Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Cathy Smith and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME.
by Frank Lin (pseud. of Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton)
Dedicated to Muriel Atherton
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME.
Constantinople; the month of August; the early days of the century. It
was the hour of the city's most perfect beauty. The sun was setting,
and flung a mellowing glow over the great golden domes and minarets
of the mosques, the bazaars glittering with trifles and precious with
elements of Oriental luxury, the tortuous thoroughfares with their
motley throng, the quiet streets with their latticed windows, and
their atmosphere heavy with silence and mystery, the palaces whose
cupolas and towers had watched over so many centuries of luxury and
intrigue, pleasure and crime, the pavilions, groves, gardens, kiosks
which swarmed with the luxuriance of tropical growth over the hills
and valleys of a city so vast and so beautiful that it tired the brain
and fatigued the senses. Scutari, purple and green and gold, blended
in the dying light into exquisite harmony of color; Stamboul gathered
deeper gloom under her overhanging balconies, behind which lay hidden
the loveliest of her women; and in the deserted gardens of the Old
Seraglio, beneath the heavy pall of the cypresses, memories of a
grand, terrible, barbarous, but most romantic Past crept forth and
whispered ruin and decay.
High up in Pera the gray walls of the English Embassy stood out
sharply defined against the gold-wrought sky. The windows were thrown
wide to invite the faint, capricious breeze which wandered through
the hot city; but the silken curtains were drawn in one of the smaller
reception-rooms. The room itself was a soft blaze of wax candles
against the dull richness of crimson and gold. Men and women were
idling about in that uneasy atmosphere which precedes the announcement
of dinner. Many of the men wore orders on their breasts, and the
uniforms of the countries they represented, and a number of Turks
gave a picturesque touch to the scene, with their jewelled turbans and
flowing robes. The women were as typical as their husbands; the wife
of the Russian Ambassador, with her pale hair and moonlight eyes, her
delicate shoulders and jewel-sewn robe; the Italian, with her lithe
grace and heavy brows, the Spanish beauty, with her almond,
dreamy eyes, her chiselled features and mantilla-draped head; the
Frenchwoman, with her bright, sallow, charming, unrestful face; the
Austrian, with her cold repose and latent devil. In addition were the
Secretaries of Legation, with their gaily-gowned young wives, and
one or two English residents; all assembled at the bidding of Sir
Dafyd-ap-Penrhyn, the famous diplomatist who represented England at
the court of the Sultan.
Sir Dafyd was standing between the windows and underneath one of the
heavy candelabra. He was a small but striking-looking man, with a
great deal of head above the ears, light blue eyes deeply set and far
apart, a delicate arched nose, and a certain expression of brutality
about the thin lips, so faint as to be little more than a shadow. He
was blandly apologizing for the absence of his wife. She had dressed
to meet her guests, but had been taken suddenly ill and obliged to
As he finished speaking he turned to a woman who sat on a low chair
at his right. She was young and very handsome. Her eyes were black
and brilliant, her mouth was pouting and petulant, her chin curved
slightly outward. Her features were very regular, but there was
neither softness nor repose in her face. She looked like a statue that
had been taken possession of by the Spirit of Discontent.
"I am sorry not to see Dartmouth," said the great minister, affably.
"Is he ill again? He must be careful; the fever is dangerous."
Mrs. Dartmouth drew her curved brows together with a frown which did
not soften her face. "He is writing," she said, shortly. "He is always
"O, but you know that is a Dartmouth failing--ambition," said Sir
Dafyd, with a smile. "They must be either in the study or dictating to
"Well, I wish my Fate had been a political Dartmouth. Lionel sits in
his study all day and writes poetry--which I detest. I shall bring up
my son to be a statesman."
"So that his wife may see more of him?" said Sir Dafyd, laughing. "You
are quite capable of making whatever you like of him, however, for you
are a clever woman--if you are not poetical. But it is hard that you
should be so much alone, Catherine. Why are not you and Sioned more
together? There are so few of you here, you should try and amuse
each other. Diplomatists, like poets, see little of their wives, and
Sioned, I have no doubt, is bored very often."
Dinner was announced at the moment, and Mrs. Dartmouth stood up and
looked her companion full in the eyes. "I do not like Sioned," she
said, harshly. "She, too, is poetical."
For a moment there was a suspicion of color in Sir Dafyd's pale face,
and the shadow on his mouth seemed to take shape and form. Then he
bowed slightly, and crossing the room offered his arm to the wife of
the Russian Ambassador.
* * * * *
The sun sank lower, Constantinople's richer tints faded into soft opal
hues, and the muezzin called the people to prayer. From a window in a
wing of the Embassy furthest from the banqueting hall, and overlooking
the city, a woman watched the shifting panorama below. She was more
beautiful than any of her neglected guests, although her eyes were
heavy and her face was pale. Her hair was a rich, burnished brown, and
drawn up to the crown of her head in a loose mass of short curls, held
in place by a half-coronet of diamonds. In front the hair was parted
and curled, and the entire head was encircled by a band of diamond
stars which pressed the bronze ringlets low over the forehead. The
features were slightly aquiline; the head was oval and admirably
poised. But it was the individuality of the woman that made her
beauty, not features or coloring. The keen, intelligent eyes, with
their unmistakable power to soften, the spiritual brow, the strong,
sensuous chin, the tender mouth, the spirited head, each a poet's
delight, each an artist's study, all blended, a strange, strong,
passionate story in flesh and blood--a remarkable face. Her neck and
arms were bare, and she wore a short-waisted gown of yellow satin,
which fell in shining lines from belt to hem.
Pale as she was she assuredly did not look ill enough to justify her
desertion of her guests. As a matter of fact she had forgotten both
guests and excuse. When a woman has taken a resolution which flings
her suddenly up to the crisis of her destiny she is apt to forget
state dinners and whispered comment. To-morrow state dinners would
pass out of her life, and they would go unregretted. She turned
suddenly and picked up some loose sheets of manuscript which lay on a
table beside her--a poem which would immortalize the city her window
overlooked. A proud smile curved her mouth, then faded swiftly as she
pressed the pages passionately to her lips. She put them back on
the table and turning her head looked down the room with much of the
affection one gives a living thing. The room was as Oriental as any
carefully secluded chamber in the city below. The walls were hung
with heavy, soft Eastern stuffs, dusky and rich, which shut out all
suggestion of doors. The black marble floor was covered with a strange
assortment of wild beasts' skins, pale, tawny, sombre, ferocious.
There were deep, soft couches and great piles of cushions, a few rare
paintings stood on easels, and the air was heavy with jasmine. The
woman's lids fell over her eyes, and the blood mounted slowly, making
her temples throb. Then she threw back her head, a triumphant light
flashing in her eyes, and brought her open palm down sharply on the
table. "If I fall," she said, "I fall through strength, not
through weakness. If I sin, I do so wittingly, not in a moment of
She bent suddenly forward, her breath coming quickly. There were
footsteps at the end of the marble corridor without. For a moment she
trembled from head to foot. Remorse, regret, horror, fear, chased each
other across her face, her convulsed features reflecting the emotions
which for weeks past had oppressed heart and brain. Then, before the
footsteps reached the door, she was calm again and her head erect.
The glory of the sunset had faded, and behind her was the short grey
twilight of the Southern night; but in her face was that magic light
that never was on sea or land.
The heavy portiere at the end of the room was thrust aside and a man
entered. He closed the door and pushed the hanging back into place,
then went swiftly forward and stood before her. She held out her hand
and he took it and drew her further within the room. The twilight had
gone from the window, the shadows had deepened, and the darkness of
night was about them.
* * * * *
In the great banqueting-hall the stout mahogany table upheld its
weight of flashing gold and silver and sparkling crystal without a
groan, and solemn, turbaned Turks passed wine and viand. Around
the board the diplomatic colony forgot their exile in remote
Constantinople, and wit and anecdote, spicy but good-humored political
discussion, repartee and flirtation made a charming accompaniment
to the wonderful variety displayed in the faces and accents of the
guests. The stately, dignified ministers of the Sultan gazed at the
fair faces and jewel-laden shoulders of the women of the North, and
sighed as they thought of their dusky wives; and the women of the
North threw blue, smiling glances to the Turks and wondered if it were
romantic to live in a harem.
At the end of the second course Sir Dafyd raised a glass of wine to
his lips, and, as he glanced about the table, conversation ceased for
"Will you drink to my wife's health?" he said. "It has caused me much
anxiety of late."
Every glass was simultaneously raised, and then Sir Dafyd pushed back
his chair and rose to his feet. "If you will pardon me," he said, "I
will go and see how she is."
He left the room, and the wife of the Spanish Ambassador turned to
her companion with a sigh. "So devot he is, no?" she murmured. "You
Eenglish, you have the fire undere the ice. He lover his wife very
moocho when he leaver the dinner. And she lover him too, no?"
"I don't know," said the Englishman to whom she spoke. "It never
struck me that Penrhyn was a particularly lovable fellow. He's so
deuced haughty; the Welsh are worse for that than we English. He's as
unapproachable as a stone. I don't fancy the Lady Sioned worships the
ground he treads upon. But then, he's the biggest diplomate in Great
Britain; one can't have everything."
"I no liker all the Eenglish, though," pursued the pretty Spaniard.
"The Senora Dar-muth, I no care for her. She looker like she have the
tempere--how you call him?--the dev-vil, no? And she looker like she
have the fire ouside and the ice in."
"Oh, she's not so bad," said the Englishman, loyally. "She has
some admirable traits, and she's deuced clever, but she has an
ill-regulated sort of a nature, and is awfully obstinate and
prejudiced. It's a sort of vanity. She worries Dartmouth a good deal.
He's a born poet, if ever a man was, and she wants him to go into
politics. Wants a _salon_ and all that sort of thing. She ought to
have it, too. Political intrigue would just suit her; she's diplomatic
and secretive. But Dartmouth prefers his study."
The lady from Spain raised her sympathetic, pensive eyes to the
Englishman's. "And the Senor Dar-muth? How he is? He is nice fellow? I
no meeting hime?"
"The best fellow that ever lived, God bless him!" exclaimed the young
man, enthusiastically. "He has the temperament of genius, and he isn't
always there when you want him--I mean, he isn't always in the right
mood; but he's a splendid specimen of a man, and the most likeable
fellow I ever knew--poor fellow!"
"Why you say 'poor fel-low'? He is no happy, no?"
"Well, you see," said the young man, succumbing to those lovely,
pitying eyes, and not observing that they gazed with equal tenderness
at the crimson wine in the cup beside her plate--"you see, he and his
wife are none too congenial, as I said. It makes her wild to have him
write, not only because she wants to cut a figure in London, and he
will always live in some romantic place like this, but she's in love
with him, in her way, and she's jealous of his very desk. That makes
things unpleasant about the domestic hearthstone. And then she doesn't
believe a bit in his talent, and takes good care to let him know it.
So, you see, he's not the most enviable of mortals."
"Much better she have be careful," said the Spanish woman; "some day
he feel tire out and go to lover someone else. Please you geeve me
some more clarette?"
"Here comes Sir Dafyd," said the Englishman, as he filled her glass.
"It has taken him a long time to find out how she is."
The shadow had wholly disappeared from Sir Dafyd's mouth, a faint
smile hovering there instead. As he took his seat the Austrian
Ambassador leaned forward and inquired politely about the state of
Lady Sioned's health.
"She is sleeping quietly," said Sir Dafyd.
The Hon. Harold Dartmouth was bored. He had been in Paris three months
and it was his third winter. He was young. He possessed a liberal
allowance of good looks, money, and family prestige. Combining these
three conditions, he had managed to pretty thoroughly exhaust the
pleasures of the capital. At all events he believed he had exhausted
them, and he wanted a new sensation. He had "done" his London until it
was more flavorless than Paris, and he had dawdled more or less in the
various Courts of Europe. While in St. Petersburg he had inserted
a too curious finger into the Terrorist pie, and had come very
near making a prolonged acquaintance with the House of Preventative
Detention; but after being whisked safely out of the country under
cover of a friend's passport, he had announced himself cured of
further interest in revolutionary politics. The affair had made him
quite famous for a time, however; Krapotkin had sought him out and
warmly thanked him for his interest in the Russian Geysers, and begged
him to induce his father to abjure his peace policy and lend his hand
to the laudable breaking of Czarism's back. But Lord Cardingham, who
was not altogether ruled by his younger son, had declined to expend
his seductions upon Mr. Gladstone in the cause of a possible laying of
too heavy a rod upon England's back, and had recommended his erratic
son to let the barbarism of absolutism alone in the future, and try
his genius upon that of democracy. Dartmouth, accordingly, had spent
a winter in Washington as Secretary of Legation, and had entertained
himself by doling out such allowance of diplomatic love to the fair
American dames as had won him much biographical honor in the press
of the great republic. Upon his father's private admonition, that it
would be as well to generously resign his position in favor of some
more needy applicant, with a less complex heart-line and a slight
acquaintance with international law, he had, after a summer at
Newport, returned to Europe and again devoted himself to winning a
fame not altogether political. And now there was nothing left, and he
felt that fate had used him scurrilously. He was twenty-eight, and had
exhausted life. He had nothing left but to yawn through weary years
and wish he had never been born.
He clasped his hands behind his head and looked out on the brilliant
crowd from his chair in the Cafe de la Cascade in the Bois. He was
handsome, this blase young Englishman, with a shapely head, poised
strongly upon a muscular throat. Neither beard nor moustache hid the
strong lines of the face. A high type, in spite of his career, his
face was a good deal more suggestive of passion than of sensuality.
He was tall, slight, and sinewy, and carried himself with the indolent
hauteur of a man of many grandfathers. And indeed, unless, perhaps,
that this plaything, the world, was too small, he had little to
complain of. Although a younger son, he had a large fortune in his own
right, left him by an adoring grandmother who had died shortly before
he had come of age, and with whom he had lived from infancy as adopted
son and heir. This grandmother was the one woman who had ever shone
upon his horizon whose disappearance he regretted; and he was wont
to remark that he never again expected to find anything beneath
a coiffure at once so brilliant, so fascinating, so clever, so
altogether "filling" as his lamented relative. If he ever did he would
marry and settle down as a highly respectable member of society, and
become an M.P. and the owner of a winner of the Derby; but until then
he would sigh away his tired life at the feet of beauty, Bacchus, or
"What is the matter, Hal?" asked Bective Hollington, coming up behind
him. "Yawning so early in the day?"
"Bored," replied Dartmouth, briefly. "Don't expect me to talk to you.
I haven't an idea left."
"My dear Harold, do not flatter yourself that I came to you in search
of ideas. I venture to break upon your sulky meditations in the cause
of friendship alone. If you will rouse yourself and walk to the window
you may enrich your sterile mind with an idea, possibly with ideas.
Miss Penrhyn will pass in a moment."
"No, not the devil; Miss Penrhyn."
"And who the devil is Miss Penrhyn?"
"The new English, or rather, Welsh beauty, Weir Penrhyn," replied
Hollington. "She came out last season in London, and the Queen
pronounced her the most beautiful girl who had been presented at Court
for twenty years. Such a relief from the blue-eyed and 'golden-bronze'
professional! She will pass in a moment. Do rouse yourself."
Dartmouth got up languidly and walked to the window. After all, a new
face and a pretty one was something; one degree, perhaps, better than
nothing. "Which is she?" he asked. "The one in the next carriage, with
Lady Langdon, talking to Bolton."
The carriage passed them, and Harold's eyes met for a moment those
of a girl who was lying back chatting idly with a man who rode on
horseback beside her. She was a beautiful creature, truly, with a
rich, dark skin, and eyes like a tropical animal's. A youthful face,
striking and unconventional.
"Well?" queried Hollington.
"Yes, a very handsome girl," said Dartmouth. "I have seen her before,
"What! you have seen that woman before and not remembered her?
Impossible! And then you have not been in England for a year."
"I am sure I have seen her before," said Dartmouth. "Where could it
"Her father is a Welsh baronet, and your estates are in the North, so
you could hardly have known her as a child. She was educated in the
utmost seclusion at home; no one ever saw her or heard of her until
the fag end of the last London season, and she only arrived in Paris
two days ago, and made her first appearance in public last night at
the opera, where you were not. So where could you have seen her?"
"I cannot imagine," said Dartmouth, meditatively. "But her face is
dimly familiar, and it is a most unusual one. Tell me something about
her;" and he resumed his seat.
"She is the daughter of Sir Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn," said Hollington,
craning his neck to catch a last glimpse of the disappearing beauty.
"Awfully poor, but dates back to before Chaos. Looks down with scorn
upon Sir Watkin Wynn, who hangs up the flood on the middle branch of
his family tree. They live in a dilapitated old castle on the coast,
and there Sir Iltyd brought up this tropical bird--she is an only
child--and educated her himself. Her mother died when she was very
young, and her father, with the proverbial constancy of mankind, has
never been known to smile since. Lively for the tropical bird, was
it not? Lady Langdon, who was in Wales last year, and who was an old
friend of the girl's mother, called on her and saw the professional
possibilities, so to speak. She gave the old gentleman no peace
until he told her she could take the girl to London, which she did
forthwith, before he had time to change his mind. She has made a
rousing sensation, but she is a downright beauty and no mistake. Lady
Langdon evidently intends to hold on to her, for I see she has her
"I could not have known her, of course; I have never put my foot in
Wales. But I suppose I shall meet her now. Is she to be at the Russian
"Yes; I have it from the best authority--herself. You had better go.
She is worth knowing, I can tell you."
"Well, I'll think of it," said Dartmouth. "I must be off now; I have
no end of letters to write. I'll rely upon you to do the honors if I
go!" and he took up his hat and sauntered out.
He went directly to his apartments on the Avenue Champs Elysees, and
wrote a few epistles to his impatient and much-enduring relatives in
Britain; then, lighting a cigar, he flung himself upon the sofa. The
room accorded with the man. Art and negligence were hand-in-hand.
The hangings were of dusky-gold plush, embroidered with designs which
breathed the fervent spirit of Decorative Art, and the floor was
covered with the oldest and oddest of Persian rugs. There were
cabinets of antique medallions, cameos, and enamels; low brass
book-cases, filled with volumes bound in Russian leather, whose
pungent odor filled the room; a varied collection of pipes; a case of
valuable ceramics, one of the collection having a pedigree which
no uncelestial mind had ever pretended to grasp, and which had been
presented to Lord Cardingham, while minister to China, by the Emperor.
That his younger son had unblushingly pilfered it he had but recently
discovered, but demands for its return had as yet availed not. There
were a few valuable paintings, a case of rare old plates, many with
the coats of arms of sovereigns upon them, strangely carved chairs,
each with a history, all crowded together and making a charming nest
for the listless, somewhat morbid, and disgusted young man stretched
out upon a couch, covered with a rug of ostrich feathers brought from
the Straits of Magellan. Over the onyx mantel was a portrait of his
grandmother, a handsome old lady with high-piled, snow-white hair, and
eyes whose brilliancy age had not dimmed. The lines about the mouth
were hard, but the face was full of intelligence, and the man at her
feet had never seen anything of the hardness of her nature. She had
blindly idolized him.
"I wish she were here now," thought Dartmouth regretfully, as he
contemplated the picture through the rings of smoke; "I could talk
over things with her, and she could hit off people with that tongue of
hers. Gods! how it could cut! Poor old lady! I wonder if I shall ever
find her equal." After which, he fell asleep and forgot his sorrows
until his valet awakened him and told him it was time to dress for
I hope I have not conveyed to the reader the idea that our hero is
frivolous. On the contrary, he was considered a very brilliant young
man, and he could command the respect of his elders when he chose.
But, partly owing to his wealth and independent condition, partly to
the fact that the world had done its best to spoil him, he had led a
very aimless existence. He was by no means satisfied with his life,
however; he was far too clever for that; and he had spent a good deal
of time, first and last, reviling Fate for not having endowed him with
some talent upon which he could concentrate his energies, and with
which attain distinction and find balm for his ennui. His grandmother
had cherished the conviction that he was an undeveloped genius; but
in regard to what particular field his genius was to enrich, she had
never clearly expressed herself, and his own consciousness had not
been more explicit. He had long ago made up his mind, indeed, that
his grandmother's convictions had been the fond delusions of a doting
parent, and that the sooner he unburdened himself of that particular
legacy the better. The unburdening, however, had been accomplished
with a good deal of bitterness, for he was very ambitious and very
proud, and to be obliged to digest the fact that he was but a type of
the great majority was distinctly galling. True, politics were left.
His father, one of the most distinguished of England's statesmen, and
a member of the present cabinet, would have been delighted to assist
his career; but Harold disliked politics. With the exception of his
passing interest in the Russian socialists--an interest springing from
his adventurous nature--he had never troubled himself about any party,
faction, or policy, home or foreign. He would like to write a great
poem, but he had never felt a second's inspiration, and had never
wasted time in the endeavor to force it. Failing that, he would like
to write a novel; but, fluently and even brilliantly as he sometimes
talked, his pen was not ready, and he was conscious of a conspicuous
lack of imagination. To be sure, one does not need much in these
days of realistic fervor; it is considered rather a coarse and
old-fashioned article; but that one needs some sort of a plot is
indisputable, and Dartmouth's brain had consistently refused to evolve
one. Doubtless he could cultivate the mere habit of writing,
and achieve reputation as an essayist. His critical faculty was
pronounced, and he had carefully developed it; and it was possible
that when the world had completely palled upon him, he would shut
himself up at Crumford Hall and give the public the benefit of his
accumulated opinions, abstract and biographical. But he was not ready
for that yet; he needed several years more of experience, observation,
and assiduous cultivation of the habit of analysis; and in the
meantime he was in a condition of cold disgust with himself and with
Fate. It may also have been gathered that Mr. Dartmouth was a young
man of decidedly reckless proclivities. It is quite true that he never
troubled himself about any question of morals or social ethics; he
simply calculated the mathematical amount of happiness possible to the
individual. That was all there was in life. Had he lived a generation
or two earlier, he would have pursued his way along the paths of the
prohibited without introspective analysis; but being the intellectual
young man of the latter decades of the 19th century, it amused him
to season his defiance of certain conventional codes with the salt of
Miss Penrhyn reached the Legation a few moments after Dartmouth's
arrival, and he watched her as she entered the ballroom. She wore
a simple white gown, embroidered about the corsage with silver
crescents; and her richly-tinted brown hair was coiled about her head
and held in place by a crescent-shaped comb. She was a tall, slim,
shapely girl, with an extreme grace of carriage and motion, and a neck
and arms whose clear olive was brought out with admirable effect
by the dead white of her gown. Her face, somewhat listless and
preoccupied as she entered, quickly brightened into animation as a
number of men at once surrounded her. Dartmouth continued to watch her
for a few moments, and concluded that he would like to know her, even
if she were a girl and an _ingenue_. She was fascinating, apart from
her beauty; she looked different from other women, and that was
quite enough to command his interest. It would be too much trouble
to struggle for an introduction at present, however, and he allowed
himself to be taken possession of by his cousin, Margaret Talbot,
who, with the easy skill of a spoiled beauty, dismissed several other
cavaliers upon his approach. They wandered about for a time, and
finally entered a tiny boudoir fitted up to represent a bird's nest in
tufted blue satin, with an infinite number of teacups so arranged as
to be cunningly suggestive of eggs whose parents had been addicted to
"What do you think of the new beauty?" demanded Mrs. Talbot, as they
established themselves upon an extremely uncomfortable little sofa
upheld between the outstretched wings of the parent bird, which was
much too large for the eggs.
"She does very well," replied Harold, who was wise in his generation.
Mrs. Talbot put her handkerchief suddenly to her face and burst into
tears. Dartmouth turned pale.
"What is it, Margaret?" he said. "Do not cry here; people will notice,
and make remarks."
She made no reply, and he got up and moved restlessly about the room;
then returning he stood looking moodily down upon her.
Some years before, just about the time he was emerging from
knickerbockers, he had been madly in love with this golden-haired,
hazel-eyed cousin of his, and the lady, who had the advantage of him
in years, being unresponsive, he had haunted a very large and very
deep ornamental pond in his grandmother's park for several weeks with
considerable persistency. Had the disease attacked him in summer it is
quite probable that this story would never have been written, for his
nature was essentially a high-strung and tragic one; but fortunately
he met his beautiful cousin in mid-winter, and 'tis a despairing lover
indeed who breaks the ice. Near as their relationship was, he had not
met her again until the present winter, and then he had found that
years had lent her additional fascination. She was extremely unhappy
in her domestic life, and naturally she gave him her confidence and
awoke that sentiment which is so fatally akin to another and sometimes
more disastrous one.
Dartmouth loved her with that love which a man gives to so many women
before the day comes wherein he recognizes the spurious metal from the
real. It was not, as in its first stage, the mad, unreasoning fancy
of an unfledged boy, but that sentiment, half sympathy, half passion,
which a woman may inspire who is not strong enough to call out the
highest and best that lies hidden in a man's nature. This feeling for
his cousin, if not the supremest that a woman can command, bore
one characteristic which distinguished it from any of his previous
passions. For the first time in his life he had resisted a
temptation--principally because she was his cousin. With the instinct
of his caste he acknowledged the obligation to avert dishonor in his
own family where he could. And, aside from family pride, he had a
strong personal regard for his cousin which was quite independent of
that sentiment which, for want of a better name, he called love. She
was young, she was lonely, she was unhappy, and his calmer affection
prompted him to protect her from himself, and not, after a brief
period of doubtful happiness, to leave her to a lifetime of tormenting
memories and regrets. She loved him, of course; and reckless with the
knowledge of her ruined life, her hopeless future, and above all the
certainty that youth and its delicious opportunities were slipping
fast, she would doubtless have gone the way of most women under
similar circumstances, had not Harold, for once in his life, been
strong. Perhaps, if he had really loved her, he would not have been so
After her paroxysm of tears had partly subsided, he took her hand.
"What is the matter?" he asked, kindly. "Is there any more trouble?"
"It is the same," she said. "You know how unhappy I am; it was foolish
of me to break down here, but I could not help it. Besides, there is
another thing--I wish you would go away."
He walked to the end of the room, then returned and bent over her,
placing his hand on the back of the sofa. "Very well," he said, "I
will go. I should have gone before. I would have done so, but I hated
to leave you alone."
He lifted her face and kissed her. She laid her head against his
shoulder, then she suddenly pushed him from her with a low cry, and
Dartmouth, following her gaze, turned his head in time to meet the
scornful eyes of Miss Penrhyn as she dropped the portiere from her
hand. Dartmouth kicked aside a footstool with an exclamation of
anger. He was acutely conscious of having been caught in a ridiculous
position, and moreover, he would not be the chief sufferer.
"Oh, Harold! Harold!" gasped Margaret, "I am ruined. You know what
women are. By this time to-morrow that girl will have told the story
all over Paris."
The words made Dartmouth forget his personal annoyance for the moment.
"Do not cry any more," he said, kindly; "I am awfully sorry, but I
will see what I can do. I will make a point of meeting the girl, and
I will see that--do not worry. I will go at once, and you had better
remain here for the present. There is no danger of anyone intruding
upon you: this room was never intended for three." He paused a moment.
"Good-bye, Margaret!" he said.
She started sharply, but rose to her feet and put out her hand:
"Good-bye," she said.
He lifted her hand to his lips, then the portiere fell behind him and
she was alone.
He went directly to the ball-room and asked Hollington to present him
to Miss Penrhyn. She was standing with her back to him and did not
notice his approach, and his name was pronounced while her eyes were
still on the face of the man to whom she was talking. She gave him a
glance of swift scorn, bent her head haughtily, and all but turned her
back upon him. But Dartmouth, indolent and lazy as he was, was not the
man to be lightly disposed of when once roused to action.
"Bolton," he said, to her companion, "they are waiting for you in the
billiard-room; you have an engagement to play a game with our host
at twelve. It is now exactly the hour. I will take charge of Miss
Penrhyn;" and before the bewildered Bolton could protest, or Miss
Penrhyn realize his purpose, he had drawn the girl's arm through his
own and was half-way down the room.
"Where have I met you before?" he demanded, when they were safely lost
in the crowd. "Surely, we are not altogether strangers."
"I do not know," haughtily; "I have never met you before that I am
"It is strange, but I cannot get rid of the idea that I have seen you
elsewhere," continued Dartmouth, unmoved. "And yet, if I had, I most
assuredly could not have forgotten it."
"You are flattering, but I must ask you to excuse me. I am engaged for
the next dance, and I see my partner looking for me."
"Indeed, I shall do nothing of the kind. I have no idea of resigning
you so lightly." And he calmly led her into a small withdrawing-room
and seated her behind a protecting screen. He took the chair beside
her and smiled down into her angry face. Her eyes, which had a
peculiar yellow flame in them, now within, now just without the iris,
as if from a tiny lantern hidden in their depths, were blazing.
"Well?" he said, calmly; "of what are you thinking?"
"That you are the rudest and the most impertinent man I have ever
met," she replied, hotly.
"You are unkind; I have been unfortunate enough to incur your
disapproval, but you judge me cruelly. I am undoubtedly a very
reprehensible character, Miss Penrhyn, but I don't think that I am
worse than most men." He recognized at once that it would be folly to
tell the usual lie: she would simply laugh in his face. He must accept
the situation, plead guilty and make a skilful defense. Later, when
he had established himself in her confidence, he would exonerate his
Miss Penrhyn's lip curled disdainfully. "I am not aware that I have
asked you to justify yourself," she said. "It is of no possible
interest to me whether you are better or worse than most men. It is
quite possible, however," she added, hastily and unwillingly, "that
in this case, as in others, there may be the relief of an exception to
prove the rule."
Dartmouth saw his advantage at once. She was not merely disgusted;
she was angry; and in her anger she forgot herself and condescended to
sarcasm. There was one barrier the less to be broken down. "We are a
bad lot, I am afraid, Miss Penrhyn," he replied, quietly; "but keep
your illusions while you can. You are happier for them, and I would be
the last to dispel them."
"You are considerate," she retorted: "it is more than possible you
will not dispel my illusions; there will not be--"
"You mean to imply, delicately," he interrupted her, "that you do not
consider me worthy of being added to the list of your acquaintances?"
"I really have given the matter no thought, and I do not see what
advantage either side could derive from further acquaintance." But
she colored slightly as she spoke, and turned to him an angrily severe
"Don't you think," he said--and his calm, drawling tone formed a
contrast to her own lack of control which she could not fail to
appreciate--"don't you think that you judge me with exaggerated
harshness? Do you think the life of any one of these men who have
surrounded you to-night, and upon whom you certainly did not frown,
would bear inspection? It would almost appear as if I had personally
incurred your displeasure, you are so very hard upon me. You forget
that my offense could not have any individual application for you. Had
I known you, you might reasonably have been indignant had I gone from
you, a young girl, to things which you held to be wrong. But I did not
know you; you must remember that. And as for the wrong itself, I hope
the knowledge of greater wrong may never come to you. When you have
lived in the world a few years longer, I am very much afraid you will
look upon such things with an only too careless eye."
The cruel allusion to her youth told, and the girl's cheek flushed,
as she threw back her head with a spirited movement which delighted
Dartmouth, while the lanterns in her eyes leaped up afresh. Where had
he seen those eyes before?
"I don't know what your ideas of honor may be in regard to the young
ladies of your acquaintance," she said, with an additional dash of
ice in her voice, "but it seems to me a peculiar kind of honor which
allows a man to insult his hostess by making love to a married woman
in her house."
"Pret-ty good for a baby!" thought Dartmouth. "She could not have
done that better if she had been brought up Lady Langdon's daughter,
instead of having been under that general's tuition, and emancipated
from a life of seclusion, just about six months. Decidedly, she is
worth cultivating." He looked at her reflectively. That he was in
utter disgrace admitted of not a doubt. Women found little fault with
him, as a rule. They had shown themselves willing, with an aptitude
which savored of monotony, to take him on any terms; and to be sat in
judgment upon by a penniless girl with the face and air of an angry
goddess, had a flavor of novelty about it decidedly thrilling.
He determined to conquer or die. Clever as she was, she was still
absolutely a child, and no match for him. He placed his elbow on his
knee and leaned his head on his hand.
"Your rebuke is a very just one," he said, sadly. "And I have only the
poor excuse to offer that in this wicked world of ours we grow very
callous, and forget those old codes of honor which men were once so
strict about, no matter what the irregularities of their lives might
be. I am afraid it is quite true that I am not fit to touch your hand;
and indeed," he added hastily, "it is a miserable business all round,
and God knows there is little enough in it."
She turned and regarded him with something less of anger, something
more of interest, in her eyes.
"Then why do not you reform?" she asked, in a matter-of fact tone.
"Why do you remain so bad, if you regret it?"
"There is nothing else to do," gloomily "Life is such a wretched bore
that the only thing to do is to seize what little spice there is in
it, and the spice, alas! will never bear analysis."
"Are you unhappy?" she demanded. Her eyes were still disapproving, but
her voice was a shade less cold.
He smiled, but at the same time he felt a little ashamed of
himself, the weapons were so trite, and it was so easy to manage an
unworldly-wise and romantic girl. There was nothing to do but go on,
however. "No, I am not unhappy, Miss Penrhyn," he said; "that is, not
unhappy in the sense you would mean. I am only tired of life. That is
all--but it is enough."
"But you are very young," she said, innocently. "You cannot yet be
He laughed shortly. "I am twenty-eight, Miss Penrhyn--and I am--forty
five. You cannot understand, and it is well you should not. But this
much I can tell you. I was born with a wretched load of _ennui_ on my
spirits, and all things pall after a brief experience. It has been so
since the first hour I can remember. My grandmother used to tell
me that I should wake up some day and find myself a genius, that I
rejoiced in several pointed indications toward that desirable end;
that I had only to wait, and ample compensation for the boredom of
life would come But, alas! I am twenty-eight, and there are no signs
of genius yet. I am merely a commonplace young man pursuing the most
commonplace of lives--but I am not going to bore you by talking about
myself any longer. I never do. I do not know why I do so to-night. But
there is something about you which is strangely sympathetic, in spite
of your"--he hesitated--"your unkindness."
She had kept her eyes implacably on the opposite wall, but when he
finished she turned to him suddenly, and he saw that her face had
"You impress me very strangely," she said, abruptly. "I am willing to
tell you that frankly, and I hardly understand it. You are doubtless
correct when you say I have no right to be angry with you, and I
suppose it is also true that you are no worse than other men. When I
pushed aside that portiere to-night I felt an unreasoning anger which
it would be hard to account for. Had it been Lord Bective Hollington
or Mr. Bolton I--I should not have cared. I should not have been
angry, I am sure of it. And yet I never saw you before to-day, and
had no possible interest in you. I do not understand it. I hardly know
whether I like you very much or hate you very much."
He bent his head and looked down sharply into her eyes. He was so used
to the coquetry and finesse of women! Was she like the rest? But the
eyes she had turned to him were sincere to disquiet, and there was not
a suggestion of coquetry about her.
"Do not hate me," he said, softly, "for I would give more for your
good opinion than for that of any woman I know. No, I do not mean that
for idle flattery. You may not realize it, but you are very different
from other women--Oh, bother!"--this last under his breath, as their
retreat was invaded by two indignant young men who insisted upon the
lawful rights of which Dartmouth had so unblushingly deprived them.
There was nothing to do but resign himself to his fate.
Knowing that a second uninterrupted conversation would be impossible
with her that night, he left the house shortly after, not, however,
before a parting word had assured him that though she still might
disapprove, he would have many future opportunities to plead his
cause, and, furthermore, that she would not risk the loss of his
admiration by relating what she had seen. When he reached his
apartment he exchanged his coat for a smoking-jacket, lit a cigar, and
throwing himself down on a sofa, gave himself up to thoughts of Miss
"A strange creature," he mentally announced. "If one can put one's
trust in physiognomy, I should say she had about ten times more in
her than dwells in ordinary women. She has no suspicion of it herself,
however; she will make that discovery later on. I should like to have
the power to render myself invisible; but no, I beg pardon, I should
like to be present in astral body when her nature awakens. I have
always wanted to study the successive psychological evolutions of a
woman in love. Not of the ordinary compound of the domestic and the
fashionable; there is nothing exciting in that; and besides,
our realistic novelists have rendered such researches on my part
superfluous; but of a type, small, but each member of which is built
up of infinite complexities--like this girl. The nature would awaken
with a sudden, mighty shock, not creep toward the light with slow,
well-regulated steps--but, bah! what is the use of indulging in
boneless imaginings? One can never tell what a woman of that sort will
think and feel, until her experience has been a part of his own. And
there is no possibility of my falling in love with her, even did I
wish it, which I certainly do not. The man who fascinates is not the
man who loves. Pardon my modesty, most charming of grandmothers, if
your soul really lurks behind that wonderful likeness of yours, as
I sometimes think it does, but a man cannot have the double power of
making many others feel and of feeling himself. At least, so it seems
to me. Love lightly roused is held as lightly, and one loses one's
respect for even the passion in the abstract. Of what value can a
thing be which springs into life for a trick of manner, an atom or two
more of that negative quality called personal magnetism, while wiser
and better men pass by unnoticed? One naturally asks, What is love?
A spiritual enthusiasm which a cold-blooded analyst would call
sentimentality, or its correlative, a fever of the senses? Neither is
a very exalted set of conditions. I have been through both more
than once, and if my attacks have been light, I have been the better
enabled to study my fair inspiration. I never discovered that she
felt more deeply; simply more strongly, more tempestuously, after the
nature of women. Her feelings were not more complex, they were merely
more strongly accentuated. A woman in love imagines that she is the
pivot on which the world revolves. A general may immortalize himself,
an emperor be assassinated and his empire plunged into a French
Revolution, and her passing interest is not roused; nor is she
unapt to wonder how others can be interested in matters so purely
impersonal. She thinks she loves as no woman ever loved before, and
sometimes she succeeds in making the man think so too. But when a
man has gone through this sort of thing a couple of dozen times, he
becomes impressed with the monotony, the shallowness, and the racial
resemblance, so to speak, of the divine passion; and his own capacity
for indulging in it diminishes in proportion. If Miss Penrhyn is
capable of anything wider and deeper and higher than her average
sister, I have met her too late to be inspired with anything beyond
passing curiosity. In fact, I doubt if I could be capable of so much
as indulging in the surmise had I never known my grandmother. _There_
was a woman unique in her generation. So strong was her individuality
that I was forced to appreciate it, even in the days when I used
to make her life a burden by planting her silver spoons in the
rose-garden and re-setting her favorite cuttings wrong side up. I wish
she had lived longer; it would have been both a pleasure and a profit
to have studied and analyzed her. And how I should like to know her
history! That she had one there is no doubt. The lines of repression
in her face were the strongest I have ever seen, to say nothing of
the night I found her standing over the Byzantine chest with her hands
full of yellow papers. There were no lines of repression in her face
just then; she looked fairly murderous. She did not see me, and I left
with a brevity worthy of its cause. I should like to know who wrote
those letters. I looked for them after her death, but she had either
destroyed them or else that old Byzantine chest has a secret drawer.
If it has I'll discover it some day when time hangs heavily.
"No," he continued, settling himself down more comfortably among his
pillows, and tossing the end of his cigar into the grate, "I shall
marry some day, undoubtedly, but I must find a woman with the brains
and charm of my grandmother. This girl, they say, is brilliant, and
certainly she cut me up sharply enough to-night; but she would
be altogether too much to handle for a lifetime. It would be very
pleasant for a time, but a deuced bore later on. What a beauty she is,
though! I cannot get her out of my mind. She has been posing before my
mental vision all the time I have been trying to think about something
else. Those eyes--gods! And what a figure! What--"
With a nervous, precipitate motion, he rose to his feet and drew in
his breath, as if to throw a sudden load from his chest. He stood
irresolute for a moment, then revolving slowly on his heel, walked, as
if independently of his own volition, over to his desk. He felt very
strangely; he did not remember to have ever felt so strangely before.
His head had become suddenly confused, but at the same time he was
aware that his brain had thrown open its doors to a new arrival, and
that the visitor was trying to make itself heard. It appeared to be a
visitor of great importance, and Dartmouth was conscious that it had
presented itself to his perceptions in the form of an extraordinarily
strong impulse, a great and clamorous Desire. He had been aware of the
same desire before, but only in an abstract way, a general purposeless
longing; but now this peremptory, loudly-knocking consciousness was
vaguely suggesting another--just behind. It would almost seem, if it
were not too preposterous a supposition, as if that second struggling
consciousness were trying to announce itself under the high-sounding
title of--what? He could not formulate it. If his brain were only not
so confused! What could so suddenly have affected him? He was always
so clear-headed and logical. Was he going to be ill? When he reached
his desk he sat down before it and mechanically took up his pen.
He leaned his head on his hand, like a man in a state of mental
exhaustion, and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he opened them
wide, with an exclamation which was almost a cry; and of his usual
calm repose there was not a trace remaining. He leaned forward
breathlessly and put his pen to the paper. "Her eyes! Her skin! Her
form!" he muttered uncertainly. "Her--her--her--Oh! _what_ is it?
_Why_ cannot I say it? It has come at last--_she_ was right after
all--but the words--the words--why will not they come? The music is
there--a great rhythm and harmony--but the words are floating about
like wraiths of mist. If I could only grasp and crystallize them, and
set them to that wonderful music, the world--the world would rise at
last and call me great! Her eyes--her hair--oh, my God, _what_ is it?"
He threw down his pen and staggered to his feet. His face was blanched
and drawn, and his eyes had lost their steady light. He grasped the
chair to save himself from falling; he had lost over himself both
physical and mental control. It seemed to him that two beings, two
distinct entities, were at war within his brain--that new, glorious
consciousness, and a tangible power above, which forced it down with
an iron hand--down--down--into the depths of his mind, where its cries
for speech came up in faint, inarticulate murmurs. And it tried and
tried, that strange new thing, to struggle from its dungeon and reach
the wide, free halls of his thought, but it could not; it beat against
that unrelaxing iron hand only to fall back again and again. And it
sang and sang and sang, in spite of its struggles and captivity. The
faint, sweet echo came up--if he could but catch the words! If he
could but dash aside that iron hand, and let his brain absorb them!
Surely a word or two must force their way--yes! yes! they had come!
"Her face! her form!"--He tore open his waistcoat; his lungs felt as
if they had been exhausted. Then, how he never knew, he managed to
reach his sofa, and fell face downward upon it; and the next morning,
when his valet came in and drew aside the curtains and let in the
light of mid-day, he found him there as he had fallen.
Harold Dartmouth came of a family celebrated throughout its history
for producing men of marked literary and political ability. Few
generations had passed without a Dartmouth distinguishing himself,
and those members of the family less gifted were not in the habit
of having their fine intellectual qualities called to account. The
consequence was that their young descendant, who inherited all the
family cleverness, although as yet he had betrayed the possession of
none of its higher gifts, paid the penalty of his mental patrimony.
His brain was abnormally active, both through conditions of heredity
and personal incitement; and the cerebral excitation necessarily
produced resulted not infrequently in violent reaction, which took the
form of protracted periods of melancholy. These attacks of melancholy
had begun during his early school-days, when, a remarkably bright
but extremely wild boy, he had been invariably fired with ambition as
examinations approached, and obliged to cram to make up for lost time.
As years went by they grew with his growth, and few months passed
without an attack of the blues more or less violent, no matter
how brief. They came after hours of brooding over his desire to
distinguish himself, and his fatal want of ability; they came during
his intervals of purely intellectual disgust with himself and with
life; but more frequently still they came upon him from no apparent
cause whatever. They were a part of his personality, just as humor,
or light, unthinking gaiety, or a constantly bubbling wit may form the
predominating characteristic of another man.
For a week after the night of his futile impulse to put into shape
the nebulous verse which had tormented his brain, no one saw Harold
Dartmouth. The violent shock and strain had induced an attack of
mental and spiritual depression which amounted to prostration, and
he lay on his sofa taking no notice of the days as they slipped by,
eating little and speaking to no one. At first Jones, his man-servant,
was not particularly disturbed. He had brought Dartmouth up, and
had come to look upon his moods as a matter of course. He therefore
confined himself to forcing his master to take his food and to
parrying the curiosity of the French servants; he knew Dartmouth's
temper too well to venture to call a doctor, and he hoped that in a
few days the mood would wear itself out. But at the end of a week
he became seriously alarmed. He had spent the last day but one in a
desperate and fruitless attempt to rouse Dartmouth, and had used every
expedient his ingenuity could suggest. Finally, at his wits' end, he
determined to call in the help of Lord Bective Hollington, who was
Dartmouth's most intimate friend, and had lived with him and his moods
for months together. He came to this decision late on the night of the
seventh day, and at eleven the next morning he presented himself at
Hollington's apartments in the Rue Lincoln. Hollington was still in
bed and reading the morning paper, but he put it down at once.
"Send him in," he said. "Something is the matter with Harold," he
continued to himself. "Something unusual has been the matter with him
all the week, when he wouldn't even see me. Well, Jones, what is it?"
as that perturbed worthy entered. "You are an early visitor."
"Oh! my Lord!" exclaimed Jones, tearfully; "something dreadful hails
"What is it?" demanded Hollington, quickly. "Is he ill?"
Jones shook his head. "No, my Lord; I wish 'ee was. 'Ee's worse than
hill. 'Ee's got one of 'is moods."
"Poor Harold! I thought he had got over all that since he had given
himself over to the distractions of wine, woman, and song. I haven't
seen him in one of his moods for three or four years."
"Ah, sir, I 'ave, then. 'Ee don't 'ave them so frequent like before he
begun to travel, but hevery wunst in a while 'ee will be terrible for
two hor three days; but I never see hanything like this before, heven
at Crumford 'All. 'Ee 'as never spoke for a week; not since the night
of the ball hat the Russian Legation."
"By Jove! you don't mean it. I thought he was on a 'private tear,' as
the Americans say; but I don't like this at all. Just clear out, and
I'll be dressed and over in his rooms in less than half an hour." And
he sprang out of bed before Jones had closed the door.
He was but a few moments dressing, as he had promised, and was at
Dartmouth's apartment before Jones had time to become impatient,
nervous as he was. He pulled aside the portiere of the salon and
looked in. The curtains were drawn and the room was dark, but on a
sofa near the window he saw his friend lying. He picked his way over
through the studiously disordered furniture and touched Dartmouth on
"Hal!" he said, "Hal!"
Dartmouth opened his eyes and looked up. "Is it you, Becky?" he
said, languidly. "Go away and let me alone." But his words and manner
indicated that the attack was at last "wearing itself out."
"I will do nothing of the sort," replied Hollington. "Get up off that
sofa this moment. A week! I am ashamed of you. What would the old lady
"She would understand," murmured Dartmouth. "She always understood. I
wish she were here now."
"I wish she were. She would soon have you out of this. Get up. Don't
be a fool."
"I am not a fool. I have got one of the worst of the old attacks, and
I can't shake it off; that is all. Go away, and let me fight it out by
"I will not move from this room, if I stay here for six months, until
you go with me. So make up your mind to it." And he threw himself into
an easy-chair, and lighting a cigar, proceeded leisurely to smoke it.
Dartmouth turned uneasily once or twice. "You know I can't bear anyone
near me," he said; "I want to be alone."
"You have been alone long enough. I will do as I have said."
There was silence for a few moments, and Dartmouth's restlessness
increased. Hollington watched him closely, and after a time handed him
a cigar and offered him a light. Dartmouth accepted both mechanically,
and for a time the two men smoked in silence. When Dartmouth finished
he rose to his feet.
"Very well," he said, "have your own way. Wait until I dress and I
will go out with you." He went into his dressing-room and returned
about an hour later, during which time Hollington had thrown back the
curtains and written a couple of letters. Dartmouth was still haggard
and very pale, but his face had been shaved and he looked something
like himself once more. Hollington rose and threw down his pen at
"I will drop in on our way back and finish this letter," he said. "You
must get out of the house as quickly as possible. By Jove! how bad you
look!" He put his hand on his friend's shoulder and looked at him a
moment. He was the average Englishman in most of his details,
tall, well-built, with a good profile, and a ruddy Saxon face. His
individual characteristics were an eternal twinkle in his eye, a
forehead with remarkably well-developed reflectives, and a very square
chin and jaw. Just now the twinkle was less aggressive and his face
had softened noticeably. "There is no help for it, I suppose, Hal, is
there?" he said.
Dartmouth looked back at him with a smile, and a good deal of
affection in his eyes. "No, old fellow," he replied; "I am afraid
there is not. But they are rarely as bad as this last. And--thank you
They went out together and walked to the Cafe Anglais on the Boulevard
des Italiens. The air was keen and cold, the walk a long one, and
Dartmouth felt like another man by the time he sat down to breakfast.
One or two other men joined them. Hollington was unusually witty, the
conversation was general and animated, and when Dartmouth left the
cafe the past week seemed an ugly dream. In the afternoon he met the
wife of the American Consul-General, Mrs. Raleigh, in the Bois, and
learned from her that Margaret Talbot had left Paris. This left him
free to remain; and when Mrs. Raleigh reminded him that her doors were
open that evening, he asked permission at once to present himself.
Mrs. Raleigh not only had a distinguished and interesting salon, but
she casually remarked that she expected Miss Penrhyn, and Dartmouth
felt a strong desire to see the girl again.
When, a few hours later, Dartmouth entered Mrs. Raleigh's salon, he
saw Miss Penrhyn surrounded by some half-dozen men, and talking
with the abandon of a pleased child, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks
flushed. As he went over to her the flush faded slightly, but she held
out her hand and smiled up into his eyes.
"You have been ill," she murmured, sympathetically. "You look so
"Yes," he said, "I have been ill; otherwise I should have made an
effort to see you before. I suppose I cannot get a word with you
to-night May I call on you to morrow morning?"
"Yes, you may come."
"Thank you. And there will not be a dozen other men there?"
She smiled. "I do not think there will be anyone else. I rarely
receive in the morning."
"But are you sure?"
He had a long sweep of black lash, through which the clear blue of his
eyes had a way of shining with a pleading, softening lustre, immensely
effective. It was an accepted fact that when Mr. Dartmouth turned
on this battery of eyes and lash, resistance was a forgotten art and
protest a waste of time. Miss Penrhyn did not prove an exception to
the rule. She hesitated, then answered, with a little laugh, as if
amused at herself, "Well, yes, I am sure."
"Very well, then, remember, I look upon that as a promise. And I will
try to get a word with you later, but there is no hope now."
He moved off and, leaning against the opposite wall, covertly watched
her, while ostensibly listening with due sympathy to the hopes and
fears of an old friend and embryo author. In a moment he made a
discovery--of his friend's confidence I regret to say he heard not one
word--she did not treat him as she treated other men. Well bred as she
was, there was a perceptible embarrassment in her manner whenever he
addressed her, but with these other men she was talking and smiling
without a trace of effort or restraint. He knew what it meant. He was
thoroughly aware that he was a man of extraordinary magnetism, and he
had seen his power over a great many women. Ordinarily, to a man so
sated with easy success as Harold Dartmouth, the certainty of conquest
would have strangled the fancy, but there was something about this
girl which awakened in him an interest he did not pretend to define,
except that he found her more beautiful, and believed her to be
more original, than other women. He was anxious to have a longer
conversation with her, and ascertain whether or not he was correct in
his latter supposition. He did not want to marry, and she was too
good to flirt with, but platonics were left. And platonics with Miss
Penrhyn suggested variety.
He also made another discovery. Someone played an interminable piece
of classic music. During its recital it was not possible for Miss
Penrhyn to talk with the men about her, and as the animation faded
from her face, he noticed the same preoccupied look overspread it
which had characterized it the night she had entered the ball-room at
the Legation. Something troubled her, but to Dartmouth's quick eye
it was not an active trouble, it was more like a shadow which took
possession of her face in its moments of repose with the quiet
assurance of a dweller of long standing. Possibly she herself was
habitually forgetful of its cause; but the cause had struck deep
into the roots of her nature, and its shadow had become a part of
her beauty. Dartmouth speculated much and widely, but rejected the
hypothesis of a lover. She had never loved for a moment; and in spite
of his platonic predilections, this last of his conclusions held a
very perceptible flavor of satisfaction. When the classic young lady
had gracefully acknowledged the raptures she had evoked, and tripped
back to her seat, Miss Penrhyn was asked to sing, and then Dartmouth
saw his opportunity; he captured her when she had finished, and bore
her off to the conservatory before anyone could interfere.
"You sing charmingly," he said. "Will you sing for me to-morrow?"
"If you can stretch flattery to that extent, with Patti at the Grand
"I have been listening to Patti for fifteen years, and man loves
variety. I wish I could tell where I have seen you before," he
continued, abruptly. "Do you look like your mother? I may have seen
her in my youth."
Her face flushed a sudden, painful red, and then turned very pale. "I
do not remember my mother," she stammered. "She died when I was quite
"Poor thing!" thought Dartmouth. "How girls do grieve for an unknown
mother!" "But you have seen her picture?" he said, aloud.
"Yes, I have seen her pictures. They are dark, like myself. But that
"You must have had a lonely childhood, brought up all by yourself in
that gloomy old castle I have heard described."
She colored again and crushed a fern-leaf nervously between her
fingers. "Yes, it was lonesome. Yes--those old castles always are."
"By the way--I remember--my mother spent a summer down there once,
some twelve or thirteen years ago, and--it comes back to me now--I
remember having heard her speak of Rhyd-Alwyn as the most picturesque
castle in Wales. She must have known your mother, of course. And you
must have known the children. _Why_ was I not there?"
"I do not remember," she said, rising suddenly to her feet, and
turning so pale that Dartmouth started to his in alarm. "Come; let us
go back to the salon."
"There is some mystery," thought Dartmouth. "Have I stumbled upon a
family skeleton? Poor child!" But aloud he said, "No, do not go yet;
I want to talk to you." And when he had persuaded her to sit down
once more, he exerted himself to amuse her, and before long had the
satisfaction of seeing that she had forgotten her agitation. It did
not take him long to discover that she had read a great deal and that
her favorite reading had been travels, and he entertained her with
graphic recitals of such of his own varied experience as he thought
most likely to interest her. She listened with flattering attention
and a natural and keen sense of humor, and he was stimulated to a good
deal more effort than habit prompted. "You will enjoy travelling," he
said, finally; "and you will not travel like other women. You will see
something besides picture-galleries, and churches, and _Bons marches_.
I believe that you would realize what it is to be an atom of to-day in
the presence of twenty centuries."
She smiled up at him with quick sympathy. "Yes," she said, "I believe
one must more frequently be awed than pleased, or even enraptured. And
I can imagine how even the most self-content of men, if he absorb the
meaning of Europe, must feel his insignificance. If he has wit enough
to reflect that all these represented ages, with their extraordinary
results, abstract and concrete, have come and gone with no aid of his;
that no prophet ever whispered his name among the thousands of great
in every conceivable destiny; that he is, mentally and physically,
simply a result of evolution and civilization, not, in any way worth
mentioning, a cause, he will be apt to reflect as well upon how many
men, all told, have ever heard of his existence or who besides his
grandchildren will remember him a generation hence. He will probably
wish that arithmetic had never been invented. Or if he be one of the
great of earth, he is only one after all, and, if he be in danger of
bursting from inflation, he can be grateful for a timely reminder that
there are several millions on the globe who have never heard of him,
and a few millions more who do not and never will take the faintest
interest in him or his career. But it needs the presence of twenty
centuries to bring the fact of man's individual insignificance home to
most of us."
"She is clever," thought Dartmouth, as he dismissed his brougham
a little later and walked home alone. "Very un-modern and most
reprehensibly unconventional, in so much as she thinks, and develops
her mental muscles; but very charming, notwithstanding. There is an
incongruity about her, however, which is almost absurd. She has been
brought up in such seclusion--and under the sole tuition of a man not
only a pedant, but who has never stepped through the gates of the last
generation--that she reminds one of those fair English dames who used
to prowl about their parks with the Phaedo under their arm and long
for a block on which to float down to prosperity; Plato had quite
enough to do to sail for himself. And upon this epitomized abstraction
of the sixteenth century, this mingling of old-time stateliness, of
womanly charm, of tougher mental fibre, are superimposed the shallow
and purely objective attributes of the nineteenth-century belle and
woman of fashion. It is almost a shock to hear her use our modern
vernacular, and when she relapses into the somewhat stilted language
in which she is still accustomed to think, it is a positive relief.
She is conscious that she is apt to be a little high-flown, and when
she forgets herself and is natural, she quickly pulls herself in with
a round turn, which is an apology in itself. Upon such occasions a
man wants to get his fingers about the throat of the world. She has
acquired all the little arts and mannerisms of the London drawing-room
girl, and although they do not sit ungracefully upon her, because
she is innately graceful, and too clever to assume a virtue which
she cannot assimilate, still it is like a foreigner who speaks your
language to perfection in all but accent, and whom you long to hear in
his own tongue. Put her back in her Welsh castle, and the scales
would fall from her as from a mermaid who loves. If she returns to
her father at the end of the season, I think I will call upon her six
months later. She should go now, though; scales are apt to corrode.
But what is the mystery about the mother? Did she elope with the
coachman? But, no; that is strictly a modern freak of fashion. Perhaps
she died in a mad-house. Not improbable, if she had anything of the
nature of this girl in her, and Sir Iltyd sowed the way with thorns
too sharp. Poor girl! she is too young for mysteries, whatever it is.
I shall like to know her better, but she is so intense that she makes
me feel frivolous. I am never intense except when I have the blues,
and intensity, with my peculiar mental anatomy, is a thing to be
avoided. In what is invariably the last chapter of those attacks of
morbid dissatisfaction I shall some day feel an intense desire to blow
out my brains, and shall probably succumb. I wonder if she will induce
another rhyming attack to-night. Was that night a dream or a reality?
Could I have had a short but sharp attack of brain fever? Perhaps
the less I think about it the better; but it is decidedly hard to be
gifted with the instincts of a poet and denied the verbal formulation.
And it was the most painfully realistic, aggressively material
thing, that conflict in my brain, that mortal ever experienced. That,
however, may have been a mere figment of my excited imagination.
But what excited my imagination? That is the question. If I remember
aright, I was mentally discoursing with some enthusiasm upon Miss
Penrhyn's charms, but in strict impartiality it cannot be said that
I was excited. The excitement was like that produced by an onslaught
from behind. It is the more surprising, as I think it may be conceded
that I have myself pretty well in hand by this time, and that my
nerves, unruly as nature saw fit to make them, are now my very abject
slaves. Occasionally one of our fiction carpenters flies off at a
tangent and treats us to a series of intellectual gymnastics, the
significance of which--so we are called upon to digest--is that the
soul of one dead, finding its present clime too warm--or too cold--or
having left something undone on earth, takes temporary and summary
possession of an unfortunate still in the flesh, and through this
unhappy medium endeavors to work his will. Perhaps that is what is the
matter with me. Pollok, perchance, who died in his flower, thinking
that he had not given the world a big enough pill to swallow, wants to
concoct another dose in my presumably vacant brain. I appreciate
the compliment, but I disdain to be Pollok's mouthpiece: I will be
original or nothing. Besides, it is deuced uncomfortable. And I should
like to know if there is anything in life more bitter than the sense,
even momentary, of loss of self-mastery. Well, as I remarked a few
moments since, the less I think about it the better, considering my
unfortunate peculiarities. I will go and see Miss Penrhyn to-morrow;
that will be sufficiently distracting for the present."
He found her the next day in a pretty morning-room, dressed in a long
white gown, with a single great yellow rose at her throat. She had
a piece of tapestry in her hand, and as she rose to greet him, the
plain, heavy folds of her gown clinging about her, and her dark
hair bound closely around her head with a simplicity that was almost
severe, Dartmouth again felt a humorous sense of having suddenly
stepped into a page of a past century.
"What are you doing?" he said, as he took a chair opposite her. "Women
never make tapestry--real tapestry--in these days. You remind me of
Lady Jane Grey. Shall I get a volume of Greek and read it to you?"
She laughed. "I fear it would literally be Greek to me. Latin and I
had a fierce and desperate war, but I conquered in the end. With the
Greek, however, the war was extremely brief, and he marched off with
colors flying, and never condescended to renew the engagement."
"For all mercies make us duly thankful. A woman who knows Greek is
like a hot-house grape; a mathematically perfect thing, but scentless
"You are consoling; and, indeed, I cannot see that it would have done
me much good; it certainly would not have increased my popularity
among your exacting sex. You are the first man to whom I have dared
acknowledge I know Latin. Lady Langdon was kind enough to give me
elaborate warnings and instructions before she launched me into
society. Among other things, she constantly reiterated, 'Never let a
man suspect that you know anything, my dear. He will fly from you as
a hare to cover. I want you to be a belle, and you must help me.' I
naturally asked her what I was to talk about, and she promptly replied
'Nothing. Study the American girl, they have the most brilliant way
of jabbering meaningless recitativos of any tribe on the face of the
earth. Every sentence is an epigram with the point left out. They are
like the effervescent part of a bottle of soda-water.' This was while
we were still in Wales, and she sent for six books by two of those
American novelists who are supposed to be the expounders-in-chief of
the American girl at home and abroad, and made me read them. It nearly
killed me, but I did it, and I learned a valuable lesson. I hated the
American girl, but I felt as if I had been boiled in soda-water and
every pore of my body had absorbed it. I felt ecstatically frivolous,
and commonplace, and flashing, and sizzling. And--I assure you this
is a fact, although you may not give me credit for such grim
determination and concentration of purpose--but I never eat my
breakfast before I have read an entire chapter from one of those two
authors, it adjusts my mental tone for the day and keeps me in proper
Dartmouth threw back his head and gave vent to the heartiest burst
of laughter he had indulged in for years. "Upon my word, you are
original," he exclaimed, delightedly, "and for heaven's sake, don't
try to be anything else. You could not be an American girl if you
tried for a century, for the reason that you have too many centuries
behind you. The American girl is charming, exquisite, a perfect
flower--but thin. She is like the first fruit of a new tree planted
in new soil. Her flavor is as subtle and vanishing as pistachio,
but there is no richness, no depth, no mellowness, no suggestion
of generations of grafting, or of orchards whose very sites are
forgotten. The soda-water simile is good, but the American girl, in
her actual existence--not in her verbal photographs, I grant you--is
worthy of a better. She is more like one glass of champagne-_frappe_,
momentarily stimulating, but quickly forgotten. When I was in America,
I met the most charming women in New York--I did not spend two weeks,
all told, in Washington--and New York is the concentrated essence,
the pinnacle of American civilization and achievement. But although I
frequently talked to one or another of those women for five hours at a
time without a suggestion of fatigue, I always had the same sensation
in regard to them that I had in regard to their waists while
dancing--they were unsatisfactory, intangible. I never could be sure
I really held a woman in my arms, and I never could remember a word
I had exchanged with them. But they are charming--that word describes
them 'down to the ground.'"
"That word 'thin' is good, too," she replied; "and I think it
describes their literature better than any other. They write
beautifully those Americans, they are witty, they are amusing, they
are entertaining, they delineate character with a master hand; they
give us an exact idea of their peculiar environment and conditions;
and the way they handle dialect is a marvel; but--they are thin; they
ring hollow; they are like sketches in pen-and-ink; there is no color,
no warmth, and above all, no perspective. I don't know that they are
even done in sharp black-and-white; to me the pervading tone is gray.
The American author depresses me; he makes me feel commonplace and new
and unballasted. I always feel as if I were the 'millionth woman in
superfluous herds'; and when one of those terrible American authors
attacks my type, and carves me up for the delectation of the public, I
shall go back to Wales, nor ever emerge from my towers again. And they
are so cool and calm and deliberate, and so horribly exact, even the
lesser lights. They always remind me of a medical student watching the
workings of the exposed nervous system of a chloroformed hare."
Dartmouth looked at her with some intensity in his gaze. "I am glad
your ideas are so singularly like my own," he said. "It is rather
remarkable they should be, but so it is. You have even a way of
putting your thoughts that strikes me as familiar, and which, out of
my natural egotism, I find attractive. But I wish you would go back to
your old castle; the world will spoil you."
"I shall return in a month or two now; my father is lonely without
"I suppose he spoils you," said Dartmouth, smiling. "I imagine you
were an abominable infant. Tell me of some of the outrageous things
you used to do. I was called the worst child in three counties; but, I
doubt not, your exploits discounted mine, as the Americans say."
"Oh, mine are too bad to relate," she exclaimed, with a nervous laugh,
and coloring swiftly, as she had done the night before. "But you were
ill for a whole week, were you not? Was it anything serious?"
Dartmouth felt a sudden impulse to tell her of his strange experience.
He was not given to making confidences, but he felt _en rapport_ with
this girl as he had never felt with man or woman before. He had a
singular feeling, when talking with or listening to her, of losing his
sense of separateness. It was not that he felt de-individualized, but
that he had an accession of personality. It was pleasant because it
was novel, but at the same time it was uncomfortable because it was
a trifle unnatural. He smiled a little to himself. Was it a case of
affinity after all? But he had no time to analyze. She was waiting for
an answer, and in a moment he found himself yielding to his impulse
and giving her a graphic account of his peculiar visitation.
At first she merely dropped her tapestry and listened attentively,
smiling and blushing a little when he told her what had immediately
preceded the impulse to write. But gradually the delicate pink left
her face, and she began to move in the spasmodic, uncontrollable way
of a person handling an electric battery. She clasped the arms of
her chair with such force that her arms looked twisted and rigid, and
finally she bent slowly forward, gazing up into his face with eyes
expanded to twice their natural size and not a vestige of color in
her cheek or lips: she looked like a corpse still engaged in the
mechanical act of gazing on the scene of agony which had preceded
its death. Suddenly she sprang to her feet and threw out her hands.
"Stop!" she cried; "stop!"
"What is it?" he demanded, rising to his feet in amazement; he had
been watching her with more or less surprise for some time. "I am
afraid I have frightened you and made you nervous. I had better have
kept my confidence to myself."
"No, no," she cried, throwing back her head and clasping her hands
about it; "it is not that I am frightened--only--it was so strange!
While you were talking it seemed--oh! I cannot describe it!--as if you
were telling me something which I knew as well as yourself. When
you spoke it seemed to me that I knew and could put into words the
wonderful verse-music which was battling upward to reach your brain.
They were, they were--I know them so well. I have known them always;
but I cannot--I cannot catch their meaning!" Suddenly she stepped
backward, dropped her hands, and colored painfully. "It is all purest
nonsense, of course," she said, in her ordinary tone and manner,
except for its painful embarrasment. "It is only your strong,
picturesque way of telling it which presented it as vividly to my mind
as if it were an experience of my own. I never so much as dreamed of
it before you began to speak."
Dartmouth did not answer her for a moment. His own mind was in
something of a tumult. In telling the story he had felt, not a
recurrence of its conditions, but a certain sense of their influence;
and the girl's manner and words were extraordinary. It could hardly
be possible, even in cold blood, to understand their meaning. She
was indisputably not acting. What she had said was very strange and
unconventional, but from whatever source the words had sprung, they
had not been uttered with the intention premeditated or spontaneous
of making an impression upon him. They carried conviction of their
sincerity with them, and Dartmouth was sensible that they produced
a somewhat uncanny but strangely responsive effect upon himself.
But what did it mean? That in some occult way she had been granted
a glimpse into the depths of his nature was unthinkable. He was not
averse to indulging a belief in affinity; and that this girl was his
was not a disagreeable idea; but his belief by no means embraced a
second, to the effect that the soul of one's antitype is as an open
book to the other. Could her mind be affected? But no. She was a very
unusual girl, possibly an eccentric one; but he flattered himself
that he knew a lunatic when he saw one. There was left then but the
conclusion that she possessed a strongly and remarkably sympathetic
nature, as yet unbridled and unblunted by the world, and that he had
made a dangerous imprint upon it. He was not unduly vain, but he was
willing to believe that she would not vibrate so violently to every
This point settled to the best of his capabilities, he allowed a
second consciousness, which had been held under for the moment,
during the exercisings of his analytical instinct, to claim his
consideration. He was sensible that he was attracted as he had never
been attracted by woman before. He had felt something of this on the
night he had met her, and he had felt it more strongly on the occasion
of their second interview; but now he was aware that it had suddenly
taken the form of an overmastering desire for possession. He was by
nature an impulsive man, but he was a man of the world as well, and
he had his impulses pretty well subordinated to interest and
common-sense; nevertheless he felt very much like doing a rash and
impulsive thing at the present moment. He was a man of rapid thought,
and these reflections chased each other through his mind much more
quickly than I have been able to take them down, and Miss Penrhyn
had averted her gaze and was playing nervously with some flowers in
a basket on a pedestal beside her. She was acutely aware that she had
made a fool of herself, and imagined that his hesitation was due to
a polite desire to arrange his reply in such wise as not to make his
appreciation of the fact too crudely apparent. At the same time she
was a little exhausted under the reaction of a short but very severe
mental strain. As for Dartmouth, he hesitated a moment longer. He was
balancing several pros and cons very rapidly. He was aware that if he
asked this girl to marry him and she consented, he must, as a man of
honor, abide by the contract, no matter how much she might disappoint
him hereafter. At the same time the knowledge that he was in love
with her was growing more distinct every second. Doubtless the wisest
course would be to go away for the present and postpone any decisive
step until he knew her better. But he was not a patient man, and he
was not in the habit of putting off until to-morrow what he could do
to-day. (He considered that certain of the precepts instilled during
childhood were of admirable practical value). The best thing in life
was its morning: he did not like evening shadows and autumn twilights.
There was nothing that could compare with the sweetness and fineness
of the flavor of novelty. When it was practicable to take advantage
of one's impulses one had a brief draught of true philosopher's
happiness. And, at all events, this girl was a lady, high-born,
high-bred, intellectual, and unique. She was also plastic, and if she
had a somewhat too high-strung nature, love had been known to work
wonders before. He had mastered the difficult art of controlling
himself; he was not afraid of not being able to control any woman who
loved him. He went over to her and took her hands in his strong clasp.
"I have known you a very short--" he began, and then paused abruptly.
He had meant to speak calmly and not frighten her by the suddenness
of his love-making, but her touch fired him and sent the blood to his
head. He flung down her hands, and throwing his arms about her, kissed
her full on the mouth. The girl turned very white and tried to free
herself, but his arms were too strong, and in a moment she ceased to
resist. She made no attempt to define her feelings as Dartmouth had
done. She had felt the young man's remarkable magnetism the moment she
had met him: she had been aware of a certain prophetic instinct of it
some hours before, when he had stood in the window of a crowded cafe
above a crowded thoroughfare and speculatively returned her gaze.
And the night before, she had gone home with a very sharply outlined
consciousness that she would never again meet a man who would interest
her so deeply. To-day, this feeling had developed into one of strong
reciprocal sympathy, and he had exerted a psychological influence over
her as vaguely delightful as it was curious and painful. But all this
was no preparation for the sudden tumult of feeling which possessed
her under his kiss. She knew that it was love; and, that it had come
to her without warning, made the knowledge no less keen and sure.
Her first impulse was to resist, but purely out of that pride which
forbids a woman to yield too soon; and when his physical strength made
her powerless, she was glad that it should be so.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Yes" she said; "I will marry you."
Two weeks later Dartmouth had followed Weir Penrhyn to Wales. He had
written to her father at once, and Sir Iltyd had informed him in reply
that although aware of his rank and private fortune, through Lady
Langdon's intimation, and although possessing a high regard and esteem
for his father, still it was impossible for him to give any definite
answer until he had known him personally, and he therefore invited
him to come as soon as it pleased him and pay Rhyd-Alwyn a visit. Weir
accordingly, and much to Lady Langdon's disgust, had returned to Wales
at once; Dartmouth insisted upon an early marriage, and the longer
they delayed obtaining Sir Iltyd's consent the longer must the wedding
Dartmouth arrived late in the afternoon at Rhyd-Alwyn--a great pile of
gray towers of the Norman era and half in ruins. He did not meet Sir
Iltyd until a few minutes before dinner was announced, but he saw Weir
for a moment before he went up-stairs to dress for dinner. His room
was in one of the towers, and as he entered it he had the pleasurable
feeling, which Weir so often induced, of stepping back into a dead and
gone century. It looked as if unnumbered generations of Penrhyns had
slept there since the hand of the furnisher had touched it. The hard,
polished, ascetic-looking floor was black with age; the tapestry on
the walls conveyed but a suggestion of what its pattern and color had
been; a huge four-posted bed heavily shrouded with curtains stood
in the centre of the room, and there were a number of heavy, carved
pieces of furniture whose use no modern Penrhyn would pretend to
explain. The vaulted ceiling was panelled, and the windows were
narrow and long and high. Sufficient light found its way through them,
however, to dress by, and there was a bright log-fire in the open
"Jones," said Dartmouth, after he had admiringly examined the details
of the room and was getting into his clothes, "just throw those
curtains up over the roof of that bed. I like the antique, but I don't
care to be smothered. Give me my necktie, and look out for the bed
before you forget it."
Jones looked doubtfully up at the canopy. "That is pretty 'igh, sir,"
he said. "Hif I can find a step-ladder--"
"A step-ladder in a Welsh castle! The ante-deluge Penrhyns would turn
in their graves, or to be correct, in their family vaults. No true
Welsh noble is guilty of departing from the creed of his ancestors to
the tune of domestic comforts. It is fortunate a man does not have
to marry his wife's castle as well as herself. Get up on to that
cabinet--it is twice as high as yourself--and you can manage the
curtains quite easily."
Jones with some difficulty succeeded in moving the tall piece of
furniture designated to the bed-side; then with the help of a chair he
climbed to the top of it. He caught one of the tender-looking curtains
carefully between his hands, and was about to throw it over the
canopy, shutting his eyes and his mouth to exclude the possible dust,
when the cabinet beneath him suddenly groaned, swayed, and the next
moment there was a heavy crash, and he was groaning in the midst of
a dozen antique fragments. Harold sprang forward in some alarm and
picked him up. "By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I am afraid you are hurt; and
what a row I have made! I might have known better than to tell you to
trust your weight on that old thing."
Jones shook himself slowly, extended his arms and legs, announced
himself unhurt, and Dartmouth gave his attention to the cabinet. "I
shall have to initiate myself in my prospective father-in-law's good
graces by announcing myself a spoiler of his household goods," he
exclaimed, ruefully. "And a handsome old thing like that, too; it is
a shame!" He thrust his hands into his pockets and continued looking
down at the ruins with a quizzical smile on his face.
"By every law of romance and of precedent," he thought, "I ought to
find in that cabinet the traditional packet of old letters which would
throw a flood of light upon some dark and tragic mystery. Else why did
I tell Jones to stand upon that particular cabinet instead of that one
over there, which looks as if iron hammers could not break it; and why
did Jones blindly obey me? That it should be meaningless chance is
too flat to be countenanced. I should find the long lost Mss. of that
rhymer who took possession of me that night, and so save myself the
discomfort of being turned into a Temple of Fame a second time. Truly
there has been an element of the unusual throughout this whole affair
with Weir. Once or twice I have felt as if about to sail out of the
calm, prosaic waters of this every-day nineteenth-century life,
and embark upon the phosphorescent sea of our sensational
novelists--psychological, so-called. It is rather soon for the
cabinet to break, however. It suggests an anti-climax, which would be
inartistic. But such material was never intended to be thrown away by
a hero of romance."
He kicked about among the fragments of the ruined cabinet, but was
rewarded by no hollow ring. It was a most undutifully matter-of-fact
and prosaic piece of furniture in its interior, however much it may
have pleased the aesthetic sense outwardly. He gave it up after a time,
and finished dressing. "Nothing in that but firewood," he announced to
Jones, who had been watching his researches with some surprise. "Pile
it up in a corner and leave it there until I have made my peace with
He gave his necktie a final touch, then went down to the drawing-room,
where he found the candles lit and Sir Iltyd standing on the hearth-rug
beside his daughter. The old gentleman came forward at once and
greeted him with stately, old-fashioned courtesy, his stern, somewhat
sad features relaxing at once under Dartmouth's rare charm of manner.
He was a fine-looking man, tall and slim like his daughter, but very
fair. His head, well developed, but by no means massive, and scantily
covered with gray hair, was carried with the pride which was the bone
and fibre of his nature. Pride, in fact, albeit a gentle, chastened
sort of pride, was written all over him, from the haughty curve of his
eyebrow to the conscious wave of his small, delicate hand--pride, and
love for his daughter, for he followed her every movement with the
adoring eyes of a man for the one solace of a sad and lonely old age.
"It is so awfully good of you to let me come up here so soon,"
exclaimed Dartmouth. "But what do you suppose I have done to prove my
"Made the castle your own, I hope."
"I have. I proceeded at once to make myself at home by smashing up
the furniture. One of your handsomest cabinets is now in ruins upon my
Sir Iltyd looked at him with a somewhat puzzled glance. He had lived
in seclusion for nearly thirty years, and was unaccustomed to the
facetiousness of the modern youth. "Has anything happened?" he
Dartmouth smiled, but gave an account of the disaster in unadorned
English, and received forgiveness at once. Had he confessed to having
chopped his entire tower to pieces, Sir Iltyd would have listened
without a tightening of the lips, and with the air of a man about to
invite his guest to make a bonfire of the castle if so it pleased him.
As for Weir, her late education made her appreciate the humor of the
situation, and she smiled sympathetically at Harold over her father's
They went into dinner a few moments later, and Sir Iltyd talked a
good deal. Although a man of somewhat narrow limitations and one-sided
views, as was but natural, taking into consideration the fact that his
mental horizon had not been widened out by contact with his
fellow-men for twenty-five years, he was, for a recluse, surprisingly
well-informed upon the topics of the day. Dartmouth could not forbear
making some allusion to the apparent paradox, and his host smiled and
told him that as history had been his favorite study all his life, he
could hardly be so inconsistent as to ignore the work which his more
active contemporaries were making for the future chronicler. He
then drew from Dartmouth a detailed account of that restless young
gentleman's political experience in Russia, and afterward questioned
him somewhat minutely about the American form of government. He seemed
to be pleased with the felicity of expression and the well-stored mind
of his would-be son-in-law, and lingered at the table longer than was
his habit. There were no formalities at Rhyd-Alwyn. Weir remained
with them, and when her father finally rose and went over to the
hearth-rug, as if loth to leave the society of the young people, she
went and stood beside him. He laid his arm across her shoulders, then
turned to Dartmouth with a sigh. "You would take her from me," he
said, sadly, "do you know that you will leave me to a very lonely
"Oh, you will see enough of us," replied Harold, promptly. "We shall
be back and forth all the time. And Crumford Hall, I can assure you,
is not a bad place to come to for the shooting."
Sir Iltyd shook his head: "I could not live out of Wales," he said;
"and I have not slept under another roof for a quarter of a century.
But it is good of you to say you would not mind coming once in a while
to this lonely old place, and it would make the separation easier to
He left them shortly after, and as he took Harold's hand in
good-night, he retained it a moment with an approving smile, then
passed a characteristic Welsh criticism: "It is a small hand," he
said, "and a very well-shaped hand; and your feet, too. I am willing
to acknowledge to you that I am weak enough to have a horror of large
hands and feet. Good-night. I have to thank you for a very pleasant
"Harold," said Weir, the next morning after breakfast, as the door
closed behind Sir Iltyd, "I shall entertain you until luncheon by
showing you the castle."
"My dear girl," said Harold, smiling, "let your role of hostess sit
lightly upon you. I do not want to be entertained. I am perfectly
"Of that I have no doubt. Nevertheless I want you to see the castle,
particularly the picture-gallery, where all my ancestors be."
"Then, by my troth, will I go, fair Mistress Penrhyn, for a goodly
show your ancestors be, I make no doubt;" and Dartmouth plunged his
hands into his pockets and looked down at her with a broad smile.
Weir lifted her head. "My English is quite as pure as yours," she
said. "And you certainly cannot accuse me of using what the London
girls call 'slang.'"
This time Dartmouth laughed aloud. "No, my dear," he said, "not even
Shakespearean slang. But let us investigate the mysteries of the castle
by all means. Lead, and I will follow."
"There are no mysteries," said Weir; "we have not even a ghost. Nor
have we a murder, or crime of any sort, to make us blush for our
"Happy tree! Mine has a blush for every twig, and a drop curtain for
every branch. Thank God for the Penrhyn graft! Let us hope that
it will do as much good as its fairest flower has already done the
degenerate scion of all the Dartmouths. But, to the castle! I would
get through--I mean, I would gaze upon its antiquities as soon as
"This castle is very interesting, Mr. Dartmouth," replied Weir,
elevating her chin; "you have nothing so old in England."
"True, nor yet in Jerusalem, O haughtiest of Welsh maidens! I esteem
it a favor that I am not put below the salt."
Weir laughed. "What a tease you are! But you know that in your heart
your pride of family is as great as mine. Only it is the 'fad' of
the day to affect to despise birth and lineage. We of Wales are more
"Yes, it is your sign and seal, and it sits well upon you. I don't
affect to despise birth and lineage, my dear. If I could not trace
my ancestry back to the first tadpole who loafed his life away in the
tropical forests of old, I should be miserable."
He spoke jestingly, but he drew himself up as he spoke, his lip was
supercilious, and there was an intolerant light in his eye. At that
moment he did not look a promising subject for the Liberal side of the
House, avowedly as were his sympathies in that quarter. Weir, however,
gave him an approving smile, and then commanded him to follow her.
She took him over the castle, from the dungeons below to the cell-like
rooms in the topmost towers. She led him through state bedrooms,
in which had slept many a warlike Welsh prince, whose bones could
scarcely be in worse order than the magnificence which once had
sheltered them. She piloted him down long galleries with arcades on
one side, like a cloister, and a row of rooms on the other wherein the
retainers of ancient princes of the house of Penrhyn had been wont to
rest their thews after a hard day's fight. She slid back panels and
conducted him up by secret ways to gloomy rooms, thick with cobwebs,
where treasure had been hid, and heads too loyal to a fallen king had
alone felt secure on their trunks. She led him to chambers hung with
tapestries wrought by fair, forgotten grandmothers, who over their
work had dreamed their eventless lives away. She showed him the
chapel, impressive in its ancient Norman simplicity and in its ruin,
and the great smoke-begrimed banqueting-hall, where wassails had been
held, and beauty had thought her lord a beast.
"Well," she demanded, as they paused at length on the threshold of the
picture-gallery, "what do you think of my father's castle?"
"Your father's castle is the most consistent thing I have seen for
a long time: it is an artistically correct setting for your father's
daughter. The chain of evolution is without a missing link. And
what is better, the last link is uncorroded with the rust of modern
conventions. Seriously, your castle is the most romantic I have ever
seen. The nineteenth century is forgotten, and I am a belted Knight of
Merrie England who has stormed your castle and won you by his prowess.
You stood in your window, high up in your tower, and threw me a rose,
while your father stalked about the ramparts and swore that my bones
should whiten on the beach. I raised the rose to my lips, dashed
across the drawbridge, and hurled my lance at the gates. About my head
a shower of barbs and bullets fell, but I heeded them not. Behind me
thundered my retainers, and under their onslaught the mighty gates
gave way with a crash, and the castle was ours! We trampled into
the great hall, making it ring with our shouts and the clash of our
shields. Your father's men fled before us, but he calmly descended the
staircase and confronted us with his best Welsh stare. 'I fear ye not,
villains,' he cried. 'Barbarians, English dogs! I defy ye. Do your
worst. My daughter and I for death care not. The mighty house of
Istyn-ap-Dafyd-ap-Owain-ap-Caradoc-ap-Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn knoweth not
fear of living man, nor yet of death's mysterious charnel-house.'
'Wrong me not, gentle sir,' I cried, snatching off my helmet
and trailing its plumes upon the floor; 'I come in love, not
in destruction. Give me but thy daughter, O
Dafyd-ap-Owain-ap-Istyn-ap-Caradoc-ap-Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn, and thy castle
and thy lands, thy rocks and thy sea, are thine again, even as were
they before the beauty of the Lady Weir turned my blood to lava and
my heart to a seething volcano. Give me but thy daughter's hand, and
wealth shall flow into thy coffers, and the multitude of thy retainers
shall carry terror to the heart of thy foe. What say ye, my Lord
Caradoc-ap-Owain-ap-etcetera?' Whereupon the lord of Rhyd-Alwyn unbent
his haughty brows, and placing one narrow, white, and shapely hand
upon my blood-stained baldric, spoke as follows: 'Well said, young
Briton. Spoken like a brave knight and an honorable gentleman. My
daughter thou shalt have, my son thou shalt be, thy friends shall be
my friends, and thou and all of them shall be baptized Welshmen.' And
then he himself re-ascended the staircase and sought you in your tower
and led you down and placed your hand in mine. And the drums beat, and
the shields clashed, and once more the mighty storm shook the rooks
from the roof. But we heard it not, for on your finger I had placed
the betrothal ring, then thrown my brawny arms about you and forgot
that earth existed. Excuse my eloquence," he cried, as he lifted her
up and kissed her, "but your castle and yourself are inspiring."
"That was all very charming, however," she said, "if you only had
not such a reprehensible way of jumping from the sublime to the
ridiculous, like a meteor from world to world."
"Prettily said, sweetheart. But, trust me, if I ever reach the sublime
I will stay there. Now, to your ancestors! Great heaven! what an
They had entered a long, narrow room, against whose dark background
stood out darker canvasses of an army of now celestial Penrhyns; an
army whose numbers would have been a morning's task to count. The
ancient Penrhyns had been princes, like most of their ilk; and the
titles which Weir glibly recited, and the traditions of valor and
achievement which she had at her tongue's end, finally wrung from
Dartmouth a cry for mercy.
"My dear girl!" he exclaimed, "keep the rest for another day. Those
'aps' are buzzing in my ears like an army of infuriated gnats, and
those mighty deeds are so much alike--who is that?"
He left her side abruptly and strode down the gallery to a picture
at the end, and facing the room. It was the full-length, life-size
portrait of a woman with gown and head-dress in the style of the First
Empire. One tiny, pointed foot was slightly extended from beneath
the white gown, and--so perfect had been the skill of the artist--she
looked as if about to step from the canvas to greet her guests.
"That is my grandmother, Sioned, wife of Dafyd-ap-Penrhyn, who, I
would have you know, was one of the most famous diplomatists of his
day," said Weir, who had followed, and stood beside him. "She was the
daughter of the proudest earl in Wales--but I spare you his titles. I
am exactly like her, am I not? It is the most remarkable resemblance
which has ever occurred in the family."
"Yes," said Dartmouth, "you are like her." He plunged his hands into
his pockets and stared at the floor, drawing his brows together. Then
he turned suddenly to Weir. "I have seen that woman before," he said.
"That is the reason why I thought it was your face which was familiar.
I must have seen your grandmother when I was a very young child. I
have forgotten the event, but I could never forget such a face."
"But Harold," said Weir, elevating her brows "It is quite impossible
you could ever have seen my grandmother. She died when papa was a
"Are you sure?"
"Quite sure. I have often heard him say he had no memory whatever of
his mother. And grandpapa would never talk with him about her. He was
a terribly severe old man, they say--he died long years before I was
born--but he must have loved my grandmother very much, for he could
not bear to hear her name, and he never came to the castle after her
"It is strange," said Harold, musingly, "but I have surely seen that
He looked long at the beautiful, life-like picture before him. It
was marvellously like Weir in form and feature and coloring. But the
expression was sad, the eyes were wistful, and the whole face was
that, not of a woman who had lived, but of a woman who knew that out
of her life had passed the power to live did she bow her knee to the
Social Decalogue. As Weir stood, with her bright, eager, girlish face
upheld to the woman out of whose face the girlish light had forever
gone, the resemblance and the contrast were painfully striking.
"I love her!" exclaimed Weir, "and whenever I come in here I always
kiss her hand." She went forward and pressed her lips lightly to the
canvas, while Dartmouth stood with his eyes fastened upon the face
whose gaze seemed to meet his own and--soften--and invite--
He stepped forward suddenly as Weir drew back. "She fascinates me,
also," he said, with a half laugh. "I, too, will kiss her hand."
With the exception of the time spent in the dining-room, the young
people saw little of Sir Iltyd. That he liked Dartmouth and enjoyed
his society were facts he did not pretend to disguise. But the habits
of years were too strong, and he always wandered back to his books. He
did not trouble himself about proprieties. Weir had grown up and ruled
the castle all these years without a chaperon, and he had lived out
of the world too long to suggest the advisability of one now. His
daughter and her lover experienced no yearning for supervision, and
the free, untrammelled life was a very pleasant one, particularly to