie down! down with you, or I blow a hole clean through you instantly!"

Promptly enough the mountaineer lay down until the water rippled around
his chin and floated his flaxen beard. Some moments of peculiar silence
followed, broken only by the lapsing gurgle and murmur of the brook.

Dufour, with arms as steady as iron bars, kept the heavy gun bearing on
the gasping face of the unwilling bather, whilst at the same time he was
dangerously fingering the trigger. The stout, short figure really had a
muscular and doughty air and the heavy face certainly looked warlike.

"Stranger, a seein' 'at ye've got the drap onto me, 'spose we swear off
an' make up friends?" The man in the water said this at length, in the
tone of one presenting a suggestion of doubtful propriety.

"Don't hardly think you've cooled off sufficiently, do you?" responded
Dufour.

"This here's spring warter, ye must 'member," offered the mountaineer.

The gun was beginning to tire Dufour's arms.

"Well, do you knock under?" he inquired, still carelessly fumbling the
trigger.

"Great mind ter say yes," was the shivering response.

"Oh, take your time to consider, I'm in no hurry," said Dufour.

If the man in the water could have known how the supple but of late
untrained arms of the man on shore were aching, the outcome might have
been different; but the bath was horribly cold and the gun's muzzle kept
its bearing right on the bather's eye.

"I give in, ye've got me, stranger," he at last exclaimed.

Dufour was mightily relieved as he put down the gun and watched his
dripping and shivering antagonist wade out of the cold pool. The men
looked at each other curiously.

"Ye're the dog gone'dest man 'at ever I see," remarked the mountaineer;
"who air ye, anyhow?"

"Oh, I'm a pretty good fellow, if you take me on the right tack," said
Dufour.

The other hesitated a moment, and then inquired:

"Air ye one o' them people up at the tavern on the mounting?"

"Yes."

"A boardin' there?"

"Yes."

"For all summer?"

"Possibly."

Again there was a silence, during which the water trickled off the
mountaineer's clothes and ran over the little stones at his feet.

"Goin' ter make fun o' me when ye git up thar?" the catechism was at
length resumed. Dufour laughed.

"I could tell a pretty good thing on you," he answered, taking a
sweeping observation of the stalwart fellow's appearance as he stood
there with his loose jeans trousers and blue cotton shirt clinging to
his shivering limbs.

"See yer, now," said the latter, in a wheedling tone, and wringing his
light, thin beard with one sinewy dark hand, "see yer, now, I'd like for
ye not ter do thet, strenger."

"Why?"

"Well," said the mountaineer, after some picturesque hesitation and
faltering, "'cause I hev a 'quaintance o' mine up ther' at thet tavern."

"Indeed, have you? Who is it?"

"Mebbe ye mought be erquainted with Miss Sarah Anna Crabb?"

"No."

"Well, she's up ther', she stayed all night at our house las' night an'
went on up ther' this mornin'; she's a literary woman an' purty, an'
smart, an' a mighty much of a talker."

"Ugh!"

"Jest tell her 'at ye met me down yer, an' 'at I'm tol'ble well; but
don't say nothin' 'bout this 'ere duckin' 'at ye gi' me, will ye?"

"Oh, of course, that's all right," Dufour hastened to say, feeling an
indescribable thrill of sympathy for the man.

"Yer's my hand, strenger, an' w'en Wesley Tolliver gives a feller his
hand hit means all there air ter mean," exclaimed the latter, as warmly
as his condition would permit, "an' w'en ye need er friend in these
parts jest come ter me."

He shouldered his gun, thereupon, and remarking that he might as well
be going, strode away over a spur of the mountain, his clothes still
dripping and sticking close to his muscular limbs. Dufour found his rod
broken and his reel injured, by having felt the weight of Wesley
Tolliver's foot, and so he too turned to retrace his steps.

Such an adventure could not fail to gain in spectacular grotesqueness as
it took its place in the memory and imagination of Dufour. He had been
in the habit of seeing such things on the stage and of condemning them
out of hand as the baldest melodramatic nonsense, so that now he could
not fairly realize the matter as something that had taken place in his
life.

He was very tired and hungry when he reached Hotel Helicon.


VI.

"Oh, yes, I walked all the way up the mountain from the railroad depot,"
explained the young woman whose arrival we chronicled in another
chapter, "but I stopped over night at a cabin on the way and discovered
some just delightful characters--the Tollivers--regular Craddock sort
of people, an old lady and her son."

By some method known only to herself she had put herself upon a
speaking-plane with Dufour, who, as she approached him, was standing in
an angle of the wide wooden veranda waiting for the moon to rise over
the distant peaks of the eastern mountains.

"I saw Mr. Tolliver to-day while whipping a brook down here," said he,
turning to look her squarely in the face.

"Oh, did you! Isn't he a virile, villainous, noble, and altogether
melodramatic looking man? I wish there was some one here who could
sketch him for me. But, say, Mr. Dufour, what do you mean, please, when
you speak of _whipping_ a brook?"

She took from her pocket a little red note-book and a pencil as he
promptly responded: "Whipping a brook? oh, that's angler's nonsense, it
means casting the line into the water, you know."

"That's funny," she remarked, making a note.

She was taller than Dufour, and so slender and angular that in
comparison with his excessive plumpness she looked gaunt and bony. In
speaking her lips made all sorts of wild contortions showing her uneven
teeth to great effect, and the extreme rapidity of her utterance gave an
explosive emphasis to her voice. Over her forehead, which projected, a
fluffy mass of pale yellow hair sprang almost fiercely as if to attack
her scared and receding chin.

"You are from Michigan, I believe, Miss Crabb," remarked Dufour.

"Oh, dear, no!" she answered, growing red in the face, "No, indeed. I am
from Indiana, from Ringville, associate editor of the _Star_."

"Pardon, I meant Indiana. Of course I knew you were not from Michigan."

"Thanks," with a little laugh and a shrug, "I am glad you see the
point."

"I usually do--a little late," he remarked complacently.

"You are from Boston, then, I infer," she glibly responded.

"Not precisely," he said, with an approving laugh, "but I admit that I
have some Bostonian qualities."

At this point in the conversation she was drooping over him, so to say,
and he was sturdily looking up into her bright, insistent face.

"What a group!" said Crane to Mrs. Bridges, a New York fashion editor.
"I'd give the best farm in Kentucky (so far as my title goes) for a
photograph of it! Doesn't she appear to be just about to peck out his
eyes!"

"Your lofty imagination plays you fantastic tricks," said Mrs. Bridges.
"Is she the famous Western _lady_ reporter?"

"The same, of the _Ringville Star_. I met her at the Cincinnati
convention. It was there that Bascom of the _Bugle_ called her a bag of
gimlets, because she bored him so."

"Oh!"

This exclamation was not in response to what Crane had said, but it
was an involuntary tribute to the moon-flower just flaring into bloom
between twin peaks lying dusky and heavy against the mist of silver
and gold that veiled the sweet sky beyond. A semi-circle of pale
straw-colored fire gleamed in the lowest angle of the notch and sent up
long, wavering lines of light almost to the zenith, paling the strongest
stars and intensifying the shadows in the mountain gorges and valleys.
Grim as angry gods, the pines stood along the slopes, as if gloomily
contemplating some dark scheme of vengeance.

"A real Sapphic," said Crane, dropping into a poetical tone, as an
elocutionist does when he is hungry for an opportunity to recite a
favorite sketch.

"Why a Sapphic?" inquired the matter-of-fact fashion-editor.

"Oh, don't you remember that fragment, that glorious picture Sappho's
divine genius has made for us--"

He quoted some Greek.

"About as divine as Choctaw or Kickapoo," she said. "I understand the
moon-shine better. In fact I have a sincere contempt for all this
transparent clap-trap you poets and critics indulge in when you got upon
your Greek hobby. Divine Sappho, indeed! A lot of bald bits of jargon
made famous by the comments of fogies. Let's look at the moon, please,
and be sincere."

"Sincere!"

"Yes, you know very well that if you had written the Sapphic fragments
the critics would----"

"The critics! What of them? They are a set of disappointed poetasters
themselves. Blind with rage at their own failures, they snap right and
left without rhyme or reason. Now there's Peck, a regular----"

"Well, sir, a regular _what_?" very coolly demanded the critic who had
stepped forth from a shadowy angle and now stood facing Crane.

"A regular star-gazer," said Mrs. Bridges. "Tell us why the planets
yonder all look so ghastly through the shimmering moonlight."

Peck, without reply, turned and walked away.

"Is he offended?" she asked.

"No, he gives offence, but can not take it."

Mrs. Bridges grew silent.

"We were speaking of Sappho," observed Crane, again gliding into an
elocutionary mood. "I have translated the fragment that I repeated a
while ago. Let me give it to you.

    "When on the dusky violet sky
    The full flower of the moon blooms high
        The stars turn pale and die!"

Just then Miss Moyne, dressed all in white, floated by on Peck's arm,
uttering a silvery gust of laughter in response to a cynical observation
of the critic.

"What a lovely girl she is," said Mrs. Bridges. "Mr. Peck shows fine
critical acumen in being very fond of her."

Crane was desperately silent. "He's a handsome man, too, and I suspect
it's a genuine love affair," Mrs. Bridges went on, fanning herself
complacently. Back and forth, walking slowly and conversing in a soft
minor key, save when now and then Miss Moyne laughed melodiously, the
promenaders passed and repassed, Peck never deigning to glance toward
Crane, who had forgotten both Sappho and the moon. Miss Moyne did,
however, once or twice turn her eyes upon the silent poet.

"Oh," went on Miss Crabb, filling Dufour's ears with the hurried din of
her words, "Oh, I'm going to write a novel about this place. I never saw
a better chance for local color, real transcripts from life, original
scenes and genuine romance all tumbled together. Don't you think I might
do it?"

"It does appear tempting," said Dufour. "There's Tolliver for instance,
a genuine Chilhowee moonshiner." He appeared to laugh inwardly as he
spoke. Indeed he heard the plash of water and the dripping, shivering
mountaineer stood forth in his memory down there in the gorge.

"A moonshiner!" gasped Miss Crabb, fluttering the leaves of her
note-book and writing by moonlight with a celerity that amazed Dufour.

"Potentially, at least," he replied evasively. "He looks like one and he
don't like water."

"If he _does_ turn out to be a real moonshiner," Miss Crabb proceeded
reflectively to say, "it will be just too delicious for anything. I
don't mind telling you, confidentially, Mr. Dufour, that I am to write
some letters while here to the _Chicago Daily Lightning Express_. So I'd
take it as a great favor if you'd give me all the points you get."

"That's interesting," he said, with a keen scrutiny of her face for a
second. "I shall be glad to be of assistance to you."

He made a movement to go, but lingered to say: "Pray give me all the
points, too, will you?"

"Oh, are you a journalist too?" she inquired, breathlessly hanging over
him. "What paper--"

"I'm not much of anything," he hurriedly interposed, "but I like to know
what is going on, that's all."

He walked away without further excuse and went up to his room.

"I've got to watch him," soliloquized Miss Crabb, "or he'll get the
scoop of all the news. Give him points, indeed! Maybe so, but not till
after I've sent them to the _Lightning Express_! I'll keep even with
him, or know the reason why."

It was a grand panorama that the climbing moon lighted up all around
Mount Boab, a vast billowy sea of gloom and sheen. Here were shining
cliffs, there dusky gulches; yonder the pines glittered like steel-armed
sentinels on the hill-tops, whilst lower down they appeared to skulk
like cloaked assassins. Shadows came and went, now broad-winged and
wavering, again slender and swift as the arrows of death. The hotel was
bright within and without. Some one was at the grand piano in the hall
making rich music--a fragment from Beethoven,--and a great horned owl
down the ravine was booming an effective counterpoint.

Crane stood leaning on the railing of the veranda and scowling savagely
as Peck and Miss Moyne continued to promenade and converse. He was,
without doubt, considering sinister things. Mrs. Bridges, finding him
entirely unsympathetic, went to join Miss Crabb, who was alone where she
had been left by Dufour. Meantime, up in his room, with his chair tilted
far back and his feet thrust out over the sill of an open window,
Dufour was smoking a fragrant Cuban cigar, (fifty cents at retail) and
alternating smiles with frowns as he contemplated his surroundings.

"Authors," he thought, "are the silliest, the vainest, and the most
impractical lot of human geese that ever were plucked for their valuable
feathers. And newspaper people! Humph!" He chuckled till his chin shook
upon his immaculate collar. "Just the idea, now, of that young woman
asking me to furnish her with points!"

There was something almost jocund blent with his air of solid
self-possession, and he smoked the precious cigars one after another
with prodigal indifference and yet with the perfect grace of him to the
manner born.

"Hotel Helicon on Mt. Boab!" he repeated, and then betook himself to
bed.


VII.

Some people are born to find things out--to overhear, to reach a place
just at the moment in which an event comes to pass there--born indeed,
with the news-gatherer's instinct perfectly developed. Miss Crabb was
one of these. How she chanced to over-hear some low-spoken but deadly
sounding words that passed between Peck and Crane, it would be hard to
say; still she overheard them, and her heart jumped almost into her
mouth. It was a thrillingly dramatic passage, there under the
heavy-topped oak by the west veranda in the gloom.

"Villain!" exclaimed Crane, in the hissing voice of a young
tragedy-player at rehearsal,

"Villain! you shall not escape me. Defend yourself!"

"Nonsense," said Peck, "you talk like a fool. I don't want to fight!
What's that you've got in your hand?"

"A sword, you cowardly craven!"

"You call me a coward! If I had a good club I should soon show you what
I could do, you sneaking assassin!"

More words and just as bitter followed, till at last a fight was agreed
upon to take place immediately, at a certain point on the verge of a
cliff not far away. There were to be no seconds and the meeting was to
end in the death of one or both of the combatants.

To Miss Crabb all this had a sound and an appearance as weird as
anything in the wildest romance she ever had read. It was near
mid-night; the hotel was quite soundless and the moon on high made the
shadows short and black.

"Meet me promptly at the Eagle's Nest in ten minutes," said Crane, "I'll
fetch my other sword and give you choice."

"All right, sir," responded Peck, "but a club would do."

The peculiar hollowness of their voices affected the listener as if
the sounds had come from a tomb. She felt clammy. Doubtless there is a
considerable element of humorous, almost ludicrous bravado in such a
scene when coolly viewed; but Miss Crabb could not take a calm, critical
attitude just then. At first she was impelled almost irresistibly toward
interfering and preventing a bloody encounter; but her professional
ambition swept the feeling aside. Still, being a woman, she was
dreadfully nervous. "Ugh!" she shuddered, "it will be just awful, but I
can't afford to miss getting the full particulars for the _Lightning
Express_. A sure enough duel! It will make my fortune! Oh, if I were a
man, now, just only for a few hours, what a comfort it would be! But all
the same I must follow them--I must see the encounter, describe it as
an eye-witness and send it by wire early in the morning."

It occurred to her mind just then that the nearest telegraph station was
twelve miles down the mountain, but she did not flinch or waver. The
thought that she was required to do what a man might well have shrunk
from gave an element of heroism to her pluck. She was conscious of this
and went about her task with an elasticity and facility truly admirable.

Eagle's Nest was the name of a small area on the top of a beetling cliff
whose almost perpendicular wall was dotted with clumps of sturdy little
cedar trees growing out of the chinks. It was a dizzy place at all
times, but by night the effect of its airy height was very trying on any
but the best nerves. Crane and Peck both were men of fine physique and
were possessed of stubborn courage and great combativeness. They met on
the spot and after choosing swords, coolly and promptly proceeded to the
fight. On one hand, close to the cliff's edge, was a thick mass of small
oak bushes, on the other hand lay a broken wall of fragmentary stones.
The footing-space was fairly good, though a few angular blocks of stone
lay here and there, and some brushes of stiff wood-grass were scattered
around.

Crane led with more caution than one would have expected of an irate
Kentuckian, and Peck responded with the brilliant aplomb of an
enthusiastic duelist.

The swords were neither rapiers nor broad-swords, being the ordinary
dress-weapons worn by Confederate Infantry officers in the war
time--weapons with a history, since they had been at the thigh of father
and son, the bravest of Kentucky Cranes, through many a stormy battle.

Peck's back was toward the precipice-brink at the commencement of the
engagement, but neither had much the advantage, as the moon was almost
directly overhead. As their weapons began to flash and clink, the
slender keen echoes fell over into the yawning chasm and went rattling
down the steep, ragged face of the precipice. They were vigorous and
rather good fencers and it would have been evident to an onlooker of
experience that the fight was to be a long one, notwithstanding the
great weight of the swords they were using. They soon began to fight
fiercely and grew more vehemently aggressive each second, their blows
and thrusts and parries and counter-cuts following each other faster and
faster until the sounds ran together and the sparks leaped and shone
even in the bright moonlight. They mingled broad-sword exercise with
legitimate rapier fencing and leaped about each other like boxers, their
weapons whirling, darting, rising, falling, whilst their breathing
became loud and heavy. It was a scene to have stirred the blood of men
and women four hundred years ago, when love was worth fighting for and
when men were quite able and willing to fight for it.

The combatants strained every point of their strength and skill, and
not a drop of blood could either draw. Slash, thrust, whack, clink,
clank, clack, click, cling! Round and round they labored, the fury of
their efforts flaming out of their eyes and concentrating in the deep
lines of their mouths. As if to listen, the breeze lay still in the
trees and the great owl quit hooting in the ravine. Faster and faster
fell the blows, swifter and keener leaped the thrusts, quicker and surer
the parries were interposed. The swords were hacked and notched like
hand-saws, the blades shook and hummed like lyre-cords. Now close to
the cliff's edge, now over by the heap of broken stones and then close
beside the clump of oak bushes, the men, panting and sweating, their
muscles knotted, their sinews leaping like bow-strings, their eyes
standing out, as if starting from their sockets, pursued each other
without a second's rest or wavering.

At last, with an irresistible spurt of fury, Crane drove Peck right into
the bushes with a great crash and would not let him out. The critic
was not vanquished, however, for, despite the foliage and twigs, he
continued to parry and thrust with dangerous accuracy and force.

Just at this point a strange thing happened. Right behind Peck there was
a tearing, crashing sound and a cry, loud, keen, despairing, terrible,
followed immediately by the noise of a body descending among the cedars
growing along the face of the awful precipice.

It was a woman's voice, shrieking in deadly horror that then came up
out of the dizzy depth of space below!

The men let fall their swords and leaped to the edge of the cliff with
the common thought that it was Miss Moyne who had fallen over. They
reeled back giddy and sick, staggering as if drunken.

Far down they had seen something white fluttering and gleaming amid a
tuft of cedars and a quavering voice had cried:

"Help, help, oh, help!"

And so the duel was at an end.


VIII.

Hotel Helicon was shaken out of its sleep by the startling rumor to the
effect that Miss Moyne had fallen down the precipice at Eagle's Nest.

Of all the rudely awakened and mightily frightened inmates, perhaps Miss
Moyne herself was most excited by this waft of bad news. She had been
sleeping very soundly in dreamless security and did not at first
feel the absurdity of being told that she had just tumbled down the
escarpment, which in fact she never yet had summoned the courage to
approach, even when sustained by a strong masculine arm.

"O dear! how did it happen?" she demanded of her aunt, Mrs. Coleman
Rhodes, who had rushed upon her dainty couch with the frightful
announcement of her accident.

"Oh, Alice! you are here, you are not hurt at all! Oh!" Mrs. Rhodes went
on, "and what _can_ it all mean!"

Everybody rushed out, of course, as soon as hurried dressing would
permit, and fell into the confusion that filled the halls and main
veranda.

Crane was talking in a loud, but well modulated strain, explaining the
accident:

"Mr. Peck and I," he went on to say, "were enjoying a friendly turn at
sword-play up here at Eagle's Nest; couldn't sleep, needed exercise, and
went up there so as not to disturb any one. While we were fencing she
came rushing past through those bushes and leaped right over with a
great shriek. She--"

"Don't stop to talk," cried Mr. E. Hobbs Lucas, with a directness and
clearness quite unusual in a historian. "Don't stop to talk, let's go do
something!"

"Yes, come on," quavered poor Peck, his face whiter than the moon and
his beard quivering in sympathy with his voice.

"Oh, it's dreadful, awful!" moaned little Mrs. Philpot, "poor, dear Miss
Moyne, to think that she is gone!" and she leaned heavily on Miss
Moyne's shoulder as she spoke.

It was a strange scene, too confused for the best dramatic effect,
but spectacular in the extreme. Servants swarmed out with lights that
wavered fantastically in the moonshine, while the huddled guests swayed
to and fro in a body. Every face was pinched with intense excitement
and looked haggard under its crown of disheveled hair. Even the hotel
windows stared in stupid horror, and the kindly countenances of the
negro waiters took on a bewildered and meaningless grin set in a black
scowl of superstition and terror.

When Dufour came upon the scene, he did not appear in the least
flurried, and the first thing he did was to lay his hand on Miss Moyne's
shoulder and exclaim in a clear tenor strain:

"Why, here! it's all a mistake! What are you talking about? Here's Miss
Moyne! Here she stands!"

"Mercy! where?" enquired little Mrs. Philpot, who was still leaning on
her friend and shedding bitter tears.

Dufour, with a quiet: "Please don't take offence," put a hand on either
side of Miss Moyne and lifted her so that she stood in a chair looking
very sweetly down over the crowd of people.

Few indeed are they who can look beautiful under such circumstances, but
Miss Moyne certainly did, especially in the eyes of Crane and Peck as
they gazed up at her.

Forthwith the tragedy became a farce.

"That Kentuckian must romance, I suppose," grumbled R. Hobbs Lucas.
"Wonder what he'll tell next."

"I don't see how I could be so mistaken," said Peck, after quiet had
been somewhat restored, "I would have willingly been sworn to--"

He was interrupted by a dozen voices hurling ironical phrases at him.

"It is every word truth," exclaimed Crane testily. "Do you suppose I
would trifle with so--"

"Oh, don't you absolutely know that we suppose just that very thing?"
said Lucas.

With the return of self-consciousness the company began to scatter, the
ladies especially scampering to their rooms with rustling celerity. The
men grumbled not a little, as if being deprived of a shocking accident
touched them with a sting.

"The grotesque idea!" ejaculated Dufour. "Such a practical
joke--impractical joke, I might better say, could originate only between
a poet and a critic."

Everybody went back to bed, feeling more or less injured by Crane and
Peck, who shared in their own breasts the common impression that they
had made great fools of themselves. If these crest-fallen knights, so
lately militant and self-confident, had any cause of quarrel now it
was based upon a question as to which should feel the meaner and which
should more deeply dread to meet Miss Moyne on the morrow.

As for Miss Moyne herself she was indignant although she tried to quiet
her aunt, who was ready to shake the dust of Mt. Boab from her feet at
once.

Next morning, however, when it was discovered that Miss Crabb was
missing and that after all something tragic probably had happened,
everybody felt relieved.


IX

Mr. Wesley Tolliver might well have served the turn of romancer or
realist, as he stood in the shadow of a cedar-clump with the mysterious
stillness of midnight all around him. He was a very real and substantial
looking personage, and yet his gun, his pistols, his fantastic mountain
garb and the wild setting in which he was framed gave him the appearance
of a strong sketch meant to illustrate a story by Craddock. Above him
towered the cliff at Eagle's Nest and near by was the mountain "Pocket"
in which nestled the little distillery whose lurking-place had long been
the elusive dream of utopian revenue officers. In a space of brilliant
moonlight, Tolliver's dog, a gaunt, brindle cur, sat in statuesque
worthlessness, remembering no doubt the hares he never had caught and
the meatless bones he had vainly buried during a long ignoble life.

The hotel and its inmates had rendered the distillery and its furtive
operatives very uneasy of late, and now as Tolliver in his due turn
stood guard by night he considered the probability of having to look
for some better situation for his obscure manufactory with a species of
sadness which it would be impossible to describe. He thought with deep
bitterness of all the annoyance he had suffered at the hands of meddling
government agents and from the outside world in general and he tried
to understand how any person could pretend to see justice in such
persecution. What had he done to merit being hunted like a wild beast?
Nothing but buy his neighbor's apples at the fair price of twenty cents
a bushel and distil them into apple brandy! Could this possibly be any
injury to any government official, or to anybody else? He paid for his
still, he paid for the apples, he paid fair wages to the men who worked
for him, what more could be justly demanded of him?

It was while he was wholly absorbed in trying to solve this knotty
problem that far above a strange clink and clatter began, which sounded
to him as if it were falling from among the stars. Nothing within his
knowledge or experience suggested an explanation of such a phenomenon.
He felt a thrill of superstitious terror creep through his iron nerves
as the aerial racket increased and seemed to whisk itself from place to
place with lightning celerity. An eccentric echo due to the angles and
projections of the cliff added weird effect to the sounds.

The dog uttered a low plaintive whine and crept close to his master, and
even wedged himself with tremulous desperation between the knees of that
wondering and startled sentinel.

The clinking and clanging soon became loud and continuous, falling in
a cataract down the escarpment, accompanied now and again by small
fragments of stone and soil.

At last Tolliver got control of himself sufficiently, and looked out
from his shadowy station and up towards the dizzy crown of Eagle's
Nest.

Just at that moment there was a crash and a scream. He saw a
wide-winged, ghostly object come over the edge and swoop down. Another
scream, another and another, a tearing sound, a crushing of cedar
boughs, a shower of small stones and lumps of soil.

Tolliver, frightened as he never before had been, turned and fled,
followed by his ecstatic dog.

A voice, keen, clear, high, beseeching pursued him and reached his ears.

"Help! help! Oh, help!"

Surely this was the "Harnt that walks Mt. Boab!" This syren of the
mountains had lured many a hunter to his doom.

"Oh, me! Oh, my! Oh, mercy on me! Help! help!"

Tolliver ran all the faster, as the voice seemed to follow him, turn as
he would. He bruised his shins on angular rocks, he ran against trees,
he fell over logs, and at last found himself hopelessly entangled in a
net of wild grape-vines, with his enthusiastic dog still faithfully
wriggling between his knees.

The plaintive voice of the syren, now greatly modified by distance,
assailed his ears with piteous persistence, as he vainly struggled to
free himself. The spot was dark as Erebus, being in the bottom of a
ravine, and the more he exerted himself the worse off he became.

It was his turn to call for help, but if any of his friends heard they
did not heed his supplications, thinking them but baleful echoes of the
Harnt's deceitful voice.

It was at the gray of dawn when at last Tolliver got clear of the
vines and made his way out of the ravine. By this time he had entirely
overcome his fright, and with that stubbornness characteristic of all
mountain men, he betook himself back to the exact spot whence he had so
precipitately retreated. His dog, forlornly nonchalant, trotted behind
him to the place and resumed the seat from which the Harnt had driven
him a few hours ago. In this attitude, the animal drooped his nose and
indifferently sniffed a curious object lying near.

"What's thet ther' thing, Mose?" inquired Tolliver, addressing the dog.

"Well I'll ber dorg-goned!" he added, as he picked up a woman's bonnet.
"If this here don't beat the worl' an' all camp meetin'! Hit air--well,
I'll ber dorged--hit air--I'm er ghost if hit aint Miss Sara' Anna
Crabb's bonnet, by Ned!"

He held it up by one silk string and gazed at it with a ludicrously
puzzled stare. The dog whined and wagged his tail in humble sympathy
with his master's bewilderment.

"Hit's kinder interestin', haint it, Mose?" Tolliver went on dryly.
"We'll hev ter look inter this here thing, won't we, Mose?"

As for Mose, he was looking into it with all his eyes. Indeed he was
beginning to show extreme interest, and his tail was pounding the
ground with great rapidity.

Suddenly a thought leaped into Tolliver's brain and with a start he
glanced up the escarpment, his mouth open and his brown cheeks betraying
strong emotion. Mose followed his master's movements with kindling eyes,
and whined dolefully, his wolfish nose lifted almost vertically.

"Is that you, Mr. Tolliver?" fell a voice out of a cedar clump a little
way up the side of the cliff.

"Hit air me," he responded, as he saw Miss Crabb perched among the
thick branches. She had her little red note-book open and was writing
vigorously. Her yellow hair was disheveled so that it appeared to
surround her face with a flickering light which to Tolliver's mind gave
it a most beautiful and altogether lovely expression.

"Well, I'll ber--" he checked himself and stood in picturesque suspense.

"Now, Mr. Tolliver, won't you please help me down from here?" she
demanded, closing her note-book and placing her pencil behind her ear.
"I'm awfully cramped, sitting in this position so long."

The chivalrous mountaineer did not wait to be appealed to a second time,
but laying down his gun to which he had clung throughout the night, he
clambered up the steep face of the rock, from projection to projection,
until he reached the tree in which Miss Crabb sat. Meantime she watched
him with admiring eyes and just as he was about to take her in his arms
and descend with her she exclaimed:

"Wait a moment, I might lose the thought, I'll just jot it down."

She took her note-book and pencil again and hurriedly made the following
entry: _Sinewy, virile, lithe, hirsute, fearless, plucky, bronzed,
vigorous, lank, Greek-eyed, Roman-nosed, prompt, large-eared, typical
American. Good hero for dramatic, short, winning dialect story. The
magazines never refuse dialect stories._

"Now, if you please, Mr. Tolliver, I will go with you."

It was an Herculean labor, but Tolliver was a true hero. With one arm
wound around her, after the fashion of the serpent in the group of the
Laocoön, and with her long yellow hair streaming in crinkled jets over
his shoulder, he slowly made his way down to the ground.

Meantime Mose, the dog, with true canine sympathy and helpfulness, had
torn the bonnet into pathetic shreds, and was now lying half asleep
under a tree with a bit of ribbon in his teeth.

"Well, I'll jest ber--beg parding Miss Crabb, but thet ther dog hev et
up yer head-gear," said Tolliver as he viewed with dilating eyes the
scattered fragments.

She comprehended her calamity with one swift glance, but she had caught
a new dialect phrase at the same time.

"Head-gear, you call it, I believe?" she inquired, again producing book
and pencil.

"Beg parding all over, Miss Crabb, I meant bonnet," he hurried to say.

"Oh, it's all right, I assure you," she replied, writing rapidly, "it's
a delightfully fresh and artistic bit of special coloring."

Miss Crabb's clothes were badly torn and she looked as if she had spent
the night wretchedly, but with the exception of a few slight scratches
and bruises she was unhurt.

"Well jes' look a there, will ye!" exclaimed Tolliver as he spied Mose.
There was more of admiration than anger in his voice. "Ef thet ther
'fernal dog haint got yer chin-ribbon in his ole mouth, I'm er rooster!"

"Chin-ribbon," repeated Miss Crabb, making a note, "I'm er rooster," and
she smiled with intense satisfaction. "You don't know, Mr. Tolliver, how
much I am indebted to you."

"Not a tall, Miss Crabb, not a tall. Don't mention of it," he humbly
said, "hit taint wo'th talkin' erbout."

The morning was in full blow now and the cat-birds were singing sweetly
down the ravine. Overhead a patch of blue sky gleamed and burned with
the true empyrean glow. Far away, down in the valley by the little
river, a breakfast horn was blown with many a mellow flourish and a cool
gentle breeze with dew on its wings fanned Miss Crabb's sallow cheeks
and rustled Tolliver's tawny beard. At the sound of the horn Mose sprang
to his feet and loped away with the bit of ribbon fluttering from his
mouth.


X.

It was late in the forenoon before it was discovered at Hotel Helicon
that Miss Crabb was missing, and even then there arose so many doubts
about the tragic side of the event that before any organized search
for her had been begun, she returned, appearing upon the scene mounted
behind Wesley Tolliver on a small, thin, wiry mountain mule.

Crane and Peck each drew a deep, swift sigh of relief upon seeing her,
for the sense of guilt in their breasts had been horrible. They had by
tacit conspiracy prevented any examination of Eagle's Nest, for they
dreaded what might be disclosed. Of course they did not mean to hide the
awful fate of the poor girl, nor would they willingly have shifted the
weight of their dreadful responsibility, but it was all so much like
a vivid dream, so utterly strange and theatrical as it arose in their
memories, that they could not fully believe in it.

Miss Crabb looked quite ludicrous perched behind the tall mountaineer
on such a dwarfish mule. Especially comical was the effect of the
sun-bonnet she wore. She had accepted this article of apparel from
Tolliver's mother, and it appeared to clutch her head in its stiff folds
and to elongate her face by sheer compression.

Everybody laughed involuntarily, as much for joy at her safe return as
in response to the demand of her melodramatic appearance.

"I've brung back yer runerway," said Tolliver cheerily, as he helped the
young woman to dismount. "She clim down the mounting by one pertic'ler
trail an' I jes' fotch her up by t'other."

Miss Crabb spoke not a word, but ran into the hotel and up to her room
without glancing to the right or to the left. In her great haste the
stiff old sun-bonnet fell from her head and tumbled upon the ground.

"Wush ye'd jes' be erbligin' enough ter han' thet there head-gear up ter
me, Mister," said Tolliver addressing Crane, who was standing near. "My
mammy'd raise er rumpage ef I'd go back 'thout thet ther bonnet."

With evident reluctance and disgust Crane gingerly took up the fallen
article and gave it to Tolliver, who thanked him so politely that all
the onlooking company felt a glow of admiration for the uncouth and yet
rather handsome cavalier.

"Thet gal," he observed, glancing in the direction that Miss Crabb had
gone, "she hev the winnin'est ways of any gal I ever seed in my life. Ye
orter seen 'er up inter thet there bush a writin' in 'er book! She'd
jes' tumbled kerwhummox down the clift an' hed lodged ther' in them
cedars; but as she wer' a writin' when she started ter fall w'y she
struck a writin' an' jes' kep' on at it same's if nothin' had happened.
She's game, thet ole gal air, I tell ye! She don't propose for any
little thing like fallin' off'n a clift, ter interfere with w'at she's a
doin' at thet time, le' me say ter ye. Lord but she wer' hongry, though,
settin' up ther a writin' all night, an' it'd a done ye good to a
seen 'er eat thet chicken and them cake-biscuits my mammy cooked for
breakfast. She air a mos' alarmin' fine gal, for a fac'."

At this point Dufour came out of the hotel, and when Tolliver saw him
there was an instantaneous change in the expression of the mountaineer's
face.

"Well I'll ber dorged!" he exclaimed with a smile of delight, "ef ther'
haint the same leetle John the Baptis' what bapsonsed me down yer inter
the branch! Give us yer baby-spanker, ole feller! How air ye!"

Dufour cordially shook hands with him, laughing in a jolly way.

"Fust an' only man at ever ducked me, I'm here ter say ter ye," Tolliver
went on, in a cheery, half-bantering tone, and sitting sidewise on the
mule. "Ye mus' hev' a sight o' muscle onto them duck legs and bantam
arms o' your'n."

He had the last word still in his mouth when the little beast suddenly
put down its head and flung high its hind feet.

"Woirp!" they heard him cry, as he whirled over in the air and fell
sprawling on the ground.

Dufour leaped forward to see if the man was hurt, but Tolliver was
upright in an instant and grinning sheepishly.

"Thet's right, Bonus," he said to the mule which stood quite still in
its place, "thet's right ole fel, try ter ac' smart in comp'ny. Yer a
beauty now, ain't ye?"

He replaced his hat, which had fallen from his head, patted the mule
caressingly on the neck, then lightly vaulting to the old saddle-tree,
he waved his hand to the company and turning dashed at a gallop down the
mountain road, his spurs jingling merrily as he went.

"What a delicious character!"

"What precious dialect!"

"How typically American!"

"A veritable hero!"

Everybody at Hotel Helicon appeared to have been captivated by this
droll fellow.

"How like Tolstoi's lovely Russians he is!" observed Miss Fidelia
Arkwright, of Boston, a near-sighted maiden who did translations and who
doted on virile literature.

"When I was in Russia, I visited Tolstoi at his shoe-shop--" began
Crane, but nobody appeared to hear him, so busy were all in making notes
for a dialect story.

"Tolstoi is the greatest fraud of the nineteenth century," said Peck.
"That shoe-making pretence of his is about on a par with his genius in
genuineness and sincerity. His novels are great chunks of raw filth,
rank, garlic garnished and hideous. We touch them only because the
French critics have called them savory. If the _Revue de Deux Mondes_
should praise a Turkish novel we could not wait to read it before we
joined in. Tolstoi is remarkable for two things: his coarseness and his
vulgar disregard of decency and truth. His life and his writings are
alike crammed with absurdities and contradictory puerilities which would
be laughable but for their evil tendencies."

"But, my dear sir, how then do you account for the many editions of
Tolstoi's books?" inquired the historian, R. Hobbs Lucas.

"Just as I account for the editions of Cowper and Montgomery and
Wordsworth and even Shakespeare," responded Peck. "You put a ten per
cent. author's royalty on all those dear classics and see how soon
the publishers will quit uttering them! If Tolstoi's Russian raw meat
stories were put upon the market in a fair competition with American
novels the latter would beat them all hollow in selling."

"Oh, we ought to have international copyright," plaintively exclaimed a
dozen voices, and so the conversation ended.

Strangely enough, each one of the company in growing silent did so in
order to weigh certain suggestions arising out of Peck's assertions. It
was as if a score of semi-annual statements of copyright accounts were
fluttering in the breeze, and it was as if a score of wistful voices had
whispered:

"How in the world do publishers grow rich when the books they publish
never sell?"

Perhaps Gaspard Dufour should be mentioned as appearing to have little
sympathy with Peck's theory or with the inward mutterings it had
engendered in the case of the rest of the company.

If there was any change in Dufour's face it was expressed in a smile of
intense self-satisfaction.


XI.

It was, of course, not long that the newspapers of our wide-awake
country were kept from giving their readers very picturesque glimpses of
what was going on among the dwellers on Mt. Boab. The humorists of the
press, those charming fellows whose work is so enjoyable when performed
upon one's neighbor and so excruciating when turned against oneself,
saw the vulnerable points of the situation and let go a broadside of
ridicule that reverberated from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It became
a matter of daily amusement among the inmates of Hotel Helicon to come
together in little groups and discuss these humorous missiles fired upon
them from California, Texas, Arkansas and Wisconsin, from Brooklyn,
Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Oil-City, Detroit and--, but from everywhere,
indeed.

When it came to Miss Crabb's adventure, every humorist excelled himself
in descriptive smartness and in cunning turns of ironical phrasing. The
head-line experts did telling work in the same connection. All this was
perfectly understood and enjoyed at home, but foreigners, especially the
English, stubbornly insisted upon viewing it as the high-water mark of
American refinement and culture.

When that genial periodical, the Smartsburgh _Bulldozer_, announced with
due gravity that Miss Crabb, a Western journalist, had leaped from the
top of Mt. Boab to the valley below, and had been caught in the arms of
a stalwart moonshiner, where she safely reposed, etc., the London
_Times_ copied the paragraph and made it a text for a heavy editorial
upon the barbaric influences of Republican institutions, to which the
American Minister felt bound to advert in a characteristic after-dinner
speech at a London club. So humorous, however, were his remarks that he
was understood to be vigorously in earnest, and the result was perfect
confirmation of the old world's opinion as to the rudimentary character
of our national culture.

Meantime Hotel Helicon continued to be the scene of varied if not
startling incidents. In their search for local color and picturesque
material, the litterateurs invaded every nook and corner of the region
upon and round about Mt. Boab, sketching, making notes, recording
suggestions, studying dialect, and filling their minds with the uncouth
peculiarities of the mountain folk.

"It has come to this," grumbled Peck, "that American literature, its
fiction I mean, is founded on dialect drivel and vulgar yawp. Look at
our magazines; four-fifths of their short stories are full of negro
talk, or cracker lingo, or mountain jibberish, or New England farm
yawp, or Hoosier dialect. It is horribly humiliating. It actually makes
foreigners think that we are a nation of green-horns. Why, a day or two
ago I had occasion to consult the article on American literature in the
Encyclopædia Britannica and therein I was told in one breath how great
a writer and how truly American Mr. Lowell is, and in the next breath
I was informed that a poem beginning with the verse, 'Under the yaller
pines I house' is one of his master-pieces! Do you see? Do you catch the
drift of the Englishman's argument? To be truly great, _as an American_,
one must be surpassingly vulgar, even in poetry!"

This off-hand shower of critical observation had as little effect upon
the minds of Peck's hearers as a summer rain has on the backs of a flock
of ducks. They even grew more vehement in their pursuit of local color.

"When I was spending a month at Rockledge castle with Lord Knownaught,"
said Crane, "his lordship frequently suggested that I should make a poem
on the life of Jesse James."

"Well, why didn't you do it?" inquired Miss Crabb with a ring of
impatience in her voice, "if you had you might have made a hit. You
might have attracted some attention."

Dufour laughed heartily, as if he had caught some occult humor from the
young woman's words.

"I did write it," said Crane retrospectively, "and sent it to George
Dunkirk & Co."

"Well?" sighed Miss Crabb with intense interest.

"Well," replied Crane, "they rejected the MS. without reading it."

Again Dufour laughed, as if at a good joke.

"George Dunkirk & Co.!" cried Guilford Ferris, the romancer, "George
Dunkirk & Co.! They are thieves. They have been making false reports on
copyright to me for five years or more!"

Dufour chuckled as if his jaws would fall off, and finally with a red
face and gleaming humorous eyes got up from the chair he was filling on
the veranda, and went up to his room.

The rest of the company looked at one another inquiringly.

"Who is he, anyhow?" demanded Peck.

"That's just my query," said Ferris.

"Nobody in the house knows anything definite about him," remarked R.
Hobbs Lucas. "And yet he evidently is a distinguished person, and his
name haunts me."

"So it does me," said Miss Moyne.

"I tell you he's a newspaper reporter. His cheek proves that," remarked
Peck.

Miss Crabb made a note, her own cheek flaming. "I presume you call that
humor," she observed, "it's about like New York's best efforts. In the
West reporters are respectable people."

"I beg pardon," Peck said hastily, "I did not mean to insinuate that
anybody is not respectable. Everybody is eminently respectable if I
speak of them. I never trouble myself with the other kind."

"Well, I don't believe that Mr. Dufour is a reporter at all," replied
Miss Crabb, with emphasis, "for he's not inquisitive, he don't make
notes, and he don't appear to be writing any."

"In my opinion he's a realist--a genuine analytical, motive-dissecting,
commonplace-recording, international novelist in disguise," said Ferris.

"Oh!"

"Ah!"

"Dear me!"

"But who?"

"It may be Arthur Selby himself, incog. Who knows?"

"Humph!" growled Crane with a lofty scrowl, "I should think I ought to
know Selby. I drank wine with him at--"

His remark was cut short by the arrival of the mail and the general
scramble that followed.

Upon this occasion the number of newspapers that fell to the hand of
each guest was much greater than usual, and it was soon discovered that
Miss Crabb's latest letter had been forwarded to a "syndicate" and was
appearing simultaneously in ninety odd different journals.

No piece of composition ever was more stunningly realistic or more
impartially, nay, abjectly truthful than was that letter. It gave
a minute account of the quarrel between Peck and Crane over their
attentions to Miss Moyne, the fight, Miss Crabb's fall, the subsequent
adventures and all the hotel gossip of every sort. It was personal to
the last degree, but it was not in the slightest libelous. No person
could say that any untruth had been told, or even that any tinge of
false-coloring had been laid upon the facts as recorded; and yet how
merciless!

Of course Miss Crabb's name did not appear with the article, save as
one of its subjects, and she saw at once that she had better guard her
secret.

That was a breeze which rustled through Hotel Helicon. Everybody was
supremely indignant; but there was no clue to the traitor who had
thus betrayed everybody's secrets. It would be absurd to suppose that
Miss Crabb was not suspected at once, on account of her constant and
superfluous show of note-making, still there were others who might be
guilty. Crane and Peck were indignant, the former especially ready to
resent to the death any allusion to the details of the duel. Miss Moyne
with the quick insight of a clever and gifted young woman, comprehended
the situation in its general terms and was vexed as much as amused. The
whole thing had to her mind the appearance of a melodramatic, broadly
sensational sketch, in which she had played the part of the innocent,
unconscious, but all-powerful heroine. Indeed the newspaper account
placed her in this unpleasant attitude before a million readers.

"A lucky affair for you, Miss Moyne," said Dufour to her, a few days
later, "you cannot over-reckon the boom it will give to your latest
book. You may expect a pretty round sum with your next copyright
statement."

He spoke with the voice and air of one who knew how to read the signs of
the day.

"But the ridiculous idea of having all this stuff about me going the
rounds of the newspapers!" she responded, her beautiful patrician face
showing just a hint of color.

"Don't care for it a moment," said Dufour, "it will not hurt you."

"The thought of having that hideous picture in all the patent inside
pages of the cheap press, with my name under it, _en toutes lettres_,
and--why it is horrible!" she went on, with trembling lips.

Dufour smiled upon her, as if indulgently, a curious, tender gleam in
his eyes.

"Wait," he said, "and don't allow it to trouble you. The world
discriminates pretty well, after all. It will not hurt you. It's a
mighty boom for you."

She looked at him with a sudden flash in her cheeks and eyes, and
exclaimed almost vehemently: "I will not permit it! They shall not
do it. I cannot bear to be treated as if--as if I were a theatrical
person--a variety actress!"

"My dear Miss Moyne," he hurriedly said, his own face showing a tinge of
embarrassment, "you are taking a wrong point of view, indeed you are.
Wait till you see the out-come." His tone was humble and apologetic as
he continued--"My opinion is that this very thing will quadruple the
sales of your book."

"I don't want them quadrupled," she cried, "just look at that front hair
and that nose!" She held up a newspaper for him to inspect a picture of
herself, a miserable, distorted thing. "It is absolutely disgraceful.
My dresses never fit like that, and who ever saw me with a man's collar
on!"

Tears were in her beautiful eyes.

Dufour consoled her as best he could, though he could not resist the
temptation to suggest that even a caricature of her face was sure to
have in it the fascination of genuine loveliness, a suggestion which was
phrased with consummate art and received with an appearance of innocence
that was beyond all art.


XII.

Summer on Mt. Boab was much like summer on any other mountain, and life
at Hotel Helicon was very like life at any other mountain hotel, save
that a certain specialization due to the influence of literature and art
was apparent in the present instance, giving to the house, the landscape
and the intercourse of the guests a peculiar tinge, so to say, of
self-consciousness and artificiality. Not that these authors, thus drawn
together by the grace of a man grown suddenly rich, were very different
from men and women of other lines in life, the real peculiarity sprang
out of the obligation by which every one felt bound to make the most, in
a professional way, of the situation and the environment. Perhaps there
was not a soul under the broad roof of Hotel Helicon, servants excepted,
that did not secrete in its substance the material for a novel, a poem,
or an essay which was to brim with the local life and flash with the
local color of the region of Mt. Boab. Yes, there appeared to be one
exception. Dufour constantly expressed a contempt for the mountaineers
and their country.

"To be sure," he conceded, "to be sure there is a demand for dialect
stories, and I suppose that they must be written; but for my part I
cannot see why we Americans must stultify ourselves in the eyes of all
the world by flooding our magazines, newspapers and books with yawp
instead of with a truly characteristic American literature of a high
order. There is some excuse for a quasi-negro literature, and even the
Creoles might have a niche set apart for them, but dialect, on the
whole, is growing to be a literary bore."

"But don't you think," said Miss Crabb, drawing her chin under, and
projecting her upper teeth to such a degree that anything like realistic
description would appear brutal, "don't you think, Mr. Dufour, that Mr.
Tolliver would make a great character in a mountain romance?"

"No. There is nothing great in a clown, as such," he promptly answered.
"If Tolliver is great he would be great without his jargon."

"Yes," she admitted, "but the picturesqueness, the color, the contrast,
you know, would be gone. Now Craddock--"

"Craddock is excellent, so long as there is but one Craddock, but when
there are some dozens of him it is different," said Dufour, "and it is
the process of multiplication that I object to. There's Cable, who is
no longer a genius of one species. The writers of Creole stories are
swarming by the score, and, poor old Uncle Remus! everybody writes negro
dialect now. Literary claim-jumpers are utterly conscienceless. The book
market will soon be utterly ruined."

Miss Crabb puffed out her lean sallow cheeks and sighed heavily.

"I had hoped," she said, "to get my novel on the market before this, but
I have not yet found a publisher to suit me."

She winced inwardly at this way of expressing the fact that every
publisher, high and low, far and near, had declined her MS. out of hand;
but she could not say the awful truth in its simpliest terms, while
speaking to one so prosperous as Dufour. She felt that she must at all
hazards preserve a reasonable show of literary independence. Crane came
to her aid.

"One publisher is just as good as another," he said almost savagely.
"They are all thieves. They report every book a failure, save those they
own outright, and yet they all get rich. I shall publish for myself my
next volume."

Dufour smiled grimly and turned away. It was rather monotonous, this
iteration and reiteration of so grave a charge against the moral
character of publishers, and this threat of Crane's to become his own
publisher was a bit of unconscious and therefore irresistible humor.

"It's too pathetic to be laughed at," Dufour thought, as he strolled
along to where Miss Moyne sat under a tree, "but that Kentuckian
actually thinks himself a poet!"

With all his good nature and kind heartedness, Dufour could be
prejudiced, and he drew the line at what he called the "prevailing
tendency toward boastful prevarication among Kentucky gentlemen."

As he walked away he heard Crane saying:

"George Dunkirk & Co. have stolen at least twenty thousand dollars in
royalties from me during the past three years."

It was the voice of Ferris that made interrogative response:

"Is Dunkirk your publisher?"

"Yes, or rather my robber."

"Glad of it, misery loves company."

Dufour half turned about and cast a quick glance at the speakers. He did
not say anything, however, but resumed his progress toward Miss Moyne,
who had just been joined by Mrs. Nancy Jones Black, a stoutish and
oldish woman very famous on account of having assumed much and done
little. Mrs. Nancy Jones Black was from Boston. She was president of the
Woman's Antiquarian Club, of the Ladies' Greek Association, of The
Sappho Patriotic Club, of the Newport Fashionable Near-sighted Club for
the study of Esoteric Transcendentalism, and it may not be catalogued
how many more societies and clubs. She was a great poet who had never
written any great poem, a great essayist whom publishers and editors
avoided, whom critics regarded as below mediocrity, but of whom
everybody stood in breathless awe, and she was an authority in many
literary and philosophical fields of which she really knew absolutely
nothing. She was a reformer and a person of influence who had made a
large number of her kinsfolk famous as poets and novelists without any
apparent relevancy between the fame and the literary work done. If your
name were Jones and you could trace out your relationship to Mrs. Nancy
Jones Black and could get Mrs. Nancy Jones Black interested in your
behalf, you could write four novels a year with great profit ever
afterward.

As Dufour approached he heard Miss Moyne say:

"I publish my poor little works with George Dunkirk & Co. and the firm
has been very kind to me. I feel great encouragement, but I don't see
how I can bear this horrible newspaper familiarity and vulgarity."

"My dear child," said Mrs. Nancy Jones Black, placing her plump,
motherly hand on the young woman's arm, "you must not appear to notice
it. Do as did my daughter Lois when they assailed her first little novel
with sugar-plum praise. Why, when it began to leak out that Lois was
the author of _A Sea-Side Symphony_ the poor girl was almost smothered
with praise. Of course I had to take the matter in hand and under my
advice Lois went abroad for six months. When she returned she found
herself famous."

"Talking shop?" inquired Dufour, accepting the offer of a place on the
bench beside Mrs. Black.

"Yes," said she, with a comprehensive wave of her hand, "I am taking
Miss Moyne under my wing, so to say, and am offering her the comfort of
my experience. She is a genius whom it doesn't spoil to praise. She's
going to be the next sensation in the East."

"I suggested as much to her," said Dufour. "She is already on a strong
wave, but she must try and avoid being refractory, you know." He said
this in a straightforward, business way, but his voice was touched with
a certain sort of admirable tenderness.

Miss Moyne was looking out over the deep, hazy valley, her cheeks still
warm with the thought of that newspaper portrait with its shabby clothes
and towsled bangs. What was fame, bought at such a price! She bridled a
little, but did not turn her head as she said.

"I am not refractory, I am indignant, and I have a right to be. They
cannot justify the liberty they have taken, besides I will not accept
notoriety--I--"

"There, now, dear, that is what Lois said, and Milton John Jones,
my nephew, was at first bound that he wouldn't let Tom, my brother,
advertise him; but he soon saw his way clear, I assure you, and now he
publishes four serials at once. Be prudent, dear, be prudent."

"But the idea of picturing me with great barbaric rings in my ears and
with a corkscrew curl on each side and--"

Dufour interrupted her with a laugh almost hearty enough to be called a
guffaw, and Mrs. Black smiled indulgently as if at a clever child which
must be led, not driven.

"Being conscious that you really are stylish and beautiful, you needn't
care for the picture," said Dufour, in a tone of sturdy sincerity.

"There is nothing so effective as a foil," added Mrs. Black.

Miss Moyne arose and with her pretty chin slightly elevated walked away.

"How beautiful she is!" exclaimed Dufour, gazing after her, "and I am
delighted to know that you are taking an interest in her."

Mrs. Black smiled complacently, and with a bland sidewise glance at him,
remarked:

"She grows upon one."

"Yes," said he, with self-satisfied obtuseness, "yes, she is magnetic,
she is a genuine genius."

"Precisely, she stirs one's heart strangely," replied Mrs. Black.

"Yes, I have noted that; it's very remarkable."

"You should speak of it to her at the first opportunity."

Dufour started a little, flushed and finally laughed as one does who
discovers a bit of clever and harmless treachery.

"If I only dared," he presently said, with something very like fervor in
his tone. "If I only dared."

Mrs. Black looked at him a moment, as if measuring in her mind his
degree of worthiness, then with a wave of her hand she said:

"Never do you dare to dare. Mr. Crane stands right in your path."

Dufour leaped to his feet with the nimbleness and dangerous celerity of
a tiger.

"Crane!" he exclaimed with a world of contempt in his voice, "If he--"
but he stopped short and laughed at himself.

Mrs. Black looked at him with a patronizing expression in her eyes.

"Leave it to me," she said, in her most insinuating tone.


XIII.

Crane tried not to show the bitterness he felt as he saw his hope of
winning the favor of Miss Moyne fading rapidly out, but now and again a
cloud of irresistible melancholy fell upon him.

At such times it was his habit to lean upon the new fence that
circumscribed Hotel Helicon and dreamily smoke a cigar. He felt a blind
desire to assassinate somebody, if he could only know who. Of course not
Peck, for Peck, too, was disconsolate, but somebody, anybody who would
claim the place of a successful rival.

One morning while he stood thus regaling himself with his tobacco and
his misery, Tolliver rode up, on a handsome horse this time, and,
lifting his broad hat, bowed picturesquely and said:

"Good mornin,' Kyernel, how're ye this mornin'?"

"Good morning," growled Crane.

Tolliver looked off over the valley and up at the sky which was flecked
with tags of fleece-cloud.

"Hit look like hit mought rain in er day er two," he remarked.

"Yes, I don't know, quite likely," said Crane, gazing evasively in
another direction.

"Ever'body's well, I s'pose, up ther' at the tavern?" inquired Tolliver.

"I believe so," was the cold answer.

Tolliver leaned over the pommel of his saddle-tree and combed his
horse's mane with his sinewy fingers. Meantime the expression in his
face was one of exceeding embarrassment blent with cunning.

"Kyernel, c'u'd ye do a feller a leetle yerrent what's of importance?"
he asked with peculiar faltering.

"Do what?" inquired Crane lifting his eye-brows and turning the cigar in
his mouth.

"Jest a leetle frien'ly job o' kindness," said Tolliver, "jest ter
please ask thet young leddy--thet Miss Crabb 'at I fotch up yer on er
mule tother day, ye know; well, jest ax her for me ef I moughtn't come
in an' see 'er on pertic'lar an' pressin' business, ef ye please, sir."

By this time the mountaineer's embarrassment had become painfully
apparent. Any good judge of human nature could have seen at once that he
was almost overcome with the burden and worry of the matter in hand. His
cheeks were pale and his eyes appeared to be fading into utter vacancy
of expression. Crane told him that there was no need to be particularly
formal, that if he would go in and ask for Miss Crabb she would see him
in the parlor.

"But, Kyernel, hit's er private, sort er confidential confab 'at I must
hev wi' 'er, an'----"

"Oh, well, that's all right, you'll not be interrupted in the parlor."

"Air ye pine blank shore of it, Kyernel?"

"Certainly."

"Dead shore?"

"Quite, I assure you."

Crane had become interested in Tolliver's affair, whatever it might be.
He could not keep from sharing the man's evident intensity of mood, and
all the time he was wondering what the matter could be. Certainly no
common-place subject could so affect a man of iron like Tolliver. The
poet's lively imagination was all aglow over the mystery, but it could
not formulate any reasonable theory of explanation.

Miss Crabb appeared in the parlor promptly and met Tolliver with a
cordiality that, instead of reassuring him, threw him into another fit
of embarrassment from which he at first made no effort to recover. His
wide-brimmed hat, as he twirled it on his knees, quivered convulsively
in accord with the ague of excitement with which his whole frame was
shaking. He made certain soundless movements with his lips, as if
muttering to himself.

Miss Crabb at first did not notice his confusion, and went on talking
rapidly, reiterating thanks for the kindness he had shown her in her
recent mishap, and managing to put into her voice some tones that to him
sounded very tender and sweet.

"You don't know--you can't imagine, Mr. Tolliver, what I suffered during
that awful night," she said, turning her head to one side and drawing
her chin under until it almost disappeared in the lace at her throat.
"It was horrible."

Tolliver looked at her helplessly, his mouth open, his eyes dull and
sunken.

"How did you happen to discover me up there, anyway, Mr. Tolliver?" she
demanded, leaning toward him and laughing a little.

"The dog he treed ye, an' then I seed ye settin' up ther' er writin'
away," he managed to say, a wave of relief passing over his face at the
sound of his own voice.

"It was perfectly ridiculous, perfectly preposterous," she exclaimed,
"but I'm mighty thankful that I was not hurt."

"Yes, well ye mought be, Miss Crabb," he stammered out. "Wonder ye
wasn't scrunched inter pieces an' scattered all eround ther'."

She slipped out her book, took a pencil from over her ear and made a
note.

Tolliver eyed her dolefully. "How do you spell scrunched, Mr. Tolliver,
in your dialect?" she paused to inquire.

His jaw fell a little lower for a moment, then he made an effort:

"S--q--r--u--" he paused and shook his head, "S--q--k--no thet's not
hit--s--k--q--r--dorg ef I ken spell thet word--begging yer parding, hit
air 'tirely too hard for me." He settled so low in his chair that his
knees appeared almost as high as his head.

"All right," she cheerily exclaimed, "I can get it phonetically. It's
a new word. I don't think either Craddock or Johnson uses it, it's
valuable."

There was a silence during which Miss Crabb thoughtfully drummed on her
projecting front teeth with the end of her pencil.

Tolliver nerved himself and said:

"Miss Crabb I--I, well, ye know, I--that is, begging yer parding, but I
hev something' I want er say ter ye, ef ye please." He glanced furtively
around, as if suspecting that some person lay secreted among the
curtains of a bay window hard by. And indeed, Dufour was there, lightly
indulging in a morning nap, while the mountain breeze flowed over him.
He was in a deep bamboo chair behind those very curtains.

"Oh, certainly, certainly, Mr. Tolliver, go on, I shall be delighted,
charmed indeed, to hear what you have to say," Miss Crabb responded,
turning a fresh leaf of her note-book and putting on a hopeful look.

"I hope ye'll stick ter thet after I've done said it ter ye," he
proceeded to say, "but dorg on me ef I know how ter begin sayin' it."

"Oh, just go right on, it's all right; I assure you, Mr. Tolliver, I am
very anxious to hear."

"Mebbe ye air, I don't dispute yer word, but I feel mighty onery all the
same."

"Onery is a Western word," mused Miss Crabb, making a note.

"Proceed, Mr. Tolliver," she continued after a pause, "proceed, I am
listening with great interest."

"What I'm ergwine ter state ter ye mought mek ye mad, but hit can't be
holp, I jest hev ter say it--I air jest erbleeged ter say it."

His voice was husky and he was assuming a tragic air. Miss Crabb felt a
strange thrill creep throughout her frame as a sudden suspicion seemed
to leap back and forth between her heart and her brain.

"No, I assure you that I could not be angry with you, Mr. Tolliver,
under any circumstances," she murmured, "you have been so very kind to
me."

"Hit air awful confusin' an' hit mek a feller feel smaller 'n a mouse
ter speak it right out, but then hit air no foolishness, hit air pine
blank business."

"Of course," said Miss Crabb pensively, "of course you feel some
embarrassment."

He hitched himself up in his chair and crossed his legs.

"Ef ye don't like w'at I say, w'y I won't blame ye a bit. I feel jest as
if I wer a doin' somethin' 'at I hadn't orter do, but my mammy she say I
must, an' that do everlastin'ly settle it."

"Yes, your mother's advice is always safe."

"Safe, I shed say so! Hit's mighty onsafe fer me not ter foller it, I
kin tell ye. She'd thump my old gourd fer me in ermazin' style ef I
didn't."

"Thump my old gourd," repeated Miss Crabb, making a note. "Go on, Mr.
Tolliver, please."

"S'pose I mought as well, seein' 'at it has ter be said." He paused,
faltered, and then proceeded: "Well, beggin' yer parding, Miss Crabb,
but ever sence ye wer' down ther' ter we all's cabin, hit's been a
worryin' my mammy and me, an' we hev' talked it all over an' over."

"Yes," sighed Miss Crabb.

"Hit's not the cost of them beads, Miss Crabb, they air not wo'th much,
but they was guv ter mammy by her aunt Mandy Ann Bobus, an' she feel
like she jest can't give 'em up."

Miss Crabb looked puzzled.

"Ef ye'll jest erblige me an' hand them beads over ter me, I'll never
say er wo'd ter nobody ner nothin."

"Mr. Tolliver, what in the world do you mean?" cried Miss Crabb, rising
and standing before him with a face that flamed with sudden anger.

"Ye mought er tuck 'em kinder accidentally, ye know," he suggested in a
conciliatory tone, rising also.

"Mr. Tolliver!" she almost screamed.

"Ther' now, be still, er ye'll let ever'body know all erbout it," he
half whispered. "Hit'd be disgraceful."

"Mr. Tolliver!"

"Sh-h-h! They'll hear ye!"

"Get right out of this room, you--"

Just then Dufour, who had been slowly aroused from his nap and who while
yet half asleep had overheard much of what had been said, stepped forth
from behind the curtains and stood looking from one to the other of the
excited actors in the little drama.

"What's up?" he, demanded bluntly.

"He's accusing me of stealing beads!" cried Miss Crabb. "He's insulting
me!"

"What!" exclaimed Dufour, glaring at Tolliver.

"I feel mighty onery a doin' it," said Tolliver, "but hit air pine blank
mighty suspicious, Kyernel, hit air for a fac'."

Dufour looked as if he hardly knew which he should do, laugh
boisterously, or fling Tolliver out of the window, but he quickly pulled
himself together and said calmly:

"You are wrong, sir, and you must apologize."

"Certingly, certingly," said Tolliver, "thet air jest what I air a
doin'. I beg parding er thousan' times fer sayin' what I hev, but,
Kyernel, hit air a Lor' a mighty's truth, all the same, le' me tell ye.
Them beads was ther' w'en she come, an' they was gone w'en she was gone,
an'--"

"Stop that! Take back those words or I'll throw you--"

Dufour took a step towards Tolliver, but stopped suddenly when the
latter drew a huge revolver with one hand and a long crooked bowie-knife
with the other and said:

"No yer don't, Kyernel, not by er good deal. Jest ye open yer bread-trap
ergain an' I'll jest clean up this ole shanty in erbout two minutes."

It may not be inferred how this bit of dramatic experience would have
ended had not a lean, wizzen-faced mountain lad rushed in just then with
a three-cornered piece of paper in his hand upon which was scrawled the
following message:

"I hev fown them beeds. They wus in mi terbacker bag."

Tolliver read this and wilted.

The boy was panting and almost exhausted. He had run all the way up the
mountain from the Tolliver cabin.

"Yer mammy say kum home," he gasped.

"Hit air jest as I 'spected," said Tolliver. "Mammy hev made a pine
blank eejit of me again." He handed the message to Dufour as he spoke.
His pistol and knife had disappeared.

A full explanation followed, and at the end of a half-hour Tolliver went
away crest-fallen but happy.

As for Miss Crabb she had made a number of valuable dialect notes.

Dufour promised not to let the rest of the guests know what had just
happened in the parlor.


XIV.

"Literature-making has not yet taken the rank of a profession, but of
late the world has modified its opinion as to the ability of literary
people to drive a close bargain, or to manage financial affairs with
success. Many women and some men have shown that it is possible for a
vivid imagination and a brilliant style in writing to go close along
with a practical judgment and a fair share of selfish shrewdness in
matters of bargain and sale. Still, after all, it remains true that a
strong majority of literary people are of the Micawber genus, with great
faith in what is to turn up, always nicely balancing themselves on the
extreme verge of expectancy and gazing over into the promise-land of
fame and fortune with pathetically hopeful, yet awfully hollow eyes.
Indeed there is no species of gambling more uncertain in its results or
more irresistibly fascinating to its victims than literary gambling.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, the deluded,
enthusiastic, ever defeated but never discouraged writer plies his pen,
besieges the publishers and editors, receives their rebuffs, rough or
smooth, takes back his declined manuscripts, tries it over and over,
sweats, fumes, execrates, coaxes, bullies, raves, re-writes, takes a new
_nom de plume_ and new courage, goes on and on to the end. Here or there
rumor goes that some fortunate literator has turned the right card and
has drawn a great prize; this rumor, never quite authentic, is enough to
re-invigorate all the fainting scribblers and to entice new victims
into the gilded casino of the Cadmean vice. The man who manipulates the
literary machine is the publisher, that invisible person who usually
grows rich upon the profits of unsuccessful books. He it is who
inveigles the infatuated young novelist, essayist, or poet, into the
beautiful bunco-den of the book business and there fastens him and holds
him as long as he will not squeal; but at the first note of remonstrance
he kicks him out and fills his place with a fresh victim. The literary
Micawber, however, does not despair. He may be a little silly from the
effect of the summersault to which the publisher's boot has treated him,
but after a distraught look about him he gets up, brushes the dust off
his seedy clothes and goes directly back into the den again with another
manuscript under his arm and with a feverish faith burning in his
deep-set eyes. What serene and beautiful courage, by the way, have the
literary women! Of course the monster who presides at the publisher's
desk cannot be as brutal to her as he is to men, but he manipulates her
copyright statements all the same, so that her book never passes the
line of fifteen hundred copies sold. How can we ever account for a woman
who has written forty-three novels under such circumstances and has
died, finally, a devout Christian and a staunch friend of her publisher?
Poor thing! up to the hour of her demise, white-haired, wrinkled,
over-worked, nervous and semi-paralytic, she nursed the rosy hope that
to-morrow, or at the very latest, the day after to-morrow, the reward
of all her self-devotion would come to her in the form of a liberal
copyright statement from her long-suffering and charitable publisher.

"Out in the West they have a disease called milk-sickness, an awful
malady, of which everybody stands in deadly terror, but which nobody
has ever seen. If you set out to find a case of milk-sickness it is
like following a _will-o'-the-wisp_, it is always just a little way
farther on, over in the next settlement; you never find it. The really
successful author in America is, like the milk-sickness, never visible,
except on the remote horizon. You hear much of him, but you never have
the pleasure of shaking his cunning right hand. The fact is, he is a
myth. On the other hand, however, the American cities are full of
successful publishers who have become millionaires upon the profits of
books which have starved their authors. Of course this appears to be a
paradox, but I suppose that it can be explained by the rule of profit
and loss. The author's loss is the publisher's profit."

The foregoing is, in substance, the opening part of an address delivered
by Ferris before the assembled guests of Hotel Helicon.

Mrs. Nancy Jones Black presided at the meeting; indeed she always
presided at meetings. On this occasion, which was informal and
impromptu, Ferris was in excellent mood for speaking, as he just had
been notified by a letter from Dunkirk & Co. that he was expected to pay
in advance for the plates of his new romance, _A Mysterious Missive_,
and that a personal check would not be accepted--a draft on New York
must be sent forthwith. Although Ferris was a thoroughly good fellow,
who cared nothing for money as money, this demand for a sum the half
of which he could not command if his life were at stake, hit him like
a bullet-stroke. A chance to talk off the soreness of the wound was
accepted with avidity. He felt guilty of a meanness, it is true, in thus
stirring up old troubles and opening afresh ancient hurts in the breasts
of his listening friends; but the relief to him was so great that he
could not forego it. "The American publisher," he went on, "proclaims
himself a fraud by demanding of the author a contract which places the
author's business wholly in the control of the publisher. I take it that
publishers are just as honest and just as dishonest, as any other class
of respectable men. You know and I know, that, as a rule, the man
who trusts his business entirely to others will, in the long run, be
robbed. Administrators of estates rob the heirs, in two-thirds of the
instances, as every probate lawyer well knows. Every merchant has to
treat his clerks and salesmen as if they were thieves, or if he do not
they will become thieves. The government has to appoint bank examiners
to watch the bankers, and yet they steal. The Indian agents steal from
the government. Senators steal, aldermen steal, Wall street men steal
from one another and from everybody else. Canada is overflowing with men
who have betrayed and robbed those who trusted their business with them.
Even clergymen (that poorly paid and much abused class) now and again
fall before the temptation offered by the demon of manipulated returns
of trust funds. The fact is, one may feel perfectly safe in saying that
in regard to all the professions, trades, and occupations, there is
absolutely no safety in trusting one's affairs wholly in the hands of
another. (Great applause). Even your milkman waters the milk and the
dairyman sells you butter that never was in a churn. If you neglect to
keep a pass-book your grocer runs up the bill to--(a great rustle, and
some excited whispering) up to something enormous. Of course it is not
everybody that is dishonest, but experience shows that if a man has
the temptation to defraud his customers constantly before him, with
absolutely no need to fear detection, he will soon reason himself into
believing it his right to have the lion's share of all that goes into
his hands.

"Now isn't it strange, in view of the premises, that nobody ever heard
of such a thing as a publisher being convicted of making false returns?
Is it possible that the business of book-publishing is so pure and good
of itself that it attracts to it none but perfect men? (Great applause).
Publishers do fail financially once in a while, but their books of
accounts invariably show that just eleven hundred and forty copies of
each copyrighted book on their lists have been sold to date, no more, no
less. (Suppressed applause). Nobody ever saw cleaner or better balanced
books of accounts than those kept by the publishers. They foot up
correctly to a cent. Indeed it would be a very strange thing if a
man couldn't make books balance under such circumstances! (Prolonged
hand-clapping). I am rather poor at double entry, but I fancy I could
make a credit of eleven hundred and forty copies sold, so as to have it
show up all right. (Cheers). I must not lose my head in speaking on this
subject, for I cannot permit you to misunderstand my motive. So long as
authors submit to the per centum method of publication, so long they
will be the prey of the publishers. The only method by which justice
can be assured to both author and publisher is the cash-sale method. If
every author in America would refuse to let his manuscript go out of
hand before he had received the cash value for it, the trade would soon
adjust itself properly. In that case the author's reputation would be
his own property. So soon as he had made an audience his manuscripts
would command a certain price. If one publisher would not pay enough
for it another would. As the method now is, it makes little difference
whether the author have a reputation or not. Indeed most publishers
prefer to publish the novels, for example, of clever tyros, because
these fledglings are so proud of seeing themselves in print that
they never think of questioning copyright statements. Eleven hundred
and forty copies usually will delight them almost beyond endurance.
(Laughter and applause). Go look at the book lists of the publishers and
you will feel the truth of what I have said.

"Now let me ask you if you can give, or if any publisher can give
one solitary honest reason why the publishing business should not be
put upon a cash basis--a manuscript for so much money? The publisher
controls his own business, he knows every nook and corner, every
leaf and every line of it, and he should be able to say, just as the
corn-merchant does, I will give you so much, to which the author would
say: I will take it, or I will not take it. But what is the good of
standing here and arguing? You believe every word I speak, but you don't
expect to profit by it. You will go on gambling at the publisher's faro
table just as long as he will smile and deal the cards. Some of these
days you will win, you think. Poor deluded wretches, go on and die in
the faith!"

No sooner had Ferris ended than Lucas the historian arose and expressed
grave doubts as to the propriety of the address. He was decidedly of the
opinion that authors could not afford to express themselves so freely
and, if he must say it, recklessly. How could Mr. Ferris substantiate by
proof any of the damaging allegations he had made against publishers of
high standing? What Mr. Ferris had said might be strictly true, but the
facts were certainly, very hard to come at, he thought. He hoped that
Mr. Ferris's address would not be reported to the press (here he glanced
appealingly at Miss Crabb), at least not as the sense of the meeting.
Such a thing would, in his opinion, be liable to work a great harm to
all present. He felt sure that the publishers would resent the whole
thing as malicious and libellous.

Throughout the audience there was a nervous stirring, a looking at one
another askance. It was as if a cold wave had flowed over them. Nobody
had anything further to say, and it was a great relief when Dufour moved
an adjournment _sine die_, which was carried by a vote that suggested a
reserve of power. Every face in the audience, with the exception of
Dufour's, wore a half-guilty look, and everybody crept silently out of
the room.


XV.

It caused quite a commotion on Mt. Boab when Bartley Hubbard and Miss
Henrietta Stackpole, newspaper people from Boston, arrived at Hotel
Helicon. Miss Stackpole had just returned from Europe, and Bartley
Hubbard had run down from Boston for a week to get some points for his
paper. She had met Mr. Henry James on the continent and Hubbard had
dined with Mr. Howells just before leaving Boston.

No two persons in all the world would have been less welcome among the
guests at the hotel, just then, than were these professional reporters.
Of course everybody tried to give them a cordial greeting, but they were
classed along with Miss Crabb as dangerous characters whom it would be
folly to snub. Miss Moyne was in downright terror of them, associating
the thought of them with those ineffable pictures of herself which were
still appearing at second and third hand in the "patent insides" of the
country journals, but she was very good to them, and Miss Stackpole
at once attached herself to her unshakably. Hubbard did likewise with
little Mrs. Philpot, who amused him mightily with her strictures upon
analytical realism in fiction.

"I do think that Mr. Howells treated you most shamefully," she said to
him. "He had no right to represent you as a disagreeable person who was
cruel to his wife and who had no moral stamina."

Hubbard laughed as one who hears an absurd joke. "Oh, Howells and I have
an understanding. We are really great friends," he said. "I sat to him
for my portrait and I really think he flattered me. I managed to keep
him from seeing some of my ugliest lines."

"Now you are not quite sincere," said Mrs. Philpot, glancing over him
from head to foot. "You are not so bad as he made you out to be. It's
one of Mr. Howells's hobbies to represent men as rather flabby
nonentities and women as invalids or dolls."

"He's got the men down fine," replied Hubbard, "but I guess he is rather
light on women. You will admit, however, that he dissects feminine
meanness and inconsequence with a deft turn."

"He makes fun of women," said Mrs. Philpot, a little testily, "he
caricatures them, wreaks his humor on them; but you know very well that
he misrepresents them even in his most serious and _quasi_ truthful
moods."

Hubbard laughed, and there was something essentially vulgar in the notes
of the laugh. Mrs. Philpot admitted this mentally, and she found herself
shrinking from his steadfast but almost conscienceless eyes.

"I imagine I shouldn't be as bad a husband as he did me into, but--"

Mrs. Philpot interrupted him with a start and a little cry.

"Dear me! and aren't you married?" she asked in exclamatory deprecation
of what his words had implied.

He laughed again very coarsely and looked at her with eyes that almost
lured. "Married!" he exclaimed, "do I look like a marrying man? A
newspaper man can't afford to marry."

"How strange," reflected Mrs. Philpot, "how funny, and Mr. Howells calls
himself a realist!"

"Realist!" laughed Hubbard, "why he does not know enough about the
actual world to be competent to purchase a family horse. He's a capital
fellow, good and true and kind-hearted, but what does he know about
affairs? He doesn't even know how to flatter women!"

"How absurd!" exclaimed little Mrs. Philpot, but Hubbard could not
be sure for the life of him just what she meant the expression to
characterize.

"And you like Mr. Howells?" she inquired.

"Like him! everybody likes him," he cordially said.

"Well, you are quite different from Miss Crabb. _She_ hates Maurice
Thompson for putting _her_ into a story."

"Oh, well," said Hubbard, indifferently, "women are not like men. They
take life more seriously. If Thompson had had more experience he would
not have tampered with a newspaper woman. He's got the whole crew down
on him. Miss Stackpole hates him almost as fiercely as she hates Henry
James."

"I don't blame her," exclaimed Mrs. Philpot, "it's mean and contemptible
for men to caricature women."

"Oh, I don't know," yawned Hubbard, "it all goes in a lifetime."

At this opportune moment Miss Crabb and Miss Stackpole joined them,
coming arm in arm. Miss Crabb looking all the more sallow and slender in
comparison with the plump, well-fed appearance of her companion.

"May I introduce you to Miss Crabb of the Ringville _Star_, Mr.
Hubbard," Miss Stackpole asked, in a high but by no means rich voice,
as she fastened her steady, button-like eyes on Mrs. Philpot.

Hubbard arose lazily and went through the process of introduction
perfunctorily, giving Miss Crabb a sweeping but indifferent glance.

"There's an impromptu pedestrian excursion on hand," said Miss
Stackpole, "and I feel bound to go. One of the gentlemen has discovered
a hermit's cabin down a ravine near here, and he offers to personally
conduct a party to it. You will go, Mr. Hubbard?"

"Go! I should remark that I will. You don't get a scoop of that item, I
assure you."

Miss Stackpole was a plump and rather pretty young woman, fairly well
dressed in drab drapery. She stood firmly on her feet and had an air
of self-reliance and self-control in strong contrast with the fussy,
nervous manner of Miss Crabb.

Mrs. Philpot surveyed the two young women with that comprehensive,
critical glance which takes in everything that is visible, and quickly
enough she made up her comparison and estimate of them.

She decided that Miss Crabb had no style, no _savoir faire_, no repose;
but then Miss Stackpole was forward, almost impudent in appearance, and
her greater ease of manner was really the ease that comes of a long
training in intrusiveness, and of rubbing against an older civilization.
She felt quite distinctly the decided dash of vulgarity in the three
newspaper representatives before her, and she could not help suspecting
that it would not be safe to judge the press reporters by these
examples.

The question arose in her mind whether after all Howells and Henry James
and Maurice Thompson had acted fairly in taking these as representative
newspaper people.

She had met a great many newspaper people and had learned to like them
as a class; she had many good and helpful friends among them.

Unconsciously she was showing to all present that she was dissecting the
three reporters. Her unfavorable opinion of them slowly took expression
in her tell-tale face. Not that she wholly disliked or distrusted them;
she really pitied them. How could they be content to live such a life,
dependent upon what they could make by meddling, so to speak?

Then too, she felt a vague shame, a chagrin, a regret that real people
must be put into works of fiction with all the seamy side of their
natures turned out to the world's eye.

"We're in for it," exclaimed Hubbard, "Mrs. Philpot is making a study of
us as a group. See the dreaming look in her eyes!"

"Oh, no! she never studies anybody or anything," said Miss Crabb. "Poor
little woman, real life is a constant puzzle to her, and she makes not
the slightest effort to understand it."

Hubbard and Miss Stackpole glanced curiously at each other and then at
Miss Crabb. Evidently their thought was a common one.


XVI.

The pedestrian excursion spoken of by Miss Stackpole promised to be an
enjoyable affair to those of the Helicon guests who could venture upon
it. A writer of oddly entertaining and preposterously impossible short
stories, John B. Cattleton, had been mousing among the ravines of Mt.
Boab, and had stumbled upon what he described as a "very obscure little
cabin, jammed under a cliff in an angle of the cañon and right over a
bright stream of cold, pure spring-water. It's a miserably picturesque
and forlornly prepossessing place," he went on in his droll way, "where
all sorts of engaging ghosts and entertaining ogres might be supposed
to congregate at midnight. I didn't go quite down to it, but I was near
enough to it to make out its main features, and I saw the queerest being
imaginable poking around the premises. A veritable hermit, I should
call him, as old as the rocks themselves. His dress was absurdly
old-fashioned, a caricature of the uniform of our soldier sires of
revolutionary renown. A long spike-tailed blue coat with notable brass
buttons, a triangular hat somewhat bell-crowned and tow or cotton
trousers. Shirt? Vest? Yes, if I remember well they were of copperas
homespun. His hair and beard were white, fine and thin, hanging in
tags and wisps as fluffy as lint. I sat upon a rock in the shadow of a
cedar tree and watched his queer manoeuvres for a good while. All his
movements were furtive and peculiar, like those of a shy, wild beast."

"It's the Prophet of the Smoky Mountain," said Miss Crabb in an earnest
stage whisper. "He's Craddock's material, we can't touch him."

"Touch him! I'll interview him on dialect in politics," said Hubbard,
"and get his views on sex in genius."

"I should like a sketch of his life. There must be a human interest to
serve as straw for my brick," remarked Miss Stackpole. "The motive that
induced him to become a hermit, and all that."

Miss Crabb dared not confess that she desired a sketch of the old man
for the newspaper syndicate, so she merely drummed on her front teeth
with her pencil.

Dufour joined the pedestrian party with great enthusiasm, having dressed
himself for the occasion in a pair of tennis trousers, a blue flannel
shirt, a loose jacket and a shooting cap.

His shoes were genuine alpine foot-gear with short spikes in their heels
and soles.

"Lead on Cattleton," he cried jovially, "and let our motto be, 'On to
the hut of Friar Tuck'!"

"Good," answered Cattleton in like spirit, "and you shall be my
lieutenant, come, walk beside me."

"Thank you, from the bottom of my heart," replied Dufour, "but I cannot
accept. I have contracted to be Miss Moyne's servant instead."

That was a gay procession filing away from Hotel Helicon through the
thin forest that fringed one shoulder of stately Mt. Boab. Cattleton
led the column, flinging back from time to time his odd sayings and
preposterous conceits.

The day was delightfully cool with a steady wind running over the
mountain and eddying in the sheltered coves where the ferns were thick
and tall. In the sky were a few pale clouds slowly vanishing, whilst
some broad-pinioned buzzards wheeled round and round above the
blue-green abyss of the valley. There were sounds of a vague, dreamy
sort abroad in the woods, like the whisperings and laughter of legions
of invisible beings. Everybody felt exhilarated and buoyant, tramping
gaily away to the hut of the hermit.

At a certain point Cattleton commanded a halt, and pointing out the
entrance to the ravine, said:

"Now, good friends, we must have perfect silence during the descent,
or our visit will be all in vain. Furthermore, the attraction of
gravitation demands that, in going down, we must preserve our
uprightness, else our progress may be facilitated to an alarming degree,
and our advent at the hut be far from becomingly dignified."

Like a snake, flecked with touches of gay color, the procession crawled
down the ravine, the way becoming steeper and more tortuous at every
step. Thicker and thicker and thicker grew the trees, saving where the
rock broke forth from the soil, and closer drew the zig-zags of the
barely possible route. Cattleton silenced every voice and rebuked every
person who showed signs of weakening.

"It's just a few steps farther," he whispered back from his advanced
position, "don't make the least sound."

But the ravine proved, upon this second descent much more difficult and
dangerous than it had appeared to Cattleton at first, and it was with
the most heroic exertions that he finally led the party down to the
point whence he had viewed the cabin. By this time the column was
pressing upon him and he could not stop. Down he went, faster and
faster, barely able to keep his feet, now sliding, now clutching a tree
or rock, with the breathless and excited line of followers gathering
dangerous momentum behind him.

It was too late now to command silence or to control the company in any
way. An avalanche of little stones, loosened by scrambling feet, swept
past him and went leaping on down below. He heard Miss Moyne utter a
little scream of terror that mingled with many exclamations from both
men and women, and then he lost his feet and began to slide. Down he
sped and down sped the party after him, till in a cataract of mightily
frightened, but unharmed men and women, they all went over a little
precipice and landed in a scattered heap on a great bed of oak leaves
that the winds had drifted against the rock.

A few moments of strange silence followed, then everybody sprang up,
disheveled and red-faced, to look around and see what was the matter.

They found themselves close to the long, low cabin, from under which
flowed a stream of water. A little column of smoke was wandering out
of a curious clay chimney. Beside the low door-way stood a long, deep
trough filled with water in which a metal pipe was coiled fantastically.
Two earthen jugs with cob stoppers sat hard by. A sourish smell
assaulted their sense and a faint spirituous flavor burdened the air.

Cattleton, who was first upon his feet, shook himself together and
drolly remarked:

"We have arrived in good order, let's interview the----"

Just then rushed forth from the door the old man of the place, who
halted outside and snatched from its rack on the wall a long tin horn,
which he proceeded to blow vigorously, the echoes prowling through the
woods and over the foot-hills and scampering far away up and down the
valley.

Not a soul present ever could forget that sketch, the old man with his
shrunken legs bent and wide apart, his arms akimbo as he leaned far
back and held up that wailing, howling, bellowing horn, and his long
coat-tail almost touching the ground, whilst his fantastic hat quivered
in unison with the strain he was blowing. How his shriveled cheeks
puffed out, and how his eyes appeared to be starting from their bony
sockets!

"That is what I call a fitting reception," said Cattleton, gazing at the
trumpeter.

"See here," exclaimed Crane with evident excitement, "I smell whisky!
This----"

"Hyer! what d'ye mean hyer, you all a comin' down hyer?" broke forth a
wrathful voice, and Wesley Tolliver rushed with melodramatic fierceness
upon the scene.

"Oh! I--I--wa--want to g--go home!" cried little Mrs. Philpot, clutching
Bartley Hubbard's arm.

"So do I," said he with phlegmatic cleverness. "I should like to see my
mother. I'm feeling a little lonely and----"

"What upon yearth do this yer mean, anyhow?" thundered Tolliver. "Who
invited you all down yer, tell me thet, will ye?"

"Oh, Mr. Tolliver, Mr. Tolliver!" exclaimed Miss Crabb, rushing upon
him excitedly, "I'm _so_ glad you are here!"

"Well, I'll ber dorged!" he ejaculated, "you down hyer again! Well, I
never seed the like afore in all my born days."

He gazed at first one and then another of the party, and a sudden light
flashed into his face.

"Well I'll ber dorged ef ther whole kepoodle of 'em hain't done jest
gone and tumbled off'n the mounting an' jest rolled down hyer!"

"You're a very accurate reasoner, my friend," said Cattleton, trying to
get his hat into shape. "I think we touched at two or three points as we
came down, however."

About this time four or five more mountaineers appeared bearing guns and
looking savage.

"Bandits," said Miss Stackpole with a shudder.

"Moonshiners," muttered Crane.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Mr. Hubbard, do t--t--take m--me home!" wailed
Mrs. Philpot.

"I should be delighted," said Hubbard, his voice concealing the
uneasiness he felt. "Indeed I should."

More men appeared and at the same time a roll of thunder tumbled across
the darkening sky. A sudden mountain storm had arisen.

The pedestrians found themselves surrounded by a line of grim and silent
men who appeared to be waiting for orders from Tolliver.

A few large drops of rain come slanting down from the advancing fringe
of the sable-cloud, and again the thunder bounded across the heavens.

"I guess you'd better invite us in," suggested Cattleton, turning to the
old man, who stood leaning on his tin horn. "The ladies will get wet."

"I say, Cattleton," called out Bartley Hubbard, "if a fellow only had
a little supply of Stockton's negative gravity he could ameliorate his
condition, don't you think?"

"Yes, I'd like to fall up hill just now. The excitement would be
refreshing."

There came a spiteful dash of rain and a flurry of wind.

"You'ns had better go inter the still-house," said Tolliver. "Hit air
goin' ter rain yearlin' calves. Go right erlong in, ye sha'n't be hurt."

Another gush of rain enforced the invitation, and they all scrambled
into the cabin pell-mell, glad of the relief from a strain that had
become almost unbearable to some of them, but they stared at each other
when they found the door closed and securely locked on the outside.

"Prisoners!" cried some one whose voice was drowned by a deafening crash
of thunder and a mighty flood of rain that threatened to crush in the
rickety roof of the house.

"The treacherous villain!" exclaimed Dufour, speaking of Tolliver and
holding Miss Moyne's hand. The poor girl was so frightened that it was a
comfort to her to have her hand held.

"How grand, how noble it is in Mr. Tolliver and his friends," said Miss
Crabb, "to stand out there in the rain and let us have the shelter! I
never saw a more virile and thoroughly unselfish man than he is. He is
one of Nature's unshorn heroes, a man of the ancient god-like race."

Mrs. Nancy Jones Black gave the young woman a look of profound contempt.

Then a crash of thunder, wind, and rain scattered everybody's thoughts.


XVII.

The storm was wild enough, but of short duration, and it came to its end
as suddenly as it had begun. As the black cloud departed from the sky,
the darkness, which had been almost a solid inside the still-house, was
pierced by certain lines of mild light coming through various chinks in
the walls and roof. Our friends examined one another curiously, as if to
be sure that it was not all a dream.

Cattleton found himself face to face with a demure-looking young man,
whom he at once recognized as Harry Punner, a writer of delicious verses
and editor of a rollicking humorous journal at New York.

"Hello, Hal! you here?" he cried. "Well how does it strike your funny
bone? It insists upon appearing serious to me."

"I'm smothering for a whiff of fresh air," said Punner, in a very
matter-of-fact tone. "Can't we raise a window or something?"

"The only window visible to the naked eye," said Cattleton, "is already
raised higher than I can reach," and he pointed to a square hole in the
wall about seven and a-half feet above the ground and very near the
roof.

Crane went about in the room remarking that the aroma floating in the
air was the bouquet of the very purest and richest copper-distilled corn
whisky and that if he could find it he was quite sure that a sip of it
would prove very refreshing under the peculiar circumstances of the
case, an observation which called forth from Mrs. Nancy Jones Black a
withering temperance reprimand.

"As the presiding officer of the _Woman's Prohibition Promulgation
Society_ I cannot let such a remark pass without condemning it. If
this really is a liquor establishment I desire to be let out of it
forthwith."

"So do I!" exclaimed little Mrs. Philpot with great vehemence. "Open the
door Mr. Hubbard, please."

Hubbard went to the door and finding that it was constructed to open
outwardly, gave it a shove with all his might. There was a short tussle
and he staggered back.

"Why don't you push it open?" fretfully exclaimed Mrs. Nancy Jones
Black.

"The gentlemen outside object, for reasons not stated," was the rather
stolidly spoken answer.

Cattleton had taken off his hat and was going about through the company
soliciting handkerchiefs.

"Drop them in, drop them in," he urged, "I need all of them that I can
get."

He offered his hat as a contribution box as he spoke, and nearly
every-one gave a handkerchief, without in the least suspecting his
purpose.

When he had collected a round dozen, Cattleton crammed them all down in
the crown of his hat which he then put on his head.

"Now Hal," he said, addressing Punner, "give me a boost and I'll make an
observation through that window."

The rain was now entirely ended and the wind had fallen still.

With Punner's help Cattleton got up to the window and poked out his
head.

"Git back ther'!" growled a vicious voice, and at the same time the dull
sound of a heavy blow was followed by the retreat of Cattleton from the
window to the floor in a great hurry.

Upon top of his hat was a deep trench made by a club.

"The handkerchiefs did their duty nobly," he remarked. "Let everybody
come forward and identify his property."

"What did you see?" asked Punner.

"A giant with an oak tree in his hand and murder in his eye," said
Cattleton, busily selecting and returning the handkerchiefs. "This
eleemosynary padding was all that saved me. The blow was aimed at my
divine intellect."

"See here," cried Peck, in great earnest, "this is no joking matter.
We're in the power of a set of mountain moonshiners, and may be
murdered in cold blood. We'd better do something."

Crane had prowled around until he had found a small jug of fragrant
mountain dew whisky, which he was proceeding to taste in true Kentucky
style, when a gaunt form rose in a corner of the room, and tottering
forward seized the jug and took it out of his hand.

"No ye don't, sonny, no ye don't! This yer mounting jew air not
ever'body's licker 'at wants it. Not by er half er mile at the littlest
calc'lation!"

Miss Crabb made a note. Crane gazed pathetically at the fantastic old
man before him, and brushed his handkerchief across his lips, as if from
habit, as he managed to say:

"I meant no undue liberty, I assure you. That whisky is----"

"Overpowerin'," interrupted the old man, taking a sip from the vessel.
"Yes, I don't blame ye fur a wantin' of it, but this yer licker air
mine."

"Up in Kentucky," said Crane, "we are proud to offer----"

"Kaintucky! did ye say ole Kaintuck? Air ye from ther', boy?"

The octogenarian leaned forward as he spoke and gazed at Crane with
steadfast, rheumy eyes.

Miss Henrietta Stackpole came forward to hear what was to follow, her
instinct telling her that a point of human interest was about to be
reached.

"Yes," said Crane, "I was born and reared on Lulbegrud creek."

"Lulbegrud!"

"Yes."

"How fur f'om Wright's mill?"

"Close by, at Kiddville," said Crane.

"Ye 'member Easton's Springs close by an' Pilot Knob away off in the
distance?"

"Very well, indeed, and Guoff's pond."

"Boy, what mought yer name be?"

"Crane."

"Crane!"

"Yes."

"Well, I'll ber dorg!"

The old man stood gazing and grinning at Crane for some moments, and
then added:

"What's yer pap's name?"

"Eliphas Crane."

"'Liphas Crane yore pap!"

"Yes."

"Child, I air yer pap's uncle."

"What!"

"I air Peter Job Crane."

"You!"

"Sartin es anything."

"Are you my father's uncle Peter?"

"I air yer pap's uncle Pete."

"How strange!"

Miss Stackpole did not permit a word, a look, or a shade of this
interview to escape her. She now turned to Bartley Hubbard and said:

"We Americans are the victims of heterogeneous consanguinity. Such an
incident as this could not happen in England. It will be a long time
before we can get rid of our ancestors."

"Yes," assented Hubbard, nonchalantly, "Yer pap's uncle certainly is a
large factor in American life."

"How many men did you see when you looked out?" Peck inquired,
addressing Cattleton.

"I saw only one, but he was a monster," was the ready reply. "It's no
use brooding over trying to escape by force. We're utterly helpless, and
that jolt on my head has rendered me unfit for diplomatic efforts."

"What do you suppose they will do with us?"

"They won't dare let us go."

"Why?"

"They'd be afraid that we would report their illicit distillery."

"Ah, I see."

The affair began to take on a very serious and gloomy aspect, and the
room was growing oppressively hot, owing to the presence of a a small
but energetic furnace that glowed under a sighing boiler. Outside, with
the clearing sky and refreshed air, there arose a clamor of bird-song in
the dripping trees. Under the floor the spring-stream gurgled sweetly.

"Ye 'member Abbott's still house on ole Lulbegrud?" said the old man,
pursuing his reminisences, after he had permitted his grand-nephew to
taste the "mounting jew," "an' Dan Rankin's ole bob-tail hoss?"

"Very well, indeed," responded Crane, "and Billy Pace's blackberry
fields where I picked berries in summer and chased rabbits in winter."

"Take er nother drop o' the jyful juice, boy, fur the mem'ry o' ole
Kaintuck!"

"Oh dear! but isn't it incomparably awful?" exclaimed Mrs. Nancy Jones
Black, gazing in horrified fascination upon the two Kentuckians, as they
bowed to each other and drank alternately from the little jug.

"Characteristic Southern scene not used by Craddock," murmured Miss
Crabb, making a whole page of a single note.

"Don't this yere liquor taste o' one thing an' smell o' another an' jes'
kinder git ter the lowest p'int o' yer appetite?" continued Crane's
great uncle Peter.

"Delicious beyond compare," responded the young man, drinking again, "it
is nectar of the gods."

Mrs. Nancy Jones Black groaned, but could not withdraw her eyes from the
scene.

"Good deal like ole times down to Abbott's still-house on Lulbegrud,
boy," the old man suggested, "ye don't forgit erbout Dan Rankin's mule
a-kickin' ole man Hornback's hat off?"

The poet laughed retrospectively and mopped his glowing face with
his handkerchief. The heat from the furnace and the stimulus of the
excellent beverage were causing him to feel the need of fresh air.

Indeed, everybody was beginning to pant. Miss Moyne was so overcome with
excitement and with the heat of the place, that she was ready to faint,
when the door was flung open and Tolliver appeared. A rush of sweet cool
air, flooding the room, revived her, just as she was sinking into
Dufour's arms.


XVIII.

Authors who have added the vice of elocution to the weakness of dialect
verse-making, are often at a loss for a sympathetic audience. Whilst
it is true that literary people are apt to bear with a good deal of
patience the mutually offered inflictions incident to meeting one
another, they draw the line at dialect recitations; and, as a rule,
stubbornly refuse to be bored with a fantastic rendition of "When
Johnny got spanked by a mule," or "Livery-stable Bob," or "Samantha's
Courtin'," or "Over the Ridge to the Pest-house," no matter how dear a
friend may offer the scourge. Circumstances alter cases, however, and
although neither Carleton, nor Riley, nor yet Burdette, nor Bill Nye
(those really irresistible and wholly delightful humorists), had come to
Hotel Helicon, there was a certain relief for those of the guests who
had not joined the luckless pedestrians, in hearing Miss Amelia Lotus
Nebeker recite a long poem written in New Jersey patois.

Miss Nebeker was very hard of hearing, almost stone deaf, indeed, which
affliction lent a pathetic effect even to her humor. She was rather
stout, decidedly short, and had a way of making wry faces with a view to
adding comicality to certain turns of her New Jersey phraseology, and
yet she was somewhat of a bore at times. Possibly she wished to read too
often and sometimes upon very unsuitable occasions. It was Mrs. Bridges
who once said that, if the minister at a funeral should ask some one to
say a few appropriate words, Miss Nebeker, if present, would immediately
clear her throat and begin reciting "A Jerseyman's Jewsharp." "And if
she once got started you'd never be able to stop her, for she's as deaf
as an adder."

It was during the rainstorm, while those of the guests who had not gone
to the hermit's hut with Cattleton, were in the cool and spacious parlor
of the hotel, that something was said about Charles Dickens reading from
his own works. Strangely enough, although the remark was uttered in
a low key and at some distance from Miss Nebeker, she responded at
once with an offer to give them a new rendering of _The Jerseyman's
Jewsharp_. Lucas, the historian, objected vigorously, but she insisted
upon interpreting his words and gestures as emphatic applause of her
proposition. She arose while he was saying:

"Oh now, that's too much, we're tired of the jangling of that old harp;
give us a rest!"

This unexpected and surprising slang from so grave and dignified
a man set everybody to laughing. Miss Nebeker bowed in smiling
acknowledgement of what appeared to her to be a flattering anticipation
of her humor, and taking her manuscript from some hiding-place in her
drapery, made a grimace and began to read. Mrs. Philpot's cat, in the
absence of its mistress, had taken up with the elocutionist and now came
to rub and purr around her feet while she recited. This was a small
matter, but in school or church or lecture-hall, small matters attract
attention. The fact that the cat now and again mewed plaintively set
some of the audience to smiling and even to laughing.

Such apparent approval of her new rendition thrilled Miss Nebeker to her
heart's core. Her voice deepened, her intonations caught the spirit of
her mood, and she read wildly well.

Every one who has even a smattering of the _patois_ current in New
Jersey, will understand how effective it might be made in the larynx
of a cunning elocutionist; and then whoever has had the delicious
experience of hearing a genuine Jerseyman play on the jewsharp will
naturally jump to a correct conclusion concerning the pathos of the
subject which Miss Nebeker had in hand. She felt its influence and threw
all her power into it. Heavy as she was, she arose on her tip-toes at
the turning point of the story and gesticulated vehemently.

The cat, taken by surprise, leaped aside a pace or two and glared in a
half-frightened way, with each separate hair on its tail set stiffly.
Of course there was more laughter which the reader took as applause.

"A brace of cats!" exclaimed the historian. "A brace of cats!"

Nobody knew what he meant, but the laughing increased, simply for the
reason that there was nothing to laugh at.

Discovering pretty soon that Miss Nebeker really meant no harm by her
manoeuvres, the cat went back to rub and purr at her feet. Then Miss
Nebeker let down her heel on the cat's tail, at the same time beginning
with the pathetic part of _The Jerseyman's Jewsharp_.

The unearthly squall that poor puss gave forth was wholly lost on the
excited elocutionist, but it quite upset the audience, who, not wishing
to appear rude, used their handkerchiefs freely.

Miss Nebeker paused to give full effect to a touching line.

The cat writhed and rolled and clawed the air and wailed like a lost
spirit in its vain endeavor to free its tail; but Miss Nebeker, all
unconscious of the situation, and seeing her hearers convulsed and
wiping tears from their faces, redoubled her elocutionary artifices and
poured incomparable feeling into her voice.

Suddenly the tortured and writhing animal uttered a scream of
blood-curdling agony and lunged at Miss Nebeker's ankles with tooth and
claw.

She was in the midst of the passage where the dying Jerseyman lifts
himself on his elbow and calls for his trusty Jewsharp:

"Gi' me my juice-harp, Sarah Ann----" she was saying, when of a sudden
she screamed louder than the cat and bounded into the air, sending her
manuscript in fluttering leaves all over the room.

The cat, with level tail and fiery eyes, sailed through the door-way
into the hall, and went as if possessed of a devil, bounding up the
stairway to Mrs. Philpot's room.

Congratulations were in order, and Lucas insisted upon bellowing in Miss
Nebeker's ear his appreciation of the powerful effect produced by the
last scene in the little drama.

"If our friends who are out in this rain are finding anything half as
entertaining," he thundered, "they needn't mind the drenching."

"But I'm bitten, I'm scratched, I'm hurt," she exclaimed.

Lucas suddenly realized the brutality of his attitude, and hastened to
rectify it by collecting the leaves of her manuscript and handing them
to her.

"I beg pardon," he said sincerely, "I hope you are not hurt much."

"Just like a cat," she cried, "always under somebody's feet! I do
despise them!"

With a burning face and trembling hands she swiftly rearranged the
manuscript and assuming the proper attitude asked the audience to be
seated again.

"I am bitten and scratched quite severely," she said, "and am suffering
great pain, but if you will resume your places I will begin over
again."

"Call that cat back, then, quick!" exclaimed Lucas, "it's the star
performer in the play."

She proceeded forthwith, setting out on a new journey through the
tortuous ways of the poem, and held up very well to the end. What she
called New Jersey patois was a trifle flat when put into verse and she
lacked the polished buffoonery of a successful dialect reader, wherefore
she failed to get along very successfully with her audience in the
absence of the cat; still the reading served to kill a good deal of
time, by a mangling process.

The storm was over long ago when she had finished, and the sun was
flooding the valley with golden splendor. Along the far away mountain
ridges some slanting wisps of whitish mist sailed slowly, like aerial
yachts riding dark blue billows. The foliage of the trees, lately dusky
and drooping, twinkled vividly with a green that was almost dazzling,
and the air was deliciously fresh and fragrant.

Everybody went out on the veranda for a turn and a deep breath.

The mail had arrived and by a mistake a bundle of letters bearing the
card of George Dunkirk & Co., and addressed to "George Dunkirk, Esq.,
Hotel Helicon, room 24," was handed to Lucas.

The historian gazed at the superscription, adjusted his glasses and
gazed again, and slowly the truth crept into his mind. There were ten or
fifteen of the letters. Evidently some of them, as Lucas's experience
suggested, had alien letters inclosed within their envelopes, and thus
forwarded by the mailing clerk of the firm had at last come to the
senior partner at room 24.

"Gaspard Dufour, indeed!" Lucas exclaimed inwardly. "George Dunkirk,
rather. This is a pretty kettle of fish!"

He sent the letters up to room 24, to await the return of their proper
recipient, and fell to reflecting upon the many, very many and very
insulting things that he and nearly all the rest of the hotel guests as
well had said in Dufour's hearing about publishers in general and about
George Dunkirk & Co., in particular. His face burned with the heat
of the retrospect, as he recalled such phrases as "sleek thief,"
"manipulator of copy-right statements," "Cadmean wolf" "ghoul of
literary grave-yards," and a hundred others, applied with utter
unrestraint and bandied around, while George Dunkirk was sitting by
listening to it all!

He called Ferris to him and imparted his discovery in a stage whisper.

"The dickens!" was all that gentleman could say, as the full text of his
address of the other evening rushed upon him.

"It is awkward, devilish awkward," remarked Lucas, wiping his glasses
and nervously readjusting them.

A few minutes later two men rode up to the hotel. One of them was a very
quiet-looking fellow who dryly stated that he was the high sheriff of
Mt. Boab county.


XIX.

Meantime down the ravine in the obscure little still-house our
pedestrians were held in durance vile by Tolliver and his obedient
moon-shiners.

It was a puzzling situation to all concerned. Far from wishing or
intending to harm his prisoners, Tolliver still could not see his way
clear to setting them at liberty. On the other hand he was clever
enough to perceive that to hold them very long would be sure to lead to
disaster, for their friends would institute a search and at the same
time telegraph an account of their disappearance all over the country.

"'Pears ter me like I've ketched bigger game 'an my trap'll hold," he
thought, as he stood in the door-way surveying his victims.

"What ye all a doin' a monkeyin' round' these yer premerses, anyhow?" he
demanded. "W'y c'udn't ye jest wait 'll I sent for ye ter kem yer?"

"It's a sort of surprise party, my dear sir," said Cattleton. "Don't you
see?"

"S'prise set o' meddlin' Yankees a foolin' roun' wher' they air not got
no business at," responded Tolliver, "that's w'at I calls it."

"Where's your pantry?" inquired Punner, "I'm as hungry as a wolf."

"Hongry, air ye? What'd ye 'spect ter git ter eat at er still-house,
anyhow? Hain't ye got no sense er tall? Air ye er plum blasted eejit?"

Tolliver made these inquiries in a voice and manner suggestive of
suppressed but utter wrath.

"Oh he's _always_ hungry, he would starve in a feed-store," exclaimed
Cattleton. "Don't pay the least attention to him, Mr. Tolliver. He's
incurably hungry."

"W'y ef the man's really hongry----" Tolliver began to say in a
sympathetic tone.

"Here," interrupted Hubbard gruffly, "let us out of this immediately,
can't you? The ladies can't bear this foul air much longer, it's
beastly."

"Mebbe hit air you 'at air a running this yer chebang," said Tolliver
with a scowl. "I'll jes' let ye out w'en I git ready an' not a minute
sooner, nother. So ye've hearn my tin horn."

Miss Stackpole and Miss Crabb made notes in amazing haste.

Hubbard shrugged his heavy shoulders and bit his lip. He was baffled.

"Do you think they'll kill us?" murmured Miss Moyne in Dufour's ear.

Dufour could not answer.

Crane and his "pap's uncle Pete" were still hobnobbing over the jug.

"Yer's a lookin' at ye, boy, an' a hopin' agin hope 'at ye may turn out
ter be es likely a man es yer pap," the old man was saying, preliminary
to another draught.

Crane was bowing with extreme politeness in acknowledgement of the
sentiment, and was saying:

"I am told that I look like my father----"

"Yes, ye do look a leetle like im," interrupted the old man with a leer
over the jug, "but l'me say at it air dern leetle, boy, dern leetle!"

Punner overhearing this reply, laughed uproariously. Crane appeared
oblivious to the whole force of the joke, however. He was simply waiting
for his turn at the jug.

"As I wer' a sayin'," resumed the old man, "yer's er hopin' agin' hope,
an' a lookin' at ye----"

"How utterly brutal and disgusting!" cried Mrs. Nancy Jones Black. "I
must leave here, I cannot bear it longer! This is nothing but a low,
vile dram-shop! Let me pass!"

She attempted to go through the doorway, but Tolliver interfered.

"Stay wher' ye air," he said, in a respectful but very stern tone. "Ye
can't git out o' yer jist yit."

"Dear me! Dear me!" wailed Mrs. Black, "what an outrage, what an insult!
Are you men?" she cried, turning upon the gentlemen near her, "and will
you brook this?"

"Give me your handkerchiefs again," said Cattleton, "and I will once
more poke out my head; 'tis all that I can do!"

"Shoot the fust head 'at comes out'n thet ther winder, Dave!" ordered
Tolliver, speaking to some one outside.

"I don't care for any handkerchiefs, thank you," said Cattleton, "I've
changed my mind."

Miss Moyne was holding Dufour's arm with a nervous clutch, her eyes were
full of tears, and she was trembling violently. He strove to quiet her
by telling her that there was no danger, that he would shield her, die
for her and all that; but Tolliver looked so grim and the situation was
so strange and threatening that she could not control herself.

"Goodness! but isn't this rich material," Miss Crabb soliloquized,
writing in her little red book with might and main. "Bret Harte never
discovered anything better."

Miss Henrietta Stackpole was too busy absorbing the human interest of
the interview between the two Cranes, to be more than indirectly aware
of anything else that was going on around her.

"Ye needn't be erfeard as ter bein' hurt, boy," said the old man, "not
es long es yer pap's uncle Pete air eroun' yer. Hit ain't often 'at I
meets up wi' kinfolks downyer, an' w'en I does meet up wi' 'em I treats
'em es er Southern gen'l'man orter treat his kinfolks."

"Precisely so," said Crane, taking another sip, "hospitality is a
crowning Southern virtue. When I go up to Louisville Henry Watterson and
I always have a good time."

"Spect ye do, boy, spect ye do. Louisville use ter be a roarin' good
place ter be at."

Tolliver, whose wits had been hard at work, now proposed what he called
"terms o' pay-roll, like what they hed in the war."

"Ef ye'll all take a oath an' swa' at ye'll never tell nothin' erbout
nothin," said he, "w'y I'll jest let ye off this yer time."

"That is fair enough," said Dufour, "we are not in the detective
service."

"Then," observed Tolliver, "ef I ken git the 'tention of this yer
meetin', I move 'at it air yerby considered swore 'at nothin' air ter be
said erbout nothin' at no time an' never. Do ye all swa'?"

"Yes!" rang out a chorus of voices.

"Hit air cyarried," said Tolliver, "an' the meetin' air dismissed, sigh
er die. Ye kin all go on erbout yer business."

The pedestrians filed out into the open air feeling greatly relieved.
Crane lingered to have a few more passages with his sociable and
hospitable grand-uncle. Indeed he remained until the rest of the party
had passed out of sight up the ravine and he did not reach the hotel
until far in the night, when he sang some songs under Miss Moyne's
window.

Taken altogether, the pedestrians felt that they had been quite
successful in their excursion.

Dufour was happiness itself. On the way back he had chosen for himself
and Miss Moyne a path which separated them from the others, giving him
an opportunity to say a great deal to her.

Now it is a part of our common stock of understanding that when a man
has an excellent and uninterrupted opportunity to say a great deal to
a beautiful young woman, he usually does not find himself able to say
much; still he rarely fails to make himself understood.

They both looked so self-consciously happy (when they arrived a little
later than the rest at Hotel Helicon) that suspicion would have been
aroused but for two startling and all-absorbing disclosures which drove
away every other thought.

One was the disclosure of the fact that Dufour was not Dufour, but
George Dunkirk, and the other was the disclosure of the fact that the
high sheriff of Mt. Boab County was in Hotel Helicon on important
official business.

Little Mrs. Philpot was the first to discover that the great publisher
really had not practiced any deception as to his name. Indeed her album
showed that the signature therein was, after all, George Dunkirk and not
Gaspard Dufour. The autograph was not very plain, it is true, but it was
decipherable and the mistake was due to her own bad reading.

If the sheriff had been out of the question the humiliation felt by
the authors, for whom Dunkirk was publisher and who had talked so
outrageously about him, would have crushed them into the dust; but the
sheriff was there in his most terrible form, and he forced himself
upon their consideration with his quiet but effective methods of legal
procedure.


XX.

"Gaslucky has been caught in a wheat corner at Chicago," Lucas
explained, "and has been squeezed to death."

"Dead!" cried Punner, "it's a great loss. We'll have to hold a meeting
and pass res----"

"We'll have to get out of this place in short order," said Lucas, "the
sheriff has levied an attachment on the hotel and all it contains."

"What!"

"How's that?"

"Do you mean that the house is to be shut up and we turned out?"

"Just that," said Lucas. "The sheriff has invoiced every thing, even the
provisions on hand. He says that we can't eat another bite here."

"And I'm starving even now!" exclaimed Punner. "I could eat most
anything. Let's walk round to Delmonico's, Cattleton."

"But really, what can we do?" demanded Ferris, dolefully enough.

"Go home, of course," said Cattleton.

Ferris looked blank and stood with his hands thrust in his pockets.

"I can't go home," he presently remarked.

"Why?"

"I haven't money enough to pay my way."

"By George! neither have I!" exclaimed Cattleton with a start.

"That is precisely my fix," said Lucas gravely.

"You echo my predicament," said Peck.

"My salary is suspended during my absence," said Punner, with his eyes
bent on the floor.

Little Mrs. Philpot was speechless for a time as the force of the
situation broke upon her.

"Squeezed in a wheat corner?" inquired Miss Stackpole, "what do you mean
by that?"

"I mean that Gaslucky got sheared in the big deal the other day at
Chicago," Lucas explained.

"Got sheared?"

"Yes, the bulls sat down on him."

"Oh, you mean a speculation--a--"

"Yes, Gaslucky was in for all he was worth, and they run it down on
him and flattened him. A gas-man's no business in wheat, especially in
Chicago; they spread him out, just as the sheriffs proceedings have
flattened all our hopes for the present."

"It's just outrageous!" cried little Mrs. Philpot, finding her voice.
"He should have notified us, so that--"

"They didn't notify him, I guess," said Cattleton.

"No, he found it out afterwards," remarked Lucas, glancing gloomily
toward where Dunkirk and Miss Moyne stood, apparently in light and
pleasant conversation.

Viewed in any light the predicament was a peculiar and distressing
one to the guests of Hotel Helicon. The sheriff, a rather ignorant,
but very stubborn and determined man, held executions and writs of
attachment sued out by Gaslucky creditors, which he had proceeded to
levy on the hotel and on all the personalty visible in it belonging to
the proprietor.

"'Course," said he, "hit'll be poorty hard on you'ns, but I can't help
it, I've got ter do my juty, let it hurt whoever it will. Not er thing
kin ye tech at's in this yer tavern, 'ceptin' what's your'n, that air's
jest how it air. So now mind w'at yer a doin'."

The servants were idle, the dining-room closed, the kitchen and pantries
locked up. Never was there a more doleful set of people. Mrs. Nancy
Jones Black thought of playing a piece of sacred music, but she found
the grand piano locked, with its key deep in the sheriff's pocket.

The situation was made doubly disagreeable when at last the officer
informed the guests that they would have to vacate their rooms
forthwith, as he should proceed at once to close up the building.

"Heavens, man, are you going to turn us out into the woods?" demanded
Peck.

"Woods er no woods," he replied, "ye'll hev ter git out'n yer, right
off."

"But the ladies, Mr. Sheriff," suggested Punner, "no Southern gentleman
can turn a lady out of doors."

The officer actually colored with the force of the insinuation. He stood
silent for some time with his eyes fixed on the floor. Presently he
looked up and said:

"The weeming kin stay till mornin'."

"Well they must have something to eat," said Punner. "They can't
starve."

"Thet's so," the sheriff admitted, "they kin hev a bite er so."

"And we----"

"You men folks cayn't hev a dorg gone mouthful, so shet up!"

"Well," observed Cattleton, dryly, "it appears the odds is the
difference between falling into the hands of moonshiners and coming
under the influence of a lawful sheriff."

"I know a little law," interposed Bartley Hubbard with a sullen
emphasis, "and I know that this sheriff has no right to tumble us out of
doors, and for my part----"

"Fur yer part," said the sheriff coolly, "fur yer part, Mister, ef ye
fool erlong o' me I'll crack yer gourd fur ye."

"You'll do what?"

"I'll stave in yer piggin."

"I don't understand."

"W'y, blame yer ignorant hide, wha' wer' ye borned and fotch up? I'll
jest knock the everlastin' head off'n ye, _thet's_ 'zac'ly w'at I says.
Mebbe ye don't understan' _thet_?"

"Yes," said Hubbard, visibly shrinking into himself, "I begin to suspect
your meaning."

Miss Crabb was taking notes with enthusiastic rapidity.

Dunkirk called the sheriff to him and a long conference was held between
them, the result of which was presently announced.

"I heve thort it over," said the quiet officer of the law, "an' es hit
appear thet w'at grub air on han' an' done cooked might spile afore it
c'u'd be sold, therefore I proclamate an' say at you'ns kin stay yer
tell termorrer an' eat w'at's cooked, but tech nothin' else."

Cattleton and Punner applauded loudly. To everybody the announcement was
a reprieve of no small moment, and a sigh of relief rustled through the
groups of troubled guests. Those who had been down the ravine were very
tired and hungry; the thought of a cold luncheon to them was the vision
of a feast.

Dunkirk had a basket of wine brought down from his room and he made the
sheriff sit beside him at the table.

"We may as well make the most of our last evening together," he said,
glancing jovially around.

"We shall have to walk down the mountain in the morning, I suppose,"
remarked Bartley Hubbard.

"That's jest w'at's the matter," observed the sheriff.

"But the ladies, my dear sir, the ladies----" began Punner.

"The weeming, they'll hev kinveyances, young man, so ye kin jest shet up
ef ye please," the officer interrupted, with a good-natured wink and a
knowing wag of his head.

A disinterested observer would have noted readily enough that the feast
was far from a banquet. There was Ferris, for instance, munching a
biscuit and sipping his wine and pretending to enjoy Punner's sallies
and Cattleton's drolleries, while down in his heart lay the leaden
thought, the hideous knowledge of an empty pocket. Indeed the reflection
was a common one, weighting down almost every breast at the board.

One little incident did make even Ferris forget himself for a moment or
two, it was when deaf Miss Nebeker misinterpreted some remark made by
Hubbard and arose with a view to reciting _The Jerseyman's Jewsharp_,
with a new variation, "Oh, Jerseyman Joe had a Jewsharp of gold," she
began, in her most melodious drawl. She could not hear the protesting
voices of her friends and she misinterpreted the stare of the sheriff.

"For the good heaven's sake, Hubbard," cried Lucas, "do use your
influence; quick, please, or I shall collapse."

Bartley Hubbard took hold of her dress and gently pulled her down into
her chair.

"The sheriff objects!" he yelled in her ear.

"After dinner?" she resignedly inquired, "well, then after dinner, in
the parlor."

When the feast had come to the crumbs, Dunkirk arose and said:

"We all have had a good time at the Hotel Helicon, but our sojourn upon
the heights of Mt. Boab has been cut short by a certain chain of mishaps
over which we have had no control, and to-morrow we go away, doubtless
forever. I feel like saying that I harbor no unpleasant recollections
of the days we have spent together."

Cattleton sprung to his feet to move a vote of thanks "to the
public-spirited and benevolent man who built this magnificent hotel and
threw open its doors to us."

It was carried.

"Now then," said Lucas, adjusting his glasses and speaking in his
gravest chest-tones, "I move that it be taken as the sense of this
assembly, that it is our duty to draw upon our publisher for money
enough to take us home."

The response was overwhelming.

Dunkirk felt the true state of affairs. He arose, his broad face
wreathed with genial smiles, and said:

"To the certain knowledge of your unhappy publisher your accounts are
already overdrawn, but in view of the rich material you have been
gathering of late, your publisher will honor you draughts to the limit
of your expenses home."

Never did happier people go to bed. The last sleep in Hotel Helicon
proved to be the sweetest.

Far in the night, it is true, some one sang loudly but plaintively under
Miss Moyne's window until the sheriff awoke and sallied forth to end
the serenade with some remarks about "cracking that eejit's gourd;" but
there was no disturbance, the sounds blending sweetly with the dreams of
the slumberers. They all knew that it was Crane, poor fellow, who had
finally torn himself away from his father's fascinating uncle.


XXI.

The retreat from Hotel Helicon was picturesque in the extreme. There had
been much difficulty in finding vehicles to take the retiring guests
down the mountain to the railway station, but Tolliver had come to the
rescue with a mule, a horse, a cart, and an ox. These, when added to
the rather incongruous collection of wagons and carts from every other
available source, barely sufficed. Tolliver led the mule with Ferris on
its back, while Miss Crabb and Miss Stackpole occupied the ox-cart, the
former acting as driver.

"Good-bye and good luck to ye!" the sheriff called after them. "Mighty
sorry ter discommode ye, but juty air juty, an' a officer air no
respecter of persons."

Mrs. Nancy Jones Black sat beside Crane in a rickety wagon, and between
jolts gave him many a word of wisdom on the subject of strong drink,
which the handsome Bourbon poet stowed away for future consideration.

Dunkirk and Miss Moyne rode upon the "hounds" of a naked wood-wain,
as happy as two blue-birds in April, while Bartley Hubbard, with
little Mrs. Philpot and her child and some other ladies, was in an old
weather-beaten barouche, a sad relic of the _ante-bellum_ times. For the
rest there were vehicles of every sort save the comfortable sort, and
all went slowly winding and zig-zagging down Mt. Boab toward the valley
and the river. Why pursue them? Once they all looked up from far down
the slope and saw Hotel Helicon shining like a castle of gold in the
flood of summer sunlight. Its verandas were empty, its windows closed,
but the flag on its wooden tower still floated bravely in the breeze,
its folds appearing to touch the soft gray-blue sky.

       *       *       *       *       *

A year later Crane and Peck met at Saratoga and talked over old times.
At length coming down to the present, Crane said:

"Of all of us who were guests on Mt. Boab, Miss Moyne is the only one
who has found success. Her story, _On The Heights_, is in its seventieth
edition."

"Oh, well," said Peck, "that goes without the saying. Anybody could
succeed with her chance."

"_Her_ chance, why do you say that?"

"Haven't you heard? Ah, I see that the news has not yet penetrated the
wilds of Kentucky. The open secret of Miss Moyne's success lies in the
fact that she has married her publisher."

A silence of some minutes followed, during which Crane burned his cigar
very rapidly.

"What fools we were," Peck presently ventured, "to be fighting a duel
about her!"

"No, sir," said Crane, with a far-away look in his eyes, "no, sir, I
would die for her right now."

So the subject was dropped between them forever.

Some of Gaslucky's creditors bought Hotel Helicon at the sheriff's sale,
but it proved a barren investment.

The house stands there now, weather-beaten and lonely on the peak of Mt.
Boab, all tenantless and forlorn.

As to Tolliver's still-house I cannot say, but at stated intervals Crane
receives a small cask marked: "J'yful juice, hannel with keer," which
comes from his "Pap's uncle Pete."


THE END.



THE TALE OF A SCULPTOR

BY HUGH CONWAY



THE TALE OF A SCULPTOR.


CHAPTER I.

After you pass the "Blue Anchor"--the sign of which swings from the
branch of an elm tree older even than the house itself--a few steps
along the road bring you in sight of the pinnacled, square tower of
Coombe-Acton Church. You cannot see the church itself, as, with schools
and rectory close by it, it lies at the back of the village, about two
hundred yards up a lane. Like the village to whose spiritual needs it
ministers, the church, to an ordinary observer, is nothing out of the
common, although certain small peculiarities of architecture, not
noticed by an uncultured eye, make it an object of some interest to
archæologists. Visit it or not, according to your inclination, but
afterwards keep on straight through the long, straggling village, until
the houses begin to grow even more straggling, the gardens larger and
less cared for as ornaments, displaying more cabbages and scarlet
runners than roses--keep on until the houses cease altogether and
hawthorn hedges take the place of palings and crumbling walls, and at
last you will come to Watercress Farm, a long, low white house, one side
of which abuts on the highway, whilst the other looks over the three
hundred acres of land attached to it.

Not a very large acreage, it is true, but then it is all good land, for
the most part such as auctioneers describe as rich, warm, deep, old
pasture land; such land that, at the time this tale opens, any farmer,
by thrift, knowledge of his business, and hard work, could make even
more than a bare living out of, and could meet his landlord on rent day
with a cheerful face, knowing that after rent and other outgoings were
provided for something would yet be left for himself.

Who occupies the Watercress Farm now, and whether in these days of
depression his rent is forthcoming or not, matters little. At the time
I write of it, it was rented by farmer Leigh, even as his forefathers,
according to village tradition, had rented it for some two hundred
years. In quiet, conservative places like Coombe-Acton, a farm of this
kind often goes from father to son with more regularity than an entailed
estate, landlord and tenant well knowing that their interests are
identical.

It was a fine afternoon towards the end of June. Abraham Leigh was
standing by the gate of the field known as the home meadow looking at
the long, ripe grass rippling as the summer breeze swept across it.
He was a thoroughly good specimen of the Somersetshire farmer. A big,
sturdy man, whose movements were slow and deliberate. His face, if heavy
and stolid, not by any means the face of a fool. No doubt, a man of
circumscribed views--the world, for him, extending eastwards to Bristol
market and westwards to the Bristol Channel. Nevertheless, respected in
his little world as a wonderful judge of a beast, a great authority on
tillages, and, above all, a man who always had a balance in his favor
at the Somersetshire Bank; a type of that extinct race, the prosperous
farmer, who looked on all townsmen with contempt, thinking, as all
farmers should think, that the owners of broad acres, and those engaged
in agriculture were alone worthy of respect.

Yet, to-day, in spite of his advantages and acquirements, Farmer Leigh
looked on the fifteen-acre meadow with a puzzled and discontented
expression on his honest face; and, moreover, murmurs of dissatisfaction
were proceeding from his lips. Farmers--Somersetshire farmers
especially--are proverbial grumblers, but it is seldom they grumble
without an audience. It is outsiders who get the benefit of their
complaints. Besides, one would think that the tenant of Watercress Farm
had little at present to complain of. The drop of rain so badly wanted
had been long in coming, but it had come just in the nick of time to
save the grass, and if the crop outwardly looked a little thin, Mr.
Leigh's experienced eye told him that the undergrowth was thick, and
that the quality of the hay would be first-class. Moreover, what corn
and roots he had looked promising, so it seems strange that the farmer
should be grumbling when he had no one to listen to him, and should lean
so disconsolately upon the gate of the field when no one observed him.

"I can't make him out," he said. "Good boy he be, too; yet, instead o'
helping me with the land, always going about dreaming or messing with
mud. Can't think where he got his notions from. Suppose it must 'a been
from the mother, poor thing! Always fond o' gimcracks and such like,
she were. Gave the lad such an outlandish name I'm ashamed to hear
it. Father's and grandfather's name ought to be good enough for a
Leigh--good boy though he be, too!"

A soft look settled on Abraham Leigh's face as he repeated the last
words; then he went deeper into his slough of despond, where, no doubt,
he battled as manfully as a Christian until he reached the other shore
and fancied he had found the solution of his difficulties.

His face brightened. "Tell 'ee what," he said, addressing the waving
grass in front of him, "I'll ask Mr. Herbert. Squire's a man who have
seen the world. I'll take his advice about the boy. Seems hard like
on me, too. Ne'er a Leigh till this one but what were a farmer to the
backbone!"

His mind made up, the farmer strode off to make arrangement with mowers.
Had he been troubled with twenty unnatural and incompetent sons, the hay
must be made while the sun shines.

Although he had settled what to do, it was some time before the weighty
resolve was carried into execution. Folks about Coombe-Acton do not
move with the celerity of cotton brokers or other men of business. Sure
they are, but slow. So it was not until the September rent day that
the farmer consulted his landlord about his domestic difficulty--the
possession of a son, an only child, of about fifteen, who, instead of
making himself useful on the land, did little else save wander about in
a dreamy way, looking at all objects in nature, animate or inanimate, or
employed himself in the mysterious pursuit which his father described as
"messing with mud." Such conduct was a departure from the respectable
bucolic traditions of the Leigh family, so great, that at times the
father thought it an infliction laid upon him for some cause or other
by an inscrutable Providence.

There are certain Spanish noblemen who, on account of the antiquity of
their families and services rendered, are permitted to enter the royal
presence with covered heads. It was, perhaps, for somewhat similar
reasons, a custom handed down from father to son and established by
time, that the tenant of Watercress Farm paid his rent to the landlord
in person, not through the medium of an agent. Mr. Herbert being
an important man in the West country, the Leigh family valued this
privilege as highly as ever hidalgo valued the one above mentioned.
Mr. Herbert, a refined, intellectual-looking man of about fifty,
received the farmer kindly, and after the rent, without a word as
to abatement or reduction, had been paid in notes of the county
bank--dark and greasy, but valued in this particular district far
above Bank of England promises--landlord and tenant settled down to
a few minutes' conversation on crops and kindred subjects. Then the
farmer unburdened his mind.

"I've come to ask a favor of your advice, sir, about my boy, Jerry."

"Yes," said Mr. Herbert, "I know him--a nice, good-looking boy. I see
him at church with you, and about your place when I pass. What of him?"

"Well, you zee, zur," said the farmer, speaking with more Somerset
dialect than usual, "he've a been at Bristol Grammar School till just
now. Masters all send good accounts of him. I don't hold wi' too much
learning, so thought 'twere time he come home and helped me like. But
not a bit o' good he be on the varm; not a bit, zur! Spends near all his
time messing about wi' dirt."

"Doing what?" asked Mr. Herbert, astonished.

"A-muddling and a-messing with bits o' clay. Making little figgers,
like, and tries to bake 'em in the oven."

"Oh, I see what you mean. What sort of figures?"

"All sorts, sir. Little clay figgers of horses, dogs, pigs--why, you'd
scarce believe it, sir--last week I found him making the figger of a
naked 'ooman! A naked 'ooman! Why, the lad could never a' seen such a
thing."

Abraham Leigh waited with open eyes to hear Mr. Herbert's opinion of
such an extraordinary, if not positively unusual, proceeding.

Mr. Herbert smiled. "Perhaps your son is a youthful genius."

"Genius or not, I want to know, sir, what to do wi' him. How's the boy
to make a living? A farmer he'll never be."

"You follow me and I will show you something."

Mr. Herbert led his guest to his drawing-room--a room furnished with
the taste of a travelled man. As the farmer gaped at its splendor, he
directed his attention to four beautiful statues standing in the corners
of the room.

"I gave the man who made those seven hundred pounds for them, and could
sell them to-morrow for a thousand if I chose. That's almost as good as
farming, isn't it?"

His tenant's eyes were wide with amazement. "A thousand pounds, sir!" he
gasped. "Why, you might have bought that fourteen-acre field with that."

"These give me more pleasure than land," replied Mr. Herbert. "But about
your boy; when I am riding by I will look in and see what he can do,
then give you my advice."

The farmer thanked him and returned home. As he jogged along the road to
Watercress Farm, he muttered at intervals: "A thousand pounds in those
white figures! Well, well, well, I never did!"

Mr. Herbert was a man who kept a promise, whether made to high or low.
Five days after his interview with Abraham Leigh he rode up to the
door of the farm. He was not alone. By his side rode a gay, laughing,
light-haired child of thirteen, who ruled an indulgent father with a rod
of iron. Mr. Herbert had been a widower for some years; the girl, and
a boy who was just leaving Harrow for the university, being his only
surviving children. The boy was, perhaps, all that Mr. Herbert might
have wished, but he could see no fault in the precocious, imperious,
spoilt little maid, who was the sunshine of his life.

She tripped lightly after her father into the farm-house, laughing at
the way in which he was obliged to bend his head to avoid damage from
the low doorway; she seated herself with becoming dignity on the chair
which the widowed sister, who kept house for Abraham Leigh, tendered
her with many courtesies. A pretty child, indeed, and one who gave rare
promise of growing into a lovely woman.

The farmer was away somewhere on the farm, but could be fetched in a
minute if Mr. Herbert would wait. Mr. Herbert waited, and very soon his
tenant made his appearance and thanked his visitor for the trouble he
was taking on his behalf.

"Now let me see the boy," said Mr. Herbert, after disclaiming all sense
of trouble.

Leigh went to the door of the room and shouted out, "Jerry, Jerry, come
down. You're wanted, my man."

In a moment the door opened, and the cause of Mr. Leigh's discontent
came upon the scene in the form of a dark-eyed, dark-haired, pale-faced
boy, tall but slightly built; not, so far as physique went, much credit
to the country-side. Yet in some respects a striking-looking if not
handsome lad. The dark, eloquent eyes and strongly-marked brow would
arrest attention; but the face was too thin, too thoughtful for the
age, and could scarcely be associated with what commonly constitutes a
good-looking lad. Yet regularity of feature was there, and no one would
dare to be sure that beauty would not come with manhood.

He was not seen at that moment under advantageous circumstances. Knowing
nothing about the distinguished visitors, he had obeyed his father's
summons in hot haste; consequently he entered the room in his shirt
sleeves, which were certainly not very clean, and with hands covered
with red clay. Mr. Herbert looked amused, while the little princess
turned up her nose in great disdain.

Poor Abraham Leigh was much mortified at the unpresentable state in
which his son showed himself. To make matters worse, the boy was not
soiled by honest, legitimate toil.

"Tut! tut!" he said, crossly. "All of a muck, as usual."

The boy, who felt that his father had a right to complain, hung his head
and showed signs of retreating. Mr. Herbert came to the rescue.

"Never mind," he said, patting young Leigh on the shoulder, "he has
been working in his own fashion. I have come on purpose to see those
modellings of yours, my boy."

The boy started as one surprised. His cheek flushed, and he looked at
the speaker with incredulity yet hope in his eyes.

"Yes," said his father, sharply. "Go and put your hands under the pump,
Jerry; then bring some of 'em down. Maybe, anyway, they'll amuse the
little lady."

"No, no," said Mr. Herbert. "I'll come with you and see them for myself.
Lead the way."

Young Leigh did not speak, but his eyes thanked Mr. Herbert. That
gentleman followed him from the room, leaving the farmer to amuse
the little maid. He did this so far as he was able by producing a
well-thumbed copy of the "Pilgrim's Progress," the leaves of which Miss
Herbert condescended to turn daintily over until she was quite terrified
by the picture of the combat with Apollyon.

Meanwhile "Jerry," with a beating heart, led Mr. Herbert up-stairs to
a room destitute of furniture save an old table and chair. A bucket
half-full of common red clay stood in one corner, and on the table were
several of the little clay figures which had excited the farmer's ire
and consternation.

Crude, defective, full of faults as they were, there was enough power in
them to make Mr. Herbert look at the lad in wonderment, almost envy. He
was a man who worshipped art; who had dabbled as an amateur in painting
and sculpturing for years; who considered a gifted artist the most
fortunate of mankind. So the word envy is not ill-chosen. What he would
have given half his wealth to possess came to this boy unsought for--to
the son of a clod of a farmer the precious gift was vouchsafed!

As he would have expected, the most ambitious efforts were the
worst--the "naked 'ooman" was particularly atrocious--but, still wet,
and not ruined by an abortive attempt at baking, was a group modelled
from life; a vulgar subject, representing, as it did, Abraham Leigh's
prize sow, surrounded by her ten greedy offspring. There was such power
and talent in this production that, had he seen nothing else, Mr.
Herbert would have been certain that the lad as a modeller and copyist
must take the first rank. If, in addition to his manual dexterity, he
had poetry, feeling, and imagination, it might well be that one of the
greatest sculptors of the nineteenth century stood in embryo before him.

As Mr. Herbert glanced from the rough clay sketches to the pale boy
who stood breathless, as one expecting a verdict of life or death, he
wondered what could have been the cause of such a divergence from the
traits habitual to the Leighs. Then he remembered that some twenty
years ago Abraham Leigh had chosen for a wife, not one of his own
kind, but a dweller in cities--a governess, who exchanged, no doubt, a
life of penury and servitude for the rough but comfortable home the
Somersetshire farmer was willing to give her. Mr. Herbert remembered
her; remembered how utterly out of place the delicate, refined woman
seemed to be as Leigh's wife; remembered how, a few years after the
birth of the boy, she sickened and died. It was from the mother's side
the artistic taste came.

Mr. Herbert, although a kind man, was cautious. He had no intention of
raising hopes which might be futile. Yet he felt a word of encouragement
was due to the lad.

"Some of these figures show decided talent," he said. "After seeing
them, I need scarcely ask you if you wish to be a sculptor?"

Young Leigh clasped his hands together. "Oh, sir!" he gasped. "If it
could only be!"

"You do not care to be a farmer, like your father?"

"I could never be a farmer, sir. I am not fit for it."

"Yet, if you follow in your father's track, you will lead a comfortable,
useful life. If you follow art, you may go through years of poverty and
suffering before success is attained."

The boy raised his head and looked full at the speaker; there was almost
passionate entreaty in his eyes.

"Oh, sir," he said, "if you would only persuade my father to let me
try--even for a few years. If I did not succeed I would come back to him
and work as a laborer for the rest of my life without a murmur."

Mr. Herbert was impressed by the boy's earnestness. "I will speak to
your father," he said. Then the two went back to the sitting-room, where
they found Abraham Leigh much exercised by some difficult questions
propounded by Miss Herbert respecting the nature of Apollyon.

"Take my little girl for a walk round the garden," said Mr. Herbert to
young Leigh. "I want to speak to your father."

In spite of the great gulf between her and the clay-bespattered boy
in his shirt sleeves, the little princess was too glad of a change of
scene to wish to disobey her father. She followed her conductor to the
back of the house, and the boy and girl stepped out into the autumnal
sunshine.

The little maid looked so trim and dainty in her neat riding-habit,
coquettish hat and tiny gloves that his own draggled appearance struck
the boy forcibly.

"If you will excuse me a minute," he said, "I will run and wash my
hands."

"Yes; I think it will be better," said Miss Herbert, with dignity.

In a minute or two young Leigh returned. He had found time not only to
wash the rich red clay from his long, well-shaped fingers, but to slip
on his coat and generally beautify himself. His improved appearance had
a great effect upon the child, who, like most of her age, was influenced
by exteriors.

So Miss Herbert, this little great lady, unbent and allowed "Jerry" to
lead her round the old-fashioned garden, to the out-houses and pigsties,
where the obese pigs lay oblivious of what fate had in store for them;
to the stables; to the dairy, where she condescended to drink a glass of
new milk, and by the time they had returned to the garden the two were
as good friends as their different stations in life would permit. Young
Leigh, who saw in this dainty little maid the incarnation of fairies,
nymphs, goddesses, and other ideals which, in a dim way, were forming
themselves in his brain, endeavored, after his first shyness had passed
away, to show her what beautiful shapes and forms could be found in
flower, leaf, and tree, and other things in nature. His talk, indeed,
soared far above her pretty little head, and when they returned to the
garden he was trying to make her see that those masses of white clouds
low down in the distance were two bodies of warriors just about to meet
in deadly fray.

"You are a very, very funny boy," said Miss Herbert, with such an air of
conviction that he was startled into silence.

"Your name is Jerry, isn't it?" she continued. "Jerry's an ugly name."

"My name is Gerald--Gerald Leigh."

"Oh; Gerald!" Even this child could see the impropriety of a tenant
farmer having a son named Gerald. No wonder Abraham Leigh addressed his
boy as Jerry!

"Do you like being a farmer?" she asked.

"I am not going to be a farmer; I don't like it."

"What a pity! Farmers are such a worthy, respectable class of men," said
the girl, using a stock phrase she had caught up somewhere.

The boy laughed merrily. Mr. Herbert's approbation sat newly upon him,
and he was only talking to a child; so he said:

"I hope to be worthy and respectable, but a much greater man than a
farmer."

"Oh! How great? as great as papa?"

"Yes; I hope so."

"That's absurd, you know," said Miss Herbert, with all the outraged
family pride that thirteen years can feel; and, turning away, she
switched at the flowers with her riding-whip.

However, a few words from Gerald made them friends once more, and she
expressed her pleasure that he should pick her one of the few roses
which remained in the garden.

"Roses are common," said the boy. "Every one gives roses. I will give
you something prettier."

He went to the sunny side of the house, and soon returned with half a
dozen pale lavender stars in his hands. They were blossoms of a new sort
of late clematis, which some one's gardener had given Abraham Leigh.
Gerald's deft fingers arranged them into a most artistic bouquet, the
appearance of which was entirely spoilt by Miss Herbert's insistence
that two or three roses should be added. The bouquet was just finished
and presented when Mr. Herbert, followed by the farmer, appeared.

Although he said nothing more to young Leigh on the subject which was
uppermost in the boy's mind, the kindly encouraging look he gave him
raised the widest hopes in his heart. Mr. Herbert bade the father and
son a pleasant good-day, and rode off with his little daughter.

Miss Herbert carried the bunch of clematis for about two miles when,
finding it rather encumbered her, tossed it over a hedge.

Gerald Leigh went back to his attic and commenced about half a dozen
clay sketches of the prettiest object which as yet had crossed his path.
For several days he was on thorns to hear what fate had in store for
him; but fate, personified by his father, made no sign, but went about
his work stolid and sphinx-like. Mr. Herbert, Gerald learned, had gone
to London for a few days.

However, before a fortnight had gone by, Abraham Leigh received a letter
from his landlord, and the same evening, whilst smoking his pipe in the
farm kitchen, informed his son and his sister that to-morrow he was
going into Gloucestershire to see if his brother Joseph could spare him
one of his many boys to take Jerry's place. Jerry was to go to London
the next day and meet Mr. Herbert. Most likely he'd stay there. 'Twas
clear as noontide the boy would never make a farmer, and if there were
fools enough in the world to buy white figures at hundreds of pounds
apiece, Jerry might as well try to make his living that way as any
other.

The truth is, Mr. Herbert told Abraham Leigh that if he would not
consent to pay for his son's art education, he, Mr. Herbert, would
bear the expense himself. But the monetary part of it troubled the
substantial farmer little. He could pay for his child's keep if he could
bring his mind to consent to his going. And now the consent was given.

Gerald heard his father's communication with glowing eyes. For shame's
sake he hid his joy, for he knew that, with all his stolid demeanor, his
father almost broke down as he contemplated the diverging paths his son
and he must henceforward thread. The boy thanked him from his heart, and
the rough farmer, laying his hand on his child's head, blessed him and
bade him go and prosper.

In this way Gerald Leigh left Coombe-Acton. At long intervals he
reappeared for a few days. The worthy villagers eyed him askance; the
only conception they could form of his profession being connected with
dark-skinned itinerants who bore double-tiered platforms on their heads,
and earned a precarious livehood by traversing the country selling
conventional representations of angels and busts of eminent men.


CHAPTER II.

Some seven years after the ambitious boy left Coombe-Acton, honest
farmer Abraham, just when the old-fashioned hawthorn hedges were in
whitest bloom, sickened, turned his stolid face to the wall and died.
Gerald had been summoned, but arrived too late to see his father alive.
Perhaps it was as well it should be so, the farmer's last moments were
troubled ones and full of regret that Watercress Farm would no longer
know a Leigh. The nephew who had taken Gerald's place had turned out an
utter failure, so much so that Abraham Leigh had roundly declared that
he would be bothered with no more boys, and for the last few years had
managed his business single-handed. However, although Gerald's upheaval
of family traditions made the farmer's deathbed unhappy, he showed
that his son had not forfeited his love. All he possessed, some three
thousand pounds, was left to him. Mr. Herbert took the lease of the farm
off the young man's hands, by and by the live and the dead stock were
sold off, and Watercress Farm was waiting for another tenant.

The winding-up of the father's affairs kept Gerald in the neighborhood
of some weeks, and when it became known that Mr. Herbert had insisted
upon his taking up his quarters at the hall the simple Coombe-Acton
folks were stricken with a great wonder. Knowing nothing of what is
called the "aristocracy of art," their minds were much exercised by such
an unheard of proceeding. What had "Jerry" Leigh being doing in the last
seven years to merit such a distinction?

Nothing his agricultural friends could have understood. After picking up
the rudiments of his art in a well-known sculptor's studio, young Leigh
had been sent to study in the schools at Paris. Mr. Herbert told him
that, so far as his art was concerned, Paris was the workshop of the
world,--Rome its bazaar and showroom. So to Paris the boy went. He
studied hard and lived frugally. He won certain prizes and medals, and
was now looking forward to the time when he must strike boldly for fame.
Even now he was not quite unknown. A couple of modest but very beautiful
studies in low relief had appeared in last year's exhibition, and, if
overlooked by the majority, had attracted the notice of a few whose
praise was well worth winning. He was quite satisfied with the results
of his first attempt. In all things that concerned his art he was wise
and patient. No sooner had he placed his foot on the lowest step of the
ladder than he realized the amount of work to be done--the technical
skill to be acquired before he could call himself a sculptor. Even
now, after seven years' study and labor, he had selfdenial enough to
resolve upon being a pupil for three years longer before he made his
great effort to place himself by the side of contemporary sculptors.
Passionate and impulsive as was his true nature, he could follow and woo
art with that calm persistency and method which seem to be the surest
way of winning her smiles.

He is now a man--a singularly handsome man. If not so tall as his youth
promised, he is well built and graceful. Artist is stamped all over
him. Brow, eyes, even the slender, well-shaped hands, proclaim it. The
general expression of his face is one of calm and repose; yet an acute
observer might assert that, when the moment came, that face might depict
passions stronger than those which sway most men.

His dark hair and eyes, and something in the style of his dress, gave
him a look not quite that of an Englishman--a look that terribly vexed
poor Abraham Leigh on those rare occasions when his erratic boy paid him
a visit; but, nevertheless, it is a look not out of place on a young
artist.

This is the kind of man Gerald Leigh has grown into; and, whilst his
transformation has been in progress, Miss Eugenia Herbert has become a
woman.

Although remembering every feature of the child, who seemed in some way
associated with the day of his liberation, Gerald had not again seen
her until his father's death called him back to England. Each time he
had visited Coombe-Acton he had, of course, reported progress to Mr.
Herbert; but, shortly after the change in his life, Mr. Herbert by a
great effort of self-denial, had sent his darling away to school, and at
school she had always been when Gerald called at the Hall; but now, when
he accepted Mr. Herbert's hospitality, he found the fairy-like child
grown, it seemed to him, into his ideal woman, and found, moreover, that
there was a passion so intense that even the love of art must pale
before it.

He made no attempt to resist it. He let it master him; overwhelm him;
sweep him along. Ere a week had gone by, not only by looks, but also in
burning words, he had told Eugenia he loved her. And how did he fare?

His very audacity and disregard of everything, save that he loved
the girl, succeeded to a marvel. Eugenia had already met with many
admirers, but not one like this. Such passionate pleading, such fiery
love, such vivid eloquence were strange and new to her. There was an
originality, a freshness, a thoroughness in the love he offered her.
His very unreasonableness affected her reason. All the wealth of his
imagination, all the crystallizations of his poetical dreams, he threw
into his passion. His ecstasy whirled the girl from her mental feet; his
warmth created an answering warmth; his reckless pleading conquered. She
forgot obstacles as his eloquence overleaped them; she forgot social
distinction as his great dark eyes looked into hers, and at last she
confessed she loved him.

Then Gerald Leigh came down from the clouds and realized what he had
done, and as soon as he touched the earth and became reasonable Eugenia
fancied she did not care for him quite so much.

His conscience smote him. Not only must Mr. Herbert be reckoned with,
but a terrible interval must elapse before he had fame and fortune to
lay before Eugenia. He could scarcely expect her to leave her luxurious
home in order to live _au quatrieme_ or _au cinquieme_ in Paris whilst
he completed his studies. He grew sad and downcast as he thought of
these things, and Eugenia, who liked pleasant, bright, well-to-do
people, felt less kindly disposed toward him and showed she did so.

This made him reckless again. He threw the future to the winds,
recommenced his passionate wooing, recovered his lost ground and gained,
perhaps, a little more.

But Abraham Leigh's affairs were settled up, and Gerald knew he must
tear himself from Acton Hall and go back to work. He had lingered a few
days to finish a bust of Mr. Herbert. This done he had no excuse for
staying longer.

The summer twilight deepened into night. The sculptor and Miss Herbert
stood upon the broad and gravelled terrace-walk that runs along the
stately front of Acton Hall. They leaned upon the gray stone balustrade;
the girl with musing eye was looking down on shadowy lawn and flower-bed
underneath; the young man looked at her, and her alone. Silence reigned
long between them, but at last she spoke.

"You really go to-morrow?"

"Tell me to stay, and I will stay," he said, passionately, "but next
week--next month--next year, the moment, when it does come, will be just
as bitter."

She did not urge him. She was silent. He drew very near to her.

"Eugenia," he whispered, "you love me?"

"I think so." Her eyes were still looking over the darkening garden. She
spoke dreamily, and as one who is not quite certain.

"You think so! Listen! Before we part let me tell you what your love
means to me. If, when first I asked for it you had scorned me, I could
have left you unhappy, but still a man. Now it means life or death to
me. There is no middle course--no question of joy or misery--simply life
or death! Eugenia, look at me and say you love me!"

His dark eyes charmed and compelled her. "I love you! I love you?" she
murmured. Her words satisfied him; moreover, she let the hand he grasped
remain in his, perhaps even returning the pressure of his own. So they
stood for more than an hour, whilst Gerald talked of the future and the
fame he meant to win--talked as one who has the fullest confidence in
his own powers and directing genius.

Presently they saw Mr. Herbert walking through the twilight towards
them. Gerald's hand tightened on the girl's so as to cause her positive
pain.

"Remember," he whispered; "life or death! Think of it while we are
apart. Your love means a man's life or death!"

Many a lover has said an equally extravagant thing, but Eugenia Herbert
knew that his words were not those of poetical imagery, and as she
re-entered the house she trembled at the passion she had aroused. What
if time and opposition should work a change in her feelings? She tried
to reassure herself by thinking that if she did not love him in the same
blind, reckless way, at any rate she would never meet another man whom
she could love as she loved Gerald Leigh.

The sculptor went back to Paris--to his art and his dreams of love and
fame. Two years slipped by without any event of serious import happening
to the persons about whom we are concerned. Then came a great change.

Mr. Herbert died so suddenly that neither doctor nor lawyer could be
summoned in time, either to aid him to live or to carry out his last
wishes. His will gave Eugenia two thousand pounds and an estate he owned
in Gloucestershire--everything else to his son. Unfortunately, some
six months before, he had sold the Gloucestershire property, and, with
culpable negligence, had not made a fresh will. Therefore, the small
money bequest was all that his daughter could claim. However, this
seemed of little moment, as her brother at once announced his intention
of settling upon her the amount to which she was equitably entitled. He
had given his solicitors instructions to prepare the deed.

James Herbert, Eugenia's brother, was unmarried, and at present had no
intention of settling down to the life of a country gentleman. Six weeks
after Mr. Herbert's death the greater number of the servants were paid
off, and Acton Hall was practically shut up. Eugenia, after spending
some weeks with friends in the north of England, came to London to live
for an indefinite time with her mother's sister, a Mrs. Cathcart.

Since her father's death Gerald Leigh had written to her several
times--letters full of passionate love and penned as if the writer felt
sure of her constancy and wish to keep her promise. He, too, was coming
to London. Had she wished it, he would at once have come to her side;
but as it was he would take up his quarters in town about the same time
Eugenia arrived there.

The hour was at hand--the hour to which Miss Herbert had for two years
looked forward with strangely mingled feelings--when her friends must be
told that she intended to marry the young, and as yet unknown sculptor,
Gerald Leigh, the son of her father's late tenant farmer, Abraham.

She loved him still. She felt sure of that much. If time and absence had
somewhat weakened the spell he had thrown over her proud nature, she
knew that unless the man was greatly changed the magic of his words
and looks would sway her as irresistibly as before. She loved him, yet
rebelled against her fate.

Her father had died ignorant of what had passed between his daughter
and the young artist. Many a time Eugenia had tried to bring herself to
confess the truth to him. She now regretted she had not done so. Mr.
Herbert's approval or disapproval would have been at least a staff by
which to guide her steps. He had suspected nothing. The few letters
which passed between the lovers had been unnoticed. Their love was as
yet a secret known only to themselves.

She loved him, but why had he dared to make her love him? Or, why was
he not well-born and wealthy? Could she find strength to face, for his
sake, the scorn of her friends?

She must decide at once. She is sitting and thinking all these things in
her own room at Mrs. Cathcart's, and in front of her lies a letter in
which Gerald announces his intention of calling upon her to-morrow. She
knows that if she receives him she will be bound to proclaim herself his
affianced wife.

He called. She saw him. Mrs. Cathcart was out, So Eugenia was alone
when the servant announced Mr. Leigh. She started and turned pale. She
trembled in every limb as he crossed the room to where she stood. He
took her hand and looked into her face. He spoke, and his rich musical
voice thrilled her.

"Eugenia, is it life or death?"

She could not answer. She could not turn her eyes from his. She saw the
intensity of their expression deepen; saw a fierce yearning look come
into them, a look which startled her.

"Is it life or death?" he repeated.

His love conquered. "Gerald, it is life," she said.

Drunk with joy, he threw his arms around her and kissed her until the
blushes dyed her cheeks. He stayed with her as long as she would allow,
but his delight was too delicious to permit him to say much about his
plans for the future. When at last she made him leave her, he gave her
the number of a studio at Chelsea, which he had taken, and she promised
to write and let him know when he might call again.

They parted. Eugenia walked to the window, and for a long time looked
out on the gay thoroughfare, now full of carriages going to and
returning from the park. Of course, she loved Gerald dearly; that was
now beyond a doubt. But what would she have to go through when the
engagement was announced? what had she to look forward to as his wife?
Must love and worldly misery be synonymous?

The current of her thoughts was interrupted by the arrival of another
visitor--her brother. James Herbert was a tall young man, faultlessly
dressed, and bearing a general look of what is termed high breeding. He
bore a likeness to his father, but the likeness was but an outward one.
By this time he was a cold cynical man of the world. He had not lived
the best of lives, but, being no fool, had gained experience and
caution. He was clever enough to study human nature with a view of
turning his knowledge to account. Eugenia had some pride of birth;
her brother had, or affected, a great deal more. He was by no means
unpopular; few men could make themselves more agreeable and fascinating
than James Herbert when it was worth his while to be so. In his way he
was fond of his sister; certainly proud of her beauty; and she, who knew
nothing of his true nature, thought him as perfect as a brother can be.

He kissed her, complimented her on her good looks, then sat down and
made himself pleasant. She answered his remarks somewhat mechanically,
wondering all the time what effect her news would have upon him. She
hated things hanging over her head, and had made up her mind to tell him
of her intentions, if not to-day the next time she met him.

"The lawyers have almost settled your little matter," he said. "It's
lucky for you I made up my mind at once; things haven't turned out so
well as we expected."

She thanked him--not effusively, as if he was doing no more than she had
a right to expect. Yet the thought flashed across her that before she
took his bounty she was by honor compelled to make him acquainted with
what she proposed doing.

"By-the-bye, Eugenia," said Herbert, "you know Ralph Norgate?"

"Yes. He called a day or two ago. I did not see him."

"Well, I expect he'll soon call again. He has been forcing his
friendship on me lately. In fact--I'd better tell you--his mind is made
up--you are to be the future Lady Norgate. Now you know what to look
forward to."

Her face flushed. Her troubles were beginning.

"But, James," she stammered, "I was just going to tell you--I am already
engaged."

He raised his eyebrows. To express great surprise was against his creed,
and the idea that Eugenia was capable of disgracing herself did not
enter his head.

"So much the worse for Norgate," he said. "Who is the happy man?"

"You will be angry, very angry, I fear." She spoke timidly. His manner
told her she had good grounds for fear. His mouth hardened, but he still
spoke politely and pleasantly.

"My dear girl, don't discount my displeasure; tell me who it is?"

"His name is Gerald Leigh."

"A pretty name, and one which sounds familiar to me. Now, who is Gerald
Leigh?"

"He is a sculptor."

"Ah! now I know. Son of that excellent old tenant of my father's. The
genius he discovered on a dungheap. Eugenia, are you quite mad?"

"He will be a famous man some day."

Herbert shrugged his shoulders in a peculiarly irritating way.

"Let him be as famous as he likes. What does it matter?"

"The proudest family may be proud of allying themselves to a great
artist."

Herbert looked at his sister with a pitying but amused smile. "My poor
girl, don't be led astray by the temporary glorification of things
artistic. When these fellows grow talked about we ask them to our houses
and make much of them. It's the fashion. But we don't marry them.
Indeed, as they all begin in the lower ranks of life, like your friend,
they are generally provided with wives of their own station, who stay at
home and trouble no one."

She winced under the sting of his scorn. He saw it, and knew he was
pursuing the right treatment for her disease.

"Now, this young Leigh," he continued. "What will he be for years and
years? A sort of superior stone-cutter. He will make what living he
can by going about and doing busts of mayors and mayoresses, and other
people of that class, who want their common features perpetuated.
Perhaps he might get a job on a tombstone for a change. Bah! Of course
you have been jesting with me, Eugenia. I shall tell Norgate to call as
soon as possible."

"I shall marry Gerald Leigh," said Eugenia, sullenly. All the same the
busts and tombstones weighed heavily upon her.

"That," said her brother, rising, and still speaking with a smile, "I
am not the least afraid of, although you are of age and mistress of two
thousand pounds. You are not cut out to ornament an attic. I need not
say I must countermand that settlement. It must wait until you marry
Norgate or some other suitable man."

He kissed her and walked carelessly away. To all appearance the matter
did not cause him a moment's anxiety. He was a clever man, and flattered
himself he knew how to treat Eugenia; human nature should be assailed at
its weakest points.

His carelessness was, of course, assumed; for, meeting Mrs. Cathcart as
she drove home, Eugenia's news was sufficiently disturbing to make him
stop the carriage, seat himself beside his aunt, and beg her to take
another turn in the park, during which he told her what had transpired.

They were fitting coadjutors. Mrs. Cathcart was delighted to hear of Sir
Ralph's overtures, and was shocked to find that Eugenia was entangled
in some low attachment. She quite agreed that the girl must be led, not
driven; must be laughed, not talked, out of her folly. "Girls nearly
always make fools of themselves once in their lives," said Mr. Cathcart,
cynically.

"They do," said James Herbert, who knew something about the sex. "All
the same, Eugenia shall not. Find out all about the fellow, where he
lives, and all the rest of it. She doesn't know I've told you about
this. Keep a sharp lookout for any letters."

So the next day, when Eugenia and her aunt were together, the latter, a
skilled domestic diplomatist, commenced operations by regretting that
Mr. Herbert, although so fond of statuary, had never employed a sculptor
to make his own bust. Mrs. Cathcart spoke so naturally that Eugenia fell
into the trap, and informed her that Mr. Herbert's likeness had been
taken in clay two years ago by a young sculptor then staying at Acton
Hall. It had been done for pleasure, not profit, but her father had
always intended to order a copy in marble. Mrs. Cathcart was delighted.
Did Eugenia know where the young man could be found?

Eugenia did know. She told her with a tinge of color on her cheeks,
and took advantage of the opportunity, and perhaps soothed her spirit
somewhat by expatiating on what a great man her lover was to become.
Mrs. Cathcart, in return, spoke of geniuses as struggling, poverty
stricken persons, to befriend whom was the one great wish of her life.
It was indeed pleasant for Miss Herbert to hear her aunt speak of her
lover as she might of a hard-working seamstress or deserving laundress.
She had not yet written to Gerald. She must find strength to throw off
her brother's scorn and the busts and tombstones before she again met
her lover.

Sir Ralph Norgate called that morning. He was a man of about forty. Not
ill-looking, but with the unmistakable appearance of one who had led a
hard life. He was rich, and of fine old family. It was clear to Mrs.
Cathcart that he meant business. Eugenia had met him several times last
year, and it was no news to her that he was her ardent admirer. She was
very cold towards him to-day, but Mrs. Cathcart did not chide her. She,
clever woman, knew that men like Norgate value a prize at what it costs
them to win it. So the baronet came, stayed his appointed time, then
went away, presumably in fair train to a declaration by and by.


CHAPTER III.

The next day, whilst driving with her niece, Mrs. Cathcart was seized
by a sudden thought. "My dear," she said, "let us go and see about that
bust. Where did you say the sculptor man was to be found? Nelson
Studios, King's Road. What number?"

"No. 10," said Eugenia, wondering if her aunt's sudden resolve would be
productive of good or evil.

The carriage went to Nelson Studios; the ladies dismounted, and Mrs.
Cathcart tapped at the door of No. 10, a studio which, being a
sculptor's, was of course on the ground-floor.

The door was opened by a handsome young man whose outside garb was a
ragged old blouse, and whose hands were white with half-dried clay--one
of those hands, moreover, held a short pipe. Indeed, Gerald Leigh was in
as unpresentable trim as when years ago he first met Miss Herbert.

He did not at once see the girl. She was behind Mrs. Cathcart, and that
lady's majestic presence absorbed all his attention. Mrs. Cathcart put
up her eye-glass.

"Is your master in?" she asked.

Gerald laughed. "I am my own master," he said.

"This is Mr. Leigh, aunt," said Eugenia, coming forward.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Cathcart, and the palpable meaning of that exclamatory
monosyllable sent the blood to Eugenia's cheek.

Gerald started as he heard the girl's voice and recognized her in the
shadow. He stretched out his clay-covered hand, then withdrew it and
laughed. Mrs. Cathcart, who saw the action, put on a look of supreme
astonishment; then she recovered herself.

"Oh, I forgot," she said to Eugenia. "Of course, you have seen Mr. Leigh
before. May we come in, Mr. Leigh?"

He moved aside and the ladies entered the studio. He placed his two
chairs at their disposal. He wondered the while what had brought Eugenia
to him. He gave her a questioning glance, but her eyes avoided his. Then
Mrs. Cathcart began. She spoke in that manner which certain persons
assume towards those whom they are pleased to think their inferiors.

"I believe, some time ago, you made a bust of my late brother-in-law,
Mr. Herbert, of Coombe-Acton."

Gerald bowed.

"I wish to have a copy of it. Can you make one?"

"Certainly. In marble?"

"In marble, of course. How much will it cost?"

It was a painful experience to Eugenia, to hear her future husband
talked to by Mrs. Cathcart much as that lady talked to the obliging
young men and women at the various emporiums which enjoyed her
patronage.

"Mr. Herbert was my best friend," said Gerald. "My services are at your
disposal."

"You do not understand me," said Mrs. Cathcart, coldly. "I asked you
what it would cost."

Gerald colored and glanced at Eugenia. He was utterly puzzled. It could
only have been through the agency of the girl he loved that this new
patroness sought him.

"Mr. Leigh was my father's friend, aunt," said Eugenia.

"My dear! Mr. Leigh is not _my_ friend. I want to know his terms for a
marble bust."

"Eighty pounds, madam," said Gerald, rather shortly.

"Oh, much too much! Eugenia, do you not think such a price
extortionate?"

Eugenia was silent, but her cheeks burned. Gerald's lip quivered with
anger. Only Mrs. Cathcart was calm. "I will pay you forty pounds," she
said, "but then it must be approved by a competent judge."

"You have heard my terms, madam," said Leigh curtly.

"Absurd! I will even say fifty pounds. If you like to take that you may
call upon me. Good-morning. Come, Eugenia!"

She swept out of the studio. Eugenia followed her. She looked back and
saw Gerald's face wearing an expression of actual pain. For a moment her
impulse was to run back, throw her arms round his neck, and defy every
one. However, she did not yield to it, but followed her aunt to the
carriage.

"I call that young man a most common, ill-bred person," said Mrs.
Cathcart.

Eugenia flushed. "He is not," she said hotly. "Your manner towards him
must have been most mortifying."

"My dear child!" exclaimed Mrs. Cathcart, in innocent surprise, "and I
was trying to befriend the young man? He presumes on his acquaintance
with your father. I always told your poor father it was a mistake
becoming intimate with persons of that class."

Eugenia said no more. If she had thought of so doing it was not the
moment to open her heart to Mrs. Cathcart. She went to her room
intending to write to Gerald; but no letter was written that day. How
could she ask him to call at her aunt's after what had occurred?

"I love him," she said to herself, "but I am not brave enough to give up
all for him. Oh, why did we ever meet?"

The next morning she received a letter from Gerald. It contained no
reproach--only an entreaty that she would name a time when he might see
her. Mrs. Cathcart was true to her duty. Before James Herbert was out of
bed she had sent him word that a letter had come for Eugenia. He went at
once to his sister. His greeting was quite friendly.

"Eugenia," he said presently, "of course by now you have put all that
nonsense about that sculptor-fellow out of your pretty head?"

"It is no nonsense."

"Well, if you mean to be obstinate I must interfere. Have you seen him
since?"

"Aunt went to his studio. I was with her."

"She ought to have known better. If she encourages you we shall quarrel.
Do you correspond? Tell me the truth."

She offered him Gerald's letter. He waved it aside as a thing beneath
his notice.

"Have you answered it?" he asked.

"Not yet. I am just going to."

Her brother still remained calm and polite, with that contemptuous,
incredulous smile playing round his lips.

"If you will make a fool of yourself, I can't stop you. If you, with
your beauty and position, choose to go and live in a garret, you must do
so. Still, as your brother, I have certain responsibilities which would
still be mine were your lover the highest in the land. I must make
inquiries as to his character and moral worth--these fellows are
generally a loose lot."

"You may make what inquiries you choose."

"Thank you. Now one favor--a command, the last I shall ask or give. You
will not answer this letter--you will not see the man--until I have
satisfied myself on these points. It is not too much to ask, Eugenia."

She felt the justice of his remarks--could it be she was weak enough to
be glad of a little delay and breathing space? But Gerald's face, as
last she saw it, rose before her.

"You must name a time," she said.

"So impatient for true love and social extinction," sneered Herbert.
"Surely you can restrain yourself until this day week."

It was longer than she had meant. But her brother's bitter sneers
settled it. "So be it," she said, "until this day week."

The promise given James Herbert dismissed the matter, but he filled up
the next half-hour with the very cream of society gossip, which was
undoubtedly as palatable to Eugenia as it would have been to any other
woman. James Herbert lived within the inner circle, and as to-day, for
purposes of his own, he spoke to Eugenia as if she were one of the
initiated; his conversation was not without charm.

He was clever to know when to trust. He had not the slightest fear that
Eugenia would break her promise. So he cautioned Mrs. Cathcart to keep
the little fool well within sight, and thus avoid danger of a chance
meeting; to order the servants to refuse the sculptor admission if
he ventured to call--and above all to be sure that Norgate had every
opportunity of pressing his suit. After this he waited calmly, and did
nothing more in the matter for six whole days.

Days during which Gerald Leigh chafed and fretted. He refused to doubt,
but his heart grew heavy within him. He felt sure that Mrs. Cathcart's
visit boded no good. At last he could bear the suspense no longer. He
called and asked for Eugenia. She was out. He called again--the same
result. He went back to his studio and tried to conquer his growing
uneasiness by hard work. One morning a gentleman called and introduced
himself as James Herbert.

Gerald received him courteously. Herbert was suave, smiling and bland.
He spoke of the interest he felt in the young sculptor for his father,
Mr. Herbert's sake. He admired some embryo designs, and wished and
prophesied all success. Then, as Gerald began to hope that Eugenia's
brother might some day be his friend, he turned upon him and tore him to
pieces.

"But, after all, Mr. Leigh, my great object in calling concerns my
sister."

Gerald grew very pale.

"She is a good girl, but weak. She has confessed to me that some sort of
romantic nonsense had passed between you."

"She has vowed to be my wife--no more, no less."

His impetuosity seemed to amuse Herbert. "I am afraid such a thing
is an impossibility," he said serenely. "I shall not insult you by
telling you she is all but penniless--geniuses, I know, never think of
money--but I fear I must pain you by saying she repents of her hasty
words."

"That," said Gerald slowly, yet fiercely, "is a lie."

"My good sir, I cannot allow you to use such words. My temper is fair,
but it has its limits."

"I apologize," said Gerald sullenly. "I should have said you were
coercing her."

"I never coerced any one in my life; much less my sister. Naturally, I
shall object to her marriage with you; but that makes no difference."

"Tell me what you have to tell," said Gerald nervously. He hated and
feared this smooth, smiling man.

"In a few words, then, my sister is unhappy and unsettled. For several
days she has been trying to answer a letter you sent her. At last she
confided all to me. I am sure I am not going too far when I say she
would be glad to think that all boy and girl promises between you were
forgotten."

"She sent you to tell me this?" asked Gerald hoarsely.

"No. She knew I was coming. I am putting her thoughts in my own words."

"I don't expect you to understand what my love for your sister means;
you could not," said Gerald. "But you know she has vowed to be my wife."

"Yes; and will keep her promise if you insist upon it." The emphasis
Herbert laid on insist made Gerald's heart sick.

He said nothing; but, with a strange smile on his white face, he went
to a table and wrote a few words. He handed the paper to his visitor.
"Read," he said; "you say you are her messenger; now you can be mine."
The words were:

"Eugenia: If this is unanswered I shall believe you wish to recall
everything that has passed between us."

"Thank you," said Herbert. "This is all I could expect."

With trembling hands the sculptor placed the paper in an envelope, and
once more tendered it to Herbert.

"No, thank you," said Herbert. "People have been tempted to suppress
letters before now. Post it in the ordinary way."

Gerald left the room. He returned in a few moments, and Herbert knew
that the letter had been posted. He had nothing further to do with
Gerald, so held out his hand affably.

"No," said Gerald, "I would rather not." His eyes were gleaming
strangely.

"As you will," said Herbert with indifference.

"I will change my mind," said Gerald in a low voice, and taking the
other's hand; "condemned people always shake hands with the hangman,
I think."

He spoke with a ghastly attempt at mirth. Herbert left the studio
without another word, but, as he drove to Mrs. Cathcart's, said to
himself, "The sooner that beggar shoots or hangs himself the better."

He went straight to his sister. He placed his hand on her shoulder,
and, with a look she had never yet seen on his face, said in a cold,
contemptuous manner:

"Eugenia, I have been taking some trouble on your behalf. To-day two
things are going to happen which will settle your future. Norgate will
be here presently and ask you to be his wife. By the next post you will
get a letter from that stone-cutter. Before you answer it, shut yourself
up and think until you are in a proper frame of mind. Women are fools,
but surely you can't be the biggest among them."

"You have seen him?" asked Eugenia faintly.

"Yes. An extremely nice young man--in his place."

"Was he well?"

"Very well, and very comfortable. My dear girl, he quite won my
respect--a thoroughly practical young man, with lots of common-sense.
Now good-bye. Don't make any mistake."

Did she hear aright? Her brother found Gerald a thoroughly practical
young man! The lie was so gigantic that it seemed impossible it could be
all a lie. She was revolving it in her mind even when Sir Ralph Norgate
was announced.

As for the practical young man, he had locked his door, and thrown
himself on the ground. James Herbert's words had impressed him, and
perhaps his faith in Eugenia's faith was not so great as he fancied.
To-morrow he would know the verdict. He felt sure that if his letter
remained unanswered for twenty-four hours James Herbert had spoken the
truth.

Miss Herbert found her brother a true prophet. Sir Ralph Norgate offered
his hand, and when the offer was refused, told her he did not mean to
accept her answer as final. She did not, on her part, say anything about
her love being given elsewhere. Then Gerald's letter came, and following
her brother's advice she did think everything over; she sat for hours
trying to nerve herself to answer the letter as love and faith
demanded.

She loved him. Had he been present her indecision would soon have
vanished; but, as it was, she could reflect fully on what an answer to
his letter must mean--alienation of all her friends--an end of social
ambition--many years, if not a life, of poverty. Eugenia shuddered as
she thought of the consequences, and wished that she and Gerald had
never met. She wished moreover, that the temptations of rank and wealth
held out by her other suitor were less.

What would Gerald do if his letter was not answered? If she could but
persuade herself that her brother's estimate of his character was the
right one! Possibly it might be; James knew mankind well. If she could
but think so--could believe that Gerald would forget--she might then
find it easier to be wise, and, by taking him at his word, save herself
and perhaps him from what must insure unhappiness.

So she reasoned--so she excused her half-meditated treason--so she
persuaded herself it would eventually be better for both if they parted.
Yet all the while she knew she loved Gerald Leigh as she could love no
other man. In this mental conflict the day passed and night found the
letter unanswered. Then James Herbert came to her.

"Eugenia, have you replied to that letter?"

She shook her head.

"Give it to me," he said.

She did so. It was a relief to get rid of it. He tore it into fragments.

"There," he said. "I knew I could trust your good sense. There is an
end of the affair. It is a secret between you and me, and I shall never
again allude to it."

For good or ill the die was cast. She had freed herself. But she had
left the room with swimming eyes, and went to Mrs. Cathcart.

"Aunt," she cried, "will you take me abroad--for a long time?"

It was hard for Mrs. Cathcart to be called upon to give up the rest of
the London season. But then Mr. Herbert's recent death prevented her
going out much, and it was paramount that Eugenia's future should be
satisfactorily disposed of. So the excellent woman sacrificed herself at
once.

"I will take you abroad, Eugenia, if you will promise to be Sir Ralph's
wife."

Eugenia had chosen her own path, and knew where it would lead; yet for
very shame she would not show her thoughts to others.

"I can promise nothing," she said. "Take me away."

Three days afterward, Gerald Leigh learned that Eugenia had gone abroad
with her aunt.

Although in his studio all day long, the sculptor did no work for
weeks; at last he aroused himself, engaged a model and set to work with
feverish energy. From morn to night he thumbed and pushed about the
ductile clay. He laughed in a sort of bitter triumph. His hands had not
lost their cunning. The work grew and grew apace until the clay was done
with, and a fair white block of marble stood in the centre of the studio
waiting to be hewn into the statue which was to be Gerald Leigh's first
high bid for fame.


CHAPTER IV.

It was early in May. The Academy had been open about a week, long enough
for the newspaper critics to tell the public what it ought to admire.
Strange to say, this year the critics were unanimous in bestowing their
highest praises on a piece of statuary, and a great future for the
sculptor was predicted.

No. 1460 in the catalogue appealed to no one by cheap sentiment or
sensational treatment. It was but the lightly-draped figure of a
beautiful girl; one in the first flush of womanhood. She was in the act
of stepping hastily forward. Her arms were extended as if to welcome,
perhaps embrace, some one who was coming towards her. Her face bore a
smile of eager delight. The grace, the likeness, the life of the figure
arrested each passer by. The fall of the drapery, the position of each
well-rounded limb, conveyed the idea of rapid motion. It was indeed hard
to believe that she was doomed to remain forever in one fixed attitude.
The stock remark of the spectators was that in a minute they expected to
see her at the other side of the room.

This statute bore no distinguishing title, but those persons who turned
to their catalogues found, under the number and the artist's name, a few
words of poetry:

        "Her hands outstretched
    To greet the new love; whilst her feet
    Tread, scornful, on the old love's gifts."

After reading this one turned, of course, to her feet, and found that
one of them was treading on flowers--roses and large star-shaped
blossoms.

Several people, whilst admiring the statue, fancied they had somewhere
seen the original of that beautiful face; but, save the sculptor, only
one, James Herbert, knew the truth. He cursed Leigh's impertinence, but
was too wise to take any notice of it. Yet he determined to keep Eugenia
from the Academy, if possible.

She was in town, and in a week's time was to be married to Sir Ralph.
Two months after Mrs. Cathcart had taken her niece abroad, the baronet
joined them, and renewed his proposals; this time with success. The girl
stipulated that the marriage should not take place until the spring.
The truth is she wanted some months' delay in order to get rid of the
memories of Gerald Leigh, and by the time she returned to England
flattered herself she had successfully completed the operation.

She had in the last few days heard some talk about the statue, but
had steadfastly kept her eyes from the art criticisms, fearing to see
Gerald's name. Nevertheless, she wished to visit the Academy, and was
surprised when James Herbert, now amiability itself, refused to take her
there.

"You mustn't go this year," he said; "that fellow's statute is creating
quite a furore."

"Well, what of that!" asked Eugenia, coldly.

"He has had bad taste enough to represent you. The likeness is
unmistakable. It is a maudlin thing--a girl deserting her old love, or
some such nonsense. Still, you'd better not go."

Eugenia said no more, but all day long she was thinking of her
brother's words, and longing to see what Gerald had wrought. That
evening she dined out. At the table were several persons who worshipped
art, and Eugenia's cheek burned as she heard the praise bestowed on the
new sculptor and the great future prophesied for him. Had she, after
all, been wrong? Would it not have been better to have followed the
mandates of her heart? Had she not been weak and mercenary? No matter;
it was too late now to repent. Poor Gerald! She must see this wonderful
image of herself.

Early next morning she went alone to Burlington House. Unlike others,
she knew the meaning of the statue, knew the mute reproach it conveyed,
knew why the marble foot trod down those particular flowers. She had
never told him the fate of his boyish gift; but Gerald had often and
often recalled his first meeting with her. Eugenia's heart swelled as
she remembered his brave words and confidence in himself--how sure he
felt of success. He had, indeed, succeeded, but the first great work
from his hands was a memento of his love for a faithless woman--herself.

Two gentlemen were at her side. They were talking of the work and the
sculptor. One of them she knew. He was a lord, famous for his love of
art and encouragement of rising artists.

"I tried to buy it," he said, "but found it was not for sale."

"Commercially speaking," said his companion, "it is as well you cannot
buy it."

"Why? The man must go to the top of his profession."

"I think not. Indeed, my belief is he will do little more. I have
inquired about him. He does not live the life a genius must live in
these days if he wants to succeed."

"I am sorry to hear it," said Lord ----, moving away.

Miss Herbert left the Academy with an echo of Gerald's extravagant
statement that life or death hung upon her love sounding in her ears.
The conversation she had overheard distressed her greatly. The thought
that her treachery had ruined a life full of promise would not be
dismissed. She spent a most miserable day, and its misery was not
diminished by the truth, which she could no longer conceal from herself,
that she still loved Gerald. She loved him more than ever. Too late! too
late! And Eugenia Herbert wept, as many others have wept, that the past
could not be undone.

Sir Ralph Norgate and James Herbert dined that evening at Mrs.
Cathcart's. Their society was little comfort to Eugenia. She felt now
that she hated her lover--hated his polite, hollow society ways and
expressions--hated that _blasé_ look which so often settled on his face.
She had never cared for him. Their love-making had been of a frigid
kind--not, be it said, by Sir Ralph's wish. He was proud of, and perhaps
really fond of, the beautiful girl he had bought; so it was scarcely
fair that Eugenia should compare his polite wooing with that of the
impassioned boy's, which recked no obstacles--heeded no consequences.

Her bitter thoughts made it impossible for her to sit out the dinner.
Very soon she pleaded headache and went to her own room to resume her
self-revilings. She made no further attempt to banish Gerald from
her thoughts. She lived again every moment she had spent in his
company--heard again every word of wild love--felt his hand close on
hers--his lips press her own--and shuddered as the dismal words "Life or
death," seemed echoing through her ears. If she could but undo the past!

Why not! The thought rushed through her. What hindered her save the
false gods to whom she had bent? She was still legally free. Gerald
was in the same town. Why should she heed her friends? Why trouble as
to what people would think or say? By one bold step she could write
everything. If to-morrow--nay, this very hour--she went to Gerald and
bade him take her and hold her against all, she knew he would do so. He
would forgive. To him her action would not seem bold or unmaidenly. In
his eyes she would rank as high as ever; and what mattered the rest?
To-morrow they might be miles away, and the bliss of being Gerald's wife
might well compensate for what people would say about her conduct. She
herself could forget all, save that she was now bound forever to the man
she loved!

She would do it. With feverish impatience she threw off her rich dress
and wrapped herself in a plain cloak. She put on the quietest hat she
could find, stole down stairs, and was out of the house before second
thoughts had time to bring irresolution. Her heart beat wildly. She
hailed a cab and was driven to Nelson Studios. On the way she remembered
it was an unlikely hour to find an artist in his studio, but,
nevertheless, now she had set out, resolved to complete her journey.

She walked quickly to Gerald's door. She knocked softly, but met
with no response. She dared not wait longer outside. The pictured
consequences of her rash act were assuming tremendous proportions in
her brain. Another minute's delay and she must leave the spot never to
return. She turned the handle of the door and entered the room.

Now, Miss Herbert's half-formed plan of action when she found herself
face to face with her ill-treated lover, had been something like
this--she would walk up to him and simply say, "Gerald, I am come." The
rest must be left to him, but she believed, in spite of her weakness and
treachery, he would freely forgive her all.

Gerald was not in the studio. The gas was half-turned down, and the clay
casts on the wall looked grim and spectral. But, if Gerald was not in
the room it was still inhabited. On a low couch--a couch covered by a
rich Oriental rug--lay a woman, fast asleep.

She crept across the room and gazed on the sleeper. Even by the dim
gas-light she knew that she gazed on beauty before which her own must
pale. The woman might have been some five years older than herself, and
those wonderful charms were at their zenith. The rich, clear, warm color
on the cheek, the long black lashes, the arched and perfect eyebrows,
told of Southern lands. The full, voluptuous figure, the shapely,
rounded arms, the red lips, the soft creamy neck--before these the heart
of man would run as wax before a fire. Eugenia, seeking her lover, found
this woman in her stead.

A bitter, scornful smile played on Miss Herbert's lips as she gazed at
the sleeper. Somehow that oval, sunny face seemed familiar to her. Well
might it be. In London, Paris, everywhere, she had seen it in the shop
windows. There were few people in France or England who had not heard
the name of Mlle. Carlotta, singer, dancer, darling of opera-bouffe,
whose adventures and amours were notorious, who had ruined more men than
she could count on the fingers of her fair hands.

Eugenia recognized her, and her smile of scorn deepened. The sight of
a half-emptied champagne bottle close to the sleeper, a half-smoked
cigarette lying on the floor just as it had fallen from her fingers,
added nothing to the contempt Miss Herbert's smile expressed. Gathering
her skirts together to avoid any chance of contamination by touch, she
was preparing to leave the studio as noiselessly as she had entered it,
when suddenly the sleeper awoke.

Awoke without any warning. Simply opened her splendid dark eyes, stared
for half a second, then, with wonderful lightness and agility, sprang to
her feet.

"_Que faites vous la?_ Why are you here?" she cried.

Without a word Eugenia moved towards the door. Mlle. Carlotta was before
her. She turned the key and placed her back against the door.

"_Doucement! doucement! ma belle_," she said. "Permit me to know who
honors me with a visit?"

"I wished to see Mr. Leigh. I suppose he is out. Be good enough to let
me pass."

"Are you a model, then? But no; models look not as you look."

"I am not a model."

"Not! _fi donc!_ You are, perhaps, one of those young misses who write
Geraldo letters of love. _A la bonne heure!_ I wish to see one of
them--_moi_."

With a saucy smile Carlotta pocketed the key, turned up the gas, and
commenced a cool scrutiny of her prisoner. Eugenia blushed crimson.

"_Qui vous etes belle, ma chere--belle mais blonde_, and Geraldo, he
loves not the blonde."

"Let me pass!" said Eugenia, stamping her foot.

Her tormentor laughed, but not ill-temperedly.

"He will soon be here," she said mockingly. "Surely Mademoiselle will
wait. He will be enchanted to see one of the young misses."

Mlle. Carlotta, when not injured, was not vindictive or unkindly; but
she was as mischievous as a monkey. No doubt, having teased the girl to
her satisfaction, she would have soon released her, but it happened that
Eugenia turned her head, and for the first time the light shone full
upon her face. Her gaoler started. She sprang towards her, seized her
arm and dragged her across the room. Still holding her captive, she tore
down a sheet and revealed the clay model of the statue which had made
Gerald famous. She looked from the lifeless to the living face then
burst into a peal of derisive laughter. Eugenia's secret was discovered.

"Ha! ha! ha! The young miss that Geraldo loved. The one who threw him
away for a rich lover! Yet, she wishes to see him again--so at night she
comes. Ah, Mademoiselle, you have w-r-r-recked him, c-r-r-rushed him,
r-r-ruined him, still would see him. Good; good! it is now his turn. My
Gerald shall have revenge--revenge!"

Eugenia, thoroughly aroused, commanded her to let her go. Carlotta
laughed in her face, was even ill-bred enough to snap her fingers and
poke out her tongue at her prisoner. Eugenia humbled herself, and
implored her by their common womanhood. Carlotta laughed the louder.
Eugenia appealed to her venality, and tried to bribe her. Carlotta
lowered her black eyebrows and scowled, but laughed louder than ever.
"He will come very soon," was all she said. "He will not stop long away
from me--Carlotta."

Miss Herbert was at her wit's end. Yet, even through the shame of the
situation, the anguish of her heart made itself felt. After having
wrought herself up to make such a sacrifice, such an atonement, it was
pitiable to find Gerald no better than the rest of his sex! She sat upon
a chair longing for release, yet dreading to hear the step which would
herald it.

Half an hour passed. Mlle. Carlotta whiled it away by emptying a glass
of champagne, smoking a cigarette, and making comments upon Gerald's
prolonged absence. Presently she cried, "Ah, Mademoiselle, this is dull
for you; see, I will dance to you," and therewith she raised herself on
her toes and went pirouetting round her captive, humming the while
an air of Offenbach's. Her dress was long, but she managed it with
marvellous skill, and Eugenia, whilst loathing, could not help watching
her with a sort of fascination. She was as agile as a panther; every
attitude was full of grace, every gesture alluring.

Suddenly she stopped short. Her great eyes sparkled even more brightly.
She glanced at her victim. "Hist!" she said. "I hear him. I know his
step. He comes!"

A moment afterwards the door was tried. Eugenia covered her face with
her hands. She knew not what the woman meant to do or say, but she felt
that her crowning shame was at hand. Yet her heart beat at the thought
of seeing Gerald once more, and a wild idea of forgiveness on either
side passed through her.

Mlle. Carlotta turned down the gas, unlocked the door, and, as it
opened, threw herself into the arms of the new-comer. Eugenia heard the
sound of kisses given and returned, and her heart grew like stone.

"Geraldo, _mon ami_," she heard the dancer say in passionate tones,
"_dis moi, que tu m'aimes--que tu m'aimes toujours!_"

"_Je t'adore ma belle--tu es ravissante!_"

"Tell me in your own dear barbarous tongue. Swear it to me in English."

"I swear it, my beautiful gipsy. I love you."

"Me only?"

"You only;" and Eugenia heard him kiss her again and again.

"Dis done, my Geraldo. You love me more than the pale-faced miss who
scorned you?" He laughed a wild, unpleasant sounding laugh.

"Why not? You can love or say you can love. She was the changeable white
moon; you are the glorious Southern sun. She was ice; you are fire.
Better be burnt to death than die of cold and starvation. Men have
worshipped you--men have died for you. I love you."

They came into the room. His arm was round her. Her radiant face rested
on his shoulder. Again and again he kissed those beautiful lips. His
eyes were only for her and saw not Eugenia.

Miss Herbert rose. Her face was as white as her marble prototype's. She
might have passed out unobserved by Gerald, but Mlle. Carlotta was on
the watch. She pointed to her, and Gerald turned and saw Eugenia.

He had but time to realize it was no vision--then she was gone. With a
wild cry he turned to follow her, but the woman twined her arms around
him and restrained him. She was strong, and for some moments detained
him. Her resistance maddened him. With a fierce oath he grasped her
round arms and tore them from his neck, throwing her away with such
force that she fell upon the floor. Then he rushed after Eugenia.

She was walking swiftly along the road. He soon reached her side; but,
although aware of his presence, she neither spoke nor looked at him.

"What brought you here?" he said hoarsely.

She made no reply--only walked the faster.

"Tell me why you came?" he said. "I will never leave you until you
answer me."

She turned and looked at him. Fresh from that scene in the studio--with
those words still ringing in her ears--even the great change she saw in
his face did not move her to pity.

"I came," she said, "on the eve of my marriage, to ask forgiveness of a
man whom I fancied I had wronged. I am glad I came. I found him happy,
and in society after his own heart."

Her voice was cold and contemptuous. He quivered beneath her scorn. At
that moment a cab passed. Eugenia called it.

"Leave me!" she said to Gerald. "Leave me! Our paths in life shall cross
no more."

He grasped her wrist. "Do you dare to reproach me? You! Eugenia, I told
you it was life or death."

"Life or death!" she repeated. "Death, at any rate, seems made very
sweet to you."

Still holding her wrist, he looked into her eyes in a strange, hopeless
way. He saw nothing in them to help him. He leaned down to her ear.

"Yes, death," he said in a solemn whisper; "but the moral and spiritual
death comes first."

His hand left her wrist. He turned, and without a word strode away.
Whither? Even as Tannhauser returned to the Venusberg, so Gerald Leigh
returned to his studio and Carlotta.

Eugenia wept all the way home. Wept for herself and Gerald. Wept for
the shame she had endured. Wept for the uselessness of the contemplated
atonement. Wept for the life before her, and for a man's future and
career wrecked by her weakness.

The next week she married Sir Ralph Norgate. The ceremony was surrounded
by befitting splendor. Yet, even at the alter, Gerald Leigh's pale
passionate face rose before her, and she knew it would never leave her
thoughts. She loved him still!

On her wedding morning she received many letters. She had no time to
read them, so took them with her, and perused them as she went north
with her husband. Among them was one in a strange handwriting; it ran
thus:

"For your sake he struck me--Carlotta! But he came back to me and is
mine again. Him I forgive; not you. We go abroad together to warm, sunny
lands. Some day we shall quarrel and part. Then I shall remember you
and take my revenge. How? That husband, for whom you deserted Gerald, I
shall take from you."

Eugenia's lip curled. She tore the letter and threw the pieces out of
the carriage window.

Two years afterwards Lady Norgate was listlessly turning the leaves of
a society journal. Although she was a great and fashionable lady she
was often listless, and found life rather a dreary proceeding. She
read to-day, among the theatrical notes, that Mlle. Carlotta, the
divine opera bouffe actress, was engaged to appear next month at the
"Frivolity." Although the woman's absurd threat was unheeded, if not
forgotten, her name recalled too vividly the most painful episode in
Lady Norgate's life. She turned to another part of the paper and
read that the gentleman who committed suicide under such distressing
circumstances, at Monaco, had now been identified. He was Mr. Gerald
Leigh, the sculptor, whose first important work attracted so much
attention two years ago. It was hinted that his passion for a well-known
actress was the cause of the rash deed.

Lady Norgate dropped the paper, and covered her face with her hands. He
had spoken truly. Her love meant life or death!

Had she believed, or troubled about the concluding paragraph of the
notice, had she ventured to tell herself it was true that Gerald had
forgotten her, and Carlotta was responsible for his death, her mind
would soon have been set at rest.

Like a courteous foe who gives fair warning, Mlle. Carlotta wrote once
more:

"He is dead. He died for your sake, not mine. Your name, not mine, was
on his lips. Look to yourself. I am coming to London."

No doubt Carlotta meant this letter as a first blow towards revenge.
She would hardly have written it had she known that Lady Norgate would
cherish those words forever. Poor comfort as it was, they told her that
Gerald had loved her to the last.

Then Mlle. Carlotta, more beautiful, more enticing, more audacious than
ever, came to London.

For some months it had been whispered in society that Sir Ralph Norgate
was not so perfect a husband as such a wife as Eugenia might rightly
expect. After Carlotta's reappearance the whispers grew louder, the
statements more circumstantial. Eugenia caught an echo of them and
smiled disdainfully.

Then the name of Carlotta's new victim became town-talk. Yet Eugenia
made no sign.

Not even when she met her husband, in broad daylight, seated side by
side with the siren. The man had the grace to turn his head away, but
Carlotta shot a glance of malicious triumph at the pale lady who passed
without a quiver of the lip. James Herbert was with his sister, and
found this encounter too much even for his cynicism. He was bound to
speak.

"The blackguard!" he said. "But Eugenia, I don't think I would have a
divorce or a separation. It makes such a scandal."

"It is a matter of perfect indifference to me," she said coldly.

She spoke the truth. Carlotta's romantic vengeance was an utter failure.
Lady Norgate and her husband were, in truth, no farther apart than they
had been for many months. Eugenia was indifferent.

And, as time goes on, grows more and more so. Indifferent to wealth,
indifferent to rank, to pleasure, even to pain. She cherishes nothing,
cares for nothing, save the remembrance that she was once loved by
Gerald Leigh--that he bade her give him life or death--that although she
gave him death, he died with her name on his lips!



CARRISTON'S GIFT.

PART I.

_TOLD BY PHILIP BRAND, M.D., LONDON._


I.

I wish I had the courage to begin this tale by turning to my
professional visiting books, and, taking at random any month out of the
last twenty years, give its record as a fair sample of my ordinary work.
The dismal extract would tell you what a doctor's--I suppose I may say
a successful doctor's--lot is, when his practice lies in a poor and
densely-populated district of London. Dreary as such a beginning might
be, it would perhaps allay some of the incredulity which this tale may
probably provoke, as it would plainly show how little room there is for
things imaginative or romantic in work so hard as mine, or among such
grim realities of poverty, pain, and grief as those by which I have been
surrounded. It would certainly make it appear extremely unlikely that
I should have found time to imagine, much less to write, a romance or
melodrama.

The truth is that when a man has toiled from nine o'clock in the
morning until nine o'clock at night, such leisure as he can enjoy is
precious to him, especially when even that short respite is liable to
be broken in upon at any moment.

Still, in spite of the doleful picture I have drawn of what may be
called "the daily grind," I begin this tale with the account of a
holiday.

In the autumn of 1864 I turned my back with right good-will upon London
streets, hospitals, and patients, and took my seat in the North Express.
The first revolution of the wheels sent a thrill of delight through my
jaded frame. A joyful sense of freedom came over me. I had really got
away at last! Moreover, I had left no address behind me, so for three
blessed weeks might roam an undisputed lord of myself. Three weeks were
not very many to take out of the fifty-two, but they were all I could
venture to give myself; for even at that time my practice, if not so
lucrative as I could wish, was a large and increasing one. Having done
a twelvemonth's hard work, I felt that no one in the kingdom could
take his holiday with a conscience clearer than mine, so I lay back in
a peculiarly contented frame of mind, and discounted the coming
pleasures of my brief respite from labor.

There are many ways of passing a holiday--many places at which it may be
spent; but after all, if you wish to enjoy it thoroughly there is but
one royal rule to be followed. That is, simply to please yourself--go
where you like, and mount the innocent holiday hobby which is dearest
to your heart, let its name be botany, geology, entomology, conchology,
venery, piscation, or what not. Then you will be happy, and return well
braced up for the battle of life. I knew a city clerk with literary
tastes, who invariably spent his annual fortnight among the mustiest
tomes of the British Museum, and averred that his health was more
benefited by so doing than if he had passed the time inhaling the
freshest sea-breezes. I dare say he was right in his assertion.

Sketching has always been my favorite holiday pursuit. Poor as my
drawings may be, nevertheless, as I turn them over in my portfolio, they
bring to me at least vivid remembrances of many sweet and picturesque
spots, happy days, and congenial companions. It was not for me to say
anything of their actual merits, but they are dear to me for their
associations.

This particular year I went to North Wales, and made Bettws-y-Coed my
headquarters. I stayed at the Royal Oak, that well-known little inn dear
to many an artist's heart, and teeming with reminiscences of famous men
who have sojourned there times without number. It was here I made the
acquaintance of the man with whose life the curious events here told are
connected.

On the first day after my arrival at Bettws my appreciation of my
liberty was so thorough, my appetite for the enjoyment of the beauties
of nature so keen and insatiable, that I went so far and saw so much,
that when I returned to the Royal Oak night had fallen and the hour of
dinner had long passed by. I was, when my own meal was placed on the
table, the only occupant of the coffee-room. Just then a young man
entered, and ordered something to eat. The waiter knowing no doubt
something of the frank _camaraderie_ which exists, or should exist,
between the followers of the painter's craft, laid his cover at my
table. The new-comer seated himself, gave me a pleasant smile and a
nod, and in five minutes we were in full swing of conversation.

The moment my eyes fell upon the young man I had noticed how singularly
handsome he was. Charles Carriston--for this I found afterwards to
be his name--was about twenty-two years of age. He was tall, but
slightly built; his whole bearing and figure being remarkably elegant
and graceful. He looked even more than gentlemanly,--he looked
distinguished. His face was pale, its features well-cut, straight, and
regular. His forehead spoke of high intellectual qualities, and there
was somewhat of that development over the eye-brows which phrenologists,
I believe, consider as evidence of the possession of imagination. The
general expression of his face was one of sadness, and its refined
beauty was heightened by a pair of soft, dark, dreamy-looking eyes.

It only remains to add that, from his attire, I judged him to be an
artist--a professional artist--to the backbone. In the course of
conversation I told him how I had classified him. He smiled.

"I am only an amateur," he said; "an idle man, nothing more--and you?"

"Alas! I am a doctor."

"Then we shall not have to answer to each other for our sins in
painting."

We talked on pleasantly until our bodily wants were satisfied. Then came
that pleasant craving for tobacco, which after a good meal, is natural
to a well-regulated digestion.

"Shall we go and smoke outside?" said Carriston. "The night is
delicious."

We went out and sat on one of the wooden benches. As my new friend said,
the night was delicious. There was scarcely a breath of air moving. The
stars and the moon shone brightly, and the rush of the not far distant
stream came to us with a soothing murmur. Near us were three or four
jovial young artists. They were in merry mood; one of them had that day
sold a picture to a tourist. We listened to their banter until, most
likely growing thirsty, they re-entered the inn.

Carriston had said little since we had been out of doors. He smoked
his cigar placidly and gazed up at the skies. With the white moonlight
falling on his strikingly-beautiful face--the graceful pose into which
he fell--he seemed to me the embodiment of poetry. He paid no heed
to the merry talk or the artists, which so much amused me--indeed, I
doubted if he heard their voices.

Yet he must have done so, for as soon as they had left us he came out of
his reverie.

"It must be very nice," he said, "to have to make one's living by Art."

"Nice for those who can make livings by it," I answered.

"All can do that who are worth it. The day of neglected genius is gone
by. Muller was the last sufferer, I think--and he died young."

"If you are so sanguine, why not try your own luck at it?"

"I would; but unfortunately I am a rich man."

I laughed at this misplaced regret. Then Carriston, in the most simple
way, told me a good deal about himself. He was an orphan; an only child.
He had already ample means; but fortune had still favors in store for
him. At the death of his uncle, now an aged man, he must succeed to a
large estate and a baronetcy. The natural, unaffected way in which he
made these confidences, moreover made them not, I knew, from any wish
to increase his importance in my eyes, greatly impressed me. By the
time we parted for the night I had grown much interested in my new
acquaintance--an interest not untinged by envy. Young, handsome, rich,
free to come or go, work or play, as he listed! Happy Carriston!


II.

I am disposed to think that never before did a sincere friendship, one
which was fated to last unbroken for years, ripen so quickly as that
between Carriston and myself. As I now look back I find it hard to
associate him with any, even a brief, period of time subsequent to our
meeting, during which he was not my bosom friend. I forget whether our
meeting at the same picturesque spot on the morning which followed our
self-introduction was the result of accident or arrangement. Anyway, we
spent the day together, and that day was the precursor of many passed in
each other's society. Morning after morning we sallied forth to do our
best to transfer the same bits of scenery to our sketching-blocks.
Evening after evening we returned to dine side by side, and afterward to
talk and smoke together, indoors or outdoors as the temperature advised
or our wishes inclined.

Great friends we soon became--inseparable as long as my short holiday
lasted. It was, perhaps, pleasant for each to work in company with an
amateur like himself. Each could ask the other's opinion of the merits
of the work done, and feel happy at the approval duly given. An artist's
standard of excellence is too high for a non-professional. When he
praises your work he praises it but as the work of an outsider. You feel
that such commendation condemns it and disheartens you.

However, had Carriston cared to do so, I think he might have fearlessly
submitted his productions to any conscientious critic. His drawings were
immeasurably more artistic and powerful than mine. He had undoubtedly
great talent, and I was much surprised to find that good as he was at
landscape, he was even better at the figure. He could, with a firm, bold
hand draw rapidly the most marvellous likenesses. So spirited and true
were some of the studies he showed me, that I could without flattery
advise him, provided he could finish as he began, to keep entirely to
the higher branch of the art. I have now before me a series of outline
faces drawn by him--many of them from memory; and as I look at them the
original of each comes at once before my eyes.

From the very first I had been much interested in the young man, and as
day by day went by, and the peculiarities of his character were revealed
to me, my interest grew deeper and deeper. I flatter myself that I am
a keen observer and skilful analyst of personal character, and until
now fancied that to write a description of its component parts was an
easy matter. Yet when I am put to the proof I find it no simple task
to convey in words a proper idea of Charles Carriston's mental
organization.

I soon discovered that he was, I may say, afflicted by a peculiarly
sensitive nature. Although strong and apparently in good health, the
very changes of the weather seemed to affect him almost to the same
extent as they affect a flower. Sweet as his disposition always was, the
tone of his mind, his spirits, his conversation, varied, as it were,
with the atmosphere. He was full of imagination, and that imagination,
always rich, was at times weird, even grotesquely weird. Not for one
moment did he seem to doubt the stability of the wild theories he
started, or the possibility of the poetical dreams he dreamed being
realized. He had his faults, of course; he was hasty and impulsive;
indeed to me one of the greatest charms about the boy was that, right
or wrong, each word he spoke came straight from his heart.

So far as I could judge, the whole organization of his mind was too
highly strung, too finely wrought for every-day use. A note of joy, of
sorrow, even of pity vibrated through it too strongly for his comfort or
well-being. As yet it had not been called upon to bear the test of love,
and fortunately--I use the word advisedly--fortunately he was not,
according to the usual significance of the word, a religious man, or I
should have thought it not unlikely that some day he would fall a victim
to that religious mania so well known to my professional brethren, and
have developed hysteria or melancholia. He might even have fancied
himself a messenger sent from heaven for the regeneration of mankind.
From natures like Carriston's are prophets made.

In short, I may say that my exhaustive study of my new friend's
character resulted in a certain amount of uneasiness as to his
future--an uneasiness not entirely free from professional curiosity.

Although the smile came readily and frequently to his lips, the general
bent of his disposition was sad, even despondent and morbid. And yet few
young men's lives promised to be so pleasant as Charles Carriston's.

I was rallying him one day on his future rank and its responsibilities.

"You will, of course, be disgustingly rich?" I said.

Carriston sighed. "Yes, if I live long enough; but I don't suppose I
shall."

"Why in the world shouldn't you? You look pale and thin, but are in
capital health. Twelve long miles we have walked to-day--you never
turned a hair."

Carriston made no reply. He seemed in deep thought.

"Your friends ought to look after you and get you a wife," I said.

"I have no friends," he said sadly. "No nearer relation than a cousin a
good deal older than I am, who looks upon me as one who was born to rob
him of what should be his."

"But by the law of primogeniture, so sacred to the upper ten thousand,
he must know you are entitled to it."

"Yes; but for years and years I was always going to die. My life was not
thought worth six months' purchase. All of a sudden I got well. Ever
since then I have seemed, even to myself, a kind of interloper."

"It must be unpleasant to have a man longing for one's death. All the
more reason you should marry, and put other lives between him and the
title."

"I fancy I shall never marry," said Carriston, looking at me with his
soft dark eyes. "You see, a boy who has waited for years expecting to
die, doesn't grow up with exactly the same feelings as other people. I
don't think I shall ever meet a woman I can care for enough to make my
wife. No, I expect my cousin will be Sir Ralph yet."

I tried to laugh him out of his morbid ideas. "Those who live will see,"
I said. "Only promise to ask me to your wedding, and better still, if
you live in town, appoint me your family doctor. It may prove the
nucleus of that West End practice which it is the dream of every doctor
to establish."

I have already alluded to the strange beauty of Carriston's dark eyes.
As soon as companionship commenced between us those eyes became to
me, from scientific reasons, objects of curiosity on account of the
mysterious expression which at times I detected in them. Often and often
they wore a look the like to which, I imagine, is found only in the eyes
of a somnambulist--a look which one feels certain is intently fixed upon
something, yet upon something beyond the range of one's own vision.
During the first two or three days of our new-born intimacy, I found
this eccentricity of Carriston's positively startling. When now and then
I turned to him, and found him staring with all his might at nothing, my
eyes were compelled to follow the direction in which his own were bent.
It was at first impossible to divest one's self of the belief that
something should be there to justify so fixed a gaze. However, as the
rapid growth of our friendly intercourse soon showed me that he was a
boy of most ardent poetic temperament--perhaps even more a poet than an
artist--I laid at the door of the Muse these absent looks and recurring
flights into vacancy.

We were at the Fairy Glen one morning, sketching, to the best of our
ability, the swirling stream, the gray rocks, and the overhanging trees,
the last just growing brilliant with autumnal tints. So beautiful was
everything around that for a long time I worked, idled, or dreamed
in contented silence. Carriston had set up his easel at some little
distance from mine. At last I turned to see how his sketch was
progressing. He had evidently fallen into one of his brown studies,
and, apparently, a harder one than usual. His brush had fallen from his
fingers, his features were immovable, and his strange dark eyes were
absolutely riveted upon a large rock in front of him, at which he gazed
as intently as if his hope of heaven depended upon seeing through it.

He seemed for the while oblivious to things mundane. A party of
laughing, chattering, terrible tourist girls scrambled down the rugged
steps, and one by one passed in front of him. Neither their presence nor
the inquisitive glances they cast on his statuesque face roused him from
his fit of abstraction. For a moment I wondered if the boy took opium or
some other narcotic on the sly. Full of the thought I rose, crossed over
to him, and laid my hand upon his shoulder. As he felt my touch he came
to himself, and looked up at me in a dazed, inquiring way.

"Really, Carriston," I said, laughingly, "you must reserve your dreaming
fits until we are in places where tourists do not congregate, or you
will be thought a madman, or at least a poet."

He made no reply. He turned away from me impatiently, even rudely; then,
picking up his brush, went on with his sketch. After awhile he seemed
to recover from his pettishness, and we spent the remainder of the day
as pleasantly as usual.

As we trudged home in the twilight, he said to me in an apologetic,
almost penitent way,

"I hope I was not rude to you just now."

"When do you mean?" I asked, having almost forgotten the trivial
incident.

"When you woke me from what you called my dreaming."

"Oh dear, no. You were not at all rude. If you had been, it was but the
penalty due to my presumption. The flight of genius should be respected,
not checked by a material hand."

"That is nonsense; I am not a genius, and you must forgive me for my
rudeness," said Carriston simply.

After walking some distance in silence he spoke again. "I wish when you
are with me you would try and stop me from getting into that state. It
does me no good."

Seeing he was in earnest I promised to do my best, and was curious
enough to ask him whither his thoughts wandered during those abstracted
moments.

"I can scarcely tell you," he said. Presently he asked, speaking
with hesitation, "I suppose you never feel that under certain
circumstances--circumstances which you cannot explain--you might be
able to see things which are invisible to others?"

"To see things. What things?"

"Things, as I said, which no one else can see. You must know there are
people who possess this power."

"I know that certain people have asserted they possess what they
call second-sight; but the assertion is too absurd to waste time in
refuting."

"Yet," said Carriston dreamily, "I know that if I did not strive to
avoid it some such power would come to me."

"You are too ridiculous, Carriston," I said. "Some people see what
others don't because they have longer sight. You may, of course, imagine
anything. But your eyes--handsome eyes they are, too--contain certain
properties, known as humors and lenses, therefore in order to see--"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Carriston; "I know exactly all you are going to
say. You, a man of science, ridicule everything which breaks what you
are pleased to call the law of Nature. Yet take all the unaccountable
tales told. Nine hundred and ninety-nine you expose to scorn or throw
grave doubt upon, yet the thousandth rests on evidence which cannot be
upset or disputed. The possibility of that one proves the possibility of
all."

"Not at all; but enough for your argument," I said, amused at the boy's
wild talk.

"You doctors," he continued with that delicious air of superiority so
often assumed by laymen when they are in good health, "put too much to
the credit of diseased imagination."

"No doubt; it's a convenient shelf on which to put a difficulty. But go
on."

"The body is your province, yet you can't explain why a cataleptic
patient should hear a watch tick when it is placed against his foot."

"Nor you; nor any one. But perhaps it may aid you to get rid of your
rubbishing theories if I tell you that catalepsy, as you understand it,
is a disease not known to us; in fact, it does not exist."

He seemed crestfallen at hearing this. "But what do you want to prove?"
I asked. "What have you yourself seen?"

"Nothing, I tell you. And I pray I may never see anything."

After this he seemed inclined to shirk the subject, but I pinned him to
it. I was really anxious to get at the true state of his mind. In answer
to the leading questions with which I plied him, Carriston revealed an
amount of superstition which seemed utterly childish and out of place
beside the intellectual faculties which he undoubtedly possessed. So
much so, that at last I felt more inclined to laugh at than to argue
with him.

Yet I was not altogether amused by his talk. His wild arguments and
wilder beliefs made me fancy there must be a weak spot somewhere in his
brain--even made me fear lest his end might be madness. The thought
made me sad; for, with the exception of the eccentricities which I have
mentioned, I reckoned Carriston the pleasantest friend I had ever made.
His amiable nature, his good looks, and perfect breeding had endeared
the young man to me; so much so, that I resolved, during the remainder
of the time we should spend together, to do all I could toward talking
the nonsense out of him.

My efforts were unavailing. I kept a sharp lookout upon him, and let
him fall into no more mysterious reveries; but the curious idea that
he possessed, or could possess, some gift above human nature, was too
firmly rooted to be displaced. On all other subjects he argued fairly
and was open to reason. On this one point he was immovable. When I
could get him to notice my attacks at all, his answer was:

"You doctors, clever as you are with the body, know as little of
psychology as you did three thousand years ago."

When the time came for me to fold up my easel and return to the drudgery
of life, I parted from Carriston with much regret. One of those solemn,
but often broken, promises to join together next year in another
sketching tour passed between us. Then I went back to London, and during
the subsequent months, although I saw nothing of him, I often thought of
my friend of the autumn.


III.

In the spring of 1865 I went down to Bournemouth to see, for the last
time, an old friend who was dying of consumption. During a great part
of the journey down I had for a travelling companion a well-dressed
gentlemanly man of about forty years of age. We were alone in the
compartment, and after interchanging some small civilities, such as the
barter of newspapers, slid into conversation. My fellow-traveller seemed
to be an intellectual man, and well posted up in the doings of the day.
He talked fluently and easily on various topics, and judging by his talk
must have moved in good society. Although I fancied his features bore
traces of hard living and dissipation, he was not unprepossessing in
appearance. The greatest faults in his face were the remarkable thinness
of the lips, and his eyes being a shade closer together than one cares
to see. With a casual acquaintance such peculiarities are of little
moment, but for my part I should not choose for a friend one who
possessed them without due trial and searching proof.

At this time the English public were much interested in an important
will case which was then being tried. The reversion to a vast sum of
money depended upon the testator's sanity or insanity. Like most other
people we duly discussed the matter. I suppose, from some of my remarks,
my companion understood that I was a doctor. He asked me a good many
technical questions, and I described several curious cases of mania
which had come under my notice. He seemed greatly interested in the
subject.

"You must sometimes find it hard to say where sanity ends and insanity
begins," he said thoughtfully.

"Yes. The boundary-line is in some instances hard to define. To give in
such a dubious case an opinion which would satisfy myself I should want
to have known the patient at the time he was considered quite sane."

"To mark the difference?"

"Exactly. And to know the bent of the character. For instance, there is
a friend of mine. He was perfectly sane when last I saw him, but for all
I know he may have made great progress the other way in the interval."

Then without mentioning names, dates, or places, I described Carriston's
peculiar disposition to my intelligent listener. He heard me with rapt
interest.

"You predict he will go mad?" he said.

"Certainly not. Unless anything unforeseen arises he will probably live
and die as sane as you or I."

"Why do you fear for him, then?"

"For this reason. I think that any sudden emotion--violent grief, for
instance--any unexpected and crushing blow--might at once disturb the
balance of his mind. Let his life run on in an even groove, and all will
be well with him."

My companion was silent for a few moments.

"Did you mention your friend's name?" he asked.

I laughed. "Doctors never give names when they quote cases."

At the next station my companion left the train. He bade me a polite
adieu, and thanked me for the pleasure my conversation had given him.
After wondering what station in life he occupied I dismissed him from my
mind, as one who had crossed my path for a short time and would probably
never cross it again.

Although I did not see Charles Carriston I received several letters from
him during the course of the year. He had not forgotten our undertaking
to pass my next holiday together. Early in the autumn, just as I was
beginning to long with a passionate longing for open air and blue skies,
a letter came from Carriston. He was now, he said, roughing it in the
Western Highlands. He reminded me of last year's promise. Could I get
away from work now? Would I join him? If I did not care to visit
Scotland, would I suggest some other place where he could join me?
Still, the scenery by which he was now surrounded was superb, and the
accommodation he had secured, if not luxurious, fairly comfortable. He
thought we could not do better. A postscript to his letter asked me to
address him as Cecil Carr, not Charles Carriston. He had a reason for
changing his name; a foolish reason I should no doubt call it. When we
met he would let me know it.

This letter at once decided me to accept his invitation. In a week's
time my arrangements for leave of absence were complete, and I was
speeding northward in the highest spirits, and well equipped with
everything necessary for my favorite holiday pursuit. I looked forward
with the greatest pleasure to again meeting Carriston. I found him at
Callendar waiting for me. The coach did not follow the route we were
obliged to take in order to reach the somewhat unfrequented part of the
country in which our tent was pitched, so my friend had secured the
services of a primitive vehicle and a strong shaggy pony to bear us the
remainder of the journey.

So soon as our first hearty greetings were over I proceeded to ascertain
how the last year had treated Carriston. I was both delighted and
astonished at the great change for the better which had taken place in
his manner, no less than his appearance. He looked far more robust; he
seemed happier, brighter; although more like ordinary humanity. Not only
had he greeted me with almost boisterous glee, but during our drive
through the wonderful scenery he was in the gayest of spirits and full
of fun and anecdote. I congratulated him heartily upon the marked
improvement in his health, both mentally and physically.

"Yes, I am much better," he said. "I followed a part of your advice;
gave up moping, tried constant change of scene, interested myself in
many more things. I am quite a different man."

"No supernatural visitations?" I asked, anxious to learn that his cure
in that direction was complete.

His face fell. He hesitated a second before answering.

"No--not now," he said. "I fought against the strange feeling, and I
believe have got rid of it--at least I hope so."

I said no more on the subject. Carriston plunged into a series of vivid
and mimetic descriptions of the varieties of Scotch character which he
had met with during his stay. He depicted his experiences so amusingly
that I laughed heartily for many a mile.

"But why the change in your name?" I asked, when he paused for a moment
in his merry talk.

He blushed, and looked rather ashamed. "I scarcely like to tell you; you
will think my reason so absurd."

"Never mind. I don't judge you by the ordinary standard."

"Well, the fact is, my cousin is also in Scotland. I feared if I gave
my true name at the hotel at which I stayed on my way here, he might
perchance see it, and look me up in these wild regions."

"Well, and what if he did?"

"I can't tell you. I hate to know I feel like it. But I have always,
perhaps without cause, been afraid of him; and this place is horribly
lonely."

Now that I understood the meaning of his words, I thought the boy must
be joking; but the grave look on his face showed he was never further
from merriment.

"Why, Carriston!" I cried, "you are positively ridiculous about your
cousin. You can't think the man wants to murder you?"

"I don't know what I think. I am saying things to you which I ought not
to say; but every time I meet him I feel he hates me, and wishes me out
of the world."

"Between wishing and doing there is a great difference. I dare say all
this 's fancy on your part."

"Perhaps so. Any way, Cecil Carr is as good a name up here as Charles
Carriston, so please humor my whim and say no more about it."

As it made no difference to me by what name he chose to call himself I
dropped the subject. I knew of old that some of his strange prejudices
were proof against anything I could do to remove them.

At last we reached our temporary abode. It was a substantial, low-built
house, owned and inhabited by a thrifty middle-aged widow, who, although
well-to-do so far as the simple ideas of her neighbors went, was
nevertheless always willing to add to her resources by accommodating
such stray tourists as wished to bury themselves for a day or two in
solitude, or artists who, like ourselves, preferred to enjoy the
beauties of Nature undisturbed by the usual ebbing and flowing stream of
sightseers.

As Carriston asserted, the accommodation if homely was good enough for
two single men; the fare was plentiful, and our rooms were the picture
of cleanliness. After a cursory inspection I felt sure that I could for
a few weeks make myself very happy in these quarters.

I had not been twenty-four hours in the house before I found out one
reason for the great change for the better in Charles Carriston's
demeanor; knew his step was lighter, his eye brighter, his voice gayer,
and his whole bearing altered. Whether the reason was a subject of
congratulation or not I could not as yet say.

The boy was in love; in love as only a passionate, romantic, imaginative
nature can be; and even then only once in a lifetime. Heedless,
headstrong, impulsive, and entirely his own master, he had given his
very heart and soul into the keeping of a woman.


IV.

That a man of Carriston's rank, breeding and refinement should meet his
fate within the walls of a lonely farm-house, beyond the Trossachs,
seems incredible. One would scarcely expect to find among such humble
surroundings a wife suitable to a man of his stamp. And yet when I saw
the woman who had won him I neither wondered at the conquest nor did I
blame him for weakness.

I made the great discovery on the morning after my arrival. Eager to
taste the freshness of the morning air, I rose betimes and went for a
short stroll. I returned, and whilst standing at the door of the house,
was positively startled by the beauty of a girl who passed me and
entered, as if she was a regular inhabitant of the place. Not a rosy
Scotch lassie, such as one would expect to find indigenous to the soil;
but a slim, graceful girl, with delicate classical features. A girl with
a mass of knotted light hair, yet with the apparent anomaly, dark eyes,
eyelashes, and eyebrows--a combination which, to my mind, makes a style
of beauty rare, irresistible, and dangerous above all others. The
features which filled the exquisite oval of her face were refined and
faultless. Her complexion was pale, but its pallor in no way suggested
anything save perfect health. To cut my enthusiastic description short,
I may at once say it has never been my good fortune to cast my eyes on a
lovelier creature than this young girl.

Although her dress was of the plainest and simplest description, no one
could have mistaken her for a servant; and much as I admire the bonny,
healthy Scotch country lassie, I felt sure that mountain air had never
reared a being of this ethereally beautiful type. As she passed me I
raised my hat instinctively. She gracefully bent her golden head, and
bade me a quiet but unembarrassed good-morning. My eyes followed her
until she vanished at the end of the dark passage which led to the back
of the house.

Even during the brief glimpse I enjoyed of this fair unknown a strange
idea occurred to me. There was a remarkable likeness between her
delicate features and those, scarcely less delicate, of Carriston.
This resemblance may have added to the interest the girl's appearance
awoke in my mind. Any way I entered our sitting-room, and, a prey to
curiosity, and perhaps, hunger, awaited with much impatience the
appearance of Carriston--and breakfast.

The former arrived first. Generally speaking he was afoot long before I
was, but this morning we had reversed the usual order of things. As soon
as I saw him I cried,

"Carriston! tell me at once who is the lovely girl I met outside?
An angel with dark eyes and golden hair. Is she staying here like
ourselves?"

A look of pleasure flashed into his eyes--a look which pretty well told
me everything. Nevertheless he answered as carelessly as if such lovely
young women were as common to the mountain side as rocks and brambles.

"I expect you mean Miss Rowan; a niece of our worthy landlady. She lives
with her."

"She cannot be Scotch, with such a face and eyes?"

"Half-and-half. Her father was called an Englishman; but was, I believe,
of French extraction. They say the name was originally Rohan."

Carriston seemed to have made close inquiries as to Miss Rowan's
parentage.

"But what brings her here?" I asked.

"She has nowhere else to go. Rowan was an artist. He married a sister of
our hostess, and bore her away from her native land. Some years ago she
died, leaving this one daughter. Last year the father died, penniless,
they tell me, so the girl has since then lived with her only relative,
her aunt."

"Well," I said, "as you seem to know all about her, you can introduce me
by and by."

"With the greatest pleasure, if Miss Rowan permits," said Carriston. I
was glad to hear him give the conditional promise with as much respect
to the lady's wishes as if she had been a duchess.

Then, with the liberty a close friend may take, I drew toward me a
portfolio, full, I presumed, of sketches of surrounding scenery. To my
surprise Carriston jumped up hastily and snatched it from me. "They
are too bad to look at," he said. As I struggled to regain possession,
sundry strings broke, and, lo and behold! the floor was littered,
not with delineations of rock, lake, and torrent, but with images of
the young girl I had seen a few minutes before. Full face, profile,
three quarter face, five, even seven eight face, all were there--each
study perfectly executed by Carriston's clever pencil. I threw myself
into a chair and laughed aloud, whilst the young man, blushing and
discomforted, quickly huddled the portraits between the covers, just as
a genuine Scotch lassie bore in the plentiful and, to me, very welcome
breakfast.

Carriston did favor me with his company during the whole of that day;
but, in spite of my having come to Scotland to enjoy his society, that
day, from easily-guessed reasons, was the only one in which I had
undisputed possession of my friend.

Of course I bantered him a great deal on the portfolio episode. He took
it in good part, attempting little or no defence. Indeed, before night
he had told me, with all a boy's fervor, how he had loved Madeline Rowan
at first sight, how in the short space of time which had elapsed since
that meeting he had wooed her and won her; how good and beautiful she
was; how he worshipped her; how happy he felt; how, when I went south,
he should accompany me; and, after making a few necessary arrangements,
return at once and bear his bride away.

I could only listen to him, and congratulate him. It was not my place to
act the elder, and advise him either for or against the marriage.
Carriston had only himself to please, and, if he made a rash step, only
himself to blame for the consequences. And why should I have dissuaded?
I who, in two days, envied the boy's good fortune.

I saw a great deal of Madeline Rowan. How strange and out-of-place her
name and face seemed amid our surroundings. If at first somewhat shy and
retiring, she soon, if only for Carriston's sake, consented to look upon
me as a friend, and talked to me freely and unreservedly. Then I found
that her nature was as sweet as her face. Such a conquest did she make
of me that, save for one chimerical reason, I should have felt quite
certain that Carriston had chosen well, and would be happy in wedding
the girl of his choice, heedless of her humble position in the world,
and absence of fitting wealth. When once his wife, I felt sure that
if he cared for her to win social success her looks and bearing would
insure it, and from the great improvement which, as I have already said,
I noticed in his health and spirits, I believed that his marriage would
make his life longer, happier, and better.

Now for my objection, which seems almost a laughable one. I objected on
the score of the extraordinary resemblance which, so far as a man may
resemble a woman, existed between Charles Carriston and Madeline Rowan.
The more I saw them together, the more I was struck by it. A stranger
might well have taken them for twin brother and sister. The same
delicate features, drawn in the same lines; the same soft, dark, dreamy
eyes; even the same shaped heads. Comparing the two, it needed no
phrenologist or physiognomist to tell you that where one excelled the
other excelled; where one failed, the other was wanting. Now, could I
have selected a wife for my friend, I would have chosen one with habits
and constitution entirely different from his own. She should have been a
bright, bustling woman, with lots of energy and common-sense--one
who would have rattled him about and kept him going--not a lovely,
dark-eyed, dreamy girl, who could for hours at a stretch make herself
supremely happy if only sitting at her lover's feet and speaking no
word. Yet they were a handsome couple, and never have I seen two people
so utterly devoted to each other as those two seemed to be during those
autumn days which I spent with them.

I soon had a clear proof of the closeness of their mental resemblance.
One evening Carriston, Madeline, and I were sitting out-of-doors,
watching the gray mist deepening in the valley at our feet. Two of the
party were, of course, hand-in-hand, the third seated at a discreet
distance--not so far away as to preclude conversation, but far enough
off to be able to pretend that he saw and heard only what was intended
for his eyes and ears.

How certain topics, which I would have avoided discussing with
Carriston, were started I hardly remember. Probably some strange
tale had been passed down from wilder and even more solitary regions
than ours--some ridiculous tale of Highland superstition, no doubt
embellished and augmented by each one who repeated it to his fellows.
From her awed talk I soon found that Madeline Rowan, perhaps by reason
of the Scotch blood in her veins, was as firm a believer in things
visionary and beyond nature as ever Charles Carriston in his silliest
moments could be. As soon as I could I stopped the talk, and the next
day, finding the girl for a few minutes alone, told her plainly that
subjects of this kind should be kept as far as possible from her future
husband's thoughts. She promised obedience, with dreamy eyes which
looked as far away and full of visions as Carriston's.

"By the by," I said, "has he ever spoken to you about seeing strange
things?"

"Yes; he has hinted at it."

"And you believe him?"

"Of course I do; he told me so."

This was unanswerable. "A pretty pair they will make," I muttered, as
Madeline slipped from me to welcome her lover who was approaching. "They
will see ghosts in every corner, and goblins behind every curtain."

Nevertheless, the young people had no doubts about their coming bliss.
Everything was going smoothly and pleasantly for them. Carriston had at
once spoken to Madeline's aunt, and obtained the old Scotchwoman's ready
consent to their union. I was rather vexed at his still keeping to his
absurd whim, and concealing his true name. He said he was afraid of
alarming her aunt by telling her he was passing under an _alias_, whilst
if he gave Madeline his true reason for so doing she would be miserable.
Moreover, I found he had formed the romantic plan of marrying her
without telling her in what an enviable position she would be placed
so far as worldly gear went. A kind of Lord Burleigh surprise no doubt
commended itself to his imaginative brain.

The last day of my holiday came. I bade a long and sad farewell to lake
and mountain, and, accompanied by Carriston, started for home. I did not
see the parting proper between the young people--that was far too sacred
a thing to be intruded upon--but even when that protracted affair was
over, I waited many, many minutes whilst Carriston stood hand-in-hand
with Madeline, comforting himself and her by reiterating "Only six
weeks--six short weeks! And then--and then!" It was the girl who at last
tore herself away, and then Carriston mounted reluctantly by my side on
the rough vehicle.

From Edinburgh we travelled by the night train. The greater part of the
way we had the compartment to ourselves. Carriston, as a lover will,
talked of nothing but coming bliss and his plans for the future. After
a while I grew quite weary of the monotony of the subject, and at last
dozed off, and for some little time slept. The shrill whistle which told
us a tunnel was at hand aroused me. My companion was sitting opposite to
me, and as I glanced across at him my attention was arrested by the same
strange intense look which I had on a previous occasion at Bettws-y-Coed
noticed in his eyes--the same fixed stare--the same obliviousness to
all that was passing. Remembering his request, I shook him, somewhat
roughly, back to his senses. He regarded me for a moment vacantly, then
said:

"Now I have found out what was wanting to make the power I told you of
complete. I could see her if I wished."

"Of course you can see her--in your mind's eye. All lovers can do that."

"If I tried I could see her bodily--know exactly what she is doing." He
spoke with an air of complete conviction.

"Then I hope, for the sake of modesty, you won't try. It is now nearly
three o'clock. She ought to be in bed and asleep."

I spoke lightly, thinking it better to try and laugh him out of his
folly. He took no notice of my sorry joke.

"No," he said, quietly, "I am not going to try. But I know now what
was wanting. Love--such love as mine--such love as hers--makes the
connecting link, and enables sight or some other sense to cross over
space, and pass through every material obstacle."

"Look here, Carriston," I said seriously, "you are talking as a madman
talks. I don't want to frighten you, but I am bound both as a doctor
and your sincere friend to tell you that unless you cure yourself of
these absurd delusions they will grow upon you, develop fresh forms, and
you will probably end your days under restraint. Ask any doctor, he will
tell you the same."

"Doctors are a clever race," answered my strange young friend, "but they
don't know everything."

So saying he closed his eyes and appeared to sleep.

We parted upon reaching London. Many kind words and wishes passed
between us, and I gave him some well-meant, and, I believed, needed
warnings. He was going down to see his uncle, the baronet. Then he had
some matters to arrange with his lawyers, and above all, had to select
a residence for himself and his wife. He would, no doubt, be in London
for a short time. If possible he would come and see me. Any way he would
write and let me know the exact date of his approaching marriage. If I
could manage to come to it, so much the better. If not he would try,
as they passed through town, to bring his bride to pay me a flying and
friendly visit. He left me in the best of spirits, and I went back to my
patients and worked hard to make up lost ground, and counteract whatever
errors had been committed by my substitute.

Some six weeks afterward--late at night--whilst I was deep in a new and
clever treatise on zymotics, a man, haggard, wild, unshorn, and unkempt,
rushed past my startled servant, and entered the room in which I sat.
He threw himself into a chair, and I was horrified to recognize in the
intruder my clever and brilliant friend, Charles Carriston!


V.

"The end has come sooner than I expected." These were the sad words I
muttered to myself as waving my frightened servant away I closed the
door, and stood alone with the supposed maniac. He rose and wrung my
hand, then without a word sank back into his chair and buried his face
in his hands. A sort of nervous trembling seemed to run through his
frame. Deeply distressed I drew his hands from his face.

"Now, Carriston," I said, as firmly as I could, "look up, and tell me
what all this means. Look up, I say, man, and speak to me."

He raised his eyes to mine, and kept them there, whilst a ghastly
smile--a phantom humor--flickered across his white face. No doubt his
native quickness told him what I suspected, so he looked me full and
steadily in the face.

"No," he said, "not as you think. But let there be no mistake. Question
me. Talk to me. Put me to any test. Satisfy yourself, once for all, that
I am as sane as you are."

He spoke so rationally, his eyes met mine so unflinchingly, that I was
rejoiced to know that my fears were as yet ungrounded. There was grief,
excitement, want of rest in his appearance, but his general manner told
me he was, as he said, as sane as I was.

"Thank heaven you can speak to me and look at me like this," I
exclaimed.

"You are satisfied then?" he said.

"On this point, yes. Now tell me what is wrong?"

Now that he had set my doubts at rest his agitation and excitement
seemed to return. He grasped my hand convulsively.

"Madeline!" he whispered; "Madeline--my love--she is gone."

"Gone!" I repeated. "Gone where?"

"She is gone, I say--stolen from me by some black-hearted
traitor--perhaps forever. Who can tell?"

"But, Carriston, surely, in so short a time her love cannot have been
won by another. If so, all I can say is--"

"What!" he shouted. "You have seen her! You in your wildest dreams to
imagine that Madeline Rowan would leave me of her own free-will! No,
sir; she has been stolen from me--entrapped--carried away--hidden. But
I will find her, or I will kill the black-hearted villain who has done
this."

He rose and paced the room. His face was distorted with rage. He
clinched and unclinched his long slender hands.

"My dear fellow," I said; "you are talking riddles. Sit down and tell me
calmly what has happened. But, first of all, as you look utterly worn
out, I will ring for my man to get you some food."

"No," he said; "I want nothing. Weary I am, for I have been to Scotland
and back as fast as man can travel. I reached London a short time ago,
and after seeing one man have come straight to you, my only friend,
for help--it may be for protection. But I have eaten and I have drank,
knowing I must keep my health and strength."

However, I insisted on some wine being brought. He drank a glass, and
then with a strange enforced calm, told me what had taken place. His
tale was this:

After we had parted company on our return from Scotland, Carriston went
down to the family seat in Oxfordshire, and informed his uncle of the
impending change in his life. The baronet, an extremely old man, infirm
and all but childish, troubled little about the matter. Every acre of
his large property was strictly entailed, so his pleasure or displeasure
could make but little alteration in his nephew's prospects. Still, he
was the head of the family, and Carriston was in duty bound to make
the important news known to him. The young man made no secret of his
approaching marriage, so in a very short time every member of the family
was aware that the heir and future head was about to ally himself to
a nobody. Knowing nothing of Madeline Rowan's rare beauty and sweet
nature Carriston's kinsmen and kinswomen were sparing with their
congratulations. Indeed, Mr. Ralph Carriston, the cousin whose name was
coupled with such absurd suspicions, went so far as to write a bitter,
sarcastic letter, full of ironical felicitations. This, and Charles
Carriston's haughty reply, did not make the affection between the
cousins any stronger. Moreover, shortly afterward the younger man heard
that inquiries were being made in the neighborhood of Madeline's home as
to her position and parentage. Feeling sure that only his cousin Ralph
could have had the curiosity to institute such inquiries, he wrote and
thanked him for the keen interest he was manifesting in his future
welfare, but begged that hereafter Mr. Carriston would apply to him
direct for any information he wanted. The two men were now no longer on
speaking terms.

Charles Carriston in his present frame of mind cared little whether his
relatives wished to bless or forbid the banns. He was passionately in
love, and at once set about making arrangements for a speedy marriage.
Although Madeline was still ignorant of the exalted position held by her
lover--although she came to him absolutely penniless--he was resolved in
the matter of money to treat her as generously as he would have treated
the most eligible damsel in the country. There were several legal
questions to be set at rest concerning certain property he wished to
settle upon her. This of course caused delay. As soon as they were
adjusted to his own, or rather to his lawyer's satisfaction, he purposed
going to Scotland and carrying away his beautiful bride. In the meantime
he cast about for a residence.

Somewhat Bohemian in his nature, Carriston had no intention of settling
down just yet to live the life of an ordinary moneyed Englishman. His
intention was to take Madeline abroad for some months. He had fixed
upon Cannes as a desirable place at which to winter, but having grown
somewhat tired of hotel life, wished to rent a furnished house. He had
received from an agent to whom he had been advised to apply the refusal
of a house, which, from the glowing description given, seemed the one
above all others he wanted. As an early decision was insisted upon,
my impulsive young friend thought nothing of crossing the Channel and
running down to the south of France to see, with his own eyes, that
the much-lauded place was worthy of the fair being who was to be its
temporary mistress.

He wrote to Madeline, and told her he was going from home for a few
days. He said he should be travelling the greater part of the time, so
it should be no use her writing to him until his return. He did not
reveal the object of his journey. Were Madeline to know it was to choose
a winter residence at Cannes she would be filled with amazement, and the
innocent deception he was still keeping up would not be carried through
to the romantic end which he pictured to himself.

The day before he started for France Madeline wrote that her aunt was
very unwell, but said nothing as to her malady causing any alarm.
Perhaps Carriston thought less about the old Scotch widow than her
relationship and kindness to Miss Rowan merited. He started on his
travels without any forebodings of evil.

His journey to Cannes and back was hurried; he wasted no time on the
road, but was delayed for two days at the place itself before he could
make final arrangements with the owner and the present occupier of the
house. Thinking he was going to start every moment, he did not write to
Madeline--at the rate at which he meant to return, a letter posted in
England would reach her almost as quickly as if posted at Cannes.

He reached his home, which for the last few weeks had been Oxford, and
found two letters waiting for him. The first, dated on the day he left
England, was from Madeline. It told him that her aunt's illness had
suddenly taken a fatal turn--that she had died that day, almost without
warning. The second letter was anonymous.

It was written apparently by a woman, and advised Mr. Carr to look
sharply after his lady-love or he would find himself left in the lurch.
The writer would not be surprised to hear some fine day that she had
eloped with a certain gentleman who should be nameless. This precious
epistle, probably an emanation of feminine spite, Carriston treated as
it deserved--he tore it up and threw the pieces to the wind.

But the thought of Madeline being alone at that lonely house troubled
him greatly. The dead woman had no sons or daughters; all the anxiety
and responsibility connected with her affairs would fall on the poor
girl. The next day he threw himself into the Scotch Express and started
for her far-away home.

On arriving there he found it occupied only by the rough farm servants.
They seemed in a state of wonderment, and volubly questioned Carriston
as to the whereabouts of Madeline. The question sent a chill of fear to
his heart. He answered their questions by others, and soon learned all
they had to communicate.

Little enough it was. On the morning after the old woman's funeral
Madeline had gone to Callendar to ask the advice of an old friend of her
aunt's as to what steps should now be taken. She had neither been to
this friend, nor had she returned home. She had, however, sent a message
that she must go to London at once, and would write from there. That was
the last heard of her--all that was known about her.

Upon hearing this news Carriston became a prey to the acutest terror--an
emotion which was quite inexplicable to the honest people, his
informants. The girl had gone, but she had sent word whither she had
gone. True, they did not know the reason for her departure, so sudden
and without luggage of any description; true, she had not written as
promised, but no doubt they would hear from her to-morrow. Carriston
knew better. Without revealing the extent of his fears he flew back to
Callendar. Inquiries at the railway station informed him that she had
gone, or had purposed going, to London; but whether she ever reached it,
or whether any trace of her could be found there, was at least a matter
of doubt. No good could be gained by remaining in Scotland, so he
travelled back at once to town, half-distracted, sleepless, and racking
his brain to know where to look for her.

"She has been decoyed away," he said in conclusion. "She is hidden,
imprisoned somewhere. And I know, as well as if he told me, who has done
this thing. I can trace Ralph Carriston's cursed hand through it all."

I glanced at him askance. This morbid suspicion of his cousin amounted
almost to monomania. He had told the tale of Madeline's disappearance
clearly and tersely; but when he began to account for it his theory was
a wild and untenable one. However much he suspected Ralph Carriston of
longing to stand in his shoes, I could see no object for the crime of
which he accused him, that of decoying away Madeline Rowan.

"But why should he have done this?" I asked. "To prevent your marriage?
You are young; he must have foreseen that you would marry some day."

Carriston leaned toward me, and dropped his voice to a whisper.

"This is his reason," he said; "this is why I come to you. You are not
the only one who has entirely misread my nature, and seen a strong
tendency to insanity in it. Of course I know that you are all wrong, but
I know that Ralph Carriston has stolen my love--stolen her because he
thinks and hopes that her loss will drive me mad--perhaps drive me to
kill myself. I went straight to him--I have just come from him. Brand,
I tell you that when I taxed him with the crime--when I raved at
him--when I threatened to tear the life out of him--his cold, wicked
eyes leaped with joy. I heard him mutter between his teeth, 'Men have
been put in strait-waistcoats for less than this.' Then I knew why he
had done this. I curbed myself and left him. Most likely he will try to
shut me up as a lunatic; but I count upon your protection--count upon
your help to find my love."

That any man could be guilty of such a subtle refinement of crime as
that of which he accused his cousin seemed to me, if not impossible, at
least improbable. But as at present there was no doubt about my friend's
sanity I promised my aid readily.

"And now," I said, "my dear boy, I won't hear another word to-night.
Nothing can be done until to-morrow; then we will consult as to what
steps should be taken. Drink this and go to bed; yes, you are as sane as
I am, but, remember, insomnia soon drives the strongest man out of his
senses."

I poured out an opiate. He drank it obediently. Before I left him for
the night I saw him in bed and sleeping a heavy sleep.


VI.

The advantage to one who writes, not a tale of imagination, but a simple
record of events, is this: He need not be bound by the recognized canons
of the story-telling art--need not exercise his ingenuity to mislead his
reader--need not suppress some things and lay undue stress on others to
create mysteries to be cleared up at the end of the tale. Therefore,
using the privilege of a plain narrator, I shall here give some account
of what became of Miss Rowan, as, so far as I can remember, I heard it
some time afterward from her own lips.

The old Scotchwoman's funeral over, and those friends who had been
present departed, Madeline was left in the little farm-house alone, save
for the presence of the two servants. Several kind bodies had offered to
come and stay with her, but she had declined the offers. She was in no
mood for company, and perhaps being of such a different race and breed,
would not have found much comfort in the rough homely sympathy which was
offered to her. She preferred being alone with her grief--grief which
after all was bound to be much lightened by the thought of her own
approaching happiness, for the day was drawing near when her lover would
cross the border and bear his bonny bride away. She felt sure that she
would not be long alone--that the moment Carriston heard of her aunt's
death he would come to her assistance. In such a peaceful, God-fearing
neighborhood she had no fear of being left without protection. Moreover,
her position in the house was well-defined. The old woman, who was
childless, had left her niece all of which she died possessed. So
Madeline decided to wait quietly until she heard from her lover.

Still there were business matters to be attended to, and at the funeral
Mr. Douglas, of Callendar, the executor under the will, had suggested
that an early interview would be desirable. He offered to drive out to
the little farm the next day, but Miss Rowan, who had to see to some
feminine necessaries which could only be supplied by shops, decided that
she would come to the town instead of troubling Mr. Douglas to drive so
far out.

Madeline, in spite of the superstitious element in her character, was
a brave girl, and in spite of her refined style of beauty, strong and
healthy. Early hours were the rule in that humble home, so before seven
o'clock in the morning she was ready to start on her drive to the little
town. At first she thought of taking with her the boy who did the rough
out-door work; but he was busy about something or other, and besides,
was a garrulous lad who would be certain to chatter the whole way,
and this morning Miss Rowan wanted no companions save her own mingled
thoughts of sadness and joy. She knew every inch of the road; she feared
no evil; she would be home again long before nightfall; the pony was
quiet and sure-footed--so away went Madeline in the strong primitive
vehicle on her lonely twelve miles' drive through the fair scenery.

She passed few people on the road. Indeed, she remembered meeting no one
except one or two pedestrian tourists, who like sensible men were doing
a portion of their day's task in the early morning. I have no doubt but
Miss Rowan seemed to them a passing vision of loveliness.

But when she was a mile or two from Callendar, she saw a boy on a pony.
The boy, who must have known her by sight, stopped and handed her a
telegram. She had to pay several shillings for the delivery, or intended
delivery of the message, so far from the station. The boy galloped away,
congratulating himself on having been spared a long ride, and Miss Rowan
tore open the envelope left in her hands.

The message was brief: "Mr. Carr is seriously ill. Come at once. You
will be met in London."

Madeline did not scream or faint. She gave one low moan of pain, set her
teeth, and with the face of one in a dream drove as quickly as she could
to Callendar, straight to the railway station.

Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, she had money with her, so she did
not waste time in going to Mr. Douglas. In spite of the crushing blow
she had received the girl had all her wits about her. A train would
start in ten minutes' time. She took her ticket, then found an idler
outside the station, and paid him to take the pony and carriage back to
the farm, with the message as repeated to Carriston.

The journey passed like a long dream. The girl could think of nothing
but her lover, dying, dying--perhaps dead before she could reach him.
The miles flew by unnoticed; twilight crept on; the carriage grew dark;
at last--London at last! Miss Rowan stepped out on the broad platform,
not knowing what to do or where to turn. Presently a tall well-dressed
man came up to her, and removing his hat, addressed her by name. The
promise as to her being met had been kept.

She clasped her hands. "Tell me--oh tell me, he is not dead," she cried.

"Mr. Carr is not dead. He is ill, very ill--delirious and calling for
you."

"Where is he? Oh take me to him!"

"He is miles and miles from here--at a friend's house. I have been
deputed to meet you and to accompany you, if you feel strong enough to
continue the journey at once."

"Come," said Madeline. "Take me to him."

"Your luggage?" asked the gentleman.

"I have none. Come!"

"You must take some refreshment."

"I need nothing. Come!"

The gentleman glanced at his watch. "There is just time," he said. He
called a cab, told the driver to go at top speed. They reached
Paddington just in time to catch the mail.

During the drive across London Madeline asked many questions, and
learned from her companion that Mr. Carr had been staying for a day or
two at a friend's house in the west of England. That yesterday he had
fallen from his horse and sustained such injuries that his life was
despaired of. He had been continually calling for Madeline. They
had found her address on a letter, and had telegraphed as soon as
possible--for which act Miss Rowan thanked her companion with tears in
her eyes.

Her conductor did not say much of his own accord, but in replying to her
questions he was politely sympathetic. She thought of little outside the
fearful picture which filled every corner of her brain, but from her
conductor's manner received the impression that he was a medical adviser
who had seen the sufferer, and assisted in the treatment of the case.
She did not ask his name, nor did he reveal it.

At Paddington he placed her in a ladies' carriage and left her.

He was a smoker, he said. She wondered somewhat at this desertion. Then
the train sped down West. At the large stations the gentleman came to
her and offered her refreshments. Hunger seemed to have left her; but
she accepted a cup of tea once or twice. At last sorrow, fatigue, and
weakness produced by such a prolonged fast had their natural effect.
With the tears still on her lashes the girl fell asleep, and must have
slept for many miles: a sleep unbroken by stoppages at stations.

Her conductor at last aroused her. He stood at the door of the carriage.
"We must get out here," he said. All the momentarily-forgotten anguish
came back to her as she stood beside him on the almost unoccupied
platform.

"Are we there at last?" she asked.

"I am sorry to say we have still a long drive; would you like to rest
first?"

"No--no. Come on, if you please." She spoke with feverish eagerness.

The man bowed. "A carriage waits," he said.

Outside the station was a carriage of some sort, drawn by one horse, and
driven by a man muffled up to the eyes. It was still night, but Madeline
fancied dawn could not be far off. Her conductor opened the door of the
carriage and waited for her to enter.

She paused. "Ask him--that man must know if--"

"I am most remiss," said the gentleman. He exchanged a few words with
the driver, and coming back, told Madeline that Mr. Carr was still
alive, sensible, and expecting her eagerly.

"Oh, please, please drive fast," said the poor girl, springing into the
carriage. The gentleman seated himself beside her, and for a long time
they drove on in silence. At last they stopped. The dawn was just
glimmering. They alighted in front of a house. The door was open.
Madeline entered swiftly. "Which way--which way?" she asked. She was
too agitated to notice any surroundings; her one wish was to reach her
lover.

"Allow me," said the conductor, passing her. "This way; please follow
me." He went up a short flight of stairs, then paused, and opened a
door quietly. He stood aside for the girl to enter. The room was dimly
lit, and contained a bed with drawn curtains. Madeline flew past her
travelling companion, and as she threw herself on her knees beside the
bed upon which she expected to see the helpless and shattered form of
the man she loved, heard, or fancied she heard, the door locked behind
her.


VII.

Carriston slept on late into the next day. Knowing that every moment
of bodily and mental rest was a precious boon to him, I left him
undisturbed. He was still fast asleep when, about mid-day, a gentleman
called upon me. He sent up no card, and I supposed he came to consult
me professionally.

The moment he entered my room I recognized him. He was the thin-lipped,
gentlemanly person whom I had met on my journey to Bournemouth last
spring--the man who had seemed so much impressed by my views on
insanity, and had manifested such interest in the description I had
given--without mentioning any name--of Carriston's peculiar mind.

I should have at once claimed acquaintanceship with my visitor, but
before I could speak he advanced, and apologized gracefully for his
intrusion.

"You will forgive it," he added, "when I tell you my name is Ralph
Carriston."

Remembering our chance conversation, the thought that, after all,
Charles Carriston's wild suspicion was well-founded, flashed through me
like lightning. My great hope was that my visitor might not remember my
face as I remembered his. I bowed coldly but said nothing.

"I believe, Dr. Brand," he continued, "you have a young relative of mine
at present staying with you?"

"Yes, Mr. Carriston is my guest," I answered. "We are old friends."

"Ah, I did not know that. I do not remember having heard him mention
your name as a friend. But as it is so, no one knows better than
you do the unfortunate state of his health. How do you find him
to-day--violent?"

I pretended to ignore the man's meaning, and answered smilingly,
"Violence is the last thing I should look for. He is tired out and
exhausted by travel, and is in great distress. That, I believe, is the
whole of his complaint."

"Yes, yes; to be sure, poor boy! His sweetheart has left him, or
something. But as a doctor you must know that his mental condition is
not quite what it should be. His friends are very anxious about him.
They fear that a little restraint--temporary, I hope--must be put upon
his actions. I called to ask your advice and aid."

"In what, Mr. Carriston?"

"In this. A young man can't be left free to go about threatening his
friends' lives. I have brought Dr. Daley with me; you know him, of
course. He is below in my carriage. I will call him up, with your
permission. He could then see poor Charles, and the needful certificate
could be signed by you two doctors."

"Mr. Carriston," I said decidedly, "let me tell you in the plainest
words that your cousin is at present as fully in possession of his wits
as you are. Dr. Daley, whoever he may be, could sign no certificate, and
in our day no asylum would dare to keep Mr. Carriston within its walls."

An unpleasant sinister look crossed my listener's face, but his voice
still remained bland and suave. "I am sorry to differ from you, Dr.
Brand," he said, "but I know him better than you do. I have seen him as
you have never yet seen him. Only last night he came to me in a frantic
state. I expected every moment he would make a murderous attack on me."

"Perhaps he fancied he had some reasons for anger," I said.

Ralph Carriston looked at me with those cold eyes of which his cousin
had spoken. "If the boy has succeeded in converting you to any of his
delusions I can only say that doctors are more credulous than I fancied.
But the question is not worth arguing. You decline to assist me, so I
must do without you. Good-morning, Dr. Brand."

He left the room as gracefully as he had entered it. I remained in a
state of doubt. It was curious that Ralph Carriston turned out to be
the man whom I had met in the train; but the evidence offered by the
coincidence was not enough to convict him of the crime of endeavoring to
drive his cousin mad by such a far-fetched stratagem as the inveigling
away of Madeline Rowan. Besides, even in wishing to prove Charles
Carriston mad he had much to say on his side. Supposing him to be
innocent of having abducted Madeline, Carriston's violent behavior on
the preceding evening must have seemed very much like insanity. In
spite of the aversion with which Ralph Carriston inspired me, I scarcely
knew which side to believe.

Carriston still slept; so when I went out on my afternoon rounds I left
a note, begging him to remain in the house until my return. Then I found
him up, dressed, and looking much more like himself. When I entered,
dinner was on the table; so not until that meal was over could we talk
unrestrainedly upon the subject which was uppermost in both our minds.

As soon as we were alone I turned toward my guest. "And now," I said,
"we must settle what to do. There seems to me to be but one course open.
You have plenty of money, so your best plan is to engage skilled police
assistance. Young ladies can't be spirited away like this without
leaving a trace."

To my surprise Carriston flatly objected to this course. "No," he said,
"I shall not go to the police. The man who took her away has placed her
where no police can find her. I must find her myself."

"Find her yourself! Why, it may be months, years, before you do that!
Good heavens, Carriston! She may be murdered, or worse--"

"I shall know if any further evil happens to her--then I shall kill
Ralph Carriston."

"But you tell me you have no clew whatever to trace her by. Do talk
plainly. Tell me all or nothing."

Carriston smiled very faintly. "No clew that you, at any rate, will
believe in," he said. "But I know this much, she is a prisoner
somewhere. She is unhappy, but not, as yet, ill-treated. Heavens! do
you think if I did not know this I should keep my senses for an hour?"

"How can you possibly know it?"

"By that gift--that extra sense or whatever it is--which you deride. I
knew it would come to me some day, but I little thought how I should
welcome it. I know that in some way I shall find her by it. I tell you
I have already seen her three times. I may see her again at any moment
when the strange fit comes over me."

All this fantastic nonsense was spoken so simply and with such an air of
conviction that once more my suspicions as to the state of his mind were
aroused. In spite of the brave answers which I had given Mr. Ralph
Carriston, I felt that common-sense was undeniably on his side.

"Tell me what you mean by your strange fit," I said, resolved to find
out the nature of Carriston's fancies or hallucinations. "Is it a kind
of trance you fall into?"

He seemed loath to give any information on the subject, but I pressed
him for an answer.

"Yes," he said at last. "It must be a kind of trance. An indescribable
feeling comes over me. I know that my eyes are fixed on some
object--presently that object vanishes, and I see Madeline."

"How do you see her?"

"She seems to stand in a blurred circle of light as cast by a magic
lantern. That is the only way that I can describe it. But her figure
is plain and clear--she might be close to me. The carpet on which she
stands I can see, the chair on which she sits, the table on which she
leans her hand, anything she touches I can see; but no more. I have
seen her talking. I knew she was entreating some one, but that some one
was invisible. Yet, if she touched that person, the virtue of her touch
would enable me to see him."

So far as I could see, Carriston's case appeared to be one of
over-wrought, or unduly-stimulated imagination. His I had always
considered to be a mind of the most peculiar construction. In his
present state of love, grief, and suspense these hallucinations might
come in the same way in which dreams come. For a little while I sat
in silence, considering how I could best combat with and dispel his
remarkable delusions. Before I had arrived at any decision I was called
away to see a patient. I was but a short time engaged. Then I returned
to Carriston, intending to continue my inquiries.

Upon re-entering the room I found him sitting, as I had left
him--directly opposite to the door. His face was turned fully toward
me, and I trembled as I caught sight of it. He was leaning forward; his
hands on the table-cloth, his whole frame rigid, his eyes staring in one
direction, yet, I knew, capable of seeing nothing that I could see. He
seemed even oblivious to sound, for I entered the room and closed the
door behind me without causing him to change look or position. The
moment I saw the man I knew that he had been overtaken by what he called
the strange fit.

My first impulse--a natural one--was to arouse him; but second thoughts
told me that this was an opportunity for studying his disease which
should not be lost--I felt that I could call it by no other name
than disease--so I proceeded to make a systematic examination of his
symptoms.

I leaned across the table; and, with my face about a foot from his,
looked straight into his eyes. They betrayed no sign of recognition--no
knowledge of my presence. I am ashamed to say I could not divest myself
of the impression that they were looking through me. The pupils were
greatly dilated. The lids were wide apart. I lighted a taper and held it
before them, but could see no expansion of the iris. It was a case, I
confess, entirely beyond my comprehension. I had no experience which
might serve as a guide as to what was the best course to adopt. All I
could do was to stand and watch carefully for any change.

Save for his regular breathing and a sort of convulsive twitching of his
fingers, Carriston might have been a corpse or a statue. His face could
scarcely grow paler than it had been before the attack. Altogether, it
was an uncomfortable sight: a creepy sight--this motionless man, utterly
regardless of all that went on around him, and seeing, or giving one the
idea that he saw something far away. I sighed as I looked at the strange
spectacle, and foresaw what the end must surely be. But although I
longed for him to awake, I determined on this occasion to let the
trance, or fit, run its full course, that I might notice in what manner
and how soon consciousness returned.

I must have waited and watched some ten minutes--minutes which seemed to
me interminable. At last I saw the lips quiver, the lids flicker once or
twice, and eventually close wearily over the eyes. The unnatural tension
of every muscle seemed to relax, and, sighing deeply, and apparently
quite exhausted, Carriston sank back into his chair with beads of
perspiration forming on his white brow. The fit was over.

In a moment I was at his side and forcing a glass of wine down his
throat. He looked up at me and spoke. His voice was faint, but his words
were quite collected.

"I have seen her again," he said. "She is well; but so unhappy. I saw
her kneel down and pray. She stretched her beautiful arms out to me. And
yet I know not where to look for her--my poor love! my poor love!"

I waited until I thought he had sufficiently recovered from his
exhaustion to talk without injurious consequences. "Carriston," I said,
"let me ask you one question: Are these trances or visions voluntary or
not?"

He reflected for a few moments. "I can't quite tell you," he said; "or,
rather, I would put in this way. I do not think I can exercise my power
at will; but I can feel when the fit is coming on me, and, I believe,
can if I choose stop myself from yielding to it."

"Very well. Now listen. Promise me you will fight against these seizures
as much as you can. If you don't you will be raving mad in a month."

"I can't promise that," said Carriston, quietly. "See her at times I
must, or I shall die. But I promise to yield as seldom as may be. I
know, as well as you do, that the very exhaustion I now feel must be
injurious to any one."

In truth, he looked utterly worn out. Very much dissatisfied with his
concession, the best I could get from him, I sent him to bed, knowing
that natural rest, if he could get it, would do more than anything else
toward restoring a healthy tone to his mind.


VIII.

Although Carriston stated that he came to me for aid, and, it may be,
for protection, he manifested the greatest reluctance in following
any advice I offered him. The obstinacy of his refusal to obtain the
assistance of the police placed me in a predicament. That Madeline Rowan
had really disappeared I was, of course, compelled to believe. It might
even be possible that she was kept against her will in some place of
concealment. In such a case it behooved us to take proper steps to trace
her. Her welfare should not depend upon the hallucinations and eccentric
ideas of a man half out of his senses with love and grief. I all but
resolved, even at the risk of forfeiting Carriston's friendship, to put
the whole matter in the hands of the police, unless in the course of a
day or two we heard from the girl herself, or Carriston suggested some
better plan.

Curiously enough, although refusing to be guided by me, he made no
suggestion on his own account. He was racked by fear and suspense, yet
his only idea of solving difficulties seemed to be that of waiting. He
did nothing. He simply waited, as if he expected that chance would bring
what he should have been searching for high and low.

Some days passed before I could get a tardy consent that aid should be
sought. Even then he would not go to the proper quarter; but he allowed
me to summon to our councils a man who advertised himself as being a
private detective. This man, or one of his men, came at our call, and
heard what was wanted of him. Carriston reluctantly gave him one of
Madeline's photographs. He also told him that only by watching and
spying on Ralph Carriston's every action could he hope to obtain the
clew. I did not much like the course adopted, nor did I like the look of
the man to whom the inquiry was intrusted; but at any rate something was
being done.

A week passed without any news from our agent. Carriston, in truth, did
not seem to expect any. I believe he only employed the man in deference
to my wishes. He moved about the house in a disconsolate fashion. I had
not told him of my interview with his cousin, but had cautioned him on
the rare occasions upon which he went out of doors to avoid speaking to
strangers, and my servants had strict instructions to prevent any one
coming in and taking my guest by surprise.

For I had during those days opened a confidential inquiry on my own
account. I wanted to learn something about this Mr. Ralph Carriston. So
I asked a man who knew everybody to find out all about him.

He reported that Ralph Carriston was a man well known about London. He
was married and had a house in Dorsetshire; but the greater part of his
time was spent in town. Once he was supposed to be well-off; but now it
was the general opinion that every acre he owned was mortgaged, and that
he was much pressed for money. "But," my informant said, "there is but
one life between him and the reversion to large estates, and that life
is a poor one. I believe even now there is talk about the man who stands
in his way being mad. If so, Ralph Carriston will get the management of
everything."

After this news I felt it more than ever needful to keep a watchful
eye on my friend. So far as I knew there had been no recurrence of
the trance, and I began to hope that proper treatment would effect a
complete cure, when, to my great alarm and annoyance, Carriston, while
sitting with me, suddenly and without warning fell into the same strange
state of body and mind as previously described. This time he was sitting
in another part of the room. After watching him for a minute or two, and
just as I was making up my mind to arouse him and scold him thoroughly
for his folly, he sprung to his feet, and shouting, "Let her go! Loose
her, I say!" rushed violently across the room--so violently, that I had
barely time to interpose and prevent him from coming into contact with
the opposite wall.

Upon returning to his senses he told me, with great excitement, that
he had again seen Madeline; moreover, this time he had seen a man with
her--a man who had placed his hand upon her wrist and kept it there; and
so, according to Carriston's wild reasoning, became, on account of the
contact, visible to him.

He told me he had watched them for some moments, until the man,
tightening his grip on the girl's arm, endeavored, he thought, to lead
her or induce her to follow him somewhere. At this juncture, unaware
that he was gazing at a vision, he had rushed to her assistance in the
frantic way I have described--then he awoke.

He also told me he had studied the man's features and general appearance
most carefully with a view to future recognition. All these ridiculous
statements were made as he made the former ones, with the air of one
relating simple, undeniable facts--one speaking the plain, unvarnished
truth, and expecting full credence to be given to his words.

It was too absurd! too sad! It was evident to me that the barrier
between his hallucinations, dreams, visions, or what he chose to call
them, and pure insanity, was now a very slight and fragile one. But
before I gave up his case as hopeless I determined to make another
strong appeal to his common-sense. I told him of his cousin's visit to
me--of his intentions and proposition. I begged him to consider what
consequences his extraordinary beliefs and extravagant actions must
eventually entail. He listened attentively and calmly.

"You see now," he said, "how right I was in attributing all this to
Ralph Carriston--how right I was to come to you, a doctor of standing,
who can vouch for my sanity."

"Vouch for your sanity! How can I when you sit here and talk such arrant
nonsense, and expect me to believe it? When you jump from your chair and
rush madly at some visionary foe? Sane as you may be in all else, any
evidence I could give in your favor must break down in cross-examination
if an inkling of these things got about. Come, Carriston, be reasonable,
and prove your sanity by setting about this search for Miss Rowan in a
proper way."

He made no reply, but walked up and down the room apparently in deep
thought. My words seemed to have had no effect upon him. Presently he
seated himself; and, as if to avoid returning to the argument, drew a
book at hazard from my shelves and began to read. He opened the volume
at random, but after reading a few lines seemed struck by something
that met his eyes, and in a few minutes was deeply immersed in the
contents of the book. I glanced at it to see what had so awakened his
interest. By a curious fatality he had chosen a book the very worst for
him in his present frame of mind--Gilchrist's recently published life of
William Blake, that masterly memoir of a man who was on certain points
as mad as Carriston himself. I was about to remonstrate, when he laid
down the volume and turned to me.

"Varley, the painter," he said, "was a firm believer in Blake's
visions."

"Varley was a bigger fool than Blake," I retorted. "Fancy his sitting
down and watching his clever but mad friend draw spectral heads, and
believing them to be genuine portraits of dead kings whose forms
condescended to appear to Blake!"

A sudden thought seemed to strike Carriston. "Will you give me some
paper and chalk?" he asked. Upon being furnished with these materials he
seated himself at the table and began to draw. At least a dozen times he
sketched, with his usual rapidity, some object or another, and a dozen
times, after a moment's consideration, threw each sketch aside with an
air of disappointment and began a fresh one. At last one of his attempts
seemed to come up to his requirements. "I have it now, exactly!" he
cried with joy--even triumph--in his voice. He spent some time in
putting finishing touches to the successful sketch, then he handed me
the paper.

"That is the man I saw just now with Madeline," he said. "When I find
him I shall find her." He spoke with all sincerity and conviction. I
looked at the paper with, I am bound to say, a great amount of
curiosity.

No matter from what visionary source Carriston had drawn his
inspiration, his sketch was vigorous and natural enough. I have already
mentioned his wonderful power of drawing portraits from memory, so was
willing to grant that he might have reproduced the outline of some face
which had somewhere struck him. Yet why should it have been this one?
His drawing represented the three quarter face of a man--an ordinary
man--apparently between forty and fifty years of age. It was a
coarse-featured, ill-favored face, with a ragged ruff of hair round
the chin. It was not the face of a gentleman, nor even the face of a
gentle-nurtured man; and the artist, by a few cunning strokes, had made
it wear a crafty and sullen look. The sketch, as I write this, lies
before me, so that I am not speaking from memory.

Now, there are some portraits of which, without having seen the
original, we say, "What splendid likenesses these must be." It was so
with Carriston's sketch. Looking at it you felt sure it was exactly like
the man whom it was intended to represent. So that, with the certain
amount of art knowledge which I am at least supposed to possess, it
was hard for me, after examining the drawing and recognizing the true
artist's touch in every line, to bring myself to accept the fact that it
was but the outcome of a diseased imagination. As, at this very moment,
I glance at that drawing, I scarcely blame myself for the question
that faintly frames itself in my innermost heart. "Could it be
possible--could there be in certain organizations powers not yet
known--not yet properly investigated?"

My thought, supposing such a thought was ever there--was not discouraged
by Carriston, who, speaking as if his faith in the bodily existence of
the man whose portrait lay in my hand was unassailable, said,

"I noticed that his general appearance was that of a countryman--an
English peasant; so in the country I shall find my love. Moreover, it
will be easy to identify the man, as the top joint is missing from the
middle finger of his right hand. As it lay on Madeline's arm I noticed
that."

I argued with him no more. I felt that words would be but wasted.


IX.

A day or two after I had witnessed what I must call Carriston's second
seizure we were favored with a visit from the man whose services we had
secured to trace Madeline. Since he had received his instructions we had
heard nothing of his proceeding until he now called to report progress
in person. Carriston had not expressed the slightest curiosity as to
where the man was or what he was about. Probably he looked upon the
employment of this private detective as nothing more useful than a salve
to my conscience. That Madeline was only to be found through the power
which he professed to hold of seeing her in his visions was, I felt
certain, becoming a rooted belief of his. Whenever I expressed my
surprise that our agent had brought or sent no information, Carriston
shrugged his shoulders, and assured me that from the first he knew the
man's researches would be fruitless. However, the fellow had called at
last, and, I hoped, had brought us good news.

He was a glib-tongued man, who spoke in a confident, matter-of-fact way.
When he saw us he rubbed his hands as one who had brought affairs to a
successful issue, and now meant to reap praise and other rewards. His
whole bearing told me he had made an important discovery; so I begged
him to be seated, and give us his news.

Carriston gave him a careless glance, and stood at some little distance
from us. He looked as if he thought the impending communication scarcely
worth the trouble of listening to. He might, indeed, from his looks,
have been the most disinterested person of the three. He even left me to
do the questioning.

"Now, then, Mr. Sharpe," I said, "let us hear if you have earned your
money."

"I think so, sir," replied Sharpe, looking curiously at Carriston, who,
strange to say, heard this answer with supreme indifference.

"I think I may say I have, sir," continued the detective--"that is if
the gentlemen can identify these articles as being the young lady's
property."

Thereupon he produced from a thick letter-case a ribbon in which was
stuck a silver pin, mounted with Scotch pebbles, an ornament that
I remembered having seen Madeline wear. Mr. Sharpe handed them to
Carriston. He examined them, and I saw his cheeks flush and his eyes
grow bright.

"How did you come by this?" he cried, pointing to the silver ornament.

"I'll tell you presently, sir. Do you recognize it?"

"I gave it to Miss Rowan myself."

"Then we are on the right track," I cried, joyfully. "Go on, Mr.
Sharpe."

"Yes, gentlemen, we are certainly on the right track; but after all, it
isn't my fault if the track don't lead exactly where you wish. You see,
when I heard of this mysterious disappearance of the lady, I began to
concoct my own theory. I said to myself, when a young and beautiful--"

"Confound your theories!" cried Carriston fiercely. "Go on with your
tale."

The man gave his interrupter a spiteful glance. "Well, sir," he said,
"as you gave me strict instructions to watch a certain gentleman
closely, I obeyed those instructions, of course, although I knew I was
on a fool's errand."

"Will you go on?" cried Carriston. "If you know where Miss Rowan is, say
so; your money will be paid you the moment I find her."

"I don't say I exactly know where to find the lady, but I can soon know
if you wish me to."

"Tell your tale your own way, but as shortly as possible," I said,
seeing that my excitable friend was preparing for another outburst.

"I found there was nothing to be gained by keeping watch on the
gentleman you mentioned, sir, so I went to Scotland and tried back from
there. As soon as I worked on my own lay I found out all about it. The
lady went from Callendar to Edinburgh, from Edinburgh to London, from
London to Folkestone, and from Folkestone to Boulong."

I glanced at Carriston. All his calmness seemed to have returned. He was
leaning against the mantelpiece, and appeared quite unmoved by Mr.
Sharpe's clear statement as to the route Madeline had taken.

"Of course," continued Mr. Sharpe, "I was not quite certain I was
tracking the right person, although her description corresponded with
the likeness you gave me. But as you are sure this article of jewelry
belonged to the lady you want, the matter is beyond a doubt."

"Of course," I said, seeing that Carriston had no intention of speaking.
"Where did you find it?"

"It was left behind, in a bedroom of one of the principal hotels in
Folkestone. I did go over to Boulong, but after that I thought I had
learned all you would care to know."

There was something in the man's manner which made me dread what was
coming. Again I looked at Carriston. His lips were curved with contempt,
but he still kept silence.

"Why not have pursued your inquiries past Boulong?" I asked.

"For this reason, sir. I had learned enough. The theory I had concocted
was the right one after all. The lady went to Edinburgh alone, right
enough: but she didn't leave Edinburgh alone, nor she didn't leave
London alone, nor she didn't stay at Folkestone--where I found the
pin--alone, nor she didn't go to Boulong alone. She was accompanied by
a young gentleman who called himself Mr. Smith; and what's more, she
called herself Mrs. Smith. Perhaps she was; as they lived like man and
wife."

Whether the fellow was right or mistaken, this explanation of Madeline's
disappearance seemed to give me what I can only compare to a smack in
the face. I stared at the speaker in speechless astonishment. If the
tale he told so glibly and circumstantially was true, farewell, so far
as I was concerned, to belief in the love or purity of women. Madeline
Rowan, that creature of a poet's dream, on the eve of her marriage with
Charles Carriston to fly, whether wed or unwed mattered little, with
another man! And yet, she was but a woman. Carriston--or Carr, as she
only knew him--was in her eyes poor. The companion of her flight might
have won her with gold. Such things have been. Still--

My rapid and wrongful meditations were cut short in an unexpected way.
Suddenly I saw Mr. Sharpe dragged bodily out of his chair and thrown
on the floor, while Carriston, standing over him, thrashed the man
vigorously with his own ash stick--a convenient weapon, so convenient
that I felt Mr. Sharpe could not have selected a stick more appropriate
for his own chastisement. So Carriston seemed to think, for he laid on
cheerfully some eight or ten good cutting strokes.

Nevertheless, being a respectable doctor and a man of peace, I was
compelled to interfere. I held Carriston's arm while Mr. Sharpe
struggled to his feet, and after collecting his hat and his pocket-book,
stood glaring vengefully at his assailant, and rubbing the while such
of the weals on his back as he could reach. Annoyed as I felt at the
unprofessional _fracas_, I could scarcely help laughing at the man's
appearance. I doubt the possibility of any one looking heroic after such
a thrashing.

"I'll have the law for this," he growled. "I ain't paid to be beaten by
a madman."

"You're paid to do my work, not another's," said Carriston. "Go to the
man who has over-bribed you and sent you to tell me your lies. Go to
him, tell him that once more he has failed. Out of my sight."

As Carriston showed signs of recommencing hostile operations, the man
flew as far as the door-way. There, being in comparative safety, he
turned with a malignant look.

"You'll smart for this," he said; "when they lock you up as a raving
lunatic I'll try and get a post as keeper."

I was glad to see that Carriston paid no attention to this parting
shaft. He turned his back scornfully, and the fellow left the room and
the house.

"Now are you convinced?" asked Carriston, turning to me.

"Convinced of what? That his tale is untrue, or that he has been misled,
I am quite certain."

"Tush! That is not worth consideration. Don't you see that Ralph has
done all this? I set that man to watch him; he found out the espionage;
suborned my agent, or your agent, I should say; sent him here with a
trumped-up tale. Oh, yes; I was to believe that Madeline had deserted
me--that was to drive me out of my senses. My cousin is a fool after
all!"

"Without further proof I cannot believe that your suspicions are
correct," I said; but I must own I spoke with some hesitation.

"Proof! A clever man like you ought to see ample proof in the fact of
that wretch having twice called me a madman. I have seen him but once
before--you know if I then gave him any grounds for making such an
assertion. Tell me, from whom could he have learned the word except
from Ralph Carriston?"

I was bound, if only to save my own reputation for sagacity, to confess
that the point noted by Carriston had raised certain doubts in my mind.
But if Ralph Carriston really was trying by some finely-wrought scheme
to bring about what he desired, there was all the more reason for great
caution to be exercised.

"I am sorry you beat him," I said. "He will now swear right and left
that you are not in your senses."

"Of course he will. What do I care?"

"Only remember this. It is easier to get put into an asylum than to get
out of it."

"It is not so very easy for a sane man like myself to be put in,
especially when he is on his guard. I have looked up the law. There
must be a certificate signed by two doctors, surgeons--or, I believe,
apothecaries will do--who have seen the supposed lunatic alone and
together. I'll take very good care I speak to no doctor save yourself,
and keep out of the way of surgeons and apothecaries."

It quite cheered me to hear him speaking so sensibly and collectedly
about himself, but I again impressed upon him the need of great caution.
Although I could not believe that his cousin had taken Madeline away, I
was inclined to think, after the affair with the spy, that, as Carriston
averred, he aimed at getting him, sane or insane, into a mad-house.

But after all these days we were not a step nearer to the discovery of
Madeline's whereabouts. Carriston made no sign of doing anything to
facilitate that discovery. Again I urged him to intrust the whole affair
to the police. Again he refused to do so, adding that he was not quite
ready. Ready for what, I wondered!


X.

I must confess, in spite of my affection for Carriston, I felt inclined
to rebel against the course which matters were taking. I was a prosaic
matter-of-fact medical man; doing my work to the best of my ability and
anxious when that work was done that my hours of leisure should be as
free from worry and care as possible. With Carriston's advent several
disturbing elements entered into my quiet life.

Let Ralph Carriston be guilty or innocent of the extraordinary crime
which his cousin laid at his door, I felt that he was anxious to obtain
possession of the supposed lunatic's person. It would suit his purposes
for his cousin to be proved mad. I did not believe that even if the
capture was legally effected Carriston's liberation would be a matter of
great difficulty so long as he remained in his present state of mind; so
long as I, a doctor of some standing, could go into the witness-box and
swear to his sanity. But my old dread was always with me--the dread that
any further shock would overturn the balance of his sensitive mind.

So it was that every hour that Carriston was out of my sight was fraught
with anxiety. If Ralph Carriston was really as unscrupulous as my friend
supposed; if he had really, as seemed almost probable, suborned our
agent; he might by some crafty trick obtain the needful certificate, and
some day I should come home and find Carriston had been removed. In such
a case I foresaw great trouble and distress.

Besides, after all that had occurred, it was as much as I could do to
believe that Carriston was not mad. Any doctor who knew what I knew
would have given the verdict against him.

After dismissing his visions and hallucinations with the contempt which
they deserved, the fact of a man who was madly, passionately in love
with a woman, and who believed that she had been entrapped and was
still kept in restraint, sitting down quietly, and letting day after day
pass without making an effort toward finding her, was in itself _prima
facie_ evidence of insanity. A sane man would at once have set all the
engines of detection at work.

I felt that if once Ralph Carriston obtained possession of him he could
make out a strong case in his own favor. First of all, the proposed
marriage out of the defendant's own sphere of life; the passing under a
false name; the ridiculous, or apparently ridiculous, accusation made
against his kinsman; the murderous threats; the chastisement of his own
paid agent who brought him a report which might not seem at all untrue
to any one who knew not Madeline Rowan. Leaving out the question what
might be wrung from me in cross-examination, Ralph Carriston had a
strong case, and I knew that, once in his power, my friend might
possibly be doomed to pass years, if not his whole life, under
restraint. So I was anxious--very anxious.

And I felt an anxiety, scarcely second to that which prevailed on
Carriston's account, as to the fate of Madeline. Granting for sake of
argument that Carriston's absurd conviction that no bodily harm had as
yet been done her, was true, I felt sure that she with her scarcely less
sensitive nature must feel the separation from her lover as much as he
himself felt the separation from her. Once or twice I tried to comfort
myself with cynicism--tried to persuade myself that a young woman
could not in our days be spirited away--that she had gone by her own
free-will--that there was a man who had at the eleventh hour alienated
her affections from Carriston. But I could not bring myself to believe
this. So I was placed between the horns of a dilemma.

If Madeline had not fled of her own free-will, some one must have taken
her away, and if so our agent's report was a coined one, and, if a
coined one, issued at Ralph's instance; therefore Ralph must be the
prime actor in the mystery.

But in sober moments such a deduction seemed an utter absurdity.

Although I have said that Carriston was doing nothing toward clearing up
the mystery, I wronged him in so saying. After his own erratic way he
was at work. At such work too! I really lost all patience with him.

He shut himself up in his room, out of which he scarcely stirred for
three days. By that time he had completed a large and beautiful drawing
of his imaginary man. This he took to a well-known photographer's, and
ordered several hundred small photographs of it, to be prepared as
soon as possible. The minute description which he had given me of his
fanciful creation was printed at the foot of each copy. As soon as the
first batch of these precious photographs was sent home, to my great
joy he did what he should have done days ago; yielded to my wishes, and
put the matter into the hands of the police.

I was glad to find that in giving details of what had happened he said
nothing about the advisability of keeping a watch on Ralph Carriston's
proceedings. He did, indeed, offer an absurdly large reward for the
discovery of the missing girl; and, moreover, gave the officer in charge
of the case a packet of photographs of his phantom man, telling him
in the gravest manner that he knew the original of that likeness had
something to do with the disappearance of Miss Rowan. The officer, who
thought the portrait was that of a natural being, took his instructions
in good faith, although he seemed greatly surprised when he heard
that Carriston knew neither the name nor the occupation, in fact,
knew nothing concerning the man who was to be sought for. However, as
Carriston assured him that finding this man would insure the reward as
much as if he found Madeline, the officer readily promised to combine
the two tasks, little knowing what waste of time any attempt to perform
the latter must be.

Two days after this Carriston came to me. "I shall leave you to-morrow,"
he said.

"Where are you going?" I asked. "Why do you leave?"

"I am going to travel about. I have no intention of letting Ralph get
hold of me. So I mean to go from place to place until I find Madeline."

"Be careful," I urged.

"I shall be careful enough. I'll take care that no doctors, surgeons, or
even apothecaries get on my track. I shall go just as the fit seizes me.
If I can't say one day where I shall be the next, it will be impossible
for that villain to know."

This was not a bad argument. In fact, if he carried out his resolve of
passing quickly from place to place I did not see how he could plan
anything more likely to defeat the intentions with which we credited his
cousin. As to his finding Madeline by so doing, that was another matter.

His idea seemed to be that chance would sooner or later bring him in
contact with the man of his dream. However, now that the search had been
intrusted to the proper persons his own action in the matter was not
worth troubling about. I gave him many cautions. He was to be quiet and
guarded in words and manner. He was not to converse with strangers. If
he found himself dogged or watched by any one he was to communicate at
once with me. But, above all, I begged him not to yield again to his
mental infirmity. The folly of a man who could avoid it, throwing
himself into such a state ought to be apparent to him.

"Not oftener than I can help," was all the promise I could get from him.
"But see her I must sometimes, or I shall die."

I had now given up as hopeless the combat with his peculiar
idiosyncrasy. So, with many expressions of gratitude on his part, we
bade each other farewell.

During his absence he wrote to me nearly every day, so that I might know
his whereabouts in case I had any news to communicate. But I had none.
The police failed to find the slightest clew. I had been called upon
by them once or twice in order that they might have every grain of
information I could give. I took the liberty of advising them not to
waste their time in looking for the man, as his very existence was
problematical. It was but a fancy of my friend's, and not worth thinking
seriously about. I am not sure but what after hearing this they did
not think the whole affair was an imagined one, and so relaxed their
efforts.

Once or twice, Carriston, happening to be in the neighborhood of London,
came to see me, and slept the night at my house. He also had no news to
report. Still, he seemed hopeful as ever.

The weeks went by until Christmas was over and the New Year begun; but
no sign, word, or trace of Madeline Rowan. "I have seen her," wrote
Carriston, "several times. She is in the same place--unhappy, but not
ill-treated."

Evidently his hallucinations were still in full force.

       *       *       *       *       *

At first I intended that the whole of this tale should be told by
myself; but upon getting so far it struck me that the evidence of
another actor who played an important part in the drama would give
certain occurrences to the reader at first instead of at second hand,
so I wrote to my friend Dick Fenton, of Frenchay, Gloucestershire, and
begged him, if he found himself capable of so doing, to put in simple
narrative form his impressions of certain events which happened in
January, 1866: events in which we two were concerned. He has been good
enough to comply with my request. His communication follows.



PART II.

TOLD BY RICHARD FENTON, OF FRENCHAY, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ESQUIRE.


I.

As my old friend Phil Brand has asked me to do this, I suppose I must.
Brand is a right good fellow and a clever fellow, but has plenty of
crotchets of his own. The worst I know of him is that he insists upon
having his own with people. With those who differ from him he is as
obstinate as a mule. Anyhow, he has always had his own way with me. This
custom, so far as I am concerned, commenced years ago when we were boys
at school together, and I have never been able to shake off the bad
habit of giving in to him. He has promised to see that my queen's
English is presentable: for, to tell the truth, I am more at home across
country than across foolscap, and my fingers know the feel of the reins
or the trigger better than that of the pen.

All the same I hope he won't take too many liberties with my style, bad
though it may be; for old Brand at times is apt to get--well, a bit
prosy. To hear him on the subject of hard work and the sanctity thereof
approaches the sublime!

What freak took me to the little God-forsaken village of Midcombe in the
depth of winter is entirely between myself and my conscience. The cause
having no bearing upon the matters I am asked to tell you about, is no
one's business but mine. I will only say that now I would not stay in
such a place at such a time of the year for the sake of the prettiest
girl in the world, let alone the bare chance of meeting her once or
twice. But one's ideas change. I am now a good bit older, ride some two
stones heavier, and have been married ever so many years. Perhaps, after
all, as I look back I can find some excuse for being such an ass as to
endure for more than a fortnight all the discomforts heaped upon me in
that little village inn.

A man who sojourns in such a hole as Midcombe must give some reason for
doing so. My ostensible reason was hunting. I had a horse with me, and a
second-rate subscription pack of slow-going mongrels did meet somewhere
in the neighborhood, so no one could gainsay my explanation. But if
hunting was my object, I got precious little of it. A few days after my
arrival a bitter, biting frost set in--a frost as black as your hat and
as hard as nails. Yet still I stayed on.

From private information received--no matter how, when or where--I knew
that some people in the neighborhood had organized a party to go skating
on a certain day at Lilymere, a fine sheet of water some distance from
Midcombe. I guessed that some one whom I particularly desired to meet
would be there, and as the skating at Lilymere was free to any one who
chose to take the trouble of getting to such an out-of-the-way place, I
hired a horse and an apology for a dog-cart, and at ten in the morning
started to drive the twelve miles to the pond. I took no one with me. I
had been to Lilymere once before, in bright summer weather, so fancied
I knew the way well enough.

The sky when I started was cloudy; the wind was chopping round in a way
which made the effete rustic old hostler predict a change of weather. He
was right. Before I had driven two miles light snow began to fall, and
by the time I reached a little wretched wayside inn, about a mile from
the Mere, a film of white covered the whole country. I stabled my horse
as well as I could, then taking my skates with me walked down to the
pond.

Now, whether I had mistaken the day, or whether the threatening fall of
snow had made certain people change their minds, I don't know; but, to
my annoyance and vexation, no skaters were to be seen, and moreover,
the uncut, white surface told me that none had been on the pond that
morning. Still hoping they might come in spite of the weather, I put on
my skates and went outside-edging and grape-vining all over the place.
But as there was no person in particular--in fact, no one at all--to
note my powers, I soon got tired. It was, indeed, dreary, dreary work.
But I waited and hoped until the snow came down so fast and furiously
that I felt sure that waiting was in vain, and that I had driven to
Lilymere for nothing.

Back I went to the little inn, utterly disgusted with things in general,
and feeling that to break some one's head would be a relief to me in my
present state of mind. Of course a sensible man would at once have got
his horse between the shafts and driven home. But whatever I may be now,
in those days I was not a sensible man--Brand will, I know, cordially
indorse this remark--the accommodation of the inn was not such as to
induce one to linger within its precincts; but the fire was a right good
one, and a drink, which I skilfully manufactured out of some hot beer,
not to be despised, and proved warming to the body and soothing to the
ruffled temper. So I lingered over the big fire until I began to feel
hungry, and upon the landlady assuring me that she could cook a rasher,
decided it would be wiser to stay where I was until the violence of the
snowstorm was over; for coming down it was now, and no mistake.

And it kept on coming down. About half-past three, when I sorrowfully
decided I was bound to make a move, it was snowing faster than ever. I
harnessed my horse, and laughing at the old woman's dismal prophecy that
I should never get to Midcombe in such weather, gathered up the reins,
and away I went along the white road.

I thought I knew the way well enough. In fact I had always prided myself
upon remembering any road once driven over by me; but does any one who
has not tried it really know how a heavy fall of snow changes the aspect
of the country, and makes landmarks snares and delusions? I learned all
about it then, once and for all. I found, also, that the snow lay much
deeper than I thought could possibly be in so short a time, and it still
fell in a manner almost blinding. Yet I went on bravely and merrily for
some miles. Then came a bit of uncertainty--

Which of those two roads was the right one? This one, of course--no, the
other. There was no house near; no one was likely to be passing in such
weather, so I was left to exercise my free, unbiased choice; a privilege
I would willingly have dispensed with. However, I made the best
selection I could, and followed it for some two miles. Then I began to
grow doubtful, and soon persuading myself that I was on the wrong track,
retraced my steps. I was by this time something like a huge white
plaster of Paris figure, and the snow which had accumulated on the old
dog-cart made it run heavier by half-a-ton, more or less. By the time I
came to that unlucky junction of roads at which my misfortune began it
was almost dark; the sky as black as a tarpaulin, yet sending down the
white feathery flakes thicker and faster than ever. I felt inclined to
curse my folly in attempting such a drive, at any rate I blamed myself
for not having started two or three hours earlier. I'll warrant that
steady-going old Brand never had to accuse himself of such foolishness
as mine.

Well, I took the other road; went on some way; came to a turning which
I seemed to remember; and, not without misgivings, followed it. My
misgivings increased when, after a little while, I found the road grew
full of ruts, which the snow and the darkness quite concealed from me
until the wheels got into them. Evidently I was wrong again. I was just
thinking of making the best of my way out of this rough and unfrequented
road, when--there, I don't know how it happened, such things seldom
occur to me--a stumble, a fall on the part of my tired horse sent me
flying over the dashboard, with the only consoling thought that the
reins were still in my hand.

Luckily the snow had made the falling pretty soft. I soon picked myself
up and set about estimating damages. With some difficulty I got the
horse out of the harness, and then felt free to inspect the dog-cart.
Alas! after the manner of the two-wheel kind whenever a horse thinks fit
to fall, one shaft had snapped off like a carrot; so here was I, five
miles apparently from anywhere, in the thick of a blinding snow-storm,
left standing helpless beside a jaded horse and a broken cart--I should
like to know what Brand would have done under the circumstances.

As for me, I reflected for some minutes--reflection in a snow-storm is
weary work. I reasoned, I believe logically, and at last came to this
decision: I would follow the road. If, as I suspected, it was but a
cart-track, it would probably soon lead to a habitation of some kind.
Anyway I had better try a bit further. I took hold of the wearied horse,
and with snow under my feet, snow-flakes whirling round me, and a wind
blowing right into my teeth, struggled on.

It was a journey! I think I must have been three-quarters of an hour
going about a quarter of a mile. I was just beginning to despair, when I
saw a welcome gleam of light. I steered toward it, fondly hoping that my
troubles were at an end. I found the light stole through the ill-fitting
window-shutters of what seemed, so far as I could make out in the
darkness, to be a small farm-house. Tying to a gate the knotted reins
by which I had been leading the horse, I staggered up to the door and
knocked loudly. Upon my honor, until I leaned against that door-post I
had no idea how tired I was--until that moment I never suspected that
the finding of speedy shelter meant absolutely saving my life. Covered
from head to foot with snow, my hat crushed in, I must have been a
pitiable object.

No answer came to my first summons. It was only after a second and more
imperative application of my heel that the door deigned to give way a
few inches. Through the aperture a woman's voice asked who was there?

"Let me in," I said. "I have missed my way to Midcombe. My horse has
fallen. You must give me shelter for the night. Open the door and let me
in."

"Shelter! You can't get shelter here, mister," said a man's gruff voice.
"This ain't an inn, so you'd best be off and go elsewhere."

"But I must come in," I said, astonished at such inhospitality; "I can't
go a step further. Open the door at once!"

"You be hanged," said the man. "'Tis my house, not yours."

"But, you fool, I mean to pay you well for your trouble. Don't you know
it means death wandering about on such a night as this? Let me in."

"You won't come in here," was the brutal and boorish reply. The door
closed.

That I was enraged at such incivility may be easily imagined; but if I
said I was thoroughly frightened I believe no one would be surprised.
As getting into that house meant simply life or death to me, into that
house I determined to get, by door or window, by fair means or by foul.
So, as the door closed, I hurled myself against it with all the might I
could muster. Although I ride much heavier now than I did then, all my
weight at that time was bone and muscle. The violence of my attack tore
from the lintel the staple which held the chain; the door went back with
a bang, and I fell forward into the house, fully resolved to stay there
whether welcome or unwelcome.


II.

The door through which I had burst like a battering ram opened straight
into a sort of kitchen, so although I entered in a most undignified way,
in fact on my hands and knees, I was well-established in the centre of
the room before the man and woman emerged from behind the door, where my
successful assault had thrown them. I stood up and faced them. They were
a couple of ordinary, respectably-attired country people. The man, a
sturdy, strong-built, bull-necked rascal, stood scowling at me, and, I
concluded, making up his mind as to what course to pursue.

"My good people," I said, "you are behaving in the most unheard-of
manner. Can't you understand that I mean to pay you well for any trouble
I give you? But whether you like it or not, here I stay to-night. To
turn me out would be sheer murder."

So saying I pulled off my overcoat, and began shaking the snow out of my
whiskers.

I dare say my determined attitude, my respectable, as well as my
muscular appearance, impressed my unwilling hosts. Anyway, they gave
in without more ado. Whilst the woman shut the door, through which the
snow-flakes were whirling, the man said sullenly:

"Well, you'll have to spend the night on a chair. We've no beds here for
strangers. 'Specially those as ain't wanted."

"Very well, my friend. Having settled the matter you may as well make
yourself pleasant. Go out and put my horse under cover, and give him a
feed of some sort--make a mash if you can."

After giving the woman a quick glance as of warning, my scowling host
lit a horn lantern, and went on the errand I suggested. I gladly sank
into a chair, and warmed myself before a cheerful fire. The prospect of
spending the night amid such discomfort was not alluring, but I had, at
least, a roof over my head.

As a rule, the more churlish the nature, the more avaricious it is found
to be. My promise of liberal remuneration was, after all, not without
its effect upon the strange couple whose refusal to afford me refuge had
so nearly endangered my life. They condescended to get me some tea and
rough food. After I had disposed of all that, the man produced a bottle
of gin. We filled our glasses, and then, with the aid of my pipe, I
settled down to make the best of a night spent in a hard wooden chair.

I had come across strange people in my travels, but I have no hesitation
in saying that my host was the sullenest, sulkiest, most boorish
specimen of human nature I had as yet met with. In spite of his recent
ill-treatment of me I was quite ready to establish matters on a friendly
footing, and made several attempts to draw him into conversation. The
brute would only answer in monosyllables, or often not answer at all. So
I gave up talking as a bad job, and sat in silence, smoking and looking
into the fire, thinking a good deal, it may be, of some one I should
have met that morning at Lilymere had the wretched snow but kept off.

The long clock--that cumbrous eight-day machine which inevitably
occupies one corner of every cottager's kitchen--struck nine. The woman
rose and left us. I concluded she was going to bed. If so, I envied her.
Her husband showed no sign of retiring. He still sat over the fire,
opposite me. By this time I was dreadfully tired: every bone in my body
ached. The hard chair which an hour or two ago, seemed all I could
desire, now scarcely came up to my ideas of the comfort I was justly
entitled to claim. My sulky companion had been drinking silently but
steadily. Perhaps the liquor he had poured into himself might have
rendered his frame of mind more pleasant and amenable to reason.

"My good fellow," I said, "your chairs are excellent ones of the kind,
but deucedly uncomfortable. I am horribly tired. If the resources of
your establishment can't furnish a bed for me to sleep in, couldn't you
find a mattress or something to lay down before the fire?"

"You've got all you'll get to-night," he answered, knocking the ashes
out his pipe.

"Oh, but I say!"

"So do I say. I say this: If you don't like it you can leave it. We
didn't ask you to come."

"You infernal beast," I muttered--and meant it too--I declare had I not
been so utterly worn out, I would have had that bullet-headed ruffian up
for a few rounds on his own kitchen floor, and tried to knock him into a
more amiable frame of mind.

"Never mind," I said; "but, remember, civility costs nothing, and often
gets rewarded. However, if you wish to retire to your own couch don't
let your native politeness stand in your way. Pray don't hesitate on my
account. Leave plenty of fuel, and I shall manage until morning."

"Where you stay, I stay," he answered. Then he filled his pipe, and once
more relapsed into stony silence.

I bothered about him no more. I dozed off for a few minutes--woke--dozed
off again for some hours. I was in an uncomfortable sort of half sleep,
crammed full of curious dreams--dreams from which I started, wondering
where I was and how I got there. I even began to grow nervous. All sorts
of horrible travellers' tales ran through my head. It was in just such
places as this that unsuspecting voyagers were stated to have been
murdered and robbed, by just such unmitigated ruffians as my host--I
can tell you that altogether I spent a most pleasant night.

To make matters worse and more dismal the storm still raged outside. The
wind moaned through the trees, but it had again changed, and I knew from
the sound on the window-panes that heavy rain had succeeded snow. As the
big drops of water found their way down the large old-fashioned chimney,
the fire hissed and spluttered like a spiteful vixen. Everything
combined to deprive me of what dog's sleep I could by sheer persistency
snatch.

I think I tried every position which an ordinary man, not an acrobat, is
capable of adopting with the assistance of a common wooden chair. I even
lay down on the hard flags. I actually tried the table. I propped up the
upper half of my body against the corner walls of the room; but found no
rest. At last I gave up all idea of sleeping, and fully aroused myself.
I comforted myself by saying that my misery was only temporary--that the
longest night must come to an end.

My companion had by now succumbed to fatigue, or to the combined effects
of fatigue and gin-and-water. His head was hanging sideways, and he
slept in a most uncomfortable attitude. I chuckled as I looked at him,
feeling quite sure that if such a clod was capable of dreaming at all,
his dreams must be worse even than mine. I filled another pipe, poked
the smoldering logs into a blaze, and sat almost nose and knees over the
fire, finding some amusement in speculating upon the condition of the
churl before me, and thanking the Lord I was not like unto this man.
Suddenly an idea flashed across me.

I had seen this fellow before. But when or where I could not remember.
His features, as I looked at them with keener interest, seemed to grow
more and more familiar to me. Where could I have met him? Somewhere or
other, but where? I racked my brain to associate him with some scene,
some event. Although he was but an ordinary countryman, such as one sees
scores of in a day's ride, only differing from his kind on account of
his unpleasant face, I felt sure we were old acquaintances. When he
awoke for a moment and changed his strained attitude, my feeling grew
stronger and stronger. Yet puzzle and puzzle as I would I could not call
to mind a former encounter; so at last I began to think the supposed
recognition was pure fancy on my part.

Having smoked out several pipes, I thought that a cigar would be a
slight break to the monotony of the night's proceedings. So I drew out
my case and looked at its contents. Among the weeds was one of a lighter
color than the others. As I took it out I said to myself, "Why, old
Brand gave me that one when I was last at his house." Curiously enough
that cigar was the missing link in the chain of my memory. As I held it
in my hand I knew at once why my host's ugly face seemed familiar to
me.

About a fortnight before, being in town, I had spent the evening with
the doctor. He was not alone, and I was introduced to a tall pale young
man named Carriston. He was a pleasant, polite young fellow, although
not much in my line. At first I judged him to be a would-be poet of the
fashionable miserable school; but finding that he and Brand talked so
much about art I eventually decided that he was one of the doctor's many
artist friends. Art is a hobby he hacks about on grandly. (Mem. Brand's
own attempt at pictures are simply atrocious!)

Just before I left, Carriston, the doctor's back being turned, asked me
to step into another room. There he showed me the portrait of a man. It
seemed very cleverly drawn, and I presumed he wanted me to criticise it.

"I am a precious bad judge," I said.

"I am not asking you to pass an opinion," said Carriston. "I want
to beg a favor of you. I am almost ashamed to beg it on so short an
acquaintance."

He seemed modest, and not in want of money, so I encouraged him to
proceed.

"I heard you say you were going into the country," he resumed. "I want
to ask you if by any chance you should meet the original of that drawing
to telegraph at once to Dr. Brand."

"Whereabouts does he live?"

"I have no idea. If chance throws him in your way please do as I ask."

"Certainly I will," I said, seeing the young man made the request in
solemn earnest.

He thanked me, and then gave me a small photograph of the picture. This
photograph he begged me to keep in my pocket-book, so that I might
refer to it in case I met the man he wanted. I put it there, went my
way, and, am sorry to say, forget all about it. Had it not been for the
strange cigar in my case bringing back Carriston's unusual request to my
mind, the probabilities are that I should not have thought again of the
matter. Now, by a remarkable coincidence, I was spending the night with
the very man, who, so far as my memory served me, must have sat for the
portrait shown me at Brand's house.

"I wonder what I did with the photo," I said. I turned out my
letter-case. There it was, right enough! Shading it with one hand, I
carefully compared it with the sleeper.

Not a doubt about it! So far as a photograph taken from a picture can
go, it was the man himself. The same ragged beard, the same coarse
features, the same surly look. Young Carriston was evidently a wonderful
hand at knocking off a likeness. Moreover, in case I had felt any doubt
in the matter, a printed note at the bottom of the photograph said that
one joint was missing from a right-hand finger. Sure enough, my friend
lacked that small portion of his misbegotten frame.

This discovery threw me in an ecstasy of delight. I laughed so loudly
that I almost awoke the ruffian. I guessed I was going to take a
glorious revenge for all the discomforts I had suffered. No one, I felt
sure, could be looking for such a fellow as this to do any good to him.
I was quite happy in the thought, and for the remainder of the night
gloated over the idea of putting a spoke in the wheel of one who had
been within an ace of causing my death. I resolved, the moment I got
back to civilization, to send the desired intelligence to Brand, and
hope for the best.


III.

The end of that wretched night came at last. When the welcome morning
broke I found that a great change had taken place out-of-doors. The
fierce snow-storm had been the farewell of the frost. The heavy rain
that followed had filled the roads with slushy and rapidly-thawing snow.
I managed to extort some of a breakfast from my host, then, having
recompensed him according to my promise, not his deserts, started, as
soon as I could, on the bare back of my unfortunate steed, for Midcombe,
which place, after my night's experience, seemed gifted with merits not
its own.

I was surprised upon leaving the house to find it was of larger
dimensions than, from the little I saw of it during the night, I had
imagined. It was altogether a better class of residence than I had
supposed. My surly friend accompanied me until he had placed me on the
main road, where I could make no possible mistake. He was kind enough to
promise to assist any one I might send out in getting the dog-cart once
more under way. Then, with a hearty wish on my part that I might never
again meet with his like, we parted.

I found my way to Midcombe without much trouble. I took off my things,
had a wash, and, like a sensible man for once, went to bed. But I did
not forget to send a boy straight off to the nearest telegraph station.
My message to Brand was a brief one. It simply said: "Tell your friend I
have found his man." This duty done, I dismissed all speculation as to
the result from my mind, and settled down to make up arrears of sleep.

I was surprised at the reply received that same evening from Brand:
"We shall be with you as soon as we can get down to-morrow. Meet
us at station." From this it was clear that my friend was wanted
particularly--all the better! I turned to the time-table and found that,
owing to changes and delays, they could not get to C----, the nearest
station to Midcombe, until three o'clock in the afternoon. I inquired
about the crippled dog-cart. It had been brought in; so I left strict
instructions that a shaft of some sort was to be rigged in time for me
to drive over the next day and meet the doctor and his friend.

They came as promised. It was a comfort to see friends of any
description, so I gave them a hearty welcome. Carriston took hold of
both my hands, and shook them so warmly that I began to feel I had
discovered a long-lost father of his in my friend. I had almost
forgotten the young fellow's appearance, or he looked a very different
man to-day from the one I had seen when last we met. Then he was a wan,
pensive, romantic, poetical-looking sort of fellow; now he seemed full
of energy, vitality, and grit. Poor old Brand looked as serious as an
undertaker engaged in burying his own mother.

Carriston began to question me, but Brand stopped him. "You promised I
should make inquiries first," he said. Then he turned to me.

"Look here, Richard,"--when he calls me Richard I know he is fearfully
in earnest--"I believe you have brought us down on a fool's errand; but
let us go to some place where we can talk together for a few minutes."

I lead them across the road to the Railway Inn. We entered a room, and,
having for the sake of appearances ordered a little light refreshment,
told the waiter to shut the door from the outside. Brand settled down
with the air of a cross-examining counsel. I expected to see him pull
out a New Testament and put me on my oath.

"Now, Richard," he said, "before we go further I want to know your
reasons for thinking this man, about whom you telegraphed, is
Carriston's man, as you call him."

"Reasons! Why of course he is the man. Carriston gave me his photograph.
The likeness is indisputable--leaving the finger-joint out of the
question."

Here Carriston looked at my cross-examiner triumphantly. The meaning of
that look I have never to this hour understood. But I laughed because I
knew old Brand had for once made a mistake, and was going to be called
to account for it. Carriston was about to speak, but the doctor waved
him aside.

"Now, Richard, think very carefully. You speak of the missing
finger-joint. We doctors know how many people persuade themselves into
all sorts of thing. Tell me, did you notice the likeness before you saw
the mutilated finger, or did the fact of the finger's being mutilated
bring the likeness to your mind?"

"Bless the man!" I said; "one would think I had no eyes. I tell you
there is no doubt about this man being the original of the photo."

"Never mind; answer my question."

"Well, then, I am ashamed to confess it, but I put the photo in my
pocket, and forgot all about it until I had recognized the man, and
pulled out the likeness to make sure. I didn't even know there was a
printed description at the foot, nor that any member was wanting.
Confound it, Brand! I'm not such a duffer as you think."

Brand did not retaliate. He turned to his friend and said gravely, "To
me the matter is inexplicable. Take your own course, as I promised you
should." Then he sat down, looking deliciously crest-fallen, and wearing
the discontented expression always natural to him when worsted in
argument.

It was now Carriston's turn. He plied me with many questions. In fact, I
gave him the whole history of my adventure. "What kind of house is it?"
he asked.

"Better than a cottage--scarcely a farm-house. A place, I should think,
with a few miserable acres of bad land belonging to it. One of those
wretched little holdings which are simply curses to the country."

He made lots of other inquiries, the purport of which I could not then
divine. He seemed greatly impressed when I told him that the man had
never for a moment left me alone. He shot a second glance of triumph at
Brand, who still kept silent, and looked as if all the wind had been
taken out of his sails.

"How far is the place?" asked Carriston. "Could you drive me there after
dark?"

At this question the doctor returned to life. "What do you mean to do?"
he asked his friend. "Let us have no nonsense. Even now I feel sure that
Fenton is mislead by some chance resemblance--"

"Deuce a bit, old chap," I said.

"Well, whether or not, we needn't do foolish things. We must go and
swear information, and get a search-warrant, and the assistance of the
police. The truth is, Richard," he continued, turning to me, "we have
reason to believe, or I should say Carriston persists in fancying, that
a friend of his has for some time been kept in durance by the man whom
you say you recognized."

"Likely enough," I said. "He looked villain enough for anything up to
murder."

"Anyway," said Brand, "we must do everything according to law."

"Law! I want no law," answered Carriston. "I have found her, as I knew
I should find her. I shall simply fetch her, and at once. You can come
with me or stay here, as you like, doctor; but I am afraid I must
trouble your friend to drive me somewhere near the place he speaks of."

Foreseeing an adventure and great fun--moreover, not unmoved by thoughts
of revenge--I placed myself entirely at Carriston's disposal. He
expressed his gratitude, and suggested that we should start at once.
In a few minutes we were ready, and mounted the dog-cart. Brand, after
grumbling loudly at the whole proceeding, finished up by following us,
and installing himself in the back seat. Carriston placed a parcel he
carried inside the cart, and away we went.

It was now nearly dark, and raining cats and dogs. I had my lamps
lighted, so we got along without much difficulty. The roads were deep
with mud; but by this time the snow had been pretty nearly washed away
from everywhere. I don't make a mistake in a road twice, so in due
course we reached the scene of my upset. Here I drew up.

"The house lies about five hundred yards up the lane," I told Carriston;
"we had better get out here."

"What about the horse?" asked Brand.

"No chance of any one passing this way on such a night as this; so let
us put out the lamps and tie him up somewhere."

We did so; then struggled on afoot until we saw the gleam of light which
had been so welcomed by me two nights before.

It was just about as dark as pitch; but guided by the light, we went on
until we stood in front of the house, where a turf bank and a dry hedge
hid us from sight, although on such a night we had little fear of our
presence being discovered.

"What do you mean to do now?" asked Brand in a discontented whisper.
"You can't break into the house."

Carriston said nothing for a minute; then I felt him place his hand on
my shoulder.

"Are there any horses; any cows about the place?" he asked.

I told him I thought that my surly friend rejoiced in the possession of
a horse and a cow.

"Very well. Then we must wait. He'll come out to see to them before he
goes to bed," said Carriston, as decidedly as a general giving orders
just before a battle.

I could not see how Brand expressed his feelings upon hearing this order
from our commander--I know I shrugged my shoulders, and if I said
nothing, I thought a deal. The present situation was all very well for a
strongly-interested party like Carriston, but he could scarcely expect
others to relish the prospect of waiting, it might be for hours, under
that comfortless hedge. We were all wet to the skin, and although I was
extremely anxious to see the end of the expedition, and find poetical
justice meted out to my late host, Carriston's Fabian tactics lacked the
excitement I longed for. Brand, in spite of his disapproval of the whole
course of action, was better off than I was. As a doctor, he must have
felt sure that, provided he could survive the exposure, he would secure
two fresh patients. However, we made no protest, but waited for events
to develop themselves.


IV.

More than half an hour went by. I was growing numbed and tired, and
beginning to think that we were making asses of ourselves, when I heard
the rattle of a chain, and felt Carriston give my arm a warning touch.
No doubt my late host had made sure that his new door-fastenings were
equal to a stronger test than that to which I had subjected the former
ones; so we were wise in not attempting to carry his castle by force.

The door opened, and closed again. I saw the feeble glimmer of a lantern
moving toward the out-house in which my horse had been stabled. I heard
a slight rustling in the hedge, and, stretching out my arm, found that
Carriston had left my side. In the absence of any command from him I did
not follow, but resumed the old occupation--waiting.

In a few minutes the light of the lantern reappeared; the bearer stood
on the threshold of the house, while I wondered what Carriston was
doing. Just as the door was opened for the boor's readmittance, a dark
figure sprung upon him! I heard a fierce oath and cry of surprise; then
the lantern flew out of the man's hand, and he and his assailant tumbled
struggling through the narrow door-way.

"Hurrah! the door is won, anyway!" I shouted, as, followed closely by
the doctor, I jumped over the hedge and rushed to the scene of the fray.

Although Carriston's well-conceived attack was so vigorous and
unexpected that the man went down under it; although our leader utilized
the advantage he had gained in a proper and laudable manner, by bumping
that thick bullet-head as violently as he could against the flags on
which it lay; I doubt if, after all, he could have done his work alone.
The countryman was a muscular brute and Carriston but a stripling.
However, our arrival speedily settled the question.

"Bind him!" panted Carriston; "there is a cord in my pocket." He
appeared to have come quite prepared for contingencies. Whilst Carriston
still embraced his prostrate foe, and Brand, to facilitate matters,
knelt on his shoulders, sat on his head, or did something else useful, I
drew out from the first pocket I tried a nice length of half-inch line,
and had the immense satisfaction of trussing up my scowling friend in a
most workmanlike manner. He must have felt those turns on his wrists for
days afterward. Yet when we were at last at liberty to rise and leave
him lying helpless on his kitchen-floor, I considered I exercised great
self-denial in not bestowing a few kicks upon him, as he swore at us in
the broadest vernacular in a way which, under the circumstances, was no
doubt a great comfort to him.

We scarcely noticed the man's wife while we rendered her husband
helpless. As we entered she attempted to fly out, but Brand, with a
promptitude which I am glad to record, intercepted her, closed the door,
turned and pocketed the key. After that the woman sat on the floor and
rocked herself to and fro.

For some moments, while recovering his breath, Carriston stood, and
positively glared at his prostrate foe. At last he found words.

"Where is she? Where is the key, you hound?" he thundered out, stooping
over the fellow, and shaking him with a violence which did my heart
good. As he received no answers save the unrecordable expressions above
mentioned, we unbuttoned the wretch's pockets, and searched those greasy
receptacles. Among the usual litter we did certainly find a key.
Carriston snatched at it, and shouting "Madeline! Madeline! I come!"
rushed out of the room like a maniac, leaving Brand and me to keep guard
over our prisoners.

I filled a pipe, lit it, and then came back to my fallen foe.

"I say, old chap!" I said, stirring him gently with the toe of my boot,
"this will be a lesson to you. Remember, I told you that civility costs
nothing. If you had given me Christian bed accommodation instead of
making me wear out my poor bones on that infernal chair, you could have
jogged along in your rascality quite comfortably, so far as I am
concerned."

He was very ungrateful--so much so that my desire to kick him was
intensified. I should not like to swear I did not to a slight degree
yield to the temptation.

"Push a handkerchief in his mouth," cried Brand, suddenly. "A lady is
coming."

With right good-will I did as the doctor suggested.

Just then Carriston returned. I don't want to raise home tempests, yet
I must say he was accompanied by the most beautiful creature my eyes
have ever lighted upon. True, she was pale as a lily--looked thin and
delicate, and her face bore traces of anxiety and suffering, but for all
that she was beautiful--too beautiful for this world, I thought, as I
looked at her. She was clinging in a half-frightened, half-confiding way
to Carriston, and he--happy fellow!--regardless of our presence, was
showering down kisses on her sweet pale face. Confound it! I grow quite
romantic as I recall the sight of those lovers.

A most curious young man, that Carriston! He came to us, the lovely girl
on his arm, without showing a trace of his recent excitement.

"Let us go now," he said, as calmly as if he had been taking a quiet
evening drive. Then he turned to me.

"Do you think, Mr. Fenton, you could without much trouble get the
dog-cart up to the house?"

I said I would try to do so.

"But what about these people?" asked Brand.

Carriston gave them a contemptuous glance. "Leave them alone," he said.
"They are but the tools of another--him I cannot touch. Let us go."

"Yes, yes. But why not verify your suspicions while you can?"

Just like Brand! He's always wanting to verify everything.

In searching for the key we had found some papers on our prisoner. Brand
examined them, and handed to Carriston an envelope which contained what
looked like bank-notes.

Carriston glanced at it. "The handwriting is, of course, disguised," he
said, carelessly; "but the postmark shows whence it came. It is as I
always told you. You agree with me now?"

"I am afraid I must," said Brand, humbly. "But we must do something
about this man," he continued.

Hereupon Carriston turned to our prisoner. "Listen, you villain," he
said. "I will let you go scot-free if you breathe no word of this to
your employer for the next fortnight. If he learns from you what has
happened before that time, I swear you shall go to penal servitude.
Which do you choose?"

I pulled out the gag, and it is needless to say which the fellow chose.

Then I went off, and recovered the horse and cart. I relighted the
lamps, and with some difficulty got the dog-cart up to the house,
Carriston having exactly anticipated the events of the night. The parcel
he had brought with him contained a bonnet and a thick, warm cloth
cloak. His beautiful friend was equipped with these; then leaving the
woman of the house to untie her husband at her leisure and pleasure,
away we started; the doctor sitting by me; Carriston and the lady
behind.

We just managed to catch the last train from C----. Not feeling sure
as to what form inquiries might take to-morrow, I thought it better to
go up to town with my friends; so, as we passed through Midcombe, I
stopped, paid my bill, and gave instructions for my luggage to be
forwarded to me. By six o'clock the next morning we were all in London.


DR. BRAND IN CONCLUSION.

When I asked Fenton to relate his experiences I did not mean him to do
so at such length. But there, as he has written it, and as writing is
not a labor of love with him, let it go.

When Madeline Rowan found the bed by the side of which she had thrown
herself in an ecstasy of grief untenanted, she knew in a moment that she
was the victim of a deep-laid plot. Being ignorant of Carriston's true
position in the world she could conceive no reason for the elaborate
scheme which have been devised to lure her so many miles from her home,
and make a prisoner of her.

A prisoner she was. Not only was the door locked upon her, but a slip of
paper lay on the bed. It bore these words, "No harm is meant you, and
in due time you will be released. Ask no questions, make no foolish
attempts at escape, and you will be well-treated."

Upon reading this the girl's first thought was one of thankfulness.
She saw at once that the reported accident to her lover was but an
invention. The probabilities were that Carriston was alive, and in
his usual health. Now that she felt certain of this, she could bear
anything.

From the day on which she entered that room, to that on which we rescued
her, Madeline was to all intents and purposes as close a prisoner in
that lonely house on the hill-side as she might have been in the deepest
dungeon in the world. Threats, entreaties, promises of bribes availed
nothing. She was not unkindly treated--that is, suffered no absolute
ill-usage. Books, materials for needle-work, and other little aids to
while away time were supplied. But the only living creatures she saw
were the women of the house who attended to her wants, and, on one
or two occasions, the man whom Carriston asserted he had seen in his
trance. She had suffered from the close confinement, but had always felt
certain that sooner or later her lover would find her, and effect her
deliverance. Now that she knew he was alive she could not be unhappy.

I did not choose to ask her why she had felt so certain on the above
points. I wished to add no more puzzles to the one which, to tell the
truth, exercised, even annoyed me, more than I care to say. But I did
ask her if, during her incarceration, her jailer had ever laid his hand
upon her.

She told me that some short time after her arrival a stranger had gained
admittance to the house. Whilst he was there the man had entered her
room, held her arm, and threatened her with violence if she made any
outcry. After hearing this, I did not pursue the subject.

Carriston and Madeline were married at the earliest possible moment,
and left England immediately after the ceremony. A week after their
departure, by Carriston's request, I forwarded the envelope found upon
our prisoner to Mr. Ralph Carriston. With it I sent a few lines stating
where and under what peculiar circumstances we had become possessed
of it. I never received any reply to my communication; so, wild and
improbable as it seems, I am bound to believe that Charles Carriston's
surmise was right--that Madeline was decoyed away and concealed, not
from any ill-will toward herself, but with a view to the possible
baneful effect which her mysterious disappearance might work upon her
lover's strange and excitable organization; and I firmly believe that
had he not in some inexplicable way been firmly convinced that she was
alive and faithful to him, the plot would have been a thorough success,
and Charles Carriston would have spent the rest of his days in an
asylum.

Both Sir Charles--he succeeded to his title shortly after his
marriage--and Lady Carriston are now dead, or I should not have ventured
to relate these things concerning them. They had twelve years of
happiness. If measured by time the period was but a short one; but I
feel sure that in it they enjoyed more true happiness than many others
find in the course of a protracted life. In word, thought, and deed they
were as one. She died in Rome of fever, and her husband, without so far
as I know any particular complaint, simply followed her.

I was always honored with their sincerest friendship, and Sir Charles
left me sole trustee and guardian to his three sons; so there are now
plenty of lives between Ralph Carriston and his desire. I am pleased to
say that the boys, who are as dear to me as my own children, as yet show
no evidence of possessing any gifts beyond nature.

I know that my having made this story public will cause two sets of
objectors to fall equally foul of me--the matter-of-fact prosaic man who
will say that the abduction and subsequent imprisonment of Madeline
Rowan was an absurd impossibility, and the scientific man, like myself,
who cannot, dare not believe that Charles Carriston, from neither memory
nor imagination, could draw a face, and describe peculiarities, by
which a certain man could be identified. I am far from saying there may
not be a simple natural explanation of the puzzle, but I, for one, have
failed to find it, so close this tale as I began it by saying I am a
narrator, and nothing more.



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Transcriber's Note


Words in italics were surrounded by _underscores_, and small capitals
changed to all capitals.

A table of contents has been added.

In the original the pagenumbers started again from the second story,
this has been changed for reader convenience.

Obvious errors in punctuation have been corrected. Also the following
corrections have been made, on page

   55 "anb" changed to "and" (and up towards the dizzy crown)
   68 "out" changed to "but" (understood and enjoyed at home, but
      foreigners, especially)
  117 "proprosition" changed to "proposition" (applause of her
      proposition.)
  135 "Cattelton" changed to "Cattleton" (Cattleton sprung to his
      feet)
  150 "come" changed to "came" (Mr. Herbert came to the rescue.)
  153 "pursuade" changed to "persuade" (you would only persuade my
      father)
  156 "insistance" changed to "insistence" (Miss Herbert's insistence
      that two or three roses)
  157 double "to" removed (one of his many boys to take Jerry's
      place.)
  158 "striken" changed to "stricken" (were stricken with a great
      wonder.)
  160 "despict" changed to "depict" (that face might depict passions
      stronger than those)
  172 "XIII." changed to "III." (CHAPTER III.)
  172 "neice" changed to "niece" (whilst driving with her niece)
  177 "Ht" changed to "At" (At last he could bear)
  182 "prom-" changed to "promise" (if you will promise to be)
  185 "is" added (it is as well you cannot)
  195 "tarning" changed to "turning" (listlessly turning the leaves
      of)
  200 "Bettwsy-Coed" changed to "Bettws-y-Coed" (and made
      Bettws-y-Coed my headquarters.)
  213 "with out" changed to "without" (possessed them without due
      trial)
  215 "apearance" changed to "appearance" (no less than his
      appearance.)
  220 "Cowan's" changed to "Rowan's" (inquiries as to Miss Rowan's
      parentage.)
  223 "augument" changed to "augmented" (embellished and augmented by
      each one)
  231 "stared" changed to "started" (before he started for France)
  235 "neice" changed to "niece" (had left her niece all of which she
      died possessed.)
  257 "gibly" changed to "glibly" (If the tale he told so glibly and
      circumstantially)
  260 "Carrisson" changed to "Carriston" (as Carriston averred)
  263 double "was" removed (of these precious photographs was sent
      home)
  267 "habi tof" changed to "habit of" (to shake off the bad habit of
      giving in)
  280 "misbegotton" changed to "misbegotten" (that small portion of
      his misbegotten frame.)
  282 "Midcomb" changed to "Midcombe" (nearest station to Midcombe,
      until three o'clock)
  288 "faciliate" changed to "facilitate" (to faciliate matters)
  288 "immence" changed to "immense" (and had the immense satisfaction
      of)
  293 "rereived" changed to "received" (I never received any reply).

Otherwise the original has been preserved, including inconsistencies in
spelling, hyphenation and punctuation.





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