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





The Owl's Ear The Piano Next Door facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback