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What Dreams May Come by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton

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attack of melancholia in her life."

"Telepathy, induction, but in the reverse order of your solution of
the matter. Your calling her by her grandmother's name was natural
enough in your condition--you have acknowledged that your melancholia
had already taken possession of you. Miss Penrhyn had, for some reason
best known to her sleeping self, got herself up to look like her
grandmother, and, she being young and pretty, her semi-lunatic
observer addressed her as Sioned instead of heaven knows what
jaw-breaking Welsh title. Then you went ahead and had the vision,
which was quite in keeping with your general lunar condition. I
believe you said there was a moon."

Dartmouth frowned. "I asked you not to chaff," he said. "What is more,
I have had melancholia all my life, but delusion never before. But let
that pass. The impulse to write--what do you say to that?"

"The impulse was due to the genius which you have undoubtedly
inherited from your grandfather. The inability to put your ideas
into verbal form is due to amnesic aphasia. The portion of your brain
through which your genius should find speech is either temporarily
paralyzed or else deficient in composition. You had better go up and
see Jackson. He can cure you if anyone can."

"Do you believe I can be cured?"

"You can certainly make the attempt."

Dartmouth threw back his head and covered his face with his hands. "O
God!" he exclaimed, "if you knew the agony of the longing to feel the
ecstasy of spiritual intoxication, and yet to feel as if your brain
were a cloud-bank--of knowing that you are divinely gifted, that the
world should be ringing with your name, and yet of being as mute as if
screwed within a coffin!"

"My dear boy, it will all come out right in the end. Science and your
own will can do much, and as for the rest, perhaps Miss Penrhyn
will do for you what those letters intimate Sioned did for your

Dartmouth got up and leaned his elbow on the mantelpiece.

"I do not know that I shall marry Weir Penrhyn," he said.

"Why not? Because your grandfather had an intrigue with her
grandmother?--which, by the way, is by no means clearly proved. That
there was a plan on foot to that end the letters pretty well show,

"I don't care a hang about the sins of my ancestors, or of Weir's
either--if that were all. If I do not marry her it will be because I
do not care to shatter an ideal into still smaller bits. I loved her
with what little good was left in me. I placed her on a pedestal and
rejoiced that I was able so to do. Now she is the woman whose guilty
love sent us both to our death. I could never forget it. There would
always be a spot on the sun."

"My God, Harold," exclaimed Hollington, "you _are_ mad. Of all the
insane, ridiculous, idiotic speeches that ever came from man's lips,
that is the worst."

"I can't help it, Becky. The idea, the knowledge, is my very life and
soul; and when you think it all over you will see that there are many
things that cannot be explained--Weir's words in the gallery, for
instance. They coincide exactly with the vision I had four nights
later. And a dozen other things--you can think them out for yourself.
When you do, you will understand that there is but one light in which
to look at the question: Weir Penrhyn and I are Lionel Dartmouth and
Sioned Penrhyn reborn, and that is the end of the matter."

Hollington groaned, and threw himself back in his chair with an
impatient gesture.

"Well," he said, after a few moments' silence, "accepting your
remarkable premisses for the sake of argument, will you kindly
enlighten me as to since when you became so beautifully complete
and altogether puerile a moralist? Suppose you did sin with her some
three-quarters of a century ago, have not time and suffering purified
you both--or rather her? I suppose it does not make so much difference
about you."

"It is not that. It is the idea that is revolting--that this girl
should have been my mistress at any time--"

"But, great heaven! Harold, such a sin is a thing of the flesh, not of
the spirit, and the physical part of Sioned Penrhyn has enriched the
soil of Constantinople these sixty years. She has committed no sin in
her present embodiment."

"Sin is an impulse, a prompting, of the spirit," said Dartmouth.

Hollington threw one leg over the arm of the chair, half turning his
back upon Dartmouth.

"Rot!" he said.

"Not at all. Otherwise, the dead could sin."

"I am gratified to perceive that you are still able to have the last
word. All I can say is, that you have done what I thought no living
man could do. I once read a novel by a famous American author in which
one of the characters would not ask the heroine to marry him after her
husband's death because he had been guilty of the indelicacy of loving
her (although mutely, and by her unsuspected) while she was a married
woman. I thought then that moral senility could go no further, but you
have got ahead of the American. Allow me to congratulate you."

"You can jibe all you like. I may be a fool, but I can't help it.
I have got to that point where I am dominated by instinct, not by
reason. The instincts may be wrong, because the outgrowth of a false
civilization, but there they are, nevertheless, and of them I am the
product. So are you, and some day you will find it out. I do not say
positively that I will not marry Weir Penrhyn. I will talk it over
with her, and then we can decide."

"A charming subject to discuss with a young girl. It would be kinder,
and wiser, and more decent of you never to mention the matter to her.
Of what use to make the poor girl miserable?"

"She half suspects now, and it would come out sooner or later."

"Then for heaven's sake do it at once, and have it over. Don't stay
here by yourself any longer, whatever you do. Go to-morrow."

"Yes," said Dartmouth, "I will go to-morrow."


When Dartmouth entered the drawing-room at Rhyd-Alwyn the next
evening, a half hour after his arrival, he found Sir Iltyd alone, and
received a warm greeting.

"My dear boy," the old gentleman exclaimed, "I am delighted to see
you. It seems an age since you left, and your brief reports of
your ill-health have worried me. As for poor Weir, she has been ill
herself. She looks so wretched that I would have sent for a physician
had she not, in her usual tyrannical fashion, forbidden me. I did not
tell her you were expected to-night; I wanted to give her a pleasant
surprise. Here she is now."

The door was pushed open and Weir entered the room. Dartmouth checked
an involuntary exclamation and went forward to meet her. She had on a
long white gown like that she had worn the morning he had asked her to
marry him, but the similarity of dress only served to accentuate the
change the intervening time had wrought. It was not merely that
she had lost her color and that her face was haggard; it was an
indefinable revolution in her personality, which made her look ten
years older, and left her without a suggestion of girlishness. She
still carried her head with her customary hauteur, but there was
something in its poise which suggested defiance as well, and which was
quite new. And the lanterns in her eyes had gone out; the storms had
been too heavy for them. All she needed was the costume of the First
Empire to look as if she had stepped out of the locket he had brought
from Crumford Hall.

As she saw Dartmouth, the blood rushed over her face, dyeing it to the
roots of her hair, then receded, leaving it whiter than her gown. When
he reached her side she drew back a little, but he made no attempt to
kiss her; he merely raised her hand to his lips. As he did so he could
have sworn he saw the sun flashing on the domes beneath the window;
and over his senses stole the perfume of jasmine. The roar without was
not that of the ocean, but of a vast city, and--hark!--the cry of the
muezzin. How weird the tapestry looked in the firelight, and how the
figures danced! And he had always liked her to wear white, better even
than yellow. He roused himself suddenly and offered her his arm. The
butler was announcing dinner.

They went into the dining-room, and Dartmouth and Sir Iltyd talked
about the change of ministry and the Gladstone attitude on the Irish
question for an hour and a quarter. Weir neither talked nor ate, but
sat with her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Dartmouth understood
and sympathized. He felt as if his own nerves were on the rack, as if
his brain had been rolled into a cord whose tension was so strained
that it might snap at any moment. But Sir Iltyd was considerate.
He excused himself as soon as dessert was removed, on the plea of
finishing an important historical work just issued, and the young
people went directly to the drawing-room. As Dartmouth closed the door
Weir turned to him, the color springing into her face.

"Tell me," she said, peremptorily; "have you discovered what it

He took her hand and led her over to the sofa. She sat down, but stood
up again at once. "I cannot sit quietly," she said, "until I _know_.
The enforced repression of the past week, the having no one to speak
to, and the mystery of that dream have driven me nearly mad. It was
cruel of you to stay away so long--but let that pass. There is only
one thing I can think of now--do you know anything more than when you

He folded his arms and looked down. "Why should you think I could
have learned anything at Crumford Hall?" he demanded, with apparent

"Because of the restraint and sometimes incoherence of your letters.
I knew that something had happened to you; you seemed hardly the same
man. You seemed like--Oh, I do not know. For heaven's sake, tell me
what it is."

"Weir," he said, raising his head and looking at her, "what do you
think it is?"

She put up her hands and covered her face. "I do not know," she said,
uncertainly. "If there is to be any explanation it must come from you.
With me there is only the indefinable but persistent feeling that I
am not Weir Penrhyn but the woman of that dream; that I have no right
here in my father's castle, and no right to the position I hold in the
world. To me sin has always seemed a horrible thing, and yet I feel
as if my own soul were saturated with it; and what is worse, I feel no
repentance. It is as if I were being punished by some external power,
not by my own conscience. As if--Oh, it is all too vague to put into
words--Harold, _what_ is it?"

"Let us sit down," he said, "and talk it over."

She allowed him to draw her down onto the sofa, and he looked at her
for a moment. Then, suddenly, the purely human love triumphed. He
forgot regret and disgust. He forgot the teachings of the world, and
the ideal whose shattering he had mourned. He remembered nothing but
that this woman so close to him was dearer than life or genius or
ambition; that he loved her with all the strength and passion of
which a man is capable. The past was gone, the future a blank; nothing
remained but the glorious present, with its impulses which sprang
straight from the heart of nature and which no creed could root out.
He flung his arms about her, and the fierce joy of the moment thrilled
and shook him as he kissed her. And for the moment she too forgot.

Then his arms slowly relaxed and he leaned forward, placing his elbow
on his knee and covering his face with his hand. For a few moments he
thought without speaking. He decided that he would tell her something
to-night, but not all. He would give her a clue, and when she was
alone she might work the rest out for herself. Then, together, they
would decide what would be best to do. He took her hand.

"I have something to tell you," he said. "I did not tell you before
I left because I thought it best not, but things have occurred since
which make it desirable you should know. You do not know, I suppose,
that on the night of our dream you got up in your sleep and wandered
about the castle."

She leaned suddenly forward. "Yes?" she said, breathlessly. "I walked
in my sleep? You saw me? Where?"

"In the gallery that overhangs the sea. I had gone there to watch the
storm, and was about to return to my room when I saw you coming toward
me. At first I thought you were the spirit of your grandmother--of
Sioned Penrhyn. In your sleep you had dressed yourself like the
picture in the gallery, and the resemblance was complete. Then,
strangely enough, I walked up to you and took your hand and called you

"Go on!"

"Then you told me that you were dead, and had been wandering in the
hereafter and looking for me; that you could not find me there, and so
had come back to earth and entered into the body of a dead child, and
given it life, and grown to womanhood again, and found me at last. And
then you put your cold arms about me and drew me down onto a seat. I
suddenly lost all consciousness of the present, and we were together
in a scene which was like a page from a past existence. The page was
that of the dream we have found so difficult a problem, and you read
it with me, not alone in your room--Weir! What is the matter?"

She had pushed him violently from her and sprung to her feet, and she
stood before him with wide-open, terror-stricken eyes, and quivering
in every limb. She tried to speak, but no words came; her lips were
white and shrivelled, and her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth.
Then she threw up her arms and fell heavily to the floor.


After Weir had been carried up-stairs, and he had ascertained that she
was again conscious, Dartmouth went to his own room, knowing he could
not see her again that night. He did not go to bed; there was
no possibility of sleep for hours, and he preferred the slight
distraction of pacing up and down the room. After a time he paused
in front of the fireplace, and mechanically straightened one of the
andirons with his foot. What had affected Weir so strangely? Had the
whole thing burst suddenly upon her? He had hardly told her enough for
that; but what else could it be? Poor child! And poor Sir Iltyd! How
should he explain to him? What story could he concoct to satisfy him?
It would be absurd to attempt the truth; no human being but himself
and Weir could comprehend it; Sir Iltyd would only think them both
mad. He unconsciously drew in a long breath, expelling the air again
with some violence, like a man whose chest is oppressed. And how his
head ached! If he could only get a few hours sleep without that cursed
laudanum. Hark! what was that? A storm was coming up. It almost shook
the castle, solid and of stone as it was. But he was glad. A storm was
more in tune with his mood than calm. He would go out into the gallery
and watch it.

He left his room and went to the gallery to which he had gone to watch
a storm a little over a week ago. A week? It seemed so remote that for
the moment he could not recall the events of that last visit; his
head ached so that everything but physical suffering was temporarily
insignificant. There was no moon to-night. The sky was covered with
black, scurrying clouds, and he could only hear the angry, boiling
waters, not see them. He felt suffocated. He had felt so all the
evening. Besides the pain in his head there was a pressure on his
brain; he must have air; and he pulled open one of the windows and
stood within it. The wind beat about his head, the sea-gulls screamed
in his ears, and the roar of the sea was deafening; but it exhilarated
him and eased his head for the moment. What a poem it would make, that
black, storm-swept sky, those mighty, thundering waters, that granite,
wind-torn coast! How he could have immortalized it once! And he had
it in him to immortalize it now, only that mechanical defect in his
brain, no--that cruel iron hand, would not let him tell the world that
he was greater than any to whom its people bent their knees. Ah, there
it was at last! It had reawakened, and it was battling and struggling
for speech as before. Perhaps this time it would succeed! It was
strong enough to conquer in the end, and why should not the end have
come? Surely the fire in his brain must have melted that iron hand.
Surely, far away, _they_ were singing again. Where were they? Within
his brain?--or battling with the storm to reach him? What were those
wraith-like things--those tiny forms dancing weirdly on the roaring
waters? Ah, he knew. They were the elfins of his brain that had
tormented him with their music and fled at his approach. They
had flown from their little cells, and were holding court on the
storm-waves like fairies on the green. It was like them to love the
danger and the tumult and the night. It was like them to shout and
bound with the intoxication of the hour, to scream with the gale, and
to kiss with frantic rapture the waves that threatened them. Each was
a Thought mightier than any known to living man, and in the bosom of
maddened nature it had found its element. And they had not deserted
him--they had fled but for the hour--they had turned suddenly and were
holding out their arms to him. Ah! he would meet them half-way--

A pair of arms, strong with terror, were suddenly thrown about him,
and he was dragged to the other side of the gallery.

"Harold!" cried Weir; "what is the matter with you? Are you mad?"

"I believe I am," he cried. "Come to the light. I have something to
tell you."

He caught her by the wrists and pulled her down the gallery until they
were under the lantern which burned in one of the windows on nights
like this as a warning to mariners. She gave a faint scream of terror,
and struggled to release herself.

"You look so strange," she cried. "Let me go."

"Not any more strange than you do," he said, rapidly. "You, too, have
changed since that night in here, when the truth was told to both of
us. You did not understand then, nor did I; but I know all now, and I
will tell you."

And then, in a torrent of almost unintelligible words, he poured
forth the tale of his discovery: what had come to him in the study at
Crumford Hall, the locket he had found, the letters he had read, the
episode of his past he had lived over, the poem which had swept him
up among the gods in its reading--all the sequence of facts whose
constant reiteration during every unguarded moment had mechanically
forced themselves into lasting coherence. She listened with head bent
forward, and eyes through which terror, horror, despair, chased each
other, then returned and fought together. "It is all true," he cried,
in conclusion. "It is all true. Why don't you speak? Cannot you

She wrenched her hands from his grasp and flung her arms above her
head. "Yes," she cried, "I understand. I am a woman for whose sin Time
has no mercy; you are a madman, and I am alone!"

"What are you saying?" he demanded, thickly. "You are alone? There is
no hope, then?"

"No, there is no hope," she said, "nor has the worst--" She sprang
suddenly forward and caught him about the neck. "Oh, Harold!" she
cried, "you are not mad. It cannot be! I cannot think of the sin, or
care; I only know that I love you! love you! love you! and that if we
can be together always the past can go; even--Oh, Harold, speak to me;
don't look at me in that way!"

But his arms hung inertly at his sides, and he looked down into her
agonized face with a smile. "No hope!" he whispered.

The poor girl dropped in a heap to the floor, as if the life had
suddenly gone out of her. Harold gave a little laugh. "No hope!" he

She sprang to her feet and flew down the gallery. But he stood where
she had left him. She reached the open window, then turned and for
a moment faced him again. "No," she cried, "no hope, and no rest or
peace;" and then the storm and the night closed over her.

He moved to the window after a moment, and leaning out, called her
name. There was no answer but the shrieking of the storm. The black
waters had greedily embraced her, and in their depths she would find
rest at last. How would she look down there, in some quiet cave,
with the sea-weed floating over her white gown, and the pearls in her
beautiful hair? How exquisite a thing she would be! The very monsters
of the deep would hold their breath as they passed, and leave her
unmolested. And the eye of mortal man would never gaze upon her again.
There was divinest ecstacy in the thought! Ah! how lovely she was!
What a face--what a form!

He staggered back from the window and gave a loud laugh. At last it
had been vanquished and broken--that iron hand. He had heard it snap
that moment within his brain. And it was pouring upward, that river of
song. The elfins had come back, and were quiring like the immortals.
She would hear them down there, in her cold, nameless grave, with the
ceaseless requiem of the waters above her, and smile and rejoice
that death had come to her to give him speech. His brain was the very
cathedral of heaven, and there was music in every part of it. The
glad shout was ringing throughout nave and transept like the glorious
greeting of Christmas morning. "Her face! Her form!" No, no; not
that again. They were no part of the burning flood of song which was
writhing and surging in his brain. They were not the words which would
tell the world--Ah! what was it? "Her face! Her form!--"

He groped his way to and fro like a blind man seeking some object to
guide him. "Her eyes! Her hair!" No, no. Oh, what was this? Why was he
falling--falling?--What was that terror-stricken cry? that wild, white
face of an old man above him? Where had this water come from that was
boiling and thundering in his ears? What was that tossed aloft by the
wave beyond? If he could but reach her!--She had gone! Cruel Night had
caught her in its black arms and was laughing at his efforts to reach
her. That mocking, hideous laughter! how it shrieked above the storm,
its dissonance as eternal as his fate! There she was again!--Sioned!
No, she had gone, and he was beating with impotent fury those
devouring--But who was this bending over him?--the Night Queen, with
the stars in her hair? And what was she pressing into his arms? At
last! Sioned! Sioned!


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