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The Captain of the Polestar by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 4 out of 5

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sheep which were kept on board for the officers' table, and pouring
a can of rumbo down its throat, reduced it to a state of utter
intoxication. He then conveyed it to Anchorstock's berth, and with
the assistance of some other imps, as mischievous as himself,
dressed it up in a high nightcap and gown, and covered it over with
the bedclothes.

"When the quartermaster came down from his watch our hero met him
at the door of his berth with an agitated face. `Mr. Anchorstock,'
said he, `can it be that your wife is on board?' `Wife!' roared
the astonished sailor. `Ye white-faced swab, what d'ye mean?' `If
she's not here in the ship it must be her ghost,' said Cyprian,
shaking his head gloomily. `In the ship! How in thunder could she
get into the ship? Why, master, I believe as how you're weak in
the upper works, d'ye see? to as much as think o' such a thing. My
Poll is moored head and starn, behind the point at Portsmouth,
more'n two thousand mile away.' `Upon my word,' said our hero,
very earnestly, `I saw a female look out of your cabin not five
minutes ago.' `Ay, ay, Mr. Anchorstock,' joined in several of the
conspirators. `We all saw her--a spanking-looking craft with a
dead-light mounted on one side.' `Sure enough,' said Anchorstock,
staggered by this accumulation of evidence, `my Polly's starboard
eye was doused for ever by long Sue Williams of the Hard. But if
so be as she be there I must see her, be she ghost or quick;'
with which the honest sailor, in much perturbation and trembling in
every limb, began to shuffle forward into the cabin, holding the
light well in front of him. It chanced, however, that the unhappy
sheep, which was quietly engaged in sleeping off the effects of its
unusual potations, was awakened by the noise of this approach, and
finding herself in such an unusual position, sprang out of the bed
and rushed furiously for the door, bleating wildly, and rolling
about like a brig in a tornado, partly from intoxication and partly
from the night-dress which impeded her movements. As Anchorstock
saw this extraordinary apparition bearing down upon him, he uttered
a yell and fell flat upon his face, convinced that he had to do
with a supernatural visitor, the more so as the confederates
heightened the effect by a chorus of most ghastly groans and cries.

The joke had nearly gone beyond what was originally intended, for
the quartermaster lay as one dead, and it was only with the
greatest difficulty that he could be brought to his senses. To the
end of the voyage he stoutly asserted that he had seen the distant
Mrs. Anchorstock, remarking with many oaths that though he was too
woundily scared to take much note of the features, there was no
mistaking the strong smell of rum which was characteristic of his
better half.

"It chanced shortly after this to be the king's birthday, an event
which was signalised aboard the Lightening by the death of the
commander under singular circumstances. This officer, who was a
real fair-weather Jack, hardly knowing the ship's keel from
her ensign, had obtained his position through parliamentary
interest, and used it with such tyranny and cruelty that he was
universally execrated. So unpopular was he that when a plot was
entered into by the whole crew to punish his misdeeds with death,
he had not a single friend among six hundred souls to warn him of
his danger. It was the custom on board the king's ships that upon
his birthday the entire ship's company should be drawn up upon
deck, and that at a signal they should discharge their muskets into
the air in honour of his Majesty. On this occasion word had been
secretly passed round for every man to slip a slug into his
firelock, instead of the blank cartridge provided. On the
boatswain blowing his whistle the men mustered upon deck and formed
line, whilst the captain, standing well in front of them, delivered
a few words to them. `When I give the word,' he concluded, `you
shall discharge your pieces, and by thunder, if any man is a second
before or a second after his fellows I shall trice him up to the
weather rigging!' With these words he roared `Fire!' on which
every man levelled his musket straight at his head and pulled the
trigger. So accurate was the aim and so short the distance, that
more than five hundred bullets struck him simultaneously, blowing
away his head and a large portion of his body. There were so many
concerned in this matter, and it was so hopeless to trace it to any
individual, that the officers were unable to punish any one for the
affair--the more readily as the captain's haughty ways and
heartless conduct had made him quite as hateful to them as to the
men whom they commanded.

"By his pleasantries and the natural charm of his manners our hero
so far won the good wishes of the ship's company that they parted
with infinite regret upon their arrival in England. Filial duty,
however, urged him to return home and report himself to his father,
with which object he posted from Portsmouth to London, intending to
proceed thence to Shropshire. As it chanced, however, one of the
horses sprained his off foreleg while passing through Chichester,
and as no change could be obtained, Cyprian found himself compelled
to put up at the Crown and Bull for the night.

"Ods bodikins!" continued Smollett, laughing, "I never could pass
a comfortable hostel without stopping, and so, with your
permission, I'll e'en stop here, and whoever wills may lead friend
Cyprian to his further adventures. Do you, Sir Walter, give us a
touch of the Wizard of the North."

With these words Smollett produced a pipe, and filling it at
Defoe's tobacco-pot, waited patiently for the continuation of the

"If I must, I must," remarked the illustrious Scotchman, taking a
pinch of snuff; "but I must beg leave to put Mr. Wells back a few
hundred years, for of all things I love the true mediaeval smack.
To proceed then:--

"Our hero, being anxious to continue his journey, and learning that
it would be some time before any conveyance would be ready,
determined to push on alone mounted on his gallant grey steed.
Travelling was particularly dangerous at that time, for besides the
usual perils which beset wayfarers, the southern parts of England
were in a lawless and disturbed state which bordered on
insurrection. The young man, however, having loosened his sword in
his sheath, so as to be ready for every eventuality, galloped
cheerily upon his way, guiding himself to the best of his ability
by the light of the rising moon.

"He had not gone far before he realised that the cautions which had
been impressed upon him by the landlord, and which he had been
inclined to look upon as self-interested advice, were only too well
justified. At a spot where the road was particularly rough, and
ran across some marsh land, he perceived a short distance from him
a dark shadow, which his practised eye detected at once as a body
of crouching men. Reining up his horse within a few yards of the
ambuscade, he wrapped his cloak round his bridle-arm and summoned
the party to stand forth.

"`What ho, my masters!' he cried. `Are beds so scarce, then, that
ye must hamper the high road of the king with your bodies? Now, by
St. Ursula of Alpuxerra, there be those who might think that birds
who fly o' nights were after higher game than the moorhen or the

"`Blades and targets, comrades!' exclaimed a tall powerful man,
springing into the centre of the road with several companions, and
standing in front of the frightened horse. `Who is this
swashbuckler who summons his Majesty's lieges from their repose?
A very soldado, o' truth. Hark ye, sir, or my lord, or thy grace,
or whatsoever title your honour's honour may be pleased to approve,
thou must curb thy tongue play, or by the seven witches of
Gambleside thou may find thyself in but a sorry plight.'

"`I prythee, then, that thou wilt expound to me who and what ye
are,' quoth our hero, `and whether your purpose be such as an
honest man may approve of. As to your threats, they turn from my
mind as your caitiffly weapons would shiver upon my hauberk from

"`Nay, Allen,' interrupted one of the party, addressing him who
seemed to be their leader; `this is a lad of mettle, and such a one
as our honest Jack longs for. But we lure not hawks with empty
hands. Look ye, sir, there is game afoot which it may need such
bold hunters as thyself to follow. Come with us and take a firkin
of canary, and we will find better work for that glaive of thine
than getting its owner into broil and bloodshed; for, by my troth!
Milan or no Milan, if my curtel axe do but ring against that morion
of thine it will be an ill day for thy father's son.'

"For a moment our hero hesitated as to whether it would best become
his knightly traditions to hurl himself against his enemies, or
whether it might not be better to obey their requests. Prudence,
mingled with a large share of curiosity, eventually carried the
day, and dismounting from his horse, he intimated that he was ready
to follow his captors.

"`Spoken like a man!' cried he whom they addressed as Allen. `Jack
Cade will be right glad of such a recruit. Blood and carrion! but
thou hast the thews of a young ox; and I swear, by the haft of my
sword, that it might have gone ill with some of us hadst thou not
listened to reason!'

"`Nay, not so, good Allen--not so,' squeaked a very small man, who
had remained in the background while there was any prospect of a
fray, but who now came pushing to the front. `Hadst thou been
alone it might indeed have been so, perchance, but an expert
swordsman can disarm at pleasure such a one as this young knight.
Well I remember in the Palatinate how I clove to the chine even
such another--the Baron von Slogstaff. He struck at me, look ye,
so; but I, with buckler and blade, did, as one might say, deflect
it; and then, countering in carte, I returned in tierce, and so--
St. Agnes save us! who comes here?'

"The apparition which frightened the loquacious little man was
sufficiently strange to cause a qualm even in the bosom of the
knight. Through the darkness there loomed a figure which appeared
to be of gigantic size, and a hoarse voice, issuing apparently some
distance above the heads of the party, broke roughly on the silence
of the night.

"`Now out upon thee, Thomas Allen, and foul be thy fate if thou
hast abandoned thy post without good and sufficient cause. By St.
Anselm of the Holy Grove, thou hadst best have never been born than
rouse my spleen this night. Wherefore is it that you <224>and your
men are trailing over the moor like a flock of geese when
Michaelmas is near?'

"`Good captain,' said Allen, doffing his bonnet, an example
followed by others of the band, `we have captured a goodly youth
who was pricking it along the London road. Methought that some
word of thanks were meet reward for such service, rather than taunt
or threat.'

"`Nay, take it not to heart, bold Allen,' exclaimed their leader,
who was none other than the great Jack Cade himself. `Thou knowest
of old that my temper is somewhat choleric, and my tongue not
greased with that unguent which oils the mouths of the lip-serving
lords of the land. And you,' he continued, turning suddenly upon
our hero, `are you ready to join the great cause which will make
England what it was when the learned Alfred reigned in the land?
Zounds, man, speak out, and pick not your phrases.'

"`I am ready to do aught which may become a knight and a
gentleman,' said the soldier stoutly.

"`Taxes shall be swept away!' cried Cade excitedly--`the impost and
the anpost--the tithe and the hundred-tax. The poor man's salt-box
and flour-bin shall be as free as the nobleman's cellar. Ha! what
sayest thou?'

"`It is but just,' said our hero.

"`Ay, but they give us such justice as the falcon gives the
leveret!' roared the orator. `Down with them, I say--down with
every man of them! Noble and judge, priest and king, down with
them all!'

"`Nay,' said Sir Overbeck Wells, drawing himself up to his full
height, and laying his hand upon the hilt of his sword, `there I
cannot follow thee, but must rather defy thee as traitor and
faineant, seeing that thou art no true man, but one who would usurp
the rights of our master the king, whom may the Virgin protect!'

"At these bold words, and the defiance which they conveyed, the
rebels seemed for a moment utterly bewildered; but, encouraged by
the hoarse shout of their leader, they brandished their weapons and
prepared to fall upon the knight, who placed himself in a posture
for defence and awaited their attack.

"There now!" cried Sir Walter, rubbing his hands and chuckling,
"I've put the chiel in a pretty warm corner, and we'll see which of
you moderns can take him oot o't. Ne'er a word more will ye get
frae me to help him one way or the other."

"You try your hand, James," cried several voices, and the author in
question had got so far as to make an allusion to a solitary
horseman who was approaching, when he was interrupted by a tall
gentleman a little farther down with a slight stutter and a very
nervous manner.

"Excuse me," he said, "but I fancy that I may be able to do
something here. Some of my humble productions have been said to
excel Sir Walter at his best, and I was undoubtedly stronger all
round. I could picture modern society as well as ancient; and as
to my plays, why Shakespeare never came near `The <226>Lady of
Lyons' for popularity. There is this little thing----" (Here he
rummaged among a great pile of papers in front of him). "Ah!
that's a report of mine, when I was in India! Here it is. No,
this is one of my speeches in the House, and this is my criticism
on Tennyson. Didn't I warm him up? I can't find what I wanted,
but of course you have read them all--`Rienzi,' and `Harold,' and
`The Last of the Barons.' Every schoolboy knows them by heart, as
poor Macaulay would have said. Allow me to give you a sample:--

"In spite of the gallant knight's valiant resistance the combat was
too unequal to be sustained. His sword was broken by a slash from
a brown bill, and he was borne to the ground. He expected
immediate death, but such did not seem to be the intention of the
ruffians who had captured him. He was placed upon the back of his
own charger and borne, bound hand and foot, over the trackless
moor, in the fastnesses of which the rebels secreted themselves.

"In the depths of these wilds there stood a stone building which
had once been a farm-house, but having been for some reason
abandoned had fallen into ruin, and had now become the headquarters
of Cade and his men. A large cowhouse near the farm had been
utilised as sleeping quarters, and some rough attempts had been
made to shield the principal room of the main building from the
weather by stopping up the gaping apertures in the walls. In this
apartment was spread out a rough meal for the returning rebels, and
our hero was thrown, still bound, into an empty outhouse,
there to await his fate."

Sir Walter had been listening with the greatest impatience to
Bulwer Lytton's narrative, but when it had reached this point he
broke in impatiently.

"We want a touch of your own style, man," he said. "The animal-
magnetico-electro-hysterical-biological-mysterious sort of story is
all your own, but at present you are just a poor copy of myself,
and nothing more."

There was a murmur of assent from the company, and Defoe remarked,
"Truly, Master Lytton, there is a plaguey resemblance in the style,
which may indeed be but a chance, and yet methinks it is
sufficiently marked to warrant such words as our friend hath used."

"Perhaps you will think that this is an imitation also," said
Lytton bitterly, and leaning back in his chair with a morose
countenance, he continued the narrative in this way:--

"Our unfortunate hero had hardly stretched himself upon the straw
with which his dungeon was littered, when a secret door opened in
the wall and a venerable old man swept majestically into the
apartment. The prisoner gazed upon him with astonishment not
unmixed with awe, for on his broad brow was printed the seal of
much knowledge--such knowledge as it is not granted to the son of
man to know. He was clad in a long white robe, crossed and
chequered with mystic devices in the Arabic character, while a high
scarlet tiara marked with the square and circle enhanced his
venerable appearance. `My son,' he said, turning his piercing
and yet dreamy gaze upon Sir Overbeck, `all things lead to nothing,
and nothing is the foundation of all things. Cosmos is
impenetrable. Why then should we exist?'

"Astounded at this weighty query, and at the philosophic demeanour
of his visitor, our hero made shift to bid him welcome and to
demand his name and quality. As the old man answered him his voice
rose and fell in musical cadences, like the sighing of the east
wind, while an ethereal and aromatic vapour pervaded the apartment.

"`I am the eternal non-ego,' he answered. "I am the concentrated
negative--the everlasting essence of nothing. You see in me that
which existed before the beginning of matter many years before the
commencement of time. I am the algebraic _x_ which represents the
infinite divisibility of a finite particle.'

"Sir Overbeck felt a shudder as though an ice-cold hand had been
placed upon his brow. `What is your message?' he whispered,
falling prostrate before his mysterious visitor.

"`To tell you that the eternities beget chaos, and that the
immensities are at the mercy of the divine ananke. Infinitude
crouches before a personality. The mercurial essence is the prime
mover in spirituality, and the thinker is powerless before the
pulsating inanity. The cosmical procession is terminated only by
the unknowable and unpronounceable'----

"May I ask, Mr. Smollett, what you find to laugh at?"

"Gad zooks, master," cried Smollett, who had been sniggering for
some time back. "It seems to me that there is little danger of any
one venturing to dispute that style with you."

"It's all your own," murmured Sir Walter.

"And very pretty, too," quoth Lawrence Sterne, with a malignant
grin. "Pray sir, what language do you call it?"

Lytton was so enraged at these remarks, and at the favour with
which they appeared to be received, that he endeavoured to stutter
out some reply, and then, losing control of himself completely,
picked up all his loose papers and strode out of the room, dropping
pamphlets and speeches at every step. This incident amused the
company so much that they laughed for several minutes without
cessation. Gradually the sound of their laughter sounded more and
more harshly in my ears, the lights on the table grew dim and the
company more misty, until they and their symposium vanished away
altogether. I was sitting before the embers of what had been a
roaring fire, but was now little more than a heap of grey ashes,
and the merry laughter of the august company had changed to the
recriminations of my wife, who was shaking me violently by the
shoulder and exhorting me to choose some more seasonable spot for
my slumbers. So ended the wondrous adventures of Master Cyprian
Overbeck Wells, but I still live in the hopes that in some future
dream the great masters may themselves finish that which they have


It might seem rash of me to say that I ascribe the death of my poor
friend, John Barrington Cowles, to any preternatural agency. I am
aware that in the present state of public feeling a chain of
evidence would require to be strong indeed before the possibility
of such a conclusion could be admitted.

I shall therefore merely state the circumstances which led up to
this sad event as concisely and as plainly as I can, and leave
every reader to draw his own deductions. Perhaps there may be some
one who can throw light upon what is dark to me.

I first met Barrington Cowles when I went up to Edinburgh
University to take out medical classes there. My landlady in
Northumberland Street had a large house, and, being a widow without
children, she gained a livelihood by providing accommodation for
several students.

Barrington Cowles happened to have taken a bedroom upon the same
floor as mine, and when we came to know each other better we shared
a small sitting-room, in which we took our meals. In this manner
we originated a friendship which was unmarred by the slightest
disagreement up to the day of his death.

Cowles' father was the colonel of a Sikh regiment and had remained
in India for many years. He allowed his son a handsome income, but
seldom gave any other sign of parental affection--writing
irregularly and briefly.

My friend, who had himself been born in India, and whose whole
disposition was an ardent tropical one, was much hurt by this
neglect. His mother was dead, and he had no other relation in the
world to supply the blank.

Thus he came in time to concentrate all his affection upon me, and
to confide in me in a manner which is rare among men. Even when a
stronger and deeper passion came upon him, it never infringed upon
the old tenderness between us.

Cowles was a tall, slim young fellow, with an olive, Velasquez-like
face, and dark, tender eyes. I have seldom seen a man who was more
likely to excite a woman's interest, or to captivate her
imagination. His expression was, as a rule, dreamy, and even
languid; but if in conversation a subject arose which interested
him he would be all animation in a moment. On such occasions his
colour would heighten, his eyes gleam, and he could speak with an
eloquence which would carry his audience with him.

In spite of these natural advantages he led a solitary life,
avoiding female society, and reading with great diligence. He was
one of the foremost men of his year, taking the senior medal for
anatomy, and the Neil Arnott prize for physics.

How well I can recollect the first time we met her! Often and
often I have recalled the circumstances, and tried to remember what
the exact impression was which she produced on my mind at the time.

After we came to know her my judgment was warped, so that I am
curious to recollect what my unbiassed{sic} instincts were. It is
hard, however, to eliminate the feelings which reason or prejudice
afterwards raised in me.

It was at the opening of the Royal Scottish Academy in the spring
of 1879. My poor friend was passionately attached to art in every
form, and a pleasing chord in music or a delicate effect upon
canvas would give exquisite pleasure to his highly-strung nature.
We had gone together to see the pictures, and were standing in the
grand central salon, when I noticed an extremely beautiful woman
standing at the other side of the room. In my whole life I have
never seen such a classically perfect countenance. It was the real
Greek type--the forehead broad, very low, and as white as marble,
with a cloudlet of delicate locks wreathing round it, the nose
straight and clean cut, the lips inclined to thinness, the chin and
lower jaw beautifully rounded off, and yet sufficiently developed
to promise unusual strength of character.

But those eyes--those wonderful eyes! If I could but give some
faint idea of their varying moods, their steely hardness, their
feminine softness, their power of command, their penetrating
intensity suddenly melting away into an expression of womanly
weakness--but I am speaking now of future impressions!

There was a tall, yellow-haired young man with this lady, whom I at
once recognised as a law student with whom I had a slight

Archibald Reeves--for that was his name--was a dashing, handsome
young fellow, and had at one time been a ringleader in every
university escapade; but of late I had seen little of him, and the
report was that he was engaged to be married. His companion was,
then, I presumed, his fiancee. I seated myself upon the velvet
settee in the centre of the room, and furtively watched the couple
from behind my catalogue.

The more I looked at her the more her beauty grew upon me. She was
somewhat short in stature, it is true; but her figure was
perfection, and she bore herself in such a fashion that it was only
by actual comparison that one would have known her to be under the
medium height.

As I kept my eyes upon them, Reeves was called away for some
reason, and the young lady was left alone. Turning her back to the
pictures, she passed the time until the return of her escort in
taking a deliberate survey of the company, without paying the least
heed to the fact that a dozen pair of eyes, attracted by her
elegance and beauty, were bent curiously upon her. With one of her
hands holding the red silk cord which railed off the pictures, she
stood languidly moving her eyes from face to face with as
little self-consciousness as if she were looking at the canvas
creatures behind her. Suddenly, as I watched her, I saw her gaze
become fixed, and, as it were, intense. I followed the direction
of her looks, wondering what could have attracted her so strongly.

John Barrington Cowles was standing before a picture--one, I think,
by Noel Paton--I know that the subject was a noble and ethereal
one. His profile was turned towards us, and never have I seen him
to such advantage. I have said that he was a strikingly handsome
man, but at that moment he looked absolutely magnificent. It was
evident that he had momentarily forgotten his surroundings, and
that his whole soul was in sympathy with the picture before him.
His eyes sparkled, and a dusky pink shone through his clear olive
cheeks. She continued to watch him fixedly, with a look of
interest upon her face, until he came out of his reverie with a
start, and turned abruptly round, so that his gaze met hers. She
glanced away at once, but his eyes remained fixed upon her for some
moments. The picture was forgotten already, and his soul had come
down to earth once more.

We caught sight of her once or twice before we left, and each time
I noticed my friend look after her. He made no remark, however,
until we got out into the open air, and were walking arm-in-arm
along Princes Street.

"Did you notice that beautiful woman, in the dark dress, with the
white fur?" he asked.

"Yes, I saw her," I answered.

"Do you know her?" he asked eagerly. "Have you any idea who she

"I don't know her personally," I replied. "But I have no doubt I
could find out all about her, for I believe she is engaged to young
Archie Reeves, and he and I have a lot of mutual friends."

"Engaged!" ejaculated Cowles.

"Why, my dear boy," I said, laughing, "you don't mean to say you
are so susceptible that the fact that a girl to whom you never
spoke in your life is engaged is enough to upset you?"

"Well, not exactly to upset me," he answered, forcing a laugh.
"But I don't mind telling you, Armitage, that I never was so taken
by any one in my life. It wasn't the mere beauty of the face--
though that was perfect enough--but it was the character and the
intellect upon it. I hope, if she is engaged, that it is to some
man who will be worthy of her."

"Why," I remarked, "you speak quite feelingly. It is a clear case
of love at first sight, Jack. However, to put your perturbed
spirit at rest, I'll make a point of finding out all about her
whenever I meet any fellow who is likely to know."

Barrington Cowles thanked me, and the conversation drifted off into
other channels. For several days neither of us made any allusion
to the subject, though my companion was perhaps a little more
dreamy and distraught than usual. The incident had almost vanished
from my remembrance, when one day young Brodie, who is a
second cousin of mine, came up to me on the university steps with
the face of a bearer of tidings.

"I say," he began, "you know Reeves, don't you?"

"Yes. What of him?"

"His engagement is off."

"Off!" I cried. "Why, I only learned the other day that it was

"Oh, yes--it's all off. His brother told me so. Deucedly mean of
Reeves, you know, if he has backed out of it, for she was an
uncommonly nice girl."

"I've seen her," I said; "but I don't know her name."

"She is a Miss Northcott, and lives with an old aunt of hers in
Abercrombie Place. Nobody knows anything about her people, or
where she comes from. Anyhow, she is about the most unlucky girl
in the world, poor soul!"

"Why unlucky?"

"Well, you know, this was her second engagement," said young
Brodie, who had a marvellous knack of knowing everything about
everybody. "She was engaged to Prescott--William Prescott, who
died. That was a very sad affair. The wedding day was fixed, and
the whole thing looked as straight as a die when the smash came."

"What smash?" I asked, with some dim recollection of the

"Why, Prescott's death. He came to Abercrombie Place one night,
and stayed very late. No one knows exactly when he left, but
about one in the morning a fellow who knew him met him walking
rapidly in the direction of the Queen's Park. He bade him good
night, but Prescott hurried on without heeding him, and that was
the last time he was ever seen alive. Three days afterwards his
body was found floating in St. Margaret's Loch, under St. Anthony's
Chapel. No one could ever understand it, but of course the verdict
brought it in as temporary insanity."

"It was very strange," I remarked.

"Yes, and deucedly rough on the poor girl," said Brodie. "Now that
this other blow has come it will quite crush her. So gentle and
ladylike she is too!"

"You know her personally, then!" I asked.

"Oh, yes, I know her. I have met her several times. I could
easily manage that you should be introduced to her."

"Well," I answered, "it's not so much for my own sake as for a
friend of mine. However, I don't suppose she will go out much for
some little time after this. When she does I will take advantage
of your offer."

We shook hands on this, and I thought no more of the matter for
some time.

The next incident which I have to relate as bearing at all upon the
question of Miss Northcott is an unpleasant one. Yet I must detail
it as accurately as possible, since it may throw some light upon
the sequel. One cold night, several months after the conversation
with my second cousin which I have quoted above, I was walking down
one of the lowest streets in the city on my way back from a
case which I had been attending. It was very late, and I was
picking my way among the dirty loungers who were clustering round
the doors of a great gin-palace, when a man staggered out from
among them, and held out his hand to me with a drunken leer. The
gaslight fell full upon his face, and, to my intense astonishment,
I recognised in the degraded creature before me my former
acquaintance, young Archibald Reeves, who had once been famous as
one of the most dressy and particular men in the whole college. I
was so utterly surprised that for a moment I almost doubted the
evidence of my own senses; but there was no mistaking those
features, which, though bloated with drink, still retained
something of their former comeliness. I was determined to rescue
him, for one night at least, from the company into which he had

"Holloa, Reeves!" I said. "Come along with me. I'm going in your

He muttered some incoherent apology for his condition, and took my
arm. As I supported him towards his lodgings I could see that he
was not only suffering from the effects of a recent debauch, but
that a long course of intemperance had affected his nerves and his
brain. His hand when I touched it was dry and feverish, and he
started from every shadow which fell upon the pavement. He rambled
in his speech, too, in a manner which suggested the delirium of
disease rather than the talk of a drunkard.

When I got him to his lodgings I partially undressed him and laid
him upon his bed. His pulse at this time was very high, and he was
evidently extremely feverish. He seemed to have sunk into a doze;
and I was about to steal out of the room to warn his landlady of
his condition, when he started up and caught me by the sleeve of my

"Don't go!" he cried. "I feel better when you are here. I am safe
from her then."

"From her!" I said. "From whom?"

"Her! her!" he answered peevishly. "Ah! you don't know her. She
is the devil! Beautiful--beautiful; but the devil!"

"You are feverish and excited," I said. "Try and get a little
sleep. You will wake better."

"Sleep!" he groaned. "How am I to sleep when I see her sitting
down yonder at the foot of the bed with her great eyes watching and
watching hour after hour? I tell you it saps all the strength and
manhood out of me. That's what makes me drink. God help me--I'm
half drunk now!"

"You are very ill," I said, putting some vinegar to his temples;
"and you are delirious. You don't know what you say."

"Yes, I do," he interrupted sharply, looking up at me. "I know
very well what I say. I brought it upon myself. It is my own
choice. But I couldn't--no, by heaven, I couldn't--accept the
alternative. I couldn't keep my faith to her. It was more than
man could do."

I sat by the side of the bed, holding one of his burning hands in
mine, and wondering over his strange words. He lay still for some
time, and then, raising his eyes to me, said in a most plaintive

"Why did she not give me warning sooner? Why did she wait until I
had learned to love her so?"

He repeated this question several times, rolling his feverish head
from side to side, and then he dropped into a troubled sleep. I
crept out of the room, and, having seen that he would be properly
cared for, left the house. His words, however, rang in my ears for
days afterwards, and assumed a deeper significance when taken with
what was to come.

My friend, Barrington Cowles, had been away for his summer
holidays, and I had heard nothing of him for several months. When
the winter session came on, however, I received a telegram from
him, asking me to secure the old rooms in Northumberland Street for
him, and telling me the train by which he would arrive. I went
down to meet him, and was delighted to find him looking wonderfully
hearty and well.

"By the way," he said suddenly, that night, as we sat in our chairs
by the fire, talking over the events of the holidays, "you have
never congratulated me yet!"

"On what, my boy?" I asked.

"What! Do you mean to say you have not heard of my engagement?"

"Engagement! No!" I answered. "However, I am delighted to
hear it, and congratulate you with all my heart."

"I wonder it didn't come to your ears," he said. "It was the
queerest thing. You remember that girl whom we both admired so
much at the Academy?"

"What!" I cried, with a vague feeling of apprehension at my heart.
"You don't mean to say that you are engaged to her?"

"I thought you would be surprised," he answered. "When I was
staying with an old aunt of mine in Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire,
the Northcotts happened to come there on a visit, and as we had
mutual friends we soon met. I found out that it was a false alarm
about her being engaged, and then--well, you know what it is when
you are thrown into the society of such a girl in a place like
Peterhead. Not, mind you," he added, "that I consider I did a
foolish or hasty thing. I have never regretted it for a moment.
The more I know Kate the more I admire her and love her. However,
you must be introduced to her, and then you will form your own

I expressed my pleasure at the prospect, and endeavoured to speak
as lightly as I could to Cowles upon the subject, but I felt
depressed and anxious at heart. The words of Reeves and the
unhappy fate of young Prescott recurred to my recollection, and
though I could assign no tangible reason for it, a vague, dim fear
and distrust of the woman took possession of me. It may be that
this was foolish prejudice and superstition upon my part, and that
I involuntarily contorted her future doings and sayings to fit
into some half-formed wild theory of my own. This has been
suggested to me by others as an explanation of my narrative. They
are welcome to their opinion if they can reconcile it with the
facts which I have to tell.

I went round with my friend a few days afterwards to call upon Miss
Northcott. I remember that, as we went down Abercrombie Place, our
attention was attracted by the shrill yelping of a dog--which noise
proved eventually to come from the house to which we were bound.
We were shown upstairs, where I was introduced to old Mrs. Merton,
Miss Northcott's aunt, and to the young lady herself. She looked
as beautiful as ever, and I could not wonder at my friend's
infatuation. Her face was a little more flushed than usual, and
she held in her hand a heavy dog-whip, with which she had been
chastising a small Scotch terrier, whose cries we had heard in the
street. The poor brute was cringing up against the wall, whining
piteously, and evidently completely cowed.

"So Kate," said my friend, after we had taken our seats, "you have
been falling out with Carlo again."

"Only a very little quarrel this time," she said, smiling
charmingly. "He is a dear, good old fellow, but he needs
correction now and then." Then, turning to me, "We all do that,
Mr. Armitage, don't we? What a capital thing if, instead of
receiving a collective punishment at the end of our lives, we were
to have one at once, as the dogs do, when we did anything wicked.
It would make us more careful, wouldn't it?"

I acknowledged that it would.

"Supposing that every time a man misbehaved himself a gigantic hand
were to seize him, and he were lashed with a whip until he
fainted"--she clenched her white fingers as she spoke, and cut out
viciously with the dog-whip--"it would do more to keep him good
than any number of high-minded theories of morality."

"Why, Kate," said my friend, "you are quite savage to-day."

"No, Jack," she laughed. "I'm only propounding a theory for Mr.
Armitage's consideration."

The two began to chat together about some Aberdeenshire
reminiscence, and I had time to observe Mrs. Merton, who had
remained silent during our short conversation. She was a very
strange-looking old lady. What attracted attention most in her
appearance was the utter want of colour which she exhibited. Her
hair was snow-white, and her face extremely pale. Her lips were
bloodless, and even her eyes were of such a light tinge of blue
that they hardly relieved the general pallor. Her dress was a grey
silk, which harmonised with her general appearance. She had a
peculiar expression of countenance, which I was unable at the
moment to refer to its proper cause.

She was working at some old-fashioned piece of ornamental
needlework, and as she moved her arms her dress gave forth a dry,
melancholy rustling, like the sound of leaves in the autumn. There
was something mournful and depressing in the sight of her. I
moved my chair a little nearer, and asked her how she liked
Edinburgh, and whether she had been there long.

When I spoke to her she started and looked up at me with a scared
look on her face. Then I saw in a moment what the expression was
which I had observed there. It was one of fear--intense and
overpowering fear. It was so marked that I could have staked my
life on the woman before me having at some period of her life been
subjected to some terrible experience or dreadful misfortune.

"Oh, yes, I like it," she said, in a soft, timid voice; "and we
have been here long--that is, not very long. We move about a great
deal." She spoke with hesitation, as if afraid of committing

"You are a native of Scotland, I presume?" I said.

"No--that is, not entirely. We are not natives of any place. We
are cosmopolitan, you know." She glanced round in the direction of
Miss Northcott as she spoke, but the two were still chatting
together near the window. Then she suddenly bent forward to me,
with a look of intense earnestness upon her face, and said--

"Don't talk to me any more, please. She does not like it, and I
shall suffer for it afterwards. Please, don't do it."

I was about to ask her the reason for this strange request, but
when she saw I was going to address her, she rose and walked slowly
out of the room. As she did so I perceived that the lovers had
ceased to talk and that Miss Northcott was looking at me with
her keen, grey eyes.

"You must excuse my aunt, Mr. Armitage," she said; "she is odd, and
easily fatigued. Come over and look at my album."

We spent some time examining the portraits. Miss Northcott's
father and mother were apparently ordinary mortals enough, and I
could not detect in either of them any traces of the character
which showed itself in their daughter's face. There was one old
daguerreotype, however, which arrested my attention. It
represented a man of about the age of forty, and strikingly
handsome. He was clean shaven, and extraordinary power was
expressed upon his prominent lower jaw and firm, straight mouth.
His eyes were somewhat deeply set in his head, however, and there
was a snake-like flattening at the upper part of his forehead,
which detracted from his appearance. I almost involuntarily, when
I saw the head, pointed to it, and exclaimed--

"There is your prototype in your family, Miss Northcott."

"Do you think so?" she said. "I am afraid you are paying me a very
bad compliment. Uncle Anthony was always considered the black
sheep of the family."

"Indeed," I answered; "my remark was an unfortunate one, then."

"Oh, don't mind that," she said; "I always thought myself that he
was worth all of them put together. He was an officer in the
Forty-first Regiment, and he was killed in action during the
Persian War--so he died nobly, at any rate."

"That's the sort of death I should like to die," said Cowles, his
dark eyes flashing, as they would when he was excited; "I often
wish I had taken to my father's profession instead of this vile
pill-compounding drudgery."

"Come, Jack, you are not going to die any sort of death yet," she
said, tenderly taking his hand in hers.

I could not understand the woman. There was such an extraordinary
mixture of masculine decision and womanly tenderness about her,
with the consciousness of something all her own in the background,
that she fairly puzzled me. I hardly knew, therefore, how to
answer Cowles when, as we walked down the street together, he asked
the comprehensive question--

"Well, what do you think of her?"

"I think she is wonderfully beautiful," I answered guardedly.

"That, of course," he replied irritably. "You knew that before you

"I think she is very clever too," I remarked.

Barrington Cowles walked on for some time, and then he suddenly
turned on me with the strange question--

"Do you think she is cruel? Do you think she is the sort of girl
who would take a pleasure in inflicting pain?"

"Well, really," I answered, "I have hardly had time to form an

We then walked on for some time in silence.

"She is an old fool," at length muttered Cowles. "She is mad."

"Who is?" I asked.

"Why, that old woman--that aunt of Kate's--Mrs. Merton, or whatever
her name is."

Then I knew that my poor colourless friend had been speaking to
Cowles, but he never said anything more as to the nature of her

My companion went to bed early that night, and I sat up a long time
by the fire, thinking over all that I had seen and heard. I felt
that there was some mystery about the girl--some dark fatality so
strange as to defy conjecture. I thought of Prescott's interview
with her before their marriage, and the fatal termination of it.
I coupled it with poor drunken Reeves' plaintive cry, "Why did she
not tell me sooner?" and with the other words he had spoken. Then
my mind ran over Mrs. Merton's warning to me, Cowles' reference to
her, and even the episode of the whip and the cringing dog.

The whole effect of my recollections was unpleasant to a degree,
and yet there was no tangible charge which I could bring against
the woman. It would be worse than useless to attempt to warn my
friend until I had definitely made up my mind what I was to warn
him against. He would treat any charge against her with scorn.
What could I do? How could I get at some tangible conclusion as to
her character and antecedents? No one in Edinburgh knew them
except as recent acquaintances. She was an orphan, and as far as
I knew she had never disclosed where her former home had been.
Suddenly an idea struck me. Among my father's friends there was a
Colonel Joyce, who had served a long time in India upon the staff,
and who would be likely to know most of the officers who had been
out there since the Mutiny. I sat down at once, and, having
trimmed the lamp, proceeded to write a letter to the Colonel. I
told him that I was very curious to gain some particulars about a
certain Captain Northcott, who had served in the Forty-first Foot,
and who had fallen in the Persian War. I described the man as well
as I could from my recollection of the daguerreotype, and then,
having directed the letter, posted it that very night, after which,
feeling that I had done all that could be done, I retired to bed,
with a mind too anxious to allow me to sleep.


I got an answer from Leicester, where the Colonel resided, within
two days. I have it before me as I write, and copy it verbatim.

"DEAR BOB," it said, "I remember the man well. I was with him at
Calcutta, and afterwards at Hyderabad. He was a curious, solitary
sort of mortal; but a gallant soldier enough, for he distinguished
himself at Sobraon, and was wounded, if I remember right. He
was not popular in his corps--they said he was a pitiless,
cold-blooded fellow, with no geniality in him. There was a rumour,
too, that he was a devil-worshipper, or something of that sort, and
also that he had the evil eye, which, of course, was all nonsense.
He had some strange theories, I remember, about the power of the
human will and the effects of mind upon matter.

"How are you getting on with your medical studies? Never forget,
my boy, that your father's son has every claim upon me, and that if
I can serve you in any way I am always at your command.--Ever
affectionately yours,

"P.S.--By the way, Northcott did not fall in action. He was
killed after peace was declared in a crazy attempt to get some of
the eternal fire from the sun-worshippers' temple. There was
considerable mystery about his death."

I read this epistle over several times--at first with a feeling of
satisfaction, and then with one of disappointment. I had come on
some curious information, and yet hardly what I wanted. He was an
eccentric man, a devil-worshipper, and rumoured to have the power
of the evil eye. I could believe the young lady's eyes, when
endowed with that cold, grey shimmer which I had noticed in them
once or twice, to be capable of any evil which human eye ever
wrought; but still the superstition was an effete one. Was there
not more meaning in that sentence which followed--"He had
theories of the power of the human will and of the effect of mind
upon matter"? I remember having once read a quaint treatise, which
I had imagined to be mere charlatanism at the time, of the power of
certain human minds, and of effects produced by them at a distance.

Was Miss Northcott endowed with some exceptional power of the sort?

The idea grew upon me, and very shortly I had evidence which
convinced me of the truth of the supposition.

It happened that at the very time when my mind was dwelling upon
this subject, I saw a notice in the paper that our town was to be
visited by Dr. Messinger, the well-known medium and mesmerist.
Messinger was a man whose performance, such as it was, had been
again and again pronounced to be genuine by competent judges. He
was far above trickery, and had the reputation of being the
soundest living authority upon the strange pseudo-sciences of
animal magnetism and electro-biology. Determined, therefore, to
see what the human will could do, even against all the
disadvantages of glaring footlights and a public platform, I took
a ticket for the first night of the performance, and went with
several student friends.

We had secured one of the side boxes, and did not arrive until
after the performance had begun. I had hardly taken my seat before
I recognised Barrington Cowles, with his fiancee and old Mrs.
Merton, sitting in the third or fourth row of the stalls. They
caught sight of me at almost the same moment, and we bowed to
each other. The first portion of the lecture was somewhat
commonplace, the lecturer giving tricks of pure legerdemain, with
one or two manifestations of mesmerism, performed upon a subject
whom he had brought with him. He gave us an exhibition of
clairvoyance too, throwing his subject into a trance, and then
demanding particulars as to the movements of absent friends, and
the whereabouts of hidden objects all of which appeared to be
answered satisfactorily. I had seen all this before, however.
What I wanted to see now was the effect of the lecturer's will when
exerted upon some independent member of the audience.

He came round to that as the concluding exhibition in his
performance. "I have shown you," he said, "that a mesmerised
subject is entirely dominated by the will of the mesmeriser. He
loses all power of volition, and his very thoughts are such as are
suggested to him by the master-mind. The same end may be attained
without any preliminary process. A strong will can, simply by
virtue of its strength, take possession of a weaker one, even at a
distance, and can regulate the impulses and the actions of the
owner of it. If there was one man in the world who had a very much
more highly-developed will than any of the rest of the human
family, there is no reason why he should not be able to rule over
them all, and to reduce his fellow-creatures to the condition of
automatons. Happily there is such a dead level of mental power, or
rather of mental weakness, among us that such a catastrophe is not
likely to occur; but still within our small compass there are
variations which produce surprising effects. I shall now single
out one of the audience, and endeavour `by the mere power of will'
to compel him to come upon the platform, and do and say what I
wish. Let me assure you that there is no collusion, and that the
subject whom I may select is at perfect liberty to resent to the
uttermost any impulse which I may communicate to him."

With these words the lecturer came to the front of the platform,
and glanced over the first few rows of the stalls. No doubt
Cowles' dark skin and bright eyes marked him out as a man of a
highly nervous temperament, for the mesmerist picked him out in a
moment, and fixed his eyes upon him. I saw my friend give a start
of surprise, and then settle down in his chair, as if to express
his determination not to yield to the influence of the operator.
Messinger was not a man whose head denoted any great brain-power,
but his gaze was singularly intense and penetrating. Under the
influence of it Cowles made one or two spasmodic motions of his
hands, as if to grasp the sides of his seat, and then half rose,
but only to sink down again, though with an evident effort. I was
watching the scene with intense interest, when I happened to catch
a glimpse of Miss Northcott's face. She was sitting with her eyes
fixed intently upon the mesmerist, and with such an expression of
concentrated power upon her features as I have never seen on any
other human countenance. Her jaw was firmly set, her lips
compressed, and her face as hard as if it were a beautiful
sculpture cut out of the whitest marble. Her eyebrows were
drawn down, however, and from beneath them her grey eyes seemed to
sparkle and gleam with a cold light.

I looked at Cowles again, expecting every moment to see him rise
and obey the mesmerist's wishes, when there came from the platform
a short, gasping cry as of a man utterly worn out and prostrated by
a prolonged struggle. Messinger was leaning against the table, his
hand to his forehead, and the perspiration pouring down his face.
"I won't go on," he cried, addressing the audience. "There is a
stronger will than mine acting against me. You must excuse me for
to-night." The man was evidently ill, and utterly unable to
proceed, so the curtain was lowered, and the audience dispersed,
with many comments upon the lecturer's sudden indisposition.

I waited outside the hall until my friend and the ladies came out.
Cowles was laughing over his recent experience.

"He didn't succeed with me, Bob," he cried triumphantly, as he
shook my hand. "I think he caught a Tartar that time."

"Yes," said Miss Northcott, "I think that Jack ought to be very
proud of his strength of mind; don't you! Mr. Armitage?"

"It took me all my time, though," my friend said seriously. "You
can't conceive what a strange feeling I had once or twice. All the
strength seemed to have gone out of me--especially just before he
collapsed himself."

I walked round with Cowles in order to see the ladies home. He
walked in front with Mrs. Merton, and I found myself behind with
the young lady. For a minute or so I walked beside her without
making any remark, and then I suddenly blurted out, in a manner
which must have seemed somewhat brusque to her--

"You did that, Miss Northcott."

"Did what?" she asked sharply.

"Why, mesmerised the mesmeriser--I suppose that is the best way of
describing the transaction."

"What a strange idea!" she said, laughing. "You give me credit for
a strong will then?"

"Yes," I said. "For a dangerously strong one."

"Why dangerous?" she asked, in a tone of surprise.

"I think," I answered, "that any will which can exercise such power
is dangerous--for there is always a chance of its being turned to
bad uses."

"You would make me out a very dreadful individual, Mr. Armitage,"
she said; and then looking up suddenly in my face--"You have never
liked me. You are suspicious of me and distrust me, though I have
never given you cause."

The accusation was so sudden and so true that I was unable to find
any reply to it. She paused for a moment, and then said in a voice
which was hard and cold--

"Don't let your prejudice lead you to interfere with me, however,
or say anything to your friend, Mr. Cowles, which might lead
to a difference between us. You would find that to be very bad

There was something in the way she spoke which gave an
indescribable air of a threat to these few words.

"I have no power," I said, "to interfere with your plans for the
future. I cannot help, however, from what I have seen and heard,
having fears for my friend."

"Fears!" she repeated scornfully. "Pray what have you seen and
heard. Something from Mr. Reeves, perhaps--I believe he is another
of your friends?"

"He never mentioned your name to me," I answered, truthfully
enough. "You will be sorry to hear that he is dying." As I said
it we passed by a lighted window, and I glanced down to see what
effect my words had upon her. She was laughing--there was no doubt
of it; she was laughing quietly to herself. I could see merriment
in every feature of her face. I feared and mistrusted the woman
from that moment more than ever.

We said little more that night. When we parted she gave me a
quick, warning glance, as if to remind me of what she had said
about the danger of interference. Her cautions would have made
little difference to me could I have seen my way to benefiting
Barrington Cowles by anything which I might say. But what could I
say? I might say that her former suitors had been unfortunate. I
might say that I believed her to be a cruel-hearted woman. I
might say that I considered her to possess wonderful, and almost
preternatural powers. What impression would any of these
accusations make upon an ardent lover--a man with my friend's
enthusiastic temperament? I felt that it would be useless to
advance them, so I was silent.

And now I come to the beginning of the end. Hitherto much has been
surmise and inference and hearsay. It is my painful task to relate
now, as dispassionately and as accurately as I can, what actually
occurred under my own notice, and to reduce to writing the events
which preceded the death of my friend.

Towards the end of the winter Cowles remarked to me that he
intended to marry Miss Northcott as soon as possible--probably some
time in the spring. He was, as I have already remarked, fairly
well off, and the young lady had some money of her own, so that
there was no pecuniary reason for a long engagement. "We are going
to take a little house out at Corstorphine," he said, "and we hope
to see your face at our table, Bob, as often as you can possibly
come." I thanked him, and tried to shake off my apprehensions, and
persuade myself that all would yet be well.

It was about three weeks before the time fixed for the marriage,
that Cowles remarked to me one evening that he feared he would be
late that night. "I have had a note from Kate," he said, "asking
me to call about eleven o'clock to-night, which seems rather a late
hour, but perhaps she wants to talk over something quietly after
old Mrs. Merton retires."

It was not until after my friend's departure that I suddenly
recollected the mysterious interview which I had been told of as
preceding the suicide of young Prescott. Then I thought of the
ravings of poor Reeves, rendered more tragic by the fact that I had
heard that very day of his death. What was the meaning of it all?
Had this woman some baleful secret to disclose which must be known
before her marriage? Was it some reason which forbade her to
marry? Or was it some reason which forbade others to marry her?
I felt so uneasy that I would have followed Cowles, even at the
risk of offending him, and endeavoured to dissuade him from keeping
his appointment, but a glance at the clock showed me that I was too

I was determined to wait up for his return, so I piled some coals
upon the fire and took down a novel from the shelf. My thoughts
proved more interesting than the book, however, and I threw it on
one side. An indefinable feeling of anxiety and depression weighed
upon me. Twelve o'clock came, and then half-past, without any sign
of my friend. It was nearly one when I heard a step in the street
outside, and then a knocking at the door. I was surprised, as I
knew that my friend always carried a key--however, I hurried down
and undid the latch. As the door flew open I knew in a moment that
my worst apprehensions had been fulfilled. Barrington Cowles was
leaning against the railings outside with his face sunk upon his
breast, and his whole attitude expressive of the most intense
despondency. As he passed in he gave a stagger, and would
have fallen had I not thrown my left arm around him. Supporting
him with this, and holding the lamp in my other hand, I led him
slowly upstairs into our sitting-room. He sank down upon the sofa
without a word. Now that I could get a good view of him, I was
horrified to see the change which had come over him. His face was
deadly pale, and his very lips were bloodless. His cheeks and
forehead were clammy, his eyes glazed, and his whole expression
altered. He looked like a man who had gone through some terrible
ordeal, and was thoroughly unnerved.

"My dear fellow, what is the matter?" I asked, breaking the
silence. "Nothing amiss, I trust? Are you unwell?"

"Brandy!" he gasped. "Give me some brandy!"

I took out the decanter, and was about to help him, when he
snatched it from me with a trembling hand, and poured out nearly
half a tumbler of the spirit. He was usually a most abstemious
man, but he took this off at a gulp without adding any water to it.

It seemed to do him good, for the colour began to come back to his
face, and he leaned upon his elbow.

"My engagement is off, Bob," he said, trying to speak calmly, but
with a tremor in his voice which he could not conceal. "It is all

"Cheer up!" I answered, trying to encourage him.

Don't get down on your luck. How was it? What was it all about?"

"About?" he groaned, covering his face with his hands. "If I did
tell you, Bob, you would not believe it. It is too dreadful--
too horrible--unutterably awful and incredible! O Kate, Kate!" and
he rocked himself to and fro in his grief; "I pictured you an angel
and I find you a----"

"A what?" I asked, for he had paused.

He looked at me with a vacant stare, and then suddenly burst out,
waving his arms: "A fiend!" he cried. "A ghoul from the pit! A
vampire soul behind a lovely face! Now, God forgive me!" he went
on in a lower tone, turning his face to the wall; "I have said more
than I should. I have loved her too much to speak of her as she
is. I love her too much now."

He lay still for some time, and I had hoped that the brandy had had
the effect of sending him to sleep, when he suddenly turned his
face towards me.

"Did you ever read of wehr-wolves?" he asked.

I answered that I had.

"There is a story," he said thoughtfully, "in one of Marryat's
books, about a beautiful woman who took the form of a wolf at night
and devoured her own children. I wonder what put that idea into
Marryat's head?"

He pondered for some minutes, and then he cried out for some more
brandy. There was a small bottle of laudanum upon the table, and
I managed, by insisting upon helping him myself, to mix about half
a drachm with the spirits. He drank it off, and sank his head once
more upon the pillow. "Anything better than that," he groaned.
"Death is better than that. Crime and cruelty; cruelty and crime.
Anything is better than that," and so on, with the monotonous
refrain, until at last the words became indistinct, his
eyelids closed over his weary eyes, and he sank into a profound
slumber. I carried him into his bedroom without arousing him; and
making a couch for myself out of the chairs, I remained by his side
all night.

In the morning Barrington Cowles was in a high fever. For weeks he
lingered between life and death. The highest medical skill of
Edinburgh was called in, and his vigorous constitution slowly got
the better of his disease. I nursed him during this anxious time;
but through all his wild delirium and ravings he never let a word
escape him which explained the mystery connected with Miss
Northcott. Sometimes he spoke of her in the tenderest words and
most loving voice. At others he screamed out that she was a fiend,
and stretched out his arms, as if to keep her off. Several times
he cried that he would not sell his soul for a beautiful face, and
then he would moan in a most piteous voice, "But I love her--I love
her for all that; I shall never cease to love her."

When he came to himself he was an altered man. His severe illness
had emaciated him greatly, but his dark eyes had lost none of their
brightness. They shone out with startling brilliancy from under
his dark, overhanging brows. His manner was eccentric and
variable--sometimes irritable, sometimes recklessly mirthful, but
never natural. He would glance about him in a strange, suspicious
manner, like one who feared something, and yet hardly knew what it
was he dreaded. He never mentioned Miss Northcott's name--
never until that fatal evening of which I have now to speak.

In an endeavour to break the current of his thoughts by frequent
change of scene, I travelled with him through the highlands of
Scotland, and afterwards down the east coast. In one of these
peregrinations of ours we visited the Isle of May, an island near
the mouth of the Firth of Forth, which, except in the tourist
season, is singularly barren and desolate. Beyond the keeper of
the lighthouse there are only one or two families of poor fisher-
folk, who sustain a precarious existence by their nets, and by the
capture of cormorants and solan geese. This grim spot seemed to
have such a fascination for Cowles that we engaged a room in one of
the fishermen's huts, with the intention of passing a week or two
there. I found it very dull, but the loneliness appeared to be a
relief to my friend's mind. He lost the look of apprehension which
had become habitual to him, and became something like his old self.

He would wander round the island all day, looking down from the
summit of the great cliffs which gird it round, and watching the
long green waves as they came booming in and burst in a shower of
spray over the rocks beneath.

One night--I think it was our third or fourth on the island--
Barrington Cowles and I went outside the cottage before retiring to
rest, to enjoy a little fresh air, for our room was small, and the
rough lamp caused an unpleasant odour. How well I remember every
little circumstance in connection with that night! It
promised to be tempestuous, for the clouds were piling up in the
north-west, and the dark wrack was drifting across the face of the
moon, throwing alternate belts of light and shade upon the rugged
surface of the island and the restless sea beyond.

We were standing talking close by the door of the cottage, and I
was thinking to myself that my friend was more cheerful than he had
been since his illness, when he gave a sudden, sharp cry, and
looking round at him I saw, by the light of the moon, an expression
of unutterable horror come over his features. His eyes became
fixed and staring, as if riveted upon some approaching object, and
he extended his long thin forefinger, which quivered as he pointed.

"Look there!" he cried. "It is she! It is she! You see her there
coming down the side of the brae." He gripped me convulsively by
the wrist as he spoke. "There she is, coming towards us!"

"Who?" I cried, straining my eyes into the darkness.

"She--Kate--Kate Northcott!" he screamed. "She has come for me.
Hold me fast, old friend. Don't let me go!"

"Hold up, old man," I said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Pull
yourself together; you are dreaming; there is nothing to fear."

"She is gone!" he cried, with a gasp of relief. "No, by heaven!
there she is again, and nearer--coming nearer. She told me she
would come for me, and she keeps her word."

"Come into the house," I said. His hand, as I grasped it, was as
cold as ice.

"Ah, I knew it!" he shouted. "There she is, waving her arms. She
is beckoning to me. It is the signal. I must go. I am coming,
Kate; I am coming!"

I threw my arms around him, but he burst from me with superhuman
strength, and dashed into the darkness of the night. I followed
him, calling to him to stop, but he ran the more swiftly. When the
moon shone out between the clouds I could catch a glimpse of his
dark figure, running rapidly in a straight line, as if to reach
some definite goal. It may have been imagination, but it seemed to
me that in the flickering light I could distinguish a vague
something in front of him--a shimmering form which eluded his grasp
and led him onwards. I saw his outlines stand out hard against the
sky behind him as he surmounted the brow of a little hill, then he
disappeared, and that was the last ever seen by mortal eye of
Barrington Cowles.

The fishermen and I walked round the island all that night with
lanterns, and examined every nook and corner without seeing a trace
of my poor lost friend. The direction in which he had been running
terminated in a rugged line of jagged cliffs overhanging the sea.
At one place here the edge was somewhat crumbled, and there
appeared marks upon the turf which might have been left by human
feet. We lay upon our faces at this spot, and peered with our
lanterns over the edge, looking down on the boiling surge two
hundred feet below. As we lay there, suddenly, above the
beating of the waves and the howling of the wind, there rose a
strange wild screech from the abyss below. The fishermen--a
naturally superstitious race--averred that it was the sound of a
woman's laughter, and I could hardly persuade them to continue the
search. For my own part I think it may have been the cry of some
sea-fowl startled from its nest by the flash of the lantern.
However that may be, I never wish to hear such a sound again.

And now I have come to the end of the painful duty which I have
undertaken. I have told as plainly and as accurately as I could
the story of the death of John Barrington Cowles, and the train of
events which preceded it. I am aware that to others the sad
episode seemed commonplace enough. Here is the prosaic account
which appeared in the Scotsman a couple of days afterwards:--

"Sad Occurrence on the Isle of May.--The Isle of May has been the
scene of a sad disaster. Mr. John Barrington Cowles, a gentleman
well known in University circles as a most distinguished student,
and the present holder of the Neil Arnott prize for physics, has
been recruiting his health in this quiet retreat. The night before
last he suddenly left his friend, Mr. Robert Armitage, and he has
not since been heard of. It is almost certain that he has met his
death by falling over the cliffs which surround the island. Mr.
Cowles' health has been failing for some time, partly from over
study and partly from worry connected with family affairs. By
his death the University loses one of her most promising alumni."

I have nothing more to add to my statement. I have unburdened my
mind of all that I know. I can well conceive that many, after
weighing all that I have said, will see no ground for an accusation
against Miss Northcott. They will say that, because a man of a
naturally excitable disposition says and does wild things, and even
eventually commits self-murder after a sudden and heavy
disappointment, there is no reason why vague charges should be
advanced against a young lady. To this, I answer that they are
welcome to their opinion. For my own part, I ascribe the death of
William Prescott, of Archibald Reeves, and of John Barrington
Cowles to this woman with as much confidence as if I had seen her
drive a dagger into their hearts.

You ask me, no doubt, what my own theory is which will explain all
these strange facts. I have none, or, at best, a dim and vague
one. That Miss Northcott possessed extraordinary powers over the
minds, and through the minds over the bodies, of others, I am
convinced, as well as that her instincts were to use this power for
base and cruel purposes. That some even more fiendish and terrible
phase of character lay behind this--some horrible trait which it
was necessary for her to reveal before marriage--is to be inferred
from the experience of her three lovers, while the dreadful
nature of the mystery thus revealed can only be surmised from the
fact that the very mention of it drove from her those who had loved
her so passionately. Their subsequent fate was, in my opinion, the
result of her vindictive remembrance of their desertion of her, and
that they were forewarned of it at the time was shown by the words
of both Reeves and Cowles. Above this, I can say nothing. I lay
the facts soberly before the public as they came under my notice.
I have never seen Miss Northcott since, nor do I wish to do so. If
by the words I have written I can save any one human being from the
snare of those bright eyes and that beautiful face, then I can lay
down my pen with the assurance that my poor friend has not died
altogether in vain.



He was known in the Gulch as the Reverend Elias B. Hopkins, but it
was generally understood that the title was an honorary one,
extorted by his many eminent qualities, and not borne out by any
legal claim which he could adduce. "The Parson" was another of his
sobriquets, which was sufficiently distinctive in a land where the
flock was scattered and the shepherds few. To do him justice, he
never pretended to have received any preliminary training for the
ministry, or any orthodox qualification to practise it. "We're all
working in the claim of the Lord," he remarked one day, "and it
don't matter a cent whether we're hired for the job or whether we
waltzes in on our own account," a piece of rough imagery which
appealed directly to the instincts of Jackman's Gulch. It is quite
certain that during the first few months his presence had a marked
effect in diminishing the excessive use both of strong drinks and
of stronger adjectives which had been characteristic of the little
mining settlement. Under his tuition, men began to understand that
the resources of their native language were less limited than they
had supposed, and that it was possible to convey their
impressions with accuracy without the aid of a gaudy halo of

We were certainly in need of a regenerator at Jackman's Gulch about
the beginning of '53. Times were flush then over the whole colony,
but nowhere flusher than there. Our material prosperity had had a
bad effect upon our morals. The camp was a small one, lying rather
better than a hundred and twenty miles to the north of Ballarat, at
a spot where a mountain torrent finds its way down a rugged ravine
on its way to join the Arrowsmith River. History does not relate
who the original Jackman may have been, but at the time I speak of
the camp it contained a hundred or so adults, many of whom were men
who had sought an asylum there after making more civilised mining
centres too hot to hold them. They were a rough, murderous crew,
hardly leavened by the few respectable members of society who were
scattered among them.

Communication between Jackman's Gulch and the outside world was
difficult and uncertain. A portion of the bush between it and
Ballarat was infested by a redoubtable outlaw named Conky Jim, who,
with a small band as desperate as himself, made travelling a
dangerous matter. It was customary, therefore, at the Gulch, to
store up the dust and nuggets obtained from the mines in a special
store, each man's share being placed in a separate bag on which his
name was marked. A trusty man, named Woburn, was deputed to watch
over this primitive bank. When the amount deposited became
considerable, a waggon was hired, and the whole treasure was
conveyed to Ballarat, guarded by the police and by a certain number
of miners, who took it in turn to perform the office. Once in
Ballarat, it was forwarded on to Melbourne by the regular gold
waggons. By this plan the gold was often kept for months in the
Gulch before being despatched, but Conky Jim was effectually
checkmated, as the escort party were far too strong for him and his
gang. He appeared, at the time of which I write, to have forsaken
his haunts in disgust, and the road could be traversed by small
parties with impunity.

Comparative order used to reign during the daytime at Jackman's
Gulch, for the majority of the inhabitants were out with crowbar
and pick among the quartz ledges, or washing clay and sand in their
cradles by the banks of the little stream. As the sun sank down,
however, the claims were gradually deserted, and their unkempt
owners, clay-bespattered and shaggy, came lounging into camp, ripe
for any form of mischief. Their first visit was to Woburn's gold
store, where their clean-up of the day was duly deposited, the
amount being entered in the storekeeper's book, and each miner
retaining enough to cover his evening's expenses. After that, all
restraint was at an end, and each set to work to get rid of his
surplus dust with the greatest rapidity possible. The focus of
dissipation was the rough bar, formed by a couple of hogsheads
spanned by planks, which was dignified by the name of the
"Britannia Drinking Saloon." Here Nat Adams, the burly bar-
keeper, dispensed bad whisky at the rate of two shillings a noggin,
or a guinea a bottle, while his brother Ben acted as croupier in a
rude wooden shanty behind, which had been converted into a gambling
hell, and was crowded every night. There had been a third brother,
but an unfortunate misunderstanding with a customer had shortened
his existence. "He was too soft to live long," his brother
Nathaniel feelingly observed, on the occasion of his funeral.
"Many's the time I've said to him, `If you're arguin' a pint with
a stranger, you should always draw first, then argue, and then
shoot, if you judge that he's on the shoot.' Bill was too purlite.

He must needs argue first and draw after, when he might just as
well have kivered his man before talkin' it over with him." This
amiable weakness of the deceased Bill was a blow to the firm of
Adams, which became so short-handed that the concern could hardly
be worked without the admission of a partner, which would mean a
considerable decrease in the profits.

Nat Adams had had a roadside shanty in the Gulch before the
discovery of gold, and might, therefore, claim to be the oldest
inhabitant. These keepers of shanties were a peculiar race, and at
the cost of a digression it may he interesting to explain how they
managed to amass considerable sums of money in a land where
travellers were few and far between. It was the custom of the
"bushmen," i.e., bullock-drivers, sheep tenders, and the other
white hands who worked on the sheep-runs up country, to sign
articles by which they agreed to serve their master for one,
two, or three years at so much per year and certain daily rations.
Liquor was never included in this agreement, and the men remained,
per force, total abstainers during the whole time. The money was
paid in a lump sum at the end of the engagement. When that day
came round, Jimmy, the stockman, would come slouching into his
master's office, cabbage-tree hat in hand.

"Morning, master!" Jimmy would say. "My time's up. I guess I'll
draw my cheque and ride down to town."

"You'll come back, Jimmy?"

"Yes, I'll come back. Maybe I'll be away three weeks, maybe a
month. I want some clothes, master, and my bloomin' boots are
well-nigh off my feet."

"How much, Jimmy?" asks his master, taking up his pen.

"There's sixty pound screw," Jimmy answers thoughtfully; "and you
mind, master, last March, when the brindled bull broke out o' the
paddock. Two pound you promised me then. And a pound at the
dipping. And a pound when Millar's sheep got mixed with ourn;" and
so he goes on, for bushmen can seldom write, but they have memories
which nothing escapes.

His master writes the cheque and hands it across the table. "Don't
get on the drink, Jimmy," he says.

"No fear of that, master," and the stockman slips the cheque into
his leather pouch, and within an hour he is ambling off upon
his long-limbed horse on his hundred-mile journey to town.

Now Jimmy has to pass some six or eight of the above-mentioned
roadside shanties in his day's ride, and experience has taught him
that if he once breaks his accustomed total abstinence, the
unwonted stimulant has an overpowering effect upon his brain.
Jimmy shakes his head warily as he determines that no earthly
consideration will induce him to partake of any liquor until his
business is over. His only chance is to avoid temptation; so,
knowing that there is the first of these houses some half-mile
ahead, he plunges into a byepath through the bush which will lead
him out at the other side.

Jimmy is riding resolutely along this narrow path, congratulating
himself upon a danger escaped, when he becomes aware of a
sunburned, black-bearded man who is leaning unconcernedly against
a tree beside the track. This is none other than the shanty-
keeper, who, having observed Jimmy's manoeuvre in the distance, has
taken a short cut through the bush in order to intercept him.

"Morning, Jimmy!" he cries, as the horseman comes up to him.

"Morning, mate; morning!"

"Where are ye off to to-day then?"

"Off to town," says Jimmy sturdily.

"No, now--are you though? You'll have bully times down there for
a bit. Come round and have a drink at my place. Just by way of

"No," says Jimmy, "I don't want a drink."

"Just a little damp."

"I tell ye I don't want one," says the stockman angrily.

"Well, ye needn't be so darned short about it. It's nothin' to me
whether you drinks or not. Good mornin'."

"Good mornin'," says Jimmy, and has ridden on about twenty yards
when he hears the other calling on him to stop.

"See here, Jimmy!" he says, overtaking him again. "If you'll do me
a kindness when you're up in town I'd be obliged."

"What is it?"

"It's a letter, Jim, as I wants posted. It's an important one too,
an' I wouldn't trust it with every one; but I knows you, and if
you'll take charge on it it'll be a powerful weight off my mind."

"Give it here," Jimmy says laconically.

"I hain't got it here. It's round in my caboose. Come round for
it with me. It ain't more'n quarter of a mile."

Jimmy consents reluctantly. When they reach the tumble-down hut
the keeper asks him cheerily to dismount and to come in.

"Give me the letter," says Jimmy.

"It ain't altogether wrote yet, but you sit down here for a minute
and it'll be right," and so the stockman is beguiled into the

At last the letter is ready and handed over. "Now, Jimmy," says
the keeper, "one drink at my expense before you go."

"Not a taste," says Jimmy.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" the other says in an aggrieved tone.
"You're too damned proud to drink with a poor cove like me. Here--
give us back that letter. I'm cursed if I'll accept a favour from
a man whose too almighty big to have a drink with me."

"Well, well, mate, don't turn rusty," says Jim. "Give us one drink
an' I'm off."

The keeper pours out about half a pannikin of raw rum and hands it
to the bushman. The moment he smells the old familiar smell his
longing for it returns, and he swigs it off at a gulp. His eyes
shine more brightly and his face becomes flushed. The keeper
watches him narrowly. "You can go now, Jim," he says.

"Steady, mate, steady," says the bushman. "I'm as good a man as
you. If you stand a drink I can stand one too, I suppose." So the
pannikin is replenished, and Jimmy's eyes shine brighter still.

"Now, Jimmy, one last drink for the good of the house," says the
keeper, "and then it's time you were off." The stockman has a
third gulp from the pannikin, and with it all his scruples and good
resolutions vanish for ever.

"Look here," he says somewhat huskily, taking his cheque out of his
pouch. "You take this, mate. Whoever comes along this road, ask
'em what they'll have, and tell them it's my shout. Let me know
when the money's done."

So Jimmy abandons the idea of ever getting to town, and for
three weeks or a month he lies about the shanty in a state of
extreme drunkenness, and reduces every wayfarer upon the road to
the same condition. At last one fine morning the keeper comes to
him. "The coin's done, Jimmy," he says; "it's about time you made
some more." So Jimmy has a good wash to sober him, straps his
blanket and his billy to his back, and rides off through the bush
to the sheeprun, where he has another year of sobriety, terminating
in another month of intoxication.

All this, though typical of the happy-go-lucky manners of the
inhabitants, has no direct bearing upon Jackman's Gulch, so we must
return to that Arcadian settlement. Additions to the population
there were not numerous, and such as came about the time of which
I speak were even rougher and fiercer than the original
inhabitants. In particular, there came a brace of ruffians named
Phillips and Maule, who rode into camp one day, and started a claim
upon the other side of the stream. They outgulched the Gulch in
the virulence and fluency of their blasphemy, in the truculence of
their speech and manner, and in their reckless disregard of all
social laws. They claimed to have come from Bendigo, and there
were some amongst us who wished that the redoubted Conky Jim was on
the track once more, as long as he would close it to such visitors
as these. After their arrival the nightly proceedings at the
Britannia bar and at the gambling hell behind it became more
riotous than ever. Violent quarrels, frequently ending in
bloodshed, were of constant occurrence. The more peaceable
frequenters of the bar began to talk seriously of lynching the two
strangers who were the principal promoters of disorder. Things
were in this unsatisfactory condition when our evangelist, Elias B.
Hopkins, came limping into the camp, travel-stained and footsore,
with his spade strapped across his back, and his Bible in the
pocket of his moleskin jacket.

His presence was hardly noticed at first, so insignificant was the
man. His manner was quiet and unobtrusive, his face pale, and his
figure fragile. On better acquaintance, however, there was a
squareness and firmness about his clean-shaven lower jaw, and an
intelligence in his widely-opened blue eyes, which marked him as a
man of character. He erected a small hut for himself, and started
a claim close to that occupied by the two strangers who had
preceded him. This claim was chosen with a ludicrous disregard for
all practical laws of mining, and at once stamped the newcomer as
being a green hand at his work. It was piteous to observe him
every morning as we passed to our work, digging and delving with
the greatest industry, but, as we knew well, without the smallest
possibility of any result. He would pause for a moment as we went
by, wipe his pale face with his bandanna handkerchief, and shout
out to us a cordial morning greeting, and then fall to again with
redoubled energy. By degrees we got into the way of making a half-
pitying, half-contemptuous inquiry as to how he got on. "I hain't
struck it yet, boys," he would answer cheerily, leaning on his
spade, "but the bedrock lies deep just hereabouts, and I reckon
we'll get among the pay gravel to-day." Day after day he returned
the same reply with unvarying confidence and cheerfulness.

It was not long before he began to show us the stuff that was in
him. One night the proceedings were unusually violent at the
drinking saloon. A rich pocket had been struck during the day, and
the striker was standing treat in a lavish and promiscuous fashion
which had reduced three parts of the settlement to a state of wild
intoxication. A crowd of drunken idlers stood or lay about the
bar, cursing, swearing, shouting, dancing, and here and there
firing their pistols into the air out of pure wantonness. From the
interior of the shanty behind there came a similar chorus. Maule,
Phillips, and the roughs who followed them were in the ascendant,
and all order and decency was swept away.

Suddenly, amid this tumult of oaths and drunken cries, men became
conscious of a quiet monotone which underlay all other sounds and
obtruded itself at every pause in the uproar. Gradually first one
man and then another paused to listen, until there was a general
cessation of the hubbub, and every eye was turned in the direction
whence this quiet stream of words flowed. There, mounted upon a
barrel, was Elias B. Hopkins, the newest of the inhabitants of
Jackman's Gulch, with a good-humoured smile upon his resolute face.

He held an open Bible in his hand, and was reading aloud a passage
taken at random--an extract from the Apocalypse, if I remember
right. The words were entirely irrelevant and without the smallest
bearing upon the scene before him, but he plodded on with great
unction, waving his left hand slowly to the cadence of his words.

There was a general shout of laughter and applause at this
apparition, and Jackman's Gulch gathered round the barrel
approvingly, under the impression that this was some ornate joke,
and that they were about to be treated to some mock sermon or
parody of the chapter read. When, however, the reader, having
finished the chapter, placidly commenced another, and having
finished that rippled on into another one, the revellers came to
the conclusion that the joke was somewhat too long-winded. The
commencement of yet another chapter confirmed this opinion, and an
angry chorus of shouts and cries, with suggestions as to gagging
the reader or knocking him off the barrel, rose from every side.
In spite of roars and hoots, however, Elias B. Hopkins plodded away
at the Apocalypse with the same serene countenance, looking as
ineffably contented as though the babel around him were the most
gratifying applause. Before long an occasional boot pattered
against the barrel or whistled past our parson's head; but here
some of the more orderly of the inhabitants interfered in favour of
peace and order, aided curiously enough by the afore-mentioned
Maule and Phillips, who warmly espoused the cause of the little
Scripture reader. "The little cus has got grit in him," the latter
explained, rearing his bulky red-shirted form between the
crowd and the object of its anger. "His ways ain't our ways, and
we're all welcome to our opinions, and to sling them round from
barrels or otherwise if so minded. What I says and Bill says is,
that when it comes to slingin' boots instead o' words it's too
steep by half, an' if this man's wronged we'll chip in an' see him
righted." This oratorical effort had the effect of checking the
more active signs of disapproval, and the party of disorder
attempted to settle down once more to their carouse, and to ignore
the shower of Scripture which was poured upon them. The attempt
was hopeless. The drunken portion fell asleep under the drowsy
refrain, and the others, with many a sullen glance at the
imperturbable reader, slouched off to their huts, leaving him still
perched upon the barrel. Finding himself alone with the more
orderly of the spectators, the little man rose, closed his book,
after methodically marking with a lead pencil the exact spot at
which he stopped, and descended from his perch. "To-morrow night,
boys," he remarked in his quiet voice, "the reading will commence
at the 9th verse of the 15th chapter of the Apocalypse," with which
piece of information, disregarding our congratulations, he walked
away with the air of a man who has performed an obvious duty.

We found that his parting words were no empty threat. Hardly had
the crowd begun to assemble next night before he appeared once more
upon the barrel and began to read with the same monotonous vigour,
tripping over words! muddling up sentences, but still boring
along through chapter after chapter. Laughter, threats, chaff--
every weapon short of actual violence--was used to deter him, but
all with the same want of success. Soon it was found that there
was a method in his proceedings. When silence reigned, or when the
conversation was of an innocent nature, the reading ceased. A
single word of blasphemy, however, set it going again, and it would
ramble on for a quarter of an hour or so, when it stopped, only to
be renewed upon similar provocation. The reading was pretty
continuous during that second night, for the language of the
opposition was still considerably free. At least it was an
improvement upon the night before.

For more than a month Elias B. Hopkins carried on this campaign.
There he would sit, night after night, with the open book upon his
knee, and at the slightest provocation off he would go, like a
musical box when the spring is touched. The monotonous drawl
became unendurable, but it could only be avoided by conforming to
the parson's code. A chronic swearer came to be looked upon with
disfavour by the community, since the punishment of his
transgression fell upon all. At the end of a fortnight the reader
was silent more than half the time, and at the end of the month his
position was a sinecure.

Never was a moral revolution brought about more rapidly and more
completely. Our parson carried his principle into private life.
I have seen him, on hearing an unguarded word from some worker in
the gulches, rush across, Bible in hand, and perching himself upon
the heap of red clay which surmounted the offender's claim,
drawl through the genealogical tree at the commencement of the New
Testament in a most earnest and impressive manner, as though it
were especially appropriate to the occasion. In time, an oath
became a rare thing amongst us. Drunkenness was on the wane too.
Casual travellers passing through the Gulch used to marvel at our
state of grace, and rumours of it went as far as Ballarat, and
excited much comment therein.

There were points about our evangelist which made him especially
fitted for the work which he had undertaken. A man entirely
without redeeming vices would have had no common basis on which to
work, and no means of gaining the sympathy of his flock. As we
came to know Elias B. Hopkins better, we discovered that in spite
of his piety there was a leaven of old Adam in him, and that he had
certainly known unregenerate days. He was no teetotaler. On the
contrary, he could choose his liquor with discrimination, and lower
it in an able manner. He played a masterly hand at poker, and
there were few who could touch him at "cut-throat euchre." He and
the two ex-ruffians, Phillips and Maule, used to play for hours in
perfect harmony, except when the fall of the cards elicited an oath
from one of his companions. At the first of these offences the
parson would put on a pained smile, and gaze reproachfully at the
culprit. At the second he would reach for his Bible, and the game
was over for the evening. He showed us he was a good revolver
shot too, for when we were practising at an empty brandy bottle
outside Adams' bar, he took up a friend's pistol and hit it plumb
in the centre at twenty-four paces. There were few things he took
up that he could not make a show at apparently, except gold-
digging, and at that he was the veriest duffer alive. It was
pitiful to see the little canvas bag, with his name printed across
it, lying placid and empty upon the shelf at Woburn's store, while
all the other bags were increasing daily, and some had assumed
quite a portly rotundity of form, for the weeks were slipping by,
and it was almost time for the gold-train to start off for
Ballarat. We reckoned that the amount which we had stored at the
time represented the greatest sum which had ever been taken by a
single convoy out of Jackman's Gulch.

Although Elias B. Hopkins appeared to derive a certain quiet
satisfaction from the wonderful change which he had effected in the
camp, his joy was not yet rounded and complete. There was one
thing for which he still yearned. He opened his heart to us about
it one evening.

"We'd have a blessing on the camp, boys," he said, "if we only had
a service o' some sort on the Lord's day. It's a temptin' o'
Providence to go on in this way without takin' any notice of it,
except that maybe there's more whisky drunk and more card playin'
than on any other day."

"We hain't got no parson," objected one of the crowd.

"Ye fool!" growled another, "hain't we got a man as is worth any
three parsons, and can splash texts around like clay out o' a
cradle. What more d'ye want?"

"We hain't got no church!" urged the same dissentient.

"Have it in the open air," one suggested.

"Or in Woburn's store," said another.

"Or in Adams' saloon."

The last proposal was received with a buzz of approval, which
showed that it was considered the most appropriate locality.

Adams' saloon was a substantial wooden building in the rear of the
bar, which was used partly for storing liquor and partly for a
gambling saloon. It was strongly built of rough-hewn logs, the
proprietor rightly judging, in the unregenerate days of Jackman's
Gulch, that hogsheads of brandy and rum were commodities which had
best be secured under lock and key. A strong door opened into each
end of the saloon, and the interior was spacious enough, when the
table and lumber were cleared away, to accommodate the whole
population. The spirit barrels were heaped together at one end by
their owner, so as to make a very fair imitation of a pulpit.

At first the Gulch took but a mild interest in the proceedings, but
when it became known that Elias B. Hopkins intended, after reading
the service, to address the audience, the settlement began to warm
up to the occasion. A real sermon was a novelty to all of them,
and one coming from their own parson was additionally so.
Rumour announced that it would be interspersed with local hits, and
that the moral would be pointed by pungent personalities. Men
began to fear that they would be unable to gain seats, and many
applications were made to the brothers Adams. It was only when
conclusively shown that the saloon could contain them all with a
margin that the camp settled down into calm expectancy.

It was as well that the building was of such a size, for the
assembly upon the Sunday morning was the largest which had ever
occurred in the annals of Jackman's Gulch. At first it was thought
that the whole population was present, but a little reflection
showed that this was not so. Maule and Phillips had gone on a
prospecting journey among the hills, and had not returned as yet,
and Woburn, the gold-keeper, was unable to leave his store. Having
a very large quantity of the precious metal under his charge, he
stuck to his post, feeling that the responsibility was too great to
trifle with. With these three exceptions the whole of the Gulch,
with clean red shirts, and such other additions to their toilet as
the occasion demanded, sauntered in a straggling line along the
clayey pathway which led up to the saloon.

The interior of the building had been provided with rough benches,
and the parson, with his quiet good-humoured smile, was standing at
the door to welcome them. "Good morning, boys," he cried cheerily,
as each group came lounging up. "Pass in; pass in. You'll find
this is as good a morning's work as any you've done. Leave
your pistols in this barrel outside the door as you pass; you can
pick them out as you come out again, but it isn't the thing to
carry weapons into the house of peace." His request was good-
humouredly complied with, and before the last of the congregation
filed in, there was a strange assortment of knives and firearms in
this depository. When all had assembled, the doors were shut, and
the service began--the first and the last which was ever performed
at Jackman's Gulch.

The weather was sultry and the room close, yet the miners listened
with exemplary patience. There was a sense of novelty in the
situation which had its attractions. To some it was entirely new,
others were wafted back by it to another land and other days.
Beyond a disposition which was exhibited by the uninitiated to
applaud at the end of certain prayers, by way of showing that they
sympathised with the sentiments expressed, no audience could have
behaved better. There was a murmur of interest, however, when
Elias B. Hopkins, looking down on the congregation from his rostrum
of casks, began his address.

He had attired himself with care in honour of the occasion. He
wore a velveteen tunic, girt round the waist with a sash of china
silk, a pair of moleskin trousers, and held his cabbage-tree hat in
his left hand. He began speaking in a low tone, and it was noticed
at the time that he frequently glanced through the small aperture
which served for a window which was placed above the heads of those
who sat beneath him.

"I've put you straight now," he said, in the course of his address;
"I've got you in the right rut if you will but stick in it." Here
he looked very hard out of the window for some seconds. "You've
learned soberness and industry, and with those things you can
always make up any loss you may sustain. I guess there isn't one
of ye that won't remember my visit to this camp." He paused for a
moment, and three revolver shots rang out upon the quiet summer
air. "Keep your seats, damn ye!" roared our preacher, as his
audience rose in excitement. "If a man of ye moves down he goes!
The door's locked on the outside, so ye can't get out anyhow. Your
seats, ye canting, chuckle-headed fools! Down with ye, ye dogs, or
I'll fire among ye!"

Astonishment and fear brought us back into our seats, and we sat
staring blankly at our pastor and each other. Elias B. Hopkins,
whose whole face and even figure appeared to have undergone an
extraordinary alteration, looked fiercely down on us from his
commanding position, with a contemptuous smile on his stern face.

"I have your lives in my hands," he remarked; and we noticed as he
spoke that he held a heavy revolver in his hand, and that the butt
of another one protruded from his sash. "I am armed and you are
not. If one of you moves or speaks he is a dead man. If not, I
shall not harm you. You must wait here for an hour. Why, you
FOOLS" (this with a hiss of contempt which rang in our ears for
many a long day), "do you know who it is that has stuck you
up? Do you know who it is that has been playing it upon you for
months as a parson and a saint? Conky Jim, the bushranger, ye
apes. And Phillips and Maule were my two right-hand men. They're
off into the hills with your gold----Ha! would ye?" This to some
restive member of the audience, who quieted down instantly before
the fierce eye and the ready weapon of the bushranger. "In an hour
they will be clear of any pursuit, and I advise you to make the
best of it, and not to follow, or you may lose more than your
money. My horse is tethered outside this door behind me. When the
time is up I shall pass through it, lock it on the outside, and be
off. Then you may break your way out as best you can. I have no
more to say to you, except that ye are the most cursed set of asses
that ever trod in boot-leather."

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