VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.mysterystories.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy
HOME  -  STORIES  -  CATEGORIES

Wilkie Collins

The Dream Woman
The Hostler's Story Told By Himself
The Pavilion On The Links
The Story Continued By Percy Fairbank

The Lock And Key Library

A Case Of Identity
A Conjurer's Confessions
A Flight Into Texas
A Formidable Weapon
A Mystery With A Moral
A Scandal In Bohemia
A Wish Unexpectedly Gratified
Addressed To The Advocate Who Defended Him At His Trial
Adventure Of The Black Fisherman
Adventures In The Secret Service Of The Post-office Department
An Aspirant For Congress
An Erring Shepherd
An Heiress From Redhorse
An Old Game Revived
Bourgonef
By The Waters Of Paradise
Deception Explained By The Science Of Psychology
Facing The Arab's Pistol
Fact And Fable In Psychology
Fraudulent Spiritualism Unveiled[1]
His Wedded Wife
Horror: A True Tale
How Spirits Materialize
How The Tricks Succeeded
In The House Of Suddhoo
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Introduction To The Corpus Delicti
Matter Through Matter
Melmoth The Wanderer
Mind Reading In Public
My Own True Ghost Story
My Wife's Tempter
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
Saint-germain The Deathless
Second Sight
Some Famous Exposures
The Avenger
The Baron's Quarry
The Closed Cabinet
The Corpus Delicti
The Dream Woman
The Fortune Of Seth Savage
The Fowl In The Pot
The Gold-bug
The Golden Ingot
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hostler's Story Told By Himself
The Incantation
The Lost Duchess
The Magician Who Became An Ambassador
The Man And The Snake
The Man In The Iron Mask
The Methods Of A Doctor Of The Occult
The Minister's Black Veil
The Minor Canon
The Mortals In The House
The Name Of The Dead
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Pavilion On The Links
The Pipe
The Puzzle
The Red-headed League
The Sending Of Dana Da
The Shadows On The Wall
The Story Continued By Percy Fairbank
Wieland's Madness
Wolfert Webber Or Golden Dreams



The Pavilion On The Links








I

I was a great solitary when I was young. I made it my pride to keep aloof
and suffice for my own entertainment; and I may say that I had neither
friends nor acquaintances until I met that friend who became my wife and
the mother of my children. With one man only was I on private terms; this
was R. Northmour, Esquire, of Graden Easter, in Scotland. We had met at
college; and though there was not much liking between us, nor even much
intimacy, we were so nearly of a humor that we could associate with ease
to both. Misanthropes, we believed ourselves to be; but I have thought
since that we were only sulky fellows. It was scarcely a companionship,
but a co-existence in unsociability. Northmour's exceptional violence of
temper made it no easy affair for him to keep the peace with anyone but
me; and as he respected my silent ways, and let me come and go as I
pleased, I could tolerate his presence without concern. I think we called
each other friends.

When Northmour took his degree and I decided to leave the university
without one, he invited me on a long visit to Graden Easter; and it was
thus that I first became acquainted with the scene of my adventures. The
mansion house of Graden stood in a bleak stretch of country some three
miles from the shore of the German Ocean. It was as large as a barrack;
and as it had been built of a soft stone, liable to consume in the eager
air of the seaside, it was damp and draughty within and half ruinous
without. It was impossible for two young men to lodge with comfort in
such a dwelling. But there stood in the northern part of the estate, in a
wilderness of links and blowing sand hills, and between a plantation and
the sea, a small pavilion or belvedere, of modern design, which was
exactly suited to our wants; and in this hermitage, speaking little,
reading much, and rarely associating except at meals, Northmour and I
spent four tempestuous winter months. I might have stayed longer; but one
March night there sprung up between us a dispute, which rendered my
departure necessary. Northmour spoke hotly, I remember, and I suppose I
must have made some tart rejoinder. He leaped from his chair and grappled
me; I had to fight, without exaggeration, for my life; and it was only
with a great effort that I mastered him, for he was near as strong in body
as myself, and seemed filled with the devil. The next morning, we met on
our usual terms; but I judged it more delicate to withdraw; nor did he
attempt to dissuade me.

It was nine years before I revisited the neighborhood. I traveled at that
time with a tilt-cart, a tent, and a cooking stove, tramping all day
beside the wagon, and at night, whenever it was possible, gypsying in a
cove of the hills, or by the side of a wood. I believe I visited in this
manner most of the wild and desolate regions both in England and Scotland;
and, as I had neither friends nor relations, I was troubled with no
correspondence, and had nothing in the nature of headquarters, unless it
was the office of my solicitors, from whom I drew my income twice a year.
It was a life in which I delighted; and I fully thought to have grown old
upon the march, and at last died in a ditch.

It was my whole business to find desolate corners, where I could camp
without the fear of interruption; and hence, being in another part of the
same shire, I bethought me suddenly of the Pavilion on the Links. No
thoroughfare passed within three miles of it. The nearest town, and that
was but a fisher village, was at a distance of six or seven. For ten miles
of length, and from a depth varying from three miles to half a mile, this
belt of barren country lay along the sea. The beach, which was the natural
approach, was full of quicksands. Indeed I may say there is hardly a
better place of concealment in the United Kingdom. I determined to pass a
week in the Sea-Wood of Graden Easter, and making a long stage, reached it
about sundown on a wild September day.

The country, I have said, was mixed sand hill and links; links being a
Scottish name for sand which has ceased drifting and become more or less
solidly covered with turf. The pavilion stood on an even space: a little
behind it, the wood began in a hedge of elders huddled together by the
wind; in front, a few tumbled sand hills stood between it and the sea. An
outcropping of rock had formed a bastion for the sand, so that there was
here a promontory in the coast line between two shallow bays; and just
beyond the tides, the rock again cropped out and formed an islet of small
dimensions but strikingly designed. The quicksands were of great extent at
low water, and had an infamous reputation in the country. Close in shore,
between the islet and the promontory, it was said they would swallow a man
in four minutes and a half; but there may have been little ground for this
precision. The district was alive with rabbits, and haunted by gulls which
made a continual piping about the pavilion. On summer days the outlook was
bright and even gladsome; but at sundown in September, with a high wind,
and a heavy surf rolling in close along the links, the place told of
nothing but dead mariners and sea disaster. A ship beating to windward on
the horizon, and a huge truncheon of wreck half buried in the sands at my
feet, completed the innuendo of the scene.

The pavilion--it had been built by the last proprietor, Northmour's uncle,
a silly and prodigal virtuoso--presented little signs of age. It was two
stories in height, Italian in design, surrounded by a patch of garden in
which nothing had prospered but a few coarse flowers; and looked, with its
shuttered windows, not like a house that had been deserted, but like one
that had never been tenanted by man. Northmour was plainly from home;
whether, as usual, sulking in the cabin of his yacht, or in one of his
fitful and extravagant appearances in the world of society, I had, of
course, no means of guessing. The place had an air of solitude that
daunted even a solitary like myself; the wind cried in the chimneys with a
strange and wailing note; and it was with a sense of escape, as if I were
going indoors, that I turned away and, driving my cart before me, entered
the skirts of the wood.

The Sea-Wood of Graden had been planted to shelter the cultivated fields
behind, and check the encroachments of the blowing sand. As you advanced
into it from coastward, elders were succeeded by other hardy shrubs; but
the timber was all stunted and bushy; it led a life of conflict; the trees
were accustomed to swing there all night long in fierce winter tempests;
and even in early spring, the leaves were already flying, and autumn was
beginning, in this exposed plantation. Inland the ground rose into a
little hill, which, along with the islet, served as a sailing mark for
seamen. When the hill was open of the islet to the north, vessels must
bear well to the eastward to clear Graden Ness and the Graden Bullers. In
the lower ground, a streamlet ran among the trees, and, being dammed with
dead leaves and clay of its own carrying, spread out every here and there,
and lay in stagnant pools. One or two ruined cottages were dotted about
the wood; and, according to Northmour, these were ecclesiastical
foundations, and in their time had sheltered pious hermits.

I found a den, or small hollow, where there was a spring of pure water;
and there, clearing away the brambles, I pitched the tent, and made a fire
to cook my supper. My horse I picketed farther in the wood where there was
a patch of sward. The banks of the den not only concealed the light of my
fire, but sheltered me from the wind, which was cold as well as high.

The life I was leading made me both hardy and frugal. I never drank but
water, and rarely eat anything more costly than oatmeal; and I required so
little sleep, that, although I rose with the peep of day, I would often
lie long awake in the dark or starry watches of the night. Thus in Graden
Sea-Wood, although I fell thankfully asleep by eight in the evening I was
awake again before eleven with a full possession of my faculties, and no
sense of drowsiness or fatigue. I rose and sat by the fire, watching the
trees and clouds tumultuously tossing and fleeing overhead, and hearkening
to the wind and the rollers along the shore; till at length, growing weary
of inaction, I quitted the den, and strolled toward the borders of the
wood. A young moon, buried in mist, gave a faint illumination to my steps;
and the light grew brighter as I walked forth into the links. At the same
moment, the wind, smelling salt of the open ocean and carrying particles
of sand, struck me with its full force, so that I had to bow my head.

When I raised it again to look about me, I was aware of a light in the
pavilion. It was not stationary; but passed from one window to another, as
though some one were reviewing the different apartments with a lamp or
candle. I watched it for some seconds in great surprise. When I had
arrived in the afternoon the house had been plainly deserted; now it was
as plainly occupied. It was my first idea that a gang of thieves might
have broken in and be now ransacking Northmour's cupboards, which were
many and not ill supplied. But what should bring thieves at Graden Easter?
And, again, all the shutters had been thrown open, and it would have been
more in the character of such gentry to close them. I dismissed the
notion, and fell back upon another. Northmour himself must have arrived,
and was now airing and inspecting the pavilion.

I have said that there was no real affection between this man and me; but,
had I loved him like a brother, I was then so much more in love with
solitude that I should none the less have shunned his company. As it was,
I turned and ran for it; and it was with genuine satisfaction that I found
myself safely back beside the fire. I had escaped an acquaintance; I
should have one more night in comfort. In the morning, I might either slip
away before Northmour was abroad, or pay him as short a visit as I chose.

But when morning came, I thought the situation so diverting that I forgot
my shyness. Northmour was at my mercy; I arranged a good practical jest,
though I knew well that my neighbor was not the man to jest with in
security; and, chuckling beforehand over its success, took my place among
the elders at the edge of the wood, whence I could command the door of the
pavilion. The shutters were all once more closed, which I remember
thinking odd; and the house, with its white walls and green venetians,
looked spruce and habitable in the morning light. Hour after hour passed,
and still no sign of Northmour. I knew him for a sluggard in the morning;
but, as it drew on toward noon, I lost my patience. To say the truth, I
had promised myself to break my fast in the pavilion, and hunger began to
prick me sharply. It was a pity to let the opportunity go by without some
cause for mirth; but the grosser appetite prevailed, and I relinquished my
jest with regret, and sallied from the wood.

The appearance of the house affected me, as I drew near, with disquietude.
It seemed unchanged since last evening; and I had expected it, I scarce
knew why, to wear some external signs of habitation. But no: the windows
were all closely shuttered, the chimneys breathed no smoke, and the front
door itself was closely padlocked. Northmour, therefore, had entered by
the back; this was the natural, and indeed, the necessary conclusion; and
you may judge of my surprise when, on turning the house, I found the back
door similarly secured.

My mind at once reverted to the original theory of thieves; and I blamed
myself sharply for my last night's inaction. I examined all the windows on
the lower story, but none of them had been tampered with; I tried the
padlocks, but they were both secure. It thus became a problem how the
thieves, if thieves they were, had managed to enter the house. They must
have got, I reasoned, upon the roof of the outhouse where Northmour used
to keep his photographic battery; and from thence, either by the window of
the study or that of my old bedroom, completed their burglarious entry.

I followed what I supposed was their example; and, getting on the roof,
tried the shutters of each room. Both were secure; but I was not to be
beaten; and, with a little force, one of them flew open, grazing, as it
did so, the back of my hand. I remember, I put the wound to my mouth, and
stood for perhaps half a minute licking it like a dog, and mechanically
gazing behind me over the waste links and the sea; and, in that space of
time, my eye made note of a large schooner yacht some miles to the
northeast. Then I threw up the window and climbed in.

I went over the house, and nothing can express my mystification. There was
no sign of disorder, but, on the contrary, the rooms were unusually clean
and pleasant. I found fires laid, ready for lighting; three bedrooms
prepared with a luxury quite foreign to Northmour's habits, and with water
in the ewers and the beds turned down; a table set for three in the
dining-room; and an ample supply of cold meats, game, and vegetables on
the pantry shelves. There were guests expected, that was plain; but why
guests, when Northmour hated society? And, above all, why was the house
thus stealthily prepared at dead of night? and why were the shutters
closed and the doors padlocked?

I effaced all traces of my visit, and came forth from the window feeling
sobered and concerned.

The schooner yacht was still in the same place; and it flashed for a
moment through my mind that this might be the "Red Earl" bringing the
owner of the pavilion and his guests. But the vessel's head was set the
other way.


II

I returned to the den to cook myself a meal, of which I stood in great
need, as well as to care for my horse, whom I had somewhat neglected in
the morning. From time to time I went down to the edge of the wood; but
there was no change in the pavilion, and not a human creature was seen all
day upon the links. The schooner in the offing was the one touch of life
within my range of vision. She, apparently with no set object, stood off
and on or lay to, hour after hour; but as the evening deepened, she drew
steadily nearer. I became more convinced that she carried Northmour and
his friends, and that they would probably come ashore after dark; not only
because that was of a piece with the secrecy of the preparations, but
because the tide would not have flowed sufficiently before eleven to cover
Graden Floe and the other sea quags that fortified the shore against
invaders.

All day the wind had been going down, and the sea along with it; but there
was a return toward sunset of the heavy weather of the day before. The
night set in pitch dark. The wind came off the sea in squalls, like the
firing of a battery of cannon; now and then there was a flaw of rain, and
the surf rolled heavier with the rising tide. I was down at my observatory
among the elders, when a light was run up to the masthead of the schooner,
and showed she was closer in than when I had last seen her by the dying
daylight. I concluded that this must be a signal to Northmour's associates
on shore; and, stepping forth into the links, looked around me for
something in response.

A small footpath ran along the margin of the wood, and formed the most
direct communication between the pavilion and the mansion house; and, as I
cast my eyes to that side, I saw a spark of light, not a quarter of a mile
away, and rapidly approaching. From its uneven course it appeared to be
the light of a lantern carried by a person who followed the windings of
the path, and was often staggered, and taken aback by the more violent
squalls. I concealed myself once more among the elders, and waited eagerly
for the newcomer's advance. It proved to be a woman; and, as she passed
within half a rod of my ambush, I was able to recognize the features. The
deaf and silent old dame, who had nursed Northmour in his childhood, was
his associate in this underhand affair.

I followed her at a little distance, taking advantage of the innumerable
heights and hollows, concealed by the darkness, and favored not only by
the nurse's deafness, but by the uproar of the wind and surf. She entered
the pavilion, and, going at once to the upper story, opened and set a
light in one of the windows that looked toward the sea. Immediately
afterwards the light at the schooner's masthead was run down and
extinguished. Its purpose had been attained, and those on board were sure
that they were expected. The old woman resumed her preparations; although
the other shutters remained closed, I could see a glimmer going to and fro
about the house; and a gush of sparks from one chimney after another soon
told me that the fires were being kindled.

Northmour and his guests, I was now persuaded, would come ashore as soon
as there was water on the floe. It was a wild night for boat service; and
I felt some alarm mingle with my curiosity as I reflected on the danger of
the landing. My old acquaintance, it was true, was the most eccentric of
men; but the present eccentricity was both disquieting and lugubrious to
consider. A variety of feelings thus led me toward the beach, where I lay
flat on my face in a hollow within six feet of the track that led to the
pavilion. Thence, I should have the satisfaction of recognizing the
arrivals, and, if they should prove to be acquaintances, greeting them as
soon as they landed.

Some time before eleven, while the tide was still dangerously low, a
boat's lantern appeared close in shore; and, my attention being thus
awakened, I could perceive another still far to seaward, violently tossed,
and sometimes hidden by the billows. The weather, which was getting
dirtier as the night went on, and the perilous situation of the yacht upon
a lee shore, had probably driven them to attempt a landing at the earliest
possible moment.

A little afterwards, four yachtsmen carrying a very heavy chest, and
guided by a fifth with a lantern, passed close in front of me as I lay,
and were admitted to the pavilion by the nurse. They returned to the
beach, and passed me a third time with another chest, larger but
apparently not so heavy as the first. A third time they made the transit;
and on this occasion one of the yachtsmen carried a leather portmanteau,
and the others a lady's trunk and carriage bag. My curiosity was sharply
excited. If a woman were among the guests of Northmour, it would show a
change in his habits, and an apostasy from his pet theories of life, well
calculated to fill me with surprise. When he and I dwelt there together,
the pavilion had been a temple of misogyny. And now, one of the detested
sex was to be installed under its roof. I remembered one or two
particulars, a few notes of daintiness and almost of coquetry which had
struck me the day before as I surveyed the preparations in the house;
their purpose was now clear, and I thought myself dull not to have
perceived it from the first.

While I was thus reflecting, a second lantern drew near me from the beach.
It was carried by a yachtsman whom I had not yet seen, and who was
conducting two other persons to the pavilion. These two persons were
unquestionably the guests for whom the house was made ready; and,
straining eye and ear, I set myself to watch them as they passed. One was
an unusually tall man, in a traveling hat slouched over his eyes, and a
highland cape closely buttoned and turned up so as to conceal his face.
You could make out no more of him than that he was, as I have said,
unusually tall, and walked feebly with a heavy stoop. By his side, and
either clinging to him or giving him support--I could not make out
which--was a young, tall, and slender figure of a woman. She was extremely
pale; but in the light of the lantern her face was so marred by strong and
changing shadows, that she might equally well have been as ugly as sin or
as beautiful as I afterwards found her to be.

When they were just abreast of me, the girl made some remark which was
drowned by the noise of the wind.

"Hush!" said her companion; and there was something in the tone with which
the word was uttered that thrilled and rather shook my spirits. It seemed
to breathe from a bosom laboring under the deadliest terror; I have never
heard another syllable so expressive; and I still hear it again when I am
feverish at night, and my mind runs upon old times. The man turned toward
the girl as he spoke; I had a glimpse of much red beard and a nose which
seemed to have been broken in youth; and his light eyes seemed shining in
his face with some strong and unpleasant emotion.

But these two passed on and were admitted in their turn to the pavilion.

One by one, or in groups, the seamen returned to the beach. The wind
brought me the sound of a rough voice crying, "Shove off!" Then, after a
pause, another lantern drew near. It was Northmour alone.

My wife and I, a man and a woman, have often agreed to wonder how a person
could be, at the same time, so handsome and so repulsive as Northmour. He
had the appearance of a finished gentleman; his face bore every mark of
intelligence and courage; but you had only to look at him, even in his
most amiable moment, to see that he had the temper of a slaver captain. I
never knew a character that was both explosive and revengeful to the same
degree; he combined the vivacity of the south with the sustained and
deadly hatreds of the north; and both traits were plainly written on his
face, which was a sort of danger signal. In person, he was tall, strong,
and active; his hair and complexion very dark; his features handsomely
designed, but spoiled by a menacing expression.

At that moment he was somewhat paler than by nature; he wore a heavy
frown; and his lips worked, and he looked sharply round him as he walked,
like a man besieged with apprehensions. And yet I thought he had a look of
triumph underlying all, as though he had already done much, and was near
the end of an achievement.

Partly from a scruple of delicacy--which I dare say came too late--partly
from the pleasure of startling an acquaintance, I desired to make my
presence known to him without delay.

I got suddenly to my feet, and stepped forward.

"Northmour!" said I.

I have never had so shocking a surprise in all my days. He leaped on me
without a word; something shone in his hand; and he struck for my heart
with a dagger. At the same moment I knocked him head over heels. Whether
it was my quickness, or his own uncertainty, I know not; but the blade
only grazed my shoulder, while the hilt and his fist struck me violently
on the mouth.

I fled, but not far. I had often and often observed the capabilities of
the sand hills for protracted ambush or stealthy advances and retreats;
and, not ten yards from the scene of the scuffle, plumped down again upon
the grass. The lantern had fallen and gone out. But what was my
astonishment to see Northmour slip at a bound into the pavilion, and hear
him bar the door behind him with a clang of iron!

He had not pursued me. He had run away. Northmour, whom I knew for the
most implacable and daring of men, had run away! I could scarce believe my
reason; and yet in this strange business, where all was incredible, there
was nothing to make a work about in an incredibility more or less. For why
was the pavilion secretly prepared? Why had Northmour landed with his
guests at dead of night, in half a gale of wind, and with the floe scarce
covered? Why had he sought to kill me? Had he not recognized my voice? I
wondered. And, above all, how had he come to have a dagger ready in his
hand? A dagger, or even a sharp knife, seemed out of keeping with the age
in which we lived; and a gentleman landing from his yacht on the shore of
his own estate, even although it was at night and with some mysterious
circumstances, does not usually, as a matter of fact, walk thus prepared
for deadly onslaught. The more I reflected, the further I felt at sea. I
recapitulated the elements of mystery, counting them on my fingers: the
pavilion secretly prepared for guests; the guests landed at the risk of
their lives and to the imminent peril of the yacht; the guests, or at
least one of them, in undisguised and seemingly causeless terror;
Northmour with a naked weapon; Northmour stabbing his most intimate
acquaintance at a word; last, and not least strange, Northmour fleeing
from the man whom he had sought to murder, and barricading himself, like a
hunted creature, behind the door of the pavilion. Here were at least six
separate causes for extreme surprise; each part and parcel with the
others, and forming all together one consistent story. I felt almost
ashamed to believe my own senses.

As I thus stood, transfixed with wonder, I began to grow painfully
conscious of the injuries I had received in the scuffle; skulked round
among the sand hills; and, by a devious path, regained the shelter of the
wood. On the way, the old nurse passed again within several yards of me,
still carrying her lantern, on the return journey to the mansion house of
Graden. This made a seventh suspicious feature in the case. Northmour and
his guests, it appeared, were to cook and do the cleaning for themselves,
while the old woman continued to inhabit the big empty barrack among the
policies. There must surely be great cause for secrecy, when so many
inconveniences were confronted to preserve it.

So thinking, I made my way to the den. For greater security, I trod out
the embers of the fire, and lighted my lantern to examine the wound upon
my shoulder. It was a trifling hurt, although it bled somewhat freely, and
I dressed it as well as I could (for its position made it difficult to
reach) with some rag and cold water from the spring. While I was thus
busied, I mentally declared war against Northmour and his mystery. I am
not an angry man by nature, and I believe there was more curiosity than
resentment in my heart. But war I certainly declared; and, by way of
preparation, I got out my revolver, and, having drawn the charges, cleaned
and reloaded it with scrupulous care. Next I became preoccupied about my
horse. It might break loose, or fall to neighing, and so betray my camp in
the Sea-Wood. I determined to rid myself of its neighborhood; and long
before dawn I was leading it over the links in the direction of the fisher
village.


III

For two days I skulked round the pavilion, profiting by the uneven surface
of the links. I became an adept in the necessary tactics. These low
hillocks and shallow dells, running one into another, became a kind of
cloak of darkness for my inthralling, but perhaps dishonorable, pursuit.

Yet, in spite of this advantage, I could learn but little of Northmour or
his guests.

Fresh provisions were brought under cover of darkness by the old woman
from the mansion house. Northmour, and the young lady, sometimes together,
but more often singly, would walk for an hour or two at a time on the
beach beside the quicksand. I could not but conclude that this promenade
was chosen with an eye to secrecy; for the spot was open only to seaward.
But it suited me not less excellently; the highest and most accidented of
the sand hills immediately adjoined; and from these, lying flat in a
hollow, I could overlook Northmour or the young lady as they walked.

The tall man seemed to have disappeared. Not only did he never cross the
threshold, but he never so much as showed face at a window; or, at least,
not so far as I could see; for I dared not creep forward beyond a certain
distance in the day, since the upper floors commanded the bottoms of the
links; and at night, when I could venture further, the lower windows were
barricaded as if to stand a siege. Sometimes I thought the tall man must
be confined to bed, for I remembered the feebleness of his gait; and
sometimes I thought he must have gone clear away, and that Northmour and
the young lady remained alone together in the pavilion. The idea, even
then, displeased me.

Whether or not this pair were man and wife, I had seen abundant reason to
doubt the friendliness of their relation. Although I could hear nothing of
what they said, and rarely so much as glean a decided expression on the
face of either, there was a distance, almost a stiffness, in their
bearing which showed them to be either unfamiliar or at enmity. The girl
walked faster when she was with Northmour than when she was alone; and I
conceived that any inclination between a man and a woman would rather
delay than accelerate the step. Moreover, she kept a good yard free of
him, and trailed her umbrella, as if it were a barrier, on the side
between them. Northmour kept sidling closer; and, as the girl retired from
his advance, their course lay at a sort of diagonal across the beach, and
would have landed them in the surf had it been long enough continued. But,
when this was imminent, the girl would unostentatiously change sides and
put Northmour between her and the sea. I watched these maneuvers, for my
part, with high enjoyment and approval, and chuckled to myself at every
move.

On the morning of the third day, she walked alone for some time, and I
perceived, to my great concern, that she was more than once in tears. You
will see that my heart was already interested more than I supposed. She
had a firm yet airy motion of the body, and carried her head with
unimaginable grace; every step was a thing to look at, and she seemed in
my eyes to breathe sweetness and distinction.

The day was so agreeable, being calm and sunshiny, with a tranquil sea,
and yet with a healthful piquancy and vigor in the air, that, contrary to
custom, she was tempted forth a second time to walk. On this occasion she
was accompanied by Northmour, and they had been but a short while on the
beach, when I saw him take forcible possession of her hand. She struggled,
and uttered a cry that was almost a scream. I sprung to my feet, unmindful
of my strange position; but, ere I had taken a step, I saw Northmour
bareheaded and bowing very low, as if to apologize; and dropped again at
once into my ambush. A few words were interchanged; and then, with another
bow, he left the beach to return to the pavilion. He passed not far from
me, and I could see him, flushed and lowering, and cutting savagely with
his cane among the grass. It was not without satisfaction that I
recognized my own handiwork in a great cut under his right eye, and a
considerable discoloration round the socket.

For some time the girl remained where he had left her, looking out past
the islet and over the bright sea. Then with a start, as one who throws
off preoccupation and puts energy again upon its mettle, she broke into a
rapid and decisive walk. She also was much incensed by what had passed.
She had forgotten where she was. And I beheld her walk straight into the
borders of the quicksand where it is most abrupt and dangerous. Two or
three steps farther and her life would have been in serious jeopardy, when
I slid down the face of the sand hill, which is there precipitous, and,
running halfway forward, called to her to stop.

She did so, and turned round. There was not a tremor of fear in her
behavior, and she marched directly up to me like a queen. I was barefoot,
and clad like a common sailor, save for an Egyptian scarf round my waist;
and she probably took me at first for some one from the fisher village,
straying after bait. As for her, when I thus saw her face to face, her
eyes set steadily and imperiously upon mine, I was filled with admiration
and astonishment, and thought her even more beautiful than I had looked to
find her. Nor could I think enough of one who, acting with so much
boldness, yet preserved a maidenly air that was both quaint and engaging;
for my wife kept an old-fashioned precision of manner through all her
admirable life--an excellent thing in woman, since it sets another value
on her sweet familiarities.

"What does this mean?" she asked.

"You were walking," I told her, "directly into Graden Floe."

"You do not belong to these parts," she said again. "You speak like an
educated man."

"I believe I have a right to that name," said I, "although in this
disguise."

But her woman's eye had already detected the sash.

"Oh!" she said; "your sash betrays you."

"You have said the word betray," I resumed. "May I ask you not to betray
me? I was obliged to disclose myself in your interest; but if Northmour
learned my presence it might be worse than disagreeable for me."

"Do you know," she asked, "to whom you are speaking?"

"Not to Mr. Northmour's wife?" I asked, by way of answer.

She shook her head. All this while she was studying my face with an
embarrassing intentness. Then she broke out--

"You have an honest face. Be honest like your face, sir, and tell me what
you want and what you are afraid of. Do you think I could hurt you? I
believe you have far more power to injure me! And yet you do not look
unkind. What do you mean--you, a gentleman--by skulking like a spy about
this desolate place? Tell me," she said, "who is it you hate?"

"I hate no one," I answered; "and I fear no one face to face. My name is
Cassilis--Frank Cassilis. I lead the life of a vagabond for my own good
pleasure. I am one of Northmour's oldest friends; and three nights ago,
when I addressed him on these links, he stabbed me in the shoulder with a
knife."

"It was you!" she said.

"Why he did so," I continued, disregarding the interruption, "is more than
I can guess, and more than I care to know. I have not many friends, nor am
I very susceptible to friendship; but no man shall drive me from a place
by terror. I had camped in the Graden Sea-Wood ere he came; I camp in it
still. If you think I mean harm to you or yours, madame, the remedy is in
your hand. Tell him that my camp is in the Hemlock Den, and to-night he
can stab me in safety while I sleep."

With this I doffed my cap to her, and scrambled up once more among the
sand hills. I do not know why, but I felt a prodigious sense of injustice,
and felt like a hero and a martyr; while as a matter of fact, I had not a
word to say in my defense, nor so much as one plausible reason to offer
for my conduct. I had stayed at Graden out of a curiosity natural enough,
but undignified; and though there was another motive growing in along with
the first, it was not one which, at that period, I could have properly
explained to the lady of my heart.

Certainly, that night, I thought of no one else; and, though her whole
conduct and position seemed suspicious, I could not find it in my heart to
entertain a doubt of her integrity. I could have staked my life that she
was clear of blame, and, though all was dark at the present, that the
explanation of the mystery would show her part in these events to be both
right and needful. It was true, let me cudgel my imagination as I pleased,
that I could invent no theory of her relations to Northmour; but I felt
none the less sure of my conclusion because it was founded on instinct in
place of reason, and, as I may say, went to sleep that night with the
thought of her under my pillow.

Next day she came out about the same hour alone, and, as soon as the sand
hills concealed her from the pavilion, drew nearer to the edge, and called
me by name in guarded tones. I was astonished to observe that she was
deadly pale, and seemingly under the influence of strong emotion.

"Mr. Cassilis!" she cried; "Mr. Cassilis!"

I appeared at once, and leaped down upon the beach. A remarkable air of
relief overspread her countenance as soon as she saw me.

"Oh!" she cried, with a hoarse sound, like one whose bosom had been
lightened of a weight. And then, "Thank God you are still safe!" she
added; "I knew, if you were, you would be here." (Was not this strange? So
swiftly and wisely does Nature prepare our hearts for these great lifelong
intimacies, that both my wife and I had been given a presentiment on this
the second day of our acquaintance. I had even then hoped that she would
seek me; she had felt sure that she would find me.) "Do not," she went on
swiftly, "do not stay in this place. Promise me that you sleep no longer
in that wood. You do not know how I suffer; all last night I could not
sleep for thinking of your peril."

"Peril!" I repeated. "Peril from whom? From Northmour?"

"Not so," she said. "Did you think I would tell him after what you said?"

"Not from Northmour?" I repeated. "Then how? From whom? I see none to be
afraid of."

"You must not ask me," was her reply, "for I am not free to tell you. Only
believe me, and go hence--believe me, and go away quickly, quickly, for
your life!"

An appeal to his alarm is never a good plan to rid oneself of a spirited
young man. My obstinacy was but increased by what she said, and I made it
a point of honor to remain. And her solicitude for my safety still more
confirmed me in the resolve.

"You must not think me inquisitive, madame," I replied, "but, if Graden
is so dangerous a place, you yourself perhaps remain here at some risk."

She only looked at me reproachfully.

"You and your father--" I resumed; but she interrupted me almost with a
gasp.

"My father! How do you know that?" she cried.


"I saw you together when you landed," was my answer; and I do not know
why, but it seemed satisfactory to both of us, as indeed it was truth.
"But," I continued, "you need have no fear from me. I see you have some
reason to be secret, and, you may believe me, your secret is as safe with
me as if I were in Graden Floe. I have scarce spoken to anyone for years;
my horse is my only companion, and even he, poor beast, is not beside me.
You see, then, you may count on me for silence. So tell me the truth, my
dear young lady, are you not in danger?"

"Mr. Northmour says you are an honorable man," she returned, "and I
believe it when I see you. I will tell you so much; you are right: we are
in dreadful, dreadful danger, and you share it by remaining where you
are."

"Ah!" said I; "you have heard of me from Northmour? And he gives me a good
character?"

"I asked him about you last night," was her reply. "I pretended," she
hesitated, "I pretended to have met you long ago, and spoken to you of
him. It was not true; but I could not help myself without betraying you,
and you had put me in a difficulty. He praised you highly."

"And--you may permit me one question--does this danger come from
Northmour?" I asked.

"From Mr. Northmour?" she cried. "Oh, no, he stays with us to share it."

"While you propose that I should run away?" I said. "You do not rate me
very high."

"Why should you stay?" she asked. "You are no friend of ours."

I know not what came over me, for I had not been conscious of a similar
weakness since I was a child, but I was so mortified by this retort that
my eyes pricked and filled with tears, as I continued to gaze upon her
face.

"No, no," she said, in a changed voice; "I did not mean the words
unkindly."

"It was I who offended," I said; and I held out my hand with a look of
appeal that somehow touched her, for she gave me hers at once, and even
eagerly. I held it for awhile in mine, and gazed into her eyes. It was she
who first tore her hand away, and, forgetting all about her request and
the promise she had sought to extort, ran at the top of her speed, and
without turning, till she was out of sight. And then I knew that I loved
her, and thought in my glad heart that she--she herself--was not
indifferent to my suit. Many a time she has denied it in after days, but
it was with a smiling and not a serious denial. For my part, I am sure our
hands would not have lain so closely in each other if she had not begun to
melt to me already. And, when all is said, it is no great contention,
since, by her own avowal, she began to love me on the morrow.

And yet on the morrow very little took place. She came and called me down
as on the day before, upbraided me for lingering at Graden, and, when she
found I was still obdurate, began to ask me more particularly as to my
arrival. I told her by what series of accidents I had come to witness
their disembarkation, and how I had determined to remain, partly from the
interest which had been awakened in me by Northmour's guests, and partly
because of his own murderous attack. As to the former, I fear I was
disingenuous, and led her to regard herself as having been an attraction
to me from the first moment that I saw her on the links. It relieves my
heart to make this confession even now, when my wife is with God, and
already knows all things, and the honesty of my purpose even in this; for
while she lived, although it often pricked my conscience, I had never the
hardihood to undeceive her. Even a little secret, in such a married life
as ours, is like the rose leaf which kept the princess from her sleep.

From this the talk branched into other subjects, and I told her much about
my lonely and wandering existence; she, for her part, giving ear, and
saying little. Although we spoke very naturally, and latterly on topics
that might seem indifferent, we were both sweetly agitated. Too soon it
was time for her to go; and we separated, as if by mutual consent, without
shaking hands, for both knew that, between us, it was no idle ceremony.

The next, and that was the fourth day of our acquaintance, we met in the
same spot, but early in the morning, with much familiarity and yet much
timidity on either side. While she had once more spoken about my
danger--and that, I understood, was her excuse for coming--I, who had
prepared a great deal of talk during the night, began to tell her how
highly I valued her kind interest, and how no one had ever cared to hear
about my life, nor had I ever cared to relate it, before yesterday.
Suddenly she interrupted me, saying with vehemence--

"And yet, if you knew who I was, you would not so much as speak to me!"

I told her such a thought was madness, and, little as we had met, I
counted her already a dear friend; but my protestations seemed only to
make her more desperate.

"My father is in hiding!" she cried.

"My dear," I said, forgetting for the first time to add "young lady,"
"what do I care? If I were in hiding twenty times over, would it make one
thought of change in you?"

"Ah, but the cause!" she cried, "the cause! It is"--she faltered for a
second--"it is disgraceful to us!"


IV

This was my wife's story, as I drew it from her among tears and sobs. Her
name was Clara Huddlestone: it sounded very beautiful in my ears; but not
so beautiful as that other name of Clara Cassilis, which she wore during
the longer and, I thank God, the happier portion of her life. Her father,
Bernard Huddlestone, had been a private banker in a very large way of
business. Many years before, his affairs becoming disordered, he had been
led to try dangerous, and at last criminal, expedients to retrieve himself
from ruin. All was in vain; he became more and more cruelly involved, and
found his honor lost at the same moment with his fortune. About this
period, Northmour had been courting his daughter with great assiduity,
though with small encouragement; and to him, knowing him thus disposed in
his favor, Bernard Huddlestone turned for help in his extremity. It was
not merely ruin and dishonor, nor merely a legal condemnation, that the
unhappy man had brought upon his head. It seems he could have gone to
prison with a light heart. What he feared, what kept him awake at night or
recalled him from slumber into frenzy, was some secret, sudden, and
unlawful attempt upon his life. Hence, he desired to bury his existence
and escape to one of the islands in the South Pacific, and it was in
Northmour's yacht, the "Red Earl," that he designed to go. The yacht
picked them up clandestinely upon the coast of Wales, and had once more
deposited them at Graden, till she could be refitted and provisioned for
the longer voyage. Nor could Clara doubt that her hand had been stipulated
as the price of passage. For, although Northmour was neither unkind, nor
even discourteous, he had shown himself in several instances somewhat
overbold in speech and manner.

I listened, I need not say, with fixed attention, and put many questions
as to the more mysterious part. It was in vain. She had no clear idea of
what the blow was, nor of how it was expected to fall. Her father's alarm
was unfeigned and physically prostrating, and he had thought more than
once of making an unconditional surrender to the police. But the scheme
was finally abandoned, for he was convinced that not even the strength of
our English prisons could shelter him from his pursuers. He had had many
affairs in Italy, and with Italians resident in London, in the latter
years of his business; and these last, as Clara fancied, were somehow
connected with the doom that threatened him. He had shown great terror at
the presence of an Italian seaman on board the "Red Earl," and had
bitterly and repeatedly accused Northmour in consequence. The latter had
protested that Beppo (that was the seaman's name) was a capital fellow,
and could be trusted to the death; but Mr. Huddlestone had continued ever
since to declare that all was lost, that it was only a question of days,
and that Beppo would be the ruin of him yet.

I regarded the whole story as the hallucination of a mind shaken by
calamity. He had suffered heavy loss by his Italian transactions; and
hence the sight of an Italian was hateful to him, and the principal part
in his nightmare would naturally enough be played by one of that nation.

"What your father wants," I said, "is a good doctor and some calming
medicine."

"But Mr. Northmour?" objected Clara. "He is untroubled by losses, and yet
he shares in this terror."

I could not help laughing at what I considered her simplicity.

"My dear," said I, "you have told me yourself what reward he has to look
for. All is fair in love, you must remember; and if Northmour foments your
father's terrors, it is not at all because he is afraid of any Italian
man, but simply because he is infatuated with a charming English woman."

She reminded me of his attack upon myself on the night of the
disembarkation, and this I was unable to explain. In short, and from one
thing to another, it was agreed between us that I should set out at once
for the fisher village, Graden Wester, as it was called, look up all the
newspapers I could find, and see for myself if there seemed any basis of
fact for these continued alarms. The next morning, at the same hour and
place, I was to make my report to Clara. She said no more on that occasion
about my departure; nor, indeed, did she make it a secret that she clung
to the thought of my proximity as something helpful and pleasant; and, for
my part, I could not have left her, if she had gone upon her knees to ask
it.

I reached Graden Wester before ten in the forenoon; for in those days I
was an excellent pedestrian, and the distance, as I think I have said, was
little over seven miles; fine walking all the way upon the springy turf.
The village is one of the bleakest on that coast, which is saying much:
there is a church in the hollow; a miserable haven in the rocks, where
many boats have been lost as they returned from fishing; two or three
score of stone houses arranged along the beach and in two streets, one
leading from the harbor, and another striking out from it at right angles;
and, at the corner of these two, a very dark and cheerless tavern, by way
of principal hotel.

I had dressed myself somewhat more suitably to my station in life, and at
once called upon the minister in his little manse beside the graveyard. He
knew me, although it was more than nine years since we had met; and when I
told him that I had been long upon a walking tour, and was behind with the
news, readily lent me an armful of newspapers, dating from a month back to
the day before. With these I sought the tavern, and, ordering some
breakfast, sat down to study the "Huddlestone Failure."

It had been, it appeared, a very flagrant case. Thousands of persons were
reduced to poverty; and one in particular had blown out his brains as soon
as payment was suspended. It was strange to myself that, while I read
these details, I continued rather to sympathize with Mr. Huddlestone than
with his victims; so complete already was the empire of my love for my
wife. A price was naturally set upon the banker's head; and, as the case
was inexcusable and the public indignation thoroughly aroused, the unusual
figure of L750 was offered for his capture. He was reported to have large
sums of money in his possession. One day, he had been heard of in Spain;
the next, there was sure intelligence that he was still lurking between
Manchester and Liverpool, or along the border of Wales; and the day after,
a telegram would announce his arrival in Cuba or Yucatan. But in all this
there was no word of an Italian, nor any sign of mystery.

In the very last paper, however, there was one item not so clear. The
accountants who were charged to verify the failure had, it seemed, come
upon the traces of a very large number of thousands, which figured for
some time in the transactions of the house of Huddlestone; but which came
from nowhere, and disappeared in the same mysterious fashion. It was only
once referred to by name, and then under the initials "X.X."; but it had
plainly been floated for the first time into the business at a period of
great depression some six years ago. The name of a distinguished royal
personage had been mentioned by rumor in connection with this sum. "The
cowardly desperado"--such, I remember, was the editorial expression--was
supposed to have escaped with a large part of this mysterious fund still
in his possession.

I was still brooding over the fact, and trying to torture it into some
connection with Mr. Huddlestone's danger, when a man entered the tavern
and asked for some bread and cheese with a decided foreign accent.

"Siete Italiano?" said I.

"Si, Signor," was his reply.

I said it was unusually far north to find one of his compatriots; at which
he shrugged his shoulders, and replied that a man would go anywhere to
find work. What work he could hope to find at Graden Wester, I was totally
unable to conceive; and the incident struck so unpleasantly upon my mind,
that I asked the landlord, while he was counting me some change, whether
he had ever before seen an Italian in the village. He said he had once
seen some Norwegians, who had been shipwrecked on the other side of Graden
Ness and rescued by the lifeboat from Cauldhaven.

"No!" said I; "but an Italian, like the man who has just had bread and
cheese."

"What?" cried he, "yon black-avised fellow wi' the teeth? Was he an
I-talian? Weel, yon's the first that ever I saw, an' I dare say he's like
to be the last."

Even as he was speaking, I raised my eyes, and, casting a glance into the
street, beheld three men in earnest conversation together, and not thirty
yards away. One of them was my recent companion in the tavern parlor; the
other two, by their handsome sallow features and soft hats, should
evidently belong to the same race. A crowd of village children stood
around them, gesticulating and talking gibberish in imitation. The trio
looked singularly foreign to the bleak dirty street in which they were
standing and the dark gray heaven that overspread them; and I confess my
incredulity received at that moment a shock from which it never recovered.
I might reason with myself as I pleased, but I could not argue down the
effect of what I had seen, and I began to share in the Italian terror.

It was already drawing toward the close of the day before I had returned
the newspapers to the manse, and got well forward on to the links on my
way home. I shall never forget that walk. It grew very cold and
boisterous; the wind sung in the short grass about my feet; thin rain
showers came running on the gusts; and an immense mountain range of
clouds began to arise out of the bosom of the sea. It would be hard to
imagine a more dismal evening; and whether it was from these external
influences, or because my nerves were already affected by what I had heard
and seen, my thoughts were as gloomy as the weather.

The upper windows of the pavilion commanded a considerable spread of links
in the direction of Graden Wester. To avoid observation, it was necessary
to hug the beach until I had gained cover from the higher sand hills on
the little headland, when I might strike across, through the hollows, for
the margin of the wood. The sun was about setting; the tide was low, and
all the quicksands uncovered; and I was moving along, lost in unpleasant
thought, when I was suddenly thunderstruck to perceive the prints of human
feet. They ran parallel to my own course, but low down upon the beach,
instead of along the border of the turf; and, when I examined them, I saw
at once, by the size and coarseness of the impression, that it was a
stranger to me and to those of the pavilion who had recently passed that
way. Not only so; but from the recklessness of the course which he had
followed, steering near to the most formidable portions of the sand, he
was evidently a stranger to the country and to the ill-repute of Graden
beach.

Step by step I followed the prints; until, a quarter of a mile farther, I
beheld them die away into the southeastern boundary of Graden Floe. There,
whoever he was, the miserable man had perished. One or two gulls, who had,
perhaps, seen him disappear, wheeled over his sepulcher with their usual
melancholy piping. The sun had broken through the clouds by a last effort,
and colored the wide level of quicksands with a dusky purple. I stood for
some time gazing at the spot, chilled and disheartened by my own
reflections, and with a strong and commanding consciousness of death. I
remember wondering how long the tragedy had taken, and whether his screams
had been audible at the pavilion. And then, making a strong resolution, I
was about to tear myself away, when a gust fiercer than usual fell upon
this quarter of the beach, and I saw, now whirling high in air, now
skimming lightly across the surface of the sands, a soft, black, felt hat,
somewhat conical in shape, such as I had remarked already on the heads of
the Italians.

I believe, but I am not sure, that I uttered a cry. The wind was driving
the hat shoreward, and I ran round the border of the floe to be ready
against its arrival. The gust fell, dropping the hat for awhile upon the
quicksand, and then, once more freshening, landed it a few yards from
where I stood. I seized it with the interest you may imagine. It had seen
some service; indeed, it was rustier than either of those I had seen that
day upon the street. The lining was red, stamped with the name of the
maker, which I have forgotten, and that of the place of manufacture,
Venedig. This (it is not yet forgotten) was the name given by the
Austrians to the beautiful city of Venice, then, and for long after, a
part of their dominions.

The shock was complete. I saw imaginary Italians upon every side; and for
the first, and, I may say, for the last time in my experience, became
overpowered by what is called a panic terror. I knew nothing, that is, to
be afraid of, and yet I admit that I was heartily afraid; and it was with
sensible reluctance that I returned to my exposed and solitary camp in the
Sea-Wood.

There I eat some cold porridge which had been left over from the night
before, for I was disinclined to make a fire; and, feeling strengthened
and reassured, dismissed all these fanciful terrors from my mind, and lay
down to sleep with composure.

How long I may have slept it is impossible for me to guess; but I was
awakened at last by a sudden, blinding flash of light into my face. It
woke me like a blow. In an instant I was upon my knees. But the light had
gone as suddenly as it came. The darkness was intense. And, as it was
blowing great guns from the sea, and pouring with rain, the noises of the
storm effectually concealed all others.

It was, I dare say, half a minute before I regained my self-possession.
But for two circumstances, I should have thought I had been awakened by
some new and vivid form of nightmare. First, the flap of my tent, which I
had shut carefully when I retired, was now unfastened; and, second, I
could still perceive, with a sharpness that excluded any theory of
hallucination, the smell of hot metal and of burning oil. The conclusion
was obvious. I had been awakened by some one flashing a bull's-eye lantern
in my face. It had been but a flash, and away. He had seen my face, and
then gone. I asked myself the object of so strange a proceeding, and the
answer came pat. The man, whoever he was, had thought to recognize me, and
he had not. There was another question unresolved; and to this, I may say,
I feared to give an answer; if he had recognized me, what would he have
done?

My fears were immediately diverted from myself, for I saw that I had been
visited in a mistake; and I became persuaded that some dreadful danger
threatened the pavilion. It required some nerve to issue forth into the
black and intricate thicket which surrounded and overhung the den; but I
groped my way to the links, drenched with rain, beaten upon and deafened
by the gusts, and fearing at every step to lay my hand upon some lurking
adversary. The darkness was so complete that I might have been surrounded
by an army and yet none the wiser, and the uproar of the gale so loud that
my hearing was as useless as my sight.

For the rest of that night, which seemed interminably long, I patrolled
the vicinity of the pavilion, without seeing a living creature or hearing
any noise but the concert of the wind, the sea, and the rain. A light in
the upper story filtered through a cranny of the shutter, and kept me
company till the approach of dawn.


V

With the first peep of day, I retired from the open to my old lair among
the sand hills, there to await the coming of my wife. The morning was
gray, wild, and melancholy; the wind moderated before sunrise, and then
went about, and blew in puffs from the shore; the sea began to go down,
but the rain still fell without mercy. Over all the wilderness of links
there was not a creature to be seen. Yet I felt sure the neighborhood was
alive with skulking foes. The light that had been so suddenly and
surprisingly flashed upon my face as I lay sleeping, and the hat that had
been blown ashore by the wind from over Graden Floe, were two speaking
signals of the peril that environed Clara and the party in the pavilion.

It was, perhaps, half-past seven, or nearer eight, before I saw the door
open, and that dear figure come toward me in the rain. I was waiting for
her on the beach before she had crossed the sand hills.

"I have had such trouble to come!" she cried. "They did not wish me to go
walking in the rain."

"Clara," I said, "you are not frightened!"

"No," said she, with a simplicity that filled my heart with confidence.
For my wife was the bravest as well as the best of women; in my
experience, I have not found the two go always together, but with her they
did; and she combined the extreme of fortitude with the most endearing and
beautiful virtues.

I told her what had happened; and, though her cheek grew visibly paler,
she retained perfect control over her senses.

"You see now that I am safe," said I, in conclusion. "They do not mean to
harm me; for, had they chosen, I was a dead man last night."

She laid her hand upon my arm.

"And I had no presentiment!" she cried.

Her accent thrilled me with delight. I put my arm about her, and strained
her to my side; and, before either of us was aware, her hands were on my
shoulders and my lips upon her mouth. Yet up to that moment no word of
love had passed between us. To this day I remember the touch of her cheek,
which was wet and cold with the rain; and many a time since, when she has
been washing her face, I have kissed it again for the sake of that morning
on the beach. Now that she is taken from me, and I finish my pilgrimage
alone, I recall our old loving kindnesses and the deep honesty and
affection which united us, and my present loss seems but a trifle in
comparison.

We may have thus stood for some seconds--for time passes quickly with
lovers--before we were startled by a peal of laughter close at hand. It
was not natural mirth, but seemed to be affected in order to conceal an
angrier feeling. We both turned, though I still kept my left arm about
Clara's waist; nor did she seek to withdraw herself; and there, a few
paces off upon the beach, stood Northmour, his head lowered, his hands
behind his back, his nostrils white with passion.

"Ah! Cassilis!" he said, as I disclosed my face.

"That same," said I; for I was not at all put about.

"And so, Miss Huddlestone," he continued slowly, but savagely, "this is
how you keep your faith to your father and to me? This is the value you
set upon your father's life? And you are so infatuated with this young
gentleman that you must brave ruin, and decency, and common human
caution--"

"Miss Huddlestone--" I was beginning to interrupt him, when he, in his
turn, cut in brutally--

"You hold your tongue," said he; "I am speaking to that girl."

"That girl, as you call her, is my wife," said I; and my wife only leaned
a little nearer, so that I knew she had affirmed my words.

"Your what?" he cried. "You lie!"

"Northmour," I said, "we all know you have a bad temper, and I am the last
man to be irritated by words. For all that, I propose that you speak
lower, for I am convinced that we are not alone."

He looked round him, and it was plain my remark had in some degree sobered
his passion. "What do you mean?" he asked.

I only said one word: "Italians."

He swore a round oath, and looked at us, from one to the other.

"Mr. Cassilis knows all that I know," said my wife.

"What I want to know," he broke out, "is where the devil Mr. Cassilis
comes from, and what the devil Mr. Cassilis is doing here. You say you are
married; that I do not believe. If you were, Graden Floe would soon
divorce you; four minutes and a half, Cassilis. I keep my private cemetery
for my friends."

"It took somewhat longer," said I, "for that Italian."

He looked at me for a moment half daunted, and then, almost civilly, asked
me to tell my story. "You have too much the advantage of me, Cassilis," he
added. I complied of course; and he listened, with several ejaculations,
while I told him how I had come to Graden: that it was I whom he had tried
to murder on the night of landing; and what I had subsequently seen and
heard of the Italians.

"Well," said he, when I had done, "it is here at last; there is no mistake
about that. And what, may I ask, do you propose to do?"

"I propose to stay with you and lend a hand," said I.

"You are a brave man," he returned, with a peculiar intonation.

"I am not afraid," said I.

"And so," he continued, "I am to understand that you two are married? And
you stand up to it before my face, Miss Huddlestone?"

"We are not yet married," said Clara; "but we shall be as soon as we can."

"Bravo!" cried Northmour. "And the bargain? D----n it, you're not a fool,
young woman; I may call a spade a spade with you. How about the bargain?
You know as well as I do what your father's life depends upon. I have
only to put my hands under my coat tails and walk away, and his throat
would be cut before the evening."

"Yes, Mr. Northmour," returned Clara, with great spirit; "but that is what
you will never do. You made a bargain that was unworthy of a gentleman;
but you are a gentleman for all that, and you will never desert a man whom
you have begun to help."

"Aha!" said he. "You think I will give my yacht for nothing? You think I
will risk my life and liberty for love of the old gentleman; and then, I
suppose, be best man at the wedding, to wind up? Well," he added, with an
odd smile, "perhaps you are not altogether wrong. But ask Cassilis here.
He knows me. Am I a man to trust? Am I safe and scrupulous? Am I kind?"

"I know you talk a great deal, and sometimes, I think, very foolishly,"
replied Clara, "but I know you are a gentleman, and I am not the least
afraid."

He looked at her with a peculiar approval and admiration; then, turning to
me, "Do you think I would give her up without





Next: The Dream Woman

Previous: The Fowl In The Pot



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 2006