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Title: Perkins, the Fakeer
Author: Zile, Edward S. van
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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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: "_I groaned aloud, and felt the tears come to Caroline’s
beautiful eyes._"]



                      *PERKINS, *_*The*_* FAKEER*

                     _A TRAVESTY ON REINCARNATION_


                 His Wonderful Workings in the Cases of
                     "_When Reginald Was Caroline_"
                     "_How Chopin Came to Remsen_"
                  and "_Clarissa’s Troublesome Baby_"


                         BY EDWARD S. VAN ZILE

              _Author of "With Sword and Crucifix," etc._

                        ILLUSTRATED BY HY MAYER



                                  1903
                             The Smart Set
                             PUBLISHING CO.
                            NEW YORK LONDON



                              COPYRIGHTED
                         July, 1900, December,
                            1901, July, 1902
                               By ESS ESS
                             PUBLISHING CO.

                              COPYRIGHTED
                                1903, BY
                             THE SMART SET
                             PUBLISHING CO.

                       _First Printing in April_



                               *PREFACE*


In offering to the public in book form the following tales, from the
pages of THE SMART SET, the opportunity is presented to the author of
answering the questions that have frequently been asked of him and the
publishers, since these stories first appeared in print, concerning
their origin.  He is not, and has not been, the _deus ex machina_.

One Perkins, a Yankee who lived for fifty years in India, and became an
adept in mysteries rejected by the Occidental mind, is responsible for
the curious psychical transpositions described in the following pages.
I am not at liberty to say much about Perkins.  He has control of a
power that is so peculiar, and I may say erratic, that I dare not offend
him.  If, in this preface, I should tell the public too much about
Perkins, he has both the ability and the inclination to work me harm of
the disastrous sort herein described.  I do not dare to defy him.

I have taken the liberty of telling these stories in the first person.
My choice of this method will at once commend itself to the thoughtful
reader; and, what is more important, I am sure that it will satisfy the
_amour propre_ of Perkins, the Fakeer--a consummation devoutly to be
wished.

E. S. VAN Z.
Hartford, Conn., March, 1903.



                              *CONTENTS.*

                      WHEN REGINALD WAS CAROLINE.

CHAPTER

      I. Transposed
     II. A Weird Toilette
    III. Caroline’s Usurpation
     IV. The Strenuous Life
      V. Suzanne’s Busy Day
     VI. Verses and Violets
    VII. Irritation and Consolation
   VIII. News from Caroline
     IX. Afternoon Callers
      X. Recriminations
     XI. A Dinner and a Discussion
    XII. Yamama and Release


                       HOW CHOPIN CAME TO REMSEN.

      I. Chopin’s Opus 47
     II. Remsen Confronts a Mystery
    III. Biographical Data
     IV. Signorina Molatti
      V. A Polish Fantasia
     VI. Consulting a Specialist
    VII. A Preliminary Canter
   VIII. The Chopin Society
     IX. An Unrecorded Opus
      X. Tom’s Recovery


                      CLARISSA’S TROUBLESOME BABY.

      I. My Late Husband
     II. A Fond Father
    III. My First and Second
     IV. Nursery Confessions
      V. A Spoiled Child
     VI. Protoplasm and Froth
    VII. A Biologist and a Baby
   VIII. Hush-a-by, Number One!
     IX. A Boston Girl
      X. An Uncanny Flirtation
     XI. A Mysterious Elopement



                                  *I.*

                     *When Reginald Was Caroline.*



    _That night the wife of King Sûddhôdana,_
    _Maya the Queen, asleep beside her Lord,_
    _Dreamed a strange dream._

    _THE LIGHT OF ASIA._



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                             *TRANSPOSED.*

    But what a mystery this erring mind!
    It wakes within a frame of various powers
    A stranger in a new and wondrous world.
      --_N. P. Willis_.


To begin at the beginning: the tragedy or farce--whichever it may prove
to be--opened just a week ago.  I turned on my side, as I awoke last
Wednesday morning, to look into my wife’s face, and, lo, I beheld, as in
a mirror, my own countenance.  My first thought was that I was under the
influence of the tag end of a quaint dream, but presently my eyes, or
rather my wife’s, opened slowly and an expression of mingled horror and
amazement shone therein.

"What--what--" groaned Caroline, in my voice, plucking at my--or perhaps
I should say our--beard.  "Reginald, am I mad--you look--where are you?
What is this on my chin--and what have you done to yourself?"

Whether to laugh or swear or weep I hardly knew.  The bedroom looked
natural, thank God, or I think that at the outset we should have lost
our transposed minds even more completely than we had.  The sun came in
through the window as usual.  I could see my trousers--if they were
mine--lying across a chair at the further end of my dressing-room.  It
was all common-place, natural, homelike.  But when I glanced again at my
wife, there she lay, pale and trembling, with my face, beard, tousled
hair and heavy features.  I rubbed a slender white hand across my
brow--or, to be accurate, the brow that had been my wife’s.  There could
be no doubt that something uncanny, supernatural, theosophical or
diabolical had happened.  While we lay dead with sleep our respective
identities had changed places, through some occult blunder that, I
realized clearly enough, was certain to cause us no end of annoyance.

"Don’t move," I whispered to Caroline, and there flashed before my mind
a circus-poster that I had gazed at as a boy, marveling in my young
impressionability at the hirsute miracle that had been labeled in red
ink, "The Bearded Lady."

"Don’t move," I continued, hoping against hope that by prompt measures I
might repair the mysterious damage that had been done to us by this
psychical transposition.  "Shut your eyes, Caroline, and lie perfectly
still.  Don’t worry, my dear.  Make your mind perfectly blank--receptive
to impressions.  Now, we’ll put forth an effort together.  I’m lying
with my eyes closed, and I am willing myself to return to my own body.
Do likewise, Caroline.  Don’t tremble so! There’s no danger.  Things
can’t be worse, can they?  There’s comfort in that, is there not? Now!
Are you ready?  Use your will power, my dear, for all it’s worth."

We lay motionless, blind, silent for a time. That I should gaze into my
wife’s own face when I opened my eyes again I fondly imagined, for I had
always been proud of my force of will. Caroline, too--as I had good
reason to know--possessed a stubborn determination that had great
dynamic possibilities.

"Ready!" I exclaimed, presently.  "Open your eyes, my dear!"

Horror!  There was my wife gazing at me with my eyes and pulling
nervously at my infernal beard.  As she saw that I was still occupying
her fair body, my eyes began to fill, and a man’s hoarse sobs relieved
my wife’s overwrought feelings.

"Is it--oh, Reginald!--is it reincarnation, do you think?" she
questioned in her misery.

"Ah, something of that nature, I fear, Caroline," I admitted,
reluctantly.  "It’s a new one on me, anyway.  But it can’t last.  Don’t
be impatient, my dear.  It’ll soon pass off."

But even as I spoke I knew that I was using my wife’s sweet, soft voice
for deception. Whatever it was, it had come to stay--for a time at
least.

"I think, Reggie, dear, that, if you don’t mind, I’ll have breakfast in
bed."

Like a flash, Caroline’s remark revealed to me the frightful problems
that would crop up constantly from our present plight.  Number one
presented itself instantly; I had an important engagement at my office
at 9:30.  If Caroline remained in bed I couldn’t keep it.  Then it came
to me that if she rose and dressed I should be in no better case.
Dressed?  She would be obliged to put on my clothes, anyway!  What other
alternative was there?

"I think, Caroline, dear," I suggested, gently, "that we’d better wait
awhile before we make our plans.  It may go away suddenly.  A change may
take place at any moment."

"It came in our sleep, and it’ll go in our sleep," said my wife,
confidently, and I was struck by the gruffness that a firm conviction
gave to my voice.  I had never noticed it when I had been in full and
free possession thereof.

"If we could only go to sleep," I sighed, glancing again at my trousers
and suppressing a harsh expletive that arose to my beautiful lips.

"I couldn’t sleep, Reginald.  I’m sure of that. I feel a horror of
sleep, but I need something. Perhaps--oh, Reggie, it can’t be that!--but
I can’t help thinking that I want a--a--cocktail."

Caroline hid her borrowed face in my great, clumsy hands.

It required an effort of memory for me to put myself into sympathy with
her present craving. I hadn’t thought of a cocktail since I had
awakened. It was only once in a very great while that I indulged in an
eye-opener.  But I had been out very late Tuesday night--in fact, it had
been this morning before I had reached home from the club--and I was
not, upon reflection, altogether astonished at the wish that my poor
wife had expressed with such awkward coyness.  But to grant her request
demanded heroic action, and I hesitated before taking what might prove
to be an irrevocable step.  If I left the bed under existing conditions,
a temporary psychical maladjustment might become permanent.  Then,
again, I realized that my little feet felt repelled by the chill that
would come to them if exposed to a cold draught that blew through a
window open in my--or, rather, Caroline’s--dressing-room.

"Go into the bathroom and take a cold plunge," I suggested to Caroline,
to gain time. "It’s more bracing than a cocktail."

"You ought to know, Reginald," she remarked, in my most playful voice.

Her ill-timed jocosity struck me as ghastly.

"Caroline, dear," I began, "we must beware of recriminations.  ’It is a
condition, not a theory, that confronts us,’" I quoted, mournfully. "If
we should fall out, you and I----"

"If we only could!" sighed Caroline.

"Could what?" I cried, in shrill falsetto.

"Fall out, Reginald," she answered, grimly. "Can’t you think of
something else to try? Really, it’s too absurd!  What is the matter with
us, Reggie?  Are we dreaming?"

I listened, intently.  The servants were astir down-stairs, and through
the windows came the clatter of early vehicles and the thin voice of a
newsboy crying at eight o’clock the ten o’clock "extra" of a yellow
journal.  There was nothing in our environment to suggest the
supernatural or to explain a mystery that deepened as the moments
passed.  The external world was unchanged, and--startling
thought!--Caroline and I must confront it presently under conditions
that were, so far as I knew, unprecedented in the history of the race.

"That’s no dream!" I exclaimed, terror-stricken. My wife’s maid had
rapped, as usual at the outer door of our apartments.  "Good God,
Caroline, what shall we do?"

"Tell her I don’t want her this morning, Reginald! Send her away, will
you?  She mustn’t see me--yet."

"But my--your--this hair, Caroline?  How’ll I get it up without
Suzanne’s help?"

"I’ll do it for you," answered Caroline, in a voice that sounded like a
despairing moan.

"Look at those hands--my hands, Caroline! You can’t dress hair with
them.  Take my word for that."

Suzanne rapped again, thinking, doubtless, that we were still asleep.

"I’ll be there directly, Suzanne," cried Caroline, in my voice.

We turned cold with consternation.  What would Suzanne think of this?
My reputation in my own household had been jeopardized on the instant.

"Caroline!  Caroline!  You must pull yourself together!" I whispered.
"Have courage, and do keep your wits about you!  Act like a man, will
you?  Keep quiet, now.  I’ll speak to Suzanne."

With a courage begotten by desperation, I sat erect.  Fear and hope had
been at war within me as, for the first time since I had awakened, I
changed my posture.  I had dreaded the uncanny sensation that would
spring from further proof that I was really imprisoned in my wife’s
body. But I had clung to a shred of hope.  It might be that Caroline and
I in motion would find the psychical readjustment that had been denied
to us in repose.  I was instantly undeceived.  As I sat up in bed,
Caroline’s luxuriant dark tresses fell over my shoulders and I looked
down at a lock of hair that lay black against my tapering white fingers.
A wave of physical well-being swept over me, and, despite the horror of
my situation, my heart beat with a great joy in life.  The blood came
into my well-rounded cheeks, as I recalled Caroline’s recent request for
a cocktail.  What a shame it was that a big, healthy man should want a
stimulant early in the day!

"Suzanne!" I cried.  "Suzanne, are you still there?"

"_Oui_, madame," came the maid’s voice, a note echoing through it that I
did not like.

"I shall not want you for fifteen minutes, Suzanne," I said.  "Come back
in a quarter of an hour."  I felt a cold chill creeping over me, and
Caroline’s sweet voice trembled slightly.  "And may the devil fly away
with you, Suzanne!" I muttered, as I fell back against the pillows.

"We’ve had our sentence suspended for fifteen minutes, Caroline," I
said, presently.  "But how the deuce am I going to get through my
toilet? My French is not like yours, my dear, and you never speak
English to Suzanne.  It’s actually immoral, Caroline, the way I get my
genders mixed up in French."

"Oh, don’t say that, Reginald!" exclaimed my wife, in a horrified basso.

"Say what, Caroline?" I asked, petulantly.

"That about mixing genders being immoral, Reggie," she fairly moaned.
"I’m not immoral, even if--if--if I have got your gender, Reginald. I
didn’t want it," she added, sternly, "and I can’t be held responsible if
I am masculine or neuter or intransitive.  My advice to you, Reginald,
is not to say much to Suzanne in any language."

I could not refrain from a silvery chuckle, the sound of which changed
my mood instantly.

"How often I’ve said that to you, Caroline!" I remarked, most unkindly.

"I don’t gossip with Suzanne any more than you do with your man,"
growled Caroline, in a tone that hurt me deeply.

My man!  Great Lucifer, I had almost forgotten his existence.  He would
be in my dressing-room presently to trim my beard and make of himself a
nuisance in various ways.  Jenkins had his good points as a valet, but
he was too talkative at times and always inquisitive.  I could have
murdered Suzanne and Jenkins at that moment with good appetite.

"Caroline," I said, gloomily, "Fate has ordained that you and I, for
some reason that is not apparent, must make immediate choice between two
courses of action.  We can commit suicide--there’s a revolver in the
room.  Or we may face the ordeal bravely, helping each other, as the day
passes, to conceal from the world our strange affliction.  I have no
doubt that while we sleep to-night the--ah--psychical mistake that has
been made will be rectified."

My voice faltered as I uttered the last sentence. Neither my experience
nor reading had furnished me with data upon which I could safely base so
optimistic a conclusion.

"I--I don’t want to die, Reggie," muttered Caroline, with a gesture of
protest.

"The club was rather quiet last night," I remarked, musingly; but my
wife did not catch the significance of the words.  "Well, if we’re to
brace up and stand the racket, Caroline, we must begin at once.  You
must give me a few pointers about Suzanne.  I’ll reciprocate of course,
and you’ll have no trouble in bluffing Jenkins to a standstill.  There
he is now!  Call out to him, my dear.  Don’t be afraid of using--ah--my
voice.  Tell him you are coming to him at once."  Unbroken silence
ensued.

"Now, Caroline, be a man--that’s a good girl! Tell him you’ll be out in
five minutes."

My wife’s stalwart figure was shaking with nervousness.

"Oh--ah--oh, Jenkins," she roared, presently. "Jenkins, go away.  I
don’t want you this morning.  Go away! go away!  Do you hear me?  Go
away!"

"Yes, sir," came Jenkins’s voice to us, amazement and flunkeyism mingled
therein in equal parts.  "Yes, sir.  I’m going at once, sir."

"Now you have done it, Caroline!" I cried, in a high treble of anger.
"Great Scott! how that man will talk down-stairs!"

For a moment the sun-lighted room whirled before my eyes like a golden
merry-go-round, and I lay there, limp and helpless, awaiting in misery
Suzanne’s imminent return.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                          *A WEIRD TOILETTE.*


    My spirit wrestles in anguish
      With fancies that will not depart;
    A ghost who borrowed my semblance
      Has hid in the depth of my heart.
        --_Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen_.


"Madame seems to be in very low spirits this morning," Suzanne had the
audacity to remark to me as she deftly manipulated my wife’s dark,
luxuriant hair, to my infinite annoyance.  She spoke in French, a
language that always rubs me the wrong way.  I gazed restlessly at the
dainty furnishings of Caroline’s dressing-room, and remained silent.

Presently Suzanne spoke again.  "I hope that madame has received no bad
news."

"Great Scott, girl! what are you driving at?"  I heard my wife’s voice
exclaim, and my recklessness appalled me.  Suzanne was paralyzed for a
moment.  I could see her pretty face in the mirror, and it had turned
pale on the instant.

"Pardon me, madame," she gasped, "but I--I thought----"

"Don’t think!" I cried, crossly.  "Tie up my--this--ah, hair, and let me
do the thinking, will you?"

Repentance for my harsh words came to me at once.  Suzanne stifled a
gasp and a sob and continued her work as a _coiffeuse_.  I realized that
I must control my impulsiveness at once.  I had never understood what my
friends had meant when they had accused me of a lack of imagination. I
had taken pride in the fact that I was a straightforward,
two-plus-two-makes-four kind of a man, not given to foolish fancies nor
errant day-dreams.  I had attributed my success in business to this
tendency toward the matter-of-fact, but now, for the first time in my
life, I regretted my lack of imaginative power.  I must, for my dear
Caroline’s sake--yes, in the name of common decency--preserve my
psychical incognito in the presence of my wife’s maid.  Suddenly, I was
startled by hearing my voice in the bathroom uttering something that
sounded much like an exclamation of horror.  In my consternation I sat
erect, listening intently.

"What is the matter, madame?" whispered Suzanne, excitedly.  "Monsieur,
too, seems out of sorts this morning."

I realized that Caroline had found sufficient courage to set out in
quest of the cold plunge that I had advised in lieu of a cocktail.
There came the sound of running water from the bathroom.

"Go on, Suzanne," I said, gently.  "Get through with this hair of mine,
will you? There’s nothing the matter. Caroline--Reginald--ah--Mr.
Stevens didn’t get quite enough sleep, that’s all.  He’s made the spray
too cold."

Suzanne’s hands trembled perceptibly as she resumed her task.

"There’s a note for madame this morning," she said, presently, lowering
her voice again, and always speaking her detestable mother-tongue.

"Of course there is," I remarked, astonished at the maid’s manner.
"Her--ah--my mail is full of ’em.  Who’s the note from, Suzanne?"

"Madame is so remote to-day!" murmured Suzanne, helplessly.  "Did I not
tell madame that he would write to her?"

A chill ran through my veins, but I made neither sound nor movement.
Apparently my wife’s maid had become a discreet postmistress, whose good
offices it might behoove me to look into.

"I’ll read the note later in the day, Suzanne. Are you nearly done with
this infernal hair?"

"_Mon Dieu!_" exclaimed the girl, but she went no further.

A splash, a groan, followed by a hoarse yell, echoed through the suite.

"Damn it!" I cried, desperately.  "Why didn’t Jenkins stay here?
She--he’ll never get dressed!"

"Where is Jenkins, madame?" asked Suzanne, nervously.  "Monsieur seems
to be excited. And madame--what is the matter with madame?"

The girl’s consternation was not strange. Caroline, the _grand dame_,
gentle, self-poised, unexcitable, sat before the wide-eyed Suzanne,
swearing in a voice that had been fashioned by nature for nothing
harsher than a drawing-room expletive.

"Caroline," came my wife’s borrowed voice, faintly, as if she were
talking to herself.  It was some time before I realized that she was
calling me.

"Yes--ah--Reginald!" I managed to cry, in a trembling falsetto.

"Monsieur seems to want you, madame," said Suzanne, wonderingly.  "Where
is Jenkins, madame?"

"God only knows!" I exclaimed, desperately. "Down-stairs, I suppose,
talking through his hat. Send him to me at once, girl."

"Madame!  Jenkins?  Send Jenkins to you? Madame, I do not comprehend."

"To me?  I didn’t say to me, did I?  Send him to Car--Reginald--Mr.
Stevens!  Wasn’t that what I said?  Go, Suzanne!  And--wait a minute.
If you mention my name to Jenkins--that is, if you gossip with him
coming up-stairs, I’ll dismiss you this morning.  Tell Jenkins to hold
his chattering tongue, or he’ll get the grand--ah, _manner nayst pah?_"

Suzanne burst into tears, and, instead of obeying my behest, fell, with
true French impetuosity, upon her knees at my feet, and, seizing my cold
hands, buried her face in them, sobbing hysterically.

"Oh, madame! madame!  What have I done to deserve this?" she moaned, in
her diabolical French.  "Why do you speak to me--treat me--this way?  It
is so cruelly cruel!  Oh, madame, have I not been faithful, discreet,
blind, deaf, dumb?  Have I ever betrayed even a little, little secret of
yours?"

"Caroline!"  There was a note of mingled anger and dismay in my voice as
it came to me, harsh and unwelcome, from my distant dressing-room, the
door of which Caroline had closed.

"I must go to her!" I cried, springing to my feet, and tripping over my
dressing-gown as I pushed by the kneeling, hysterical maid. Suzanne
grasped what I now believe to have been the hem of my garment.

"Oh, madame, you must not go to him!  Monsieur’s voice is so wild!  I am
sure that he is not well.  You must rest here, madame!  See, I am going.
I will send Jenkins to monsieur at once.  _Mon Dieu_!  _Mon Dieu_!  I
go, madame! I shall return to you very soon."

Suzanne had really gone, and, pulling myself together by a strong effort
of will, I stumbled from the dressing-room, crossed our bed-chamber and
knocked on the door, behind which I could hear Caroline uttering subdued
exclamations in my raucous voice.

"Who’s there?  Go away!  Who is it?" cried my wife, in a panic.

"Don’t get rattled, my dear," I called out, in Caroline’s sweetest
tones.  "Suzanne has gone to find Jenkins.  Let me in, my dear.  I may
be able to give you a few tips."

The door flew open and I saw that Caroline had managed to don my
underclothing.  My heavy features displayed the joy that my wife felt at
my arrival.  I learned afterward that she had been having serious
trouble with my linen shirt.

"Oh, Reggie," she exclaimed, making my voice tremble with emotion.
"I’ve had such a horrible time!"  She threw my great, muscular arms
around her neck, and I felt my beard scratching my--her smooth, delicate
cheeks.

"Sit down, Caroline, and calm yourself," I implored her.  "This is no
time for this kind of thing.  We’ve got but a moment to ourselves.
Suzanne has gone to bring Jenkins back."

Caroline shuddered, but said nothing.

"You gave me a terrible shock, my dear," I remarked, calmly.  "I feared
that some terrible accident had happened to you."

"The very worst has happened, Reggie," she mused, in something like a
prolonged growl.  "I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go through with
it."

"We’ve made a bad beginning, Caroline.  I’ll admit that.  But all is not
yet lost.  Jenkins and Suzanne doubtless imagine that you are merely
suffering from a somewhat stubborn and persistent jag."

"How horribly vulgar!" groaned Caroline.

"Don’t disabuse Jenkins’s mind of the idea," I implored her.  "It’s hard
on you, I’ll admit, but it’s better than the truth.  We can’t tell them
that we’ve changed bodies for a time.  They’d think us crazy, Caroline."

"We will be, Reginald," growled the dismayed giant, seemingly on the
verge of tears.  "If I were only dressed I wouldn’t be so frightened.
But you are such a clumsy creature, Reggie."

I sprang to my feet.  I thought I heard voices in the lower hall.

"They’re coming, Caroline.  Don’t say much to Jenkins, but, if you think
of it, my dear, swear at him softly now and then.  It’ll quiet his
suspicions, if he has any."

As I started to leave the room, I turned sharply, and eyed my own face
searchingly.  Imitating Suzanne’s voice as well as I could, I said:

"There’s a note for madame this morning. Did I not tell madame that he
would write to her?"

Bitterly did I regret my untimely sarcasm. Caroline, white to the lips,
tottered where she stood.

"Reginald!" she cried, in a deep, horror-stricken voice that could have
been heard throughout the house and in the street outside.

Rushing back, I helped her towards a chair.

"It’s all right, Caroline," I said, in dulcet, pleading tones.  "Don’t
mind it, my dear.  I am sure that you will be able to explain
the--ah--little matter wholly to my satisfaction."  Then a thought
flashed through my mind that was like a cold douche, and I added: "And
don’t forget about Jenkins, my dear.  Don’t encourage him to talk.  And,
above all, don’t believe anything that he may say.  He’s a most
stupendous liar."

With that I hurried back to Caroline’s dressing-room just in time to
seat myself before Suzanne, panting from haste and excitement, rushed
into the room.

"Jenkins, madame," she cried, wringing her hands, "Jenkins is a villain,
a rascal, a scoundrel."  The girl appeared to have a long list of
opprobrious French epithets in her vocabulary.

"Calm yourself, Suzanne," I said, coolly. "You have sent Jenkins to
monsieur?"

"Alas, madame, he refused to obey me unless I agreed to kiss him.  The
horrid, degenerate, unprincipled English beast!  _Mon Dieu_!  I could
not kiss him, madame."

"Curse the man’s devilish impudence!" I exclaimed, while Suzanne stared
at me, her pretty mouth wide open in amazement.

"You say such queer things to-day, madame!" she murmured, presently,
resuming her duties in a melancholy way.  "What will madame wear for
breakfast?"

Her question startled me.  My mind endeavored, without much success, to
recall Caroline’s morning costumes.

"What’s the matter with her--ah--my plum-colored--ah--tea-gown?" I
asked, recklessly.

"Madame is jocose--facetious," remarked Suzanne, pretending to laugh.  I
reflected bitterly that I could not see the joke.

"You have such excellent taste, Suzanne," I said, proud of my
cleverness.  "Tog me out in any old thing.  But it must be warm and
snug, girl.  I have had chills up my back until I feel like a small
icicle in a cold wind."  Suddenly an inspiration came to me.  "Suzanne,
you’ll find a bottled cocktail in the bedroom closet.  Never mind the
cracked ice.  Pour me out about four fingers and bring it to me at once.
Don’t stare at me like that, girl!  Quick work, now. And--ah--don’t let
Caro--that is, Mr. Stevens hear you.  Go!"

Suzanne, pale with amazement, hurried away to find the stimulant that
had become suddenly the one thing on earth that I really desired.
Presently, she returned, carrying a half-filled cocktail glass.

"Here’s how, Suzanne!" I cried, joyously, forgetting caste distinctions
in my delight at the opportunity of restoring my waning vitality.  I
swallowed the smooth concoction at a gulp, Suzanne watching me with a
puzzled smile on her disturbed countenance.

"Jenkins is with monsieur," she remarked as she took the empty glass
from my white, slender hand.  Apprehension clutched at my heart again.

"Does--ah--Mr. Stevens--monsieur--seem to be--ah--quiet?" I asked,
eagerly.

"I didn’t hear his voice, madame," answered Suzanne, arranging a
sky-blue morning-gown for my use.  "But Jenkins is talking, talking,
talking all the time, madame."

"Damn him for a confounded cockney gas-bag!" I murmured, despondently,
but fortunately Suzanne was at that moment busy at the further end of
the dressing-room.  I stood erect, impatient of further delay.

"Look here, girl," I exclaimed, "will you quit this fussy nonsense and
get me out of here?  I’ve got an engagement at----"

My sweet, velvety voice failed me as I realized that I was again
forgetting myself, or, rather, Caroline.

The long suffering Suzanne was at my side, instantly.

"Madame may go now," she said, giving a finishing touch here and there
to my hair and costume.  I made for the bedroom eagerly, but tripped
over my dress, recovering my equilibrium and went on.  Suzanne said
something to herself in French, but the only words that came distinctly
to my ears were:

"_Le cocktail!  Il est diabolique!_"



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                        *CAROLINE’S USURPATION.*


    In philosophic mood last night, as idly I was lying,
    That souls may transmigrate, methought, there could be no
            denying;
    So just to know to what I owe propensities so strong,
    I drew my soul into a chat--our gossip lasted long.
      --_Béranger_.


It was not wholly unpleasant to find myself facing Caroline across the
breakfast-table.  There she sat, attired in my most becoming gray
business suit, in outward seeming a large, well-groomed
man-of-the-world.  The light in her--or my--eyes suggested the
possibility that she had found compensations for her soul’s change of
base.  If that was the case, Caroline was more to be envied than I was,
for, despite the feminine beauty that had become mine for a time, I was
wholly ill-at-ease and disgruntled.  My hand trembled and I spilled the
coffee that it had become my duty to serve.  Jones, our phlegmatic
butler, appeared to be politely astonished at my clumsiness and glanced
at me furtively now and again.

"Two lumps, Caroline?" I asked, absently. Catching my wife’s masculine
eye, I felt the blood rush to my cheeks.  "Reginald, I mean!"

"Three lumps, and plenty of cream, Caroline," said my wife, with ready
wit.  What a domineering note there was in my voice when used
vicariously!  I wondered if Caroline had noticed it.

"You may go, Jones," I said, presently.  "I’ll ring if we need you."

A gleam of surprise came into the butler’s eyes, but he controlled it
instantly, and strode from the breakfast-room like a liveried automaton.

"You are not eating, Reginald," said my wife, in a gruff whisper,
glancing at the door through which Jones had made his exit.  "You must
not give way to your nervousness, dear boy.  You’ll need all your
strength before the day is over."

"Gad, you’re right--if I can judge by the last hour, Caroline," I
remarked, endeavoring by force of will to beget an appetite for toast
and eggs. "Just hand me my letters, will you?  Here are yours, my dear."

I saw the masculine cheeks redden, but Caroline made no effort to act
upon the suggestion that I had thrown out.

"Reggie!  Reggie!" she moaned, hoarsely, "is there no help for us?
Can’t you think of something that will change us back again?  It’s
simply unbearable.  Sometimes it makes me laugh, but I almost died
before I got out of the bath-room.  And Jenkins was simply detestable!
You must get us out of this, Reginald, or I warn you I shall read these
letters, go down to your office and your club--and enjoy life in your
way for a while, my dear."

There was something in all this that I did not altogether like, but I
smiled as I said:

"Are you laboring under the delusion, Caroline, that my daily life,
filled to overflowing with business cares that you know nothing about,
is pleasanter than yours?  You can do as you please all day long--see
people or deny yourself to them, as you choose.  I had noticed a
tendency upon your part, my dear, before this--ah--accident occurred, to
complain that your existence was dull, that a man had a happier lot than
a woman.  It’s all bosh, that idea.  From the moment when I leave this
house in the morning, Caroline, I am a slave to duties that I cannot
shirk.  I am under a terrific strain all day long.  As for you, my dear,
you may go and come as you please, see the people you like, and dodge
those you detest; take a nap if you’re tired, a drive if you’re
suffocated, a walk if you feel energetic.  And you have nothing but
petty worries that don’t amount to a row of beans. Great Scott!
Caroline, what an easy job a woman in your position has!"

Caroline refused to meet my gaze, and I observed with annoyance that my
eyes sometimes had a shifty way with them.  She had placed one large
relentless hand over my small pile of letters.  Presently, she said, in
a tone that indicated a stubborn spirit:

"You are off the track, Reginald.  What I want to know is whether you
think that we have exhausted every method for getting out of this queer
scrape?"

"Drop that, will you, Caroline?" I exclaimed, petulantly.  "I’m no
theosophist nor faith-curist. I’m not going to fool with this thing at
all.  If we get to tampering with it--whatever it is--you may find
yourself in Jenkins’s shoes and I may be Suzanne or Jones for a change.
I’m banking on a readjustment in our sleep to-night.  Until then, we’ll
have to accept the situation as it stands."

"Then I’m going to boss things, Reggie," remarked my wife, firmly.  "If
I’m obliged to get about in your great, hulking figure, my dear, I’m
going to enjoy all the perquisites for the next few hours.  I don’t
believe--I never did believe--that you work half as hard as you say you
do, nor that you have such horrible dragons to slay every day before
dinner.  Then, I want you to see for yourself how much leisure I really
enjoy. You can stay at home and run my affairs, Reggie, dear.  I’m going
down-town to see ’the boys’ at work!"

"Good heavens, Caroline, you are joking!" I cried, my delicate hand
trembling as I endeavored to raise my coffee-cup to my white lips.  "It
would be utter madness--what you plan!  I’ll have to let things slide
for to-day.  I’ll telephone to the office saying that I’m down with the
grip. Grip?  That’s good," I went on, hysterically. "It’s just what
we’ve lost, Caroline.  But never mind!  It’s a word that will serve my
turn.  And then, my dear, we’ll pass the day together here. We might get
a readjustment at any moment, don’t you see, if we stick close to each
other.  If you’re down-town--great Nebuchadnezzar! anything might happen
to us, Caroline."

"But there’s the telephone, Reginald," suggested my wife, coldly.  "As
soon as I reach your office I’ll call you up.  If you don’t leave the
house to-day you’ll have me at the end of a ’phone most of the time.
And let me tell you, Reggie, you’ll need me.  I am very much inclined to
think, my dear, that you’ll wonder, before the day is over, what has
become of my sinecure. I am quite sure that you’ll not find time for a
great many naps."

"If you leave me, Caroline," I said, musingly, "I shouldn’t dare to fall
asleep.  But I really can’t believe, my dear, that you seriously
contemplate the expedition you have mentioned. You’ll have the devil’s
own time, let me tell you, Caroline.  Let me glance at that
memorandum-book in your inside coat-pocket.  Thanks. Wednesday?  To-day
is Wednesday.  Nine-thirty--Boggs and Scranton.  We’ll scratch that off.
I’m late for that, as it is.  Rogers!"  To myself, I cried: "Lord, she
mustn’t meet Rogers!  I shouldn’t have given him my office address."

As I glanced through the day’s appointments, item by item, my horror
grew apace.  Caroline, if she went to my office, was bound to derive a
wholly false impression of the general tenor of my life.  There would be
so many things that would be open to misconstruction!  Unimaginative I
might be, but my memoranda enabled me to foretell just what kind of an
experience awaited Caroline in my daily haunts.  The methods by which a
successful business is conducted in New York would puzzle her sorely,
and place me in a most uncomfortable light.

"It can’t be done, my dear," I said, presently; and Caroline’s sweet
voice annoyed me by its lack of an imperative note.  It seemed to beat
impotently against that stubborn-looking countenance across the
breakfast-table.  "You’d bungle matters most desperately if I allowed
you to go down.  As it is, I dread the outcome of my enforced absence.
Playing lady to-day will cost me a cool ten thousand, at the very
least."

I could see, plainly enough, that what I had said had made very little
impression upon my wife.  Perhaps she doubted my word or felt confidence
in her own business ability.  In desperation, I took a new tack.

"I think, Caroline, that, on the whole, it would be much better for you
to remain here with me and tell me all about that note to which Suzanne
referred.  It may take some time, my dear, to get that--ah--little
matter straightened out."

My eyes never wavered as I gazed into their depths.

"It’s easily explained, Reggie, dear," said Caroline, coldly.  "It will
take me but a moment. As to your interpretation of what Jenkins has been
saying to me--that, of course, is another matter.  Your explanations may
require considerable time, Reggie, darling."

I dropped my coffee-cup, which went to pieces with its saucer.

"Jenkins?" I cried; in a tone so high that it gave me a headache.
"Didn’t I warn you that he was a great liar, Caroline?  You mustn’t
believe more than ten per cent. of what he says."

"H’m!" growled Caroline, while she glanced idly at the outside of the
envelopes beside her coffee-cup.

"I tell you, Caroline," I went on, feverishly, wondering why I had grown
to hate my wife’s voice so quickly, "I tell you, Caroline, that Jenkins
is a waif from the School for Scandal.  He was valet to Lord Runabout
before he came over here.  Jenkins’s standards, I must say, are low. You
know what Runabout is, my dear.  Well, Jenkins seems to think that to be
a gentleman one must have Runabout’s tastes.  I was idly curious at
first to hear what Jenkins had to say. Naturally, he got a wrong
impression, and there you are!  Sometimes, Caroline, you’d think, to
hear Jenkins talk to me, that I was a wild blade, a dare-devil rake, of
the latest English pattern. In certain moods, he amuses me; at other
times, I don’t listen to him.  But I can readily understand, my dear,
what a shock he must have given you.  Of course, you couldn’t know--I
should have told you more about it in detail--that I’m really a hero to
my valet.  It’s not a nice kind of hero, of course, but it’s the kind
that Jenkins admires.  In short, Caroline, dear, while I’m Dr. Jekyll to
the world, I’m Mr. Hyde to my man."

"H’m," came my gruff voice again, and there was a smile on my face that
aroused my anger. During our five years of married life I had never lost
my temper with Caroline.  But her present manner, made doubly offensive
by the use of my own body as its medium, filled me with rage.

"By the eternal horn spoon, Caroline, you must drop that!" I cried, in a
shrill treble.  "If you say ’h’m’ to me again in that cheap actor’s
manner--I’ll--I’ll--"

"Get a divorce, perhaps," suggested Caroline, pleasantly.  "Come, come,
Reginald, you’ve gone far enough.  You have no cause for anger--unless,
indeed, your conscience goads you.  But I’ve put up a flag of truce.
Suppose we drop this unpleasant subject for the present."  Here she
calmly stuck my letters into a pocket of my coat. "I’ll look these over
riding down-town.  Just ring for Jones, will you, and ask him if the
coupé is at the door."

"Caroline!  Caroline!" I moaned, falling back in my chair, limp and
hopeless, "you must not--you dare not attempt this mad prank!  I tell
you, Caroline, that you will regret your foolhardiness to the last day
of your life."

"Listen to me, Reginald," said my wife, standing erect and drawing
herself up to my full height.  "Jones will come to you up-stairs for his
orders.  Think of it, my dear!  You can order whatever you like best for
dinner.  The Van Tromps and Edgertons dine with us to-night. Don’t
forget that."

I groaned aloud, and felt the tears rushing to Caroline’s beautiful
eyes.

"This morning," she went on, seemingly in high spirits, "my new ball
dress should arrive. Mrs. Taunton--you never liked her, Reggie, but
she’s really charming--is to lunch with me. Professor Von Gratz will be
here at eleven to hear me play Beethoven’s Opus 22.  He’s apt to be
severe, but don’t mind him, my dear.  His bark is worse than his bite."
Caroline bent down and touched the bell in front of me.

"Is the coupé ready, Jones?" she asked, as the butler entered.

"Yes, sir."

"Ta-ta, Reggie," cried my wife, in my most playful voice.  "I’ll call
you by ’phone the moment I reach the office.  Hope you’ll have a
pleasant day.  Ta-ta!"

A moment later, I sat alone in the breakfast-room, gazing down at my
broken coffee-cup and saucer.  I regretted their accidental destruction.
It would have pleased me now to smash them by design.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                         *THE STRENUOUS LIFE.*


    No longer memory whispers whence arose
    The doom that tore me from my place of pride.
      --_Whittier_.


I had had the telephone placed in the library for reasons that need not
be given here, and it was to this room that I betook myself after I had
recovered from Caroline’s cruel exit.  I realized, in a vague kind of
way, that the library was not my wife’s customary haunt after breakfast,
but I lacked the courage to seek a clue to her usual morning habits.
That Suzanne would discover me presently in my hiding-place, I had no
doubt, but I was safe from intrusion for a time, at least, and might
find in solitude a poultice for the blows that this deplorable
day--always to be remembered as Black Wednesday--had already given to
me.

As I seated myself beside a table covered with books and magazines, a
feeling of rebellion, not unmingled with envy, came over me.  It was a
clear, bracing, sunny morning, and Caroline, in my outward seeming, was
rolling down-town, rejoicing, doubtless, like a bird that has escaped
unexpectedly from a narrow cage.  A new life lay before her.  She had
gone forth to see the world, while I, beautiful but despondent, sat
trembling, in momentary dread of discovery by Jones or Suzanne.  Menaced
by a ball-dress, a music teacher, Mrs. Taunton and various unknown
household duties, my mind exaggerated the miseries of my situation.
Unworthy passions agitated my throbbing bosom.  A longing for vengeance,
a mad desire to make Caroline regret her base desertion of the man whom
she had vowed to love, honor and obey, swept through me.  It would go
hard with me, indeed, if some opportunity for punishing my errant spouse
did not present itself during the long day that confronted me.

With great presence of mind, despite my agitation, I had brought
Caroline’s mail into the library with me.  Should I open it?  Why not?
She had carried off my letters with a piratical nonchalance quite
consistent with her present high-handed methods of procedure.  It was
only fair that I should dip into her correspondence at my leisure.  But
I feared, just now, any further shock to my nerves, and sat motionless,
gazing listlessly at the little pile of notes addressed to Caroline.
Suddenly, a thought came into my mind that sent the blood rushing
through my veins.  Was it not more than probable that my library
contained a few volumes dealing with the occult sciences?  At all
events, I was sure that I owned several books relating to Oriental
philosophy.  Then there was Sir Edwin Arnold’s "Light of Asia" at my
disposal, and, if I became impatient of research, I could look up
"Reincarnation," "Transmigration" and kindred topics in the
encyclopædia.

But what had become of my courage?  Great as was my curiosity regarding
the strange psychical displacement that had made me practically a
prisoner in my own home, I feared to take steps that, while they might
increase my erudition, might also deprive me of all hope of the night’s
readjustment.

"I’d better leave it alone," I murmured to myself, despondently.  "My
very ignorance of this kind of thing may prove to be my salvation in the
end.  I’m up against it, there’s no doubt of that.  And the queer thing
about it all is that I’m not more astonished at what has happened. It
didn’t hurt a bit!  It was like taking gas.  You wake up in a dentist’s
chair, and the only tooth you knew you possessed has gone.  I wonder, by
the way, if it would pay to consult a doctor--some specialist in nervous
disorders?  I could use an assumed name, and--  Bosh!  I haven’t the
sand to do it.  And it might lead to an investigation as to my sanity.
Great guns, girl!  You here again?"  The last words I spoke aloud,
gazing upward into Suzanne’s pale, disturbed face.

"I am so worried about madame," said Suzanne in French, glancing
nervously around the library, as if she sought in my environment an
explanation of her mistress’s eccentricity.  "Would it not be well for
madame to come up-stairs and try to get a nap?"

"A nap!" I cried, in a vibrant treble.  "Not on your life, girl!  I’m up
for all day, you may bet on that.  Get me the morning papers, Suzanne.
And--wait!  Where’s Jenkins?"

Suzanne gazed at me in surprise.

"He’s eating his breakfast, madame."

"Bring me the papers, and then tell Jenkins to take a day off.  Tell him
he may go as far away as Hoboken if he wants to.  He needn’t return
until to-morrow."

Suzanne glided from my side with a quick, silent movement that reminded
me of a black cat.

A wild, fleeting hope seized me that Jenkins would carry the girl away
with him, but presently Suzanne entered the library again.

"Jenkins sends his thanks to madame, and will take a holiday, after
reporting to monsieur at his office," said my pretty gadfly, glibly,
placing the morning newspapers beside me.

"Confound his impudence!" I exclaimed, and I saw at once that Suzanne
considered me "no better."

"And now, girl, what next?  Jones, I suppose."

"Yes, madame.  He is awaiting your pleasure outside the door."

At that moment Jones entered the library.

"You called me, madame," he said, pompously, magnificent as a liar.
"Your orders, madame?"

"We have guests for dinner, Jones," I remarked, bravely.

"Yes, madame.  How many?"

"Four, Jones.  Six at the table, that is.  Cocktails to start with,
Jones, and serve my best wines--freely, do you understand?  I want you
to give us a dinner to-night, Jones, that’ll--make a new man of me," I
murmured under my breath.

"Yes, madame," said the butler, respectfully, but I certainly caught a
gleam of delight in his heavy eyes.  "You give me _carte blanche_,
madame?"

"Throw everything wide open, and let ’er go, Jones," I cried, with
enthusiasm.  Caroline should see that I know how "to provide."

Jones bowed, more, I believe, to conceal his astonishment than for mere
ceremony, and turned to leave the room.

"Jones," I called, before he had disappeared, "if you talk to Jenkins
before he leaves the house I shall discharge you."

The butler turned, with a flush in his face, and gave me a haughty
stare.  Then he said, recovering his machine-made humility:

"Yes, madame.  Your orders shall be obeyed."  With that he was gone.

"Go to the ’phone, Suzanne," I said at once, "and call up 502, Rector.
When you’ve got ’em, let me know."

Suzanne was too nervous to accomplish this task, and I was forced to go
to her assistance.

"Hello!" I heard Caroline’s voice crying presently, and it warned me to
be careful.

Standing at a ’phone it was hard for me to remember that I was far from
being quite myself.

"Who’s this?" came to my ears from 502, Rector.

"Has--ah--Mr. Stevens reached the office yet?" I asked.

"We expect him every moment.  He’s late this morning," came the answer
in a man’s voice, (I had grown very sensitive to sex in voices.) "Who is
this?"

"I am--ah--Mrs. Stevens."  Suddenly, I realized that I was talking to
Morse, my head-clerk.  How he happened to be in my inner office puzzled
me.  "Anything new this morning, Morse?" I inquired, impulsively.  There
was a sound that can be described as an electric gurgle at his end of
the line.

"Hello," he cried, above a buzzing of the wires that might have been
caused by his astonishment. "Are you still there, Mrs. Stevens?"

"Well, rather," I said to myself.  Then aloud: "Will you kindly call me
up--ah--Mr. Morse, the moment Mr. Stevens arrives?"

"On the instant, Mrs. Stevens," said Morse, deferentially.

Curiosity overcame my discretion.

"How did the market open, Mr. Morse?" I asked, recklessly.

Again that electric gurgle escaped from my startled clerk.

"It seems to be very feverish, madame," answered Morse, evidently
recovering his equanimity.

"Naturally!" I exclaimed, feelingly, but I doubt that Morse caught the
word.

"Is that all, Mrs. Stevens?" he asked, presently.

"That’ll do for the present--ah--Mr. Morse," I said, reluctantly.
"Good-bye!"

I returned to my seat beside the reading-table and found Suzanne gazing
at me with soft, sympathetic eyes.

"If I had but dared to tell him to unload," I mused aloud, but went no
further, for the French girl’s glance had become an interrogation-mark.

"Tell monsieur to unload?" murmured Suzanne, who sometimes spoke English
when she especially craved my confidence.  "But--_mon Dieu!_--monsieur
is not--what you say, madame, loaded?"

I broke into a silvery, high-pitched laugh that annoyed me, exceedingly.
But it was not unpleasant to realize that the girl knew that Mr. Stevens
was a gentleman.  I felt grateful to Suzanne for her good opinion.  A
moment later, the telephone rang, sharply.

"There’s Caroline," I said to myself; but I was quickly undeceived when
I had placed the receiver to my ear.

"Is that you, Caroline?" I heard a voice saying. "This is Louise.  What
have you decided to do about those lectures on Buddhism?  Will you join
the class, my dear?"

"Not in a thousand years!" I fairly shrieked through the ’phone.
"Good-bye!"

"More trouble, madame?" asked Suzanne, as I tottered back to my chair.
"I am so sorry. Really, I think madame should come up-stairs with me and
lie down.  I will bathe madame’s head, and she may drop off for a time."

"Suzanne," I said, solemnly, making a strong effort of will and
controlling my temper nicely--"Suzanne, if you suggest a sleep to me
again to-day I shall be forced to send you to Hoboken to find Jenkins.
What’s that?  The telephone again?  Ah--Mr. Stevens must have reached
his office."

I was right this time.  If my memory is not at fault, our conversation
across the wire ran as follows.

"Hello!"

"Hello!"

Silence for a time and a buzzing in my ear.

"Is that you, Caroline?" from my office.

"You know best--ah--Reginald," in the sweetest tones that I could beget
in my wife’s voice.

"Hello!"

"Hello!" I returned.  "Pleasant ride down--ah--Reginald?"

"Do be serious, will you?" gruffly, from the office.

"Tell Morse to sell L stock and industrials at once.  Do you get that?"

"I’ll have to use my own judgment in that matter, Caroline."  My voice
came to me through the ’phone with its own stubborn note.

"Great Scott!" I cried, realizing that I was absolutely helpless.  "Be
careful what you do--ah--Reginald.  It’s a very treacherous market. For
heaven’s sake, sell out at once, will you?"

"I must get to work now, my dear," said my wife, gruffly.  "There’s a
heavy mail this morning, and several men are waiting to see me.  Mr.
Rogers comes in to me at once."

A cold chill ran through me, and Caroline’s voice trembled as I cried:

"Don’t see Rogers--ah--Reginald!  I haven’t decided yet what answer to
give the man.  Bluff him off, if you’ve got a spark of sense left in
you. Tell him to call at the office next week."

"Good-bye, Caroline," came my voice to me, remorselessly.  "I’ll call
you up again later. How’s your ball dress?  Does it fit you nicely?
Don’t over-exert yourself, my dear.  You weren’t looking well at
breakfast.  Ta-ta!  See you later."

I heard the uncompromising click of the receiver, and knew that my wife
had returned to my affairs.  As I turned my back to the telephone, I
felt that ruin was staring me in the face.  If Caroline played ducks and
drakes with my various stocks I stood to lose half my fortune. What a
fool I had been, engaged in a profitable business, to go into
speculation!  Had it not been for what may be considered a feeling of
false pride I should have sent Suzanne for a cocktail at once.  It
seemed to me that my masculine individuality exhausted Caroline’s
nervous energy at a most deplorable rate.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                         *SUZANNE’S BUSY DAY.*


Births have brought us richness and variety, and other births have
brought us richness and variety.--_Walt Whitman_.


Buttons, the hall-boy was accustomed to sit where he could keep one ear
on the ’phone in the library, the other on the bell in the main
entrance, and both of them on the voice of Jones, the butler. The
library stifled me, and the very sight of the telephone threatened me
with nervous prostration.

"Tell Buttons," I said to Suzanne, "to listen to the ’phone, and
if--ah--Mr. Stevens calls me up again, to let me know of it at once.
Then come to me up-stairs.  And, Suzanne, say to Buttons that if--what
was her name?--ah, yes, Louise--rings me up again to tell her I’ve got
an attack of neuralgia in my--ah--astral body, and that I’m writing to
Buddha to ask for his advice in the matter.  That’ll shut her off for
all day, I imagine."

"_Oui_, madame," murmured Suzanne, wearily. She was beginning to feel
the effects of a great nervous strain.  As I reached the door of the
library, the effort to carry myself like a lady overcame my momentary
infusion of energy.

"Suzanne," I said, "it might be well for you to bring some cracked ice
with you.  Ask Jones for it.  Tell him I have a headache, if he glares
at you."

As I mounted the stairs slowly, wondering how women manage to hold their
skirts so that their limbs move freely, a feeling of relief came over
me.  It was pleasant to get away from the floor over which Jones, the
phlegmatic and tyrannical, presided.  I had lost all fear of Suzanne,
but the butler chilled my blood.  If Caroline and I failed to obtain a
psychical exchange to-night Jones must leave the house to-morrow.
Suddenly, I stood motionless in the upper hallway and laughed aloud,
nervously.  What would Jones think could he learn that he had become
unwittingly a horror in livery to a lost soul?  The absurdity of the
reflection brought a ray of sunshine to my darkened spirit, and I
entered Caroline’s morning-room in a cheerful mood.

"Pardon me, Mrs. Stevens, but I was told to wait for you here."

A pretty girl confronted me, standing guard over a large pasteboard box
that she had placed upon a chair.

"You--ah--have something for me?" I asked, coldly.  I was beginning to
wonder where Caroline’s leisure came in.

"Your new ball-dress, Mrs. Stevens.  You promised to try it on this
morning, you remember."

"Very well!  Leave it, then.  I’ll get into it later on.  I’ve no doubt
it’ll fit me like a glove."

The girl stared at me for a moment, then recovered herself and said:

"Madame Bonari will be displeased with me, Mrs. Stevens, if I do not
return to her with the report that you find the dress satisfactory.  I
may await your pleasure, may I not?  Madame Bonari would discharge me if
I went back to her now."

"Let me see the dress, girl," I muttered, reluctantly.  To don a
ball-dress in full daylight to save a poor maiden from losing her
situation was for me to make a greater sacrifice than this dressmaker’s
apprentice could realize.

The girl opened the box, and I gazed, awestruck, at a garment that
filled me with a strange kind of terror.  There was not a great deal of
it. It was not its size that frightened me; it was the shape of the
thing that was startling.

"That’ll do, girl," I exclaimed, somewhat hysterically.
"Tell--ah--Madame Bonari that this--ah--polonaise is a howling success.
I can see at a glance that it was made for me," and added, under my
breath, "to pay for."

The girl stood rooted to the spot, gazing at me in mingled sorrow and
amazement.

"But oh, Mrs. Stevens," she cried, the tears coming into her eyes, "you
will not dismiss me this way?  I will lose my place if you do!"

I sank into a chair, torn by conflicting emotions, as a novelist would
say of his distraught heroine.

"Do you want me to climb into that thing, here and now?" I gasped.

"If madame will be so kind," murmured the girl, imploringly.

With joy, I now heard the tinkling of cracked ice against cut-glass.
Suzanne, to my great relief, entered the room.

"Suzanne," I said, courageously, "I will trouble you to tog me out in
this--ah--silk remnant. Have you got a kodak, girl?" I asked, playfully,
turning toward the astonished young dressmaker. "You’re not a yellow
reporter?"

"Oh, Mrs. Stevens!" cried the girl, deprecatingly, glancing
interrogatively at Suzanne. Perhaps the cracked ice and my eccentric
manner had aroused suspicions in her mind.

A moment later, I found myself in Caroline’s dressing-room alone with
Suzanne, who had recovered her spirits in the delight that her present
task engendered.

"Madame’s neck and arms are so beautiful!" she murmured in French,
pulling the skirt of the ball-dress, a dainty affair made of mauve silk,
with a darker shade of velvet for trimmings, into position.  "Ah, such a
wonderful hang!  It is worthy of Paris, madame."

"Don’t stop to talk, Suzanne," I grumbled. "This is indecent exposure of
mistaken identity, and I can’t stand much of it; so keep moving, will
you?"

"The corsage is a marvel, madame!" exclaimed Suzanne, ecstatically.

"It is, girl," I muttered, glancing at myself in a mirror.  "It feels
like a cross between a modern life-preserver and a mediæval
breast-plate. Don’t lace the thing so tight, Suzanne.  I’ve got to talk
now and then!"

Suzanne was too busy to listen to my somewhat delirious comments.

"It is a miracle!" she cried in French.  "Madame is a purple dream, is
she not?"

"Madame will be a black-and-blue what-is-it before you know it," I
moaned.  "Does that girl outside there expect to have a look
at--ah--this ridiculous costume?" I asked, testily.

"Madame is so strange to-day," murmured Suzanne, wearily.  "You are free
to go now, madame."

"I clutched at the train that anchored me to my place of torture, and
moved clumsily toward the room in which the young dressmaker awaited me.

"Ah!" cried the girl, as I broke upon her vision, a creature of beauty,
but very far from graceful. "Madame Bonari will be overjoyed.  The dress
is perfection, is it not, Mrs. Stevens?  I’ve never seen such a fit."

"It feels like a fit," I remarked, pantingly. "Suzanne," I called out,
desperately, "slip a few cogs in front here, will you?  This is only a
rehearsal, you know.  If I must suffocate at the ball I’ll school myself
for the occasion.  But I refuse to be a pressed flower this morning.
Thanks, that’s better.  It’s like a quick recovery from pneumonia.  You
may go, girl.  Give my compliments to Madame--ah--Bonari, and tell her
I’m on the road to recovery.  Good morning!"

Suzanne and I were alone.

"A cocktail, girl.  Quick, now!  Do you think I wanted that ice as a
musical instrument?  If I ever needed a stimulant, Suzanne, I need one
now.  Make the dose stiff, Suzanne, for I’m not as young as I was.  Do
you hear me?  Hurry!"

A rap at the door checked Suzanne in full career. We heard the strident
voice of Buttons in the hallway.

"Open the door, Suzanne," I cried, nervously, bracing myself for another
buffet from fate.

"Mr. Stevens is asking for Mrs. Stevens on the ’phone," I heard Buttons
say to Suzanne.  "He seems to be in a hurry, too."

Suzanne hastened back to me.

"I know the worst, girl!  Say nothing!" I exclaimed, petulantly.  "I
must go down-stairs in this infernal ball-dress," and the ordeal before
me filled me with consternation.  If Jones should find me skulking
around his domain in a décolleté dress at this time of day the glance of
his arrogant eyes would terrify me.  But there wasn’t time for
reflection, nor, alas! for a cocktail.  Caroline was calling vainly to
me with my voice through an unresponsive telephone.  I must go to her at
once.  Doubtless, she craved immediate advice regarding the manipulation
of my margins.  Why, oh! why, had I jeopardized my fortune for the sake
of quick returns, when my legitimate business was sufficient for my
needs?

"I fly, Suzanne!" I cried, as I stumbled toward the hall.  "If anybody
calls to ask if I’m engaged for the next dance, tell ’em my card is
full."  Suzanne smiled.  "And I wish I was!" I muttered to myself,
desperately, as I looked down the staircase and wondered if it would be
well to use my mauve train as a toboggan.

How I managed to reach the telephone, I cannot say.  In the lower hall,
I caught a glimpse of Jones’s self-made face, and just saved myself from
coming a cropper.  To acquire a firm seat in a ball-dress requires
practice.

"Hello!" I shouted, desperately, through the ’phone.  "Is that
you--ah--Reginald?"

"Jenkins is here."  I heard my voice saying at the other end of the
line.  "What’ll I do with him?"

"Send him to--ah--Hoboken, will you?" I returned, in a shrill falsetto.
"But you have the better of it, my dear.  He’s not a marker to Jones.
What have you done with the specialties?"

"Buying! buying! buying!" cried Caroline, in a triumphant basso that
froze my blood.  "Rogers gave me an inside tip, as he calls it.  It was
awfully nice of him, wasn’t it?"

"Damn Rogers!" I exclaimed.

"Good-bye!" cried Caroline, with righteous indignation, and my attempt
to call her back was futile.

My heart was heavy as I made my way, slowly and clumsily, from the
library.  Buttons, as bad luck would have it, had just opened the front
door to a black-eyed, long-haired little man, who carried a roll of
music under his arm.  As I hesitated, hoping to make good my retreat to
the library, Professor Von Gratz--as he proved to be--hurried toward me.
If he was amazed at my costume, he managed to control his mobile face
and musical voice.

"Oh, madame, I am zo glad to zee you are eager for de lezzon!" he
exclaimed, bowing almost down to his knees.  "Ve vill haf grade muzic,
nicht war?  You vill blay de vonderful Opuz 22!  Beethoven, de giant
among de pygmies, vill open de gates of baradize to us.  It vill be
beautiful.  You are ready, madame?"

My bosom rose and fell with a conflict of emotions.  I felt an almost
irresistible longing to throw this detestable little foreigner out of
the house.  The sudden realization that my biceps, etc., were at my
office cooled my ardor for action, and I said, presently, marveling at
my own ingenuity:

"I regret to say--ah--Professor, that my doctor has put me upon a very
slim musical diet.  He says that--ah--Beethoven is ruining my nerves.
But if you want to sing ’Danny Deever,’ come into the music-room.  I
think I could manage to knock out the accompaniment."

Von Gratz stared at me in most apparent agitation, pulling at his horrid
little black goatee with his left hand.

"I vill pid you gute morgen, madame," he gasped, bowing again.  "Ven you
are much petter you vill zend for me, nicht war?  Gute morgen!"

The gates of paradise were not to be opened to the professor this
morning.  On the contrary, Buttons, to my great relief, shut the front
door behind the hurrying figure of the master-pianist, whose farewell
glance of mingled astonishment and anger haunted me as I mounted the
stairs.

"Suzanne!" I gasped, as I tottered into the room in which the girl
awaited my return.  "Suzanne, unbuckle this chain-armor, will you?  It’s
breaking my heart.  That’s better, Suzanne. Oh, yes, I’m going to a
ball, all right.  Or, rather, you’re going to bring me one at once."



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                         *VERSES AND VIOLETS.*


    Oh, my brothers blooming yonder, unto Him the ancient pray
    That the hour of my transplanting He will not for long delay.
      --_From the Persian_.


Relieved of Caroline’s new ball-dress and having swallowed a cocktail, I
was horrified to find a feeling of almost irresistible drowsiness
stealing over me.

"Suzanne," I cried, "it is imperative that you keep me awake--even if is
becomes necessary for you to do the skirt-dance to drive sleep from my
eyelids.  Not that I approved of these Oriental vagaries.  Far from it,
Suzanne.  Though I may at present come under that head myself--but
_n’importe_!  You might assert, plausibly enough, that all this is
Occidental.  In a certain sense, I suppose that it is.  But--Great
Scott!"

I sank back in an easy-chair, startled by my own flippancy.  The
uncanny, inexplicable change that had made me what I was must not be
revealed to Suzanne!  Was it not enough that I had already driven my
maid to the very verge of hysteria?  And here I sat, talking recklessly
to keep awake, and wearing my secret on my sleeve. Should Suzanne learn
the truth from my punning tongue, her mind might become unhinged. In
that case, another sudden transposition of identities might take place!
Frightful possibility! I must not yield to the inclination creeping over
me to indulge in a short nap.  Perhaps Caroline’s mail would revive me!

And just here I found myself confronted by a difficult problem in
ethics.  Despite the fact that my wife, with a heartless disregard of my
wishes in the matter, had seized my letters, captured my business
office, and assumed the full possession of all my business affairs,
great and small, I could not forget that I still remained a gentleman.
That Caroline had taken advantage of a psychical mischance to lay bare
my inner life before her prying gaze could not excuse my surrender to a
not unfounded but, perhaps, unwholesome curiosity.

"Suzanne," I said presently, and the girl stole softly to my side.  "You
spoke of a letter that you had received for me.  It is--ah--from--ah?"

"Yes, madame," answered Suzanne, eagerly, but somewhat irrelevantly.
"Here it is, madame. It is from him, I feel sure."

I gazed at the envelope with Caroline’s brilliant eyes, but I was not
thankful for my temporary perfection of face and form.  It came to me
grimly that beauty may be a nuisance, or even a curse.  I lacked the
courage to open this note--an unconventional, perhaps lawless, tribute
to my my wife’s powers of fascination.  There was an air of Spanish or
Italian intrigue about the whole affair that shocked me.  My
imagination, which had developed wonderfully since early morning,
likened myself and Suzanne to Juliet and her nurse.

"O, Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou, Romeo?" I exclaimed, somewhat
wildly. Suzanne drew back from me nervously.

"Will you not read the note, madame?"

"Anon, good nurse!  But if thou mean’st not well, I do beseech thee--"

"_Mon Dieu!_" gasped Suzanne, gazing at me, awe-struck.  But I was
pitiless.

"Suzanne," I said, firmly, glancing at the note in my hand, the
chirography upon which seemed to be familiar, "Suzanne, I am very
beautiful, am I not?"

"_Oui_, madame," assented Suzanne, enthusiastically.

"And I love my husband dearly, do I not?"

"Devotedly, madame."

"Then, surely, Suzanne, I should not receive this epistle.  What did I
do with his--ah--former notes?"

I had made a most egregious blunder.  An expression of amazement came
into the French maid’s mobile face.

"But, madame, this is the first one, is it not? I know of no others,
madame."

There was a gleam of suspicion in the girl’s eyes.  It was evident that,
for a moment, she suspected my dear Caroline of a lack of
straight-forwardness.  Impulsively I tore Romeo’s note into a dozen
fragments.

"There, Suzanne."  I cried, in a triumphant treble, "my _alibi_ is
perfect.  Who wrote this note I do not know.  What he had to say I do
not care.  If you can get word to him, girl, tell him that if he comes
prowling around my balcony again I’ll have--ah--Reginald pull his nose
for him.  _A bas_ Romeo!"

"But, madame," murmured Suzanne, evidently pained by my flippant
fickleness and fickle flippancy, "monsieur, the writer of the note,
dines here to-night, you know."

"The deuce he does, girl!" I cried, impulsively, making as if to pull my
beard, and bruising my spirit against new conditions.  "Who are our
guests?  Edgerton and his wife.  It can’t be Edgerton.  He’s not a
blooming idjit.  Van Tromp?  Dear little Van Tromp!  It must be Van
Tromp.  Oh, Van Tromp, Van Tromp, wherefore art thou, Romeo?  Van
Tromp’s the man, eh, Suzanne?"

Caroline’s maid was red and tearful.

"Madame is so strange this morning," she complained.  "It was Mr. Van
Tromp’s man who brought the note, madame."

My soul waxed gay in Caroline’s bosom.  I warbled a snatch of song from
Gounod’s "Faust."

"Suzanne," I cried, "gather up the fragments of Romeo’s _billet-doux_.
Possibly his note is not what I supposed it was.  I’ll read what the
dear little boy has to say.  Thank you, Suzanne.  I think I can put
these pieces together in a way to extract the full flavor of Van Romeo’s
sweet message.  What saith the youth?  Ha!  I have it.


"’MY DEAR MRS. STEVENS: Is it presumption upon my part to believe that
you meant what you said to me at the Cromptons’ dance?  At all events, I
have had the audacity to cherish your words in my heart of hearts.  I am
sending you a few violets to-day.  If you do me the honor of wearing
them at dinner to-night, I shall know that there was a basis of
earnestness underneath the words that were as honey to my soul.’


"Listen to that, Suzanne," I cried, hysterically. "Is it not worthy of a
young poet?  I wonder what the dev--what Caro--ah--I said to
this--ah--Romeo?  Here’s richness, Suzanne!  I’ll wear his flowers--with
a string to ’em, eh? We’ll have a merry dinner, Suzanne!  I told Jones
to throw everything wide open.  I’ll include young Van Tromp in the
order.  He shall be my special care, Suzanne.  Van Tromp’s mine oyster!
What think you, Suzanne?  Should I not quaff a toast to the success of
my little game?"

"Madame, I do not understand," murmured the girl, in French.  "Madame is
feverish.  Let me bathe madame’s head, and she may get a quieting nap.
If you could lose yourself only for an instant, madame!"

"Great Jupiter, Suzanne, will you get that idea out of your head?  I
don’t want to lose myself.  On the contrary--but--_n’importe_, as we say
when we’re feverish.  You’ll find some cigarettes in the bedroom, girl.
Bring ’em to me at once.  Don’t stare at me that way!  If I don’t smoke
I’ll drink another cocktail, and then what’ll happen?"

Suzanne shuddered and hurried away.  Presently I was blowing smoke into
the air, much to my own satisfaction and to Suzanne’s ill-disguised
amazement.

"Tobacco is quieting, Suzanne; soothing, cheerful.  It stimulates hope
and calms the perturbed soul.  Damn it! what’s that? Somebody’s
knocking, Suzanne.  See who it is.  If it’s anyone for me, tell them
that I won’t draw cards this morning, but may take a hand later on.
Don’t stand staring at me, girl!  Put a stop to that rapping at once."

"_Mon Dieu!_" groaned Suzanne, as she crossed the room.  How much longer
she could stand the strain of my eccentricities was becoming
problematical.  Presently she returned to me, carrying a box of flowers.

"Romeo’s violets," I murmured, rapturously. "Tell me, nurse, did Juliet
mean what she said to Romeo?  Well, rather!  I’ll wear thy flowers,
little boy!  What’s this?  Another note, smothered in violets.  Listen,
Suzanne!  Romeo has dropped into poetry.  Listen:

    "’Go, purple blossoms, the glory of Spring,
      Gladden her eyes with thy velvety hue;
    What are the words of the song that I sing?
      They came to my heart as the dew came to you.

    "’My love is a flower, my song is its scent;
      Let it speak to her soul in the violet’s breath!
    And my spirit with thee, by a miracle blent,
      Shall drink deep of life, of love unto death.’


"Take these away, Suzanne!  Take them away!" I cried, in a panic.
"Haven’t I had enough of this theosophical, transmigration idiocy for
one day?  Take them away!  ’By a miracle blent!’  Confound the boy! if I
got into that little Van Tromp’s body through these infernal flowers I
could never hold up my head again. What’s that, Suzanne?  Yes, keep them
fresh. Give them water.  But don’t let me get near them again until I’ve
got my courage back.  Perhaps I’ll dare to wear them to-night.  I can’t
say yet."

I needed rest.  Reclining in my chair, I idly watched Suzanne as she
moved restlessly about the room trying to quiet her excitement by
action.

"Suzanne," I cried, softening toward the maid, "don’t look so sad.  All
will come right in the end.  Brace up, girl.  ’While there’s life
there’s hope.’"

"Do I look sad, madame?  I am very sorry. I will try to be more
cheerful, for madame’s sake. But if madame could put herself into my
place for a moment--"

"There you go again, Suzanne," I exclaimed, testily.  "We’ll change the
subject, girl.  What next?"

"I think it might be well for madame to dress for luncheon," suggested
Suzanne, nervously.  It was evident that she had begun to lose
confidence in my intervals of calm.

"Let me think, Suzanne.  Somebody lunches with me.  Who is it?  Oh, yes,
Mrs. Taunton. And now I think of it, Suzanne, Mrs. Taunton is little Van
Tromp’s sister.  That’s the reason I never liked her, I suppose."

"But madame and Mrs. Taunton seem to be such good friends," remarked
Suzanne, in French, moving about in a way that filled me with
foreboding.  It was evident that she contemplated changing my costume at
once.

"Appearances are often deceptive, Suzanne," I remarked, feelingly,
lighting a fresh cigarette, somewhat clumsily.  "What are you up to now,
girl?"

"Madame must look her best at luncheon," remarked Suzanne,
professionally.  "Mrs. Taunton has such exquisite taste."

I was not pleased at Suzanne’s remark. Mrs. Taunton, an avowed admirer
of Caroline, had never disguised the fact that she considered me a
nonentity.  But fate had vouchsafed to me a great opportunity for
proving to Mrs. Taunton that I was not altogether insignificant.
Disguised in Caroline’s outward seeming I might readily avenge myself
for Mrs. Taunton’s persistent indifference to my good points.  Little
Van Tromp had placed a double-edged weapon in my hand.

"Suzanne," I said, gazing grimly at the dress that she had laid out for
me, "before you go further with my toilet, I wish you would make a copy
of these verses for me.  You write English, do you not?"

Suzanne glanced at me, inquisitively.

"Madame knows well that I do," she remarked, mournfully.  But the
trembling of her slender hand as she grasped Van Tromp’s screed to do my
bidding augured ill for the copy that she would make of his verses.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                     *IRRITATION AND CONSOLATION.*


    Waste not your hour, nor in the vain pursuit
    Of this and that endeavor and dispute;
      Better be merry with the fruitful grape
    Than sadden after none, or bitter fruit.
        --_Omar Kháyyám_.


I must get on more rapidly with my narrative. It has been a great
temptation to me to indulge in conjectures and surmises regarding the
soul-displacement that may make my story a presentment worthy of
attentive consideration from the Society for Psychical Research.  But
from the outset I have endeavored to resist this inclination and to give
to the reader merely a bald statement of facts in their actual sequence.
It must be apparent by this time, furthermore, that I am not fitted by
education to discuss the uncanny problems begotten by the strange
affliction that had befallen my wife and myself.  That I have become
perforce a sadder and wiser man may be true, but, despite my practical
experience of what may be called instability of soul, I am not in any
sense a psychologist.  From various points of view; therefore, it seems
best that I should eschew all philosophical or scientific comments on
the curious phenomena with which I have been forced to deal, leaving, as
it were, the circumference of my story to the care of the erudite, and
confining my own endeavors strictly to its diameter.

Behold me, then, fresh from Suzanne’s deft hands, confronting Caroline’s
bosom friend, Mrs. Taunton, across the luncheon-table.  Our
conversation, if my memory is not at fault, ran something as follows:

"You look flushed and excited, Caroline," said Mrs. Taunton, a large,
blond, absurdly haughty woman, strangely unlike little Van Tromp, her
poetical brother.  "Something has happened to upset you, my dear?"

"Well, rather!" I could not refrain from exclaiming.  What the deuce was
Mrs. Taunton’s given name?  If I did not recall it soon she would begin
to wonder at Caroline’s peculiar bearing. It was not Mrs. Taunton,
however, who was driving me toward hysteria.  To find myself again in
the realm over which the phlegmatic but terrifying Jones presided was to
lose confidence in my ability to stem the tide of disaster.  Jones was
so conservative!  Such a radical change as I had undergone would be even
more incomprehensible to him than it had been to me.  I realized vaguely
that I had grown to be supersensitive, and that what I took to be
suspicion in the butler’s eyes must be a product of my own overwrought
nerves.  But, struggle as I might against the impression, I could not
free myself from the feeling that Jones watched me furtively,
questioningly, as if he had gained possession of a clue to a great
mystery.

"Tell me all about it, Caroline," urged Mrs. Taunton, sweetly.  "If you
were not so beautiful, my dear, you would not have so much trouble."

The blood rushed into Caroline’s cheeks, and I found myself glaring
angrily at Jones, who was serving croquettes to Mrs. Taunton.  The
latter had displayed the most wretched taste in praising my, or rather
Caroline’s, appearance before the butler.  But Mrs. Taunton evidently
looked upon a servant as a mere automaton, not to be considered even in
heart-to-heart talks with young women.  My growing annoyance made itself
manifest in Caroline’s voice, as I stammered:

"My--ah--beauty, such as it is, don’t you know, is only--ah--skin deep.
But my troubles--ah--  Jones!  Don’t be so slow!  Spend as much time
outside as you can, will you?"

Mrs. Taunton stared at me in amazement, while Jones, showing no signs of
emotion, made a most dignified exit.

"What is the matter with you, Caroline?" asked my _vis-à-vis_,
anxiously.  "I never heard you speak like that before."

An explanation seemed to be due to my guest.

"It’s curious, don’t you know," I began, lamely, trying to recall Mrs.
Taunton’s baptismal name, "it’s curious--ah--my dear, what an intense
repulsion I feel toward that man Jones. It came upon me suddenly.  It’s
intermittent, not chronic, I think, but it’s all there, and means
business.  Did you ever feel that way?"

"Caroline!" gasped Mrs. Taunton, pained surprise resting upon her
patrician face.

"It’s beneath me, I acknowledge," I went on, feverishly, making an
effort to eat a croquette between sentences.  "A butler’s merely a
necessary piece of movable furniture, and should--ah--not arouse a
feeling of antagonism.  But Jones has got an eye to--ah--induce
intoxication."

"Caroline," queried Mrs. Taunton, solemnly, "have you--forgive me, my
dear, for the question--have you been taking anything?"

"A fair exchange is no robbery," I remarked, impulsively, in my own
defense, but Mrs. Taunton’s face assured me that I had spoken
irrelevantly.

"I should advise a cup of black coffee, Caroline," said my guest, in her
iciest tone.

"We’ll wait a bit, if you don’t mind," I ventured to suggest.  "No
coffee without Jones. I’m not quite up to Jones at this moment--er--my
dear."

Mrs. Taunton held my gaze to hers, and her light-gray eyes chilled me.
It was evident that little Van Tromp’s sister had no poetical nonsense
in her make-up.  Practical, obstinate, strong-willed she seemed to be,
as she endeavored to solve from Caroline’s beautiful eyes the mystery of
my eccentric demeanor.

"Your sudden and inexplicable aversion to your butler, Caroline,"
remarked my guest, presently, apparently desirous of soothing my nerves
by a poultice of gossip, "reminds me of the lecture upon Buddhism that I
heard yesterday morning.  An adept from India--Yamama, I think, is his
name--talked to us, you know, about our Western blindness, as he called
it, to the marvels of soul-sensitiveness."

My fork rattled against my plate, and I gazed down in dismay at
Caroline’s trembling hand. Mrs. Taunton overlooked my agitation and
continued:

"He was so entertaining!  But it’s all absurd, of course.  Louise told
me that you were going with her to hear him this morning."

"Yes?" I managed to gasp.  "She--ah--Louise called me up by the ’phone.
I couldn’t get away, you see--ah--my dear."

"It’s such utter nonsense, don’t you know," went on Mrs. Taunton,
evidently convinced that the worst was over with me.  "I made notes,
just for practice.  He--the adept, or whatever he was--was a lovely
piece of mahogany, with perfectly stunning eyes.  I memorized one of my
notes.  The dear little brownie said--just listen to this, Caroline:
’The Hindu conception of reincarnation embraces all existence--gods,
men, animals, plants, minerals.  It is believed that everything
migrates, from Buddha down to inert matter.  Buddha himself was born an
ascetic eighty-three times, a monarch fifty-eight times, the soul of a
tree forty-three times, and many other times as an ape, deer, lion,
snipe, chicken, eagle, serpent, pig, frog--four hundred times in all!’
Isn’t it all perfectly silly?  Good gracious, Caroline, what is the
matter with you?  Are you faint?"

"Just a bit rocky," I found sufficient nerve to say.  "Are you quite
sure--ah--my dear--that he said pigs--and--and--frogs?"

Mrs. Taunton caught her breath, as if she struggled to swallow her
amazement.

"You ought to be in bed, Caroline," she said, severely.  "If you could
get to sleep, my dear--"

"_Et tu, Brute!_" I murmured, with sardonic playfulness.  "Look
here--ah--my dear!  You find a change in your Caroline, eh?  You have
suspected me of drinking, and now you imply that I need sleep.  I swear
that the next person who hints that I’m not up for all day shall hear
something to--ah--her disadvantage."

Such talk was madness.  Mrs. Taunton very naturally resented my childish
ultimatum.  She arose from her chair with a cool, calm dignity that
shocked me like a cold shower-bath.

"I regret, Caroline, that I find my patience exhausted," she remarked,
more in sadness than in wrath, transfixing me with her pale-gray eyes.
"I shall leave you now, but not in anger.  I can see, plainly enough,
that you are not yourself."

"Don’t you dare to say that in public--ah--Mrs. Taunton," I cried,
hotly, fearful that, as it was, Jones might have overheard her remark.
Reason assured me that her words were used figuratively, but the
undeniable fact that she had hit the target and rung the bell drove me
to desperation.  Mrs. Taunton gazed at me for a moment in mingled scorn
and astonishment, and then swept from the dining-room with head high in
air and a rustle of skirts that seemed to sweep Caroline into outer
darkness.

The next thing that I remember, as the flamboyant romancers remark, was
an entrance even more theatrical than Mrs. Taunton’s exit.  Jones,
impressing my errant fancy as Nemesis in the semblance of an imported
butler, strode into the room bearing a tray upon which rested a
coffee-pot, the aroma from which stirred hope in my heart.  Much as I
detested Jones, I welcomed the stimulant that he carried toward me.  If
Mrs. Taunton’s disappearance surprised him, he succeeded in suppressing
any outward exhibition of emotion.

Realizing for the moment that my fear of the man was unreasonable, I
summoned common sense to my aid and said:

"One good bracer deserves another, Jones. Put a stick into my coffee,
will you?"

The butler gave me a furtive glance, a cross between an exclamation and
an interrogation.

"Brandy, madam?" he asked, smoothly.

When he had fortified my coffee with a dash of fine old French cognac, I
looked him straight in the eye.

"Jones," I said, impressively, "Mr. Stevens has complained of you of
late.  But I don’t want you to lose your place.  I shall see to it that
my--ah--husband becomes reconciled to you, but you must obey my
instructions to the letter.  To begin with, you are to leave this room
at once, close the door, stand on guard outside and allow no one to
disturb me until I give you word.  If you open the door before I call to
you, you leave the house immediately.  Do you understand me?"

"Yes, madam," gasped Jones, thrown out of his orbit for once.  But he
retained sufficient self-control to make a hurried exit, noisily
shutting the door behind him.

I swallowed my coffee--and cognac--at a gulp, and stumbled toward the
sideboard.  After a short search I came upon a box of excellent cigars.
Presently I was seated at the luncheon-table again, sipping a pony of
brandy neat and blowing cigar-smoke into the air.  For a glorious
half-hour, I reflected joyously, I could enjoy myself in my own way.
Glancing over my shoulder, I caught sight of my reflection in the
sideboard mirror.  Caroline, with a long, black panatella between her
beautiful lips, held a pony of brandy poised in the air, with the other
hand raised to remove the cigar from her mouth.  An inexplicable wave of
diabolical exultation swept over me.  Bowing to my wife’s handsome
image--which cordially returned the salutation--I removed my cigar and
raised the brandy to Caroline’s mouth.

"Here’s how, my dear!" I cried, gaily.  "No heel-taps!"

Caroline’s reflection drank the toast, and the warm glow of
good-fellowship that crept through my veins reconciled me for the time
being to my strange, uncanny fate.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                         *NEWS FROM CAROLINE.*


      Young and enterprising is the West,
    Old and meditative is the East.
      Turn, O youth! with intellectual zest
    Where the sage invites thee to his feast.
        --_Milnes_.


On the whole, I enjoyed my cigar.  The waters of affliction had rolled
over me and I basked in the sunshine of peaceful comfort for a full
half-hour.  Under like conditions, many good fellows of my set would
have toyed too freely with the cognac.  But I was cautious and
conservative as regards the liquor.  I glanced at Caroline’s face, which
wore a humorous smile as it gazed at me from the mirror.

"Spirits," I cried, facetiously, winking at Caroline’s reflection, and
receiving a winking response, "spirits are to be handled with care, my
dear.  There’s no telling what they may do to us."

At first I derived considerable amusement from the grotesque effects
that I could obtain from the juxtaposition of my cigar and Caroline’s
delicate face.  If it was a kind of sacrilege to sit there and watch the
smoke issuing from my wife’s dainty lips, I comforted my better self
with the thought that I was in no way to blame for existing conditions.
If the sideboard’s mirror at that moment framed a picture that might
have been taken from the _Police Gazette_, was I not powerless to alter
the decrees of fate?  I had come into my wife’s butterfly-beauty without
first sloughing off my gross chrysalis-habits.

I playfully shook my fist at the accusatory mirror.

"It’s no reflection on me," I murmured, jocosely. A sickly kind of smile
flitted across Caroline’s face, driving me to a stimulant again.  I
poured out a pony of brandy.

"To drink or not to drink--that is the question," I soliloquized;
observing with satisfaction that Shakespeare tended to remove the
expression of untimely hilarity in my wife’s countenance. "O Romeo,
wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

A joyful gleam came into Caroline’s eyes as I thought of Van Tromp.  I
swallowed the cognac and presently saw a flush creep into my wife’s
cheeks.  The sight angered me.

"If two or three fingers of old brandy show themselves at once in
this--ah--borrowed face of mine," I reflected, "I might as well take the
pledge at once.  Caroline," I continued, addressing my remarks to the
mirror, "I am ashamed of you. If you don’t quit this kind of thing,
you’ll lose your complexion--and what’ll poor robin do then?  I am
ashamed of you, Caroline.  I really didn’t think that you’d go so far."

It suddenly came to me that I was talking in a most idiotic way, and I
turned Caroline’s left shoulder to the mirror.  Resisting the temptation
to follow the changing expressions of her face, I watched the smoke from
my cigar as it floated across the luncheon-table or mounted toward the
ceiling.  At the outset, I derived a good deal of satisfaction from the
change of attitude.  My thoughts assumed a healthier tendency.  The
morbid, half-crazy inclinations that my mind had begun to display passed
away and something like contentment with the present and hope for the
future came gently to me.  Even the question that would force itself
upon me now and again as to what Caroline might be doing or undoing at
my office failed to destroy wholly the pleasurable calm begotten of
solitude, cognac and tobacco. I even found myself contemplating
Caroline’s white, tapering fingers, outstretched to flip the ashes from
my panatella, with a satisfaction that was a strange compound of pride
and jealousy. I could not refrain from an unworthy sense of delight at
the thought that Caroline was being punished for her brazen defiance of
my wishes every time she glanced at my hands.

But I had become a creature of changing moods, a prey to errant fancies.
As I realized that my cigar--shrinking reminder of happier days--was
nearly smoked out, and that my term of comparative freedom drew toward
its end, the fever of impotent rebellion burned in my veins--if they
were mine.  To a practical, energetic individual, accustomed to having
his own way in small matters and great, the recurrent conviction that he
has become the plaything of mischief-loving powers concerning which he
knows little or nothing is not conducive to long intervals of repose.  I
was growing restless again, eager for action, but afraid to indulge in
it; craving news of Caroline, but lacking courage to obtain it.

Suddenly a startling thought flashed upon my darkened mind,
illuminating, convincing, explanatory.  Caroline and her friends had
been dipping into Oriental philosophy.  Was it not more than probable
that my wife had deliberately planned a soul-transposition that had
ensured her freedom and made me a captive?

The longer I contemplated this supposition, the stronger grew my belief
that Caroline had attempted a psychical experiment, the success of which
accounted for her haughty, domineering manner after breakfast.  It was
clear enough, now, as I looked back upon the episodes that I have been
recording.  My wife’s horror at the discovery of our soul-transposition
had been merely a clever bit of acting.  Her seizure of my mail and
insistence upon a visit to my office had been parts of a well-laid plan.
It was evident that she had become an adept in the theory and practice
of transmigration, and had sacrificed me beneath the Juggernaut of her
eccentric ambition.  If she found the life of a business man attractive,
I was at her mercy, doomed to skirts and corsets until she wearied of my
career. Furthermore, it was not unreasonable to suppose that, while
Caroline had acquired sufficient diabolical power to transpose our
identities, she had not gained enough occult wisdom to restore our souls
to their respective bodies.  If that should prove to be the case, if she
was only half-educated as a psychical switch-tender, the future for me
became dark indeed.  I could see before me a long stretch of weary,
hopeless years, down which I tottered toward a welcome grave, solaced
only now and then by the creature-comforts that I loved, the while
Caroline made merry with my affairs.  Beset day after day by Suzanne,
Mrs. Taunton and other women in various stages of imbecility, I should
be driven to desperation at last and bring disgrace, in some form or
other, upon a proud name.

And how cleverly Caroline had played her little game!  Had I not often
complained loudly of the annoyances appertaining to a business man’s
life? Could not Caroline silence my accusing tongue with the assertion
that she had presented me with a life of luxurious leisure, to take up
burdens and responsibilities under which I had always grumbled?  Had I
not often protested against the new woman’s efforts to better her
condition, on the ground that woman had long enjoyed more special
privileges than fell to the lot of man?  I was forced to acknowledge
that, even if Caroline was responsible for our psychical interchange, I
could not remain consistent and utter any very emphatic complaint.  She
would fall back upon my own propositions and prove conclusively, quoting
my remarks, that, whatever may be the case with his soul, it may profit
a man to lose his own body.

A hot wave of impotent anger swept through me, and I turned in a rage
toward the mirror. The expression that my rebellious soul had thrust
into Caroline’s face destroyed the last vestige of my self-control.
Seizing a carafe from the table, I hurled it at the sideboard, and my
wife’s face disappeared in a chaos of broken looking-glass.

Horrified at my recklessness, I hurried toward the door as rapidly as my
skirts would permit. In the hall stood Jones, motionless, phlegmatic,
gazing at me with a calmness that had in it something of superiority.

"Go in there--ah--butler, and make yourself useful," I cried, angrily,
as I brushed past him to seek the library.  "Don’t be so damned
statuesque!"

A few moments later, I had hooked Caroline at the end of a telephone
wire.

"When are you coming up-town--ah--my dear?" I managed to gasp, with some
show of diplomacy.

"Is that you, Caroline?" asked my wife, with my voice, which I was
foolishly glad to hear again.  "I’ve got good news for you.  I’m twenty
thousand ahead on the day--and every transaction is cleaned out."

"Great Scott!" I exclaimed, forgetting my suspicions and rage in the
amazement that her words had caused.

"I’ll stop at the club on the way up," went on Caroline, in a deep basso
that vibrated with a note of intense self-satisfaction.  "Have you had a
pleasant day?  How’s Mrs. Taunton?  By the way, my dear, Edgerton was
here a few moments ago.  Mrs. Edgerton has a treat in store for us
to-night."

A chill of apprehension swept over me.

"What do you mean--ah--Reginald?" I faltered.

"She went to the lecture this morning, Caroline," explained my wife,
glibly.  "She is awfully clever, don’t you think?  She made him promise
to look in on us at nine to-night."

"Him?  Who’s him?" I cried, cold with dread.

"Yamama," answered my voice, exultantly.

"Good God, Caroline!" I yelled through the ’phone, but my wife had cut
me off.

Stumbling into a chair, I rested Caroline’s aching head upon her moist,
trembling hand.

"Yamama!" I murmured, terror-stricken. "He’s the chocolate-colored adept
that Mrs. Taunton referred to.  Pigs!  Frogs!  He’s the scoundrel that
put Caroline up to this.  He is coming here to look at me!  Damn him!"

Excess of emotion had undone me.  I felt the hot tears scorching
Caroline’s cold hand.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                          *AFTERNOON CALLERS.*


    Still in dreams it comes upon me that I once on wings did soar;
    But or e’er my flight commences this my dream must all be o’er.
      --_From the Persian_.


As I look back upon it now, that afternoon wears the aspect of a
variegated nightmare, from which I could not awaken.

"What will madame wear this afternoon?" Suzanne had asked me when I had
returned to my apartments above-stairs.

I kicked viciously at the empty air with one of Caroline’s dainty feet.
The time had come, evidently, for Suzanne to change my costume again.
Should I take a ride or a walk, or remain at home?  If I went out for a
ride, I should have only my own bitter thoughts for company.  If I took
a stroll up the Avenue, almost anything unpleasant might happen to me.
If I stayed in the house, I must receive callers.  No one of these
alternatives was alluring, but I was forced to choose the latter.  For a
number of rather vague reasons, I did not dare to cut off my line of
communication with Caroline.  She had become, as it were, a flying
column not yet out of touch with headquarters.

"And she ought to be shot for disobedience to orders," I mused, aloud.

"Pardon me, madame?" exclaimed Suzanne, interrogatively.

"_N’importe_, girl," I answered, testily.  "I shall remain at home,
Suzanne.  Give orders down-stairs that I have a headache and can receive
no one."

"But Madame is looking so much better!" protested Suzanne.  "And the
débutantes will call to-day.  It is madame’s afternoon."

"Well, do your worst, then," I grumbled, discontentedly.  "Can you get
me some cloves, Suzanne?"

An hour later, I entered the drawing-room after a perilous descent from
the second story, to confront three young women, who, I had gathered
from Suzanne, held Caroline in high esteem as a chaperon.  I had
committed their names to memory before leaving the dressing-room, but
the effort to get down-stairs without spraining my wife’s ankles had
obliterated from my mind all traces of its recent acquisition.  I stood,
flushing painfully, gazing into the smiling faces of three handsome,
modish girls who were wholly strangers to their vicarious hostess.

"Oh, Mrs. Stevens, what a charming day!"

"How lovely you are looking!"

"Wasn’t the Crompton dance perfectly stunning?"

"Mr. Van Tromp made such a pretty epigram about your costume!"

"Just a moment--ah--girls," I gasped, seating myself awkwardly, and
inclined to lose my temper.  "There’s a painful lack of method about all
this.  Suppose we begin at the beginning. You were saying--ah--my
dear--?" I remarked to the calmest of the trio.  The latter exchanged
puzzled glances with her companions.

"I was speaking of the compliment that Mr. Van Tromp paid to you,"
explained the maiden, rather dolefully.

"He’s a bad lot, that young Van Tromp," I exclaimed, impulsively.
"Perhaps I ought not to talk against another man--ah--behind her--I mean
his--back, but Van Romeo’s too easy, girls.  He writes poetry.  I have
no doubt that he makes puns.  Charming--ah--day, isn’t it?"

My beautiful callers had lost their vivacity. One of them--a pretty
little brunette--had grown pale.

"What about the coaching-party, Mrs. Stevens?" the one I took to be the
eldest of the three ventured to ask, presently.

"It’s all arranged--ah--my dear," I answered, recklessly.  "We’re to
have a dozen cases of champagne and a brass band of ten pieces.  I’m up
for all day, you see.  If little Van Tromp praised my executive
ability--ah--girls, he’d have a career open to him.  Merrily we’ll bowl
along, bowl along--I’m to handle the reins, you know."

There were now three pallid maidens confronting me.  In the eyes of the
eldest I saw a gleam of mingled suspicion and fear.

"I must be going," she gasped.

"Don’t go," I implored her, overacting my hospitable role a bit.  There
flashed through my mind a scene from a Gilbert-Sullivan opera--"The
Mikado"--and I caught myself humming the air of "Three Little Girls from
School Are We."

Jones, to my consternation, stalked into the drawing-room, as if about
to reprove me for my lack of dignity.

"Pardon me, madame," said my _bête noir_, pompously, "but Mr. Stevens
insists upon your coming to the telephone."

My callers were on their feet, instantly.  They appeared to be glad of
an excuse for leaving me, and, also, somewhat astonished at the butler’s
choice of words.

"Don’t let us keep you a moment," cried the eldest.

"Remember me to Mr. Stevens," urged the little brunette, mischievously.

"Good-bye!  We are so grateful to you, Mrs. Stevens," exclaimed the
third, with a sigh of relief.

"Be good!" I answered, gaily.  "Come again--ah--young ladies.  Don’t
mind Jones.  You’ll get used to him.  Look in next month, won’t you?
Ta-ta!"

I stumbled over my skirts as I stepped forward, and the little flock of
débutantes hurried away in affright, glancing over their shoulders at me
in a manner that suggested gossip to come.

"Hello!" I shouted through the ’phone, when I had managed to reach the
library.  "Is that you--ah--Reginald?  Where are you?"

"Yes.  This is Reginald," I heard my voice in answer.  "I’m at the
’Varsity Club.  Charming place.  Nice boys here.  You seem to be
popular, my dear.  ’Here’s to you, good as you are, and here’s to me,
bad as I am; but as good as you are, and as bad as I am, I’m as good as
you are, bad as I am!’"

"Good Lord--ah--ah--Reginald!" I faltered, horror-stricken.

"Don’t worry, Caroline," came my voice, soothingly.  "It’s all right.  I
know when to stop.  Had any callers?  This is your day at home, is it
not?"

"I’ll send the coupé for you at once--ah--Reginald," I said, with great
presence of mind. "Go easy till it arrives, will you?"

"What do you mean to imply, Caroline?" growled my wife, a note of anger
in my voice. "I’m going to walk home by-and-bye.  You needn’t bother
about the coupé.  I hear the boys calling to me.  Here’s to you, my
dear!  Good-bye!"

Before I could utter another word, Caroline had cut me off, and I turned
from the ’phone, despondently.  For a moment, it seemed to me that the
library was surrounded by an iron grating and that I wore a ball and
chain attached to my legs.  Caroline and "the Old Crowd!"  I am forced
to confess that the hot tears came into my wife’s eyes as I seated
myself in a reading-chair and found myself face to face with a
loneliness that was provocative of despair.

Jones was hot on the scent.  He strode into the library and bore down
upon me relentlessly, carrying a tray upon which rested two
calling-cards.

"They are in the drawing-room, madame," said the butler, indifferently.

Caroline’s toast came ringing to my ears. "Here’s to you, good as you
are, and here’s to me, bad as I am!"  And here I sat, bullied by Jones
and the plaything of a lot of light-headed women of all ages.  For one
wild, feverish, moment the thought of revolt darted through my mind.  I
might faint, or have a fit, and Jones would be forced to dismiss my
callers.  But I quickly realized that I was not up to a brilliant
histrionic effort.  Even as it was, I was playing another’s role with
but indifferent success.

Two elderly women, richly garbed, arose as I reentered the drawing-room.

"I’m so glad to see you--ah--my dears," I said, in a voice pitched to
indicate cordiality. One of my callers tossed her head haughtily, while
the prim mouth of her companion fell open. This was not encouraging, and
I remained silent. We stared at each other for a long, agonizing moment.

"How do you do?" I began again, with much less assurance.  "Go away,
little girls," kept running through my mind from that diabolical,
tinkling "Mikado."

"We are very well, I believe," remarked Mrs. Martin, as she proved to
be, coldly.  "I think I may answer for Mrs. Smythe’s health."

"I am in perfect health," exclaimed Mrs. Smythe, with emphasis, staring
at me in a superior kind of way.

"There’s nothing like perfect health--ah--my friends," I said, in a
high, almost hysterical, falsetto.  "Who is it who says that a man is as
old as he feels and a woman as old as she looks?"

"Whoever said it, Mrs. Stevens, did us a great injustice," commented
Mrs. Martin, with some warmth.  "I am as young in spirit as I was ten
years ago, but I don’t look it."

"No, you don’t look it," I hastened to remark, cordially; but my comment
was not well received. Mrs. Martin glanced at Mrs. Smythe, and they
stood erect on the instant.

"You’re not going--ah--my dears?" I cried, thinking it too good to be
true.

"You will pardon the liberty that I am about to take, Mrs. Stevens,"
began Mrs. Martin, sternly, "but it seems only fair to you that we
should ask a question before leaving you.  You are out of sorts to-day?
Not quite yourself, are you?"

"Not quite," I answered, drawing myself up to Caroline’s full height and
struggling against an inclination to give vent to wild, feverish
laughter. "I may say--Mrs.--ah--my dear--that I’m not quite myself.  Not
quite!  It’ll pass off.  I have every reason to believe it’ll pass off.
But you’re right.  I’m not quite myself."

My frankness, which appalled me as I thought of it afterward, seemed to
have a soothing effect upon my callers.

"You really do too much, Mrs. Stevens," remarked Mrs. Smythe, in a
motherly way.  "You should try to get a nap at once."

"Your nerves are affected," Mrs. Martin added, speaking gently.  "You
are overdoing things.  Did you ever try the rest cure?"

"Yes.  I’ve been giving it a chance to-day," I confessed.  "But it
doesn’t work.  I can’t sleep in the daytime.  Bear that in mind--ah--my
dear.  Don’t talk to me about a nap.  As I said to
Caroline--ah--Reginald, I’m up for all day. But you know what nerves
are, do you not?"

Mrs. Martin again glanced furtively at Mrs. Smythe, and without more ado
they swept out of the drawing-room.

I dropped into a chair, a feeling of relief mingled with self-disgust
sweeping over me.  I realized that I had been making a sad botch of the
part that I had attempted to play.  At that moment, heavy footsteps
behind me aroused me from my black-and-white revery.  Two large, hot
hands were placed over my eyes, and the end of a beard tickled
Caroline’s forehead.

"Guess who it is?" I heard my deep voice saying.  "Here’s to you, good
as you are!"

"Caroline!" I exclaimed, conflicting emotions agitating my soul.

"Guess again, little woman," said my wife, playfully, in my voice.
"They call me ’Reggie’ at the club."



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                           *RECRIMINATIONS.*


    We know these things are so, we ask not why,
    But act and follow as the dream goes on.
      --_Milnes_.


"Yes, I’ve had a simply perfect day, my dear," remarked Caroline,
frankly, as we left the library to ascend to our second-story suite.
"I’ve made twenty thousand dollars--by not taking your advice--and as to
the ’Old Crowd’ at the ’Varsity Club, I think they’re really charming.
I’ve been doing a good deal of miscellaneous thinking, my dear, and I’m
convinced that women have a great future before them."

"What women?" I cried, impatiently, as I tripped against the top stair
and caught my better half by the tail of my coat.

"You’ll do better with practice," remarked Caroline, soothingly.  "I’m
sure you enjoyed the day.  Who has been here?"

"That’ll keep," I answered, resisting an inclination to tweak my own
nose.  "Where’s Jenkins?"

Caroline indulged in a hoarse chuckle.

"Jenkins has gone to Hoboken.  He won’t be back for at least a month.  I
think I can get on without a man.  How’s Suzanne?"

We had come to a standstill in the upper hall, just outside of the main
door to our private rooms.

"How’ll you manage to dress for dinner?" I asked, gazing at my flushed,
triumphant face with sharply contrasted emotions.  I was glad to see it
again, but I did not like Caroline’s way of using it.

"I’m very quick to learn," answered my voice, tauntingly.  "You must
admit, my dear, that I’ve been a success to-day.  You don’t think that
I’m to be overcome by a man’s dinner costume?"

A chill ran through me, and Caroline’s voice trembled as I said:

"What do you--ah--think I’d better wear to-night? Suzanne’ll ask me
presently."

A jovial laugh greeted my words.  The humorous side of our horrible
plight seemed to be always apparent to Caroline.

"You must be sure to do me credit, my dear boy," said my wife, gruffly.
"You’ve glanced over my wardrobe, have you not?"

The hot blood came into my adopted cheeks at the suggestion.

"I--I’ve been too--ah--busy to look into the--ah--matter," I faltered.
"Damn it, Caroline, don’t be so confoundedly superior!  I’m crushed and
discouraged.  That’s straight.  Give me a word of advice, will you?
What shall I wear to-night?  I don’t want to make a fool of myself
before Suzanne."

"Poor Suzanne!" growled Caroline, somewhat irrelevantly, I thought.
"She must have had a day of it!  Tell her you’ll wear the dress I wore
at the Leonards’ dinner-party last week. You needn’t say much about my
hair.  Suzanne’ll know what to do with it."

Her hand, or rather mine, was on the knob of the door, when a hideous
and persistent horror that had haunted me for some time forced me to
say, in Caroline’s most insistent treble:

"Why--oh, why--did you allow Edgerton to ask that infernal Yamama to
come here to-night? It was madness, Caroline."

"Call me Reginald," interposed my wife, coolly.

"It was madness, I say--ah--Reginald.  It was that--or worse."

My heart beat fast in Caroline’s bosom.

"What do you mean?" asked my wife, thrusting my face forward, and
transfixing me with my own eyes.

"You’ve enjoyed the day, haven’t you?" I asked, my temper overcoming my
prudence. "Well, I haven’t.  I’ve been driven nearly crazy by a lot of
fool women, while you’ve had the time of your life."

"I don’t follow you," remarked my wife, severely.

"That’s just it," I cried, angrily.  "You lead me, and I’m forced to
follow you.  I tell you frankly that I’ve grown suspicious.  You’ve been
studying Oriental mysticism.  You’ve been to lectures and séances, and,
for all I know, you may be a favorite pupil of this chocolate-drop,
Yamama."

My wife drew herself up to my full height, and gazed down at me,
freezingly.

"You mean to imply, Mrs. Stevens," she remarked, with studied coldness,
"that I was deliberately responsible for what happened this morning, or
last night?"

"Don’t dare to call me Mrs. Stevens, Caroline," I whispered, shaking
with futile rage.  "If I have suspected you, have I not had sufficient
circumstantial evidence?  Mrs. Taunton tells me that this rascally fakir
Yamama turns people into pigs, frogs, any old thing.  And you’ve allowed
Edgerton to bring him here to-night!  I don’t believe that you have the
slightest desire to--ah--change back again."

My wife laughed aloud in my most disagreeable manner.

"Here’s to you, good as you are, and here’s to me, bad as I am!" she
cried, with most untimely geniality, and, without more ado, threw open
the door to our apartments.  In the center of the room stood Suzanne,
pale but self-contained, awaiting my advent.  For a moment, a mad
project tempted me.  If I rushed downstairs and had a fit in the lower
hall, I might escape many of the horrors that the evening threatened to
bring with it.  But if I took this heroic course a doctor would be
called in.  On the whole, I preferred Suzanne to a physician.

I realize, clearly enough, that I lack the ability to keep or reject
data with the unerring judgment of the professional story-teller.  I
should like to give to my testimony a somewhat artistic structure, but I
am hampered in this inclination by the necessity of following the actual
sequence of events.  Being neither a novelist nor a scientist, I am in
danger of making an amorphous presentment of facts that shall fail
either to convince the psychologist or entertain the idle reader of an
empty tale.  On the whole, I am prone to make sacrifices in behalf of
the latter.  My natural inclination is toward Art rather than toward
Science, and for this reason I shall remain silent regarding the petty
episodes of the hour that followed my talk with Caroline.  As it is, my
narrative is overweighted with what may be called details of the toilet.

At half-after six my wife and I entered our drawing-room under a flag of
truce.  The annoyances that had hampered Caroline’s unaided efforts to
don my evening clothes had had a beneficial effect upon her exultant,
overbearing tendencies.  She was subdued in manner to the verge of
gloom.

"Why are you so downhearted, my dear?" I asked.  "Don’t you like--ah--my
appearance?"

"Which appearance?" growled Caroline, glaring at me.  "Are the studs in
the right place?"

"Of course they are," I answered cheerfully. "I never looked better, I’m
sure.  I congratulate you.  And Suzanne tells me that this costume is
very becoming to you.  The one I have on, I mean.  Have you noticed,
Caroline, what an infernal nuisance pronouns have become?  I’m glad our
nouns have no gender.  What did you say to young Van Tromp at the
Cromptons’ dance?"

My beard seemed to fairly bristle with Caroline’s anger and
astonishment.

"Van Tromp!" she exclaimed, in a surly basso.  "What has he been doing
now?  Horrid little thing!  He’s not one of the boys, is he, my dear?"

I had seated myself with some difficulty, annoyed at Suzanne for lacing
Caroline so tightly, but rather pleased, inwardly, at my feminine beauty
and Parisian costume.  Caroline stood not far away, six feet tall,
broad-shouldered, a manly figure in black and white.

"Van Tromp," I remarked, in the soft musical tones that had at last
reconciled me to my borrowed voice, "Van Tromp is a wandering minstrel,
a troubadour out of his time, an age-end Romeo, who haunts Juliet’s
balcony at all hours of the day and night playing a hurdy-gurdy and
reciting his own rhymes.  Van Tromp is the one bright gleam in a black
and starless night.  He would atone for a dreary day were not Yamama
coming too."

"I don’t understand you, Caroline," growled my wife, shifting my feet
uneasily.

"You haven’t told me what Van Tromp said to you at the Cromptons’
dance," I said, relentlessly.  "I’ll return to the subject later on. Now
tell me--ah--Reginald, what you know about Yamama.  You intimated,
unless I am mistaken, that my suspicions as to your collusion with this
Oriental fakir were unfounded?"

"Unfounded!" exclaimed my wife, scornfully. "Absurd! ridiculous!  Do you
imagine that I would choose this clumsy body of yours in preference to
mine?  Look at me, and then glance at the mirror, my dear.  I’ll admit
that I’ve had a very enjoyable day.  But I assure you I know little more
about Yamama than you do.  I am very nervous about him.  I don’t know
what he’ll do to us.  But I have a horrible fear that he will read our
secret at a glance."

"If he does--ah--Caroline," I cried, excitedly, "slug him!  Never mind
about hospitality.  Hit him a crack on the nose.  You can apologize to
Edgerton afterward."

"That’s just like a man," grumbled Caroline. "You think you can defeat
esoteric Buddhism with your fists.  I’m rather ashamed of you, my dear."

I felt the blood coming into Caroline’s cheeks.

"It won’t do, of course," I murmured, presently. "We must use diplomacy,
not force, in dealing with this Oriental nuisance.  Perhaps Yamama will
find little Van Tromp sufficiently amusing to enable us to escape
detection.  I’m inclined to think that Van Tromp is the outward and
visible sign of a love-sick tadpole.  His sister, the débutante, is not
so bad.  I suppose she’ll fall to Edgerton at dinner?"

"We must have a rehearsal, you and I," remarked Caroline, gruffly.  "I
escort Mrs. Edgerton, of course, and you’ll take Van Tromp’s arm. You’ll
like that."

"Do you see these violets--ah--Reginald?" I cried, dramatically, making
a gesture toward Van Tromp’s floral offering, now bedecking my corsage.
"He sent them to you.  What was Van Romeo’s little game?  You were to
wear the violets to-night, if you really meant what you said to him at
the Cromptons’ dance.  As you always mean what you say, my dear, I have
hung out the sign of your--ah--veracity, so to speak. There’s more to
come, of course.  There’s a poem, for one thing.  I’ll read it aloud
when we get our coffee."

I saw that my heavy face was flushed and that my eyes glowed with anger
as I glanced upward at my wife.  She strode toward me menacingly, and
laid a heavy hand upon her bare shoulder. Seizing Van Tromp’s violets,
before I could recover from my astonishment, she tore them from their
fastenings, and hurled them toward a remote corner of the drawing-room.

"You carry a joke too far," she growled, menacingly.  "If you dare to
read that poem I’ll--I’ll tell Yamama the whole story when he comes.  I
know what to say to him, and he’ll do what I ask him to do.  I give you
fair warning."

I fell back in my chair, cold and disheartened. My worst suspicions
seemed to be confirmed. Caroline was in league, as I had feared, with
that sunburnt fakir from the Far East!  At that moment, Jones entered
the room.

"Mr. and Mrs. Edgerton," he announced, and, an instant later, "Miss Van
Tromp, Mr. Van Tromp."



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                      *A DINNER AND A DISCUSSION.*


    Yesterday This Day’s Madness did prepare:
    To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair.
    Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why.
    Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.
      _--Omar Kháyyám_.


It is always, under the best of conditions, uncertain how a dinner-party
will "go off."  People are not unlike the ingredients of a
salad-dressing. The smoothness of the dressing depends upon a mysterious
chemical affinity that is recognized by the salad-maker but never wholly
understood. All the arts are closely related to each other.  A
dinner-party, a salad-dressing or an epic poem demands creative effort,
and is successful in so far as its creator has made an effective fusion
of its separate parts.

Caroline had been inclined to believe that her fame as a dinner-giver
was no more than her due. She had reached an altitude as a triumphant
hostess from which she could make experiments of a more or less
interesting kind.  She enjoyed bringing together around our board
seemingly antagonistic social molecules to see if they would fuse.  She
had planned to-night’s dinner much as a chemist prepares his materials
for a novel combination.  Edgerton and Mrs. Edgerton, Van Tromp and Miss
Van Tromp formed the basis for an experiment that might produce either a
perfume or an explosion.

What the result would have been had Caroline’s effort not been hampered
by a soul-transposition that made many things awkward to us that were
unobserved by our guests, I cannot say. A large portion of the function,
especially its earlier stages, is a blur and a buzz in my memory. It had
been like this from the first, whenever I had come into the butler’s
sphere of influence. Van Tromp and Edgerton were not especially
terrifying.  I knew their limitations.  But Jones impressed me as a
mystery, concealing in a wooden exterior most frightful possibilities
for mischief.  I did not fully recover my self-control, if such it could
be called, until after the fish had been served.  By that time, the
situation in the dining-room was about as follows:

Caroline, playing the rôle of host, was doing nicely, but was, I feared,
inclined to over-act the part a bit.  Little Van Tromp, a blue-eyed,
insignificant-looking man, with a tender mustache, pointed blond beard
and too much hair on his head, was lowspirited and inclined to wander in
his talk.  He would glance at my corsage, and then cast a reproachful,
languishing glance at Caroline’s eyes, into which I found it possible,
now and then, to throw an expression of coquetry that revived the poet’s
drooping spirits for a time. Mrs. Edgerton, a handsome mondaine, was
always self-poised, animated and self-satisfied. Miss Van Tromp, unlike
her sister, Mrs. Taunton, was petite, vivacious and rather pretty, but
somewhat in awe of her brother’s genius.  Edgerton was a typical New
Yorker of the prosperous type, possessing blood, breeding and a pleasing
exterior.

Mrs. Edgerton thought that I looked somewhat fagged.

"I’ve had such a busy day, don’t you know--ah--my dear," I exclaimed,
glancing at my face across the table, and flushing at the gleam of
merriment that Caroline flashed at me from my eyes.

"You and Mrs. Edgerton really do too much," commented Edgerton,
politely.  "We are apt to underestimate a woman’s cares and burdens,
Reggie," he added, addressing Caroline.

"Indeed we are," Caroline asserted, readily, in my deep voice.  "I’m
inclined to think, Edgerton," she continued, giving a splendid imitation
of my most impressive manner, "that we do scant justice to our wives,
while we are forever harping upon our own importance."

"Hear! hear!" cried little Van Tromp, playfully.  I manfully resisted an
inclination to hurl a wine-glass at his too picturesque head.

Mrs. Edgerton smiled at me.  "What has happened to Mr. Stevens,
Caroline?" she cried, jocosely. "Unless my memory is at fault, I have
heard him say that you and I are ’long on leisure and short on work.’"

"An epigram!" piped the poet, rolling his eyes in exaggerated rapture.

"Did I ever make that remark?" I heard my voice asking in surprise.
"I’m afraid, Mrs. Edgerton, that you have misrepresented the source of
what Mr. Van Tromp has mistaken for an epigram.  It sounds to me, who
never said it, more like a Wall street bull."

"I can’t bear that," I ventured, in Caroline’s merriest tones, and Miss
Van Tromp giggled.

"The point at issue, as I understand it," began Edgerton, genially, "is
whether Reggie is making a confession.  Did you cry ’Peccavi!’ old man?"

"You are as great a sinner in this matter as I am," answered Caroline,
seriously, looking at Edgerton.  "How often have I heard you complain of
overwork, my dear fellow!  They were saying at the club this afternoon
that you seldom reached there before four o’clock."

A flush came into Edgerton’s face, and Mrs. Edgerton laughed aloud.

"Betrayed! betrayed!" she exclaimed, gleefully. "Reggie has deserted
you, hubbie dear."

"This is absolutely shocking!" cried Miss Van Tromp.  "I shall never
marry."

"Let us change the subject," I suggested, suppressing a shudder as Jones
glided past me.  "We have become a horrible warning to our two unmarried
guests--ah--Reginald."

"I am not easily frightened, Mrs. Stevens," the poet dared to say,
looking at me courageously.

"Discretion is the better part of bachelorhood," I retorted, and Van
Romeo collapsed at once.

"I am so excited at the prospect of meeting Yamama," said Mrs. Edgerton,
presently.  "He says such wonderful things!"

"And does ’em, too," I murmured, under my breath, and flashing a glance
at my smiling face across the table.

"What does he say?" asked Miss Van Tromp, with youthful curiosity.

"Oh, I can’t begin to tell you," protested Mrs. Edgerton, and then
began: "He says that poetry suffices; that he cannot understand why
prose was invented."

"Hear! hear!" cried little Van Tromp, with enthusiasm.

"He abhors egotism.  Intellectual self-satisfaction is hideous, he
says."

"He ought to know," I exclaimed, and Caroline had the audacity to laugh.

"Go on, Mrs. Edgerton," cried the Van Tromps with one voice.

"Yamama tells us that our Western world is not only self-satisfied, but
ignorant.  We are contented with half-truths.  Science makes a
discovery, as it imagines, and, behold! it is something that the East
has known for ages."

"But how about the famine in India?" asked Edgerton, argumentatively.
"If they know so much, these Eastern wise men, why don’t they make grain
grow in a dry season?  They are great frauds, eh, Reggie?"

"I don’t agree with you, Edgerton," I heard my voice in answer.  "You
fail to get their point of view."

"Betrayed again, Edgerton," laughed the poet.

"What’s their point of view?" grumbled Edgerton, casting a glance of
surprise at Caroline.

"If you believed in reincarnation," exclaimed my wife, in my somewhat
overbearing manner, "you would look upon death as merely a
stepping-stone to a higher existence.  A famine, don’t you see, helps a
large number of souls up the spiral."

"Mr. Stevens has become a theosophist," cried Mrs. Edgerton, in
exaggerated amazement.

"How perfectly lovely," commented Miss Van Tromp, somewhat irrelevantly.
I saw Jones pouring wine at the poet’s corner, and I thought that his
hand trembled.  I’m sure that my voice was unsteady as I remarked:

"But--ah--Reginald, what about snakes and--ah--frogs?  Starvation is bad
enough, but you aren’t going up a spiral if you are changed into
something that squirms and crawls."

"It’s not like climbing a ladder," answered my voice, authoritatively.
"You may go down, now and then, but as the ages pass the general trend
is upward."

"It’s awfully interesting," reflected Miss Van Tromp, aloud.  "But how
is it done?"

"It isn’t done!" exclaimed Edgerton, almost angrily, "it’s only
half-baked.  Of all the absurd nonsense that is talked this Oriental
mysticism is the worst.  That’s why I was glad to get this man Yamama to
come here this evening.  I want to prove to Mrs. Edgerton that he’s just
about as significant as a Bab ballad."

"Do you think that Yamama will be inclined to do--ah--stunts, Mr.
Edgerton?" I faltered, catching the butler’s eye, and wondering why
Caroline’s toes got cold so easily.

"What do you mean by stunts, my dear?" Caroline asked, using my voice,
rather sternly. "Yamama, I imagine, would not understand the word.  He
is not here to play tricks."

"What is he here for--ah--my dear?" I asked, in a falsetto that was too
shrill to be good form.  Mrs. Edgerton looked annoyed, and Edgerton
said, half-apologetically:

"Really, Mrs. Stevens, I thought that you would be glad to have Yamama
come to us to-night. Frankly, I wanted to make a closer study of the
man, and your husband assured me that it would be pleasing to you to
have him here."

"Don’t think me inhospitable and ungrateful, Mr. Edgerton," I began in
Caroline’s smoothest manner.  "I shall enjoy meeting Yamama, of course.
But do you really think that a man who prefers poetry to prose can be
trusted?"

Van Tromp gasped and glanced furtively at Caroline.  The latter raised
her wine-glass, smiled at me gaily, and I heard my voice crying:

"Here’s to you, my dear, good as you are!"

"What are you staring at, Jones?" I asked, angrily, turning sharply
toward the butler.  He continued his task of serving the course without
noticing my reproof.  My wife and guests were gazing at me in surprise.

"A toast!  A toast!" cried little Van Tromp, almost hysterically.

Edgerton laughed aloud.  "Let us drink to the mysterious East," he
suggested, like one who bore an olive branch in his hand.

"To the secrets of the Orient and Yamama!" amended Caroline, showing my
teeth to me in a cruel smile.

"Yamama!  Yamama!" murmured my guests.

As we sipped our wine, I glanced at Jones. There was a flush on his
phlegmatic face, but he appeared to be paying no attention to anything
but his duties.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                         *YAMAMA AND RELEASE.*


    Then dimness passed upon me, and that song
    Was sounding o’er me when I woke
    To be a pilgrim on the nether earth.
      --_Dean Alford_.


On our return to the drawing-room, I found myself annoyed by the
attention of little Van Tromp and appalled by the imminent advent of
Yamama.  A new and most distressing dread had crept into my errant soul.
I had begun to think that I should come to hate my wife, unless she
altered at once her mode of procedure.  The fear was upon me that she
had enjoyed the day’s experience sufficiently to tempt her to make
existing conditions permanent.  Angry as I was with her, I realized that
diplomacy was a better tool at present than denunciation.

"I must speak to her at once," I mused aloud, glancing at my manly,
patrician, well-groomed outward seeming as Caroline stood at the further
end of the room, chatting with Miss Van Tromp and the Edgertons.  An
exclamation beside me convinced me that little Van Tromp was very
wide-awake.

"Shall I take you to her, Mrs. Stevens? There is no sacrifice that I
would not make for you.  You would go to Mrs. Edgerton?"

"Mrs. Edgerton?" I exclaimed, somewhat dazed for the moment.  "No; I was
referring to--ah--Reginald.  Tell him I want to see him, will you, old
man?  These infernal skirts are such a nuisance!"

The poet’s eloquent eyes recalled me to my senses.  He was gazing at me
in amazement, evidently wondering if I had drunk too deep a toast to
Yamama.

"What a pitiable fate is mine!" murmured Van Romeo, gloomily.  "I have
been dreaming of this moment for days, and, lo! you destroy my happiness
by a word.  Chasing a rainbow is so much more delightful that summoning
your lesser half!"

"Lesser half, indeed!" I could not refrain from saying, bitterly.  "My
three-quarters, or more.  Look here, Van Tromp, if you don’t move more
rapidly I shall read those silly verses of yours to Yamama when he
arrives, and he’ll turn you into a green-and-yellow parrot.  Good
heavens, man, it’s too late!  There he is!"

[Illustration: "Unannounced and unattended, Yamama glided into the
drawing-room."]

Unannounced and unattended, Yamama glided into the drawing-room.  I
recognized him at a glance, and Caroline’s bosom heaved with a conflict
of emotions.  Little Van Tromp had jumped to his feet.

"Isn’t he stunning?" he exclaimed most unpoetically.

Yamama was, indeed, pleasing to the eye.  His light-brown complexion,
dark brilliant eyes and gorgeous costume made a picture that gave an
Oriental splendor to our drawing-room.  He stood motionless for a
moment, half-way between Caroline and me.  Suddenly it flashed upon me
that I had a duty to perform.  Caroline and I reached Yamama at the same
time.

"It was so kind of you to come to us," I heard Caroline saying to the
adept.  "Mrs. Stevens was overjoyed to hear that you had consented to
honor us."

Yamama’s black, fathomless eyes smiled at me, like deep, dark pools
touched by sunshine.  A chill ran through me, but I found strength to
say, falteringly:

"Glad to see you, Mr.--ah--Yamama.  We’re so interested--ah--Reginald
and I--in Bhesotericuddhism!  Glad to see you!  Aren’t we--ah--Reggie?"

I suspected that Caroline chuckled behind my beard.  I am sure that the
smile in Yamama’s eyes deepened.

We had grouped ourselves around the adept, who stood calm, picturesque,
silent, in the center of the room; the majesty and mystery of the
brooding East seeming to fill the universe of a sudden.  It was as some
priceless Oriental rug had become on the instant not merely an ornament,
but a creation of infinite psychical significance.

"Does he talk?" Edgerton whispered to me, and I glanced at him,
reprovingly.  Mrs. Edgerton was gazing, awestruck, at Yamama.
Presently, the adept spoke, in a voice that drove from my fevered mind
all thoughts of frogs, snakes and tadpoles.

"Man is composed of seven principles, a unit, but capable of partial
separation."

"Well, rather!" I could not refrain from saying, but Yamama ignored my
rudeness.  He went on impressively, while the group surrounding him
listened eagerly, fascinated by his appearance and manner.

"The evolutionary process demands a number of planets, corresponding to
the seven principles. On each of these planets a long series of lives is
required before a full circuit is made."

"How wildly exciting!" cried Miss Van Tromp.  Yamama smiled,
indulgently.  Then he said:

"Before reaching the perfection attainable, every soul must pass through
many minor circuits. We are said to be in the middle of the fifth
circuit of our fourth round, and the evolution of this circuit began
about a million years ago."

"It knocks the Ferris Wheel silly," I overheard Edgerton mutter to
himself, and I felt an unaccountable anger at his flippancy.

"I should so like to ask you a question," faltered Miss Van Tromp, and
Yamama bowed his inspired head, resignedly.

"How soon do we come back after we die?"

"When a man dies," answered the adept, in his low, soft, musical voice,
"his ego holds the impetus of his earthly desires until they are purged
away from that higher self, which then passes into a spiritual state,
when all the psychic and spiritual forces it has generated during the
earthly life are unfolded.  It progresses on those planes until the
dormant physical impulses assert themselves, and curve the soul around
to another incarnation, whose form is the resultant of the earlier
lives."

"That’s easy," muttered Edgerton, at my shoulder.

"I’ve often felt that way," exclaimed Van Tromp, gazing ecstatically at
Yamama.

"Are you making converts?" asked Mrs. Edgerton.

A haughty smile, dark-red streaked with white against a brown
background, the whole lighted by two eyes of marvelous power, met our
gaze.

"Only by soul itself is soul perceived," answered Yamama, somewhat
irrelevantly, I thought.

"You’re out, my dear," whispered Edgerton, playfully, to his wife.

"May I trouble you, my dear sir," began Van Tromp, pompously--"may I
trouble you to explain to a mind darkened by Occidental erudition why it
is that the West is so blind to the mighty truths that you teach?"

"That’s a touchdown," muttered Edgerton.

Yamama gazed fixedly at the poet for a time. Then he said:

"The West is not blind to the mighty truths of which you speak.  You
only imagine that you do not see them.  Your great thinkers have taught
what we teach.  Schopenhauer, Lessing, Hegel, Leibnitz, Herder, Fichte
the younger, are with us.  Your great poets sing the eternal verities.
It is nothing new, that which I bring to you from the East."

"Is there--ah--any reason to fear," I dared to ask, "that when
we--ah--change around again--I mean--ah--get reincarnated, you see, that
we become--ah--frogs or--or snakes--that is, if we don’t--ah--so to
speak, stay put?"

My voice had been gradually ascending Caroline’s scale until it hit the
interrogation mark in a sharp falsetto.  As Yamama’s eyes met mine I
thought for an instant that I had been struck by lightning.  What his
strange glance--cutting through me until I knew that I had no secrets
left--meant I had no way of determining.  I was like a rabbit fascinated
by an anaconda.

"There is salvation for him whose self disappears before truth, whose
will is bent upon what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the
performance of his duty.  The root of all evil is ignorance."  Thus
spake Yamama, whether in answer to my question I could not decide.

"What’s the matter with the love of money?" asked Edgerton, in an
unconventional tone of voice.  His bump of reverence is not well
developed.

"’Tis but a small part of the ignorance that enfolds you like a
worthless garment," answered the adept, coldly.

"That’s one on me," I heard Edgerton mutter, while Mrs. Edgerton
laughed, softly.

"The Enlightened One," went on Yamama, literally in a brown study, "saw
the four noble truths which point out the path that leads to Nirvana or
the extinction of self."

"Good eye!" murmured Edgerton, and his wife whispered "Hush!"

As I glanced at Caroline, I saw that my face had undergone a change.
She was watching the adept with my eyes, but the expression on my
countenance was wholly her own.

"The attainment of truth," continued Yamama, "is possible only when self
is recognized as an illusion.  Righteousness can be practiced only when
we have freed our mind from the passion of egotism.  Perfect peace can
dwell only where all vanity has disappeared."

"I’ve known that for years," exclaimed Van Tromp, brushing his hair back
from his forehead in a self-conscious way.

I had begun to feel faint.

"Won’t you be seated--ah--Mr. Yamama?" I asked, hoping that he would
observe my indisposition.  Even as I spoke, I lost sight of him. The
lights went out of a sudden, and a sharp, exquisite pain shot through
me.  I was surrounded by a fathomless gloom, as if the universe had
turned black at a word.  I was conscious, but seemingly alone in a dark
void.  For a moment only was I cognizant of self.  Then there came a
flash of dazzling light, and I knew no more.


My testimony is at an end.  A week has passed since Caroline and I awoke
one morning to find our souls transposed.  We are still confined to our
rooms, suffering, our physician tells us, from acute nervous
prostration.  But "Richard’s himself again!"  When we recovered our
senses--for Caroline had fainted at the moment when Yamama dissappeared
from my sight--we found ourselves restored to our respective bodies; but
the shock of our psychical interchange had left us physically weak and
depressed.

I have not yet had the energy to compare notes with Caroline in regard
to our uncanny experiences. But, fearing that my memory might play me
false, I have relieved the tedium of my convalescence by jotting down
the foregoing presentment, in the hope, as I have said before, that the
data may prove of interest to minds more erudite than mine and my
wife’s.

Jenkins has returned from Hoboken--or wherever he went--and I have had
him remove my beard.  It had become a horror to me.  Suzanne is very
attentive to Caroline, and seems to have recovered her spirits.

One significant fact I have reserved for the last.  It has caused me
much uneasiness, not unmingled with a sense of relief.  Jones has not
been seen since the night of our weird dinner-party. No trace of him has
been found.  I have advertised for a butler, but have not yet received
an application that appealed to me in my present supersensitive
condition.  What I want is a butler as unlike Jones as possible.
Unfortunately, he was a pattern of his kind.  But I hate the very
thought of him, and so I shall drop my pen at this point and watch
Suzanne and Caroline through the open door.  I think I shall try to get
down to the club to-morrow to see the boys.



                                 *II.*

                      *How Chopin Came to Remsen.*


    _There cometh evil to my house,_
    _And none of ye have wit to help me know_
    _What the great gods portend sending me this._
      _THE LIGHT OF ASIA._



                      *HOW CHOPIN CAME TO REMSEN.*


                              *CHAPTER I.*

                           *CHOPIN’S OPUS 47*

    It brings an instinct from some other sphere,
    For its fine senses are familiar all,
    And with the unconscious habit of a dream,
    It calls and they obey.
      N. P. WILLIS.


It has been with the greatest reluctance that I have agreed to submit to
the public all the details, so far as they are known to me, of my
husband’s seemingly miraculous change from an average man into a genius.
Poor Tom!  He was so happy as a phlegmatic, well-balanced, common-place
lawyer and clubman, devoted to his wife, his profession and his friends!
But now, alas, his amazing eccentricities demand from me a presentation
of his case that shall change censure into sympathy and malicious gossip
into either silence or truth.

I am forced to admit at the outset that Tom is justified in attributing
his present predicament to my own fondness for music.  He had protested,
gently but firmly, against the series of musicals that I had planned to
give last season.

"They’ll be an awful nuisance, my dear," he had remarked, gloomily,
gazing at me appealingly across the table at which we were dining _en
tête-à-tête_.  "Why not substitute bridge whist in place of the music?
Why will you insist on asking a crowd of people who don’t care a rap for
anything but ragtime to listen to your high-priced soloists? A musical,
Winifred, is both expensive and tiresome."

"What a Philistine you are, Tom!" I exclaimed, protestingly, knowing,
however, that my dear old pachyderm would not wince at the epithet I had
hurled at him across the board.  Tom’s vocabulary is not large, and
possesses a legal rather than a Biblical flavor.

"What’s a Philistine?" he asked, indifferently. "If it’s a fellow who
objects to inviting a lot o’ people that he doesn’t like to listen to a
lot o’ playing and singing that _they_ don’t like, well, then, I’m it.
But what’s the use of my getting out an injunction?  If you’ve made up
your mind to give these musicals, Winifred, I might as well quash my
appeal.  I’ve no standing in this court."

One of the advantages of living with a man for ten years is that one is
eventually confronted by a most fascinating problem.  "Why did I marry
him?" is the question that adds a keen zest to existence.  We derive a
new interest in life from the hope that the future may provide us with
an answer to this query.  I can remember now, to my sorrow, that I gazed
across the table at Tom’s heavy, immobile face, and longed for some
radical, perhaps supernatural, change in the man that should render him
more congenial to me, more sympathetic, less practical, matter-of-fact,
commonplace.  A moment later I felt ashamed of myself for the disloyalty
of my wish.  It may be that subsequent events were preordained as a
punishment to me for the internal discontent to which I had temporarily
succumbed.

"Tom doesn’t look quite fat, my dear," remarked Mrs. Jack Van Corlear to
me early in the evening of my first--and last--musical.  "Is he working
too hard?  Jack tells me that Tom has been made counsel for the Pepper
and Salt Trust."

"It’s not that," I answered, lightly, glancing at Tom and noting the
unusual pallor of his too fleshy face.  "He’s expecting an evening of
torture, you know.  He hates music.  He can’t tell a nocturne from a
ballade--and they both torment him.  But he’s an awfully good fellow,
isn’t he? See, he’s trying to talk to Signor Turino.  I hope he’ll
remember that Verdi didn’t write ’Lohengrin.’  I’ve been coaching Tom
for several days, but it’s hard, my dear Mrs. Jack, to make a man who
doesn’t play or sing a note remember that the Moonlight Sonata is not
from Gounod’s ’Faust,’ and that it’s bad form to ask Mlle. Vanoni if she
admires ’Florodora.’"

My duties as hostess and the pronounced success of the earlier numbers
of my program led me presently to forget Tom’s existence.  He had been
cruelly unjust to my guests in asserting that they would prefer ragtime
to the classics.  The applause that had rewarded the efforts of both
Turino and Vanoni had been spontaneous and genuine.  Signorina Molatti
had created an actual furor with her violin solo, intensified, no doubt,
by her marvelous beauty.  It was Molatti’s success that presently
recalled Tom to my reluctant consciousness.  As the dark-eyed, fervid
young woman responded smilingly to an insistent encore, I caught a
glimpse of my unimpressionable husband, standing erect at the rear of
the crowded music-room and watching the girl’s every movement with eyes
alight with interest and approval.  I had not seen his unresponsive
countenance so animated before in years.  Mrs. Jack Van Corlear had
followed my glance, and a mischievous smile was in her face as she
leaned toward me.

"Perhaps Tom is more musical than you imagine, my dear," she whispered,
maliciously.

"Do you think it’s the violin?" I returned, laughingly, ashamed of the
feeling of annoyance that her playful pin-prick had given me.

Jealous of Tom!  The idea was too absurd.  I had so often wished to be,
but his devotion to me had always been chronic and incurable.  "It’s
really bad form," I had once said to him; "your indifference to other
women, Tom, causes comment.  Overemphasis is always vulgar.  You
underscore our conjugal bliss, my dear boy, in a way that has become a
kind of silent reproach to other people.  You must really have a mild
flirtation now and then, Tom."

It seemed to me that the vivacious Molatti had noted Tom’s too apparent
enthusiasm, for she smiled and nodded to him as she made ready to coax
her Cremona into giving her silent auditors new proof of her most
amazing genius.  I, a lover of music, had been carried into unknown,
blissful realms by the magic of her bow, my whole being throbbing with
the joy of strange, weird harmonies that lured my errant soul away from
earth, away from my duties as a hostess, my worries as a wife.  I came
back to my music-room with a thump.  Something unusual, out of the
common, was taking place, but at first I could not concentrate my
faculties in a way to put me in touch with my environment.  Presently I
realized that Signorina Molatti had left the dais and--could I believe
my senses?--that Tom brazenly, nonchalantly, before the gaze of two
hundred wondering eyes, had seated himself at the piano.

"What’s the matter with him?" whispered Mrs. Van Corlear to me in an
awe-struck tone.

"Wait," I answered, irrelevantly; "maybe he won’t do it."

"Do what?" she returned, almost hysterically.

"I don’t know," I gasped; and the thought flashed through my mind that
possibly Tom had been drinking.

There lay the hush of expectancy on the astonished throng.  Here and
there furtive glances were cast at my program cards in search of Tom’s
name on a little list made up wholly of world-famous artists.  But the
large majority of my guests knew as well as I that Tom had never touched
a piano in his life, that his ignorance of music was as pronounced as
his detestation of it. But he might have been a Paderewski in his total
absence of all awkwardness or self-consciousness as he sat motionless at
the instrument for a moment, coolly surveying us all, in very truth like
a master musician sure of himself and rejoicing in the delight that he
was about to vouchsafe to his auditors.

I cannot recall now without a shudder the sensation that cut through my
every nerve as Tom raised his large, pudgy hands above the keyboard, his
small, gray eyes turned toward the ceiling just above my throbbing head.
He looked at that instant like the very incarnation of Philistinism
poised to hurl down destruction upon the center of all harmonies.

"It’s revenge," I groaned, under my breath, and felt Mrs. Jack’s cold
hand creep into mine.

Down came the paws of Nemesis, and lo, the injustice that I had done to
Tom was revealed to me.  His touch was masterly.  I could not have been
more amazed had I seen an elephant threading a needle.  The whole
episode was strangely blended of the uncanny and realistic.  I found
myself noting the angle at which Tom held his chin.  He always raised it
thus when his man shaved him, his head thrown back and his eyes
half-closed.

Then gradually it dawned on me that I was taking keen delight in his
rendition of that marvelous ballade in A flat major that Chopin
dedicated to Mlle. de Noailles.  There is nothing more thoroughly
Chopinesque in all the master’s works than this perfect exposition of
the refined in art. Tom’s rendering of the lovely theme in F major, one
of the most delicate in the world of music, thrilled me with startled
admiration.  But a chill came over me.  What would he do with the
section in C sharp minor, with its inverted dominant pedal in the right
hand while the left is carrying on the theme?  Without both skill and
passion on the part of the performer the interpretation of this passage
is certain to be commonplace. But hardly had this doubt assailed me when
I knew that Tom had triumphed over every obstacle of technique and
temperament, that he was approaching the harmonic grandeur of the finale
with the poise and power of genius in full control of itself and its
medium.

I have never fainted.  Swooning went out of fashion long before my time,
and I am devoted to the modern cult of self-control, but if it hadn’t
been for Mrs. Jack, who is really fond of me at times, I think that the
last bar of Tom’s Opus 47 would have seen my finish.  The room had begun
to whirl in a circle, like a merry-go-round in evening dress, when she
steadied me by whispering:

"It’s all right, my dear.  Tom wins by four lengths, well in hand."

I came to myself in the very center of a storm of applause.  Our guests
had forgotten the conventionalities pertaining to a will-ordered
musical. The men were on their feet, cheering.  The women waved fans and
handkerchiefs, and pelted Tom with violets and roses.  The poor fellow
sat at the piano in a half-dazed condition.  A bunch of flowers, deftly
thrown, struck him on the forehead, and he put his gifted hand to his
brow as if he had just been recalled to consciousness.

"Encore!  Encore!" cried our guests.  Turino was gesticulating
frantically, while Mlle. Vanoni and Signorina Molatti smiled and clapped
their hands in exaggerated ecstasy.

I was worried by the expression that had come into Tom’s face, and made
my way quickly toward the piano.

"Aren’t you well, my dear?" I asked, bending toward him, while the
uproar behind me decreased a bit.

"What have I been doing, Winifred?" he asked, sheepishly, like one who
wakens from a dream.  "Get one of your damned dagos to sing, will you?
I’ve got to have a drink or die!"

Standing erect abruptly, Tom cast a defiant glance at the chattering
throng behind me and hurriedly made his way through a side door from the
music-room.  As I turned away from the piano I saw that Signorina
Molatti’s eyes were fixed upon his retreating figure with an expression
that my worldly wisdom could not interpret. There was more of wonder
than of admiration in her gaze, a gleam of questioning and longing that
might, it seemed to me, readily flame into hot anger.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                     *REMSEN CONFRONTS A MYSTERY.*


    From memories that come not and go not;
    Like music once heard by an ear
    That cannot forget or reclaim it;
    A something so shy it would shame it
      To make it a show.
        JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.


After saying good-night to the last of my guests, who had expressed
regret at the rumor that my husband was seriously indisposed, I hurried
to the smoking-room, having learned that Tom had fled thither as a
refuge from the curious and the congratulatory.  As I came upon him he
was alternately puffing a cigar and sipping a brandy-and-soda.  On the
instant the conflicting emotions that had beset me during the evening
became a wave of anger, sweeping over me with irresistible force.

"Why have you deceived me, Tom Remsen?" I cried, sinking into a chair
and resting my aching head against its back, as I scanned his pale,
weary countenance attentively.  "You have always pretended that you had
no knowledge of music.  I have heard you say that you could not whistle
even a bar of ’Yankee Doodle’ correctly.  What a _poseur_ you have been!
And to-night, in a vulgar, theatrical way you suddenly exhibit the most
astonishing talent.  There is not an amateur in the world, Tom, who can
interpret Chopin with such sympathy, such perfection of technique, such
reserved power as you displayed this evening. You have placed me in a
ridiculous position, and I can’t conceive of any reasonable motive for
your unnatural reticence.  Why, Tom--answer me!--why have you concealed
from me the fact that you are an accomplished--yes, a brilliant
musician? Think of all the pleasure that we have lost in the last ten
years by your deception and falsehoods--for that’s what they were, Tom!"
My voice broke a little, and I felt the tears creeping toward my eyes.
"You have been cruel, Tom!  Knowing my passionate love for music, why
did you choose to hide a talent that would have drawn us so close
together?  And your revelation!  It was the very refinement of
brutality, Tom Remsen, to place me in such an awkward attitude!  How
could I explain my ignorance of your genius to our friends?  They must
consider me either a fool or a liar.  As for what they think of you,
Tom--"

"Stop it, Winifred!" cried my husband, hoarsely, putting up a hand
protestingly.  "I’ve had enough.  I can’t stand anything more to-night.
If I tried to tell you the truth you wouldn’t believe it, so you’d
better leave me.  I’ll smoke another cigar.  I’ll never get to sleep
again, I fear."

His last words sounded like a groan.  My mood was softened by his
evident distress.

"Do try to tell me the truth, Tom," I said, gently.  "I’ll believe what
you say.  There’s a difference between positive and negative lying.  I
don’t think you’d tell me a deliberate falsehood, Tom."

There was something in his appearance at this moment that suggested to
me a wounded animal at bay.  Presently he lighted a fresh cigar, and
gazing at me steadily, said:

"The cold, hard truth is this, Winifred: I never touched the keys of a
piano in my life until an hour ago.  I remember being drawn irresistibly
to the instrument.  What happened afterward I don’t know.  The first
thing that I can recall was being hit in the head with some fool woman’s
bouquet.  I remember saying, ’No flowers, please,’ in a silly kind of
way, but what it all meant I didn’t know, and I don’t know now.  Do
you?"

I sat speechless, gazing at Tom in amazement. He had never, in the
twelve years of our betrothal and marriage, told me an untruth.  I had
often caught myself envying women whose husbands spiced the realism of
domestic life with a romantic tale now and again.  I know a woman who
derives great intellectual enjoyment from cross-questioning her lesser
half every twenty-four hours in an effort to prove that nature designed
her for a clever detective.  She would have drooped and died had she
married Tom.

As I watched his honest face, pale now and careworn, I realized that I
was confronted by two explanations of the present crisis, either one of
which was inconceivable.  Tom had told me a deliberate lie, or a
miracle, to use an unscientific word, had been wrought through forces
the existence of which I had always denied.

"No, Tom, I don’t know what it means," I answered, presently.  "How did
you happen to choose the Chopin ballade for your début?"

I had not intended to hurt the poor fellow’s feelings, but the change in
his expression from weariness to wonderment filled me with remorse.

"I didn’t choose anything," he muttered, reproachfully.  "If I made an
ass of myself, Winifred, I was not responsible.  What the deuce did I
do?  You haven’t told me--and I don’t know."

By an effort of will I controlled the nervous chill that was threatening
me, and said, quietly:

"Tom, you played Chopin’s Ballade Number 3, Opus 47, in a way that would
have satisfied Chopin himself.  No performer living could have equaled
your rendition.  It was masterly."

Tom’s mouth fell open in amazement.  He closed it over a
brandy-and-soda.  "I can’t believe it," he cried, setting down his glass
and gazing at the smoke curling up from his cigar. "Why, Winifred, the
thing’s absurd.  I never heard the--what do you call it?--in my life.
And if I’d listened to it every day for a year I couldn’t play it.  I
couldn’t even whistle it."

I laughed aloud hysterically.  There was a ludicrous side to the
situation, despite its uncanny features.

"What are you laughing at, Winifred?" demanded Tom, angrily.  "Is there
anything funny about all this?  It seems, if I can believe what you say,
that I made a kind of pianola of myself without knowing it.  Is that a
joke?  I tell you, Winifred, it’s paresis or something worse.  Maybe
I’ll rob a bank next.  And when I’m bailed out, I suppose I’ll find you
on a broad grin."

I was too near the verge of nervous collapse to repress the feeling of
unreasonable annoyance that came over me at Tom’s words.  "I think
you’re very unjust, Tom," I exclaimed, with great lack of judgment.

"Unjust!" he echoed, petulantly.  "Unjust to whom--to what?"

"You’re unjust to Chopin," I answered, hotly, realizing that I was
talking in a distinctly childish way.  "Playing one of his masterpieces
is not quite like robbing a bank."

"Why not," he snapped, "if I don’t know how to play it?  I certainly
robbed those fool women of their flowers, didn’t I?  They pelted me with
bouquets as if I were a boy wonder or a long-haired bang-the-keys, and I
don’t know the soft pedal from the key of E.  I wouldn’t do Chopin an
injustice.  He’s dead, isn’t he?  But you mustn’t do _me_ an injustice,
Winifred.  I can’t stand anything more to-night."

My heart seemed to come into my throat with a sob, and I drew my chair
close to Tom’s and took his cold hand in mine.  "I’m sorry, Tom. I
didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I’ve been sorely tried, you must
admit.  I’m not quite myself, I fear."

Tom turned quickly and gazed squarely into my eyes.  "Don’t you worry,
Winifred.  You’re yourself, all right.  But who the dickens am I? If I’m
Tom Remsen, I can’t play Chopin. And you say I did play Chopin.  I don’t
say I didn’t.  But how did I do it?  Tom Remsen couldn’t do it.  Look at
my hands, Winifred. Could my fingers knock a pianissimo out of a minor
chord?--if that’s what that fellow Chopin does.  I tell you, it’s queer,
and I don’t like it."

A well defined shudder shook Tom’s heavy frame, and his hand, as it
rested in mine, trembled perceptibly.  His voice had sunk to a whisper
as he asked: "Do you think it possible, Winifred, I was hypnotized,
Winifred?  I never took any stock in hypnotism, but there may be
something in it.  That Signor Turino has got a queer eye."

"I’m sure I don’t know what to think, Tom," I admitted, reluctantly.  By
abandoning the theory that Tom had deceived me for a dozen years I was
plunged into a tempestuous sea of mystery and conjecture.  "But come, my
dear boy, you are fagged out.  We’ll talk it over in the morning.
Perhaps our minds will be clearer after a few hours’ sleep."

"I couldn’t sleep now," he returned nervously, glancing at his watch.
"Don’t go yet, Winifred. It’s only two o’clock."

We sat silent for a time, hand clasped in hand, like a youth and maiden
awed by a sudden realization of the marvelous mysteries of existence.

Presently Tom spoke again, and I felt that it was a lawyer, in full
control of his nerves, who questioned me.  "Did I look--ah--dazed--or
queer--when I went to the piano, my dear?"

"No, Tom," I answered, after a pause. "You--you--now, don’t think me
flippant--you looked just as you do when you’re being shaved."

"Before all those people!" he gasped.  "What _do_ you mean, Winifred?"

"Your chin was up in the air, Tom, and your head was thrown back."

"But you didn’t see any lather?" he asked, foolishly.

"Don’t be silly, Tom," I cried, petulantly.  But I had done him another
injustice; he had not intended to be jocose.

"And then what did I do?" he asked, eagerly.

"And then you played that ballade with the inspiration of genius and the
technique of a master."

"It stumps me!" he muttered.  "Winifred, is there anything about this
fellow Chopin in the library?  Any books about him?"

"Yes, Tom, several; but you’d better not look at them to-night--if at
all.  Perhaps to-morrow you won’t care to."

Tom’s heavy features assumed their most stubborn aspect.  He stood
erect, still holding my hand, and I was forced to rise.

"Come with me, Winifred.  I’m going to solve this mystery before I
sleep, even if it takes two days.  Come!"

Without further protest I accompanied Tom to the library.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                          *BIOGRAPHICAL DATA.*


    And, to meet us, nectar fountains still
    Poured forever forth their blissful rill;
    Forcibly we broke the seal of Things,
    And to Truth’s bright sunny hills our wings
      Joyously were soaring.
        SCHILLER.


It was a real relief to get into the library. Tom felt it, and his face
soon resumed its normal expression.  The heavy shadows beneath his eyes
remained, but there had come a flush into his cheeks, and he carried
himself with the air of a man who has a purpose in life and is in a fair
way to accomplish it.  I remember that the idea came into my mind that
Tom had assumed the attitude of a lawyer who has been retained by the
prosecution and has but little time in which to prepare his case.  I had
grown tactless, I fear, in my change of mood, for I was indiscreet
enough to say, as Tom seated himself beside the library-table, leaving
it to me to find the books that he wished to consult; "In the case of
Winifred Remsen and others, against the late Frederic François Chopin,
charged with house-breaking and breach of the peace."

Tom turned instantly, and a gleam of anger flashed in his eyes as they
met mine.  "If you cannot treat this matter with the seriousness that I
think that it deserves, Winifred, you would do well to retire.  It’s no
joke.  When I make a donkey of myself before a lot of perfectly
respectable people, I consider it a matter of some importance.  You
don’t seem to grasp the full horror of it all.  I suppose that I’m
liable to have another attack at any time.  In fact, it may become
chronic.  I have of late come across very curious psychical phenomena in
a professional way, Winifred, and I insist on taking every precaution
before you are forced to place me in the hands of the alienists."

"Tom!" I cried, in horror, and remorse. "You mustn’t talk like that.
There’s nothing the matter with your mind.  I’ll admit that I can’t
explain what happened to-night, but I’m sure that it was not caused by
any mental trouble on your part.  There is doubtless some very simple
and commonplace explanation of your--your----"

"Call it seizure," suggested Tom, curtly. "What do you find there?"

I carried a little armful of books to the table, and placed them within
Tom’s reach.

"Here’s a ’Life of Chopin,’ by Niecks," I said. "’Frederic Chopin,’ by
Franz Liszt.  Here’s Joseph Bennett and Karasowski and the ’Histoire de
ma Vie,’ by George Sand.  And here are Willeby and Mme. Audley.  And I
think I have----"

"That’ll do for to-night," remarked Tom, seizing the volume nearest to
his hand.  "What kind of a chap was this Chopin, anyway?"

"He was simply fascinating," I remarked, indiscreetly.

"H’m!" growled Tom, angrily.  "Not very respectable, I suppose you mean.
George Sand! She was a woman, wasn’t she?  How did she happen to write
his life?  What did she know about him?"

I have called Tom a Philistine.  Perhaps that was too harsh a term to
use, but I’m sure there is a good deal of the Puritan about him.

"She used to see a good deal of him," I answered, rather lamely.  "They
were great chums for a while."

"H’m," growled Tom, throwing aside George Sand’s work and opening
another.  Presently, he began to read biographical scraps aloud, for all
the world like an angry police official drawing up a sweeping indictment
against a man of genius.

"’The little Frederick duly received the name of Frederic François,
after the son of Count Sharbek, who stood as his godfather,’" began Tom.
"’We are told that he very soon showed a great susceptibility to musical
sounds, although hardly in the direction which we should have expected,
for he howled lustily whenever he heard them.’"

Tom looked up from the printed page, and our eyes met.

"That’s a curious coincidence, Winifred," he remarked, musingly.  "It’s
a family tradition that I used to yell like a young Indian whenever they
tried to sing to me in my babyhood.  A rattle-box would quiet me, but
the sweetest lullaby always made me howl.  But I must get on. Chopin
began well, didn’t he?"

There was silence for a time as Tom feverishly scanned the pages of his
book.

"The dickens!  Listen to this!" he exclaimed, presently.  "’During his
ninth year he was invited to assist at a concert for the benefit of the
poor.  He played a pianoforte concerto, the composition of Adalbert
Gyrowetz, a famous composer of the time.’"

Tom placed the book on the table, and held the pages open with his hand
as he glanced at me over his shoulder.  "If he played that kind of thing
at nine years of age, Winifred, there was something uncanny about it.
It was just as unnatural as what happened to me to-night.  I’m beginning
to formulate a theory about this kind of thing, my dear."  Tom placed
the open book face downward, and turned squarely toward me. "Music, you
see, may be, like electricity, imprisoned, as it were, in a universe of
both conductors and non-conductors.  It may be that a temperament, like
mine for instance, that is permanently a non-conductor might, under
given conditions become temporarily a conductor.  Chopin played like a
master at nine years of age.  He had become a conductor, and remained so
permanently. When he howled at music as a baby he was still a
non-conductor--just as I had been up to to-night--or rather last night.
Possibly, the conditions that made me a kind of spasmodic music-box,
with the Chopin peg pulled out, may never occur again.  What do you
think, Winifred? Doesn’t all that sound reasonable?"

Before I could formulate a sensible answer to a not very sensible
proposition Tom had resumed the perusal of his book.  He appeared to me
like a man fascinated against his will by a line of investigation that
he had begun as a disagreeable duty.  But I was glad to see that he had
regained full control of himself, and that his countenance no longer
displayed traces of intense mental disquietude.

"He was a pretty lively boy," remarked Tom, a few moments later.
"Listen, Winifred!  ’At school, Frederic was a prime favorite, and was
always in the midst of any fun or mischief that was going on.  His
talent for mimicry was always extraordinary, and has been commented on
not only by George Sand and Liszt but by Balzac.’"

Tom gazed at me, musingly.  "Do you consider that significant, my dear?"
he asked, with a seriousness that struck me as both ludicrous and
pathetic.  I was getting worried by Tom’s persistence in this futile
line of endeavor.

"It’s nearly three o’clock, Tom Remsen," I cried, standing erect.  "Come
up-stairs at once. It won’t be fair to your clients for you to get to
your office fagged out for lack of sleep."

"Sit down, Winifred," he said, peremptorily. "It’s little use I’ll be to
my clients until I find out what happened to me in the music-room.
Suppose that I should have an attack of--what shall I call
it?--Chopinitis--in the court-room? I should suddenly begin to sing--or
perhaps whistle a--what-d’you-call’em?--pianoforte concerto--what would
the judge say?  I’d be disbarred, Winifred, for indecent exposure of
musical genius.  No; I’m going to find out more about this strange
affair--here and now."

I was forced to reseat myself, protesting silently against Tom’s absurd
stubbornness.  I endeavored in vain to shake off a feeling of uneasiness
that was creeping over me, a sensation that was closely akin to fear of
the phlegmatic man who sat before me motionless and calm, pursuing a
course of study that had been inspired by a most untenable supposition.
What had Chopin to do with the matter?  What difference could it make to
Tom whether the latter had been one kind of man or another?  It was
ridiculous to assert that in Chopin’s personality might be found an
explanation of the curious incident that had made my musical so
memorable.  My prejudice against Spiritualists, Christian Scientists,
Theosophists and other eccentrics had been, I had believed, shared by my
husband.  But there he sat at three o’clock in the morning trying to
find among the biographical data before him some explanation of his
recent "seizure," that must, of necessity, lean toward the occult.  That
a well-balanced, rather materialistic lawyer, whose mental methods were
habitually logical, should suddenly begin to dabble in psychical
mysteries in this way frightened me the more the longer I weighed Tom’s
words and actions in all their bearings.  Nevertheless, I was forced to
admit to myself that he had never looked saner in his life than he did
at that moment, as he turned from his book again and gazed straight into
my tired eyes.

"He was a very flirtatious chap, Winifred, and very fickle.  Listen to
this: ’Although of a peculiarly impressionable and susceptible
disposition, and, as a not unnatural consequence, more or less fickle
where women were concerned, Chopin’s love affairs did, on more than one
occasion, assume a serious aspect.  He had conceived a fancy for the
granddaughter of a celebrated master, and although contemplating
matrimony with her, he had at the same time in his mind’s eye another
lady resident in Poland, his loyalty being engaged nowhere and his
fickle heart concentrated on no one passion.  One day, when visiting the
former young lady in company with a musician who was at the time better
known in Paris that he himself, she unconsciously offered a chair to his
companion first.  So piqued was he at what he considered a slight that
he not only never called on her again, but dismissed her entirely from
his thoughts.’  Do you begin to see, Winifred, what a queer fellow he
was?  Really, I’m inclined to think----"

I was standing erect, gazing at him, angrily.

"If you are joking, Tom," I exclaimed, having lost all patience, "I
think you are displaying most wretched taste.  If you are really in
earnest, I am very sorry for you.  I’m going to bed.  I hope I’ll find
you fully recovered at breakfast."

He did not seem to be at all impressed by my exhibition of temper.

"Wait just a moment, Winifred," he suggested, his eyes fixed on his
book.  "Here it is about George Sand--their first meeting, you know.
Wait!  I’ll read it to you."

"I shall not wait, Tom Remsen," I cried. "Chopin’s love affairs are
nothing to me--and they should be nothing to you.  Good night. This is
my last word.  Good night."

As I reached the door, I glanced over my shoulder.  Tom seemed to have
forgotten my existence.  He had plunged again into the dust-heap of an
old scandal that seemed to fascinate him--Tom Remsen, who had hitherto
always deprecated and avoided that kind of research.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                          *SIGNORINA MOLATTI.*


    And thou, too--when on me fell thine eye,
    What disclos’d thy cheek’s deep-purple dye?
      SCHILLER.


Two days went by, and while I still pondered the great mystery and kept
a close watch on Tom, I had begun to hope that the exactions of his
profession had led him to abandon his effort to explain what he had
called his "seizure."  He had been busy of late with the technicalities
involved in the formation of a new trust, and his mind seemed to be
wholly engrossed by this gigantic task.  By tacit consent we had both
avoided all reference to my recent musical and its weird and
inexplicable outcome.  At times, I was almost inclined to believe that
Tom had forgotten Chopin and all his works.

As for myself, I could not recover a normal state of mind.  For the
first time in my life, I felt an admiration for the very characteristics
of my husband’s make-up that hitherto had annoyed and wearied me.  His
ability to rebound at once from the shock that he had sustained filled
me with both envy and amazement.  I had begun to realize that the mental
poise of an unimpressionable, unimaginative man is a very desirable and
praise-worthy possession.

I regretted at times that I could not throw myself into some despotic
occupation that should demand all my physical and mental energies.  As
yet, I had not found the courage to face the world and its questionings.
For two days, I had denied myself to even my most intimate friends, not
excepting Mrs. Jack Van Corlear, who had hurried to me on the day
succeeding my musical. I knew that my callers were actuated by a not
unnatural curiosity, and I lacked the nervous energy to face people who
would politely claim the right to know why Tom had always concealed his
genius as a pianist.  I think I fully understand the set in which I
move.  We dearly love a new sensation.  Without leaving my house or
receiving a single visitor, I could readily grasp the fact that the
leading topic of conversation in society at the moment revolved around
Tom Remsen as a masterly interpreter of Chopin.

Chopin!  I had begun to hate the name.  But I had not been able to
resist the temptation to spend many hours in the library poring over the
books that dealt, directly or indirectly, with his personality and
achievements.  The temporary enthusiasm that Tom had displayed for
research into the life of Frederic Chopin bade fair to become a
permanent passion in my case.  I devoted whole afternoons to playing, in
my amateurish way, his waltzes, mazurkas, nocturnes and ballads.  One of
the latter, his Opus 47, I had not the audacity to attempt.  Somehow,
Tom’s recent rendition of the piece seemed to stand as a barrier that it
would be sacrilege for me to cross. Nevertheless, I longed to hear the
ballad again, and was almost tempted to ask Tom to play it to me alone.
That he was wholly incapable of repeating his recent performance, my
mind refused to believe.  I had returned, almost unconsciously, to my
first conviction, that my husband had wilfully deceived me for years
regarding his musical ability.

I sat poring over an English criticism of Chopin’s posthumous works late
one afternoon when a card was brought to me in the library that tempted
me to come out of my self-imposed retreat.  It bore the name:

                           SIGNORINA MOLATTI.


In the half-light of the drawing-room, the girl looked handsomer than in
the glare of evening lamps.  Her dark, oriental beauty was at its best
in the subdued glow of early twilight.  She was dressed in a rich but
quiet Parisian costume, and I felt that her attractiveness increased the
further she was removed from Signor Turino, Mlle. Vanoni and the other
noted artists with whom she associated.  Nevertheless, I realized that
my manner was cold and unsympathetic as we seated ourselves and I
awaited her pleasure.  Having had business dealings with the signorina I
was not willing to admit that she could assume the right to call on me
as a social equal.

But patrician blood must have flowed in Molatti’s veins, for she sat
there silent and calm, and my skirmish line was driven back.  I spoke
first.  The self-confidence in the girl’s smile hurt me.

"It is a pleasure, signorina, to have an opportunity I had not hoped
for, to thank you again for the great pleasure you afforded my guests
the night before last."

"But it is me, signora, who is in the debt of you," said Molatti, in her
soft, musical, broken English.  "I hava coma to you to thanka you and to
ask a leetle favor.  Signor Remsen! oh, eet was so wonderful--so vera
wonderful!  I hava waited all my leetle life for eet."

I stared at the girl in astonishment.  Her enthusiasm, her gestures, the
brilliant glow in her dark eyes offended me.  And "eet!"  What was
"eet," for which she had waited all her life?

"Yes?" I remarked, interrogatively.  Her fervor was not cooled by the
iced water of my question mark.

"Leesten to me, signora.  I hava worsheeped Chopin since I was a leetle
girl.  I have heard alla the great interpretaires of the _maestro_.  But
I have nevaire heard Chopin.  In my dreams--_si_, signora, but nevaire
in my hours that are awake. But I cama here!  Signor Remsen--he playa
Chopin!  Eet was no dream.  Eet was the soul of the _maestro_ speaking
to the soul of me.  Eet was wonderful--so vera wonderful!"

Conflicting emotions warred within me.  I hardly dared speak lest I
should either laugh or cry hysterically.  With lips compressed I sat
motionless, staring at the girl, into whose eloquent eyes there had come
a pleading look that suggested tears.

"Signor Remsen," she murmured, presently, like a devotee who breathes
the name of an idol--"do you thinka, signora, that he would let me hear
him play again?  Peety me, signora!  I cannot sleep.  I cannot eat.  I
crave only the music of the _maestro_--music that I hava heard only once
in my leetle life.  Signor Remsen!  Eef he would permeet me--justa
once--to accompany him on my leetle violin--oh, signora, I coulda then
die happy.  I should hava leeved just a leetle while, and then I would
not care.  But now, I am so unhappy--so vera miserable!"

I was too nervous to stand this kind of thing any longer.  I rose, and
Molatti faced me, erect at once.

"You pay my husband’s talent a great compliment, signorina," I said,
coldly; "but I cannot take it on myself to answer you in his name.
However, I shall present your request to him and let you know at once
what he says."  A diabolical impulse came over me, and I added: "Of
course, Mr. Remsen would not wish you to starve, signorina, nor to die a
horrible death from insomnia."

The girl spiked my guns--if that be the right expression--by a merry,
musical laugh.

"You are so vera kind!" she cried.  "I kissa your lovely hand."

Before I could prevent it she had touched my outstretched hand with her
red, smiling lips; then she took her departure.  I returned to the
library in a condition that verged dangerously on complete nervous
collapse.


At dinner that evening, Tom was unwontedly silent.  As I glanced at him
over my soup there was something in his face that suggested thoughts not
connected with the Pepper and Salt Trust. I was soon to become
accustomed to this expression and to identify it in my mind as
"Chopinesque."

"Aren’t you feeling well to-night, Tom?" I ventured presently, noting
that he was drinking more wine than usual.

"A bit tired, Winifred," he answered, absently. Then his eyes met mine,
and I saw that he was worried.  I had planned to fulfill conscientiously
my promise to Signorina Molatti, but the time seemed inopportune.  I was
glad, presently, that I had refrained from mentioning my caller and her
mission.  As we were sipping our coffee Tom tossed an envelope across
the table to me.

I opened it with a chill misgiving.  It ran as follows:


MR. THOMAS REMSEN.

DEAR SIR: As it has come to the knowledge of the Executive Committee of
the Chopin Society of New York that your rendition of the works of our
master is unexcelled by any living performer, we humbly beg of you to
accept the hospitality of our association at an early date, to be chosen
by you.  Our members and their guests would consider it the highest of
privileges could they be permitted to hear you play such selections from
Chopin as you might wish to perform. Thanking you in advance for the
great joy that you will vouchsafe to us by accepting this invitation, we
remain, etc.


There lay a wan smile on Tom’s face as he met my gaze.  "Kind, aren’t
they?" he muttered. "What the deuce’ll I write to ’em, Winifred?"

"You can’t accept, of course," I said, confidently. Then I hesitated,
surprised at the queer gleam in Tom’s eyes.  "Can you?" I added, weakly.

"I can, I suppose," he remarked, with an effort at playfulness.
"There’s no law against it."

His answer struck me as strangely unlike him. If he had cried, "The
Chopin Society be damned!"  I should have felt more at ease, less
oppressed by a sensation of nameless dread. There was something
distinctly uncanny in Tom’s manner.

"It would be a good joke on ’em, wouldn’t it, if I _should_ accept their
bid?" he remarked as he lighted his cigar.  "Confound their impudence!
That’s what they deserve."

"But--but--Tom, would you try to--to play?" I gasped, in dismay.

Tom laughed in a way that shocked my overwrought nerves.  It was a
shrill, unnatural note of merriment, that struck me as diabolical.
"Play?" he repeated, sardonically.  "Why not? Do you imagine, madame,
that the marvelous genius of Thomas Remsen, interpreter of Frederic
François Chopin, is to be confined strictly to your musicals?  That
would be a gross injustice to the music-loving world, would it not?  But
come into the library with me, Winifred.  I must resume my studies as a
student of ’the master.’"

I followed Tom mechanically, fascinated by his gruesome mood.  For the
life of me I couldn’t tell whether he was joking or in earnest, whether
it was his mind or mine that had lost its poise.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                          *A POLISH FANTASIA.*


    Ah, sure, as Hindoo legends tell,
    When music’s tones the bosom swell
    The scenes of former life return.
      DR. LEYDEN.


I made a clean breast of the whole matter to Mrs. Jack Van Corlear the
next morning.  I had sent for her early in the day, saying that I was in
trouble and needed advice, and she came to me at once.  It was a great
relief to me just to look into her eyes and hold her hand.

"It’s about Tom!" she remarked, sagely. "Has he done it again?"

Her question made me realize fully the awkwardness of my position.
Close as our friendship had been, I had never gossipped about Tom to
Mrs. Jack.  If there is anything more vulgar than what Tom had once
called "extra-marital confidences between women," I don’t know what it
is.  But I was forced to talk about my husband’s increasing eccentricity
to somebody, or endanger my own mental health.  I knew that I should
derive temporary nervous restoration from a heart-to-heart confab with a
woman who has the reputation of being "a mighty good fellow."  I have
heard people complain that Mrs. Jack was "too horsey" for their taste.
But if you are seeking a friend who shall possess courage, reticence and
common sense, pick out a woman that rides.  A fondness for horses seems
to enlarge a woman’s sympathies, while at the same time it increases her
discretion.

"He has not actually done it again, my dear," I answered; "but he
threatens to.  He informed me at breakfast this morning that he intended
to accept the invitation of the Chopin Society. Furthermore, he said he
was going to send the society a cheque for their Chopin Monument Fund."

"Tom’s a thoroughbred, isn’t he?" exclaimed Mrs. Jack, with what struck
me as ill-timed enthusiasm.  "But tell me more about Signorina Molatti.
Did you keep your promise to her?"

"Yes; I told him this morning about her call. Do you know, he seemed to
be actually pleased. It wasn’t like Tom at all.  Young women always bore
him.  And he has a special abhorrence for people connected in any way
with the stage."

"Now, Winifred, tell me honestly: Has Tom never played a note in all the
twelve years that you have known him?"

"Never! never! never!" I cried, hotly.  It was so hard to make even Mrs.
Jack, who fully understands me, get at my point of view.

"And he wins a big handicap the first time he starts," mused my
confidante.  "It’s miraculous! Is there a strain of music in his blood,
my dear? Any of the Remsens gifted that way?"

"Not that I ever heard of," I answered, rather petulantly.  Mrs. Jack’s
surmises seemed to be as unsatisfactory as my own solitary musings.

"Is he going to play for Molatti?" she asked, presently.

The blood rushed to my cheeks as I realized that this was the keynote to
the whole conversation. "He says he is," I confessed, reluctantly. "You
may not believe it, but he actually joked about it; said that it would
be cruel on his part to withhold from ’a worthy young woman’--what an
expression!--a pleasure that might restore her appetite and sleep."

Mrs. Jack laughed aloud, despite the frown on my brow.  "Give him the
bit, my dear," she advised, playfully.  "You aren’t afraid of a little
black filly over a distance, are you?  But tell me, what does Tom say
about it all?  You tell me that he speaks of his recent rendition of the
Chopin ballad as ’a seizure.’"

"For nearly two days, my dear, I fondly imagined he had forgotten all
about it.  He didn’t speak of it.  But last night he went into the
library and recommenced his researches into the life of Chopin.  I
couldn’t help laughing at some of the comments he made, but he was in
dead earnest all the time.  I am forced to believe Tom really thinks he
is--it seems so absurd when one puts it into words--thinks he is haunted
by Chopin’s spirit, or something of that kind."

Mrs. Jack’s mood changed and the merriment in her face disappeared.  "Do
you know," she remarked, thoughtfully.  "I am sometimes inclined to
think that we are awfully ignorant about some things.  I have heard of
so many queer occurrences of an uncanny nature lately--and among the
very nicest kind of people, too.  And it used to be really good form to
have a family ghost, you know. Perhaps it’s coming in again.  Old
fashions have a way of cropping up again, haven’t they?"

I could not refrain from smiling at Mrs. Jack’s peculiar attitude toward
psychical mysteries. However, I refused to be led into generalities.
"But just look at the ludicrousness of the idea," I began.  "Admitting,
my dear, that Chopin’s soul has grown uneasy and desires a temporary
reincarnation, would he be likely to select Tom as a--what shall I call
it?--medium?  Wouldn’t he be more inclined to haunt a man who was
naturally musical, or at least loved music?  But you know, Mrs. Jack,
what Tom is.  He hasn’t the slightest liking for music of any kind.
Unless he has been a great actor for many years, never for an instant
forgetting his role, I’m sure of this."

"What can we know about the methods or longings of a disembodied
spirit?" argued my confidante, logically enough.  "Perhaps Chopin was
backing a long shot, just for the excitement of the thing."

I glanced at Mrs. Jack, half-angrily.  I thought for a moment that she
was inclined to poke fun at me.  But her face was as serious as mine,
and I repented quickly of my unjust suspicion.

And thus we talked in a circle for an hour or more.  Mrs. Jack lunched
with me, and finally persuaded me to spend the afternoon with her,
driving along the river side.  As we drew up in front of the house about
five o’clock, I turned to her with gratitude in my heart and eyes and
voice.

"Thank you so much, my dear," I said, gratefully. "I’ll come to you in
the morning if there are any new developments in the case."  I had
turned away when Mrs. Jack called me back.

"It’s a problem that you and I can’t solve, little woman," she said,
affectionately.  "If he has another attack, or any new symptoms develop,
what would you think of consulting a specialist? I’d go with you, of
course.  We needn’t give out names, you know."

"A specialist--in what?" I asked, trying to repress a feeling of
annoyance that I must conceal from a friend who had been all kindness to
me at a crisis.

"Think it over," returned Mrs. Jack, vaguely. "I’m sure I don’t know who
is an authority on--what did Tom call it--Chopinitis.  But come to me in
the morning, anyway; I may have something really practical to suggest.
And don’t touch him with the whip!  Tom’s a thoroughbred, you know, my
dear.  Good-bye!"

As I entered the hall, depressed by a quick reaction from my recent
cheerfulness, I was roused from my self-absorption by a revelation that
drove the blood to my head and made me dizzy for a moment.  From the
music-room, always unoccupied at this hour of the day, came the weird,
searching harmonies of a Polish fantasia arranged for the piano and
violin.  The effect was marvelous. Softened by distance, the perfect
accord of the two instruments bore testimony to the complete sympathy
that existed between the pianist and the wielder of the bow.  There was
something in this half-barbaric music that set my veins on fire. Hardly
knowing what I did and with no thought of what I intended to do, I
crossed the drawing-room quickly and noiselessly, and stood motionless
at the entrance to the music-room.

I remember now that I felt no sensation of astonishment at what I saw.
It seemed to me that the picture before my eyes was just what I had come
from a remote distance to gaze upon.

Tom was seated at the piano, his back toward me.  Beside him stood
Signorina Molatti, her Cremona resting against her shoulder.  They had
not heard my footsteps, and I realized that if I had yelled like a wild
Indian they would not have come to earth.  They played like creatures in
a trance, and I felt the strange, seductive hypnotism of the mad, sweet,
feverish music that they made, as I stood there voiceless, motionless,
helpless, hopeless.  Vainly I appealed to my pride. Vainly I strove to
act as one worthy of the name of mondaine.  The shock had been too
sudden, too severe, and I could not trust myself.

[Illustration: "_They played like creatures in a trance..._"]

As silently as I had come, I crept away. Recrossing the drawing-room, I
encountered the butler in the hall.  My face flushed with shame as I
said to him:

"If Mr. Remsen asks for me, James, say that I have not returned."

Then I stumbled up-stairs to my rooms, dismissed my maid curtly, and
gave way like a foolish girl to foolish tears.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                       *CONSULTING A SPECIALIST.*


    An angel is too fine a thing
    To sit behind my chair and sing
    And cheer my passing day.
      EDMUND E. GOSSE.


"But, madam, the symptoms, in so far as I can gather them, are
insufficient for an accurate diagnosis.  You have stated the case
clearly and in minute detail, but my experience in the new school of
medicine--if such it can be called--convinces me that you have
inadvertently omitted some significant factor in the premises, without
which I can vouchsafe to you nothing more valuable than sweeping
generalities.  In other words, you have given me an opportunity to lay
before you a theory, but no chance to suggest to you a practical line of
action."

I looked helplessly at Mrs. Van Corlear and saw that she was scanning
Dr. Emerson Woodruff’s strong, thoughtful face attentively.  Presently,
she glanced at me, as if asking my permission to speak, and I nodded to
her in acquiescence.

"We have told you, doctor," began Mrs. Jack, "that this--ah--friend of
ours plays nothing but Chopin.  That’s important, of course?"

"Exceedingly," remarked Dr. Woodruff, impressively, his hands folded
across his chest and his head bent forward.  Even at that critical
moment, I found myself wondering if all practitioners of the
anti-materialistic school were large, dignified, magnetic men, with
majestic brows and bright, searching eyes.

"But he’s not always a soloist," went on Mrs. Jack, in a low but vibrant
tone; "he has shown an inclination of late to travel in double
harness--piano and violin, you know."

An enigmatical smile came into Dr. Woodruff’s face for an instant.  The
man’s intuition was so quick and keen that I had begun to fear I should
find it difficult to maintain my incognita.

"You say," he asked, presently, turning toward me, "that his general
health remains good? He has no tendency towards melancholia; doesn’t
grow flighty at times in his talk?"

"I have never seen him look so well as he does at present," I answered,
wearily.  I had come to Dr. Woodruff against my will, succumbing weakly
to Mrs. Jack’s insistence.  And now the whole affair appeared ridiculous
and the doctor’s questions irrelevant and futile.  My interest in the
séance--if that is the word for it--was reawakened, however, by the
physician’s next question.

"Who plays the violin for him?" he asked, curtly.

Mrs. Jack answered him at once.  "Signorina Molatti.  You know her by
reputation?"

"Yes," he answered; "I have heard her play. She has a touch of genius.
They must make great music together--Molatti and your friend."

A lump came into my throat and I clutched the arms of my chair
awkwardly.  That Dr. Woodruff had noticed my emotion, I felt sure.

"Well, what is your explanation of all this, doctor?" I asked,
impatiently.  I was thoroughly out of harmony with myself, Mrs. Jack and
the physician, and my pride revolted at the false position in which I
had been placed.  A skeptic who goes to a clergyman for guidance
sacrifices both his logic and his dignity.  Here I sat in Dr. Emerson
Woodruff’s office, under an assumed name, telling a stranger weird tales
about a supposititious acquaintance who was in reality my own husband.
Had I not been unfair to Tom, Dr. Woodruff and myself?  Surely the road
to truth is not through a zigzag lane of lies!

"My dear madam," began the doctor, in his most pompous manner, "the case
as you have stated it is unique in the annals of what I take the liberty
to call the new science--new, that is, to the Western world.  To the
brooding East, the introspective, sapient, miracle-working Orient, there
would be nothing strange or inexplicable in what your--er--friend calls
his ’seizure.’  I have seen in India phenomena that, should I describe
them to you, would wholly destroy what little confidence you have in my
veracity and common sense.  May I ask why you have come to me, madam?
You have no faith in the school to which I am devoted."

His voice had grown suddenly stern, and I avoided his gaze in confusion.
The ease with which he had read my thoughts offended and frightened me.

"It’s my fault, Dr. Woodruff," cried Mrs. Jack, loyally; "I persuaded
her to come.  I have been over the jumps before, and I rather like the
course.  But it’s pretty stiff going at first, you must acknowledge."

To my surprise, Dr. Woodruff laughed aloud. His merriment restored my
equilibrium, and I hastened to explain.

"Won’t you believe me, doctor, when I say that I have not come to you in
an antagonistic mood? I am intensely interested in the problem we have
laid before you--and I feel sure you can help us to read the riddle.  We
have a friend who has no music in his soul.  Suddenly, he begins to play
Chopin like a master.  Then he develops a fondness for duets.  We fear
the future.  Presently, he will begin to neglect his business and
his---and--"

"And his wife," added the doctor, glancing at me, quizzically.  Then he
turned sharply toward Mrs. Jack.  "Is this man fond of horses?  Does he
ride?"

"Before he became so completely absorbed in his profession he was a
marvel over timber," she answered, with enthusiasm.  "I remember--" she
began, reminiscently.

"Never mind ancient history," I cried, rather rudely.  "I really can’t
see, Dr. Woodruff, what his cross-country skill has to do with his
Chopin seizure."

"As I understand it, madam," explained the physician, evidently hurt by
my petulance, "as I understand it, you are desirous of turning
your--ah--friend’s mind from music.  You tell me that his professional
duties have had no effect in this connection.  To use an expression that
is not often employed by psychologists, a counter-irritant is what I had
in mind.  It is not strictly scientific to prescribe a remedy before the
diagnosis is completed, but, as I gather from your words, you wish to
attempt a cure at once."

I am sure there flashed a gleam of suspicion, not unmingled with
contempt, from my eyes as I scanned the doctor’s face.  Surely, it was
absurd to suppose that if Tom was really the victim of some supernatural
manifestation he could be restored to a normal condition by a resumption
of his equestrian enthusiasm.  Furthermore, what was I to gain by the
line of treatment that this psychological _poseur_ seemed to have in
mind? Was it not just as well for my peace of mind to have Tom playing
duets with Signorina Molatti as chasing an anise-seed bag across fields
and ditches in company with Mrs. Jack Van Corlear or some other horsey
woman?

"Do you think he has been hypnotized by Signorina Molatti?" I asked,
bluntly, anxious to pin the physician down to some explanation of Tom’s
eccentricities that should not offend against probability.

"Admitting the possibility of hypnotism in this instance," answered Dr.
Woodruff, gravely, "it would seem to be much more likely that your
friend had hypnotized Signorina Molatti.  Do you not agree with me?"

Taking all the circumstances into consideration, I was forced to admit
to myself that his argument was sound.  But I could not imagine Tom in
the role of a Svengali.  Whichever way I turned I was at the horn of a
dilemma.

"The fact is, madam," began Dr. Woodruff, very seriously, "the fact is
that your reticence has placed me in a somewhat awkward position. While
you have apparently made a clean breast of the whole affair, there are
several gaps in your story that I must fill up before I can be of any
great service to you.  There are various explanations of your friend’s
remarkable outbreak that naturally suggest themselves.  Most people
would assert at once that he had deliberately concealed his musical
ability for years, planning to make a sensational début when occasion
served.  You have rejected this explanation as inconsistent with your
knowledge of the man’s character.  I accept your view of the matter, and
lay aside as untenable the seemingly most reasonable solution of the
problem.  Practically, but two lines of conjecture remain open to us.
Your friend may have been hypnotized, may have become the plaything of a
harmless medium who possesses a sense of humor and enjoys a practical
joke.  But, I must admit, this explanation appears far-fetched and
involves several very improbable hypotheses."

The doctor paused for a time and eyed us musingly.  I felt better
disposed toward him than heretofore, recognizing the fact that I had
been listening to the words of a well-balanced, logical man who might
tread lofty heights, but who always stepped with care.  If Dr. Emerson
Woodruff was a mystic and a dreamer, there was nothing in his outward
seeming or his mental methods to indicate it.

"How many hurdles on the other track?" asked Mrs. Jack, abruptly.

"Pardon me," said the physician, gently; "I didn’t catch your meaning."

"There were two lines of conjecture open to us," explained Mrs. Jack,
"after we had agreed that--what shall I call him?--the man with
Chopinitis is not a liar.  You don’t accept the hypnotic theory, Dr.
Woodruff.  What’s the other?"

"Would you be shocked," asked the psychologist, suavely, "if I should
suggest that your friend may be possibly under the direct influence of
the spirit of the late Frederic François Chopin?"

"That’s what Tom thinks!" I cried, excitedly, and then bit my tongue,
regretfully.  Dr. Woodruff’s penetrating eyes were fixed on me.

"I said that there were gaps in your narrative," he remarked,
reproachfully.  "Your friend--I take it that his name is Tom--believes,
then, that he is under the control of Chopin?"

"I think he does," I answered, not very graciously; "he has spent much
time of late reading the details of Chopin’s life."

"H’m!" exclaimed the doctor, like one who comes gladly on a new symptom
in a puzzling case; "would it not be possible, madam, for me to see this
man, unobserved myself?  If I could hear him play it would be throwing a
flood of light on the case.  As it is, I am groping in the dark."

"And--and--in case, sir, that your worst fears are realized," I
faltered, "can you do anything for him?  Can he be cured?"

"You see, doctor, she didn’t marry Chopin. Naturally--"

The look that I gave Mrs. Jack quieted her restless tongue.  But the fat
was in the fire.

"Yes, the murder’s out, Dr. Woodruff," I confessed, wearily.  "We’ve
been talking about my husband.  We were very happy together before his
seizure.  And--and--now----"

"And now his wife isn’t one, two, three," cried Mrs. Jack, excitedly;
"and it’s a burning shame. Can you do something for him, doctor?  Surely
you don’t think it’s chronic, do you?"

The suspicion of a smile crossed the physician’s face, and I felt the
blood come into my cheeks. I had no intention of laying my marital
misery before the keen eyes of this strangely powerful man, but somehow
I felt a sense of relief now that he had come into possession of all the
facts.

"If you think it advisable, doctor, for you to hear my husband play," I
said, presently, "I’m sure it can be arranged.  He has agreed to give a
recital at the rooms of the Chopin Society to-morrow evening.  He has
asked us to go with him.  Could you not obtain a card?  He would not
know, of course, why you were there."

"I have many friends among the Chopin idolaters; it is easily arranged,"
remarked Dr. Woodruff, as he rose and ushered us toward the exit from
his inner office.  "Meanwhile, madam, I shall make a close study of the
case from the data already at hand.  I am very grateful to you for
coming to me, and I think I can safely promise to be of service to you.
Au revoir. To-morrow evening at eight."

As we seated ourselves in the carriage, I turned angrily to Mrs. Jack.
"Why did you betray me?" I cried.  "It was cruel, cruel!"

Mrs. Jack smiled affectionately and seized my hand.  "Don’t be annoyed
at me, my dear.  I was merely doing justice to Dr. Woodruff.  It’s
absurd to try to put a thoroughbred over the water jump with blinders.
It’s unfair to the horse, to say the least."



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                        *A PRELIMINARY CANTER.*


    So comes, at last,
    The answer from the Vast.
      MAURICE THOMPSON.


"Do you really intend to go, Tom?  But suppose, dear, you don’t feel
like playing; what will happen then?  Do be sensible, old fellow, and
stay home with me.  You always shunned notoriety--and now you go in
search of it.  What is the matter with you, Tom?  You haven’t been at
all frank with me since--since--"

"Since when, my dear?" asked my husband, smiling at me kindly over his
demi-tasse.

"Since you played that duet with Signorina Molatti in the music-room," I
answered, ashamed of the feeling of jealousy that I had nourished for
several days.  As I gazed at Tom’s honest face the absurdity of the
accusation that I had brought against him in this undirect way forced
itself upon me.  My husband at that moment struck me as the least
flirtatious-looking man I had ever seen.  But facts are stubborn things.
I had good reason to believe that Tom had accompanied a famous
violiniste, not only in our music-room but in the signorina’s own
drawing-room.  It is astonishing how quickly a suspicious wife develops
into a female Sherlock Holmes!

"I plead guilty to the indictment," said Tom presently, lighting a
cigar.  "Suppose we go into the library, Winifred.  We can have a quiet
half-hour at least before we start."

I derived both pleasure and pain from this suggestion.  It was
satisfactory to find Tom more inclined to be companionable than he had
been for nearly a week.  On the other hand, I was disappointed at
discovering that his determination to attend the meeting of the Chopin
Society remained unshaken.  That any further protest from me would be
futile, I fully realized, and it was with a feeling of apprehension and
disquietude that I seated myself in the library, and watched Tom as he
dreamily blew smoke into the air, seemingly forgetful of my presence.
After a time, he began to speak, more like a poet soliloquizing than an
unimaginative lawyer addressing his wife.

"It was a strangely vivid vision.  I have had dreams that were like
reality, but none that approached this one in intensity.  I passed first
through a doorway that led into old picturesque, crumbling cloisters,
forming a quadrangle. Stretching away from these cloisters ran long
corridors with vaulted roofs.  Down one of the corridors, I hurried
toward a light that seemed to come through a rose window, intensifying
the grim darkness surrounding me.  It was bitterly cold; the chill of
death seemed to clutch at my heart.  And always I heard the sound of
mournful voices through the resounding galleries."

"Tom!" I cried, shocked by the queer gleam in his eyes.

But he went on as if he had not heard me. "There were other noises, some
harsh, others majestically musical.  There came to me the mighty roaring
of a storm-swept sea beating against a rocky shore.  The winds sobbed
and thundered and whistled and fell away.  Then I could hear the
plaintive notes of sea-birds outside the stone walls of the monastery.
But always it was the chill dampness that appalled me. I was forever
hurrying toward the rose window, where warmth and love and joy awaited
me; but always it fled before me, and the long black corridor lay
between me and my goal.  It was horrible."

"What had you been doing, Tom?" I asked, in a desperate effort to recall
him to his present environment.  "Had you been eating a Welsh rabbit at
the club?"

He gazed at me, defiantly.  "No," he said, gloomily, "I had been playing
Chopin with Signorina Moletti."

By an effort of will, I restrained the words that rushed to my lips, and
asked, quietly: "And which of his works had you been playing?"

"I don’t know," he answered, wearily.  "I think the signorina said our
last rendition was No. 1 of Opus 40, whatever that may mean."

Tom glanced at me sheepishly, for all the world like a mischievous
schoolboy who has been forced to make a confession.  My mind was hard at
work trying to recall the details of my recent researches into the life
of Chopin.  To refresh my memory, I opened a book that lay among other
Lives of "the master" on the library-table.

"’No. 1 of Opus 40,’" I presently found myself reading aloud, "’is in A
major, and is throughout an intensely martial composition. There is a
spirit of victory and conquest about it. The most remarkable
circumstances attached to it seems to lie in the fact that it is
supposed to have been written during Chopin’s sojourn at the Carthusian
monastery on the island of Mallorca with George Sand.’"

Bitterly did I regret my indiscreet quotation. Tom had turned white and
there had come into his eyes an appealing, despairing expression that
reminded me of a deer I had once seen brought to bay in the Adirondack
forest.

"Mrs. Van Corlear," announced the butler at the door of the library, and
Mrs. Jack, who had the run of the house, came toward us gaily.

"And how is our boy-wonder this evening?" she cried, laughingly.  "I’m
backing Tom Remsen for the great Chopin handicap to-night.  Are you
quite fit, Tom?  Do I get a run for my money?"

How easy it is for our most intimate friends to take our troubles
lightly!  Although I realized that underlying Mrs. Jack’s levity was a
kindly motive--a desire to carry off an awkward situation with the least
possible friction--I could not help feeling annoyed at her flippant
words.  Grateful as I was to her for her loyal interest in my peculiar
affliction, it was unpleasant to feel that Mrs. Jack was treating as a
light comedy what seemed to me to involve all the elements of a tragedy.
There was nothing farcical, surely, in Tom’s appearance as he stood
there, pale, silent, smiling perfunctorily at our guest, every inch a
modern gentleman, but strangely like the tagonist of some classic drama,
the rebellious but impotent plaything of vindictive gods.

"Come, let us go," I cried, nervously, anxious to put an end to a most
uncomfortable situation. "Do you really feel up to it, Tom?  There is
still time to back out of it, you know.  A solo before a crowd is much
more trying than a duet in private."

I had not intended to hurt Tom’s feelings, but my words had displayed a
plentiful lack of tact. And the worst of it was that Mrs. Jack seemed to
be in a diabolical mood, for she at once jumped at the chance to make
mischief.

"I have heard of your fondness for duets, Tom," she remarked, and I was
reminded of the soft purring of a cat preparing to pounce on a helpless
mouse.  "What a delight it must be to Signorina Molatti to find an
interpreter of Chopin worthy of her fiddle!  You find her a very
interesting personality, do you not?"

Tom stopped short--we were slowly making our exit from the library--and
gazed at Mrs. Jack with a puzzled expression in his eyes.  "Signorina
Molatti?" he queried, musingly.  "What do I think of her?  I really
don’t know.  I never considered the question before.  She’s merely a
part of the music--not an individual, don’t you see?"  Suddenly his face
changed, and he put his hand to his brow as if a sharp pain had
tormented him.  "Wait a moment!  Don’t go!" he implored us, in a
labored, unnatural voice. "What does it all mean?  Tell me!  What am I
doing?  I can’t play Chopin!  I can’t play anything!  Have I been
hypnotized?  I tell you, Winifred--Mrs. Jack--’tis all a mistake, a
mystery, an uncanny, hideous bedevilment.  It’s demoniac possession--or
something of that kind. And what’ll the Chopin Society think if I make a
horrible flunk?  At this moment, I don’t feel as if I could play a note.
Come into the music-room!" he ended, a touch of wildness in his voice
and manner.

Mrs. Jack and I followed him, silently.  There was in Tom’s way of
hurrying across the drawing-room a mingling of eagerness and dread that
was wholly uncharacteristic of the man.  As he hastened feverishly
toward the piano, a hectic flush on his cheeks and his eyes aglow, he
reminded me of a youth I had seen at Monte Carlo staking his whole
fortune on a turn of the roulette wheel.

For a time, Tom sat at the instrument, his head bowed low and his hands
hanging listlessly at his side.  Mrs. Jack’s arm was round my waist, and
I could hear her deep, hurried breathing and feel the nervous tremor of
her slender, well-knit form.  It was indeed a most trying crisis that
could disturb the poise of the athletic woman beside me.

"He doesn’t connect," she whispered to me, presently.  "I wish Dr.
Woodruff were here."

But Mrs. Jack had spoken prematurely.  Suddenly Tom’s hands were raised
and he struck the opening chords of Chopin’s Scherzo in B minor, Opus
20.  The fury of the following measures he rendered with stunning
effect.  Then the vigor of the rushing quaver figure lessened gradually,
and, at the repeat, Tom sprang erect and turned toward us, an expression
of weird ecstasy on his face.

"It’s all right, girls!" he cried, with a boyish lack of dignity.  "Come
on!  We’re late, as it is.  I’ll show those Chopin people something
they’ll never forget!  Come on!"

"He’s fit!" whispered Mrs. Jack to me.  "It wasn’t much of a preliminary
canter--but he’s in the running fast enough!"



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                         *THE CHOPIN SOCIETY.*


    In this dark world where now I stay,
      I scarce can see myself;
    The radiant soul shines on my way
      As my fair guiding elf.
        VICTOR HUGO.


Molatti was a marvel of beauty that evening. Great as was my prejudice
against the girl, I was forced to admit to myself, as we entered the
crowded rooms of the Chopin Society, that I had never seen a handsomer
creature, nor one more radiant with the joy of life.  The glory of
youth, the fire of genius were in her eyes.  There were many striking
faces in evidence that evening, faces full of the subtle charm that the
worship of music frequently begets; ugly faces alight with an inward
glow, symmetrical faces whose regularity was not insipid; plebeian faces
stamped by an acquired distinction; patrician faces warmed by an
esthetic enthusiasm; faces that told their story of struggle and defeat,
and others that bore the mysterious imprint of success.  But there was
only one countenance in all that picturesque throng to which my gaze
constantly returned, paying unwilling homage to a fascination against
which I vainly rebelled.  I found it difficult to believe that Tom had
never noticed the signorina’s wonderful beauty of face and form, that he
had always considered her, as he had said, "merely a part of the music."

Mrs. Jack, who had been watching me closely, seemed to read my mind, for
she whispered to me teasingly: "Tom’ll sit up and take notice to-night,
don’t you think?  She’s well groomed and shows blood, doesn’t she?"

From Mrs. Jack Van Corlear this was high praise indeed, and Molatti
deserved it.  The studied simplicity of her low-cut black gown, relieved
by a small cluster of diamonds below the neck, harmonized with the quiet
arrangement of her luxuriant, dark hair, seemingly held in place by a
miniature aigrette of small diamonds.  The marmoreal whiteness of her
perfect neck and firm, well-rounded arms was emphasized by a sharp
contrast.  Of color there was none, save for the slight flush of health
in her cheeks and the rich, red line of her strong, sensitive mouth.

I glanced at Tom, who stood not far from me, listening to the words of
the president of the society, a short, slender, nervous-looking man,
whose mobile countenance at that moment suggested the joy of a
lion-hunter who has achieved unexpectedly a difficult feat.  Tom was
pale, and there was a wrinkle in his brow just between the eyes that
assured me he was not completely at ease.  But he seemed to be wholly
indifferent to the presence of Signorina Molatti.  That he had not
glanced at her since our entrance to the hall I felt quite sure.  Was
Tom really a great actor? It was a question that was constantly
recurring to me, despite the weight of evidence against an affirmative
answer.

Presently Tom returned to my side, and Mrs. Jack deliberately stuck a
pin into him--or, rather, us.

"Is music antagonistic to manners, Tom Remsen? Go over and speak to
Signorina Molatti. It is your duty, sir."

"And my pleasure, Mrs. Jack," said Tom, with a smile that recalled his
former self, my Tom of the ante-Chopin days.  He left us at once to make
his way through the crowd to Molatti’s corner.

"I take it, madam, that that is your husband," remarked a deep, low,
carefully modulated voice. I turned to find Dr. Emerson Woodruff beside
me.  "He doesn’t look musical."

"No, but he is," Mrs. Jack put in, hastily. "We’ve heard him play
to-night, doctor.  He’s good for any distance--with something to spare.
Mark my words, sir."

"Have you reached any conclusion about the case, Dr. Woodruff?" I
whispered, nervously. "Mrs. Van Corlear is right.  He was in splendid
form just before we left home.  He seemed to be delighted at the
prospect of astonishing these people.  But he had had a curious
outbreak.  He had remarked, rather wildly, that he was not a musician,
couldn’t play a note, and was, he believed, suffering from ’demoniac
possession.’"

I saw that my statement had made a deep impression on the psychologist.
His face was very grave as he watched Tom, who stood beside Molatti,
evidently conversing with her with more vivacity than I had ever seen
him display before.

"He’s a phlegmatic, well-balanced man, in perfect health," muttered the
doctor, musingly.  "I am inclined to think," he went on, addressing me
directly, "that your husband’s case, madam, is the most remarkable that
has ever come under my personal observation.  I am very anxious to
hear--and see--him play before saying anything further about it.  You
feel sure that he intends to perform to-night?"

Before I could answer this question I found myself beset by the fussy
little president of the society, who appeared to believe that he owed me
a great debt of gratitude.

"I tried to thank Mr. Remsen for coming here--to our so great joy!--but
he referred me to you, madam.  Oh, how much I owe you!  And it is so
charming to find the wife of a man of genius wholly in sympathy with his
career.  It is not always thus, you know, Mrs. Remsen."

I could feel the internal laughter that I knew Mrs. Jack was suppressing
behind me.  I longed to turn round and glare at her, but I was forced to
smile down into the excited face of the Chopin enthusiast, who, _ex
officio_, was my host for the evening.

"I trust you will not find Mr. Remsen a great disappointment," I managed
to say, weakly.  For an instant a hot, almost irresistible inclination
stung me to tell this overwrought, undersized bundle of nerves the plain
truth, to assure him that Tom Remsen, my husband, couldn’t tell a
nocturne from a negro lullaby, that he was as ignorant of music as I was
of law.

"I am sure," commented the president, politely, "that no disappointment
awaits us--rather a great and holy joy.  But I regret that our pleasure
must be deferred for a few moments.  Won’t you and your friends find
seats, please?  I have prepared--at the request of the society--a short
paper on ’The Personality of Chopin.’  It will take not more than ten
minutes for me to read it. After that, Mrs. Remsen, we are to have a
most wonderful duet from Signorina Molatti and Mr. Remsen."

The little man disappeared, and I was glad to rest myself in the chair
that Dr. Woodruff had found for me.  I turned toward Mrs. Jack, who had
seated herself beside me.  She saw the gleam of annoyance in my eyes as
they met hers, but smiled, sweetly.

"Why are you angry with me, my dear?" she whispered.  "Am I responsible
if nature granted me a sense of humor?  You must acknowledge that the
situation is amusing--even if it is a bit uncanny."

Tom had seated himself beside Molatti to listen to the president’s
essay.  Presently, I found myself hearkening, with almost feverish
interest, to the latter.

"I have thought it well, my friends," the president was saying, "to
confine my remarks this evening to Chopin in his great general relations
to the world.  I shall endeavor to draw a picture of the man rather than
of the musician.  And first of all, let me quote from Liszt in regard to
the master’s appearance."

I glanced at Tom.  He sat motionless, almost rigid, with a face so
lacking in expression that it was hard to believe he had caught the
significance of the speaker’s words.

"’The ensemble of his person,’" quoted the president, "’was harmonious,
and called for no special comment.  His eye was more spiritual than
dreamy; his bland smile never writhed into bitterness.  The transparent
delicacy of his complexion pleased the eye; his fair hair was soft and
silky, his nose slightly aquiline, his bearing so distinguished and his
manner stamped with so much of high breeding that involuntarily he was
always treated _en prince_.  He was generally gay; his caustic spirit
caught the ridiculous rapidly, and far below the surface at which it
usually strikes the eye.  His gaiety was so much the more piquant
because he always restrained it within the bounds of good taste, holding
at a distance all that might tend to wound the most fastidious
delicacy.’"  To this quotation, the president added a few words from
Orlowski: "’Chopin is full of health and vigor; all the Frenchwomen dote
on him, and all the men are jealous of him. In a word, he is the
fashion, and we shall no doubt shortly have gloves _à la Chopin_.’"

The president paused, and I saw with consternation that he was glaring
at my husband.  The cause of this interruption was apparent at once as I
shifted my gaze.  Tom was rocking back and forth in his chair, shaking
with laughter. His effort to keep his merriment in check, to restrain
the loud guffaws that seemed to rack his very frame, was painfully in
evidence.  There was something almost heroic in his endeavor to repress
an outbreak that would have been brutally rude.  Tom had become the
center of all eyes through the president’s lack of tact.

"What’s the matter with him?" whispered Mrs. Jack, hysterically.

"I don’t know," I answered, lamely.  "He’s had a funny thought.  Is he
better?"  I had turned away from him.

"He’s growing worse, I think," answered Mrs. Jack, despondently.  "Why
doesn’t the president go on?  There, it’s all right.  He’s quiet now."

Mrs. Jack spoke truly.  The president had resumed his lecture, and I
turned and saw that Tom was no longer swaying with mirth.

"How did it happen?" I murmured in Mrs. Jack’s ear.

"I’m not sure," she whispered, "but I think Molatti touched his hand.
Oh, isn’t it weird?  I can’t help feeling it’s like breaking a colt."



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                         *AN UNRECORDED OPUS.*


    Methought it was a glorious joy, indeed,
    To shut and open heaven as he did.
      EMMA TATHAM.


Whenever a number of men and women whose lives are devoted to some one
line of art are gathered together the social atmosphere becomes
surcharged with electricity.  If one is impressionable, acutely
sensitive to an environment, it is best, perhaps, to avoid the haunts of
genius.  I am inclined to believe that sociologists will investigate
eventually the eternal antagonism between Belgravia and bohemia by
strictly scientific methods.  How large an infusion of genius can be
safely sustained by a throng in search of social relaxation it would be
well to know.  One fact, at least, in this connection has been
repeatedly demonstrated--as I had learned to my cost--namely, that a
social function based on music rests on a powder mine.  Belgravia had
witnessed an explosion at my recent musical.  And now, I felt convinced,
bohemia was to undergo a like ordeal.

Tom was at the root of this disquieting conviction. His hysterical
attack of wholly irrelevant hilarity, his quick response to Molatti’s
soothing touch, and now the tense, unnatural expression of his face
filled me with painful apprehension. I both craved and dreaded the end
of the president’s discourse, and my forebodings were darkened by a
remark made by Mrs. Jack, who seemed to derive real pleasure from the
excitement of the crisis.

"Look at Tom," she whispered.  "He’s fretful at the post.  He’ll get the
bit in his teeth, presently.  Do you see Dr. Woodruff over there? He’s
taking notes."

Before she had ceased to speak Tom was out of hand and had bolted down
the track, as Mrs. Jack would have put it.  In other words, he had
sprung from Molatti’s side as the president ended his discourse and had
rushed to the piano at the end of the room.  I caught the look of
amazement on the president’s quaint face, and laughed aloud, nervously.
Utterly ashamed of my lack of self-control, I glanced at the crowd
surrounding me, but nobody had noticed my touch of hysteria. Every eye
in the room was fastened on Tom, who was seated motionless at the piano
in an apparently dazed condition.  His eyes were closed and the corners
of his mouth drawn down.  He looked at that moment like the very
incarnation of all that was unmusical in the universe.  I feared that
Mrs. Jack would comment on his ridiculous appearance, but she was kind
enough to keep quiet.  She told me afterward that my raucous laugh had
frightened her.

Suddenly Tom’s chin went up, he opened his eyes, fixed them on Molatti’s
white face, and began to play.  Such weird, intoxicating harmonies as
filled the room, setting every soul therein athrob with an ecstasy that
was close akin to agony, no earthly audience had ever heard before. Men
and women were there who had memorized each and every note that Chopin
wrote, but there was not among them one who could identify this
marvelous improvisation, this strange exposition of a great master in
his most inspired mood.  It was Chopin, but Chopin unrecorded; his
genius in its most characteristic tendency, but raised, as a
mathematician would say, to the _n_th power.  It was as if the soul of
the composer, dissatisfied with the heritage that he had left to us, had
returned to earth to exhibit to his worships the one perfect flower of
his creative spirit.

How long Tom played I have never known.  I had forgotten all about him
before many minutes had passed, losing in my impressionability to music
my sensitiveness as the wife of a man misunderstood.  There were in the
universe only my soul and a throbbing splendor of great music, mighty
harmonies that filled all space, magic chords that awakened dim memories
of a life long past, filled to overflowing with joy and sorrow, tossing
waves of melody that bore me to the stars or sank with me into vast,
mysterious realms peopled by gray shadows that I had learned to love.

Presently I felt Mrs. Jack’s hand clasping mine. "Don’t go to him, dear.
He has only fainted," I heard her saying, her voice seeming to reach me
from a remote distance.  "He was all out, and collapsed under the wire.
But it’s nothing serious."

Tom had sunk back into Molatti’s arms, and his head rested against her
shoulder.  She had sprung toward him, as I learned later, just in time
to save him from a fall.  She now stood gazing mournfully down on his
white, upturned face, sorrow, pity and, I imagined, remorse in her
glance.  For an instant a hot rage swept over me, and I strove to stand
erect, despite Mrs. Jack’s restraining hand.

"Don’t make a scene!" she whispered to me, passionately in earnest.  "He
is in no danger. See, Dr. Woodruff is feeling his pulse."

Even at that awful moment, when I knew not whether Tom was alive or
dead.  I remember that my mind dwelt for a moment on the tendency of new
schools of medicine to cling to old traditions. Of what significance to
a psychologist could the rapidity of Tom’s pulse be?  I heard people all
around me talking excitedly.

"Did you ever hear anything like it?"

"I tell you, it’s one of the master’s posthumous works.  I couldn’t
identify it, but perhaps it was discovered by Remsen."

"That’s absurd!  Where could he find it?"

"He’s better now.  See, he opens his eyes."

"I don’t wonder he fainted; I was just on the verge of collapse myself."

"_Parblen!  Chopin à la diable!  Non, non_, no more _pour moi, s’il vous
plait!_"

"I can now die so vara happy!  I hava justa once heard the _maestro_
himself.  I hava nothing left for to live."

"Who is this wonderful Remsen?  Never heard of him before."

"You’ll hear of him again, then.  He’s the only man living who can
interpret the master."

It was, all of it, intolerable.  How I hated these chattering idiots,
who were making an idol of clay, setting up my poor Tom--who was to me
at that moment an object of pity--as the incarnation of their cult, to
whom they must pay reverent homage!  I longed to cry aloud to them that
they had been tricked, that my husband was a sensible, commonplace,
lovable man, as far removed from a musical crank as he was from a
train-robber or a pirate.  All my former love for music seemed to have
turned suddenly into detestation, and I longed to get away from this
nest of Chopiniacs into the noisy, wholesome atmosphere of the outside
world.  It seemed to me that nothing could restore my equilibrium but
the uproar of the streets and the unmelodious clatter of my coach.

"We must get out of this at once," I said to Mrs. Jack, standing erect
and checking the dizziness in my head by an effort of will.  I saw that
Tom had fully recovered his senses and that he seemed to be actually
enjoying the homage the excited throng pressing toward him offered to
his vicarious genius.  Beside him stood Molatti, her face radiant, as if
her mission on earth were to reflect the glory of Tom Remsen’s musical
miracle.

"We must get out of this," I found myself saying again, as I urged Mrs.
Jack toward the exit.  "I’ll send the carriage back for Tom."

"But it’s such bad form to run away like this," protested Mrs. Jack.
"What will the president think of us?  And Dr. Woodruff!  Surely you
want to ask him what he thinks of the--ah--case."

But my will for the time being was stronger than hers, and presently we
were seated in my carriage, homeward bound, and I was fighting back the
hot tears that had rushed to my eyes.

"I--I--don’t care what--what Dr. Woodruff thinks about the--the case," I
sobbed.  "I--I--know what I think about it."

Mrs. Jack said nothing for a time, but it was pleasant to feel the
pressure of her hand and to realize that she could be tactful now and
again.

We had nearly reached the house before she ventured to ask: "And what,
my dear, do you think of the case?"

I pulled myself together and restrained my sobs.  I am not of the
weeping variety of woman, and I was ashamed of my hysterical exhibition
of weakness.

"I think," I began, and then I hesitated, weighing my words
carefully--"I think that Signorina Molatti is in love with Tom."

Mrs. Jack laughed outright, both to my amazement and anger.  "You’ve
wholly lost the scent, my dear," she remarked, while I removed my hand
from hers.  "Signorina Molatti is not in love with Tom--she’s in love
with Chopin."



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                           *TOM’S RECOVERY.*


    At length the man perceives it die away
    And fade into the light of common day.
      WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.


After rereading the foregoing deposition I am forced to the conclusion
that I was designed by nature neither for a novelist nor a historian.  I
can see that my narrative fails to be convincing, considered either as a
work of fiction or as a statement of fact.  But may I not comfort myself
with the thought that I have given my testimony conscientiously, and
that if the outcome of my literary efforts is unsatisfactory my failure
is due rather to the inexplicable phenomena with which I have been
obliged to deal than to my own defects as an annalist and witness?  I
have endeavored to inscribe simply and in chronological order the
unadorned tale of my husband’s sudden attack of genius and its
consequences, and I realize now that my data will not be accepted by the
scientific, nor will their arrangement appeal to the artistic. But I
have told the truth, and if not the whole truth, at least nothing but
the truth.  As literature my story belongs to the realistic school and
is of the present.  As a contribution to science it will have no
standing to-day, but I am firmly convinced that the psychologists of the
future will read the details of Tom Remsen’s case with enlightened
interest.

I have felt too deeply the nervous strain of setting down in black and
white the story of the greatest crisis in my life to go into details
here and now regarding the ups and downs of the long illness that Tom
underwent after his triumphant appearance before the Chopin Society.

For two days before he collapsed I saw that he was fighting in grim
silence against weakness and fever.  He was like a man struggling to
overcome an unnatural appetite and growing constantly more weary of the
contest.  He would stroll with reluctant steps into the music-room,
stand for a time gazing defiantly at the piano, with his hands clenched
and beads of perspiration on his troubled brow; then he would turn away,
meeting my gaze with a melancholy smile, and hurry off to his office or
his club, to return to me after a time pale and listless, but always
stubbornly silent as to the cause of his evident suffering. Only once
before he was forced to take to his bed, where he tossed for a week in
delirium, did he refer, even indirectly, to the cause of his
disquietude.

"Has Signorina Molatti been here to-day?" he asked me, abruptly, one
evening at dinner.

"No, Tom," I answered, a note in my voice that I’m sure he did not like.
"Did you expect her?"

"I always expect her," he muttered, speaking more to himself than to me.

That evening the magnetism of the open piano in the music-room proved
irresistible to him.  To my mingled consternation and delight he played
selections from Chopin until long after midnight, the while I sat behind
him fascinated by his renditions but appalled by the persistent
recurrence of his "seizures."  "To-morrow," I said to myself, "I will
consult Dr. Woodruff again. Perhaps he has made his diagnosis and can
suggest some line of treatment."

But on the morrow Tom was in charge of our family doctor and two trained
nurses.  The morning had found him hot with fever, and by noon he was
out of his head and inclined to be violent.  Then followed days and
nights of alternating hope and fear, during which there came to me a
complete revelation of what the old Tom had been to me, the Tom who had
bored me at times--ungrateful woman that I was!--by his practical,
unimaginative, inartistic personality.  How I treasured a word of
encouragement from the doctor or a nurse!  How bitterly I repented my
former discontent, my disloyal longing for something in Tom’s make-up
that nature had not vouchsafed to him!  It had come to him--this
"something"--and it had well-nigh ruined our lives.  Whatever it had
been, demoniac possession, hypnotism or what-not, it had been a thing of
evil, despite the uncanny beauty of its manifestation.  In my heart of
hearts I craved one of two alternatives--either Tom’s death or his
restoration to his former self, freed forever from the black shadow of
Chopin’s genius.

It was not until one afternoon well on in his convalescence that I knew
my fondest hopes had been realized.  We had betaken ourselves to the
library, not to read but to enjoy in an indolent way our new freedom
from trained nurses and the discipline of the sick-room.  Tom, leaning
back comfortably in a reclining-chair and puffing a cigarette, wore on
his invalid’s face an expression of supreme contentment.  Not once, I
was glad to note, did his eyes wander to the distant shelf on which
stood our Chopin literature, books that I had doomed in my mind to an
_auto-da-fé_ when a fitting opportunity for the sacrifice should arise.

"Isn’t this cozy?" remarked Tom, presently, glancing at me
affectionately.  "But I suppose I must hasten my recovery, my dear.  The
Pepper and Salt Trust and other enterprises don’t take much stock in
sick men."

"Don’t worry about business matters, Tom Remsen," I said, with playful
sternness.  "We can get on very well if you never do another stroke of
work in your life."

A shadow passed over Tom’s face, and he puffed his cigarette nervously.
"I’m not fitted for a life of leisure, my dear," he remarked, grimly.
"A man may get into so many kinds of mischief if he isn’t busy."

I hastened to change the subject.  "Remember, sir, that you are under
orders.  You are to do as you are told to do.  You may not know it, Tom,
but the fact is that you and I sail for Europe just as soon as you are
strong enough to stand the voyage."

"Where are we going?" he asked, apprehensively. "Not to Paris?"

"No, not to Paris," I answered, understanding him.  "We’ll spend all our
time in Scotland and Ireland.  They’re the only countries over there
that we have not seen, Tom."

The next day I discharged our butler for an indiscretion that he
committed at this moment.

"Signorina Molatti," he announced from the doorway of the library, and
turning my head I saw the violiniste, with her Cremona under her arm,
coming toward us.  I glanced at Tom. The two red spots that had leaped
into his white cheeks seemed to be an outward manifestation, not of joy
but of hot anger.  I rose and went toward our visitor, a question in my
face.

"Will you not forgiva me, signora?" cried Molatti, in soft, pleading
tones.  "Eet ees what you calla vera bad form, but I hava been so vera
unhappy.  They tolda me that Signor Remsen was dying.  Can you not
forgiva me?"

"But he is on the road to recovery, signorina," I said, perfunctorily.
It would not do to give way to my inclination to chide this insinuating
girl for her presumption.  A scene might cause Tom to have a relapse.

"I see," she cried.  "And I am so glad!  And I hava broughta my violin.
That the signor would lika to hear the voice of the _maestro_--"

"Stop right there, will you--ah--signorina," exclaimed Tom, gruffly,
endeavoring, as I saw, to control his annoyance and show no discourtesy
to even an unwelcome guest.  "I’m not it, young woman.  He’s gone away,
whoever he was.  If he comes back--which God forbid--I’ll notify you.
But you won’t catch me drumming any more on a piano.  My musical career
is at an end.  I’m under the care of a doctor, and he says that I’m on
the road to recovery.  Forgive me if I have spoken too plainly.  You’re
a very charming young woman, and I admire your--ah--genius. But mine’s
gone, and I’ll take good care that it doesn’t come back.  If you’d like
that piano in the music-room, Signorina Molatti, I’m sure that my wife
would be glad to send it over to your apartments.  We’re through with
it--forever!"

I was sorry for the girl.  The expression of amazement--even
horror--that had come into her dark, expressive face touched my heart,
and I laid my hand gently on her arm.

"It’s a great mystery, signorina," I whispered to her, as I led her from
the library.  "I can’t explain it to you very clearly, for I don’t
understand it myself.  But Mr. Remsen told you the truth. He is no
longer musical.  In his normal condition he is the most unmusical man in
the world. The Signor Remsen that you have known, with whom you have
played duets, is dead--I can hardly believe that he ever existed.  Will
you, Signorina Molatti, grant me the great privilege of presenting to
you yonder piano?  Frankly, it would be a great relief to me to be rid
of it."

There were tears in her splendid black eyes as she turned her face
toward me.  "I do not understand," she said, mournfully.  "You do not
know whata it all meant to me.  I cannot taka your piano.  There is
nobody in the wide world to playa eet, now that he ees gone.  And you
are telling me the truth?  I was dreaming?  Eet did not really happen?
But, signora, there were so many who hearda heem--hearda me--hearda us!
Eet could not hava been a dream.  Whata was eet?"

Her voice broke with a sob, and I bent down and kissed her tear-stained
face.

"I cannot tell you, signorina.  But do not let your heart break.  You
may find him again some day."

"Nevaire again," she sighed, seizing my hands impulsively.  "Nevaire
again.  But I thanka you so much.  Fareawell."

My heart was heavy as I returned to Tom, uncertain of the state in which
I should find him. To my delight, I saw as I entered the library that he
had suddenly made a great stride toward renewed health.  He was sitting
erect, and there was little of the invalid in his face or voice.

"That’s over, my dear!" he cried, gaily, "and I’m going to celebrate
Chopin’s utter rout.  Order me a brandy and soda, will you?--and push
that box of cigars toward me.  Then we’ll read up a bit, little woman,
about Scotland and Ireland. On the whole, I’m inclined to believe you
and I will have a very jolly outing."

I leaned forward and kissed the dear fellow’s smiling lips.  "It’s so
good to have you back again, Tom," I murmured.

"And the signorina?" he asked, presently. "How did she take it?  I’m
afraid I was cruel to her, my dear.  Did I speak too harshly to her?"

"You had no alternative, Tom," I assured him, soothingly; "you had been
placed in a very awkward position."

"I had--in a very awkward position," he acknowledged.  "And who the
deuce put me there? I wonder----"

"Don’t wonder, Tom," I cried, sharply.  "The less wondering you do the
better it will be for us both."

"You’re right, Winifred, as you always are," he said, raising aloft the
glass of bubbling brandy that the butler had brought to him, and nodding
toward me.  "Here’s your good health, my dear, and _bon voyage_ to us
both!"



                                 *III.*

                     *Clarissa’s Troublesome Baby.*



    _For while the wheel of birth and death turns round,_
    _Past things and thoughts, and buried lives come back,_
    _I now remember, myriad rains ago,_
    _What time I roamed Himâla’s hanging woods,_
    _A tiger, with my striped and hungry kind._
      _THE LIGHT OF ASIA._



                     *CLARISSA’S TROUBLESOME BABY.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                           *MY LATE HUSBAND.*


    And while the wheel of birth and death turns round
    That which hath been must be between us two.
      --_Sir Edwin Arnold_.


I was alone in the nursery with the baby, a chubby boy whose eight
months of life had amazingly increased his weight and vigor, when I
heard the crack of doom issuing from his miniature mouth!

I wonder if your imagination is strong enough to put you, for a moment,
in my place.  Suppose that you had dismissed the nurse for a time that
you might have a mother’s frolic in the twilight with your only child,
the blessing that had come to you as a reward for marrying again after
five years of widowhood.  Suppose that the baby, opening his little eyes
to their widest extent, had said to you, as my baby said to me:

"You don’t seem to recognize me, my dear, but I’ve come back to you."

Wedded to Tom, already jealous of your maternal fondness for the boy,
what effect would Jack’s voice, silenced five years ago by death, have
had upon you, rising in gruff maturity from a baby’s tiny throat?  Was
it strange that I came within a hair’s breadth of dropping the uncanny
child to the floor?  Mechanically I glanced over my shoulder, in cold
dread lest the nurse might return at any moment.  Then I found courage
to glance down into the baby’s upturned face. There was something in the
child’s eyes so old and wise that I realized my ears had not deceived
me--I had not been the victim of an hallucination resulting from the
strain of an afternoon of calls and teas.  The conviction came to me,
like an icy douche, that I was standing there in a stunning afternoon
costume, holding my first husband in my arms, and liable to let him fall
if our weird _tête-à-tête_ should be sharply interrupted.

"You aren’t glad to see me," grumbled Jack, wiggling uneasily against my
gloves and coat. "But it isn’t my fault that I’m here, Clarissa. There’s
a lot of reincarnation going on, you know, and a fellow has to take his
chances."

Softly, I stole to a chair and seated myself, holding the baby on my
trembling knees.

"Are you--are you--comfortable, Jack?" I managed to whisper,
falteringly, the thought flashing through my mind that I had gone
suddenly insane.

"Keep quiet, can’t you?" he pleaded.  "Don’t shake so!  I’m not a
rattle-box.  I wish you’d tell the nurse, Clarissa, to put a stick in my
milk, will you?  There’s a horrible sameness to my present diet that is
absolutely cloying.  Will you stop shaking?  I can’t stand it."

By a strong effort of will I controlled my nervous tremors, glancing
apprehensively at the door through which the nurse must presently
return.

"There, that’s better," commented Jack, contentedly.  "You don’t know
much about us, do you, Clarissa?"

"About--about--who?" I gasped, wondering if he meant spirits.

"About babies," he said, with a wiggle and a chuckle that both attracted
and repelled me. "Where’s your handkerchief?  Wipe my nose--pardon me,
Clarissa, that sounds vulgar, doesn’t it?  But what the deuce am I to
do?  I’m absolutely helpless, don’t you know?"

I could feel the tears near my eyes, as I gently touched the puckered
baby face with a bit of lace.

"There was only one chance in ten thousand millions that I should come
here," went on Jack, apologetically.  "It’s tough on you, Clarissa.  Do
you think that you can stand it?  I’ve heard the nurse say that I make a
pretty good baby."

I sat speechless for a time, trying to adapt myself to new conditions so
startling and fantastic that I expected to waken presently from a
dream--a dream that promised to become a nightmare. But there was an
infernal realism about the whole affair that had impressed me from the
first.  Jack’s matter-of-fact way of accepting the situation was so
strikingly characteristic of him that I had felt, at once, a strong
temptation to laugh aloud.

"I want you to make me a promise, Clarissa," he said, presently, seizing
one of my gloved fingers with his fat little dimpled hand and making
queer mouths, as if he were trying to whistle. "You won’t tell--ah--Tom,
will you?  He wouldn’t understand it at all.  I don’t myself, and I’ve
been through it, don’t you see?  In a way, of course, it’s mighty bad
form.  I know that. I feel it deeply.  But I was powerless, Clarissa.
You know I never took any stock in those Oriental philosophies.  I was
always laughing at Buddhism, metempsychosis, and that kind of thing.
But there’s really something in it, don’t you think?  Keep quiet, will
you?  You’re shaking me up again."

"There’s more in it than I had ever imagined, Jack," I remarked,
gloomily.  "Of course, I’ll say nothing to Tom about it.  It’ll have to
be our secret.  I understand that."

"You’ll have to be very careful about what you call me before people,
Clarissa," said the baby, presently.  "My name’s Horatio, isn’t it? What
the dickens did you call me that for?  I always hated the name Horatio."

"It was Tom’s choice," I murmured.  "I’m sorry you don’t like it--Jack."

"If you called me ’Jack’ for short--no, that wouldn’t do.  Tom wouldn’t
like it, would he? Your handkerchief again, please.  Thank you, my dear.
By the way, Clarissa, I wish you’d tell the nurse that she gets my bath
too hot in the morning.  I’d like a cold shower, if she doesn’t mind."

"You’ll have to adapt yourself to circumstances, my child," I remarked,
wearily, wondering if this horrible ordeal would never come to an end.
I longed to get away by myself, to think it all over and quiet my
nerves, if possible, before I should be forced to meet Tom at dinner.

"Adapt myself to circumstances!" exclaimed Jack, bitterly, kicking
savagely with his tiny feet at his long white gown.  "Don’t get
sarcastic, Clarissa, or I’ll yell.  If I told the nurse the truth,
where’d you be?"

"Jack!" I cried, in consternation.  There seemed to be a hideous threat
in his words.

"You’d better call me Horatio, for practice," he said, calmly, but I
could feel him chuckling against my arm.  "I’ll get used to it after a
time.  But it’s a fool name, just the same.  How about the cold shower?"

"Jack," I said, angrily, "I’ll put you in your crib and leave you alone
in the dark if you annoy me.  You must be good!  Your nurse knows what
kind of a bath you should have."

"And she’ll know who I am, if you leave me here alone, Clarissa," he
exclaimed, doubling up his funny little fists and shaking them in the
air. "I’ve got the whip-hand of you, my dear, even if I am only a baby.
By the way, Clarissa, how old am I?"

"Eight months, Jack," I managed to answer, a chill sensation creeping
over me, as the shadows deepened in the room and a mysterious horror
clutched at my heart.  I am not a dreamer by temperament; I am, in fact,
rather practical and commonplace in my mental tendencies, but there was
something awful in the revelation made to me which seemed to change my
whole attitude toward the universe and filled me, for the moment, with a
novel dread of my surroundings.  I was recalled sharply to a less
fantastic mood by Jack’s querulous voice:

"Will you stop shaking, Clarissa?" he cried, petulantly.  "You make me
feel like a milk-bottle with delirium tremens.  Call the nurse, will
you?  She hasn’t got palsy in her knees.  I want to go to sleep."

At that instant the nurse bustled into the room, apologizing for her
long absence.

"I’m going to make a slight change in his diet, Mrs. Minturn," she
explained, taking Jack from my arms and gazing down with professional
satisfaction at his cherubic face.  "He’s in fine condition--aren’t you,
you tunnin’ ’ittle baby boy? But he’s old enough to have a bit of
variety now and then.  There are several preparations that I’ve found
very satisfactory in other cases, and I’ve ordered one of them
for--there, there, ’ittle Horatio!  Don’t ’oo cry!  Kiss ’oo mamma, and
then ’oo’ll go seepy-bye."

As I bent down to press my lips against the baby’s fat cheeks, I caught
a gleam in his eyes that the nurse could not see, and, unless my ears
deceived me, Jack whispered "Damn!" under his breath.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                            *A FOND FATHER.*


    As in the world of dream whose mystic shades
    Are cast by still more mystic substances,
    We ofttimes have an unreflecting sense,
    A silent consciousness of some things past.
      --_Richard Monckton Milnes_.


I remember that Tom impressed me as an extremely handsome man, as he
faced me across the dinner-table and smilingly congratulated me on my
appearance.

"You must have had an interesting day, Clare. You look very animated.  I
am so glad that you are beginning to get around a bit.  There’s a golden
mean, you know.  A woman should become a slave to neither society nor
the nursery."

I realized that there was an abnormal vivacity in my manner as I added:
"Nor to her husband, Tom.  Do you accept the amendment?"

"Do you imply that I am inclined to be tyrannical, my dear?" he asked,
laughingly.  "It’s not that, Clare.  But I can’t help being jealous of
you.  How’s the baby?"

My wine-glass trembled in my hand, and I replaced it on the table, not
daring to raise it to my lips.  "He grows more interesting every day,
Tom," I answered, truthfully.  "You don’t appreciate him."  I wanted to
laugh hysterically, but managed to control myself.

"Don’t I, though?" cried Tom, protestingly. "He’s the finest boy that
ever happened, Clare, and I’m the proudest father.  But I don’t believe
in a man’s making an ass of himself all over the place because there’s a
baby in the house. After all, it’s hereditary, so to speak, and quite
common."

I glanced at the butler, but his wooden face showed no comprehension of
the bad taste of Tom’s remarks.  I was glad of that, for Tom has earned
a reputation among all classes for always saying and doing the right
thing at the right time.  I could not help wondering how he would act if
I should tell him over our coffee that my first husband was in the
nursery, doomed to another round of earthly experience in the outward
seeming of Horatio Minturn.

"Forgive me, Clare," implored Tom, misinterpreting the expression of my
face.  "I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings, my dear.  And you mustn’t
do me an injustice.  You have hinted several times of late that I am not
as fond of the baby as I should be.  Now, I know exactly what you mean,
and I--"

"Suppose, Tom, that we defer further discussion of the subject until
later on," I suggested, realizing that I was losing rapidly my grip on
my nerves.  "Tell me about your day.  Where have you been?  What have
you done?  Whom have you seen?"

It was not until we were seated in the smoking-room and Tom had lighted
a long black cigar that he returned to a topic I had learned to dread.
Heretofore, Tom’s interest in the baby had seemed to me to be
intermittent and never very intense.  To-night is struck me as
persistent and painfully strong.

"What I was going to say, Clare, when you interrupted me at the table,"
he recommenced, gazing at me thoughtfully through a nimbus of tobacco
smoke, "was this: Theoretically, I am a fond and enthusiastic father;
practically, I haven’t seen the baby more than a dozen times--and he has
always yelled at sight of me."

I laughed aloud, nervously, and Tom’s glance had in it much astonishment
and a little annoyance.

"It’s hardly a subject for merriment, is it?" he queried, coldly.  "You
accuse me of not appreciating Horatio.  May I ask you, my dear, when I
have had an opportunity of observing his--ah--good points, so to speak?
To be frank with you, Clare, and to paraphrase a popular song, ’all
babies look alike to me.’"

"But there are great differences among them, Tom," I cried, impulsively;
and again a touch of hysteria got into my voice.

"And ours, of course, is the finest in the world," he remarked,
good-naturedly.  "But what I was getting at, Clara, is this: I want to
become better acquainted with the boy.  He’s old enough now, isn’t he,
to begin to--what is it they call it?--take notice?"

"Oh, yes."  I managed to answer, without breaking down.  If Tom would
only change the subject!  But how could I lead his mind to other things?
Surely, I couldn’t tell him flatly that hereafter the baby must be a
tabooed topic between us, that there really was not any Horatio, that
the law of psychic evolution through repeated reincarnations was making
in our nursery a demonstration unprecedented in our knowledge of the
race.  All that I could do was to sit silent, pressing my cold hands
together, and endeavor to prevent Tom from observing my increasing
agitation.

"He sits up and takes notice," repeated Tom, as if proud of his old
nurse’s phrase.  "Well, it’s about time that Horatio ceased to treat me
with that antagonistic uproariousness that has characterized his
demeanor hitherto in my presence.  I have decided to cultivate his
acquaintance, Clare, and I need your help."

"He’s--he’s very young, Tom," I remarked, catching at a straw as I sank.

"I actually believe that you’re jealous of the boy, my dear," cried Tom,
laughingly.  "Frankly, I’m greatly disappointed at your reception of my
suggestion.  You’re so illogical, Clare! In one breath you charge me
with lack of appreciation of the baby, and in the next you intimate that
he’s too young to endure my society.  You place me in a very awkward
position.  I had honestly thought to please you, but I seem to have made
a mess of it."

I was sorry for Tom, and realized that the accusation he had made
against me was just.  For a moment the mad project flashed through my
mind of telling him the whole truth, the weird, absurd, unprecedented
fact that lay at the bottom of my apparent inconsistency.  But the
instant that the thought took shape in unspoken words I rejected it as
wildly impracticable. Furthermore, there had come to me, under the
matter-of-fact influences surrounding me, a possibility that appealed to
me as founded on common sense.  Was it not reasonable to suppose that I
had been the victim before dinner of overwrought nerves, of an
hallucination that could be readily explained by purely scientific
methods?  I had gone to the nursery worn out by social exertions to
which I had not been recently accustomed. Alone with the baby in the
twilight, would it have been strange if I had fallen asleep for a moment
and had dreamed that the child was talking to me?  As I looked back upon
the episode at this moment, it appeared to me more like the vagary of a
transient doze than an actual occurrence. Even the "Damn!" that had
seemed to issue from Horatio’s tiny mouth as I had kissed his cheek
might have been merely the tag-end of an interrupted nightmare, the
reflex action of my disordered nervous system.

"You haven’t made a mess of it, Tom," I said, presently, "and you have
pleased me.  The baby’s old enough to--to--"

"To find my companionship bracing and enlightening?" suggested Tom,
merrily.

"Yes, he’s old enough for that," I answered, lightly, glad to feel the
fog of my uncanny impressions disappearing before the sunlight of a
rising conviction.  With every minute that passed thus gaily in Tom’s
companionship, the certainty grew on me that in the nursery I had been
the prey of nervous exhaustion, not the helpless protagonist of a
startling psychic drama.

"I’ll tell you what we’ll do, Clare," remarked Tom, toward the close of
an evening that had grown constantly more enjoyable to me as time
passed, for, as I playfully misquoted to myself, Horatio was himself
again, "I’ll tell you what we’ll do.  I’ll come home to luncheon
to-morrow and we’ll have the baby down from the nursery.  I suppose
we’re all out of high chairs; but you can telephone for one in the
morning, my dear."

"But, Tom, Horatio is--is only eight months old," I protested.  "He--he
doesn’t know how to act at the table."

"Well, I’ll teach him, then," cried Tom, paternally.  "He needs a few
lessons in manners, Clare.  He has always treated me with the most
astounding rudeness.  It’s really time for him to come under my
influence, don’t you think?  Of course, I may be wrong.  I don’t know
much about these matters, but I can learn a thing or two by
experimenting with Horatio."

"He doesn’t like his--" I began, impulsively, and then laughed, rather
foolishly.  The influence of my dream, it appeared, was still upon me.

"Doesn’t like what?" asked Tom, eying me searchingly, evidently
surprised at my untimely hilarity.

"Game and salads and other luncheon things," I explained, adroitly,
suddenly glad that the evening was at an end and that I could soon quiet
my throbbing nerves by sleep.

"We’ll have some bread and milk for him," suggested Tom, hospitably.
"Maybe he won’t yell at me if we give him something to eat--something in
his line, you know."

Again I succumbed to temptation and laughed aloud.  "How little you know
about babies, Tom," I remarked, in my most superior way; but even as I
spoke the horrible suspicion crept over me again that I, also, might
have much to learn about my own little boy.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                         *MY FIRST AND SECOND.*


    Sometimes a breath floats by me,
      An odor from Dreamland sent,
    Which makes the ghost seem nigh me
      Of a something that came and went.
        --_James Russell Lowell_.


I lunched with Tom and Jack the next day. It was an appalling function,
driving me to the very verge of hysteria and destroying forever my
belief in my dream theory.  My first husband sat in his new high chair,
pounding the table with a spoon, as if calling the meeting to order,
while my second husband sat gazing at the baby with a fatuous smile on
his handsome face that testified to his inability to rise to the
situation.  Behind the baby’s chair stood his nurse, evidently prepared
to defend her prerogatives as the protector of the child’s health.
Lurking in the background was the phlegmatic butler, no better pleased
than the nurse at this experiment of Tom’s.

"That’s it!  Go it, Horatio!" cried Tom, nervously.  "Hit the table
again, my boy. That’s what it’s for."

"I thought that your idea, Tom, was to teach Horatio how to behave in
public," I suggested, playfully, still calm in the belief that I had
been deceived in the nursery by a dream.

"But as you said, Clare," argued Tom, "he’s very young.  It’s really not
bad form, you know, for a baby to pound a table with a spoon.  Is it,
nurse?"

"I think not, sir," answered the nurse, pushing the high chair back to
its place.  The baby had kicked it away from the table while Tom was
speaking.

"Isn’t he--isn’t he rather--ah--nervous, my dear?" asked Tom, glancing
at me with paternal solicitude.  "It’s quite normal, this--ah--tendency
to bang things--and kick?"

"Perhaps he’s hungry, Tom," I suggested, lightly.  My spirits were
rising.  In the presence of the baby, whose appearance and manner were
those of a healthy child something under a year in age, the absurdity of
my recent incipient nightmare was so evident that I blushed at the
recollection of my nonsensical panic.  Reincarnation? Bah! what silly
rubbish we do get from the far East!

"Of course he’s hungry," assented Tom, glancing down at a bird the
butler had put before him.  "With your permission, nurse, I’ll give the
youngster a square meal.  How would a bit of the breast from this
partridge do?  It’s very tender and digestible--"

"How absurd, Tom!" I cried.  "He’d choke!"

"He’s choking as it is!" exclaimed Tom, half rising from his chair.
"Pat him on the back, nurse!"

"He’s all right, sir," said the nurse, calmly as Horatio’s cheeks lost
their sudden flush and he opened his pretty little eyes again.  "You
needn’t worry, Mr. Minturn.  He’s in perfect health, sir."

"Aren’t they queer?" exclaimed Tom, glancing at me, laughingly.

"Sir?" cried the nurse in pained amazement.

"I meant babies, nurse," explained Tom, soothingly, motioning to the
disaffected butler to refill his wine-glass.  "But look here, Clare; you
and I are eating and drinking heartily, but poor little Horatio is still
the hungry victim of a dietary debate.  What is he to have?--milk?"

The baby leaned forward in his chair, seized his empty silver bowl with
a chubby hand, and hurled it to the floor.

"Horatio!"  Tom’s voice was stern as he scowled at the mischievous
youngster.  I could not refrain from laughing aloud.

"Is that bad form, Tom, for a little baby?" I asked, mischievously.

"No," answered Tom, repentantly.  "I don’t blame you at all, Horatio.
Your prejudice, my boy, against an empty bowl when you are both hungry
and thirsty is not unnatural.  Give him some bread and milk, nurse, or
he’ll overturn the table.  What a wonderful study it is, Clare, to watch
a baby develop!  Do you know, Horatio is actually able to grasp a
syllogism!"

"Or a milk-bowl," I added.

"Don’t interrupt my scientific train of thought," protested Tom, gazing
musingly at the child.  "I saw his mind at work just now.  ’I’m hungry,’
thought Horatio.  ’There’s my silver bowl.  The bowl is empty.  There
are bread and milk in the house.  If I throw the empty bowl to the
floor, my nurse will return it to me filled with food.  So here goes!
Q.E.D.’  Clever baby, isn’t he?"

It was at that moment I met the baby’s eyes, and a sharp chill ran down
my back and found its way to my finger-tips.  There was an expression in
the child’s troubled gaze so eloquent that its meaning flashed upon me
at once.  If the baby had cried aloud, "What an amazing fool that man
is!" I could not have been more sure than I was of the thought that had
passed through his infantile mind.

"What’s the matter, Clare?" I heard Tom asking me, apprehensively.  "Do
you feel faint?"

"Not at all," I hastened to say, turning my eyes from my first to my
second husband.  The former was eating bread and milk--reluctantly, it
seemed to me--from a spoon manipulated by his nurse.  That it was really
Jack who was sitting there in a high chair, doomed to swallow baby food
while he craved partridge and Burgundy was a conviction that had come to
me for a fleeting moment, to be followed by a return to conventional
common sense and a renewed satisfaction in my environment.  Tom sat
opposite me, smiling contentedly, while between us, at a side of the
table, the baby perfunctorily absorbed a simple but nutritious diet,
deftly presented to his tiny mouth by his attentive nurse.  It was a
charming scene of domestic bliss at that moment, and I realized clearly
how much I had to lose by giving way, even intermittently, to the
wretched hallucinations that my overwrought nerves begot.

"Just look at him, Clare!" exclaimed Tom, presently.  "I tell you it’s
an interesting study. It’s elevating and enlightening, my dear.  To an
evolutionist there’s a world of meaning in that baby’s enthusiasm for
bread and milk.  Here he sits at the table covered with gastronomic
luxuries and actually rejoices in the simplest kind of food.  You see,
Clare, how well the difference between Horatio and myself in regard to
diet illustrates Spencer’s definition of evolution as a continuous
change from indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to definite, coherent
heterogeneity through successive differentiations and integrations.
Great Scott, nurse!  What’s the matter with him?  He’s choking again!"

"It’s nothing, sir," remarked the nurse, quietly, as the baby recovered
from a fit of coughing and resumed his meal.  "But, if you’ll pardon the
remark, sir, I think that he’s much better off in the nursery."

It was not a tactful suggestion, and I knew that Tom felt hurt; but he
maintained his self-control and made no further comment, merely glancing
at me with a smile in his eyes.  I realized, with a vague uneasiness,
that open and active hostilities between baby’s nurse and Tom were among
the possibilities of the near future, and it was not a pleasing thought.

"What does he top off with?" asked Tom, presently, grinning at Horatio,
who had emptied his bowl and had stuck a fist into his rosebud mouth, as
if still hungry.  "Have you got an ice for him, James?"

The butler stood motionless, gazing fixedly at the nurse.

"What queer ideas you have, Tom!" I cried, to break the strain of an
uncomfortable situation. "An ice would give him an awful pain."

"Perhaps he’d like a Welsh rabbit, then?" growled Tom, crossly.

The baby seized a spoon and rapped gleefully on the table.

"Isn’t he cunning!" I cried, delightedly. "He’s happy now, isn’t he?  I
am inclined to think, Tom, that he’d rather have a nap than a rabbit."

"Not on your life!" came a deep, gruff voice from nowhere in particular.
I looked at Tom in amazement, thinking that he had playfully disguised
his tones and was poking fun at me and the baby.  But Tom’s expression
of wonderment was as genuine as my own, while the nurse was gazing over
her shoulder at the butler, who was eying us all in a bewildered way.
Tom glanced at the nurse.

"Leave the room, James," he said hotly.  "I’ll see you later in the
smoking-room."  Then, to the nurse: "Remove the baby, will you, please?
Thank you for letting us have him for an hour."

As soon as we were alone in the dining-room, Tom leaned toward me and
said: "Shall I discharge James, my dear?  He was most infernally
impudent, to put it mildly."

But the frightful certainty had come to me that the butler was innocent
of any wrong-doing. Absurd as the bald statement of fact seemed to be,
my first husband was the guilty man, and, struggle as I might against
the conviction, I knew it.

"Give him another chance, Tom."  I managed to say, my voice unsteady and
my tongue parched. "James was not quite himself, I imagine.  I’m not
well, Tom.  Give me a swallow of cognac, will you, please?"

Tom, alarmed at my voice and face, hastily handed me a stimulant, and
presently I felt my courage and my color coming back to me.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                         *NURSERY CONFESSIONS.*


      The priceless sight
    Springs to its curious organ, and the ear
    Learns strangely to detect the articulate air
    In its unseen divisions, and the tongue
    Gets its miraculous lesson with the rest.
        --_N. P. Willis_.


I longed, yet dreaded, to have an hour alone with the baby.  I could no
longer doubt that, through some psychical mischance, Jack’s soul had
found a lodgment in a family hospitable by habit and inclination, but
not accustomed to disquieting intrusions.  It was thus that I put the
matter to myself, as I sat alone in my boudoir after luncheon, having
dismissed Marie, my maid, with a message to Horatio’s nurse; and the
conventional make-up of my thought revealed to me, in a flash of
insight, the materialistic tendencies of my mental methods.
Metempsychosis had never assumed to my mind the dignity of even a
philosophical working hypothesis.  Much less had the idea ever come to
me that reincarnation actually furnished a process through which the
physical laws of evolution and the conservation of energy might find a
psychical demonstration.

My natural inclination to take the world as I found it, and to leave the
inner mysteries of life to profounder minds than mine, had been
intensified by my association with Tom, a disciple of Haeckel, Büchner
and other extremists of the materialistic school.  I had come to admire
Tom’s intellectuality and to find satisfaction in the fact that his
fondness for scientific studies would strengthen him to resist the
temptations that surrounded him to become a mere man of leisure and
luxury.  Possessed of great wealth and without a profession, it was
fortunate for Tom that he had found in scientific research an outlet for
his superabundant energies.  He had begun to make a reputation for
himself as a clear-headed, well-balanced evolutionist, both conservative
in method and progressive in spirit, and at our table could be found at
times the leading scientific minds of New York.  And now, into our
little stronghold of enlightened materialism had been dropped a
miraculous mystery, or mysterious miracle, that had overthrown all my
preconceived ideas of the universe and opened before me a limitless
field of groping conjecture.  I realized, with due gratitude to fate,
that if I had been born with an imaginative, poetical temperament my
present predicament would have driven me insane at the outset.
Fortunately for everybody concerned, I am a woman who rebounds quickly
from the severest nervous shock, and I have taken a great deal of pride
in retaining my mental poise in crises of my life that would have made
hysteria excusable.

Nevertheless, it was a severe test of my nervous strength to hold
Horatio in my arms at four o’clock that afternoon and watch his nurse
donning her coat and hat preparatory to a short ride with Marie.  I had
carefully planned this opportunity for an uninterrupted hour with the
baby, but now that it lay just before me I longed to run away from it.
The nursery had become to me a temple of mysteries within which I felt
chilled and awe-stricken, a victim of supernatural forces against which
I was both rebellious and powerless.

After the nurse had left the room I seated myself in a rocking-chair,
cuddling Horatio in my arms and softly humming a lullaby, attempting to
deceive myself by the thought that I really wished him to sleep for an
hour.  In my innermost consciousness lay the conviction that I had
actually come to the nursery for a heart-to-heart talk with Jack.  My
deepest desire was to be quickly gratified.  A gruff whisper came to me
presently from his pretty lips.

"Stop that ’bye-bye, baby,’ will you, Clarissa?" he said, petulantly.
"Haven’t I had enough annoyance for one day?"

"Hush! hush!" I murmured, rocking frantically in the effort to put the
child to sleep, despite my realization of the utter inconsistency of my
action.

"Don’t! don’t!" growled the baby.  "Do you want me to have _mal-de-mer_,
Clarissa?  I can’t be responsible for what may happen. Where did
everybody get the notion that a baby must be shaken after taking?  It’s
getting to be an unbearable nuisance, Clarissa."

"Is that better, Jack?" I whispered, holding him upright on my knees and
peering down into his disturbed face, puckered into a little knot, as if
he were about to cry aloud.

"Thank you," he muttered, gratefully.  "Under the circumstances, my
dear, perhaps it’s well that I didn’t get that Welsh rabbit.  But,
frankly, I was bitterly disappointed at the moment."

"What can you expect, Jack?" I asked, argumentatively, again astonished
at the matter-of-fact way in which I was handling this astounding
crisis.  "You seem to have a man’s appetite but only a baby’s digestive
apparatus."

"That’s my punishment, Clarissa," he explained, in awe-struck tones.
"In the former cycle I ate too many rabbits.  That was scored against
me, under the general head of ’Gluttony,’ and the sub-title ’Midnight
Unnecessaries.’  I’m up against it, Clarissa.  I wouldn’t complain if it
were merely a question of not getting what I want.  But it’s getting
what I don’t want that jars me.  You understand, of course, my dear,
that, generally speaking, I refer to milk.  Isn’t there something in its
place that you could persuade the nurse to give me?  Don’t babies
get--er--malt extract, for instance?"

"I’ll do what I can for you, Jack."  I said, suddenly struck by a
brilliant idea.  "But I must make a condition, and you must make me a
promise."

"I’d promise you anything for a change of diet," muttered Jack, kicking
vigorously with his tiny legs and waving his fat fists in the air.

"If you’ll swear to me, Jack, never to speak aloud again unless you and
I are alone together, I’ll agree to make every effort in my power to add
to your physical comforts."

"Comforts be--blowed!" exclaimed the baby, crossly.  "What I want are a
few luxuries. And, furthermore, my dear, I’m getting very weary of that
machine-made nurse.  She’s narrow, Clarissa.  I don’t wish to speak
harshly about a woman whose heart seems to be in the right place, but
you must get rid of her, if you care a continental rap about your little
baby. You’ll have to fill her place, Clarissa, with somebody more
broad-minded and up-to-date.  She bores me to death."

"You don’t mean that you’ve been talking to her, Jack?" I cried,
horrified.

"That’s not necessary," growled the child. "What with her ’’ittle baby
go to seepy,’ and ’now, Horatio, ’oo dear ’ittle pet lambie,’ she
freezes the words upon my tongue.  Another thing, Clarissa, that you
can’t fully understand--I’m not permitted, through psychological
conditions that you cannot grasp, to talk to anybody but you.  It will
relieve your mind to know that I’m as dumb as a--as a real baby when
you’re not within hearing."

"I’m so glad of that, Jack," I exclaimed, impulsively.  "From things
you’ve said before, I had obtained a different impression."

"I was only trying to scare you, Clarissa," remarked Jack,
mischievously.  "But I’ve told you the truth at last.  By the way, what
a stupendous idiot Tom Minturn is!  How in the world did you happen to
marry him?"

"Jack," I cried, angrily, "I am amazed at your lack of good taste.  You
are hardly in a position to do Tom justice.  Unless you refrain from
making such brutal remarks in the future, I shall leave you entirely to
the care of the nurse."

"And be accused of neglecting your only child," suggested the baby,
slyly.

I had not grasped the full scope of this clever remark, before I was
startled by a quick step in the hallway, the throwing open of the door,
and the sound of Tom’s voice, crying:

"Oh, here you are!  I’ve found you at last, have I?  What a pretty
picture you make, Clare, there in the half-lights with the baby on your
knees.  How is the dear little chap?  Poor fellow, he must have thought
that his dismissal from the luncheon-table was rather abrupt."

"What an ass he is!" whispered Jack, under his breath.  Then he began to
cry lustily, as had been his custom whenever Tom had deigned to enter
the nursery.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                           *A SPOILED CHILD.*


    Yes, ’tis my dire misfortune now
      To hang between two ties,
    To hold within my furrowed brow
      The earth’s clay, and the skies.
        --_Victor Hugo_.


Tom had come to the nursery in high spirits and with the best possible
intention.  Freed from the depressing presence of the nurse and butler
he had argued, I felt sure, that now was the time for a frolic with the
baby that should put their relations upon a smoother footing.  He had
said to me, more than once, that little Horatio’s apparent prejudice
against him was due to the fact that hirelings were always coming
between children and parents in these latter days.

The baby’s voice, however, was still for war. I did not dare to trot him
upon my knees, knowing his prejudice against a shaking, so I sat there
gazing up at Tom’s smiling face in perplexity and holding my first
husband, now howling lustily, firmly upright on my lap.

"Let me take him, my dear," suggested Tom, with what struck me as rather
artificial enthusiasm. "I’ll walk with him awhile.  It may quiet him."

To my astonishment, the baby stopped crying at once, as Tom bent down
and clasped him, rather awkwardly, in his arms.  Hope began to dance
merrily in my heart, and I laughed aloud. It was a sight to bring smiles
to the saddest face. Tom paced up and down the nursery, sedately,
furtively watching Jack, as he nestled against his shoulder, making no
sound and apparently contented for the moment with the situation.  But a
sudden fear fell upon me.  The thought that this might be the calm
before the storm flashed through my mind, and the lightning of
premonition was almost instantly followed by the thunder of fulfilment.

"What the dickens!" cried Tom, in anger and amazement.  Jack, having
deftly hurled Tom’s eyeglasses to the floor, had begun to pummel his
nose with one hand while he pulled his hair with the other, making
strange, guttural sounds the while that were unlike anything that had
ever issued from his baby throat before.

"Take him away, will you, Clare?" implored Tom, wildly.  "He’s the worst
that ever happened.  What’s the matter with him?"

"Perhaps he’s sleepy, Tom," I suggested, uncertain whether I should
laugh or weep, as I removed the baby from my second husband’s arms.
"What a bad little boy you have been, Horatio!" I managed to say,
chidingly, wondering if nature had not designed me for an actress.

"He ought to be spanked," growled Tom, bending to the floor to grope for
his eye-glasses in the twilight.

"Spanked, eh?" whispered the baby, close to my ear.  "We’ll see about
that.  I’ve got it in for him, all right.  Just wait!"

"Hush! hush!" I implored him, hurrying back to the rocking-chair, to get
as far away from Tom as possible.

"What an infernal temper the boy has," remarked the latter, standing
erect again and replacing his eye-glasses upon his nose.  "I’m afraid my
visit to the nursery has not been a success, Clare," he added, as he
stalked to the doorway, evidently sorely hurt at heart.

When we were alone together again, I planted the baby firmly on my knees
and bent down till I could look straight into his tear-stained eyes.

"You are very unkind, Jack," I said to him, earnestly.  "Have you ever
paused to consider what are you here for?  Of course, I’m a convert to
the theory of reincarnation.  You’re sufficient proof of its truth.  As
I understand it, it is incumbent upon you to lead a better life this
time than you led before.  Frankly, Jack, you aren’t beginning well."

"I realize that, Clarissa," said the baby, repentantly.  "If I don’t
brace up, I’ll make a terrible mess of it, and my next birth’ll be sure
to jar me.  Maybe I’ll be doomed to show up in Brooklyn--or even
Hoboken.  If you care anything about my--ah--psychical future, my dear,
you’ll keep Tom Minturn away from me.  He’s so confoundedly patronizing!
He’s actually insufferable, my dear.  Did you hear him quoting Herbert
Spencer at the table, gazing at me all the while as if I were some kind
of a germ that might develop in time?  And the funny part of it is,
Clarissa, that I am a sage, and he’s nothing but a misguided ignoramus."

"But Tom has the reputation of being quite learned, Jack," I protested.
"He’s an active member of the Darwin Society, and has just been elected
to the Association for the Promulgation of the Doctrine of Evolution."

"’And the dead, steered by the dumb, moved upward with the flood,’"
quoted the baby, somewhat irrelevantly, I thought.  "They are blind
leaders of the blind, Clarissa.  I could tell Tom in a minute more than
he’ll ever know if he always clings to the idea that the universe is a
machine that was made by chance and is run by luck.  But I sha’n’t take
the trouble to give him the tip.  He’ll know a thing or two some day.
Meanwhile, my dear, you’d better keep him away from me.  If worse comes
to the worst you might send me to some institution.  I realize, bitterly
enough, that I’ll be an awful nuisance to you if you keep me here."

I felt the tears coming into my eyes, and impulsively I drew the baby
closer to me.  I was in the most deplorable predicament that my
imagination could conceive, torn by conflicting emotions and horrified
by the awful possibilities presented to me by the immediate future.  If
Tom, through Jack’s hot temper, should discover the truth, and be forced
suddenly to abandon materialism by coming face to face with a convincing
psychical demonstration, what would happen?  I shuddered, there in the
gloaming, as my mind dwelt reluctantly upon the unprecedented perils
menacing my happiness.  It was no comfort to my distraught soul to
realize that, in all probability, no woman, since the world began, had
been afflicted in just this way.  Neither was there any relief in the
conviction that I had been in no way to blame for this incongruous
psychical visitation.

"No, I couldn’t send you away, Jack," I said, musingly; "that is
practically impossible.  We’ll have to make the best of it, and our
successful manipulation of the situation depends almost wholly upon your
self-control.  You must adapt yourself to your environment, my boy;
become a baby in fact as well as in theory.  You’ll be happier that
way."

"Don’t talk nonsense, Clarissa," grumbled Jack, kicking viciously at his
long clothes.  "I’m the victim of what might be called a temporary
maladjustment of the machinery of psychical evolution.  Ordinarily, a
baby is not cognizant of a former existence.  You advise me to forget
the past and remember only that I am your cunning little
eight-months-old Horatio.  If I only could! It’s the only thing that
could give me permanent relief, my dear.  But it’s not possible.  Here I
am doomed to a kind of dual punishment, ashamed of myself as Horatio and
afraid of myself as Jack.  And all because I clogged my psychical
progress in my late life by a carnal craving for Welsh rabbits!  It
sounds absurd, doesn’t it, when one puts it into words?  But, my dear,
the sublime and the ridiculous are as close together in one realm of
existence as in another.  Truth has many faces, and there’s always a
grin on one of them."

"I think that I hear your nurse coming, Jack," I whispered.  "Is there
anything that I can do for you?"

"Yes," he answered, excitedly, lowering his voice, however.  "Do you
think, Clarissa, that you could secrete a flask of bottled cocktails in
the room somewhere?  I’ve learned a thing or two of late that might
prove useful to me if I needed a stimulant and knew where to find it.  I
can raise my body by my arms and hold up my whole weight for ten minutes
at a time.  I’ve been experimenting at night, when the nurse was asleep.
Tom’s an evolutionist; ask him about it. He’ll explain to you how it
happens.  You’ll bring the cocktails, my dear?"

I hesitated, bewildered by his request; daring neither to grant nor deny
it.  The nurse was half-way down the hall, and nearing the door rapidly.

"Take your choice, Clarissa," whispered the baby, coolly.  "Unless you
promise me at once, I shall tell the nurse who I am, the moment she
enters the room."

My heart sprang chokingly into my throat, and I whispered, hoarsely:

"Very well, Jack.  I’ll do as you wish.  But do be careful, won’t you?
Don’t take more than a sip at a time, will you?"

Before the baby could reply, the nurse had entered the room, smiling
gaily.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                        *PROTOPLASM AND FROTH.*


    We have forgot what we have been,
    And what we are we little know.
      --_Thomas W. Parsons_.


There was not the least doubt that our dinner in honor of the German
biologist, Plätner, had been a tremendous success.  Long before we had
reached the game course I had caught the gleam of triumph in Tom’s eyes,
and across the long board my gaze had met his in joyous congratulation.
It was not merely personal glory that we had won by this well-conceived
and smoothly executed social function.  In a way, we had vindicated our
caste, had proved to a censorious world that the inner circle of
metropolitan society is not wholly frivolous, utterly indifferent to the
achievements of genius and the marvelous feats of modern science.

When Tom had first suggested to me the possibility of our entertaining
Plätner, whose efforts had won the enthusiasm of materialists in all
parts of the world, I had fought shy of the project. Tom’s idea was to
gather at our table the most noted scientists of the city, with the
German biologist as the magnet, and to select our women from among the
cleverest of our set, once vulgarly known as the "Four Hundred."  Upon
his first presentation of the scheme I had argued that it was
impracticable, that the scientists would find our women frivolous, and
that our women would be horribly bored by the sages.  Even up to the
moment of our entrance to the dining-room I had been annoyed by the fear
that my pessimistic attitude toward the function was to be vindicated,
that Tom’s effort to make oil and water mix was doomed to failure.

And the funniest thing about the whole affair is that we were saved from
disaster and raised to glory through the quaint personality of the Herr
Doctor, our guest of honor.  A typical German savant in appearance, with
spectacles, beard and agitated hair, he displayed from the outset a
perfect self-control beneath which, one quickly realized, glowed the
fires of a fine enthusiasm. Speaking French or English with a fluency
that was enviable, he aired his hobby in a genial, entertaining way,
which saved him from being the bore that a man with a fixed idea is so
apt to prove.  Protoplasm may seem to be a most unpromising topic upon
which to base the conversation at a fashionable dinner-party, but I
found myself intensely interested, before the oyster-plates had been
removed, in the scientific discussion that the learned Herr Doctor had
set in motion and Tom had deftly kept alive.

"I had been impressed, years ago," Plätner had begun, in answer to a
polite question from Mrs. "Ned" Farrington, who is a very tactful woman;
"I had been impressed by the similarity of protoplasm to a fine froth."
Here the German scientist held an oyster poised on a fork and gazed at
it musingly, the while he continued, in almost flawless English: "The
most available froth, soap lather, is made up of air bubbles entangled
in soap solution.  After years of experimenting, my friends, I succeeded
in making an oil foam from soapy water and olive oil.  Under the
microscope my solution closely resembles protoplasm."

"Does it really?" cried Mrs. "Ned," rapturously.

"Wonderful!" commented Professor Shanks, America’s most noted zoölogist.

"It’s curious," remarked Elinor Scarsdale, rather cleverly, I thought,
"that from protoplasm to the highest civilization there should have been
a struggle from soap to soap."

The Herr Doctor glanced approvingly at the brightest débutante of the
season.

"In those words, young lady," he said, with flattering emphasis, "you
have summed up the whole history of physical evolution.  But to
continue: My drops of oil foam act as if they were alive, their
movements bearing a most marvelous resemblance to the activities of
Pelomyxa, a jelly-like marine creature, protoplasmic in its simplicity."
The Herr Doctor was again addressing his remarks to his oyster fork.

"Do I understand you, Dr. Plätner," asked Tom, from the foot of the
table, "that, under the microscope, rhozopod protoplasm, for example,
would resemble your--ah--oil foam?"

"So closely, sir," answered Herr Plätner, instantly, "that I have often
deceived the most expert microscopists in Germany.  Furthermore, Mr.
Minturn, my artificial protoplasm retains its activity for long periods
of time.  I made one drop, sir, that was alive, so to speak, for six
days."

"And then it died?" asked Mrs. "Ned," mournfully.

"To speak unscientifically, yes," answered the German, carefully.  "Now,
what are we to gather from all this, my friends?"  The butler had
removed the oysters, and the Herr Doctor was forced to glance at his
audience.

"New reverence for soap and olive oil," suggested one of the younger
scientists, a professor at a neighboring university.

Plätner eyed the speaker suspiciously, and then said:

"That, of course, sir; but much more than that.  I have proved
conclusively, my friends, that the primary movements of life are due to
structure, and that there is absolutely no necessity for believing in
any peculiar vital essence or force.  The living cell, I confidently
assert, may be built up out of inert matter.  The old-fashioned idea of
a vital spark being absolutely essential is as obsolete as the belief in
special creation. Let me live a hundred years, my friends, and I’ll make
for you a Goethe or a Shakespeare out of soap lather and olive oil."

"Just imagine it!" exclaimed Mrs. Farringdon, gazing with exaggerated
admiration at the German genius.

"It’s really not so shocking to our pride of ancestry as it seems at
first sight;" Tom ventured to suggest.  "Our generation has become
reconciled, perforce, to its humble origin.  It is hard for us to
realize how severely Darwinism shocked our fathers and mothers."

"As I understand you, Dr. Plätner," broke in Mrs. "Bob" Vincent, turning
the blaze of her great, dark eyes full upon the German’s face, "your
discovery is a triumph for the extreme materialists?  It destroys
absolutely all the bases upon which the belief in psychic forces rests?
We are machines, wound up to run for a while, and then to stop forever?"

"You have practically stated my creed, madame," answered the Herr
Doctor, gravely. "Constant motion, constant change--these are the alpha
and the omega of the universe.  Why should we superimpose the concept of
a psychical existence upon a structure that is already perfect? As I
said in other words, my friends, I could, if sufficient time were
granted to me, rebuild the earth and its creatures in my laboratory."

"Provided that it was situated near a barber shop and a delicatessen
store," whispered Dr. Hopkins, who had been listening in silence on my
left to our guest of honor.  I was glad to hear this subdued note of
protest from so eminent a source, but he shook his gray head as I
glanced at him approvingly.  Professor Hopkins, Ph. D., loves science
but hates controversy.  Had he crossed swords at that moment with the
German he would have found, I imagine, that the sympathies of my guests
were with the materialist. When a scientist frankly tells you that he
can manufacture protoplasm, and goes on to describe to you his method of
procedure, it’s well to pause before plunging into an argument with him.
But I, who had good reason to know that Herr Plätner was ludicrously at
fault in his conception of the universe, could not but regret that so
brilliant a champion as Dr. Hopkins had not rushed to the defense of the
truth.  For a moment I was almost tempted to defy the rules of
hospitality and voice the new faith that had come to me in the existence
of psychic mysteries.  This inclination was intensified by Herr
Plätner’s answer to a question put to him by one of the men.

"It’s all the veriest rubbish," I heard the German saying, with great
emphasis.  "All those Oriental philosophies and religions are merely
picturesque presentments of the truths that are clearly stated by modern
materialism, so-called. What is Nirvana but simply cessation of motion?
Admitting reincarnation, for example, as a working hypothesis, it would
mean simply the coming and going of atomic vibrations with successive
losses of identity.  They are dreamers, those Orientals, seeing half
truths clearly enough, but never following them out to their logical
conclusions."

"And yet the East is the mother of lather and olive oil," murmured Dr.
Hopkins, under his breath.

At that instant my heart leaped into my throat, and I sprang to my feet
in affright.  With Horatio in her arms, his nurse had rushed frantically
into the dining-room, despite the interference of the butler, and, with
blanched face and staring eyes, was bearing down on me, with the
purpose, evidently, of thrusting the baby into my grasp.

[Illustration: "_He’s bewitched, ... He’s been talking like a man._"]

"Take him! take him!" she cried, hysterically, and before I could resist
her insistence, Horatio was squirming in my bare arms.  "He’s
bewitched," continued his nurse, frantically. "He’s been talking like a
man.  I’m through with him.  He ain’t a baby!  You just wait a moment,
Mrs. Minturn.  He’ll speak again in a moment. He’s got a voice like a
steam calliope. And what he says!  Oh, my!"

"Take her away at once," Tom was crying to the butler.  "She has gone
crazy," he went on, rushing past our astounded guests to my assistance.
"Don’t be frightened, my dear!  I always thought that she was
unbalanced, and now I know it.  Poor little Horatio!  He looks scared to
death!"



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                       *A BIOLOGIST AND A BABY.*


    We know these things are so, we ask not why,
    But act and follow as the dream goes on.
      --_Lord Houghton_.


"Isn’t he a lovely baby!"

"Don’t send him away, Mrs. Minturn."

"Get his high chair for him, James."

"See him smile!  I don’t wonder at his relief. Just imagine being in the
care of a crazy nurse!"

"What wild eyes she had!  You say she was always eccentric, Mr.
Minturn?"

"The baby’s only eight months old?  Really, Mrs. Minturn, he looks
older."

"He has such pretty eyes!  And look at the dimples in his little hands.
Doesn’t he ever cry? How good he is, dear little fellow!"

"Horatio!  What a fine, dignified name!  Horatio held a bridge, didn’t
he? or was it a full house?"

"What a question for a famous scientist to ask!"

The baby, erect and smiling in his high chair, had wonderfully enlivened
our dinner-party. Even Tom, startled as he had been by the advent of the
distraught nurse, was now wholly at his ease and beamed genially from
the foot of the table upon the youngster, who seemed to be delighted at
the attention that he was receiving from beautiful women and famous men.
As he sat there, merrily waving a spoon in the air and crowing lustily,
I watched him with mingled pride and consternation.  Although a most
distressing episode had been brought to a picturesque conclusion, there
seemed to me to be startling possibilities in the present situation.  I
did not like the flush upon the baby’s cheeks, the unnatural gleam in
his laughing eyes.  Impulsively I bent down and kissed him upon his
pretty mouth.  My worst fears were instantly realized, and I felt my
spinal marrow turn to ice.  I had detected the odor of a cocktail upon
Horatio’s--or, rather, Jack’s--breath.

"I am forced to acknowledge, madame," I heard Herr Plätner saying, in
answer to one of Mrs. Farringdon’s leading questions, "I am forced to
acknowledge that my theories destroy much of the poetry of life.  It is
a most prosaic attitude that I am forced to hold toward yonder most
beautiful baby, for example.  Romance would point to him as an immortal
soul in embryo.  Realism asserts that he is a machine, like the rest of
us, with a longer lease of activity before him than you or I have, who
have been ticking, so to speak, for several years."

"Be good, Horatio!" I whispered.  "Don’t cry.  You can have an ice
pretty soon."

The baby brought his spoon down upon the table with a thump, and
actually glared at the German professor, while my guests laughed gaily
at the child’s precocious demonstration.

"Isn’t he cunning!" exclaimed Elinor Scarsdale, delightedly.

"He seems to have a prejudice against me, _nicht wahr_?" remarked the
Herr Doctor, laughing aloud.

"You aren’t to blame for that, little boy," murmured Dr. Hopkins, so
that I alone could hear him.  "He says that you are sprung from oil and
lather and are rushing toward annihilation."

"Bah!" yelled the baby.  "Bah! bah! bah!"

"’Ba-ba, ba-ba, black sheep, have ’oo any wool?’ quoted Professor
Rogers, the noted comparative philologist, who has identified the germ
of epic poetry in the earliest known cradle songs.

"Isn’t he fascinating!" cried Elinor Scarsdale, referring to the baby,
not to the philologist.

"If you’ll excuse me for a time," I said to my guests, seeing that Tom
was growing weary of Horatio’s prominence at the table, "I’ll take the
baby to the nursery."

"You’ll do it at your peril," I heard a deep voice grumble, and Dr.
Hopkins jumped nervously and glanced at me in amazement.

"Don’t run off with him, Mrs. Minturn," cried Mrs. Farringdon; and her
protest was sustained by a chorus of "don’t" and "do let him stay."

"It may be only temporary," I heard Dr. Plätner saying, as he gazed at
Professor Shanks, who had asked him, evidently, a question about the
baby’s nurse.  "It’s not an uncommon form of insanity, and may be only
temporary.  I recall an instance of a very learned and perfectly
harmless professor at Göttingen who believed for years that his pet cat
talked Sanskrit to him. There was at my own university a young man
wholly sane, apparently, who made a record of conversations that he had
held with the skeleton of a gorilla.  Both of these men were eventually
restored to mental health, and have never had a return of their
delusions.  It is fortunate, however, that the poor woman, whose
insanity we have so recently witnessed, exhibited her mania at this
time.  What might have happened otherwise to that charming little baby I
shudder to think."

Horatio was pounding the table with a spoon, as if applauding the Herr
Doctor’s remarks. Suddenly he dropped the spoon and made a grab for Dr.
Hopkins’s wine-glass.

"What vivacity he has!" remarked Professor Shanks, as if addressing a
roomful of students interested in a zoölogical specimen.

"He seems to know a rare vintage when he sees it," suggested Dr.
Hopkins, intending, of course, to compliment his hostess.

"I think my dear--" began Tom, nervously.

"Don’t go any further, Mr. Minturn," cried Elinor Scarsdale, playfully.
"The baby is so much more interesting than----"

"Protoplasm," added Dr. Hopkins, under his breath.

Dr. Plätner was gazing at the baby searchingly. He had been impressed
evidently by certain eccentricities in Horatio’s bearing.

"How old did you say the boy was, madame?" asked the German savant,
presently.

"Eight months," I answered, a catch in my voice that I could not
control.

"He’s--ah--very intelligent for a child of that age," commented Plätner,
laboring under the mistake that he was saying something complimentary.
"He has a most expressive face."

As the baby was scowling savagely at the German at that moment, and
frantically shaking his little fists at him, there were both pith and
point to the latter’s remark.

"Rot!" muttered Jack, wickedly.  I sprang to my feet and lifted him from
his chair.  He kicked protestingly for a moment, and gave vent to a yell
that bore witness to his possession of a marvelous pair of lungs.

"Be quiet, Horatio," I whispered, imploringly, hurrying toward the door,
without further apology to my guests.  "If you’ll be silent now, I’ll
have a bottle of champagne brought to the nursery."

At these words the baby nestled affectionately in my arms, and I felt
that the fight was won. Just as we reached the doorway, however, Jack
clambered to my shoulder and waved his little fist defiantly at my
guests.

"Damn that frowsy old German donkey!" he muttered, close to my ear.
"I’d give half a bottle of cocktails to prove to him what an amazing
ignoramus he is!  Just wait a minute, will you, Clarissa?"

I rushed out of the dining-room without more ado.  In another instant
Jack would have said the word that trembled on his tiny mouth, the word
that would have brought the whole temple of modern materialism toppling
down upon Herr Plätner’s devoted head.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                        *HUSH-A-BY, NUMBER ONE!*


    Methinks that e’en through my laughter
      Oft trembles a strain of dread;
    A shivery ghost of laughter
      That is loath to rise from the dead.
        --_Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen_.


The nursery was in a condition of much disorder as I entered it with the
baby’s arms around my neck.  Much to my surprise and delight Jack had
fallen asleep as we mounted the stairs.  How to get him into his crib
without rousing him was a problem that I longed to solve, although I had
determined not to return to the dining-room.  I would send a maid
presently to tell the butler to inform Tom that I could not leave the
baby at this crisis.  Surely our guests would consider a crazy nurse
sufficient excuse for the retirement of their hostess.

But Jack opened his little eyes and crowed, rather hilariously, as I
laid him on his pillows.

"Don’t go, my dear Clarissa," he said, his baby tones strangely out of
harmony with his words.  "I have much to say to you at once. I owe you
an explanation and apology.  Sit down, won’t you?"

"Keep quiet, Jack," I whispered, "I’ll be back in a moment."

After I had despatched a servant to the dining-room with my message to
Tom, and had assured myself that the baby’s hysterical nurse had left
the house--poor woman, I was sincerely sorry for her!--I returned to the
nursery and shut myself in, with a feeling of great relief.  So intense,
indeed, was my nervous reaction after hours of varied emotions that I
sank at once into a chair to check a sensation of dizziness that had
come over me as I crossed the room.

"Isn’t this cosy!" exclaimed the baby, kneeling at the side of his crib
and striving to touch me with his fat, uncertain little hands.  "I
wanted to say to you, Clarissa, that I did not deliberately plan to
frighten that tyrannical nurse of mine.  To tell you the truth, my dear,
I had taken just one swallow too much of those cocktails and was
astonished to discover that, while thus slightly elevated, so to speak,
I could communicate in the language of maturity with
this--ah--comparative stranger.  Naturally, it was a great shock to the
nurse.  As I remarked to you before, my dear, she’s narrow.  A more
broad-minded woman would not have rushed before the public, making a
kind of Balaam’s ass of a helpless baby.  But she’s been discharged, of
course?"

"She has gone away, if that’s what you mean," I answered, laughing
rather hysterically.  "How do you account for your sudden loquacity in
her presence, Jack?"

"That’s a mystery," said the baby, screwing up his tiny mouth into a
funny little knot. "Spirits had something to do with it, I suppose."

"Spirits!" I repeated, nervously.

"Yes," responded Jack, clapping his palms together with a ludicrously
infantile gesture. "You see, my dear, there were spirits in the
cocktail.  To tell you the truth, Clarissa, I’m a bit scared.  I’m going
to swear off.  By the way, did you order that champagne?"

"No," I answered, curtly.

"Well, perhaps it’s better, on the whole, that you didn’t," sighed the
baby, tumbling back on his pillows and waving his chubby legs in the
air.  "I’ve about made up my mind, my dear, to lead a better life.
It’ll be easier for me to be good than it has been, now that the nurse
is gone. She was so narrow, Clarissa!  It was always on my mind, and it
finally drove me to drink."

"I’ll have to replace her at once, Jack," I remarked, drawing my chair
closer to the crib. "What--ah--that is--have you some idea as to just
what kind of a nurse you’d like?"

The baby was on his knees again at the side of the crib, waving his
expressive fists in the air.

"Understand me, Clarissa," he said, sternly, "I refuse to risk my life
again by placing myself in the power of a hireling nurse.  You can’t
expect people of that kind to be open to new ideas. To a man of my
temperament, my dear, you must realize that repeated doses of baby-talk
are actually cloying.  If you could engage some broad-minded, elderly
woman who had been deaf and dumb from birth, I might put up with her for
a while.  But, of course, it would be hard to find such a prize.  You’ll
have to look after your little baby yourself, my dear, until I’m a few
years older.  It’ll be hard for you, I realize that, Clarissa.  But,
frankly, is there any other alternative?  If I’m to lead a better life,
my dear, I must have some encouragement."

I leaned back in my chair, and closed my eyes wearily.  The burden that
had been thrust upon me was growing greater than I could bear.

"We’ll postpone this discussion until to-morrow, Jack," I said,
presently.  "I must think it all out carefully before I can come to a
decision. Meanwhile, you’d better go to sleep.  It’s getting late, you
know."

"You aren’t going to leave me here alone, Clarissa?" cried the baby,
nervously.  "You’d better not.  There’ll be trouble if you do."

The fact was that I was in a quandary as to what was the proper thing to
do, under the circumstances.  I had only just begun to realize how many
problems had been solved by the presence of the nurse.  At this time of
night it was impossible, of course, to get anybody to take her place.
At such a crisis as this the natural solution of the problem lay in my
temporary occupancy of her position.  But I shrank from the obligation
that fate had so unkindly thrust upon me.  Lifting the very willing baby
from the crib, I carried him to a rocking-chair, hoping that I might get
him to sleep while I came thoughtfully to a determination regarding my
course of action for the immediate future.

"Gently!" murmured Jack, cuddling gratefully in my arms.  "A long, slow,
dreamy kind of rocking is not so bad, Clarissa.  It’s the tempestuous,
jerky style that I object to.  That confounded nurse had a secret
sorrow.  It used to bother her whenever she got me into this chair.
She’d groan and weep and swing me up and down, as if she were trying to
pulverize her grief, with me as the hammer.  Then I’d begin to yell, and
she’d rock all the harder.  You can’t imagine, Clarissa, what your
little Horatio has suffered of late."

I laughed aloud nervously, knowing that my merriment had a cruel sound,
but unable to control it.

"Did you think that I was joking!" growled Jack, clutching at my chin,
angrily.

"Forgive me, Jack!" I exclaimed, repentantly. "I know that you’ve had an
awfully hard time, poor boy.  And I promise you that I shall try my best
to make life easier for you, from now on. And now, Jack, do try to get
to sleep!  I’ll see to it that you are perfectly comfortable to-night,
and to-morrow we’ll talk about the future. Would you like to have me
sing to you, Jack, as I rock you?"

The baby fairly shook with suppressed laughter at the suggestion.

"Doesn’t it seem absurd, Clarissa?" he gasped, between chuckles.  "Just
imagine what it really means.  You’re about to hum hush-a-bye-baby to
Number One, while Number Two is down-stairs talking scientific rubbish
to a lot of old fogies!  If you should ever write your memoirs, my
dear----"

"Hush, Jack!" I cried, petulantly, setting the chair in motion.  "I
shall never write anything for publication."

"Nonsense," commented the baby, drowsily. "Everybody does.  You’ll be
sure to try it on some day.  What a story you could tell, couldn’t you,
my dear?  You might call it, with my permission, ’Clarissa’s Troublesome
Baby.’"



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                            *A BOSTON GIRL.*


It would be curious if we should find science and philosophy taking up
again the old theory of metempsychosis. But stranger things have
happened in the history of human opinion.--_James Freeman Clarke_.


It was only through the exercise of the nicest care that I escaped a
complete nervous collapse during the weeks immediately following our now
famous dinner to Herr Plätner.  I was tempted at times to run off to
Europe and leave my fevered household to fend for itself.  I seemed to
spend the larger part of my time in keeping Jack quiet and Tom cool.
Which was the more difficult task I am unable to say.  Jack remained
stubbornly unreasonable regarding the kind of nurse he was willing to
submit to, while Tom grumbled continually because I spent so much time
with the baby.

"What is the trouble in the nursery, Clarissa?" the latter asked me one
morning at breakfast. "You have tried ten different experiments there
since that crazy woman left us, and now you tell me that her place is
again vacant. We pay the highest wages, Horatio is not a sickly, fretful
child, but still these alleged nurses come and go, offering, so far as I
can learn, only the flimsiest excuses for throwing up a seemingly
desirable situation.  There must be something radically wrong up there.
Have you any idea, my dear, what it is?"

How could I tell Tom the truth about the matter?  Had I informed him
that the baby still insisted upon my engaging an elderly woman deaf and
dumb from birth, and refused to adapt himself to any one of the many
compromises that I had offered to him, Tom would have been justified in
suspecting the existence of insanity germs in our nursery.  He had seen
one woman issue therefrom in an apparently crazy condition, and he had
noted the eccentric fickleness of her successors.  If I should now lay
the actual facts before him, he would have good reason to believe that I
also had lost my mental balance.  At that moment there came to me a
vague dread of my second husband’s scientific habit of mind.  It was
evident that he was bent upon collecting data about the baby and his
nurses, in order that he might reach some reasonable conclusion in
explanation of the existing disturbed conditions in our formerly
unruffled household.  And the unfortunate part of it was that Tom had
the leisure and, I feared, the inclination to wrestle with this problem
until he had solved it in some way satisfactory to his exacting mind.

"The root of the trouble, Tom," I answered, presently, after carefully
weighing my words before uttering them, "the root of the trouble is not
in the baby or the nursery or the wages--or in me.  It is to be found in
the great change that is going on in the conditions of domestic service.
A child’s nurse to-day--I mean one of the kind that we should be willing
to employ--is a highly-trained specialist who has grown haughty and
despotic in the mere exercise of her profession. She realizes that the
demand for experts in her line is greater than the supply, and----"

"I see," interrupted Tom, rather rudely, I thought.  "But it does seem
to me that if other people in our position, Clare, can find satisfactory
nurses, we should not be the one family in the city that is forced to
take care of its own baby. I am willing to pay any amount of money to
insure Horatio’s comfort.  I’ll admit that he is difficult at times.  He
seems to be a very sensitive, highly-strung child, but there’s nothing
abnormal about him.  He’s pugnacious and hot-tempered, but most healthy
boy babies are inclined to be spunky, aren’t they?  What I object to is
that he is gradually absorbing all your time, day and night, Clare.  I’m
not jealous of Horatio, my dear, but I don’t believe in the
old-fashioned idea that parents should sacrifice their comfort upon the
altar of the nursery.  You understand my position, do you not?"

"Gwendolen will be here to-day, Tom," I said, smiling at his disturbed
face from across the table.  "I hope that she’ll take a fancy to the
baby.  At all events, she’ll relieve the situation. When your wife’s in
the nursery, Tom, you’ll have your cousin to talk to."

"Bah!" grumbled Tom, rising and placing a hand on the back of his chair,
"Gwendolen’s pretty and chic and up to date, but she’s not in your class
intellectually, my dear."

I smiled gratefully at Tom’s compliment, but my mind was not at ease.
Wasn’t the presence of Gwendolen Van Voorhees in the house more likely
to prove disastrous than satisfactory? When, however, Tom had insisted
that his cousin’s long-deferred visit to us be made at once, I could
find no reasonable argument to oppose to his washes.  From various
points of view, Gwendolen’s advent to the household appeared to be
desirable.  She was a charming girl, well read, widely traveled and a
thoroughbred little _mondaine_.  But I dreaded her arrival, despite the
fact that I could not have put the vague fears that haunted me into
specific words.  I was beginning to realize what it means in this
prosaic, unimaginative world to hide in one’s bosom an uncanny secret.
There had come to me, of late, moments when the inclination to tell Tom
the whole truth about Horatio--or, rather, Jack--was almost
irresistible.  Perhaps my real reason for objecting to Gwendolen’s
presence was my fear, unacknowledged to myself, that I should be tempted
eventually to tell her the amazing tale of Jack’s ridiculous
reincarnation.  There were times, and they had constantly become more
frequent, when the burden of my secret seemed greater than I could bear,
when the longing to confess to somebody that the baby was a psychical
freak of the most astounding kind burned hot within me.  As I lingered
over my coffee in the breakfast-room that morning, after Tom’s
departure, the immediate future looked black enough, and I could not see
that the coming of Gwendolen gave it a lighter shade.

Nevertheless, I was really glad to welcome her later in the morning as I
met her at the door of the drawing-room, and kissed her pretty, piquante
mouth affectionately.

"I was awfully glad to come to you, Clare," she cried, vivaciously, as
we mounted the stairs that I might show her to her rooms.  "You know the
song with the chorus, ’There’s one New York, only one New York?’  It’s
been running through my mind for two days."

"But I thought that you were wedded to Boston, Gwen," I remarked, my
mind wandering for a moment as we passed the closed door of the nursery.

Presently we were seated cozily before an open fire in the guest
chamber, while Gwendolen, dark, petite, smiling, appeared to me to be a
most ornamental and fascinating addition to our little circle.

"Boston is amusing," she was saying, in her pleasantly emphatic way,
"but it’s so erratic, don’t you know.  My nerves always begin to ache
after I’ve been there a few weeks.  They are so fond of fads, Clare,
those clever Bostonians!  They take up everything, you know, and always
go to extremes."

"It’s American history now, is it not?" I asked.

"Yes," answered Gwen, gazing at the fire musingly.  "That’s coming in
again.  But they’re perfectly crazy about theosophy just at present.
You’d be amazed, Clare, to discover how much I know about Nirvana and
adepts and metempsychosis, and all that kind of thing.  Several of my
most intimate friends have become vegetarians and live mostly on baked
beans.  It’s awfully funny--they take it all so seriously."

"And what do you really think of it, Gwen?" I asked, nervously.

"Think of what, of which, my dear?  Of living on beans, do you mean?"

"No.  Beans are only a side issue, or, to speak with Tom’s scientific
accuracy, a side dish.  What do you think, for instance, of
reincarnation?"

"I don’t know what to think about it, Clare," she answered,
reflectively, pushing her dainty little feet toward the fire and gazing
into my face with earnest eyes.  "Do you know, there are times when I
really imagine that there’s something in it!  Of course, it’s absurd in
a way, but it does solve a great many problems, does it not?  It
conforms beautifully to the laws of evolution and the conservation of
energy, and there are so many things that can’t be explained by any
other theory!  But it always makes me shudder to think of it.  Imagine,
Clare, being born again in Turkey, for example.  Wouldn’t it be
shocking?"

I laughed, rather hysterically.

"The whole subject is too silly for any use," I managed to say, in a
superior kind of way. "It does very well for Boston, of course, but it
will never have much of a run here in New York."

"What a narrow way of looking at it, Clare!" exclaimed Gwendolen,
protestingly.  "Of course, I’m not a theosophist, but I’m broad-minded
enough to realize that what’s true in Benares or Boston must be true in
New York.  If reincarnation is really going on in this world, I can’t
believe that any exception is made in favor of our Knickerbocker
families."

Again I laughed aloud, nervously.  It was pleasing to me to discover
that Gwendolen had a mind open to startling truths, but I regretted the
fact that I must henceforth constantly fight against the temptation to
tell her my great secret. The imminence of my peril in this regard was
illustrated at once, for she turned to me suddenly and asked, with great
vivacity of manner:

"Where is the baby, Clare?  Won’t you let me see him at once?  I came to
visit him, you know; not you or Tom.  He’s got such a lovely name!
’Horatio’ is so fine and dignified!  What do you call him for short, my
dear?"

"I have not given him a nickname, Gwendolen," I answered, coldly.  "If
you wish to, we’ll go to the nursery at once.  As I told you in my
letter, we’ve had difficulty in getting the baby a nurse.  Just at
present, I’m obliged to spend most of my time with him.  But I gave you
fair warning, you know."

"I’m so glad that I can have the run of the nursery," cried Gwendolen,
gaily, springing to her feet.  "I do so love really nice children,
Clare!  Is he a jolly baby?  Will he take to me, do you think?"

I answered her question as we reached the door of the nursery: "I am
sure I can’t say, Gwen. Horatio is very eccentric and pronounced in his
likes and dislikes.  But if he goes to you at once, follow my advice and
don’t toss him up and down violently.  He says--that is, he doesn’t like
to be shaken after taken."



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                        *AN UNCANNY FLIRTATION.*


    And thou, too--when on me fell thine eye,
    What disclos’d thy cheek’s deep-purple dye?
    Tow’rd each other, like relations dear,
    As an exile to his home draws near,
    Were we not then flying?
      --_Schiller_.


I must acknowledge that the enthusiasm displayed by the baby when he
caught sight of Gwendolen filled me with mingled astonishment and
annoyance.  He sat bolt upright in his crib, waved his hands joyously in
the air, and crowed lustily.  I realized that the poor little chap was
laboring under a delusion, that he had mistaken Tom’s fascinating cousin
for a new nurse; but, even so, why should he act as if he were
intoxicated with happiness?  I could not check the conviction that Jack
was making an exhibition of very bad taste by his warm reception of
Gwendolen.  That I was jealous of her was not true--that would have been
absurd--but it was not pleasant to realize that the baby could rejoice
openly in the advent of one who, as he believed at the moment, was to
take my place in the nursery.  Jack’s horrible psychical disaster had
greatly endeared him to me, and I could not help feeling hurt at his
eagerness to go to a perfect stranger.  There was something not
altogether infantile in the way in which he threw his chubby little arms
around Gwendolen’s neck and tucked his smiling little face into her
cheek, chuckling contentedly, while the girl laughed aloud.

"Isn’t he just the sweetest little thing that ever lived!" cried
Gwendolen, with spontaneous enthusiasm.  "Did you see him jump right
into my arms, Clare?  Such a thing never happened to me before.  Is he
always so cordial to strangers?"

"As I told you, Gwendolen, Horatio goes to extremes in his likes and
dislikes.  He evidently approves of you."  For the life of me, I could
not prevent my voice from sounding cold and harsh.  But the girl was too
thoroughly interested in the baby to note the lack of cordiality in my
tones.

"’Oo clear ’ittle angelic creature," she was murmuring to him, as she
seated herself in the rocking-chair, with Jack cuddled in her arms.
"Will ’oo always love ’oo cousin Gwen?"

Here was a kind of baby-talk that Jack seemed to like, for his every
sound and movement expressed approval of Gwendolen’s nonsensical
endearments.  But, I must admit, it annoyed me. Logically, I could not
blame Gwendolen for displaying a sudden fondness for the baby.  She had
no way of knowing that she was holding my first husband on her lap.  I
was glad that she was ignorant of the fact, but, while my mind fully
exonerated her, my heart protested against her fetching ways with the
child.  Jack as a baby had never appeared to such advantage.  He smiled
and laughed, winked his eyes, made funny little holes with his mouth,
and waved his tiny fists in the air in a kind of oratorical way that was
irresistibly amusing.

"He’s perfectly sweet!" cried Gwendolen, glancing at me with dancing
eyes.  "I don’t think that I ever cared much for a baby before, Clare,
but Horatio has cleared the first bunker beautifully. Is he always like
this?"

I laughed aloud, nervously.  I hadn’t the courage to say anything
uncomplimentary of the baby at that moment, not knowing how far I could
trust Jack’s self-control, and so I remarked, in a non-committal way:

"He’s a very good baby, on the whole, my dear.  Of course, he isn’t to
be blamed for protesting if things don’t go just right with him."

"Of course ’oo aren’t, ’oo lovely ’ittle caramel," murmured Gwendolen,
her cheeks pressed against Jack’s baby face.  "I’ve always been so sorry
for babies, Clare, because they couldn’t talk. It must be trying when a
pin is sticking into you somewhere to have your gums rubbed by a
misguided nurse, or to be rocked violently when the heat of the room has
made your head ache."

The baby gave vent to a most astounding yell of delight, a very
precocious exhibition of emotion that made Gwendolen laugh merrily.  But
his vivacity quite upset me.  I feared, momentarily, that his enthusiasm
would find speech an imperative necessity, and that Gwendolen would
discover to her consternation that what was theory in Boston had become
practice in New York. Thereupon I acted in a most tactless way.  I bent
down and removed Jack from Gwendolen’s arms to mine.

"Put me back, or I’ll denounce you," whispered the baby, in my ear.
Then he began to howl in the most exaggerated infantile manner. I was
annoyed to realize that my cheeks had flushed with anger and that a
feeling of hot jealousy had swept over me.  Gwendolen, sympathetic and
impressionable, had noticed the outward manifestations of my inward
turmoil and had hurried toward the door.

"I’ll go back to my room, Clare," she said, as she passed me.  "When
you’ve put him to sleep, come to me.  I want to tell you what I think of
him.  _Au revoir_, ’oo dear, sweet ’ittle marshmallow!"

Jack and I were alone in the nursery, and I seated myself wearily in the
rocking-chair, holding the uneasy baby on my lap.

"What did you do that for, Clarissa?" he growled, kicking violently with
his expressive legs.  "I was in for the time of my life--this life, I
mean--and you deliberately snatched me from that lovely girl’s arms and
practically drove her from the room.  Do you not realize that you have
been very cruel, my dear?  Surely you can’t be ignorant of the fact that
I lead a very colorless life.  Suddenly the tiresome humdrum of my
existence is broken by a chance for a perfectly harmless flirtation.  Do
you rejoice at your little baby’s momentary relief from ennui?  Not at
all; you treat me with the most tyrannical harshness, grudging me the
slightest change in the horrible monotony of this infernal nursery.
What’s that girl’s name?"

"Gwendolen Van Voorhees," I murmured. "She’s Tom’s cousin."

"She called herself Cousin Gwen and expressed the hope that I might
always love her," mused Jack, gazing with eyes too old for his face at
his dimpled, restless fists.  "I don’t like Tom, Clarissa, but his
cousin does him credit.  I shall always love her.  No, don’t rock, my
dear.  I don’t want to go to sleep.  If you don’t mind, Clarissa, I
should like to lie very quiet and think about Gwendolen.  Isn’t it a
beautiful name? I’m sorry my name’s Horatio.  Don’t rock, not even a
little bit.  I’m very nervous, am I not? I’d give half a dozen slips and
my silver rattlebox for a smoke, Clarissa.  Do you think that a
cigarette would hurt me?"

"You remember, Jack, that cocktails didn’t agree with you," I argued,
soothingly.  "I’m sure that tobacco would be very bad for you."

"Of course you are," grumbled the baby, resuming his impatient gestures
with his legs. "You think that everything worth having is bad for me,
Clarissa.  I suppose that you intend to cut me off entirely from Cousin
Gwen?"

"Don’t be unreasonable, Jack," I implored him.  "Gwen can come here just
as often as she cares to.  But you must realize, Jack, that I have no
confidence left in your veracity or discretion. You don’t keep your
promises to me and you seem to have no realization of the terrible
results that might come from a discovery of your identity."

"Is this a curtain-lecture, Clarissa?" growled Jack.  "I tell you
flatly, my dear, that I can’t stand much more.  I’ve about reached the
limit of my self-control.  There’s a deadly dullness to this kind of a
life that is slowly driving your sweet ’ittle baby-boy, Cousin Gwen’s
caramel and marshmallow, to desperation."

"But what can you do, Jack?" I asked, frightened by the peculiar tones
in his voice.  "My role is as hard to play as yours, is it not?  We must
both be brave and circumspect, my dear."

"Bah!" exclaimed the baby, rudely, clutching at my chin with his absurd
little hands.  "You may rock a little now, Clarissa, very gently.
Perhaps I could get a nap if you’d stop scolding me for a few moments."



                              *CHAPTER XL*

                       *A MYSTERIOUS ELOPEMENT.*


    Empty is the cradle; baby’s gone!
      --_Old Song_.


From one standpoint I have come close to the end of my narrative; from
another, I am still at its beginning.  But, with Tom’s permission, I
have placed the foregoing facts before the public in the hope that the
statement may be read by somebody in Europe, Asia, Africa or America,
who is able to assist us in solving a hard problem.  The New York
newspapers have mingled fact and fiction, realism and romance, in the
articles bearing upon what they call "The Great Minturn Mystery," in a
manner most annoying to my husband and myself.  The only really
sympathetic and enlightening account of the awful affliction that has
fallen on our erstwhile happy home was printed by a Boston journal whose
editor is a Buddhist.  But I’m getting too far ahead of my story!

Yet I have nothing to relate that you, who keep abreast of the times, do
not already know. You remember reading in your morning newspaper, a few
months ago, of the strange disappearance from Mr. Thomas Minturn’s town
house of his baby, Horatio Minturn, and a guest, the well-known society
favorite, Miss Gwendolen Van Voorhees.  You have perused, I suppose,
subsequent journalistic presentments of the case, telling how futile had
been the search for our lost ones.  Tom, as the public knows, has
offered enormous rewards for the slightest clue that should serve to
throw even a glimmer of light upon the most astounding disappearance of
modern times.  We have employed the most famous detectives in all parts
of the world in our vain efforts to find some trace of the fugitives--if
such Jack and Gwendolen may be called.  But, up to the present moment,
we have learned nothing that can help us in any way in our weary quest.
In desperation, and as a last resort, I have written and published this
account of the events that led up to our great loss.  When the editor of
a magazine insisted that I should choose a title for my amazing
presentment of our weird experience, a lump came into my throat and
tears bedimmed my eyes.  Had not Jack himself, with a most uncanny
foresight, chosen the title of my unwilling deposition?  "Clarissa’s
Troublesome Baby!"  Alas, how little did I realize at the time of his
suggestion how appropriate would be this caption to my melancholy tale!

"Where’s Gwendolen?" Tom had asked of me at breakfast upon the morning
of the fateful day that was to shatter for all time my second husband’s
materialistic tendency of thought.  "In the nursery, as usual, I
presume?"

"She’d rather play with the baby than eat or sleep, Tom," I answered
laughingly.  "In the present dearth of nursemaids, Gwendolen’s
enthusiasm for Horatio is most opportune."

Tom laughed as he lighted his after-breakfast cigar.

"Let’s go to the nursery, Clarissa, and bid them good morning.  I
haven’t seen Horatio for forty-eight hours.  I’m glad that Gwen likes
him so well, but I really feel that I am entitled to a glimpse of the
youngster now and again."

Thus did Tom and I gaily mount the stairway to our doom.  We rushed, so
to speak, with laughing faces, to the very edge of a precipice, and
toppled over, with a quip half spoken upon our white lips.

As we entered the nursery, crying playfully to Gwendolen to abdicate the
throne she had usurped, we were struck silent and motionless by the
sudden discovery that the room was empty. Tom was, of course, less
shocked than I by Jack’s deserted nest.  There came to me, as I stood
there, cold and trembling, on the threshold of the nursery, the
conviction that I was confronting the scene of another miracle, an
environment within which I should never again be annoyed by psychical
mysteries.

I was recalled to myself by Tom’s voice saying:

"What do you suppose has become of them, my dear?  Gwendolen!  Horatio!
Where are you?"

Ah, but the pathos of it all!  Gwendolen! Horatio!  Where are you?  Were
you wilfully, heartlessly selfish, indifferent, in your strange ecstasy,
to the sorrow that you brought to others, or were you powerless in the
grasp of fate, forced through psychical affinity to disappear thus
weirdly from the sight of men?

You must see, dear reader, that what I have written cannot come to an
end that will satisfy either your mind or your heart.  I began with an
exclamation point; I must conclude with an interrogation mark.  And in
that obligation I find that my tale resembles every human life.  We come
to earth with a cry, and we leave it with a question.  So far as man is
concerned, evolution has been merely a zigzag progress up from
protoplasm to a problem.

And how has Tom withstood the unmaterialistic revelation that I have
been forced to make to him and to the public?  Has he been shaken in his
faith in the teachings of Büchner, Haeckel and Herr Plätner?  Of course,
being a man, he is slow to admit that his nursery has vouchsafed to him
more enlightenment than his library, but he has grown very gentle and
sympathetic when I talk to him about the possibility that the dreams of
the brooding East may be nearer the ultimate truth than the syllogisms
of the practical West. You see, it was a condition, not a theory, which
confronted Tom that morning in our empty nursery.

Nevertheless, he tells me that he has just hired a young detective, who
is said to have a genius for solving mysteries that his older colleagues
have abandoned as beyond their skill.  Let me assure you, dear reader,
that if Tom’s latest employee gets on the track of Gwendolen Van
Voorhees and little Horatio Minturn, I shall see to it that the public
be instantly informed of the fact.



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



                           *A PURITAN WITCH*

                       _*A Romantic Love Story*_

                            *By MARVIN DANA*

               _*Author of "The Woman of Orchids," etc.*_

                    *THRILLING * TENDER * ABSORBING*


This is a romance that abounds in the best qualities of the best
fiction: action that is essential and vigorous, sentiment that is
genuine and pure, a plot that is new and stirring, a setting that is
fitting and distinctive.  The artistic conception of the story happily
unites realism and romance.  The reader’s interest is aroused in the
first chapter; it is increased steadily to the climax of a happy ending.

                      *THE ILLUSTRATIONS ARE FROM
                       DRAWINGS IN PHOTOGRAVURE*

                          *By P. R. AUDIBERT*

                        Crown 8vo, Cloth, $1.25

                     *THE SMART SET PUBLISHING CO.*

                   *452 Fifth Avenue, New York City*



                     *      *      *      *      *



                            *The Vulgarians*

                           *BY EDGAR FAWCETT*

                 Author of "The Evil that Men Do," etc.


An account of a trio from the West, who become immensely wealthy.  Their
entry into New York is full of both humor and sentiment.

In this story the author has achieved the best expression of his genius.
Parvenus of immense wealth are here made real before the reader, and not
only real, but lovable as well.  The story is at once ingenious and
simple, entertaining and profound.  It is a most valuable picture of
American life, drawn from facts, and must stand as an important
contribution to literature.


                         COMMENTS OF THE PRESS

_Boston Transcript_.--"An excellent example of the author’s skill."

_Mail and Express_.--"Typical of the author’s talent in all its phases."

_Willington News_.--"An excellent story of American life."

_Town Topics_.--"Mr. Fawcett has evidently lost none of his cunning as a
novelist; this story is full of power and vigorous effects."


                       Illustrated by Archie Gunn

                        Crown 8vo, Cloth, $1.00

                     *THE SMART SET PUBLISHING CO.*

                   *452 Fifth Avenue, New York City*



                     *      *      *      *      *



                         *The Fighting Chance*

                      *THE ROMANCE OF AN INGENUE*

                          *By Gertrude Lynch*


The story is a modern romance dealing with prominent public characters
in Washington political life, depicting a vivid picture of a phase in
the life of an honest statesman.  The theme is treated with great skill
by an author whose personal experience enables her to write luminously
of department life.  The love interest in the story is fascinating,
while the plot is absolutely distinctive--as original as it is
satisfying.


                         COMMENTS OF THE PRESS

_Utica Press_.--"A cleverly written story and has some fine characters."

_N. Y. Journal_.--"The story is as interesting as it is valuable."

_Salt Lake Tribune_.--"A fine story."

_Boston Transcript_.--"There is enough excitement and love interest in
’The Fighting Chance’ to entice anyone who is alert for a good story."

_Town Topics_.--"One of those delightful comedies in which the fighting
consists of wit combats, and the story is told with a vividness that
makes it possible to visualize all the scenes and characters amid
natural surroundings.  The action is cleverly dramatic and the
dénouement is skilfully held in suspense."


                      Illustrated by Bayard Jones

                        Crown 8vo, Cloth, $1.25

                     *THE SMART SET PUBLISHING CO,*

                   *452 Fifth Avenue, New York City*





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