Part 2 out of 5
never mentioned Genevieve and Boris, but gradually their names crept in.
I recollect particularly a passage in one of Jack's letters replying to
one of mine--
"What you tell me of seeing Boris bending over you while you lay ill, and
feeling his touch on your face, and hearing his voice, of course troubles
me. This that you describe must have happened a fortnight after he died.
I say to myself that you were dreaming, that it was part of your
delirium, but the explanation does not satisfy me, nor would it you."
Toward the end of the second year a letter came from Jack to me in India
so unlike anything that I had ever known of him that I decided to return
at once to Paris. He wrote: "I am well, and sell all my pictures as
artists do who have no need of money. I have not a care of my own, but I
am more restless than if I had. I am unable to shake off a strange
anxiety about you. It is not apprehension, it is rather a breathless
expectancy--of what, God knows! I can only say it is wearing me out.
Nights I dream always of you and Boris. I can never recall anything
afterward, but I wake in the morning with my heart beating, and all day
the excitement increases until I fall asleep at night to recall the same
experience. I am quite exhausted by it, and have determined to break up
this morbid condition. I must see you. Shall I go to Bombay, or will you
come to Paris?"
I telegraphed him to expect me by the next steamer.
When we met I thought he had changed very little; I, he insisted, looked
in splendid health. It was good to hear his voice again, and as we sat
and chatted about what life still held for us, we felt that it was
pleasant to be alive in the bright spring weather.
We stayed in Paris together a week, and then I went for a week to Ept
with him, but first of all we went to the cemetery at Sevres, where Boris
"Shall we place the 'Fates' in the little grove above him?" Jack asked,
and I answered--
"I think only the 'Madonna' should watch over Boris' grave." But Jack was
none the better for my home-coming. The dreams of which he could not
retain even the least definite outline continued, and he said that at
times the sense of breathless expectancy was suffocating.
"You see I do you harm and not good," I said. "Try a change without me."
So he started alone for a ramble among the Channel Islands, and I went
back to Paris. I had not yet entered Boris' house, now mine, since my
return, but I knew it must be done. It had been kept in order by Jack;
there were servants there, so I gave up my own apartment and went there
to live. Instead of the agitation I had feared, I found myself able to
paint there tranquilly. I visited all the rooms--all but one. I could not
bring myself to enter the marble room where Genevieve lay, and yet I felt
the longing growing daily to look upon her face, to kneel beside her.
One April afternoon, I lay dreaming in the smoking-room, just as I had
lain two years before, and mechanically I looked among the tawny Eastern
rugs for the wolf-skin. At last I distinguished the pointed ears and flat
cruel head, and I thought of my dream where I saw Genevieve lying beside
it. The helmets still hung against the threadbare tapestry, among them
the old Spanish morion which I remembered Genevieve had once put on when
we were amusing ourselves with the ancient bits of mail. I turned my eyes
to the spinet; every yellow key seemed eloquent of her caressing hand,
and I rose, drawn by the strength of my life's passion to the sealed door
of the marble room. The heavy doors swung inward under my trembling
hands. Sunlight poured through the window, tipping with gold the wings of
Cupid, and lingered like a nimbus over the brows of the Madonna. Her
tender face bent in compassion over a marble form so exquisitely pure
that I knelt and signed myself. Genevieve lay in the shadow under the
Madonna, and yet, through her white arms, I saw the pale azure vein, and
beneath her softly clasped hands the folds of her dress were tinged with
rose, as if from some faint warm light within her breast.
Bending, with a breaking heart, I touched the marble drapery with my
lips, then crept back into the silent house.
A maid came and brought me a letter, and I sat down in the little
conservatory to read it; but as I was about to break the seal, seeing the
girl lingering, I asked her what she wanted.
She stammered something about a white rabbit that had been caught in the
house, and asked what should be done with it I told her to let it loose
in the walled garden behind the house, and opened my letter. It was from
Jack, but so incoherent that I thought he must have lost his reason. It
was nothing but a series of prayers to me not to leave the house until he
could get back; he could not tell me why, there were the dreams, he
said--he could explain nothing, but he was sure that I must not leave the
house in the Rue Sainte-Cecile.
As I finished reading I raised my eyes and saw the same maid-servant
standing in the doorway holding a glass dish in which two gold-fish were
swimming: "Put them back into the tank and tell me what you mean by
interrupting me," I said.
With a half-suppressed whimper she emptied water and fish into an
aquarium at the end of the conservatory, and turning to me asked my
permission to leave my service. She said people were playing tricks on
her, evidently with a design of getting her into trouble; the marble
rabbit had been stolen and a live one had been brought into the house;
the two beautiful marble fish were gone, and she had just found those
common live things flopping on the dining-room floor. I reassured her and
sent her away, saying I would look about myself. I went into the studio;
there was nothing there but my canvases and some casts, except the marble
of the Easter lily. I saw it on a table across the room. Then I strode
angrily over to it. But the flower I lifted from the table was fresh and
fragile and filled the air with perfume.
Then suddenly I comprehended, and sprang through the hall-way to the
marble room. The doors flew open, the sunlight streamed into my face, and
through it, in a heavenly glory, the Madonna smiled, as Genevieve lifted
her flushed face from her marble couch and opened her sleepy eyes.
IN THE COURT OF THE DRAGON
"Oh, thou who burn'st in heart for those who burn
In Hell, whose fires thyself shall feed in turn;
How long be crying--'Mercy on them.' God!
Why, who art thou to teach and He to learn?"
In the Church of St. Barnabe vespers were over; the clergy left the
altar; the little choir-boys flocked across the chancel and settled in
the stalls. A Suisse in rich uniform marched down the south aisle,
sounding his staff at every fourth step on the stone pavement; behind him
came that eloquent preacher and good man, Monseigneur C----.
My chair was near the chancel rail, I now turned toward the west end of
the church. The other people between the altar and the pulpit turned too.
There was a little scraping and rustling while the congregation seated
itself again; the preacher mounted the pulpit stairs, and the organ
I had always found the organ-playing at St. Barnabe highly interesting.
Learned and scientific it was, too much so for my small knowledge, but
expressing a vivid if cold intelligence. Moreover, it possessed the
French quality of taste: taste reigned supreme, self-controlled,
dignified and reticent.
To-day, however, from the first chord I had felt a change for the worse,
a sinister change. During vespers it had been chiefly the chancel organ
which supported the beautiful choir, but now and again, quite wantonly as
it seemed, from the west gallery where the great organ stands, a heavy
hand had struck across the church at the serene peace of those clear
voices. It was something more than harsh and dissonant, and it betrayed
no lack of skill. As it recurred again and again, it set me thinking of
what my architect's books say about the custom in early times to
consecrate the choir as soon as it was built, and that the nave, being
finished sometimes half a century later, often did not get any blessing
at all: I wondered idly if that had been the case at St. Barnabe, and
whether something not usually supposed to be at home in a Christian
church might have entered undetected and taken possession of the west
gallery. I had read of such things happening, too, but not in works on
Then I remembered that St. Barnabe was not much more than a hundred years
old, and smiled at the incongruous association of mediaeval superstitions
with that cheerful little piece of eighteenth-century rococo.
But now vespers were over, and there should have followed a few quiet
chords, fit to accompany meditation, while we waited for the sermon.
Instead of that, the discord at the lower end of the church broke out
with the departure of the clergy, as if now nothing could control it.
I belong to those children of an older and simpler generation who do not
love to seek for psychological subtleties in art; and I have ever refused
to find in music anything more than melody and harmony, but I felt that
in the labyrinth of sounds now issuing from that instrument there was
something being hunted. Up and down the pedals chased him, while the
manuals blared approval. Poor devil! whoever he was, there seemed small
hope of escape!
My nervous annoyance changed to anger. Who was doing this? How dare he
play like that in the midst of divine service? I glanced at the people
near me: not one appeared to be in the least disturbed. The placid brows
of the kneeling nuns, still turned towards the altar, lost none of their
devout abstraction under the pale shadow of their white head-dress. The
fashionable lady beside me was looking expectantly at Monseigneur C----.
For all her face betrayed, the organ might have been singing an Ave
But now, at last, the preacher had made the sign of the cross, and
commanded silence. I turned to him gladly. Thus far I had not found the
rest I had counted on when I entered St. Barnabe that afternoon.
I was worn out by three nights of physical suffering and mental trouble:
the last had been the worst, and it was an exhausted body, and a mind
benumbed and yet acutely sensitive, which I had brought to my favourite
church for healing. For I had been reading _The King in Yellow_.
"The sun ariseth; they gather themselves together and lay them down in
their dens." Monseigneur C---- delivered his text in a calm voice,
glancing quietly over the congregation. My eyes turned, I knew not why,
toward the lower end of the church. The organist was coming from behind
his pipes, and passing along the gallery on his way out, I saw him
disappear by a small door that leads to some stairs which descend
directly to the street. He was a slender man, and his face was as white
as his coat was black. "Good riddance!" I thought, "with your wicked
music! I hope your assistant will play the closing voluntary."
With a feeling of relief--with a deep, calm feeling of relief, I turned
back to the mild face in the pulpit and settled myself to listen. Here,
at last, was the ease of mind I longed for.
"My children," said the preacher, "one truth the human soul finds hardest
of all to learn: that it has nothing to fear. It can never be made to see
that nothing can really harm it."
"Curious doctrine!" I thought, "for a Catholic priest. Let us see how he
will reconcile that with the Fathers."
"Nothing can really harm the soul," he went on, in, his coolest, clearest
But I never heard the rest; my eye left his face, I knew not for what
reason, and sought the lower end of the church. The same man was coming
out from behind the organ, and was passing along the gallery _the same
way_. But there had not been time for him to return, and if he had
returned, I must have seen him. I felt a faint chill, and my heart sank;
and yet, his going and coming were no affair of mine. I looked at him: I
could not look away from his black figure and his white face. When he was
exactly opposite to me, he turned and sent across the church straight
into my eyes, a look of hate, intense and deadly: I have never seen any
other like it; would to God I might never see it again! Then he
disappeared by the same door through which I had watched him depart less
than sixty seconds before.
I sat and tried to collect my thoughts. My first sensation was like that
of a very young child badly hurt, when it catches its breath before
To suddenly find myself the object of such hatred was exquisitely
painful: and this man was an utter stranger. Why should he hate me
so?--me, whom he had never seen before? For the moment all other
sensation was merged in this one pang: even fear was subordinate to
grief, and for that moment I never doubted; but in the next I began to
reason, and a sense of the incongruous came to my aid.
As I have said, St. Barnabe is a modern church. It is small and well
lighted; one sees all over it almost at a glance. The organ gallery gets
a strong white light from a row of long windows in the clerestory, which
have not even coloured glass.
The pulpit being in the middle of the church, it followed that, when I
was turned toward it, whatever moved at the west end could not fail to
attract my eye. When the organist passed it was no wonder that I saw him:
I had simply miscalculated the interval between his first and his second
passing. He had come in that last time by the other side-door. As for the
look which had so upset me, there had been no such thing, and I was a
I looked about. This was a likely place to harbour supernatural horrors!
That clear-cut, reasonable face of Monseigneur C----, his collected
manner and easy, graceful gestures, were they not just a little
discouraging to the notion of a gruesome mystery? I glanced above his
head, and almost laughed. That flyaway lady supporting one corner of the
pulpit canopy, which looked like a fringed damask table-cloth in a high
wind, at the first attempt of a basilisk to pose up there in the organ
loft, she would point her gold trumpet at him, and puff him out of
existence! I laughed to myself over this conceit, which, at the time, I
thought very amusing, and sat and chaffed myself and everything else,
from the old harpy outside the railing, who had made me pay ten centimes
for my chair, before she would let me in (she was more like a basilisk, I
told myself, than was my organist with the anaemic complexion): from that
grim old dame, to, yes, alas! Monseigneur C---- himself. For all
devoutness had fled. I had never yet done such a thing in my life, but
now I felt a desire to mock.
As for the sermon, I could not hear a word of it for the jingle in my
"The skirts of St. Paul has reached.
Having preached us those six Lent lectures,
More unctuous than ever he preached,"
keeping time to the most fantastic and irreverent thoughts.
It was no use to sit there any longer: I must get out of doors and shake
myself free from this hateful mood. I knew the rudeness I was committing,
but still I rose and left the church.
A spring sun was shining on the Rue St. Honore, as I ran down the church
steps. On one corner stood a barrow full of yellow jonquils, pale violets
from the Riviera, dark Russian violets, and white Roman hyacinths in a
golden cloud of mimosa. The street was full of Sunday pleasure-seekers. I
swung my cane and laughed with the rest. Some one overtook and passed me.
He never turned, but there was the same deadly malignity in his white
profile that there had been in his eyes. I watched him as long as I could
see him. His lithe back expressed the same menace; every step that
carried him away from me seemed to bear him on some errand connected with
I was creeping along, my feet almost refusing to move. There began to
dawn in me a sense of responsibility for something long forgotten. It
began to seem as if I deserved that which he threatened: it reached a
long way back--a long, long way back. It had lain dormant all these
years: it was there, though, and presently it would rise and confront me.
But I would try to escape; and I stumbled as best I could into the Rue de
Rivoli, across the Place de la Concorde and on to the Quai. I looked with
sick eyes upon the sun, shining through the white foam of the fountain,
pouring over the backs of the dusky bronze river-gods, on the far-away
Arc, a structure of amethyst mist, on the countless vistas of grey stems
and bare branches faintly green. Then I saw him again coming down one of
the chestnut alleys of the Cours la Reine.
I left the river-side, plunged blindly across to the Champs Elysees and
turned toward the Arc. The setting sun was sending its rays along the
green sward of the Rond-point: in the full glow he sat on a bench,
children and young mothers all about him. He was nothing but a Sunday
lounger, like the others, like myself. I said the words almost aloud, and
all the while I gazed on the malignant hatred of his face. But he was not
looking at me. I crept past and dragged my leaden feet up the Avenue. I
knew that every time I met him brought him nearer to the accomplishment
of his purpose and my fate. And still I tried to save myself.
The last rays of sunset were pouring through the great Arc. I passed
under it, and met him face to face. I had left him far down the Champs
Elysees, and yet he came in with a stream of people who were returning
from the Bois de Boulogne. He came so close that he brushed me. His
slender frame felt like iron inside its loose black covering. He showed
no signs of haste, nor of fatigue, nor of any human feeling. His whole
being expressed one thing: the will, and the power to work me evil.
In anguish I watched him where he went down the broad crowded Avenue,
that was all flashing with wheels and the trappings of horses and the
helmets of the Garde Republicaine.
He was soon lost to sight; then I turned and fled. Into the Bois, and far
out beyond it--I know not where I went, but after a long while as it
seemed to me, night had fallen, and I found myself sitting at a table
before a small cafe. I had wandered back into the Bois. It was hours now
since I had seen him. Physical fatigue and mental suffering had left me
no power to think or feel. I was tired, so tired! I longed to hide away
in my own den. I resolved to go home. But that was a long way off.
I live in the Court of the Dragon, a narrow passage that leads from the
Rue de Rennes to the Rue du Dragon.
It is an "impasse"; traversable only for foot passengers. Over the
entrance on the Rue de Rennes is a balcony, supported by an iron dragon.
Within the court tall old houses rise on either side, and close the ends
that give on the two streets. Huge gates, swung back during the day into
the walls of the deep archways, close this court, after midnight, and one
must enter then by ringing at certain small doors on the side. The sunken
pavement collects unsavoury pools. Steep stairways pitch down to doors
that open on the court. The ground floors are occupied by shops of
second-hand dealers, and by iron workers. All day long the place rings
with the clink of hammers and the clang of metal bars.
Unsavoury as it is below, there is cheerfulness, and comfort, and hard,
honest work above.
Five flights up are the ateliers of architects and painters, and the
hiding-places of middle-aged students like myself who want to live alone.
When I first came here to live I was young, and not alone.
I had to walk a while before any conveyance appeared, but at last, when I
had almost reached the Arc de Triomphe again, an empty cab came along and
I took it.
From the Arc to the Rue de Rennes is a drive of more than half an hour,
especially when one is conveyed by a tired cab horse that has been at the
mercy of Sunday fete-makers.
There had been time before I passed under the Dragon's wings to meet my
enemy over and over again, but I never saw him once, and now refuge was
close at hand.
Before the wide gateway a small mob of children were playing. Our
concierge and his wife walked among them, with their black poodle,
keeping order; some couples were waltzing on the side-walk. I returned
their greetings and hurried in.
All the inhabitants of the court had trooped out into the street. The
place was quite deserted, lighted by a few lanterns hung high up, in
which the gas burned dimly.
My apartment was at the top of a house, halfway down the court, reached
by a staircase that descended almost into the street, with only a bit of
passage-way intervening, I set my foot on the threshold of the open door,
the friendly old ruinous stairs rose before me, leading up to rest and
shelter. Looking back over my right shoulder, I saw _him,_ ten paces
off. He must have entered the court with me.
He was coming straight on, neither slowly, nor swiftly, but straight on
to me. And now he was looking at me. For the first time since our eyes
encountered across the church they met now again, and I knew that the
time had come.
Retreating backward, down the court, I faced him. I meant to escape by
the entrance on the Rue du Dragon. His eyes told me that I never should
It seemed ages while we were going, I retreating, he advancing, down the
court in perfect silence; but at last I felt the shadow of the archway,
and the next step brought me within it. I had meant to turn here and
spring through into the street. But the shadow was not that of an
archway; it was that of a vault. The great doors on the Rue du Dragon
were closed. I felt this by the blackness which surrounded me, and at the
same instant I read it in his face. How his face gleamed in the darkness,
drawing swiftly nearer! The deep vaults, the huge closed doors, their
cold iron clamps were all on his side. The thing which he had threatened
had arrived: it gathered and bore down on me from the fathomless shadows;
the point from which it would strike was his infernal eyes. Hopeless, I
set my back against the barred doors and defied him.
There was a scraping of chairs on the stone floor, and a rustling as the
congregation rose. I could hear the Suisse's staff in the south aisle,
preceding Monseigneur C---- to the sacristy.
The kneeling nuns, roused from their devout abstraction, made their
reverence and went away. The fashionable lady, my neighbour, rose also,
with graceful reserve. As she departed her glance just flitted over my
face in disapproval.
Half dead, or so it seemed to me, yet intensely alive to every trifle, I
sat among the leisurely moving crowd, then rose too and went toward the
I had slept through the sermon. Had I slept through the sermon? I looked
up and saw him passing along the gallery to his place. Only his side I
saw; the thin bent arm in its black covering looked like one of those
devilish, nameless instruments which lie in the disused torture-chambers
of mediaeval castles.
But I had escaped him, though his eyes had said I should not. _Had_
I escaped him? That which gave him the power over me came back out of
oblivion, where I had hoped to keep it. For I knew him now. Death and the
awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had sent
him--they had changed him for every other eye, but not for mine. I had
recognized him almost from the first; I had never doubted what he was
come to do; and now I knew while my body sat safe in the cheerful little
church, he had been hunting my soul in the Court of the Dragon.
I crept to the door: the organ broke out overhead with a blare. A
dazzling light filled the church, blotting the altar from my eyes. The
people faded away, the arches, the vaulted roof vanished. I raised my
seared eyes to the fathomless glare, and I saw the black stars hanging in
the heavens: and the wet winds from the lake of Hali chilled my face.
And now, far away, over leagues of tossing cloud-waves, I saw the moon
dripping with spray; and beyond, the towers of Carcosa rose behind the
Death and the awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had
sent him, had changed him for every other eye but mine. And now I heard
_his voice_, rising, swelling, thundering through the flaring light,
and as I fell, the radiance increasing, increasing, poured over me in
waves of flame. Then I sank into the depths, and I heard the King in
Yellow whispering to my soul: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the
hands of the living God!"
THE YELLOW SIGN
"Let the red dawn surmise
What we shall do,
When this blue starlight dies
And all is through."
There are so many things which are impossible to explain! Why should
certain chords in music make me think of the brown and golden tints of
autumn foliage? Why should the Mass of Sainte Cecile bend my thoughts
wandering among caverns whose walls blaze with ragged masses of virgin
silver? What was it in the roar and turmoil of Broadway at six o'clock
that flashed before my eyes the picture of a still Breton forest where
sunlight filtered through spring foliage and Sylvia bent, half curiously,
half tenderly, over a small green lizard, murmuring: "To think that this
also is a little ward of God!"
When I first saw the watchman his back was toward me. I looked at him
indifferently until he went into the church. I paid no more attention to
him than I had to any other man who lounged through Washington Square
that morning, and when I shut my window and turned back into my studio I
had forgotten him. Late in the afternoon, the day being warm, I raised
the window again and leaned out to get a sniff of air. A man was standing
in the courtyard of the church, and I noticed him again with as little
interest as I had that morning. I looked across the square to where the
fountain was playing and then, with my mind filled with vague impressions
of trees, asphalt drives, and the moving groups of nursemaids and
holiday-makers, I started to walk back to my easel. As I turned, my
listless glance included the man below in the churchyard. His face was
toward me now, and with a perfectly involuntary movement I bent to see
it. At the same moment he raised his head and looked at me. Instantly I
thought of a coffin-worm. Whatever it was about the man that repelled me
I did not know, but the impression of a plump white grave-worm was so
intense and nauseating that I must have shown it in my expression, for he
turned his puffy face away with a movement which made me think of a
disturbed grub in a chestnut.
I went back to my easel and motioned the model to resume her pose. After
working a while I was satisfied that I was spoiling what I had done as
rapidly as possible, and I took up a palette knife and scraped the colour
out again. The flesh tones were sallow and unhealthy, and I did not
understand how I could have painted such sickly colour into a study which
before that had glowed with healthy tones.
I looked at Tessie. She had not changed, and the clear flush of health
dyed her neck and cheeks as I frowned.
"Is it something I've done?" she said.
"No,--I've made a mess of this arm, and for the life of me I can't see
how I came to paint such mud as that into the canvas," I replied.
"Don't I pose well?" she insisted.
"Of course, perfectly."
"Then it's not my fault?"
"No. It's my own."
"I am very sorry," she said.
I told her she could rest while I applied rag and turpentine to the
plague spot on my canvas, and she went off to smoke a cigarette and look
over the illustrations in the _Courrier Francais_.
I did not know whether it was something in the turpentine or a defect in
the canvas, but the more I scrubbed the more that gangrene seemed to
spread. I worked like a beaver to get it out, and yet the disease
appeared to creep from limb to limb of the study before me. Alarmed, I
strove to arrest it, but now the colour on the breast changed and the
whole figure seemed to absorb the infection as a sponge soaks up water.
Vigorously I plied palette-knife, turpentine, and scraper, thinking all
the time what a _seance_ I should hold with Duval who had sold me
the canvas; but soon I noticed that it was not the canvas which was
defective nor yet the colours of Edward. "It must be the turpentine," I
thought angrily, "or else my eyes have become so blurred and confused by
the afternoon light that I can't see straight." I called Tessie, the
model. She came and leaned over my chair blowing rings of smoke into the
"What _have_ you been doing to it?" she exclaimed
"Nothing," I growled, "it must be this turpentine!"
"What a horrible colour it is now," she continued. "Do you think my flesh
resembles green cheese?"
"No, I don't," I said angrily; "did you ever know me to paint like that
"It must be the turpentine, or something," she admitted.
She slipped on a Japanese robe and walked to the window. I scraped and
rubbed until I was tired, and finally picked up my brushes and hurled
them through the canvas with a forcible expression, the tone alone of
which reached Tessie's ears.
Nevertheless she promptly began: "That's it! Swear and act silly and ruin
your brushes! You have been three weeks on that study, and now look!
What's the good of ripping the canvas? What creatures artists are!"
I felt about as much ashamed as I usually did after such an outbreak, and
I turned the ruined canvas to the wall. Tessie helped me clean my
brushes, and then danced away to dress. From the screen she regaled me
with bits of advice concerning whole or partial loss of temper, until,
thinking, perhaps, I had been tormented sufficiently, she came out to
implore me to button her waist where she could not reach it on the
"Everything went wrong from the time you came back from the window and
talked about that horrid-looking man you saw in the churchyard," she
"Yes, he probably bewitched the picture," I said, yawning. I looked at my
"It's after six, I know," said Tessie, adjusting her hat before the
"Yes," I replied, "I didn't mean to keep you so long." I leaned out of
the window but recoiled with disgust, for the young man with the pasty
face stood below in the churchyard. Tessie saw my gesture of disapproval
and leaned from the window.
"Is that the man you don't like?" she whispered.
"I can't see his face, but he does look fat and soft. Someway or other,"
she continued, turning to look at me, "he reminds me of a dream,--an
awful dream I once had. Or," she mused, looking down at her shapely
shoes, "was it a dream after all?"
"How should I know?" I smiled.
Tessie smiled in reply.
"You were in it," she said, "so perhaps you might know something about
"Tessie! Tessie!" I protested, "don't you dare flatter by saying that you
dream about me!"
"But I did," she insisted; "shall I tell you about it?"
"Go ahead," I replied, lighting a cigarette.
Tessie leaned back on the open window-sill and began very seriously.
"One night last winter I was lying in bed thinking about nothing at all
in particular. I had been posing for you and I was tired out, yet it
seemed impossible for me to sleep. I heard the bells in the city ring
ten, eleven, and midnight. I must have fallen asleep about midnight
because I don't remember hearing the bells after that. It seemed to me
that I had scarcely closed my eyes when I dreamed that something impelled
me to go to the window. I rose, and raising the sash leaned out.
Twenty-fifth Street was deserted as far as I could see. I began to be
afraid; everything outside seemed so--so black and uncomfortable. Then
the sound of wheels in the distance came to my ears, and it seemed to me
as though that was what I must wait for. Very slowly the wheels
approached, and, finally, I could make out a vehicle moving along the
street. It came nearer and nearer, and when it passed beneath my window I
saw it was a hearse. Then, as I trembled with fear, the driver turned and
looked straight at me. When I awoke I was standing by the open window
shivering with cold, but the black-plumed hearse and the driver were
gone. I dreamed this dream again in March last, and again awoke beside
the open window. Last night the dream came again. You remember how it was
raining; when I awoke, standing at the open window, my night-dress was
"But where did I come into the dream?" I asked.
"You--you were in the coffin; but you were not dead."
"In the coffin?"
"How did you know? Could you see me?"
"No; I only knew you were there."
"Had you been eating Welsh rarebits, or lobster salad?" I began,
laughing, but the girl interrupted me with a frightened cry.
"Hello! What's up?" I said, as she shrank into the embrasure by the
"The--the man below in the churchyard;--he drove the hearse."
"Nonsense," I said, but Tessie's eyes were wide with terror. I went to
the window and looked out. The man was gone. "Come, Tessie," I urged,
"don't be foolish. You have posed too long; you are nervous."
"Do you think I could forget that face?" she murmured. "Three times I saw
the hearse pass below my window, and every time the driver turned and
looked up at me. Oh, his face was so white and--and soft? It looked
dead--it looked as if it had been dead a long time."
I induced the girl to sit down and swallow a glass of Marsala. Then I sat
down beside her, and tried to give her some advice.
"Look here, Tessie," I said, "you go to the country for a week or two,
and you'll have no more dreams about hearses. You pose all day, and when
night comes your nerves are upset. You can't keep this up. Then again,
instead of going to bed when your day's work is done, you run off to
picnics at Sulzer's Park, or go to the Eldorado or Coney Island, and when
you come down here next morning you are fagged out. There was no real
hearse. There was a soft-shell crab dream."
She smiled faintly.
"What about the man in the churchyard?"
"Oh, he's only an ordinary unhealthy, everyday creature."
"As true as my name is Tessie Reardon, I swear to you, Mr. Scott, that
the face of the man below in the churchyard is the face of the man who
drove the hearse!"
"What of it?" I said. "It's an honest trade."
"Then you think I _did_ see the hearse?"
"Oh," I said diplomatically, "if you really did, it might not be unlikely
that the man below drove it. There is nothing in that."
Tessie rose, unrolled her scented handkerchief, and taking a bit of gum
from a knot in the hem, placed it in her mouth. Then drawing on her
gloves she offered me her hand, with a frank, "Good-night, Mr. Scott,"
and walked out.
The next morning, Thomas, the bell-boy, brought me the _Herald_ and
a bit of news. The church next door had been sold. I thanked Heaven for
it, not that being a Catholic I had any repugnance for the congregation
next door, but because my nerves were shattered by a blatant exhorter,
whose every word echoed through the aisle of the church as if it had been
my own rooms, and who insisted on his r's with a nasal persistence which
revolted my every instinct. Then, too, there was a fiend in human shape,
an organist, who reeled off some of the grand old hymns with an
interpretation of his own, and I longed for the blood of a creature who
could play the doxology with an amendment of minor chords which one hears
only in a quartet of very young undergraduates. I believe the minister
was a good man, but when he bellowed: "And the Lorrrrd said unto Moses,
the Lorrrd is a man of war; the Lorrrd is his name. My wrath shall wax
hot and I will kill you with the sworrrrd!" I wondered how many centuries
of purgatory it would take to atone for such a sin.
"Who bought the property?" I asked Thomas.
"Nobody that I knows, sir. They do say the gent wot owns this 'ere
'Amilton flats was lookin' at it. 'E might be a bildin' more studios."
I walked to the window. The young man with the unhealthy face stood by
the churchyard gate, and at the mere sight of him the same overwhelming
repugnance took possession of me.
"By the way, Thomas," I said, "who is that fellow down there?"
Thomas sniffed. "That there worm, sir? 'Es night-watchman of the church,
sir. 'E maikes me tired a-sittin' out all night on them steps and lookin'
at you insultin' like. I'd a punched 'is 'ed, sir--beg pardon, sir--"
"Go on, Thomas."
"One night a comin' 'ome with Arry, the other English boy, I sees 'im a
sittin' there on them steps. We 'ad Molly and Jen with us, sir, the two
girls on the tray service, an' 'e looks so insultin' at us that I up and
sez: 'Wat you looking hat, you fat slug?'--beg pardon, sir, but that's
'ow I sez, sir. Then 'e don't say nothin' and I sez: 'Come out and I'll
punch that puddin' 'ed.' Then I hopens the gate an' goes in, but 'e don't
say nothin', only looks insultin' like. Then I 'its 'im one, but, ugh!
'is 'ed was that cold and mushy it ud sicken you to touch 'im."
"What did he do then?" I asked curiously.
"And you, Thomas?"
The young fellow flushed with embarrassment and smiled uneasily.
"Mr. Scott, sir, I ain't no coward, an' I can't make it out at all why I
run. I was in the 5th Lawncers, sir, bugler at Tel-el-Kebir, an' was shot
by the wells."
"You don't mean to say you ran away?"
"Yes, sir; I run."
"That's just what I want to know, sir. I grabbed Molly an' run, an' the
rest was as frightened as I."
"But what were they frightened at?"
Thomas refused to answer for a while, but now my curiosity was aroused
about the repulsive young man below and I pressed him. Three years'
sojourn in America had not only modified Thomas' cockney dialect but had
given him the American's fear of ridicule.
"You won't believe me, Mr. Scott, sir?"
"Yes, I will."
"You will lawf at me, sir?"
He hesitated. "Well, sir, it's Gawd's truth that when I 'it 'im 'e
grabbed me wrists, sir, and when I twisted 'is soft, mushy fist one of
'is fingers come off in me 'and."
The utter loathing and horror of Thomas' face must have been reflected in
my own, for he added:
"It's orful, an' now when I see 'im I just go away. 'E maikes me hill."
When Thomas had gone I went to the window. The man stood beside the
church-railing with both hands on the gate, but I hastily retreated to my
easel again, sickened and horrified, for I saw that the middle finger of
his right hand was missing.
At nine o'clock Tessie appeared and vanished behind the screen with a
merry "Good morning, Mr. Scott." When she had reappeared and taken her
pose upon the model-stand I started a new canvas, much to her delight.
She remained silent as long as I was on the drawing, but as soon as the
scrape of the charcoal ceased and I took up my fixative she began to
"Oh, I had such a lovely time last night. We went to Tony Pastor's."
"Who are 'we'?" I demanded.
"Oh, Maggie, you know, Mr. Whyte's model, and Pinkie McCormick--we call
her Pinkie because she's got that beautiful red hair you artists like so
much--and Lizzie Burke."
I sent a shower of spray from the fixative over the canvas, and said:
"Well, go on."
"We saw Kelly and Baby Barnes the skirt-dancer and--and all the rest. I
made a mash."
"Then you have gone back on me, Tessie?"
She laughed and shook her head.
"He's Lizzie Burke's brother, Ed. He's a perfect gen'l'man."
I felt constrained to give her some parental advice concerning mashing,
which she took with a bright smile.
"Oh, I can take care of a strange mash," she said, examining her chewing
gum, "but Ed is different. Lizzie is my best friend."
Then she related how Ed had come back from the stocking mill in Lowell,
Massachusetts, to find her and Lizzie grown up, and what an accomplished
young man he was, and how he thought nothing of squandering half-a-dollar
for ice-cream and oysters to celebrate his entry as clerk into the
woollen department of Macy's. Before she finished I began to paint, and
she resumed the pose, smiling and chattering like a sparrow. By noon I
had the study fairly well rubbed in and Tessie came to look at it.
"That's better," she said.
I thought so too, and ate my lunch with a satisfied feeling that all was
going well. Tessie spread her lunch on a drawing table opposite me and we
drank our claret from the same bottle and lighted our cigarettes from the
same match. I was very much attached to Tessie. I had watched her shoot
up into a slender but exquisitely formed woman from a frail, awkward
child. She had posed for me during the last three years, and among all my
models she was my favourite. It would have troubled me very much indeed
had she become "tough" or "fly," as the phrase goes, but I never noticed
any deterioration of her manner, and felt at heart that she was all
right. She and I never discussed morals at all, and I had no intention of
doing so, partly because I had none myself, and partly because I knew she
would do what she liked in spite of me. Still I did hope she would steer
clear of complications, because I wished her well, and then also I had a
selfish desire to retain the best model I had. I knew that mashing, as
she termed it, had no significance with girls like Tessie, and that such
things in America did not resemble in the least the same things in Paris.
Yet, having lived with my eyes open, I also knew that somebody would take
Tessie away some day, in one manner or another, and though I professed to
myself that marriage was nonsense, I sincerely hoped that, in this case,
there would be a priest at the end of the vista. I am a Catholic. When I
listen to high mass, when I sign myself, I feel that everything,
including myself, is more cheerful, and when I confess, it does me good.
A man who lives as much alone as I do, must confess to somebody. Then,
again, Sylvia was Catholic, and it was reason enough for me. But I was
speaking of Tessie, which is very different. Tessie also was Catholic and
much more devout than I, so, taking it all in all, I had little fear for
my pretty model until she should fall in love. But _then_ I knew
that fate alone would decide her future for her, and I prayed inwardly
that fate would keep her away from men like me and throw into her path
nothing but Ed Burkes and Jimmy McCormicks, bless her sweet face!
Tessie sat blowing rings of smoke up to the ceiling and tinkling the ice
in her tumbler.
"Do you know that I also had a dream last night?" I observed.
"Not about that man," she laughed.
"Exactly. A dream similar to yours, only much worse."
It was foolish and thoughtless of me to say this, but you know how little
tact the average painter has. "I must have fallen asleep about ten
o'clock," I continued, "and after a while I dreamt that I awoke. So
plainly did I hear the midnight bells, the wind in the tree-branches, and
the whistle of steamers from the bay, that even now I can scarcely
believe I was not awake. I seemed to be lying in a box which had a glass
cover. Dimly I saw the street lamps as I passed, for I must tell you,
Tessie, the box in which I reclined appeared to lie in a cushioned wagon
which jolted me over a stony pavement. After a while I became impatient
and tried to move, but the box was too narrow. My hands were crossed on
my breast, so I could not raise them to help myself. I listened and then
tried to call. My voice was gone. I could hear the trample of the horses
attached to the wagon, and even the breathing of the driver. Then another
sound broke upon my ears like the raising of a window sash. I managed to
turn my head a little, and found I could look, not only through the glass
cover of my box, but also through the glass panes in the side of the
covered vehicle. I saw houses, empty and silent, with neither light nor
life about any of them excepting one. In that house a window was open on
the first floor, and a figure all in white stood looking down into the
street. It was you."
Tessie had turned her face away from me and leaned on the table with her
"I could see your face," I resumed, "and it seemed to me to be very
sorrowful. Then we passed on and turned into a narrow black lane.
Presently the horses stopped. I waited and waited, closing my eyes with
ear and impatience, but all was silent as the grave. After what seemed to
me hours, I began to feel uncomfortable. A sense that somebody was close
to me made me unclose my eyes. Then I saw the white face of the
hearse-driver looking at me through the coffin-lid----"
A sob from Tessie interrupted me. She was trembling like a leaf. I saw I
had made an ass of myself and attempted to repair the damage.
"Why, Tess," I said, "I only told you this to show you what influence
your story might have on another person's dreams. You don't suppose I
really lay in a coffin, do you? What are you trembling for? Don't you see
that your dream and my unreasonable dislike for that inoffensive watchman
of the church simply set my brain working as soon as I fell asleep?"
She laid her head between her arms, and sobbed as if her heart would
break. What a precious triple donkey I had made of myself! But I was
about to break my record. I went over and put my arm about her.
"Tessie dear, forgive me," I said; "I had no business to frighten you
with such nonsense. You are too sensible a girl, too good a Catholic to
believe in dreams."
Her hand tightened on mine and her head fell back upon my shoulder, but
she still trembled and I petted her and comforted her.
"Come, Tess, open your eyes and smile."
Her eyes opened with a slow languid movement and met mine, but their
expression was so queer that I hastened to reassure her again.
"It's all humbug, Tessie; you surely are not afraid that any harm will
come to you because of that."
"No," she said, but her scarlet lips quivered.
"Then, what's the matter? Are you afraid?"
"Yes. Not for myself."
"For me, then?" I demanded gaily.
"For you," she murmured in a voice almost inaudible. "I--I care for you."
At first I started to laugh, but when I understood her, a shock passed
through me, and I sat like one turned to stone. This was the crowning bit
of idiocy I had committed. During the moment which elapsed between her
reply and my answer I thought of a thousand responses to that innocent
confession. I could pass it by with a laugh, I could misunderstand her
and assure her as to my health, I could simply point out that it was
impossible she could love me. But my reply was quicker than my thoughts,
and I might think and think now when it was too late, for I had kissed
her on the mouth.
That evening I took my usual walk in Washington Park, pondering over the
occurrences of the day. I was thoroughly committed. There was no back out
now, and I stared the future straight in the face. I was not good, not
even scrupulous, but I had no idea of deceiving either myself or Tessie.
The one passion of my life lay buried in the sunlit forests of Brittany.
Was it buried for ever? Hope cried "No!" For three years I had been
listening to the voice of Hope, and for three years I had waited for a
footstep on my threshold. Had Sylvia forgotten? "No!" cried Hope.
I said that I was no good. That is true, but still I was not exactly a
comic opera villain. I had led an easy-going reckless life, taking what
invited me of pleasure, deploring and sometimes bitterly regretting
consequences. In one thing alone, except my painting, was I serious, and
that was something which lay hidden if not lost in the Breton forests.
It was too late for me to regret what had occurred during the day.
Whatever it had been, pity, a sudden tenderness for sorrow, or the more
brutal instinct of gratified vanity, it was all the same now, and unless
I wished to bruise an innocent heart, my path lay marked before me. The
fire and strength, the depth of passion of a love which I had never even
suspected, with all my imagined experience in the world, left me no
alternative but to respond or send her away. Whether because I am so
cowardly about giving pain to others, or whether it was that I have
little of the gloomy Puritan in me, I do not know, but I shrank from
disclaiming responsibility for that thoughtless kiss, and in fact had no
time to do so before the gates of her heart opened and the flood poured
forth. Others who habitually do their duty and find a sullen satisfaction
in making themselves and everybody else unhappy, might have withstood it.
I did not. I dared not. After the storm had abated I did tell her that
she might better have loved Ed Burke and worn a plain gold ring, but she
would not hear of it, and I thought perhaps as long as she had decided to
love somebody she could not marry, it had better be me. I, at least,
could treat her with an intelligent affection, and whenever she became
tired of her infatuation she could go none the worse for it. For I was
decided on that point although I knew how hard it would be. I remembered
the usual termination of Platonic liaisons, and thought how disgusted I
had been whenever I heard of one. I knew I was undertaking a great deal
for so unscrupulous a man as I was, and I dreamed the future, but never
for one moment did I doubt that she was safe with me. Had it been anybody
but Tessie I should not have bothered my head about scruples. For it did
not occur to me to sacrifice Tessie as I would have sacrificed a woman of
the world. I looked the future squarely in the face and saw the several
probable endings to the affair. She would either tire of the whole thing,
or become so unhappy that I should have either to marry her or go away.
If I married her we would be unhappy. I with a wife unsuited to me, and
she with a husband unsuitable for any woman. For my past life could
scarcely entitle me to marry. If I went away she might either fall ill,
recover, and marry some Eddie Burke, or she might recklessly or
deliberately go and do something foolish. On the other hand, if she tired
of me, then her whole life would be before her with beautiful vistas of
Eddie Burkes and marriage rings and twins and Harlem flats and Heaven
knows what. As I strolled along through the trees by the Washington Arch,
I decided that she should find a substantial friend in me, anyway, and
the future could take care of itself. Then I went into the house and put
on my evening dress, for the little faintly-perfumed note on my dresser
said, "Have a cab at the stage door at eleven," and the note was signed
"Edith Carmichel, Metropolitan Theatre."
I took supper that night, or rather we took supper, Miss Carmichel and I,
at Solari's, and the dawn was just beginning to gild the cross on the
Memorial Church as I entered Washington Square after leaving Edith at the
Brunswick. There was not a soul in the park as I passed along the trees
and took the walk which leads from the Garibaldi statue to the Hamilton
Apartment House, but as I passed the churchyard I saw a figure sitting on
the stone steps. In spite of myself a chill crept over me at the sight of
the white puffy face, and I hastened to pass. Then he said something
which might have been addressed to me or might merely have been a mutter
to himself, but a sudden furious anger flamed up within me that such a
creature should address me. For an instant I felt like wheeling about and
smashing my stick over his head, but I walked on, and entering the
Hamilton went to my apartment. For some time I tossed about the bed
trying to get the sound of his voice out of my ears, but could not. It
filled my head, that muttering sound, like thick oily smoke from a
fat-rendering vat or an odour of noisome decay. And as I lay and tossed
about, the voice in my ears seemed more distinct, and I began to
understand the words he had muttered. They came to me slowly as if I had
forgotten them, and at last I could make some sense out of the sounds. It
"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"
I was furious. What did he mean by that? Then with a curse upon him and
his I rolled over and went to sleep, but when I awoke later I looked pale
and haggard, for I had dreamed the dream of the night before, and it
troubled me more than I cared to think.
I dressed and went down into my studio. Tessie sat by the window, but as
I came in she rose and put both arms around my neck for an innocent kiss.
She looked so sweet and dainty that I kissed her again and then sat down
before the easel.
"Hello! Where's the study I began yesterday?" I asked.
Tessie looked conscious, but did not answer. I began to hunt among the
piles of canvases, saying, "Hurry up, Tess, and get ready; we must take
advantage of the morning light."
When at last I gave up the search among the other canvases and turned to
look around the room for the missing study I noticed Tessie standing by
the screen with her clothes still on.
"What's the matter," I asked, "don't you feel well?"
"Do you want me to pose as--as I have always posed?"
Then I understood. Here was a new complication. I had lost, of course,
the best nude model I had ever seen. I looked at Tessie. Her face was
scarlet. Alas! Alas! We had eaten of the tree of knowledge, and Eden and
native innocence were dreams of the past--I mean for her.
I suppose she noticed the disappointment on my face, for she said: "I
will pose if you wish. The study is behind the screen here where I put
"No," I said, "we will begin something new;" and I went into my wardrobe
and picked out a Moorish costume which fairly blazed with tinsel. It was
a genuine costume, and Tessie retired to the screen with it enchanted.
When she came forth again I was astonished. Her long black hair was bound
above her forehead with a circlet of turquoises, and the ends, curled
about her glittering girdle. Her feet were encased in the embroidered
pointed slippers and the skirt of her costume, curiously wrought with
arabesques in silver, fell to her ankles. The deep metallic blue vest
embroidered with silver and the short Mauresque jacket spangled and sewn
with turquoises became her wonderfully. She came up to me and held up her
face smiling. I slipped my hand into my pocket, and drawing out a gold
chain with a cross attached, dropped it over her head.
"It's yours, Tessie."
"Mine?" she faltered.
"Yours. Now go and pose," Then with a radiant smile she ran behind the
screen and presently reappeared with a little box on which was written my
"I had intended to give it to you when I went home to-night," she said,
"but I can't wait now."
I opened the box. On the pink cotton inside lay a clasp of black onyx, on
which was inlaid a curious symbol or letter in gold. It was neither
Arabic nor Chinese, nor, as I found afterwards, did it belong to any
"It's all I had to give you for a keepsake," she said timidly.
I was annoyed, but I told her how much I should prize it, and promised to
wear it always. She fastened it on my coat beneath the lapel.
"How foolish, Tess, to go and buy me such a beautiful thing as this," I
"I did not buy it," she laughed.
"Where did you get it?"
Then she told me how she had found it one day while coming from the
Aquarium in the Battery, how she had advertised it and watched the
papers, but at last gave up all hopes of finding the owner.
"That was last winter," she said, "the very day I had the first horrid
dream about the hearse."
I remembered my dream of the previous night but said nothing, and
presently my charcoal was flying over a new canvas, and Tessie stood
motionless on the model-stand.
The day following was a disastrous one for me. While moving a framed
canvas from one easel to another my foot slipped on the polished floor,
and I fell heavily on both wrists. They were so badly sprained that it
was useless to attempt to hold a brush, and I was obliged to wander about
the studio, glaring at unfinished drawings and sketches, until despair
seized me and I sat down to smoke and twiddle my thumbs with rage. The
rain blew against the windows and rattled on the roof of the church,
driving me into a nervous fit with its interminable patter. Tessie sat
sewing by the window, and every now and then raised her head and looked
at me with such innocent compassion that I began to feel ashamed of my
irritation and looked about for something to occupy me. I had read all
the papers and all the books in the library, but for the sake of
something to do I went to the bookcases and shoved them open with my
elbow. I knew every volume by its colour and examined them all, passing
slowly around the library and whistling to keep up my spirits. I was
turning to go into the dining-room when my eye fell upon a book bound in
serpent skin, standing in a corner of the top shelf of the last bookcase.
I did not remember it, and from the floor could not decipher the pale
lettering on the back, so I went to the smoking-room and called Tessie.
She came in from the studio and climbed up to reach the book.
"What is it?" I asked.
"_The King in Yellow._"
I was dumfounded. Who had placed it there? How came it in my rooms? I had
long ago decided that I should never open that book, and nothing on earth
could have persuaded me to buy it. Fearful lest curiosity might tempt me
to open it, I had never even looked at it in book-stores. If I ever had
had any curiosity to read it, the awful tragedy of young Castaigne, whom
I knew, prevented me from exploring its wicked pages. I had always
refused to listen to any description of it, and indeed, nobody ever
ventured to discuss the second part aloud, so I had absolutely no
knowledge of what those leaves might reveal. I stared at the poisonous
mottled binding as I would at a snake.
"Don't touch it, Tessie," I said; "come down."
Of course my admonition was enough to arouse her curiosity, and before I
could prevent it she took the book and, laughing, danced off into the
studio with it. I called to her, but she slipped away with a tormenting
smile at my helpless hands, and I followed her with some impatience.
"Tessie!" I cried, entering the library, "listen, I am serious. Put that
book away. I do not wish you to open it!" The library was empty. I went
into both drawing-rooms, then into the bedrooms, laundry, kitchen, and
finally returned to the library and began a systematic search. She had
hidden herself so well that it was half-an-hour later when I discovered
her crouching white and silent by the latticed window in the store-room
above. At the first glance I saw she had been punished for her
foolishness. _The King in Yellow_ lay at her feet, but the book was
open at the second part. I looked at Tessie and saw it was too late. She
had opened _The King in Yellow_. Then I took her by the hand and led
her into the studio. She seemed dazed, and when I told her to lie down on
the sofa she obeyed me without a word. After a while she closed her eyes
and her breathing became regular and deep, but I could not determine
whether or not she slept. For a long while I sat silently beside her, but
she neither stirred nor spoke, and at last I rose, and, entering the
unused store-room, took the book in my least injured hand. It seemed
heavy as lead, but I carried it into the studio again, and sitting down
on the rug beside the sofa, opened it and read it through from beginning
When, faint with excess of my emotions, I dropped the volume and leaned
wearily back against the sofa, Tessie opened her eyes and looked at
We had been speaking for some time in a dull monotonous strain before I
realized that we were discussing _The King in Yellow_. Oh the sin of
writing such words,--words which are clear as crystal, limpid and musical
as bubbling springs, words which sparkle and glow like the poisoned
diamonds of the Medicis! Oh the wickedness, the hopeless damnation of a
soul who could fascinate and paralyze human creatures with such
words,--words understood by the ignorant and wise alike, words which are
more precious than jewels, more soothing than music, more awful than
We talked on, unmindful of the gathering shadows, and she was begging me
to throw away the clasp of black onyx quaintly inlaid with what we now
knew to be the Yellow Sign. I never shall know why I refused, though even
at this hour, here in my bedroom as I write this confession, I should be
glad to know _what_ it was that prevented me from tearing the Yellow
Sign from my breast and casting it into the fire. I am sure I wished to
do so, and yet Tessie pleaded with me in vain. Night fell and the hours
dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the
Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the
fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and of Cassilda, while outside the
fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the cloud waves roll and
break on the shores of Hali.
The house was very silent now, and not a sound came up from the misty
streets. Tessie lay among the cushions, her face a grey blot in the
gloom, but her hands were clasped in mine, and I knew that she knew and
read my thoughts as I read hers, for we had understood the mystery of the
Hyades and the Phantom of Truth was laid. Then as we answered each other,
swiftly, silently, thought on thought, the shadows stirred in the gloom
about us, and far in the distant streets we heard a sound. Nearer and
nearer it came, the dull crunching of wheels, nearer and yet nearer, and
now, outside before the door it ceased, and I dragged myself to the
window and saw a black-plumed hearse. The gate below opened and shut, and
I crept shaking to my door and bolted it, but I knew no bolts, no locks,
could keep that creature out who was coming for the Yellow Sign. And now
I heard him moving very softly along the hall. Now he was at the door,
and the bolts rotted at his touch. Now he had entered. With eyes starting
from my head I peered into the darkness, but when he came into the room I
did not see him. It was only when I felt him envelope me in his cold soft
grasp that I cried out and struggled with deadly fury, but my hands were
useless and he tore the onyx clasp from my coat and struck me full in the
face. Then, as I fell, I heard Tessie's soft cry and her spirit fled: and
even while falling I longed to follow her, for I knew that the King in
Yellow had opened his tattered mantle and there was only God to cry to
I could tell more, but I cannot see what help it will be to the world. As
for me, I am past human help or hope. As I lie here, writing, careless
even whether or not I die before I finish, I can see the doctor gathering
up his powders and phials with a vague gesture to the good priest beside
me, which I understand.
They will be very curious to know the tragedy--they of the outside world
who write books and print millions of newspapers, but I shall write no
more, and the father confessor will seal my last words with the seal of
sanctity when his holy office is done. They of the outside world may send
their creatures into wrecked homes and death-smitten firesides, and their
newspapers will batten on blood and tears, but with me their spies must
halt before the confessional. They know that Tessie is dead and that I am
dying. They know how the people in the house, aroused by an infernal
scream, rushed into my room and found one living and two dead, but they
do not know what I shall tell them now; they do not know that the doctor
said as he pointed to a horrible decomposed heap on the floor--the livid
corpse of the watchman from the church: "I have no theory, no explanation.
That man must have been dead for months!"
I think I am dying. I wish the priest would--
THE DEMOISELLE D'YS
"Mais je croy que je
Suis descendu on puiz
Tenebreux onquel disoit
Heraclytus estre Verete cachee."
"There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I
"The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the
way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid."
The utter desolation of the scene began to have its effect; I sat down to
face the situation and, if possible, recall to mind some landmark which
might aid me in extricating myself from my present position. If I could
only find the ocean again all would be clear, for I knew one could see
the island of Groix from the cliffs.
I laid down my gun, and kneeling behind a rock lighted a pipe. Then I
looked at my watch. It was nearly four o'clock. I might have wandered far
from Kerselec since daybreak.
Standing the day before on the cliffs below Kerselec with Goulven,
looking out over the sombre moors among which I had now lost my way,
these downs had appeared to me level as a meadow, stretching to the
horizon, and although I knew how deceptive is distance, I could not
realize that what from Kerselec seemed to be mere grassy hollows were
great valleys covered with gorse and heather, and what looked like
scattered boulders were in reality enormous cliffs of granite.
"It's a bad place for a stranger," old Goulven had said: "you'd better
take a guide;" and I had replied, "I shall not lose myself." Now I knew
that I had lost myself, as I sat there smoking, with the sea-wind blowing
in my face. On every side stretched the moorland, covered with flowering
gorse and heath and granite boulders. There was not a tree in sight, much
less a house. After a while, I picked up the gun, and turning my back on
the sun tramped on again.
There was little use in following any of the brawling streams which every
now and then crossed my path, for, instead of flowing into the sea, they
ran inland to reedy pools in the hollows of the moors. I had followed
several, but they all led me to swamps or silent little ponds from which
the snipe rose peeping and wheeled away in an ecstasy of fright I began
to feel fatigued, and the gun galled my shoulder in spite of the double
pads. The sun sank lower and lower, shining level across yellow gorse and
the moorland pools.
As I walked my own gigantic shadow led me on, seeming to lengthen at
every step. The gorse scraped against my leggings, crackled beneath my
feet, showering the brown earth with blossoms, and the brake bowed and
billowed along my path. From tufts of heath rabbits scurried away through
the bracken, and among the swamp grass I heard the wild duck's drowsy
quack. Once a fox stole across my path, and again, as I stooped to drink
at a hurrying rill, a heron flapped heavily from the reeds beside me. I
turned to look at the sun. It seemed to touch the edges of the plain.
When at last I decided that it was useless to go on, and that I must make
up my mind to spend at least one night on the moors, I threw myself down
thoroughly fagged out. The evening sunlight slanted warm across my body,
but the sea-winds began to rise, and I felt a chill strike through me
from my wet shooting-boots. High overhead gulls were wheeling and tossing
like bits of white paper; from some distant marsh a solitary curlew
called. Little by little the sun sank into the plain, and the zenith
flushed with the after-glow. I watched the sky change from palest gold to
pink and then to smouldering fire. Clouds of midges danced above me, and
high in the calm air a bat dipped and soared. My eyelids began to droop.
Then as I shook off the drowsiness a sudden crash among the bracken
roused me. I raised my eyes. A great bird hung quivering in the air above
my face. For an instant I stared, incapable of motion; then something
leaped past me in the ferns and the bird rose, wheeled, and pitched
headlong into the brake.
I was on my feet in an instant peering through the gorse. There came the
sound of a struggle from a bunch of heather close by, and then all was
quiet. I stepped forward, my gun poised, but when I came to the heather
the gun fell under my arm again, and I stood motionless in silent
astonishment A dead hare lay on the ground, and on the hare stood a
magnificent falcon, one talon buried in the creature's neck, the other
planted firmly on its limp flank. But what astonished me, was not the
mere sight of a falcon sitting upon its prey. I had seen that more than
once. It was that the falcon was fitted with a sort of leash about both
talons, and from the leash hung a round bit of metal like a sleigh-bell.
The bird turned its fierce yellow eyes on me, and then stooped and struck
its curved beak into the quarry. At the same instant hurried steps
sounded among the heather, and a girl sprang into the covert in front.
Without a glance at me she walked up to the falcon, and passing her
gloved hand under its breast, raised it from the quarry. Then she deftly
slipped a small hood over the bird's head, and holding it out on her
gauntlet, stooped and picked up the hare.
She passed a cord about the animal's legs and fastened the end of the
thong to her girdle. Then she started to retrace her steps through the
covert As she passed me I raised my cap and she acknowledged my presence
with a scarcely perceptible inclination. I had been so astonished, so
lost in admiration of the scene before my eyes, that it had not occurred
to me that here was my salvation. But as she moved away I recollected
that unless I wanted to sleep on a windy moor that night I had better
recover my speech without delay. At my first word she hesitated, and as I
stepped before her I thought a look of fear came into her beautiful eyes.
But as I humbly explained my unpleasant plight, her face flushed and she
looked at me in wonder.
"Surely you did not come from Kerselec!" she repeated.
Her sweet voice had no trace of the Breton accent nor of any accent which
I knew, and yet there was something in it I seemed to have heard before,
something quaint and indefinable, like the theme of an old song.
I explained that I was an American, unacquainted with Finistere, shooting
there for my own amusement.
"An American," she repeated in the same quaint musical tones. "I have
never before seen an American."
For a moment she stood silent, then looking at me she said. "If you
should walk all night you could not reach Kerselec now, even if you had a
This was pleasant news.
"But," I began, "if I could only find a peasant's hut where I might get
something to eat, and shelter."
The falcon on her wrist fluttered and shook its head. The girl smoothed
its glossy back and glanced at me.
"Look around," she said gently. "Can you see the end of these moors?
Look, north, south, east, west. Can you see anything but moorland and
"No," I said.
"The moor is wild and desolate. It is easy to enter, but sometimes they
who enter never leave it. There are no peasants' huts here."
"Well," I said, "if you will tell me in which direction Kerselec lies,
to-morrow it will take me no longer to go back than it has to come."
She looked at me again with an expression almost like pity.
"Ah," she said, "to come is easy and takes hours; to go is different--and
may take centuries."
I stared at her in amazement but decided that I had misunderstood her.
Then before I had time to speak she drew a whistle from her belt and
"Sit down and rest," she said to me; "you have come a long distance and
She gathered up her pleated skirts and motioning me to follow picked her
dainty way through the gorse to a flat rock among the ferns.
"They will be here directly," she said, and taking a seat at one end of
the rock invited me to sit down on the other edge. The after-glow was
beginning to fade in the sky and a single star twinkled faintly through
the rosy haze. A long wavering triangle of water-fowl drifted southward
over our heads, and from the swamps around plover were calling.
"They are very beautiful--these moors," she said quietly.
"Beautiful, but cruel to strangers," I answered.
"Beautiful and cruel," she repeated dreamily, "beautiful and cruel."
"Like a woman," I said stupidly.
"Oh," she cried with a little catch in her breath, and looked at me. Her
dark eyes met mine, and I thought she seemed angry or frightened.
"Like a woman," she repeated under her breath, "How cruel to say so!"
Then after a pause, as though speaking aloud to herself, "How cruel for
him to say that!"
I don't know what sort of an apology I offered for my inane, though
harmless speech, but I know that she seemed so troubled about it that I
began to think I had said something very dreadful without knowing it, and
remembered with horror the pitfalls and snares which the French language
sets for foreigners. While I was trying to imagine what I might have
said, a sound of voices came across the moor, and the girl rose to her
"No," she said, with a trace of a smile on her pale face, "I will not
accept your apologies, monsieur, but I must prove you wrong, and that
shall be my revenge. Look. Here come Hastur and Raoul."
Two men loomed up in the twilight. One had a sack across his shoulders
and the other carried a hoop before him as a waiter carries a tray. The
hoop was fastened with straps to his shoulders, and around the edge of
the circlet sat three hooded falcons fitted with tinkling bells. The girl
stepped up to the falconer, and with a quick turn of her wrist
transferred her falcon to the hoop, where it quickly sidled off and
nestled among its mates, who shook their hooded heads and ruffled their
feathers till the belled jesses tinkled again. The other man stepped
forward and bowing respectfully took up the hare and dropped it into the
"These are my piqueurs," said the girl, turning to me with a gentle
dignity. "Raoul is a good fauconnier, and I shall some day make him grand
veneur. Hastur is incomparable."
The two silent men saluted me respectfully.
"Did I not tell you, monsieur, that I should prove you wrong?" she
continued. "This, then, is my revenge, that you do me the courtesy of
accepting food and shelter at my own house."
Before I could answer she spoke to the falconers, who started instantly
across the heath, and with a gracious gesture to me she followed. I don't
know whether I made her understand how profoundly grateful I felt, but
she seemed pleased to listen, as we walked over the dewy heather.
"Are you not very tired?" she asked.
I had clean forgotten my fatigue in her presence, and I told her so.
"Don't you think your gallantry is a little old-fashioned?" she said; and
when I looked confused and humbled, she added quietly, "Oh, I like it, I
like everything old-fashioned, and it is delightful to hear you say such
The moorland around us was very still now under its ghostly sheet of
mist. The plovers had ceased their calling; the crickets and all the
little creatures of the fields were silent as we passed, yet it seemed to
me as if I could hear them beginning again far behind us. Well in
advance, the two tall falconers strode across the heather, and the faint
jingling of the hawks' bells came to our ears in distant murmuring
Suddenly a splendid hound dashed out of the mist in front, followed by
another and another until half-a-dozen or more were bounding and leaping
around the girl beside me. She caressed and quieted them with her gloved
hand, speaking to them in quaint terms which I remembered to have seen in
old French manuscripts.
Then the falcons on the circlet borne by the falconer ahead began to beat
their wings and scream, and from somewhere out of sight the notes of a
hunting-horn floated across the moor. The hounds sprang away before us
and vanished in the twilight, the falcons flapped and squealed upon their
perch, and the girl, taking up the song of the horn, began to hum. Clear
and mellow her voice sounded in the night air.
"Chasseur, chasseur, chassez encore,
Quittez Rosette et Jeanneton,
Tonton, tonton, tontaine, tonton,
Ou, pour, rabattre, des l'aurore,
Que les Amours soient de planton,
Tonton, tontaine, tonton."
As I listened to her lovely voice a grey mass which rapidly grew more
distinct loomed up in front, and the horn rang out joyously through the
tumult of the hounds and falcons. A torch glimmered at a gate, a light
streamed through an opening door, and we stepped upon a wooden bridge
which trembled under our feet and rose creaking and straining behind us
as we passed over the moat and into a small stone court, walled on every
side. From an open doorway a man came and, bending in salutation,
presented a cup to the girl beside me. She took the cup and touched it
with her lips, then lowering it turned to me and said in a low voice, "I
bid you welcome."
At that moment one of the falconers came with another cup, but before
handing it to me, presented it to the girl, who tasted it. The falconer
made a gesture to receive it, but she hesitated a moment, and then,
stepping forward, offered me the cup with her own hands. I felt this to
be an act of extraordinary graciousness, but hardly knew what was
expected of me, and did not raise it to my lips at once. The girl flushed
crimson. I saw that I must act quickly.
"Mademoiselle," I faltered, "a stranger whom you have saved from dangers
he may never realize empties this cup to the gentlest and loveliest
hostess of France."
"In His name," she murmured, crossing herself as I drained the cup. Then
stepping into the doorway she turned to me with a pretty gesture and,
taking my hand in hers, led me into the house, saying again and again:
"You are very welcome, indeed you are welcome to the Chateau d'Ys."
I awoke next morning with the music of the horn in my ears, and leaping
out of the ancient bed, went to a curtained window where the sunlight
filtered through little deep-set panes. The horn ceased as I looked into
the court below.
A man who might have been brother to the two falconers of the night
before stood in the midst of a pack of hounds. A curved horn was strapped
over his back, and in his hand he held a long-lashed whip. The dogs
whined and yelped, dancing around him in anticipation; there was the
stamp of horses, too, in the walled yard.
"Mount!" cried a voice in Breton, and with a clatter of hoofs the two
falconers, with falcons upon their wrists, rode into the courtyard among
the hounds. Then I heard another voice which sent the blood throbbing
through my heart: "Piriou Louis, hunt the hounds well and spare neither
spur nor whip. Thou Raoul and thou Gaston, see that the _epervier_
does not prove himself _niais_, and if it be best in your judgment,
_faites courtoisie a l'oiseau. Jardiner un oiseau_, like the
_mue_ there on Hastur's wrist, is not difficult, but thou, Raoul,
mayest not find it so simple to govern that _hagard_. Twice last
week he foamed _au vif_ and lost the _beccade_ although he is
used to the _leurre_. The bird acts like a stupid _branchier.
Paitre un hagard n'est pas si facile."_
Was I dreaming? The old language of falconry which I had read in yellow
manuscripts--the old forgotten French of the middle ages was sounding in
my ears while the hounds bayed and the hawks' bells tinkled accompaniment
to the stamping horses. She spoke again in the sweet forgotten language:
"If you would rather attach the _longe_ and leave thy _hagard au
bloc_, Raoul, I shall say nothing; for it were a pity to spoil so fair
a day's sport with an ill-trained _sors_. _Essimer abaisser_,--it is
possibly the best way. _Ca lui donnera des reins._ I was perhaps hasty
with the bird. It takes time to pass _a la filiere_ and the exercises
Then the falconer Raoul bowed in his stirrups and replied: "If it be the
pleasure of Mademoiselle, I shall keep the hawk."
"It is my wish," she answered. "Falconry I know, but you have yet to give
me many a lesson in _Autourserie_, my poor Raoul. Sieur Piriou Louis
The huntsman sprang into an archway and in an instant returned, mounted
upon a strong black horse, followed by a piqueur also mounted.
"Ah!" she cried joyously, "speed Glemarec Rene! speed! speed all! Sound
thy horn, Sieur Piriou!"
The silvery music of the hunting-horn filled the courtyard, the hounds
sprang through the gateway and galloping hoof-beats plunged out of the
paved court; loud on the drawbridge, suddenly muffled, then lost in the
heather and bracken of the moors. Distant and more distant sounded the
horn, until it became so faint that the sudden carol of a soaring lark
drowned it in my ears. I heard the voice below responding to some call
from within the house.
"I do not regret the chase, I will go another time Courtesy to the
stranger, Pelagie, remember!"
And a feeble voice came quavering from within the house,
I stripped, and rubbed myself from head to foot in the huge earthen basin
of icy water which stood upon the stone floor at the foot of my bed. Then
I looked about for my clothes. They were gone, but on a settle near the
door lay a heap of garments which I inspected with astonishment. As my
clothes had vanished, I was compelled to attire myself in the costume
which had evidently been placed there for me to wear while my own clothes
dried. Everything was there, cap, shoes, and hunting doublet of silvery
grey homespun; but the close-fitting costume and seamless shoes belonged
to another century, and I remembered the strange costumes of the three
falconers in the court-yard. I was sure that it was not the modern dress
of any portion of France or Brittany; but not until I was dressed and
stood before a mirror between the windows did I realize that I was
clothed much more like a young huntsman of the middle ages than like a
Breton of that day. I hesitated and picked up the cap. Should I go down
and present myself in that strange guise? There seemed to be no help for
it, my own clothes were gone and there was no bell in the ancient chamber
to call a servant; so I contented myself with removing a short hawk's
feather from the cap, and, opening the door, went downstairs.
By the fireplace in the large room at the foot of the stairs an old
Breton woman sat spinning with a distaff. She looked up at me when I
appeared, and, smiling frankly, wished me health in the Breton language,
to which I laughingly replied in French. At the same moment my hostess
appeared and returned my salutation with a grace and dignity that sent a
thrill to my heart. Her lovely head with its dark curly hair was crowned
with a head-dress which set all doubts as to the epoch of my own costume
at rest. Her slender figure was exquisitely set off in the homespun
hunting-gown edged with silver, and on her gauntlet-covered wrist she
bore one of her petted hawks. With perfect simplicity she took my hand
and led me into the garden in the court, and seating herself before a
table invited me very sweetly to sit beside her. Then she asked me in her
soft quaint accent how I had passed the night, and whether I was very
much inconvenienced by wearing the clothes which old Pelagie had put
there for me while I slept. I looked at my own clothes and shoes, drying
in the sun by the garden-wall, and hated them. What horrors they were
compared with the graceful costume which I now wore! I told her this
laughing, but she agreed with me very seriously.
"We will throw them away," she said in a quiet voice. In my astonishment
I attempted to explain that I not only could not think of accepting
clothes from anybody, although for all I knew it might be the custom of
hospitality in that part of the country, but that I should cut an
impossible figure if I returned to France clothed as I was then.
She laughed and tossed her pretty head, saying something in old French
which I did not understand, and then Pelagie trotted out with a tray on
which stood two bowls of milk, a loaf of white bread, fruit, a platter of
honey-comb, and a flagon of deep red wine. "You see I have not yet broken
my fast because I wished you to eat with me. But I am very hungry," she
"I would rather die than forget one word of what you have said!" I
blurted out, while my cheeks burned. "She will think me mad," I added to
myself, but she turned to me with sparkling eyes.
"Ah!" she murmured. "Then Monsieur knows all that there is of chivalry--"
She crossed herself and broke bread. I sat and watched her white hands,
not daring to raise my eyes to hers.
"Will you not eat?" she asked. "Why do you look so troubled?"
Ah, why? I knew it now. I knew I would give my life to touch with my lips
those rosy palms--I understood now that from the moment when I looked
into her dark eyes there on the moor last night I had loved her. My great
and sudden passion held me speechless.
"Are you ill at ease?" she asked again.
Then, like a man who pronounces his own doom, I answered in a low voice:
"Yes, I am ill at ease for love of you." And as she did not stir nor
answer, the same power moved my lips in spite of me and I said, "I, who
am unworthy of the lightest of your thoughts, I who abuse hospitality and
repay your gentle courtesy with bold presumption, I love you."
She leaned her head upon her hands, and answered softly, "I love you.
Your words are very dear to me. I love you."
"Then I shall win you."
"Win me," she replied.
But all the time I had been sitting silent, my face turned toward her.
She, also silent, her sweet face resting on her upturned palm, sat facing
me, and as her eyes looked into mine I knew that neither she nor I had
spoken human speech; but I knew that her soul had answered mine, and I
drew myself up feeling youth and joyous love coursing through every vein.
She, with a bright colour in her lovely face, seemed as one awakened from
a dream, and her eyes sought mine with a questioning glance which made me
tremble with delight. We broke our fast, speaking of ourselves. I told
her my name and she told me hers, the Demoiselle Jeanne d'Ys.
She spoke of her father and mother's death, and how the nineteen of her
years had been passed in the little fortified farm alone with her nurse
Pelagie, Glemarec Rene the piqueur, and the four falconers, Raoul,
Gaston, Hastur, and the Sieur Piriou Louis, who had served her father.
She had never been outside the moorland--never even had seen a human soul
before, except the falconers and Pelagie. She did not know how she had
heard of Kerselec; perhaps the falconers had spoken of it. She knew the
legends of Loup Garou and Jeanne la Flamme from her nurse Pelagie. She
embroidered and spun flax. Her hawks and hounds were her only
distraction. When she had met me there on the moor she had been so
frightened that she almost dropped at the sound of my voice. She had, it
was true, seen ships at sea from the cliffs, but as far as the eye could
reach the moors over which she galloped were destitute of any sign of
human life. There was a legend which old Pelagie told, how anybody once
lost in the unexplored moorland might never return, because the moors
were enchanted. She did not know whether it was true, she never had
thought about it until she met me. She did not know whether the falconers
had even been outside, or whether they could go if they would. The books
in the house which Pelagie, the nurse, had taught her to read were
hundreds of years old.
All this she told me with a sweet seriousness seldom seen in any one but
children. My own name she found easy to pronounce, and insisted, because
my first name was Philip, I must have French blood in me. She did not
seem curious to learn anything about the outside world, and I thought
perhaps she considered it had forfeited her interest and respect from the
stories of her nurse.
We were still sitting at the table, and she was throwing grapes to the
small field birds which came fearlessly to our very feet.
I began to speak in a vague way of going, but she would not hear of it,
and before I knew it I had promised to stay a week and hunt with hawk and
hound in their company. I also obtained permission to come again from
Kerselec and visit her after my return.
"Why," she said innocently, "I do not know what I should do if you never
came back;" and I, knowing that I had no right to awaken her with the
sudden shock which the avowal of my own love would bring to her, sat
silent, hardly daring to breathe.
"You will come very often?" she asked.
"Very often," I said.
"Oh," she sighed, "I am very happy. Come and see my hawks."
She rose and took my hand again with a childlike innocence of possession,
and we walked through the garden and fruit trees to a grassy lawn which
was bordered by a brook. Over the lawn were scattered fifteen or twenty
stumps of trees--partially imbedded in the grass--and upon all of these
except two sat falcons. They were attached to the stumps by thongs which
were in turn fastened with steel rivets to their legs just above the
talons. A little stream of pure spring water flowed in a winding course
within easy distance of each perch.
The birds set up a clamour when the girl appeared, but she went from one
to another, caressing some, taking others for an instant upon her wrist,
or stooping to adjust their jesses.
"Are they not pretty?" she said. "See, here is a falcon-gentil. We call
it 'ignoble,' because it takes the quarry in direct chase. This is a blue
falcon. In falconry we call it 'noble' because it rises over the quarry,
and wheeling, drops upon it from above. This white bird is a gerfalcon
from the north. It is also 'noble!' Here is a merlin, and this tiercelet
is a falcon-heroner."
I asked her how she had learned the old language of falconry. She did not
remember, but thought her father must have taught it to her when she was
Then she led me away and showed me the young falcons still in the nest.
"They are termed _niais_ in falconry," she explained. "A
_branchier_ is the young bird which is just able to leave the nest
and hop from branch to branch. A young bird which has not yet moulted is
called a _sors_, and a _mue_ is a hawk which has moulted in
captivity. When we catch a wild falcon which has changed its plumage we
term it a _hagard_. Raoul first taught me to dress a falcon. Shall I
teach you how it is done?"
She seated herself on the bank of the stream among the falcons and I
threw myself at her feet to listen.
Then the Demoiselle d'Ys held up one rosy-tipped finger and began very
"First one must catch the falcon."
"I am caught," I answered.
She laughed very prettily and told me my _dressage_ would perhaps be
difficult, as I was noble.
"I am already tamed," I replied; "jessed and belled."
She laughed, delighted. "Oh, my brave falcon; then you will return at my
"I am yours," I answered gravely.
She sat silent for a moment. Then the colour heightened in her cheeks and
she held up her finger again, saying, "Listen; I wish to speak of
"I listen, Countess Jeanne d'Ys."
But again she fell into the reverie, and her eyes seemed fixed on
something beyond the summer clouds.
"Philip," she said at last.
"Jeanne," I whispered.
"That is all,--that is what I wished," she sighed,--"Philip and Jeanne."
She held her hand toward me and I touched it with my lips.
"Win me," she said, but this time it was the body and soul which spoke in
After a while she began again: "Let us speak of falconry."
"Begin," I replied; "we have caught the falcon."
Then Jeanne d'Ys took my hand in both of hers and told me how with
infinite patience the young falcon was taught to perch upon the wrist,
how little by little it became used to the belled jesses and the
_chaperon a cornette_.
"They must first have a good appetite," she said; "then little by little
I reduce their nourishment; which in falconry we call _pat_. When,
after many nights passed _au bloc_ as these birds are now, I prevail
upon the _hagard_ to stay quietly on the wrist, then the bird is
ready to be taught to come for its food. I fix the _pat_ to the end
of a thong, or _leurre_, and teach the bird to come to me as soon as
I begin to whirl the cord in circles about my head. At first I drop the
_pat_ when the falcon comes, and he eats the food on the ground.
After a little he will learn to seize the _leurre_ in motion as I
whirl it around my head or drag it over the ground. After this it is easy
to teach the falcon to strike at game, always remembering to _'faire
courtoisie a l'oiseau'_, that is, to allow the bird to taste the
A squeal from one of the falcons interrupted her, and she arose to adjust
the _longe_ which had become whipped about the _bloc_, but the
bird still flapped its wings and screamed.
"What _is_ the matter?" she said. "Philip, can you see?"
I looked around and at first saw nothing to cause the commotion, which
was now heightened by the screams and flapping of all the birds. Then my
eye fell upon the flat rock beside the stream from which the girl had
risen. A grey serpent was moving slowly across the surface of the
boulder, and the eyes in its flat triangular head sparkled like jet.
"A couleuvre," she said quietly.
"It is harmless, is it not?" I asked.
She pointed to the black V-shaped figure on the neck.
"It is certain death," she said; "it is a viper."
We watched the reptile moving slowly over the smooth rock to where the
sunlight fell in a broad warm patch.
I started forward to examine it, but she clung to my arm crying, "Don't,
Philip, I am afraid."
"For you, Philip,--I love you."
Then I took her in my arms and kissed her on the lips, but all I could
say was: "Jeanne, Jeanne, Jeanne." And as she lay trembling on my breast,
something struck my foot in the grass below, but I did not heed it. Then
again something struck my ankle, and a sharp pain shot through me. I
looked into the sweet face of Jeanne d'Ys and kissed her, and with all my
strength lifted her in my arms and flung her from me. Then bending, I
tore the viper from my ankle and set my heel upon its head. I remember
feeling weak and numb,--I remember falling to the ground. Through my
slowly glazing eyes I saw Jeanne's white face bending close to mine, and
when the light in my eyes went out I still felt her arms about my neck,
and her soft cheek against my drawn lips.
When I opened my eyes, I looked around in terror. Jeanne was gone. I saw
the stream and the flat rock; I saw the crushed viper in the grass beside
me, but the hawks and _blocs_ had disappeared. I sprang to my feet.
The garden, the fruit trees, the drawbridge and the walled court were
gone. I stared stupidly at a heap of crumbling ruins, ivy-covered and
grey, through which great trees had pushed their way. I crept forward,
dragging my numbed foot, and as I moved, a falcon sailed from the
tree-tops among the ruins, and soaring, mounting in narrowing circles,
faded and vanished in the clouds above.
"Jeanne, Jeanne," I cried, but my voice died on my lips, and I fell on my
knees among the weeds. And as God willed it, I, not knowing, had fallen
kneeling before a crumbling shrine carved in stone for our Mother of
Sorrows. I saw the sad face of the Virgin wrought in the cold stone. I
saw the cross and thorns at her feet, and beneath it I read:
"PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF THE
DEMOISELLE JEANNE D'Ys,
IN HER YOUTH FOR LOVE OF
PHILIP, A STRANGER.
But upon the icy slab lay a woman's glove still warm and fragrant.
THE PROPHETS' PARADISE
"If but the Vine and Love Abjuring Band
Are in the Prophets' Paradise to stand,
Alack, I doubt the Prophets' Paradise,
Were empty as the hollow of one's hand."
He smiled, saying, "Seek her throughout the world."
I said, "Why tell me of the world? My world is here, between these walls
and the sheet of glass above; here among gilded flagons and dull jewelled
arms, tarnished frames and canvasses, black chests and high-backed
chairs, quaintly carved and stained in blue and gold."
"For whom do you wait?" he said, and I answered, "When she comes I shall
On my hearth a tongue of flame whispered secrets to the whitening ashes.
In the street below I heard footsteps, a voice, and a song.
"For whom then do you wait?" he said, and I answered, "I shall know her."
Footsteps, a voice, and a song in the street below, and I knew the song
but neither the steps nor the voice.
"Fool!" he cried, "the song is the same, the voice and steps have but
changed with years!"
On the hearth a tongue of flame whispered above the whitening ashes:
"Wait no more; they have passed, the steps and the voice in the street
Then he smiled, saying, "For whom do you wait? Seek her throughout the
I answered, "My world is here, between these walls and the sheet of glass
above; here among gilded flagons and dull jewelled arms, tarnished frames
and canvasses, black chests and high-backed chairs, quaintly carved and
stained in blue and gold."
The Phantom of the Past would go no further.
"If it is true," she sighed, "that you find in me a friend, let us turn
back together. You will forget, here, under the summer sky."
I held her close, pleading, caressing; I seized her, white with anger,
but she resisted.
"If it is true," she sighed, "that you find in me a friend, let us turn
The Phantom of the Past would go no further.