Part 4 out of 5
"I'm in bad lands enough here. I'll go with you. I'm not going to let
you out of my sight, and no tricks, mind, or you know what will
"Surely you trust me, Sam," whined Mike, getting up.
"I don't trust any living man. Who fired that shot at me when I was
"So help me," protested Mike, "I dunno. I wasn't in the bar at the
time. I can prove I wasn't. Yer not looking well, Sam."
"Blister you for a slow dawdler, you'd not look well either, if you had
no sleep for a week and was starved into the bargain. Get a move on
Sam ate like a wild beast what was set before him, and although he took
a stiff glass of whiskey and water at the beginning, he now drank
sparingly. He laid the revolver on the table at his elbow, and made
Mike sit opposite him. When the ravenous meal was finished, he pushed
the plate from him and looked across at Davlin.
"When I said I didn't trust you, Mike, I was a liar. I do, an' I'll
prove it. When it's your interest to befriend a man, you'll do it every
"I will that," said Mike, not quite comprehending what the other had
"Now listen to me, Mike, and be sure you do exactly as I tell you. Go
to where the bank manager lives and rouse him up as I roused you. He'll
not be afraid when he sees it's you. Tell him you've got me over in the
saloon, and that I've come to rob the bank of that fifty thousand
dollars. Say that I'm desperate and can't be taken short of a dozen
lives, and there is no lie in that, as you know. Tell him you've fallen
in with my plans, and that we'll go over there and hold him up. Tell
him the only chance of catching me is by a trick. He's to open the door
of the place where the money is, and you're to shove me in and lock me
up. But when he opens the door I'll send a bullet through him, and you
and me will divide the money. Nobody will suspect you, for nobody'll
know you were there but the bank man, and he'll be dead. But if you
make one move except as I tell you the first bullet goes through you.
Mike's eyes opened wider and wider as the scheme was disclosed. "Lord,
what a head you have, Sam!" he said. "Why didn't you think of that
before? The bank manager is in Austin."
"What the blazes is he doing there?"
"He took the money with him to put it in the Austin Bank. He left the
day after you did, for he said the only chance you had, was to get that
money. You might have done this the night you left, but not since."
"That's straight, is it?" said Sam suspiciously.
"It's God's truth I'm speaking," asserted Mike earnestly. "You can find
that out for yourself in the morning. Nobody'll molest ye. Yer jus'
dead beat for want o' sleep, I can see that. Go upstairs and go to bed.
I'll keep watch, and not a soul'll know you're here."
Hickory Sam's shoulders sank when he heard the money was gone, and a
look of despair came into his half closed eyes. He sat thus for a few
moments unheeding the other's advice, then with an effort shook off his
"No," he said at last, "I won't go to bed. I'd like to enrich you,
Mike, but that would be too easy. Cut me off some slices of this cold
meat and put them between chunks of bread. I want a three days' supply,
and a bottle of whiskey."
Mike did as requested, and at Sam's orders attended to his horse. It
was still dark, but there was a suggestion of the coming day in the
eastern sky. Buller's horse was as jaded and as fagged out as its
rider. As Sam, stooping like an old man, rode away, Mike hurried to his
bedroom, noiselessly opened the window, and pointed at the back of the
dim retreating man a shot-gun, loaded with slugs. He could hardly have
missed killing both horse and man if he had had the courage to fire,
but his hand trembled, and the drops of perspiration stood on his brow.
He knew that if he missed this time, there would be no question in
Sam's mind about who fired the shot. Resting the gun on the ledge and
keeping his eye along the barrel, he had not the nerve to pull the
trigger. At last the retreating figure disappeared, and with it Mike's
chance of a fortune. He drew in the gun, and softly closed the window,
with a long quivering sigh of regret.
Sidney Buller went west from Detroit when he received the telegram that
announced his uncle's death and told him he was heir to the ranch. He
was thirty years younger than his uncle had been at the time of his
tragic death, and he bore a remarkable likeness to the old man; that
is, a likeness more than striking, when it was remembered that one had
lived all his life in a city, while the other had spent most of his
days on the plains. The young man had seen the Sheriff on his arrival,
expecting to find that active steps had been taken towards the arrest
of the murderer. The Sheriff assured him that nothing more effective
could be done than what had been done by the dead man himself in
leaving fifty thousand dollars to the killer of Hickory Sam. The
Sheriff had made no move himself, for he had been confidently expecting
every day to hear that Sam was shot.
Meanwhile, nothing had been heard or seen of the desperado since he
left Salt Lick on the back of the murdered man's horse. Sidney thought
this was rather a slipshod way of administering justice, but he said
nothing, and went back to his ranch. But if the Sheriff had been
indifferent, his own cowboys had been embarrassingly active. They had
deserted the ranch in a body, and were scouring the plains searching
for the murderer, making the mistake of going too far afield. They,
like Mike, had expected Sam would strike for the Bad Lands, and they
rode far and fast to intercept him. Whether they were actuated by a
desire to share the money, a liking for their old "boss," or hatred of
Hickory Sam himself, they themselves would have found it difficult to
tell. Anyhow, it was a man-chase, and their hunting instincts were
In the early morning Sidney Buller walked forth from the buildings of
the ranch and struck for the open prairie. The sun was up, but the
morning was still cool. Before he had gone far he saw, approaching the
ranch, a single riderless horse. As the animal came nearer and nearer
it whinnied on seeing him, and finally changed its course and came
directly toward him. Then he saw that there was a man on its back; a
man either dead or asleep. His hand hung down nerveless by the horse's
shoulder, and swung helplessly to and fro as the animal walked on; the
man's head rested on the horse's mane. The horse came up to Sidney,
thrusting its nose out to him, whinnying gently, as if it knew him.
"Hello?" cried Sidney, shaking the man by the shoulder, "what's the
matter? Are you hurt?"
Instantly the desperado was wide awake, sitting bolt upright, and
staring at Sidney with terrified recognition in his eyes. He raised his
right hand, but the pistol had evidently dropped from it when he,
overcome by fatigue, and drowsy after his enormous meal, had fallen
asleep. He flung himself off, keeping the animal between himself and
his supposed enemy, pulled the other revolver and fired at Sidney
across the plunging horse. Before he could fire again, Sidney, who was
an athlete, brought down the loaded head of his cane on the pistol
wrist of the ruffian, crying--
"Don't fire, you fool, I'm not going to hurt you!"
As the revolver fell to the ground Sam sprang savagely at the throat of
the young man, who, stepping back, struck his assailant a much heavier
blow than he intended. The leaden knob of the stick fell on Sam's
temple, and he dropped as if shot. Alarmed at the effect of his blow,
Sidney tore open the unconscious man's shirt, and tried to get him to
swallow some whiskey from the bottle he found in his pocket. Appalled
to find all his efforts unavailing, he sprang on the horse and rode to
the stables for help.
The foreman coming out, cried: "Good heavens, Mr. Buller, that's the
old man's horse. Where did you get him? Well, Jerry, old fellow," he
continued, patting the horse, who whinnied affectionately, "they've
been using you badly, and you've come home to be taken care of. Where
did you find him, Mr. Buller?"
"Out on the prairie, and I'm afraid I've killed the man who was riding
him. God knows, I didn't intend to, but he fired at me, and I hit
harder than I thought."
Sidney and the foreman ran out together to where Jerry's late rider lay
on the grass.
"He's done for," said the foreman, bending over the prostrate figure,
but taking the precaution to have a revolver in his hand. "He's got his
dose, thank God. This is the man who murdered your uncle. Think of him
being knocked over with a city cane, and think of the old man's revenge
money coming back to the family again!"
The Monarch in the Arabian story had an ointment which, put upon the
right eye, enabled him to see through the walls of houses. If the
Arabian despot had passed along a narrow street leading into a main
thoroughfare of London, one night just before the clock struck twelve,
he would have beheld, in a dingy back room of a large building, a very
strange sight. He would have seen King Charles the First seated in
friendly converse with none other than Oliver Cromwell.
The room in which these two noted people sat had no carpet and but few
chairs. A shelf extended along one side of the apartment, and it was
covered with mugs containing paint and grease. Brushes were littered
about, and a wig lay in a corner. A mirror stood at either end of the
shelf, and beside these, flared two gas-jets protected by wire baskets.
Hanging from nails driven in the walls were coats, waist-coats, and
trousers of more modern cut than the costumes worn by the two men.
King Charles, with his pointed beard and his ruffles of lace, leaned
picturesquely back in his chair, which rested against the wall. He was
smoking a very black brier-root pipe, and perhaps his Majesty enjoyed
the weed all the more that there was just above his head, tacked to the
wall, a large placard, containing the words, "No smoking allowed in
this room, or in any other part of the theatre."
Cromwell, in more sober garments, had an even jauntier attitude than
the King, for he sat astride the chair, with his chin resting on the
back of it, smoking a cigarette in a meerschaum holder.
"I'm too old, my boy," said the King, "and too fond of my comfort;
besides, I have no longer any ambition. When an actor once realises
that he will never be a Charles Kean or a Macready, then come peace and
the enjoyment of life. Now, with you it is different: you are, if I may
say so in deep affection, young and foolish. Your project is a most
hare-brained scheme. You are throwing away all you have already won."
"Good gracious!" cried Cromwell, impatiently, "what have I won?"
"You have certainly won something," resumed the elder calmly, "when a
person of your excitable nature can play so well the sombre, taciturn
character of Cromwell. You have mounted several rungs, and the whole
ladder lifts itself up before you. You have mastered two or three
languages, while I know but one, and that imperfectly. You have studied
the foreign drama, while I have not even read all the plays of
Shakespeare. I can do a hundred parts conventionally well. You will,
some day, do a great part as no other man on earth can act it, and then
fame will come to you. Now you propose recklessly to throw all this
away and go into the wilds of Africa."
"The particular ladder you offer me," said Cromwell, "I have no desire
to climb; I am sick of the smell of the footlights and the whole
atmosphere of the theatre. I am tired of the unreality of the life we
lead. Why not be a hero instead of mimicking one?"
"But, my dear boy," said the King, filling his pipe again, "look at the
practical side of things. It costs a fortune to fit out an African
expedition. Where are you to get the money?"
This question sounded more natural from the lips of the King than did
the answer from the lips of Cromwell.
"There has been too much force and too much expenditure about African
travel. I do not intend to cross the Continent with arms and the
munitions of war. As you remarked a while ago, I know several European
languages, and if you will forgive what sounds like boasting, I may say
that I have a gift for picking up tongues. I have money enough to fit
myself out with some necessary scientific instruments, and to pay my
passage to the coast. Once there, I shall win my way across the
Continent through love and not through fear."
"You will lose your head," said King Charles; "they don't understand
that sort of thing out there, and, besides, the idea is not original.
Didn't Livingstone try that tack?"
"Yes, but people have forgotten Livingstone and his methods. It is now
the explosive bullet and the elephant gun. I intend to learn the
language of the different native tribes I meet, and if a chief opposes
me and will not allow me to pass through his territory, and if I find I
cannot win him over to my side by persuasive talk, then I shall go
"And what is to be the outcome of it all?" cried Charles. "What is your
"Fame, my boy, fame," cried Cromwell, enthusiastically, flinging the
chair from under him and pacing the narrow room. "If I can get from
coast to coast without taking the life of a single native, won't that
be something greater than all the play-acting from now till Doomsday?"
"I suppose it will," said the King, gloomily; "but you must remember
you are the only friend I have, and I have reached an age when a man
does not pick up friends readily."
Cromwell stopped in his walk and grasped the King by the hand. "Are you
not the only friend I have," he said; "and why can you not abandon this
ghastly sham and come with me, as I asked you to at first? How can you
hesitate when you think of the glorious freedom of the African forest,
and compare it with this cribbed and cabined and confined business we
are now at?"
The King shook his head slowly, and knocked the ashes from his pipe. He
seemed to have some trouble in keeping it alight, probably because of
the prohibition on the wall.
"As I said before," replied the King, "I am too old. There are no pubs
in the African forest where a man can get a glass of beer when he wants
it. No, Ormond, African travel is not for me. If you are resolved to
go, go and God bless you; I will stay at home and carefully nurse your
fame. I shall from time to time drop appetising little paragraphs into
the papers about your wanderings, and when you are ready to come back
to England, all England will be ready to listen to you. You know how
interest is worked up in the theatrical business by judicious puffing
in the papers, and I imagine African exploration requires much the same
treatment. If it were not for the Press, my boy, you could explore
Africa till you were blind and nobody would hear a word about it, so I
will be your advance agent and make ready for your home-coming."
At this point in the conversation between these two historic
characters, the janitor of the theatre put his head into the room and
reminded the celebrities that it was very late, whereupon both King and
Commoner rose, with some reluctance, and washed themselves; the King
becoming, when he put on the ordinary dress of an Englishman, Mr. James
Spence, while Cromwell, after a similar transformation, became Mr.
Sidney Ormond; and thus, with nothing of Royalty or Dictatorship about
them, the two strolled up the narrow street into the main thoroughfare
and entered their favourite midnight restaurant, where, over a belated
meal, they continued the discussion of the African project, which
Spence persisted in looking upon as one of the maddest expeditions that
had ever come to his knowledge; but the talk was futile, as most talk
is, and within a month from that time Ormond was on the ocean, his face
set towards Africa.
Another man took Ormond's place at the theatre, and Spence continued to
play his part, as the papers said, in his usual acceptable manner. He
heard from his friend, in due course, when he landed. Then at intervals
came one or two letters showing how he had surmounted the numerous
difficulties with which he had to contend. After a long interval came a
letter from the interior of Africa, sent to the coast by messenger.
Although at the beginning of this letter Ormond said he had but faint
hope of reaching his destination, he, nevertheless, gave a very
complete account of his wanderings and dealings with the natives, and
up to that point his journey seemed to be most satisfactory. He
inclosed several photographs, mostly very bad ones, which he had
managed to develop and print in the wilderness. One, however, of
himself was easily recognisable, and Spence had it copied and enlarged,
hanging the framed enlargement in whatever dressing-room fate assigned
to him; for Spence never had a long engagement at any one theatre. He
was a useful man who could take any part, but had no specialty, and
London was full of such.
For a long time he heard nothing from his friend, and the newspaper men
to whom Spence indefatigably furnished interesting items about the lone
explorer, began to look upon Ormond as an African Mrs. Harris, and the
paragraphs, to Spence's deep regret, failed to appear. The journalists,
who were a flippant lot, used to accost Spence with "Well, Jimmy, how's
your African friend?" and the more he tried to convince them, the less
they believed in the peace-loving traveller.
At last there came a final letter from Africa, a letter that filled the
tender, middle-aged heart of Spence with the deepest grief he had ever
It was written in a shaky hand, and the writer began by saying that he
knew neither the date nor his locality. He had been ill and delirious
with fever, and was now, at last, in his right mind, but felt the grip
of death upon him. The natives had told him that no one ever recovered
from the malady he had caught in the swamp, and his own feelings led
him to believe that his case was hopeless. The natives had been very
kind to him throughout, and his followers had promised to bring his
boxes to the coast. The boxes contained the collections he had made,
and also his complete journal, which he had written up to the day he
Ormond begged his friend to hand over his belongings to the
Geographical Society, and to arrange for the publication of his
journal, if possible. It might secure for him the fame he had died to
achieve, or it might not; but, he added, he left the whole conduct of
the affair unreservedly to his friend, in whom he had that love and
confidence which a man gives to another man but once in his life--when
he is young. The tears were in Jimmy's eyes long before he had finished
He turned to another letter he had received by the same mail, and which
also bore the South African stamp upon it. Hoping to find some news of
his friend he broke the seal, but it was merely an intimation from the
steamship company that half-a-dozen boxes remained at the southern
terminus of the line addressed to him; but, they said, until they were
assured the freight upon them to Southampton would be paid, they would
not be forwarded.
A week later, the London papers announced in large type, "Mysterious
disappearance of an actor." The well-known actor, Mr. James Spence, had
left the theatre in which he had been playing the part of Joseph to a
great actor's Richelieu, and had not been heard of since. The janitor
remembered him leaving that night, for he had not returned his
salutation, which was most unusual. His friends had noticed that for a
few days previous to his disappearance he had been apparently in deep
dejection, and fears were entertained. One journalist said jestingly
that probably Jimmy had gone to see what had become of his African
friend; but the joke, such as it was, was not favourably received, for
when a man is called Jimmy until late in life, it shows that people
have an affection for him, and every one who knew Spence was sorry he
had disappeared, and hoped that no evil had overtaken him.
It was a year after the disappearance that a wan, living skeleton
staggered out of the wilderness in Africa, and blindly groped his way
to the coast as a man might who had lived long in darkness and found
the light too strong for his eyes. He managed to reach a port, and
there took steamer homeward bound for Southampton. The sea-breezes
revived him somewhat, but it was evident to all the passengers that he
had passed through a desperate illness. It was just a toss-up whether
he could live until he saw England again. It was impossible to guess at
his age, so heavy a hand had disease laid upon him, and he did not seem
to care to make acquaintances, but kept much to himself, sitting
wrapped up in his chair, gazing with a tired-out look at the green
A young girl frequently sat in a chair near him, ostensibly reading,
but more often glancing sympathetically at the wan figure beside her.
Many times she seemed about to speak to him, but apparently hesitated
to do so, for the man took no notice of his fellow-passengers. At
length, however, she mustered up courage to address him, and said:
"There is a good story in this magazine: perhaps you would like to read
He turned his eyes from the sea and rested them vacantly upon her face
for a moment. His dark moustache added to the pallor of his face, but
did not conceal the faint smile that came to his lips; he had heard
her, but had not understood.
"What did you say?" he asked, gently.
"I said there was a good story here, entitled 'Author! Author!' and I
thought you might like to read it," and the girl blushed very prettily
as she said this, for the man looked younger than he had done before he
"I am afraid," said the man, slowly, "that I have forgotten how to
read. It is a long time since I have seen a book or a magazine. Won't
you tell me the story? I would much rather hear it from you than make
an attempt to read it myself in the magazine."
"Oh," she cried, breathlessly, "I'm not sure that I could tell it; at
any rate, not as well as the author does; but I will read it to you if
The story was about a man who had written a play, and who thought, as
every playwright thinks, that it was a great addition to the drama, and
would bring him fame and fortune. He took this play to a London
manager, but heard nothing of it for a long time, and at last it was
returned to him. Then, on going to a first night at the theatre to see
a new tragedy, which this manager called his own, he was amazed to see
his rejected play, with certain changes, produced upon the stage, and
when the cry "Author! Author!" arose, he stood up in his place; but
illness and privation had done their work, and he died proclaiming
himself the author of the play.
"Ah," said the man, when the reading was finished, "I cannot tell you
how much the story has interested me. I once was an actor myself, and
anything pertaining to the stage appeals to me, although it is years
since I saw a theatre. It must be hard luck to work for fame and then
be cheated out of it, as was the man in the tale; but I suppose it
sometimes happens, although, for the honesty of human nature, I hope
not very often."
"Did you act under your own name, or did you follow the fashion so many
of the profession adopt?" asked the girl, evidently interested when he
spoke of the theatre.
The young man laughed for, perhaps, the first time on the voyage. "Oh,"
he answered, "I was not at all noted. I acted only in minor parts, and
always under my own name, which, doubtless, you have never heard--it is
"What!" cried the girl in amazement; "not Sidney Ormond the African
The young man turned his wan face and large, melancholy eyes upon his
"I am certainly Sidney Ormond, an African traveller, but I don't think
I deserve the 'the,' you know. I don't imagine anyone has heard of me
through my travelling any more than through my acting."
"The Sidney Ormond I mean," she said, "went through Africa without
firing a shot; whose book, _A Mission of Peace_, has been such a
success, both in England and America. But, of course, you cannot be he;
for I remember that Sidney Ormond is now lecturing in England to
tremendous audiences all over the country. The Royal Geographical
Society has given him medals or degrees, or something of that sort--
perhaps it was Oxford that gave the degree. I am sorry I haven't his
book with me, it would be sure to interest you; but some one on board
is almost certain to have it, and I will try to get it for you. I gave
mine to a friend in Cape Town. What a funny thing it is that the two
names should be exactly the same."
"It is very strange," said Ormond gloomily, and his eyes again sought
the horizon and he seemed to relapse into his usual melancholy.
The girl arose from her seat, saying she would try to find the book,
and left him there meditating. When she came back, after the lapse of
half an hour or so, she found him sitting just as she had left him,
with his sad eyes on the sad sea. The girl had a volume in her hand.
"There," she said, "I knew there would be a copy on board, but I am
more bewildered than ever; the frontispiece is an exact portrait of
you, only you are dressed differently and do not look--" the girl
hesitated, "so ill as when you came on board."
Ormond looked up at the girl with a smile, and said--"You might say
with truth, so ill as I look now."
"Oh, the voyage has done you good. You seem ever so much better than
when you came on board."
"Yes, I think that is so," said Ormond, reaching for the volume she
held in her hand. He opened it at the frontispiece and gazed long at
The girl sat down beside him and watched his face, glancing from it to
"It seems to me," she said at last, "that the coincidence is becoming
more and more striking. Have you ever seen that portrait before?"
"Yes," said Ormond slowly. "I recognise it as a portrait I took of
myself in the interior of Africa which I sent to a dear friend of mine;
in fact, the only friend I had in England. I think I wrote him about
getting together a book out of the materials I sent him, but I am not
sure. I was very ill at the time I wrote him my last letter. I thought
I was going to die, and told him so. I feel somewhat bewildered, and
don't quite understand it all."
"I understand it," cried the girl, her face blazing with indignation.
"Your friend is a traitor. He is reaping the reward that should have
been yours, and so poses as the African traveller, the real Ormond. You
must put a stop to it when you reach England, and expose his treachery
to the whole country."
Ormond shook his head slowly and said--
"I cannot imagine Jimmy Spence a traitor. If it were only the book,
that could be, I think, easily explained, for I sent him all my notes
of travel and materials; but I cannot understand him taking the medals
The girl made a quick gesture of impatience.
"Such things," she said, "cannot be explained. You must confront him
and expose him."
"No," said Ormond, "I shall not confront him. I must think over the
matter for a time. I am not quick at thinking, at least just now, in
the face of this difficulty. Everything seemed plain and simple before,
but if Jimmy Spence has stepped into my shoes, he is welcome to them.
Ever since I came out of Africa I seem to have lost all ambition.
Nothing appears to be worth while now."
"Oh!" cried the girl, "that is because you are in ill-health. You will
be yourself again when you reach England. Don't let this trouble you
now--there is plenty of time to think it all out before we arrive. I am
sorry I spoke about it; but, you see, I was taken by surprise when you
mentioned your name."
"I am very glad you spoke to me," said Ormond, in a more cheerful
voice. "The mere fact that you have talked with me has encouraged me
wonderfully. I cannot tell how much this conversation has been to me. I
am a lone man, with only one friend in the world--I am afraid I must
add now, without even one friend in the world. I am grateful for your
interest in me, even though it was only compassion for a wreck--for a
derelict, floating about on the sea of life."
There were tears in the girl's eyes, and she did not speak for a
moment, then she laid her hand softly on Ormond's arm, and said, "You
are not a wreck, far from it. You sit alone too much, and I am afraid
that what I have thoughtlessly said has added to your troubles." The
girl paused in her talk, but after a moment added--
"Don't you think you could walk the deck for a little?"
"I don't know about walking," said Ormond, with a little laugh, "but
I'll come with you if you don't mind an encumbrance."
He rose somewhat unsteadily, and she took his arm.
"You must look upon me as your physician," she said cheerfully, "and I
shall insist that my orders are obeyed."
"I shall be delighted to be under your charge," said Ormond, "but may I
not know my physician's name?"
The girl blushed deeply when she realised that she had had such a long
conversation with one to whom she had never been introduced. She had
regarded him as an invalid, who needed a few words of cheerful
encouragement, but as he stood up she saw that he was much younger than
his face and appearance had led her to suppose.
"My name is Mary Radford," she said.
"_Miss_ Mary Radford?" inquired Ormond.
"Miss Mary Radford."
That walk on the deck was the first of many, and it soon became evident
to Ormond that he was rapidly becoming his old self again. If he had
lost a friend in England, he had certainly found another on board ship
to whom he was getting more and more attached as time went on. The only
point of disagreement between them was in regard to the confronting of
Jimmy Spence. Ormond was determined in his resolve not to interfere
with Jimmy and his ill-gotten fame.
As the voyage was nearing its end, Ormond and Miss Radford stood
together leaning over the rail conversing quietly. They had become very
great friends indeed.
"But if you will not expose this man," said Miss Radford, "what then is
your purpose when you land? Are you going back to the stage again?"
"I don't think so," replied Ormond. "I shall try to get something to do
and live quietly for awhile."
"Oh!" cried the girl, "I have no patience with you."
"I am sorry for that, Mary," said Ormond, "for, if I can make a living,
I intend asking you to be my wife."
"Oh!" cried the girl breathlessly, turning her head away.
"Do you think I would have any chance?" asked Ormond.
"Of making a living?" inquired the girl, after a moment's silence.
"No. I am sure of making a living, for I have always done so; therefore
answer my question. Mary, do you think I would have any chance?" and he
placed his hand softly over hers, which lay on the ship's rail. The
girl did not answer, but she did not withdraw her hand; she gazed down
at the bright green water with its tinge of foam.
"I suppose you know," she said at length, "that you have every chance,
and you are merely pretending ignorance to make it easier for me,
because I have simply flung myself at your head ever since we began the
"I am not pretending, Mary," he said. "What I feared was that your
interest was only that of a nurse in a somewhat backward patient. I was
afraid I had your sympathy, but not your love. Perhaps such was the
case at first."
"Perhaps such was the case--at first, but it is far from being the
The young man made a motion to approach nearer to her, but the girl
drew away, whispering--
"There are other people besides ourselves on deck, remember."
"I don't believe it," said Ormond, gazing fondly at her. "I can see no
one but you. I believe we are floating alone on the ocean together, and
that there is no tone else in the wide world but our two selves. I
thought I went to Africa for fame, but I see I really went to find you.
What I sought seems poor compared to what I have found."
"Perhaps," said the girl, looking shyly at him, "Fame is waiting as
anxiously for you to woo her as--as another person waited. Fame is a
shameless hussy, you know."
The young man shook his head.
"No. Fame has jilted me once. I won't give her another chance."
So those who were twain sailed gently into Southampton Docks, resolved
to be one when the gods were willing.
Mary Radford's people were there to meet her, and Ormond went up to
London alone, beginning his short railway journey with a return of the
melancholy that had oppressed him during the first part of his long
voyage. He felt once more alone in the world, now that the bright
presence of his sweetheart was withdrawn, and he was saddened by the
thought that the telegram he had hoped to send to Jimmy Spence,
exultingly announcing his arrival, would never be sent. In a newspaper
he bought at the station, he saw that the African traveller, Sidney
Ormond, was to be received by the Mayor and Corporation of a Midland
town, and presented with the freedom of the city. The traveller was to
lecture on his exploits in the town so honouring him, that day week.
Ormond put down the paper with a sigh, and turned his thoughts to the
girl from whom he had so lately parted. A true sweetheart is a
pleasanter subject for meditation than a false friend.
Mary also saw the announcement in the paper, and anger tightened her
lips and brought additional colour to her cheeks. Seeing how averse her
lover was to taking any action against his former friend, she had
ceased to urge him, but she had quietly made up her own mind to be
herself the goddess of the machine.
On the night the bogus African traveller was to lecture in the Midland
town, Mary Radford was a unit in the very large audience that greeted
him. When he came on the platform she was so amazed at his personal
appearance that she cried out, but fortunately her exclamation was lost
in the applause that greeted the lecturer. The man was the exact
duplicate of her betrothed.
She listened to the lecture in a daze; it seemed to her that even the
tones of the lecturer's voice were those of her lover. She paid little
heed to the matter of his discourse, but allowed her mind to dwell more
on the coming interview, wondering what excuses the fraudulent
traveller would make for his perfidy.
When the lecture was over, and the usual vote of thanks had been
tendered and accepted, Mary Radford still sat there while the rest of
the audience slowly filtered out of the large hall. She rose at last,
nerving herself for the coming meeting, and went to the side door,
where she told the man on duty that she wished to see the lecturer. The
man said that it was impossible for Mr. Ormond to see any one at that
moment; there was to be a big supper; he was to meet the Mayor and
Corporation; and so the lecturer had said he could see no one.
"Will you take a note to him if I write it?" asked the girl.
"I will send it in to him; but it's no use, he won't see you. He
refused to see even the reporters," said the door-keeper, as if that
were final, and a man who would deny himself to the reporters would not
admit Royalty itself.
Mary wrote on a slip of paper the words, "The affianced wife of the
real Sidney Ormond would like to see you for a few moments," and this
brief note was taken in to the lecturer.
The door-keeper's faith in the constancy of public men was rudely
shaken a few minutes later, when the messenger returned with orders
that the lady was to be admitted at once.
When Mary entered the green-room of the lecture hall she saw the double
of her lover standing near the fire, her note in his hand and a look of
incredulity on his face.
The girl barely entered the room, and, closing the door, stood with her
back against it. He was the first to speak.
"I thought Sidney had told me everything; I never knew he was
acquainted with a young lady, much less engaged to her."
"You admit, then, that you are not the true Sidney Ormond?"
"I admit it to you, of course, if you were to have been his wife."
"I am to be his wife, I hope."
"But Sidney, poor fellow, is dead; dead in the wilds of Africa."
"You will be shocked to learn that such is not the case, and that your
imposture must come to an end. Perhaps you counted on his friendship
for you, and thought that even if he did return he would not expose
you. In that you were quite right, but you did not count on me. Sidney
Ormond is at this moment in London, Mr. Spence."
Jimmy Spence, paying no attention to the accusations of the girl, gave
a war-whoop which had formerly been so effective in the second act of
"Pocahontas," in which Jimmy had enacted the noble--savage, and then he
danced a jig that had done service in _Colleen Bawn_. While the
amazed girl watched these antics, Jimmy suddenly swooped down upon her,
caught her around the waist, and whirled her wildly around the room.
Setting her down in a corner, Jimmy became himself again, and dabbed
his heated brow with his handkerchief carefully, so as not to disturb
"Sidney in England again? That's too good news to be true. Say it
again, my girl, I can hardly believe it. Why didn't he come with you?
Is he ill?"
"He has been very ill."
"Ah, that's it, poor fellow. I knew nothing else would have kept him.
And then when he telegraphed to me at the old address, on landing, of
course, there was no reply, because, you see, I had disappeared. But
Sid wouldn't know anything about that, and so he must be wondering what
has become of me. I'll have a great story to tell him when we meet;
almost as good as his own African experiences. We'll go right up to
London to-night, as soon as this confounded supper is over. And what is
your name, my girl?"
"And you're engaged to old Sid, eh? Well! well! well! well! This is
great news. You mustn't mind my capers, Mary, my dear; you see, I'm the
only friend Sid has, and I'm old enough to be your father. I look young
now, but you wait till the paint comes off. Have you any money? I mean,
to live on when you're married; because I know Sidney never had much."
"I haven't very much either," said Mary, with a sigh.
Jimmy jumped up and paced the room in great glee, laughing and slapping
"That's first rate," he cried. "Why, Mary, I've got over _L20,000_
in the bank saved up for you two. The book and lectures, you know. I
don't believe Sid himself could have done as well, for he always was
careless with money--he's often lent me the last penny he had, and
never kept any account of it; and I never thought of paying it back,
either, until he was gone, and then it worried me."
The messenger put his head into the room, and said the Mayor and the
Corporation were waiting.
"Oh, hang the Mayor and the Corporation!" cried Jimmy; then, suddenly
recollecting himself, he added, hastily, "No, don't do that. Just give
them Jimmy--I mean Sidney--Ormond's compliments, and tell his Worship
that I have just had some very important news from Africa, but will be
with him directly."
When the messenger was gone Jimmy continued in high feather. "What a
time we shall have in London. We'll all three go to the old familiar
theatre, yes, and by Jove, we'll pay for our seats; _that_ will be
a novelty. Then we will have supper where Sid and I used to eat. Sidney
shall talk, and you and I will listen; then I shall talk, and you and
Sid will listen. You see, my dear, I've been to Africa too. When I got
Sidney's letter saying he was dying I just moped about and was of no
use to anybody. Then I made up my mind what to do. Sid had died for
fame, and it wasn't just he shouldn't get what he paid so dearly for. I
gathered together what money I could and went to Africa, steerage. I
found I couldn't do anything there about searching for Sid, so I
resolved to be his understudy and bring fame to him, if it were
possible. I sank my own identity and made up as Sidney Ormond, took his
boxes and sailed for Southampton. I have been his understudy ever
since, for, after all, I always had a hope he would come back some day,
and then everything would be ready for him to take the principal, and
let the old understudy go back to the boards again and resume competing
with the reputation of Macready. If Sid hadn't come back in another
year, I was going to take a lecturing trip in America, and when that
was done, I intended to set out in great state for Africa, disappear
into the forest as Sidney Ormond, wash the paint off and come out as
Jimmy Spence. Then Sidney Ormond's fame would have been secure, for
they would be always sending out relief expeditions after him and not
finding him, while I would be growing old on the boards and bragging
what a great man my friend, Sidney Ormond, was."
There were tears in the girl's eyes as she rose and took Jimmy's hand.
"No man has ever been so true a friend to his friend as you have been,"
"Oh, bless you, yes," cried Jimmy, jauntily. "Sid would have done the
same for me. But he is luckier in having you than in having his friend,
although I don't deny I've been a good friend to him. Yes, my dear, he
is lucky in having a plucky girl like you. I missed that somehow when I
was young, having my head full of Macready nonsense, and I missed being
a Macready too. I've always been a sort of understudy, so you see the
part comes easy to me. Now I must be off to that confounded Mayor and
Corporation, I had almost forgotten them, but I must keep up the
character for Sidney's sake. But this is the last act, my dear. To-
morrow I'll turn over the part of explorer to the real actor ... to the
"OUT OF THUN."
On one point Miss Bessie Durand agreed with Alexander von Humboldt--in
fact, she even went further than that celebrated man, for while he
asserted that Thun was one of the three most beautiful spots on earth,
Bessie held that this Swiss town was absolutely the most perfectly
lovely place she had ever visited. Her reason for this conclusion
differed from that of Humboldt. The latter, being a mere man, had been
influenced by the situation of the town, the rapid, foaming river, the
placid green lake, the high mountains all around, the snow-peaks to the
east, the ancient castle overlooking everything, and the quaint streets
with the pavements up at the first floors.
Bessie had an eye for these things, of course, but while waterfalls and
profound ravines were all very well in their way, her hotel had to be
filled with the right sort of company before any spot on earth was
entirely satisfactory to Bessie. She did not care to be out of
humanity's reach, nor to take her small journeys alone; she liked to
hear the sweet music of speech, and if she started at the sound of her
own, Bessie would have been on the jump all day, for she was a
brilliant and effusive talker.
So it happened that, in touring through Switzerland, Bessie and her
mother (somehow people always placed Bessie's name before that of her
mother, who was a quiet little unobtrusive woman) stopped at Thun,
intending to stay for a day, as most people do, but when Bessie found
the big hotel simply swarming with nice young men, she told her mother
that the local guide-book asserted that Humboldt had once said Thun was
one of the three most lovely places on earth, and, therefore, they
ought to stay there and enjoy its beauties, which they at once
proceeded to do. It must not be imagined from this that Bessie was
particularly fond of young men. Such was far from being the case. She
merely liked to have them propose to her, which was certainly a
laudable ambition, but she invariably refused them, which went to show
that she was not, as her enemies stated, always in love with somebody.
The fact was that Miss Bessie Durand's motives were entirely
misunderstood by an unappreciative world. Was she to be blamed because
young men wanted her to marry them? Certainly not. It was not her fault
that she was pretty and sweet, and that young men, as a rule, liked to
talk with her rather than with any one else in the neighbourhood. Many
of her detractors would very likely have given much to have had
Bessie's various charms of face, figure, and manner. This is a jealous
world, and people delight in saying spiteful little things about those
more favoured by Providence than themselves. It must, however, be
admitted that Bessie had a certain cooing, confidential way with people
that may have misled some of the young men who ultimately proposed to
her into imagining that they were special favourites with the young
lady. She took a kindly, interest in their affairs, and very shortly
after making her acquaintance, most young men found themselves pouring
into her sympathetic ear all their hopes and aspirations. Bessie's ear
was very shell-like and beautiful as well as sympathetic, so that one
can hardly say the young men were to blame any more than Bessie was.
Nearly everybody in this world wants to talk of himself or herself, as
the case may be, and so it is no wonder that a person like Bessie, who
is willing to listen while other people talk of themselves, is popular.
Among the many billions who inhabit this planet, there are too many
talkers and too few listeners; and although Bessie was undoubtedly a
brilliant talker on occasion, there is no doubt that her many victories
resulted more from her appreciative qualities as a talented listener
than from the entertaining charms of her conversation. Those women who
have had so much to say about Bessie's behaviour might well take a leaf
from her book in this respect. They would find, if they had even
passably good looks, that proposals would be more frequent. Of course
there is no use in denying that Bessie's eyes had much to do with
bringing young men to the point. Her eyes were large and dark, and they
had an entrancing habit of softening just at the right moment, when
there came into them a sweet, trustful, yearning look that was simply
impossible to resist. They gazed thus at a young man when he was
telling in low whispers how he hoped to make the world wiser and better
by his presence in it, or when he narrated some incident of great
danger in which he took part, where (unconsciously, perhaps, on the
teller's part) his own heroism was shown forth to the best possible
advantage. Then Bessie's eyes would grow large and humid and tender,
and a subdued light would come into them as she hung breathlessly on
his words. Did not Desdemona capture Othello merely by listening to a
recital of his own daring deeds, which were, doubtless, very greatly
The young men at the big hotel in Thun were clad mostly in
knickerbockers, and many of them had alpenstocks of their own. It soon
became their delight to sit on the terrace in front of the hotel during
the pleasant summer evenings and relate to Bessie their hairbreath
escapes, the continuous murmur of the River Aare forming a soothing
chorus to their dramatic narrations. At least a dozen young men hovered
round the girl, willing and eager to confide in her; but while Bessie
was smiling and kind to them all, it was soon evident that some special
one was her favourite, and then the rest hung hopelessly back. Things
would go wonderfully well for this lucky young fellow for a day or two,
and he usually became so offensively conceited in his bearing towards
the rest, that the wonder is he escaped without personal vengeance
being wreaked upon him; then all at once he would pack up his
belongings and gloomily depart for Berne or Interlaken, depending on
whether his ultimate destination was west or east. The young men
remaining invariably tried not to look jubilant at the sudden
departure, while the ladies staying at the hotel began to say hard
things of Bessie, going even so far as to assert that she was a
heartless flirt. How little do we know the motives of our fellow-
creatures! How prone we are to misjudge the actions of others! Bessie
was no flirt, but a high-minded, conscientious girl, with an ambition--
an ambition which she did not babble about to the world, and therefore
the world failed to appreciate her, as it nearly always fails to
appreciate those who do not take it into their confidence.
It came to be currently reported in the hotel that Bessie had refused
no less than seven of the young men who had been staying there, and as
these young men had, one after another, packed up and departed, either
by the last train at night or the earliest in the morning, the
proprietor began to wonder what the matter was, especially as each of
the departing guests had but a short time before expressed renewed
delight with the hotel and its surroundings. Several of them had stated
to the proprietor that they had abandoned their intention of proceeding
further with their Swiss tour, so satisfied were they with Thun and all
its belongings. Thus did the flattering opinion of Alexander von
Humboldt seem about to become general, to the great delight of the
hotel proprietor, when, without warning, these young men had gloomily
deserted Thun, while its beauty undoubtedly remained unchanged.
Naturally the good man who owned the hotel was bewildered, and began to
think that, after all, the English were an uncertain, mind-changing
Among the guests there was one young fellow who was quite as much
perplexed as the proprietor. Archie Severance was one of the "last to
fall under the spell of Bessie--if, indeed, it is correct to speak of
Archie falling at all. He was a very deliberate young man, not given to
doing anything precipitately, but there is no doubt that the charming
personality of Bessie fascinated him, although he seemed to content
himself with admiring her from a distance. Bessie somehow did not
appear to care about being admired from a distance, and once, when
Archie was promenading to and fro on the terrace above the river, she
smiled sweetly at him from her book, and he sat down beside her. Jimmy
Wellman had gone that morning, and the rest had not yet found it out.
Jimmy had so completely monopolised Miss Durand for the last few days
that no one else had had a chance, but now that he had departed, Bessie
sat alone on the terrace, which was a most unusual state of things.
"They tell me," said Bessie, in her most flattering manner, "that you
are a famous climber, and that you have been to the top of the
"Oh, not famous; far from it," said Archie modestly. "I have been up
the Matterhorn three or four times; but then women and children make
the ascent nowadays, so that is nothing unusual."
"I am sure you must have had some thrilling escapes," continued Bessie,
looking with admiration at Archie's stalwart frame. "Mr. Wellman had an
"Yesterday?" interrupted Archie. "I hear he left early this morning."
"No, not yesterday," said Miss Durand coldly, drawing herself up with
some indignation; but as she glanced sideways at Mr. Severance, that
young man seemed so innocent that she thought perhaps he meant nothing
in particular by his remark. So, after a slight pause, Bessie went on
again. "It was a week ago. He was climbing the Stockhorn and all at
once the clouds surrounded him."
"And what did Jimmy do? Waited till the clouds rolled by, I suppose."
"Now, Mr. Severance, if you are going to laugh at me, I shall not talk
to you any more."
"I assure you, Miss Durand, I was not laughing at you. I was laughing
at Jimmy. I never regarded the Stockhorn as a formidable peak. It is
something like 7,195 feet high, I believe, not to mention the inches."
"But surely, Mr. Severance, you know very well that the danger of a
mountain does not necessarily bear any proportion to its altitude
above, the sea."
"That is very true. I am sure that Jimmy himself, with his head in the
clouds, has braved greater dangers at much lower levels than the top of
Again Miss Durand looked searchingly at the young man beside her, but
again Archie was gazing dreamily at the curious bell-shaped summit of
the mountain under discussion. The Stockhorn stands out nobly, head and
shoulders above its fellows, when viewed from the hotel terrace at
There was silence for a few moments between the two, and Bessie said to
herself that she did not at all like this exceedingly self-possessed
young man, who seemed to look at the mountains in preference to gazing
at her--which was against the natural order of things. It was evident
that Mr. Severance needed to be taught a lesson, and Bessie, who had a
good deal of justifiable confidence in her own powers as a teacher,
resolved to give him the necessary instruction. Perhaps, when he had
acquired a little more experience, he would not speak so contemptuously
of "Jimmy," or any of the rest. Besides, it is always a generous action
towards the rest of humanity to reduce the inordinate self-esteem of
any one young man to something like reasonable proportions. So Bessie,
instead of showing that she was offended by his flippant conversation
and his lack of devotion to her, put on her most bewitching manner, and
smiled the smile that so many before her latest victim had found
impossible to resist. She would make him talk of himself and his
exploits. They all succumbed to this treatment.
"I do so love to hear of narrow escapes," said Bessie confidingly. "I
think it is so inspiring to hear of human courage and endurance being
pitted against the dangers of the Alps, and coming out victorious."
"Yes, they usually come out victorious, according to the accounts that
reach us; but then, you know, we never get the mountain's side of the
"But surely, Mr. Severance," appealed Bessie, "you do not imagine that
a real climber would exaggerate when telling of what he had done."
"No; oh no. I would not go so far as to say that he would exaggerate
exactly, but I have known cases where--well--a sort of Alpine glow came
over a story that, I must confess, improved it very much. Then, again,
curious mental transformations take place which have the effect of
making a man, what the vulgar term, a liar. Some years ago a friend of
mine came over here to do a few ascents, but he found sitting on the
hotel piazza so much more to his taste that he sat there. I think
myself the verandah climber is the most sensible man of the lot of us;
and, if he has a good imagination, there is no reason why he should be
distanced by those you call real climbers, when it comes to telling
stories of adventures. Well, this man, who is a most truthful person,
took one false step. You know, some amateurs have a vile habit of
getting the names of various peaks branded on their alpenstocks--just
as if any real climber ever used an alpenstock."
"Why, what do they use?" asked Bessie, much interested.
"Ice-axes, of course. Now, there is a useful individual in Interlaken,
who is what you might call a wholesale brander. He has the names of all
the peaks done in iron at his shop, and if you take your alpenstock to
him, he will, for a few francs, brand on it all the names it will hold,
from the Ortler to Mont Blanc. My friend was weak enough to have all
the ascents he had intended to make, branded on the alpenstock he
bought the moment he entered Switzerland. They always buy an alpenstock
the first thing. He never had the time to return to the mountains, but
gradually he came to believe that he had made all the ascents recorded
by fire and iron on his pole. He is a truthful man on every other topic
"But you must have had some very dangerous experiences among the Alps,
Mr. Severance. Please tell me of the time you were in the greatest
"I am sure it would not interest you."
"Oh, it would, it would. Please go on, and don't require so much
persuasion. I am just longing to hear the story."
"It isn't much of a story, because, you see, there is no Alpine glow
Archie glanced at the girl, and it flashed across his mind that he was
probably then in the greatest danger he had ever been in, in his life.
She bent forward toward him, her elbows on her knees, and her chin--
such a pretty chin!--in her hands. Her eyes were full upon him, and
Archie had sense enough to realise that there was danger in their clear
pellucid depths, so he turned his own from them, and sought refuge in
his old friend, the Stockhorn.
"I think the narrowest escape I ever had was about two weeks ago. I
"With how many guides?" interrupted Bessie breathlessly.
"With none at all," answered Archie, with a laugh.
"Isn't that very unsafe? I thought one always should have a guide."
"Sometimes guides are unnecessary. I took none on this occasion,
because I only ascended as far as the Chateau in Thun, some three
hundred feet above where we are sitting, and as I went by the main
street of the town, the climb was perfectly safe in all weathers.
Besides, there is generally a policeman about."
"Oh!" said the girl, sitting up suddenly very straight.
Archie was looking at the mountains, and did not see the hot anger
surge up into her face.
"You know the steps leading down from the castle. They are covered in,
and are very dark when one comes out of the bright sunlight. Some fool
had been eating an orange there, and had carelessly thrown the peel on
the steps. I did not notice it, and so trod on a bit. The next thing I
knew I was in a heap at the foot of that long stairway, thinking every
bone in my body was broken. I had many bruises, but no hurt that was
serious; nevertheless, I never had such a fright in my life, and I hope
never to have such another."
Bessie rose up with much dignity. "I am obliged to you for your
recital, Mr. Severance," she said freezingly. "If I do not seem to
appreciate your story as much as I should, it is perhaps because I am
not accustomed to being laughed at."
"I assure you, Miss Durand, that I am not laughing at you, and that
this pathetic incident was anything but a laughing matter to me. The
Stockhorn has no such danger lying in wait for a man as a bit of
orange-peel on a dark and steep stairway. Please do not be offended
with me. I told you my stories have no Alpine glow about them, but the
danger was undoubtedly there."
Archie had risen to his feet, but there was no forgiveness in Miss
Durand's eyes as she bade him "Good-morning," and went into the hotel;
leaving him standing there.
During the week that followed, Archie had little chance of making his
peace with Miss Durand, for in that week the Sanderson episode had its
beginning, its rise, and its culmination. Charley Sanderson, emboldened
by the sudden departure of Wellman, became the constant attendant of
Bessie, and everything appeared to be in his favour until the evening
he left. That evening the two strolled along the walk that borders the
north side of the river, leading to the lake. They said they were going
to see the Alpine glow on the snow mountains, but nobody believed that,
for the glow can be seen quite as well from the terrace in front of the
hotel. Be that as it may, they came back together, shortly before eight
o'clock, Bessie looking her prettiest, and Sanderson with a black frown
on his face, evidently in the worst of tempers. He flung his belongings
into a bag, and departed by the 8:40 train for Berne. As Archie met the
pair, Bessie actually smiled very sweetly upon him, while Sanderson
glared as if he had never met Severance before.
"_That_ episode is evidently ended," said Archie to himself, as he
continued his walk toward Lake Thun. "I wonder if it is pure devilment
that induces her to lead people on to a proposal, and then drop them. I
suppose Charley will leave now, and we'll have no more games of
billiards together. I wonder why they all seem to think it the proper
thing to go away. I wouldn't. A woman is like a difficult peak--if you
don't succeed the first time, you should try again. I believe I shall
try half a dozen proposals with Bessie myself. If I ever come to the
point, she won't find it so easy to get rid of me as she does of all
Meditating thus, he sat down on a bench under the trees facing the
lake. Archie wondered if the momentous question had been asked at this
spot. It seemed just the place for it, and he noticed that the gravel
on the path was much disturbed, as if by the iron-shod point of an
agitated man's cane. Then he remembered that Sanderson was carrying an
iron-pointed cane. As Archie smiled and looked about him, he saw on the
seat beside him a neat little morocco-bound book with a silver clasp.
It had evidently slipped from the insecure dress-pocket of a lady who
had been sitting there. Archie picked it up and turned it over and over
in his hands. It is a painful thing to be compelled to make excuse for
one of whom we would fain speak well, but it must be admitted that at
this point in his life Severance did what he should not have done--he
actually read the contents of the book, although he must have been
aware, before he turned the second leaf, that what was there set down
was meant for no eye save the writer's own. Archie excuses himself by
maintaining that he had to read the book before he could be sure it
belonged to anybody in particular, and that he opened it at first
merely to see if there were a name or card inside; but there is little
doubt that the young man knew from the very first whose book it was,
and he might at least have asked Miss Durand if it were hers before he
opened it. However, there is little purpose in speculating on what
might have been, and as the reading of the note-book led directly to
the utterly unjustifiable action of Severance afterwards, as one wrong
step invariably leads to another, the contents of the little volume are
here given, so that the reader of this tragedy may the more fully
understand the situation.
"_Aug. 1st_.--The keeping of a diary is a silly fashion, and I am
sure I would not bother with one, if my memory were good, and if I had
not a great object in view. However, I do not intend this book to be
more than a collection of notes that will be useful to me when I begin
my novel. The novel is to be the work of my life, and I mean to use
every talent I may have to make it unique and true to life. I think the
New Woman novel is a thing of the past, and that the time has now come
for a story of the old sort, yet written with a fidelity to life such
as has never been attempted by the old novelists. A painter or a
sculptor uses a model while producing a great picture or a statue. Why
should not a writer use a model also? The motive of all great novels
must be love, and the culminating point of a love-story is the
proposal. In no novel that I have ever read is the proposal well done.
Men evidently do not talk to each other about the proposals they make,
therefore a man-writer has merely his own experience to go upon, so his
proposals have a sameness--his hero proposes just as he himself has
done or would do. Women-writers seem to have more imagination in this
matter, but they describe a proposal as they would like it to be, and
not as it actually is. I find that it is quite an easy thing to get a
man to propose. I suppose I have a gift that way, and, besides, there
is no denying the fact that I am handsome, and perhaps that is
something of an aid. I therefore intend to write down in this book all
my proposals, using the exact language the man employed, and thus I
shall have the proposals in my novel precisely as they occurred. I
shall also set down here any thoughts that may be of use to me when I
write my book.
"_Aug. 2nd._--I shall hereafter not date the notes in this book;
that will make it look less like a diary, which I detest. We are in
Thun, which is a lovely place. Humboldt, whoever he is or was, said it
is one of the three prettiest spots on earth. I wonder what the names
are of the other two. We intended to stay but one night at this hotel,
but I see it is full of young men, and as all the women seem to be
rather ugly and given to gossip, I think this is just the place for the
carrying out of my plans. The average young man is always ready to fall
in love while on his vacation--it makes time pass so pleasantly; and as
I read somewhere that man, as a general rule, proposes fourteen times
during his life, I may as well, in the interests of literature, be the
recipient of some of these offers. I have hit on what I think is a
marvellous idea. I shall arrange the offers with some regard to the
scenery, just as I suppose a stage-manager does. One shall propose by
the river--there are lovely shady walks on both sides; another, up in
the mountains; another, in the moonlight on the lake, in one of the
pretty foreign-looking rowing boats they have here, with striped
awnings. I don't believe any novelist has ever thought of such a thing.
Then I can write down a vivid description of the scenery in conjunction
with the language the young man uses. If my book is not a success, it
will be because there are no discriminating critics in England.
"First proposal--This came on rather unexpectedly. His name is Samuel
Caldwell, and he is a curate here for his health. He is not in the
least in love with me, but he thinks he is, and so, I suppose, it comes
to the same thing. He began by saying that I was the only one who ever
understood his real aspirations, and that if I would join my lot with
his he was sure we should not only bring happiness to ourselves, but to
others as well. I told him gently that my own highest aspiration was to
write a successful novel, and this horrified him, for he thinks novels
are wicked. He has gone to Grindelwald, where he thinks the air is more
suitable for his lungs. I hardly count this as a proposal, and it took
me so much by surprise that it was half over before I realised it was
actually an offer of his heart and hand. Besides, it took place in the
hotel garden, of all unlikely spots, where we were in constant danger
"Second proposal--Richard King is a very nice fellow, and was
tremendously in earnest. He says his life is blighted, but he will soon
come to a different opinion at Interlaken, where Margaret Dunn writes
me it is very gay, and where Richard has gone. Last evening we strolled
down by the lake, and he suggested that we should go out on the water.
He engaged a boat with two women to row, one sitting at the stern, and
the other standing at the prow, working great oars that looked like
cricket-bats. The women did not understand English, and we floated on
the lake until the moon came up over the snow mountains. Richard leaned
over, and tried to take my hand, whispering, in a low voice, 'Bessie.'
I confess I was rather in a flutter, and could think of nothing better
to say than 'Sir!' in a tone of surprise and indignation. He went on
"'Bessie,' he said, 'we have known each other only a few days, but in
those few days I have lived in Paradise.'
"'Yes,' I answered, gathering my wits about me; 'Humboldt says Thun is
one of the three--'
"Richard interrupted me with something that sounded remarkably like
'Hang Thun!' Then he went on, and said that I was all the world to him;
that he could not live without me. I shook my head slowly, and did not
reply. He spoke with a fluency that seemed to suggest practice, but I
told him it could never be. Then he folded his arms, sitting moodily
back in the boat, saying I had blighted his life. He did look handsome
as he sat there in the moonlight, with a deep frown on his brow; but I
could not help thinking he sat back purposely, so that the moonlight
might strike his face. I wish I could write down the exact language he
used, for he was very eloquent; but somehow I cannot bring myself to do
it, even in this book. I am sure, however, that when I come to write my
novel, and turn up these notes, I shall recall the words. Still, I
intended to put down the exact phrases. I wish I could take notes at
the time, but when a man is proposing he seems to want all your
"A fine, stalwart young man came to the hotel to-day, bronzed by
mountain climbing. He looks as if he would propose in a manner not so
much like all the rest. I have found that his name is Archibald
Severance, and they say he is a great mountaineer. What a splendid
thing a proposal on the high Alps would be from such a man, with the
gleaming snow all around! I think I shall use that idea in the book.
"Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth proposals. I must confess that I am
amazed and disappointed with the men. Is there no such thing as
originality among mankind? You would think they had all taken lessons
from some proposing master; they all have the same formula. The last
four began by calling me 'Bessie,' with the air of taking a great and
important step in life. Mr. Wellman varied it a little by asking me to
call him Jimmy, but the principle is just the same. I suppose this
sameness is the result of our modern system of education. I am sure
Archie would act differently. I am not certain that I like him, but he
interests me more than any of the others. I was very angry with him a
week ago. He knows it, but he doesn't seem to care. As soon as Charley
Sanderson proposes, I will see what can be done with Mr. Archie
"I like the name Archie. It seems to suit the young man exactly. I have
been wondering what sort of scenery would accord best with Mr.
Severance's proposal. I suppose a glacier would be about the correct
thing, for I imagine Archie is rather cold and sneering when he is not
in very good humour. The lake would be too placid for his proposal; and
when one is near the rapids, one cannot hear what the man is saying. I
think the Kohleren Gorge would be just the spot; it is so wild and
romantic, with a hundred waterfalls dashing down the precipices. I must
ask Archie if he has ever seen the Kohleren Falls. I suppose he will
despise them because they are not up among the snow-peaks."
After reading the book which he had no business to read, Archie closed
the volume, fastened the clasp, and slipped it into his inside pocket.
There was a meditative look in his eyes as he gazed over the blue lake.
"I can't return it to her--now," Archie said to himself. "Perhaps I
should not have read it. So she is not a flirt, after all, but merely
uses us poor mortals as models." Archie sighed. "I think that's better
than being a flirt--but I'm not quite sure. I suppose an author is
justified in going to great lengths to ensure the success of so
important a thing as a book. It may be that I can assist her with this
tremendous work of fiction. I shall think about it. But what am I to do
about this little diary? I must think about that as well. I can't give
it to her and say I did not read it, for I am such a poor hand at
lying. Good heavens! I believe that is Bessie coming alone along the
river-bank. I'll wager she has missed the book and knows pretty
accurately where she lost it. I'll place it where I found it, and
The line of trees along the path made it easy for Archie to carry out
successfully his hastily formed resolution. He felt like a sneak, a
feeling he thoroughly merited, as he dodged behind the trees and so
worked his way to the main road. He saw Bessie march straight for the
bench, pick up the book, and walk back towards the hotel, without ever
glancing round, and her definite action convinced Archie that she had
no suspicion any one had seen her book. This made the young man easier
in his mind, and he swung along the Interlaken road towards Thun,
flattering himself that no harm had been done. Nevertheless, he had
resolved to revenge Miss Bessie's innocent victims, and as he walked,
he turned plan after plan over in his mind. Vengeance would be all the
more complete, as the girl had no idea that her literary methods were
known to any one but herself.
For the next week Archie was very attentive to Bessie, and it must be
recorded that the pretty young woman seemed to appreciate his devotion
thoroughly and to like it. One morning, beautifully arrayed in walking
costume, Bessie stood on the terrace, apparently scanning the sky as if
anxious about the weather, but in reality looking out for an escort,
the gossips said to each other as they sat under the awnings busy at
needlework and slander, for of course no such thought was in the young
lady's mind. She smiled sweetly when Archie happened to come out of the
billiard-room; but then she always greeted her friends in a kindly
"Are you off for a walk this morning?" asked Archie, in the innocent
tone of one who didn't know, and really desired the information.
He spoke for the benefit of the gossips; but they were not to be taken
in by any such transparent device. They sniffed with contempt, and said
it was brazen of the two to pretend that they were not meeting there by
"Yes," said Bessie, with a saucy air of defiance, as if she did not
care who knew it; "I am going by the upper road to the Kohleren Falls.
Have you ever seen them?"
"No. Are they pretty?"
"Pretty! They are grand--at least, the gorge is, although, perhaps, you
would not think either the gorge or the falls worth visiting."
"How can I tell until I have visited them? Won't you be my guide
"I shall be most happy to have you come, only you must promise to speak
respectfully of both ravine and falls."
"I was not the man who spoke disrespectfully of the equator, you know,"
said Archie, as they walked off together, amidst the scorn of the
gossips, who declared they had never seen such a bold-faced action in
their lives. As their lives already had been somewhat lengthy, an idea
may be formed of the heinousness of Bessie's conduct.
It took the pair rather more than an hour by the upper road,
overlooking the town of Thun and the lake beyond, to reach the finger-
board that pointed down into the Kohleren valley. They zigzagged along
a rapidly falling path until they reached the first of a series of
falls, roaring into a deep gorge surrounded by a dense forest. Bessie
leaned against the frail handrail and gazed into the depths, Severance
standing by her side.
The young man was the first to speak, and when he spoke it was not on
the subject of the cataract.
"Miss Durand," he said, "I love you. I ask you to be my wife."
"Oh, Mr. Severance," replied Bessie, without lifting her eyes from the
foaming chasm, "I hope that nothing in my actions has led you to--"
"Am I to understand that you are about to refuse me?" cried Archie, in
a menacing voice that sounded above the roar of the falling waters.
Bessie looked quickly up at him, and, seeing a dark frown on his brow,
drew slightly away from him.
"Certainly I am going to refuse you. I have known you scarcely more
than a week!"
"That has nothing to do with it. I tell you, girl, that I love you.
Don't you understand what I say?"
"I understand what you say well enough; but I don't love you. Is not
that answer sufficient?"
"It would be sufficient if it were true. It is not true. You _do_
love me. I have seen that for days; although you may have striven to
conceal your affection for me, it has been evident to every one, and
more especially to the man who loves you. Why, then, deny what has been
patent to all on-lookers? Have I not seen your face brighten when I
approached you? Have I not seen a welcoming smile on your lips, that
could have had but one meaning?"
"Mr. Severance," cried Bessie, in unfeigned alarm, "have you gone
suddenly mad? How dare you speak to me in this fashion?"
"Girl," shouted Archie, grasping her by the wrist, "is it possible that
I am wrong in supposing you care for me, and that the only other
inference to be drawn from your actions is the true one?"
"What other inference?" asked Bessie, in a trembling voice, trying
unsuccessfully to withdraw her wrist from his iron grasp.
"That you have been trifling with me," hissed Severance; "that you have
led me on and on, meaning nothing; that you have been pretending to
care for me when in reality you merely wanted to add one more to the
many proposals you have received. That is the alternative. Now, which
is the fact? Are you in love with me, or have you been fooling me?"
"I told you I was not in love with you; but I did think you were a
gentleman. Now that I see you are a ruffian, I hate you. Let go my
wrist; you are hurting me."
"Very good, very good. Now we have the truth at last, and I will teach
you the danger of making a plaything of a human heart."
Severance released her wrist and seized her around the waist. Bessie
screamed and called for help, while the man who held her a helpless
prisoner laughed sardonically. With his free hand he thrust aside the
frail pine pole that formed a hand-rail to guard the edge of the cliff.
It fell into the torrent and disappeared down the cataract.
"What are you going to do?" cried the girl, her eyes wide with terror.
"I intend to leap with you into this abyss; then we shall be united for
"Oh, Archie, Archie, I love you!" sobbed Bessie, throwing her arms
around the neck of the astonished young man, who was so amazed at the
sudden turn events had taken, that, in stepping back, he nearly
accomplished the disaster he had a moment before threatened.
"Then why--why," he stammered, "did you--why did you deny it?"
"Oh, I don't know. I suppose because I am contrary, or because, as you
said, it was so self-evident. Still, I don't believe I would ever have
accepted you if you hadn't forced me to. I have become so wearied with
the conventional form of proposal."
"Yes, I suppose it does get rather tiresome," said Archie, mopping his
brow. "I see a bench a little further down; suppose we sit there and
talk the matter over."
He gave her his hand, and she tripped daintily down to the bench, where
they sat down together.
"You don't really believe I was such a ruffian as I pretended to be?"
said Archie at last.
"Why, yes; aren't you?" she asked simply, glancing sideways at him with
her most winning smile.
"You surely didn't actually think I was going to throw you over the
"Oh, I have often heard or read of it being done. Were you only
"That's all. It was really a little matter of revenge. I thought you
ought to be punished for the way you had used those other fellows. And
Sanderson was such a good hand at billiards. I could just beat him."
"You--you said--you cared for me. Was that pretence too?" asked Bessie,
with a catch in her voice.
"No. That was all true, Bessie, and there is where my scheme of
vengeance goes lame. You see, my dear girl, I never thought you would
look at me; some of the other fellows are ever so much better than I
am, and of course I did not imagine I had any chance. I hope you will
forgive me, and that you won't insist on having a real revenge by
withdrawing what you have said."
"I shall have revenge enough on you, Archie, you poor, deluded young
man, all your life. But never say anything about 'the other fellows,'
as you call them. There never was any other fellow but you. Perhaps I
will show you a little book some day that will explain everything,
although I am afraid, if you saw it, you might think worse of me than
ever. I think, perhaps, it is my duty to show it to you before it is
too late to draw back. Shall I?"
"I absolutely refuse to look at it--now or any other time," said Archie
magnanimously, drawing her towards him and kissing her.
And Bessie, with a sigh of relief, wondered why it was that men have so
much less curiosity than women. She was sure that if he had hinted at
any such secret she would never have rested until she knew what it was.
A DRAMATIC POINT.
In the bad days of Balmeceda, when Chili was rent in twain, and its
capital was practically a besieged city, two actors walked together
along the chief street of the place towards the one theatre that was
then open. They belonged to a French dramatic company that would gladly
have left Chili if it could, but, being compelled by stress of war to
remain, the company did the next best thing, and gave performances at
the principal theatre on such nights as a paying audience came.
A stranger would hardly have suspected, by the look of the streets,
that a deadly war was going on, and that the rebels--so called--were
almost at the city gates. Although business was ruined, credit dead,
and no man's life or liberty safe, the streets were filled with a crowd
that seemed bent on enjoyment and making the best of things.
As Jacques Dupre and Carlos Lemoine walked together they conversed
earnestly, not of the real war so close to their doors, but of the
mimic conflicts of the stage. M. Dupre was the leading man of the
company, and he listened with the amused tolerance of, an elder man to
the energetic vehemence of the younger.
"You are all wrong, Dupre," cried Lemoine, "all wrong. I have studied
the subject. Remember, I am saying nothing against your acting in
general. You know you have no greater admirer than I am, and that is
something to say when the members of a dramatic company are usually at
loggerheads through jealousy."
"Speak for yourself, Lemoine. You know I am green with jealousy of you.
You are the rising star and I am setting. You can't teach an old dog
new tricks, Carl, my boy."
"That's nonsense, Dupre. I wish you would consider this seriously. It
is because you are so good on the stage that I can't bear to see you
false to your art just to please the gallery. You should be above all
"How can a man be above his gallery--the highest spot in the house?
Talk sense, Carlos, and then I'll listen."
"Yes, you're flippant, simply because you know you're wrong, and dare
not argue this matter soberly. Now she stabs you through the heart--"
"No. False premises entirely. She says something about my wicked heart,
and evidently _intends_ to pierce that depraved organ, but a woman
never hits what she aims at, and I deny that I'm ever stabbed through
the heart. Say in the region or the neighbourhood of the heart, and go
on with your talk."
"Very well. She stabs you in a spot so vital that you die in a few
minutes. You throw up your hands, you stagger against the mantel-shelf,
you tear open your collar and then grope at nothing, you press your
hands on your wound and take two reeling steps forward, you call feebly
for help and stumble against the sofa, which you fall upon, and,
finally, still groping wildly, you roll off on the floor, where you
kick out once or twice, your clinched hand comes with a thud on the
boards, and all is over."
"Admirably described, Carlos. Lord! I wish my audience paid such
attention to my efforts as you do. Now you claim this is all wrong, do
"Suppose she stabbed you, what would _you_ do?"
"I would plunge forward on my face--dead."
"Great heavens! What would become of your curtain?"
"Oh, hang the curtain!"
"It's all very well for you to maledict the curtain, Carl, but you must
work up to it. Your curtain would come down, and your friends in the
gallery wouldn't know what had happened. Now I go through the
evolutions you so graphically describe, and the audience gets time to
take in the situation. They say, chuckling to themselves, 'that
villain's got his dose at last, and serve him right too.' They want to
enjoy his struggles, while the heroine stands grimly at the door taking
care that he doesn't get away. Then when my fist comes down flop on the
stage and they realise that I am indeed done for, the yell of triumph
that goes up is something delicious to hear."
"That's just the point, Dupre. I claim the actor has no right to hear
applause--that he should not know there is such a thing as an audience.
His business is to portray life exactly as it is."
"You can't portray life in a death scene, Carl."
"Dupre, I lose all patience with you, or rather I would did I not know
that you are much deeper than you would have us suppose. You apparently
won't see that I am very much in earnest about this."
"Of course you are, my boy; and that is one reason why you will become
a very great actor. I was ambitious myself once, but as we grow older"
--Dupre shrugged his shoulders--"well, we begin to have an eye on box-
office receipts. I think you sometimes forget that I am a good deal
older than you are."
"You mean I am a fool, and that I may learn wisdom with age. I quite
admit you are a better actor than I am; in fact I said so only a moment
"'You wrong me, Brutus; I said an elder soldier, not a better.' But I
will take you on your own ground. Have you ever seen a man stabbed or
shot through the heart?"
"I never have, but I know mighty well he wouldn't undo his necktie
Dupre threw back his head and laughed.
"Who is flippant now?" he asked. "I don't undo my necktie, I merely
tear off my collar, which a dying man may surely be permitted to do.
But until you have seen a man die from such a stab as I receive every
night, I don't understand how you can justly find fault with my
rendition of the tragedy. I imagine, you know, that the truth lies
between the two extremes. The man done to death would likely not make
such a fuss as I make, nor would he depart so quickly as you say he
would, without giving the gallery gods a show for their money. But here
we are at the theatre, Carlos, and this acrimonious debate is closed--
until we take our next walk together."
In front of the theatre, soldiers were on duty, marching up and down
with muskets on their shoulders, to show that the state was mighty and
could take charge of a theatre as well as conduct a war. There were
many loungers about, which might have indicated to a person who did not
know, that there would be a good house when the play began. The two
actors met the manager in the throng near the door.
"How are prospects to-night?" asked Dupre.
"Very poor," replied the manager. "Not half a dozen seats have been
"Then it isn't worth while beginning?"
"We must begin," said the manager, lowering his voice, "the President
has ordered me not to close the theatre."
"Oh, hang the President!" cried Lemoine impatiently. "Why doesn't he
put a stop to the war, and then the theatre would remain open of its
"He is doing his best to put a stop to the war, only his army does not
carry out his orders as implicitly as our manager does," said Dupre,
smiling at the other's vehemence.
"Balmeceda is a fool," retorted the younger actor. "If he were out of
the way, the war would not last another day. I believe he is playing a
losing game, anyhow. It's a pity he hasn't to go to the front himself,
and then a stray bullet might find him and put an end to the war, which
would save the lives of many better men."
"I say, Lemoine, I wish you wouldn't talk like that," expostulated the
manager gently, "especially when there are so many listeners."
"Oh! the larger my audience, the better I like it," rejoined Lemoine.
"I have all an actor's vanity in that respect. I say what I think, and
I don't care who hears me."
"Yes, but you forget that we are, in a measure, guests of this country,
and we should not abuse our hosts, or the man who represents them."
"Ah, does he represent them? It seems to me you beg the whole question;
that's just what the war is about. The general opinion is that
Balmeceda misrepresents them, and that the country would be glad to be
rid of him."
"That may all be," said the manager almost in a whisper, for he was a
man evidently inclined towards peace; "but it does not rest with us to
say so. We are French, and I think, therefore, it is better not to
express an opinion."
"I'm not French," cried Lemoine. "I'm a native Chilian, and I have a
right to abuse my own country if I choose to do so."
"All the more reason, then," said the manager, looking timorously over
his shoulder--"all the more reason that you should be careful what you
"I suppose," said Dupre, by way of putting an end to the discussion,
"it is time for us to get our war-paint on. Come along, Lemoine, and
lecture me on our common art, and stop talking politics, if the
nonsense you utter about Chili and its president is politics."
The two actors entered the theatre; they occupied the same dressing-
room, and the volatile Lemoine talked incessantly.
Although there were but few people in the stalls the gallery was well
filled, as was usually the case.
When going on for the last act in the final scene, Dupre whispered a
word to the man who controlled the falling of the curtain, and when the
actor, as the villain of the piece, received the fatal knife-thrust
from the ill-used heroine, he plunged forward on his face and died
without a struggle, to the amazement of the manager, who was watching
the play from the front of the house, and to the evident bewilderment
of the gallery, who had counted on an exciting struggle with death.
Much as they desired the cutting off of the villain, they were not
pleased to see him so suddenly shift his worlds without an agonising
realisation of the fact that he was quitting an existence in which he
had done nothing but evil. The curtain came down upon the climax, but
there was no applause, and the audience silently filtered out into the
"There," said Dupre, when he returned to his dressing-room; "I hope you
are satisfied now, Lemoine, and if you are, you are the only satisfied
person in the house. I fell perfectly flat, as you suggested, and you
must have seen that the climax of the play fell flat also."
"Nevertheless," persisted Lemoine, stoutly, "it was the true rendering
of the part."
As they were talking the manager came into their dressing-room. "Good
heavens, Dupre!" he said, "why did you end the piece in that idiotic
way? What on earth got into you?"
"The knife," said Dupre, flippantly. "It went directly through the
heart, and Lemoine here insists that when that happens a man should
fall dead instantly. I did it to please Lemoine."
"But you spoiled your curtain," protested the manager.
"Yes, I knew that would happen, and I told Lemoine so; but he insists
on art for art's sake. You must expostulate with Lemoine, although I
don't mind telling you both frankly that I don't intend to die in that
"Well, I hope not," replied the manager. "I don't want you to kill the
play as well as yourself, you know, Dupre."
Lemoine, whose face had by this time become restored to its normal
appearance, retorted hotly--
"It all goes to show how we are surrounded and hampered by the
traditions of the stage. The gallery wants to see a man die all over
the place, and so the victim has to scatter the furniture about and
make a fool of himself generally, when he should quietly succumb to a
well-deserved blow. You ask any physician and he will tell you that a
man stabbed or shot through the heart collapses at once. There is no
jumping-jack business in such a case. He doesn't play at leapfrog with
the chairs and sofas, but sinks instantly to the floor and is done
"Come along, Lemoine," cried Dupre, putting on his coat, "and stop
talking nonsense. True art consists in a judicious blending of the
preconceived ideas of the gallery with the usual facts of the case. An
instantaneous photograph of a trotting-horse is doubtless technically
and absolutely correct, yet it is not a true picture of the animal in
"Then you admit," said Lemoine, quickly, "that I am technically correct
in what I state about the result of such a wound."
"I admit nothing," said Dupre. "I don't believe you are correct in
anything you say about the matter. I suppose the truth is that no two
men die alike under the same circumstances."
"They do when the heart is touched."
"What absurd nonsense you talk! No two men act alike when the heart is
touched in love, why then should they when it is touched in death? Come
along to the hotel, and let us stop this idiotic discussion."
"Ah!" sighed Lemoine, "you will throw your chances away. You are too
careless, Dupre; you do not study enough. This kind of thing is all
very well in Chili, but it will wreck your chances when you go to
Paris. If you studied more deeply, Dupre, you would take Paris by
"Thanks," said Dupre, lightly; "but unless the rebels take this city by
storm, and that shortly, we may never see Paris again. To tell the
truth, I have no heart for anything but the heroine's knife. I am sick
and tired of the situation here."
As Dupre spoke they met a small squad of soldiers coming briskly
towards the theatre. The man in charge evidently recognised them, for,
saying a word to his men, they instantly surrounded the two actors. The
sergeant touched Lemoine on the shoulder, and said--
"It is my duty to arrest you, sir."
"In Heaven's name, why?" asked Lemoine.
The man did not answer, but a soldier stepped to either side of
"Am I under arrest also?" asked Dupre.
"By what authority do you arrest my friend?" inquired Dupre.
"By the President's order."
"But where is your authority? Where are your papers? Why is this arrest
The sergeant shook his head and said--
"We have the orders of the President, and that is sufficient for us.
Stand back, please!"
The next instant Dupre found himself alone, with the squad and their
prisoner disappearing down a back street. For a moment he stood there
as if dazed, then he turned and ran as fast as he could, back to the
theatre again, hoping to meet a carriage for hire on the way. Arriving
at the theatre, he found the lights out, and the manager on the point
"Lemoine has been arrested," he cried; "arrested by a squad of soldiers
whom we met, and they said they acted by order of the President."
The manager seemed thunderstruck by the intelligence, and gazed
helplessly at Dupre.
"What is the charge?" he said at last.
"That I do not know," answered the actor. "They simply said they were
acting under the President's orders."
"This is bad; as bad as can be," said the manager, looking over his
shoulder, and speaking as if in fear. "Lemoine has been talking
recklessly. I never could get him to realise that he was in Chili, and
that he must not be so free in his speech. He always insisted that this
was the nineteenth century, and a man could say what he liked; as if
the nineteenth century had anything to do with a South American
"You don't imagine," said Dupre, with a touch of pallor coming into his
cheeks, "that this is anything serious. It will mean nothing more than
a day or two in prison at the worst?"
The manager shook his head and said--
"We had better get a carriage and see the President as soon as
possible. I'll undertake to send Lemoine back to Paris, or to put him
on board one of the French ironclads. But there is no time to be lost.
We can probably get a carriage in the square."
They found a carriage and drove as quickly as they could to the
residence of the President. At first they were refused admittance, but
finally they were allowed to wait in a small room while their message
was taken to Balmeceda. An hour passed, but still no invitation came to
them from the President. The manager sat silent in a corner, while
Dupre paced up and down the small room, torn with anxiety about his
friend. At last an officer entered, and presented them with the
compliments of the President, who regretted that it was impossible for
him to see them that night. The officer added, for their information,
by order of the President, that Lemoine was to be shot at daybreak. He
had been tried by court-martial and condemned to death for sedition.
The President regretted having kept them waiting so long, but the
court-martial had been sitting when they arrived, and the President
thought that perhaps they would be interested in knowing the verdict.
With that the officer escorted the two dumb-founded men to the door,
where they got into their carriage without a word. The moment they were
out of earshot the manager said to the coachman--
"Drive as quickly as you can to the residence of the French Minister."
Every one at the French Legation had retired when these two panic-
stricken men reached there, but after a time the secretary consented to
see them, and, on learning the seriousness of the case, he undertook to
arouse his Excellency, and learn if anything could be done.
The Minister entered the room shortly after, and listened with interest
to what they had to say.
"You have your carriage at the door?" he asked, when they had finished
"Then I will take it and see the President at once. Perhaps you will
wait here until I return."
Another hour dragged its slow length along, and they were well into the
second hour before the rattle of wheels was heard in the silent street.
The Minister came in, and the two anxious men saw by his face that he
had failed in his mission.
"I am sorry to say," said his Excellency, "that I have been unable even
to get the execution postponed. I did not understand, when I undertook
the mission, that M. Lemoine was a citizen of Chili. You see that fact
puts the matter entirely out of my hands. I am powerless. I could only
advise the President not to carry out his intentions; but he is to-
night in a most unreasonable and excited mood, and I fear nothing can
be done to save your friend. If he had been a citizen of France, of
course this execution would not have been permitted to take place; but,
as it is, it is not our affair. M. Lemoine seems to have been talking
with some indiscretion. He does not deny it himself, nor does he deny
his citizenship. If he had taken a conciliatory attitude at the court-
martial, the result might not have been so disastrous; but it seems
that he insulted the President to his face, and predicted that he
would, within two weeks, meet him in Hades. The utmost I could do, was
to get the President to sign a permit for you to see your friend, if
you present it at the prison before the execution takes place. I fear
you have no time to lose. Here is the paper."
Dupre took the document, and thanked his Excellency for his exertions
on their behalf. He realised that Lemoine had sealed his own fate by
his independence and lack of tact.
The two dejected men drove from the Legation and through the deserted
streets to the prison. They were shown through several stone-paved
rooms to a stone-paved courtyard, and there they waited for some time
until the prisoner was brought in between two soldiers. Lemoine had
thrown off his coat, and appeared in his shirt sleeves. He was not
manacled or bound in any way, there being too many prisoners for each
one to be allowed the luxury of fetters.
"Ah," cried Lemoine when he saw them, "I knew you would come if that
old scoundrel of a President would allow you in, of which I had my
doubts. How did you manage it?"
"The French Minister got us a permit," said Dupre.
"Oh, you went to him, did you? Of course he could do nothing, for, as I
told you, I have the misfortune to be a citizen of this country. How
comically life is made up of trivialities. I remember once, in Paris,
going with a friend to take the oath of allegiance to the French
"And did you take it?" cried Dupre eagerly.
"Alas, no! We met two other friends, and we all adjourned to a cafe and
had something to drink. I little thought that bottle of champagne was
going to cost me my life, for, of course, if I had taken the oath of
allegiance, my friend, the French Minister, would have bombarded the
city before he would have allowed the execution to go on."
"Then you know to what you are condemned," said the manager, with tears
in his eyes.
"Oh, I know that Balmeceda thinks he is going to have me shot; but then
he always was a fool, and never knew what he was talking about. I told
him if he would allow you two in at the execution, and instead of
having a whole squad to fire at me, order one expert marksman, if he
had such a thing in his whole army, to shoot me through the heart, that
I would show you, Dupre, how a man dies under such circumstances, but
the villain refused. The usurper has no soul for art, or anything else,
for that matter. I hope you won't mind my death. I assure you I don't
mind it myself. I would much rather be shot than live in this
confounded country any longer. But I have made up my mind to cheat old
Balmeceda if I can, and I want you, Dupre, to pay particular attention,
and not to interfere."
As Lemoine said this he quickly snatched from the sheath at the
soldier's side the bayonet which hung at his hip. The soldiers were
standing one to the right, and one to the left of him, with their hands
interlaced over the muzzles of their guns, whose butts rested on the
stone floor. They apparently paid no attention to the conversation that
was going on, if they understood it, which was unlikely. Lemoine had
the bayonet in his hands before either of the four men present knew
what he was doing.
Grasping both hands over the butt of the bayonet, with the point
towards his breast, he thrust the blade with desperate energy nearly
through his body. The whole action was done so quickly that no one
realised what had happened until Lemoine threw his hands up and they
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