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1﻿The Project Gutenberg EBook of The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers
2
3This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
4almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
5re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
6with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
7
8
9Title: The King in Yellow
10
11Author: Robert W. Chambers
12
13Posting Date: September 10, 2012 [EBook #8492]
14Release Date: July, 2005
15First Posted: July 16, 2003
16
17Language: English
18
19
20*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE KING IN YELLOW ***
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25Produced by Suzanne Shell, Beth Trapaga, Charles Franks,
26and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
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38THE KING IN YELLOW
39
40BY
41
42ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
43
44
45
46
47
48
49Original publication date: 1895
50
51
52THE KING IN YELLOW
53IS DEDICATED
54TO
55MY BROTHER
56
57  Along the shore the cloud waves break,
58  The twin suns sink behind the lake,
60      In Carcosa.
61
62  Strange is the night where black stars rise,
63  And strange moons circle through the skies
64  But stranger still is
65      Lost Carcosa.
66
67  Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
68  Where flap the tatters of the King,
69  Must die unheard in
70      Dim Carcosa.
71
72  Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
73  Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
74  Shall dry and die in
75      Lost Carcosa.
76
77Cassilda's Song in "The King in Yellow," Act i, Scene 2.
78
79
80
81
82THE REPAIRER OF REPUTATIONS
83
84
85I
86
87"Ne raillons pas les fous; leur folie dure plus longtemps que
88la nôtre.... Voila toute la différence."
89
90Toward the end of the year 1920 the Government of the United States had
91practically completed the programme, adopted during the last months of
92President Winthrop's administration. The country was apparently tranquil.
93Everybody knows how the Tariff and Labour questions were settled. The war
94with Germany, incident on that country's seizure of the Samoan Islands,
95had left no visible scars upon the republic, and the temporary occupation
96of Norfolk by the invading army had been forgotten in the joy over
97repeated naval victories, and the subsequent ridiculous plight of General
98Von Gartenlaube's forces in the State of New Jersey. The Cuban and
99Hawaiian investments had paid one hundred per cent and the territory of
100Samoa was well worth its cost as a coaling station. The country was in a
101superb state of defence. Every coast city had been well supplied with land
102fortifications; the army under the parental eye of the General Staff,
103organized according to the Prussian system, had been increased to 300,000
104men, with a territorial reserve of a million; and six magnificent
105squadrons of cruisers and battle-ships patrolled the six stations of the
106navigable seas, leaving a steam reserve amply fitted to control home
107waters. The gentlemen from the West had at last been constrained to
108acknowledge that a college for the training of diplomats was as necessary
109as law schools are for the training of barristers; consequently we were no
110longer represented abroad by incompetent patriots. The nation was
111prosperous; Chicago, for a moment paralyzed after a second great fire, had
112risen from its ruins, white and imperial, and more beautiful than the white
113city which had been built for its plaything in 1893. Everywhere good
114architecture was replacing bad, and even in New York, a sudden craving for
115decency had swept away a great portion of the existing horrors. Streets
117squares laid out, elevated structures demolished and underground roads
118built to replace them. The new government buildings and barracks were fine
119bits of architecture, and the long system of stone quays which completely
120surrounded the island had been turned into parks which proved a god-send
121to the population. The subsidizing of the state theatre and state opera
122brought its own reward. The United States National Academy of Design was
123much like European institutions of the same kind. Nobody envied the
124Secretary of Fine Arts, either his cabinet position or his portfolio. The
125Secretary of Forestry and Game Preservation had a much easier time, thanks
126to the new system of National Mounted Police. We had profited well by the
127latest treaties with France and England; the exclusion of foreign-born
128Jews as a measure of self-preservation, the settlement of the new
129independent negro state of Suanee, the checking of immigration, the new
130laws concerning naturalization, and the gradual centralization of power in
131the executive all contributed to national calm and prosperity. When the
132Government solved the Indian problem and squadrons of Indian cavalry
133scouts in native costume were substituted for the pitiable organizations
134tacked on to the tail of skeletonized regiments by a former Secretary of
135War, the nation drew a long sigh of relief. When, after the colossal
136Congress of Religions, bigotry and intolerance were laid in their graves
137and kindness and charity began to draw warring sects together, many
138thought the millennium had arrived, at least in the new world which after
139all is a world by itself.
140
141But self-preservation is the first law, and the United States had to look
142on in helpless sorrow as Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium writhed in the
143throes of Anarchy, while Russia, watching from the Caucasus, stooped and
144bound them one by one.
145
146In the city of New York the summer of 1899 was signalized by the
147dismantling of the Elevated Railroads. The summer of 1900 will live in
148the memories of New York people for many a cycle; the Dodge Statue was
149removed in that year. In the following winter began that agitation for
150the repeal of the laws prohibiting suicide which bore its final fruit in
151the month of April, 1920, when the first Government Lethal Chamber was
152opened on Washington Square.
153
154I had walked down that day from Dr. Archer's house on Madison Avenue,
155where I had been as a mere formality. Ever since that fall from my horse,
156four years before, I had been troubled at times with pains in the back of
157my head and neck, but now for months they had been absent, and the doctor
158sent me away that day saying there was nothing more to be cured in me. It
159was hardly worth his fee to be told that; I knew it myself. Still I did
160not grudge him the money. What I minded was the mistake which he made at
161first. When they picked me up from the pavement where I lay unconscious,
162and somebody had mercifully sent a bullet through my horse's head, I was
163carried to Dr. Archer, and he, pronouncing my brain affected, placed me
164in his private asylum where I was obliged to endure treatment for
165insanity. At last he decided that I was well, and I, knowing that my mind
166had always been as sound as his, if not sounder, "paid my tuition" as he
167jokingly called it, and left. I told him, smiling, that I would get even
168with him for his mistake, and he laughed heartily, and asked me to call
169once in a while. I did so, hoping for a chance to even up accounts, but
170he gave me none, and I told him I would wait.
171
172The fall from my horse had fortunately left no evil results; on the
173contrary it had changed my whole character for the better. From a lazy
175above all--oh, above all else--ambitious. There was only one thing which
176troubled me, I laughed at my own uneasiness, and yet it troubled me.
177
178During my convalescence I had bought and read for the first time, _The
179King in Yellow_. I remember after finishing the first act that it
180occurred to me that I had better stop. I started up and flung the book
181into the fireplace; the volume struck the barred grate and fell open on
182the hearth in the firelight. If I had not caught a glimpse of the opening
183words in the second act I should never have finished it, but as I stooped
184to pick it up, my eyes became riveted to the open page, and with a cry of
185terror, or perhaps it was of joy so poignant that I suffered in every
186nerve, I snatched the thing out of the coals and crept shaking to my
187bedroom, where I read it and reread it, and wept and laughed and trembled
188with a horror which at times assails me yet. This is the thing that
189troubles me, for I cannot forget Carcosa where black stars hang in the
190heavens; where the shadows of men's thoughts lengthen in the afternoon,
191when the twin suns sink into the lake of Hali; and my mind will bear for
192ever the memory of the Pallid Mask. I pray God will curse the writer, as
193the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation,
194terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth--a world which now
195trembles before the King in Yellow. When the French Government seized the
196translated copies which had just arrived in Paris, London, of course,
197became eager to read it. It is well known how the book spread like an
198infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent,
199barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit,
200censured even by the most advanced of literary anarchists. No definite
201principles had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine
202promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known
203standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art
204had been struck in _The King in Yellow_, all felt that human nature
205could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of
206purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act
207only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.
208
209It was, I remember, the 13th day of April, 1920, that the first
210Government Lethal Chamber was established on the south side of Washington
211Square, between Wooster Street and South Fifth Avenue. The block which
212had formerly consisted of a lot of shabby old buildings, used as cafés
213and restaurants for foreigners, had been acquired by the Government in
214the winter of 1898. The French and Italian cafés and restaurants were
215torn down; the whole block was enclosed by a gilded iron railing, and
216converted into a lovely garden with lawns, flowers and fountains. In the
217centre of the garden stood a small, white building, severely classical in
218architecture, and surrounded by thickets of flowers. Six Ionic columns
219supported the roof, and the single door was of bronze. A splendid marble
220group of the "Fates" stood before the door, the work of a young American
221sculptor, Boris Yvain, who had died in Paris when only twenty-three years
222old.
223
224The inauguration ceremonies were in progress as I crossed University
225Place and entered the square. I threaded my way through the silent throng
226of spectators, but was stopped at Fourth Street by a cordon of police. A
227regiment of United States lancers were drawn up in a hollow square round
228the Lethal Chamber. On a raised tribune facing Washington Park stood the
229Governor of New York, and behind him were grouped the Mayor of New
230York and Brooklyn, the Inspector-General of Police, the Commandant of
231the state troops, Colonel Livingston, military aid to the President of the
232United States, General Blount, commanding at Governor's Island,
233Major-General Hamilton, commanding the garrison of New York and Brooklyn,
234Admiral Buffby of the fleet in the North River, Surgeon-General
235Lanceford, the staff of the National Free Hospital, Senators Wyse and
236Franklin of New York, and the Commissioner of Public Works. The tribune
237was surrounded by a squadron of hussars of the National Guard.
238
239The Governor was finishing his reply to the short speech of the
240Surgeon-General. I heard him say: "The laws prohibiting suicide and
241providing punishment for any attempt at self-destruction have been
242repealed. The Government has seen fit to acknowledge the right of man to
243end an existence which may have become intolerable to him, through
244physical suffering or mental despair. It is believed that the community
245will be benefited by the removal of such people from their midst. Since
246the passage of this law, the number of suicides in the United States has
247not increased. Now the Government has determined to establish a Lethal
248Chamber in every city, town and village in the country, it remains to be
249seen whether or not that class of human creatures from whose desponding
250ranks new victims of self-destruction fall daily will accept the relief
251thus provided." He paused, and turned to the white Lethal Chamber. The
252silence in the street was absolute. "There a painless death awaits him
253who can no longer bear the sorrows of this life. If death is welcome let
254him seek it there." Then quickly turning to the military aid of the
255President's household, he said, "I declare the Lethal Chamber open," and
256again facing the vast crowd he cried in a clear voice: "Citizens of New
257York and of the United States of America, through me the Government
258declares the Lethal Chamber to be open."
259
260The solemn hush was broken by a sharp cry of command, the squadron of
261hussars filed after the Governor's carriage, the lancers wheeled and
262formed along Fifth Avenue to wait for the commandant of the garrison, and
263the mounted police followed them. I left the crowd to gape and stare at
264the white marble Death Chamber, and, crossing South Fifth Avenue, walked
265along the western side of that thoroughfare to Bleecker Street. Then I
266turned to the right and stopped before a dingy shop which bore the sign:
267
268HAWBERK, ARMOURER.
269
270I glanced in at the doorway and saw Hawberk busy in his little shop at
271the end of the hall. He looked up, and catching sight of me cried in his
272deep, hearty voice, "Come in, Mr. Castaigne!" Constance, his daughter,
273rose to meet me as I crossed the threshold, and held out her pretty
274hand, but I saw the blush of disappointment on her cheeks, and knew
275that it was another Castaigne she had expected, my cousin Louis. I
276smiled at her confusion and complimented her on the banner she was
277embroidering from a coloured plate. Old Hawberk sat riveting the worn
278greaves of some ancient suit of armour, and the ting! ting! ting! of his
279little hammer sounded pleasantly in the quaint shop. Presently he
280dropped his hammer, and fussed about for a moment with a tiny wrench.
281The soft clash of the mail sent a thrill of pleasure through me. I
282loved to hear the music of steel brushing against steel, the mellow
283shock of the mallet on thigh pieces, and the jingle of chain armour.
284That was the only reason I went to see Hawberk. He had never interested
285me personally, nor did Constance, except for the fact of her being in
286love with Louis. This did occupy my attention, and sometimes even kept
287me awake at night. But I knew in my heart that all would come right,
288and that I should arrange their future as I expected to arrange that of
289my kind doctor, John Archer. However, I should never have troubled
290myself about visiting them just then, had it not been, as I say, that
291the music of the tinkling hammer had for me this strong fascination. I
292would sit for hours, listening and listening, and when a stray sunbeam
293struck the inlaid steel, the sensation it gave me was almost too keen
294to endure. My eyes would become fixed, dilating with a pleasure that
295stretched every nerve almost to breaking, until some movement of the
296old armourer cut off the ray of sunlight, then, still thrilling
297secretly, I leaned back and listened again to the sound of the
298polishing rag, swish! swish! rubbing rust from the rivets.
299
300Constance worked with the embroidery over her knees, now and then pausing
301to examine more closely the pattern in the coloured plate from the
302Metropolitan Museum.
303
304"Who is this for?" I asked.
305
306Hawberk explained, that in addition to the treasures of armour in the
307Metropolitan Museum of which he had been appointed armourer, he also
308had charge of several collections belonging to rich amateurs. This was the
309missing greave of a famous suit which a client of his had traced to a
310little shop in Paris on the Quai d'Orsay. He, Hawberk, had negotiated for
311and secured the greave, and now the suit was complete. He laid down his
312hammer and read me the history of the suit, traced since 1450 from owner
313to owner until it was acquired by Thomas Stainbridge. When his superb
314collection was sold, this client of Hawberk's bought the suit, and since
315then the search for the missing greave had been pushed until it was,
316almost by accident, located in Paris.
317
318"Did you continue the search so persistently without any certainty of the
319greave being still in existence?" I demanded.
320
321"Of course," he replied coolly.
322
323Then for the first time I took a personal interest in Hawberk.
324
325"It was worth something to you," I ventured.
326
327"No," he replied, laughing, "my pleasure in finding it was my reward."
328
329"Have you no ambition to be rich?" I asked, smiling.
330
331"My one ambition is to be the best armourer in the world," he answered
332gravely.
333
334Constance asked me if I had seen the ceremonies at the Lethal Chamber.
336wished to see the inauguration, but her father wanted the banner
337finished, and she had stayed at his request.
338
339"Did you see your cousin, Mr. Castaigne, there?" she asked, with the
340slightest tremor of her soft eyelashes.
341
342"No," I replied carelessly. "Louis' regiment is manoeuvring out in
343Westchester County." I rose and picked up my hat and cane.
344
345"Are you going upstairs to see the lunatic again?" laughed old Hawberk.
346If Hawberk knew how I loathe that word "lunatic," he would never use it
347in my presence. It rouses certain feelings within me which I do not care
348to explain. However, I answered him quietly: "I think I shall drop in and
349see Mr. Wilde for a moment or two."
350
351"Poor fellow," said Constance, with a shake of the head, "it must be hard
352to live alone year after year poor, crippled and almost demented. It is
353very good of you, Mr. Castaigne, to visit him as often as you do."
354
355"I think he is vicious," observed Hawberk, beginning again with his
356hammer. I listened to the golden tinkle on the greave plates; when he had
357finished I replied:
358
359"No, he is not vicious, nor is he in the least demented. His mind is a
360wonder chamber, from which he can extract treasures that you and I would
361give years of our life to acquire."'
362
363Hawberk laughed.
364
365I continued a little impatiently: "He knows history as no one else could
366know it. Nothing, however trivial, escapes his search, and his memory is
367so absolute, so precise in details, that were it known in New York that
368such a man existed, the people could not honour him enough."
369
370"Nonsense," muttered Hawberk, searching on the floor for a fallen rivet.
371
372"Is it nonsense," I asked, managing to suppress what I felt, "is it
373nonsense when he says that the tassets and cuissards of the enamelled
374suit of armour commonly known as the 'Prince's Emblazoned' can be found
375among a mass of rusty theatrical properties, broken stoves and
376ragpicker's refuse in a garret in Pell Street?"
377
378Hawberk's hammer fell to the ground, but he picked it up and asked, with
379a great deal of calm, how I knew that the tassets and left cuissard were
380missing from the "Prince's Emblazoned."
381
382"I did not know until Mr. Wilde mentioned it to me the other day. He said
383they were in the garret of 998 Pell Street."
384
385"Nonsense," he cried, but I noticed his hand trembling under his leathern
386apron.
387
388"Is this nonsense too?" I asked pleasantly, "is it nonsense when Mr.
389Wilde continually speaks of you as the Marquis of Avonshire and of Miss
390Constance--"
391
392I did not finish, for Constance had started to her feet with terror
393written on every feature. Hawberk looked at me and slowly smoothed his
394leathern apron.
395
396"That is impossible," he observed, "Mr. Wilde may know a great many
397things--"
398
399"About armour, for instance, and the 'Prince's Emblazoned,'" I
400interposed, smiling.
401
402"Yes," he continued, slowly, "about armour also--may be--but he is wrong
403in regard to the Marquis of Avonshire, who, as you know, killed his
404wife's traducer years ago, and went to Australia where he did not long
405survive his wife."
406
407"Mr. Wilde is wrong," murmured Constance. Her lips were blanched, but her
408voice was sweet and calm.
409
410"Let us agree, if you please, that in this one circumstance Mr. Wilde is
411wrong," I said.
412
413
414
415
416II
417
418I climbed the three dilapidated flights of stairs, which I had so often
419climbed before, and knocked at a small door at the end of the corridor.
420Mr. Wilde opened the door and I walked in.
421
422When he had double-locked the door and pushed a heavy chest against it,
423he came and sat down beside me, peering up into my face with his little
424light-coloured eyes. Half a dozen new scratches covered his nose and
425cheeks, and the silver wires which supported his artificial ears had
426become displaced. I thought I had never seen him so hideously
427fascinating. He had no ears. The artificial ones, which now stood out at
428an angle from the fine wire, were his one weakness. They were made of wax
429and painted a shell pink, but the rest of his face was yellow. He might
430better have revelled in the luxury of some artificial fingers for his
431left hand, which was absolutely fingerless, but it seemed to cause him no
432inconvenience, and he was satisfied with his wax ears. He was very small,
433scarcely higher than a child of ten, but his arms were magnificently
434developed, and his thighs as thick as any athlete's. Still, the most
435remarkable thing about Mr. Wilde was that a man of his marvellous
436intelligence and knowledge should have such a head. It was flat and
437pointed, like the heads of many of those unfortunates whom people
438imprison in asylums for the weak-minded. Many called him insane, but I
439knew him to be as sane as I was.
440
441I do not deny that he was eccentric; the mania he had for keeping that
442cat and teasing her until she flew at his face like a demon, was
443certainly eccentric. I never could understand why he kept the creature,
444nor what pleasure he found in shutting himself up in his room with this
445surly, vicious beast. I remember once, glancing up from the manuscript I
446was studying by the light of some tallow dips, and seeing Mr. Wilde
447squatting motionless on his high chair, his eyes fairly blazing with
448excitement, while the cat, which had risen from her place before the
449stove, came creeping across the floor right at him. Before I could move
450she flattened her belly to the ground, crouched, trembled, and sprang
451into his face. Howling and foaming they rolled over and over on the
452floor, scratching and clawing, until the cat screamed and fled under the
453cabinet, and Mr. Wilde turned over on his back, his limbs contracting and
454curling up like the legs of a dying spider. He _was_ eccentric.
455
456Mr. Wilde had climbed into his high chair, and, after studying my face,
457picked up a dog's-eared ledger and opened it.
458
459"Henry B. Matthews," he read, "book-keeper with Whysot Whysot and
460Company, dealers in church ornaments. Called April 3rd. Reputation
461damaged on the race-track. Known as a welcher. Reputation to be repaired
462by August 1st. Retainer Five Dollars." He turned the page and ran his
463fingerless knuckles down the closely-written columns.
464
465"P. Greene Dusenberry, Minister of the Gospel, Fairbeach, New Jersey.
466Reputation damaged in the Bowery. To be repaired as soon as possible.
467Retainer $100." 468 469He coughed and added, "Called, April 6th." 470 471"Then you are not in need of money, Mr. Wilde," I inquired. 472 473"Listen," he coughed again. 474 475"Mrs. C. Hamilton Chester, of Chester Park, New York City. Called April 4767th. Reputation damaged at Dieppe, France. To be repaired by October 1st 477Retainer$500.
478
479"Note.--C. Hamilton Chester, Captain U.S.S. 'Avalanche', ordered home
480from South Sea Squadron October 1st."
481
482"Well," I said, "the profession of a Repairer of Reputations is
483lucrative."
484
485His colourless eyes sought mine, "I only wanted to demonstrate that I
486was correct. You said it was impossible to succeed as a Repairer of
487Reputations; that even if I did succeed in certain cases it would cost
488me more than I would gain by it. To-day I have five hundred men in my
489employ, who are poorly paid, but who pursue the work with an enthusiasm
490which possibly may be born of fear. These men enter every shade and grade
491of society; some even are pillars of the most exclusive social temples;
492others are the prop and pride of the financial world; still others, hold
493undisputed sway among the 'Fancy and the Talent.' I choose them at my
495they are all cowards. I could treble the number in twenty days if I
496wished. So you see, those who have in their keeping the reputations of
497their fellow-citizens, I have in my pay."
498
499"They may turn on you," I suggested.
500
501He rubbed his thumb over his cropped ears, and adjusted the wax
502substitutes. "I think not," he murmured thoughtfully, "I seldom have to
503apply the whip, and then only once. Besides they like their wages."
504
505"How do you apply the whip?" I demanded.
506
507His face for a moment was awful to look upon. His eyes dwindled to a pair
508of green sparks.
509
510"I invite them to come and have a little chat with me," he said in a soft
511voice.
512
513A knock at the door interrupted him, and his face resumed its amiable
514expression.
515
516"Who is it?" he inquired.
517
519
520"Come to-morrow," replied Mr. Wilde.
521
522"Impossible," began the other, but was silenced by a sort of bark from
523Mr. Wilde.
524
525"Come to-morrow," he repeated.
526
527We heard somebody move away from the door and turn the corner by the
528stairway.
529
531
532"Arnold Steylette, Owner and Editor in Chief of the great New York
533daily."
534
535He drummed on the ledger with his fingerless hand adding: "I pay him very
536badly, but he thinks it a good bargain."
537
538"Arnold Steylette!" I repeated amazed.
539
540"Yes," said Mr. Wilde, with a self-satisfied cough.
541
542The cat, which had entered the room as he spoke, hesitated, looked up at
543him and snarled. He climbed down from the chair and squatting on the
544floor, took the creature into his arms and caressed her. The cat ceased
545snarling and presently began a loud purring which seemed to increase in
546timbre as he stroked her. "Where are the notes?" I asked. He pointed to
547the table, and for the hundredth time I picked up the bundle of
548manuscript entitled--
549
550"THE IMPERIAL DYNASTY OF AMERICA."
551
552One by one I studied the well-worn pages, worn only by my own handling,
553and although I knew all by heart, from the beginning, "When from Carcosa,
555born December 19th, 1877," I read it with an eager, rapt attention,
556pausing to repeat parts of it aloud, and dwelling especially on "Hildred
557de Calvados, only son of Hildred Castaigne and Edythe Landes Castaigne,
558first in succession," etc., etc.
559
560When I finished, Mr. Wilde nodded and coughed.
561
562"Speaking of your legitimate ambition," he said, "how do Constance and
563Louis get along?"
564
565"She loves him," I replied simply.
566
567The cat on his knee suddenly turned and struck at his eyes, and he flung
568her off and climbed on to the chair opposite me.
569
570"And Dr. Archer! But that's a matter you can settle any time you wish,"
572
573"Yes," I replied, "Dr. Archer can wait, but it is time I saw my cousin
574Louis."
575
576"It is time," he repeated. Then he took another ledger from the table and
577ran over the leaves rapidly. "We are now in communication with ten
578thousand men," he muttered. "We can count on one hundred thousand within
579the first twenty-eight hours, and in forty-eight hours the state will
580rise _en masse_. The country follows the state, and the portion that
581will not, I mean California and the Northwest, might better never have
582been inhabited. I shall not send them the Yellow Sign."
583
584The blood rushed to my head, but I only answered, "A new broom sweeps
585clean."
586
587"The ambition of Caesar and of Napoleon pales before that which could not
588rest until it had seized the minds of men and controlled even their
589unborn thoughts," said Mr. Wilde.
590
591"You are speaking of the King in Yellow," I groaned, with a shudder.
592
593"He is a king whom emperors have served."
594
595"I am content to serve him," I replied.
596
597Mr. Wilde sat rubbing his ears with his crippled hand. "Perhaps Constance
598does not love him," he suggested.
599
600I started to reply, but a sudden burst of military music from the street
601below drowned my voice. The twentieth dragoon regiment, formerly in
602garrison at Mount St. Vincent, was returning from the manoeuvres in
603Westchester County, to its new barracks on East Washington Square. It was
604my cousin's regiment. They were a fine lot of fellows, in their pale
605blue, tight-fitting jackets, jaunty busbys and white riding breeches with
606the double yellow stripe, into which their limbs seemed moulded. Every
607other squadron was armed with lances, from the metal points of which
608fluttered yellow and white pennons. The band passed, playing the
609regimental march, then came the colonel and staff, the horses crowding
610and trampling, while their heads bobbed in unison, and the pennons
611fluttered from their lance points. The troopers, who rode with the
612beautiful English seat, looked brown as berries from their bloodless
613campaign among the farms of Westchester, and the music of their sabres
614against the stirrups, and the jingle of spurs and carbines was delightful
615to me. I saw Louis riding with his squadron. He was as handsome an
616officer as I have ever seen. Mr. Wilde, who had mounted a chair by the
617window, saw him too, but said nothing. Louis turned and looked straight
618at Hawberk's shop as he passed, and I could see the flush on his brown
619cheeks. I think Constance must have been at the window. When the last
620troopers had clattered by, and the last pennons vanished into South Fifth
621Avenue, Mr. Wilde clambered out of his chair and dragged the chest away
622from the door.
623
624"Yes," he said, "it is time that you saw your cousin Louis."
625
626He unlocked the door and I picked up my hat and stick and stepped into
627the corridor. The stairs were dark. Groping about, I set my foot on
628something soft, which snarled and spit, and I aimed a murderous blow at
629the cat, but my cane shivered to splinters against the balustrade, and
630the beast scurried back into Mr. Wilde's room.
631
632Passing Hawberk's door again I saw him still at work on the armour, but
633I did not stop, and stepping out into Bleecker Street, I followed it to
634Wooster, skirted the grounds of the Lethal Chamber, and crossing
635Washington Park went straight to my rooms in the Benedick. Here I lunched
636comfortably, read the _Herald_ and the _Meteor_, and finally went
637to the steel safe in my bedroom and set the time combination. The
638three and three-quarter minutes which it is necessary to wait, while the
639time lock is opening, are to me golden moments. From the instant I set
640the combination to the moment when I grasp the knobs and swing back
641the solid steel doors, I live in an ecstasy of expectation. Those moments
642must be like moments passed in Paradise. I know what I am to find at
643the end of the time limit. I know what the massive safe holds secure for
644me, for me alone, and the exquisite pleasure of waiting is hardly enhanced
645when the safe opens and I lift, from its velvet crown, a diadem of purest
646gold, blazing with diamonds. I do this every day, and yet the joy of
647waiting and at last touching again the diadem, only seems to increase as
648the days pass. It is a diadem fit for a King among kings, an Emperor
649among emperors. The King in Yellow might scorn it, but it shall be worn
650by his royal servant.
651
652I held it in my arms until the alarm in the safe rang harshly, and then
653tenderly, proudly, I replaced it and shut the steel doors. I walked
654slowly back into my study, which faces Washington Square, and leaned on
655the window sill. The afternoon sun poured into my windows, and a gentle
656breeze stirred the branches of the elms and maples in the park, now
657covered with buds and tender foliage. A flock of pigeons circled about
658the tower of the Memorial Church; sometimes alighting on the purple tiled
659roof, sometimes wheeling downward to the lotos fountain in front of the
660marble arch. The gardeners were busy with the flower beds around the
661fountain, and the freshly turned earth smelled sweet and spicy. A lawn
662mower, drawn by a fat white horse, clinked across the green sward, and
663watering-carts poured showers of spray over the asphalt drives. Around
664the statue of Peter Stuyvesant, which in 1897 had replaced the
665monstrosity supposed to represent Garibaldi, children played in the
666spring sunshine, and nurse girls wheeled elaborate baby carriages with a
667reckless disregard for the pasty-faced occupants, which could probably be
668explained by the presence of half a dozen trim dragoon troopers languidly
669lolling on the benches. Through the trees, the Washington Memorial Arch
670glistened like silver in the sunshine, and beyond, on the eastern
671extremity of the square the grey stone barracks of the dragoons, and the
672white granite artillery stables were alive with colour and motion.
673
674I looked at the Lethal Chamber on the corner of the square opposite. A
675few curious people still lingered about the gilded iron railing, but
676inside the grounds the paths were deserted. I watched the fountains
677ripple and sparkle; the sparrows had already found this new bathing nook,
678and the basins were covered with the dusty-feathered little things. Two
679or three white peacocks picked their way across the lawns, and a drab
680coloured pigeon sat so motionless on the arm of one of the "Fates," that
681it seemed to be a part of the sculptured stone.
682
683As I was turning carelessly away, a slight commotion in the group of
684curious loiterers around the gates attracted my attention. A young man
685had entered, and was advancing with nervous strides along the gravel path
686which leads to the bronze doors of the Lethal Chamber. He paused a moment
687before the "Fates," and as he raised his head to those three mysterious
688faces, the pigeon rose from its sculptured perch, circled about for a
689moment and wheeled to the east. The young man pressed his hand to his
690face, and then with an undefinable gesture sprang up the marble steps,
691the bronze doors closed behind him, and half an hour later the loiterers
692slouched away, and the frightened pigeon returned to its perch in the
693arms of Fate.
694
695I put on my hat and went out into the park for a little walk before
696dinner. As I crossed the central driveway a group of officers passed, and
697one of them called out, "Hello, Hildred," and came back to shake hands
698with me. It was my cousin Louis, who stood smiling and tapping his
699spurred heels with his riding-whip.
700
701"Just back from Westchester," he said; "been doing the bucolic; milk and
702curds, you know, dairy-maids in sunbonnets, who say 'haeow' and 'I don't
703think' when you tell them they are pretty. I'm nearly dead for a square
704meal at Delmonico's. What's the news?"
705
706"There is none," I replied pleasantly. "I saw your regiment coming in this
707morning."
708
709"Did you? I didn't see you. Where were you?"
710
711"In Mr. Wilde's window."
712
713"Oh, hell!" he began impatiently, "that man is stark mad! I don't
714understand why you--"
715
716He saw how annoyed I felt by this outburst, and begged my pardon.
717
718"Really, old chap," he said, "I don't mean to run down a man you like,
719but for the life of me I can't see what the deuce you find in common with
720Mr. Wilde. He's not well bred, to put it generously; he is hideously
721deformed; his head is the head of a criminally insane person. You know
722yourself he's been in an asylum--"
723
724"So have I," I interrupted calmly.
725
726Louis looked startled and confused for a moment, but recovered and
727slapped me heartily on the shoulder. "You were completely cured," he
728began; but I stopped him again.
729
730"I suppose you mean that I was simply acknowledged never to have been
731insane."
732
733"Of course that--that's what I meant," he laughed.
734
735I disliked his laugh because I knew it was forced, but I nodded gaily and
736asked him where he was going. Louis looked after his brother officers who
738
739"We had intended to sample a Brunswick cocktail, but to tell you the
740truth I was anxious for an excuse to go and see Hawberk instead. Come
741along, I'll make you my excuse."
742
743We found old Hawberk, neatly attired in a fresh spring suit, standing at
744the door of his shop and sniffing the air.
745
746"I had just decided to take Constance for a little stroll before dinner,"
747he replied to the impetuous volley of questions from Louis. "We thought
748of walking on the park terrace along the North River."
749
750At that moment Constance appeared and grew pale and rosy by turns as
751Louis bent over her small gloved fingers. I tried to excuse myself,
752alleging an engagement uptown, but Louis and Constance would not listen,
753and I saw I was expected to remain and engage old Hawberk's attention.
754After all it would be just as well if I kept my eye on Louis, I thought,
755and when they hailed a Spring Street horse-car, I got in after them and
756took my seat beside the armourer.
757
758The beautiful line of parks and granite terraces overlooking the wharves
759along the North River, which were built in 1910 and finished in the
760autumn of 1917, had become one of the most popular promenades in the
761metropolis. They extended from the battery to 190th Street, overlooking
762the noble river and affording a fine view of the Jersey shore and the
763Highlands opposite. Cafés and restaurants were scattered here and there
764among the trees, and twice a week military bands from the garrison played
765in the kiosques on the parapets.
766
767We sat down in the sunshine on the bench at the foot of the equestrian
768statue of General Sheridan. Constance tipped her sunshade to shield her
769eyes, and she and Louis began a murmuring conversation which was
770impossible to catch. Old Hawberk, leaning on his ivory headed cane,
771lighted an excellent cigar, the mate to which I politely refused, and
772smiled at vacancy. The sun hung low above the Staten Island woods, and
773the bay was dyed with golden hues reflected from the sun-warmed sails of
774the shipping in the harbour.
775
776Brigs, schooners, yachts, clumsy ferry-boats, their decks swarming with
777people, railroad transports carrying lines of brown, blue and white
778freight cars, stately sound steamers, déclassé tramp steamers, coasters,
779dredgers, scows, and everywhere pervading the entire bay impudent little
780tugs puffing and whistling officiously;--these were the craft which
781churned the sunlight waters as far as the eye could reach. In calm
782contrast to the hurry of sailing vessel and steamer a silent fleet of
783white warships lay motionless in midstream.
784
785Constance's merry laugh aroused me from my reverie.
786
787"What _are_ you staring at?" she inquired.
788
789"Nothing--the fleet," I smiled.
790
791Then Louis told us what the vessels were, pointing out each by its
792relative position to the old Red Fort on Governor's Island.
793
794"That little cigar shaped thing is a torpedo boat," he explained; "there
795are four more lying close together. They are the _Tarpon_, the _Falcon_,
796the _Sea Fox_, and the _Octopus_. The gun-boats just above are the
797_Princeton_, the _Champlain_, the _Still Water_ and the _Erie_. Next to
798them lie the cruisers _Faragut_ and _Los Angeles_, and above them the
799battle ships _California_, and _Dakota_, and the _Washington_ which is
800the flag ship. Those two squatty looking chunks of metal which are
801anchored there off Castle William are the double turreted monitors
802_Terrible_ and _Magnificent_; behind them lies the ram, _Osceola_."
803
804Constance looked at him with deep approval in her beautiful eyes. "What
805loads of things you know for a soldier," she said, and we all joined in
806the laugh which followed.
807
808Presently Louis rose with a nod to us and offered his arm to Constance,
809and they strolled away along the river wall. Hawberk watched them for a
810moment and then turned to me.
811
812"Mr. Wilde was right," he said. "I have found the missing tassets and
813left cuissard of the 'Prince's Emblazoned,' in a vile old junk garret in
814Pell Street."
815
816"998?" I inquired, with a smile.
817
818"Yes."
819
820"Mr. Wilde is a very intelligent man," I observed.
821
822"I want to give him the credit of this most important discovery,"
823continued Hawberk. "And I intend it shall be known that he is entitled
824to the fame of it."
825
826"He won't thank you for that," I answered sharply; "please say nothing
828
829"Do you know what it is worth?" said Hawberk.
830
831"No, fifty dollars, perhaps."
832
833"It is valued at five hundred, but the owner of the 'Prince's Emblazoned'
834will give two thousand dollars to the person who completes his suit; that
835reward also belongs to Mr. Wilde."
836
837"He doesn't want it! He refuses it!" I answered angrily. "What do you
838know about Mr. Wilde? He doesn't need the money. He is rich--or will
839be--richer than any living man except myself. What will we care for money
840then--what will we care, he and I, when--when--"
841
842"When what?" demanded Hawberk, astonished.
843
844"You will see," I replied, on my guard again.
845
846He looked at me narrowly, much as Doctor Archer used to, and I knew he
847thought I was mentally unsound. Perhaps it was fortunate for him that he
848did not use the word lunatic just then.
849
850"No," I replied to his unspoken thought, "I am not mentally weak; my mind
851is as healthy as Mr. Wilde's. I do not care to explain just yet what I
852have on hand, but it is an investment which will pay more than mere gold,
853silver and precious stones. It will secure the happiness and prosperity
854of a continent--yes, a hemisphere!"
855
856"Oh," said Hawberk.
857
858"And eventually," I continued more quietly, "it will secure the happiness
859of the whole world."
860
861"And incidentally your own happiness and prosperity as well as Mr.
862Wilde's?"
863
864"Exactly," I smiled. But I could have throttled him for taking that tone.
865
866He looked at me in silence for a while and then said very gently, "Why
867don't you give up your books and studies, Mr. Castaigne, and take a tramp
868among the mountains somewhere or other? You used to be fond of fishing.
869Take a cast or two at the trout in the Rangelys."
870
871"I don't care for fishing any more," I answered, without a shade of
872annoyance in my voice.
873
874"You used to be fond of everything," he continued; "athletics, yachting,
875shooting, riding--"
876
877"I have never cared to ride since my fall," I said quietly.
878
879"Ah, yes, your fall," he repeated, looking away from me.
880
881I thought this nonsense had gone far enough, so I brought the
882conversation back to Mr. Wilde; but he was scanning my face again in a
883manner highly offensive to me.
884
885"Mr. Wilde," he repeated, "do you know what he did this afternoon? He
886came downstairs and nailed a sign over the hall door next to mine; it
888
889"MR. WILDE,
890REPAIRER OF REPUTATIONS.
891Third Bell.
892
893"Do you know what a Repairer of Reputations can be?"
894
895"I do," I replied, suppressing the rage within.
896
897"Oh," he said again.
898
899Louis and Constance came strolling by and stopped to ask if we would join
900them. Hawberk looked at his watch. At the same moment a puff of smoke
901shot from the casemates of Castle William, and the boom of the sunset gun
902rolled across the water and was re-echoed from the Highlands opposite.
903The flag came running down from the flag-pole, the bugles sounded on the
904white decks of the warships, and the first electric light sparkled out
905from the Jersey shore.
906
907As I turned into the city with Hawberk I heard Constance murmur something
908to Louis which I did not understand; but Louis whispered "My darling," in
909reply; and again, walking ahead with Hawberk through the square I heard a
910murmur of "sweetheart," and "my own Constance," and I knew the time had
911nearly arrived when I should speak of important matters with my cousin
912Louis.
913
914
915
916
917III
918
919One morning early in May I stood before the steel safe in my bedroom,
920trying on the golden jewelled crown. The diamonds flashed fire as I
921turned to the mirror, and the heavy beaten gold burned like a halo about
922my head. I remembered Camilla's agonized scream and the awful words
923echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa. They were the last lines in
924the first act, and I dared not think of what followed--dared not, even
925in the spring sunshine, there in my own room, surrounded with familiar
926objects, reassured by the bustle from the street and the voices of the
927servants in the hallway outside. For those poisoned words had dropped
928slowly into my heart, as death-sweat drops upon a bed-sheet and is
930but I thought of Hastur and of my own rightful ambition, and I remembered
931Mr. Wilde as I had last left him, his face all torn and bloody from the
932claws of that devil's creature, and what he said--ah, what he said. The
933alarm bell in the safe began to whirr harshly, and I knew my time was up;
934but I would not heed it, and replacing the flashing circlet upon my head
935I turned defiantly to the mirror. I stood for a long time absorbed in the
936changing expression of my own eyes. The mirror reflected a face which was
937like my own, but whiter, and so thin that I hardly recognized it And all
938the time I kept repeating between my clenched teeth, "The day has come!
939the day has come!" while the alarm in the safe whirred and clamoured, and
940the diamonds sparkled and flamed above my brow. I heard a door open but
941did not heed it. It was only when I saw two faces in the mirror:--it was
942only when another face rose over my shoulder, and two other eyes met
943mine. I wheeled like a flash and seized a long knife from my
944dressing-table, and my cousin sprang back very pale, crying: "Hildred!
945for God's sake!" then as my hand fell, he said: "It is I, Louis, don't
946you know me?" I stood silent. I could not have spoken for my life. He
947walked up to me and took the knife from my hand.
948
949"What is all this?" he inquired, in a gentle voice. "Are you ill?"
950
951"No," I replied. But I doubt if he heard me.
952
953"Come, come, old fellow," he cried, "take off that brass crown and toddle
954into the study. Are you going to a masquerade? What's all this theatrical
955tinsel anyway?"
956
957I was glad he thought the crown was made of brass and paste, yet I didn't
958like him any the better for thinking so. I let him take it from my hand,
959knowing it was best to humour him. He tossed the splendid diadem in the
960air, and catching it, turned to me smiling.
961
962"It's dear at fifty cents," he said. "What's it for?"
963
964I did not answer, but took the circlet from his hands, and placing it in
965the safe shut the massive steel door. The alarm ceased its infernal din
966at once. He watched me curiously, but did not seem to notice the sudden
967ceasing of the alarm. He did, however, speak of the safe as a biscuit
968box. Fearing lest he might examine the combination I led the way into my
969study. Louis threw himself on the sofa and flicked at flies with his
970eternal riding-whip. He wore his fatigue uniform with the braided jacket
971and jaunty cap, and I noticed that his riding-boots were all splashed
972with red mud.
973
974"Where have you been?" I inquired.
975
976"Jumping mud creeks in Jersey," he said. "I haven't had time to change
977yet; I was rather in a hurry to see you. Haven't you got a glass of
979
980I gave him some brandy from my medicinal store, which he drank with a
981grimace.
982
983"Damned bad stuff," he observed. "I'll give you an address where they
984sell brandy that is brandy."
985
986"It's good enough for my needs," I said indifferently. "I use it to rub
987my chest with." He stared and flicked at another fly.
988
989"See here, old fellow," he began, "I've got something to suggest to you.
990It's four years now that you've shut yourself up here like an owl, never
991going anywhere, never taking any healthy exercise, never doing a damn
992thing but poring over those books up there on the mantelpiece."
993
994He glanced along the row of shelves. "Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon!" he
995read. "For heaven's sake, have you nothing but Napoleons there?"
996
997"I wish they were bound in gold," I said. "But wait, yes, there is
998another book, _The King in Yellow_." I looked him steadily in the
999eye.
1000
1002
1003"I? No, thank God! I don't want to be driven crazy."
1004
1005I saw he regretted his speech as soon as he had uttered it. There is only
1006one word which I loathe more than I do lunatic and that word is crazy.
1007But I controlled myself and asked him why he thought _The King in
1008Yellow_ dangerous.
1009
1010"Oh, I don't know," he said, hastily. "I only remember the excitement it
1011created and the denunciations from pulpit and Press. I believe the author
1012shot himself after bringing forth this monstrosity, didn't he?"
1013
1014"I understand he is still alive," I answered.
1015
1016"That's probably true," he muttered; "bullets couldn't kill a fiend like
1017that."
1018
1019"It is a book of great truths," I said.
1020
1021"Yes," he replied, "of 'truths' which send men frantic and blast their
1022lives. I don't care if the thing is, as they say, the very supreme
1023essence of art. It's a crime to have written it, and I for one shall
1024never open its pages."
1025
1026"Is that what you have come to tell me?" I asked.
1027
1028"No," he said, "I came to tell you that I am going to be married."
1029
1030I believe for a moment my heart ceased to beat, but I kept my eyes on his
1031face.
1032
1033"Yes," he continued, smiling happily, "married to the sweetest girl on
1034earth."
1035
1036"Constance Hawberk," I said mechanically.
1037
1038"How did you know?" he cried, astonished. "I didn't know it myself until
1039that evening last April, when we strolled down to the embankment before
1040dinner."
1041
1042"When is it to be?" I asked.
1043
1044"It was to have been next September, but an hour ago a despatch came
1045ordering our regiment to the Presidio, San Francisco. We leave at noon
1046to-morrow. To-morrow," he repeated. "Just think, Hildred, to-morrow I
1047shall be the happiest fellow that ever drew breath in this jolly world,
1048for Constance will go with me."
1049
1050I offered him my hand in congratulation, and he seized and shook it like
1051the good-natured fool he was--or pretended to be.
1052
1053"I am going to get my squadron as a wedding present," he rattled on.
1054"Captain and Mrs. Louis Castaigne, eh, Hildred?"
1055
1056Then he told me where it was to be and who were to be there, and made me
1057promise to come and be best man. I set my teeth and listened to his
1058boyish chatter without showing what I felt, but--
1059
1060I was getting to the limit of my endurance, and when he jumped up, and,
1061switching his spurs till they jingled, said he must go, I did not detain
1062him.
1063
1064"There's one thing I want to ask of you," I said quietly.
1065
1066"Out with it, it's promised," he laughed.
1067
1068"I want you to meet me for a quarter of an hour's talk to-night."
1069
1070"Of course, if you wish," he said, somewhat puzzled. "Where?"
1071
1072"Anywhere, in the park there."
1073
1074"What time, Hildred?"
1075
1076"Midnight."
1077
1078"What in the name of--" he began, but checked himself and laughingly
1079assented. I watched him go down the stairs and hurry away, his sabre
1080banging at every stride. He turned into Bleecker Street, and I knew he
1081was going to see Constance. I gave him ten minutes to disappear and then
1082followed in his footsteps, taking with me the jewelled crown and the
1083silken robe embroidered with the Yellow Sign. When I turned into Bleecker
1084Street, and entered the doorway which bore the sign--
1085
1086MR. WILDE,
1087REPAIRER OF REPUTATIONS.
1088Third Bell.
1089
1090I saw old Hawberk moving about in his shop, and imagined I heard
1091Constance's voice in the parlour; but I avoided them both and hurried up
1092the trembling stairways to Mr. Wilde's apartment. I knocked and entered
1093without ceremony. Mr. Wilde lay groaning on the floor, his face covered
1094with blood, his clothes torn to shreds. Drops of blood were scattered
1095about over the carpet, which had also been ripped and frayed in the
1096evidently recent struggle.
1097
1098"It's that cursed cat," he said, ceasing his groans, and turning his
1099colourless eyes to me; "she attacked me while I was asleep. I believe she
1100will kill me yet."
1101
1102This was too much, so I went into the kitchen, and, seizing a hatchet
1103from the pantry, started to find the infernal beast and settle her then
1104and there. My search was fruitless, and after a while I gave it up and
1105came back to find Mr. Wilde squatting on his high chair by the table. He
1106had washed his face and changed his clothes. The great furrows which the
1107cat's claws had ploughed up in his face he had filled with collodion, and
1108a rag hid the wound in his throat. I told him I should kill the cat when
1109I came across her, but he only shook his head and turned to the open
1110ledger before him. He read name after name of the people who had come to
1111him in regard to their reputation, and the sums he had amassed were
1112startling.
1113
1114"I put on the screws now and then," he explained.
1115
1116"One day or other some of these people will assassinate you," I insisted.
1117
1118"Do you think so?" he said, rubbing his mutilated ears.
1119
1120It was useless to argue with him, so I took down the manuscript entitled
1121Imperial Dynasty of America, for the last time I should ever take it down
1122in Mr. Wilde's study. I read it through, thrilling and trembling with
1123pleasure. When I had finished Mr. Wilde took the manuscript and, turning
1124to the dark passage which leads from his study to his bed-chamber,
1125called out in a loud voice, "Vance." Then for the first time, I noticed a
1126man crouching there in the shadow. How I had overlooked him during my
1127search for the cat, I cannot imagine.
1128
1129"Vance, come in," cried Mr. Wilde.
1130
1131The figure rose and crept towards us, and I shall never forget the face
1132that he raised to mine, as the light from the window illuminated it.
1133
1134"Vance, this is Mr. Castaigne," said Mr. Wilde. Before he had finished
1135speaking, the man threw himself on the ground before the table, crying
1136and grasping, "Oh, God! Oh, my God! Help me! Forgive me! Oh, Mr.
1137Castaigne, keep that man away. You cannot, you cannot mean it! You are
1138different--save me! I am broken down--I was in a madhouse and now--when
1139all was coming right--when I had forgotten the King--the King in Yellow
1141
1142His voice died into a choking rattle, for Mr. Wilde had leapt on him and
1143his right hand encircled the man's throat. When Vance fell in a heap on
1144the floor, Mr. Wilde clambered nimbly into his chair again, and rubbing
1145his mangled ears with the stump of his hand, turned to me and asked me
1146for the ledger. I reached it down from the shelf and he opened it. After
1147a moment's searching among the beautifully written pages, he coughed
1148complacently, and pointed to the name Vance.
1149
1150"Vance," he read aloud, "Osgood Oswald Vance." At the sound of his name,
1151the man on the floor raised his head and turned a convulsed face to Mr.
1152Wilde. His eyes were injected with blood, his lips tumefied. "Called
1153April 28th," continued Mr. Wilde. "Occupation, cashier in the Seaforth
1154National Bank; has served a term of forgery at Sing Sing, from whence he
1155was transferred to the Asylum for the Criminal Insane. Pardoned by the
1156Governor of New York, and discharged from the Asylum, January 19, 1918.
1157Reputation damaged at Sheepshead Bay. Rumours that he lives beyond his
1158income. Reputation to be repaired at once. Retainer $1,500. 1159 1160"Note.--Has embezzled sums amounting to$30,000 since March 20, 1919,
1161excellent family, and secured present position through uncle's influence.
1162Father, President of Seaforth Bank."
1163
1164I looked at the man on the floor.
1165
1166"Get up, Vance," said Mr. Wilde in a gentle voice. Vance rose as if
1167hypnotized. "He will do as we suggest now," observed Mr. Wilde, and
1168opening the manuscript, he read the entire history of the Imperial
1169Dynasty of America. Then in a kind and soothing murmur he ran over the
1170important points with Vance, who stood like one stunned. His eyes were so
1171blank and vacant that I imagined he had become half-witted, and remarked
1172it to Mr. Wilde who replied that it was of no consequence anyway. Very
1173patiently we pointed out to Vance what his share in the affair would be,
1174and he seemed to understand after a while. Mr. Wilde explained the
1175manuscript, using several volumes on Heraldry, to substantiate the result
1176of his researches. He mentioned the establishment of the Dynasty in
1177Carcosa, the lakes which connected Hastur, Aldebaran and the mystery of
1178the Hyades. He spoke of Cassilda and Camilla, and sounded the cloudy
1179depths of Demhe, and the Lake of Hali. "The scolloped tatters of the King
1180in Yellow must hide Yhtill forever," he muttered, but I do not believe
1181Vance heard him. Then by degrees he led Vance along the ramifications of
1182the Imperial family, to Uoht and Thale, from Naotalba and Phantom of
1183Truth, to Aldones, and then tossing aside his manuscript and notes, he
1184began the wonderful story of the Last King. Fascinated and thrilled I
1185watched him. He threw up his head, his long arms were stretched out in a
1186magnificent gesture of pride and power, and his eyes blazed deep in their
1187sockets like two emeralds. Vance listened stupefied. As for me, when at
1188last Mr. Wilde had finished, and pointing to me, cried, "The cousin of
1189the King!" my head swam with excitement.
1190
1191Controlling myself with a superhuman effort, I explained to Vance why I
1192alone was worthy of the crown and why my cousin must be exiled or die.
1193I made him understand that my cousin must never marry, even after
1194renouncing all his claims, and how that least of all he should marry the
1195daughter of the Marquis of Avonshire and bring England into the question.
1196I showed him a list of thousands of names which Mr. Wilde had drawn up;
1197every man whose name was there had received the Yellow Sign which no
1198living human being dared disregard. The city, the state, the whole land,
1200
1201The time had come, the people should know the son of Hastur, and the
1202whole world bow to the black stars which hang in the sky over Carcosa.
1203
1204Vance leaned on the table, his head buried in his hands. Mr. Wilde drew
1205a rough sketch on the margin of yesterday's _Herald_ with a bit of
1206lead pencil. It was a plan of Hawberk's rooms. Then he wrote out the
1207order and affixed the seal, and shaking like a palsied man I signed my
1208first writ of execution with my name Hildred-Rex.
1209
1210Mr. Wilde clambered to the floor and unlocking the cabinet, took a long
1211square box from the first shelf. This he brought to the table and opened.
1212A new knife lay in the tissue paper inside and I picked it up and handed
1213it to Vance, along with the order and the plan of Hawberk's apartment.
1214Then Mr. Wilde told Vance he could go; and he went, shambling like an
1215outcast of the slums.
1216
1217I sat for a while watching the daylight fade behind the square tower of
1218the Judson Memorial Church, and finally, gathering up the manuscript and
1219notes, took my hat and started for the door.
1220
1221Mr. Wilde watched me in silence. When I had stepped into the hall I
1222looked back. Mr. Wilde's small eyes were still fixed on me. Behind him,
1223the shadows gathered in the fading light. Then I closed the door behind
1224me and went out into the darkening streets.
1225
1226I had eaten nothing since breakfast, but I was not hungry. A wretched,
1227half-starved creature, who stood looking across the street at the Lethal
1228Chamber, noticed me and came up to tell me a tale of misery. I gave him
1229money, I don't know why, and he went away without thanking me. An
1230hour later another outcast approached and whined his story. I had a blank
1231bit of paper in my pocket, on which was traced the Yellow Sign, and I
1232handed it to him. He looked at it stupidly for a moment, and then with an
1233uncertain glance at me, folded it with what seemed to me exaggerated care
1234and placed it in his bosom.
1235
1236The electric lights were sparkling among the trees, and the new moon
1237shone in the sky above the Lethal Chamber. It was tiresome waiting in the
1238square; I wandered from the Marble Arch to the artillery stables and back
1239again to the lotos fountain. The flowers and grass exhaled a fragrance
1240which troubled me. The jet of the fountain played in the moonlight, and
1241the musical splash of falling drops reminded me of the tinkle of chained
1242mail in Hawberk's shop. But it was not so fascinating, and the dull
1243sparkle of the moonlight on the water brought no such sensations of
1244exquisite pleasure, as when the sunshine played over the polished steel
1245of a corselet on Hawberk's knee. I watched the bats darting and turning
1246above the water plants in the fountain basin, but their rapid, jerky
1247flight set my nerves on edge, and I went away again to walk aimlessly to
1248and fro among the trees.
1249
1250The artillery stables were dark, but in the cavalry barracks the
1251officers' windows were brilliantly lighted, and the sallyport was
1252constantly filled with troopers in fatigue, carrying straw and harness
1253and baskets filled with tin dishes.
1254
1255Twice the mounted sentry at the gates was changed while I wandered up and
1256down the asphalt walk. I looked at my watch. It was nearly time. The
1257lights in the barracks went out one by one, the barred gate was closed,
1258and every minute or two an officer passed in through the side wicket,
1259leaving a rattle of accoutrements and a jingle of spurs on the night air.
1260The square had become very silent. The last homeless loiterer had been
1261driven away by the grey-coated park policeman, the car tracks along
1262Wooster Street were deserted, and the only sound which broke the
1263stillness was the stamping of the sentry's horse and the ring of his
1264sabre against the saddle pommel. In the barracks, the officers' quarters
1265were still lighted, and military servants passed and repassed before the
1266bay windows. Twelve o'clock sounded from the new spire of St. Francis
1267Xavier, and at the last stroke of the sad-toned bell a figure passed
1268through the wicket beside the portcullis, returned the salute of the
1269sentry, and crossing the street entered the square and advanced toward
1270the Benedick apartment house.
1271
1272"Louis," I called.
1273
1274The man pivoted on his spurred heels and came straight toward me.
1275
1276"Is that you, Hildred?"
1277
1278"Yes, you are on time."
1279
1280I took his offered hand, and we strolled toward the Lethal Chamber.
1281
1282He rattled on about his wedding and the graces of Constance, and their
1283future prospects, calling my attention to his captain's shoulder-straps,
1284and the triple gold arabesque on his sleeve and fatigue cap. I believe I
1285listened as much to the music of his spurs and sabre as I did to his
1286boyish babble, and at last we stood under the elms on the Fourth Street
1287corner of the square opposite the Lethal Chamber. Then he laughed and
1288asked me what I wanted with him. I motioned him to a seat on a bench
1289under the electric light, and sat down beside him. He looked at me
1290curiously, with that same searching glance which I hate and fear so in
1291doctors. I felt the insult of his look, but he did not know it, and I
1292carefully concealed my feelings.
1293
1294"Well, old chap," he inquired, "what can I do for you?"
1295
1296I drew from my pocket the manuscript and notes of the Imperial Dynasty
1297of America, and looking him in the eye said:
1298
1299"I will tell you. On your word as a soldier, promise me to read this
1300manuscript from beginning to end, without asking me a question. Promise
1301me to read these notes in the same way, and promise me to listen to what
1302I have to tell later."
1303
1304"I promise, if you wish it," he said pleasantly. "Give me the paper,
1305Hildred."
1306
1307He began to read, raising his eyebrows with a puzzled, whimsical air,
1308which made me tremble with suppressed anger. As he advanced his, eyebrows
1309contracted, and his lips seemed to form the word "rubbish."
1310
1311Then he looked slightly bored, but apparently for my sake read, with an
1312attempt at interest, which presently ceased to be an effort He started
1313when in the closely written pages he came to his own name, and when he
1314came to mine he lowered the paper, and looked sharply at me for a moment
1315But he kept his word, and resumed his reading, and I let the half-formed
1316question die on his lips unanswered. When he came to the end and read the
1317signature of Mr. Wilde, he folded the paper carefully and returned it to
1318me. I handed him the notes, and he settled back, pushing his fatigue cap
1319up to his forehead, with a boyish gesture, which I remembered so well in
1320school. I watched his face as he read, and when he finished I took the
1321notes with the manuscript, and placed them in my pocket. Then I unfolded
1322a scroll marked with the Yellow Sign. He saw the sign, but he did not
1323seem to recognize it, and I called his attention to it somewhat sharply.
1324
1325"Well," he said, "I see it. What is it?"
1326
1327"It is the Yellow Sign," I said angrily.
1328
1329"Oh, that's it, is it?" said Louis, in that flattering voice, which
1330Doctor Archer used to employ with me, and would probably have employed
1331again, had I not settled his affair for him.
1332
1333I kept my rage down and answered as steadily as possible, "Listen, you
1335
1336"I am listening, old chap," he replied soothingly.
1337
1338I began to speak very calmly.
1339
1340"Dr. Archer, having by some means become possessed of the secret of the
1341Imperial Succession, attempted to deprive me of my right, alleging that
1342because of a fall from my horse four years ago, I had become mentally
1343deficient. He presumed to place me under restraint in his own house in
1344hopes of either driving me insane or poisoning me. I have not forgotten
1345it. I visited him last night and the interview was final."
1346
1347Louis turned quite pale, but did not move. I resumed triumphantly, "There
1348are yet three people to be interviewed in the interests of Mr. Wilde and
1349myself. They are my cousin Louis, Mr. Hawberk, and his daughter
1350Constance."
1351
1352Louis sprang to his feet and I arose also, and flung the paper marked
1353with the Yellow Sign to the ground.
1354
1355"Oh, I don't need that to tell you what I have to say," I cried, with a
1356laugh of triumph. "You must renounce the crown to me, do you hear, to
1357_me_."
1358
1359Louis looked at me with a startled air, but recovering himself said
1360kindly, "Of course I renounce the--what is it I must renounce?"
1361
1362"The crown," I said angrily.
1363
1364"Of course," he answered, "I renounce it. Come, old chap, I'll walk back
1366
1367"Don't try any of your doctor's tricks on me," I cried, trembling with
1368fury. "Don't act as if you think I am insane."
1369
1370"What nonsense," he replied. "Come, it's getting late, Hildred."
1371
1372"No," I shouted, "you must listen. You cannot marry, I forbid it. Do you
1373hear? I forbid it. You shall renounce the crown, and in reward I grant
1374you exile, but if you refuse you shall die."
1375
1376He tried to calm me, but I was roused at last, and drawing my long knife
1377barred his way.
1378
1379Then I told him how they would find Dr. Archer in the cellar with his
1380throat open, and I laughed in his face when I thought of Vance and his
1381knife, and the order signed by me.
1382
1383"Ah, you are the King," I cried, "but I shall be King. Who are you to
1384keep me from Empire over all the habitable earth! I was born the cousin
1385of a king, but I shall be King!"
1386
1387Louis stood white and rigid before me. Suddenly a man came running up
1388Fourth Street, entered the gate of the Lethal Temple, traversed the path
1389to the bronze doors at full speed, and plunged into the death chamber
1390with the cry of one demented, and I laughed until I wept tears, for I had
1391recognized Vance, and knew that Hawberk and his daughter were no longer
1392in my way.
1393
1394"Go," I cried to Louis, "you have ceased to be a menace. You will never
1395marry Constance now, and if you marry any one else in your exile, I will
1396visit you as I did my doctor last night. Mr. Wilde takes charge of you
1397to-morrow." Then I turned and darted into South Fifth Avenue, and with a
1398cry of terror Louis dropped his belt and sabre and followed me like the
1399wind. I heard him close behind me at the corner of Bleecker Street, and I
1400dashed into the doorway under Hawberk's sign. He cried, "Halt, or I
1401fire!" but when he saw that I flew up the stairs leaving Hawberk's shop
1402below, he left me, and I heard him hammering and shouting at their door
1403as though it were possible to arouse the dead.
1404
1405Mr. Wilde's door was open, and I entered crying, "It is done, it is done!
1406Let the nations rise and look upon their King!" but I could not find Mr.
1407Wilde, so I went to the cabinet and took the splendid diadem from its
1408case. Then I drew on the white silk robe, embroidered with the Yellow
1409Sign, and placed the crown upon my head. At last I was King, King by my
1410right in Hastur, King because I knew the mystery of the Hyades, and my
1411mind had sounded the depths of the Lake of Hali. I was King! The first
1412grey pencillings of dawn would raise a tempest which would shake two
1413hemispheres. Then as I stood, my every nerve pitched to the highest
1414tension, faint with the joy and splendour of my thought, without, in the
1415dark passage, a man groaned.
1416
1417I seized the tallow dip and sprang to the door. The cat passed me like a
1418demon, and the tallow dip went out, but my long knife flew swifter than
1419she, and I heard her screech, and I knew that my knife had found her. For
1420a moment I listened to her tumbling and thumping about in the darkness,
1421and then when her frenzy ceased, I lighted a lamp and raised it over my
1422head. Mr. Wilde lay on the floor with his throat torn open. At first I
1423thought he was dead, but as I looked, a green sparkle came into his
1424sunken eyes, his mutilated hand trembled, and then a spasm stretched his
1425mouth from ear to ear. For a moment my terror and despair gave place to
1426hope, but as I bent over him his eyeballs rolled clean around in his
1427head, and he died. Then while I stood, transfixed with rage and despair,
1428seeing my crown, my empire, every hope and every ambition, my very life,
1429lying prostrate there with the dead master, _they_ came, seized me
1430from behind, and bound me until my veins stood out like cords, and my
1431voice failed with the paroxysms of my frenzied screams. But I still
1432raged, bleeding and infuriated among them, and more than one policeman
1433felt my sharp teeth. Then when I could no longer move they came nearer; I
1434saw old Hawberk, and behind him my cousin Louis' ghastly face, and
1435farther away, in the corner, a woman, Constance, weeping softly.
1436
1437"Ah! I see it now!" I shrieked. "You have seized the throne and the
1438empire. Woe! woe to you who are crowned with the crown of the King in
1439Yellow!"
1440
1441
1442[EDITOR'S NOTE.--Mr. Castaigne died yesterday in the Asylum for Criminal
1443Insane.]
1444
1445
1446
1447
1449
1451
1452STRANGER: Indeed?
1453
1454CASSILDA: Indeed it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
1455
1457
1459
1460_The King in Yellow, Act I, Scene 2_.
1461
1462
1463I
1464
1465Although I knew nothing of chemistry, I listened fascinated. He picked up
1466an Easter lily which Geneviève had brought that morning from Notre Dame,
1467and dropped it into the basin. Instantly the liquid lost its crystalline
1468clearness. For a second the lily was enveloped in a milk-white foam,
1469which disappeared, leaving the fluid opalescent. Changing tints of orange
1470and crimson played over the surface, and then what seemed to be a ray of
1471pure sunlight struck through from the bottom where the lily was resting.
1472At the same instant he plunged his hand into the basin and drew out the
1473flower. "There is no danger," he explained, "if you choose the right
1474moment. That golden ray is the signal."
1475
1476He held the lily toward me, and I took it in my hand. It had turned to
1477stone, to the purest marble.
1478
1479"You see," he said, "it is without a flaw. What sculptor could reproduce
1480it?"
1481
1482The marble was white as snow, but in its depths the veins of the lily
1483were tinged with palest azure, and a faint flush lingered deep in its
1484heart.
1485
1486"Don't ask me the reason of that," he smiled, noticing my wonder. "I have
1487no idea why the veins and heart are tinted, but they always are.
1488Yesterday I tried one of Geneviève's gold-fish,--there it is."
1489
1490The fish looked as if sculptured in marble. But if you held it to the
1491light the stone was beautifully veined with a faint blue, and from
1492somewhere within came a rosy light like the tint which slumbers in an
1493opal. I looked into the basin. Once more it seemed filled with clearest
1494crystal.
1495
1496"If I should touch it now?" I demanded.
1497
1498"I don't know," he replied, "but you had better not try."
1499
1500"There is one thing I'm curious about," I said, "and that is where the
1501ray of sunlight came from."
1502
1503"It looked like a sunbeam true enough," he said. "I don't know, it always
1504comes when I immerse any living thing. Perhaps," he continued, smiling,
1505"perhaps it is the vital spark of the creature escaping to the source
1506from whence it came."
1507
1508I saw he was mocking, and threatened him with a mahl-stick, but he only
1509laughed and changed the subject.
1510
1511"Stay to lunch. Geneviève will be here directly."
1512
1513"I saw her going to early mass," I said, "and she looked as fresh and
1514sweet as that lily--before you destroyed it."
1515
1516"Do you think I destroyed it?" said Boris gravely.
1517
1518"Destroyed, preserved, how can we tell?"
1519
1520We sat in the corner of a studio near his unfinished group of the
1521"Fates." He leaned back on the sofa, twirling a sculptor's chisel and
1522squinting at his work.
1523
1524"By the way," he said, "I have finished pointing up that old academic
1525Ariadne, and I suppose it will have to go to the Salon. It's all I have
1526ready this year, but after the success the 'Madonna' brought me I feel
1527ashamed to send a thing like that."
1528
1530the sensation of last year's Salon. I looked at the Ariadne. It was a
1531magnificent piece of technical work, but I agreed with Boris that the
1532world would expect something better of him than that. Still, it was
1533impossible now to think of finishing in time for the Salon that splendid
1534terrible group half shrouded in the marble behind me. The "Fates" would
1535have to wait.
1536
1537We were proud of Boris Yvain. We claimed him and he claimed us on the
1538strength of his having been born in America, although his father was
1539French and his mother was a Russian. Every one in the Beaux Arts called
1540him Boris. And yet there were only two of us whom he addressed in the
1541same familiar way--Jack Scott and myself.
1542
1543Perhaps my being in love with Geneviève had something to do with his
1544affection for me. Not that it had ever been acknowledged between us. But
1545after all was settled, and she had told me with tears in her eyes that it
1546was Boris whom she loved, I went over to his house and congratulated him.
1547The perfect cordiality of that interview did not deceive either of us, I
1548always believed, although to one at least it was a great comfort. I do
1549not think he and Geneviève ever spoke of the matter together, but Boris
1550knew.
1551
1552Geneviève was lovely. The Madonna-like purity of her face might have been
1553inspired by the Sanctus in Gounod's Mass. But I was always glad when she
1554changed that mood for what we called her "April Manoeuvres." She was
1555often as variable as an April day. In the morning grave, dignified and
1556sweet, at noon laughing, capricious, at evening whatever one least
1557expected. I preferred her so rather than in that Madonna-like
1558tranquillity which stirred the depths of my heart. I was dreaming of
1559Geneviève when he spoke again.
1560
1561"What do you think of my discovery, Alec?"
1562
1563"I think it wonderful."
1564
1565"I shall make no use of it, you know, beyond satisfying my own curiosity
1566so far as may be, and the secret will die with me."
1567
1568"It would be rather a blow to sculpture, would it not? We painters lose
1569more than we ever gain by photography."
1570
1571Boris nodded, playing with the edge of the chisel.
1572
1573"This new vicious discovery would corrupt the world of art. No, I shall
1574never confide the secret to any one," he said slowly.
1575
1576It would be hard to find any one less informed about such phenomena than
1577myself; but of course I had heard of mineral springs so saturated with
1578silica that the leaves and twigs which fell into them were turned to
1579stone after a time. I dimly comprehended the process, how the silica
1580replaced the vegetable matter, atom by atom, and the result was a
1581duplicate of the object in stone. This, I confess, had never interested
1582me greatly, and as for the ancient fossils thus produced, they disgusted
1584investigated the subject, and had accidentally stumbled on a solution
1585which, attacking the immersed object with a ferocity unheard of, in a
1586second did the work of years. This was all I could make out of the
1587strange story he had just been telling me. He spoke again after a long
1588silence.
1589
1590"I am almost frightened when I think what I have found. Scientists would
1591go mad over the discovery. It was so simple too; it discovered itself.
1592When I think of that formula, and that new element precipitated in
1593metallic scales--"
1594
1595"What new element?"
1596
1597"Oh, I haven't thought of naming it, and I don't believe I ever shall.
1598There are enough precious metals now in the world to cut throats over."
1599
1600I pricked up my ears. "Have you struck gold, Boris?"
1601
1602"No, better;--but see here, Alec!" he laughed, starting up. "You and I
1603have all we need in this world. Ah! how sinister and covetous you look
1604already!" I laughed too, and told him I was devoured by the desire for
1605gold, and we had better talk of something else; so when Geneviève came in
1606shortly after, we had turned our backs on alchemy.
1607
1608Geneviève was dressed in silvery grey from head to foot. The light
1609glinted along the soft curves of her fair hair as she turned her cheek to
1610Boris; then she saw me and returned my greeting. She had never before
1611failed to blow me a kiss from the tips of her white fingers, and I
1612promptly complained of the omission. She smiled and held out her hand,
1613which dropped almost before it had touched mine; then she said, looking
1614at Boris--
1615
1616"You must ask Alec to stay for luncheon." This also was something new.
1618
1619"I did," said Boris shortly.
1620
1621"And you said yes, I hope?" She turned to me with a charming conventional
1622smile. I might have been an acquaintance of the day before yesterday. I
1623made her a low bow. "J'avais bien l'honneur, madame," but refusing to
1624take up our usual bantering tone, she murmured a hospitable commonplace
1625and disappeared. Boris and I looked at one another.
1626
1628
1629"Hanged if I know," he replied frankly.
1630
1631While we were discussing the advisability of my departure Geneviève
1632reappeared in the doorway without her bonnet. She was wonderfully
1633beautiful, but her colour was too deep and her lovely eyes were too
1634bright. She came straight up to me and took my arm.
1635
1637haven't. Come here, Boris;" and she slipped her other arm through his.
1638"Alec knows that after you there is no one in the world whom I like as
1639well as I like him, so if he sometimes feels snubbed it won't hurt him."
1640
1641"À la bonheur!" I cried, "who says there are no thunderstorms in April?"
1642
1643"Are you ready?" chanted Boris. "Aye ready;" and arm-in-arm we raced into
1644the dining-room, scandalizing the servants. After all we were not so much
1645to blame; Geneviève was eighteen, Boris was twenty-three, and I not quite
1646twenty-one.
1647
1648
1649
1650
1651II
1652
1654Geneviève's boudoir kept me constantly at the quaint little hotel in the
1655Rue Sainte-Cécile. Boris and I in those days laboured hard but as we
1656pleased, which was fitfully, and we all three, with Jack Scott, idled a
1657great deal together.
1658
1659One quiet afternoon I had been wandering alone over the house examining
1660curios, prying into odd corners, bringing out sweetmeats and cigars from
1661strange hiding-places, and at last I stopped in the bathing-room. Boris,
1662all over clay, stood there washing his hands.
1663
1664The room was built of rose-coloured marble excepting the floor, which was
1665tessellated in rose and grey. In the centre was a square pool sunken
1666below the surface of the floor; steps led down into it, sculptured
1667pillars supported a frescoed ceiling. A delicious marble Cupid appeared
1668to have just alighted on his pedestal at the upper end of the room. The
1669whole interior was Boris' work and mine. Boris, in his working-clothes of
1670white canvas, scraped the traces of clay and red modelling wax from his
1671handsome hands, and coquetted over his shoulder with the Cupid.
1672
1673"I see you," he insisted, "don't try to look the other way and pretend
1674not to see me. You know who made you, little humbug!"
1675
1676It was always my rôle to interpret Cupid's sentiments in these
1677conversations, and when my turn came I responded in such a manner, that
1678Boris seized my arm and dragged me toward the pool, declaring he would
1679duck me. Next instant he dropped my arm and turned pale. "Good God!" he
1680said, "I forgot the pool is full of the solution!"
1681
1682I shivered a little, and dryly advised him to remember better where he
1684
1685"In Heaven's name, why do you keep a small lake of that gruesome stuff
1686here of all places?" I asked.
1687
1688"I want to experiment on something large," he replied.
1689
1690"On me, for instance?"
1691
1692"Ah! that came too close for jesting; but I do want to watch the action
1693of that solution on a more highly organized living body; there is that
1694big white rabbit," he said, following me into the studio.
1695
1696Jack Scott, wearing a paint-stained jacket, came wandering in,
1697appropriated all the Oriental sweetmeats he could lay his hands on,
1698looted the cigarette case, and finally he and Boris disappeared together
1699to visit the Luxembourg Gallery, where a new silver bronze by Rodin and a
1700landscape of Monet's were claiming the exclusive attention of artistic
1701France. I went back to the studio, and resumed my work. It was a
1702Renaissance screen, which Boris wanted me to paint for Geneviève's
1703boudoir. But the small boy who was unwillingly dawdling through a series
1704of poses for it, to-day refused all bribes to be good. He never rested an
1705instant in the same position, and inside of five minutes I had as many
1706different outlines of the little beggar.
1707
1708"Are you posing, or are you executing a song and dance, my friend?" I
1709inquired.
1710
1711"Whichever monsieur pleases," he replied, with an angelic smile.
1712
1713Of course I dismissed him for the day, and of course I paid him for the
1714full time, that being the way we spoil our models.
1715
1716After the young imp had gone, I made a few perfunctory daubs at my work,
1717but was so thoroughly out of humour, that it took me the rest of the
1718afternoon to undo the damage I had done, so at last I scraped my palette,
1719stuck my brushes in a bowl of black soap, and strolled into the
1720smoking-room. I really believe that, excepting Geneviève's apartments, no
1721room in the house was so free from the perfume of tobacco as this one. It
1722was a queer chaos of odds and ends, hung with threadbare tapestry. A
1723sweet-toned old spinet in good repair stood by the window. There were
1724stands of weapons, some old and dull, others bright and modern, festoons
1725of Indian and Turkish armour over the mantel, two or three good pictures,
1726and a pipe-rack. It was here that we used to come for new sensations in
1727smoking. I doubt if any type of pipe ever existed which was not
1728represented in that rack. When we had selected one, we immediately
1729carried it somewhere else and smoked it; for the place was, on the whole,
1730more gloomy and less inviting than any in the house. But this afternoon,
1731the twilight was very soothing, the rugs and skins on the floor looked
1732brown and soft and drowsy; the big couch was piled with cushions--I found
1733my pipe and curled up there for an unaccustomed smoke in the
1734smoking-room. I had chosen one with a long flexible stem, and lighting it
1735fell to dreaming. After a while it went out, but I did not stir. I
1736dreamed on and presently fell asleep.
1737
1738I awoke to the saddest music I had ever heard. The room was quite dark, I
1739had no idea what time it was. A ray of moonlight silvered one edge of the
1740old spinet, and the polished wood seemed to exhale the sounds as perfume
1741floats above a box of sandalwood. Some one rose in the darkness, and came
1742away weeping quietly, and I was fool enough to cry out "Geneviève!"
1743
1744She dropped at my voice, and, I had time to curse myself while I made a
1745light and tried to raise her from the floor. She shrank away with a
1746murmur of pain. She was very quiet, and asked for Boris. I carried her to
1747the divan, and went to look for him, but he was not in the house, and the
1748servants were gone to bed. Perplexed and anxious, I hurried back to
1749Geneviève. She lay where I had left her, looking very white.
1750
1751"I can't find Boris nor any of the servants," I said.
1752
1753"I know," she answered faintly, "Boris has gone to Ept with Mr. Scott. I
1754did not remember when I sent you for him just now."
1755
1756"But he can't get back in that case before to-morrow afternoon, and--are
1757you hurt? Did I frighten you into falling? What an awful fool I am, but I
1758was only half awake."
1759
1760"Boris thought you had gone home before dinner. Do please excuse us for
1761letting you stay here all this time."
1762
1763"I have had a long nap," I laughed, "so sound that I did not know whether
1764I was still asleep or not when I found myself staring at a figure that
1765was moving toward me, and called out your name. Have you been trying the
1766old spinet? You must have played very softly."
1767
1768I would tell a thousand more lies worse than that one to see the look of
1769relief that came into her face. She smiled adorably, and said in her
1770natural voice: "Alec, I tripped on that wolf's head, and I think my ankle
1771is sprained. Please call Marie, and then go home."
1772
1773I did as she bade me, and left her there when the maid came in.
1774
1775
1776
1777
1778III
1779
1780At noon next day when I called, I found Boris walking restlessly about
1781his studio.
1782
1783"Geneviève is asleep just now," he told me, "the sprain is nothing, but
1784why should she have such a high fever? The doctor can't account for it;
1785or else he will not," he muttered.
1786
1787"Geneviève has a fever?" I asked.
1788
1789"I should say so, and has actually been a little light-headed at
1790intervals all night. The idea! gay little Geneviève, without a care in
1791the world,--and she keeps saying her heart's broken, and she wants to
1792die!"
1793
1794My own heart stood still.
1795
1796Boris leaned against the door of his studio, looking down, his hands in
1797his pockets, his kind, keen eyes clouded, a new line of trouble drawn
1798"over the mouth's good mark, that made the smile." The maid had orders to
1799summon him the instant Geneviève opened her eyes. We waited and waited,
1800and Boris, growing restless, wandered about, fussing with modelling wax
1801and red clay. Suddenly he started for the next room. "Come and see my
1802rose-coloured bath full of death!" he cried.
1803
1804"Is it death?" I asked, to humour his mood.
1805
1806"You are not prepared to call it life, I suppose," he answered. As he
1807spoke he plucked a solitary goldfish squirming and twisting out of its
1808globe. "We'll send this one after the other--wherever that is," he said.
1809There was feverish excitement in his voice. A dull weight of fever lay on
1810my limbs and on my brain as I followed him to the fair crystal pool with
1811its pink-tinted sides; and he dropped the creature in. Falling, its
1812scales flashed with a hot orange gleam in its angry twistings and
1813contortions; the moment it struck the liquid it became rigid and sank
1814heavily to the bottom. Then came the milky foam, the splendid hues
1815radiating on the surface and then the shaft of pure serene light broke
1816through from seemingly infinite depths. Boris plunged in his hand and
1817drew out an exquisite marble thing, blue-veined, rose-tinted, and
1818glistening with opalescent drops.
1819
1820"Child's play," he muttered, and looked wearily, longingly at me,--as if
1821I could answer such questions! But Jack Scott came in and entered into
1822the "game," as he called it, with ardour. Nothing would do but to try the
1823experiment on the white rabbit then and there. I was willing that Boris
1824should find distraction from his cares, but I hated to see the life go
1825out of a warm, living creature and I declined to be present. Picking up a
1826book at random, I sat down in the studio to read. Alas! I had found
1827_The King in Yellow_. After a few moments, which seemed ages, I was
1828putting it away with a nervous shudder, when Boris and Jack came in
1829bringing their marble rabbit. At the same time the bell rang above, and a
1830cry came from the sick-room. Boris was gone like a flash, and the next
1831moment he called, "Jack, run for the doctor; bring him back with you.
1832Alec, come here."
1833
1834I went and stood at her door. A frightened maid came out in haste and ran
1835away to fetch some remedy. Geneviève, sitting bolt upright, with crimson
1836cheeks and glittering eyes, babbled incessantly and resisted Boris'
1837gentle restraint. He called me to help. At my first touch she sighed and
1838sank back, closing her eyes, and then--then--as we still bent above her,
1839she opened them again, looked straight into Boris' face--poor
1840fever-crazed girl!--and told her secret. At the same instant our three
1841lives turned into new channels; the bond that held us so long together
1842snapped for ever and a new bond was forged in its place, for she had
1843spoken my name, and as the fever tortured her, her heart poured out its
1844load of hidden sorrow. Amazed and dumb I bowed my head, while my face
1845burned like a live coal, and the blood surged in my ears, stupefying me
1846with its clamour. Incapable of movement, incapable of speech, I listened
1847to her feverish words in an agony of shame and sorrow. I could not
1848silence her, I could not look at Boris. Then I felt an arm upon my
1849shoulder, and Boris turned a bloodless face to mine.
1850
1851"It is not your fault, Alec; don't grieve so if she loves you--" but he
1852could not finish; and as the doctor stepped swiftly into the room,
1853saying--"Ah, the fever!" I seized Jack Scott and hurried him to the
1854street, saying, "Boris would rather be alone." We crossed the street to
1855our own apartments, and that night, seeing I was going to be ill too, he
1856went for the doctor again. The last thing I recollect with any
1857distinctness was hearing Jack say, "For Heaven's sake, doctor, what ails
1858him, to wear a face like that?" and I thought of _The King in
1860
1861I was very ill, for the strain of two years which I had endured since
1862that fatal May morning when Geneviève murmured, "I love you, but I think
1863I love Boris best," told on me at last. I had never imagined that it
1864could become more than I could endure. Outwardly tranquil, I had deceived
1865myself. Although the inward battle raged night after night, and I, lying
1866alone in my room, cursed myself for rebellious thoughts unloyal to Boris
1867and unworthy of Geneviève, the morning always brought relief, and I
1868returned to Geneviève and to my dear Boris with a heart washed clean by
1869the tempests of the night.
1870
1871Never in word or deed or thought while with them had I betrayed my sorrow
1872even to myself.
1873
1874The mask of self-deception was no longer a mask for me, it was a part of
1875me. Night lifted it, laying bare the stifled truth below; but there was
1876no one to see except myself, and when the day broke the mask fell back
1877again of its own accord. These thoughts passed through my troubled mind
1878as I lay sick, but they were hopelessly entangled with visions of white
1879creatures, heavy as stone, crawling about in Boris' basin,--of the wolf's
1880head on the rug, foaming and snapping at Geneviève, who lay smiling
1881beside it. I thought, too, of the King in Yellow wrapped in the fantastic
1882colours of his tattered mantle, and that bitter cry of Cassilda, "Not
1883upon us, oh King, not upon us!" Feverishly I struggled to put it from me,
1884but I saw the lake of Hali, thin and blank, without a ripple or wind to
1885stir it, and I saw the towers of Carcosa behind the moon. Aldebaran, the
1886Hyades, Alar, Hastur, glided through the cloud-rifts which fluttered and
1887flapped as they passed like the scolloped tatters of the King in Yellow.
1888Among all these, one sane thought persisted. It never wavered, no matter
1889what else was going on in my disordered mind, that my chief reason for
1890existing was to meet some requirement of Boris and Geneviève. What this
1891obligation was, its nature, was never clear; sometimes it seemed to be
1892protection, sometimes support, through a great crisis. Whatever it seemed
1893to be for the time, its weight rested only on me, and I was never so ill
1894or so weak that I did not respond with my whole soul. There were always
1895crowds of faces about me, mostly strange, but a few I recognized, Boris
1896among them. Afterward they told me that this could not have been, but I
1897know that once at least he bent over me. It was only a touch, a faint
1898echo of his voice, then the clouds settled back on my senses, and I lost
1899him, but he _did_ stand there and bend over me _once_ at least.
1900
1901At last, one morning I awoke to find the sunlight falling across my bed,
1902and Jack Scott reading beside me. I had not strength enough to speak
1903aloud, neither could I think, much less remember, but I could smile
1904feebly, as Jack's eye met mine, and when he jumped up and asked eagerly
1905if I wanted anything, I could whisper, "Yes--Boris." Jack moved to the
1906head of my bed, and leaned down to arrange my pillow: I did not see his
1907face, but he answered heartily, "You must wait, Alec; you are too weak to
1908see even Boris."
1909
1910I waited and I grew strong; in a few days I was able to see whom I would,
1911but meanwhile I had thought and remembered. From the moment when all the
1912past grew clear again in my mind, I never doubted what I should do when
1913the time came, and I felt sure that Boris would have resolved upon the
1914same course so far as he was concerned; as for what pertained to me
1915alone, I knew he would see that also as I did. I no longer asked for any
1916one. I never inquired why no message came from them; why during the week
1917I lay there, waiting and growing stronger, I never heard their name
1918spoken. Preoccupied with my own searchings for the right way, and with my
1919feeble but determined fight against despair, I simply acquiesced in
1920Jack's reticence, taking for granted that he was afraid to speak of them,
1921lest I should turn unruly and insist on seeing them. Meanwhile I said
1922over and over to myself, how would it be when life began again for us
1923all? We would take up our relations exactly as they were before Geneviève
1924fell ill. Boris and I would look into each other's eyes, and there would
1925be neither rancour nor cowardice nor mistrust in that glance. I would be
1926with them again for a little while in the dear intimacy of their home,
1927and then, without pretext or explanation, I would disappear from their
1928lives for ever. Boris would know; Geneviève--the only comfort was that
1929she would never know. It seemed, as I thought it over, that I had found
1930the meaning of that sense of obligation which had persisted all through
1931my delirium, and the only possible answer to it. So, when I was quite
1932ready, I beckoned Jack to me one day, and said--
1933
1934"Jack, I want Boris at once; and take my dearest greeting to
1935Geneviève...."
1936
1937When at last he made me understand that they were both dead, I fell into
1938a wild rage that tore all my little convalescent strength to atoms. I
1939raved and cursed myself into a relapse, from which I crawled forth some
1940weeks afterward a boy of twenty-one who believed that his youth was gone
1941for ever. I seemed to be past the capability of further suffering, and
1942one day when Jack handed me a letter and the keys to Boris' house, I took
1943them without a tremor and asked him to tell me all. It was cruel of me to
1944ask him, but there was no help for it, and he leaned wearily on his thin
1945hands, to reopen the wound which could never entirely heal. He began very
1946quietly--
1947
1948"Alec, unless you have a clue that I know nothing about, you will not be
1949able to explain any more than I what has happened. I suspect that you
1950would rather not hear these details, but you must learn them, else I
1951would spare you the relation. God knows I wish I could be spared the
1952telling. I shall use few words.
1953
1954"That day when I left you in the doctor's care and came back to Boris, I
1955found him working on the 'Fates.' Geneviève, he said, was sleeping under
1956the influence of drugs. She had been quite out of her mind, he said. He
1957kept on working, not talking any more, and I watched him. Before long, I
1958saw that the third figure of the group--the one looking straight ahead,
1959out over the world--bore his face; not as you ever saw it, but as it
1960looked then and to the end. This is one thing for which I should like to
1961find an explanation, but I never shall.
1962
1963"Well, he worked and I watched him in silence, and we went on that way
1964until nearly midnight. Then we heard the door open and shut sharply, and
1965a swift rush in the next room. Boris sprang through the doorway and I
1966followed; but we were too late. She lay at the bottom of the pool, her
1967hands across her breast. Then Boris shot himself through the heart." Jack
1968stopped speaking, drops of sweat stood under his eyes, and his thin
1969cheeks twitched. "I carried Boris to his room. Then I went back and let
1970that hellish fluid out of the pool, and turning on all the water, washed
1971the marble clean of every drop. When at length I dared descend the steps,
1972I found her lying there as white as snow. At last, when I had decided
1973what was best to do, I went into the laboratory, and first emptied the
1974solution in the basin into the waste-pipe; then I poured the contents of
1975every jar and bottle after it. There was wood in the fire-place, so I
1976built a fire, and breaking the locks of Boris' cabinet I burnt every
1977paper, notebook and letter that I found there. With a mallet from the
1978studio I smashed to pieces all the empty bottles, then loading them into
1979a coal-scuttle, I carried them to the cellar and threw them over the
1980red-hot bed of the furnace. Six times I made the journey, and at last,
1981not a vestige remained of anything which might again aid in seeking for
1982the formula which Boris had found. Then at last I dared call the doctor.
1983He is a good man, and together we struggled to keep it from the public.
1984Without him I never could have succeeded. At last we got the servants
1985paid and sent away into the country, where old Rosier keeps them quiet
1986with stones of Boris' and Geneviève's travels in distant lands, from
1987whence they will not return for years. We buried Boris in the little
1988cemetery of Sèvres. The doctor is a good creature, and knows when to pity
1989a man who can bear no more. He gave his certificate of heart disease and
1991
1992Then, lifting his head from his hands, he said, "Open the letter, Alec;
1993it is for us both."
1994
1995I tore it open. It was Boris' will dated a year before. He left
1996everything to Geneviève, and in case of her dying childless, I was to
1997take control of the house in the Rue Sainte-Cécile, and Jack Scott the
1998management at Ept. On our deaths the property reverted to his mother's
1999family in Russia, with the exception of the sculptured marbles executed
2000by himself. These he left to me.
2001
2002The page blurred under our eyes, and Jack got up and walked to the
2003window. Presently he returned and sat down again. I dreaded to hear what
2004he was going to say, but he spoke with the same simplicity and
2005gentleness.
2006
2007"Geneviève lies before the Madonna in the marble room. The Madonna bends
2008tenderly above her, and Geneviève smiles back into that calm face that
2009never would have been except for her."
2010
2011His voice broke, but he grasped my hand, saying, "Courage, Alec." Next
2012morning he left for Ept to fulfil his trust.
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017IV
2018
2019The same evening I took the keys and went into the house I had known so
2020well. Everything was in order, but the silence was terrible. Though I
2021went twice to the door of the marble room, I could not force myself to
2022enter. It was beyond my strength. I went into the smoking-room and sat
2023down before the spinet. A small lace handkerchief lay on the keys, and I
2024turned away, choking. It was plain I could not stay, so I locked every
2025door, every window, and the three front and back gates, and went away.
2026Next morning Alcide packed my valise, and leaving him in charge of my
2027apartments I took the Orient express for Constantinople. During the two
2028years that I wandered through the East, at first, in our letters, we
2029never mentioned Geneviève and Boris, but gradually their names crept in.
2030I recollect particularly a passage in one of Jack's letters replying to
2031one of mine--
2032
2033"What you tell me of seeing Boris bending over you while you lay ill, and
2034feeling his touch on your face, and hearing his voice, of course troubles
2035me. This that you describe must have happened a fortnight after he died.
2036I say to myself that you were dreaming, that it was part of your
2037delirium, but the explanation does not satisfy me, nor would it you."
2038
2039Toward the end of the second year a letter came from Jack to me in India
2040so unlike anything that I had ever known of him that I decided to return
2041at once to Paris. He wrote: "I am well, and sell all my pictures as
2042artists do who have no need of money. I have not a care of my own, but I
2043am more restless than if I had. I am unable to shake off a strange
2044anxiety about you. It is not apprehension, it is rather a breathless
2045expectancy--of what, God knows! I can only say it is wearing me out.
2046Nights I dream always of you and Boris. I can never recall anything
2047afterward, but I wake in the morning with my heart beating, and all day
2048the excitement increases until I fall asleep at night to recall the same
2049experience. I am quite exhausted by it, and have determined to break up
2050this morbid condition. I must see you. Shall I go to Bombay, or will you
2051come to Paris?"
2052
2053I telegraphed him to expect me by the next steamer.
2054
2055When we met I thought he had changed very little; I, he insisted, looked
2056in splendid health. It was good to hear his voice again, and as we sat
2057and chatted about what life still held for us, we felt that it was
2058pleasant to be alive in the bright spring weather.
2059
2060We stayed in Paris together a week, and then I went for a week to Ept
2061with him, but first of all we went to the cemetery at Sèvres, where Boris
2062lay.
2063
2064"Shall we place the 'Fates' in the little grove above him?" Jack asked,
2066
2067"I think only the 'Madonna' should watch over Boris' grave." But Jack was
2068none the better for my home-coming. The dreams of which he could not
2069retain even the least definite outline continued, and he said that at
2070times the sense of breathless expectancy was suffocating.
2071
2072"You see I do you harm and not good," I said. "Try a change without me."
2073So he started alone for a ramble among the Channel Islands, and I went
2074back to Paris. I had not yet entered Boris' house, now mine, since my
2075return, but I knew it must be done. It had been kept in order by Jack;
2076there were servants there, so I gave up my own apartment and went there
2077to live. Instead of the agitation I had feared, I found myself able to
2078paint there tranquilly. I visited all the rooms--all but one. I could not
2079bring myself to enter the marble room where Geneviève lay, and yet I felt
2080the longing growing daily to look upon her face, to kneel beside her.
2081
2082One April afternoon, I lay dreaming in the smoking-room, just as I had
2083lain two years before, and mechanically I looked among the tawny Eastern
2084rugs for the wolf-skin. At last I distinguished the pointed ears and flat
2085cruel head, and I thought of my dream where I saw Geneviève lying beside
2086it. The helmets still hung against the threadbare tapestry, among them
2087the old Spanish morion which I remembered Geneviève had once put on when
2088we were amusing ourselves with the ancient bits of mail. I turned my eyes
2089to the spinet; every yellow key seemed eloquent of her caressing hand,
2090and I rose, drawn by the strength of my life's passion to the sealed door
2091of the marble room. The heavy doors swung inward under my trembling
2092hands. Sunlight poured through the window, tipping with gold the wings of
2093Cupid, and lingered like a nimbus over the brows of the Madonna. Her
2094tender face bent in compassion over a marble form so exquisitely pure
2095that I knelt and signed myself. Geneviève lay in the shadow under the
2096Madonna, and yet, through her white arms, I saw the pale azure vein, and
2097beneath her softly clasped hands the folds of her dress were tinged with
2098rose, as if from some faint warm light within her breast.
2099
2100Bending, with a breaking heart, I touched the marble drapery with my
2101lips, then crept back into the silent house.
2102
2103A maid came and brought me a letter, and I sat down in the little
2104conservatory to read it; but as I was about to break the seal, seeing the
2105girl lingering, I asked her what she wanted.
2106
2107She stammered something about a white rabbit that had been caught in the
2108house, and asked what should be done with it I told her to let it loose
2109in the walled garden behind the house, and opened my letter. It was from
2110Jack, but so incoherent that I thought he must have lost his reason. It
2111was nothing but a series of prayers to me not to leave the house until he
2112could get back; he could not tell me why, there were the dreams, he
2113said--he could explain nothing, but he was sure that I must not leave the
2114house in the Rue Sainte-Cécile.
2115
2116As I finished reading I raised my eyes and saw the same maid-servant
2117standing in the doorway holding a glass dish in which two gold-fish were
2118swimming: "Put them back into the tank and tell me what you mean by
2119interrupting me," I said.
2120
2121With a half-suppressed whimper she emptied water and fish into an
2122aquarium at the end of the conservatory, and turning to me asked my
2123permission to leave my service. She said people were playing tricks on
2124her, evidently with a design of getting her into trouble; the marble
2125rabbit had been stolen and a live one had been brought into the house;
2126the two beautiful marble fish were gone, and she had just found those
2127common live things flopping on the dining-room floor. I reassured her and
2128sent her away, saying I would look about myself. I went into the studio;
2129there was nothing there but my canvases and some casts, except the marble
2130of the Easter lily. I saw it on a table across the room. Then I strode
2131angrily over to it. But the flower I lifted from the table was fresh and
2132fragile and filled the air with perfume.
2133
2134Then suddenly I comprehended, and sprang through the hall-way to the
2135marble room. The doors flew open, the sunlight streamed into my face, and
2136through it, in a heavenly glory, the Madonna smiled, as Geneviève lifted
2137her flushed face from her marble couch and opened her sleepy eyes.
2138
2139
2140
2141
2142IN THE COURT OF THE DRAGON
2143
2144
2145  "Oh, thou who burn'st in heart for those who burn
2146  In Hell, whose fires thyself shall feed in turn;
2147  How long be crying--'Mercy on them.' God!
2148  Why, who art thou to teach and He to learn?"
2149
2150In the Church of St. Barnabé vespers were over; the clergy left the
2151altar; the little choir-boys flocked across the chancel and settled in
2152the stalls. A Suisse in rich uniform marched down the south aisle,
2153sounding his staff at every fourth step on the stone pavement; behind him
2154came that eloquent preacher and good man, Monseigneur C----.
2155
2156My chair was near the chancel rail, I now turned toward the west end of
2157the church. The other people between the altar and the pulpit turned too.
2158There was a little scraping and rustling while the congregation seated
2159itself again; the preacher mounted the pulpit stairs, and the organ
2160voluntary ceased.
2161
2162I had always found the organ-playing at St. Barnabé highly interesting.
2163Learned and scientific it was, too much so for my small knowledge, but
2164expressing a vivid if cold intelligence. Moreover, it possessed the
2165French quality of taste: taste reigned supreme, self-controlled,
2166dignified and reticent.
2167
2168To-day, however, from the first chord I had felt a change for the worse,
2169a sinister change. During vespers it had been chiefly the chancel organ
2170which supported the beautiful choir, but now and again, quite wantonly as
2171it seemed, from the west gallery where the great organ stands, a heavy
2172hand had struck across the church at the serene peace of those clear
2173voices. It was something more than harsh and dissonant, and it betrayed
2174no lack of skill. As it recurred again and again, it set me thinking of
2175what my architect's books say about the custom in early times to
2176consecrate the choir as soon as it was built, and that the nave, being
2177finished sometimes half a century later, often did not get any blessing
2178at all: I wondered idly if that had been the case at St. Barnabé, and
2179whether something not usually supposed to be at home in a Christian
2180church might have entered undetected and taken possession of the west
2181gallery. I had read of such things happening, too, but not in works on
2182architecture.
2183
2184Then I remembered that St. Barnabé was not much more than a hundred years
2185old, and smiled at the incongruous association of mediaeval superstitions
2186with that cheerful little piece of eighteenth-century rococo.
2187
2188But now vespers were over, and there should have followed a few quiet
2189chords, fit to accompany meditation, while we waited for the sermon.
2190Instead of that, the discord at the lower end of the church broke out
2191with the departure of the clergy, as if now nothing could control it.
2192
2193I belong to those children of an older and simpler generation who do not
2194love to seek for psychological subtleties in art; and I have ever refused
2195to find in music anything more than melody and harmony, but I felt that
2196in the labyrinth of sounds now issuing from that instrument there was
2197something being hunted. Up and down the pedals chased him, while the
2198manuals blared approval. Poor devil! whoever he was, there seemed small
2199hope of escape!
2200
2201My nervous annoyance changed to anger. Who was doing this? How dare he
2202play like that in the midst of divine service? I glanced at the people
2203near me: not one appeared to be in the least disturbed. The placid brows
2204of the kneeling nuns, still turned towards the altar, lost none of their
2206fashionable lady beside me was looking expectantly at Monseigneur C----.
2207For all her face betrayed, the organ might have been singing an Ave
2208Maria.
2209
2210But now, at last, the preacher had made the sign of the cross, and
2212rest I had counted on when I entered St. Barnabé that afternoon.
2213
2214I was worn out by three nights of physical suffering and mental trouble:
2215the last had been the worst, and it was an exhausted body, and a mind
2216benumbed and yet acutely sensitive, which I had brought to my favourite
2217church for healing. For I had been reading _The King in Yellow_.
2218
2219"The sun ariseth; they gather themselves together and lay them down in
2220their dens." Monseigneur C---- delivered his text in a calm voice,
2221glancing quietly over the congregation. My eyes turned, I knew not why,
2222toward the lower end of the church. The organist was coming from behind
2223his pipes, and passing along the gallery on his way out, I saw him
2224disappear by a small door that leads to some stairs which descend
2225directly to the street. He was a slender man, and his face was as white
2226as his coat was black. "Good riddance!" I thought, "with your wicked
2227music! I hope your assistant will play the closing voluntary."
2228
2229With a feeling of relief--with a deep, calm feeling of relief, I turned
2230back to the mild face in the pulpit and settled myself to listen. Here,
2231at last, was the ease of mind I longed for.
2232
2233"My children," said the preacher, "one truth the human soul finds hardest
2234of all to learn: that it has nothing to fear. It can never be made to see
2235that nothing can really harm it."
2236
2237"Curious doctrine!" I thought, "for a Catholic priest. Let us see how he
2238will reconcile that with the Fathers."
2239
2240"Nothing can really harm the soul," he went on, in, his coolest, clearest
2241tones, "because----"
2242
2243But I never heard the rest; my eye left his face, I knew not for what
2244reason, and sought the lower end of the church. The same man was coming
2245out from behind the organ, and was passing along the gallery _the same
2246way_. But there had not been time for him to return, and if he had
2247returned, I must have seen him. I felt a faint chill, and my heart sank;
2248and yet, his going and coming were no affair of mine. I looked at him: I
2249could not look away from his black figure and his white face. When he was
2250exactly opposite to me, he turned and sent across the church straight
2251into my eyes, a look of hate, intense and deadly: I have never seen any
2252other like it; would to God I might never see it again! Then he
2253disappeared by the same door through which I had watched him depart less
2254than sixty seconds before.
2255
2256I sat and tried to collect my thoughts. My first sensation was like that
2257of a very young child badly hurt, when it catches its breath before
2258crying out.
2259
2260To suddenly find myself the object of such hatred was exquisitely
2261painful: and this man was an utter stranger. Why should he hate me
2262so?--me, whom he had never seen before? For the moment all other
2263sensation was merged in this one pang: even fear was subordinate to
2264grief, and for that moment I never doubted; but in the next I began to
2265reason, and a sense of the incongruous came to my aid.
2266
2267As I have said, St. Barnabé is a modern church. It is small and well
2268lighted; one sees all over it almost at a glance. The organ gallery gets
2269a strong white light from a row of long windows in the clerestory, which
2270have not even coloured glass.
2271
2272The pulpit being in the middle of the church, it followed that, when I
2273was turned toward it, whatever moved at the west end could not fail to
2274attract my eye. When the organist passed it was no wonder that I saw him:
2275I had simply miscalculated the interval between his first and his second
2276passing. He had come in that last time by the other side-door. As for the
2277look which had so upset me, there had been no such thing, and I was a
2278nervous fool.
2279
2280I looked about. This was a likely place to harbour supernatural horrors!
2281That clear-cut, reasonable face of Monseigneur C----, his collected
2282manner and easy, graceful gestures, were they not just a little
2283discouraging to the notion of a gruesome mystery? I glanced above his
2284head, and almost laughed. That flyaway lady supporting one corner of the
2285pulpit canopy, which looked like a fringed damask table-cloth in a high
2286wind, at the first attempt of a basilisk to pose up there in the organ
2287loft, she would point her gold trumpet at him, and puff him out of
2288existence! I laughed to myself over this conceit, which, at the time, I
2289thought very amusing, and sat and chaffed myself and everything else,
2290from the old harpy outside the railing, who had made me pay ten centimes
2291for my chair, before she would let me in (she was more like a basilisk, I
2292told myself, than was my organist with the anaemic complexion): from that
2293grim old dame, to, yes, alas! Monseigneur C---- himself. For all
2294devoutness had fled. I had never yet done such a thing in my life, but
2295now I felt a desire to mock.
2296
2297As for the sermon, I could not hear a word of it for the jingle in my
2298ears of
2299
2300 "The skirts of St. Paul has reached.
2301  Having preached us those six Lent lectures,
2302  More unctuous than ever he preached,"
2303
2304keeping time to the most fantastic and irreverent thoughts.
2305
2306It was no use to sit there any longer: I must get out of doors and shake
2307myself free from this hateful mood. I knew the rudeness I was committing,
2308but still I rose and left the church.
2309
2310A spring sun was shining on the Rue St. Honoré, as I ran down the church
2311steps. On one corner stood a barrow full of yellow jonquils, pale violets
2312from the Riviera, dark Russian violets, and white Roman hyacinths in a
2313golden cloud of mimosa. The street was full of Sunday pleasure-seekers. I
2314swung my cane and laughed with the rest. Some one overtook and passed me.
2315He never turned, but there was the same deadly malignity in his white
2316profile that there had been in his eyes. I watched him as long as I could
2317see him. His lithe back expressed the same menace; every step that
2318carried him away from me seemed to bear him on some errand connected with
2319my destruction.
2320
2321I was creeping along, my feet almost refusing to move. There began to
2322dawn in me a sense of responsibility for something long forgotten. It
2323began to seem as if I deserved that which he threatened: it reached a
2324long way back--a long, long way back. It had lain dormant all these
2325years: it was there, though, and presently it would rise and confront me.
2326But I would try to escape; and I stumbled as best I could into the Rue de
2327Rivoli, across the Place de la Concorde and on to the Quai. I looked with
2328sick eyes upon the sun, shining through the white foam of the fountain,
2329pouring over the backs of the dusky bronze river-gods, on the far-away
2330Arc, a structure of amethyst mist, on the countless vistas of grey stems
2331and bare branches faintly green. Then I saw him again coming down one of
2332the chestnut alleys of the Cours la Reine.
2333
2334I left the river-side, plunged blindly across to the Champs Elysées and
2335turned toward the Arc. The setting sun was sending its rays along the
2336green sward of the Rond-point: in the full glow he sat on a bench,
2337children and young mothers all about him. He was nothing but a Sunday
2338lounger, like the others, like myself. I said the words almost aloud, and
2339all the while I gazed on the malignant hatred of his face. But he was not
2340looking at me. I crept past and dragged my leaden feet up the Avenue. I
2341knew that every time I met him brought him nearer to the accomplishment
2342of his purpose and my fate. And still I tried to save myself.
2343
2344The last rays of sunset were pouring through the great Arc. I passed
2345under it, and met him face to face. I had left him far down the Champs
2346Elysées, and yet he came in with a stream of people who were returning
2347from the Bois de Boulogne. He came so close that he brushed me. His
2348slender frame felt like iron inside its loose black covering. He showed
2349no signs of haste, nor of fatigue, nor of any human feeling. His whole
2350being expressed one thing: the will, and the power to work me evil.
2351
2352In anguish I watched him where he went down the broad crowded Avenue,
2353that was all flashing with wheels and the trappings of horses and the
2354helmets of the Garde Republicaine.
2355
2356He was soon lost to sight; then I turned and fled. Into the Bois, and far
2357out beyond it--I know not where I went, but after a long while as it
2358seemed to me, night had fallen, and I found myself sitting at a table
2359before a small café. I had wandered back into the Bois. It was hours now
2360since I had seen him. Physical fatigue and mental suffering had left me
2361no power to think or feel. I was tired, so tired! I longed to hide away
2362in my own den. I resolved to go home. But that was a long way off.
2363
2364I live in the Court of the Dragon, a narrow passage that leads from the
2365Rue de Rennes to the Rue du Dragon.
2366
2367It is an "impasse"; traversable only for foot passengers. Over the
2368entrance on the Rue de Rennes is a balcony, supported by an iron dragon.
2369Within the court tall old houses rise on either side, and close the ends
2370that give on the two streets. Huge gates, swung back during the day into
2371the walls of the deep archways, close this court, after midnight, and one
2372must enter then by ringing at certain small doors on the side. The sunken
2373pavement collects unsavoury pools. Steep stairways pitch down to doors
2374that open on the court. The ground floors are occupied by shops of
2375second-hand dealers, and by iron workers. All day long the place rings
2376with the clink of hammers and the clang of metal bars.
2377
2378Unsavoury as it is below, there is cheerfulness, and comfort, and hard,
2379honest work above.
2380
2381Five flights up are the ateliers of architects and painters, and the
2382hiding-places of middle-aged students like myself who want to live alone.
2383When I first came here to live I was young, and not alone.
2384
2385I had to walk a while before any conveyance appeared, but at last, when I
2386had almost reached the Arc de Triomphe again, an empty cab came along and
2387I took it.
2388
2389From the Arc to the Rue de Rennes is a drive of more than half an hour,
2390especially when one is conveyed by a tired cab horse that has been at the
2391mercy of Sunday fete-makers.
2392
2393There had been time before I passed under the Dragon's wings to meet my
2394enemy over and over again, but I never saw him once, and now refuge was
2395close at hand.
2396
2397Before the wide gateway a small mob of children were playing. Our
2398concierge and his wife walked among them, with their black poodle,
2399keeping order; some couples were waltzing on the side-walk. I returned
2400their greetings and hurried in.
2401
2402All the inhabitants of the court had trooped out into the street. The
2403place was quite deserted, lighted by a few lanterns hung high up, in
2404which the gas burned dimly.
2405
2406My apartment was at the top of a house, halfway down the court, reached
2407by a staircase that descended almost into the street, with only a bit of
2408passage-way intervening, I set my foot on the threshold of the open door,
2409the friendly old ruinous stairs rose before me, leading up to rest and
2410shelter. Looking back over my right shoulder, I saw _him,_ ten paces
2411off. He must have entered the court with me.
2412
2413He was coming straight on, neither slowly, nor swiftly, but straight on
2414to me. And now he was looking at me. For the first time since our eyes
2415encountered across the church they met now again, and I knew that the
2417
2418Retreating backward, down the court, I faced him. I meant to escape by
2419the entrance on the Rue du Dragon. His eyes told me that I never should
2420escape.
2421
2422It seemed ages while we were going, I retreating, he advancing, down the
2423court in perfect silence; but at last I felt the shadow of the archway,
2424and the next step brought me within it. I had meant to turn here and
2425spring through into the street. But the shadow was not that of an
2426archway; it was that of a vault. The great doors on the Rue du Dragon
2427were closed. I felt this by the blackness which surrounded me, and at the
2428same instant I read it in his face. How his face gleamed in the darkness,
2429drawing swiftly nearer! The deep vaults, the huge closed doors, their
2430cold iron clamps were all on his side. The thing which he had threatened
2431had arrived: it gathered and bore down on me from the fathomless shadows;
2432the point from which it would strike was his infernal eyes. Hopeless, I
2433set my back against the barred doors and defied him.
2434
2435
2436There was a scraping of chairs on the stone floor, and a rustling as the
2437congregation rose. I could hear the Suisse's staff in the south aisle,
2438preceding Monseigneur C---- to the sacristy.
2439
2440The kneeling nuns, roused from their devout abstraction, made their
2441reverence and went away. The fashionable lady, my neighbour, rose also,
2442with graceful reserve. As she departed her glance just flitted over my
2443face in disapproval.
2444
2445Half dead, or so it seemed to me, yet intensely alive to every trifle, I
2446sat among the leisurely moving crowd, then rose too and went toward the
2447door.
2448
2449I had slept through the sermon. Had I slept through the sermon? I looked
2450up and saw him passing along the gallery to his place. Only his side I
2451saw; the thin bent arm in its black covering looked like one of those
2452devilish, nameless instruments which lie in the disused torture-chambers
2453of mediaeval castles.
2454
2456I escaped him? That which gave him the power over me came back out of
2457oblivion, where I had hoped to keep it. For I knew him now. Death and the
2458awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had sent
2459him--they had changed him for every other eye, but not for mine. I had
2460recognized him almost from the first; I had never doubted what he was
2461come to do; and now I knew while my body sat safe in the cheerful little
2462church, he had been hunting my soul in the Court of the Dragon.
2463
2464I crept to the door: the organ broke out overhead with a blare. A
2465dazzling light filled the church, blotting the altar from my eyes. The
2466people faded away, the arches, the vaulted roof vanished. I raised my
2467seared eyes to the fathomless glare, and I saw the black stars hanging in
2468the heavens: and the wet winds from the lake of Hali chilled my face.
2469
2470And now, far away, over leagues of tossing cloud-waves, I saw the moon
2471dripping with spray; and beyond, the towers of Carcosa rose behind the
2472moon.
2473
2474Death and the awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had
2475sent him, had changed him for every other eye but mine. And now I heard
2476_his voice_, rising, swelling, thundering through the flaring light,
2477and as I fell, the radiance increasing, increasing, poured over me in
2478waves of flame. Then I sank into the depths, and I heard the King in
2479Yellow whispering to my soul: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the
2480hands of the living God!"
2481
2482
2483
2484
2485THE YELLOW SIGN
2486
2487  "Let the red dawn surmise
2488    What we shall do,
2489  When this blue starlight dies
2490    And all is through."
2491
2492
2493I
2494
2495There are so many things which are impossible to explain! Why should
2496certain chords in music make me think of the brown and golden tints of
2497autumn foliage? Why should the Mass of Sainte Cécile bend my thoughts
2498wandering among caverns whose walls blaze with ragged masses of virgin
2499silver? What was it in the roar and turmoil of Broadway at six o'clock
2500that flashed before my eyes the picture of a still Breton forest where
2501sunlight filtered through spring foliage and Sylvia bent, half curiously,
2502half tenderly, over a small green lizard, murmuring: "To think that this
2503also is a little ward of God!"
2504
2505When I first saw the watchman his back was toward me. I looked at him
2506indifferently until he went into the church. I paid no more attention to
2507him than I had to any other man who lounged through Washington Square
2508that morning, and when I shut my window and turned back into my studio I
2509had forgotten him. Late in the afternoon, the day being warm, I raised
2510the window again and leaned out to get a sniff of air. A man was standing
2511in the courtyard of the church, and I noticed him again with as little
2512interest as I had that morning. I looked across the square to where the
2513fountain was playing and then, with my mind filled with vague impressions
2514of trees, asphalt drives, and the moving groups of nursemaids and
2515holiday-makers, I started to walk back to my easel. As I turned, my
2516listless glance included the man below in the churchyard. His face was
2517toward me now, and with a perfectly involuntary movement I bent to see
2518it. At the same moment he raised his head and looked at me. Instantly I
2519thought of a coffin-worm. Whatever it was about the man that repelled me
2520I did not know, but the impression of a plump white grave-worm was so
2521intense and nauseating that I must have shown it in my expression, for he
2522turned his puffy face away with a movement which made me think of a
2523disturbed grub in a chestnut.
2524
2525I went back to my easel and motioned the model to resume her pose. After
2526working a while I was satisfied that I was spoiling what I had done as
2527rapidly as possible, and I took up a palette knife and scraped the colour
2528out again. The flesh tones were sallow and unhealthy, and I did not
2529understand how I could have painted such sickly colour into a study which
2530before that had glowed with healthy tones.
2531
2532I looked at Tessie. She had not changed, and the clear flush of health
2533dyed her neck and cheeks as I frowned.
2534
2535"Is it something I've done?" she said.
2536
2537"No,--I've made a mess of this arm, and for the life of me I can't see
2538how I came to paint such mud as that into the canvas," I replied.
2539
2540"Don't I pose well?" she insisted.
2541
2542"Of course, perfectly."
2543
2544"Then it's not my fault?"
2545
2546"No. It's my own."
2547
2548"I am very sorry," she said.
2549
2550I told her she could rest while I applied rag and turpentine to the
2551plague spot on my canvas, and she went off to smoke a cigarette and look
2552over the illustrations in the _Courrier Français_.
2553
2554I did not know whether it was something in the turpentine or a defect in
2555the canvas, but the more I scrubbed the more that gangrene seemed to
2556spread. I worked like a beaver to get it out, and yet the disease
2557appeared to creep from limb to limb of the study before me. Alarmed, I
2558strove to arrest it, but now the colour on the breast changed and the
2559whole figure seemed to absorb the infection as a sponge soaks up water.
2560Vigorously I plied palette-knife, turpentine, and scraper, thinking all
2561the time what a _séance_ I should hold with Duval who had sold me
2562the canvas; but soon I noticed that it was not the canvas which was
2563defective nor yet the colours of Edward. "It must be the turpentine," I
2564thought angrily, "or else my eyes have become so blurred and confused by
2565the afternoon light that I can't see straight." I called Tessie, the
2566model. She came and leaned over my chair blowing rings of smoke into the
2567air.
2568
2569"What _have_ you been doing to it?" she exclaimed
2570
2571"Nothing," I growled, "it must be this turpentine!"
2572
2573"What a horrible colour it is now," she continued. "Do you think my flesh
2574resembles green cheese?"
2575
2576"No, I don't," I said angrily; "did you ever know me to paint like that
2577before?"
2578
2579"No, indeed!"
2580
2581"Well, then!"
2582
2583"It must be the turpentine, or something," she admitted.
2584
2585She slipped on a Japanese robe and walked to the window. I scraped and
2586rubbed until I was tired, and finally picked up my brushes and hurled
2587them through the canvas with a forcible expression, the tone alone of
2588which reached Tessie's ears.
2589
2590Nevertheless she promptly began: "That's it! Swear and act silly and ruin
2591your brushes! You have been three weeks on that study, and now look!
2592What's the good of ripping the canvas? What creatures artists are!"
2593
2594I felt about as much ashamed as I usually did after such an outbreak, and
2595I turned the ruined canvas to the wall. Tessie helped me clean my
2596brushes, and then danced away to dress. From the screen she regaled me
2597with bits of advice concerning whole or partial loss of temper, until,
2598thinking, perhaps, I had been tormented sufficiently, she came out to
2599implore me to button her waist where she could not reach it on the
2600shoulder.
2601
2602"Everything went wrong from the time you came back from the window and
2603talked about that horrid-looking man you saw in the churchyard," she
2604announced.
2605
2606"Yes, he probably bewitched the picture," I said, yawning. I looked at my
2607watch.
2608
2609"It's after six, I know," said Tessie, adjusting her hat before the
2610mirror.
2611
2612"Yes," I replied, "I didn't mean to keep you so long." I leaned out of
2613the window but recoiled with disgust, for the young man with the pasty
2614face stood below in the churchyard. Tessie saw my gesture of disapproval
2615and leaned from the window.
2616
2617"Is that the man you don't like?" she whispered.
2618
2619I nodded.
2620
2621"I can't see his face, but he does look fat and soft. Someway or other,"
2622she continued, turning to look at me, "he reminds me of a dream,--an
2623awful dream I once had. Or," she mused, looking down at her shapely
2624shoes, "was it a dream after all?"
2625
2626"How should I know?" I smiled.
2627
2629
2630"You were in it," she said, "so perhaps you might know something about
2631it."
2632
2633"Tessie! Tessie!" I protested, "don't you dare flatter by saying that you
2635
2636"But I did," she insisted; "shall I tell you about it?"
2637
2638"Go ahead," I replied, lighting a cigarette.
2639
2640Tessie leaned back on the open window-sill and began very seriously.
2641
2642"One night last winter I was lying in bed thinking about nothing at all
2643in particular. I had been posing for you and I was tired out, yet it
2644seemed impossible for me to sleep. I heard the bells in the city ring
2645ten, eleven, and midnight. I must have fallen asleep about midnight
2646because I don't remember hearing the bells after that. It seemed to me
2647that I had scarcely closed my eyes when I dreamed that something impelled
2648me to go to the window. I rose, and raising the sash leaned out.
2649Twenty-fifth Street was deserted as far as I could see. I began to be
2650afraid; everything outside seemed so--so black and uncomfortable. Then
2651the sound of wheels in the distance came to my ears, and it seemed to me
2652as though that was what I must wait for. Very slowly the wheels
2653approached, and, finally, I could make out a vehicle moving along the
2654street. It came nearer and nearer, and when it passed beneath my window I
2655saw it was a hearse. Then, as I trembled with fear, the driver turned and
2656looked straight at me. When I awoke I was standing by the open window
2657shivering with cold, but the black-plumed hearse and the driver were
2658gone. I dreamed this dream again in March last, and again awoke beside
2659the open window. Last night the dream came again. You remember how it was
2660raining; when I awoke, standing at the open window, my night-dress was
2661soaked."
2662
2663"But where did I come into the dream?" I asked.
2664
2665"You--you were in the coffin; but you were not dead."
2666
2667"In the coffin?"
2668
2669"Yes."
2670
2671"How did you know? Could you see me?"
2672
2673"No; I only knew you were there."
2674
2676laughing, but the girl interrupted me with a frightened cry.
2677
2678"Hello! What's up?" I said, as she shrank into the embrasure by the
2679window.
2680
2681"The--the man below in the churchyard;--he drove the hearse."
2682
2683"Nonsense," I said, but Tessie's eyes were wide with terror. I went to
2684the window and looked out. The man was gone. "Come, Tessie," I urged,
2685"don't be foolish. You have posed too long; you are nervous."
2686
2687"Do you think I could forget that face?" she murmured. "Three times I saw
2688the hearse pass below my window, and every time the driver turned and
2689looked up at me. Oh, his face was so white and--and soft? It looked
2691
2692I induced the girl to sit down and swallow a glass of Marsala. Then I sat
2693down beside her, and tried to give her some advice.
2694
2695"Look here, Tessie," I said, "you go to the country for a week or two,
2696and you'll have no more dreams about hearses. You pose all day, and when
2697night comes your nerves are upset. You can't keep this up. Then again,
2698instead of going to bed when your day's work is done, you run off to
2699picnics at Sulzer's Park, or go to the Eldorado or Coney Island, and when
2700you come down here next morning you are fagged out. There was no real
2701hearse. There was a soft-shell crab dream."
2702
2703She smiled faintly.
2704
2705"What about the man in the churchyard?"
2706
2707"Oh, he's only an ordinary unhealthy, everyday creature."
2708
2709"As true as my name is Tessie Reardon, I swear to you, Mr. Scott, that
2710the face of the man below in the churchyard is the face of the man who
2711drove the hearse!"
2712
2713"What of it?" I said. "It's an honest trade."
2714
2715"Then you think I _did_ see the hearse?"
2716
2717"Oh," I said diplomatically, "if you really did, it might not be unlikely
2718that the man below drove it. There is nothing in that."
2719
2720Tessie rose, unrolled her scented handkerchief, and taking a bit of gum
2721from a knot in the hem, placed it in her mouth. Then drawing on her
2722gloves she offered me her hand, with a frank, "Good-night, Mr. Scott,"
2723and walked out.
2724
2725
2726
2727
2728II
2729
2730The next morning, Thomas, the bell-boy, brought me the _Herald_ and
2731a bit of news. The church next door had been sold. I thanked Heaven for
2732it, not that being a Catholic I had any repugnance for the congregation
2733next door, but because my nerves were shattered by a blatant exhorter,
2734whose every word echoed through the aisle of the church as if it had been
2735my own rooms, and who insisted on his r's with a nasal persistence which
2736revolted my every instinct. Then, too, there was a fiend in human shape,
2737an organist, who reeled off some of the grand old hymns with an
2738interpretation of his own, and I longed for the blood of a creature who
2739could play the doxology with an amendment of minor chords which one hears
2740only in a quartet of very young undergraduates. I believe the minister
2741was a good man, but when he bellowed: "And the Lorrrrd said unto Moses,
2742the Lorrrd is a man of war; the Lorrrd is his name. My wrath shall wax
2743hot and I will kill you with the sworrrrd!" I wondered how many centuries
2744of purgatory it would take to atone for such a sin.
2745
2746"Who bought the property?" I asked Thomas.
2747
2748"Nobody that I knows, sir. They do say the gent wot owns this 'ere
2749'Amilton flats was lookin' at it. 'E might be a bildin' more studios."
2750
2751I walked to the window. The young man with the unhealthy face stood by
2752the churchyard gate, and at the mere sight of him the same overwhelming
2753repugnance took possession of me.
2754
2755"By the way, Thomas," I said, "who is that fellow down there?"
2756
2757Thomas sniffed. "That there worm, sir? 'Es night-watchman of the church,
2758sir. 'E maikes me tired a-sittin' out all night on them steps and lookin'
2759at you insultin' like. I'd a punched 'is 'ed, sir--beg pardon, sir--"
2760
2761"Go on, Thomas."
2762
2763"One night a comin' 'ome with Arry, the other English boy, I sees 'im a
2764sittin' there on them steps. We 'ad Molly and Jen with us, sir, the two
2765girls on the tray service, an' 'e looks so insultin' at us that I up and
2766sez: 'Wat you looking hat, you fat slug?'--beg pardon, sir, but that's
2767'ow I sez, sir. Then 'e don't say nothin' and I sez: 'Come out and I'll
2768punch that puddin' 'ed.' Then I hopens the gate an' goes in, but 'e don't
2769say nothin', only looks insultin' like. Then I 'its 'im one, but, ugh!
2770'is 'ed was that cold and mushy it ud sicken you to touch 'im."
2771
2772"What did he do then?" I asked curiously.
2773
2774"'Im? Nawthin'."
2775
2776"And you, Thomas?"
2777
2778The young fellow flushed with embarrassment and smiled uneasily.
2779
2780"Mr. Scott, sir, I ain't no coward, an' I can't make it out at all why I
2781run. I was in the 5th Lawncers, sir, bugler at Tel-el-Kebir, an' was shot
2782by the wells."
2783
2784"You don't mean to say you ran away?"
2785
2786"Yes, sir; I run."
2787
2788"Why?"
2789
2790"That's just what I want to know, sir. I grabbed Molly an' run, an' the
2791rest was as frightened as I."
2792
2793"But what were they frightened at?"
2794
2795Thomas refused to answer for a while, but now my curiosity was aroused
2796about the repulsive young man below and I pressed him. Three years'
2797sojourn in America had not only modified Thomas' cockney dialect but had
2798given him the American's fear of ridicule.
2799
2800"You won't believe me, Mr. Scott, sir?"
2801
2802"Yes, I will."
2803
2804"You will lawf at me, sir?"
2805
2806"Nonsense!"
2807
2808He hesitated. "Well, sir, it's Gawd's truth that when I 'it 'im 'e
2809grabbed me wrists, sir, and when I twisted 'is soft, mushy fist one of
2810'is fingers come off in me 'and."
2811
2812The utter loathing and horror of Thomas' face must have been reflected in
2814
2815"It's orful, an' now when I see 'im I just go away. 'E maikes me hill."
2816
2817When Thomas had gone I went to the window. The man stood beside the
2818church-railing with both hands on the gate, but I hastily retreated to my
2819easel again, sickened and horrified, for I saw that the middle finger of
2820his right hand was missing.
2821
2822At nine o'clock Tessie appeared and vanished behind the screen with a
2823merry "Good morning, Mr. Scott." When she had reappeared and taken her
2824pose upon the model-stand I started a new canvas, much to her delight.
2825She remained silent as long as I was on the drawing, but as soon as the
2826scrape of the charcoal ceased and I took up my fixative she began to
2827chatter.
2828
2829"Oh, I had such a lovely time last night. We went to Tony Pastor's."
2830
2831"Who are 'we'?" I demanded.
2832
2833"Oh, Maggie, you know, Mr. Whyte's model, and Pinkie McCormick--we call
2834her Pinkie because she's got that beautiful red hair you artists like so
2835much--and Lizzie Burke."
2836
2837I sent a shower of spray from the fixative over the canvas, and said:
2838"Well, go on."
2839
2840"We saw Kelly and Baby Barnes the skirt-dancer and--and all the rest. I
2842
2843"Then you have gone back on me, Tessie?"
2844
2845She laughed and shook her head.
2846
2847"He's Lizzie Burke's brother, Ed. He's a perfect gen'l'man."
2848
2849I felt constrained to give her some parental advice concerning mashing,
2850which she took with a bright smile.
2851
2852"Oh, I can take care of a strange mash," she said, examining her chewing
2853gum, "but Ed is different. Lizzie is my best friend."
2854
2855Then she related how Ed had come back from the stocking mill in Lowell,
2856Massachusetts, to find her and Lizzie grown up, and what an accomplished
2857young man he was, and how he thought nothing of squandering half-a-dollar
2858for ice-cream and oysters to celebrate his entry as clerk into the
2859woollen department of Macy's. Before she finished I began to paint, and
2860she resumed the pose, smiling and chattering like a sparrow. By noon I
2861had the study fairly well rubbed in and Tessie came to look at it.
2862
2863"That's better," she said.
2864
2865I thought so too, and ate my lunch with a satisfied feeling that all was
2866going well. Tessie spread her lunch on a drawing table opposite me and we
2867drank our claret from the same bottle and lighted our cigarettes from the
2868same match. I was very much attached to Tessie. I had watched her shoot
2869up into a slender but exquisitely formed woman from a frail, awkward
2870child. She had posed for me during the last three years, and among all my
2871models she was my favourite. It would have troubled me very much indeed
2872had she become "tough" or "fly," as the phrase goes, but I never noticed
2873any deterioration of her manner, and felt at heart that she was all
2874right. She and I never discussed morals at all, and I had no intention of
2875doing so, partly because I had none myself, and partly because I knew she
2876would do what she liked in spite of me. Still I did hope she would steer
2877clear of complications, because I wished her well, and then also I had a
2878selfish desire to retain the best model I had. I knew that mashing, as
2879she termed it, had no significance with girls like Tessie, and that such
2880things in America did not resemble in the least the same things in Paris.
2881Yet, having lived with my eyes open, I also knew that somebody would take
2882Tessie away some day, in one manner or another, and though I professed to
2883myself that marriage was nonsense, I sincerely hoped that, in this case,
2884there would be a priest at the end of the vista. I am a Catholic. When I
2885listen to high mass, when I sign myself, I feel that everything,
2886including myself, is more cheerful, and when I confess, it does me good.
2887A man who lives as much alone as I do, must confess to somebody. Then,
2888again, Sylvia was Catholic, and it was reason enough for me. But I was
2889speaking of Tessie, which is very different. Tessie also was Catholic and
2890much more devout than I, so, taking it all in all, I had little fear for
2891my pretty model until she should fall in love. But _then_ I knew
2892that fate alone would decide her future for her, and I prayed inwardly
2893that fate would keep her away from men like me and throw into her path
2894nothing but Ed Burkes and Jimmy McCormicks, bless her sweet face!
2895
2896Tessie sat blowing rings of smoke up to the ceiling and tinkling the ice
2897in her tumbler.
2898
2899"Do you know that I also had a dream last night?" I observed.
2900
2901"Not about that man," she laughed.
2902
2903"Exactly. A dream similar to yours, only much worse."
2904
2905It was foolish and thoughtless of me to say this, but you know how little
2906tact the average painter has. "I must have fallen asleep about ten
2907o'clock," I continued, "and after a while I dreamt that I awoke. So
2908plainly did I hear the midnight bells, the wind in the tree-branches, and
2909the whistle of steamers from the bay, that even now I can scarcely
2910believe I was not awake. I seemed to be lying in a box which had a glass
2911cover. Dimly I saw the street lamps as I passed, for I must tell you,
2912Tessie, the box in which I reclined appeared to lie in a cushioned wagon
2913which jolted me over a stony pavement. After a while I became impatient
2914and tried to move, but the box was too narrow. My hands were crossed on
2915my breast, so I could not raise them to help myself. I listened and then
2916tried to call. My voice was gone. I could hear the trample of the horses
2917attached to the wagon, and even the breathing of the driver. Then another
2918sound broke upon my ears like the raising of a window sash. I managed to
2919turn my head a little, and found I could look, not only through the glass
2920cover of my box, but also through the glass panes in the side of the
2921covered vehicle. I saw houses, empty and silent, with neither light nor
2922life about any of them excepting one. In that house a window was open on
2923the first floor, and a figure all in white stood looking down into the
2924street. It was you."
2925
2926Tessie had turned her face away from me and leaned on the table with her
2927elbow.
2928
2929"I could see your face," I resumed, "and it seemed to me to be very
2930sorrowful. Then we passed on and turned into a narrow black lane.
2931Presently the horses stopped. I waited and waited, closing my eyes with
2932ear and impatience, but all was silent as the grave. After what seemed to
2933me hours, I began to feel uncomfortable. A sense that somebody was close
2934to me made me unclose my eyes. Then I saw the white face of the
2935hearse-driver looking at me through the coffin-lid----"
2936
2937A sob from Tessie interrupted me. She was trembling like a leaf. I saw I
2938had made an ass of myself and attempted to repair the damage.
2939
2940"Why, Tess," I said, "I only told you this to show you what influence
2941your story might have on another person's dreams. You don't suppose I
2942really lay in a coffin, do you? What are you trembling for? Don't you see
2943that your dream and my unreasonable dislike for that inoffensive watchman
2944of the church simply set my brain working as soon as I fell asleep?"
2945
2946She laid her head between her arms, and sobbed as if her heart would
2947break. What a precious triple donkey I had made of myself! But I was
2948about to break my record. I went over and put my arm about her.
2949
2950"Tessie dear, forgive me," I said; "I had no business to frighten you
2951with such nonsense. You are too sensible a girl, too good a Catholic to
2952believe in dreams."
2953
2954Her hand tightened on mine and her head fell back upon my shoulder, but
2955she still trembled and I petted her and comforted her.
2956
2957"Come, Tess, open your eyes and smile."
2958
2959Her eyes opened with a slow languid movement and met mine, but their
2960expression was so queer that I hastened to reassure her again.
2961
2962"It's all humbug, Tessie; you surely are not afraid that any harm will
2963come to you because of that."
2964
2965"No," she said, but her scarlet lips quivered.
2966
2967"Then, what's the matter? Are you afraid?"
2968
2969"Yes. Not for myself."
2970
2971"For me, then?" I demanded gaily.
2972
2973"For you," she murmured in a voice almost inaudible. "I--I care for you."
2974
2975At first I started to laugh, but when I understood her, a shock passed
2976through me, and I sat like one turned to stone. This was the crowning bit
2977of idiocy I had committed. During the moment which elapsed between her
2978reply and my answer I thought of a thousand responses to that innocent
2979confession. I could pass it by with a laugh, I could misunderstand her
2980and assure her as to my health, I could simply point out that it was
2981impossible she could love me. But my reply was quicker than my thoughts,
2982and I might think and think now when it was too late, for I had kissed
2983her on the mouth.
2984
2985That evening I took my usual walk in Washington Park, pondering over the
2986occurrences of the day. I was thoroughly committed. There was no back out
2987now, and I stared the future straight in the face. I was not good, not
2988even scrupulous, but I had no idea of deceiving either myself or Tessie.
2989The one passion of my life lay buried in the sunlit forests of Brittany.
2990Was it buried for ever? Hope cried "No!" For three years I had been
2991listening to the voice of Hope, and for three years I had waited for a
2992footstep on my threshold. Had Sylvia forgotten? "No!" cried Hope.
2993
2994I said that I was no good. That is true, but still I was not exactly a
2995comic opera villain. I had led an easy-going reckless life, taking what
2996invited me of pleasure, deploring and sometimes bitterly regretting
2997consequences. In one thing alone, except my painting, was I serious, and
2998that was something which lay hidden if not lost in the Breton forests.
2999
3000It was too late for me to regret what had occurred during the day.
3001Whatever it had been, pity, a sudden tenderness for sorrow, or the more
3002brutal instinct of gratified vanity, it was all the same now, and unless
3003I wished to bruise an innocent heart, my path lay marked before me. The
3004fire and strength, the depth of passion of a love which I had never even
3005suspected, with all my imagined experience in the world, left me no
3006alternative but to respond or send her away. Whether because I am so
3007cowardly about giving pain to others, or whether it was that I have
3008little of the gloomy Puritan in me, I do not know, but I shrank from
3009disclaiming responsibility for that thoughtless kiss, and in fact had no
3010time to do so before the gates of her heart opened and the flood poured
3011forth. Others who habitually do their duty and find a sullen satisfaction
3012in making themselves and everybody else unhappy, might have withstood it.
3013I did not. I dared not. After the storm had abated I did tell her that
3014she might better have loved Ed Burke and worn a plain gold ring, but she
3015would not hear of it, and I thought perhaps as long as she had decided to
3016love somebody she could not marry, it had better be me. I, at least,
3017could treat her with an intelligent affection, and whenever she became
3018tired of her infatuation she could go none the worse for it. For I was
3019decided on that point although I knew how hard it would be. I remembered
3020the usual termination of Platonic liaisons, and thought how disgusted I
3021had been whenever I heard of one. I knew I was undertaking a great deal
3022for so unscrupulous a man as I was, and I dreamed the future, but never
3023for one moment did I doubt that she was safe with me. Had it been anybody
3024but Tessie I should not have bothered my head about scruples. For it did
3025not occur to me to sacrifice Tessie as I would have sacrificed a woman of
3026the world. I looked the future squarely in the face and saw the several
3027probable endings to the affair. She would either tire of the whole thing,
3028or become so unhappy that I should have either to marry her or go away.
3029If I married her we would be unhappy. I with a wife unsuited to me, and
3030she with a husband unsuitable for any woman. For my past life could
3031scarcely entitle me to marry. If I went away she might either fall ill,
3032recover, and marry some Eddie Burke, or she might recklessly or
3033deliberately go and do something foolish. On the other hand, if she tired
3034of me, then her whole life would be before her with beautiful vistas of
3035Eddie Burkes and marriage rings and twins and Harlem flats and Heaven
3036knows what. As I strolled along through the trees by the Washington Arch,
3037I decided that she should find a substantial friend in me, anyway, and
3038the future could take care of itself. Then I went into the house and put
3039on my evening dress, for the little faintly-perfumed note on my dresser
3040said, "Have a cab at the stage door at eleven," and the note was signed
3041"Edith Carmichel, Metropolitan Theatre."
3042
3043I took supper that night, or rather we took supper, Miss Carmichel and I,
3044at Solari's, and the dawn was just beginning to gild the cross on the
3045Memorial Church as I entered Washington Square after leaving Edith at the
3046Brunswick. There was not a soul in the park as I passed along the trees
3047and took the walk which leads from the Garibaldi statue to the Hamilton
3048Apartment House, but as I passed the churchyard I saw a figure sitting on
3049the stone steps. In spite of myself a chill crept over me at the sight of
3050the white puffy face, and I hastened to pass. Then he said something
3051which might have been addressed to me or might merely have been a mutter
3052to himself, but a sudden furious anger flamed up within me that such a
3053creature should address me. For an instant I felt like wheeling about and
3054smashing my stick over his head, but I walked on, and entering the
3055Hamilton went to my apartment. For some time I tossed about the bed
3056trying to get the sound of his voice out of my ears, but could not. It
3057filled my head, that muttering sound, like thick oily smoke from a
3058fat-rendering vat or an odour of noisome decay. And as I lay and tossed
3059about, the voice in my ears seemed more distinct, and I began to
3060understand the words he had muttered. They came to me slowly as if I had
3061forgotten them, and at last I could make some sense out of the sounds. It
3063
3064"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
3065
3066"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
3067
3068"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
3069
3070I was furious. What did he mean by that? Then with a curse upon him and
3071his I rolled over and went to sleep, but when I awoke later I looked pale
3072and haggard, for I had dreamed the dream of the night before, and it
3073troubled me more than I cared to think.
3074
3075I dressed and went down into my studio. Tessie sat by the window, but as
3076I came in she rose and put both arms around my neck for an innocent kiss.
3077She looked so sweet and dainty that I kissed her again and then sat down
3078before the easel.
3079
3080"Hello! Where's the study I began yesterday?" I asked.
3081
3082Tessie looked conscious, but did not answer. I began to hunt among the
3083piles of canvases, saying, "Hurry up, Tess, and get ready; we must take
3085
3086When at last I gave up the search among the other canvases and turned to
3087look around the room for the missing study I noticed Tessie standing by
3088the screen with her clothes still on.
3089
3090"What's the matter," I asked, "don't you feel well?"
3091
3092"Yes."
3093
3094"Then hurry."
3095
3096"Do you want me to pose as--as I have always posed?"
3097
3098Then I understood. Here was a new complication. I had lost, of course,
3099the best nude model I had ever seen. I looked at Tessie. Her face was
3100scarlet. Alas! Alas! We had eaten of the tree of knowledge, and Eden and
3101native innocence were dreams of the past--I mean for her.
3102
3103I suppose she noticed the disappointment on my face, for she said: "I
3104will pose if you wish. The study is behind the screen here where I put
3105it."
3106
3107"No," I said, "we will begin something new;" and I went into my wardrobe
3108and picked out a Moorish costume which fairly blazed with tinsel. It was
3109a genuine costume, and Tessie retired to the screen with it enchanted.
3110When she came forth again I was astonished. Her long black hair was bound
3111above her forehead with a circlet of turquoises, and the ends, curled
3112about her glittering girdle. Her feet were encased in the embroidered
3113pointed slippers and the skirt of her costume, curiously wrought with
3114arabesques in silver, fell to her ankles. The deep metallic blue vest
3115embroidered with silver and the short Mauresque jacket spangled and sewn
3116with turquoises became her wonderfully. She came up to me and held up her
3117face smiling. I slipped my hand into my pocket, and drawing out a gold
3118chain with a cross attached, dropped it over her head.
3119
3120"It's yours, Tessie."
3121
3122"Mine?" she faltered.
3123
3124"Yours. Now go and pose," Then with a radiant smile she ran behind the
3125screen and presently reappeared with a little box on which was written my
3126name.
3127
3128"I had intended to give it to you when I went home to-night," she said,
3129"but I can't wait now."
3130
3131I opened the box. On the pink cotton inside lay a clasp of black onyx, on
3132which was inlaid a curious symbol or letter in gold. It was neither
3133Arabic nor Chinese, nor, as I found afterwards, did it belong to any
3134human script.
3135
3136"It's all I had to give you for a keepsake," she said timidly.
3137
3138I was annoyed, but I told her how much I should prize it, and promised to
3139wear it always. She fastened it on my coat beneath the lapel.
3140
3141"How foolish, Tess, to go and buy me such a beautiful thing as this," I
3142said.
3143
3144"I did not buy it," she laughed.
3145
3146"Where did you get it?"
3147
3148Then she told me how she had found it one day while coming from the
3149Aquarium in the Battery, how she had advertised it and watched the
3150papers, but at last gave up all hopes of finding the owner.
3151
3152"That was last winter," she said, "the very day I had the first horrid
3154
3155I remembered my dream of the previous night but said nothing, and
3156presently my charcoal was flying over a new canvas, and Tessie stood
3157motionless on the model-stand.
3158
3159
3160
3161
3162III
3163
3164The day following was a disastrous one for me. While moving a framed
3165canvas from one easel to another my foot slipped on the polished floor,
3166and I fell heavily on both wrists. They were so badly sprained that it
3167was useless to attempt to hold a brush, and I was obliged to wander about
3168the studio, glaring at unfinished drawings and sketches, until despair
3169seized me and I sat down to smoke and twiddle my thumbs with rage. The
3170rain blew against the windows and rattled on the roof of the church,
3171driving me into a nervous fit with its interminable patter. Tessie sat
3172sewing by the window, and every now and then raised her head and looked
3173at me with such innocent compassion that I began to feel ashamed of my
3175the papers and all the books in the library, but for the sake of
3176something to do I went to the bookcases and shoved them open with my
3177elbow. I knew every volume by its colour and examined them all, passing
3178slowly around the library and whistling to keep up my spirits. I was
3179turning to go into the dining-room when my eye fell upon a book bound in
3180serpent skin, standing in a corner of the top shelf of the last bookcase.
3181I did not remember it, and from the floor could not decipher the pale
3182lettering on the back, so I went to the smoking-room and called Tessie.
3183She came in from the studio and climbed up to reach the book.
3184
3186
3187"_The King in Yellow._"
3188
3189I was dumfounded. Who had placed it there? How came it in my rooms? I had
3190long ago decided that I should never open that book, and nothing on earth
3191could have persuaded me to buy it. Fearful lest curiosity might tempt me
3192to open it, I had never even looked at it in book-stores. If I ever had
3193had any curiosity to read it, the awful tragedy of young Castaigne, whom
3194I knew, prevented me from exploring its wicked pages. I had always
3195refused to listen to any description of it, and indeed, nobody ever
3196ventured to discuss the second part aloud, so I had absolutely no
3197knowledge of what those leaves might reveal. I stared at the poisonous
3198mottled binding as I would at a snake.
3199
3200"Don't touch it, Tessie," I said; "come down."
3201
3202Of course my admonition was enough to arouse her curiosity, and before I
3203could prevent it she took the book and, laughing, danced off into the
3204studio with it. I called to her, but she slipped away with a tormenting
3205smile at my helpless hands, and I followed her with some impatience.
3206
3207"Tessie!" I cried, entering the library, "listen, I am serious. Put that
3208book away. I do not wish you to open it!" The library was empty. I went
3209into both drawing-rooms, then into the bedrooms, laundry, kitchen, and
3210finally returned to the library and began a systematic search. She had
3211hidden herself so well that it was half-an-hour later when I discovered
3212her crouching white and silent by the latticed window in the store-room
3213above. At the first glance I saw she had been punished for her
3214foolishness. _The King in Yellow_ lay at her feet, but the book was
3215open at the second part. I looked at Tessie and saw it was too late. She
3216had opened _The King in Yellow_. Then I took her by the hand and led
3217her into the studio. She seemed dazed, and when I told her to lie down on
3218the sofa she obeyed me without a word. After a while she closed her eyes
3219and her breathing became regular and deep, but I could not determine
3220whether or not she slept. For a long while I sat silently beside her, but
3221she neither stirred nor spoke, and at last I rose, and, entering the
3222unused store-room, took the book in my least injured hand. It seemed
3223heavy as lead, but I carried it into the studio again, and sitting down
3224on the rug beside the sofa, opened it and read it through from beginning
3225to end.
3226
3227When, faint with excess of my emotions, I dropped the volume and leaned
3228wearily back against the sofa, Tessie opened her eyes and looked at
3229me....
3230
3231We had been speaking for some time in a dull monotonous strain before I
3232realized that we were discussing _The King in Yellow_. Oh the sin of
3233writing such words,--words which are clear as crystal, limpid and musical
3234as bubbling springs, words which sparkle and glow like the poisoned
3235diamonds of the Medicis! Oh the wickedness, the hopeless damnation of a
3236soul who could fascinate and paralyze human creatures with such
3237words,--words understood by the ignorant and wise alike, words which are
3238more precious than jewels, more soothing than music, more awful than
3239death!
3240
3241We talked on, unmindful of the gathering shadows, and she was begging me
3242to throw away the clasp of black onyx quaintly inlaid with what we now
3243knew to be the Yellow Sign. I never shall know why I refused, though even
3244at this hour, here in my bedroom as I write this confession, I should be
3245glad to know _what_ it was that prevented me from tearing the Yellow
3246Sign from my breast and casting it into the fire. I am sure I wished to
3247do so, and yet Tessie pleaded with me in vain. Night fell and the hours
3248dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the
3249Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the
3250fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and of Cassilda, while outside the
3251fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the cloud waves roll and
3252break on the shores of Hali.
3253
3254The house was very silent now, and not a sound came up from the misty
3255streets. Tessie lay among the cushions, her face a grey blot in the
3256gloom, but her hands were clasped in mine, and I knew that she knew and
3258Hyades and the Phantom of Truth was laid. Then as we answered each other,
3259swiftly, silently, thought on thought, the shadows stirred in the gloom
3260about us, and far in the distant streets we heard a sound. Nearer and
3261nearer it came, the dull crunching of wheels, nearer and yet nearer, and
3262now, outside before the door it ceased, and I dragged myself to the
3263window and saw a black-plumed hearse. The gate below opened and shut, and
3264I crept shaking to my door and bolted it, but I knew no bolts, no locks,
3265could keep that creature out who was coming for the Yellow Sign. And now
3266I heard him moving very softly along the hall. Now he was at the door,
3267and the bolts rotted at his touch. Now he had entered. With eyes starting
3268from my head I peered into the darkness, but when he came into the room I
3269did not see him. It was only when I felt him envelope me in his cold soft
3270grasp that I cried out and struggled with deadly fury, but my hands were
3271useless and he tore the onyx clasp from my coat and struck me full in the
3272face. Then, as I fell, I heard Tessie's soft cry and her spirit fled: and
3273even while falling I longed to follow her, for I knew that the King in
3274Yellow had opened his tattered mantle and there was only God to cry to
3275now.
3276
3277I could tell more, but I cannot see what help it will be to the world. As
3278for me, I am past human help or hope. As I lie here, writing, careless
3279even whether or not I die before I finish, I can see the doctor gathering
3280up his powders and phials with a vague gesture to the good priest beside
3281me, which I understand.
3282
3283They will be very curious to know the tragedy--they of the outside world
3284who write books and print millions of newspapers, but I shall write no
3285more, and the father confessor will seal my last words with the seal of
3286sanctity when his holy office is done. They of the outside world may send
3287their creatures into wrecked homes and death-smitten firesides, and their
3288newspapers will batten on blood and tears, but with me their spies must
3289halt before the confessional. They know that Tessie is dead and that I am
3290dying. They know how the people in the house, aroused by an infernal
3291scream, rushed into my room and found one living and two dead, but they
3292do not know what I shall tell them now; they do not know that the doctor
3293said as he pointed to a horrible decomposed heap on the floor--the livid
3294corpse of the watchman from the church: "I have no theory, no explanation.
3295That man must have been dead for months!"
3296
3297
3298I think I am dying. I wish the priest would--
3299
3300
3301
3302
3303THE DEMOISELLE D'YS
3304
3305  "Mais je croy que je
3306  Suis descendu on puiz
3307  Ténébreux onquel disoit
3308  Heraclytus estre Vereté cachée."
3309
3310"There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I
3311know not:
3312
3313"The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the
3314way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid."
3315
3316
3317I
3318
3319The utter desolation of the scene began to have its effect; I sat down to
3320face the situation and, if possible, recall to mind some landmark which
3321might aid me in extricating myself from my present position. If I could
3322only find the ocean again all would be clear, for I knew one could see
3323the island of Groix from the cliffs.
3324
3325I laid down my gun, and kneeling behind a rock lighted a pipe. Then I
3326looked at my watch. It was nearly four o'clock. I might have wandered far
3327from Kerselec since daybreak.
3328
3329Standing the day before on the cliffs below Kerselec with Goulven,
3330looking out over the sombre moors among which I had now lost my way,
3331these downs had appeared to me level as a meadow, stretching to the
3332horizon, and although I knew how deceptive is distance, I could not
3333realize that what from Kerselec seemed to be mere grassy hollows were
3334great valleys covered with gorse and heather, and what looked like
3335scattered boulders were in reality enormous cliffs of granite.
3336
3337"It's a bad place for a stranger," old Goulven had said: "you'd better
3338take a guide;" and I had replied, "I shall not lose myself." Now I knew
3339that I had lost myself, as I sat there smoking, with the sea-wind blowing
3340in my face. On every side stretched the moorland, covered with flowering
3341gorse and heath and granite boulders. There was not a tree in sight, much
3342less a house. After a while, I picked up the gun, and turning my back on
3343the sun tramped on again.
3344
3345There was little use in following any of the brawling streams which every
3346now and then crossed my path, for, instead of flowing into the sea, they
3347ran inland to reedy pools in the hollows of the moors. I had followed
3348several, but they all led me to swamps or silent little ponds from which
3349the snipe rose peeping and wheeled away in an ecstasy of fright I began
3350to feel fatigued, and the gun galled my shoulder in spite of the double
3351pads. The sun sank lower and lower, shining level across yellow gorse and
3352the moorland pools.
3353
3354As I walked my own gigantic shadow led me on, seeming to lengthen at
3355every step. The gorse scraped against my leggings, crackled beneath my
3356feet, showering the brown earth with blossoms, and the brake bowed and
3357billowed along my path. From tufts of heath rabbits scurried away through
3358the bracken, and among the swamp grass I heard the wild duck's drowsy
3359quack. Once a fox stole across my path, and again, as I stooped to drink
3360at a hurrying rill, a heron flapped heavily from the reeds beside me. I
3361turned to look at the sun. It seemed to touch the edges of the plain.
3362When at last I decided that it was useless to go on, and that I must make
3363up my mind to spend at least one night on the moors, I threw myself down
3364thoroughly fagged out. The evening sunlight slanted warm across my body,
3365but the sea-winds began to rise, and I felt a chill strike through me
3366from my wet shooting-boots. High overhead gulls were wheeling and tossing
3367like bits of white paper; from some distant marsh a solitary curlew
3368called. Little by little the sun sank into the plain, and the zenith
3369flushed with the after-glow. I watched the sky change from palest gold to
3370pink and then to smouldering fire. Clouds of midges danced above me, and
3371high in the calm air a bat dipped and soared. My eyelids began to droop.
3372Then as I shook off the drowsiness a sudden crash among the bracken
3373roused me. I raised my eyes. A great bird hung quivering in the air above
3374my face. For an instant I stared, incapable of motion; then something
3375leaped past me in the ferns and the bird rose, wheeled, and pitched
3377
3378I was on my feet in an instant peering through the gorse. There came the
3379sound of a struggle from a bunch of heather close by, and then all was
3380quiet. I stepped forward, my gun poised, but when I came to the heather
3381the gun fell under my arm again, and I stood motionless in silent
3382astonishment A dead hare lay on the ground, and on the hare stood a
3383magnificent falcon, one talon buried in the creature's neck, the other
3384planted firmly on its limp flank. But what astonished me, was not the
3385mere sight of a falcon sitting upon its prey. I had seen that more than
3386once. It was that the falcon was fitted with a sort of leash about both
3387talons, and from the leash hung a round bit of metal like a sleigh-bell.
3388The bird turned its fierce yellow eyes on me, and then stooped and struck
3389its curved beak into the quarry. At the same instant hurried steps
3390sounded among the heather, and a girl sprang into the covert in front.
3391Without a glance at me she walked up to the falcon, and passing her
3392gloved hand under its breast, raised it from the quarry. Then she deftly
3393slipped a small hood over the bird's head, and holding it out on her
3394gauntlet, stooped and picked up the hare.
3395
3396She passed a cord about the animal's legs and fastened the end of the
3397thong to her girdle. Then she started to retrace her steps through the
3398covert As she passed me I raised my cap and she acknowledged my presence
3399with a scarcely perceptible inclination. I had been so astonished, so
3400lost in admiration of the scene before my eyes, that it had not occurred
3401to me that here was my salvation. But as she moved away I recollected
3402that unless I wanted to sleep on a windy moor that night I had better
3403recover my speech without delay. At my first word she hesitated, and as I
3404stepped before her I thought a look of fear came into her beautiful eyes.
3405But as I humbly explained my unpleasant plight, her face flushed and she
3406looked at me in wonder.
3407
3408"Surely you did not come from Kerselec!" she repeated.
3409
3410Her sweet voice had no trace of the Breton accent nor of any accent which
3411I knew, and yet there was something in it I seemed to have heard before,
3412something quaint and indefinable, like the theme of an old song.
3413
3414I explained that I was an American, unacquainted with Finistère, shooting
3415there for my own amusement.
3416
3417"An American," she repeated in the same quaint musical tones. "I have
3418never before seen an American."
3419
3420For a moment she stood silent, then looking at me she said. "If you
3421should walk all night you could not reach Kerselec now, even if you had a
3422guide."
3423
3424This was pleasant news.
3425
3426"But," I began, "if I could only find a peasant's hut where I might get
3427something to eat, and shelter."
3428
3429The falcon on her wrist fluttered and shook its head. The girl smoothed
3430its glossy back and glanced at me.
3431
3432"Look around," she said gently. "Can you see the end of these moors?
3433Look, north, south, east, west. Can you see anything but moorland and
3434bracken?"
3435
3436"No," I said.
3437
3438"The moor is wild and desolate. It is easy to enter, but sometimes they
3439who enter never leave it. There are no peasants' huts here."
3440
3441"Well," I said, "if you will tell me in which direction Kerselec lies,
3442to-morrow it will take me no longer to go back than it has to come."
3443
3444She looked at me again with an expression almost like pity.
3445
3446"Ah," she said, "to come is easy and takes hours; to go is different--and
3447may take centuries."
3448
3449I stared at her in amazement but decided that I had misunderstood her.
3450Then before I had time to speak she drew a whistle from her belt and
3451sounded it.
3452
3453"Sit down and rest," she said to me; "you have come a long distance and
3454are tired."
3455
3456She gathered up her pleated skirts and motioning me to follow picked her
3457dainty way through the gorse to a flat rock among the ferns.
3458
3459"They will be here directly," she said, and taking a seat at one end of
3460the rock invited me to sit down on the other edge. The after-glow was
3461beginning to fade in the sky and a single star twinkled faintly through
3462the rosy haze. A long wavering triangle of water-fowl drifted southward
3463over our heads, and from the swamps around plover were calling.
3464
3465"They are very beautiful--these moors," she said quietly.
3466
3467"Beautiful, but cruel to strangers," I answered.
3468
3469"Beautiful and cruel," she repeated dreamily, "beautiful and cruel."
3470
3471"Like a woman," I said stupidly.
3472
3473"Oh," she cried with a little catch in her breath, and looked at me. Her
3474dark eyes met mine, and I thought she seemed angry or frightened.
3475
3476"Like a woman," she repeated under her breath, "How cruel to say so!"
3477Then after a pause, as though speaking aloud to herself, "How cruel for
3478him to say that!"
3479
3480I don't know what sort of an apology I offered for my inane, though
3481harmless speech, but I know that she seemed so troubled about it that I
3482began to think I had said something very dreadful without knowing it, and
3483remembered with horror the pitfalls and snares which the French language
3484sets for foreigners. While I was trying to imagine what I might have
3485said, a sound of voices came across the moor, and the girl rose to her
3486feet.
3487
3488"No," she said, with a trace of a smile on her pale face, "I will not
3489accept your apologies, monsieur, but I must prove you wrong, and that
3490shall be my revenge. Look. Here come Hastur and Raoul."
3491
3492Two men loomed up in the twilight. One had a sack across his shoulders
3493and the other carried a hoop before him as a waiter carries a tray. The
3494hoop was fastened with straps to his shoulders, and around the edge of
3495the circlet sat three hooded falcons fitted with tinkling bells. The girl
3496stepped up to the falconer, and with a quick turn of her wrist
3497transferred her falcon to the hoop, where it quickly sidled off and
3498nestled among its mates, who shook their hooded heads and ruffled their
3499feathers till the belled jesses tinkled again. The other man stepped
3500forward and bowing respectfully took up the hare and dropped it into the
3501game-sack.
3502
3503"These are my piqueurs," said the girl, turning to me with a gentle
3504dignity. "Raoul is a good fauconnier, and I shall some day make him grand
3505veneur. Hastur is incomparable."
3506
3507The two silent men saluted me respectfully.
3508
3509"Did I not tell you, monsieur, that I should prove you wrong?" she
3510continued. "This, then, is my revenge, that you do me the courtesy of
3511accepting food and shelter at my own house."
3512
3513Before I could answer she spoke to the falconers, who started instantly
3514across the heath, and with a gracious gesture to me she followed. I don't
3515know whether I made her understand how profoundly grateful I felt, but
3516she seemed pleased to listen, as we walked over the dewy heather.
3517
3518"Are you not very tired?" she asked.
3519
3520I had clean forgotten my fatigue in her presence, and I told her so.
3521
3522"Don't you think your gallantry is a little old-fashioned?" she said; and
3523when I looked confused and humbled, she added quietly, "Oh, I like it, I
3524like everything old-fashioned, and it is delightful to hear you say such
3525pretty things."
3526
3527The moorland around us was very still now under its ghostly sheet of
3528mist. The plovers had ceased their calling; the crickets and all the
3529little creatures of the fields were silent as we passed, yet it seemed to
3530me as if I could hear them beginning again far behind us. Well in
3531advance, the two tall falconers strode across the heather, and the faint
3532jingling of the hawks' bells came to our ears in distant murmuring
3533chimes.
3534
3535Suddenly a splendid hound dashed out of the mist in front, followed by
3536another and another until half-a-dozen or more were bounding and leaping
3537around the girl beside me. She caressed and quieted them with her gloved
3538hand, speaking to them in quaint terms which I remembered to have seen in
3539old French manuscripts.
3540
3541Then the falcons on the circlet borne by the falconer ahead began to beat
3542their wings and scream, and from somewhere out of sight the notes of a
3543hunting-horn floated across the moor. The hounds sprang away before us
3544and vanished in the twilight, the falcons flapped and squealed upon their
3545perch, and the girl, taking up the song of the horn, began to hum. Clear
3546and mellow her voice sounded in the night air.
3547
3548  "Chasseur, chasseur, chassez encore,
3549  Quittez Rosette et Jeanneton,
3550  Tonton, tonton, tontaine, tonton,
3551  Ou, pour, rabattre, dès l'aurore,
3552  Que les Amours soient de planton,
3553  Tonton, tontaine, tonton."
3554
3555As I listened to her lovely voice a grey mass which rapidly grew more
3556distinct loomed up in front, and the horn rang out joyously through the
3557tumult of the hounds and falcons. A torch glimmered at a gate, a light
3558streamed through an opening door, and we stepped upon a wooden bridge
3559which trembled under our feet and rose creaking and straining behind us
3560as we passed over the moat and into a small stone court, walled on every
3561side. From an open doorway a man came and, bending in salutation,
3562presented a cup to the girl beside me. She took the cup and touched it
3563with her lips, then lowering it turned to me and said in a low voice, "I
3564bid you welcome."
3565
3566At that moment one of the falconers came with another cup, but before
3567handing it to me, presented it to the girl, who tasted it. The falconer
3568made a gesture to receive it, but she hesitated a moment, and then,
3569stepping forward, offered me the cup with her own hands. I felt this to
3570be an act of extraordinary graciousness, but hardly knew what was
3571expected of me, and did not raise it to my lips at once. The girl flushed
3572crimson. I saw that I must act quickly.
3573
3574"Mademoiselle," I faltered, "a stranger whom you have saved from dangers
3575he may never realize empties this cup to the gentlest and loveliest
3576hostess of France."
3577
3578"In His name," she murmured, crossing herself as I drained the cup. Then
3579stepping into the doorway she turned to me with a pretty gesture and,
3580taking my hand in hers, led me into the house, saying again and again:
3581"You are very welcome, indeed you are welcome to the Château d'Ys."
3582
3583
3584
3585
3586II
3587
3588I awoke next morning with the music of the horn in my ears, and leaping
3589out of the ancient bed, went to a curtained window where the sunlight
3590filtered through little deep-set panes. The horn ceased as I looked into
3591the court below.
3592
3593A man who might have been brother to the two falconers of the night
3594before stood in the midst of a pack of hounds. A curved horn was strapped
3595over his back, and in his hand he held a long-lashed whip. The dogs
3596whined and yelped, dancing around him in anticipation; there was the
3597stamp of horses, too, in the walled yard.
3598
3599"Mount!" cried a voice in Breton, and with a clatter of hoofs the two
3600falconers, with falcons upon their wrists, rode into the courtyard among
3601the hounds. Then I heard another voice which sent the blood throbbing
3602through my heart: "Piriou Louis, hunt the hounds well and spare neither
3603spur nor whip. Thou Raoul and thou Gaston, see that the _epervier_
3604does not prove himself _niais_, and if it be best in your judgment,
3605_faites courtoisie à l'oiseau. Jardiner un oiseau_, like the
3606_mué_ there on Hastur's wrist, is not difficult, but thou, Raoul,
3607mayest not find it so simple to govern that _hagard_. Twice last
3608week he foamed _au vif_ and lost the _beccade_ although he is
3609used to the _leurre_. The bird acts like a stupid _branchier.
3610Paître un hagard n'est pas si facile."_
3611
3612Was I dreaming? The old language of falconry which I had read in yellow
3613manuscripts--the old forgotten French of the middle ages was sounding in
3614my ears while the hounds bayed and the hawks' bells tinkled accompaniment
3615to the stamping horses. She spoke again in the sweet forgotten language:
3616
3617"If you would rather attach the _longe_ and leave thy _hagard au
3618bloc_, Raoul, I shall say nothing; for it were a pity to spoil so fair
3619a day's sport with an ill-trained _sors_. _Essimer abaisser_,--it is
3620possibly the best way. _Ça lui donnera des reins._ I was perhaps hasty
3621with the bird. It takes time to pass _à la filière_ and the exercises
3622_d'escap_."
3623
3624Then the falconer Raoul bowed in his stirrups and replied: "If it be the
3625pleasure of Mademoiselle, I shall keep the hawk."
3626
3627"It is my wish," she answered. "Falconry I know, but you have yet to give
3628me many a lesson in _Autourserie_, my poor Raoul. Sieur Piriou Louis
3629mount!"
3630
3631The huntsman sprang into an archway and in an instant returned, mounted
3632upon a strong black horse, followed by a piqueur also mounted.
3633
3634"Ah!" she cried joyously, "speed Glemarec René! speed! speed all! Sound
3635thy horn, Sieur Piriou!"
3636
3637The silvery music of the hunting-horn filled the courtyard, the hounds
3638sprang through the gateway and galloping hoof-beats plunged out of the
3639paved court; loud on the drawbridge, suddenly muffled, then lost in the
3640heather and bracken of the moors. Distant and more distant sounded the
3641horn, until it became so faint that the sudden carol of a soaring lark
3642drowned it in my ears. I heard the voice below responding to some call
3643from within the house.
3644
3645"I do not regret the chase, I will go another time Courtesy to the
3646stranger, Pelagie, remember!"
3647
3648And a feeble voice came quavering from within the house,
3649"_Courtoisie_."
3650
3651I stripped, and rubbed myself from head to foot in the huge earthen basin
3652of icy water which stood upon the stone floor at the foot of my bed. Then
3653I looked about for my clothes. They were gone, but on a settle near the
3654door lay a heap of garments which I inspected with astonishment. As my
3655clothes had vanished, I was compelled to attire myself in the costume
3656which had evidently been placed there for me to wear while my own clothes
3657dried. Everything was there, cap, shoes, and hunting doublet of silvery
3658grey homespun; but the close-fitting costume and seamless shoes belonged
3659to another century, and I remembered the strange costumes of the three
3660falconers in the court-yard. I was sure that it was not the modern dress
3661of any portion of France or Brittany; but not until I was dressed and
3662stood before a mirror between the windows did I realize that I was
3663clothed much more like a young huntsman of the middle ages than like a
3664Breton of that day. I hesitated and picked up the cap. Should I go down
3665and present myself in that strange guise? There seemed to be no help for
3666it, my own clothes were gone and there was no bell in the ancient chamber
3667to call a servant; so I contented myself with removing a short hawk's
3668feather from the cap, and, opening the door, went downstairs.
3669
3670By the fireplace in the large room at the foot of the stairs an old
3671Breton woman sat spinning with a distaff. She looked up at me when I
3672appeared, and, smiling frankly, wished me health in the Breton language,
3673to which I laughingly replied in French. At the same moment my hostess
3674appeared and returned my salutation with a grace and dignity that sent a
3675thrill to my heart. Her lovely head with its dark curly hair was crowned
3676with a head-dress which set all doubts as to the epoch of my own costume
3677at rest. Her slender figure was exquisitely set off in the homespun
3678hunting-gown edged with silver, and on her gauntlet-covered wrist she
3679bore one of her petted hawks. With perfect simplicity she took my hand
3680and led me into the garden in the court, and seating herself before a
3681table invited me very sweetly to sit beside her. Then she asked me in her
3682soft quaint accent how I had passed the night, and whether I was very
3683much inconvenienced by wearing the clothes which old Pelagie had put
3684there for me while I slept. I looked at my own clothes and shoes, drying
3685in the sun by the garden-wall, and hated them. What horrors they were
3686compared with the graceful costume which I now wore! I told her this
3687laughing, but she agreed with me very seriously.
3688
3689"We will throw them away," she said in a quiet voice. In my astonishment
3690I attempted to explain that I not only could not think of accepting
3691clothes from anybody, although for all I knew it might be the custom of
3692hospitality in that part of the country, but that I should cut an
3693impossible figure if I returned to France clothed as I was then.
3694
3695She laughed and tossed her pretty head, saying something in old French
3696which I did not understand, and then Pelagie trotted out with a tray on
3697which stood two bowls of milk, a loaf of white bread, fruit, a platter of
3698honey-comb, and a flagon of deep red wine. "You see I have not yet broken
3699my fast because I wished you to eat with me. But I am very hungry," she
3700smiled.
3701
3702"I would rather die than forget one word of what you have said!" I
3703blurted out, while my cheeks burned. "She will think me mad," I added to
3704myself, but she turned to me with sparkling eyes.
3705
3706"Ah!" she murmured. "Then Monsieur knows all that there is of chivalry--"
3707
3708She crossed herself and broke bread. I sat and watched her white hands,
3709not daring to raise my eyes to hers.
3710
3711"Will you not eat?" she asked. "Why do you look so troubled?"
3712
3713Ah, why? I knew it now. I knew I would give my life to touch with my lips
3714those rosy palms--I understood now that from the moment when I looked
3715into her dark eyes there on the moor last night I had loved her. My great
3716and sudden passion held me speechless.
3717
3718"Are you ill at ease?" she asked again.
3719
3720Then, like a man who pronounces his own doom, I answered in a low voice:
3721"Yes, I am ill at ease for love of you." And as she did not stir nor
3722answer, the same power moved my lips in spite of me and I said, "I, who
3723am unworthy of the lightest of your thoughts, I who abuse hospitality and
3724repay your gentle courtesy with bold presumption, I love you."
3725
3726She leaned her head upon her hands, and answered softly, "I love you.
3727Your words are very dear to me. I love you."
3728
3729"Then I shall win you."
3730
3731"Win me," she replied.
3732
3733But all the time I had been sitting silent, my face turned toward her.
3734She, also silent, her sweet face resting on her upturned palm, sat facing
3735me, and as her eyes looked into mine I knew that neither she nor I had
3736spoken human speech; but I knew that her soul had answered mine, and I
3737drew myself up feeling youth and joyous love coursing through every vein.
3738She, with a bright colour in her lovely face, seemed as one awakened from
3739a dream, and her eyes sought mine with a questioning glance which made me
3740tremble with delight. We broke our fast, speaking of ourselves. I told
3741her my name and she told me hers, the Demoiselle Jeanne d'Ys.
3742
3743She spoke of her father and mother's death, and how the nineteen of her
3744years had been passed in the little fortified farm alone with her nurse
3745Pelagie, Glemarec René the piqueur, and the four falconers, Raoul,
3746Gaston, Hastur, and the Sieur Piriou Louis, who had served her father.
3747She had never been outside the moorland--never even had seen a human soul
3748before, except the falconers and Pelagie. She did not know how she had
3749heard of Kerselec; perhaps the falconers had spoken of it. She knew the
3750legends of Loup Garou and Jeanne la Flamme from her nurse Pelagie. She
3751embroidered and spun flax. Her hawks and hounds were her only
3752distraction. When she had met me there on the moor she had been so
3753frightened that she almost dropped at the sound of my voice. She had, it
3754was true, seen ships at sea from the cliffs, but as far as the eye could
3755reach the moors over which she galloped were destitute of any sign of
3756human life. There was a legend which old Pelagie told, how anybody once
3757lost in the unexplored moorland might never return, because the moors
3758were enchanted. She did not know whether it was true, she never had
3759thought about it until she met me. She did not know whether the falconers
3760had even been outside, or whether they could go if they would. The books
3761in the house which Pelagie, the nurse, had taught her to read were
3762hundreds of years old.
3763
3764All this she told me with a sweet seriousness seldom seen in any one but
3765children. My own name she found easy to pronounce, and insisted, because
3766my first name was Philip, I must have French blood in me. She did not
3767seem curious to learn anything about the outside world, and I thought
3768perhaps she considered it had forfeited her interest and respect from the
3769stories of her nurse.
3770
3771We were still sitting at the table, and she was throwing grapes to the
3772small field birds which came fearlessly to our very feet.
3773
3774I began to speak in a vague way of going, but she would not hear of it,
3775and before I knew it I had promised to stay a week and hunt with hawk and
3776hound in their company. I also obtained permission to come again from
3777Kerselec and visit her after my return.
3778
3779"Why," she said innocently, "I do not know what I should do if you never
3780came back;" and I, knowing that I had no right to awaken her with the
3781sudden shock which the avowal of my own love would bring to her, sat
3782silent, hardly daring to breathe.
3783
3784"You will come very often?" she asked.
3785
3786"Very often," I said.
3787
3788"Every day?"
3789
3790"Every day."
3791
3792"Oh," she sighed, "I am very happy. Come and see my hawks."
3793
3794She rose and took my hand again with a childlike innocence of possession,
3795and we walked through the garden and fruit trees to a grassy lawn which
3796was bordered by a brook. Over the lawn were scattered fifteen or twenty
3797stumps of trees--partially imbedded in the grass--and upon all of these
3798except two sat falcons. They were attached to the stumps by thongs which
3799were in turn fastened with steel rivets to their legs just above the
3800talons. A little stream of pure spring water flowed in a winding course
3801within easy distance of each perch.
3802
3803The birds set up a clamour when the girl appeared, but she went from one
3804to another, caressing some, taking others for an instant upon her wrist,
3805or stooping to adjust their jesses.
3806
3807"Are they not pretty?" she said. "See, here is a falcon-gentil. We call
3808it 'ignoble,' because it takes the quarry in direct chase. This is a blue
3809falcon. In falconry we call it 'noble' because it rises over the quarry,
3810and wheeling, drops upon it from above. This white bird is a gerfalcon
3811from the north. It is also 'noble!' Here is a merlin, and this tiercelet
3812is a falcon-heroner."
3813
3814I asked her how she had learned the old language of falconry. She did not
3815remember, but thought her father must have taught it to her when she was
3816very young.
3817
3818Then she led me away and showed me the young falcons still in the nest.
3819"They are termed _niais_ in falconry," she explained. "A
3820_branchier_ is the young bird which is just able to leave the nest
3821and hop from branch to branch. A young bird which has not yet moulted is
3822called a _sors_, and a _mué_ is a hawk which has moulted in
3823captivity. When we catch a wild falcon which has changed its plumage we
3824term it a _hagard_. Raoul first taught me to dress a falcon. Shall I
3825teach you how it is done?"
3826
3827She seated herself on the bank of the stream among the falcons and I
3828threw myself at her feet to listen.
3829
3830Then the Demoiselle d'Ys held up one rosy-tipped finger and began very
3831gravely.
3832
3833"First one must catch the falcon."
3834
3836
3837She laughed very prettily and told me my _dressage_ would perhaps be
3838difficult, as I was noble.
3839
3840"I am already tamed," I replied; "jessed and belled."
3841
3842She laughed, delighted. "Oh, my brave falcon; then you will return at my
3843call?"
3844
3845"I am yours," I answered gravely.
3846
3847She sat silent for a moment. Then the colour heightened in her cheeks and
3848she held up her finger again, saying, "Listen; I wish to speak of
3849falconry--"
3850
3851"I listen, Countess Jeanne d'Ys."
3852
3853But again she fell into the reverie, and her eyes seemed fixed on
3854something beyond the summer clouds.
3855
3856"Philip," she said at last.
3857
3858"Jeanne," I whispered.
3859
3860"That is all,--that is what I wished," she sighed,--"Philip and Jeanne."
3861
3862She held her hand toward me and I touched it with my lips.
3863
3864"Win me," she said, but this time it was the body and soul which spoke in
3865unison.
3866
3867After a while she began again: "Let us speak of falconry."
3868
3869"Begin," I replied; "we have caught the falcon."
3870
3871Then Jeanne d'Ys took my hand in both of hers and told me how with
3872infinite patience the young falcon was taught to perch upon the wrist,
3873how little by little it became used to the belled jesses and the
3874_chaperon à cornette_.
3875
3876"They must first have a good appetite," she said; "then little by little
3877I reduce their nourishment; which in falconry we call _pât_. When,
3878after many nights passed _au bloc_ as these birds are now, I prevail
3879upon the _hagard_ to stay quietly on the wrist, then the bird is
3880ready to be taught to come for its food. I fix the _pât_ to the end
3881of a thong, or _leurre_, and teach the bird to come to me as soon as
3882I begin to whirl the cord in circles about my head. At first I drop the
3883_pât_ when the falcon comes, and he eats the food on the ground.
3884After a little he will learn to seize the _leurre_ in motion as I
3885whirl it around my head or drag it over the ground. After this it is easy
3886to teach the falcon to strike at game, always remembering to _'faire
3887courtoisie á l'oiseau'_, that is, to allow the bird to taste the
3888quarry."
3889
3890A squeal from one of the falcons interrupted her, and she arose to adjust
3892bird still flapped its wings and screamed.
3893
3894"What _is_ the matter?" she said. "Philip, can you see?"
3895
3896I looked around and at first saw nothing to cause the commotion, which
3897was now heightened by the screams and flapping of all the birds. Then my
3898eye fell upon the flat rock beside the stream from which the girl had
3899risen. A grey serpent was moving slowly across the surface of the
3900boulder, and the eyes in its flat triangular head sparkled like jet.
3901
3902"A couleuvre," she said quietly.
3903
3904"It is harmless, is it not?" I asked.
3905
3906She pointed to the black V-shaped figure on the neck.
3907
3908"It is certain death," she said; "it is a viper."
3909
3910We watched the reptile moving slowly over the smooth rock to where the
3911sunlight fell in a broad warm patch.
3912
3913I started forward to examine it, but she clung to my arm crying, "Don't,
3914Philip, I am afraid."
3915
3916"For me?"
3917
3918"For you, Philip,--I love you."
3919
3920Then I took her in my arms and kissed her on the lips, but all I could
3921say was: "Jeanne, Jeanne, Jeanne." And as she lay trembling on my breast,
3922something struck my foot in the grass below, but I did not heed it. Then
3923again something struck my ankle, and a sharp pain shot through me. I
3924looked into the sweet face of Jeanne d'Ys and kissed her, and with all my
3925strength lifted her in my arms and flung her from me. Then bending, I
3926tore the viper from my ankle and set my heel upon its head. I remember
3927feeling weak and numb,--I remember falling to the ground. Through my
3928slowly glazing eyes I saw Jeanne's white face bending close to mine, and
3929when the light in my eyes went out I still felt her arms about my neck,
3930and her soft cheek against my drawn lips.
3931
3932
3933When I opened my eyes, I looked around in terror. Jeanne was gone. I saw
3934the stream and the flat rock; I saw the crushed viper in the grass beside
3935me, but the hawks and _blocs_ had disappeared. I sprang to my feet.
3936The garden, the fruit trees, the drawbridge and the walled court were
3937gone. I stared stupidly at a heap of crumbling ruins, ivy-covered and
3938grey, through which great trees had pushed their way. I crept forward,
3939dragging my numbed foot, and as I moved, a falcon sailed from the
3940tree-tops among the ruins, and soaring, mounting in narrowing circles,
3941faded and vanished in the clouds above.
3942
3943"Jeanne, Jeanne," I cried, but my voice died on my lips, and I fell on my
3944knees among the weeds. And as God willed it, I, not knowing, had fallen
3945kneeling before a crumbling shrine carved in stone for our Mother of
3946Sorrows. I saw the sad face of the Virgin wrought in the cold stone. I
3947saw the cross and thorns at her feet, and beneath it I read:
3948
3949  "PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF THE
3950  DEMOISELLE JEANNE D'Ys,
3951  WHO DIED
3952  IN HER YOUTH FOR LOVE OF
3953  PHILIP, A STRANGER.
3954  A.D. 1573."
3955
3956But upon the icy slab lay a woman's glove still warm and fragrant.
3957
3958
3959
3960
3962
3963  "If but the Vine and Love Abjuring Band
3964  Are in the Prophets' Paradise to stand,
3965  Alack, I doubt the Prophets' Paradise,
3966  Were empty as the hollow of one's hand."
3967
3968
3969
3970
3971THE STUDIO
3972
3973He smiled, saying, "Seek her throughout the world."
3974
3975I said, "Why tell me of the world? My world is here, between these walls
3976and the sheet of glass above; here among gilded flagons and dull jewelled
3977arms, tarnished frames and canvasses, black chests and high-backed
3978chairs, quaintly carved and stained in blue and gold."
3979
3980"For whom do you wait?" he said, and I answered, "When she comes I shall
3981know her."
3982
3983On my hearth a tongue of flame whispered secrets to the whitening ashes.
3984In the street below I heard footsteps, a voice, and a song.
3985
3986"For whom then do you wait?" he said, and I answered, "I shall know her."
3987
3988Footsteps, a voice, and a song in the street below, and I knew the song
3989but neither the steps nor the voice.
3990
3991"Fool!" he cried, "the song is the same, the voice and steps have but
3992changed with years!"
3993
3994On the hearth a tongue of flame whispered above the whitening ashes:
3995"Wait no more; they have passed, the steps and the voice in the street
3996below."
3997
3998Then he smiled, saying, "For whom do you wait? Seek her throughout the
3999world!"
4000
4001I answered, "My world is here, between these walls and the sheet of glass
4002above; here among gilded flagons and dull jewelled arms, tarnished frames
4003and canvasses, black chests and high-backed chairs, quaintly carved and
4004stained in blue and gold."
4005
4006
4007
4008
4009THE PHANTOM
4010
4011The Phantom of the Past would go no further.
4012
4013"If it is true," she sighed, "that you find in me a friend, let us turn
4014back together. You will forget, here, under the summer sky."
4015
4016I held her close, pleading, caressing; I seized her, white with anger,
4017but she resisted.
4018
4019"If it is true," she sighed, "that you find in me a friend, let us turn
4020back together."
4021
4022The Phantom of the Past would go no further.
4023
4024
4025
4026
4027THE SACRIFICE
4028
4029I went into a field of flowers, whose petals are whiter than snow and
4030whose hearts are pure gold.
4031
4032Far afield a woman cried, "I have killed him I loved!" and from a jar she
4033poured blood upon the flowers whose petals are whiter than snow and whose
4034hearts are pure gold.
4035
4036Far afield I followed, and on the jar I read a thousand names, while from
4037within the fresh blood bubbled to the brim.
4038
4039"I have killed him I loved!" she cried. "The world's athirst; now let it
4040drink!" She passed, and far afield I watched her pouring blood upon the
4041flowers whose petals are whiter than snow and whose hearts are pure gold.
4042
4043
4044
4045
4046DESTINY
4047
4048I came to the bridge which few may pass.
4049
4050"Pass!" cried the keeper, but I laughed, saying, "There is time;" and he
4051smiled and shut the gates.
4052
4053To the bridge which few may pass came young and old. All were refused.
4054Idly I stood and counted them, until, wearied of their noise and
4055lamentations, I came again to the bridge which few may pass.
4056
4057Those in the throng about the gates shrieked out, "He comes too late!"
4058But I laughed, saying, "There is time."
4059
4060"Pass!" cried the keeper as I entered; then smiled and shut the gates.
4061
4062
4063
4064
4065THE THRONG
4066
4067There, where the throng was thickest in the street, I stood with Pierrot.
4068All eyes were turned on me.
4069
4070"What are they laughing at?" I asked, but he grinned, dusting the chalk
4071from my black cloak. "I cannot see; it must be something droll, perhaps
4072an honest thief!"
4073
4074All eyes were turned on me.
4075
4076"He has robbed you of your purse!" they laughed.
4077
4078"My purse!" I cried; "Pierrot--help! it is a thief!"
4079
4080They laughed: "He has robbed you of your purse!"
4081
4082Then Truth stepped out, holding a mirror. "If he is an honest thief,"
4083cried Truth, "Pierrot shall find him with this mirror!" but he only
4084grinned, dusting the chalk from my black cloak.
4085
4086"You see," he said, "Truth is an honest thief, she brings you back your
4087mirror."
4088
4089All eyes were turned on me.
4090
4091"Arrest Truth!" I cried, forgetting it was not a mirror but a purse I
4092lost, standing with Pierrot, there, where the throng was thickest in the
4093street.
4094
4095
4096
4097
4098THE JESTER
4099
4100"Was she fair?" I asked, but he only chuckled, listening to the bells
4101jingling on his cap.
4102
4103"Stabbed," he tittered. "Think of the long journey, the days of peril,
4104the dreadful nights! Think how he wandered, for her sake, year after
4105year, through hostile lands, yearning for kith and kin, yearning for
4106her!"
4107
4108"Stabbed," he tittered, listening to the bells jingling on his cap.
4109
4110"Was she fair?" I asked, but he only snarled, muttering to the bells
4111jingling on his cap.
4112
4113"She kissed him at the gate," he tittered, "but in the hall his brother's
4114welcome touched his heart."
4115
4117
4118"Stabbed," he chuckled. "Think of the long journey, the days of peril,
4119the dreadful nights! Think how he wandered, for her sake, year after year
4120through hostile lands, yearning for kith and kin, yearning for her!"
4121
4122"She kissed him at the gate, but in the hall his brother's welcome
4123touched his heart."
4124
4125"Was she fair?" I asked; but he only snarled, listening to the bells
4126jingling in his cap.
4127
4128
4129
4130
4131THE GREEN ROOM
4132
4133The Clown turned his powdered face to the mirror.
4134
4135"If to be fair is to be beautiful," he said, "who can compare with me in
4137
4138"Who can compare with him in his white mask?" I asked of Death beside me.
4139
4140"Who can compare with me?" said Death, "for I am paler still."
4141
4142"You are very beautiful," sighed the Clown, turning his powdered face
4143from the mirror.
4144
4145
4146
4147
4148THE LOVE TEST
4149
4150"If it is true that you love," said Love, "then wait no longer. Give her
4151these jewels which would dishonour her and so dishonour you in loving
4152one dishonoured. If it is true that you love," said Love, "then wait no
4153longer."
4154
4155I took the jewels and went to her, but she trod upon them, sobbing:
4156"Teach me to wait--I love you!"
4157
4158"Then wait, if it is true," said Love.
4159
4160
4161
4162
4163THE STREET OF THE FOUR WINDS
4164
4165  "Ferme tes yeux à demi,
4166  Croise tes bras sur ton sein,
4167  Et de ton coeur endormi
4168  Chasse à jamais tout dessein."
4169
4170  "Je chante la nature,
4171  Les étoiles du soir, les larmes du matin,
4172  Les couchers de soleil à l'horizon lointain,
4173  Le ciel qui parle au coeur d'existence future!"
4174
4175
4176I
4177
4179if necessary. Severn laid down his palette, and held out a hand of
4180welcome. The cat remained motionless, her yellow eyes fastened upon
4181Severn.
4182
4183"Puss," he said, in his low, pleasant voice, "come in."
4184
4185The tip of her thin tail twitched uncertainly.
4186
4187"Come in," he said again.
4188
4189Apparently she found his voice reassuring, for she slowly settled upon all
4190fours, her eyes still fastened upon him, her tail tucked under her gaunt
4191flanks.
4192
4193He rose from his easel smiling. She eyed him quietly, and when he walked
4194toward her she watched him bend above her without a wince; her eyes
4195followed his hand until it touched her head. Then she uttered a ragged
4196mew.
4197
4198It had long been Severn's custom to converse with animals, probably
4199because he lived so much alone; and now he said, "What's the matter,
4200puss?"
4201
4202Her timid eyes sought his.
4203
4204"I understand," he said gently, "you shall have it at once."
4205
4206Then moving quietly about he busied himself with the duties of a host,
4207rinsed a saucer, filled it with the rest of the milk from the bottle on
4208the window-sill, and kneeling down, crumbled a roll into the hollow of his
4209hand.
4210
4211The creature rose and crept toward the saucer.
4212
4213With the handle of a palette-knife he stirred the crumbs and milk together
4214and stepped back as she thrust her nose into the mess. He watched her in
4215silence. From time to time the saucer clinked upon the tiled floor as she
4216reached for a morsel on the rim; and at last the bread was all gone, and
4217her purple tongue travelled over every unlicked spot until the saucer
4218shone like polished marble. Then she sat up, and coolly turning her back
4219to him, began her ablutions.
4220
4221"Keep it up," said Severn, much interested, "you need it."
4222
4223She flattened one ear, but neither turned nor interrupted her toilet. As
4224the grime was slowly removed Severn observed that nature had intended her
4225for a white cat. Her fur had disappeared in patches, from disease or the
4226chances of war, her tail was bony and her spine sharp. But what charms she
4227had were becoming apparent under vigorous licking, and he waited until she
4228had finished before re-opening the conversation. When at last she closed
4229her eyes and folded her forepaws under her breast, he began again very
4230gently: "Puss, tell me your troubles."
4231
4232At the sound of his voice she broke into a harsh rumbling which he
4233recognized as an attempt to purr. He bent over to rub her cheek and she
4234mewed again, an amiable inquiring little mew, to which he replied,
4235"Certainly, you are greatly improved, and when you recover your plumage
4236you will be a gorgeous bird." Much flattered, she stood up and marched
4237around and around his legs, pushing her head between them and making
4238pleased remarks, to which he responded with grave politeness.
4239
4240"Now, what sent you here," he said--"here into the Street of the Four
4241Winds, and up five flights to the very door where you would be welcome?
4242What was it that prevented your meditated flight when I turned from my
4243canvas to encounter your yellow eyes? Are you a Latin Quarter cat as I am
4244a Latin Quarter man? And why do you wear a rose-coloured flowered garter
4246purring as he passed his hand over her thin coat.
4247
4248"Excuse me," he continued in lazy soothing tones, harmonizing with her
4249purring, "if I seem indelicate, but I cannot help musing on this
4250rose-coloured garter, flowered so quaintly and fastened with a silver
4251clasp. For the clasp is silver; I can see the mint mark on the edge, as is
4252prescribed by the law of the French Republic. Now, why is this garter
4253woven of rose silk and delicately embroidered,--why is this silken garter
4254with its silver clasp about your famished throat? Am I indiscreet when I
4255inquire if its owner is your owner? Is she some aged dame living in memory
4256of youthful vanities, fond, doting on you, decorating you with her
4257intimate personal attire? The circumference of the garter would suggest
4258this, for your neck is thin, and the garter fits you. But then again I
4259notice--I notice most things--that the garter is capable of being much
4260enlarged. These small silver-rimmed eyelets, of which I count five, are
4261proof of that. And now I observe that the fifth eyelet is worn out, as
4262though the tongue of the clasp were accustomed to lie there. That seems to
4263argue a well-rounded form."
4264
4265The cat curled her toes in contentment. The street was very still outside.
4266
4267He murmured on: "Why should your mistress decorate you with an article
4268most necessary to her at all times? Anyway, at most times. How did she
4269come to slip this bit of silk and silver about your neck? Was it the
4271plumpness, marched singing into her bedroom to bid her good-morning? Of
4272course, and she sat up among the pillows, her coiled hair tumbling to her
4273shoulders, as you sprang upon the bed purring: 'Good-day, my lady.' Oh, it
4274is very easy to understand," he yawned, resting his head on the back of
4275the chair. The cat still purred, tightening and relaxing her padded claws
4276over his knee.
4277
4278"Shall I tell you all about her, cat? She is very beautiful--your
4279mistress," he murmured drowsily, "and her hair is heavy as burnished
4280gold. I could paint her,--not on canvas--for I should need shades and
4281tones and hues and dyes more splendid than the iris of a splendid rainbow.
4282I could only paint her with closed eyes, for in dreams alone can such
4283colours as I need be found. For her eyes, I must have azure from skies
4284untroubled by a cloud--the skies of dreamland. For her lips, roses from
4285the palaces of slumberland, and for her brow, snow-drifts from mountains
4286which tower in fantastic pinnacles to the moons;--oh, much higher than our
4287moon here,--the crystal moons of dreamland. She is--very--beautiful, your
4288mistress."
4289
4290The words died on his lips and his eyelids drooped.
4291
4292The cat, too, was asleep, her cheek turned up upon her wasted flank, her
4293paws relaxed and limp.
4294
4295
4296
4297
4298II
4299
4300"It is fortunate," said Severn, sitting up and stretching, "that we have
4301tided over the dinner hour, for I have nothing to offer you for supper but
4302what may be purchased with one silver franc."
4303
4304The cat on his knee rose, arched her back, yawned, and looked up at him.
4305
4306"What shall it be? A roast chicken with salad? No? Possibly you prefer
4307beef? Of course,--and I shall try an egg and some white bread. Now for the
4308wines. Milk for you? Good. I shall take a little water, fresh from the
4309wood," with a motion toward the bucket in the sink.
4310
4311He put on his hat and left the room. The cat followed to the door, and
4312after he had closed it behind him, she settled down, smelling at the
4313cracks, and cocking one ear at every creak from the crazy old building.
4314
4315The door below opened and shut. The cat looked serious, for a moment
4316doubtful, and her ears flattened in nervous expectation. Presently she
4317rose with a jerk of her tail and started on a noiseless tour of the
4318studio. She sneezed at a pot of turpentine, hastily retreating to the
4319table, which she presently mounted, and having satisfied her curiosity
4320concerning a roll of red modelling wax, returned to the door and sat down
4321with her eyes on the crack over the threshold Then she lifted her voice in
4322a thin plaint.
4323
4324When Severn returned he looked grave, but the cat, joyous and
4325demonstrative, marched around him, rubbing her gaunt body against his
4326legs, driving her head enthusiastically into his hand, and purring until
4327her voice mounted to a squeal.
4328
4329He placed a bit of meat, wrapped in brown paper, upon the table, and with
4330a penknife cut it into shreds. The milk he took from a bottle which had
4331served for medicine, and poured it into the saucer on the hearth.
4332
4333The cat crouched before it, purring and lapping at the same time.
4334
4335He cooked his egg and ate it with a slice of bread, watching her busy with
4336the shredded meat, and when he had finished, and had filled and emptied a
4337cup of water from the bucket in the sink, he sat down, taking her into his
4338lap, where she at once curled up and began her toilet. He began to speak
4339again, touching her caressingly at times by way of emphasis.
4340
4341"Cat, I have found out where your mistress lives. It is not very far
4342away;--it is here, under this same leaky roof, but in the north wing which
4343I had supposed was uninhabited. My janitor tells me this. By chance, he is
4344almost sober this evening. The butcher on the rue de Seine, where I bought
4345your meat, knows you, and old Cabane the baker identified you with
4346needless sarcasm. They tell me hard tales of your mistress which I shall
4347not believe. They say she is idle and vain and pleasure-loving; they say
4348she is hare-brained and reckless. The little sculptor on the ground floor,
4349who was buying rolls from old Cabane, spoke to me to-night for the first
4350time, although we have always bowed to each other. He said she was very
4351good and very beautiful. He has only seen her once, and does not know her
4352name. I thanked him;--I don't know why I thanked him so warmly. Cabane
4353said, 'Into this cursed Street of the Four Winds, the four winds blow all
4354things evil.' The sculptor looked confused, but when he went out with his
4355rolls, he said to me, 'I am sure, Monsieur, that she is as good as she is
4356beautiful.'"
4357
4358The cat had finished her toilet, and now, springing softly to the floor,
4359went to the door and sniffed. He knelt beside her, and unclasping the
4360garter held it for a moment in his hands. After a while he said: "There is
4361a name engraved upon the silver clasp beneath the buckle. It is a pretty
4362name, Sylvia Elven. Sylvia is a woman's name, Elven is the name of a town.
4363In Paris, in this quarter, above all, in this Street of the Four Winds,
4364names are worn and put away as the fashions change with the seasons. I
4365know the little town of Elven, for there I met Fate face to face and Fate
4366was unkind. But do you know that in Elven Fate had another name, and that
4367name was Sylvia?"
4368
4369He replaced the garter and stood up looking down at the cat crouched
4370before the closed door.
4371
4372"The name of Elven has a charm for me. It tells me of meadows and clear
4373rivers. The name of Sylvia troubles me like perfume from dead flowers."
4374
4375The cat mewed.
4376
4377"Yes, yes," he said soothingly, "I will take you back. Your Sylvia is not
4378my Sylvia; the world is wide and Elven is not unknown. Yet in the darkness
4379and filth of poorer Paris, in the sad shadows of this ancient house, these
4380names are very pleasant to me."
4381
4382He lifted her in his arms and strode through the silent corridors to the
4383stairs. Down five flights and into the moonlit court, past the little
4384sculptor's den, and then again in at the gate of the north wing and up the
4385worm-eaten stairs he passed, until he came to a closed door. When he had
4386stood knocking for a long time, something moved behind the door; it opened
4387and he went in. The room was dark. As he crossed the threshold, the cat
4388sprang from his arms into the shadows. He listened but heard nothing. The
4389silence was oppressive and he struck a match. At his elbow stood a table
4390and on the table a candle in a gilded candlestick. This he lighted, then
4391looked around. The chamber was vast, the hangings heavy with embroidery.
4392Over the fireplace towered a carved mantel, grey with the ashes of dead
4393fires. In a recess by the deep-set windows stood a bed, from which the
4394bedclothes, soft and fine as lace, trailed to the polished floor. He
4395lifted the candle above his head. A handkerchief lay at his feet. It was
4396faintly perfumed. He turned toward the windows. In front of them was a
4397_canapé_ and over it were flung, pell-mell, a gown of silk, a heap of
4398lace-like garments, white and delicate as spiders' meshes, long, crumpled
4399gloves, and, on the floor beneath, the stockings, the little pointed
4400shoes, and one garter of rosy silk, quaintly flowered and fitted with a
4401silver clasp. Wondering, he stepped forward and drew the heavy curtains
4402from the bed. For a moment the candle flared in his hand; then his eyes
4403met two other eyes, wide open, smiling, and the candle-flame flashed over
4404hair heavy as gold.
4405
4406She was pale, but not as white as he; her eyes were untroubled as a
4407child's; but he stared, trembling from head to foot, while the candle
4408flickered in his hand.
4409
4410At last he whispered: "Sylvia, it is I."
4411
4412Again he said, "It is I."
4413
4414Then, knowing that she was dead, he kissed her on the mouth. And through
4415the long watches of the night the cat purred on his knee, tightening and
4416relaxing her padded claws, until the sky paled above the Street of the
4417Four Winds.
4418
4419
4420
4421
4422THE STREET OF THE FIRST SHELL
4423
4424
4425  "Be of Good Cheer, the Sullen Month will die,
4426  And a young Moon requite us by and by:
4427  Look how the Old one, meagre, bent, and wan
4428  With age and Fast, is fainting from the sky."
4429
4430The room was already dark. The high roofs opposite cut off what little
4431remained of the December daylight. The girl drew her chair nearer the
4432window, and choosing a large needle, threaded it, knotting the thread over
4433her fingers. Then she smoothed the baby garment across her knees, and
4434bending, bit off the thread and drew the smaller needle from where it
4435rested in the hem. When she had brushed away the stray threads and bits of
4436lace, she laid it again over her knees caressingly. Then she slipped the
4437threaded needle from her corsage and passed it through a button, but as
4438the button spun down the thread, her hand faltered, the thread snapped,
4439and the button rolled across the floor. She raised her head. Her eyes were
4440fixed on a strip of waning light above the chimneys. From somewhere in the
4441city came sounds like the distant beating of drums, and beyond, far
4442beyond, a vague muttering, now growing, swelling, rumbling in the distance
4443like the pounding of surf upon the rocks, now like the surf again,
4444receding, growling, menacing. The cold had become intense, a bitter
4445piercing cold which strained and snapped at joist and beam and turned the
4446slush of yesterday to flint. From the street below every sound broke sharp
4447and metallic--the clatter of sabots, the rattle of shutters or the rare
4448sound of a human voice. The air was heavy, weighted with the black cold as
4449with a pall. To breathe was painful, to move an effort.
4450
4451In the desolate sky there was something that wearied, in the brooding
4452clouds, something that saddened. It penetrated the freezing city cut by
4453the freezing river, the splendid city with its towers and domes, its quays
4454and bridges and its thousand spires. It entered the squares, it seized the
4455avenues and the palaces, stole across bridges and crept among the narrow
4456streets of the Latin Quarter, grey under the grey of the December sky.
4458pavement with a tiny crystalline dust. It sifted against the window-panes
4459and drifted in heaps along the sill. The light at the window had nearly
4460failed, and the girl bent low over her work. Presently she raised her
4461head, brushing the curls from her eyes.
4462
4463"Jack?"
4464
4465"Dearest?"
4466
4467"Don't forget to clean your palette."
4468
4469He said, "All right," and picking up the palette, sat down upon the floor
4470in front of the stove. His head and shoulders were in the shadow, but the
4471firelight fell across his knees and glimmered red on the blade of the
4472palette-knife. Full in the firelight beside him stood a colour-box. On the
4473lid was carved,
4474
4475  J. TRENT.
4476  Ecole des Beaux Arts.
4477  1870.
4478
4479This inscription was ornamented with an American and a French flag.
4480
4481The sleet blew against the window-panes, covering them with stars and
4482diamonds, then, melting from the warmer air within, ran down and froze
4483again in fern-like traceries.
4484
4485A dog whined and the patter of small paws sounded on the zinc behind the
4486stove.
4487
4488"Jack, dear, do you think Hercules is hungry?"
4489
4490The patter of paws was redoubled behind the stove.
4491
4492"He's whining," she continued nervously, "and if it isn't because he's
4493hungry it is because--"
4494
4495Her voice faltered. A loud humming filled the air, the windows vibrated.
4496
4497"Oh, Jack," she cried, "another--" but her voice was drowned in the scream
4498of a shell tearing through the clouds overhead.
4499
4500"That is the nearest yet," she murmured.
4501
4502"Oh, no," he answered cheerfully, "it probably fell way over by
4503Montmartre," and as she did not answer, he said again with exaggerated
4504unconcern, "They wouldn't take the trouble to fire at the Latin Quarter;
4505anyway they haven't a battery that can hurt it."
4506
4507After a while she spoke up brightly: "Jack, dear, when are you going to
4508take me to see Monsieur West's statues?"
4509
4510"I will bet," he said, throwing down his palette and walking over to the
4511window beside her, "that Colette has been here to-day."
4512
4513"Why?" she asked, opening her eyes very wide. Then, "Oh, it's too
4514bad!--really, men are tiresome when they think they know everything! And I
4515warn you that if Monsieur West is vain enough to imagine that Colette--"
4516
4517From the north another shell came whistling and quavering through the sky,
4518passing above them with long-drawn screech which left the windows singing.
4519
4520"That," he blurted out, "was too near for comfort."
4521
4522They were silent for a while, then he spoke again gaily: "Go on, Sylvia,
4523and wither poor West;" but she only sighed, "Oh, dear, I can never seem to
4524get used to the shells."
4525
4526He sat down on the arm of the chair beside her.
4527
4528Her scissors fell jingling to the floor; she tossed the unfinished frock
4529after them, and putting both arms about his neck drew him down into her
4530lap.
4531
4532"Don't go out to-night, Jack."
4533
4534He kissed her uplifted face; "You know I must; don't make it hard for me."
4535
4536"But when I hear the shells and--and know you are out in the city--"
4537
4538"But they all fall in Montmartre--"
4539
4540"They may all fall in the Beaux Arts; you said yourself that two struck
4541the Quai d'Orsay--"
4542
4543"Mere accident--"
4544
4545"Jack, have pity on me! Take me with you!"
4546
4547"And who will there be to get dinner?"
4548
4549She rose and flung herself on the bed.
4550
4551"Oh, I can't get used to it, and I know you must go, but I beg you not to
4552be late to dinner. If you knew what I suffer! I--I--cannot help it, and
4553you must be patient with me, dear."
4554
4555He said, "It is as safe there as it is in our own house."
4556
4557She watched him fill for her the alcohol lamp, and when he had lighted it
4558and had taken his hat to go, she jumped up and clung to him in silence.
4559After a moment he said: "Now, Sylvia, remember my courage is sustained by
4560yours. Come, I must go!" She did not move, and he repeated: "I must go."
4561Then she stepped back and he thought she was going to speak and waited,
4562but she only looked at him, and, a little impatiently, he kissed her
4563again, saying: "Don't worry, dearest."
4564
4565When he had reached the last flight of stairs on his way to the street a
4566woman hobbled out of the house-keeper's lodge waving a letter and calling:
4567"Monsieur Jack! Monsieur Jack! this was left by Monsieur Fallowby!"
4568
4569He took the letter, and leaning on the threshold of the lodge, read it:
4570
4571"Dear Jack,
4572
4573"I believe Braith is dead broke and I'm sure Fallowby is. Braith swears he
4574isn't, and Fallowby swears he is, so you can draw your own conclusions.
4575I've got a scheme for a dinner, and if it works, I will let you fellows
4576in.
4577
4578"Yours faithfully,
4579
4580"West.
4581
4582"P.S.--Fallowby has shaken Hartman and his gang, thank the Lord! There is
4583something rotten there,--or it may be he's only a miser.
4584
4585"P.P.S.--I'm more desperately in love than ever, but I'm sure she does not
4586care a straw for me."
4587
4588"All right," said Trent, with a smile, to the concierge; "but tell me, how
4589is Papa Cottard?"
4590
4591The old woman shook her head and pointed to the curtained bed in the
4592lodge.
4593
4594"Père Cottard!" he cried cheerily, "how goes the wound to-day?"
4595
4596He walked over to the bed and drew the curtains. An old man was lying
4597among the tumbled sheets.
4598
4599"Better?" smiled Trent.
4600
4601"Better," repeated the man wearily; and, after a pause, "Have you any
4602news, Monsieur Jack?"
4603
4604"I haven't been out to-day. I will bring you any rumour I may hear, though
4605goodness knows I've got enough of rumours," he muttered to himself. Then
4606aloud: "Cheer up; you're looking better."
4607
4608"And the sortie?"
4609
4610"Oh, the sortie, that's for this week. General Trochu sent orders last
4611night."
4612
4613"It will be terrible."
4614
4615"It will be sickening," thought Trent as he went not into the street and
4616turned the corner toward the rue de Seine; "slaughter, slaughter, phew!
4618
4619The street was almost deserted. A few women muffled in tattered military
4620capes crept along the frozen pavement, and a wretchedly clad gamin hovered
4621over the sewer-hole on the corner of the Boulevard. A rope around his
4622waist held his rags together. From the rope hung a rat, still warm and
4623bleeding.
4624
4625"There's another in there," he yelled at Trent; "I hit him but he got
4626away."
4627
4628Trent crossed the street and asked: "How much?"
4629
4630"Two francs for a quarter of a fat one; that's what they give at the St.
4631Germain Market."
4632
4633A violent fit of coughing interrupted him, but he wiped his face with the
4634palm of his hand and looked cunningly at Trent.
4635
4636"Last week you could buy a rat for six francs, but," and here he swore
4637vilely, "the rats have quit the rue de Seine and they kill them now over
4638by the new hospital. I'll let you have this for seven francs; I can sell
4639it for ten in the Isle St. Louis."
4640
4641"You lie," said Trent, "and let me tell you that if you try to swindle
4642anybody in this quarter the people will make short work of you and your
4643rats."
4644
4645He stood a moment eyeing the gamin, who pretended to snivel. Then he
4646tossed him a franc, laughing. The child caught it, and thrusting it into
4647his mouth wheeled about to the sewer-hole. For a second he crouched,
4648motionless, alert, his eyes on the bars of the drain, then leaping forward
4649he hurled a stone into the gutter, and Trent left him to finish a fierce
4650grey rat that writhed squealing at the mouth of the sewer.
4651
4652"Suppose Braith should come to that," he thought; "poor little chap;" and
4653hurrying, he turned in the dirty passage des Beaux Arts and entered the
4654third house to the left.
4655
4656"Monsieur is at home," quavered the old concierge.
4657
4658Home? A garret absolutely bare, save for the iron bedstead in the corner
4659and the iron basin and pitcher on the floor.
4660
4661West appeared at the door, winking with much mystery, and motioned Trent
4662to enter. Braith, who was painting in bed to keep warm, looked up,
4663laughed, and shook hands.
4664
4665"Any news?"
4666
4667The perfunctory question was answered as usual by: "Nothing but the
4668cannon."
4669
4670Trent sat down on the bed.
4671
4672"Where on earth did you get that?" he demanded, pointing to a
4673half-finished chicken nestling in a wash-basin.
4674
4675West grinned.
4676
4677"Are you millionaires, you two? Out with it."
4678
4679Braith, looking a little ashamed, began, "Oh, it's one of West's
4680exploits," but was cut short by West, who said he would tell the story
4681himself.
4682
4683"You see, before the siege, I had a letter of introduction to a '_type_'
4684here, a fat banker, German-American variety. You know the species, I see.
4685Well, of course I forgot to present the letter, but this morning, judging
4686it to be a favourable opportunity, I called on him.
4687
4688"The villain lives in comfort;--fires, my boy!--fires in the ante-rooms!
4689The Buttons finally condescends to carry my letter and card up, leaving me
4690standing in the hallway, which I did not like, so I entered the first room
4691I saw and nearly fainted at the sight of a banquet on a table by the fire.
4692Down comes Buttons, very insolent. No, oh, no, his master, 'is not at
4693home, and in fact is too busy to receive letters of introduction just now;
4694the siege, and many business difficulties--'
4695
4696"I deliver a kick to Buttons, pick up this chicken from the table, toss my
4697card on to the empty plate, and addressing Buttons as a species of
4698Prussian pig, march out with the honours of war."
4699
4701
4702"I forgot to say that Hartman often dines there, and I draw my own
4704Braith and myself, and half for Colette, but of course you will help me
4705eat my part because I'm not hungry."
4706
4707"Neither am I," began Braith, but Trent, with a smile at the pinched faces
4708before him, shook his head saying, "What nonsense! You know I'm never
4709hungry!"
4710
4711West hesitated, reddened, and then slicing off Braith's portion, but not
4712eating any himself, said good-night, and hurried away to number 470 rue
4713Serpente, where lived a pretty girl named Colette, orphan after Sedan, and
4714Heaven alone knew where she got the roses in her cheeks, for the siege
4715came hard on the poor.
4716
4717"That chicken will delight her, but I really believe she's in love with
4718West," said Trent. Then walking over to the bed: "See here, old man, no
4719dodging, you know, how much have you left?"
4720
4721The other hesitated and flushed.
4722
4723"Come, old chap," insisted Trent.
4724
4725Braith drew a purse from beneath his bolster, and handed it to his friend
4726with a simplicity that touched him.
4727
4728"Seven sons," he counted; "you make me tired! Why on earth don't you come
4729to me? I take it d----d ill, Braith! How many times must I go over the same
4730thing and explain to you that because I have money it is my duty to share
4731it, and your duty and the duty of every American to share it with me? You
4732can't get a cent, the city's blockaded, and the American Minister has his
4733hands full with all the German riff-raff and deuce knows what! Why don't
4734you act sensibly?"
4735
4736"I--I will, Trent, but it's an obligation that perhaps I can never even in
4737part repay, I'm poor and--"
4738
4739"Of course you'll pay me! If I were a usurer I would take your talent for
4740security. When you are rich and famous--"
4741
4742"Don't, Trent--"
4743
4744"All right, only no more monkey business."
4745
4746He slipped a dozen gold pieces into the purse, and tucking it again under
4747the mattress smiled at Braith.
4748
4749"How old are you?" he demanded.
4750
4751"Sixteen."
4752
4753Trent laid his hand lightly on his friend's shoulder. "I'm twenty-two, and
4754I have the rights of a grandfather as far as you are concerned. You'll do
4755as I say until you're twenty-one."
4756
4757"The siège will be over then, I hope," said Braith, trying to laugh, but
4758the prayer in their hearts: "How long, O Lord, how long!" was answered by
4759the swift scream of a shell soaring among the storm-clouds of that
4760December night.
4761
4762
4763
4764
4765II
4766
4767West, standing in the doorway of a house in the rue Serpentine, was
4768speaking angrily. He said he didn't care whether Hartman liked it or not;
4769he was telling him, not arguing with him.
4770
4771"You call yourself an American!" he sneered; "Berlin and hell are full of
4772that kind of American. You come loafing about Colette with your pockets
4773stuffed with white bread and beef, and a bottle of wine at thirty francs
4774and you can't really afford to give a dollar to the American Ambulance and
4775Public Assistance, which Braith does, and he's half starved!"
4776
4777Hartman retreated to the curbstone, but West followed him, his face like a
4778thunder-cloud. "Don't you dare to call yourself a countryman of mine," he
4779growled,--"no,--nor an artist either! Artists don't worm themselves into
4780the service of the Public Defence where they do nothing but feed like rats
4781on the people's food! And I'll tell you now," he continued dropping his
4782voice, for Hartman had started as though stung, "you might better keep
4783away from that Alsatian Brasserie and the smug-faced thieves who haunt it.
4784You know what they do with suspects!"
4785
4786"You lie, you hound!" screamed Hartman, and flung the bottle in his hand
4787straight at West's face. West had him by the throat in a second, and
4788forcing him against the dead wall shook him wickedly.
4789
4790"Now you listen to me," he muttered, through his clenched teeth. "You are
4791already a suspect and--I swear--I believe you are a paid spy! It isn't my
4792business to detect such vermin, and I don't intend to denounce you, but
4793understand this! Colette don't like you and I can't stand you, and if I
4794catch you in this street again I'll make it somewhat unpleasant. Get out,
4795you sleek Prussian!"
4796
4797Hartman had managed to drag a knife from his pocket, but West tore it from
4798him and hurled him into the gutter. A gamin who had seen this burst into a
4799peal of laughter, which rattled harshly in the silent street. Then
4800everywhere windows were raised and rows of haggard faces appeared
4801demanding to know why people should laugh in the starving city.
4802
4803"Is it a victory?" murmured one.
4804
4805"Look at that," cried West as Hartman picked himself up from the pavement,
4806"look! you miser! look at those faces!" But Hartman gave _him_ a look
4807which he never forgot, and walked away without a word. Trent, who suddenly
4808appeared at the corner, glanced curiously at West, who merely nodded
4809toward his door saying, "Come in; Fallowby's upstairs."
4810
4811"What are you doing with that knife?" demanded Fallowby, as he and Trent
4812entered the studio.
4813
4814West looked at his wounded hand, which still clutched the knife, but
4815saying, "Cut myself by accident," tossed it into a corner and washed the
4816blood from his fingers.
4817
4818Fallowby, fat and lazy, watched him without comment, but Trent, half
4819divining how things had turned, walked over to Fallowby smiling.
4820
4821"I've a bone to pick with you!" he said.
4822
4823"Where is it? I'm hungry," replied Fallowby with affected eagerness, but
4824Trent, frowning, told him to listen.
4825
4826"How much did I advance you a week ago?"
4827
4828"Three hundred and eighty francs," replied the other, with a squirm of
4829contrition.
4830
4831"Where is it?"
4832
4833Fallowby began a series of intricate explanations, which were soon cut
4834short by Trent.
4835
4836"I know; you blew it in;--you always blow it in. I don't care a rap what
4837you did before the siege: I know you are rich and have a right to dispose
4838of your money as you wish to, and I also know that, generally speaking, it
4839is none of my business. But _now_ it is my business, as I have to supply
4840the funds until you get some more, which you won't until the siege is
4841ended one way or another. I wish to share what I have, but I won't see it
4842thrown out of the window. Oh, yes, of course I know you will reimburse me,
4843but that isn't the question; and, anyway, it's the opinion of your
4844friends, old man, that you will not be worse off for a little abstinence
4845from fleshly pleasures. You are positively a freak in this famine-cursed
4846city of skeletons!"
4847
4848"I _am_ rather stout," he admitted.
4849
4850"Is it true you are out of money?" demanded Trent.
4851
4852"Yes, I am," sighed the other.
4853
4854"That roast sucking pig on the rue St. Honoré,--is it there yet?"
4855continued Trent.
4856
4857"Wh--at?" stammered the feeble one.
4858
4859"Ah--I thought so! I caught you in ecstasy before that sucking pig at
4860least a dozen times!"
4861
4862Then laughing, he presented Fallowby with a roll of twenty franc pieces
4863saying: "If these go for luxuries you must live on your own flesh," and
4864went over to aid West, who sat beside the wash-basin binding up his hand.
4865
4866West suffered him to tie the knot, and then said: "You remember,
4867yesterday, when I left you and Braith to take the chicken to Colette."
4868
4869"Chicken! Good heavens!" moaned Fallowby.
4870
4871"Chicken," repeated West, enjoying Fallowby's grief;--"I--that is, I must
4872explain that things are changed. Colette and I--are to be married--"
4873