The Baron's Quarry





"Oh, no, I assure you, you are not boring Mr. Marshfield," said this

personage himself in his gentle voice--that curious voice that could flow

on for hours, promulgating profound and startling theories on every

department of human knowledge or conducting paradoxical arguments without

a single inflection or pause of hesitation. "I am, on the contrary, much

interested in your hunting talk. To paraphrase a well-worn quotation

somewhat widely, nihil humanum a me alienum est. Even hunting stories

may have their point of biological interest; the philologist sometimes

pricks his ear to the jargon of the chase; moreover, I am not incapable of

appreciating the subject matter itself. This seems to excite some

derision. I admit I am not much of a sportsman to look at, nor, indeed, by

instinct, yet I have had some out-of-the-way experiences in that

line--generally when intent on other pursuits. I doubt, for instance, if

even you, Major Travers, notwithstanding your well-known exploits against

man and beast, notwithstanding that doubtful smile of yours, could match

the strangeness of a certain hunting adventure in which I played an

important part."



The speaker's small, deep-set, black eyes, that never warmed to anything

more human than a purely speculative scientific interest in his

surroundings, here wandered round the skeptical yet expectant circle with

bland amusement. He stretched out his bloodless fingers for another of his

host's superfine cigars and proceeded, with only such interruptions as

were occasioned by the lighting and careful smoking of the latter.



"I was returning home after my prolonged stay in Petersburg, intending to

linger on my way and test with mine own ears certain among the many

dialects of Eastern Europe--anent which there is a symmetrical little

cluster of philological knotty points it is my modest intention one day to

unravel. However, that is neither here nor there. On the road to Hungary I

bethought myself opportunely of proving the once pressingly offered

hospitality of the Baron Kossowski.



"You may have met the man, Major Travers; he was a tremendous sportsman,

if you like. I first came across him at McNeil's place in remote Ireland.

Now, being in Bukowina, within measurable distance of his Carpathian

abode, and curious to see a Polish lord at home, I remembered his

invitation. It was already of long standing, but it had been warm, born in

fact of a sudden fit of enthusiasm for me"--here a half-mocking smile

quivered an instant under the speaker's black mustache--"which, as it was

characteristic, I may as well tell you about.



"It was on the day of, or, rather, to be accurate, on the day after my

arrival, toward the small hours of the morning, in the smoking room at

Rathdrum. Our host was peacefully snoring over his empty pipe and his

seventh glass of whisky, also empty. The rest of the men had slunk off to

bed. The baron, who all unknown to himself had been a subject of most

interesting observation to me the whole evening, being now practically

alone with me, condescended to turn an eye, as wide awake as a fox's,

albeit slightly bloodshot, upon the contemptible white-faced person who

had preferred spending the raw hours over his papers, within the radius of

a glorious fire's warmth, to creeping slyly over treacherous quagmires in

the pursuit of timid bog creatures (snipe shooting had been the order of

the day)-the baron, I say, became aware of my existence and entered into

conversation with me.



"He would no doubt have been much surprised could he have known that he

was already mapped out, craniologically and physiognomically, catalogued

with care and neatly laid by in his proper ethnological box, in my private

type museum; that, as I sat and examined him from my different coigns of

vantage in library, in dining and smoking room that evening, not a look of

his, not a gesture went forth but had significance for me.



"You, I had thought, with your broad shoulders and deep chest; your

massive head that should have gone with a tall stature, not with those

short sturdy limbs; with your thick red hair, that should have been black

for that matter, as should your wide-set yellow eyes--you would be a real

puzzle to one who did not recognize in you equal mixtures of the fair,

stalwart and muscular Slav with the bilious-sanguine, thick-set, wiry

Turanian. Your pedigree would no doubt bear me out: there is as much of

the Magyar as of the Pole in your anatomy. Athlete, and yet a tangle of

nerves; a ferocious brute at bottom, I dare say, for your broad forehead

inclines to flatness; under your bristling beard your jaw must protrude,

and the base of your skull is ominously thick. And, with all that, capable

of ideal transports: when that girl played and sang to-night I saw the

swelling of your eyelid veins, and how that small, tenacious, claw-like

hand of yours twitched! You would be a fine leader of men--but God help

the wretches in your power!



"So had I mused upon him. Yet I confess that when we came in closer

contact with each other, even I was not proof against the singular

courtesy of his manner and his unaccountable personal charm.



"Our conversation soon grew interesting; to me as a matter of course, and

evidently to him also. A few general words led to interchange of remarks

upon the country we were both visitors in and so to national

characteristics--Pole and Irishman have not a few in common, both in their

nature and history. An observation which he made, not without a certain

flash in his light eyes and a transient uncovering of the teeth, on the

Irish type of female beauty suddenly suggested to me a stanza of an

ancient Polish ballad, very full of milk-and-blood imagery, of alternating

ferocity and voluptuousness. This I quoted to the astounded foreigner in

the vernacular, and this it was that metamorphosed his mere perfection of

civility into sudden warmth, and, in fact, procured me the invitation in

question.



"When I left Rathdrum the baron's last words to me were that if I ever

thought of visiting his country otherwise than in books, he held me bound

to make Yany, his Galician seat, my headquarters of study.



"From Czernowicz, therefore, where I stopped some time, I wrote, received

in due time a few lines of prettily worded reply, and ultimately entered

my sled in the nearest town to, yet at a most forbidding distance from,

Yany, and started on my journey thither.



"The undertaking meant many long hours of undulation and skidding over the

November snow, to the somniferous bell jangle of my dirty little horses,

the only impression of interest being a weird gypsy concert I came in for

at a miserable drinking-booth half buried in the snow where we halted for

the refreshment of man and beast. Here, I remember, I discovered a very

definite connection between the characteristic run of the tsimbol, the

peculiar bite of the Zigeuner's bow on his fiddle-string, and some

distinctive points of Turanian tongues. In other countries, in Spain, for

instance, your gypsy speaks differently on his instrument. But, oddly

enough, when I later attempted to put this observation on paper I could

find no word to express it."



A few of our company evinced signs of sleepiness, but most of us who knew

Marshfield, and that he could, unless he had something novel to say, be as

silent and retiring as he now evinced signs of being copious, awaited

further developments with patience. He has his own deliberate way of

speaking, which he evidently enjoys greatly, though it be occasionally

trying to his listeners.



"On the afternoon of my second day's drive, the snow, which till then had

fallen fine and continuous, ceased, and my Jehu, suddenly interrupting

himself in the midst of some exciting wolf story quite in keeping with the

time of year and the wild surroundings, pointed to a distant spot against

the gray sky to the northwest, between two wood-covered folds of

ground--the first eastern spurs of the great Carpathian chain.



"'There stands Yany,' said he. I looked at my far-off goal with interest.

As we drew nearer, the sinking sun, just dipping behind the hills, tinged

the now distinct frontage with a cold copper-like gleam, but it was only

for a minute; the next the building became nothing more to the eye than a

black irregular silhouette against the crimson sky.



"Before we entered the long, steep avenue of poplars, the early winter

darkness was upon us, rendered all the more depressing by gray mists which

gave a ghostly aspect to such objects as the sheen of the snow rendered

visible. Once or twice there were feeble flashes of light looming in

iridescent halos as we passed little clusters of hovels, but for which I

should have been induced to fancy that the great Hof stood alone in the

wilderness, such was the deathly stillness around. But even as the tall,

square building rose before us above the vapor, yellow lighted in various

stories, and mighty in height and breadth, there broke upon my ear a

deep-mouthed, menacing bay, which gave at once almost alarming reality to

the eerie surroundings. 'His lordship's boar and wolf hounds,' quoth my

charioteer calmly, unmindful of the regular pandemonium, of howls and

barks which ensued as he skillfully turned his horses through the gateway

and flogged the tired beasts into a sort of shambling canter that we might

land with glory before the house door: a weakness common, I believe, to

drivers of all nations.



"I alighted in the court of honor, and while awaiting an answer to my tug

at the bell, stood, broken with fatigue, depressed, chilled and aching,

questioning the wisdom of my proceedings and the amount of comfort,

physical and moral, that was likely to await me in a tete-a-tete visit

with a well-mannered savage in his own home.



"The unkempt tribe of stable retainers who began to gather round me and my

rough vehicle in the gloom, with their evil-smelling sheepskins and their

resigned, battered visages, were not calculated to reassure me. Yet when

the door opened, there stood a smart chasseur and a solemn major-domo who

might but just have stepped out of Mayfair; and there was displayed a

spreading vista of warm, deep-colored halls, with here a statue and there

a stuffed bear, and under foot pile carpets strewn with rarest skins.



"Marveling, yet comforted withal, I followed the solemn butler, who

received me with the deference due to an expected guest and expressed the

master's regret for his enforced absence till dinner time. I traversed

vast rooms, each more sumptuous than the last, feeling the strangeness of

the contrast between the outer desolation and this sybaritic excess of

luxury growing ever more strongly upon me; caught a glimpse of a picture

gallery, where peculiar yet admirably executed latter-day French pictures

hung side by side with ferocious boar hunts of Snyder and such kin; and,

at length, was ushered into a most cheerful room, modern to excess in its

comfortable promise, where, in addition to the tall stove necessary for

warmth, there burned on an open hearth a vastly pleasant fire of resinous

logs, and where, on a low table, awaited me a dainty service of fragrant

Russian tea.



"My impression of utter novelty seemed somehow enhanced by this unexpected

refinement in the heart of the solitudes and in such a rugged shell, and

yet, when I came to reflect, it was only characteristic of my cosmopolitan

host. But another surprise was in store for me.



"When I had recovered bodily warmth and mental equilibrium in my downy

armchair, before the roaring logs, and during the delicious absorption of

my second glass of tea, I turned my attention to the French valet,

evidently the baron's own man, who was deftly unpacking my portmanteau,

and who, unless my practiced eye deceived me, asked for nothing better

than to entertain me with agreeable conversation the while.



"'Your master is out, then?' quoth I, knowing that the most trivial remark

would suffice to start him.



"True, Monseigneur was out; he was desolated in despair (this with the

national amiable and imaginative instinct); 'but it was doubtless

important business. M. le Baron had the visit of his factor during the

midday meal; had left the table hurriedly, and had not been seen since.

Madame la Baronne had been a little suffering, but she would receive

monsieur!'



"'Madame!' exclaimed I, astounded, 'is your master then married?--since

when?'--visions of a fair Tartar, fit mate for my baron, immediately

springing somewhat alluringly before my mental vision. But the answer

dispelled the picturesque fancy.



"'Oh, yes,' said the man, with a somewhat peculiar expression. 'Yes,

Monseigneur is married. Did Monsieur not know? And yet it was from England

that Monseigneur brought back his wife.'



"'An Englishwoman!'



"My first thought was one of pity; an Englishwoman alone in this

wilderness--two days' drive from even a railway station--and at the mercy

of Kossowski! But the next minute I reversed my judgment. Probably she

adored her rufous lord, took his veneer of courtesy--a veneer of the most

exquisite polish, I grant you, but perilously thin--for the very

perfection of chivalry. Or perchance it was his inner savageness itself

that charmed her; the most refined women often amaze one by the

fascination which the preponderance of the brute in the opposite sex seems

to have for them.



"I was anxious to hear more.



"'Is it not dull for the lady here at this time of the year?'



"The valet raised his shoulders with a gesture of despair that was almost

passionate.



"Dull! Ah, monsieur could not conceive to himself the dullness of it. That

poor Madame la Baronne! not even a little child to keep her company on the

long, long days when there was nothing but snow in the heaven and on the

earth and the howling of the wind and the dogs to cheer her. At the

beginning, indeed, it had been different; when the master first brought

home his bride the house was gay enough. It was all redecorated and

refurnished to receive her (monsieur should have seen it before, a mere

rendezvous-de-chasse--for the matter of that so were all the country

houses in these parts). Ah, that was the good time! There were visits

month after month; parties, sleighing, dancing, trips to St. Petersburg

and Vienna. But this year it seemed they were to have nothing but boars

and wolves. How madame could stand it--well, it was not for him to

speak--and heaving a deep sigh he delicately inserted my white tie round

my collar, and with a flourish twisted it into an irreproachable bow

beneath my chin. I did not think it right to cross-examine the willing

talker any further, especially as, despite his last asseveration, there

were evidently volumes he still wished to pour forth; but I confess that,

as I made my way slowly out of my room along the noiseless length of

passage, I was conscious of an unwonted, not to say vulgar, curiosity

concerning the woman who had captivated such a man as the Baron Kossowski.



"In a fit of speculative abstraction I must have taken the wrong turning,

for I presently found myself in a long, narrow passage. I did not

remember. I was retracing my steps when there came the sound of rapid

footfalls upon stone flags; a little door flew open in the wall close to

me, and a small, thick-set man, huddled in the rough sheepskin of the

Galician peasant, with a mangy fur cap on his head, nearly ran headlong

into my arms. I was about condescendingly to interpellate him in my best

Polish, when I caught the gleam of an angry yellow eye and noted the

bristle of a red beard--Kossowski!



"Amazed, I fell back a step in silence. With a growl like an uncouth

animal disturbed, he drew his filthy cap over his brow with a savage

gesture and pursued his way down the corridor at a sort of wild-boar trot.



"This first meeting between host and guest was so odd, so incongruous,

that it afforded me plenty of food for a fresh line of conjecture as I

traced my way back to the picture gallery, and from thence successfully to

the drawing room, which, as the door was ajar, I could not this time

mistake.



"It was large and lofty and dimly lit by shaded lamps; through the rosy

gloom I could at first only just make out a slender figure by the hearth;

but as I advanced, this was resolved into a singularly graceful woman in

clinging, fur-trimmed velvet gown, who, with one hand resting on the high

mantelpiece, the other hanging listlessly by her side, stood gazing down

at the crumbling wood fire as if in a dream.



"My friends are kind enough to say that I have a cat-like tread; I know

not how that may be; at any rate the carpet I was walking upon was thick

enough to smother a heavier footfall: not until I was quite close to her

did my hostess become aware of my presence. Then she started violently and

looked over her shoulder at me with dilating eyes. Evidently a nervous

creature, I saw the pulse in her throat, strained by her attitude, flutter

like a terrified bird.



"The next instant she had stretched out her hand with sweet English words

of welcome, and the face, which I had been comparing in my mind to that of

Guido's Cenci, became transformed by the arch and exquisite smile of a

Greuse. For more than two years I had had no intercourse with any of my

nationality. I could conceive the sound of his native tongue under such

circumstances moving a man in a curious unexpected fashion.



"I babbled some commonplace reply, after which there was silence while we

stood opposite each other, she looking at me expectantly. At length, with

a sigh checked by a smile and an overtone of sadness in a voice that yet

tried to be sprightly:



"'Am I then so changed, Mr. Marshfield?' she asked. And all at once I knew

her: the girl whose nightingale throat had redeemed the desolation of the

evenings at Rathdrum, whose sunny beauty had seemed (even to my

celebrated cold-blooded aestheticism) worthy to haunt a man's dreams. Yes,

there was the subtle curve of the waist, the warm line of throat, the

dainty foot, the slender tip-tilted fingers--witty fingers, as I had

classified them--which I now shook like a true Briton, instead of availing

myself of the privilege the country gave me, and kissing her slender

wrist.



"But she was changed; and I told her so with unconventional frankness,

studying her closely as I spoke.



"'I am afraid,' I said gravely, 'that this place does not agree with you.'



"She shrank from my scrutiny with a nervous movement and flushed to the

roots of her red-brown hair. Then she answered coldly that I was wrong,

that she was in excellent health, but that she could not expect any more

than other people to preserve perennial youth (I rapidly calculated she

might be two-and-twenty), though, indeed, with a little forced laugh, it

was scarcely flattering to hear one had altered out of all recognition.

Then, without allowing me time to reply, she plunged into a general topic

of conversation which, as I should have been obtuse indeed not to take the

hint, I did my best to keep up.



"But while she talked of Vienna and Warsaw, of her distant neighbors, and

last year's visitors, it was evident that her mind was elsewhere; her eye

wandered, she lost the thread of her discourse, answered me at random, and

smiled her piteous smile incongruously.



"However lonely she might be in her solitary splendor, the company of a

countryman was evidently no such welcome diversion.



"After a little while she seemed to feel herself that she was lacking in

cordiality, and, bringing her absent gaze to bear upon me with a puzzled

strained look: 'I fear you will find it very dull,' she said, 'my husband

is so wrapped up this winter in his country life and his sport. You are

the first visitor we have had. There is nothing but guns and horses here,

and you do not care for these things.'



"The door creaked behind us; and the baron entered, in faultless evening

dress. Before she turned toward him I was sharp enough to catch again the

upleaping of a quick dread in her eyes, not even so much dread perhaps, I

thought afterwards, as horror--the horror we notice in some animals at the

nearing of a beast of prey. It was gone in a second, and she was smiling.

But it was a revelation.



"Perhaps he beat her in Russian fashion, and she, as an Englishwoman, was

narrow-minded enough to resent this; or perhaps, merely, I had the

misfortune to arrive during a matrimonial misunderstanding.



"The baron would not give me leisure to reflect; he was so very effusive

in his greeting--not a hint of our previous meeting--unlike my hostess,

all in all to me; eager to listen, to reply; almost affectionate, full of

references to old times and genial allusions. No doubt when he chose he

could be the most charming of men; there were moments when, looking at him

in his quiet smile and restrained gesture, the almost exaggerated

politeness of his manner to his wife, whose fingers he had kissed with

pretty, old-fashioned gallantry upon his entrance, I asked myself, Could

that encounter in the passage have been a dream? Could that savage in the

sheepskin be my courteous entertainer?



"Just as I came in, did I hear my wife say there was nothing for you to do

in this place?" he said presently to me. Then, turning to her:



"You do not seem to know Mr. Marshfield. Wherever he can open his eyes

there is for him something to see which might not interest other men. He

will find things in my library which I have no notion of. He will discover

objects for scientific observation in all the members of my household, not

only in the good-looking maids--though he could, I have no doubt, tell

their points as I could those of a horse. We have maidens here of several

distinct races, Marshfield. We have also witches, and Jew leeches, and

holy daft people. In any case, Yany, with all its dependencies, material,

male and female, are at your disposal, for what you can make out of them.



"'It is good," he went on gayly, 'that you should happen to have this

happy disposition, for I fear that, no later than to-morrow, I may have to

absent myself from home. I have heard that there are news of wolves--they

threaten to be a greater pest than usual this winter, but I am going to

drive them on quite a new plan, and it will go hard with me if I don't

come even with them. Well for you, by the way, Marshfield, that you did

not pass within their scent to-day.' Then, musingly: 'I should not give

much for the life of a traveler who happened to wander in these parts just

now.' Here he interrupted himself hastily and went over to his wife, who

had sunk back on her chair, livid, seemingly on the point of swooning.



"His gaze was devouring; so might a man look at the woman he adored, in

his anxiety.



"'What! faint, Violet, alarmed!' His voice was subdued, yet there was an

unmistakable thrill of emotion in it.



"'Pshaw!' thought I to myself, 'the man is a model husband.'



"She clinched her hands, and by sheer force of will seemed to pull herself

together. These nervous women have often an unexpected fund of strength.



"'Come, that is well,' said the baron with a flickering smile; 'Mr.

Marshfield will think you but badly acclimatized to Poland if a little

wolf scare can upset you. My dear wife is so soft-hearted,' he went on to

me, 'that she is capable of making herself quite ill over the sad fate

that might have, but has not, overcome you. Or, perhaps,' he added, in a

still gentler voice, 'her fear is that I may expose myself to danger for

the public weal.'



"She turned her head away, but I saw her set her teeth as if to choke a

sob. The baron chuckled in his throat and seemed to luxuriate in the

pleasant thought.



"At this moment folding doors were thrown open, and supper was announced.

I offered my arm, she rose and took it in silence. This silence she

maintained during the first part of the meal, despite her husband's

brilliant conversation and almost uproarious spirits. But by and by a

bright color mounted to her cheeks and luster to her eyes. I suppose you

will think me horribly unpoetical if I add that she drank several glasses

of champagne one after the other, a fact which perhaps may account for the

change.



"At any rate she spoke and laughed and looked lovely, and I did not wonder

that the baron could hardly keep his eyes off her. But whether it was her

wifely anxiety or not--it was evident her mind was not at ease through it

all, and I fancied that her brightness was feverish, her merriment

slightly hysterical.



"After supper--an exquisite one it was--we adjourned together, in foreign

fashion, to the drawing-room; the baron threw himself into a chair and,

somewhat with the air of a pasha, demanded music. He was flushed; the

veins of his forehead were swollen and stood out like cords; the wine

drunk at table was potent: even through my phlegmatic frame it ran hotly.



"She hesitated a moment or two, then docilely sat down to the piano. That

she could sing I have already made clear: how she could sing, with what

pathos, passion, as well as perfect art, I had never realized before.



"When the song was ended she remained for a while, with eyes lost in

distance, very still, save for her quick breathing. It was clear she was

moved by the music; indeed she must have thrown her whole soul into it.



"At first we, the audience, paid her the rare compliment of silence. Then

the baron broke forth into loud applause. 'Brava, brava! that was really

said con amore. A delicious love song, delicious--but French! You must

sing one of our Slav melodies for Marshfield before you allow us to go and

smoke.'



"She started from her reverie with a flush, and after a pause struck

slowly a few simple chords, then began one of those strangely sweet, yet

intensely pathetic Russian airs, which give one a curious revelation of

the profound, endless melancholy lurking in the national mind.



"'What do you think of it?' asked the baron of me when it ceased.



"'What I have always thought of such music--it is that of a hopeless

people; poetical, crushed, and resigned.'



"He gave a loud laugh. 'Hear the analyst, the psychologue--why, man, it is

a love song! Is it possible that we, uncivilized, are truer realists than

our hypercultured Western neighbors? Have we gone to the root of the

matter, in our simple way?'



"The baroness got up abruptly. She looked white and spent; there were

bister circles round her eyes.



"'I am tired,' she said, with dry lips. 'You will excuse me, Mr.

Marshfield, I must really go to bed.'



"'Go to bed, go to bed,' cried her husband gayly. Then, quoting in Russian

from the song she had just sung: 'Sleep, my little soft white dove: my

little innocent tender lamb!' She hurried from the room. The baron laughed

again, and, taking me familiarly by the arm, led me to his own set of

apartments for the promised smoke. He ensconced me in an armchair, placed

cigars of every description and a Turkish pipe ready to my hand, and a

little table on which stood cut-glass flasks and beakers in tempting

array.



"After I had selected my cigar with some precautions, I glanced at him

over a careless remark, and was startled to see a sudden alteration in his

whole look and attitude.



"'You will forgive me, Marshfield,' he said, as he caught my eye, speaking

with spasmodic politeness. 'It is more than probable that I shall have to

set out upon this chase I spoke of to-night, and I must now go and change

my clothes, that I may be ready to start at any moment. This is the hour

when it is most likely these hell beasts are to be got at. You have all

you want, I hope,' interrupting an outbreak of ferocity by an effort after

his former courtesy.



"It was curious to watch the man of the world struggling with the

primitive man.



"'But, baron,' said I, 'I do not at all see the fun of sticking at home

like this. You know my passion for witnessing everything new, strange, and

outlandish. You will surely not refuse me such an opportunity for

observation as a midnight wolf raid. I will do my best not to be in the

way if you will take me with you.'



"At first it seemed as if he had some difficulty in realizing the drift of

my words, he was so engrossed by some inner thought. But as I repeated

them, he gave vent to a loud cachinnation.



"'By heaven! I like your spirit,' he exclaimed, clapping me strongly on

the shoulder. 'Of course you shall come. You shall,' he repeated, 'and I

promise you a sight, a hunt such as you never heard or dreamed of--you

will be able to tell them in England the sort of thing we can do here in

that line--such wolves are rare quarry,' he added, looking slyly at me,

'and I have a new plan for getting at them.'



"There was a long pause, and then there rose in the stillness the

unearthly howling of the baron's hounds, a cheerful sound which only their

owner's somewhat loud converse of the evening had kept from becoming

excessively obtrusive.



"'Hark at them--the beauties!' cried he, showing his short, strong teeth,

pointed like a dog's in a wide grin of anticipative delight. 'They have

been kept on pretty short commons, poor things! They are hungry. By the

way, Marshfield, you can sit tight to a horse, I trust? If you were to

roll off, you know, these splendid fellows--they would chop you up in a

second. They would chop you up,' he repeated unctuously, 'snap, crunch,

gobble, and there would be an end of you!'



"'If I could not ride a decent horse without being thrown,' I retorted, a

little stung by his manner, 'after my recent three months' torture with

the Guard Cossacks, I should indeed be a hopeless subject. Do not think of

frightening me from the exploit, but say frankly if my company would be

displeasing.'



"'Tut!' he said, waving his hand impatiently, 'it is your affair. I have

warned you. Go and get ready if you want to come. Time presses.'



"I was determined to be of the fray; my blood was up. I have hinted that

the baron's Tokay had stirred it.



"I went to my room and hurriedly donned clothes more suitable for rough

night work. My last care was to slip into my pockets a brace of

double-barreled pistols which formed part of my traveling kit. When I

returned I found the baron already booted and spurred; this without

metaphor. He was stretched full length on the divan, and did not speak as

I came in, or even look at me. Chewing an unlit cigar, with eyes fixed on

the ceiling, he was evidently following some absorbing train of ideas.



"The silence was profound; time went by; it grew oppressive; at length,

wearied out, I fell, over my chibouque, into a doze filled with puzzling

visions, out of which I was awakened with a start. My companion had sprung

up, very lightly, to his feet. In his throat was an odd, half-suppressed

cry, grewsome to hear. He stood on tiptoe, with eyes fixed, as though

looking through the wall, and I distinctly saw his ears point in the

intensity of his listening.



"After a moment, with hasty, noiseless energy, and without the slightest

ceremony, he blew the lamps out, drew back the heavy curtains and threw

the tall window wide open. A rush of icy air, and the bright rays of the

moon--gibbous, I remember, in her third quarter--filled the room. Outside

the mist had condensed, and the view was unrestricted over the white

plains at the foot of the hill.



"The baron stood motionless in the open window, callous to the cold in

which, after a minute, I could hardly keep my teeth from chattering, his

head bent forward, still listening. I listened too, with 'all my ears,'

but could not catch a sound; indeed the silence over the great expanse of

snow might have been called awful; even the dogs were mute.



"Presently, far, far away, came a faint tinkle of bells; so faint, at

first, that I thought it was but fancy, then distincter. It was even more

eerie than the silence, I thought, though I knew it could come but from

some passing sleigh. All at once that ceased, and again my duller senses

could perceive nothing, though I saw by my host's craning neck that he was

more on the alert than ever. But at last I too heard once more, this time

not bells, but as it were the tread of horses muffled by the snow,

intermittent and dull, yet drawing nearer. And then in the inner silence

of the great house it seemed to me I caught the noise of closing doors;

but here the hounds, as if suddenly becoming alive to some disturbance,

raised the same fearsome concert of yells and barks with which they had

greeted my arrival, and listening became useless.



"I had risen to my feet. My host, turning from the window, seized my

shoulder with a fierce grip, and bade me 'hold my noise'; for a second or

two I stood motionless under his iron talons, then he released me with an

exultant whisper: "Now for our chase!" and made for the door with a

spring. Hastily gulping down a mouthful of arrack from one of the bottles

on the table, I followed him, and, guided by the sound of his footsteps

before me, groped my way through passages as black as Erebus.



"After a time, which seemed a long one, a small door was flung open in

front, and I saw Kossowski glide into the moonlit courtyard and cross the

square. When I too came out he was disappearing into the gaping darkness

of the open stable door, and there I overtook him.



"A man who seemed to have been sleeping in a corner jumped up at our

entrance, and led out a horse ready saddled. In obedience to a gruff order

from his master, as the latter mounted, he then brought forward another

which he had evidently thought to ride himself and held the stirrup for

me.



"We came delicately forth, and the Cossack hurriedly barred the great door

behind us. I caught a glimpse of his worn, scarred face by the moonlight,

as he peeped after us for a second before shutting himself in; it was

stricken with terror.



"The baron trotted briskly toward the kennels, from whence there was now

issuing a truly infernal clangor, and, as my steed followed suit of his

own accord, I could see how he proceeded dexterously to unbolt the gates

without dismounting, while the beasts within dashed themselves against

them and tore the ground in their fury of impatience.



"He smiled, as he swung back the barriers at last, and his 'beauties' came

forth. Seven or eight monstrous brutes, hounds of a kind unknown to me:

fulvous and sleek of coat, tall on their legs, square-headed, long-tailed,

deep-chested; with terrible jaws slobbering in eagerness. They leaped

around and up at us, much to our horses' distaste. Kossowski, still

smiling, lashed at them unsparingly with his hunting whip, and they

responded, not with yells of pain, but with snarls of fury.



"Managing his restless steed and his cruel whip with consummate ease, my

host drove the unruly crew before him out of the precincts, then halted

and bent down from his saddle to examine some slight prints in the snow

which led, not the way I had come, but toward what seemed another avenue.

In a second or two the hounds were gathered round this spot, their great

snake-like tails quivering, nose to earth, yelping with excitement. I had

some ado to manage my horse, and my eyesight was far from being as keen as

the baron's, but I had then no doubt he had come already upon wolf tracks,

and I shuddered mentally, thinking of the sleigh bells.



"Suddenly Kossowski raised himself from his strained position; under his

low fur cap his face, with its fixed smile, looked scarcely human in the

white light: and then we broke into a hand canter just as the hounds

dashed, in a compact body, along the trail.



"But we had not gone more than a few hundred yards before they began to

falter, then straggled, stopped and ran back and about with dismal cries.

It was clear to me they had lost the scent. My companion reined in his

horse, and mine, luckily a well-trained brute, halted of himself.



"We had reached a bend in a broad avenue of firs and larches, and just

where we stood, and where the hounds ever returned and met nose to nose in

frantic conclave, the snow was trampled and soiled, and a little farther

on planed in a great sweep, as if by a turning sleigh. Beyond was a

double-furrowed track of skaits and regular hoof prints leading far away.



"Before I had time to reflect upon the bearing of this unexpected

interruption, Kossowski, as if suddenly possessed by a devil, fell upon

the hounds with his whip, flogging them upon the new track, uttering the

while the most savage cries I have ever heard issue from human throat. The

disappointed beasts were nothing loath to seize upon another trail; after

a second of hesitation they had understood, and were off upon it at a

tearing pace, we after them at the best speed of our horses.



"Some unformed idea that we were going to escort, or rescue, benighted

travelers flickered dimly in my mind as I galloped through the night air;

but when I managed to approach my companion and called out to him for

explanation, he only turned half round and grinned at me.



"Before us lay now the white plain, scintillating under the high moon's

rays. That light is deceptive; I could be sure of nothing upon the wide

expanse but of the dark, leaping figures of the hounds already spread out

in a straggling line, some right ahead, others just in front of us. In a

short time also the icy wind, cutting my face mercilessly as we increased

our pace, well nigh blinded me with tears of cold.



"I can hardly realize how long this pursuit after an unseen prey lasted; I

can only remember that I was getting rather faint with fatigue, and

ignominiously held on to my pommel, when all of a sudden the black outline

of a sleigh merged into sight in front of us.



"I rubbed my smarting eyes with my benumbed hand; we were gaining upon it

second by second; two of those hell hounds of the baron's were already

within a few leaps of it.



"Soon I was able to make out two figures, one standing up and urging the

horses on with whip and voice, the other clinging to the back seat and

looking toward us in an attitude of terror. A great fear crept into my

half-frozen brain--were we not bringing deadly danger instead of help to

these travelers? Great God! did the baron mean to use them as a bait for

his new method of wolf hunting?



"I would have turned upon Kossowski with a cry of expostulation or

warning, but he, urging on his hounds as he galloped on their flank,

howling and gesticulating like a veritable Hun, passed me by like a

flash--and all at once I knew."



Marshfield paused for a moment and sent his pale smile round upon his

listeners, who now showed no signs of sleepiness; he knocked the ash from

his cigar, twisted the latter round in his mouth, and added dryly:



"And I confess it seemed to me a little strong even for a baron in the

Carpathians. The travelers were our quarry. But the reason why the Lord of

Yany had turned man-hunter I was yet to learn. Just then I had to direct

my energies to frustrating his plans. I used my spurs mercilessly. While I

drew up even with him I saw the two figures in the sleigh change places;

he who had hitherto driven now faced back, while his companion took the

reins, there was the pale blue sheen of a revolver barrel under the

moonlight, followed by a yellow flash, and the nearest hound rolled over

in the snow.



"With an oath the baron twisted round in his saddle to call up and urge on

the remainder. My horse had taken fright at the report and dashed

irresistibly forward, bringing me at once almost level with the fugitives,

and the next instant the revolver was turned menacingly toward me. There

was no time to explain; my pistol was already drawn, and as another of the

brutes bounded up, almost under my horse's feet, I loosed it upon him. I

must have let off both barrels at once, for the weapon flew out of my

hand, but the hound's back was broken. I presume the traveler understood;

at any rate, he did not fire at me.



"In moments of intense excitement like these, strangely enough, the mind

is extraordinarily open to impressions. I shall never forget that man's

countenance in the sledge, as he stood upright and defied us in his mortal

danger; it was young, very handsome, the features not distorted, but set

into a sort of desperate, stony calm, and I knew it, beyond all doubt, for

that of an Englishman. And then I saw his companion--it was the baron's

wife. And I understood why the bells had been removed.



"It takes a long time to say this; it only required an instant to see it.

The loud explosion of my pistol had hardly ceased to ring before the

baron, with a fearful imprecation, was upon me. First he lashed at me with

his whip as we tore along side by side, and then I saw him wind the reins

round his off arm and bend over, and I felt his angry fingers close

tightly on my right foot. The next instant I should have been lifted out

of my saddle, but there came another shot from the sledge. The baron's

horse plunged and stumbled, and the baron, hanging on to my foot with a

fierce grip, was wrenched from his seat. His horse, however, was up again

immediately, and I was released, and then I caught a confused glimpse of

the frightened and wounded animal galloping wildly away to the right,

leaving a black track of blood behind him in the snow, his master,

entangled in the reins, running with incredible swiftness by his side and

endeavoring to vault back into the saddle.



"And now came to pass a terrible thing which, in his savage plans, my host

had doubtless never anticipated.



"One of the hounds that had during this short check recovered lost ground,

coming across this hot trail of blood, turned away from his course, and

with a joyous yell darted after the running man. In another instant the

remainder of the pack was upon the new scent.



"As soon as I could stop my horse, I tried to turn him in the direction

the new chase had taken, but just then, through the night air, over the

receding sound of the horse's scamper and the sobbing of the pack in full

cry, there came a long scream, and after that a sickening silence. And I

knew that somewhere yonder, under the beautiful moonlight, the Baron

Kossowski was being devoured by his starving dogs.



"I looked round, with the sweat on my face, vaguely, for some human being

to share the horror of the moment, and I saw, gliding away, far away in

the white distance, the black silhouette of the sledge."



"Well?" said we, in divers tones of impatience, curiosity, or horror,

according to our divers temperaments, as the speaker uncrossed his legs

and gazed at us in mild triumph, with all the air of having said his say,

and satisfactorily proved his point.



"Well," repeated he, "what more do you want to know? It will interest you

but slightly, I am sure, to hear how I found my way back to the Hof; or

how I told as much as I deemed prudent of the evening's grewsome work to

the baron's servants, who, by the way, to my amazement, displayed the

profoundest and most unmistakable sorrow at the tidings, and sallied forth

(at their head the Cossack who had seen us depart) to seek for his

remains. Excuse the unpleasantness of the remark: I fear the dogs must

have left very little of him, he had dieted them so carefully. However,

since it was to have been a case of 'chop, crunch, and gobble,' as the

baron had it, I preferred that that particular fate should have overtaken

him rather than me--or, for that matter, either of those two country

people of ours in the sledge.



"Nor am I going to inflict upon you," continued Marshfield, after draining

his glass, "a full account of my impressions when I found myself once more

in that immense, deserted, and stricken house, so luxuriously prepared for

the mistress who had fled from it; how I philosophized over all this,

according to my wont; the conjectures I made as to the first acts of the

drama; the untold sufferings my countrywoman must have endured from the

moment her husband first grew jealous till she determined on this

desperate step; as to how and when she had met her lover, how they

communicated, and how the baron had discovered the intended flitting in

time to concoct his characteristic revenge.



"One thing you may be sure of, I had no mind to remain at Yany an hour

longer than necessary. I even contrived to get well clear of the

neighborhood before the lady's absence was discovered. Luckily for me--or

I might have been taxed with connivance, though indeed the simple

household did not seem to know what suspicion was, and accepted my account

with childlike credence--very typical, and very convenient to me at the

same time."



"But how do you know," said one of us, "that the man was her lover? He

might have been her brother or some other relative."



"That," said Marshfield, with his little flat laugh, "I happen to have

ascertained--and, curiously enough, only a few weeks ago. It was at the

play, between the acts, from my comfortable seat (the first row in the

pit). I was looking leisurely round the house when I caught sight of a

woman, in a box close by, whose head was turned from me, and who presented

the somewhat unusual spectacle of a young neck and shoulders of the most

exquisite contour--and perfectly gray hair; and not dull gray, but rather

of a pleasing tint like frosted silver. This aroused my curiosity. I

brought my glasses to a focus on her and waited patiently till she turned

round. Then I recognized the Baroness Kassowski, and I no longer wondered

at the young hair being white.



"Yet she looked placid and happy; strangely so, it seemed to me, under the

sudden reviving in my memory of such scenes as I have now described. But

presently I understood further: beside her, in close attendance, was the

man of the sledge, a handsome fellow with much of a military air about

him.



"During the course of the evening, as I watched, I saw a friend of mine

come into the box, and at the end I slipped out into the passage to catch

him as he came out.



"'Who is the woman with the white hair?' I asked. Then, in the fragmentary

style approved of by ultra-fashionable young men--this earnest-languid

mode of speech presents curious similarities in all languages--he told me:

'Most charming couple in London--awfully pretty, wasn't she?--he had been

in the Guards--attache at Vienna once--they adored each other. White hair,

devilish queer, wasn't it? Suited her, somehow. And then she had been

married to a Russian, or something, somewhere in the wilds, and their

names were--' But do you know," said Marshfield, interrupting himself, "I

think I had better let you find that out for yourselves, if you care."





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