WHAT DREAMS MAY COME.
by Frank Lin (pseud. of Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton)
Dedicated to Muriel Atherton
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME.
Constantinople; the month of August; the early days of the century. It
was the hour of the city's most perfect beauty. The sun was setting,
and flung a mellowing glow over the great golden domes and minarets
of the mosques, the bazaars glittering with trifles and precious with
elements of Oriental luxury, the tortuous thoroughfares with their
motley throng, the quiet streets with their latticed windows, and
their atmosphere heavy with silence and mystery, the palaces whose
cupolas and towers had watched over so many centuries of luxury and
intrigue, pleasure and crime, the pavilions, groves, gardens, kiosks
which swarmed with the luxuriance of tropical growth over the hills
and valleys of a city so vast and so beautiful that it tired the brain
and fatigued the senses. Scutari, purple and green and gold, blended
in the dying light into exquisite harmony of color; Stamboul gathered
deeper gloom under her overhanging balconies, behind which lay hidden
the loveliest of her women; and in the deserted gardens of the Old
Seraglio, beneath the heavy pall of the cypresses, memories of a
grand, terrible, barbarous, but most romantic Past crept forth and
whispered ruin and decay.
High up in Pera the gray walls of the English Embassy stood out
sharply defined against the gold-wrought sky. The windows were thrown
wide to invite the faint, capricious breeze which wandered through
the hot city; but the silken curtains were drawn in one of the smaller
reception-rooms. The room itself was a soft blaze of wax candles
against the dull richness of crimson and gold. Men and women were
idling about in that uneasy atmosphere which precedes the announcement
of dinner. Many of the men wore orders on their breasts, and the
uniforms of the countries they represented, and a number of Turks
gave a picturesque touch to the scene, with their jewelled turbans and
flowing robes. The women were as typical as their husbands; the wife
of the Russian Ambassador, with her pale hair and moonlight eyes, her
delicate shoulders and jewel-sewn robe; the Italian, with her lithe
grace and heavy brows, the Spanish beauty, with her almond,
dreamy eyes, her chiselled features and mantilla-draped head; the
Frenchwoman, with her bright, sallow, charming, unrestful face; the
Austrian, with her cold repose and latent devil. In addition were the
Secretaries of Legation, with their gaily-gowned young wives, and
one or two English residents; all assembled at the bidding of Sir
Dafyd-ap-Penrhyn, the famous diplomatist who represented England at
the court of the Sultan.
Sir Dafyd was standing between the windows and underneath one of the
heavy candelabra. He was a small but striking-looking man, with a
great deal of head above the ears, light blue eyes deeply set and far
apart, a delicate arched nose, and a certain expression of brutality
about the thin lips, so faint as to be little more than a shadow. He
was blandly apologizing for the absence of his wife. She had dressed
to meet her guests, but had been taken suddenly ill and obliged to
As he finished speaking he turned to a woman who sat on a low chair
at his right. She was young and very handsome. Her eyes were black
and brilliant, her mouth was pouting and petulant, her chin curved
slightly outward. Her features were very regular, but there was
neither softness nor repose in her face. She looked like a statue that
had been taken possession of by the Spirit of Discontent.
"I am sorry not to see Dartmouth," said the great minister, affably.
"Is he ill again? He must be careful; the fever is dangerous."
Mrs. Dartmouth drew her curved brows together with a frown which did
not soften her face. "He is writing," she said, shortly. "He is always
"O, but you know that is a Dartmouth failing—ambition," said Sir
Dafyd, with a smile. "They must be either in the study or dictating to
"Well, I wish my Fate had been a political Dartmouth. Lionel sits in
his study all day and writes poetry—which I detest. I shall bring up
my son to be a statesman."
"So that his wife may see more of him?" said Sir Dafyd, laughing. "You
are quite capable of making whatever you like of him, however, for you
are a clever woman—if you are not poetical. But it is hard that you
should be so much alone, Catherine. Why are not you and Sionèd more
together? There are so few of you here, you should try and amuse
each other. Diplomatists, like poets, see little of their wives, and
Sionèd, I have no doubt, is bored very often."
Dinner was announced at the moment, and Mrs. Dartmouth stood up and
looked her companion full in the eyes. "I do not like Sionèd," she
said, harshly. "She, too, is poetical."
For a moment there was a suspicion of color in Sir Dafyd's pale face,
and the shadow on his mouth seemed to take shape and form. Then he
bowed slightly, and crossing the room offered his arm to the wife of
the Russian Ambassador.
* * * * *
The sun sank lower, Constantinople's richer tints faded into soft opal
hues, and the muezzin called the people to prayer. From a window in a
wing of the Embassy furthest from the banqueting hall, and overlooking
the city, a woman watched the shifting panorama below. She was more
beautiful than any of her neglected guests, although her eyes were
heavy and her face was pale. Her hair was a rich, burnished brown, and
drawn up to the crown of her head in a loose mass of short curls, held
in place by a half-coronet of diamonds. In front the hair was parted
and curled, and the entire head was encircled by a band of diamond
stars which pressed the bronze ringlets low over the forehead. The
features were slightly aquiline; the head was oval and admirably
poised. But it was the individuality of the woman that made her
beauty, not features or coloring. The keen, intelligent eyes, with
their unmistakable power to soften, the spiritual brow, the strong,
sensuous chin, the tender mouth, the spirited head, each a poet's
delight, each an artist's study, all blended, a strange, strong,
passionate story in flesh and blood—a remarkable face. Her neck and
arms were bare, and she wore a short-waisted gown of yellow satin,
which fell in shining lines from belt to hem.
Pale as she was she assuredly did not look ill enough to justify her
desertion of her guests. As a matter of fact she had forgotten both
guests and excuse. When a woman has taken a resolution which flings
her suddenly up to the crisis of her destiny she is apt to forget
state dinners and whispered comment. To-morrow state dinners would
pass out of her life, and they would go unregretted. She turned
suddenly and picked up some loose sheets of manuscript which lay on a
table beside her—a poem which would immortalize the city her window
overlooked. A proud smile curved her mouth, then faded swiftly as she
pressed the pages passionately to her lips. She put them back on
the table and turning her head looked down the room with much of the
affection one gives a living thing. The room was as Oriental as any
carefully secluded chamber in the city below. The walls were hung
with heavy, soft Eastern stuffs, dusky and rich, which shut out all
suggestion of doors. The black marble floor was covered with a strange
assortment of wild beasts' skins, pale, tawny, sombre, ferocious.
There were deep, soft couches and great piles of cushions, a few rare
paintings stood on easels, and the air was heavy with jasmine. The
woman's lids fell over her eyes, and the blood mounted slowly, making
her temples throb. Then she threw back her head, a triumphant light
flashing in her eyes, and brought her open palm down sharply on the
table. "If I fall," she said, "I fall through strength, not
through weakness. If I sin, I do so wittingly, not in a moment of
She bent suddenly forward, her breath coming quickly. There were
footsteps at the end of the marble corridor without. For a moment she
trembled from head to foot. Remorse, regret, horror, fear, chased each
other across her face, her convulsed features reflecting the emotions
which for weeks past had oppressed heart and brain. Then, before the
footsteps reached the door, she was calm again and her head erect.
The glory of the sunset had faded, and behind her was the short grey
twilight of the Southern night; but in her face was that magic light
that never was on sea or land.
The heavy portière at the end of the room was thrust aside and a man
entered. He closed the door and pushed the hanging back into place,
then went swiftly forward and stood before her. She held out her hand
and he took it and drew her further within the room. The twilight had
gone from the window, the shadows had deepened, and the darkness of
night was about them.
* * * * *
In the great banqueting-hall the stout mahogany table upheld its
weight of flashing gold and silver and sparkling crystal without a
groan, and solemn, turbaned Turks passed wine and viand. Around
the board the diplomatic colony forgot their exile in remote
Constantinople, and wit and anecdote, spicy but good-humored political
discussion, repartee and flirtation made a charming accompaniment
to the wonderful variety displayed in the faces and accents of the
guests. The stately, dignified ministers of the Sultan gazed at the
fair faces and jewel-laden shoulders of the women of the North, and
sighed as they thought of their dusky wives; and the women of the
North threw blue, smiling glances to the Turks and wondered if it were
romantic to live in a harem.
At the end of the second course Sir Dafyd raised a glass of wine to
his lips, and, as he glanced about the table, conversation ceased for
"Will you drink to my wife's health?" he said. "It has caused me much
anxiety of late."
Every glass was simultaneously raised, and then Sir Dafyd pushed back
his chair and rose to his feet. "If you will pardon me," he said, "I
will go and see how she is."
He left the room, and the wife of the Spanish Ambassador turned to
her companion with a sigh. "So devot he is, no?" she murmured. "You
Eenglish, you have the fire undere the ice. He lover his wife very
moocho when he leaver the dinner. And she lover him too, no?"
"I don't know," said the Englishman to whom she spoke. "It never
struck me that Penrhyn was a particularly lovable fellow. He's so
deuced haughty; the Welsh are worse for that than we English. He's as
unapproachable as a stone. I don't fancy the Lady Sionèd worships the
ground he treads upon. But then, he's the biggest diplomate in Great
Britain; one can't have everything."
"I no liker all the Eenglish, though," pursued the pretty Spaniard.
"The Señora Dar-muth, I no care for her. She looker like she have the
tempere—how you call him?—the dev-vil, no? And she looker like she
have the fire ouside and the ice in."
"Oh, she's not so bad," said the Englishman, loyally. "She has
some admirable traits, and she's deuced clever, but she has an
ill-regulated sort of a nature, and is awfully obstinate and
prejudiced. It's a sort of vanity. She worries Dartmouth a good deal.
He's a born poet, if ever a man was, and she wants him to go into
politics. Wants a salon and all that sort of thing. She ought to
have it, too. Political intrigue would just suit her; she's diplomatic
and secretive. But Dartmouth prefers his study."
The lady from Spain raised her sympathetic, pensive eyes to the
Englishman's. "And the Señor Dar-muth? How he is? He is nice fellow? I
no meeting hime?"
"The best fellow that ever lived, God bless him!" exclaimed the young
man, enthusiastically. "He has the temperament of genius, and he isn't
always there when you want him—I mean, he isn't always in the right
mood; but he's a splendid specimen of a man, and the most likeable
fellow I ever knew—poor fellow!"
"Why you say 'poor fel-low'? He is no happy, no?"
"Well, you see," said the young man, succumbing to those lovely,
pitying eyes, and not observing that they gazed with equal tenderness
at the crimson wine in the cup beside her plate—"you see, he and his
wife are none too congenial, as I said. It makes her wild to have him
write, not only because she wants to cut a figure in London, and he
will always live in some romantic place like this, but she's in love
with him, in her way, and she's jealous of his very desk. That makes
things unpleasant about the domestic hearthstone. And then she doesn't
believe a bit in his talent, and takes good care to let him know it.
So, you see, he's not the most enviable of mortals."
"Much better she have be careful," said the Spanish woman; "some day
he feel tire out and go to lover someone else. Please you geeve me
some more clarette?"
"Here comes Sir Dafyd," said the Englishman, as he filled her glass.
"It has taken him a long time to find out how she is."
The shadow had wholly disappeared from Sir Dafyd's mouth, a faint
smile hovering there instead. As he took his seat the Austrian
Ambassador leaned forward and inquired politely about the state of
Lady Sionèd's health.
"She is sleeping quietly," said Sir Dafyd.
The Hon. Harold Dartmouth was bored. He had been in Paris three months
and it was his third winter. He was young. He possessed a liberal
allowance of good looks, money, and family prestige. Combining these
three conditions, he had managed to pretty thoroughly exhaust the
pleasures of the capital. At all events he believed he had exhausted
them, and he wanted a new sensation. He had "done" his London until it
was more flavorless than Paris, and he had dawdled more or less in the
various Courts of Europe. While in St. Petersburg he had inserted
a too curious finger into the Terrorist pie, and had come very
near making a prolonged acquaintance with the House of Preventative
Detention; but after being whisked safely out of the country under
cover of a friend's passport, he had announced himself cured of
further interest in revolutionary politics. The affair had made him
quite famous for a time, however; Krapotkin had sought him out and
warmly thanked him for his interest in the Russian Geysers, and begged
him to induce his father to abjure his peace policy and lend his hand
to the laudable breaking of Czarism's back. But Lord Cardingham, who
was not altogether ruled by his younger son, had declined to expend
his seductions upon Mr. Gladstone in the cause of a possible laying of
too heavy a rod upon England's back, and had recommended his erratic
son to let the barbarism of absolutism alone in the future, and try
his genius upon that of democracy. Dartmouth, accordingly, had spent
a winter in Washington as Secretary of Legation, and had entertained
himself by doling out such allowance of diplomatic love to the fair
American dames as had won him much biographical honor in the press
of the great republic. Upon his father's private admonition, that it
would be as well to generously resign his position in favor of some
more needy applicant, with a less complex heart-line and a slight
acquaintance with international law, he had, after a summer at
Newport, returned to Europe and again devoted himself to winning a
fame not altogether political. And now there was nothing left, and he
felt that fate had used him scurrilously. He was twenty-eight, and had
exhausted life. He had nothing left but to yawn through weary years
and wish he had never been born.
He clasped his hands behind his head and looked out on the brilliant
crowd from his chair in the Café de la Cascade in the Bois. He was
handsome, this blasé young Englishman, with a shapely head, poised
strongly upon a muscular throat. Neither beard nor moustache hid the
strong lines of the face. A high type, in spite of his career, his
face was a good deal more suggestive of passion than of sensuality.
He was tall, slight, and sinewy, and carried himself with the indolent
hauteur of a man of many grandfathers. And indeed, unless, perhaps,
that this plaything, the world, was too small, he had little to
complain of. Although a younger son, he had a large fortune in his own
right, left him by an adoring grandmother who had died shortly before
he had come of age, and with whom he had lived from infancy as adopted
son and heir. This grandmother was the one woman who had ever shone
upon his horizon whose disappearance he regretted; and he was wont
to remark that he never again expected to find anything beneath
a coiffure at once so brilliant, so fascinating, so clever, so
altogether "filling" as his lamented relative. If he ever did he would
marry and settle down as a highly respectable member of society, and
become an M.P. and the owner of a winner of the Derby; but until then
he would sigh away his tired life at the feet of beauty, Bacchus, or
"What is the matter, Hal?" asked Bective Hollington, coming up behind
him. "Yawning so early in the day?"
"Bored," replied Dartmouth, briefly. "Don't expect me to talk to you.
I haven't an idea left."
"My dear Harold, do not flatter yourself that I came to you in search
of ideas. I venture to break upon your sulky meditations in the cause
of friendship alone. If you will rouse yourself and walk to the window
you may enrich your sterile mind with an idea, possibly with ideas.
Miss Penrhyn will pass in a moment."
"No, not the devil; Miss Penrhyn."
"And who the devil is Miss Penrhyn?"
"The new English, or rather, Welsh beauty, Weir Penrhyn," replied
Hollington. "She came out last season in London, and the Queen
pronounced her the most beautiful girl who had been presented at Court
for twenty years. Such a relief from the blue-eyed and 'golden-bronze'
professional! She will pass in a moment. Do rouse yourself."
Dartmouth got up languidly and walked to the window. After all, a new
face and a pretty one was something; one degree, perhaps, better than
nothing. "Which is she?" he asked. "The one in the next carriage, with
Lady Langdon, talking to Bolton."
The carriage passed them, and Harold's eyes met for a moment those
of a girl who was lying back chatting idly with a man who rode on
horseback beside her. She was a beautiful creature, truly, with a
rich, dark skin, and eyes like a tropical animal's. A youthful face,
striking and unconventional.
"Well?" queried Hollington.
"Yes, a very handsome girl," said Dartmouth. "I have seen her before,
"What! you have seen that woman before and not remembered her?
Impossible! And then you have not been in England for a year."
"I am sure I have seen her before," said Dartmouth. "Where could it
"Her father is a Welsh baronet, and your estates are in the North, so
you could hardly have known her as a child. She was educated in the
utmost seclusion at home; no one ever saw her or heard of her until
the fag end of the last London season, and she only arrived in Paris
two days ago, and made her first appearance in public last night at
the opera, where you were not. So where could you have seen her?"
"I cannot imagine," said Dartmouth, meditatively. "But her face is
dimly familiar, and it is a most unusual one. Tell me something about
her;" and he resumed his seat.
"She is the daughter of Sir Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn," said Hollington,
craning his neck to catch a last glimpse of the disappearing beauty.
"Awfully poor, but dates back to before Chaos. Looks down with scorn
upon Sir Watkin Wynn, who hangs up the flood on the middle branch of
his family tree. They live in a dilapitated old castle on the coast,
and there Sir Iltyd brought up this tropical bird—she is an only
child—and educated her himself. Her mother died when she was very
young, and her father, with the proverbial constancy of mankind, has
never been known to smile since. Lively for the tropical bird, was
it not? Lady Langdon, who was in Wales last year, and who was an old
friend of the girl's mother, called on her and saw the professional
possibilities, so to speak. She gave the old gentleman no peace
until he told her she could take the girl to London, which she did
forthwith, before he had time to change his mind. She has made a
rousing sensation, but she is a downright beauty and no mistake. Lady
Langdon evidently intends to hold on to her, for I see she has her
"I could not have known her, of course; I have never put my foot in
Wales. But I suppose I shall meet her now. Is she to be at the Russian
"Yes; I have it from the best authority—herself. You had better go.
She is worth knowing, I can tell you."
"Well, I'll think of it," said Dartmouth. "I must be off now; I have
no end of letters to write. I'll rely upon you to do the honors if I
go!" and he took up his hat and sauntered out.
He went directly to his apartments on the Avenue Champs Élysées, and
wrote a few epistles to his impatient and much-enduring relatives in
Britain; then, lighting a cigar, he flung himself upon the sofa. The
room accorded with the man. Art and negligence were hand-in-hand.
The hangings were of dusky-gold plush, embroidered with designs which
breathed the fervent spirit of Decorative Art, and the floor was
covered with the oldest and oddest of Persian rugs. There were
cabinets of antique medallions, cameos, and enamels; low brass
book-cases, filled with volumes bound in Russian leather, whose
pungent odor filled the room; a varied collection of pipes; a case of
valuable ceramics, one of the collection having a pedigree which
no uncelestial mind had ever pretended to grasp, and which had been
presented to Lord Cardingham, while minister to China, by the Emperor.
That his younger son had unblushingly pilfered it he had but recently
discovered, but demands for its return had as yet availed not. There
were a few valuable paintings, a case of rare old plates, many with
the coats of arms of sovereigns upon them, strangely carved chairs,
each with a history, all crowded together and making a charming nest
for the listless, somewhat morbid, and disgusted young man stretched
out upon a couch, covered with a rug of ostrich feathers brought from
the Straits of Magellan. Over the onyx mantel was a portrait of his
grandmother, a handsome old lady with high-piled, snow-white hair, and
eyes whose brilliancy age had not dimmed. The lines about the mouth
were hard, but the face was full of intelligence, and the man at her
feet had never seen anything of the hardness of her nature. She had
blindly idolized him.
"I wish she were here now," thought Dartmouth regretfully, as he
contemplated the picture through the rings of smoke; "I could talk
over things with her, and she could hit off people with that tongue of
hers. Gods! how it could cut! Poor old lady! I wonder if I shall ever
find her equal." After which, he fell asleep and forgot his sorrows
until his valet awakened him and told him it was time to dress for
I hope I have not conveyed to the reader the idea that our hero is
frivolous. On the contrary, he was considered a very brilliant young
man, and he could command the respect of his elders when he chose.
But, partly owing to his wealth and independent condition, partly to
the fact that the world had done its best to spoil him, he had led a
very aimless existence. He was by no means satisfied with his life,
however; he was far too clever for that; and he had spent a good deal
of time, first and last, reviling Fate for not having endowed him with
some talent upon which he could concentrate his energies, and with
which attain distinction and find balm for his ennui. His grandmother
had cherished the conviction that he was an undeveloped genius; but
in regard to what particular field his genius was to enrich, she had
never clearly expressed herself, and his own consciousness had not
been more explicit. He had long ago made up his mind, indeed, that
his grandmother's convictions had been the fond delusions of a doting
parent, and that the sooner he unburdened himself of that particular
legacy the better. The unburdening, however, had been accomplished
with a good deal of bitterness, for he was very ambitious and very
proud, and to be obliged to digest the fact that he was but a type of
the great majority was distinctly galling. True, politics were left.
His father, one of the most distinguished of England's statesmen, and
a member of the present cabinet, would have been delighted to assist
his career; but Harold disliked politics. With the exception of his
passing interest in the Russian socialists—an interest springing from
his adventurous nature—he had never troubled himself about any party,
faction, or policy, home or foreign. He would like to write a great
poem, but he had never felt a second's inspiration, and had never
wasted time in the endeavor to force it. Failing that, he would like
to write a novel; but, fluently and even brilliantly as he sometimes
talked, his pen was not ready, and he was conscious of a conspicuous
lack of imagination. To be sure, one does not need much in these
days of realistic fervor; it is considered rather a coarse and
old-fashioned article; but that one needs some sort of a plot is
indisputable, and Dartmouth's brain had consistently refused to evolve
one. Doubtless he could cultivate the mere habit of writing,
and achieve reputation as an essayist. His critical faculty was
pronounced, and he had carefully developed it; and it was possible
that when the world had completely palled upon him, he would shut
himself up at Crumford Hall and give the public the benefit of his
accumulated opinions, abstract and biographical. But he was not ready
for that yet; he needed several years more of experience, observation,
and assiduous cultivation of the habit of analysis; and in the
meantime he was in a condition of cold disgust with himself and with
Fate. It may also have been gathered that Mr. Dartmouth was a young
man of decidedly reckless proclivities. It is quite true that he never
troubled himself about any question of morals or social ethics; he
simply calculated the mathematical amount of happiness possible to the
individual. That was all there was in life. Had he lived a generation
or two earlier, he would have pursued his way along the paths of the
prohibited without introspective analysis; but being the intellectual
young man of the latter decades of the 19th century, it amused him
to season his defiance of certain conventional codes with the salt of
Miss Penrhyn reached the Legation a few moments after Dartmouth's
arrival, and he watched her as she entered the ballroom. She wore
a simple white gown, embroidered about the corsage with silver
crescents; and her richly-tinted brown hair was coiled about her head
and held in place by a crescent-shaped comb. She was a tall, slim,
shapely girl, with an extreme grace of carriage and motion, and a neck
and arms whose clear olive was brought out with admirable effect
by the dead white of her gown. Her face, somewhat listless and
preoccupied as she entered, quickly brightened into animation as a
number of men at once surrounded her. Dartmouth continued to watch her
for a few moments, and concluded that he would like to know her, even
if she were a girl and an ingenue. She was fascinating, apart from
her beauty; she looked different from other women, and that was
quite enough to command his interest. It would be too much trouble
to struggle for an introduction at present, however, and he allowed
himself to be taken possession of by his cousin, Margaret Talbot,
who, with the easy skill of a spoiled beauty, dismissed several other
cavaliers upon his approach. They wandered about for a time, and
finally entered a tiny boudoir fitted up to represent a bird's nest in
tufted blue satin, with an infinite number of teacups so arranged as
to be cunningly suggestive of eggs whose parents had been addicted to
"What do you think of the new beauty?" demanded Mrs. Talbot, as they
established themselves upon an extremely uncomfortable little sofa
upheld between the outstretched wings of the parent bird, which was
much too large for the eggs.
"She does very well," replied Harold, who was wise in his generation.
Mrs. Talbot put her handkerchief suddenly to her face and burst into
tears. Dartmouth turned pale.
"What is it, Margaret?" he said. "Do not cry here; people will notice,
and make remarks."
She made no reply, and he got up and moved restlessly about the room;
then returning he stood looking moodily down upon her.
Some years before, just about the time he was emerging from
knickerbockers, he had been madly in love with this golden-haired,
hazel-eyed cousin of his, and the lady, who had the advantage of him
in years, being unresponsive, he had haunted a very large and very
deep ornamental pond in his grandmother's park for several weeks with
considerable persistency. Had the disease attacked him in summer it is
quite probable that this story would never have been written, for his
nature was essentially a high-strung and tragic one; but fortunately
he met his beautiful cousin in mid-winter, and 'tis a despairing lover
indeed who breaks the ice. Near as their relationship was, he had not
met her again until the present winter, and then he had found that
years had lent her additional fascination. She was extremely unhappy
in her domestic life, and naturally she gave him her confidence and
awoke that sentiment which is so fatally akin to another and sometimes
more disastrous one.
Dartmouth loved her with that love which a man gives to so many women
before the day comes wherein he recognizes the spurious metal from the
real. It was not, as in its first stage, the mad, unreasoning fancy
of an unfledged boy, but that sentiment, half sympathy, half passion,
which a woman may inspire who is not strong enough to call out the
highest and best that lies hidden in a man's nature. This feeling for
his cousin, if not the supremest that a woman can command, bore
one characteristic which distinguished it from any of his previous
passions. For the first time in his life he had resisted a
temptation—principally because she was his cousin. With the instinct
of his caste he acknowledged the obligation to avert dishonor in his
own family where he could. And, aside from family pride, he had a
strong personal regard for his cousin which was quite independent of
that sentiment which, for want of a better name, he called love. She
was young, she was lonely, she was unhappy, and his calmer affection
prompted him to protect her from himself, and not, after a brief
period of doubtful happiness, to leave her to a lifetime of tormenting
memories and regrets. She loved him, of course; and reckless with the
knowledge of her ruined life, her hopeless future, and above all the
certainty that youth and its delicious opportunities were slipping
fast, she would doubtless have gone the way of most women under
similar circumstances, had not Harold, for once in his life, been
strong. Perhaps, if he had really loved her, he would not have been so
After her paroxysm of tears had partly subsided, he took her hand.
"What is the matter?" he asked, kindly. "Is there any more trouble?"
"It is the same," she said. "You know how unhappy I am; it was foolish
of me to break down here, but I could not help it. Besides, there is
another thing—I wish you would go away."
He walked to the end of the room, then returned and bent over her,
placing his hand on the back of the sofa. "Very well," he said, "I
will go. I should have gone before. I would have done so, but I hated
to leave you alone."
He lifted her face and kissed her. She laid her head against his
shoulder, then she suddenly pushed him from her with a low cry, and
Dartmouth, following her gaze, turned his head in time to meet the
scornful eyes of Miss Penrhyn as she dropped the portière from her
hand. Dartmouth kicked aside a footstool with an exclamation of
anger. He was acutely conscious of having been caught in a ridiculous
position, and moreover, he would not be the chief sufferer.
"Oh, Harold! Harold!" gasped Margaret, "I am ruined. You know what
women are. By this time to-morrow that girl will have told the story
all over Paris."
The words made Dartmouth forget his personal annoyance for the moment.
"Do not cry any more," he said, kindly; "I am awfully sorry, but I
will see what I can do. I will make a point of meeting the girl, and
I will see that—do not worry. I will go at once, and you had better
remain here for the present. There is no danger of anyone intruding
upon you: this room was never intended for three." He paused a moment.
"Good-bye, Margaret!" he said.
She started sharply, but rose to her feet and put out her hand:
"Good-bye," she said.
He lifted her hand to his lips, then the portière fell behind him and
she was alone.
He went directly to the ball-room and asked Hollington to present him
to Miss Penrhyn. She was standing with her back to him and did not
notice his approach, and his name was pronounced while her eyes were
still on the face of the man to whom she was talking. She gave him a
glance of swift scorn, bent her head haughtily, and all but turned her
back upon him. But Dartmouth, indolent and lazy as he was, was not the
man to be lightly disposed of when once roused to action.
"Bolton," he said, to her companion, "they are waiting for you in the
billiard-room; you have an engagement to play a game with our host
at twelve. It is now exactly the hour. I will take charge of Miss
Penrhyn;" and before the bewildered Bolton could protest, or Miss
Penrhyn realize his purpose, he had drawn the girl's arm through his
own and was half-way down the room.
"Where have I met you before?" he demanded, when they were safely lost
in the crowd. "Surely, we are not altogether strangers."
"I do not know," haughtily; "I have never met you before that I am
"It is strange, but I cannot get rid of the idea that I have seen you
elsewhere," continued Dartmouth, unmoved. "And yet, if I had, I most
assuredly could not have forgotten it."
"You are flattering, but I must ask you to excuse me. I am engaged for
the next dance, and I see my partner looking for me."
"Indeed, I shall do nothing of the kind. I have no idea of resigning
you so lightly." And he calmly led her into a small withdrawing-room
and seated her behind a protecting screen. He took the chair beside
her and smiled down into her angry face. Her eyes, which had a
peculiar yellow flame in them, now within, now just without the iris,
as if from a tiny lantern hidden in their depths, were blazing.
"Well?" he said, calmly; "of what are you thinking?"
"That you are the rudest and the most impertinent man I have ever
met," she replied, hotly.
"You are unkind; I have been unfortunate enough to incur your
disapproval, but you judge me cruelly. I am undoubtedly a very
reprehensible character, Miss Penrhyn, but I don't think that I am
worse than most men." He recognized at once that it would be folly to
tell the usual lie: she would simply laugh in his face. He must accept
the situation, plead guilty and make a skilful defense. Later, when
he had established himself in her confidence, he would exonerate his
Miss Penrhyn's lip curled disdainfully. "I am not aware that I have
asked you to justify yourself," she said. "It is of no possible
interest to me whether you are better or worse than most men. It is
quite possible, however," she added, hastily and unwillingly, "that
in this case, as in others, there may be the relief of an exception to
prove the rule."
Dartmouth saw his advantage at once. She was not merely disgusted;
she was angry; and in her anger she forgot herself and condescended to
sarcasm. There was one barrier the less to be broken down. "We are a
bad lot, I am afraid, Miss Penrhyn," he replied, quietly; "but keep
your illusions while you can. You are happier for them, and I would be
the last to dispel them."
"You are considerate," she retorted: "it is more than possible you
will not dispel my illusions; there will not be—"
"You mean to imply, delicately," he interrupted her, "that you do not
consider me worthy of being added to the list of your acquaintances?"
"I really have given the matter no thought, and I do not see what
advantage either side could derive from further acquaintance." But
she colored slightly as she spoke, and turned to him an angrily severe
"Don't you think," he said—and his calm, drawling tone formed a
contrast to her own lack of control which she could not fail to
appreciate—"don't you think that you judge me with exaggerated
harshness? Do you think the life of any one of these men who have
surrounded you to-night, and upon whom you certainly did not frown,
would bear inspection? It would almost appear as if I had personally
incurred your displeasure, you are so very hard upon me. You forget
that my offense could not have any individual application for you. Had
I known you, you might reasonably have been indignant had I gone from
you, a young girl, to things which you held to be wrong. But I did not
know you; you must remember that. And as for the wrong itself, I hope
the knowledge of greater wrong may never come to you. When you have
lived in the world a few years longer, I am very much afraid you will
look upon such things with an only too careless eye."
The cruel allusion to her youth told, and the girl's cheek flushed,
as she threw back her head with a spirited movement which delighted
Dartmouth, while the lanterns in her eyes leaped up afresh. Where had
he seen those eyes before?
"I don't know what your ideas of honor may be in regard to the young
ladies of your acquaintance," she said, with an additional dash of
ice in her voice, "but it seems to me a peculiar kind of honor which
allows a man to insult his hostess by making love to a married woman
in her house."
"Pret-ty good for a baby!" thought Dartmouth. "She could not have
done that better if she had been brought up Lady Langdon's daughter,
instead of having been under that general's tuition, and emancipated
from a life of seclusion, just about six months. Decidedly, she is
worth cultivating." He looked at her reflectively. That he was in
utter disgrace admitted of not a doubt. Women found little fault with
him, as a rule. They had shown themselves willing, with an aptitude
which savored of monotony, to take him on any terms; and to be sat in
judgment upon by a penniless girl with the face and air of an angry
goddess, had a flavor of novelty about it decidedly thrilling.
He determined to conquer or die. Clever as she was, she was still
absolutely a child, and no match for him. He placed his elbow on his
knee and leaned his head on his hand.
"Your rebuke is a very just one," he said, sadly. "And I have only the
poor excuse to offer that in this wicked world of ours we grow very
callous, and forget those old codes of honor which men were once so
strict about, no matter what the irregularities of their lives might
be. I am afraid it is quite true that I am not fit to touch your hand;
and indeed," he added hastily, "it is a miserable business all round,
and God knows there is little enough in it."
She turned and regarded him with something less of anger, something
more of interest, in her eyes.
"Then why do not you reform?" she asked, in a matter-of fact tone.
"Why do you remain so bad, if you regret it?"
"There is nothing else to do," gloomily "Life is such a wretched bore
that the only thing to do is to seize what little spice there is in
it, and the spice, alas! will never bear analysis."
"Are you unhappy?" she demanded. Her eyes were still disapproving, but
her voice was a shade less cold.
He smiled, but at the same time he felt a little ashamed of
himself, the weapons were so trite, and it was so easy to manage an
unworldly-wise and romantic girl. There was nothing to do but go on,
however. "No, I am not unhappy, Miss Penrhyn," he said; "that is, not
unhappy in the sense you would mean. I am only tired of life. That is
all—but it is enough."
"But you are very young," she said, innocently. "You cannot yet be
He laughed shortly. "I am twenty-eight, Miss Penrhyn—and I am—forty
five. You cannot understand, and it is well you should not. But this
much I can tell you. I was born with a wretched load of ennui on my
spirits, and all things pall after a brief experience. It has been so
since the first hour I can remember. My grandmother used to tell
me that I should wake up some day and find myself a genius, that I
rejoiced in several pointed indications toward that desirable end;
that I had only to wait, and ample compensation for the boredom of
life would come But, alas! I am twenty-eight, and there are no signs
of genius yet. I am merely a commonplace young man pursuing the most
commonplace of lives—but I am not going to bore you by talking about
myself any longer. I never do. I do not know why I do so to-night. But
there is something about you which is strangely sympathetic, in spite
of your"—he hesitated—"your unkindness."
She had kept her eyes implacably on the opposite wall, but when he
finished she turned to him suddenly, and he saw that her face had
"You impress me very strangely," she said, abruptly. "I am willing to
tell you that frankly, and I hardly understand it. You are doubtless
correct when you say I have no right to be angry with you, and I
suppose it is also true that you are no worse than other men. When I
pushed aside that portière to-night I felt an unreasoning anger which
it would be hard to account for. Had it been Lord Bective Hollington
or Mr. Bolton I—I should not have cared. I should not have been
angry, I am sure of it. And yet I never saw you before to-day, and
had no possible interest in you. I do not understand it. I hardly know
whether I like you very much or hate you very much."
He bent his head and looked down sharply into her eyes. He was so used
to the coquetry and finesse of women! Was she like the rest? But the
eyes she had turned to him were sincere to disquiet, and there was not
a suggestion of coquetry about her.
"Do not hate me," he said, softly, "for I would give more for your
good opinion than for that of any woman I know. No, I do not mean that
for idle flattery. You may not realize it, but you are very different
from other women—Oh, bother!"—this last under his breath, as their
retreat was invaded by two indignant young men who insisted upon the
lawful rights of which Dartmouth had so unblushingly deprived them.
There was nothing to do but resign himself to his fate.
Knowing that a second uninterrupted conversation would be impossible
with her that night, he left the house shortly after, not, however,
before a parting word had assured him that though she still might
disapprove, he would have many future opportunities to plead his
cause, and, furthermore, that she would not risk the loss of his
admiration by relating what she had seen. When he reached his
apartment he exchanged his coat for a smoking-jacket, lit a cigar, and
throwing himself down on a sofa, gave himself up to thoughts of Miss
"A strange creature," he mentally announced. "If one can put one's
trust in physiognomy, I should say she had about ten times more in
her than dwells in ordinary women. She has no suspicion of it herself,
however; she will make that discovery later on. I should like to have
the power to render myself invisible; but no, I beg pardon, I should
like to be present in astral body when her nature awakens. I have
always wanted to study the successive psychological evolutions of a
woman in love. Not of the ordinary compound of the domestic and the
fashionable; there is nothing exciting in that; and besides,
our realistic novelists have rendered such researches on my part
superfluous; but of a type, small, but each member of which is built
up of infinite complexities—like this girl. The nature would awaken
with a sudden, mighty shock, not creep toward the light with slow,
well-regulated steps—but, bah! what is the use of indulging in
boneless imaginings? One can never tell what a woman of that sort will
think and feel, until her experience has been a part of his own. And
there is no possibility of my falling in love with her, even did I
wish it, which I certainly do not. The man who fascinates is not the
man who loves. Pardon my modesty, most charming of grandmothers, if
your soul really lurks behind that wonderful likeness of yours, as
I sometimes think it does, but a man cannot have the double power of
making many others feel and of feeling himself. At least, so it seems
to me. Love lightly roused is held as lightly, and one loses one's
respect for even the passion in the abstract. Of what value can a
thing be which springs into life for a trick of manner, an atom or two
more of that negative quality called personal magnetism, while wiser
and better men pass by unnoticed? One naturally asks, What is love?
A spiritual enthusiasm which a cold-blooded analyst would call
sentimentality, or its correlative, a fever of the senses? Neither is
a very exalted set of conditions. I have been through both more
than once, and if my attacks have been light, I have been the better
enabled to study my fair inspiration. I never discovered that she
felt more deeply; simply more strongly, more tempestuously, after the
nature of women. Her feelings were not more complex, they were merely
more strongly accentuated. A woman in love imagines that she is the
pivot on which the world revolves. A general may immortalize himself,
an emperor be assassinated and his empire plunged into a French
Revolution, and her passing interest is not roused; nor is she
unapt to wonder how others can be interested in matters so purely
impersonal. She thinks she loves as no woman ever loved before, and
sometimes she succeeds in making the man think so too. But when a
man has gone through this sort of thing a couple of dozen times, he
becomes impressed with the monotony, the shallowness, and the racial
resemblance, so to speak, of the divine passion; and his own capacity
for indulging in it diminishes in proportion. If Miss Penrhyn is
capable of anything wider and deeper and higher than her average
sister, I have met her too late to be inspired with anything beyond
passing curiosity. In fact, I doubt if I could be capable of so much
as indulging in the surmise had I never known my grandmother. There
was a woman unique in her generation. So strong was her individuality
that I was forced to appreciate it, even in the days when I used
to make her life a burden by planting her silver spoons in the
rose-garden and re-setting her favorite cuttings wrong side up. I wish
she had lived longer; it would have been both a pleasure and a profit
to have studied and analyzed her. And how I should like to know her
history! That she had one there is no doubt. The lines of repression
in her face were the strongest I have ever seen, to say nothing of
the night I found her standing over the Byzantine chest with her hands
full of yellow papers. There were no lines of repression in her face
just then; she looked fairly murderous. She did not see me, and I left
with a brevity worthy of its cause. I should like to know who wrote
those letters. I looked for them after her death, but she had either
destroyed them or else that old Byzantine chest has a secret drawer.
If it has I'll discover it some day when time hangs heavily.
"No," he continued, settling himself down more comfortably among his
pillows, and tossing the end of his cigar into the grate, "I shall
marry some day, undoubtedly, but I must find a woman with the brains
and charm of my grandmother. This girl, they say, is brilliant, and
certainly she cut me up sharply enough to-night; but she would
be altogether too much to handle for a lifetime. It would be very
pleasant for a time, but a deuced bore later on. What a beauty she is,
though! I cannot get her out of my mind. She has been posing before my
mental vision all the time I have been trying to think about something
else. Those eyes—gods! And what a figure! What—"
With a nervous, precipitate motion, he rose to his feet and drew in
his breath, as if to throw a sudden load from his chest. He stood
irresolute for a moment, then revolving slowly on his heel, walked, as
if independently of his own volition, over to his desk. He felt very
strangely; he did not remember to have ever felt so strangely before.
His head had become suddenly confused, but at the same time he was
aware that his brain had thrown open its doors to a new arrival, and
that the visitor was trying to make itself heard. It appeared to be a
visitor of great importance, and Dartmouth was conscious that it had
presented itself to his perceptions in the form of an extraordinarily
strong impulse, a great and clamorous Desire. He had been aware of the
same desire before, but only in an abstract way, a general purposeless
longing; but now this peremptory, loudly-knocking consciousness was
vaguely suggesting another—just behind. It would almost seem, if it
were not too preposterous a supposition, as if that second struggling
consciousness were trying to announce itself under the high-sounding
title of—what? He could not formulate it. If his brain were only not
so confused! What could so suddenly have affected him? He was always
so clear-headed and logical. Was he going to be ill? When he reached
his desk he sat down before it and mechanically took up his pen.
He leaned his head on his hand, like a man in a state of mental
exhaustion, and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he opened them
wide, with an exclamation which was almost a cry; and of his usual
calm repose there was not a trace remaining. He leaned forward
breathlessly and put his pen to the paper. "Her eyes! Her skin! Her
form!" he muttered uncertainly. "Her—her—her—Oh! what is it?
Why cannot I say it? It has come at last—she was right after
all—but the words—the words—why will not they come? The music is
there—a great rhythm and harmony—but the words are floating about
like wraiths of mist. If I could only grasp and crystallize them, and
set them to that wonderful music, the world—the world would rise at
last and call me great! Her eyes—her hair—oh, my God, what is it?"
He threw down his pen and staggered to his feet. His face was blanched
and drawn, and his eyes had lost their steady light. He grasped the
chair to save himself from falling; he had lost over himself both
physical and mental control. It seemed to him that two beings, two
distinct entities, were at war within his brain—that new, glorious
consciousness, and a tangible power above, which forced it down with
an iron hand—down—down—into the depths of his mind, where its cries
for speech came up in faint, inarticulate murmurs. And it tried and
tried, that strange new thing, to struggle from its dungeon and reach
the wide, free halls of his thought, but it could not; it beat against
that unrelaxing iron hand only to fall back again and again. And it
sang and sang and sang, in spite of its struggles and captivity. The
faint, sweet echo came up—if he could but catch the words! If he
could but dash aside that iron hand, and let his brain absorb them!
Surely a word or two must force their way—yes! yes! they had come!
"Her face! her form!"—He tore open his waistcoat; his lungs felt as
if they had been exhausted. Then, how he never knew, he managed to
reach his sofa, and fell face downward upon it; and the next morning,
when his valet came in and drew aside the curtains and let in the
light of mid-day, he found him there as he had fallen.
Harold Dartmouth came of a family celebrated throughout its history
for producing men of marked literary and political ability. Few
generations had passed without a Dartmouth distinguishing himself,
and those members of the family less gifted were not in the habit
of having their fine intellectual qualities called to account. The
consequence was that their young descendant, who inherited all the
family cleverness, although as yet he had betrayed the possession of
none of its higher gifts, paid the penalty of his mental patrimony.
His brain was abnormally active, both through conditions of heredity
and personal incitement; and the cerebral excitation necessarily
produced resulted not infrequently in violent reaction, which took the
form of protracted periods of melancholy. These attacks of melancholy
had begun during his early school-days, when, a remarkably bright
but extremely wild boy, he had been invariably fired with ambition as
examinations approached, and obliged to cram to make up for lost time.
As years went by they grew with his growth, and few months passed
without an attack of the blues more or less violent, no matter
how brief. They came after hours of brooding over his desire to
distinguish himself, and his fatal want of ability; they came during
his intervals of purely intellectual disgust with himself and with
life; but more frequently still they came upon him from no apparent
cause whatever. They were a part of his personality, just as humor,
or light, unthinking gaiety, or a constantly bubbling wit may form the
predominating characteristic of another man.
For a week after the night of his futile impulse to put into shape
the nebulous verse which had tormented his brain, no one saw Harold
Dartmouth. The violent shock and strain had induced an attack of
mental and spiritual depression which amounted to prostration, and
he lay on his sofa taking no notice of the days as they slipped by,
eating little and speaking to no one. At first Jones, his man-servant,
was not particularly disturbed. He had brought Dartmouth up, and
had come to look upon his moods as a matter of course. He therefore
confined himself to forcing his master to take his food and to
parrying the curiosity of the French servants; he knew Dartmouth's
temper too well to venture to call a doctor, and he hoped that in a
few days the mood would wear itself out. But at the end of a week
he became seriously alarmed. He had spent the last day but one in a
desperate and fruitless attempt to rouse Dartmouth, and had used every
expedient his ingenuity could suggest. Finally, at his wits' end, he
determined to call in the help of Lord Bective Hollington, who was
Dartmouth's most intimate friend, and had lived with him and his moods
for months together. He came to this decision late on the night of the
seventh day, and at eleven the next morning he presented himself at
Hollington's apartments in the Rue Lincoln. Hollington was still in
bed and reading the morning paper, but he put it down at once.
"Send him in," he said. "Something is the matter with Harold," he
continued to himself. "Something unusual has been the matter with him
all the week, when he wouldn't even see me. Well, Jones, what is it?"
as that perturbed worthy entered. "You are an early visitor."
"Oh! my Lord!" exclaimed Jones, tearfully; "something dreadful hails
"What is it?" demanded Hollington, quickly. "Is he ill?"
Jones shook his head. "No, my Lord; I wish 'ee was. 'Ee's worse than
hill. 'Ee's got one of 'is moods."
"Poor Harold! I thought he had got over all that since he had given
himself over to the distractions of wine, woman, and song. I haven't
seen him in one of his moods for three or four years."
"Ah, sir, I 'ave, then. 'Ee don't 'ave them so frequent like before he
begun to travel, but hevery wunst in a while 'ee will be terrible for
two hor three days; but I never see hanything like this before, heven
at Crumford 'All. 'Ee 'as never spoke for a week; not since the night
of the ball hat the Russian Legation."
"By Jove! you don't mean it. I thought he was on a 'private tear,' as
the Americans say; but I don't like this at all. Just clear out, and
I'll be dressed and over in his rooms in less than half an hour." And
he sprang out of bed before Jones had closed the door.
He was but a few moments dressing, as he had promised, and was at
Dartmouth's apartment before Jones had time to become impatient,
nervous as he was. He pulled aside the portière of the salon and
looked in. The curtains were drawn and the room was dark, but on a
sofa near the window he saw his friend lying. He picked his way over
through the studiously disordered furniture and touched Dartmouth on
"Hal!" he said, "Hal!"
Dartmouth opened his eyes and looked up. "Is it you, Becky?" he
said, languidly. "Go away and let me alone." But his words and manner
indicated that the attack was at last "wearing itself out."
"I will do nothing of the sort," replied Hollington. "Get up off that
sofa this moment. A week! I am ashamed of you. What would the old lady
"She would understand," murmured Dartmouth. "She always understood. I
wish she were here now."
"I wish she were. She would soon have you out of this. Get up. Don't
be a fool."
"I am not a fool. I have got one of the worst of the old attacks, and
I can't shake it off; that is all. Go away, and let me fight it out by
"I will not move from this room, if I stay here for six months, until
you go with me. So make up your mind to it." And he threw himself into
an easy-chair, and lighting a cigar, proceeded leisurely to smoke it.
Dartmouth turned uneasily once or twice. "You know I can't bear anyone
near me," he said; "I want to be alone."
"You have been alone long enough. I will do as I have said."
There was silence for a few moments, and Dartmouth's restlessness
increased. Hollington watched him closely, and after a time handed him
a cigar and offered him a light. Dartmouth accepted both mechanically,
and for a time the two men smoked in silence. When Dartmouth finished
he rose to his feet.
"Very well," he said, "have your own way. Wait until I dress and I
will go out with you." He went into his dressing-room and returned
about an hour later, during which time Hollington had thrown back the
curtains and written a couple of letters. Dartmouth was still haggard
and very pale, but his face had been shaved and he looked something
like himself once more. Hollington rose and threw down his pen at
"I will drop in on our way back and finish this letter," he said. "You
must get out of the house as quickly as possible. By Jove! how bad you
look!" He put his hand on his friend's shoulder and looked at him a
moment. He was the average Englishman in most of his details,
tall, well-built, with a good profile, and a ruddy Saxon face. His
individual characteristics were an eternal twinkle in his eye, a
forehead with remarkably well-developed reflectives, and a very square
chin and jaw. Just now the twinkle was less aggressive and his face
had softened noticeably. "There is no help for it, I suppose, Hal, is
there?" he said.
Dartmouth looked back at him with a smile, and a good deal of
affection in his eyes. "No, old fellow," he replied; "I am afraid
there is not. But they are rarely as bad as this last. And—thank you
They went out together and walked to the Café Anglais on the Boulevard
des Italiens. The air was keen and cold, the walk a long one, and
Dartmouth felt like another man by the time he sat down to breakfast.
One or two other men joined them. Hollington was unusually witty, the
conversation was general and animated, and when Dartmouth left the
café the past week seemed an ugly dream. In the afternoon he met the
wife of the American Consul-General, Mrs. Raleigh, in the Bois, and
learned from her that Margaret Talbot had left Paris. This left him
free to remain; and when Mrs. Raleigh reminded him that her doors were
open that evening, he asked permission at once to present himself.
Mrs. Raleigh not only had a distinguished and interesting salon, but
she casually remarked that she expected Miss Penrhyn, and Dartmouth
felt a strong desire to see the girl again.
When, a few hours later, Dartmouth entered Mrs. Raleigh's salon, he
saw Miss Penrhyn surrounded by some half-dozen men, and talking
with the abandon of a pleased child, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks
flushed. As he went over to her the flush faded slightly, but she held
out her hand and smiled up into his eyes.
"You have been ill," she murmured, sympathetically. "You look so
"Yes," he said, "I have been ill; otherwise I should have made an
effort to see you before. I suppose I cannot get a word with you
to-night May I call on you to morrow morning?"
"Yes, you may come."
"Thank you. And there will not be a dozen other men there?"
She smiled. "I do not think there will be anyone else. I rarely
receive in the morning."
"But are you sure?"
He had a long sweep of black lash, through which the clear blue of his
eyes had a way of shining with a pleading, softening lustre, immensely
effective. It was an accepted fact that when Mr. Dartmouth turned
on this battery of eyes and lash, resistance was a forgotten art and
protest a waste of time. Miss Penrhyn did not prove an exception to
the rule. She hesitated, then answered, with a little laugh, as if
amused at herself, "Well, yes, I am sure."
"Very well, then, remember, I look upon that as a promise. And I will
try to get a word with you later, but there is no hope now."
He moved off and, leaning against the opposite wall, covertly watched
her, while ostensibly listening with due sympathy to the hopes and
fears of an old friend and embryo author. In a moment he made a
discovery—of his friend's confidence I regret to say he heard not one
word—she did not treat him as she treated other men. Well bred as she
was, there was a perceptible embarrassment in her manner whenever he
addressed her, but with these other men she was talking and smiling
without a trace of effort or restraint. He knew what it meant. He was
thoroughly aware that he was a man of extraordinary magnetism, and he
had seen his power over a great many women. Ordinarily, to a man so
sated with easy success as Harold Dartmouth, the certainty of conquest
would have strangled the fancy, but there was something about this
girl which awakened in him an interest he did not pretend to define,
except that he found her more beautiful, and believed her to be
more original, than other women. He was anxious to have a longer
conversation with her, and ascertain whether or not he was correct in
his latter supposition. He did not want to marry, and she was too
good to flirt with, but platonics were left. And platonics with Miss
Penrhyn suggested variety.
He also made another discovery. Someone played an interminable piece
of classic music. During its recital it was not possible for Miss
Penrhyn to talk with the men about her, and as the animation faded
from her face, he noticed the same preoccupied look overspread it
which had characterized it the night she had entered the ball-room at
the Legation. Something troubled her, but to Dartmouth's quick eye
it was not an active trouble, it was more like a shadow which took
possession of her face in its moments of repose with the quiet
assurance of a dweller of long standing. Possibly she herself was
habitually forgetful of its cause; but the cause had struck deep
into the roots of her nature, and its shadow had become a part of
her beauty. Dartmouth speculated much and widely, but rejected the
hypothesis of a lover. She had never loved for a moment; and in spite
of his platonic predilections, this last of his conclusions held a
very perceptible flavor of satisfaction. When the classic young lady
had gracefully acknowledged the raptures she had evoked, and tripped
back to her seat, Miss Penrhyn was asked to sing, and then Dartmouth
saw his opportunity; he captured her when she had finished, and bore
her off to the conservatory before anyone could interfere.
"You sing charmingly," he said. "Will you sing for me to-morrow?"
"If you can stretch flattery to that extent, with Patti at the Grand
"I have been listening to Patti for fifteen years, and man loves
variety. I wish I could tell where I have seen you before," he
continued, abruptly. "Do you look like your mother? I may have seen
her in my youth."
Her face flushed a sudden, painful red, and then turned very pale. "I
do not remember my mother," she stammered. "She died when I was quite
"Poor thing!" thought Dartmouth. "How girls do grieve for an unknown
mother!" "But you have seen her picture?" he said, aloud.
"Yes, I have seen her pictures. They are dark, like myself. But that
"You must have had a lonely childhood, brought up all by yourself in
that gloomy old castle I have heard described."
She colored again and crushed a fern-leaf nervously between her
fingers. "Yes, it was lonesome. Yes—those old castles always are."
"By the way—I remember—my mother spent a summer down there once,
some twelve or thirteen years ago, and—it comes back to me now—I
remember having heard her speak of Rhyd-Alwyn as the most picturesque
castle in Wales. She must have known your mother, of course. And you
must have known the children. Why was I not there?"
"I do not remember," she said, rising suddenly to her feet, and
turning so pale that Dartmouth started to his in alarm. "Come; let us
go back to the salon."
"There is some mystery," thought Dartmouth. "Have I stumbled upon a
family skeleton? Poor child!" But aloud he said, "No, do not go yet;
I want to talk to you." And when he had persuaded her to sit down
once more, he exerted himself to amuse her, and before long had the
satisfaction of seeing that she had forgotten her agitation. It did
not take him long to discover that she had read a great deal and that
her favorite reading had been travels, and he entertained her with
graphic recitals of such of his own varied experience as he thought
most likely to interest her. She listened with flattering attention
and a natural and keen sense of humor, and he was stimulated to a good
deal more effort than habit prompted. "You will enjoy travelling," he
said, finally; "and you will not travel like other women. You will see
something besides picture-galleries, and churches, and Bons marchés.
I believe that you would realize what it is to be an atom of to-day in
the presence of twenty centuries."
She smiled up at him with quick sympathy. "Yes," she said, "I believe
one must more frequently be awed than pleased, or even enraptured. And
I can imagine how even the most self-content of men, if he absorb the
meaning of Europe, must feel his insignificance. If he has wit enough
to reflect that all these represented ages, with their extraordinary
results, abstract and concrete, have come and gone with no aid of his;
that no prophet ever whispered his name among the thousands of great
in every conceivable destiny; that he is, mentally and physically,
simply a result of evolution and civilization, not, in any way worth
mentioning, a cause, he will be apt to reflect as well upon how many
men, all told, have ever heard of his existence or who besides his
grandchildren will remember him a generation hence. He will probably
wish that arithmetic had never been invented. Or if he be one of the
great of earth, he is only one after all, and, if he be in danger of
bursting from inflation, he can be grateful for a timely reminder that
there are several millions on the globe who have never heard of him,
and a few millions more who do not and never will take the faintest
interest in him or his career. But it needs the presence of twenty
centuries to bring the fact of man's individual insignificance home to
most of us."
"She is clever," thought Dartmouth, as he dismissed his brougham
a little later and walked home alone. "Very un-modern and most
reprehensibly unconventional, in so much as she thinks, and develops
her mental muscles; but very charming, notwithstanding. There is an
incongruity about her, however, which is almost absurd. She has been
brought up in such seclusion—and under the sole tuition of a man not
only a pedant, but who has never stepped through the gates of the last
generation—that she reminds one of those fair English dames who used
to prowl about their parks with the Phaedo under their arm and long
for a block on which to float down to prosperity; Plato had quite
enough to do to sail for himself. And upon this epitomized abstraction
of the sixteenth century, this mingling of old-time stateliness, of
womanly charm, of tougher mental fibre, are superimposed the shallow
and purely objective attributes of the nineteenth-century belle and
woman of fashion. It is almost a shock to hear her use our modern
vernacular, and when she relapses into the somewhat stilted language
in which she is still accustomed to think, it is a positive relief.
She is conscious that she is apt to be a little high-flown, and when
she forgets herself and is natural, she quickly pulls herself in with
a round turn, which is an apology in itself. Upon such occasions a
man wants to get his fingers about the throat of the world. She has
acquired all the little arts and mannerisms of the London drawing-room
girl, and although they do not sit ungracefully upon her, because
she is innately graceful, and too clever to assume a virtue which
she cannot assimilate, still it is like a foreigner who speaks your
language to perfection in all but accent, and whom you long to hear in
his own tongue. Put her back in her Welsh castle, and the scales
would fall from her as from a mermaid who loves. If she returns to
her father at the end of the season, I think I will call upon her six
months later. She should go now, though; scales are apt to corrode.
But what is the mystery about the mother? Did she elope with the
coachman? But, no; that is strictly a modern freak of fashion. Perhaps
she died in a mad-house. Not improbable, if she had anything of the
nature of this girl in her, and Sir Iltyd sowed the way with thorns
too sharp. Poor girl! she is too young for mysteries, whatever it is.
I shall like to know her better, but she is so intense that she makes
me feel frivolous. I am never intense except when I have the blues,
and intensity, with my peculiar mental anatomy, is a thing to be
avoided. In what is invariably the last chapter of those attacks of
morbid dissatisfaction I shall some day feel an intense desire to blow
out my brains, and shall probably succumb. I wonder if she will induce
another rhyming attack to-night. Was that night a dream or a reality?
Could I have had a short but sharp attack of brain fever? Perhaps
the less I think about it the better; but it is decidedly hard to be
gifted with the instincts of a poet and denied the verbal formulation.
And it was the most painfully realistic, aggressively material
thing, that conflict in my brain, that mortal ever experienced. That,
however, may have been a mere figment of my excited imagination.
But what excited my imagination? That is the question. If I remember
aright, I was mentally discoursing with some enthusiasm upon Miss
Penrhyn's charms, but in strict impartiality it cannot be said that
I was excited. The excitement was like that produced by an onslaught
from behind. It is the more surprising, as I think it may be conceded
that I have myself pretty well in hand by this time, and that my
nerves, unruly as nature saw fit to make them, are now my very abject
slaves. Occasionally one of our fiction carpenters flies off at a
tangent and treats us to a series of intellectual gymnastics, the
significance of which—so we are called upon to digest—is that the
soul of one dead, finding its present clime too warm—or too cold—or
having left something undone on earth, takes temporary and summary
possession of an unfortunate still in the flesh, and through this
unhappy medium endeavors to work his will. Perhaps that is what is the
matter with me. Pollok, perchance, who died in his flower, thinking
that he had not given the world a big enough pill to swallow, wants to
concoct another dose in my presumably vacant brain. I appreciate
the compliment, but I disdain to be Pollok's mouthpiece: I will be
original or nothing. Besides, it is deuced uncomfortable. And I should
like to know if there is anything in life more bitter than the sense,
even momentary, of loss of self-mastery. Well, as I remarked a few
moments since, the less I think about it the better, considering my
unfortunate peculiarities. I will go and see Miss Penrhyn to-morrow;
that will be sufficiently distracting for the present."
He found her the next day in a pretty morning-room, dressed in a long
white gown, with a single great yellow rose at her throat. She had
a piece of tapestry in her hand, and as she rose to greet him, the
plain, heavy folds of her gown clinging about her, and her dark
hair bound closely around her head with a simplicity that was almost
severe, Dartmouth again felt a humorous sense of having suddenly
stepped into a page of a past century.
"What are you doing?" he said, as he took a chair opposite her. "Women
never make tapestry—real tapestry—in these days. You remind me of
Lady Jane Grey. Shall I get a volume of Greek and read it to you?"
She laughed. "I fear it would literally be Greek to me. Latin and I
had a fierce and desperate war, but I conquered in the end. With the
Greek, however, the war was extremely brief, and he marched off with
colors flying, and never condescended to renew the engagement."
"For all mercies make us duly thankful. A woman who knows Greek is
like a hot-house grape; a mathematically perfect thing, but scentless
"You are consoling; and, indeed, I cannot see that it would have done
me much good; it certainly would not have increased my popularity
among your exacting sex. You are the first man to whom I have dared
acknowledge I know Latin. Lady Langdon was kind enough to give me
elaborate warnings and instructions before she launched me into
society. Among other things, she constantly reiterated, 'Never let a
man suspect that you know anything, my dear. He will fly from you as
a hare to cover. I want you to be a belle, and you must help me.' I
naturally asked her what I was to talk about, and she promptly replied
'Nothing. Study the American girl, they have the most brilliant way
of jabbering meaningless recitativos of any tribe on the face of the
earth. Every sentence is an epigram with the point left out. They are
like the effervescent part of a bottle of soda-water.' This was while
we were still in Wales, and she sent for six books by two of those
American novelists who are supposed to be the expounders-in-chief of
the American girl at home and abroad, and made me read them. It nearly
killed me, but I did it, and I learned a valuable lesson. I hated the
American girl, but I felt as if I had been boiled in soda-water and
every pore of my body had absorbed it. I felt ecstatically frivolous,
and commonplace, and flashing, and sizzling. And—I assure you this
is a fact, although you may not give me credit for such grim
determination and concentration of purpose—but I never eat my
breakfast before I have read an entire chapter from one of those two
authors, it adjusts my mental tone for the day and keeps me in proper
Dartmouth threw back his head and gave vent to the heartiest burst
of laughter he had indulged in for years. "Upon my word, you are
original," he exclaimed, delightedly, "and for heaven's sake, don't
try to be anything else. You could not be an American girl if you
tried for a century, for the reason that you have too many centuries
behind you. The American girl is charming, exquisite, a perfect
flower—but thin. She is like the first fruit of a new tree planted
in new soil. Her flavor is as subtle and vanishing as pistachio,
but there is no richness, no depth, no mellowness, no suggestion
of generations of grafting, or of orchards whose very sites are
forgotten. The soda-water simile is good, but the American girl, in
her actual existence—not in her verbal photographs, I grant you—is
worthy of a better. She is more like one glass of champagne-frappe,
momentarily stimulating, but quickly forgotten. When I was in America,
I met the most charming women in New York—I did not spend two weeks,
all told, in Washington—and New York is the concentrated essence,
the pinnacle of American civilization and achievement. But although I
frequently talked to one or another of those women for five hours at a
time without a suggestion of fatigue, I always had the same sensation
in regard to them that I had in regard to their waists while
dancing—they were unsatisfactory, intangible. I never could be sure
I really held a woman in my arms, and I never could remember a word
I had exchanged with them. But they are charming—that word describes
them 'down to the ground.'"
"That word 'thin' is good, too," she replied; "and I think it
describes their literature better than any other. They write
beautifully those Americans, they are witty, they are amusing, they
are entertaining, they delineate character with a master hand; they
give us an exact idea of their peculiar environment and conditions;
and the way they handle dialect is a marvel; but—they are thin; they
ring hollow; they are like sketches in pen-and-ink; there is no color,
no warmth, and above all, no perspective. I don't know that they are
even done in sharp black-and-white; to me the pervading tone is gray.
The American author depresses me; he makes me feel commonplace and new
and unballasted. I always feel as if I were the 'millionth woman in
superfluous herds'; and when one of those terrible American authors
attacks my type, and carves me up for the delectation of the public, I
shall go back to Wales, nor ever emerge from my towers again. And they
are so cool and calm and deliberate, and so horribly exact, even the
lesser lights. They always remind me of a medical student watching the
workings of the exposed nervous system of a chloroformed hare."
Dartmouth looked at her with some intensity in his gaze. "I am glad
your ideas are so singularly like my own," he said. "It is rather
remarkable they should be, but so it is. You have even a way of
putting your thoughts that strikes me as familiar, and which, out of
my natural egotism, I find attractive. But I wish you would go back to
your old castle; the world will spoil you."
"I shall return in a month or two now; my father is lonely without
"I suppose he spoils you," said Dartmouth, smiling. "I imagine you
were an abominable infant. Tell me of some of the outrageous things
you used to do. I was called the worst child in three counties; but, I
doubt not, your exploits discounted mine, as the Americans say."
"Oh, mine are too bad to relate," she exclaimed, with a nervous laugh,
and coloring swiftly, as she had done the night before. "But you were
ill for a whole week, were you not? Was it anything serious?"
Dartmouth felt a sudden impulse to tell her of his strange experience.
He was not given to making confidences, but he felt en rapport with
this girl as he had never felt with man or woman before. He had a
singular feeling, when talking with or listening to her, of losing his
sense of separateness. It was not that he felt de-individualized, but
that he had an accession of personality. It was pleasant because it
was novel, but at the same time it was uncomfortable because it was
a trifle unnatural. He smiled a little to himself. Was it a case of
affinity after all? But he had no time to analyze. She was waiting for
an answer, and in a moment he found himself yielding to his impulse
and giving her a graphic account of his peculiar visitation.
At first she merely dropped her tapestry and listened attentively,
smiling and blushing a little when he told her what had immediately
preceded the impulse to write. But gradually the delicate pink left
her face, and she began to move in the spasmodic, uncontrollable way
of a person handling an electric battery. She clasped the arms of
her chair with such force that her arms looked twisted and rigid, and
finally she bent slowly forward, gazing up into his face with eyes
expanded to twice their natural size and not a vestige of color in
her cheek or lips: she looked like a corpse still engaged in the
mechanical act of gazing on the scene of agony which had preceded
its death. Suddenly she sprang to her feet and threw out her hands.
"Stop!" she cried; "stop!"
"What is it?" he demanded, rising to his feet in amazement; he had
been watching her with more or less surprise for some time. "I am
afraid I have frightened you and made you nervous. I had better have
kept my confidence to myself."
"No, no," she cried, throwing back her head and clasping her hands
about it; "it is not that I am frightened—only—it was so strange!
While you were talking it seemed—oh! I cannot describe it!—as if you
were telling me something which I knew as well as yourself. When
you spoke it seemed to me that I knew and could put into words the
wonderful verse-music which was battling upward to reach your brain.
They were, they were—I know them so well. I have known them always;
but I cannot—I cannot catch their meaning!" Suddenly she stepped
backward, dropped her hands, and colored painfully. "It is all purest
nonsense, of course," she said, in her ordinary tone and manner,
except for its painful embarrasment. "It is only your strong,
picturesque way of telling it which presented it as vividly to my mind
as if it were an experience of my own. I never so much as dreamed of
it before you began to speak."
Dartmouth did not answer her for a moment. His own mind was in
something of a tumult. In telling the story he had felt, not a
recurrence of its conditions, but a certain sense of their influence;
and the girl's manner and words were extraordinary. It could hardly
be possible, even in cold blood, to understand their meaning. She
was indisputably not acting. What she had said was very strange and
unconventional, but from whatever source the words had sprung, they
had not been uttered with the intention premeditated or spontaneous
of making an impression upon him. They carried conviction of their
sincerity with them, and Dartmouth was sensible that they produced
a somewhat uncanny but strangely responsive effect upon himself.
But what did it mean? That in some occult way she had been granted
a glimpse into the depths of his nature was unthinkable. He was not
averse to indulging a belief in affinity; and that this girl was his
was not a disagreeable idea; but his belief by no means embraced a
second, to the effect that the soul of one's antitype is as an open
book to the other. Could her mind be affected? But no. She was a very
unusual girl, possibly an eccentric one; but he flattered himself
that he knew a lunatic when he saw one. There was left then but the
conclusion that she possessed a strongly and remarkably sympathetic
nature, as yet unbridled and unblunted by the world, and that he had
made a dangerous imprint upon it. He was not unduly vain, but he was
willing to believe that she would not vibrate so violently to every
This point settled to the best of his capabilities, he allowed a
second consciousness, which had been held under for the moment,
during the exercisings of his analytical instinct, to claim his
consideration. He was sensible that he was attracted as he had never
been attracted by woman before. He had felt something of this on the
night he had met her, and he had felt it more strongly on the occasion
of their second interview; but now he was aware that it had suddenly
taken the form of an overmastering desire for possession. He was by
nature an impulsive man, but he was a man of the world as well, and
he had his impulses pretty well subordinated to interest and
common-sense; nevertheless he felt very much like doing a rash and
impulsive thing at the present moment. He was a man of rapid thought,
and these reflections chased each other through his mind much more
quickly than I have been able to take them down, and Miss Penrhyn
had averted her gaze and was playing nervously with some flowers in
a basket on a pedestal beside her. She was acutely aware that she had
made a fool of herself, and imagined that his hesitation was due to
a polite desire to arrange his reply in such wise as not to make his
appreciation of the fact too crudely apparent. At the same time she
was a little exhausted under the reaction of a short but very severe
mental strain. As for Dartmouth, he hesitated a moment longer. He was
balancing several pros and cons very rapidly. He was aware that if he
asked this girl to marry him and she consented, he must, as a man of
honor, abide by the contract, no matter how much she might disappoint
him hereafter. At the same time the knowledge that he was in love
with her was growing more distinct every second. Doubtless the wisest
course would be to go away for the present and postpone any decisive
step until he knew her better. But he was not a patient man, and he
was not in the habit of putting off until to-morrow what he could do
to-day. (He considered that certain of the precepts instilled during
childhood were of admirable practical value). The best thing in life
was its morning: he did not like evening shadows and autumn twilights.
There was nothing that could compare with the sweetness and fineness
of the flavor of novelty. When it was practicable to take advantage
of one's impulses one had a brief draught of true philosopher's
happiness. And, at all events, this girl was a lady, high-born,
high-bred, intellectual, and unique. She was also plastic, and if she
had a somewhat too high-strung nature, love had been known to work
wonders before. He had mastered the difficult art of controlling
himself; he was not afraid of not being able to control any woman who
loved him. He went over to her and took her hands in his strong clasp.
"I have known you a very short—" he began, and then paused abruptly.
He had meant to speak calmly and not frighten her by the suddenness
of his love-making, but her touch fired him and sent the blood to his
head. He flung down her hands, and throwing his arms about her, kissed
her full on the mouth. The girl turned very white and tried to free
herself, but his arms were too strong, and in a moment she ceased to
resist. She made no attempt to define her feelings as Dartmouth had
done. She had felt the young man's remarkable magnetism the moment she
had met him: she had been aware of a certain prophetic instinct of it
some hours before, when he had stood in the window of a crowded café
above a crowded thoroughfare and speculatively returned her gaze.
And the night before, she had gone home with a very sharply outlined
consciousness that she would never again meet a man who would interest
her so deeply. To-day, this feeling had developed into one of strong
reciprocal sympathy, and he had exerted a psychological influence over
her as vaguely delightful as it was curious and painful. But all this
was no preparation for the sudden tumult of feeling which possessed
her under his kiss. She knew that it was love; and, that it had come
to her without warning, made the knowledge no less keen and sure.
Her first impulse was to resist, but purely out of that pride which
forbids a woman to yield too soon; and when his physical strength made
her powerless, she was glad that it should be so.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Yes" she said; "I will marry you."
Two weeks later Dartmouth had followed Weir Penrhyn to Wales. He had
written to her father at once, and Sir Iltyd had informed him in reply
that although aware of his rank and private fortune, through Lady
Langdon's intimation, and although possessing a high regard and esteem
for his father, still it was impossible for him to give any definite
answer until he had known him personally, and he therefore invited
him to come as soon as it pleased him and pay Rhyd-Alwyn a visit. Weir
accordingly, and much to Lady Langdon's disgust, had returned to Wales
at once; Dartmouth insisted upon an early marriage, and the longer
they delayed obtaining Sir Iltyd's consent the longer must the wedding
Dartmouth arrived late in the afternoon at Rhyd-Alwyn—a great pile of
gray towers of the Norman era and half in ruins. He did not meet Sir
Iltyd until a few minutes before dinner was announced, but he saw Weir
for a moment before he went up-stairs to dress for dinner. His room
was in one of the towers, and as he entered it he had the pleasurable
feeling, which Weir so often induced, of stepping back into a dead and
gone century. It looked as if unnumbered generations of Penrhyns had
slept there since the hand of the furnisher had touched it. The hard,
polished, ascetic-looking floor was black with age; the tapestry on
the walls conveyed but a suggestion of what its pattern and color had
been; a huge four-posted bed heavily shrouded with curtains stood
in the centre of the room, and there were a number of heavy, carved
pieces of furniture whose use no modern Penrhyn would pretend to
explain. The vaulted ceiling was panelled, and the windows were
narrow and long and high. Sufficient light found its way through them,
however, to dress by, and there was a bright log-fire in the open
"Jones," said Dartmouth, after he had admiringly examined the details
of the room and was getting into his clothes, "just throw those
curtains up over the roof of that bed. I like the antique, but I don't
care to be smothered. Give me my necktie, and look out for the bed
before you forget it."
Jones looked doubtfully up at the canopy. "That is pretty 'igh, sir,"
he said. "Hif I can find a step-ladder—"
"A step-ladder in a Welsh castle! The ante-deluge Penrhyns would turn
in their graves, or to be correct, in their family vaults. No true
Welsh noble is guilty of departing from the creed of his ancestors to
the tune of domestic comforts. It is fortunate a man does not have
to marry his wife's castle as well as herself. Get up on to that
cabinet—it is twice as high as yourself—and you can manage the
curtains quite easily."
Jones with some difficulty succeeded in moving the tall piece of
furniture designated to the bed-side; then with the help of a chair he
climbed to the top of it. He caught one of the tender-looking curtains
carefully between his hands, and was about to throw it over the
canopy, shutting his eyes and his mouth to exclude the possible dust,
when the cabinet beneath him suddenly groaned, swayed, and the next
moment there was a heavy crash, and he was groaning in the midst of
a dozen antique fragments. Harold sprang forward in some alarm and
picked him up. "By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I am afraid you are hurt; and
what a row I have made! I might have known better than to tell you to
trust your weight on that old thing."
Jones shook himself slowly, extended his arms and legs, announced
himself unhurt, and Dartmouth gave his attention to the cabinet. "I
shall have to initiate myself in my prospective father-in-law's good
graces by announcing myself a spoiler of his household goods," he
exclaimed, ruefully. "And a handsome old thing like that, too; it is
a shame!" He thrust his hands into his pockets and continued looking
down at the ruins with a quizzical smile on his face.
"By every law of romance and of precedent," he thought, "I ought to
find in that cabinet the traditional packet of old letters which would
throw a flood of light upon some dark and tragic mystery. Else why did
I tell Jones to stand upon that particular cabinet instead of that one
over there, which looks as if iron hammers could not break it; and why
did Jones blindly obey me? That it should be meaningless chance is
too flat to be countenanced. I should find the long lost Mss. of that
rhymer who took possession of me that night, and so save myself the
discomfort of being turned into a Temple of Fame a second time. Truly
there has been an element of the unusual throughout this whole affair
with Weir. Once or twice I have felt as if about to sail out of the
calm, prosaic waters of this every-day nineteenth-century life,
and embark upon the phosphorescent sea of our sensational
novelists—psychological, so-called. It is rather soon for the
cabinet to break, however. It suggests an anti-climax, which would be
inartistic. But such material was never intended to be thrown away by
a hero of romance."
He kicked about among the fragments of the ruined cabinet, but was
rewarded by no hollow ring. It was a most undutifully matter-of-fact
and prosaic piece of furniture in its interior, however much it may
have pleased the æsthetic sense outwardly. He gave it up after a time,
and finished dressing. "Nothing in that but firewood," he announced to
Jones, who had been watching his researches with some surprise. "Pile
it up in a corner and leave it there until I have made my peace with
He gave his necktie a final touch, then went down to the drawing-room,
where he found the candles lit and Sir Iltyd standing on the hearth-rug
beside his daughter. The old gentleman came forward at once and
greeted him with stately, old-fashioned courtesy, his stern, somewhat
sad features relaxing at once under Dartmouth's rare charm of manner.
He was a fine-looking man, tall and slim like his daughter, but very
fair. His head, well developed, but by no means massive, and scantily
covered with gray hair, was carried with the pride which was the bone
and fibre of his nature. Pride, in fact, albeit a gentle, chastened
sort of pride, was written all over him, from the haughty curve of his
eyebrow to the conscious wave of his small, delicate hand—pride, and
love for his daughter, for he followed her every movement with the
adoring eyes of a man for the one solace of a sad and lonely old age.
"It is so awfully good of you to let me come up here so soon,"
exclaimed Dartmouth. "But what do you suppose I have done to prove my
"Made the castle your own, I hope."
"I have. I proceeded at once to make myself at home by smashing up
the furniture. One of your handsomest cabinets is now in ruins upon my
Sir Iltyd looked at him with a somewhat puzzled glance. He had lived
in seclusion for nearly thirty years, and was unaccustomed to the
facetiousness of the modern youth. "Has anything happened?" he
Dartmouth smiled, but gave an account of the disaster in unadorned
English, and received forgiveness at once. Had he confessed to having
chopped his entire tower to pieces, Sir Iltyd would have listened
without a tightening of the lips, and with the air of a man about to
invite his guest to make a bonfire of the castle if so it pleased him.
As for Weir, her late education made her appreciate the humor of the
situation, and she smiled sympathetically at Harold over her father's
They went into dinner a few moments later, and Sir Iltyd talked a
good deal. Although a man of somewhat narrow limitations and one-sided
views, as was but natural, taking into consideration the fact that his
mental horizon had not been widened out by contact with his
fellow-men for twenty-five years, he was, for a recluse, surprisingly
well-informed upon the topics of the day. Dartmouth could not forbear
making some allusion to the apparent paradox, and his host smiled and
told him that as history had been his favorite study all his life, he
could hardly be so inconsistent as to ignore the work which his more
active contemporaries were making for the future chronicler. He
then drew from Dartmouth a detailed account of that restless young
gentleman's political experience in Russia, and afterward questioned
him somewhat minutely about the American form of government. He seemed
to be pleased with the felicity of expression and the well-stored mind
of his would-be son-in-law, and lingered at the table longer than was
his habit. There were no formalities at Rhyd-Alwyn. Weir remained
with them, and when her father finally rose and went over to the
hearth-rug, as if loth to leave the society of the young people, she
went and stood beside him. He laid his arm across her shoulders, then
turned to Dartmouth with a sigh. "You would take her from me," he
said, sadly, "do you know that you will leave me to a very lonely
"Oh, you will see enough of us," replied Harold, promptly. "We shall
be back and forth all the time. And Crumford Hall, I can assure you,
is not a bad place to come to for the shooting."
Sir Iltyd shook his head: "I could not live out of Wales," he said;
"and I have not slept under another roof for a quarter of a century.
But it is good of you to say you would not mind coming once in a while
to this lonely old place, and it would make the separation easier to
He left them shortly after, and as he took Harold's hand in
good-night, he retained it a moment with an approving smile, then
passed a characteristic Welsh criticism: "It is a small hand," he
said, "and a very well-shaped hand; and your feet, too. I am willing
to acknowledge to you that I am weak enough to have a horror of large
hands and feet. Good-night. I have to thank you for a very pleasant
"Harold," said Weir, the next morning after breakfast, as the door
closed behind Sir Iltyd, "I shall entertain you until luncheon by
showing you the castle."
"My dear girl," said Harold, smiling, "let your role of hostess sit
lightly upon you. I do not want to be entertained. I am perfectly
"Of that I have no doubt. Nevertheless I want you to see the castle,
particularly the picture-gallery, where all my ancestors be."
"Then, by my troth, will I go, fair Mistress Penrhyn, for a goodly
show your ancestors be, I make no doubt;" and Dartmouth plunged his
hands into his pockets and looked down at her with a broad smile.
Weir lifted her head. "My English is quite as pure as yours," she
said. "And you certainly cannot accuse me of using what the London
girls call 'slang.'"
This time Dartmouth laughed aloud. "No, my dear," he said, "not even
Shakespearean slang. But let us investigate the mysteries of the castle
by all means. Lead, and I will follow."
"There are no mysteries," said Weir; "we have not even a ghost. Nor
have we a murder, or crime of any sort, to make us blush for our
"Happy tree! Mine has a blush for every twig, and a drop curtain for
every branch. Thank God for the Penrhyn graft! Let us hope that
it will do as much good as its fairest flower has already done the
degenerate scion of all the Dartmouths. But, to the castle! I would
get through—I mean, I would gaze upon its antiquities as soon as
"This castle is very interesting, Mr. Dartmouth," replied Weir,
elevating her chin; "you have nothing so old in England."
"True, nor yet in Jerusalem, O haughtiest of Welsh maidens! I esteem
it a favor that I am not put below the salt."
Weir laughed. "What a tease you are! But you know that in your heart
your pride of family is as great as mine. Only it is the 'fad' of
the day to affect to despise birth and lineage. We of Wales are more
"Yes, it is your sign and seal, and it sits well upon you. I don't
affect to despise birth and lineage, my dear. If I could not trace
my ancestry back to the first tadpole who loafed his life away in the
tropical forests of old, I should be miserable."
He spoke jestingly, but he drew himself up as he spoke, his lip was
supercilious, and there was an intolerant light in his eye. At that
moment he did not look a promising subject for the Liberal side of the
House, avowedly as were his sympathies in that quarter. Weir, however,
gave him an approving smile, and then commanded him to follow her.
She took him over the castle, from the dungeons below to the cell-like
rooms in the topmost towers. She led him through state bedrooms,
in which had slept many a warlike Welsh prince, whose bones could
scarcely be in worse order than the magnificence which once had
sheltered them. She piloted him down long galleries with arcades on
one side, like a cloister, and a row of rooms on the other wherein the
retainers of ancient princes of the house of Penrhyn had been wont to
rest their thews after a hard day's fight. She slid back panels and
conducted him up by secret ways to gloomy rooms, thick with cobwebs,
where treasure had been hid, and heads too loyal to a fallen king had
alone felt secure on their trunks. She led him to chambers hung with
tapestries wrought by fair, forgotten grandmothers, who over their
work had dreamed their eventless lives away. She showed him the
chapel, impressive in its ancient Norman simplicity and in its ruin,
and the great smoke-begrimed banqueting-hall, where wassails had been
held, and beauty had thought her lord a beast.
"Well," she demanded, as they paused at length on the threshold of the
picture-gallery, "what do you think of my father's castle?"
"Your father's castle is the most consistent thing I have seen for
a long time: it is an artistically correct setting for your father's
daughter. The chain of evolution is without a missing link. And
what is better, the last link is uncorroded with the rust of modern
conventions. Seriously, your castle is the most romantic I have ever
seen. The nineteenth century is forgotten, and I am a belted Knight of
Merrie England who has stormed your castle and won you by his prowess.
You stood in your window, high up in your tower, and threw me a rose,
while your father stalked about the ramparts and swore that my bones
should whiten on the beach. I raised the rose to my lips, dashed
across the drawbridge, and hurled my lance at the gates. About my head
a shower of barbs and bullets fell, but I heeded them not. Behind me
thundered my retainers, and under their onslaught the mighty gates
gave way with a crash, and the castle was ours! We trampled into
the great hall, making it ring with our shouts and the clash of our
shields. Your father's men fled before us, but he calmly descended the
staircase and confronted us with his best Welsh stare. 'I fear ye not,
villains,' he cried. 'Barbarians, English dogs! I defy ye. Do your
worst. My daughter and I for death care not. The mighty house of
Istyn-ap-Dafyd-ap-Owain-ap-Caradoc-ap-Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn knoweth not
fear of living man, nor yet of death's mysterious charnel-house.'
'Wrong me not, gentle sir,' I cried, snatching off my helmet
and trailing its plumes upon the floor; 'I come in love, not
in destruction. Give me but thy daughter, O
Dafyd-ap-Owain-ap-Istyn-ap-Caradoc-ap-Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn, and thy castle
and thy lands, thy rocks and thy sea, are thine again, even as were
they before the beauty of the Lady Weir turned my blood to lava and
my heart to a seething volcano. Give me but thy daughter's hand, and
wealth shall flow into thy coffers, and the multitude of thy retainers
shall carry terror to the heart of thy foe. What say ye, my Lord
Caradoc-ap-Owain-ap-etcetera?' Whereupon the lord of Rhyd-Alwyn unbent
his haughty brows, and placing one narrow, white, and shapely hand
upon my blood-stained baldric, spoke as follows: 'Well said, young
Briton. Spoken like a brave knight and an honorable gentleman. My
daughter thou shalt have, my son thou shalt be, thy friends shall be
my friends, and thou and all of them shall be baptized Welshmen.' And
then he himself re-ascended the staircase and sought you in your tower
and led you down and placed your hand in mine. And the drums beat, and
the shields clashed, and once more the mighty storm shook the rooks
from the roof. But we heard it not, for on your finger I had placed
the betrothal ring, then thrown my brawny arms about you and forgot
that earth existed. Excuse my eloquence," he cried, as he lifted her
up and kissed her, "but your castle and yourself are inspiring."
"That was all very charming, however," she said, "if you only had
not such a reprehensible way of jumping from the sublime to the
ridiculous, like a meteor from world to world."
"Prettily said, sweetheart. But, trust me, if I ever reach the sublime
I will stay there. Now, to your ancestors! Great heaven! what an
They had entered a long, narrow room, against whose dark background
stood out darker canvasses of an army of now celestial Penrhyns; an
army whose numbers would have been a morning's task to count. The
ancient Penrhyns had been princes, like most of their ilk; and the
titles which Weir glibly recited, and the traditions of valor and
achievement which she had at her tongue's end, finally wrung from
Dartmouth a cry for mercy.
"My dear girl!" he exclaimed, "keep the rest for another day. Those
'aps' are buzzing in my ears like an army of infuriated gnats, and
those mighty deeds are so much alike—who is that?"
He left her side abruptly and strode down the gallery to a picture
at the end, and facing the room. It was the full-length, life-size
portrait of a woman with gown and head-dress in the style of the First
Empire. One tiny, pointed foot was slightly extended from beneath
the white gown, and—so perfect had been the skill of the artist—she
looked as if about to step from the canvas to greet her guests.
"That is my grandmother, Sionèd, wife of Dafyd-ap-Penrhyn, who, I
would have you know, was one of the most famous diplomatists of his
day," said Weir, who had followed, and stood beside him. "She was the
daughter of the proudest earl in Wales—but I spare you his titles. I
am exactly like her, am I not? It is the most remarkable resemblance
which has ever occurred in the family."
"Yes," said Dartmouth, "you are like her." He plunged his hands into
his pockets and stared at the floor, drawing his brows together. Then
he turned suddenly to Weir. "I have seen that woman before," he said.
"That is the reason why I thought it was your face which was familiar.
I must have seen your grandmother when I was a very young child. I
have forgotten the event, but I could never forget such a face."
"But Harold," said Weir, elevating her brows "It is quite impossible
you could ever have seen my grandmother. She died when papa was a
"Are you sure?"
"Quite sure. I have often heard him say he had no memory whatever of
his mother. And grandpapa would never talk with him about her. He was
a terribly severe old man, they say—he died long years before I was
born—but he must have loved my grandmother very much, for he could
not bear to hear her name, and he never came to the castle after her
"It is strange," said Harold, musingly, "but I have surely seen that
He looked long at the beautiful, life-like picture before him. It
was marvellously like Weir in form and feature and coloring. But the
expression was sad, the eyes were wistful, and the whole face was
that, not of a woman who had lived, but of a woman who knew that out
of her life had passed the power to live did she bow her knee to the
Social Decalogue. As Weir stood, with her bright, eager, girlish face
upheld to the woman out of whose face the girlish light had forever
gone, the resemblance and the contrast were painfully striking.
"I love her!" exclaimed Weir, "and whenever I come in here I always
kiss her hand." She went forward and pressed her lips lightly to the
canvas, while Dartmouth stood with his eyes fastened upon the face
whose gaze seemed to meet his own and—soften—and invite—
He stepped forward suddenly as Weir drew back. "She fascinates me,
also," he said, with a half laugh. "I, too, will kiss her hand."
With the exception of the time spent in the dining-room, the young
people saw little of Sir Iltyd. That he liked Dartmouth and enjoyed
his society were facts he did not pretend to disguise. But the habits
of years were too strong, and he always wandered back to his books. He
did not trouble himself about proprieties. Weir had grown up and ruled
the castle all these years without a chaperon, and he had lived out
of the world too long to suggest the advisability of one now. His
daughter and her lover experienced no yearning for supervision, and
the free, untrammelled life was a very pleasant one, particularly to
Dartmouth, who always gave to novelty its just meed of appreciation.
At this period, in fact, Dartmouth's frame of mind left nothing to be
desired. In the first place, it was a delightful experience to find
himself able to stand the uninterrupted society of one woman from
morning till night, day after day, without a suggestion of fatigue.
And in the second, he found her a charming study. It is true that he
was very much in love, very sincerely and passionately in love; but
at the same time, his brain had been trained through too many years to
the habit of analysis; he could no more help studying Weir and drawing
her on to reveal herself than he could help loving her. She was not a
difficult problem to solve, individual as she was, because she was so
natural. Her experience with the world had been too brief to give her
an opportunity to encase herself in any shell which would not fall
from her at the first reaction to primitive conditions; and above all,
she was in love.
In the love of a woman there is always a certain element of
childishness, which has a reflex, if but temporary action upon her
whole nature. The phenomenon is due partly to the fact that she is
under the dominant influence of a wholly natural instinct, partly to
the fact that the object of her love is of stronger make than herself,
mentally, spiritually, and physically. This sense of dependence and
weakness, and, consequently, of extreme youth, remains until she
has children. Then, under the influence of peculiarly strong
responsibilities, she gives her youth to them, and with it the
plasticity of her nature.
At present Weir was in the stage where she analyzed herself for her
lover's benefit, and confided to him every sensation she had ever
experienced; and he encouraged her. He had frequently encouraged other
women to do the same thing, and in each case, after the first few
chapters, he had found it a good deal of a bore. The moment a woman
falls in love, that moment she becomes an object of paramount interest
in her own eyes. All her life she has regarded herself from the
outside; her wants and needs have been purely objective; consequently
she has not known herself, and her spiritual nature has claimed but
little of her attention. But under the influence of love she plunges
into herself, as it were, and her life for the time being is purely
subjective. She broadens, expands, develops, concentrates; and her
successive evolutions are a perpetual source of delight and absorbing
study. Moreover, her sense of individuality grows and flourishes,
and becomes so powerful that she is unalterably certain—until it is
over—that her experience is an isolated and wholly remarkable
one. Naturally she must talk to someone; she is teeming with her
discoveries, her excursions into the heretofore unexplored depths
of human nature; the necessity for a confidant is not one to be
withstood, and who so natural or understanding a confidant as her
lover? If the lover be a clever man and an analyst, he is profoundly
interested at first, particularly if she have some trick of mind which
gives her, or seems to give her, the smack of individuality. If he be
a true lover, and a man with any depth of feeling and of mind, he
does not tire, of course; but otherwise he eventually becomes either
oppressed or frightened; he either wishes that women would not take
themselves so seriously and forget to be amusing, or her belief in her
peculiar and absolute originality communicates itself to him, and he
does not feel equal to handling and directing so remarkable a passion.
There was no question about the strength and verity of Dartmouth's
love for Weir, and he had yet to be daunted by anything in life;
consequently he found his present course of psychological research
without flaw. Moreover, the quaintness of her nature pervaded all
her ideas. She had an old-fashioned simplicity and directness which,
combined with a charming quality of mind and an unusual amount of
mental development, gave her that impress of originality which he had
recognized and been attracted by. He was gratified also to find that
the old-time stateliness, almost primness, which had been to him
from the first her chiefest exterior charm did not disappear with
association. She might sit on a rock muffled to her ears in furs, and
with her feet dangling in the air, and yet manage to look as dignified
as a duchess. She might race with him on horseback and clamber down a
cliff with the thoughtlessness of a child, but she always looked as
if she had been brought up on a chessboard. Dartmouth used to tell her
that her peculiarly erect carriage and lofty fashion of carrying her
head gave her the effect of surveillance over an invisible crown with
an unreliable fit, and that she stepped like the maiden in the fairy
tale who was obliged to walk upon peas. He made a tin halo one day,
and put it suddenly on her head when her back was turned, and she
avenged herself by wearing it until he went down on his knees and
begged her to take it off. When she sat in her carved high-back chair
at the head of her father's table, with the deep collar and cuffs
of linen and heavy lace to which she was addicted, and her dark,
sensuous, haughty, tender face motionless for the moment, against the
dark background of the leather, she looked like a Vandyke; and at such
times Dartmouth's artistic nature was keenly responsive, and he forgot
Dartmouth had been at Rhyd-Alwyn two weeks, when Sir Iltyd turned
to him one night as he was leaving the dining-room and asked him to
follow him into the library for a few moments.
"I feel quite alarmed," said Harold to Weir, as the door closed behind
her father. "Do you suppose he is going to tell me that I do not give
"Harold!" exclaimed Weir, reprovingly, "I wish you would not talk as
if you were a butler; you look much more dignified than you ever talk.
You look like an English nobleman, and you talk like any ordinary
young man about town."
"My dearest girl, would you have me a Sir Charles Grandison? The
English nobleman of your imagination is the gentleman who perambulates
the pages of Miss Burney's novels. The present species and the young
man about town are synonymous animals."
"There you are again! You always make me laugh; I cannot help that;
but I wish you would do yourself justice, nevertheless. You may not
know it, but if you would only put on a ruff and satin doublet and
hose and wig, and all the rest of it, you would look exactly like one
of the courtiers of the court of Queen Elizabeth. You are a perfect
type of the English aristocrat."
"My dear Lady Jane Grey, if you had been an American girl, you would
have said a perfect gentleman, and I should never have spoken to you
again. As a matter of fact, I always feel it a sort of sacrilege that
I do not address you in blank verse; only my attempts thereat are
so very bad. But it is never too late to mend. We will read Pope
together, Shakespeare, and all the rest of the old boys. We will
saturate our minds with their rhythm, and we will thereafter
communicate in stately phrase and rolling periods."
"It would be a great deal better than slang and 'facetiousness,' as
you call it. That is all very well for Lord Bective Hollington; it
suits him; but you should aim at a higher standard."
Dartmouth, who was standing by the chimney-piece near the chair on
which she was sitting, put his hand under her chin and raised her
face, smiling quizzically as he did so.
"My dear child," he said, "you are too clever to fall into the common
error of women, and idealize your lover. The tendency is a constituent
part of the feminine nature, it is true. The average woman will
idealize the old tweed coat on her lover's back. But your eyes are too
clear for that sort of thing. I am a very ordinary young man, my dear.
Becky is twice as clever—"
"He is not!" burst in Weir, indignantly. "A man who can do nothing but
chaff and joke and talk witty nonsense!"
"If you knew him better you would know that under all that persiflage
there is much depth of feeling and passion. I do not claim any unusual
amount of intellectuality for him, but he has a wonderful supply of
hard common-sense, and remarkably quick perceptions. And I have great
respect for his judgment."
"That may be," said Weir, indifferently; "I care nothing about him."
She rose and stood in front of him and leaned her elbows on his
shoulders. "You may underrate yourself, if you like," she went on,
"but I know that you are capable of accomplishing anything you wish,
and of distinguishing yourself. I recall the conversations I have had
with you in your serious moments, if you do not, and I expect you to
be a great man yet."
Dartmouth flung his cigar impatiently into the fire. "My dear girl,
my grandmother preached that same thing to me from the day I was old
enough to reason, to the day she died. But I tell you, Weir, I have
not got it in me. I have the ambition and the desire—yes; but no
marked ability of any sort. Some day, when we are ready to settle
down, I will write, and publish what I write. Men will grant me a
certain standing as a thinker, I believe, and perhaps they will also
give me credit for a certain nice use of words; I have made a study of
literary style all my life. But that is the most I shall ever attain.
I am not a man of any genius or originality, and you may as well make
up your mind to the inevitable at once."
"Harold," said Weir, without taking the slightest notice of his
outburst, "do you remember that extraordinary experience of yours that
night in Paris? I believe you have the soul of a poet in you, only as
yet your brain hasn't got it under control. Did you ever read the life
of Alfieri? He experienced the same desire to write, over and over
again, but could accomplish nothing until after he was thirty.
Disraeli illustrated his struggles for speech in 'Contarini Fleming'
most graphically, you remember."
"Neither Alfieri nor Contarini Fleming ever had any such experience as
mine. Their impulse to write was not only a mental concept as well as
a spiritual longing, but it was abiding. I never really experienced
a desire to write poetry except on that night. I have occasionally
wished that I had the ability, but common-sense withheld me from
brooding over the impossible. The experience of that night is one
which can be explained by no ordinary methods. I can make nothing
of it, and for that reason I prefer not to speak of it. I abominate
"Well," she said, "some day I believe it will be explained. I believe
it was nothing more than an extraordinarily strong impulse to write,
and that you exaggerate it into the supernatural as you look back upon
it. I did not think so when you first told me; you were so dramatic
that you carried me off my feet, and I was an actor in the scene. But
that is the way I look at it now, and I believe I am correct."
"It may be," said Dartmouth, moodily, "but I hope it won't affect me
that way again, that is all." He caught her suddenly to him and kissed
her. "Let us be contented as we are," he said. "Ambition is love's
worst enemy. Geniuses do not make their wives happy."
"They do when their wives understand and are in absolute sympathy with
them," she said, returning his caress; "and that I should always be
with you. But do not imagine that I am in love with the idea of your
being a famous man. I care nothing for fame in itself. It is only that
I believe you to be capable of great things, and that you would be
happier if they were developed."
"Well, well," he said, laughing; "have your own way, as you will in
spite of me. If ever the divine fire lays me in ashes, you may triumph
in your predictions. But I must go and interview your father; I have
kept him waiting too long already."
They went out into the hall, and Dartmouth left her there and went to
the library. Sir Iltyd was sitting before a large table, reading by
the light of a student's lamp, which looked like an anachronism in
the lofty, ancient room. He closed his book as Dartmouth entered, and
rising, waved his hand toward a chair on the other side of the table.
"Will you sit down?" he said; "I should like to have a little talk
Dartmouth obeyed, and waited for the old gentleman to introduce the
subject. Sir Iltyd continued in a moment, taking up a small book and
bringing it down lengthwise on the desk at regular intervals while he
"Of course, you must know, Harold, that it has not taken me two weeks
to discover my personal feelings toward you. I should have liked or
disliked you on the first evening we met, and, as a matter of fact, my
sensations towards you have undergone no change since that night. If
it had happened that I disliked you, I should not have allowed the
fact to bias my judgment as to whether or not you were a suitable
husband for my daughter, but it would not have taken me two weeks
to make up my mind. As it is I have merely delayed my consent as an
unnecessary formality; but perhaps the time has come to say in so many
words that I shall be very glad to give my daughter to you."
"Thank you," said Dartmouth. The words sounded rather bald, but it
was an unusual situation, and he did not know exactly what to say.
Something more was evidently expected of him, however, and he plunged
in recklessly: "I am sure I need not say that I am highly honored
by your regard and your confidence, nor protest that you will never
regret it. To tell you that I loved Weir with all my heart would be
trite, and perhaps it is also unnecessary to add that I am not a man
of 'veering passions'—that is, of course when my heart is engaged as
Sir Iltyd smiled. "I should imagine that the last clause was added
advisedly. I was a man of the world myself in my young days, and
I recognize one in you. Judging from your physiognomy and general
personality I should say that you have loved a good many women, and
have lived in the widest sense of the word."
"Well—yes," admitted Dartmouth, with a laugh. "That sort of thing
leaves a man's heart untouched, however."
"It may, and I am willing to believe that you have given your heart to
Weir for good and all."
"I think I have," said Dartmouth.
And then the question of settlements was broached, and when it had
been satisfactorily arranged, Dartmouth lingered a few moments longer
in conversation with his host, and then rose to go. Sir Iltyd rose
also and walked with him to the door.
"Do you mind our being married in a month?" asked Dartmouth, as they
crossed the room. "That will give Weir all the time she wants, and we
should like to spend the spring in Rome."
"Very well; let it be in a month. I cannot see that the date is of any
importance; only do not forget me in the summer."
"Oh, no," said Dartmouth; "we expect you to harbor us off and on all
the year around."
And then Sir Iltyd opened the door and bowed with his old-time
courtier-like dignity, and Dartmouth passed out and into the hall.
He found Weir kneeling on the hearth-rug. The hall was an immense
place with a vaulted ceiling upheld by massive beams; the walls were
wainscotted almost to the top with oak which had been polished for
many a century; and the floor, polished also, was covered with rugs
which had been very handsome in their day. There were several superb
suits of armor and a quantity of massive, carved oaken furniture,
extremely uncomfortable but very picturesque. In the open fire-place,
which would have held many more than Harold and Weir within its
depths, great logs were burning. The lamps had been brought in but
had not been turned up, and save for the firelight the great cathedral
apartment was a thicket of shadows, out of which the steel warriors
gleamed, menacing guardians of the girl.
Weir made a pretty picture kneeling on the hearth-rug, with the
fire-light playing on her dark face and pliant figure, in its
closely-fitting black gown, throwing golden flickers on her hair,
and coquetting with the lanterns in her eyes. She rose as Dartmouth
approached, and he gave her one of his brilliant, satisfied smiles.
"We are to be married a month from to-day," he said. "A month from
to-day and we shall be knocking about Europe and pining for English
civilization." He drew her down on the cushioned seat that ran along
the wall by the chimney-piece. "We cannot go out to-night; there is a
storm coming up. Ah, did I not tell you?" as a gust of wind shrieked
and rattled the sash.
She gave a little shiver and drew closer to him. "I hate a storm," she
said. "It always brings back—" she stopped abruptly.
"Brings back what?"
"Nothing," hastily. "So father has given his consent? But I knew he
would. I knew he liked you the moment you met; and when he alluded
that night to your small hands and feet I knew that the cause was won.
Had they been at fault, nothing could have persuaded him that you did
not have a broad river of red blood in you somewhere, and he never
would have approved of you had you been the monarch of a kingdom."
Dartmouth smiled. "The men at college used to laugh at my hands, until
I nearly choked one of them to death one day, after which they never
laughed at them again. There is no doubt now about my having been
destined at birth for a Welsh maiden, and equipped accordingly. But
you know your father pretty thoroughly."
"I have lived alone with him so long that I can almost read his mind,
and I certainly know his peculiarities."
"It must have been a terribly lonely life for you. How old were you
when your mother died?"
She moved with the nervous motion habitual to her whenever her
mother's name was mentioned. "I was about nine," she said.
"Nine? And yet you remember nothing of her? Weir, it is impossible
that you cannot remember her."
"I do not remember her," she said.
"I saw her picture in the library to-night. She must have been very
beautiful, but like you only in being dark. Otherwise, there is not a
trace of resemblance. But surely you must remember her, Weir; you are
joking. I can remember when I was four years of age perfectly, and
many things that happened."
"I remember nothing that happened before I was nine years old," she
He bent down suddenly and looked into her face. "Weir, what do you
mean? There is always an uncomfortable suggestion of mystery whenever
one speaks of your mother or your childhood. What is the reason you
cannot remember? Did you have brain fever, and when you recovered,
find your mind a blank? Such things have happened."
"No," she said, desperately, as if she had nerved herself for an
effort. "That was not it. I have often wanted to tell you, but I
cannot bear to speak of it. The old horror always comes back when
I think of it. But I feel that I ought to tell you before we are
married, and I will do so now since we are speaking of it. I did not
have brain fever, but when I was nine years old—I died."
"Yes, it is true. They called it catalepsy, a trance; but it was not;
I was really dead. I was thrown from a horse a few months after my
mother's death, and killed instantly. They laid me in the family
vault, but my father had ice put about me and would not have me
covered, and went every hour to see me, as he told me afterward. I
remember nothing; and they say that when people are in a trance they
are conscious of everything that passes around them. I knew nothing
until one night I suddenly opened my eyes and looked about me. It was
just such a night as this, only in mid-winter; the wind was howling
and shrieking, and the terrible gusts shook the vault in which I lay.
The ocean roared like thunder, and I could hear it hurl itself in its
fury against the rocks at the foot of the castle. A lamp was burning
at my feet, and by its flickering light I could see in their niches
on every side of me the long lines of dead who had lain there for
centuries. And I was alone with them, locked in with them; no living
creature within call! And I was so deathly cold. There was a great
block of ice on my chest, and slabs of it were packed about my limbs
so tightly that I could not move. I could only feel that horrible,
glassy cold which I knew had frozen the marrow in my bones and turned
my blood to jelly; and the pain of it was something which I have no
words to describe. I tried to call out, but the ice was on my chest,
and I could hardly breathe. Then for a moment I lay trying to collect
my thoughts. I did not know where I was. I did not know that I was in
the vault of my ancestors. I only felt that I had been wandering and
wandering in some dim, far-off land looking for someone I could never
find, and that suddenly I had come into another world and found rest.
But although I did not know that I was in the vault at Rhyd-Alwyn, and
that my name was Weir Penrhyn, I knew that I was laid out as a corpse,
and that the dead were about me. Child as I was, it seemed to me that
I must go frantic with the horror of the thing, stretched out in that
ghastly place, a storm roaring about me, bound hand and foot, unable
to cry for help. I think that if I had been left there all night I
should have died again or lost my mind, but in a moment I heard a
noise at the grating and men's voices.
"'I must go in and see her once more,' I heard a strange voice say.
'It seems cruelty to leave her alone in this storm.' And then a
man came in and bent over me. In a moment he called sharply,
'Madoc!—bring me the light.' And then another man came, and I looked
up into two strange, eager, almost terrified faces. I heard incoherent
and excited voices, then the ice was dashed off my chest and I was
caught up in a pair of strong arms and borne swiftly to the house.
They took me to a great blazing fire and wrapped me in blankets and
poured hot drinks down my throat, and soon that terrible chill began
to leave me and the congealed blood in my veins to thaw. And in a few
days I was as well as ever again. But I remembered no one. I had to
become acquainted with them all as with the veriest strangers. I had
the natural intelligence of my years, but nothing more. Between the
hour of my soul's flight from its body and that of its return it had
been robbed of every memory. I remembered neither my mother nor any
incident of my childhood. I could not find my way over the castle,
and the rocks on which I had lived since infancy were strangers to me.
Everything was a blank up to the hour when I opened my eyes and found
myself between the narrow walls of a coffin."
"Upon my word!" exclaimed Dartmouth. "Why, you are a regular heroine
of a sensational novel."
Weir sprang to her feet and struck her hands fiercely together,
her eyes blazing. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself," she
cried, passionately. "Can you never be serious? Must you joke about
everything? I believe you will find something to laugh at in the
marriage service. That thing I have told you is the most serious and
horrible experience of my life, and yet you treat it as if I were
acting a part in a melodrama in a third-rate theatre! Sometimes I
think I hate you."
Dartmouth caught her in his arms and forced her to sit down again
beside him. "My dear girl," he said, "why is it that a woman can never
understand that when a man feels most he chaffs, especially if he has
cultivated the beastly habit. Your story stirred me powerfully; the
more so because such things do not happen to every-day girls—"
"Do not wrong me; I am in dead earnest. As a plain matter of fact, I
never heard of anything so horrible. Thank heaven it happened when you
were so young! No woman's will and spirit could rise superior to such
a memory if it were a recent one. But am I forgiven?"
"As you are perfectly incorrigible, I suppose there is no use being
angry with you," she said, still with a little pout on her lips. "But
I will forgive you on one condition only."
"You are never to mention the subject to me again after to-night."
"I never will; but tell me, has the memory of your childhood never
come back for a moment?"
"Never. All I remember is that sense of everlasting wandering and
looking for something. For a long while I was haunted with the idea
that there was something I still must find. I never could discover
what it was, but it has left me now. If you had not been so unkind, I
should have said that it is because I am too happy for mysterious and
somewhat supernatural longings."
"But as it is, you won't. It was an odd feeling to have, though.
Perhaps it was a quest for the memories of your childhood—for a lost
existence, as it were. If ever it comes again, tell me, and we will
try and work it out together."
"Harold!" she exclaimed, smiling outright this time, "you will be
trying to analyze the cobwebs of heaven before long."
"No," he said, "they are too dense."
It was eleven o'clock when they parted for the night. Dartmouth went
up to his room and sat down at his desk to write a letter to his
father. In a moment he threw down the pen; he was not in a humor
for writing. He picked up a book (he never went to bed until he felt
sleepy), and crossed the room and sat down before the fire. But he
had not read two pages when he dropped it with an exclamation of
impatience: the story Weir had told him was written between every
line. She had told it so vividly and realistically that she had
carried him with her and almost curdled his blood. He had answered her
with a joke, because, in spite of the fact that he had been strongly
affected, he was angry as well. He hated melodrama, and the idea of
Weir having had an experience which read like a sensational column in
a newspaper was extremely distasteful to him. He sympathized with her
with all his heart, but he had a strong distaste for anything
which savored of the supernatural. Nevertheless, he was obliged to
acknowledge that this horrible, if commonplace experience of Weir's
had taken possession of his mind, and refused to be evicted. The scene
kept presenting itself in all its details again and again, and finally
he jumped to his feet in disgust and determined to go to the long
gallery which overhung the sea, and watch the storm. Rhyd-Alwyn was
built on a steep cliff directly on the coast, and exposed to all the
fury of the elements. In times of storm, and when the waves were high,
the spray flew up against the lower windows.
He left his room and went down the wide hall, then turned into a
corridor, which terminated in a gallery that had been built as a sort
of observatory. The gallery was long and very narrow, and the floor
was bare. But there were seats under the windows, and on a table were
a number of books; it was a place Dartmouth and Weir were very fond of
when it was not too cold.
It was a clear, moonlit night, in spite of the storm. There was no
rain; it was simply a battle of wind and waves. Dartmouth stood at one
of the windows and looked out over the angry waters. The billows were
piling one above the other, black, foam-crested, raging like wild
animals beneath the lash of the shrieking wind. Moon and stars gazed
down calmly, almost wonderingly, holding their unperturbed watch
over the war below. Sublime, forceful, the sight suited the somewhat
excited condition of Dartmouth's mind. Moreover, he was beginning to
feel that one of his moods was insidiously creeping upon him: not an
attack like the last, but a general feeling of melancholy. If he could
only put that wonderful scene before him into verse, what a solace
and distraction the doing of it would be! He could forget—he pulled
himself together with something like terror. In another moment there
would be a repetition of that night in Paris. The best thing he could
do was to go back to his room and take an anodyne.
He turned to leave the gallery, but as he did so he paused suddenly.
Far down, at the other end, something was slowly coming toward him.
The gallery was very long and ill-lighted by the narrow, infrequent
windows, and he could not distinguish whom it was. He stood, however,
involuntarily waiting for it to approach him. But how slowly it came,
as one groping or one walking in a dream! Then, as it gradually
neared him, he saw that it was a woman, dimly outlined, but still
unmistakably a woman. He spoke, but there was no answer, nothing but
the echo of his voice through the gallery. Someone trying to play a
practical joke upon him! Perhaps it was Weir: it would be just like
her. He walked forward quickly, but before he had taken a dozen
steps the advancing figure came opposite one of the windows, and the
moonlight fell about it. Dartmouth started back and caught his breath
as if someone had struck him. For a moment his pulses stood still, and
sense seemed suspended. Then he walked quickly forward and stood in
front of her.
"Sionèd!" he said, in a low voice which thrilled through the room.
"Sionèd!" He put out his hand and took hers. It was ice-cold, and its
contact chilled him to the bone; but his clasp grew closer and his
eyes gazed into hers with passionate longing.
"I am dead," she said. "I am dead, and I am so cold." She drew closer
and peered up into his face. "I have found you at last," she went on,
"but I wandered so far. There was no nook or corner of Eternity in
which I did not search. But although we went together, we were hurled
to the opposite poles of space before our spiritual eyes had met, and
an unseen hand directed us ever apart. I was alone, alone, in a great,
gray, boundless land, with but the memory of those brief moments of
happiness to set at bay the shrieking host of regrets and remorse
and repentance which crowded about me. I floated on and on and on for
millions and millions of miles; but of you, my one thought on earth,
my one thought in Eternity, I could find no trace, not even the
whisper of your voice in passing. I tossed myself upon a hurrying wind
and let it carry me whither it would. It gathered strength and haste
as it flew, and whirled me out into the night, nowhere, everywhere.
And then it slackened—and moaned—and then, with one great sob, it
died, and once more I was alone in space and an awful silence. And
then a voice came from out the void and said to me, 'Go down; he
is there;' and I knew that he meant to Earth, and for a moment I
rebelled. To go back to that terrible—But on Earth there had been
nothing so desolate as this—and if you were there! So I came—and I
have found you at last."
She put her arms about him and drew him down onto the low window-seat.
He shivered at her touch, but felt no impulse to resist her will, and
she pressed his head down upon her cold breast. Then, suddenly, all
things changed; the gallery, the moonlight, the white-robed, ice-cold
woman faded from sense. The storm was no longer in his ears nor
were the waves at his feet. He was standing in a dusky Eastern room,
familiar and dear to him. Tapestries of rich stuffs were about him,
and the skins of wild animals beneath his feet. Beyond, the twilight
stole through a window, but did not reach where he stood. And in his
close embrace was the woman he loved, with the stamp on her face
of suffering, of desperate resolution, and of conscious, welcomed
weakness. And in his face was the regret for wasted years and
possibilities, and a present, passionate gladness; that he could see
in the mirror of the eyes over which the lids were slowly falling….
And the woman wore a clinging, shining yellow gown, and a blaze of
jewels in her hair. What was said he hardly knew. It was enough to
feel that a suddenly-born, passionate joy was making his pulses leap
and his head reel; to know that heaven had come to him in this soft,
quiet Southern night.
* * * * *
Dartmouth opened his eyes and looked about him. The storm had died,
the waves were at rest, and he was alone. He let his head fall back
against the frame of the window, and his eyes closed once more. What a
dream!—so vivid!—so realistic! Was it not his actual life? Could
he take up the threads of another? He felt ten years older; and,
retreating down the dim, remote corridors of his brain, were trooping
memories of a long, regretted, troubled, eventful past. In a moment
they had vanished like ghosts and left no trace; he could recall none
of them. He opened his eyes again and looked down the gallery, and
gradually his perceptions grasped its familiar lines, and he was
himself once more. He rose to his feet and put his hand to his head.
That woman whom he had taken for the ghost of one dead and gone had
been Weir, of course. She had arisen in her sleep and attired herself
like the grandmother whose living portrait she was; she had piled up
her hair and caught her white gown up under her bosom; and, in the
shadows and mystery of night, small wonder that she had looked as if
the canvas in the gallery below had yielded her up! But what had her
words meant?—her words, and that dream?—but no—they were not what
he wanted. There had been something else—what was it? He felt as if a
mist had newly arisen to cloud his faculties. There had been something
else which had made him not quite himself as he had stood there with
his arms about the woman who had been Weir, and yet not Weir. Above
the pain and joy and passion which had shaken him, there had been
an unmistakable perception of—an attribute—a quality—of another
sort—of a power, of which he, Harold Dartmouth, had never been
conscious—of—of—ah, yes! of the power to pour out at the feet of
that woman, in richest verse, the love she had awakened, and make them
both immortal. What were the words? They had been written legibly in
his brain; he remembered now. He had seen and read them—yes, at last,
at last! "Her face! her form!" No! no! not that again. Oh, why would
they not come? They had been there, the words; the sense must be
there, the inspiration, the battling for voice and victory. They were
ready to pour through his speech in a flood of song, but that iron
hand forced them back—down, down, setting blood and brain on fire.
Ah! what was that? Far off, at the end of some long gallery, there
was a sweet, dying strain of music, and there were words—gathering in
volume; they were rolling on; they were coming; they were thundering
through his brain in a mighty chorus! There! he had grasped them—No!
that iron hand had grasped them—and was hurling them back. In another
moment it would have forced them down into their cell and turned
the key! He must catch and hold one of them! Yes, he had it! Oh!
victory!—"Her eyes, her hair."
Dartmouth thrust out his hands as if fighting with a physical enemy,
and he looked as if he had been through the agonies of death. The
conflict in his brain had suddenly ceased, but his physical strength
was exhausted. He turned and walked uncertainly to his room; then he
collected his scattered wits sufficiently to drop some laudanum and
take it, that he might ward off, if possible, the attack of physical
and spiritual prostration which had been the result of a former
experience of a similar kind. Then, dressed as he was, he flung
himself on the bed and slept.
When Dartmouth awoke the next day, the sun was streaming across the
bed and Jones's anxious face was bending over him.
"Oh, Mr. 'Arold," exclaimed Jones, "you've got it again."
Dartmouth laughed aloud. "One would think I had delirium tremens," he
He put his hand over his eyes, and struggled with the desire to have
the room darkened. The melancholy had fastened itself upon him, and he
knew that for three or four days he was to be the victim of one of
his unhappiest moods. The laudanum had lulled his brain and prevented
violent reaction after its prolonged tension; but his spirits were at
zero, and his instinct was to shut out the light and succumb to his
enemy without resistance. If he had been anywhere but at Rhyd-Alwyn
he would not have thought twice about it; but if he shut himself up
in his room, not only would Weir be frightened and unhappy, but it
was probable that Sir Iltyd would question the desirability of a
son-in-law who was given to prolonged and uncontrollable attacks of
the blues. He dressed and went down-stairs, but Weir was nowhere to be
found, and after a search through the various rooms and corners of the
castle which she was in the habit of frequenting, he met her maid
and was informed that Miss Penrhyn was not well and would not come
down-stairs before dinner. The news was very unwelcome to Dartmouth.
Weir at least would have been a distraction. Now he must get through a
dismal day, and fight his enemy by himself. To make matters worse, it
was raining, and he could not go out and ride or hunt. He went into
Sir Iltyd's library and talked to him for the rest of the morning. Sir
Iltyd was not exciting, at his best, and to-day he had a bad cold; so
after lunch Dartmouth went up to his tower and resigned himself to his
own company. He sat down before the fire, and taking his head between
his hands allowed the blue devils to triumph. He felt dull as well as
depressed; but for a time he made an attempt to solve the problem of
the phenomenon to which he had been twice subjected. That it was a
phenomenon he did not see any reason to doubt. If he had spent his
life in a vain attempt to write poetry and an unceasing wish for the
necessary inspiration, there would be nothing remarkable in his mind
yielding suddenly to the impetus of accumulated pressure, wrenching
itself free of the will's control, and dashing off on a wild excursion
of its own. But he had never voluntarily taken a pen in his hand
to make verse, nor had he even felt the desire to possess the gift,
except as a part of general ambition. He may have acknowledged the
regret that he could not immortalize himself by writing a great poem,
but the regret was the offspring of personal ambition, not of yearning
poetical instinct. But the most extraordinary phase of the matter was
that such a tempest could take place in a brain as well regulated
as his own. He was eminently a practical man, and a good deal of a
thinker. He had never been given to flights of imagination, and even
in his attacks of melancholy, although his will might be somewhat
enfeebled, his brain could always work clearly and cleverly. The
lethargy which had occasionally got the best of him had invariably
been due to violent nervous shock or strain, and was as natural as
excessive bodily languor after violent physical effort. Why, then,
should his brain twice have acted as if he had sown it with eccentric
weeds all his life, instead of planting it with the choicest seeds he
could obtain, and watering and cultivating them with a patience and an
interest which had been untiring?
But the explanation of his attempt to put his unborn poem into words
gave him less thought to-day than it had after its first occurrence;
there were other phases of last night's experience weirder and
more unexplainable still. Paramount, of course, was the vision or
dream—which would seem to have been induced by some magnetic property
possessed and exerted by Weir. Such things do not occur without
cause, and he was not the sort of man to yield himself, physically and
mentally, his will and his perceptions, to the unconscious caprice
of a somnambulist. And the scene had cut itself so deeply into the
tablets of his memory that he found himself forgetting more than once
that it was not an actual episode of his past. He wished he could see
Weir, and hear her account of her mental experiences of those hours.
If her dream should have been a companion to his, then the explanation
would suggest itself that the scene might have been a vagary of her
brain; that in some way which he did not pretend to explain, she had
hypnotized him, and that his brain had received a photographic imprint
of what had been in hers. It would then be merely a sort of telepathy.
But why should she have dreamed a dream in which they both were so
unhappily metamorphosed? and why should it have produced so powerful
an impression upon his waking sense? And why, strangest of all, had
he, without thought or self-surprise, gone to her, and with his soul
stirred to its depths, called her "Sionèd"? True, she had almost
disguised herself, and had been the living counterfeit of Sionèd
Penrhyn; but that was no reason why he should have called a woman who
had belonged to his grandmother's time by her first name. Could
Weir, thoroughly imbued with the character she was unconsciously
representing, have exercised her hypnotic power from the moment she
entered the gallery, and left him without power to think or feel
except through her own altered perceptions? He thrust out his foot
against the fender, almost overturning it, and, throwing back his
head, clasped his hands behind it and scowled at the black ceiling
above him. He was a man who liked things explained, and he felt both
sullen and angry that he should have had an experience which baffled
his powers of analysis and reason. His partial solution gave him no
satisfaction, and he had the uncomfortable sense of actual mystery,
and a premonition of something more to come. This, however, he was
willing to attribute to the depressed condition of his spirits, which
threw its gloom over every object, abstract and concrete, and
which induced the tendency to exaggerate any strange or unpleasant
experience of which he had been the victim. It was useless to try to
think of anything else; his brain felt as if it had resolved itself
into a kaleidoscope, through which those three scenes shifted
eternally. Finally, he fell asleep, and did not awaken until it was
time to dress for dinner. Before he left his room, Weir's maid knocked
at his door and handed him a note, in which the lady of Rhyd-Alwyn
apologized for leaving him to himself for an entire day, and announced
that she would not appear at dinner, but would meet him in the
drawing-room immediately thereafter. Dartmouth read the note through
with a puzzled expression: it was formal and stilted, even for Weir.
She was gone when he came to his senses in the gallery the night
before. Had she awakened and become conscious of the situation? It was
not a pleasant reminiscense for a girl to have, and he felt honestly
sorry for her. Then he groaned in spirit at the prospect of an hour's
tête-à-tête with Sir Iltyd. He liked Sir Iltyd very much, and thought
him possessed of several qualifications valuable in a father-in-law,
among them his devotion to his library; but in his present frame of
mind he felt that history and politics were topics he would like to
relegate out of existence.
He put the best face on the situation he could muster, however, and
managed to conceal from Sir Iltyd the fact that his spirits were in
other than their normal condition. The old baronet's eyes were not
very sharp, particularly when he had a cold, and he was not disposed
to notice Harold's pallor and occasional fits of abstraction, so long
as one of his favorite topics was under discussion. When Dartmouth
found that he had got safely through the dinner, he felt that he
had accomplished a feat which would have rejoiced the heart of his
grandmother, and he thought that his reward could not come a moment
too soon. Accordingly, for the first time since he had been at
Rhyd-Alwyn, he declined to sit with Sir Iltyd over the wine, and went
at once in search of Weir.
As he opened the door of the drawing-room he found the room in
semi-darkness, lighted only by the last rays of the setting sun, which
strayed through the window. He went in, but did not see Weir. She was
not in her accustomed seat by the fire, and he was about to call her
name, when he came to a sudden halt, and for the moment every faculty
but one seemed suspended. A woman was standing by the open window
looking out over the water. She had not heard him, and had not turned
her head. Dartmouth felt a certain languor, as of one who is dreaming,
and is half-conscious that he is dreaming, and therefore yields
unresistingly to the pranks of his sleeping brain. Was it Weir, or was
it the woman who had been a part of his vision last night? She wore a
long, shining yellow dress, and her arms and neck were bare. Surely it
was the other woman! She turned her head a little, and he saw her face
in profile; there was the same stamp of suffering, the same pallor.
Weir had never looked like that; before he had known her she had had,
sometimes, a little expression of sadness and abstraction which had
made her look very picturesque, but which had borne no relationship
to suffering or experience. And the scene! the room filled with dying
light, the glimpse of water beyond, the very attitude of the woman at
the casement—all were strangely and deeply familiar to him, although
not the details of the vision of last night. The only things that were
wanting were the Eastern hangings to cover the dark wainscotted old
walls, and the skins on the black, time-stained floor.
With a sudden effort of will he threw off the sense of mystery which
had again taken possession of him, and walked forward quickly. As Weir
heard him, she turned her head and met his eyes, and although a closer
look at her face startled him afresh, his brain was his own again,
and he was determined that it should remain so. He might yield to
supernatural impressions when unprepared, but not when both brain and
will were defiantly on the alert. That she was not only unaccountably
altered, but that she shrank from him, was evident; and he was
determined to hear her version of last night's adventure without
delay. He believed that she would unconsciously say something which
would throw a flood of light on the whole matter.
"Where did you get that dress?" he said, abruptly.
She started sharply, and the color flew to the roots of her hair,
then, receding, left her paler than before. "Why do you ask me that?"
she demanded, with unconcealed, almost terrified suspicion in her
"Because," he said, looking straight into her eyes, "I had a peculiar
dream last night, in which you wore a dress exactly like this. It is
rather a remarkable coincidence that you should put it on to-night."
"Harold!" she cried, springing forward and catching his arm
convulsively in both her hands, "what has happened? What is it? And
how can you talk so calmly when to me it seems—"
He put his arm around her. "Seems what?" he said, soothingly. "Did
you have a dream, too?"
"Yes," she said, her face turning a shade paler, "I had a dream."
"And in it you wore this dress?"
"Tell me your dream."
"No!" she exclaimed, "I cannot."
Dartmouth put his hand under her chin and pushed her head back
against his shoulder, upturning her face. "You must tell me," he said,
quietly; "every word of it! I am not asking you out of curiosity, but
because the dream I had was too remarkable to be without meaning. I
cannot reach that meaning unassisted; but with your help I believe I
can. So tell me at once."
"Oh, Harold!" she cried, throwing her arms suddenly about him and
clinging to him, "I have no one else to speak to but you: I cannot
tell my father; he would not understand. No girl ever felt so horribly
alone as I have felt to-day. If it had not been for you I believe I
should have killed myself; but you are everything to me, only—how
can I tell you?"
He tightened his arms about her and kissed her.
"Don't kiss me," she exclaimed sharply, trying to free herself.
"Why not?" he demanded, in surprise. "Why should I not kiss you?"
She let her head drop again to his shoulder. "True," she said; "why
should you not? It is only that I forget that I am not the woman I
dreamed I was; and for her—it was wrong to kiss you."
"Weir, tell me your dream at once. It is for your good as well as
mine that I insist. You will be miserable and terrified until you take
someone into your confidence. I believe I can explain your dream, as
well as give you the comfort of talking it over with you."
She slipped suddenly out of his arms and walked quickly to the end
of the room and back, pausing within a few feet of him. The room was
growing dark, and he could distinguish little of her beyond the tall
outline of her form and the unnatural brilliancy of her eyes, but he
respected her wish and remained where he was.
"Very well," she said, rapidly. "I will tell you. I went to
sleep without much terror, for I had told my maid to sleep in my
dressing-room. But I suppose the storm and the story I had told you
had unsettled my nerves, for I soon began to dream a horrid dream.
I thought I was dead once more. I could feel the horrible chill and
pain, the close-packed ice about me. I was dead, but yet there was a
spirit within me. I could feel it whispering to itself, although it
had not as yet spread its fire through me and awakened me into life.
It whispered that it was tired, and disheartened, and disappointed,
and wanted rest; that it had been on a long, fruitless journey, and
was so weary that it would not take up the burden of life again just
yet. But its rest could not be long; there was someone it must find,
and before he had gone again to that boundless land, whose haunting
spirits were impalpable as flecks of mist. And then it moaned and
wept, and seemed to live over its past, and I went back with it, or
I was one with it—I cannot define. It recalled many scenes, but
only one made an impression on my memory; I can recall no other." She
paused abruptly, but Dartmouth made no comment; he stood motionless
in breathless expectancy. She put her hand to her head, and after a
moment continued haltingly:
"I—oh—I hardly know how to tell it. I seemed to be standing with
you in a room more familiar to me than any room in this castle; a room
full of tapestries and skins and cushions and couches; a room which
if I had seen it in a picture I should have recognized as Oriental,
although I have never seen an Oriental room. I have always had an
indescribable longing to see Constantinople, and it seemed to me in
that dream as if I had but to walk to the window and look down upon
it—as if I had looked down upon it many times and loved its beauty.
But although I was with you, and your arms were about me, we were not
as we are now—as we were before the dream: we had suffered all that a
man and a woman can suffer who love and are held apart. And you looked
as you do now, yet utterly different. You looked years older, and you
were dressed so strangely. I do not know how I looked, but I know how
I felt. I felt that I had made up my mind to commit a deadly sin, and
that I gloried in it. I had suffered because to love you was a sin;
but I only loved you the more for that reason. Then you slowly drew
me further into the room and pressed me more closely in your arms and
kissed me again, and then—I—oh—I do not know—it is all so vague I
don't know what it meant—but it seemed as if the very foundations of
my life were being swept away. And yet—oh, I cannot explain! I do not
know, myself." And she would have thrown herself headlong on the sofa
had not Dartmouth sprang forward and caught her.
"There, never mind," he said, quickly. "Let that go. It is of no
consequence. A dream like that must necessarily end in a climax of
incoherence and excitement."
He drew her down on the sofa, and for a moment said nothing further.
He had to acknowledge that she had deepened the mystery, and given no
key. A silence fell, and neither moved. Suddenly she raised her head.
"What was your dream?" she demanded.
"The same. I don't pretend to explain it. And I shall not insult your
understanding by inventing weak excuses. If it means anything we will
give the problem no rest until we have solved it. If we cannot solve
it, then we are justified in coming to the conclusion that there is
nothing in it. But I believe we shall get to the bottom of it yet."
"Perhaps," she said, wearily; "I do not know. I only feel that I shall
never be myself again, but must go through life with that woman's
burden of sin and suffering weighing me down." She paused a moment,
and then continued: "In that dream I wore a dress like this, and that
is the reason I put it on to-night. I was getting some things in Paris
before I left, and I bought it thinking you would like it; I had heard
you say that yellow was your favorite color. When my maid opened
the door of my wardrobe to-night to take out a dress, and I saw this
hanging there, it gave me such a shock that I caught at a chair to
keep from falling. And then I felt irresistibly impelled to put it on.
I felt as if it were a shroud, vivid in color as it is; but it had
an uncanny fascination for me, and I experienced a morbid delight in
feeling both spirit and flesh revolt, and yet compelling them to do
my will. I never knew that it was in me to feel so, but I suppose I am
utterly demoralized by so realistically living over again that awful
experience of my childhood. If it happened again I should either be
carried back to the vault for good and all, or end my days in the
topmost tower of the castle, with a keeper, and the storms and
sea-gulls for sole companions."
She sat up in a moment, and putting her hand on his shoulder, looked
him full in the face for the first time. "It seems to me that I know
you now," she said, "and that I never knew you before. When I first
saw you to-night I shrank from you: why, I hardly know, except that
the personality of that woman had woven itself so strongly into mine
that for the moment I felt I had no right to love you. But I have
never loved you as I do to-night, because that dream, however little
else I may have to thank it for, did for me this at least: it seemed
to give me a glimpse into every nook and corner of your character; I
feel now that my understanding of your strange nature is absolute.
I had seen only one side of it before, and had made but instinctive
guesses at the rest; but as I stood with you in that dream, I had,
graven on my memory, the knowledge of every side and phase of your
character as you had revealed it to me many times; and that memory
abides with me. I remember no details, but that makes no difference;
if I were one with you I could not know you better." She slipped her
arms about his neck and pressed her face close to his. "You have one
of your attacks of melancholy to-night," she murmured. "You tried
to conceal it, and the effort made you appear cold. It was the first
thing I thought of when I turned and saw you, in spite of all I felt
myself. And although you had described those attacks before, the
description had conveyed little to me; that your moods were different
from other people's blues had hardly occurred to me, we had been
so happy. But now I understand. I pay for the knowledge with a high
price; but that is life, I suppose."
Two Days later Dartmouth received a despatch from the steward of his
estates in the north of England announcing that there was serious
trouble among his tenantry, and that his interests demanded he should
be on the scene at once. The despatch was brought to his room, and he
went directly down to the hall, where he had left Weir, and told
her he must leave her for a few days. She had been standing by the
fire-place warming her foot on the fender, but she sat suddenly
down on a chair as he explained to her the nature of the telegram.
"Harold," she said, "if you go you will never come back."
"My dear girl," he said, "that speech is unworthy of you. You are not
the sort of woman to believe in such nonsense as presentiments."
"Presentiments may be supernatural," she said, "but not more so
than the experience we have had. So long as you are with me I feel
comparatively untroubled, but if you go I know that something will
He sat down on the arm of her chair and took her hand. "You are
low-spirited yet," he said, "and consequently you take a morbid view
of everything. That is all. I am beginning to doubt if the dream we
had was anything more than the most remarkable dream on record; if it
were otherwise, two such wise heads as ours would have discovered the
hidden meaning by this time. And, granting that, you must also grant
that if anything were going to happen, you could not possibly know it;
nor will predicting it bring it about. I will be with you in two days
from this hour, and you will only remember how glad you were to get
rid of me."
"I hope so," she said. "But—is it absolutely necessary for you to
"Not if you don't mind living on bread and cheese for a year or two.
The farms of my ancestral home make a pretty good rent-roll, but if my
tenants become the untrammelled communists my steward predicts, we may
have to camp out on burnt stubble for some time to come. It is in the
hope of inducing them to leave me at least the Hall to take a bride to
that I go to interview them at once. I may be too late, but I will do
"You will always joke, I suppose," she said, smiling a little; "but
come back to me."
He left Rhyd-Alwyn that evening and arrived at Crumford Hall the next
morning. He slept little during the journey. His mood was still upon
him, and without consideration for Weir as an incentive it was more
difficult to fight it off, indeed, it was almost a luxury to yield to
it. Moreover, although it had been easy enough to say he would think
no more about his vision and its accompanying incidents, it was not
so easy to put the determination into practice, and he found himself
spending the night in the vain attempt to untangle the web, and in
endeavoring to analyze the subtle, uncomfortable sense of mystery
which those events had left behind them. Toward morning he lost all
patience with himself, and taking a novel out of his bag fixed his
mind deliberately upon it; and as the story was rather stupid, it had
the comfortable effect of sending him to sleep.
When he arrived at his place he found that the trouble was less
serious than his steward had represented. The year had been
unproductive, and his tenants had demanded a lowering of their rents;
but neither flames nor imprecations were in order. Dartmouth was
inclined to be a just man, and, moreover, he was very much in love,
and anxious to get away; consequently, after a two days' examination
of the situation in all its bearings, he acceded in great part to
their demands and gave his lieutenant orders to hold the reins lightly
during the coming year.
On the second night after his arrival he went into his study to write
to Weir. He had been so busy heretofore that he had sent her but a
couple of lines at different times, scribbled on a leaf of his note
book, and he was glad to find the opportunity to write her a letter.
He had hoped to return to her instead, but had found several other
matters which demanded his attention, and he preferred to look into
them at once, otherwise he would be obliged to return later on.
His study was a comfortable little den just off the library, and its
four walls had witnessed the worst of his moods and the most roseate
of his dreams. In it he had frequently sat up all night talking
with his grandmother, and the atmosphere had vibrated with some hot
disputes. There was a divan across one end, some bookshelves across
the other, and on one side was a desk with a revolving chair before
it. Above the desk hung a battle-axe which he had brought from
America. Opposite was a heavily curtained window, and near it a door
which led into his private apartments. Between was a heavy piece of
furniture of Byzantine manufacture. As he entered the little room
for the first time since his arrival, he stood for a moment with a
retrospective smile in his eyes. He almost fancied he could see his
grandmother half-reclining on one end of the divan, with a pillow
beneath her elbow, her stately head, with its tower of white hair,
thrown imperiously, somewhat superciliously back, as her eyes flashed
and her mouth poured forth a torrent of overwhelming argument. "Poor
old girl!" he thought; "why do women like that have to die? How she
and Weir would have—argued, to put it mildly. I am afraid I should
have had to put a continent between them. But I would give a good deal
to see her again, all the same."
He shut the door, sat down before his desk, and took a bunch of keys
from his pocket. As he did so, his eyes fell upon one of curious
workmanship, and he felt a sudden sense of pleasant anticipation. That
key opened the Byzantine chest opposite, somewhere in whose cunningly
hidden recesses lay, he was convinced, the papers which he had once
seen in his grandmother's clenched hands. He did not believe she had
destroyed them; she had remarked a few days before her death—which
had been sudden and unexpected—that she must soon devote an
unpleasant hour to the burning of old letters and papers. She
had spoken lightly, but there had been a gleam in her eyes and a
tightening of her lips which had suggested the night he had seen her
look as if she wished that the papers between her fingers were a human
throat. Should he find those papers and pass away a dull evening?
There was certainly nothing but the obstinacy of the chest to prevent,
and she would forgive him more than that. He had always had a strong
curiosity in regard to those papers, but his curiosity so far had been
an inactive one; he had never before been alone at the Hall since
his grandmother's death. He wheeled about on his chair and looked
whimsically at the divan. "Have I your permission, O most fascinating
of grandmothers?" he demanded aloud. "No answer. That means I have. So
He wrote to Weir, then went over and kneeled on one knee before the
chest. It looked outwardly like a high, deep box, and was covered
with heavy Smyrna cloth, and ornamented with immense brass handles
and lock. Dartmouth fitted the key into a small key-hole hidden in
the carving on the side of the lock, and the front of the chest fell
outward. He let it down to the floor, then gave his attention to the
interior. It was as complicated as the exterior was plain. On one side
of the central partition were dozens of little drawers, on the other
as many slides and pigeon-holes and alcoves. On every square inch of
wood was a delicate tracery, each different, each telling a story. The
handles of the drawers, the arcades of the alcoves, the pillars of
the pigeon-holes—all were of ivory, and all were carved with the
fantastic art of the Mussulman. It was so beautiful and so intricate
that for a time Dartmouth forgot the papers. He had seen it before,
but it was a work of art which required minute observation and study
of its details to be appreciated. After a time, however, he recurred
to his quest and took the drawers out, one by one, laying them on the
floor. They were very small, and not one of them contained so much as
a roseleaf. At the end of each fourth shelf which separated the rows
of drawers, was a knob. Dartmouth turned one and the shelf fell from
its place. He saw the object. Behind each four rows of drawers was a
room. Each of these rooms had the dome ceiling and Byzantine
pillars of a mosque, and each represented a different portion of the
building—presumably that of St. Sophia. The capitals of the pillars
were exquisite, few being duplicated, and the shafts were solid
columns of black marble, supported on bases of porphyry. The floor was
a network of mosaics, and the walls were a blaze of colored marbles.
The altar, which stood in the central room, was of silver, with
trappings of gold-embroidered velvet, and paraphernalia of gold.
Dartmouth was entranced. He had a keen love of and appreciation
for art, but he had never found anything as interesting as this. He
congratulated himself upon the prospect of many pleasant hours in its
He let it go for the present and pressed his finger against every inch
of the walls and floor and ceilings of the mosque, and of the various
other apartments. It was a good half-hour's work, and the monotony and
non-success induced a certain nervousness. His head ached and his hand
trembled a little. When he had finished, and no panel had flown back
at his touch, he threw himself down on one hand with an exclamation of
impatience, and gazed with a scowl at the noncommittal beauty before
him. He cared nothing for its beauty at that moment. What he wanted
were the papers, and he was determined to find them. He stood up and
examined the top of the chest. There was certainly a space between the
visible depths of the interior and the back wall. He rapped loudly,
but the wood and the stuff with which it was covered were too thick;
there was no answering ring. He recalled the night when he had
cynically examined the fragments of the broken cabinet at Rhyd-Alwyn.
He felt anything but cynical now; indeed, he was conscious of a
restless eagerness and a dogged determination with which curiosity had
little to do. He would find those papers if he died in the attempt.
He knelt once more before the chest, and once more pressed his
finger along its interior, following regular lines. Then he shook the
pillars, and inserted his penknife in each most minute interstice of
the carving; he prodded the ribs of the arches, and brought his fist
down violently on the separate floors of the mosque. At the end of an
hour he sprang to his feet with a smothered oath, and cutting a slit
in the cover of the chest with his penknife, tore it off and examined
the top and sides as carefully as his strained eyes and trembling
hands would allow. He was ashamed of his nervousness, but he was
powerless to overcome it. His examination met with no better success,
and he suddenly sprang across the room and snatched the battle-axe
from the wall. He walked quickly back to the chest. For a moment he
hesitated, the thing was so beautiful! But only for a moment. The
overmastering desire to feel those papers in his hands had driven out
all regard for art. He lifted the axe on high and brought it down on
the top of the chest with a blow which made the little room echo. He
was a powerful man, and the axe was imbedded to its haft. He worked it
out of the tough wood and planted another blow, which widened the rift
and made the stout old chest creak like a falling tree. The mutilated
wood acted upon Dartmouth like the smell of blood upon a wolf: the
spirit of destruction leaped up and blazed within him, a devouring
flame, and the blows fell thick and fast. He felt a fierce delight
in the havoc he was making, in the rare and exquisite beauty he was
ruining beyond hope of redemption. He leaned down, and swinging the
axe outward, sent it straight through the arcades and pillars, the
mosques and images, shattering them to bits. Then he raised the axe
again and brought it down on the seam which joined the back to the
top. The blow made but little impression, but a succession of blows
produced a wide gap. Harold inserted the axe in the rift, and kneeling
on the chest, attempted to force the back wall outward. For a time it
resisted his efforts, then it suddenly gave way, and Dartmouth dropped
the axe with a cry. From a shelf below the roof a package had sprung
outward with the shock, and a small object had fallen with a clatter
on the prostrate wall. Dartmouth picked it up in one hand and the
papers in the other, his fingers closing over the latter with a joy
which thrilled him from head to foot. It was a joy so great that it
filled him with a profound peace; the excitement of the past hour
suddenly left him. He went over to his desk and sat down before it.
With the papers still held firmly in his hand, he opened the locket.
There were two pictures within, and as he held them up to the light he
was vaguely conscious that he should feel a shock of surprise; but he
did not. The pictures were those of Lady Sionèd Penrhyn and—himself!
With the same apparent lack of mental prompting as on the night in the
gallery when he had addressed Weir with the name of her grandmother,
he raised the picture of the woman to his lips and kissed it fondly.
Then he laid it down and opened the packet. Within were a thick piece
of manuscript and a bundle of letters. He pressed his hand lovingly
over the closely written sheets of the manuscript, but laid them down
and gave his attention to the letters. They were roughly tied into a
bundle with a bit of string. He slipped the string off and glanced at
the address of the letter which lay uppermost. The ink, though faded,
was legible enough—"Lady Sionèd-ap-Penrhyn, Constantinople." He
opened the letter and glanced at the signature. The note was signed
with the initials of his grandfather, Lionel Dartmouth. They were
peculiarly formed, and were in many of the library books.
He turned back to the first page. As he did so he was aware of a
new sensation, which seemed, however, but a natural evolution in his
present mental and spiritual exaltation. It was as if the page were a
blank sheet and he were wielding an invisible pen. Although, before
he took up the letter, he had had no idea of its contents beyond
a formless, general intuition, as soon as he began to read he was
clearly aware of every coming word and sentence and sentiment in it.
So strong was the impression, that once he involuntarily dropped the
note and, picking up a pen, began hastily writing what he knew was on
the unread page. But his mind became foggy at once, and he threw down
the pen and returned to the letter. Then the sense of authorship and
familiarity returned. He read the letters in the order in which they
came, which was the order of their writing. Among them were some pages
of exquisite verse: and verses and letters alike were the words of a
man to a woman whom he loved with all the concentration and intensity
of a solitary, turbulent, passionate nature; who knew that in this
love lay his and her only happiness; and who would cast aside the
orthodoxy of the world as beneath consideration when balanced against
the perfecting of two human lives. They reflected the melancholy,
ill-regulated nature of the man, but they rang with a tenderness and
a passion which were as unmistakable as the genius of the writer; and
Harold knew that if the dead poet had never loved another woman he
had loved Sionèd Penrhyn. Or had he loved her himself? Or was it Weir?
Surely these letters were his. He had written them to that beautiful
dark-eyed woman with the jewels about her head. He could read the
answers between the lines; he knew them by heart; the passionate words
of the unhappy woman who had quickened his genius from its sleep. Ah,
how he loved her, his beautiful Weir!—No—Sionèd was her name, Sionèd
Penrhyn, and her picture hung in the castle where the storms beat upon
the grey Welsh cliffs thousands of miles away….
If he had but met her earlier—he might to-day be one of that
brilliant galaxy of poets whose music the whole world honored. Oh! the
wasted years of his life, and his half-hearted attempts to give to
the world those wonderful children of his brain! He had loved and been
jealous of them, those children, and they had multiplied until it had
seemed as if they would prove stronger than his will. But he had let
them sing for himself alone; he would give the world nothing until
one day in that densely peopled land of his brain there should go up
a paean of rejoicing that a child, before which their own glory paled,
had been born. And above the tumult should rise the sound of such a
strain of music as had never been heard out of heaven; and before it
the world should sink to its knees….
And it had come to pass at last, this dream. This woman had awakened
his nature from its torpor, and with the love had come, leaping,
rushing, thundering, a torrent of verse such as had burst from no
man's brain in any age.
And to her he owed his future, his fame, and his immortal name. And
she would be with him always. She had struggled and resisted and
refused him speech, but the terrible strength of her nature had
triumphed over dogmas and over the lesser duties she owed to others;
of her free will she had sent for him. He would be with her in an
hour, and to-morrow they would have left codes and conventions behind
them. There was a pang in leaving this beautiful room where his
poem had been born, and beneath which lay such a picture as man sees
nowhere else on earth. But to that which was to come, what was this?
He would write a few lines to the woman who bore his name, and
then the time would have come to go. She too was a beautiful and a
brilliant woman, but her nature was narrow and cold, and she had never
understood him for a moment. There! he had finished, and she would be
happier without him. She had her world and her child—that beautiful
boy!—But this was no time for pangs. He had chosen his destiny, and a
man cannot have all things. It was time to go. Should he take one last
glance at the boy laughing in the room beyond? He had but to push the
tapestry aside, yes—there—God!
Ah, it was grateful to get into the cool air of the street, and before
him, only a short distance away, were the towers of the Embassy. Would
he never reach them? The way had been so long—could it be that his
footsteps were already echoing on the marble floor which led to that
chamber? Yes, and the perfume of that jasmine-laden room was stealing
over his senses, and the woman he loved was in his arms. How the
golden sunset lay on the domes and minarets below! How sonorous
sounded the voices of the muezzins as they called the people to
prayer! There was music somewhere, or was it the wails for the dead
down in Galata? It was all like a part of a dream, and the outlines
were blurred and confused—What was that? A thunderclap? Why were he
and Sionèd lying prostrate there, she with horror in her wide open,
glassy eyes, he with the arms which had held her lying limply on
the blood stained floor beside him? He seemed to see them both as he
hovered above. It was death? Well, what matter? She had gone out with
him, and in some cloud-walled castle, murmurous with harmonies of
quiring spheres, and gleaming with their radiance, they would dwell
together. Human vengeance could not reach them there, and for love
there is no death. The soul cannot die, and love, its chiefest
offspring, shares its immortality. It persists throughout the ages,
like the waves of music that never cease. He would take her hand and
lead her upward—Where was she? Surely she must be by his side. But he
could see no one, feel no presence. God! had he lost her? Had she
been borne upward and away, while he had lingered, fascinated with
the empty clay that a moment since had been throbbing with life
and keenest happiness? But he would find her—even did he go to the
confines of Eternity. But where was he? He could see the lifeless
shells no longer. He was roaming—on—on—in a vast, grey, pathless
land, without light, without sound, unpeopled, forsaken. These were
the plains of Eternity!—the measureless, boundless, sun-forgotten
region, whose monarch was Death, and whose avenging angel—Silence! An
eternal twilight more desolate than the blackness of night, a twilight
as of myriads of ghostly lanterns shedding their colorless rays upon
an awful, echoless solitude He would never find her here The dead of
ages were about him—the troubled spirits who had approached the pale,
stern gates of the Hereafter with rapture, and found within their
portals not rest, but a ceaseless, weary, purposeless wandering, the
world tired souls of aged men pursuing their never-ending quest in
meek, faltering wonder, and longing for the goal which surely they
must reach at last, the white, unquestioning souls of children
floating like heavenly strains of unheard music in the void immensity,
but one and all invisible imponderable. They were there, the monarchs
of buried centuries and the thousands who had knelt at their thrones,
the high and the low, the outcast and the shrived, but each as alone
as if the solitary inhabitant of all Space And he, who would have
fled from his fellow-men on earth, must long in vain for the sound of
human voice or the rapture of human touch He must go on—on—in these
colorless, shadowless, haunted plains, until the last trumpet-blast
should awaken the echoes of the Universe and summon him to confront
his Maker and be judged Oh! if but once more he could see the earth he
had scorned! Was it spinning on its way still, that dark, tiny ball?
How long since he had given that last glance of farewell? It must
be years and years and years, as reckoned by the time of men, for in
Eternity there is no time. And Sionèd—where was she? Desolate and
abandoned, shrieked at by sudden winds, flying terrified and helpless
over level, horizonless plains only to fling herself upon the grey
waves of Death's noiseless ocean? Oh, if he could but find her and
make her forget! Together, what would matter death and silence and
everlasting unrest? All would be forgot, all but the exquisite pain of
the regret for the years he had wasted on earth, and for the solitary
heritage he had left the world. Those children of his brain! They were
with him still. Would that he had left them below to sing his name
down through the ages! They were a torment to him here, in their
futility and inaction. They could not sing to these shapeless ghosts
about him; their voices would be unheeded music; nor would any strain
sweep downward to that world whose tears he might have drawn, whose
mirth provoked, whose passions played upon at his will. The one grand
thing he had done must alone speak for him. There was in it neither
pathos nor mirth; it had sprung to the cloud-capped point of human
genius, and its sublimity would prove its barrier to the world's
approval. But it would give him fame when—God! what was that thought?
The manuscript of that poem had lain in the room where he had met
his death. Had the hand that had slain him executed a more terrible
vengeance still? Oh, it could not be! No man would be so base. And
yet, what mercy had he the right to expect? And the nature of the
man—cold—relentless—To consign the man who had wronged him to
eternal oblivion—would he not feel as he watched the ashes in the
brazier, that such vengeance was sweeter than even the power to
kill? And he was impotent! He was a waif tossed about in the chaos
of eternity, with no power to smite the man whose crime
had—perhaps—been greater than the thrusting of two lives from
existence a few years before their time. He was as powerless as the
invisible beggar who floated at his side. And that man was on earth
yet, perchance, coldly indifferent in his proud position, inwardly
gloating at the fullness of his revenge….
Years, years, years! They slipped from his consciousness like water
from the smooth surface of a rock. And yet each had pressed more
heavily and stung more sharply than the last. Oh, if he could but
know that his poem had been given to the world—that it had not been
blotted from existence! This was what was meant by Hell. No torture
that man had ever pictured could approach the torments of such regret,
such uncertainty, such pitiable impotence. Truly, if his sin had been
great, his punishment was greater.
But why was he going downward? What invisible hand was this which was
resistlessly guiding him through the portals of the shadow land, past
the great sun and worlds of other men, and down through this quivering
ether? What? He was to be born again? A bit of clay needed an atom of
animate force to quicken it into life, and he must go again? And it
was to the planet Earth he was going? Ah! his poem! his poem! He
could write it again, and of what matter the wasted generations? And
Sionèd—they would meet again. Sooner or later, she too must return,
and on Earth they would find what had been denied them above. What
was that? His past must become a blank? His soul must be shorn of its
growth? He must go back to unremembering, unforseeing infancy, and
grow through long, slow years to manhood again? Still, his genius
and his intelligence in their elements would be the same, and with
development would come at last the fruition of all his fondest hopes.
And Sionèd? He would know her when they met. Their souls must be
the same as when the great ocean of Force had tossed them up; and
evolution could work no essential change. Ah! they had entered the
blue atmosphere. And, yes—there lay the earth below them. How he
remembered its green plains and white cities and blue waters! And that
great island—yes, it was familiar enough. It was the land which had
given him birth, and which should have knelt at his feet and granted
him a resting-place amidst its illustrious dead. And this old castle
they were descending upon? He did not remember it. Well, he was to be
of the chosen of earth again. He would have a proud name to offer
her, and this time it should be an unsullied one. This time the world
should ring with his genius, not with his follies. This time—Oh,
what was this? Stop! Stop! No; he could not part with it. The grand,
trained intellect of which he had been so proud—the perfected genius
which had been his glory—they should not strip them from him—they
were part of himself; they were his very essence; he would not give
them up! Oh, God! this horrible shrinking! This was Hell; this was
not re-birth. Physical torture? The words were meaningless beside
this warping, this tearing apart of spirit and mind—those precious
children of his brain—limb from limb. Their shrieks for
help!—their cries of anguish and horror! their clutches! their last
spasmodic—despairing—weakening embrace! He would hold them! His
clasp would defy all the powers of Earth and Air! No, they should not
go—they should not. Oh! this cursed hand, with its nerves of steel.
It would conquer yet, conquer and compress him down into an atom
of impotence—There! it had wrenched them from him; they were
gone—gone—forever. But no, they were there beside him; their moans
for help filled the space about him; yes, moans—they were cries
no longer—and they were growing fainter—they were
fading—sinking—dying—and he was shrinking—
Harold opened his eyes. The night had gone; the sun was struggling
through the heavy curtains; the lamps and the fire had gone out, and
the room was cold. He was faint and exhausted. His forehead was damp
with horror, and his hands were shaking. That terrible struggle in
which intellect and its attainments had been wrenched apart, in which
the spirit and its memories had been torn asunder! He closed his eyes
for a moment in obedience to his exhausted vitality. Then he rose
slowly to his feet, went into his bedroom, and looked into the glass.
Was it Harold Dartmouth or the dead poet who was reflected there? He
went back, picked up the locket, and returned to the glass. He looked
at the picture, then at his own face, and again at the picture. They
were identical; there was not a line or curve or tint of difference.
He returned to his chair and rested his head on his hand. Was he this
man re-born? Did the dead come back and live again? Was it a dream, or
had he actually lived over a chapter from a past existence? He was a
practical man-of-the-world, not a vague dreamer—but all nature was
a mystery; this would be no stranger than the general mystery of life
itself. And he was not only this man reproduced in every line
and feature; he had his nature as well. His grandmother had never
mentioned her husband's name, but the Dartmouths had been less
reticent. They were fond of reiterating anecdotes of Lionel
Dartmouth's lawless youth, of his moody, melancholy temperament, and
above all, of the infallible signs he had shown of great genius. That
his genius had borne no fruit made no difference in their estimate; he
had died too soon, that was all—died of fever in Constantinople, the
story ran; there had never been a suggestion of scandal. And he had
come back to earth to fulfill the promise of long ago, and to give to
the world the one splendid achievement of that time. It had triumphed
over death and crime and revenge—but—He recalled those nights
of conflict in his mind. Would will and spirit ever conquer that
mechanical defect in his brain which denied his genius speech?
He drew his hand across his forehead; he was so tired. He pushed the
manuscript and letters into a drawer of the desk, and turning the
key upon them, opened the window and stepped out into the air.
His vitality was at as low an ebb as if from physical overwork and
fasting. He made no attempt to think, or to comment on the events
just past. For the moment they lost their interest, and he strolled
aimlessly about the park, his exhausted forces slowly recuperating.
At the end of an hour he returned to the house and took a cold
shower-bath and ate his breakfast. Then he felt more like himself. He
had a strong desire to return to his study and the lost manuscript,
but, with the wilful and pleasing procrastination of one who knows
that satisfaction is within his grasp, he put the temptation aside
for the present, and spent the day riding over his estates with his
steward. He also gave his business affairs a minute attention which
delighted his servant. After dinner he smoked a cigar, then went into
his study and locked the door. He sat down before the desk, and for
a moment experienced a feeling of dread. He wanted no more visions:
would contact with those papers induce another? He would like to read
that poem with the calm criticism of a trained and cultivated mind; he
had no desire to be whirled back into his study at Constantinople, his
brain throbbing and bursting with what was coming next. He shrugged
his shoulders. It was a humiliating confession, but there were forces
over which he had no control; there was nothing to do but resign
himself to the inevitable.
He opened the drawer and took out the manuscript. To his unspeakable
satisfaction he remained calm and unperturbed. He felt merely a
cold-blooded content that he had balked his enemies and that his
ambition was to be gratified. Once, before he opened the paper, he
smiled at his readiness to accept the theory of reincarnation. It had
taken complete possession of him, and he felt not the slightest desire
to combat it. Did a doubt cross his mind, he had but to recall the
park seen by his spiritual eyes, as he descended upon it to be born
again. It was the park in which he, Harold Dartmouth, had played as
a child during his annual visits to his parents; the park surrounding
the castle in which he had been born, and which had belonged to his
father's line for centuries. For the first time in his life he did
not reason. It seemed to him that there was no corner or loophole
for argument, nothing but a cold array of facts which must be
unconditionally accepted or rejected.
He spread out the poem. It was in blank verse, and very long. He was
struck at once with its beauty and power. Although his soul responded
to the words as to the tone of a dear but long unheard voice, still he
was spared the mental exaltation which would have clouded his judgment
and destroyed his pleasure. He leaned his elbows on the desk, and,
taking his head between his hands, read on and on, scarcely drawing
breath. Poets past and present had been his familiar friends, but in
them he had found no such beauty as this. The grand sweep of the poem,
the depth of its philosophy, the sublimity of its thought, the melody
of its verse, the color, the radiant richness of its imagery,
the sonorous swell of its lines, the classic purity of its
style—Dartmouth felt as if an organ were pealing within his soul,
lifting the song on its notes to the celestial choir which had sent it
forth. Heavenly fingers were sweeping the keys, heavenly voices were
quiring the melody they had with wanton hand flung into a mortal's
brain. As Harold read on he felt that his spirit had dissolved and was
flowing through the poem, to be blended, unified with it forever.
He seemed to lose all physical sensation, not from the causes of
the previous night, but from the spiritual exaltation and absorption
induced by the beauty and grandeur of the theme. When he had finished,
he flung out his arms upon the desk, buried his head in them, and
burst into tears. The tears were the result, not so much of extreme
nervous tension, as of the wonder and awe and ecstacy with which his
own genius had filled him. In a few moments his emotion had subsided
and was succeeded by a state less purely spiritual. He stood up, and
leaning one hand on the desk, looked down at the poem, his soul filled
with an exultant sense of power. Power was what he had gloried in all
his life. His birth had given it to him socially, his money had lent
its aid, and his personal fascination had completed the chapter. But
he had wanted something more than the commonplace power which fate
or fortune grants to many. He had wanted that power which lifts a man
high above his fellow-men, condemning him to solitude, perhaps, but,
in that fiercely beating light, revealing him to all men's gaze. If
life had drifted by him, it had been because he was too much of a
philosopher to attempt the impossible, too clever to publish his
incompetence to the world.
His inactivity had not been the result of lack of ambition, and yet,
as he stood there gazing down upon his work, it seemed to him that he
had never felt the stirrings of that passion before. With the power to
gratify his ambition, ambition sprang from glowing coals into a mighty
flame which roared and swept about him, darted into every corner
and crevice of his being, pulsated through his mind and spirit, and
temporarily drove out every other instinct and desire. He threw back
his head, his eyes flashing and his lips quivering. For the moment
he looked inspired, as he registered a vow to have his name known in
every corner of the civilized world. That he had so far been unable
to accomplish anything in his present embodiment gave him no
uneasiness at the moment. Sooner or later the imprisoned song would
force its way through the solid masonry in which it was walled up—He
gave a short laugh and came down to earth; his fancy was running away
He folded the poem compactly and put it in his breast pocket,
determined that it should never leave him again until a copy was in
the hands of the printer. It should be sent forth from Constantinople.
The poem must be the apparent offspring of his present incarnation;
and as he had never been in Constantinople he must go there and remain
for several months before publication.
He went into the library and sat down before the fire. He closed
his eyes and let his head fall back on the soft cushion, a pleasant
languor and warmth stealing through his frame. What a future! Power,
honor, adoration—the proudest pedestal a man can stand upon. And, as
if this were not enough, an unquestioned happiness with the woman he
loved with his whole heart. To her advent into his life he owed his
complete and final severance from the petty but infinite distractions
and temptations of the world. His present without flaw, and his future
assured, what was to prevent his gifts from flowering thickly
and unceasingly in their peaceful soil and atmosphere of calm? He
remembered that his first irresistible impulse to write had come
on the night he had met her. Would he owe to her his final power to
speak, as he had owed to that other—
He sat suddenly erect, then leaned forward, gazing at the fire with
eyes from which all languor had vanished. He felt as if a flash of
lightning had been projected into his brain. That other? Who was that
other?—why was she so marvellously like Weir? Her grandmother? Yes,
but why had he felt for Weir that sense of recognition and spiritual
kinship the moment he had seen her?
He sprang to his feet and strode to the middle of the room. Great
God! Was Weir reëmbodied as well as himself? Lady Sionèd Penrhyn was
indisputably the woman he had loved in his former existence—that was
proved once for all by the scene in the gallery at Rhyd-Alwyn and
by the letters he had found addressed to her. He recalled Weir's
childhood experience. Had she really died, and the desperate,
determined spirit of Sionèd Penrhyn taken possession of her body?
Otherwise, why that sense of affinity, and her strange empire over him
the night of their mutual vision? There was something more than racial
resemblance in form and feature between Sionèd and Weir Penrhyn; there
was absolute identity of soul and mind.
He strode rapidly from one end of the room to the other. Every
nerve in his body seemed vibrating, but his mind acted rapidly and
sequentially. He put the links together one by one, until, from the
moment of his last meeting with Sionèd Penrhyn at Constantinople to
the climax of his vision in his study, the chain was complete. Love,
then, as well as genius, had triumphed over the vengeance of Dafyd
Penrhyn and Catherine Dartmouth. In that moment he felt no affection
for his grandmother. She had worshipped and spoilt him, and had shown
him only her better side; but the weakness and evil of her nature had
done him incalculable injury, and he was not prepared to forgive her
He returned to his seat. Truly they all were the victims of inexorable
law, but the law was just, and if it took to-day it gave to-morrow. If
he and Sionèd Penrhyn had been destined to short-lived happiness and
tragic death in that other existence, there was not an obstacle or
barrier between them in the present. And if—He pushed his chair
suddenly back and brought his brows together. A thought had struck him
which he did not like. He got up and put another log on the fire. Then
he went over to the table and took up a book—a volume of Figuier. He
sat down and read a few pages, then threw down the book, and drawing
writing materials toward him, wrote a half-dozen business letters.
When they were finished, together with a few lines to Weir, and no
other correspondence suggested itself, he got up and walked the length
of the room several times. Suddenly he brought his fist violently down
on the table.
"I am a fool," he exclaimed. "The idea of a man with my experience
with women—" And then his voice died away and his hand relaxed, an
expression of disgust crossing his face. He sank into a chair by the
table and leaned his head on his hand. It was true that he was a
man of the world, and that for conventional morality he had felt the
contempt it deserved. Nevertheless, in loving this girl the finest and
highest instincts of his nature had been aroused. He had felt for her
even more of sentiment than of passion. When a man loves a girl whose
mental purity is as absolute as her physical, there is, intermingled
with his love, a leavening quality of reverence, and the result is
a certain purification of his own nature. That Dartmouth had
found himself capable of such a love had been a source of keenest
gratification to him. He had been lifted to a spiritual level which he
had never touched before, and there he had determined to remain.
And to have this pure and exquisite love smirched with the memory of
sin and vulgar crime! To take into his arms as his wife the woman on
whose soul was written the record of temptation and of sin! It was
like marrying one's mistress: as a matter of fact, what else was it?
But Weir Penrhyn! To connect sin with her was monstrous. And yet, the
vital spark called life—or soul, or intelligence, or personal force;
whatever name science or ignorance might give it—was unchanged in
its elements, as his own chapter of memories had taught him. Every
instinct in Sionèd's nature was unaltered. If these instincts were
undeveloped in her present existence, it was because of Weir's
sheltered life, and because she had met him this time before it was
He sprang to his feet, almost overturning the chair. "I can think no
more to-night," he exclaimed. "My head feels as if it would burst."
He went into his bedroom and poured out a dose of laudanum. When he
was in bed he drank it, and he did not awake until late the next day.
In the life of every man there comes a time when he is brought face
to face with the great problem of morality. The murderer undoubtedly
comprehends the problem in all its significance when he is about to
mount the scaffold, the faithless wife when she is dragged through the
divorce court, and her family and friends are humbled to the dust.
Dartmouth worked it out the next night as he sat by his library fire.
He had given the afternoon to his business affairs, but when night
threw him back into the sole companionship of his thoughts, he
doggedly faced the question which he had avoided all day.
What was sin? Could anyone tell, with the uneven standard set up by
morality and religion? The world smiled upon a loveless marriage. What
more degrading? It frowned upon a love perfect in all but the sanction
of the Church, if the two had the courage to proclaim their love. It
discreetly looked another way when the harlot of "Society" tripped
by with her husband on one hand and her lover on the other. A man
enriched himself at the expense of others by what he was pleased to
call his business sharpness, and died revered as a philanthropist; the
common thief was sent to jail.
Dartmouth threw back his head and clasped his hands behind it. Of
what use rehearsing platitudes? The laws of morality were concocted to
ensure the coherence and homogeneity of society; therefore, whatever
deleteriously affected society was crime of less or greater magnitude.
He and Sionèd Penrhyn had ruined the lives and happiness of two
people, had made a murderer of the one, and irrevocably hardened the
nature of the other: Catherine Dartmouth had lived to fourscore, and
had died with unexpiated wrong on her conscience. They had left two
children half-orphaned, and they had run the risk of disgracing two
of the proudest families in Great Britain. Nothing, doubtless, but the
cleverness and promptitude of Sir Dafyd Penrhyn, the secretive nature
of Catherine Dartmouth, the absence of rapid-news transit, and the
semi-civilization of Constantinople at that time, had prevented the
affair from becoming public scandal. Poor Weir! how that haughty head
of hers would bend if she knew of her grandmother's sin, even did she
learn nothing of her own and that sin's kinship!
Dartmouth got up and walked slowly down the long room, his hands
clasped behind him, his head bent. Heaven knew his "sins" had been
many; and if disaster had never ensued, it had been more by good luck
than good management. And yet—he could trace a certain punishment in
every case; the woman punished by the hardening of her nature and
the probability of complete moral dementia; the man by satiety and an
absolute loss of power to value what he possessed. Therefore, for the
woman a sullen despair and its consequences; for the man a feverish
striving for that which he could never find, or, if found, would have
the gall in the nectar of having let slip the ability to unreservedly
and innocently enjoy.
And if sin be measured by its punishment! He recalled those years in
eternity, with their hell of impotence and inaction. He recalled the
torment of spirit, the uncertainty worse than death. And Weir? Surely
no two erring mortals had ever more terribly reaped the reward of
What did it signify? That he was to give her up? that a love which had
begun in sin must not end in happiness? But his love had the strength
of its generations; and the impatient, virile, control-disdaining
nature of the man rebelled. Surely their punishment had been severe
enough and long enough. Had they not been sent back to earth and
almost thrown into each other's arms in token that guilt was expiated
and vengeance satisfied? Dartmouth stopped suddenly as this solution
presented itself, then impatiently thrust a chair out of his way
and resumed his walk. The consciousness that their affection was the
perpetuation of a lustful love disheartened and revolted him. Until
that memory disappeared his punishment would not be over.
He stopped and leaned his hand on the table. "I thought I was a big
enough man to rise above conventional morality," he said. "But I doubt
if any man is when circumstances have combines to make him seriously
face the question. He might, if born a red Indian, but not if
saturated in his plastic days with the codes and dogmas of the world.
They cling, they cling, and reason cannot oust them. The society in
whose enveloping, penetrating atmosphere he has lived his life decrees
that it is a sin to seduce another man's wife or to live with a woman
outside the pale of the Church. Therefore sin, down in the roots of
his consciousness, he believes it; therefore, to perpetuate a sinful
love—I am becoming a petty moralist," he broke off impatiently; "but
I can't help it. I am a triumph of civilization."
He stood up and threw back his shoulders. "Let it go for the present,"
he said. "At another time I may look at it differently or reason
myself out of it. Now I will try—"
He looked towards his study door with a flash in his eyes. He half
turned away, then went quickly into the little room and sat down
before the desk. Every day he would make the attempt to write, and
finally that obstinate wedge in his brain would give way and his soul
be set free.
He drew paper before him and took up a pen. For an hour he sat
motionless, bending all his power of intellect, all the artistic
instincts of his nature to the luring of his song-children from that
closed wing in his brain. But he could not even hear their peremptory
knocks as on the nights when he had turned from those summonses in
agony and terror. He would have welcomed them now and dragged the
visitants into the sunlight of his intelligence and forced the song
from their throats.
He took the poem from his pocket and read it over. But it gave him no
inspiration, it dulled his brain, rather, and made him feel baffled
and helpless. But he would not give up; and dawn found him still with
his pen in his hand. Then he went to bed and slept for a few hours.
That day he gave little attention to his affairs. His melancholy, held
at bay by the extraordinary experience through which he had passed,
returned and claimed him. He shut himself up in his library until the
following morning, and alternated the hours with fruitless attempts to
write and equally fruitless attempts to solve the problem in regard
to Weir. The next day and night, with the exception of a few hours'
restless sleep, were spent in the same way.
At the end of the third day not a word had flowed from his pen, not
a step nearer had he drawn to Weir. A dull despair took possession
of him. Had those song-children fled, discouraged, and was he to be
withheld from the one consolation of earthly happiness? He pushed back
the chair in which he had been sitting before his desk and went into
the library. He opened one of the windows and looked out. How quiet it
was! He could hear the rising wind sighing through the yews, but all
nature was elsewise asleep. What was she doing down at Rhyd-Alwyn?
Sleeping calmly, or blindly striving to link the past with the
present? He had heard from her but once since he left. Perhaps she too
had had a revelation. He wondered if it were as quiet there as here,
or if the waves at the foot of the castle still thundered unceasingly
on. He wondered if she would shrink from him when the truth came to
her. Doubtless, for she had been reared in the most rigid of moral
conventions, and naturally catholic-minded as she was, right, to her,
was right, and wrong was wrong. He closed the window and, throwing
himself on a sofa, fell asleep. But his dreams were worse than his
waking thoughts. He was wandering in eternal darkness looking for
someone lost ages ago, and a voice beside him was murmuring that he
would never find her, but must go on—on—forever; that the curse
of some crime committed centuries ago was upon him, and that he must
expiate it in countless existences and eternal torment. And far off,
on the very confines of space, floated a wraith-like thing with
the lithe grace of a woman whom he had loved on earth. And she was
searching for him, but they described always the same circle and never
met. And then, finally, after millions of years, an invisible hand
clutched him and bore him upward onto a plane, hitherto unexplored,
then left him to grope his way as he could. All was blackness and
chaos. Around him, as he passed them, he saw that dark suns were
burning, but there was nothing to conduct their light, and they shed
no radiance on the horrors of their world. Below him was an abyss in
which countless souls were struggling, blindly, helplessly, until they
should again be called to duty in some sphere of material existence.
The stillness at first was deathlike, oppressive; but soon he became
aware of a dull, hissing noise, such as is produced on earth by the
fusion of metals. The invisible furnaces were lost in the impenetrable
darkness, but the heat was terrific; the internal fires of earth or
those of the Bible's hell must be sickly and pale in comparison with
this awful, invisible atmosphere of flame. Now and then a planet,
which, obeying Nature's laws even here, revolved around its mockery
of a sun, fell at his feet a river of fire. There was stillness
no longer. The roaring and the exploding of the fusing metals, or
whatever it might be, filled the vast region like the hoarse cries
of wild beasts and the hissing of angry serpents. It was deafening,
maddening. And there was no relief but to plunge into that abyss and
drown individuality. He flew downward, and as he paused a moment on
the brink, he looked across to the opposite bank and saw a figure
about to take the leap like himself. It was a dim, shadowy shape, but
even in the blackness he knew its waving grace. And she pointed down
into the abyss of blind, helpless, unintelligent torment, and then—
Dartmouth suddenly found himself standing upright, his shoulders
clutched in a pair of strong hands, and Hollington's anxious face a
few inches from his own.
"What the devil is the matter with you, Hal?" exclaimed Hollington.
"Have you set up a private lunatic asylum, or is it but prosaic
"Becky!" exclaimed Dartmouth, as he grasped the situation. "I am so
glad to see you. Where did you come from?"
"You frightened your devoted Jones to death with one of your
starvation moods, and he telegraphed for me. The idea of a man having
the blues in the second month of his engagement to the most charming
girl in Christendom!"
"Don't speak to me of her," exclaimed Dartmouth, throwing himself into
a chair and covering his face with his hands.
"Whew! What's up? You haven't quarrelled already? Or won't the
governor give his consent?"
"No," said Dartmouth, "that's not it."
"Then what the devil is the matter? Is—is she dead?"
"Was she married to some other man before?"
"I beg your pardon; I was merely exhausting the field of conjecture.
Will you kindly enlighten me?"
"If I did, you would say I was a lunatic."
"I have been inclined to say so occasionally before—"
"Becky, Weir Penrhyn is my—" And then he stopped. The ludicrous side
of the matter had never appealed to him, but he was none the less
conscious of how ridiculous the thing would appear to another.
"Your what? Your wife? Are you married to her already, and do you want
me to break it to the old gentleman? What kind of a character is he?
Shall I go armed?"
"She is not my wife, thank God! If she were—"
"For heaven's sake, Harold, explain yourself. Can it be possible that
Miss Penrhyn is like too many other women?"
Dartmouth sprang to his feet, his face white to the lips.
"How dare you say such a thing?" he exclaimed. "If it were any other
man but you, I'd blow out his brains."
Hollington got up from the chair he had taken and, grasping Dartmouth
by the shoulders, threw him back into his chair.
"Now look here, Harold," he said; "let us have no more damned
nonsense. If you will indulge in lugubrious hints which have but
one meaning, you must expect the consequences. I refuse to listen to
another word unless you come out and speak plain English."
He resumed his seat, and Dartmouth clasped his hands behind his head
and stared moodily at the fire. In a few moments he turned his eyes
and fixed them on Hollington.
"Very well," he said, "I will tell you the whole story from beginning
to end. Heaven knows it is a relief to speak; but if you laugh, I
believe I shall kill you."
"I will not laugh," said Hollington. "Whatever it is, I see it has
gone hard with you."
Dartmouth began with the night of the first attempt of his
suppressed poetical genius to manifest itself, and gave Hollington a
comprehensive account of each detail of his subsequent experiences,
down to the reading of the letters and the spiritual retrospect they
had induced. He did not tell the story dramatically; he had no
fire left in him; he stated it in a matter-of-fact way, which was
impressive because of the speaker's indisputable belief in his own
words. Hollington felt no desire to laugh; on the contrary, he was
seriously alarmed, and he determined to knock this insane freak of
Harold's brain to atoms, if mortal power could do it, and regardless
of consequences to himself.
When Dartmouth had finished, Hollington lit a cigar and puffed at it
for a moment, meditatively regarding his friend meanwhile. Then he
remarked, in a matter-of-fact tone:
"So you are your own grandfather, and Miss Penrhyn is her own
Dartmouth moved uneasily. "It sounds ridiculous—but—don't chaff."
"My dear boy, I was never more serious in my life. I merely wanted to
be sure that I had got it straight. It is A.B.C. by this time to you,
but it has exploded in my face like a keg of gunpowder, and I am a
trifle dazed. But, to come down to deadly earnest, will you allow me
to speak to you from the medical point of view? You know I had some
idea at one time of afflicting the community with one more physician,
until we stumbled on those coal mines, and my prospective patients
were spared premature acquaintance with the golden stairs. May I
speak as an unfledged doctor, but still as one burdened with unused
"You can say what you like."
"Very well, then. You may or may not be aware that what you are
pleased to call the blues, or moods, are, in your case, nothing more
or less than melancholia. When they are at their worst they are the
form known as melancholia attonita. In other words, you are not only
steeped in melancholy, but your brain is in, a state of stupor:
you are all but comatose. These attacks are not frequent, and are
generally the result of a powerful mental shock or strain. I
remember you had one once after you had crammed for two months for an
examination and couldn't pull through. You scared the life out of
the tutors and the boys, and it was not until I threatened to put
you under the pump that you came to. Your ordinary attacks are not so
alarming to your friends, but when indulged in too frequently, they
are a good deal more dangerous."
He paused a moment, but Dartmouth made no reply, and he went on.
"Any man who yields habitually to melancholia may expect his brain,
sooner or later, to degenerate from its original strength, and relax
the toughness and compactness of its fibre. Absolute dementia may not
be the result for some years, but there will be occasional and
painful indications of the end for a long space before it arrives. The
indications, as a rule, will assume the form of visions and dreams and
wild imaginings of various sorts. Now do you understand me?"
"You mean," said Dartmouth, wheeling about and looking him directly in
the eyes, "you mean that I am going mad?"
"I mean, my dear boy, that you will be a raving maniac inside of a
month, unless you dislodge from your brain this horrible, unnatural,
and ridiculous idea."
"Do I look like a madman?" demanded Dartmouth.
"Not at the present moment, no. You look remarkably sane. A man with
as good a brain as yours does not let it go all at once. It will slide
from you imperceptibly, bit by bit, until one day there will be a
"I am not mad," said Dartmouth; "and if I were, my madness would be an
effect, not a cause. What is more, I know enough about melancholia to
know that it does not drift into dementia until middle age at least.
Moreover, my brain is not relaxed in my ordinary attacks; my
spirits are prostrate, and my disgust for life is absolute, but my
brain—except when it has been over-exerted, as in one or two climaxes
of this experience of mine—is as clear as a bell. I have done some of
my best thinking with my hand on the butt of a pistol. But to return
to the question we are discussing. You have left one or two of the
main facts unexplained. What caused Weir's vision? She never had an
attack of melancholia in her life."
"Telepathy, induction, but in the reverse order of your solution of
the matter. Your calling her by her grandmother's name was natural
enough in your condition—you have acknowledged that your melancholia
had already taken possession of you. Miss Penrhyn had, for some reason
best known to her sleeping self, got herself up to look like her
grandmother, and, she being young and pretty, her semi-lunatic
observer addressed her as Sionèd instead of heaven knows what
jaw-breaking Welsh title. Then you went ahead and had the vision,
which was quite in keeping with your general lunar condition. I
believe you said there was a moon."
Dartmouth frowned. "I asked you not to chaff," he said. "What is more,
I have had melancholia all my life, but delusion never before. But let
that pass. The impulse to write—what do you say to that?"
"The impulse was due to the genius which you have undoubtedly
inherited from your grandfather. The inability to put your ideas
into verbal form is due to amnesic aphasia. The portion of your brain
through which your genius should find speech is either temporarily
paralyzed or else deficient in composition. You had better go up and
see Jackson. He can cure you if anyone can."
"Do you believe I can be cured?"
"You can certainly make the attempt."
Dartmouth threw back his head and covered his face with his hands. "O
God!" he exclaimed, "if you knew the agony of the longing to feel the
ecstasy of spiritual intoxication, and yet to feel as if your brain
were a cloud-bank—of knowing that you are divinely gifted, that the
world should be ringing with your name, and yet of being as mute as if
screwed within a coffin!"
"My dear boy, it will all come out right in the end. Science and your
own will can do much, and as for the rest, perhaps Miss Penrhyn
will do for you what those letters intimate Sionèd did for your
Dartmouth got up and leaned his elbow on the mantelpiece.
"I do not know that I shall marry Weir Penrhyn," he said.
"Why not? Because your grandfather had an intrigue with her
grandmother?—which, by the way, is by no means clearly proved. That
there was a plan on foot to that end the letters pretty well show,
"I don't care a hang about the sins of my ancestors, or of Weir's
either—if that were all. If I do not marry her it will be because I
do not care to shatter an ideal into still smaller bits. I loved her
with what little good was left in me. I placed her on a pedestal and
rejoiced that I was able so to do. Now she is the woman whose guilty
love sent us both to our death. I could never forget it. There would
always be a spot on the sun."
"My God, Harold," exclaimed Hollington, "you are mad. Of all the
insane, ridiculous, idiotic speeches that ever came from man's lips,
that is the worst."
"I can't help it, Becky. The idea, the knowledge, is my very life and
soul; and when you think it all over you will see that there are many
things that cannot be explained—Weir's words in the gallery, for
instance. They coincide exactly with the vision I had four nights
later. And a dozen other things—you can think them out for yourself.
When you do, you will understand that there is but one light in which
to look at the question: Weir Penrhyn and I are Lionel Dartmouth and
Sionèd Penrhyn reborn, and that is the end of the matter."
Hollington groaned, and threw himself back in his chair with an
"Well," he said, after a few moments' silence, "accepting your
remarkable premisses for the sake of argument, will you kindly
enlighten me as to since when you became so beautifully complete
and altogether puerile a moralist? Suppose you did sin with her some
three-quarters of a century ago, have not time and suffering purified
you both—or rather her? I suppose it does not make so much difference
"It is not that. It is the idea that is revolting—that this girl
should have been my mistress at any time—"
"But, great heaven! Harold, such a sin is a thing of the flesh, not of
the spirit, and the physical part of Sionèd Penrhyn has enriched the
soil of Constantinople these sixty years. She has committed no sin in
her present embodiment."
"Sin is an impulse, a prompting, of the spirit," said Dartmouth.
Hollington threw one leg over the arm of the chair, half turning his
back upon Dartmouth.
"Rot!" he said.
"Not at all. Otherwise, the dead could sin."
"I am gratified to perceive that you are still able to have the last
word. All I can say is, that you have done what I thought no living
man could do. I once read a novel by a famous American author in which
one of the characters would not ask the heroine to marry him after her
husband's death because he had been guilty of the indelicacy of loving
her (although mutely, and by her unsuspected) while she was a married
woman. I thought then that moral senility could go no further, but you
have got ahead of the American. Allow me to congratulate you."
"You can jibe all you like. I may be a fool, but I can't help it.
I have got to that point where I am dominated by instinct, not by
reason. The instincts may be wrong, because the outgrowth of a false
civilization, but there they are, nevertheless, and of them I am the
product. So are you, and some day you will find it out. I do not say
positively that I will not marry Weir Penrhyn. I will talk it over
with her, and then we can decide."
"A charming subject to discuss with a young girl. It would be kinder,
and wiser, and more decent of you never to mention the matter to her.
Of what use to make the poor girl miserable?"
"She half suspects now, and it would come out sooner or later."
"Then for heaven's sake do it at once, and have it over. Don't stay
here by yourself any longer, whatever you do. Go to-morrow."
"Yes," said Dartmouth, "I will go to-morrow."
When Dartmouth entered the drawing-room at Rhyd-Alwyn the next
evening, a half hour after his arrival, he found Sir Iltyd alone, and
received a warm greeting.
"My dear boy," the old gentleman exclaimed, "I am delighted to see
you. It seems an age since you left, and your brief reports of
your ill-health have worried me. As for poor Weir, she has been ill
herself. She looks so wretched that I would have sent for a physician
had she not, in her usual tyrannical fashion, forbidden me. I did not
tell her you were expected to-night; I wanted to give her a pleasant
surprise. Here she is now."
The door was pushed open and Weir entered the room. Dartmouth checked
an involuntary exclamation and went forward to meet her. She had on a
long white gown like that she had worn the morning he had asked her to
marry him, but the similarity of dress only served to accentuate the
change the intervening time had wrought. It was not merely that
she had lost her color and that her face was haggard; it was an
indefinable revolution in her personality, which made her look ten
years older, and left her without a suggestion of girlishness. She
still carried her head with her customary hauteur, but there was
something in its poise which suggested defiance as well, and which was
quite new. And the lanterns in her eyes had gone out; the storms had
been too heavy for them. All she needed was the costume of the First
Empire to look as if she had stepped out of the locket he had brought
from Crumford Hall.
As she saw Dartmouth, the blood rushed over her face, dyeing it to the
roots of her hair, then receded, leaving it whiter than her gown. When
he reached her side she drew back a little, but he made no attempt to
kiss her; he merely raised her hand to his lips. As he did so he could
have sworn he saw the sun flashing on the domes beneath the window;
and over his senses stole the perfume of jasmine. The roar without was
not that of the ocean, but of a vast city, and—hark!—the cry of the
muezzin. How weird the tapestry looked in the firelight, and how the
figures danced! And he had always liked her to wear white, better even
than yellow. He roused himself suddenly and offered her his arm. The
butler was announcing dinner.
They went into the dining-room, and Dartmouth and Sir Iltyd talked
about the change of ministry and the Gladstone attitude on the Irish
question for an hour and a quarter. Weir neither talked nor ate, but
sat with her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Dartmouth understood
and sympathized. He felt as if his own nerves were on the rack, as if
his brain had been rolled into a cord whose tension was so strained
that it might snap at any moment. But Sir Iltyd was considerate.
He excused himself as soon as dessert was removed, on the plea of
finishing an important historical work just issued, and the young
people went directly to the drawing-room. As Dartmouth closed the door
Weir turned to him, the color springing into her face.
"Tell me," she said, peremptorily; "have you discovered what it
He took her hand and led her over to the sofa. She sat down, but stood
up again at once. "I cannot sit quietly," she said, "until I know.
The enforced repression of the past week, the having no one to speak
to, and the mystery of that dream have driven me nearly mad. It was
cruel of you to stay away so long—but let that pass. There is only
one thing I can think of now—do you know anything more than when you
He folded his arms and looked down. "Why should you think I could
have learned anything at Crumford Hall?" he demanded, with apparent
"Because of the restraint and sometimes incoherence of your letters.
I knew that something had happened to you; you seemed hardly the same
man. You seemed like—Oh, I do not know. For heaven's sake, tell me
what it is."
"Weir," he said, raising his head and looking at her, "what do you
think it is?"
She put up her hands and covered her face. "I do not know," she said,
uncertainly. "If there is to be any explanation it must come from you.
With me there is only the indefinable but persistent feeling that I
am not Weir Penrhyn but the woman of that dream; that I have no right
here in my father's castle, and no right to the position I hold in the
world. To me sin has always seemed a horrible thing, and yet I feel
as if my own soul were saturated with it; and what is worse, I feel no
repentance. It is as if I were being punished by some external power,
not by my own conscience. As if—Oh, it is all too vague to put into
words—Harold, what is it?"
"Let us sit down," he said, "and talk it over."
She allowed him to draw her down onto the sofa, and he looked at her
for a moment. Then, suddenly, the purely human love triumphed. He
forgot regret and disgust. He forgot the teachings of the world, and
the ideal whose shattering he had mourned. He remembered nothing but
that this woman so close to him was dearer than life or genius or
ambition; that he loved her with all the strength and passion of
which a man is capable. The past was gone, the future a blank; nothing
remained but the glorious present, with its impulses which sprang
straight from the heart of nature and which no creed could root out.
He flung his arms about her, and the fierce joy of the moment thrilled
and shook him as he kissed her. And for the moment she too forgot.
Then his arms slowly relaxed and he leaned forward, placing his elbow
on his knee and covering his face with his hand. For a few moments he
thought without speaking. He decided that he would tell her something
to-night, but not all. He would give her a clue, and when she was
alone she might work the rest out for herself. Then, together, they
would decide what would be best to do. He took her hand.
"I have something to tell you," he said. "I did not tell you before
I left because I thought it best not, but things have occurred since
which make it desirable you should know. You do not know, I suppose,
that on the night of our dream you got up in your sleep and wandered
about the castle."
She leaned suddenly forward. "Yes?" she said, breathlessly. "I walked
in my sleep? You saw me? Where?"
"In the gallery that overhangs the sea. I had gone there to watch the
storm, and was about to return to my room when I saw you coming toward
me. At first I thought you were the spirit of your grandmother—of
Sionèd Penrhyn. In your sleep you had dressed yourself like the
picture in the gallery, and the resemblance was complete. Then,
strangely enough, I walked up to you and took your hand and called you
"Then you told me that you were dead, and had been wandering in the
hereafter and looking for me; that you could not find me there, and so
had come back to earth and entered into the body of a dead child, and
given it life, and grown to womanhood again, and found me at last. And
then you put your cold arms about me and drew me down onto a seat. I
suddenly lost all consciousness of the present, and we were together
in a scene which was like a page from a past existence. The page was
that of the dream we have found so difficult a problem, and you read
it with me, not alone in your room—Weir! What is the matter?"
She had pushed him violently from her and sprung to her feet, and she
stood before him with wide-open, terror-stricken eyes, and quivering
in every limb. She tried to speak, but no words came; her lips were
white and shrivelled, and her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth.
Then she threw up her arms and fell heavily to the floor.
After Weir had been carried up-stairs, and he had ascertained that she
was again conscious, Dartmouth went to his own room, knowing he could
not see her again that night. He did not go to bed; there was
no possibility of sleep for hours, and he preferred the slight
distraction of pacing up and down the room. After a time he paused
in front of the fireplace, and mechanically straightened one of the
andirons with his foot. What had affected Weir so strangely? Had the
whole thing burst suddenly upon her? He had hardly told her enough for
that; but what else could it be? Poor child! And poor Sir Iltyd! How
should he explain to him? What story could he concoct to satisfy him?
It would be absurd to attempt the truth; no human being but himself
and Weir could comprehend it; Sir Iltyd would only think them both
mad. He unconsciously drew in a long breath, expelling the air again
with some violence, like a man whose chest is oppressed. And how his
head ached! If he could only get a few hours sleep without that cursed
laudanum. Hark! what was that? A storm was coming up. It almost shook
the castle, solid and of stone as it was. But he was glad. A storm was
more in tune with his mood than calm. He would go out into the gallery
and watch it.
He left his room and went to the gallery to which he had gone to watch
a storm a little over a week ago. A week? It seemed so remote that for
the moment he could not recall the events of that last visit; his
head ached so that everything but physical suffering was temporarily
insignificant. There was no moon to-night. The sky was covered with
black, scurrying clouds, and he could only hear the angry, boiling
waters, not see them. He felt suffocated. He had felt so all the
evening. Besides the pain in his head there was a pressure on his
brain; he must have air; and he pulled open one of the windows and
stood within it. The wind beat about his head, the sea-gulls screamed
in his ears, and the roar of the sea was deafening; but it exhilarated
him and eased his head for the moment. What a poem it would make, that
black, storm-swept sky, those mighty, thundering waters, that granite,
wind-torn coast! How he could have immortalized it once! And he had
it in him to immortalize it now, only that mechanical defect in his
brain, no—that cruel iron hand, would not let him tell the world that
he was greater than any to whom its people bent their knees. Ah, there
it was at last! It had reawakened, and it was battling and struggling
for speech as before. Perhaps this time it would succeed! It was
strong enough to conquer in the end, and why should not the end have
come? Surely the fire in his brain must have melted that iron hand.
Surely, far away, they were singing again. Where were they? Within
his brain?—or battling with the storm to reach him? What were those
wraith-like things—those tiny forms dancing weirdly on the roaring
waters? Ah, he knew. They were the elfins of his brain that had
tormented him with their music and fled at his approach. They
had flown from their little cells, and were holding court on the
storm-waves like fairies on the green. It was like them to love the
danger and the tumult and the night. It was like them to shout and
bound with the intoxication of the hour, to scream with the gale, and
to kiss with frantic rapture the waves that threatened them. Each was
a Thought mightier than any known to living man, and in the bosom of
maddened nature it had found its element. And they had not deserted
him—they had fled but for the hour—they had turned suddenly and were
holding out their arms to him. Ah! he would meet them half-way—
A pair of arms, strong with terror, were suddenly thrown about him,
and he was dragged to the other side of the gallery.
"Harold!" cried Weir; "what is the matter with you? Are you mad?"
"I believe I am," he cried. "Come to the light. I have something to
He caught her by the wrists and pulled her down the gallery until they
were under the lantern which burned in one of the windows on nights
like this as a warning to mariners. She gave a faint scream of terror,
and struggled to release herself.
"You look so strange," she cried. "Let me go."
"Not any more strange than you do," he said, rapidly. "You, too, have
changed since that night in here, when the truth was told to both of
us. You did not understand then, nor did I; but I know all now, and I
will tell you."
And then, in a torrent of almost unintelligible words, he poured
forth the tale of his discovery: what had come to him in the study at
Crumford Hall, the locket he had found, the letters he had read, the
episode of his past he had lived over, the poem which had swept him
up among the gods in its reading—all the sequence of facts whose
constant reiteration during every unguarded moment had mechanically
forced themselves into lasting coherence. She listened with head bent
forward, and eyes through which terror, horror, despair, chased each
other, then returned and fought together. "It is all true," he cried,
in conclusion. "It is all true. Why don't you speak? Cannot you
She wrenched her hands from his grasp and flung her arms above her
head. "Yes," she cried, "I understand. I am a woman for whose sin Time
has no mercy; you are a madman, and I am alone!"
"What are you saying?" he demanded, thickly. "You are alone? There is
no hope, then?"
"No, there is no hope," she said, "nor has the worst—" She sprang
suddenly forward and caught him about the neck. "Oh, Harold!" she
cried, "you are not mad. It cannot be! I cannot think of the sin, or
care; I only know that I love you! love you! love you! and that if we
can be together always the past can go; even—Oh, Harold, speak to me;
don't look at me in that way!"
But his arms hung inertly at his sides, and he looked down into her
agonized face with a smile. "No hope!" he whispered.
The poor girl dropped in a heap to the floor, as if the life had
suddenly gone out of her. Harold gave a little laugh. "No hope!" he
She sprang to her feet and flew down the gallery. But he stood where
she had left him. She reached the open window, then turned and for
a moment faced him again. "No," she cried, "no hope, and no rest or
peace;" and then the storm and the night closed over her.
He moved to the window after a moment, and leaning out, called her
name. There was no answer but the shrieking of the storm. The black
waters had greedily embraced her, and in their depths she would find
rest at last. How would she look down there, in some quiet cave,
with the sea-weed floating over her white gown, and the pearls in her
beautiful hair? How exquisite a thing she would be! The very monsters
of the deep would hold their breath as they passed, and leave her
unmolested. And the eye of mortal man would never gaze upon her again.
There was divinest ecstacy in the thought! Ah! how lovely she was!
What a face—what a form!
He staggered back from the window and gave a loud laugh. At last it
had been vanquished and broken—that iron hand. He had heard it snap
that moment within his brain. And it was pouring upward, that river of
song. The elfins had come back, and were quiring like the immortals.
She would hear them down there, in her cold, nameless grave, with the
ceaseless requiem of the waters above her, and smile and rejoice
that death had come to her to give him speech. His brain was the very
cathedral of heaven, and there was music in every part of it. The
glad shout was ringing throughout nave and transept like the glorious
greeting of Christmas morning. "Her face! Her form!" No, no; not
that again. They were no part of the burning flood of song which was
writhing and surging in his brain. They were not the words which would
tell the world—Ah! what was it? "Her face! Her form!—"
He groped his way to and fro like a blind man seeking some object to
guide him. "Her eyes! Her hair!" No, no. Oh, what was this? Why was he
falling—falling?—What was that terror-stricken cry? that wild, white
face of an old man above him? Where had this water come from that was
boiling and thundering in his ears? What was that tossed aloft by the
wave beyond? If he could but reach her!—She had gone! Cruel Night had
caught her in its black arms and was laughing at his efforts to reach
her. That mocking, hideous laughter! how it shrieked above the storm,
its dissonance as eternal as his fate! There she was again!—Sionèd!
No, she had gone, and he was beating with impotent fury those
devouring—But who was this bending over him?—the Night Queen, with
the stars in her hair? And what was she pressing into his arms? At
last! Sionèd! Sionèd!