Part 6 out of 10
"Do you remember asking me if I was thinking of the play we saw
together at Rome? Is the story as present to your mind now, as it
"Quite as present."
"You asked if I was performing the part of the Marquis--and if
you were the Count. Rothsay! the devotion of that ideal character
to his friend has been my devotion; his conviction that his death
would justify what he had done for his friend's sake, has been
_my_ conviction; and as it ended with him, so it has ended with
me--his terrible position is _my_ terrible position toward you,
at this moment."
"Are you mad?" Rothsay asked, sternly.
I passed over that first outbreak of his anger in silence.
"Do you mean to tell me you have married Susan?" he went on.
"Bear this in mind," I said. "When I married her, I was doomed to
death. Nay, more. In your interests--as God is my witness--I
He stepped up to me, in silence, and raised his hand with a
That action at once deprived me of my self-possession. I spoke
with the ungovernable rashness of a boy.
"Carry out your intention," I said. "Insult me."
His hand dropped.
"Insult me," I repeated; "it is one way out of the unendurable
situation in which we are placed. You may trust me to challenge
you. Duels are still fought on the Continent; I will follow you
abroad; I will choose pistols; I will take care that we fight on
the fatal foreign system; and I will purposely miss you. Make her
what I intended her to be--my rich widow."
He looked at me attentively.
"Is _that_ your refuge?" he asked, scornfully. "No! I won't help
you to commit suicide."
God forgive me! I was possessed by a spirit of reckless despair;
I did my best to provoke him.
"Reconsider your decision," I said; "and remember--you tried to
commit suicide yourself."
He turned quickly to the door, as if he distrusted his own powers
"I wish to speak to Susan," he said, keeping his back turned on
"You will find her in the library."
He left me.
I went to the window. I opened it and let the cold wintry air
blow over my burning head. I don't know how long I sat at the
window. There came a time when I saw Rothsay on the house steps.
He walked rapidly toward the park gate. His head was down; he
never once looked back at the room in which he had left me.
As he passed out of my sight, I felt a hand laid gently on my
shoulder. Susan had returned to me.
"He will not come back," she said. "Try still to remember him as
your old friend. He asks you to forgive and forget."
She had made the peace between us. I was deeply touched; my eyes
filled with tears as I looked at her. She kissed me on the
forehead and went out. I afterward asked what had passed between
them when Rothsay spoke with her in the library. She never has
told me what they said to each other; and she never will. She is
Later in the day I was told that Mrs. Rymer had called, and
wished to "pay her respects."
I refused to see her. Whatever claim she might have otherwise had
on my consideration had been forfeited by the infamy of her
conduct, when she intercepted my letter to Susan. Her sense of
injury on receiving my message was expressed in writing, and was
sent to me the same evening. The last sentence in her letter was
characteristic of the woman.
"However your pride may despise me," she wrote, "I am indebted to
you for the rise in life that I have always desired. You may
refuse to see me--but you can't prevent my being the
mother-in-law of a gentleman."
Soon afterward, I received a visit which I had hardly ventured to
expect. Busy as he was in London, my doctor came to see me. He
was not in his usual good spirits.
"I hope you don't bring me any bad news?" I said.
"You shall judge for yourself," he replied. "I come from Mr.
Rothsay, to say for him what he is not able to say for himself."
"Where is he?"
"He has left England."
"For any purpose that you know of?"
"Yes. He has sailed to join the expedition of rescue--I ought
rather to call it the forlorn hope--which is to search for the
lost explorers in Central Australia."
In other words, he had gone to seek death in the fatal footsteps
of Burke and Wills. I could not trust myself to speak.
The doctor saw that there was a reason for my silence, and that
he would do well not to notice it. He changed the subjectj.
"May I ask," he said, "if you have heard from the servants left
in charge at your house in London?"
"Has anything happened?"
"Something has happened which they are evidently afraid to tell
you, knowing the high opinion which you have of Mrs. Mozeen. She
has suddenly quitted your service, and has gone, nobody knows
where. I have taken charge of a letter which she left for you."
He handed me the letter. As soon as I had recovered myself, I
looked at it.
There was this inscription on the address: "For my good master,
to wait until he returns home." The few lines in the letter
itself ran thus:
"Distressing circumstances oblige me to leave you, sir, and do
not permit me to enter into particulars. In asking your pardon, I
offer my sincere thanks for your kindness, and my fervent prayers
for your welfare."
That was all. The date had a special interest for me. Mrs. Mozeen
had written on the day when she must have received my letter--the
letter which has already appeared in these pages.
"Is there really nothing known of the poor woman's motives?" I
"There are two explanations suggested," the doctor informed me.
"One of them, which is offered by your female servants, seems to
me absurd. They declare that Mrs. Mozeen, at her mature age, was
in love with the young man who is your footman! It is even
asserted that she tried to recommend herself to him, by speaking
of the money which she expected to bring to the man who would
make her his wife. The footman's reply, informing her that he was
already engaged to be married, is alleged to be the cause which
has driven her from your house."
I begged that the doctor would not trouble himself to repeat more
of what my women servants had said.
"If the other explanation," I added, "is equally unworthy of
"The other explanation," the doctor interposed, "comes from Mr.
Rothsay, and is of a very serious kind."
Rothsay's opinion demanded my respect.
"What view does he take?" I inquired.
"A view that startles me," the doctor said. "You remember my
telling you of the interest he took in your symptoms, and in the
remedies I had employed? Well! Mr. Rothsay accounts for the
incomprehensible recovery of your health by asserting that
poison--probably administered in small quantities, and
intermitted at intervals in fear of discovery--has been mixed
with your medicine; and he asserts that the guilty person is Mrs.
It was impossible that I could openly express the indignation
that I felt on hearing this. My position toward Rothsay forced me
to restrain myself.
"May I ask," the doctor continued, "if Mrs. Mozeen was aware that
she had a legacy to expect at your death?"
"Has she a brother who is one of the dispensers employed by your
"Did she know that I doubted if my prescriptions had been
properly prepared, and that I intended to make inquiries?"
"I wrote to her myself on the subject."
"Do you think her brother told her that I was referred to _him_,
when I went to the chemists?"
"I have no means of knowing what her brother did."
"Can you at least tell me when she received your letter?"
"She must have received it on the day when she left my house."
The doctor rose with a grave face.
"These are rather extraordinary coincidences," he remarked.
I merely replied, "Mrs. Mozeen is as incapable of poisoning as I
The doctor wished me good-morning.
I repeat here my conviction of my housekeeper's innocence. I
protest against the cruelty which accuses her. And, whate ver may
have been her motive in suddenly leaving my service, I declare
that she still possesses my sympathy and esteem, and I invite her
to return to me if she ever sees these lines.
I have only to add, by way of postscript, that we have heard of
the safe return of the expedition of rescue. Time, as my wife and
I both hope, may yet convince Rothsay that he will not be wrong
in counting on Susan's love--the love of a sister.
In the meanwhile we possess a memorial of our absent friend. We
have bought his picture.
MR. CAPTAIN AND THE NYMPH.
"THE Captain is still in the prime of life," the widow remarked.
"He has given up his ship; he possesses a sufficient income, and
he has nobody to live with him. I should like to know why he
"The Captain was excessively rude to Me," the widow's younger
sister added, on her side. "When we took leave of him in London,
I asked if there was any chance of his joining us at Brighton
this season. He turned his back on me as if I had mortally
offended him; and he made me this extraordinary answer: 'Miss! I
hate the sight of the sea.' The man has been a sailor all his
life. What does he mean by saying that he hates the sight of the
These questions were addressed to a third person present--and the
person was a man. He was entirely at the mercy of the widow and
the widow's sister. The other ladies of the family--who might
have taken him under their protection--had gone to an evening
concert. He was known to be the Captain's friend, and to be well
acquainted with events in the Captain's life. As it happened, he
had reasons for hesitating to revive associations connected with
those events. But what polite alternative was left to him? He
must either inflict disappointment, and, worse still, aggravate
curiosity--or he must resign himself to circumstances, and tell
the ladies why the Captain would never marry, and why (sailor as
he was) he hated the sight of the sea. They were both young women
and handsome women--and the person to whom they had appealed
(being a man) followed the example of submission to the sex,
first set in the garden of Eden. He enlightened the ladies, in
the terms that follow:
THE British merchantman, _Fortuna_, sailed from the port of
Liverpool (at a date which it is not necessary to specify) with
the morning tide. She was bound for certain islands in the
Pacific Ocean, in search of a cargo of sandal-wood--a commodity
which, in those days, found a ready and profitable market in the
A large discretion was reposed in the Captain by the owners, who
knew him to be not only trustworthy, but a man of rare ability,
carefully cultivated during the leisure hours of a seafaring
life. Devoted heart and soul to his professional duties, he was a
hard reader and an excellent linguist as well. Having had
considerable experience among the inhabitants of the Pacific
Islands, he had attentively studied their characters, and had
mastered their language in more than one of its many dialects.
Thanks to the valuable information thus obtained, the Captain was
never at a loss to conciliate the islanders. He had more than
once succeeded in finding a cargo under circumstances in which
other captains had failed.
Possessing these merits, he had also his fair share of human
defects. For instance, he was a little too conscious of his own
good looks--of his bright chestnut hair and whiskers, of his
beautiful blue eyes, of his fair white skin, which many a woman
had looked at with the admiration that is akin to envy. His
shapely hands were protected by gloves; a broad-brimmed hat
sheltered his complexion in fine weather from the sun. He was
nice in the choice of his perfumes; he never drank spirits, and
the smell of tobacco was abhorrent to him. New men among his
officers and his crew, seeing him in his cabin, perfectly
dressed, washed, and brushed until he was an object speckless to
look upon--a merchant-captain soft of voice, careful in his
choice of words, devoted to study in his leisure hours--were apt
to conclude that they had trusted themselves at sea under a
commander who was an anomalous mixture of a schoolmaster and a
dandy. But if the slightest infraction of discipline took place,
or if the storm rose and the vessel proved to be in peril, it was
soon discovered that the gloved hands held a rod of iron; that
the soft voice could make itself heard through wind and sea from
one end of the deck to the other; and that it issued orders which
the greatest fool on board discovered to be orders that had saved
the ship. Throughout his professional life, the general
impression that this variously gifted man produced on the little
world about him was always the same. Some few liked him;
everybody respected him; nobody understood him. The Captain
accepted these results. He persisted in reading his books and
protecting his complexion, with this result: his owners shook
hands with him, and put up with his gloves.
The _Fortuna_ touched at Rio for water, and for supplies of food
which might prove useful in case of scurvy. In due time the ship
rounded Cape Horn, favored by the finest weather ever known in
those latitudes by the oldest hand on board. The mate--one Mr.
Duncalf--a boozing, wheezing, self-confident old sea-dog, with a
flaming face and a vast vocabulary of oaths, swore that he didn't
like it. "The foul weather's coming, my lads," said Mr. Duncalf.
"Mark my words, there'll be wind enough to take the curl out of
the Captain's whiskers before we are many days older!"
For one uneventful week, the ship cruised in search of the
islands to which the owners had directed her. At the end of that
time the wind took the predicted liberties with the Captain's
whiskers; and Mr. Duncalf stood revealed to an admiring crew in
the character of a true prophet.
For three days and three nights the _Fortuna_ ran before the
storm, at the mercy of wind and sea. On the fourth morning the
gale blew itself out, the sun appeared again toward noon, and the
Captain was able to take an observation. The result informed him
that he was in a part of the Pacific Ocean with which he was
entirely unacquainted. Thereupon, the officers were called to a
council in the cabin.
Mr. Duncalf, as became his rank, was consulted first. His opinion
possessed the merit of brevity. "My lads, this ship's bewitched.
Take my word for it, we shall wish ourselves back in our own
latitudes before we are many days older." Which, being
interpreted, meant that Mr. Duncalf was lost, like his superior
officer, in a part of the ocean of which he knew nothing.
The remaining members of the council having no suggestions to
offer, left the Captain to take his own way. He decided (the
weather being fine again) to stand on under an easy press of sail
for four-and-twenty hours more, and to see if anything came of
Soon after nightfall, something did come of it. The lookout
forward hailed the quarter-deck with the dread cry, "Breakers
ahead!" In less than a minute more, everybody heard the crash of
the broken water. The _Fortuna_ was put about, and came round
slowly in the light wind. Thanks to the timely alarm and the fine
weather, the safety of the vessel was easily provided for. They
kept her under a short sail; and they waited for the morning.
The dawn showed them in the distance a glorious green island, not
marked in the ship's charts--an island girt about by a
coral-reef, and having in its midst a high-peaked mountain which
looked, through the telescope, like a mountain of volcanic
origin. Mr. Duncalf, taking his morning draught of rum and water,
shook his groggy old head and said (and swore): "My lads, I don't
like the look of that island." The Captain was of a different
opinion. He had one of the ship's boats put into the water; he
armed himself and four of his crew who accompanied him; and away
he went in the morning sunlight to visit the island.
Skirting round the coral reef, they found a natural breach, which
proved to be broad enough and deep enough not only for the
passage of the boat, but of the ship herself if needful. Crossing
the broad inner belt of smooth water, they approached the golden
sands of the island, strew ed with magnificent shells, and
crowded by the dusky islanders--men, women, and children, all
waiting in breathless astonishment to see the strangers land.
The Captain kept the boat off, and examined the islanders
carefully. The innocent, simple people danced, and sang, and ran
into the water, imploring their wonderful white visitors by
gestures to come on shore. Not a creature among them carried arms
of any sort; a hospitable curiosity animated the entire
population. The men cried out, in their smooth musical language,
"Come and eat!" and the plump black-eyed women, all laughing
together, added their own invitation, "Come and be kissed!" Was
it in mortals to resist such temptations as these? The Captain
led the way on shore, and the women surrounded him in an instant,
and screamed for joy at the glorious spectacle of his whiskers,
his complexion, and his gloves. So the mariners from the far
north were welcomed to the newly-discovered island.
THE morning wore on. Mr. Duncalf, in charge of the ship, cursing
the island over his rum and water, as a "beastly green strip of a
place, not laid down in any Christian chart," was kept waiting
four mortal hours before the Captain returned to his command, and
reported himself to his officers as follows:
He had found his knowledge of the Polynesian dialects sufficient
to make himself in some degree understood by the natives of the
new island. Under the guidance of the chief he had made a first
journey of exploration, and had seen for himself that the place
was a marvel of natural beauty and fertility. The one barren spot
in it was the peak of the volcanic mountain, composed of
crumbling rock; originally no doubt lava and ashes, which had
cooled and consolidated with the lapse of time. So far as he
could see, the crater at the top was now an extinct crater. But,
if he had understood rightly, the chief had spoken of earthquakes
and eruptions at certain bygone periods, some of which lay within
his own earliest recollections of the place.
Adverting next to considerations of practical utility, the
Captain announced that he had seen sandal-wood enough on the
island to load a dozen ships, and that the natives were willing
to part with it for a few toys and trinkets generally distributed
among them. To the mate's disgust, the _Fortuna_ was taken inside
the reef that day, and was anchored before sunset in a natural
harbor. Twelve hours of recreation, beginning with the next
morning, were granted to the men, under the wise restrictions in
such cases established by the Captain. That interval over, the
work of cutting the precious wood and loading the ship was to be
Mr. Duncalf had the first watch after the _Fortuna_ had been made
snug. He took the boatswain aside (an ancient sea-dog like
himself), and he said in a gruff whisper: "My lad, this here
ain't the island laid down in our sailing orders. See if mischief
don't come of disobeying orders before we are many days older."
Nothing in the shape of mischief happened that night. But at
sunrise the next morning a suspicious circumstance occurred; and
Mr. Duncalf whispered to the boatswain: "What did I tell you?"
The Captain and the chief of the islanders held a private
conference in the cabin, and the Captain, after first forbidding
any communication with the shore until his return, suddenly left
the ship, alone with the chief, in the chief's own canoe.
What did this strange disappearance mean? The Captain himself,
when he took his seat in the canoe, would have been puzzled to
answer that question. He asked, in the nearest approach that his
knowledge could make to the language used in the island, whether
he would be a long time or a short time absent from his ship.
The chief answered mysteriously (as the Captain understood him)
in these words: "Long time or short time, your life depends on
it, and the lives of your men."
Paddling his light little boat in silence over the smooth water
inside the reef, the chief took his visitor ashore at a part of
the island which was quite new to the Captain. The two crossed a
ravine, and ascended an eminence beyond. There the chief stopped,
and silently pointed out to sea.
The Captain looked in the direction indicated to him, and
discovered a second and a smaller island, lying away to the
southwest. Taking out his telescope from the case by which it was
slung at his back, he narrowly examined the place. Two of the
native canoes were lying off the shore of the new island; and the
men in them appeared to be all kneeling or crouching in curiously
chosen attitudes. Shifting the range of his glass, he next beheld
a white-robed figure, tall and solitary--the one inhabitant of
the island whom he could discover. The man was standing on the
highest point of a rocky cape. A fire was burning at his feet.
Now he lifted his arms solemnly to the sky; now he dropped some
invisible fuel into the fire, which made a blue smoke; and now he
cast other invisible objects into the canoes floating beneath
him, which the islanders reverently received with bodies that
crouched in abject submission. Lowering his telescope, the
Captain looked round at the chief for an explanation. The chief
gave the explanation readily. His language was interpreted by the
English stranger in these terms:
"Wonderful white man! the island you see yonder is a Holy Island.
As such it is _Taboo_--an island sanctified and set apart. The
honorable person whom you notice on the rock is an all-powerful
favorite of the gods. He is by vocation a Sorcerer, and by rank a
Priest. You now see him casting charms and blessings into the
canoes of our fishermen, who kneel to him for fine weather and
great plenty of fish. If any profane person, native or stranger,
presumes to set foot on that island, my otherwise peaceful
subjects will (in the performance of a religious duty) put that
person to death. Mention this to your men. They will be fed by my
male people, and fondled by my female people, so long as they
keep clear of the Holy Isle. As they value their lives, let them
respect this prohibition. Is it understood between us? Wonderful
white man! my canoe is waiting for you. Let us go back."
Understanding enough of the chief's language (illustrated by his
gestures) to receive in the right spirit the communication thus
addressed to him, the Captain repeated the warning to the ship's
company in the plainest possible English. The officers and men
then took their holiday on shore, with the exception of Mr.
Duncalf, who positively refused to leave the ship. For twelve
delightful hours they were fed by the male people, and fondled by
the female people, and then they were mercilessly torn from the
flesh-pots and the arms of their new friends, and set to work on
the sandal-wood in good earnest. Mr. Duncalf superintended the
loading, and waited for the mischief that was to come of
disobeying the owners' orders with a confidence worthy of a
STRANGELY enough, chance once more declared itself in favor of
the mate's point of view. The mischief did actually come; and the
chosen instrument of it was a handsome young islander, who was
one of the sons of the chief.
The Captain had taken a fancy to the sweet-tempered, intelligent
lad. Pursuing his studies in the dialect of the island, at
leisure hours, he had made the chief's son his tutor, and had
instructed the youth in English by way of return. More than a
month had passed in this intercourse, and the ship's lading was
being rapidly completed--when, in an evil hour, the talk between
the two turned on the subject of the Holy Island.
"Does nobody live on the island but the Priest?" the Captain
The chief's son looked round him suspiciously. "Promise me you
won't tell anybody!" he began very earnestly.
The Captain gave his promise.
"There is one other person on the island," the lad whispered; "a
person to feast your eyes upon, if you could only see her! She is
the Priest's daughter. Removed to the island in her infancy, she
has never left it since. In that sacred solitude she has only
looked on two human beings--her father and her mother. I once saw
her from my canoe, taking care not to
attract her notice, or to approach too near the holy soil. Oh,
so young, dear master, and, oh, so beautiful!" The chief's son
completed the description by kissing his own hands as an
expression of rapture.
The Captain's fine blue eyes sparkled. He asked no more
questions; but, later on that day, he took his telescope with
him, and paid a secret visit to the eminence which overlooked the
Holy Island. The next day, and the next, he privately returned to
the same place. On the fourth day, fatal Destiny favored him. He
discovered the nymph of the island.
Standing alone upon the cape on which he had already seen her
father, she was feeding some tame birds which looked like
turtle-doves. The glass showed the Captain her white robe,
fluttering in the sea-breeze; her long black hair falling to her
feet; her slim and supple young figure; her simple grace of
attitude, as she turned this way and that, attending to the wants
of her birds. Before her was the blue ocean; behind her rose the
lustrous green of the island forest. He looked and looked until
his eyes and arms ached. When she disappeared among the trees,
followed by her favorite birds, the Captain shut up his telescope
with a sigh, and said to himself: "I have seen an angel!"
From that hour he became an altered man; he was languid, silent,
interested in nothing. General opinion, on board his ship,
decided that he was going to be taken ill.
A week more elapsed, and the officers and crew began to talk of
the voyage to their market in China. The Captain refused to fix a
day for sailing. He even took offense at being asked to decide.
Instead of sleeping in his cabin, he went ashore for the night.
Not many hours afterward (just before daybreak), Mr. Duncalf,
snoring in his cabin on deck, was aroused by a hand laid on his
shoulder. The swinging lamp, still alight, showed him the dusky
face of the chief's son, convulsed with terror. By wild signs, by
disconnected words in the little English which he had learned,
the lad tried to make the mate understand him. Dense Mr. Duncalf,
understanding nothing, hailed the second officer, on the opposite
side of the deck. The second officer was young and intelligent;
he rightly interpreted the terrible news that had come to the
The Captain had broken his own rules. Watching his opportunity,
under cover of the night, he had taken a canoe, and had secretly
crossed the channel to the Holy Island. No one had been near him
at the time but the chief's son. The lad had vainly tried to
induce him to abandon his desperate enterprise, and had vainly
waited on the shore in the hope of hearing the sound of the
paddle announcing his return. Beyond all reasonable doubt, the
infatuated man had set foot on the shores of the tabooed island.
The one chance for his life was to conceal what he had done,
until the ship could be got out of the harbor, and then (if no
harm had come to him in the interval) to rescue him after
nightfall. It was decided to spread the report that he had really
been taken ill, and that he was confined to his cabin. The
chief's son, whose heart the Captain's kindness had won, could be
trusted to do this, and to keep the secret faithfully for his
good friend's sake.
Toward noon, the next day, they attempted to take the ship to
sea, and failed for want of wind. Hour by hour, the heat grew
more oppressive. As the day declined, there were ominous
appearances in the western heaven. The natives, who had given
some trouble during the day by their anxiety to see the Captain,
and by their curiosity to know the cause of the sudden
preparations for the ship's departure, all went ashore together,
looking suspiciously at the sky, and reappeared no more. Just at
midnight, the ship (still in her snug berth inside the reef)
suddenly trembled from her keel to her uppermost masts. Mr.
Duncalf, surrounded by the startled crew, shook his knotty fist
at the island as if he could see it in the dark. "My lads, what
did I tell you? That was a shock of earthquake."
With the morning the threatening aspect of the weather
unexpectedly disappeared. A faint hot breeze from the land, just
enough to give the ship steerage-way, offered Mr. Duncalf a
chance of getting to sea. Slowly the _Fortuna_, with the mate
himself at the wheel, half sailed, half drifted into the open
ocean. At a distance of barely two miles from the island the
breeze was felt no more, and the vessel lay becalmed for the rest
of the day.
At night the men waited their orders, expecting to be sent after
their Captain in one of the boats. The intense darkness, the
airless heat, and a second shock of earthquake (faintly felt in
the ship at her present distance from the land) warned the mate
to be cautious. "I smell mischief in the air," said Mr. Duncalf.
"The Captain must wait till I am surer of the weather."
Still no change came with the new day. The dead calm continued,
and the airless heat. As the day declined, another ominous
appearance became visible. A thin line of smoke was discovered
through the telescope, ascending from the topmost peak of the
mountain on the main island. Was the volcano threatening an
eruption? The mate, for one, entertained no doubt of it. "By the
Lord, the place is going to burst up!" said Mr. Duncalf. "Come
what may of it, we must find the Captain to-night!"
WHAT was the Captain doing? and what chance had the crew of
finding him that night?
He had committed himself to his desperate adventure, without
forming any plan for the preservation of his own safety; without
giving even a momentary consideration to the consequences which
might follow the risk that he had run. The charming figure that
he had seen haunted him night and day. The image of the innocent
creature, secluded from humanity in her island solitude, was the
one image that filled his mind. A man, passing a woman in the
street, acts on the impulse to turn and follow her, and in that
one thoughtless moment shapes the destiny of his future life. The
Captain had acted on a similar impulse, when he took the first
canoe he had found on the beach, and shaped his reckless course
for the tabooed island.
Reaching the shore while it was still dark, he did one sensible
thing--he hid the canoe so that it might not betray him when the
daylight came. That done, he waited for the morning on the
outskirts of the forest.
The trembling light of dawn revealed the mysterious solitude
around him. Following the outer limits of the trees, first in one
direction, then in another, and finding no trace of any living
creature, he decided on penetrating to the interior of the
island. He entered the forest.
An hour of walking brought him to rising ground. Continuing the
ascent, he got clear of the trees, and stood on the grassy top of
a broad cliff which overlooked the sea. An open hut was on the
cliff. He cautiously looked in, and discovered that it was empty.
The few household utensils left about, and the simple bed of
leaves in a corner, were covered with fine sandy dust.
Night-birds flew blundering out of the inner cavities of the
roof, and took refuge in the shadows of the forest below. It was
plain that the hut had not been inhabited for some time past.
Standing at the open doorway and considering what he should do
next, the Captain saw a bird flying toward him out of the forest.
It was a turtle-dove, so tame that it fluttered close up to him.
At the same moment the sound of sweet laughter became audible
among the trees. His heart beat fast; he advanced a few steps and
stopped. In a moment more the nymph of the island appeared, in
her white robe, ascending the cliff in pursuit of her truant
bird. She saw the strange man, and suddenly stood still; struck
motionless by the amazing discovery that had burst upon her. The
Captain approached, smiling and holding out his hand. She never
moved; she stood before him in helpless wonderment--her lovely
black eyes fixed spellbound on his face; her dusky bosom
palpitating above the fallen folds of her robe; her rich red lips
parted in mute astonishment. Feasting his eyes on her beauty in
silence, the Captain after a while ventured to speak to her in
the language of the main island. The sound
of his voice, addressing her in the words that she understood,
roused the lovely creature to action. She started, stepped close
up to him, and dropped on her knees at his feet.
"My father worships invisible deities," she said, softly. "Are
you a visible deity? Has my mother sent you?" She pointed as she
spoke to the deserted hut behind them. "You appear," she went on,
"in the place where my mother died. Is it for her sake that you
show yourself to her child? Beautiful deity, come to the
Temple--come to my father!"
The Captain gently raised her from the ground. If her father saw
him, he was a doomed man.
Infatuated as he was, he had sense enough left to announce
himself plainly in his own character, as a mortal creature
arriving from a distant land. The girl instantly drew back from
him with a look of terror.
"He is not like my father," she said to herself; "he is not like
me. Is he the lying demon of the prophecy? Is he the predestined
destroyer of our island?"
The Captain's experience of the sex showed him the only sure way
out of the awkward position in which he was now placed. He
appealed to his personal appearance.
"Do I look like a demon?" he asked.
Her eyes met his eyes; a faint smile trembled on her lips. He
ventured on asking what she meant by the predestined destruction
of the island. She held up her hand solemnly, and repeated the
The Holy Island was threatened with destruction by an evil being,
who would one day appear on its shores. To avert the fatality the
place had been sanctified and set apart, under the protection of
the gods and their priest. Here was the reason for the taboo, and
for the extraordinary rigor with which it was enforced. Listening
to her with the deepest interest, the Captain took her hand and
pressed it gently.
"Do I feel like a demon?" he whispered.
Her slim brown fingers closed frankly on his hand. "You feel soft
and friendly," she said with the fearless candor of a child.
"Squeeze me again. I like it!"
The next moment she snatched her hand away from him; the sense of
his danger had suddenly forced itself on her mind. "If my father
sees you," she said, "he will light the signal fire at the
Temple, and the people from the other island will come here and
put you to death. Where is your canoe? No! It is daylight. My
father may see you on the water." She considered a little, and,
approaching him, laid her hands on his shoulders. "Stay here till
nightfall," she resumed. "My father never comes this way. The
sight of the place where my mother died is horrible to him. You
are safe here. Promise to stay where you are till night-time."
The Captain gave his promise.
Freed from anxiety so far, the girl's mobile temperament
recovered its native cheerfulness, its sweet gayety and spirit.
She admired the beautiful stranger as she might have admired a
new bird that had flown to her to be fondled with the rest. She
patted his fair white skin, and wished she had a skin like it.
She lifted the great glossy folds of her long black hair, and
compared it with the Captain's bright curly locks, and longed to
change colors with him from the bottom of her heart. His dress
was a wonder to her; his watch was a new revelation. She rested
her head on his shoulder to listen delightedly to the ticking, as
he held the watch to her ear. Her fragrant breath played on his
face, her warm, supple figure rested against him softly. The
Captain's arm stole round her waist, and the Captain's lips
gently touched her cheek. She lifted her head with a look of
pleased surprise. "Thank you," said the child of Nature, simply.
"Kiss me again; I like it. May I kiss you?" The tame turtle-dove
perched on her shoulder as she gave the Captain her first kiss,
and diverted her thoughts to the pets that she had left, in
pursuit of the truant dove. "Come," she said, "and see my birds.
I keep them on this side of the forest. There is no danger, so
long as you don't show yourself on the other side. My name is
Aimata. Aimata will take care of you. Oh, what a beautiful white
neck you have!" She put her arm admiringly round his neck. The
Captain's arm held her tenderly to him. Slowly the two descended
the cliff, and were lost in the leafy solitudes of the forest.
And the tame dove fluttered before them, a winged messenger of
love, cooing to his mate.
THE night had come, and the Captain had not left the island.
Aimata's resolution to send him away in the darkness was a
forgotten resolution already. She had let him persuade her that
he was in no danger, so long as he remained in the hut on the
cliff; and she had promised, at parting, to return to him while
the Priest was still sleeping, at the dawn of day.
He was alone in the hut. The thought of the innocent creature
whom he loved was sorrowfully as well as tenderly present to his
mind. He almost regretted his rash visit to the island. "I will
take her with me to England," he said to himself. "What does a
sailor care for the opinion of the world? Aimata shall be my
The intense heat oppressed him. He stepped out on the cliff,
toward midnight, in search of a breath of air.
At that moment, the first shock of earthquake (felt in the ship
while she was inside the reef) shook the ground he stood on. He
instantly thought of the volcano on the main island. Had he been
mistaken in supposing the crater to be extinct? Was the shock
that he had just felt a warning from the volcano, communicated
through a submarine connection between the two islands? He waited
and watched through the hours of darkness, with a vague sense of
apprehension, which was not to be reasoned away. With the first
light of daybreak he descended into the forest, and saw the
lovely being whose safety was already precious to him as his own,
hurrying to meet him through the trees.
She waved her hand distractedly as she approached him. "Go!" she
cried; "go away in your canoe before our island is destroyed!"
He did his best to quiet her alarm. Was it the shock of
earthquake that had frightened her? No: it was more than the
shock of earthquake--it was something terrible which had followed
the shock. There was a lake near the Temple, the waters of which
were supposed to be heated by subterranean fires. The lake had
risen with the earthquake, had bubbled furiously, and had then
melted away into the earth and been lost. Her father, viewing the
portent with horror, had gone to the cape to watch the volcano on
the main island, and to implore by prayers and sacrifices the
protection of the gods. Hearing this, the Captain entreated
Aimata to let him see the emptied lake, in the absence of the
Priest. She hesitated; but his influence was all-powerful. He
prevailed on her to turn back with him through the forest.
Reaching the furthest limit of the trees, they came out upon open
rocky ground which sloped gently downward toward the center of
the island. Having crossed this space, they arrived at a natural
amphitheater of rock. On one side of it the Temple appeared,
partly excavated, partly formed by a natural cavern. In one of
the lateral branches of the cavern was the dwelling of the Priest
and his daughter. The mouth of it looked out on the rocky basin
of the lake. Stooping over the edge, the Captain discovered, far
down in the empty depths, a light cloud of steam. Not a drop of
water was visible, look where he might.
Aimata pointed to the abyss, and hid her face on his bosom. "My
father says," she whispered, "that it is your doing."
The Captain started. "Does your father know that I am on the
She looked up at him with a quick glance of reproach. "Do you
think I would tell him, and put your life in peril?" she asked.
"My father felt the destroyer of the island in the earthquake; my
father saw the coming destruction in the disappearance of the
lake." Her eyes rested on him with a loving languor. "Are you
indeed the demon of the prophecy?" she said, winding his hair
round her finger. "I am not afraid of you, if you are. I am a
creature bewitched; I love the demon." She kissed him
passionately. "I don't care if I die," she whispered between the
kisses, "if I only die with you!"
The Captain made no attempt to reason with her. He took the wiser
way--he appealed to her feelings.
"You will come and live with me happily in my own country," he
said. "My ship is waiting for us. I will take you home with me,
and you shall be my wife."
She clapped her hands for joy. Then she thought of her father,
and drew back from him in tears.
The Captain understood her. "Let us leave this dreary place," he
suggested. "We will talk about it in the cool glades of the
forest, where you first said you loved me."
She gave him her hand. "Where I first said I loved you!" she
repeated, smiling tenderly as she looked at him. They left the
THE darkness had fallen again; and the ship was still becalmed at
Mr. Duncalf came on deck after his supper. The thin line of
smoke, seen rising from the peak of the mountain that evening,
was now succeeded by ominous flashes of fire from the same
quarter, intermittently visible. The faint hot breeze from the
land was felt once more. "There's just an air of wind," Mr.
Duncalf remarked. "I'll try for the Captain while I have the
One of the boats was lowered into the water--under command of the
second mate, who had already taken the bearings of the tabooed
island by daylight. Four of the men were to go with him, and they
were all to be well armed. Mr. Duncalf addressed his final
instructions to the officer in the boat.
"You will keep a lookout, sir, with a lantern in the bows. If the
natives annoy you, you know what to do. Always shoot natives.
When you get anigh the island, you will fire a gun and sing out
for the Captain."
"Quite needless," interposed a voice from the sea. "The Captain
Without taking the slightest notice of the astonishment that he
had caused, the commander of the _Fortuna_ paddled his canoe to
the side of the ship. Instead of ascending to the deck, he
stepped into the boat, waiting alongside. "Lend me your pistols,"
he said quietly to the second officer, "and oblige me by taking
your men back to their duties on board." He looked up at Mr.
Duncalf and gave some further directions. "If there is any change
in the weather, keep the ship standing off and on, at a safe
distance from the land, and throw up a rocket from time to time
to show your position. Expect me on board again by sunrise."
"What!" cried the mate. "Do you mean to say you are going back to
the island--in that boat--all by yourself?"
"I am going back to the island," answered the Captain, as quietly
as ever; "in this boat--all by myself." He pushed off from the
ship, and hoisted the sail as he spoke.
"You're deserting your duty!" the old sea-dog shouted, with one
of his loudest oaths.
"Attend to my directions," the Captain shouted back, as he
drifted away into the darkness.
Mr. Duncalf--violently agitated for the first time in his
life--took leave of his superior officer, with a singular mixture
of solemnity and politeness, in these words:
"The Lord have mercy on your soul! I wish you good-evening."
ALONE in the boat, the Captain looked with a misgiving mind at
the flashing of the volcano on the main island.
If events had favored him, he would have removed Aimata to the
shelter of the ship on the day when he saw the emptied basin on
the lake. But the smoke of the Priest's sacrifice had been
discovered by the chief; and he had dispatched two canoes with
instructions to make inquiries. One of the canoes had returned;
the other was kept in waiting off the cape, to place a means of
communicating with the main island at the disposal of the Priest.
The second shock of earthquake had naturally increased the alarm
of the chief. He had sent messages to the Priest, entreating him
to leave the island, and other messages to Aimata suggesting that
she should exert her influence over her father, if he hesitated.
The Priest refused to leave the Temple. He trusted in his gods
and his sacrifices--he believed they might avert the fatality
that threatened his sanctuary.
Yielding to the holy man, the chief sent re-enforcements of
canoes to take their turn at keeping watch off the headland.
Assisted by torches, the islanders were on the alert (in
superstitious terror of the demon of the prophecy) by night as
well as by day. The Captain had no alternative but to keep in
hiding, and to watch his opportunity of approaching the place in
which he had concealed his canoe. It was only after Aimata had
left him as usual, to return to her father at the close of
evening, that the chances declared themselves in his favor. The
fire-flashes from the mountain, visible when the night came, had
struck terror into the hearts of the men on the watch. They
thought of their wives, their children, and their possessions on
the main island, and they one and all deserted their Priest. The
Captain seized the opportunity of communicating with the ship,
and of exchanging a frail canoe which he was ill able to manage,
for a swift-sailing boat capable of keeping the sea in the event
of stormy weather.
As he now neared the land, certain small sparks of red, moving on
the distant water, informed him that the canoes of the sentinels
had been ordered back to their duty.
Carefully avoiding the lights, he reached his own side of the
island without accident, and, guided by the boat's lantern,
anchored under the cliff. He climbed the rocks, advanced to the
door of the hut, and was met, to his delight and astonishment, by
Aimata on the threshold.
"I dreamed that some dreadful misfortune had parted us forever,"
she said; "and I came here to see if my dream was true. You have
taught me what it is to be miserable; I never felt my heart ache
till I looked into the hut and found that you had gone. Now I
have seen you, I am satisfied. No! you must not go back with me.
My father may be out looking for me. It is you that are in
danger, not I. I know the forest as well by dark as by daylight."
The Captain detained her when she tried to leave him.
"Now you _are_ here," he said, "why should I not place you at
once in safety? I have been to the ship; I have brought back one
of the boats. The darkness will befriend us--let us embark while
She shrank away as he took her hand. "You forget my father!" she
"Your father is in no danger, my love. The canoes are waiting for
him at the cape; I saw the lights as I passed."
With that reply he drew her out of the hut and led her toward the
sea. Not a breath of the breeze was now to be felt. The dead calm
had returned--and the boat was too large to be easily managed by
one man alone at the oars.
"The breeze may come again," he said. "Wait here, my angel, for
As he spoke, the deep silence of the forest below them was broken
by a sound. A harsh wailing voice was heard, calling:
"My father!" she whispered; "he has missed me. If he comes here
you are lost."
She kissed him with passionate fervor; she held him to her for a
moment with all her strength.
"Expect me at daybreak," she said, and disappeared down the
landward slope of the cliff.
He listened, anxious for her safety. The voices of the father and
daughter just reached him from among the trees. The Priest spoke
in no angry tones; she had apparently found an acceptable excuse
for her absence. Little by little, the failing sound of their
voices told him that they were on their way back together to the
Temple. The silence fell again. Not a ripple broke on the beach.
Not a leaf rustled in the forest. Nothing moved but the reflected
flashes of the volcano on the main island over the black sky. It
was an airless and an awful calm.
He went into the hut, and laid down on his bed of leaves--not to
sleep, but to rest. All his energies might be required to meet
the coming events of the morning. After the voyage to and from
the ship, and the long watching that had preceded it, strong as
he was he stood in need of repose.
For some little time he kept awake, thinking. Insensibly the
oppression of the intense heat, aided in its influence by his own
fatigue, treacherously closed his eyes. In spite of himself, the
weary man fell into a deep sleep.
He was awakened by a roar like the explosion of a park of
artillery. The volcano on th e main island had burst into a state
of eruption. Smoky flame-light overspread the sky, and flashed
through the open doorway of the hut. He sprang from his bed--and
found himself up to his knees in water.
Had the sea overflowed the land?
He waded out of the hut, and the water rose to his middle. He
looked round him by the lurid light of the eruption. The one
visible object within the range of view was the sea, stained by
reflections from the blood-red sky, swirling and rippling
strangely in the dead calm. In a moment more, he became conscious
that the earth on which he stood was sinking under his feet. The
water rose to his neck; the last vestige of the roof of the hut
He looked round again, and the truth burst on him. The island was
sinking--slowly, slowly sinking into volcanic depths, below even
the depth of the sea! The highest object was the hut, and that
had dropped inch by inch under water before his own eyes. Thrown
up to the surface by occult volcanic influences, the island had
sunk back, under the same influences, to the obscurity from which
it had emerged!
A black shadowy object, turning in a wide circle, came slowly
near him as the all-destroying ocean washed its bitter waters
into his mouth. The buoyant boat, rising as the sea rose, had
dragged its anchor, and was floating round in the vortex made by
the slowly sinking island. With a last desperate hope that Aimata
might have been saved as _he_ had been saved, he swam to the
boat, seized the heavy oars with the strength of a giant, and
made for the place (so far as he could guess at it now) where the
lake and the Temple had once been.
He looked round and round him; he strained his eyes in the vain
attempt to penetrate below the surface of the seething dimpling
sea. Had the panic-stricken watchers in the canoes saved
themselves, without an effort to preserve the father and
daughter? Or had they both been suffocated before they could make
an attempt to escape? He called to her in his misery, as if she
could hear him out of the fathomless depths: "Aimata! Aimata!"
The roar of the distant eruption answered him. The mounting fires
lit the solitary sea far and near over the sinking island. The
boat turned slowly and more slowly in the lessening vortex. Never
again would those gentle eyes look at him with unutterable love!
Never again would those fresh lips touch his lips with their
fervent kiss! Alone, amid the savage forces of Nature in
conflict, the miserable mortal lifted his hands in frantic
supplication--and the burning sky glared down on him in its
pitiless grandeur, and struck him to his knees in the boat. His
reason sank with his sinking limbs. In the merciful frenzy that
succeeded the shock, he saw afar off, in her white robe, an angel
poised on the waters, beckoning him to follow her to the brighter
and the better world. He loosened the sail, he seized the oars;
and the faster he pursued it, the faster the mocking vision fled
from him over the empty and endless sea.
THE boat was discovered, on the next morning, from the ship.
All that the devotion of the officers of the _Fortuna_ could do
for their unhappy commander was done on the homeward voyage.
Restored to his own country, and to skilled medical help, the
Captain's mind by slow degrees recovered its balance. He has
taken his place in society again--he lives and moves and manages
his affairs like the rest of us. But his heart is dead to all new
emotions; nothing remains in it but the sacred remembrance of his
lost love. He neither courts nor avoids the society of women.
Their sympathy finds him grateful, but their attractions seem to
be lost on him; they pass from his mind as they pass from his
eyes--they stir nothing in him but the memory of Aimata.
"Now you know, ladies, why the Captain will never marry, and why
(sailor as he is) he hates the sight of the sea."
MR. MARMADUKE AND THE MINISTER.
September 13th.--Winter seems to be upon us, on the Highland
I looked out of window, as the evening closed in, before I barred
the shutters and drew the curtains for the night. The clouds hid
the hilltops on either side of our valley. Fantastic mists parted
and met again on the lower slopes, as the varying breeze blew
them. The blackening waters of the lake before our window seemed
to anticipate the coming darkness. On the more distant hills the
torrents were just visible, in the breaks of the mist, stealing
their way over the brown ground like threads of silver. It was a
dreary scene. The stillness of all things was only interrupted by
the splashing of our little waterfall at the back of the house. I
was not sorry to close the shutters, and confine the view to the
four walls of our sitting-room.
The day happened to be my birthday. I sat by the peat-fire,
waiting for the lamp and the tea-tray, and contemplating my past
life from the vantage-ground, so to speak, of my fifty-fifth
There was wonderfully little to look back on. Nearly thirty years
since, it pleased an all-wise Providence to cast my lot in this
remote Scottish hamlet, and to make me Minister of Cauldkirk, on
a stipend of seventy-four pounds sterling per annum. I and my
surroundings have grown quietly older and older together. I have
outlived my wife; I have buried one generation among my
parishioners, and married another; I have borne the wear and tear
of years better than the kirk in which I minister and the manse
(or parsonage-house) in which I live--both sadly out of repair,
and both still trusting for the means of reparation to the pious
benefactions of people richer than myself. Not that I complain,
be it understood, of the humble position which I occupy. I
possess many blessings; and I thank the Lord for them. I have my
little bit of land and my cow. I have also my good daughter,
Felicia; named after her deceased mother, but inheriting her
comely looks, it is thought, rather from myself.
Neither let me forget my elder sister, Judith; a friendless
single person, sheltered under my roof, whose temperament I could
wish somewhat less prone to look at persons and things on the
gloomy side, but whose compensating virtues Heaven forbid that I
should deny. No; I am grateful for what has been given me (from
on high), and resigned to what has been taken away. With what
fair prospects did I start in life! Springing from a good old
Scottish stock, blessed with every advantage of education that
the institutions of Scotland and England in turn could offer;
with a career at the Bar and in Parliament before me--and all
cast to the winds, as it were, by the measureless prodigality of
my unhappy father, God forgive him! I doubt if I had five pounds
left in my purse, when the compassion of my relatives on the
mother's side opened a refuge to me at Cauldkirk, and hid me from
the notice of the world for the rest of my life.
September 14th.--Thus far I had posted up my Diary on the evening
of the 13th, when an event occurred so completely unexpected by
my household and myself, that the pen, I may say, dropped
incontinently from my hand.
It was the time when we had finished our tea, or supper--I hardly
know which to call it. In the silence, we could hear the rain
pouring against the window, and the wind that had risen with the
darkness howling round the house. My sister Judith, taking the
gloomy view according to custom--copious draughts of good Bohea
and two helpings of such a mutton ham as only Scotland can
produce had no effect in raising her spirits--my sister, I say,
remarked that there would be ships lost at sea and men drowned
this night. My daughter Felicia, the brightest-tempered creature
of the female sex that I have ever met with, tried to give a
cheerful turn to her aunt's depressing prognostication. "If the
ships must be lost," she said, "we may surely hope that the men
will be saved." "God willing," I put in--thereby giving to my
daughter's humane expression of feeling the fit religious tone
that was all it wanted--and then went on with my written record
of the events and reflections of the day. No more was said.
Felicia took up a book. Judith took up her knitting.
On a sudden, the silence was broken by
a blow on the house-door.
My two companions, as is the way of women, set up a scream. I was
startled myself, wondering who could be out in the rain and the
darkness and striking at the door of the house. A stranger it
must be. Light or dark, any person in or near Cauldkirk, wanting
admission, would know where to find the bell-handle at the side
of the door. I waited a while to hear what might happen next. The
stroke was repeated, but more softly. It became me as a man and a
minister to set an example. I went out into the passage, and I
called through the door, "Who's there?"
A man's voice answered--so faintly that I could barely hear
him--"A lost traveler."
Immediately upon this my cheerful sister expressed her view of
the matter through the open parlor door. "Brother Noah, it's a
robber. Don't let him in!"
What would the Good Samaritan have done in my place? Assuredly he
would have run the risk and opened the door. I imitated the Good
A man, dripping wet, with a knapsack on his back and a thick
stick in his hand, staggered in, and would, I think, have fallen
in the passage if I had not caught him by the arm. Judith peeped
out at the parlor door, and said, "He's drunk." Felicia was
behind her, holding up a lighted candle, the better to see what
was going on. "Look at his face, aunt," says she. "Worn out with
fatigue, poor man. Bring him in, father--bring him in."
Good Felicia! I was proud of my girl. "He'll spoil the carpet,"
says sister Judith. I said, "Silence, for shame!" and brought him
in, and dropped him dripping into my own armchair. Would the Good
Samaritan have thought of his carpet or his chair? I did think of
them, but I overcame it. Ah, we are a decadent generation in
these latter days!
"Be quick, father"' says Felicia; "he'll faint if you don't give
I took out one of our little drinking cups (called among us a
"Quaigh"), while Felicia, instructed by me, ran to the kitchen
for the cream-jug. Filling the cup with whisky and cream in equal
proportions, I offered it to him. He drank it off as if it had
been so much water. "Stimulant and nourishment, you'll observe,
sir, in equal portions," I remarked to him. "How do you feel
"Ready for another," says he.
Felicia burst out laughing. I gave him another. As I turned to
hand it to him, sister Judith came behind me, and snatched away
the cream-jug. Never a generous person, sister Judith, at the
best of times--more especially in the matter of cream.
He handed me back the empty cup. "I believe, sir, you have saved
my life," he said. "Under Providence," I put in--adding, "But I
would remark, looking to the state of your clothes, that I have
yet another service to offer you, before you tell us how you came
into this pitiable state." With that reply, I led him upstairs,
and set before him the poor resources of my wardrobe, and left
him to do the best he could with them. He was rather a small man,
and I am in stature nigh on six feet. When he came down to us in
my clothes, we had the merriest evening that I can remember for
years past. I thought Felicia would have had a hysteric fit; and
even sister Judith laughed--he did look such a comical figure in
the minister's garments.
As for the misfortune that had befallen him, it offered one more
example of the preternatural rashness of the English traveler in
countries unknown to him. He was on a walking tour through
Scotland; and he had set forth to go twenty miles a-foot, from a
town on one side of the Highland Border, to a town on the other,
without a guide. The only wonder is that he found his way to
Cauldkirk, instead of perishing of exposure among the lonesome
"Will you offer thanks for your preservation to the Throne of
Grace, in your prayers to-night?" I asked him. And he answered,
"Indeed I will!"
We have a spare room at the manse; but it had not been inhabited
for more than a year past. Therefore we made his bed, for that
night, on the sofa in the parlor; and so left him, with the fire
on one side of his couch, and the whisky and the mutton ham on
the other in case of need. He mentioned his name when we bade him
good-night. Marmaduke Falmer of London, son of a minister of the
English Church Establishment, now deceased. It was plain, I may
add, before he spoke, that we had offered the hospitality of the
manse to a man of gentle breeding.
September 15th.--I have to record a singularly pleasant day; due
partly to a return of the fine weather, partly to the good social
gifts of our guest.
Attired again in his own clothing, he was, albeit wanting in
height, a finely proportioned man, with remarkably small hands
and feet; having also a bright mobile face, and large dark eyes
of an extraordinary diversity of expression. Also, he was of a
sweet and cheerful humor; easily pleased with little things, and
amiably ready to make his gifts agreeable to all of us. At the
same time, a person of my experience and penetration could not
fail to perceive that he was most content when in company with
Felicia. I have already mentioned my daughter's comely looks and
good womanly qualities. It was in the order of nature that a
young man (to use his own phrase) getting near to his
thirty-first birthday should feel drawn by sympathy toward a
well-favored young woman in her four-and-twentieth year. In
matters of this sort I have always cultivated a liberal turn of
mind, not forgetting my own youth.
As the evening closed in, I was sorry to notice a certain change
in our guest for the worse. He showed signs of fatigue--falling
asleep at intervals in his chair, and waking up and shivering.
The spare room was now well aired, having had a roaring fire in
it all day.
I begged him not to stand on ceremony, and to betake himself at
once to his bed. Felicia (having learned the accomplishment from
her excellent mother) made him a warm sleeping-draught of eggs,
sugar, nutmeg, and spirits, delicious alike to the senses of
smell and taste. Sister Judith waited until he had closed the
door behind him, and then favored me with one of her dismal
predictions. "You'll rue the day, brother, when you let him into
the house. He is going to fall ill on our hands."
November 28th.--God be praised for all His mercies! This day, our
guest, Marmaduke Falmer, joined us downstairs in the sitting-room
for the first time since his illness.
He is sadly deteriorated, in a bodily sense, by the wasting
rheumatic fever that brought him nigh to death; but he is still
young, and the doctor (humanly speaking) has no doubt of his
speedy and complete recovery. My sister takes the opposite view.
She remarked, in his hearing, that nobody ever thoroughly got
over a rheumatic fever. Oh, Judith! Judith! it's well for
humanity that you're a single person! If haply, there had been
any man desperate enough to tackle such a woman in the bonds of
marriage, what a pessimist progeny must have proceeded from you!
Looking back over my Diary for the last two months and more, I
see one monotonous record of the poor fellow's sufferings;
cheered and varied, I am pleased to add, by the devoted services
of my daughter at the sick man's bedside. With some help from her
aunt (most readily given when he was nearest to the point of
death), and with needful services performed in turn by two of our
aged women in Cauldkirk, Felicia could not have nursed him more
assiduously if he had been her own brother. Half the credit of
bringing him through it belonged (as the doctor himself
confessed) to the discreet young nurse, always ready through the
worst of the illness, and always cheerful through the long
convalescence that followed. I must also record to the credit of
Marmaduke that he was indeed duly grateful. When I led him into
the parlor, and he saw Felicia waiting by the armchair, smiling
and patting the pillows for him, he took her by the hand, and
burst out crying. Weakness, in part, no doubt--but sincere
gratitude at the bottom of it, I am equally sure.
November 29th.--However, there are limits even to sincere
gratitude. Of this truth Mr. Marmaduke seems to be insufficiently
aware. Entering the sitting-room soon after noon today, I found
our convalescen t guest and his nurse alone. His head was resting
on her shoulder; his arm was round her waist--and (the truth
before everything) Felicia was kissing him.
A man may be of a liberal turn of mind, and may yet consistently
object to freedom when it takes the form of unlicensed embracing
and kissing; the person being his own daughter, and the place his
own house. I signed to my girl to leave us; and I advanced to Mr.
Marmaduke, with my opinion of his conduct just rising in words to
my lips--when he staggered me with amazement by asking for
Felicia's hand in marriage.
"You need feel no doubt of my being able to offer to your
daughter a position of comfort and respectability," he said. "I
have a settled income of eight hundred pounds a year."
His raptures over Felicia; his protestations that she was the
first woman he had ever really loved; his profane declaration
that he preferred to die, if I refused to let him be her
husband--all these flourishes, as I may call them, passed in at
one of my ears and out at the other. But eight hundred pounds
sterling per annum, descending as it were in a golden avalanche
on the mind of a Scottish minister (accustomed to thirty years'
annual contemplation of seventy-four pounds)--eight hundred a
year, in one young man's pocket, I say, completely overpowered
me. I just managed to answer, "Wait till tomorrow" --and hurried
out of doors to recover my self-respect, if the thing was to be
anywise done. I took my way through the valley. The sun was
shining, for a wonder. When I saw my shadow on the hillside, I
saw the Golden Calf as an integral part of me, bearing this
inscription in letters of flame--"Here's another of them!"
_November 30th._--I have made amends for yesterday's backsliding;
I have acted as becomes my parental dignity and my sacred
The temptation to do otherwise, has not been wanting. Here is
sister Judith's advice: "Make sure that he has got the money
first; and, for Heaven's sake, nail him!" Here is Mr. Marmaduke's
proposal: "Make any conditions you please, so long as you give me
your daughter." And, lastly, here is Felicia's confession:
"Father, my heart is set on him. Oh, don't be unkind to me for
the first time in your life!"
But I have stood firm. I have refused to hear any more words on
the subject from any one of them, for the next six months to
"So serious a venture as the venture of marriage," I said, "is
not to be undertaken on impulse. As soon as Mr. Marmaduke can
travel, I request him to leave us, and not to return again for
six months. If, after that interval, he is still of the same
mind, and my daughter is still of the same mind, let him return
to Cauldkirk, and (premising that I am in all other respects
satisfied) let him ask me for his wife."
There were tears, there were protestations; I remained immovable.
A week later, Mr. Marmaduke left us, on his way by easy stages to
the south. I am not a hard man. I rewarded the lovers for their
obedience by keeping sister Judith out of the way, and letting
them say their farewell words (accompaniments included) in
May 28th.--A letter from Mr. Marmaduke, informing me that I may
expect him at Cauldkirk, exactly at the expiration of the six
months' interval--viz., on June the seventh.
Writing to this effect, he added a timely word on the subject of
his family. Both his parents were dead; his only brother held a
civil appointment in India, the place being named. His uncle (his
father's brother) was a merchant resident in London; and to this
near relative he referred me, if I wished to make inquiries about
him. The names of his bankers, authorized to give me every
information in respect to his pecuniary affairs, followed.
Nothing could be more plain and straightforward. I wrote to his
uncle, and I wrote to his bankers. In both cases the replies were
perfectly satisfactory--nothing in the slightest degree doubtful,
no prevarications, no mysteries. In a word, Mr. Marmaduke himself
was thoroughly well vouched for, and Mr. Marmaduke's income was
invested in securities beyond fear and beyond reproach. Even
sister Judith, bent on picking a hole in the record somewhere,
tried hard, and could make nothing of it.
The last sentence in Mr. Marmaduke's letter was the only part of
it which I failed to read with pleasure.
He left it to me to fix the day for the marriage, and he
entreated that I would make it as early a day as possible. I had
a touch of the heartache when I thought of parting with Felicia,
and being left at home with nobody but Judith. However, I got
over it for that time, and, after consulting my daughter, we
decided on naming a fortnight after Mr. Marmaduke's arrival--that
is to say, the twenty-first of June. This gave Felicia time for
her preparations, besides offering to me the opportunity of
becoming better acquainted with my son-in-law's disposition. The
happiest marriage does indubitably make its demands on human
forbearance; and I was anxious, among other things, to assure
myself of Mr. Marmaduke's good temper.
June 22d.--The happy change in my daughter's life (let me say
nothing of the change in _my_ life) has come: they were married
yesterday. The manse is a desert; and sister Judith was never so
uncongenial a companion to me as I feel her to be now. Her last
words to the married pair, when they drove away, were: "Lord help
you both; you have all your troubles before you!"
I had no heart to write yesterday's record, yesterday evening, as
usual. The absence of Felicia at the supper-table completely
overcame me. I, who have so often comforted others in their
afflictions, could find no comfort for myself. Even now that the
day has passed, the tears come into my eyes, only with writing
about it. Sad, sad weakness! Let me close my Diary, and open the
Bible--and be myself again.
June 23d.--More resigned since yesterday; a more becoming and
more pious frame of mind--obedient to God's holy will, and
content in the belief that my dear daughter's married life will
be a happy one.
They have gone abroad for their holiday--to Switzerland, by way
of France. I was anything rather than pleased when I heard that
my son-in-law proposed to take Felicia to that sink of iniquity,
Paris. He knows already what I think of balls and playhouses, and
similar devils' diversions, and how I have brought up my daughter
to think of them--the subject having occurred in conversation
among us more than a week since. That he could meditate taking a
child of mine to the headquarters of indecent jiggings and
abominable stage-plays, of spouting rogues and painted Jezebels,
was indeed a heavy blow.
However, Felicia reconciled me to it in the end. She declared
that her only desire in going to Paris was to see the
picture-galleries, the public buildings, and the fair outward
aspect of the city generally. "Your opinions, father, are my
opinions," she said; "and Marmaduke, I am sure, will so shape our
arrangements as to prevent our passing a Sabbath in Paris."
Marmaduke not only consented to this (with the perfect good
temper of which I have observed more than one gratifying example
in him), but likewise assured me that, speaking for himself
personally, it would be a relief to him when they got to the
mountains and the lakes. So that matter was happily settled. Go
where they may, God bless and prosper them!
Speaking of relief, I must record that Judith has gone away to
Aberdeen on a visit to some friends. "You'll be wretched enough
here," she said at parting, "all by yourself." Pure vanity and
self-complacence! It may be resignation to her absence, or it may
be natural force of mind, I began to be more easy and composed
the moment I was alone, and this blessed state of feeling has
continued uninterruptedly ever since.
September 5th.--A sudden change in my life, which it absolutely
startles me to record. I am going to London!
My purpose in taking this most serious step is of a twofold
nature. I have a greater and a lesser object in view.
The greater object is to see my daughter, and to judge for myself
whether certain doubts on the vital question of her happiness,
which now torment me night and day, are unhappily founded on
truth. She and her husband returned in August from their
wedding-tour, and took up their abode in Marmaduke's new
residence in London. Up to this time, Felicia's letters to me
were, in very truth, the delight of my life--she was so entirely
happy, so amazed and delighted with all the wonderful things she
saw, so full of love and admiration for the best husband that
ever lived. Since her return to London, I perceive a complete
She makes no positive complaint, but she writes in a tone of
weariness and discontent; she says next to nothing of Marmaduke,
and she dwells perpetually on the one idea of my going to London
to see her. I hope with my whole heart that I am wrong; but the
rare allusions to her husband, and the constantly repeated desire
to see her father (while she has not been yet three months
married), seem to me to be bad signs. In brief, my anxiety is too
great to be endured. I have so arranged matters with one of my
brethren as to be free to travel to London cheaply by steamer;
and I begin the journey tomorrow.
My lesser object may be dismissed in two words. Having already
decided on going to London, I propose to call on the wealthy
nobleman who owns all the land hereabouts, and represent to him
the discreditable, and indeed dangerous, condition of the parish
kirk for want of means to institute the necessary repairs. If I
find myself well received, I shall put in a word for the manse,
which is almost in as deplorable a condition as the church. My
lord is a wealthy man--may his heart and his purse be opened unto
Sister Judith is packing my portmanteau. According to custom, she
forbodes the worst. "Never forget," she says, "that I warned you
against Marmaduke, on the first night when he entered the house."
September 10th.--After more delays than one, on land and sea, I
was at last set ashore near the Tower, on the afternoon of
yesterday. God help us, my worst anticipations have been
realized! My beloved Felicia has urgent and serious need of me.
It is not to be denied that I made my entry into my son-in-law's
house in a disturbed and irritated frame of mind. First, my
temper was tried by the almost interminable journey, in the noisy
and comfortless vehicle which they call a cab, from the
river-wharf to the west-end of London, where Marmaduke lives. In
the second place, I was scandalized and alarmed by an incident
which took place--still on the endless journey from east to
west--in a street hard by the market of Covent Garden.
We had just approached a large building, most profusely
illuminated with gas, and exhibiting prodigious colored placards
having inscribed on them nothing but the name of Barrymore. The
cab came suddenly to a standstill; and looking out to see what
the obstacle might be, I discovered a huge concourse of men and
women, drawn across the pavement and road alike, so that it
seemed impossible to pass by them. I inquired of my driver what
this assembling of the people meant. "Oh," says he, "Barrymore
has made another hit." This answer being perfectly unintelligible
to me, I requested some further explanation, and discovered that
"Barrymore" was the name of a stage-player favored by the
populace; that the building was a theater, and that all these
creatures with immortal souls were waiting, before the doors
opened, to get places at the show!
The emotions of sorrow and indignation caused by this discovery
so absorbed me that I failed to notice an attempt the driver made
to pass through, where the crowd seemed to be thinner, until the
offended people resented the proceeding. Some of them seized the
horse's head; others were on the point of pulling the driver off
his box, when providentially the police interfered. Under their
protection, we drew back, and reached our destination in safety,
by another way. I record this otherwise unimportant affair,
because it grieved and revolted me (when I thought of the
people's souls), and so indisposed my mind to take cheerful views
of anything. Under these circumstances, I would fain hope that I
have exaggerated the true state of the case, in respect to my
daughter's married life.
My good girl almost smothered me with kisses. When I at last got
a fair opportunity of observing her, I thought her looking pale
and worn and anxious. Query: Should I have arrived at this
conclusion if I had met with no example of the wicked
dissipations of London, and if I had ridden at my ease in a
They had a succulent meal ready for me, and, what I call, fair
enough whisky out of Scotland. Here again I remarked that Felicia
ate very little. and Marmaduke nothing at all. He drank wine,
too--and, good heavens, champagne wine!--a needless waste of
money surely when there was whisky on the table. My appetite
being satisfied, my son-in-law went out of the room, and returned
with his hat in his hand. "You and Felicia have many things to
talk about on your first evening together. I'll leave you for a
while--I shall only be in the way." So he spoke. It was in vain
that his wife and I assured him he was not in the way at all. He
kissed his hand, and smiled pleasantly, and left us.
"There, father!" says Felicia. "For the last ten days he has gone
out like that, and left me alone for the whole evening. When we
first returned from Switzerland, he left me in the same
mysterious way, only it was after breakfast then. Now he stays at
home in the daytime, and goes out at night."
I inquired if she had not summoned him to give her some
"I don't know what to make of his explanation," says Felicia.
"When he went away in the daytime, he told me he had business in
the City. Since he took to going out at night, he says he goes to
"Have you asked where his club is, my dear?"
"He says it's in Pall Mall. There are dozens of clubs in that
street--and he has never told me the name of _his_ club. I am
completely shut out of his confidence. Would you believe it,
father? he has not introduced one of his friends to me since we
came home. I doubt if they know where he lives, since he took
What could I say?
I said nothing, and looked round the room. It was fitted up with
perfectly palatial magnificence. I am an ignorant man in matters
of this sort, and partly to satisfy my curiosity, partly to
change the subject, I asked to see the house. Mercy preserve us,
the same grandeur everywhere! I wondered if even such an income
as eight hundred a year could suffice for it all. In a moment
when I was considering this, a truly frightful suspicion crossed
my mind. Did these mysterious absences, taken in connection with
the unbridled luxury that surrounded us, mean that my son-in-law
was a gamester? a shameless shuffler of cards, or a debauched
bettor on horses? While I was still completely overcome by my own
previsions of evil, my daughter put her arm in mine to take me to
the top of the house.
For the first time I observed a bracelet of dazzling gems on her
wrist. "Not diamonds?" I said. She answered, with as much
composure as if she had been the wife of a nobleman, "Yes,
diamonds--a present from Marmaduke." This was too much for me; my
previsions, so to speak, forced their way into words. "Oh, my
poor child!" I burst out, "I'm in mortal fear that your husband's
She showed none of the horror I had anticipated; she only shook
her head and began to cry.
"Worse than that, I'm afraid," she said.
I was petrified; my tongue refused its office, when I would fain
have asked her what she meant. Her besetting sin, poor soul, is a
proud spirit. She dried her eyes on a sudden, and spoke out
freely, in these words: "I am not going to cry about it. The
other day, father, we were out walking in the park. A horrid,
bold, yellow-haired woman passed us in an open carriage. She
kissed her hand to Marmaduke, and called out to him, 'How are
you, Marmy?' I was so indignant that I pushed him away from me,
and told him to go and take a drive with his lady. He burst out
laughing. 'Nonsense!' he said; 'she has known me for years--you
don't understand our easy London manners.' We have made it up
since then; but I have my own opinion of the creature in th e
Morally speaking, this was worse than all. But, logically viewed,
it completely failed as a means of accounting for the diamond
bracelet and the splendor of the furniture.
We went on to the uppermost story. It was cut off from the rest
of the house by a stout partition of wood, and a door covered
with green baize.
When I tried the door it was locked. "Ha!" says Felicia, "I
wanted you to see it for yourself!" More suspicious proceedings
on the part of my son-in-law! He kept the door constantly locked,
and the key in his pocket. When his wife asked him what it meant,
he answered: "My study is up there--and I like to keep it
entirely to myself." After such a reply as that, the preservation
of my daughter's dignity permitted but one answer: "Oh, keep it
to yourself, by all means!"
My previsions, upon this, assumed another form.
I now asked myself--still in connection with my son-in-law's
extravagant expenditure--whether the clew to the mystery might
not haply be the forging of bank-notes on the other side of the
baize door. My mind was prepared for anything by this time. We
descended again into the dining-room. Felicia saw how my spirits
were dashed, and came and perched upon my knee. "Enough of my
troubles for to-night, father," she said. "I am going to be your
little girl again, and we will talk of nothing but Cauldkirk,
until Marmaduke comes back." I am one of the firmest men living,
but I could not keep the hot tears out of my eyes when she put
her arm round my neck and said those words. By good fortune I was
sitting with my back to the lamp; she didn't notice me.
A little after eleven o'clock Marmaduke returned. He looked pale
and weary. But more champagne, and this time something to eat
with it, seemed to set him to rights again--no doubt by relieving
him from the reproaches of a guilty conscience.
I had been warned by Felicia to keep what had passed between us a
secret from her husband for the present; so we had (superficially
speaking) a merry end to the evening. My son-in-law was nearly as
good company as ever, and wonderfully fertile in suggestions and
expedients when he saw they were wanted. Hearing from his wife,
to whom I had mentioned it, that I purposed representing the
decayed condition of the kirk and manse to the owner of Cauldkirk
and the country round about, he strongly urged me to draw up a
list of repairs that were most needful, before I waited on my
lord. This advice, vicious and degraded as the man who offered it
may be, is sound advice nevertheless. I shall assuredly take it.
So far I had written in my Diary, in the forenoon. Returning to
my daily record, after a lapse of some hours, I have a new
mystery of iniquity to chronicle. My abominable son-in-law now
appears (I blush to write it) to be nothing less than an
associate of thieves!
After the meal they call luncheon, I thought it well before
recreating myself with the sights of London, to attend first to
the crying necessities of the kirk and the manse. Furnished with
my written list, I presented myself at his lordship's residence.
I was immediately informed that he was otherwise engaged, and
could not possibly receive me. If I wished to see my lord's
secretary, Mr. Helmsley, I could do so. Consenting to this,
rather than fail entirely in my errand, I was shown into the
Mr. Helmsley heard what I had to say civilly enough; expressing,
however, grave doubts whether his lordship would do anything for
me, the demands on his purse being insupportably numerous
already. However, he undertook to place my list before his
employer, and to let me know the result. "Where are you staying
in London?" he asked. I answered: "With my son-in-law, Mr.
Marmaduke Falmer." Before I could add the address, the secretary
started to his feet and tossed my list back to me across the
table in the most uncivil manner.
"Upon my word," says he, "your assurance exceeds anything I ever
heard of. Your son-in-law is concerned in the robbery of her
ladyship's diamond bracelet--the discovery was made not an hour
ago. Leave the house, sir, and consider yourself lucky that I
have no instructions to give you in charge to the police." I
protested against this unprovoked outrage, with a violence of
language which I would rather not recall. As a minister, I ought,
under every provocation, to have preserved my self-control.
The one thing to do next was to drive back to my unhappy
Her guilty husband was with her. I was too angry to wait for a
fit opportunity of speaking. The Christian humility which I have
all my life cultivated as the first of virtues sank, as it were,
from under me. In terms of burning indignation I told them what
had happened. The result was too distressing to be described. It
ended in Felicia giving her husband back the bracelet. The
hardened reprobate laughed at us. "Wait till I have seen his
lordship and Mr. Helmsley," he said, and left the house.
Does he mean to escape to foreign parts? Felicia, womanlike,
believes in him still; she is quite convinced that there must be
some mistake. I am myself in hourly expectation of the arrival of
With gratitude to Providence, I note before going to bed the
harmless termination of the affair of the bracelet--so far as
Marmaduke is concerned. The agent who sold him the jewel has been
forced to come forward and state the truth. His lordship's wife
is the guilty person; the bracelet was hers--a present from her
husband. Harassed by debts that she dare not acknowledge, she
sold it; my lord discovered that it was gone; and in terror of
his anger the wretched woman took refuge in a lie.
She declared that the bracelet had been stolen from her. Asked
for the name of the thief, the reckless woman (having no other
name in her mind at the moment) mentioned the man who had
innocently bought the jewel of her agent, otherwise my
unfortunate son-in-law. Oh, the profligacy of the modern Babylon!
It was well I went to the secretary when I did or we should
really have had the police in the house. Marmaduke found them in
consultation over the supposed robbery, asking for his address.
There was a dreadful exhibition of violence and recrimination at
his lordship's residence: in the end he re-purchased the
bracelet. My son-in-law's money has been returned to him; and Mr.
Helmsley has sent me a written apology.
In a worldly sense, this would, I suppose, be called a
It is not so to my mind. I freely admit that I too hastily
distrusted Marmaduke; but am I, on that account, to give him back
immediately the place which he once occupied in my esteem? Again
this evening he mysteriously quitted the house, leaving me alone
with Felicia, and giving no better excuse for his conduct than
that he had an engagement. And this when I have a double claim on
his consideration, as his father-in-law and his guest.
September 11th.--The day began well enough. At breakfast,
Marmaduke spoke feelingly of the unhappy result of my visit to
his lordship, and asked me to let him look at the list of
repairs. "It is just useless to expect anything from my lord,
after what has happened," I said. "Besides, Mr. Helmsley gave me
no hope when I stated my case to him." Marmaduke still held out
his hand for the list. "Let me try if I can get some
subscribers," he replied. This was kindly meant, at any rate. I
gave him the list; and I began to recover some of my old friendly
feeling for him. Alas! the little gleam of tranquillity proved to
be of short duration.
We made out our plans for the day pleasantly enough. The check
came when Felicia spoke next of our plans for the evening. "My
father has only four days more to pass with us," she said to her
husband. "Surely you won't go out again to-night, and leave him?"
Marmaduke's face clouded over directly; he looked embarrassed and
annoyed. I sat perfectly silent, leaving them to settle it by
"You will stay with us this evening, won't you?" says Felicia.
No: he was not free for the evening. "What! another engagement?
Surely you can put it off?" No; impossible to put it off. "Is it
a ball, or a party of some kind?" No answer; he changed the
subjec t--he offered Felicia the money repaid to him for the
bracelet. "Buy one for yourself, my dear, this time." Felicia
handed him back the money, rather too haughtily, perhaps. "I
don't want a bracelet," she said; "I want your company in the
He jumped up, good-tempered as he was, in something very like a
rage--then looked at me, and checked himself on the point (as I
believe) of using profane language. "This is downright
persecution!" he burst out, with an angry turn of his head toward
his wife. Felicia got up, in her turn. "Your language is an
insult to my father and to me!" He looked thoroughly staggered at
this: it was evidently their first serious quarrel.
Felicia took no notice of him. "I will get ready directly,
father; and we will go out together." He stopped her as she was
leaving the room--recovering his good temper with a readiness
which it pleased me to see. "Come, come, Felicia! We have not
quarreled yet, and we won't quarrel now. Let me off this one time
more, and I will devote the next three evenings of your father's
visit to him and to you. Give me a kiss, and make it up." My
daughter doesn't do things by halves. She gave him a dozen
kisses, I should think--and there was a happy end of it.
"But what shall we do to-morrow evening?" says Marmaduke, sitting
down by his wife, and patting her hand as it lay in his.
"Take us somewhere," says she. Marmaduke laughed. "Your father
objects to public amusements. Where does he want to go to?"
Felicia took up the newspaper. "There is an oratorio at Exeter
Hall," she said; "my father likes music." He turned to me. "You
don't object to oratorios, sir?" "I don't object to music," I
answered, "so long as I am not required to enter a theater."
Felicia handed the newspaper to me. "Speaking of theaters,
father, have you read what they say about the new play? What a
pity it can't be given out of a theater!" I looked at her in
speechless amazement. She tried to explain herself. "The paper
says that the new play is a service rendered to the cause of
virtue; and that the great actor, Barrymore, has set an example
in producing it which deserves the encouragement of all truly
religious people. Do read it, father!" I held up my hands in
dismay. My own daughter perverted! pinning her faith on a
newspaper! speaking, with a perverse expression of interest, of a
stage-play and an actor! Even Marmaduke witnessed this lamentable
exhibition of backsliding with some appearance of alarm. "It's
not her fault, sir," he said, interceding with me. "It's the
fault of the newspaper. Don't blame her!" I held my peace;
determining inwardly to pray for her. Shortly afterward my
daughter and I went out. Marmaduke accompanied us part of the
way, and left us at a telegraph office. "Who are you going to
telegraph to?" Felicia asked. Another mystery! He answered,
"Business of my own, my dear"--and went into the office.
September 12th.--Is my miserable son-in-law's house under a
curse? The yellow-haired woman in the open carriage drove up to
the door at half-past ten this morning, in a state of
distraction. Felicia and I saw her from the drawing-room
balcony--a tall woman in gorgeous garments. She knocked with her
own hand at the door--she cried out distractedly, "Where is he? I
must see him!" At the sound of her voice, Marmaduke (playing with
his little dog in the drawing-room) rushed downstairs and out
into the street. "Hold your tongue!" we heard him say to her.
"What are you here for?"
What she answered we failed to hear; she was certainly crying.
Marmaduke stamped on the pavement like a man beside himself--took
her roughly by the arm, and led her into the house.
Before I could utter a word, Felicia left me and flew headlong
down the stairs.
She was in time to hear the dining-room locked. Following her, I
prevented the poor jealous creature from making a disturbance at
the door. God forgive me--not knowing how else to quiet her--I
degraded myself by advising her to listen to what they said. She
instantly opened the door of the back dining-room, and beckoned
to me to follow. I naturally hesitated. "I shall go mad," she
whispered, "if you leave me by myself!" What could I do? I
degraded myself the second time. For my own child--in pity for my
We heard them, through the flimsy modern folding-doors, at those
times when he was most angry, and she most distracted. That is to
say, we heard them when they spoke in their loudest tones.
"How did you find out where I live?" says he. "Oh, you're ashamed
of me?" says she. "Mr. Helmsley was with us yesterday evening.
That's how I found out!" "What do you mean?" "I mean that Mr.
Helmsley had your card and address in his pocket. Ah, you were
obliged to give your address when you had to clear up that matter
of the bracelet! You cruel, cruel man, what have I done to
deserve such a note as you sent me this morning?" "Do what the
note tells you!" "Do what the note tells me? Did anybody ever
hear a man talk so, out of a lunatic asylum? Why, you haven't
even the grace to carry out your own wicked deception--you
haven't even gone to bed!" There the voices grew less angry, and
we missed what followed. Soon the lady burst out again, piteously
entreating him this time. "Oh, Marmy, don't ruin me! Has anybody
offended you? Is there anything you wish to have altered? Do you
want more money? It is too cruel to treat me in this way--it is
indeed!" He made some answer, which we were not able to hear; we
could only suppose that he had upset her temper again. She went
on louder than ever "I've begged and prayed of you--and you're as
hard as iron. I've told you about the Prince--and _that_ has had
no effect on you. I have done now. We'll see what the doctor
says." He got angry, in his turn; we heard him again. "I won't
see the doctor!" "Oh, you refuse to see the doctor?--I shall make
your refusal known--and if there's law in England, you shall feel
it!" Their voices dropped again; some new turn seemed to be taken
by the conversation. We heard the lady once more, shrill and
joyful this time. "There's a dear! You see it, don't you, in the
right light? And you haven't forgotten the old times, have you?
You're the same dear, honorable, kind-hearted fellow that you
I caught hold of Felicia, and put my hand over her mouth.