Part 2 out of 2
only one o' them funny paragraphs ye kin read in a minit in the
papers that takes YOU an hour to tell."
To her surprise Dan'l only looked at his sister with complacency.
"That," he said, "is jest what the New York publisher sez. 'The
'Merrikan people,' sez he, 'is ashamed o' bein' short and peart and
funny; it lacks dignity,' sez he; 'it looks funny,' sez he, 'but it
ain't deep-seated nash'nul literature,' sez he. 'Them snips o'
funny stories and short dialogues in the comic papers--they make ye
laff,' sez he, 'but laffin' isn't no sign o' deep morril purpose,'
sez he, 'and it ain't genteel and refined. Abraham Linkin with his
pat anecdotes ruined our standin' with dignified nashuns,' sez he.
'We cultivated publishers is sick o' hearin' furrin' nashuns
roarin' over funny 'Merrikan stories; we're goin' to show 'em that,
even ef we haven't classes and titles and sich, we kin be dull.
We're workin' the historical racket for all that it's worth,--ef we
can't go back mor'n a hundred years or so, we kin rake in a Lord
and a Lady when we do, and we're gettin' in some ole-fashioned
spellin' and "methinkses" and "peradventures." We're doin' the
religious bizness ez slick ez Robert Elsmere, and we find lots o'
soul in folks--and heaps o quaint morril characters,' sez he."
"Sakes alive, Dan'l!" broke in his sister; "what's all that got to
do with your yarn 'bout the hoss trade?"
"Everythin'," returned Dan'l. "'For,' sez he, 'Mr. Borem,' sez he,
'you're a quaint morril character. You've got protracted humor,'
sez he. 'You've bin an hour tellin' that yarn o' yours! Ef ye
could spin it out to fill two chapters of a book--yer fortune's
made! For you'll show that a successful hoss trade involves the
highest nash'nul characteristics. That what common folk calls
"selfishness," "revenge," "mean lyin'," and "low-down money-
grubbin' ambishun" is really "quaintness," and will go in double
harness with the bizness of a Christian banker,' sez he."
"Created goodness, Dan'l! You're designin' ter"--
Dan'l Borem rose, coughed, expectorated carefully at the usual spot
in the fender, his general custom of indicating the conclusion of a
subject or an interview, and said dryly: "I'm thar!"
To return to the writer of the letter, whose career was momentarily
cut off by the episode of the horse trade (who, if he had
previously received a letter written by somebody else would have
been an entirely different person and not in this novel at all):
John Lummox--known to his family as "the perfect Lummox"--had been
two years in college, but thought it rather fine of himself--a
habit of thought in which he frequently indulged--to become a
clerk, but finally got tired of it, and to his father's relief went
to Europe for a couple of years, returning with some knowledge of
French and German, and the cutting end of a German student's
blunted dueling sword. Having, as he felt, thus equipped himself
for the hero of an American "Good Society" novel, he went on board
a "liner," where there would naturally be susceptible young ladies.
One he thought he recognized as a girl with whom he used to play
"forfeits" in the vulgar past of his boyhood. She sat at his
table, accompanied by another lady whose husband seemed to be a
confirmed dyspeptic. His remarks struck Lummox as peculiar.
"Shall I begin dinner with pudding and cheese or take the ordinary
soup first? I quite forget which I did last night," he said
anxiously to his wife.
But Mrs. Starling hesitated.
"Tell me, Mary," he said, appealing to Miss Bike, the young lady.
"I should begin with the pudding," said Miss Bike decisively, "and
between that and the arrival of the cheese you can make up your
mind, and then, if you think better, go back to the soup."
"Thank you so much. Now, as to drink? Shall I take the
Friedrichshalle first or the Benedictine? You know the doctor
insists upon the Friedrichshalle, but I don't think I did well to
mix them as I did yesterday. Or shall I take simply milk and
"I should say simplicity was best. Besides, you can always fill up
with champagne later."
How splendidly this clear-headed, clear-eyed girl dominated the
man! Lummox felt that REALLY he might renew her acquaintance! He
"I remembered you," she said. "You've not changed a bit since you
were eight years old."
John, wishing to change the subject, said that he thought Mr.
Starling seemed an uncertain man.
"Very! He's even now in his stateroom sitting in his pyjamas with
a rubber shoe on one foot and a pump on the other, wondering
whether he ought to put on golf knickerbockers with a dressing-gown
and straw hat before he comes on deck. He has already put on and
taken off about twenty suits."
"He certainly is very trying," returned Lummox. He paused and
colored deeply. "I beg," he stammered, "I hope--you don't think me
guilty of a pun! When I said 'trying' I referred entirely to the
effect on your sensitiveness of these tentative attempts toward
"I should never accuse YOU of levity, Mr. Lummox," said the young
lady, gazing thoughtfully upon his calm but somewhat heavy
Yet he would have liked to reclaim himself by a show of lightness.
He was leaning on the rail looking at the sea. The scene was
"I suppose," he said, rolling with the sea and his early studies of
Doctor Johnson, "that one would in the more superior manner show
his appreciation of all this by refraining from the obvious comment
which must needs be recognized as comparatively commonplace and
vulgar; but really this is so superb that I must express some of my
emotion, even at the risk of lowering your opinion of my good
taste, provided, of course, that you have any opinion on the one
hand or any good taste on the other."
"Without that undue depreciation of one's self which must ever be a
sign of self-conscious demerit," said the young girl lightly, "I
may say that I am not generally good at Johnsonese; but it may
relieve your mind to know that had you kept silence one instant
longer, I should have taken the risk of lowering your opinion of my
taste, provided, of course, that you have one to lower and are
capable of that exertion--if such indeed it may be termed--by
remarking that this is perfectly magnificent."
"Do you think," he said gloomily, still leaning on the rail, "that
we can keep this kind of thing up--perhaps I should say down--much
longer? For myself, I am feeling far from well; it may have been
the lobster--or that last sentence--but"--
They were both silent. "Yet," she said, after a pause, "you can at
least take Mr. Starling and his dyspepsia off my hands. You might
be equal to that exertion."
"I suppose that by this time I ought to be doing something for
somebody," he said thoughtfully. "Yes, I will."
That evening after dinner he took Mr. Starling into the smoking-
room and card-room. They had something hot. At 4 A. M., with the
assistance of the steward, he projected Mr. Starling into Mrs.
Starling's stateroom, delicately withdrawing to evade the lady's
thanks. At breakfast he saw Miss Bike. "Thank you so much," she
said; "Mrs. Starling found Starling greatly improved. He himself
admitted he was 'never berrer' and, far from worrying about what
night-clothes he should wear, went to bed AS HE WAS--even to his
hat. Mrs. Starling calls you 'her preserver,' and Mr. Starling
distinctly stated that you were a 'jolly-good-fler.'"
"And you?" asked John Lummox.
"In your present condition of abnormal self-consciousness and
apperceptive egotism, I really shouldn't like to say."
When the voyage was ended Mr. Lummox went to see Mary Bike at her
house, and his father--whom he had not seen for ten years--at HIS
house. With a refined absence of natural affection he contented
himself with inquiring of the servants as to his father's habits,
and if he still wore dress clothes at dinner. The information thus
elicited forced him to the conclusion that the old gentleman's
circumstances were reduced, and that it was possible that he, John
Lummox, might be actually compelled to earn his own living. He
communicated that suspicion to his father at dinner, and over the
last bottle of "Mouton," a circumstance which also had determined
him in his resolution. "You might," said his father thoughtfully,
"offer yourself to some rising American novelist as a study for the
new hero,--one absolutely without ambition, capacity, or energy;
willing, however, to be whatever the novelist chooses to make him,
so long as he hasn't to choose for himself. If your inordinate
self-consciousness is still in your way, I could give him a few
points about you, myself."
"I had thought," said John, hesitatingly, "of going into your
office and becoming your partner in the business. You could always
look after me, you know."
A shudder passed over the old man. Then he tremblingly muttered to
"Thank heaven! There is one way it may still be averted!"
Retiring to his room he calmly committed suicide, thoughtfully
leaving the empty poison bottle in the fender.
And this is how John Lummox came to offer himself as a clerk to
Dan'l Borem. The ways of Providence are indeed strange, yet those
of the novelist are only occasionally novel.
John K. Lummox lived for a week at the Turkey Buzzard Hotel
exclusively on doughnuts and innuendoes. He was informed by Mr.
Borem's clerk--whose place he was to fill--that he wouldn't be able
to stand it, and thus received the character of his employer from
his last employee.
"I suppose," said Dan'l Borem, chuckling, "that he said I was a old
skinflint, good only at a hoss trade, uneddicated, ignorant, and
unable to keep accounts, and an oppressor o' the widder and orphan.
Allowed that my cute sayin's was a kind o' ten-cent parody o' them
proverbs in Poor Richard's Almanack!"
"Omitting a few expletives, he certainly did," returned Lummox with
"He allowed to me," said Dan'l thoughtfully, "that YOU was a poor
critter that hadn't a single reason to show for livin': that the
fool-killer had bin shadderin' you from your birth, and that you
hadn't paid a cent profit on your father's original investment in
ye, nor on the assessments he'd paid on ye ever since. He seems to
be a cute feller arter all, and I'm rather sorry he's leavin'."
"I am quite willing to abandon my position in his favor, now," said
Lummox with alacrity.
"No," said Dan'l, rubbing his chin argumentatively; "the only way
for us to do is to circumvent him like in a hoss trade--with
suthin' unexpected. When he thinks you're goin' to sleep in the
shafts you'll run away; and when he think's I'm vicious I'll let a
woman or a child drive me."
"Well, Dan'l, how's that new clerk o' yours gettin' on?" said Mrs.
Bigby a week later.
"Purty fine! He's good at accounts and hez got to know the Bank's
customers by this time. But I allus reckoned he'd get stuck with
some o' them counterfeit notes--and he hez! Ye see he ain't
accustomed to look at a five or a ten dollar note as sharp as some
men, and he's already taken in two tens and a five counterfeits."
"Gracious!" said Mrs. Bigsby. "What did the poor feller do?"
"Oh, he ups and tells me, all right, after he discovered it. And
sez he: 'I've charged my account with 'em,' sez he, 'so the Bank
won't lose it.'"
"Why, Dan'l," said Mrs. Bigsby, "ye didn't let that poor feller"--
"You hol' on!" said her brother; "business is business; but I sez
to him: 'Ye oughter put it down to Profit and Loss account. Or
perhaps we'll have a chance o' gettin' rid o' them,--not in Noo
York, where folks is sharp, but here in the country, and then ye
kin credit yourself with the amount arter you've got rid o' them.'"
"Laws! I'm sorry ye did that, Dan'l," said Mrs. Bigsby.
"With that he riz up," continued Dan'l, ignoring his sister, "and,
takin' them counterfeit notes from my hand, sez he: 'Them notes
belong to ME now,' sez he, 'and I'm goin' to destroy 'em.' And
with that he walks over to the fire as stiff as a poker, and held
them notes in it until they were burnt clean up."
"Well, but that was honest and straightforward in him!" said Mrs.
"Um! but it wasn't business--and ye see"-- Dan'l paused and rubbed
"Well, go on!" said Mrs. Bigsby impatiently.
"Well, ye see, neither him nor me was very smart in detectin'
counterfeits, or even knowin' 'em, and"--
"Well! For goodness' sake, Dan'l, speak out!"
"Well--THE DUM FOOL BURNT UP THREE GOOD BILLS, and we neither of us
The "unexpected" which Dan'l Borem had hinted might characterize
his future conduct was first intimated by his treatment of the
"Widow Cully," an aged and impoverished woman whose property was
heavily mortaged to him. He had curtly summoned her to come to his
office on Christmas Day and settle up. Frightened, hopeless, and
in the face of a snowstorm, the old woman attended, but was
surprised by receiving a "satisfaction piece" in full from the
banker, and a gorgeous Christmas dinner. "All the same," said Mrs.
Bigsby to Lummox, "Dan'l might hev done all this without
frightenin' the poor old critter into a nervous fever, chillin' her
through by makin' her walk two miles through the snow, and keepin'
her on the ragged edge o' despair for two mortal hours! But it's
his humorous way."
"Did he give any reason for being so lenient to the widow?" asked
"He said that her son had given him a core of his apple when they
were boys together. Dan'l ez mighty thoughtful o' folks that was
kind to him in them days."
"Is that all?" said Lummox, astonished.
"Well--I've kinder thought suthin' else," said Mrs. Bigsby
"That its bein' Christmas Day--and as I've heard tell that's NO DAY
IN LAW, but just like Sunday--Dan'l mebbe thought that he might
crawl outer that satisfaction piece, ef he ever wanted ter! Dan'l
is mighty cute."
Mr. John Lummox was not behind his employer in developing
unexpected traits of character. Hitherto holding aloof from his
neighbors in Old Folksville, he suddenly went to a social
gathering, and distinguished himself as the principal and popular
guest of the evening. As Dan'l Borem afterward told his sister:
"He was one o' them Combination Minstrels and Variety Shows in one.
He sang through a whole opery, made the pianner jest howl, gave
some recitations, Casabianker and Betsy and I are Out; imitated all
them tragedians; did tricks with cards and fetched rabbits outer
hats, besides liftin' the pianner with two men sittin' on it, jest
by his teeth. Created snakes!" said Borem, concluding his account,
which here is necessarily abbreviated, "ef he learnt all that in
his two years in Europe I ain't sayin' anythin' more agin'
eddication and furrin' travel after this! Why, the next day there
was quite a run on the Bank jest to see HIM. He is makin' the
"Then ye think ye'll get along together?"
"I reckon we'll hitch hosses," said Dan'l, with a smile.
A few weeks later, one evening, Dan'l Borem sat with his sister
alone. John Lummox, who was now residing with them, was attending
a social engagement. Mrs. Bigsby knew that Dan'l had something to
communicate, but knew that he would do so in his own way.
"Speakin' o' hoss trades," he began.
"We WASN'T and we ain't goin' to," said Mrs. Bigsby with great
promptness. "I've heard enough of 'em."
"But this here one hez suthin' to do with your fr'en', John
Lummox," said Dan'l, with a chuckle.
Mrs. Bigsby stared. "Go on, then," she said, but, for goodness'
sake, cut it short."
Dan'l threw away his quid and replenished it from his silver
tobacco box. Mrs. Bigsby shuddered slightly as she recognized the
usual preliminary to prolixity, but determined, as far as possible,
to make her brother brief.
"It mout be two weeks ago," began Dan'l, "that I see John Lummox
over at Palmyra, where he'd bin visitin'. He was drivin' a hoss,
the beautifulest critter--for color--I ever saw. It was yaller,
with mane and tail a kinder golden, like the hair o' them British
Blondes that was here in the Variety Show."
"Dan'l!" exclaimed Mrs. Bigsby, horrified. "And you allowed you
never went thar!"
"Saw 'em on the posters--and mebbe the color was a little brighter
thar," said Dan'l carelessly--"but who's interruptin' now?"
"Go on," said Mrs. Bigsby.
"'Got a fine hoss thar,' sez I; 'reckon I never see such a purty
color,' sez I. 'He is purty,' sez he, 'per'aps too purty for ME to
be a-drivin', but he isn't fast.' 'I ain't speakin' o' that,' sez
I; 'it's his looks that I'm talkin' of; whar might ye hev got him?'
'He was offered to me by a fr'en' o' me boyhood,' sez he; 'he's a
pinto mustang,' sez he, 'from Californy, whar they breed 'em.'
'What's a pinto hoss?' sez I. 'The same ez a calico hoss,' sez he;
'what they have in cirkises, but ye never see 'em that color.' En
he was right, for when I looked him over I never DID see such a
soft and silky coat, and his mane and tail jest glistened. 'It IS
a little too showy for ye,' sez I, 'but I might take him at a fair
price. What's your fr'en' askin'?' 'He won't sell him to anybody
but me,' sez Lummox; 'he's a horror o' hoss traders, anyway, and
his price is more like a gift to a fr'en'.' 'What might that price
be, ef it's a fair question?' sez I, for the more I looked at the
hoss the more I liked him. 'A hundred and fifty dollars,' sez he;
'but my fr'en' would ask YOU double that.' 'Couldn't YOU and ME
make a trade?' sez I; 'I'll exchange ye that roan mare, that's
worth two hundred, for this hoss and fifty dollars.' With that he
drew himself up, and sez he: 'Mr. Borem,' sez he, 'I share my
fr'en's opinion about hoss tradin', and I promised my mother I'd
never swap hosses. You ought to know me by this time.'"
"That's so!" said Mrs. Bigsby; "I'm wonderin' ye dared to ax him."
Dan'l passed his hand over his mouth, and continued: "'I dunno but
you're right, Lummox,' sez I; 'per'aps it's jest as well as thar
wasn't TWO in the Bank in that bizness.' But the more I looked at
the hoss the more I hankered arter him. 'Look here,' sez I, 'I
tell ye what I'll do! I'll LEND you my hoss and you'll LEND me
yourn. I'll draw up a paper to that effect, and provide that in
case o' accidents, ef I don't return you your hoss, I'll agree to
pay you a hundred and fifty dollars. You'll give me the same kind
o' paper about my hoss--with the proviso that you pay me two
hundred for him!' 'Excuse me, Mr. Borem,' sez he, 'but that
difference of fifty makes a hoss trade accordin' to my mind. It's
agin' my principles to make such an agreement.'"
"An' he was right, Dan'l," said Mrs. Bigsby approvingly.
But Dan'l wiped his mouth again, leaving, however, a singular smile
on it. "Well, ez I wanted that hoss, I jest thought and thought!
I knew I could get two hundred and fifty for him easy, and that
Lummox didn't know anythin' of his valoo, and I finally agreed to
make the swap even. 'What do you call him?' sez I. 'Pegasus,' sez
he,--'the poet's hoss, on account o' his golden mane,' sez he.
That made me laff, for I never knew a poet ez could afford to hev a
hoss,--much less one like that! But I said: 'I'll borry Pegasus o'
you on those terms.' The next day I took the hoss to Jonesville;
Lummox was right: he wasn't FAST, but, jest as I expected, he made
a sensation! Folks crowded round him whenever I stopped; wimmin
followed him and children cried for him. I could hev sold him for
three hundred without leavin' town! 'So ye call him Pegasus,' sez
Doc Smith, grinnin'; 'I didn't known ye was subject to the divine
afflatus, Dan'l.' 'I don' offen hev it,' sez I, 'but when I do I
find a little straight gin does me good.' 'So did Byron,' sez he,
chucklin'. But even if I had called him 'Beelzebub' the hull town
would hev bin jest as crazy over him. Well, as it was comin' on to
rain I started jest after sundown for home. But it came ter blow,
an' ter pour cats and dogs, an' I was nigh washed out o' the buggy,
besides losin' my way and gettin' inter ditches and puddles, and I
hed to stop at Staples' Half-Way House and put up for the night.
In the mornin' I riz up early and goes into the stable yard, and
the first thing I sees was the 'ostler. 'I hope ye giv' my hoss a
good scrub down,' I sez, 'as I told ye, for his color is that
delicate the smallest spot shows. It's a very rare color for a
hoss.' 'I was hopin' it might be,' sez he. I was a little huffed
at that, and I sez: 'It's considered a very beautiful color.'
'Mebbe it is,' sez he, 'but I never cared much for fireworks.'
'What yer mean?' sez I. 'Look here, Squire!' sez he; 'I don't mind
scourin' and rubbin' down a hoss that will stay the same color
TWICE, but when he gets to playin' a kaladeoskope on me, I kick!'
'Trot him out,' sez I, beginnin' to feel queer. With that he
fetched out the hoss! For a minit I hed to ketch on to the fence
to keep myself from fallin'. I swonny! ef he didn't look like a
case of measles on top o' yaller fever--'cept where the harness had
touched him, and that was kinder stenciled out all over him. Thar
was places whar the 'ostler had washed down to the foundation
color, a kind o' chewed licorice! Then I knew that somebody had
bin sold terrible, and I reckoned it might be me! But I said
nothin' to the 'ostler, and waited until dark, when I drove him
over here, and put him in the stables, lettin' no one see him. In
the mornin' Lummox comes to me, and sez he: 'I'm glad to see you
back,' sez he, 'for my conscience is troublin' me about that hoss
agreement; it looks too much like a hoss trade,' sez he, 'and I'm
goin' to send the hoss back.' 'Mebbe your conscience,' sez I, 'may
trouble you a little more ef you'll step this way;' and with that I
takes his arm and leads him round to the stable and brings out the
"Well, Lummox never changes ez much as a hair, ez he puts up his
eyeglasses. 'I'm not good at what's called "Pop'lar Art,"' sez he.
'Is it a chromo, or your own work?' sez he, critical like.
"'It's YOUR HOSS,' sez I.
"He looks at me a minit and then drors a paper from his pocket.
'This paper,' sez he in his quiet way, 'was drored up by you and is
a covenant to return to me a yaller hoss with golden mane and tail--
or a hundred and fifty dollars. Ez I don't see the hoss anywhere--
mebbe you've got the hundred and fifty dollars handy?' sez he.
'Suppose I hadn't the money?' sez I. 'I should be obliged,' sez he
in a kind o' pained Christian-martyr way, 'ter sell YOUR hoss for
two hundred, and send the money to my fr'en'.' We looked at each
other steddy for a minit and then I counts him out a hundred and
fifty. He took the money sad-like and then sez: 'Mr. Borem,' sez
he, 'this is a great morril lesson to us,' and went back to the
office. In the arternoon I called in an old hoss dealer that I
knew and shows him Pegasus.
"'He wants renewin',' sez he.
"'Wot's that?' sez I.
"'A few more bottles o' that British Blonde Hair Dye to set him up
ag'in. That's wot they allus do in the cirkis, whar he kem from.'
"Then I went back to the office and I took down my sign. 'What's
that you re doin'?' sez Lummox, with a sickly kind o' smile. 'Are
you goin' out o' the bizness?'
"'No, I'm only goin' to change that sign from "Dan'l Borem" to
"Borem and Lummox,"' sez I. 'I've concluded it's cheaper for me to
take you inter partnership now than to continue in this way, which
would only end in your hevin' to take me in later. I preferred to
DO IT FUST.'"
A rich man, and settled in business, John Lummox concluded that he
would marry Mary Bike. With that far-sighted logic which had
always characterized him he reasoned that, having first met her on
a liner, he would find her again on one if he took passage to
Europe. He did--but she was down on the passenger list as Mrs.
Edwin Wraggles. The result of their interview was given to Mrs.
Bigsby by Dan'l Borem in his own dialect.
"Ez far as I kin see, it was like the Deacon's Sunday hoss trade,
bein' all 'Ef it wassent.' 'Ef ye wasn't Mrs. Wraggles,' sez
Lummox, sez he, 'I'd be tellin' ye how I've loved ye ever sence I
first seed ye. Ef ye wasn't Mrs. Wraggles, I'd be squeezin' yer
hand,' sez he; 'ef ye wasn't Mrs. Wraggles, I'd be askin' ye to
marry me.' Then the gal ups and sez, sez she: 'But I AIN'T Mrs.
Wraggles,' sez she; 'Mrs. Wraggles is my sister, and couldn't come,
so I'm travelin' on her ticket, and that's how my name is Wraggles
on the passenger list.' 'But why didn't ye tell me so at once?'
sez Lummox. 'This is an episoode o' protracted humor,' sez she,
'and I'M bound to have a show in it somehow!'"
"Well!" said Mrs. Bigsby breathlessly; "then he DID marry her?"
"Darned ef I know. He never said so straight out--but that's like
BY R--DY--D K--PL--G
FOR SIMLA REASONS
Some people say that improbable things don't necessarily happen in
India--but these people never find improbabilities anywhere. This
sounds clever, but you will at once perceive that it really means
the opposite of what I intended to say. So we'll drop it. What I
am trying to tell you is that after Sparkley had that affair with
Miss Millikens a singular change came over him. He grew abstracted
and solitary,--holding dark seances with himself,--which was odd,
as everybody knew he never cared a rap for the Millikens girl. It
was even said that he was off his head--which is rhyme. But his
reason was undoubtedly affected, for he had been heard to mutter
incoherently at the Club, and, strangest of all, to answer
questions THAT WERE NEVER ASKED! This was so awkward in that
Branch of the Civil Department of which he was a high official--
where the rule was exactly the reverse--that he was presently
invalided on full pay! Then he disappeared. Clever people said it
was because the Department was afraid he had still much to answer
for; stupid people simply envied him.
Mrs. Awksby, whom everybody knew had been the cause of breaking off
the match, was now wild to know the reason of Sparkley's
retirement. She attacked heaven and earth, and even went a step
higher--to the Viceroy. At the vice-regal ball I saw, behind the
curtains of a window, her rolling violet-blue eyes with a singular
glitter in them. It was the reflection of the Viceroy's star,
although the rest of his Excellency was hidden in the curtain. I
heard him saying, "Come now! really, now, you are--you know you
are!" in reply to her cooing questioning. Then she made a dash at
me and captured me.
"What did you hear?"
"Nothing I should not have heard."
"Don't be like all the other men--you silly boy!" she answered. "I
was only trying to find out something about Sparkley. And I will
find it out too," she said, clinching her thin little hand. "And
what's more," she added, turning on me suddenly, "YOU shall help
"I?" I said in surprise.
"Don't pretend!" she said poutingly. "You're too clever to believe
he's cut up over the Millikens. No--it's something awful or--
another woman! Now, if I knew as much of India as you do--and
wasn't a woman, and could go where I liked--I'd go to Bungloore and
"Oh! You have his address?" I said.
"Certainly! What did you expect I was behind the curtain with the
Viceroy for?" she said, opening her violet eyes innocently. "It's
Bungloore--First Turning to the Right--At the End of the passage."
Bungloore--near Ghouli Pass--in the Jungle! I knew the place, a
spot of dank pestilence and mystery. "You never could have gone
there," I said.
"You do not know WHAT I could do for a FRIEND," she said sweetly,
veiling her eyes in demure significance.
"Oh, come off the roof!" I said bluntly.
She could be obedient when it was necessary. She came off. Not
without her revenge. "Try to remember you are not at school with
the Stalkies," she said, and turned away.
I went to Bungloore,--not on her account, but my own. If you don't
know India, you won't know Bungloore. It's all that and more. An
egg dropped by a vulture, sat upon and addled by the Department.
But I knew the house and walked boldly in. A lion walked out of
one door as I came in at another. We did this two or three times--
and found it amusing. A large cobra in the hall rose up, bowed as
I passed, and respectfully removed his hood.
I found the poor old boy at the end of the passage. It might have
been the passage between Calais and Dover,--he looked so green, so
limp and dejected. I affected not to notice it, and threw myself
in a chair.
He gazed at me for a moment and then said, "Did you hear what the
chair was saying?"
It was an ordinary bamboo armchair, and had creaked after the usual
fashion of bamboo chairs. I said so.
He cast his eyes to the ceiling. "He calls it 'creaking,'" he
murmured. "No matter," he continued aloud, "its remark was not of
a complimentary nature. It's very difficult to get really polite
The man was evidently stark, staring mad. I still affected not to
observe it, and asked him if that was why he left Simla.
"There were Simla reasons, certainly," he replied. "But you think
I came here for solitude! SOLITUDE!" he repeated, with a laugh.
"Why, I hold daily conversations with any blessed thing in this
house, from the veranda to the chimney-stack, with any stick of
furniture, from the footstool to the towel-horse. I get more out
of it than the gabble at the Club. You look surprised. Listen! I
took this thing up in my leisure hours in the Department. I had
read much about the conversation of animals. I argued that if
animals conversed, why shouldn't inanimate things communicate with
each other? You cannot prove that animals don't converse--neither
can you prove that inanimate objects DO NOT. See?"
I was thunderstruck with the force of his logic.
"Of course," he continued, "there are degrees of intelligence, and
that makes it difficult. For instance, a mahogany table would not
talk like a rush-bottomed kitchen chair." He stopped suddenly,
listened, and replied, "I really couldn't say."
"I didn't speak," I said.
"I know YOU didn't. But your chair asked me 'how long that fool
was going to stay.' I replied as you heard. Pray don't move--I
intend to change that chair for one more accustomed to polite
society. To continue: I perfected myself in the language, and it
was awfully jolly at first. Whenever I went by train, I heard not
only all the engines said, but what every blessed carriage thought,
that joined in the conversation. If you chaps only knew what rot
those whistles can get off! And as for the brakes, they can beat
any mule driver in cursing. Then, after a time, it got rather
monotonous, and I took a short sea trip for my health. But, by
Jove, every blessed inch of the whole ship--from the screw to the
bowsprit--had something to say, and the bad language used by the
garboard strake when the ship rolled was something too awful! You
don't happen to know what the garboard strake is, do you?"
"No," I replied.
"No more do I. That's the dreadful thing about it. You've got to
listen to chaps that you don't know. Why, coming home on my
bicycle the other day there was an awful row between some infernal
'sprocket' and the 'ball bearings' of the machine, and I never knew
before there were such things in the whole concern.
I thought I had got at his secret, and said carelessly: "Then I
suppose this was the reason why you broke off your engagement with
"Not at all," he said coolly. "Nothing to do with it. That is
quite another affair. It's a very queer story; would you like to
"By all means." I took out my notebook.
"You remember that night of the Amateur Theatricals, got up by the
White Hussars, when the lights suddenly went out all over the
"Yes," I replied, "I heard about it."
"Well, I had gone down there that evening with the determination of
proposing to Mary Millikens the first chance that offered. She sat
just in front of me, her sister Jane next, and her mother, smart
Widow Millikens,--who was a bit larky on her own account, you
remember,--the next on the bench. When the lights went out and the
panic and tittering began, I saw my chance! I leaned forward, and
in a voice that would just reach Mary's ear I said, 'I have long
wished to tell you how my life is bound up with you, dear, and I
never, never can be happy without you'--when just then there was a
mighty big shove down my bench from the fellows beyond me, who were
trying to get out. But I held on like grim death, and struggled
back again into position, and went on: 'You'll forgive my taking a
chance like this, but I felt I could no longer conceal my love for
you,' when I'm blest if there wasn't another shove, and though I'd
got hold of her little hand and had a kind of squeeze in return, I
was drifted away again and had to fight my way back. But I managed
to finish, and said, 'If the devotion of a lifetime will atone for
this hurried avowal of my love for you, let me hope for a
response,' and just then the infernal lights were turned on, and
there I was holding the widow's hand and she nestling on my
shoulder, and the two girls in hysterics on the other side. You
see, I never knew that they were shoved down on their bench every
time, just as I was, and of course when I got back to where I was
I'd just skipped one of them each time! Yes, sir! I had made that
proposal in THREE sections--a part to each girl, winding up with
the mother! No explanation was possible, and I left Simla next
day. Naturally, it wasn't a thing they could talk about, either!"
"Then you think Mrs. Awksby had nothing to do with it?" I said.
"Nothing--absolutely nothing. By the way, if you see that lady,
you might tell her that I have possession of that brocade easy-
chair which used to stand in the corner of her boudoir. You
remember it,--faded white and yellow, with one of the casters off
and a little frayed at the back, but rather soft-spoken and
amiable? But of course you don't understand THAT. I bought it
after she moved into her new bungalow."
"But why should I tell her that?" I asked in wonder.
"Nothing--except that I find it very amusing with its reminiscences
of the company she used to entertain, and her confidences
generally. Good-by--take care of the lion in the hall. He always
couches on the left for a spring. Ta-ta!"
I hurried away. When I returned to Simla I told Mrs. Awksby of my
discoveries, and spoke of the armchair.
I fancied she colored slightly, but quickly recovered.
"Dear old Sparkley," she said sweetly; "he WAS a champion liar!"
A PRIVATE'S HONOR
I had not seen Mulledwiney for several days. Knowing the man--this
looked bad. So I dropped in on the Colonel. I found him in deep
thought. This looked bad, too, for old Cockey Wax--as he was known
to everybody in the Hill districts but himself--wasn't given to
thinking. I guessed the cause and told him so.
"Yes," he said wearily, "you are right! It's the old story.
Mulledwiney, Bleareyed, and Otherwise are at it again,--drink
followed by Clink. Even now two corporals and a private are
sitting on Mulledwiney's head to keep him quiet, and Bleareyed is
chained to an elephant."
"Perhaps," I suggested, "you are unnecessarily severe."
"Do you really think so? Thank you so much! I am always glad to
have a civilian's opinion on military matters--and vice versa--it
broadens one so! And yet--am I severe? I am willing, for
instance, to overlook their raid upon a native village, and the
ransom they demanded for a native inspector! I have overlooked
their taking the horses out of my carriage for their own use. I am
content also to believe that my fowls meekly succumb to jungle
fever and cholera. But there are some things I cannot ignore. The
carrying off of the great god Vishnu from the Sacred Shrine at
Ducidbad by The Three for the sake of the priceless opals in its
"But I never heard of THAT," I interrupted eagerly. "Tell me."
"Ah!" said the Colonel playfully, "that--as you so often and so
amusingly say--is 'Another Story'! Yet I would have overlooked the
theft of the opals if they had not substituted two of the Queen's
regimental buttons for the eyes of the god. This, while it did not
deceive the ignorant priests, had a deep political and racial
significance. You are aware, of course, that the great mutiny was
occasioned by the issue of cartridges to the native troops greased
with hog's fat--forbidden by their religion."
"But these three men could themselves alone quell a mutiny," I
The Colonel grasped my hand warmly. "Thank you. So they could. I
never thought of that." He looked relieved. For all that, he
presently passed his hand over his forehead and nervously chewed
"There is something else," I said.
"You are right. There is. It is a secret. Promise me it shall go
no further--than the Press? Nay, swear that you will KEEP it for
"Thank you SO much. It is a matter of my own and Mulledwiney's.
The fact is, we have had a PERSONAL difficulty." He paused,
glanced around him, and continued in a low, agitated voice:
"Yesterday I came upon him as he was sitting leaning against the
barrack wall. In a spirit of playfulness--mere playfulness, I
assure you, sir--I poked him lightly in the shoulder with my stick,
saying 'Boo!' He turned--and I shall never forget the look he gave
"Good heavens!" I gasped, "you touched--absolutely TOUCHED--
"Yes," he said hurriedly, "I knew what you would say; it was
against the Queen's Regulations--and--there was his sensitive
nature which shrinks from even a harsh word; but I did it, and of
course he has me in his power."
"And you have touched him?" I repeated,--"touched his private
"Yes! But I shall atone for it! I have already arranged with him
that we shall have it out between ourselves alone, in the jungle,
stripped to the buff, with our fists--Queensberry rules! I haven't
fought since I stood up against Spinks Major--you remember old
Spinks, now of the Bombay Offensibles?--at Eton." And the old boy
pluckily bared his skinny arm.
"It may be serious," I said.
"I have thought of that. I have a wife, several children, and an
aged parent in England. If I fall, they must never know. You must
invent a story for them. I have thought of cholera, but that is
played out; you know we have already tried it on The Boy who was
Thrown Away. Invent something quiet, peaceable and respectable--as
far removed from fighting as possible. What do you say to
"Not half bad," I returned.
"Measles let it be, then! Say I caught it from Wee Willie Winkie.
You do not think it too incredible?" he added timidly.
"Not more than YOUR story," I said.
He grasped my hand, struggling violently with his emotion. Then he
struggled with me--and I left hurriedly. Poor old boy! The
funeral was well attended, however, and no one knew the truth, not
It was high noon of a warm summer's day when Moo Kow came down to
the watering-place. Miaow, otherwise known as "Puskat"--the
warmth-loving one--was crouching on a limb that overhung the pool,
sunning herself. Brer Rabbit--but that is Another Story by Another
Three or four Gee Gees, already at the pool, moved away on the
approach of Moo Kow.
"Why do ye stand aside?" said the Moo Kow.
"Why do you say 'ye'?" said the Gee Gees together.
"Because it's more impressive than 'you.' Don't you know that all
animals talk that way in English?" said the Moo Kow.
"And they also say 'thou,' and don't you forget it!" interrupted
Miaow from the tree. "I learnt that from a Man Cub."
The animals were silent. They did not like Miaow's slang, and were
jealous of her occasionally sitting on a Man Cub's lap. Once Dun-
kee, a poor relation of the Gee Gees, had tried it on,
disastrously--but that is also Another and a more Aged Story.
"We are ridden by The English--please to observe the Capital
letters," said Pi Bol, the leader of the Gee Gees, proudly. "They
are a mighty race who ride anything and everybody. D'ye mind that--
I mean, look ye well to it!"
"What should they know of England who only England know?" said
"Is that a conundrum?" asked the Moo Kow.
"No; it's poetry," said the Miaow.
"I know England," said Pi Bol prancingly. "I used to go from the
Bank to Islington three times a day--I mean," he added hurriedly,
"before I became a screw--I should say, a screw-gun horse."
"And I," said the Moo Kow, "am terrible. When the young women and
children in the village see me approach they fly shriekingly. My
presence alone has scattered their sacred festival--The Sundes Kool
Piknik. I strike terror to their inmost souls, and am more feared
by them than even Kreep-mows, the insidious! And yet, behold! I
have taken the place of the mothers of men, and I have nourished
the mighty ones of the earth! But that," said the Moo Kow, turning
her head aside bashfully, "that is Anudder Story."
A dead silence fell on the pool.
"And I," said Miaow, lifting up her voice, "I am the horror and
haunter of the night season. When I pass like the night wind over
the roofs of the houses men shudder in their beds and tremble.
When they hear my voice as I creep stealthily along their balconies
they cry to their gods for succor. They arise, and from their
windows they offer me their priceless household treasures--the
sacred vessels dedicated to their great god Shiv--which they call
'Shivin Mugs'--the Kloes Brosh, the Boo-jak, urging me to fly them!
And yet," said Miaow mournfully, "it is but my love-song! Think ye
what they would do if I were on the war-path."
Another dead silence fell on the pool. Then arose that strange,
mysterious, indefinable Thing, known as "The Scent." The animals
"It heralds the approach of the Stalkies--the most famous of
British Skool Boaz," said the Moo Kow. "They have just placed a
decaying guinea-pig, two white mice in an advanced state of
decomposition, and a single slice of Limburger cheese in the bed of
their tutor. They had previously skillfully diverted the drains so
that they emptied into the drawing-room of the head-master. They
have just burned down his house in an access of noble zeal, and are
fighting among themselves for the spoil. Hark! do ye hear them?"
A wild medley of shrieks and howls had arisen, and an irregular mob
of strange creatures swept out of the distance toward the pool.
Some were like pygmies, some had bloody noses. Their talk
consisted of feverish, breathless ejaculations,--a gibberish in
which the words "rot," "oach," and "giddy" were preeminent. Some
were exciting themselves by chewing a kind of "bhang" made from the
plant called pappahmint; others had their faces streaked with djam.
"But who is this they are ducking in the pool?" asked Pi Bol.
"It is one who has foolishly and wantonly conceived that his
parents have sent him here to study," said the Moo Kow; "but that
is against the rules of the Stalkies, who accept study only as a
"Then these be surely the 'Bander Log'--the monkey folk--of whom
the good Rhuddyidd has told us," said a Gee Gee--"the ones who have
no purpose--and forget everything."
"Fool!" said the Moo Kow. "Know ye not that the great Rhuddyidd
has said that the Stalkies become Major-Generals, V. C.'s, and C.
B's of the English? Truly, they are great. Look now; ye shall see
one of the greatest traits of the English Stalky."
One of the pygmy Stalkies was offering a bun to a larger one, who
hesitated, but took it coldly.
"Behold! it is one of the greatest traits of this mighty race not
to show any emotion. He WOULD take the bun--he HAS taken it! He
is pleased--but he may not show it. Observe him eat."
The taller Stalky, after eating the bun, quietly kicked the giver,
knocked off his hat, and turned away with a calm, immovable face.
"Good!" said the Moo Kow. "Ye would not dream that he was
absolutely choking with grateful emotion?"
"We would not," said the animals.
"But why are they all running back the way they came?" asked Pi
"They are going back to punishment. Great is its power. Have ye
not heard the gospel of Rhuddyidd the mighty? 'Force is
everything! Gentleness won't wash, courtesy is deceitful.
Politeness is foreign. Be ye beaten that ye may beat. Pass the
But here he was interrupted by the appearance of three soldiers who
were approaching the watering-place.
"Ye are now," said the Moo Kow, "with the main guard. The first is
Bleareyed, who carries a raven in a cage, which he has stolen from
the wife of a deputy commissioner. He will paint the bird snow
white and sell it as a dove to the same lady. The second is
Otherwise, who is dragging a small garden engine, of which he has
despoiled a native gardener, whom he has felled with a single blow.
The third is Mulledwiney, swinging a cut-glass decanter of sherry
which he has just snatched from the table of his colonel.
Mulledwiney and Otherwise will play the engine upon Bleareyed, who
is suffering from heat apoplexy and djim-djams."
The three soldiers seated themselves in the pool.
"They are going to tell awful war stories now," said the Moo Kow,
"stories that are large and strong! Some people are shocked--
others like 'em."
Then he that was called Mulledwiney told a story. In the middle of
it Miaow got up from the limb of the tree, coughed slightly, and
put her paw delicately over her mouth. "You must excuse me," she
said faintly. "I am taken this way sometimes--and I have left my
salts at home. Thanks! I can get down myself!" The next moment
she had disappeared, but was heard coughing in the distance.
Mulledwiney winked at his companions and continued his story:--
"Wid that we wor in the thick av the foight. Whin I say 'thick' I
mane it, sorr! We wor that jammed together, divil a bit cud we
shoot or cut! At fur-rest, I had lashed two mushkits together wid
the baynits out so, like a hay fork, and getting the haymaker's
lift on thim, I just lifted two Paythians out--one an aych baynit--
and passed 'em, aisy-like, over me head to the rear rank for them
to finish. But what wid the blud gettin' into me ois, I was
blinded, and the pressure kept incraysin' until me arrums was
thrussed like a fowl to me sides, and sorra a bit cud I move but me
"And bloomin' well you knew how to use them," said Otherwise.
"Thrue for you--though ye don't mane it!" said Mulledwiney,
playfully tapping Otherwise on the head with a decanter till the
cut glass slowly shivered. "So, begorra! there wor nothing left
for me to do but to ATE thim! Wirra! but it was the crooel
"Excuse me, my lord," interrupted the gasping voice of Pi Bol as he
began to back from the pool, "I am but a horse, I know, and being
built in that way--naturally have the stomach of one--yet, really,
my lord, this--er"-- And his voice was gone.
The next moment he had disappeared. Mulledwiney looked around with
"Save us! But we've cleaned out the Jungle! Sure, there's not a
baste left but ourselves!"
It was true. The watering-place was empty. Moo Kow, Miaow, and
the Gee Gees had disappeared. Presently there was a booming crash
and a long, deep rumbling among the distant hills. Then they knew
they were near the old Moulmein Pagoda, and the dawn had come up
like thunder out of China 'cross the bay. It always came up that
way there. The strain was too great, and day was actually
THE PROBLEM OF A WICKED FEME SOLE
BY M--R--E C--R--LLI
The great pyramid towered up from the desert with its apex toward
the moon which hung in the sky. For centuries it had stood thus,
disdaining the aid of gods or man, being, as the Sphinx herself
observed, able to stand up for itself. And this was no small
praise from that sublime yet mysterious female who had seen the
ages come and go, empires rise and fall, novelist succeed novelist,
and who, for eons and cycles the cynosure and centre of admiration
and men's idolatrous worship, had yet--wonderful for a woman--
through it all kept her head, which now alone remained to survey
calmly the present. Indeed, at that moment that magnificent and
peaceful face seemed to have lost--with a few unimportant features--
its usual expression of speculative wisdom and intense disdain;
its mouth smiled, its left eyelid seemed to droop. As the opal
tints of dawn deepened upon it, the eyelid seemed to droop lower,
closed, and quickly recovered itself twice. You would have thought
the Sphinx had winked.
Then arose a voice like a wind on the desert,--but really from the
direction of the Nile, where a hired dahabiyeh lay moored to the
bank,--"'Arry Axes! 'Arry Axes!" With it came also a flapping,
trailing vision from the water--the sacred Ibis itself--and with
wings aslant drifted mournfully away to its own creaking echo:
"K'raksis! K'raksis!" Again arose the weird voice: "'Arry Axes!
Wotcher doin' of?" And again the Ibis croaked its wild refrain:
"K'raksis! K'raksis!" Moonlight and the hour wove their own
mystery (for which the author is not responsible), and the voice
was heard no more. But when the full day sprang in glory over the
desert, it illuminated the few remaining but sufficiently large
features of the Sphinx with a burning saffron radiance! The Sphinx
had indeed blushed!
It was the full season at Cairo. The wealth and fashion of
Bayswater, South Kensington, and even the bosky Wood of the
Evangelist had sent their latest luxury and style to flout the
tombs of the past with the ghastly flippancy of to-day. The cheap
tripper was there--the latest example of the Darwinian theory--
apelike, flea and curio hunting! Shamelessly inquisitive and
always hungry, what did he know of the Sphinx or the pyramids or
the voice--and, for the matter of that, what did they know of him?
And yet he was not half bad in comparison with the "swagger
people,"--these people who pretend to have lungs and what not, and
instead of galloping on merry hunters through the frost and snow of
Piccadilly and Park, instead of enjoying the roaring fires of piled
logs in the evening, at the first approach of winter steal away to
the Land of the Sun, and decline to die, like honest Britons, on
British soil. And then they know nothing of the Egyptians and are
horrified at "bakshish," which they really ought to pay for the
privilege of shocking the straight-limbed, naked-footed Arab in his
single rough garment with their baggy elephant-legged trousers!
And they know nothing of the mystic land of the old gods, filled
with profound enigmas of the supernatural, dark secrets yet
unexplored except in this book. Well might the great Memnon murmur
after this lapse of these thousand years, "They're making me
Such was the blissful, self-satisfied ignorance of Sir Midas Pyle,
or as Lord Fitz-Fulke, with his delightful imitation of the East
London accent, called him, Sir "Myde His Pyle," as he leaned back
on his divan in the Grand Cairo Hotel. He was the vulgar editor
and proprietor of a vulgar London newspaper, and had brought his
wife with him, who was vainly trying to marry off his faded
daughters. There was to be a fancy-dress ball at the hotel that
night, and Lady Pyle hoped that her girls, if properly disguised,
might have a better chance. Here, too, was Lady Fitz-Fulke, whose
mother was immortalized by Byron--sixty if a day, yet still
dressing youthfully--who had sought the land of the Sphinx in the
faint hope that in the contiguity of that lady she might pass for
being young. Alaster McFeckless, a splendid young Scotchman,--
already dressed as a Florentine sailor of the fifteenth century,
which enabled him to show his magnificent calves quite as well as
in his native highland dress, and who had added with characteristic
noble pride a sporran to his costume, was lolling on another divan.
"Oh, those exquisite, those magnificent eyes of hers! Eh, sirs!"
he murmured suddenly, as waking from a dream.
"Oh, damn her eyes!" said Lord Fitz-Fulke languidly. "Tell you
what, old man, you're just gone on that girl!"
"Ha!" roared MeFeckless, springing to his feet, "ye will be using
such language of the bonniest"--
"You will excuse me, gentlemen," said Sir Midas,--who hated scenes
unless he had a trusted reporter with him,--"but I think it is time
for me to go upstairs and put on my Windsor uniform, which I find
exceedingly convenient for these mixed assemblies." He withdrew,
caressing his protuberant paunch with some dignity, as the two men
glanced fiercely at each other.
In another moment they might have sprung at each other's throats.
But luckily at this instant a curtain was pushed aside as if by
some waiting listener, and a thin man entered, dressed in cap and
gown,--which would have been simply academic but for his carrying
in one hand behind him a bundle of birch twigs. It was Dr. Haustus
Pilgrim, a noted London practitioner and specialist, dressed as "Ye
Olde-fashioned Pedagogue." He was presumably spending his holiday
on the Nile in a large dahabiyeh with a number of friends, among
whom he counted the two momentary antagonists he had just
interrupted; but those who knew the doctor's far-reaching knowledge
and cryptic researches believed he had his own scientific motives.
The two men turned quickly as he entered; the angry light faded
from their eyes, and an awed and respectful submission to the
intruder took its place. He walked quietly toward them, put a
lozenge in the mouth of one and felt the pulse of the other, gazing
critically at both.
"We will be all right in a moment," he said with professional
"I say!" said Fitz-Fulke, gazing at the doctor's costume, "you look
dooced smart in those togs, don'tcherknow."
"They suit me," said the doctor, with a playful swish of his birch
twigs, at which the two grave men shuddered. "But you were
speaking of somebody's beautiful eyes."
"The Princess Zut-Ski's," returned McFeckless eagerly; "and this
daft callant said"--
"He didn't like them," put in Fitz-Fulke promptly.
"Ha!" said the doctor sharply, "and why not, sir?" As Fitz-Fulke
hesitated, he added brusquely: "There! Run away and play! I've
business with this young man," pointing to McFeckless.
As Fitz-Fulke escaped gladly from the room, the doctor turned to
McFeckless. "It won't do, my boy. The Princess is not for you--
you'll only break your heart and ruin your family over her! That's
my advice. Chuck her!"
"But I cannot," said McFeckless humbly. "Think of her weirdly
"I see," said the doctor meditatively; "sort of makes you feel
creepy? Kind of all-overishness, eh? That's like her. But whom
have we here?"
He was staring at a striking figure that had just entered, closely
followed by a crowd of admiring spectators. And, indeed, he seemed
worthy of the homage. His magnificent form was closely attired in
a velveteen jacket and trousers, with a singular display of pearl
buttons along the seams, that were absolutely lavish in their
quantity; a hat adorned with feathers and roses completed his
singularly picturesque equipment.
"Chevalier!" burst out McFeckless in breathless greeting.
"Ah, mon ami! What good chance?" returned the newcomer, rushing to
him and kissing him on both cheeks, to the British horror of Sir
Midas, who had followed. "Ah, but you are perfect!" he added,
kissing his fingers in admiration of McFeckless's Florentine dress.
"But you?--what is this ravishing costume?" asked McFeckless, with
a pang of jealousy. "You are god-like."
"It is the dress of what you call the Koster, a transplanted
Phenician tribe," answered the other. "They who knocked 'em in the
road of Old Kent--know you not the legend?" As he spoke, he lifted
his superb form to a warrior's height and gesture.
"But is this quite correct?" asked Fitz-Fulke of the doctor.
"Perfectly," said the doctor oracularly. "The renowned ''Arry
Axes'--I beg his pardon," he interrupted himself hastily, "I mean
the Chevalier--is perfect in his archaeology and ethnology. The
Koster is originally a Gypsy, which is but a corruption of the word
'Egyptian,' and, if I mistake not, that gentleman is a lineal
"But he is called 'Chevalier,' and he speaks like a Frenchman,"
"And, being a Frenchman, of course knows nothing outside of Paris,"
said Sir Midas.
"We are in the Land of Mystery," said the doctor gravely in a low
voice. "You have heard of the Egyptian Hall and the Temple of
A shudder passed through many that were there; but the majority
were following with wild adulation the superb Koster, who, with
elbows slightly outward and hands turned inward, was passing toward
the ballroom. McFeckless accompanied him with conflicting
emotions. Would he see the incomparable Princess, who was lovelier
and even still more a mystery than the Chevalier? Would she--
terrible thought!--succumb to his perfections?
The Princess was already there, surrounded by a crowd of admirers,
equal if not superior to those who were following the superb
Chevalier. Indeed, they met almost as rivals! Their eyes sought
each other in splendid competition. The Chevalier turned away,
dazzled and incoherent. "She is adorable, magnificent!" he gasped
to McFeckless. "I love her on the instant! Behold, I am
transported, ravished! Present me."
Indeed, as she stood there in a strange gauzy garment of exquisite
colors, apparently shapeless, yet now and then revealing her
perfect figure like a bather seen through undulating billows, she
was lovely. Two wands were held in her taper fingers, whose
mystery only added to the general curiosity, but whose weird and
cabalistic uses were to be seen later. Her magnificent face--
strange in its beauty--was stranger still, since, with perfect
archaeological Egyptian correctness, she presented it only in
profile, at whatever angle the spectator stood. But such a
profile! The words of the great Poet-King rose to McFeckless's
lips: "Her nose is as a tower that looketh toward Damascus."
He hesitated a moment, torn with love and jealousy, and then
presented his friend. "You will fall in love with her--and then--
you will fall also by my hand," he hissed in his rival's ear, and
"Voulez-vous danser, mademoiselle?" whispered the Chevalier in the
perfect accent of the boulevardier.
"Merci, beaucoup," she replied in the diplomatic courtesies of the
They danced together, not once, but many times, to the admiration,
the wonder and envy of all; to the scandalized reprobation of a
proper few. Who was she? Who was he? It was easy to answer the
last question: the world rang with the reputation of "Chevalier the
Artist." But she was still a mystery.
Perhaps they were not so to each other! He was gazing deliriously
into her eyes. She was looking at him in disdainful curiosity.
"I've seen you before somewhere, haven't I?" she said at last, with
a crushing significance.
He shuddered, he knew not why, and passed his hand over his high
forehead. "Yes, I go there very often," he replied vacantly. "But
you, mademoiselle--you--I have met before?"
"Oh, ages, ages ago!" There was something weird in her emphasis.
"Ha!" said a voice near them, "I thought so!" It was the doctor,
peering at them curiously. "And you both feel rather dazed and
creepy?" He suddenly felt their pulses, lingering, however, as the
Chevalier fancied, somewhat longer than necessary over the lady's
wrist and beautiful arm. He then put a small round box in the
Chevalier's hand, saying, "One before each meal," and turning to
the lady with caressing professional accents said, "We must wrap
ourselves closely and endeavor to induce perspiration," and hurried
away, dragging the Chevalier with him. When they reached a
secluded corner, he said, "You had just now a kind of feeling,
don't you know, as if you'd sort of been there before, didn't you?"
"Yes, what you call a--preexistence," said the Chevalier
"Yes; I have often observed that those who doubt a future state of
existence have no hesitation in accepting a previous one," said the
doctor dryly. "But come, I see from the way the crowd are hurrying
that your divinity's number is up--I mean," he corrected himself
hastily, "that she is probably dancing again."
"Aha! with him, the imbecile McFeckless?" gasped the Chevalier.
She was indeed alone, in the centre of the ballroom--with
outstretched arms revolving in an occult, weird, dreamy, mystic,
druidical, cabalistic circle. They now for the first time
perceived the meaning of those strange wands which appeared to be
attached to the many folds of her diaphanous skirts and involved
her in a fleecy, whirling cloud. Yet in the wild convolutions of
her garments and the mad gyrations of her figure, her face was
upturned with the seraphic intensity of a devotee, and her lips
parted as with the impassioned appeal for "Light! more light!" And
the appeal was answered. A flood of blue, crimson, yellow, and
green radiance was alternately poured upon her from the black box
of a mysterious Nubian slave in the gallery. The effect was
marvelous; at one moment she appeared as a martyr in a sheet of
flame, at another as an angel wrapped in white and muffled purity,
and again as a nymph of the cerulean sea, and then suddenly a cloud
of darkness seemed to descend upon her, through which for an
instant her figure, as immaculate and perfect as a marble statue,
showed distinctly--then the light went out and she vanished!
The whole assembly burst into a rapturous cry. Even the common
Arab attendants who were peeping in at the doors raised their
melodious native cry, "Alloe, Fullah! Aloe, Fullah!" again and
A shocked silence followed. Then the voice of Sir Midas Pyle was
heard addressing Dr. Haustus Pilgrim:
"May we not presume, sir, that what we have just seen is not unlike
that remarkable exhibition when I was pained to meet you one
evening at the Alhambra?"
The doctor coughed slightly. "The Alhambra--ah, yes!--you--er--
refer, I presume, to Granada and the Land of the Moor, where we
last met. The music and dance are both distinctly Moorish--which,
after all, is akin to the Egyptian. I am gratified indeed that
your memory should be so retentive and your archaeological
comparison so accurate. But see! the ladies are retiring. Let us
The intoxication produced by the performance of the Princess
naturally had its reaction. The British moral soul, startled out
of its hypocrisy the night before, demanded the bitter beer of
self-consciousness and remorse the next morning. The ladies were
now openly shocked at what they had secretly envied. Lady Pyle
was, however, propitiated by the doctor's assurance that the
Princess was a friend of Lady Fitz-Fulke, who had promised to lend
her youthful age and aristocratic prestige to the return ball which
the Princess had determined to give at her own home. "Still, I
think the Princess open to criticism," said Sir Midas oracularly.
"Damn all criticism and critics!" burst out McFeckless, with the
noble frankness of a passionate and yet unfettered soul. Sir
Midas, who employed critics in his business, as he did other base
and ignoble slaves, drew up himself and his paunch and walked away.
The Chevalier cast a superb look at McFeckless. "Voila! Regard me
well! I shall seek out this Princess when she is with herself!
Alone, comprenez? I shall seek her at her hotel in the Egyptian
Hall! Ha! ha! I shall seek Zut-Ski! Zut!" And he made that
rapid yet graceful motion of his palm against his thigh known only
to the true Parisian.
"It's a rum hole where she lives, and nobody gets a sight of her,"
said Flossy. "It's like a beastly family vault, don't you know,
outside, and there's a kind of nigger doorkeeper that vises you and
chucks you out if you haven't the straight tip. I'll show you the
way, if you like."
"Allons, en avant!" said the Chevalier gayly. "I precipitate
myself there on the instant."
"Remember!" hissed McFeckless, grasping his arm, "you shall account
"Bien!" said the Chevalier, shaking him off lightly. "All a-r-r-
right." Then, in that incomparable baritone, which had so often
enthralled thousands, he moved away, trolling the first verse of
the Princess's own faint, sweet, sad song of the "Lotus Lily," that
thrilled McFeckless even through the Chevalier's marked French
"Oh, a hard zing to get is ze Lotus Lillee!
She lif in ze swamp--in ze watair chillee;
She make your foot wet--and you look so sillee,
But you buy her for sixpence in Piccadillee!"
In half an hour the two men reached the remote suburb where the
Princess lived, a gloomy, windowless building. Pausing under a low
archway over which in Egyptian characters appeared the faded
legend, "Sta Ged Oor," they found a Nubian slave blocking the dim
"I leave you here," said Flossy hurriedly, "as even I left once
before--only then I was lightly assisted by his sandaled foot," he
added, rubbing himself thoughtfully. "But better luck to you."
As his companion retreated swiftly, the Chevalier turned to the
slave and would have passed in, but the man stopped him. "Got a
"No," said the Chevalier.
The man looked at him keenly. "Oh, I see! one of de profesh."
The Chevalier nodded haughtily. The man preceded him by devious,
narrow ways and dark staircases, coming abruptly upon a small
apartment where the Princess sat on a low divan. A single lamp
inclosed in an ominous wire cage flared above her. Strange things
lay about the floor and shelves, and from another door he could see
hideous masks, frightful heads, and disproportionate faces. He
shuddered slightly, but recovered himself and fell on his knees
before her. "I lofe you," he said madly. "I have always lofed
"For how long?" she asked, with a strange smile.
He covertly consulted his shirt cuff. "For tree tousand fife
hundred and sixty-two years," he said rapidly.
She looked at him disdainfully. "The doctor has been putting you
up to that! It won't wash! I don't refer to your shirt cuff," she
added with deep satire.
"Adorable one!" he broke out passionately, attempting to embrace
her, "I have come to take you." Without moving, she touched a knob
in the wall. A trap-door beyond him sank, and out of the bowels of
the earth leaped three indescribable demons. Then, rising, she
took a cake of chalk from the table and, drawing a mystic half
circle on the floor, returned to the divan, lit a cigarette, and
leaning comfortably back, said in a low, monotonous voice, "Advance
one foot within that magic line, and on that head, although it wore
a crown, I launch the curse of Rome."
"I--only wanted to take you--with a kodak," he said, with a light
laugh to conceal his confusion, as he produced the instrument from
his coat-tail pocket.
"Not with that cheap box," she said, rising with magnificent
disdain. "Come again with a decent instrument--and perhaps"--
Then, lightly humming in a pure contralto, "I've been photographed
like this--I've been photographed like that," she summoned the
slave to conduct him back, and vanished through a canvas screen,
which nevertheless seemed to the dazed Chevalier to be the stony
front of the pyramids.
"And you saw her?" said the doctor in French.
"Yes; but the three-thousand-year gag did not work! She spotted
you, cher ami, on the instant. And she wouldn't let me take her
with my kodak."
The doctor looked grave. "I see," he mused thoughtfully. "You must
have my camera, a larger one and more bulky perhaps to carry; but
she will not object to that,--she who has stood for full lengths.
I will give you some private instructions."
"But, cher doctor, this previous-existence idea--at what do you
"There is much to say for it," said the doctor oracularly. "It has
survived in the belief of all ages. Who can tell? That some men
in a previous existence may have been goats or apes," continued the
doctor, looking at him curiously, "does not seem improbable! From
the time of Pythagoras we have known that; but that the individual
as an individual ego has been remanded or projected, has harked
back or anticipated himself, is, we may say, with our powers of
apperception,--that is, the perception that we are perceiving,--
But the Chevalier had fled. "No matter," said the doctor, "I will
see McFeckless." He did. He found him gloomy, distraught,
baleful. He felt his pulse. "The mixture as before," he said
briefly, "and a little innocent diversion. There is an Aunt Sally
on the esplanade--two throws for a penny. It will do you good.
Think no more of this woman! Listen,--I wish you well; your family
have always been good patients of mine. Marry some good Scotch
girl; I know one with fifty thousand pounds. Let the Princess go!"
"To him--never! I will marry her! Yet," he murmured softly to
himself, "feefty thousand pun' is nae small sum. Aye! Not that I
care for siller--but feefty thousand pun'! Eh, sirs!"
Dr. Haustus knew that the Chevalier had again visited the Princess,
although he had kept the visit a secret,--and indeed was himself
invisible for a day or two afterwards. At last the doctor's
curiosity induced him to visit the Chevalier's apartment.
Entering, he was surprised--even in that Land of Mystery--to find
the room profoundly dark, smelling of Eastern drugs, and the
Chevalier sitting before a large plate of glass which he was
examining by the aid of a lurid ruby lamp,--the only light in the
weird gloom. His face was pale and distraught, his locks were
"Voila!" he said. "Mon Dieu! It is my third attempt. Always the
same--hideous, monstrous, unearthly! It is she, and yet it is not
The doctor, professional man as he was and inured to such
spectacles, was startled! The plate before him showed the
Princess's face in all its beautiful contour, but only dimly
veiling a ghastly death's-head below. There was the whole bony
structure of the head and the eyeless sockets; even the graceful,
swan-like neck showed the articulated vertebral column that
supported it in all its hideous reality. The beautiful shoulders
were there, dimly as in a dream--but beneath was the empty
clavicle, the knotty joint, the hollow sternum, and the ribs of a
skeleton half length!
The doctor's voice broke the silence. "My friend," he said dryly,
"you see only the truth! You see what she really is, this peerless
Princess of yours. You see her as she is to-day, and you see her
kinship to the bones that have lain for centuries in yonder
pyramid. Yet they were once as fair as this, and this was as fair
as they--in effect the same! You that have madly, impiously adored
her superficial beauty, the mere dust of tomorrow, let this be a
warning to you! You that have no soul to speak of, let that
suffice you! Take her and be happy. Adieu!"
Yet, as he passed out of the fitting tomblike gloom of the
apartment and descended the stairs, he murmured to himself: "Odd
that I should have lent him my camera with the Rontgen-ray
attachment still on. No matter! It is not the first time that the
Princess has appeared in two parts the same evening."
In spite of envy, jealousy, and malice, a certain curiosity greater
than all these drew everybody to the Princess Zut-Ski's ball. Lady
Fitz-Fulke was there in virgin white, looking more youthful than
ever, in spite of her sixty-five years and the card labeled "Fresh
Paint" which somebody had playfully placed upon her enameled
shoulder. The McFecklesses, the Pyles, Flossy, the doctor, and the
Chevalier--looking still anxious--were in attendance.
The mysterious Nubian doorkeeper admitted the guests through the
same narrow passages, much to the disgust of Lady Pyle and the
discomfiture of her paunchy husband; but on reaching a large
circular interior hall, a greater surprise was in store for them.
It was found that the only entrance to the body of the hall was
along a narrow ledge against the bare wall some distance from the
floor, which obliged the guests to walk slowly, in single file,
along this precarious strip, giving them the attitudes of an
Egyptian frieze, which was suggested in the original plaster above
them. It is needless to say that, while the effect was ingenious
and striking from the centre of the room, where the Princess stood
with a few personal friends, it was exceedingly uncomfortable to
the figures themselves, in their enforced march along the ledge,--
especially a figure of Sir Midas Pyle's proportions. Suddenly an
exclamation broke from the doctor.
"Do you see," he said to the Princess, pointing to the figure of
the Chevalier, who was filing along with his sinewy hands slightly
turned inward, "how surprisingly like he is to the first attendant
on the King in the real frieze above? And that," added the doctor,
"was none other than 'Arry Axes, the Egyptian you are always
thinking of." And he peered curiously at her.
"Goodness me!" murmured the Princess, in an Arabic much more soft
and fluent than the original gum. "So he does--look like him."
"And do you know you look like him, too? Would you mind taking a
walk around together?"
They did, amid the acclamations of the crowd. The likeness was
perfect. The Princess, however, was quite white as she eagerly
rejoined the doctor.
"And this means--?" she hissed in a low whisper.
"That he is the real 'Arry Axes! Hush, not a word now! We join
the dahabiyeh to-night. At daybreak you will meet him at the
fourth angle of the pyramid, first turning from the Nile!"
The crescent moon hung again over the apex of the Great Pyramid,
like a silver cutting from the rosy nail of a houri. The Sphinx--
mighty guesser of riddles, reader of rebuses and universal solver
of missing words--looked over the unfathomable desert and these few
pages, with the worried, hopeless expression of one who is obliged
at last to give it up. And then the wailing voice of a woman,
toiling up the steep steps of the pyramid, was heard above the
creaking of the Ibis: "'Arry Axes! Where are you? Wait for me."
"J'y suis," said a voice from the very summit of the stupendous
granite bulk, "yet I cannot reach it."
And in that faint light the figure of a man was seen, lifting his
arms wildly toward the moon.
"'Arry Axes," persisted the voice, drifting higher, "wait for me;
we are pursued."
And indeed it was true. A band of Nubians, headed by the doctor,
was already swarming like ants up the pyramid, and the unhappy pair
were secured. And when the sun rose, it was upon the white sails
of the dahabiyeh, the vacant pyramid, and the slumbering Sphinx.
There was great excitement at the Cairo Hotel the next morning.
The Princess and the Chevalier had disappeared, and with them
Alaster McFeckless, Lady Fitz-Fulke, the doctor, and even his
dahabiyeh! A thousand rumors had been in circulation. Sir Midas
Pyle looked up from the "Times" with his usual I-told-you-so
"It is the most extraordinary thing, don'tcherknow," said Fitz-
Fulke. "It seems that Dr. Haustus Pilgrim was here professionally--
as a nerve specialist--in the treatment of hallucinations produced
by neurotic conditions, you know."
"A mad doctor, here!" gasped Sir Midas.
"Yes. The Princess, the Chevalier, McFeckless, and even my mother
were all patients of his on the dahabiyeh. He believed,
don'tcherknow, in humoring them and letting them follow out their
cranks, under his management. The Princess was a music-hall artist
who imagined she was a dead and gone Egyptian Princess; and the
queerest of all, 'Arry Axes was also a music-hall singer who
imagined himself Chevalier--you know, the great Koster artist--and
that's how we took him for a Frenchman. McFeckless and my poor old
mother were the only ones with any real rank and position--but you
know what a beastly bounder Mac was, and the poor mater DID overdo
the youthful! We never called the doctor in until the day she
wanted to go to a swell ball in London as Little Red Riding-hood.
But the doctor writes me that the experiment was a success, and
they'll be all right when they get back to London."
"Then, it seems, sir, that you and I were the only sane ones here,"
said Sir Midas furiously.
"Really it's as much as I can do to be certain about myself, old
chappie," said Fitz-Fulke, turning away.