What Dreams May Come
Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Part 2 out of 3
Dartmouth, who always gave to novelty its just meed of appreciation.
At this period, in fact, Dartmouth's frame of mind left nothing to be
desired. In the first place, it was a delightful experience to find
himself able to stand the uninterrupted society of one woman from
morning till night, day after day, without a suggestion of fatigue.
And in the second, he found her a charming study. It is true that he
was very much in love, very sincerely and passionately in love; but
at the same time, his brain had been trained through too many years to
the habit of analysis; he could no more help studying Weir and drawing
her on to reveal herself than he could help loving her. She was not a
difficult problem to solve, individual as she was, because she was so
natural. Her experience with the world had been too brief to give her
an opportunity to encase herself in any shell which would not fall
from her at the first reaction to primitive conditions; and above all,
she was in love.
In the love of a woman there is always a certain element of
childishness, which has a reflex, if but temporary action upon her
whole nature. The phenomenon is due partly to the fact that she is
under the dominant influence of a wholly natural instinct, partly to
the fact that the object of her love is of stronger make than herself,
mentally, spiritually, and physically. This sense of dependence and
weakness, and, consequently, of extreme youth, remains until she
has children. Then, under the influence of peculiarly strong
responsibilities, she gives her youth to them, and with it the
plasticity of her nature.
At present Weir was in the stage where she analyzed herself for her
lover's benefit, and confided to him every sensation she had ever
experienced; and he encouraged her. He had frequently encouraged other
women to do the same thing, and in each case, after the first few
chapters, he had found it a good deal of a bore. The moment a woman
falls in love, that moment she becomes an object of paramount interest
in her own eyes. All her life she has regarded herself from the
outside; her wants and needs have been purely objective; consequently
she has not known herself, and her spiritual nature has claimed but
little of her attention. But under the influence of love she plunges
into herself, as it were, and her life for the time being is purely
subjective. She broadens, expands, develops, concentrates; and her
successive evolutions are a perpetual source of delight and absorbing
study. Moreover, her sense of individuality grows and flourishes,
and becomes so powerful that she is unalterably certain--until it is
over--that her experience is an isolated and wholly remarkable
one. Naturally she must talk to someone; she is teeming with her
discoveries, her excursions into the heretofore unexplored depths
of human nature; the necessity for a confidant is not one to be
withstood, and who so natural or understanding a confidant as her
lover? If the lover be a clever man and an analyst, he is profoundly
interested at first, particularly if she have some trick of mind which
gives her, or seems to give her, the smack of individuality. If he be
a true lover, and a man with any depth of feeling and of mind, he
does not tire, of course; but otherwise he eventually becomes either
oppressed or frightened; he either wishes that women would not take
themselves so seriously and forget to be amusing, or her belief in her
peculiar and absolute originality communicates itself to him, and he
does not feel equal to handling and directing so remarkable a passion.
There was no question about the strength and verity of Dartmouth's
love for Weir, and he had yet to be daunted by anything in life;
consequently he found his present course of psychological research
without flaw. Moreover, the quaintness of her nature pervaded all
her ideas. She had an old-fashioned simplicity and directness which,
combined with a charming quality of mind and an unusual amount of
mental development, gave her that impress of originality which he had
recognized and been attracted by. He was gratified also to find that
the old-time stateliness, almost primness, which had been to him
from the first her chiefest exterior charm did not disappear with
association. She might sit on a rock muffled to her ears in furs, and
with her feet dangling in the air, and yet manage to look as dignified
as a duchess. She might race with him on horseback and clamber down a
cliff with the thoughtlessness of a child, but she always looked as
if she had been brought up on a chessboard. Dartmouth used to tell her
that her peculiarly erect carriage and lofty fashion of carrying her
head gave her the effect of surveillance over an invisible crown with
an unreliable fit, and that she stepped like the maiden in the fairy
tale who was obliged to walk upon peas. He made a tin halo one day,
and put it suddenly on her head when her back was turned, and she
avenged herself by wearing it until he went down on his knees and
begged her to take it off. When she sat in her carved high-back chair
at the head of her father's table, with the deep collar and cuffs
of linen and heavy lace to which she was addicted, and her dark,
sensuous, haughty, tender face motionless for the moment, against the
dark background of the leather, she looked like a Vandyke; and at such
times Dartmouth's artistic nature was keenly responsive, and he forgot
Dartmouth had been at Rhyd-Alwyn two weeks, when Sir Iltyd turned
to him one night as he was leaving the dining-room and asked him to
follow him into the library for a few moments.
"I feel quite alarmed," said Harold to Weir, as the door closed behind
her father. "Do you suppose he is going to tell me that I do not give
"Harold!" exclaimed Weir, reprovingly, "I wish you would not talk as
if you were a butler; you look much more dignified than you ever talk.
You look like an English nobleman, and you talk like any ordinary
young man about town."
"My dearest girl, would you have me a Sir Charles Grandison? The
English nobleman of your imagination is the gentleman who perambulates
the pages of Miss Burney's novels. The present species and the young
man about town are synonymous animals."
"There you are again! You always make me laugh; I cannot help that;
but I wish you would do yourself justice, nevertheless. You may not
know it, but if you would only put on a ruff and satin doublet and
hose and wig, and all the rest of it, you would look exactly like one
of the courtiers of the court of Queen Elizabeth. You are a perfect
type of the English aristocrat."
"My dear Lady Jane Grey, if you had been an American girl, you would
have said a perfect gentleman, and I should never have spoken to you
again. As a matter of fact, I always feel it a sort of sacrilege that
I do not address you in blank verse; only my attempts thereat are
so very bad. But it is never too late to mend. We will read Pope
together, Shakespeare, and all the rest of the old boys. We will
saturate our minds with their rhythm, and we will thereafter
communicate in stately phrase and rolling periods."
"It would be a great deal better than slang and 'facetiousness,' as
you call it. That is all very well for Lord Bective Hollington; it
suits him; but you should aim at a higher standard."
Dartmouth, who was standing by the chimney-piece near the chair on
which she was sitting, put his hand under her chin and raised her
face, smiling quizzically as he did so.
"My dear child," he said, "you are too clever to fall into the common
error of women, and idealize your lover. The tendency is a constituent
part of the feminine nature, it is true. The average woman will
idealize the old tweed coat on her lover's back. But your eyes are too
clear for that sort of thing. I am a very ordinary young man, my dear.
Becky is twice as clever--"
"He is not!" burst in Weir, indignantly. "A man who can do nothing but
chaff and joke and talk witty nonsense!"
"If you knew him better you would know that under all that persiflage
there is much depth of feeling and passion. I do not claim any unusual
amount of intellectuality for him, but he has a wonderful supply of
hard common-sense, and remarkably quick perceptions. And I have great
respect for his judgment."
"That may be," said Weir, indifferently; "I care nothing about him."
She rose and stood in front of him and leaned her elbows on his
shoulders. "You may underrate yourself, if you like," she went on,
"but I know that you are capable of accomplishing anything you wish,
and of distinguishing yourself. I recall the conversations I have had
with you in your serious moments, if you do not, and I expect you to
be a great man yet."
Dartmouth flung his cigar impatiently into the fire. "My dear girl,
my grandmother preached that same thing to me from the day I was old
enough to reason, to the day she died. But I tell you, Weir, I have
not got it in me. I have the ambition and the desire--yes; but no
marked ability of any sort. Some day, when we are ready to settle
down, I will write, and publish what I write. Men will grant me a
certain standing as a thinker, I believe, and perhaps they will also
give me credit for a certain nice use of words; I have made a study of
literary style all my life. But that is the most I shall ever attain.
I am not a man of any genius or originality, and you may as well make
up your mind to the inevitable at once."
"Harold," said Weir, without taking the slightest notice of his
outburst, "do you remember that extraordinary experience of yours that
night in Paris? I believe you have the soul of a poet in you, only as
yet your brain hasn't got it under control. Did you ever read the life
of Alfieri? He experienced the same desire to write, over and over
again, but could accomplish nothing until after he was thirty.
Disraeli illustrated his struggles for speech in 'Contarini Fleming'
most graphically, you remember."
"Neither Alfieri nor Contarini Fleming ever had any such experience as
mine. Their impulse to write was not only a mental concept as well as
a spiritual longing, but it was abiding. I never really experienced
a desire to write poetry except on that night. I have occasionally
wished that I had the ability, but common-sense withheld me from
brooding over the impossible. The experience of that night is one
which can be explained by no ordinary methods. I can make nothing
of it, and for that reason I prefer not to speak of it. I abominate
"Well," she said, "some day I believe it will be explained. I believe
it was nothing more than an extraordinarily strong impulse to write,
and that you exaggerate it into the supernatural as you look back upon
it. I did not think so when you first told me; you were so dramatic
that you carried me off my feet, and I was an actor in the scene. But
that is the way I look at it now, and I believe I am correct."
"It may be," said Dartmouth, moodily, "but I hope it won't affect me
that way again, that is all." He caught her suddenly to him and kissed
her. "Let us be contented as we are," he said. "Ambition is love's
worst enemy. Geniuses do not make their wives happy."
"They do when their wives understand and are in absolute sympathy with
them," she said, returning his caress; "and that I should always be
with you. But do not imagine that I am in love with the idea of your
being a famous man. I care nothing for fame in itself. It is only that
I believe you to be capable of great things, and that you would be
happier if they were developed."
"Well, well," he said, laughing; "have your own way, as you will in
spite of me. If ever the divine fire lays me in ashes, you may triumph
in your predictions. But I must go and interview your father; I have
kept him waiting too long already."
They went out into the hall, and Dartmouth left her there and went to
the library. Sir Iltyd was sitting before a large table, reading by
the light of a student's lamp, which looked like an anachronism in
the lofty, ancient room. He closed his book as Dartmouth entered, and
rising, waved his hand toward a chair on the other side of the table.
"Will you sit down?" he said; "I should like to have a little talk
Dartmouth obeyed, and waited for the old gentleman to introduce the
subject. Sir Iltyd continued in a moment, taking up a small book and
bringing it down lengthwise on the desk at regular intervals while he
"Of course, you must know, Harold, that it has not taken me two weeks
to discover my personal feelings toward you. I should have liked or
disliked you on the first evening we met, and, as a matter of fact, my
sensations towards you have undergone no change since that night. If
it had happened that I disliked you, I should not have allowed the
fact to bias my judgment as to whether or not you were a suitable
husband for my daughter, but it would not have taken me two weeks
to make up my mind. As it is I have merely delayed my consent as an
unnecessary formality; but perhaps the time has come to say in so many
words that I shall be very glad to give my daughter to you."
"Thank you," said Dartmouth. The words sounded rather bald, but it
was an unusual situation, and he did not know exactly what to say.
Something more was evidently expected of him, however, and he plunged
in recklessly: "I am sure I need not say that I am highly honored
by your regard and your confidence, nor protest that you will never
regret it. To tell you that I loved Weir with all my heart would be
trite, and perhaps it is also unnecessary to add that I am not a man
of 'veering passions'--that is, of course when my heart is engaged as
Sir Iltyd smiled. "I should imagine that the last clause was added
advisedly. I was a man of the world myself in my young days, and
I recognize one in you. Judging from your physiognomy and general
personality I should say that you have loved a good many women, and
have lived in the widest sense of the word."
"Well--yes," admitted Dartmouth, with a laugh. "That sort of thing
leaves a man's heart untouched, however."
"It may, and I am willing to believe that you have given your heart to
Weir for good and all."
"I think I have," said Dartmouth.
And then the question of settlements was broached, and when it had
been satisfactorily arranged, Dartmouth lingered a few moments longer
in conversation with his host, and then rose to go. Sir Iltyd rose
also and walked with him to the door.
"Do you mind our being married in a month?" asked Dartmouth, as they
crossed the room. "That will give Weir all the time she wants, and we
should like to spend the spring in Rome."
"Very well; let it be in a month. I cannot see that the date is of any
importance; only do not forget me in the summer."
"Oh, no," said Dartmouth; "we expect you to harbor us off and on all
the year around."
And then Sir Iltyd opened the door and bowed with his old-time
courtier-like dignity, and Dartmouth passed out and into the hall.
He found Weir kneeling on the hearth-rug. The hall was an immense
place with a vaulted ceiling upheld by massive beams; the walls were
wainscotted almost to the top with oak which had been polished for
many a century; and the floor, polished also, was covered with rugs
which had been very handsome in their day. There were several superb
suits of armor and a quantity of massive, carved oaken furniture,
extremely uncomfortable but very picturesque. In the open fire-place,
which would have held many more than Harold and Weir within its
depths, great logs were burning. The lamps had been brought in but
had not been turned up, and save for the firelight the great cathedral
apartment was a thicket of shadows, out of which the steel warriors
gleamed, menacing guardians of the girl.
Weir made a pretty picture kneeling on the hearth-rug, with the
fire-light playing on her dark face and pliant figure, in its
closely-fitting black gown, throwing golden flickers on her hair,
and coquetting with the lanterns in her eyes. She rose as Dartmouth
approached, and he gave her one of his brilliant, satisfied smiles.
"We are to be married a month from to-day," he said. "A month from
to-day and we shall be knocking about Europe and pining for English
civilization." He drew her down on the cushioned seat that ran along
the wall by the chimney-piece. "We cannot go out to-night; there is a
storm coming up. Ah, did I not tell you?" as a gust of wind shrieked
and rattled the sash.
She gave a little shiver and drew closer to him. "I hate a storm," she
said. "It always brings back--" she stopped abruptly.
"Brings back what?"
"Nothing," hastily. "So father has given his consent? But I knew he
would. I knew he liked you the moment you met; and when he alluded
that night to your small hands and feet I knew that the cause was won.
Had they been at fault, nothing could have persuaded him that you did
not have a broad river of red blood in you somewhere, and he never
would have approved of you had you been the monarch of a kingdom."
Dartmouth smiled. "The men at college used to laugh at my hands, until
I nearly choked one of them to death one day, after which they never
laughed at them again. There is no doubt now about my having been
destined at birth for a Welsh maiden, and equipped accordingly. But
you know your father pretty thoroughly."
"I have lived alone with him so long that I can almost read his mind,
and I certainly know his peculiarities."
"It must have been a terribly lonely life for you. How old were you
when your mother died?"
She moved with the nervous motion habitual to her whenever her
mother's name was mentioned. "I was about nine," she said.
"_Nine_? And yet you remember nothing of her? Weir, it is impossible
that you cannot remember her."
"I do not remember her," she said.
"I saw her picture in the library to-night. She must have been very
beautiful, but like you only in being dark. Otherwise, there is not a
trace of resemblance. But surely you must remember her, Weir; you are
joking. I can remember when I was four years of age perfectly, and
many things that happened."
"I remember nothing that happened before I was nine years old," she
He bent down suddenly and looked into her face. "Weir, what do you
mean? There is always an uncomfortable suggestion of mystery whenever
one speaks of your mother or your childhood. What is the reason you
cannot remember? Did you have brain fever, and when you recovered,
find your mind a blank? Such things have happened."
"No," she said, desperately, as if she had nerved herself for an
effort. "That was not it. I have often wanted to tell you, but I
cannot bear to speak of it. The old horror always comes back when
I think of it. But I feel that I ought to tell you before we are
married, and I will do so now since we are speaking of it. I did not
have brain fever, but when I was nine years old--I died."
"Yes, it is true. They called it catalepsy, a trance; but it was not;
I was really dead. I was thrown from a horse a few months after my
mother's death, and killed instantly. They laid me in the family
vault, but my father had ice put about me and would not have me
covered, and went every hour to see me, as he told me afterward. I
remember nothing; and they say that when people are in a trance they
are conscious of everything that passes around them. I knew nothing
until one night I suddenly opened my eyes and looked about me. It was
just such a night as this, only in mid-winter; the wind was howling
and shrieking, and the terrible gusts shook the vault in which I lay.
The ocean roared like thunder, and I could hear it hurl itself in its
fury against the rocks at the foot of the castle. A lamp was burning
at my feet, and by its flickering light I could see in their niches
on every side of me the long lines of dead who had lain there for
centuries. And I was alone with them, locked in with them; no living
creature within call! And I was so deathly cold. There was a great
block of ice on my chest, and slabs of it were packed about my limbs
so tightly that I could not move. I could only feel that horrible,
glassy cold which I knew had frozen the marrow in my bones and turned
my blood to jelly; and the pain of it was something which I have no
words to describe. I tried to call out, but the ice was on my chest,
and I could hardly breathe. Then for a moment I lay trying to collect
my thoughts. I did not know where I was. I did not know that I was in
the vault of my ancestors. I only felt that I had been wandering and
wandering in some dim, far-off land looking for someone I could never
find, and that suddenly I had come into another world and found rest.
But although I did not know that I was in the vault at Rhyd-Alwyn, and
that my name was Weir Penrhyn, I knew that I was laid out as a corpse,
and that the dead were about me. Child as I was, it seemed to me that
I must go frantic with the horror of the thing, stretched out in that
ghastly place, a storm roaring about me, bound hand and foot, unable
to cry for help. I think that if I had been left there all night I
should have died again or lost my mind, but in a moment I heard a
noise at the grating and men's voices.
"'I must go in and see her once more,' I heard a strange voice say.
'It seems cruelty to leave her alone in this storm.' And then a
man came in and bent over me. In a moment he called sharply,
'Madoc!--bring me the light.' And then another man came, and I looked
up into two strange, eager, almost terrified faces. I heard incoherent
and excited voices, then the ice was dashed off my chest and I was
caught up in a pair of strong arms and borne swiftly to the house.
They took me to a great blazing fire and wrapped me in blankets and
poured hot drinks down my throat, and soon that terrible chill began
to leave me and the congealed blood in my veins to thaw. And in a few
days I was as well as ever again. But I remembered no one. I had to
become acquainted with them all as with the veriest strangers. I had
the natural intelligence of my years, but nothing more. Between the
hour of my soul's flight from its body and that of its return it had
been robbed of every memory. I remembered neither my mother nor any
incident of my childhood. I could not find my way over the castle,
and the rocks on which I had lived since infancy were strangers to me.
Everything was a blank up to the hour when I opened my eyes and found
myself between the narrow walls of a coffin."
"Upon my word!" exclaimed Dartmouth. "Why, you are a regular heroine
of a sensational novel."
Weir sprang to her feet and struck her hands fiercely together,
her eyes blazing. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself," she
cried, passionately. "Can you never be serious? Must you joke about
everything? I believe you will find something to laugh at in the
marriage service. That thing I have told you is the most serious and
horrible experience of my life, and yet you treat it as if I were
acting a part in a melodrama in a third-rate theatre! Sometimes I
think I hate you."
Dartmouth caught her in his arms and forced her to sit down again
beside him. "My dear girl," he said, "why is it that a woman can never
understand that when a man feels most he chaffs, especially if he has
cultivated the beastly habit. Your story stirred me powerfully; the
more so because such things do not happen to every-day girls--"
"Do not wrong me; I am in dead earnest. As a plain matter of fact, I
never heard of anything so horrible. Thank heaven it happened when you
were so young! No woman's will and spirit could rise superior to such
a memory if it were a recent one. But am I forgiven?"
"As you are perfectly incorrigible, I suppose there is no use being
angry with you," she said, still with a little pout on her lips. "But
I will forgive you on one condition only."
"You are never to mention the subject to me again after to-night."
"I never will; but tell me, has the memory of your childhood never
come back for a moment?"
"Never. All I remember is that sense of everlasting wandering and
looking for something. For a long while I was haunted with the idea
that there was something I still must find. I never could discover
what it was, but it has left me now. If you had not been so unkind, I
should have said that it is because I am too happy for mysterious and
somewhat supernatural longings."
"But as it is, you won't. It was an odd feeling to have, though.
Perhaps it was a quest for the memories of your childhood--for a lost
existence, as it were. If ever it comes again, tell me, and we will
try and work it out together."
"Harold!" she exclaimed, smiling outright this time, "you will be
trying to analyze the cobwebs of heaven before long."
"No," he said, "they are too dense."
It was eleven o'clock when they parted for the night. Dartmouth went
up to his room and sat down at his desk to write a letter to his
father. In a moment he threw down the pen; he was not in a humor
for writing. He picked up a book (he never went to bed until he felt
sleepy), and crossed the room and sat down before the fire. But he
had not read two pages when he dropped it with an exclamation of
impatience: the story Weir had told him was written between every
line. She had told it so vividly and realistically that she had
carried him with her and almost curdled his blood. He had answered her
with a joke, because, in spite of the fact that he had been strongly
affected, he was angry as well. He hated melodrama, and the idea of
Weir having had an experience which read like a sensational column in
a newspaper was extremely distasteful to him. He sympathized with her
with all his heart, but he had a strong distaste for anything
which savored of the supernatural. Nevertheless, he was obliged to
acknowledge that this horrible, if commonplace experience of Weir's
had taken possession of his mind, and refused to be evicted. The scene
kept presenting itself in all its details again and again, and finally
he jumped to his feet in disgust and determined to go to the long
gallery which overhung the sea, and watch the storm. Rhyd-Alwyn was
built on a steep cliff directly on the coast, and exposed to all the
fury of the elements. In times of storm, and when the waves were high,
the spray flew up against the lower windows.
He left his room and went down the wide hall, then turned into a
corridor, which terminated in a gallery that had been built as a sort
of observatory. The gallery was long and very narrow, and the floor
was bare. But there were seats under the windows, and on a table were
a number of books; it was a place Dartmouth and Weir were very fond of
when it was not too cold.
It was a clear, moonlit night, in spite of the storm. There was no
rain; it was simply a battle of wind and waves. Dartmouth stood at one
of the windows and looked out over the angry waters. The billows were
piling one above the other, black, foam-crested, raging like wild
animals beneath the lash of the shrieking wind. Moon and stars gazed
down calmly, almost wonderingly, holding their unperturbed watch
over the war below. Sublime, forceful, the sight suited the somewhat
excited condition of Dartmouth's mind. Moreover, he was beginning to
feel that one of his moods was insidiously creeping upon him: not an
attack like the last, but a general feeling of melancholy. If he could
only put that wonderful scene before him into verse, what a solace
and distraction the doing of it would be! He could forget--he pulled
himself together with something like terror. In another moment there
would be a repetition of that night in Paris. The best thing he could
do was to go back to his room and take an anodyne.
He turned to leave the gallery, but as he did so he paused suddenly.
Far down, at the other end, something was slowly coming toward him.
The gallery was very long and ill-lighted by the narrow, infrequent
windows, and he could not distinguish whom it was. He stood, however,
involuntarily waiting for it to approach him. But how slowly it came,
as one groping or one walking in a dream! Then, as it gradually
neared him, he saw that it was a woman, dimly outlined, but still
unmistakably a woman. He spoke, but there was no answer, nothing but
the echo of his voice through the gallery. Someone trying to play a
practical joke upon him! Perhaps it was Weir: it would be just like
her. He walked forward quickly, but before he had taken a dozen
steps the advancing figure came opposite one of the windows, and the
moonlight fell about it. Dartmouth started back and caught his breath
as if someone had struck him. For a moment his pulses stood still, and
sense seemed suspended. Then he walked quickly forward and stood in
front of her.
"Sioned!" he said, in a low voice which thrilled through the room.
"Sioned!" He put out his hand and took hers. It was ice-cold, and its
contact chilled him to the bone; but his clasp grew closer and his
eyes gazed into hers with passionate longing.
"I am dead," she said. "I am dead, and I am so cold." She drew closer
and peered up into his face. "I have found you at last," she went on,
"but I wandered so far. There was no nook or corner of Eternity in
which I did not search. But although we went together, we were hurled
to the opposite poles of space before our spiritual eyes had met, and
an unseen hand directed us ever apart. I was alone, alone, in a great,
gray, boundless land, with but the memory of those brief moments of
happiness to set at bay the shrieking host of regrets and remorse
and repentance which crowded about me. I floated on and on and on for
millions and millions of miles; but of you, my one thought on earth,
my one thought in Eternity, I could find no trace, not even the
whisper of your voice in passing. I tossed myself upon a hurrying wind
and let it carry me whither it would. It gathered strength and haste
as it flew, and whirled me out into the night, nowhere, everywhere.
And then it slackened--and moaned--and then, with one great sob, it
died, and once more I was alone in space and an awful silence. And
then a voice came from out the void and said to me, 'Go down; he
is there;' and I knew that he meant to Earth, and for a moment I
rebelled. To go back to that terrible--But on Earth there had been
nothing so desolate as this--and if you were there! So I came--and I
have found you at last."
She put her arms about him and drew him down onto the low window-seat.
He shivered at her touch, but felt no impulse to resist her will, and
she pressed his head down upon her cold breast. Then, suddenly, all
things changed; the gallery, the moonlight, the white-robed, ice-cold
woman faded from sense. The storm was no longer in his ears nor
were the waves at his feet. He was standing in a dusky Eastern room,
familiar and dear to him. Tapestries of rich stuffs were about him,
and the skins of wild animals beneath his feet. Beyond, the twilight
stole through a window, but did not reach where he stood. And in his
close embrace was the woman he loved, with the stamp on her face
of suffering, of desperate resolution, and of conscious, welcomed
weakness. And in his face was the regret for wasted years and
possibilities, and a present, passionate gladness; _that_ he could see
in the mirror of the eyes over which the lids were slowly falling....
And the woman wore a clinging, shining yellow gown, and a blaze of
jewels in her hair. What was said he hardly knew. It was enough to
feel that a suddenly-born, passionate joy was making his pulses leap
and his head reel; to know that heaven had come to him in this soft,
quiet Southern night.
* * * * *
Dartmouth opened his eyes and looked about him. The storm had died,
the waves were at rest, and he was alone. He let his head fall back
against the frame of the window, and his eyes closed once more. What a
dream!--so vivid!--so realistic! Was it not his actual life? Could
he take up the threads of another? He felt ten years older; and,
retreating down the dim, remote corridors of his brain, were trooping
memories of a long, regretted, troubled, eventful past. In a moment
they had vanished like ghosts and left no trace; he could recall none
of them. He opened his eyes again and looked down the gallery, and
gradually his perceptions grasped its familiar lines, and he was
himself once more. He rose to his feet and put his hand to his head.
That woman whom he had taken for the ghost of one dead and gone had
been Weir, of course. She had arisen in her sleep and attired herself
like the grandmother whose living portrait she was; she had piled up
her hair and caught her white gown up under her bosom; and, in the
shadows and mystery of night, small wonder that she had looked as if
the canvas in the gallery below had yielded her up! But what had her
words meant?--her words, and that dream?--but no--they were not what
he wanted. There had been something else--what was it? He felt as if a
mist had newly arisen to cloud his faculties. There had been something
else which had made him not quite himself as he had stood there with
his arms about the woman who had been Weir, and yet not Weir. Above
the pain and joy and passion which had shaken him, there had been
an unmistakable perception of--an attribute--a quality--of another
sort--of a power, of which he, Harold Dartmouth, had never been
conscious--of--of--ah, yes! of the power to pour out at the feet of
that woman, in richest verse, the love she had awakened, and make them
both immortal. What were the words? They had been written legibly in
his brain; he remembered now. He had seen and read them--yes, at last,
at last! "Her face! her form!" No! no! not that again. Oh, why would
they not come? They had been there, the words; the sense must be
there, the inspiration, the battling for voice and victory. They were
ready to pour through his speech in a flood of song, but that iron
hand forced them back--down, down, setting blood and brain on fire.
Ah! what was that? Far off, at the end of some long gallery, there
was a sweet, dying strain of music, and there were words--gathering in
volume; they were rolling on; they were coming; they were thundering
through his brain in a mighty chorus! There! he had grasped them--No!
that iron hand had grasped them--and was hurling them back. In another
moment it would have forced them down into their cell and turned
the key! He must catch and hold one of them! Yes, he had it! Oh!
victory!--"Her eyes, her hair."
Dartmouth thrust out his hands as if fighting with a physical enemy,
and he looked as if he had been through the agonies of death. The
conflict in his brain had suddenly ceased, but his physical strength
was exhausted. He turned and walked uncertainly to his room; then he
collected his scattered wits sufficiently to drop some laudanum and
take it, that he might ward off, if possible, the attack of physical
and spiritual prostration which had been the result of a former
experience of a similar kind. Then, dressed as he was, he flung
himself on the bed and slept.
When Dartmouth awoke the next day, the sun was streaming across the
bed and Jones's anxious face was bending over him.
"Oh, Mr. 'Arold," exclaimed Jones, "you've got it again."
Dartmouth laughed aloud. "One would think I had delirium tremens," he
He put his hand over his eyes, and struggled with the desire to have
the room darkened. The melancholy had fastened itself upon him, and he
knew that for three or four days he was to be the victim of one of
his unhappiest moods. The laudanum had lulled his brain and prevented
violent reaction after its prolonged tension; but his spirits were at
zero, and his instinct was to shut out the light and succumb to his
enemy without resistance. If he had been anywhere but at Rhyd-Alwyn
he would not have thought twice about it; but if he shut himself up
in his room, not only would Weir be frightened and unhappy, but it
was probable that Sir Iltyd would question the desirability of a
son-in-law who was given to prolonged and uncontrollable attacks of
the blues. He dressed and went down-stairs, but Weir was nowhere to be
found, and after a search through the various rooms and corners of the
castle which she was in the habit of frequenting, he met her maid
and was informed that Miss Penrhyn was not well and would not come
down-stairs before dinner. The news was very unwelcome to Dartmouth.
Weir at least would have been a distraction. Now he must get through a
dismal day, and fight his enemy by himself. To make matters worse, it
was raining, and he could not go out and ride or hunt. He went into
Sir Iltyd's library and talked to him for the rest of the morning. Sir
Iltyd was not exciting, at his best, and to-day he had a bad cold; so
after lunch Dartmouth went up to his tower and resigned himself to his
own company. He sat down before the fire, and taking his head between
his hands allowed the blue devils to triumph. He felt dull as well as
depressed; but for a time he made an attempt to solve the problem of
the phenomenon to which he had been twice subjected. That it was a
phenomenon he did not see any reason to doubt. If he had spent his
life in a vain attempt to write poetry and an unceasing wish for the
necessary inspiration, there would be nothing remarkable in his mind
yielding suddenly to the impetus of accumulated pressure, wrenching
itself free of the will's control, and dashing off on a wild excursion
of its own. But he had never voluntarily taken a pen in his hand
to make verse, nor had he even felt the desire to possess the gift,
except as a part of general ambition. He may have acknowledged the
regret that he could not immortalize himself by writing a great poem,
but the regret was the offspring of personal ambition, not of yearning
poetical instinct. But the most extraordinary phase of the matter was
that such a tempest could take place in a brain as well regulated
as his own. He was eminently a practical man, and a good deal of a
thinker. He had never been given to flights of imagination, and even
in his attacks of melancholy, although his will might be somewhat
enfeebled, his brain could always work clearly and cleverly. The
lethargy which had occasionally got the best of him had invariably
been due to violent nervous shock or strain, and was as natural as
excessive bodily languor after violent physical effort. Why, then,
should his brain twice have acted as if he had sown it with eccentric
weeds all his life, instead of planting it with the choicest seeds he
could obtain, and watering and cultivating them with a patience and an
interest which had been untiring?
But the explanation of his attempt to put his unborn poem into words
gave him less thought to-day than it had after its first occurrence;
there were other phases of last night's experience weirder and
more unexplainable still. Paramount, of course, was the vision or
dream--which would seem to have been induced by some magnetic property
possessed and exerted by Weir. Such things do not occur without
cause, and he was not the sort of man to yield himself, physically and
mentally, his will and his perceptions, to the unconscious caprice
of a somnambulist. And the scene had cut itself so deeply into the
tablets of his memory that he found himself forgetting more than once
that it was not an actual episode of his past. He wished he could see
Weir, and hear her account of her mental experiences of those hours.
If her dream should have been a companion to his, then the explanation
would suggest itself that the scene might have been a vagary of her
brain; that in some way which he did not pretend to explain, she had
hypnotized him, and that his brain had received a photographic imprint
of what had been in hers. It would then be merely a sort of telepathy.
But why should she have dreamed a dream in which they both were so
unhappily metamorphosed? and why should it have produced so powerful
an impression upon his waking sense? And why, strangest of all, had
he, without thought or self-surprise, gone to her, and with his soul
stirred to its depths, called her "Sioned"? True, she had almost
disguised herself, and had been the living counterfeit of Sioned
Penrhyn; but that was no reason why he should have called a woman who
had belonged to his grandmother's time by her first name. Could
Weir, thoroughly imbued with the character she was unconsciously
representing, have exercised her hypnotic power from the moment she
entered the gallery, and left him without power to think or feel
except through her own altered perceptions? He thrust out his foot
against the fender, almost overturning it, and, throwing back his
head, clasped his hands behind it and scowled at the black ceiling
above him. He was a man who liked things explained, and he felt both
sullen and angry that he should have had an experience which baffled
his powers of analysis and reason. His partial solution gave him no
satisfaction, and he had the uncomfortable sense of actual mystery,
and a premonition of something more to come. This, however, he was
willing to attribute to the depressed condition of his spirits, which
threw its gloom over every object, abstract and concrete, and
which induced the tendency to exaggerate any strange or unpleasant
experience of which he had been the victim. It was useless to try to
think of anything else; his brain felt as if it had resolved itself
into a kaleidoscope, through which those three scenes shifted
eternally. Finally, he fell asleep, and did not awaken until it was
time to dress for dinner. Before he left his room, Weir's maid knocked
at his door and handed him a note, in which the lady of Rhyd-Alwyn
apologized for leaving him to himself for an entire day, and announced
that she would not appear at dinner, but would meet him in the
drawing-room immediately thereafter. Dartmouth read the note through
with a puzzled expression: it was formal and stilted, even for Weir.
She was gone when he came to his senses in the gallery the night
before. Had she awakened and become conscious of the situation? It was
not a pleasant reminiscense for a girl to have, and he felt honestly
sorry for her. Then he groaned in spirit at the prospect of an hour's
tete-a-tete with Sir Iltyd. He liked Sir Iltyd very much, and thought
him possessed of several qualifications valuable in a father-in-law,
among them his devotion to his library; but in his present frame of
mind he felt that history and politics were topics he would like to
relegate out of existence.
He put the best face on the situation he could muster, however, and
managed to conceal from Sir Iltyd the fact that his spirits were in
other than their normal condition. The old baronet's eyes were not
very sharp, particularly when he had a cold, and he was not disposed
to notice Harold's pallor and occasional fits of abstraction, so long
as one of his favorite topics was under discussion. When Dartmouth
found that he had got safely through the dinner, he felt that he
had accomplished a feat which would have rejoiced the heart of his
grandmother, and he thought that his reward could not come a moment
too soon. Accordingly, for the first time since he had been at
Rhyd-Alwyn, he declined to sit with Sir Iltyd over the wine, and went
at once in search of Weir.
As he opened the door of the drawing-room he found the room in
semi-darkness, lighted only by the last rays of the setting sun, which
strayed through the window. He went in, but did not see Weir. She was
not in her accustomed seat by the fire, and he was about to call her
name, when he came to a sudden halt, and for the moment every faculty
but one seemed suspended. A woman was standing by the open window
looking out over the water. She had not heard him, and had not turned
her head. Dartmouth felt a certain languor, as of one who is dreaming,
and is half-conscious that he is dreaming, and therefore yields
unresistingly to the pranks of his sleeping brain. Was it Weir, or was
it the woman who had been a part of his vision last night? She wore a
long, shining yellow dress, and her arms and neck were bare. Surely it
was the other woman! She turned her head a little, and he saw her face
in profile; there was the same stamp of suffering, the same pallor.
Weir had never looked like that; before he had known her she had had,
sometimes, a little expression of sadness and abstraction which had
made her look very picturesque, but which had borne no relationship
to suffering or experience. And the scene! the room filled with dying
light, the glimpse of water beyond, the very attitude of the woman at
the casement--all were strangely and deeply familiar to him, although
not the details of the vision of last night. The only things that were
wanting were the Eastern hangings to cover the dark wainscotted old
walls, and the skins on the black, time-stained floor.
With a sudden effort of will he threw off the sense of mystery which
had again taken possession of him, and walked forward quickly. As Weir
heard him, she turned her head and met his eyes, and although a closer
look at her face startled him afresh, his brain was his own again,
and he was determined that it should remain so. He might yield to
supernatural impressions when unprepared, but not when both brain and
will were defiantly on the alert. That she was not only unaccountably
altered, but that she shrank from him, was evident; and he was
determined to hear her version of last night's adventure without
delay. He believed that she would unconsciously say something which
would throw a flood of light on the whole matter.
"Where did you get that dress?" he said, abruptly.
She started sharply, and the color flew to the roots of her hair,
then, receding, left her paler than before. "Why do you ask me that?"
she demanded, with unconcealed, almost terrified suspicion in her
"Because," he said, looking straight into her eyes, "I had a peculiar
dream last night, in which you wore a dress exactly like this. It is
rather a remarkable coincidence that you should put it on to-night."
"Harold!" she cried, springing forward and catching his arm
convulsively in both her hands, "what has happened? What is it? And
how can you talk so calmly when to me it seems--"
He put his arm around her. "Seems what?" he said, soothingly. "Did
_you_ have a dream, too?"
"Yes," she said, her face turning a shade paler, "I had a dream."
"And in it you wore this dress?"
"Tell me your dream."
"No!" she exclaimed, "I cannot."
Dartmouth put his hand under her chin and pushed her head back
against his shoulder, upturning her face. "You must tell me," he said,
quietly; "every word of it! I am not asking you out of curiosity, but
because the dream I had was too remarkable to be without meaning. I
cannot reach that meaning unassisted; but with your help I believe I
can. So tell me at once."
"Oh, Harold!" she cried, throwing her arms suddenly about him and
clinging to him, "I have no one else to speak to but you: I cannot
tell my father; he would not understand. No girl ever felt so horribly
alone as I have felt to-day. If it had not been for you I believe I
should have killed myself; but you are everything to me, only--_how_
can I tell you?"
He tightened his arms about her and kissed her.
"Don't kiss me," she exclaimed sharply, trying to free herself.
"Why not?" he demanded, in surprise. "Why should I not kiss you?"
She let her head drop again to his shoulder. "True," she said; "why
should you not? It is only that I forget that I am not the woman I
dreamed I was; and for her--it was wrong to kiss you."
"Weir, tell me your dream at once. It is for your good as well as
mine that I insist. You will be miserable and terrified until you take
someone into your confidence. I believe I can explain your dream, as
well as give you the comfort of talking it over with you."
She slipped suddenly out of his arms and walked quickly to the end
of the room and back, pausing within a few feet of him. The room was
growing dark, and he could distinguish little of her beyond the tall
outline of her form and the unnatural brilliancy of her eyes, but he
respected her wish and remained where he was.
"Very well," she said, rapidly. "I will tell you. I went to
sleep without much terror, for I had told my maid to sleep in my
dressing-room. But I suppose the storm and the story I had told you
had unsettled my nerves, for I soon began to dream a horrid dream.
I thought I was dead once more. I could feel the horrible chill and
pain, the close-packed ice about me. I was dead, but yet there was a
spirit within me. I could feel it whispering to itself, although it
had not as yet spread its fire through me and awakened me into life.
It whispered that it was tired, and disheartened, and disappointed,
and wanted rest; that it had been on a long, fruitless journey, and
was so weary that it would not take up the burden of life again just
yet. But its rest could not be long; there was someone it must find,
and before he had gone again to that boundless land, whose haunting
spirits were impalpable as flecks of mist. And then it moaned and
wept, and seemed to live over its past, and I went back with it, or
I was one with it--I cannot define. It recalled many scenes, but
only one made an impression on my memory; I can recall no other." She
paused abruptly, but Dartmouth made no comment; he stood motionless
in breathless expectancy. She put her hand to her head, and after a
moment continued haltingly:
"I--oh--I hardly know how to tell it. I seemed to be standing with
you in a room more familiar to me than any room in this castle; a room
full of tapestries and skins and cushions and couches; a room which
if I had seen it in a picture I should have recognized as Oriental,
although I have never seen an Oriental room. I have always had an
indescribable longing to see Constantinople, and it seemed to me in
that dream as if I had but to walk to the window and look down upon
it--as if I had looked down upon it many times and loved its beauty.
But although I was with you, and your arms were about me, we were not
as we are now--as we were before the dream: we had suffered all that a
man and a woman can suffer who love and are held apart. And you looked
as you do now, yet utterly different. You looked years older, and you
were dressed so strangely. I do not know how I looked, but I know how
I felt. I felt that I had made up my mind to commit a deadly sin, and
that I gloried in it. I had suffered because to love you was a sin;
but I only loved you the more for that reason. Then you slowly drew
me further into the room and pressed me more closely in your arms and
kissed me again, and then--I--oh--I do not know--it is all so vague I
don't know what it meant--but it seemed as if the very foundations of
my life were being swept away. And yet--oh, I cannot explain! I do not
know, myself." And she would have thrown herself headlong on the sofa
had not Dartmouth sprang forward and caught her.
"There, never mind," he said, quickly. "Let that go. It is of no
consequence. A dream like that must necessarily end in a climax of
incoherence and excitement."
He drew her down on the sofa, and for a moment said nothing further.
He had to acknowledge that she had deepened the mystery, and given no
key. A silence fell, and neither moved. Suddenly she raised her head.
"What was your dream?" she demanded.
"The same. I don't pretend to explain it. And I shall not insult your
understanding by inventing weak excuses. If it means anything we will
give the problem no rest until we have solved it. If we cannot solve
it, then we are justified in coming to the conclusion that there is
nothing in it. But I believe we shall get to the bottom of it yet."
"Perhaps," she said, wearily; "I do not know. I only feel that I shall
never be myself again, but must go through life with that woman's
burden of sin and suffering weighing me down." She paused a moment,
and then continued: "In that dream I wore a dress like this, and that
is the reason I put it on to-night. I was getting some things in Paris
before I left, and I bought it thinking you would like it; I had heard
you say that yellow was your favorite color. When my maid opened
the door of my wardrobe to-night to take out a dress, and I saw this
hanging there, it gave me such a shock that I caught at a chair to
keep from falling. And then I felt irresistibly impelled to put it on.
I felt as if it were a shroud, vivid in color as it is; but it had
an uncanny fascination for me, and I experienced a morbid delight in
feeling both spirit and flesh revolt, and yet compelling them to do
my will. I never knew that it was in me to feel so, but I suppose I am
utterly demoralized by so realistically living over again that awful
experience of my childhood. If it happened again I should either be
carried back to the vault for good and all, or end my days in the
topmost tower of the castle, with a keeper, and the storms and
sea-gulls for sole companions."
She sat up in a moment, and putting her hand on his shoulder, looked
him full in the face for the first time. "It seems to me that I know
you now," she said, "and that I never knew you before. When I first
saw you to-night I shrank from you: why, I hardly know, except that
the personality of that woman had woven itself so strongly into mine
that for the moment I felt I had no right to love you. But I have
never loved you as I do to-night, because that dream, however little
else I may have to thank it for, did for me this at least: it seemed
to give me a glimpse into every nook and corner of your character; I
feel now that my understanding of your strange nature is absolute.
I had seen only one side of it before, and had made but instinctive
guesses at the rest; but as I stood with you in that dream, I had,
graven on my memory, the knowledge of every side and phase of your
character as you had revealed it to me many times; and that memory
abides with me. I remember no details, but that makes no difference;
if I were one with you I could not know you better." She slipped her
arms about his neck and pressed her face close to his. "You have one
of your attacks of melancholy to-night," she murmured. "You tried
to conceal it, and the effort made you appear cold. It was the first
thing I thought of when I turned and saw you, in spite of all I felt
myself. And although you had described those attacks before, the
description had conveyed little to me; that your moods were different
from other people's blues had hardly occurred to me, we had been
so happy. But now I understand. I pay for the knowledge with a high
price; but that is life, I suppose."
Two Days later Dartmouth received a despatch from the steward of his
estates in the north of England announcing that there was serious
trouble among his tenantry, and that his interests demanded he should
be on the scene at once. The despatch was brought to his room, and he
went directly down to the hall, where he had left Weir, and told
her he must leave her for a few days. She had been standing by the
fire-place warming her foot on the fender, but she sat suddenly
down on a chair as he explained to her the nature of the telegram.
"Harold," she said, "if you go you will never come back."
"My dear girl," he said, "that speech is unworthy of you. You are not
the sort of woman to believe in such nonsense as presentiments."
"Presentiments may be supernatural," she said, "but not more so
than the experience we have had. So long as you are with me I feel
comparatively untroubled, but if you go I know that something will
He sat down on the arm of her chair and took her hand. "You are
low-spirited yet," he said, "and consequently you take a morbid view
of everything. That is all. I am beginning to doubt if the dream we
had was anything more than the most remarkable dream on record; if it
were otherwise, two such wise heads as ours would have discovered the
hidden meaning by this time. And, granting that, you must also grant
that if anything were going to happen, you could not possibly know it;
nor will predicting it bring it about. I will be with you in two days
from this hour, and you will only remember how glad you were to get
rid of me."
"I hope so," she said. "But--is it absolutely necessary for you to
"Not if you don't mind living on bread and cheese for a year or two.
The farms of my ancestral home make a pretty good rent-roll, but if my
tenants become the untrammelled communists my steward predicts, we may
have to camp out on burnt stubble for some time to come. It is in the
hope of inducing them to leave me at least the Hall to take a bride to
that I go to interview them at once. I may be too late, but I will do
"You will always joke, I suppose," she said, smiling a little; "but
come back to me."
He left Rhyd-Alwyn that evening and arrived at Crumford Hall the next
morning. He slept little during the journey. His mood was still upon
him, and without consideration for Weir as an incentive it was more
difficult to fight it off, indeed, it was almost a luxury to yield to
it. Moreover, although it had been easy enough to say he would think
no more about his vision and its accompanying incidents, it was not
so easy to put the determination into practice, and he found himself
spending the night in the vain attempt to untangle the web, and in
endeavoring to analyze the subtle, uncomfortable sense of mystery
which those events had left behind them. Toward morning he lost all
patience with himself, and taking a novel out of his bag fixed his
mind deliberately upon it; and as the story was rather stupid, it had
the comfortable effect of sending him to sleep.
When he arrived at his place he found that the trouble was less
serious than his steward had represented. The year had been
unproductive, and his tenants had demanded a lowering of their rents;
but neither flames nor imprecations were in order. Dartmouth was
inclined to be a just man, and, moreover, he was very much in love,
and anxious to get away; consequently, after a two days' examination
of the situation in all its bearings, he acceded in great part to
their demands and gave his lieutenant orders to hold the reins lightly
during the coming year.
On the second night after his arrival he went into his study to write
to Weir. He had been so busy heretofore that he had sent her but a
couple of lines at different times, scribbled on a leaf of his note
book, and he was glad to find the opportunity to write her a letter.
He had hoped to return to her instead, but had found several other
matters which demanded his attention, and he preferred to look into
them at once, otherwise he would be obliged to return later on.
His study was a comfortable little den just off the library, and its
four walls had witnessed the worst of his moods and the most roseate
of his dreams. In it he had frequently sat up all night talking
with his grandmother, and the atmosphere had vibrated with some hot
disputes. There was a divan across one end, some bookshelves across
the other, and on one side was a desk with a revolving chair before
it. Above the desk hung a battle-axe which he had brought from
America. Opposite was a heavily curtained window, and near it a door
which led into his private apartments. Between was a heavy piece of
furniture of Byzantine manufacture. As he entered the little room
for the first time since his arrival, he stood for a moment with a
retrospective smile in his eyes. He almost fancied he could see his
grandmother half-reclining on one end of the divan, with a pillow
beneath her elbow, her stately head, with its tower of white hair,
thrown imperiously, somewhat superciliously back, as her eyes flashed
and her mouth poured forth a torrent of overwhelming argument. "Poor
old girl!" he thought; "why do women like that have to die? How she
and Weir would have--argued, to put it mildly. I am afraid I should
have had to put a continent between them. But I would give a good deal
to see her again, all the same."
He shut the door, sat down before his desk, and took a bunch of keys
from his pocket. As he did so, his eyes fell upon one of curious
workmanship, and he felt a sudden sense of pleasant anticipation. That
key opened the Byzantine chest opposite, somewhere in whose cunningly
hidden recesses lay, he was convinced, the papers which he had once
seen in his grandmother's clenched hands. He did not believe she had
destroyed them; she had remarked a few days before her death--which
had been sudden and unexpected--that she must soon devote an
unpleasant hour to the burning of old letters and papers. She
had spoken lightly, but there had been a gleam in her eyes and a
tightening of her lips which had suggested the night he had seen her
look as if she wished that the papers between her fingers were a human
throat. Should he find those papers and pass away a dull evening?
There was certainly nothing but the obstinacy of the chest to prevent,
and she would forgive him more than that. He had always had a strong
curiosity in regard to those papers, but his curiosity so far had been
an inactive one; he had never before been alone at the Hall since
his grandmother's death. He wheeled about on his chair and looked
whimsically at the divan. "Have I your permission, O most fascinating
of grandmothers?" he demanded aloud. "No answer. That means I have. So
He wrote to Weir, then went over and kneeled on one knee before the
chest. It looked outwardly like a high, deep box, and was covered
with heavy Smyrna cloth, and ornamented with immense brass handles
and lock. Dartmouth fitted the key into a small key-hole hidden in
the carving on the side of the lock, and the front of the chest fell
outward. He let it down to the floor, then gave his attention to the
interior. It was as complicated as the exterior was plain. On one side
of the central partition were dozens of little drawers, on the other
as many slides and pigeon-holes and alcoves. On every square inch of
wood was a delicate tracery, each different, each telling a story. The
handles of the drawers, the arcades of the alcoves, the pillars of
the pigeon-holes--all were of ivory, and all were carved with the
fantastic art of the Mussulman. It was so beautiful and so intricate
that for a time Dartmouth forgot the papers. He had seen it before,
but it was a work of art which required minute observation and study
of its details to be appreciated. After a time, however, he recurred
to his quest and took the drawers out, one by one, laying them on the
floor. They were very small, and not one of them contained so much as
a roseleaf. At the end of each fourth shelf which separated the rows
of drawers, was a knob. Dartmouth turned one and the shelf fell from
its place. He saw the object. Behind each four rows of drawers was a
room. Each of these rooms had the dome ceiling and Byzantine
pillars of a mosque, and each represented a different portion of the
building--presumably that of St. Sophia. The capitals of the pillars
were exquisite, few being duplicated, and the shafts were solid
columns of black marble, supported on bases of porphyry. The floor was
a network of mosaics, and the walls were a blaze of colored marbles.
The altar, which stood in the central room, was of silver, with
trappings of gold-embroidered velvet, and paraphernalia of gold.
Dartmouth was entranced. He had a keen love of and appreciation
for art, but he had never found anything as interesting as this. He
congratulated himself upon the prospect of many pleasant hours in its
He let it go for the present and pressed his finger against every inch
of the walls and floor and ceilings of the mosque, and of the various
other apartments. It was a good half-hour's work, and the monotony and
non-success induced a certain nervousness. His head ached and his hand
trembled a little. When he had finished, and no panel had flown back
at his touch, he threw himself down on one hand with an exclamation of
impatience, and gazed with a scowl at the noncommittal beauty before
him. He cared nothing for its beauty at that moment. What he wanted
were the papers, and he was determined to find them. He stood up and
examined the top of the chest. There was certainly a space between the
visible depths of the interior and the back wall. He rapped loudly,
but the wood and the stuff with which it was covered were too thick;
there was no answering ring. He recalled the night when he had
cynically examined the fragments of the broken cabinet at Rhyd-Alwyn.
He felt anything but cynical now; indeed, he was conscious of a
restless eagerness and a dogged determination with which curiosity had
little to do. He would find those papers if he died in the attempt.
He knelt once more before the chest, and once more pressed his
finger along its interior, following regular lines. Then he shook the
pillars, and inserted his penknife in each most minute interstice of
the carving; he prodded the ribs of the arches, and brought his fist
down violently on the separate floors of the mosque. At the end of an
hour he sprang to his feet with a smothered oath, and cutting a slit
in the cover of the chest with his penknife, tore it off and examined
the top and sides as carefully as his strained eyes and trembling
hands would allow. He was ashamed of his nervousness, but he was
powerless to overcome it. His examination met with no better success,
and he suddenly sprang across the room and snatched the battle-axe
from the wall. He walked quickly back to the chest. For a moment he
hesitated, the thing was so beautiful! But only for a moment. The
overmastering desire to feel those papers in his hands had driven out
all regard for art. He lifted the axe on high and brought it down on
the top of the chest with a blow which made the little room echo. He
was a powerful man, and the axe was imbedded to its haft. He worked it
out of the tough wood and planted another blow, which widened the rift
and made the stout old chest creak like a falling tree. The mutilated
wood acted upon Dartmouth like the smell of blood upon a wolf: the
spirit of destruction leaped up and blazed within him, a devouring
flame, and the blows fell thick and fast. He felt a fierce delight
in the havoc he was making, in the rare and exquisite beauty he was
ruining beyond hope of redemption. He leaned down, and swinging the
axe outward, sent it straight through the arcades and pillars, the
mosques and images, shattering them to bits. Then he raised the axe
again and brought it down on the seam which joined the back to the
top. The blow made but little impression, but a succession of blows
produced a wide gap. Harold inserted the axe in the rift, and kneeling
on the chest, attempted to force the back wall outward. For a time it
resisted his efforts, then it suddenly gave way, and Dartmouth dropped
the axe with a cry. From a shelf below the roof a package had sprung
outward with the shock, and a small object had fallen with a clatter
on the prostrate wall. Dartmouth picked it up in one hand and the
papers in the other, his fingers closing over the latter with a joy
which thrilled him from head to foot. It was a joy so great that it
filled him with a profound peace; the excitement of the past hour
suddenly left him. He went over to his desk and sat down before it.
With the papers still held firmly in his hand, he opened the locket.
There were two pictures within, and as he held them up to the light he
was vaguely conscious that he should feel a shock of surprise; but he
did not. The pictures were those of Lady Sioned Penrhyn and--himself!
With the same apparent lack of mental prompting as on the night in the
gallery when he had addressed Weir with the name of her grandmother,
he raised the picture of the woman to his lips and kissed it fondly.
Then he laid it down and opened the packet. Within were a thick piece
of manuscript and a bundle of letters. He pressed his hand lovingly
over the closely written sheets of the manuscript, but laid them down
and gave his attention to the letters. They were roughly tied into a
bundle with a bit of string. He slipped the string off and glanced at
the address of the letter which lay uppermost. The ink, though faded,
was legible enough--"Lady Sioned-ap-Penrhyn, Constantinople." He
opened the letter and glanced at the signature. The note was signed
with the initials of his grandfather, Lionel Dartmouth. They were
peculiarly formed, and were in many of the library books.
He turned back to the first page. As he did so he was aware of a
new sensation, which seemed, however, but a natural evolution in his
present mental and spiritual exaltation. It was as if the page were a
blank sheet and he were wielding an invisible pen. Although, before
he took up the letter, he had had no idea of its contents beyond
a formless, general intuition, as soon as he began to read he was
clearly aware of every coming word and sentence and sentiment in it.
So strong was the impression, that once he involuntarily dropped the
note and, picking up a pen, began hastily writing what he knew was on
the unread page. But his mind became foggy at once, and he threw down
the pen and returned to the letter. Then the sense of authorship and
familiarity returned. He read the letters in the order in which they
came, which was the order of their writing. Among them were some pages
of exquisite verse: and verses and letters alike were the words of a
man to a woman whom he loved with all the concentration and intensity
of a solitary, turbulent, passionate nature; who knew that in this
love lay his and her only happiness; and who would cast aside the
orthodoxy of the world as beneath consideration when balanced against
the perfecting of two human lives. They reflected the melancholy,
ill-regulated nature of the man, but they rang with a tenderness and
a passion which were as unmistakable as the genius of the writer; and
Harold knew that if the dead poet had never loved another woman he
had loved Sioned Penrhyn. Or had he loved her himself? Or was it Weir?
Surely these letters were his. He had written them to that beautiful
dark-eyed woman with the jewels about her head. He could read the
answers between the lines; he knew them by heart; the passionate words
of the unhappy woman who had quickened his genius from its sleep. Ah,
how he loved her, his beautiful Weir!--No--Sioned was her name, Sioned
Penrhyn, and her picture hung in the castle where the storms beat upon
the grey Welsh cliffs thousands of miles away....
If he had but met her earlier--he might to-day be one of that
brilliant galaxy of poets whose music the whole world honored. Oh! the
wasted years of his life, and his half-hearted attempts to give to
the world those wonderful children of his brain! He had loved and been
jealous of them, those children, and they had multiplied until it had
seemed as if they would prove stronger than his will. But he had let
them sing for himself alone; he would give the world nothing until
one day in that densely peopled land of his brain there should go up
a paean of rejoicing that a child, before which their own glory paled,
had been born. And above the tumult should rise the sound of such a
strain of music as had never been heard out of heaven; and before it
the world should sink to its knees....
And it had come to pass at last, this dream. This woman had awakened
his nature from its torpor, and with the love had come, leaping,
rushing, thundering, a torrent of verse such as had burst from no
man's brain in any age.
And to her he owed his future, his fame, and his immortal name. And
she would be with him always. She had struggled and resisted and
refused him speech, but the terrible strength of her nature had
triumphed over dogmas and over the lesser duties she owed to others;
of her free will she had sent for him. He would be with her in an
hour, and to-morrow they would have left codes and conventions behind
them. There was a pang in leaving this beautiful room where his
poem had been born, and beneath which lay such a picture as man sees
nowhere else on earth. But to that which was to come, what was this?
He would write a few lines to the woman who bore his name, and
then the time would have come to go. She too was a beautiful and a
brilliant woman, but her nature was narrow and cold, and she had never
understood him for a moment. There! he had finished, and she would be
happier without him. She had her world and her child--that beautiful
boy!--But this was no time for pangs. He had chosen his destiny, and a
man cannot have all things. It was time to go. Should he take one last
glance at the boy laughing in the room beyond? He had but to push the
tapestry aside, yes--there--God!
Ah, it was grateful to get into the cool air of the street, and before
him, only a short distance away, were the towers of the Embassy. Would
he never reach them? The way had been so long--could it be that his
footsteps were already echoing on the marble floor which led to that
chamber? Yes, and the perfume of that jasmine-laden room was stealing
over his senses, and the woman he loved was in his arms. How the
golden sunset lay on the domes and minarets below! How sonorous
sounded the voices of the muezzins as they called the people to
prayer! There was music somewhere, or was it the wails for the dead
down in Galata? It was all like a part of a dream, and the outlines
were blurred and confused--What was that? A thunderclap? Why were he
and Sioned lying prostrate there, she with horror in her wide open,
glassy eyes, he with the arms which had held her lying limply on
the blood stained floor beside him? He seemed to see them both as he
hovered above. It was death? Well, what matter? She had gone out with
him, and in some cloud-walled castle, murmurous with harmonies of
quiring spheres, and gleaming with their radiance, they would dwell
together. Human vengeance could not reach them there, and for love
there is no death. The soul cannot die, and love, its chiefest
offspring, shares its immortality. It persists throughout the ages,
like the waves of music that never cease. He would take her hand and
lead her upward--Where was she? Surely she must be by his side. But he
could see no one, feel no presence. God! had he lost her? Had she
been borne upward and away, while he had lingered, fascinated with
the empty clay that a moment since had been throbbing with life
and keenest happiness? But he would find her--even did he go to the
confines of Eternity. But where was he? He could see the lifeless
shells no longer. He was roaming--on--on--in a vast, grey, pathless
land, without light, without sound, unpeopled, forsaken. These were
the plains of Eternity!--the measureless, boundless, sun-forgotten
region, whose monarch was Death, and whose avenging angel--Silence! An
eternal twilight more desolate than the blackness of night, a twilight
as of myriads of ghostly lanterns shedding their colorless rays upon
an awful, echoless solitude He would never find her here The dead of
ages were about him--the troubled spirits who had approached the pale,
stern gates of the Hereafter with rapture, and found within their
portals not rest, but a ceaseless, weary, purposeless wandering, the
world tired souls of aged men pursuing their never-ending quest in
meek, faltering wonder, and longing for the goal which surely they
must reach at last, the white, unquestioning souls of children
floating like heavenly strains of unheard music in the void immensity,
but one and all invisible imponderable. They were there, the monarchs
of buried centuries and the thousands who had knelt at their thrones,
the high and the low, the outcast and the shrived, but each as alone
as if the solitary inhabitant of all Space And _he_, who would have
fled from his fellow-men on earth, must long in vain for the sound of
human voice or the rapture of human touch He must go on--on--in these
colorless, shadowless, haunted plains, until the last trumpet-blast
should awaken the echoes of the Universe and summon him to confront
his Maker and be judged Oh! if but once more he could see the earth he
had scorned! Was it spinning on its way still, that dark, tiny ball?
How long since he had given that last glance of farewell? It must
be years and years and years, as reckoned by the time of men, for in
Eternity there is no time. And Sioned--where was she? Desolate and
abandoned, shrieked at by sudden winds, flying terrified and helpless
over level, horizonless plains only to fling herself upon the grey
waves of Death's noiseless ocean? Oh, if he could but find her and
make her forget! Together, what would matter death and silence and
everlasting unrest? All would be forgot, all but the exquisite pain of
the regret for the years he had wasted on earth, and for the solitary
heritage he had left the world. Those children of his brain! They were
with him still. Would that he had left them below to sing his name
down through the ages! They were a torment to him here, in their
futility and inaction. They could not sing to these shapeless ghosts
about him; their voices would be unheeded music; nor would any strain
sweep downward to that world whose tears he might have drawn, whose
mirth provoked, whose passions played upon at his will. The one grand
thing he had done must alone speak for him. There was in it neither
pathos nor mirth; it had sprung to the cloud-capped point of human
genius, and its sublimity would prove its barrier to the world's
approval. But it would give him fame when--God! what was that thought?
The manuscript of that poem had lain in the room where he had met
his death. Had the hand that had slain him executed a more terrible
vengeance still? Oh, it could not be! No man would be so base. And
yet, what mercy had he the right to expect? And the nature of the
man--cold--relentless--To consign the man who had wronged him to
eternal oblivion--would he not feel as he watched the ashes in the
brazier, that such vengeance was sweeter than even the power to
kill? And he was impotent! He was a waif tossed about in the chaos
of eternity, with no power to smite the man whose crime
had--perhaps--been greater than the thrusting of two lives from
existence a few years before their time. He was as powerless as the
invisible beggar who floated at his side. And that man was on earth
yet, perchance, coldly indifferent in his proud position, inwardly
gloating at the fullness of his revenge....
Years, years, years! They slipped from his consciousness like water
from the smooth surface of a rock. And yet each had pressed more
heavily and stung more sharply than the last. Oh, if he could but
know that his poem had been given to the world--that it had not been
blotted from existence! This was what was meant by Hell. No torture
that man had ever pictured could approach the torments of such regret,
such uncertainty, such pitiable impotence. Truly, if his sin had been
great, his punishment was greater.
But why was he going downward? What invisible hand was this which was
resistlessly guiding him through the portals of the shadow land, past
the great sun and worlds of other men, and down through this quivering
ether? What? He was to be born again? A bit of clay needed an atom of
animate force to quicken it into life, and he must go again? And it
was to the planet Earth he was going? Ah! his poem! his poem! He
could write it again, and of what matter the wasted generations? And
Sioned--they would meet again. Sooner or later, she too must return,
and on Earth they would find what had been denied them above. What
was that? His past must become a blank? His soul must be shorn of its
growth? He must go back to unremembering, unforseeing infancy, and
grow through long, slow years to manhood again? Still, his genius
and his intelligence in their elements would be the same, and with
development would come at last the fruition of all his fondest hopes.
And Sioned? He would know her when they met. Their souls must be
the same as when the great ocean of Force had tossed them up; and
evolution could work no essential change. Ah! they had entered the
blue atmosphere. And, yes--there lay the earth below them. How he
remembered its green plains and white cities and blue waters! And that
great island--yes, it was familiar enough. It was the land which had
given him birth, and which should have knelt at his feet and granted
him a resting-place amidst its illustrious dead. And this old castle
they were descending upon? He did not remember it. Well, he was to be
of the chosen of earth again. He would have a proud name to offer
her, and this time it should be an unsullied one. This time the world
should ring with his genius, not with his follies. This time--Oh,
what was this? Stop! Stop! No; he could not part with it. The grand,
trained intellect of which he had been so proud--the perfected genius
which had been his glory--they should not strip them from him--they
were part of himself; they were his very essence; he would not give
them up! Oh, God! this horrible shrinking! This was Hell; this was
not re-birth. Physical torture? The words were meaningless beside
this warping, this tearing apart of spirit and mind--those precious
children of his brain--limb from limb. Their shrieks for
help!--their cries of anguish and horror! their clutches! their last
spasmodic--despairing--weakening embrace! He _would_ hold them! His
clasp would defy all the powers of Earth and Air! No, they should not
go--they should not. Oh! this cursed hand, with its nerves of steel.
It would conquer yet, conquer and compress him down into an atom
of impotence--There! it had wrenched them from him; they were
gone--gone--forever. But no, they were there beside him; their moans
for help filled the space about him; yes, moans--they were cries
no longer--and they were growing fainter--they were
fading--sinking--dying--and he was shrinking--
Harold opened his eyes. The night had gone; the sun was struggling
through the heavy curtains; the lamps and the fire had gone out, and
the room was cold. He was faint and exhausted. His forehead was damp
with horror, and his hands were shaking. That terrible struggle in
which intellect and its attainments had been wrenched apart, in which
the spirit and its memories had been torn asunder! He closed his eyes
for a moment in obedience to his exhausted vitality. Then he rose
slowly to his feet, went into his bedroom, and looked into the glass.
Was it Harold Dartmouth or the dead poet who was reflected there? He
went back, picked up the locket, and returned to the glass. He looked
at the picture, then at his own face, and again at the picture. They
were identical; there was not a line or curve or tint of difference.
He returned to his chair and rested his head on his hand. Was he this
man re-born? Did the dead come back and live again? Was it a dream, or
had he actually lived over a chapter from a past existence? He was a
practical man-of-the-world, not a vague dreamer--but all nature was
a mystery; this would be no stranger than the general mystery of life
itself. And he was not only this man reproduced in every line
and feature; he had his nature as well. His grandmother had never
mentioned her husband's name, but the Dartmouths had been less
reticent. They were fond of reiterating anecdotes of Lionel
Dartmouth's lawless youth, of his moody, melancholy temperament, and
above all, of the infallible signs he had shown of great genius. That
his genius had borne no fruit made no difference in their estimate; he
had died too soon, that was all--died of fever in Constantinople, the
story ran; there had never been a suggestion of scandal. And he had
come back to earth to fulfill the promise of long ago, and to give to
the world the one splendid achievement of that time. It had triumphed
over death and crime and revenge--but--He recalled those nights
of conflict in his mind. Would will and spirit ever conquer that
mechanical defect in his brain which denied his genius speech?
He drew his hand across his forehead; he was so tired. He pushed the
manuscript and letters into a drawer of the desk, and turning the
key upon them, opened the window and stepped out into the air.
His vitality was at as low an ebb as if from physical overwork and
fasting. He made no attempt to think, or to comment on the events
just past. For the moment they lost their interest, and he strolled
aimlessly about the park, his exhausted forces slowly recuperating.
At the end of an hour he returned to the house and took a cold
shower-bath and ate his breakfast. Then he felt more like himself. He
had a strong desire to return to his study and the lost manuscript,
but, with the wilful and pleasing procrastination of one who knows
that satisfaction is within his grasp, he put the temptation aside
for the present, and spent the day riding over his estates with his
steward. He also gave his business affairs a minute attention which
delighted his servant. After dinner he smoked a cigar, then went into
his study and locked the door. He sat down before the desk, and for
a moment experienced a feeling of dread. He wanted no more visions:
would contact with those papers induce another? He would like to read
that poem with the calm criticism of a trained and cultivated mind; he
had no desire to be whirled back into his study at Constantinople, his
brain throbbing and bursting with what was coming next. He shrugged
his shoulders. It was a humiliating confession, but there were forces
over which he had no control; there was nothing to do but resign
himself to the inevitable.
He opened the drawer and took out the manuscript. To his unspeakable
satisfaction he remained calm and unperturbed. He felt merely a
cold-blooded content that he had balked his enemies and that his
ambition was to be gratified. Once, before he opened the paper, he
smiled at his readiness to accept the theory of reincarnation. It had
taken complete possession of him, and he felt not the slightest desire
to combat it. Did a doubt cross his mind, he had but to recall the
park seen by his spiritual eyes, as he descended upon it to be born
again. It was the park in which he, Harold Dartmouth, had played as
a child during his annual visits to his parents; the park surrounding
the castle in which he had been born, and which had belonged to his
father's line for centuries. For the first time in his life he did
not reason. It seemed to him that there was no corner or loophole
for argument, nothing but a cold array of facts which must be
unconditionally accepted or rejected.
He spread out the poem. It was in blank verse, and very long. He was
struck at once with its beauty and power. Although his soul responded
to the words as to the tone of a dear but long unheard voice, still he
was spared the mental exaltation which would have clouded his judgment
and destroyed his pleasure. He leaned his elbows on the desk, and,
taking his head between his hands, read on and on, scarcely drawing
breath. Poets past and present had been his familiar friends, but in
them he had found no such beauty as this. The grand sweep of the poem,
the depth of its philosophy, the sublimity of its thought, the melody
of its verse, the color, the radiant richness of its imagery,
the sonorous swell of its lines, the classic purity of its
style--Dartmouth felt as if an organ were pealing within his soul,
lifting the song on its notes to the celestial choir which had sent it
forth. Heavenly fingers were sweeping the keys, heavenly voices were
quiring the melody they had with wanton hand flung into a mortal's
brain. As Harold read on he felt that his spirit had dissolved and was
flowing through the poem, to be blended, unified with it forever.
He seemed to lose all physical sensation, not from the causes of
the previous night, but from the spiritual exaltation and absorption
induced by the beauty and grandeur of the theme. When he had finished,
he flung out his arms upon the desk, buried his head in them, and
burst into tears. The tears were the result, not so much of extreme
nervous tension, as of the wonder and awe and ecstacy with which his
own genius had filled him. In a few moments his emotion had subsided
and was succeeded by a state less purely spiritual. He stood up, and
leaning one hand on the desk, looked down at the poem, his soul filled
with an exultant sense of power. Power was what he had gloried in all
his life. His birth had given it to him socially, his money had lent
its aid, and his personal fascination had completed the chapter. But
he had wanted something more than the commonplace power which fate
or fortune grants to many. He had wanted that power which lifts a man
high above his fellow-men, condemning him to solitude, perhaps, but,
in that fiercely beating light, revealing him to all men's gaze. If
life had drifted by him, it had been because he was too much of a
philosopher to attempt the impossible, too clever to publish his
incompetence to the world.
His inactivity had not been the result of lack of ambition, and yet,
as he stood there gazing down upon his work, it seemed to him that he
had never felt the stirrings of that passion before. With the power to
gratify his ambition, ambition sprang from glowing coals into a mighty
flame which roared and swept about him, darted into every corner
and crevice of his being, pulsated through his mind and spirit, and
temporarily drove out every other instinct and desire. He threw back
his head, his eyes flashing and his lips quivering. For the moment
he looked inspired, as he registered a vow to have his name known in
every corner of the civilized world. That he had so far been unable
to accomplish anything in his present embodiment gave him no
uneasiness at the moment. Sooner or later the imprisoned song would
force its way through the solid masonry in which it was walled up--He
gave a short laugh and came down to earth; his fancy was running away
He folded the poem compactly and put it in his breast pocket,
determined that it should never leave him again until a copy was in
the hands of the printer. It should be sent forth from Constantinople.
The poem must be the apparent offspring of his present incarnation;
and as he had never been in Constantinople he must go there and remain
for several months before publication.
He went into the library and sat down before the fire. He closed
his eyes and let his head fall back on the soft cushion, a pleasant
languor and warmth stealing through his frame. What a future! Power,
honor, adoration--the proudest pedestal a man can stand upon. And, as
if this were not enough, an unquestioned happiness with the woman he
loved with his whole heart. To her advent into his life he owed his
complete and final severance from the petty but infinite distractions
and temptations of the world. His present without flaw, and his future
assured, what was to prevent his gifts from flowering thickly
and unceasingly in their peaceful soil and atmosphere of calm? He
remembered that his first irresistible impulse to write had come
on the night he had met her. Would he owe to her his final power to
speak, as he had owed to that other--
He sat suddenly erect, then leaned forward, gazing at the fire with
eyes from which all languor had vanished. He felt as if a flash of
lightning had been projected into his brain. That other? Who was that
other?--why was she so marvellously like Weir? Her grandmother? Yes,
but why had he felt for Weir that sense of recognition and spiritual
kinship the moment he had seen her?
He sprang to his feet and strode to the middle of the room. Great
God! Was Weir reembodied as well as himself? Lady Sioned Penrhyn was
indisputably the woman he had loved in his former existence--that was
proved once for all by the scene in the gallery at Rhyd-Alwyn and
by the letters he had found addressed to her. He recalled Weir's
childhood experience. Had she really died, and the desperate,
determined spirit of Sioned Penrhyn taken possession of her body?
Otherwise, why that sense of affinity, and her strange empire over him
the night of their mutual vision? There was something more than racial
resemblance in form and feature between Sioned and Weir Penrhyn; there
was absolute identity of soul and mind.
He strode rapidly from one end of the room to the other. Every
nerve in his body seemed vibrating, but his mind acted rapidly and
sequentially. He put the links together one by one, until, from the
moment of his last meeting with Sioned Penrhyn at Constantinople to
the climax of his vision in his study, the chain was complete. Love,
then, as well as genius, had triumphed over the vengeance of Dafyd
Penrhyn and Catherine Dartmouth. In that moment he felt no affection
for his grandmother. She had worshipped and spoilt him, and had shown
him only her better side; but the weakness and evil of her nature had
done him incalculable injury, and he was not prepared to forgive her
He returned to his seat. Truly they all were the victims of inexorable
law, but the law was just, and if it took to-day it gave to-morrow. If
he and Sioned Penrhyn had been destined to short-lived happiness and
tragic death in that other existence, there was not an obstacle or
barrier between them in the present. And if--He pushed his chair
suddenly back and brought his brows together. A thought had struck him
which he did not like. He got up and put another log on the fire. Then
he went over to the table and took up a book--a volume of Figuier. He
sat down and read a few pages, then threw down the book, and drawing
writing materials toward him, wrote a half-dozen business letters.
When they were finished, together with a few lines to Weir, and no
other correspondence suggested itself, he got up and walked the length
of the room several times. Suddenly he brought his fist violently down
on the table.
"I am a fool," he exclaimed. "The idea of a man with my experience
with women--" And then his voice died away and his hand relaxed, an
expression of disgust crossing his face. He sank into a chair by the
table and leaned his head on his hand. It was true that he was a
man of the world, and that for conventional morality he had felt the
contempt it deserved. Nevertheless, in loving this girl the finest and
highest instincts of his nature had been aroused. He had felt for her
even more of sentiment than of passion. When a man loves a girl whose
mental purity is as absolute as her physical, there is, intermingled
with his love, a leavening quality of reverence, and the result is
a certain purification of his own nature. That Dartmouth had
found himself capable of such a love had been a source of keenest
gratification to him. He had been lifted to a spiritual level which he
had never touched before, and there he had determined to remain.
And to have this pure and exquisite love smirched with the memory of
sin and vulgar crime! To take into his arms as his wife the woman on
whose soul was written the record of temptation and of sin! It was
like marrying one's mistress: as a matter of fact, what else was it?
But Weir Penrhyn! To connect sin with her was monstrous. And yet, the
vital spark called life--or soul, or intelligence, or personal force;
whatever name science or ignorance might give it--was unchanged in
its elements, as his own chapter of memories had taught him. Every
instinct in Sioned's nature was unaltered. If these instincts were
undeveloped in her present existence, it was because of Weir's
sheltered life, and because she had met him this time before it was
He sprang to his feet, almost overturning the chair. "I can think no
more to-night," he exclaimed. "My head feels as if it would burst."
He went into his bedroom and poured out a dose of laudanum. When he
was in bed he drank it, and he did not awake until late the next day.
In the life of every man there comes a time when he is brought face
to face with the great problem of morality. The murderer undoubtedly
comprehends the problem in all its significance when he is about to
mount the scaffold, the faithless wife when she is dragged through the
divorce court, and her family and friends are humbled to the dust.
Dartmouth worked it out the next night as he sat by his library fire.
He had given the afternoon to his business affairs, but when night
threw him back into the sole companionship of his thoughts, he
doggedly faced the question which he had avoided all day.
What was sin? Could anyone tell, with the uneven standard set up by
morality and religion? The world smiled upon a loveless marriage. What
more degrading? It frowned upon a love perfect in all but the sanction
of the Church, if the two had the courage to proclaim their love. It
discreetly looked another way when the harlot of "Society" tripped
by with her husband on one hand and her lover on the other. A man
enriched himself at the expense of others by what he was pleased to
call his business sharpness, and died revered as a philanthropist; the
common thief was sent to jail.
Dartmouth threw back his head and clasped his hands behind it. Of
what use rehearsing platitudes? The laws of morality were concocted to
ensure the coherence and homogeneity of society; therefore, whatever
deleteriously affected society was crime of less or greater magnitude.
He and Sioned Penrhyn had ruined the lives and happiness of two
people, had made a murderer of the one, and irrevocably hardened the
nature of the other: Catherine Dartmouth had lived to fourscore, and
had died with unexpiated wrong on her conscience. They had left two
children half-orphaned, and they had run the risk of disgracing two
of the proudest families in Great Britain. Nothing, doubtless, but the
cleverness and promptitude of Sir Dafyd Penrhyn, the secretive nature
of Catherine Dartmouth, the absence of rapid-news transit, and the
semi-civilization of Constantinople at that time, had prevented the
affair from becoming public scandal. Poor Weir! how that haughty head
of hers would bend if she knew of her grandmother's sin, even did she
learn nothing of her own and that sin's kinship!
Dartmouth got up and walked slowly down the long room, his hands
clasped behind him, his head bent. Heaven knew his "sins" had been
many; and if disaster had never ensued, it had been more by good luck
than good management. And yet--he could trace a certain punishment in
every case; the woman punished by the hardening of her nature and
the probability of complete moral dementia; the man by satiety and an
absolute loss of power to value what he possessed. Therefore, for the
woman a sullen despair and its consequences; for the man a feverish
striving for that which he could never find, or, if found, would have
the gall in the nectar of having let slip the ability to unreservedly
and innocently enjoy.
And if sin be measured by its punishment! He recalled those years in
eternity, with their hell of impotence and inaction. He recalled the
torment of spirit, the uncertainty worse than death. And Weir? Surely
no two erring mortals had ever more terribly reaped the reward of
What did it signify? That he was to give her up? that a love which had
begun in sin must not end in happiness? But his love had the strength
of its generations; and the impatient, virile, control-disdaining
nature of the man rebelled. Surely their punishment had been severe
enough and long enough. Had they not been sent back to earth and
almost thrown into each other's arms in token that guilt was expiated
and vengeance satisfied? Dartmouth stopped suddenly as this solution
presented itself, then impatiently thrust a chair out of his way
and resumed his walk. The consciousness that their affection was the
perpetuation of a lustful love disheartened and revolted him. Until
that memory disappeared his punishment would not be over.
He stopped and leaned his hand on the table. "I thought I was a big
enough man to rise above conventional morality," he said. "But I doubt
if any man is when circumstances have combines to make him seriously
face the question. He might, if born a red Indian, but not if
saturated in his plastic days with the codes and dogmas of the world.
They cling, they cling, and reason cannot oust them. The society in
whose enveloping, penetrating atmosphere he has lived his life decrees
that it is a sin to seduce another man's wife or to live with a woman
outside the pale of the Church. Therefore sin, down in the roots of
his consciousness, he believes it; therefore, to perpetuate a sinful
love--I am becoming a petty moralist," he broke off impatiently; "but
I can't help it. I am a triumph of civilization."
He stood up and threw back his shoulders. "Let it go for the present,"
he said. "At another time I may look at it differently or reason
myself out of it. Now I will try--"
He looked towards his study door with a flash in his eyes. He half
turned away, then went quickly into the little room and sat down
before the desk. Every day he would make the attempt to write, and
finally that obstinate wedge in his brain would give way and his soul
be set free.
He drew paper before him and took up a pen. For an hour he sat
motionless, bending all his power of intellect, all the artistic
instincts of his nature to the luring of his song-children from that
closed wing in his brain. But he could not even hear their peremptory
knocks as on the nights when he had turned from those summonses in
agony and terror. He would have welcomed them now and dragged the
visitants into the sunlight of his intelligence and forced the song
from their throats.
He took the poem from his pocket and read it over. But it gave him no
inspiration, it dulled his brain, rather, and made him feel baffled
and helpless. But he would not give up; and dawn found him still with
his pen in his hand. Then he went to bed and slept for a few hours.
That day he gave little attention to his affairs. His melancholy, held
at bay by the extraordinary experience through which he had passed,
returned and claimed him. He shut himself up in his library until the
following morning, and alternated the hours with fruitless attempts to
write and equally fruitless attempts to solve the problem in regard
to Weir. The next day and night, with the exception of a few hours'
restless sleep, were spent in the same way.
At the end of the third day not a word had flowed from his pen, not
a step nearer had he drawn to Weir. A dull despair took possession
of him. Had those song-children fled, discouraged, and was he to be
withheld from the one consolation of earthly happiness? He pushed back
the chair in which he had been sitting before his desk and went into
the library. He opened one of the windows and looked out. How quiet it
was! He could hear the rising wind sighing through the yews, but all
nature was elsewise asleep. What was she doing down at Rhyd-Alwyn?
Sleeping calmly, or blindly striving to link the past with the
present? He had heard from her but once since he left. Perhaps she too
had had a revelation. He wondered if it were as quiet there as here,
or if the waves at the foot of the castle still thundered unceasingly
on. He wondered if she would shrink from him when the truth came to
her. Doubtless, for she had been reared in the most rigid of moral
conventions, and naturally catholic-minded as she was, right, to her,
was right, and wrong was wrong. He closed the window and, throwing
himself on a sofa, fell asleep. But his dreams were worse than his
waking thoughts. He was wandering in eternal darkness looking for
someone lost ages ago, and a voice beside him was murmuring that he
would never find her, but must go on--on--forever; that the curse
of some crime committed centuries ago was upon him, and that he must
expiate it in countless existences and eternal torment. And far off,
on the very confines of space, floated a wraith-like thing with
the lithe grace of a woman whom he had loved on earth. And she was
searching for him, but they described always the same circle and never
met. And then, finally, after millions of years, an invisible hand
clutched him and bore him upward onto a plane, hitherto unexplored,
then left him to grope his way as he could. All was blackness and
chaos. Around him, as he passed them, he saw that dark suns were
burning, but there was nothing to conduct their light, and they shed
no radiance on the horrors of their world. Below him was an abyss in
which countless souls were struggling, blindly, helplessly, until they
should again be called to duty in some sphere of material existence.
The stillness at first was deathlike, oppressive; but soon he became
aware of a dull, hissing noise, such as is produced on earth by the
fusion of metals. The invisible furnaces were lost in the impenetrable
darkness, but the heat was terrific; the internal fires of earth or
those of the Bible's hell must be sickly and pale in comparison with
this awful, invisible atmosphere of flame. Now and then a planet,
which, obeying Nature's laws even here, revolved around its mockery
of a sun, fell at his feet a river of fire. There was stillness
no longer. The roaring and the exploding of the fusing metals, or
whatever it might be, filled the vast region like the hoarse cries
of wild beasts and the hissing of angry serpents. It was deafening,
maddening. And there was no relief but to plunge into that abyss and
drown individuality. He flew downward, and as he paused a moment on
the brink, he looked across to the opposite bank and saw a figure
about to take the leap like himself. It was a dim, shadowy shape, but
even in the blackness he knew its waving grace. And she pointed down
into the abyss of blind, helpless, unintelligent torment, and then--
Dartmouth suddenly found himself standing upright, his shoulders
clutched in a pair of strong hands, and Hollington's anxious face a
few inches from his own.
"What the devil is the matter with you, Hal?" exclaimed Hollington.
"Have you set up a private lunatic asylum, or is it but prosaic
"Becky!" exclaimed Dartmouth, as he grasped the situation. "I _am_ so
glad to see you. Where did you come from?"
"You frightened your devoted Jones to death with one of your
starvation moods, and he telegraphed for me. The idea of a man having
the blues in the second month of his engagement to the most charming
girl in Christendom!"
"Don't speak to me of her," exclaimed Dartmouth, throwing himself into
a chair and covering his face with his hands.
"Whew! What's up? You haven't quarrelled already? Or won't the
governor give his consent?"
"No," said Dartmouth, "that's not it."
"Then what the devil is the matter? Is--is she dead?"
"Was she married to some other man before?"
"I beg your pardon; I was merely exhausting the field of conjecture.
Will you kindly enlighten me?"
"If I did, you would say I was a lunatic."
"I have been inclined to say so occasionally before--"
"Becky, Weir Penrhyn is my--" And then he stopped. The ludicrous side
of the matter had never appealed to him, but he was none the less
conscious of how ridiculous the thing would appear to another.
"Your what? Your wife? Are you married to her already, and do you want
me to break it to the old gentleman? What kind of a character is he?
Shall I go armed?"
"She is not my wife, thank God! If she were--"
"For heaven's sake, Harold, explain yourself. Can it be possible that
Miss Penrhyn is like too many other women?"
Dartmouth sprang to his feet, his face white to the lips.
"How dare you say such a thing?" he exclaimed. "If it were any other
man but you, I'd blow out his brains."
Hollington got up from the chair he had taken and, grasping Dartmouth
by the shoulders, threw him back into his chair.
"Now look here, Harold," he said; "let us have no more damned
nonsense. If you will indulge in lugubrious hints which have but
one meaning, you must expect the consequences. I refuse to listen to
another word unless you come out and speak plain English."
He resumed his seat, and Dartmouth clasped his hands behind his head
and stared moodily at the fire. In a few moments he turned his eyes
and fixed them on Hollington.
"Very well," he said, "I will tell you the whole story from beginning
to end. Heaven knows it is a relief to speak; but if you laugh, I
believe I shall kill you."
"I will not laugh," said Hollington. "Whatever it is, I see it has
gone hard with you."
Dartmouth began with the night of the first attempt of his
suppressed poetical genius to manifest itself, and gave Hollington a
comprehensive account of each detail of his subsequent experiences,
down to the reading of the letters and the spiritual retrospect they
had induced. He did not tell the story dramatically; he had no
fire left in him; he stated it in a matter-of-fact way, which was
impressive because of the speaker's indisputable belief in his own
words. Hollington felt no desire to laugh; on the contrary, he was
seriously alarmed, and he determined to knock this insane freak of
Harold's brain to atoms, if mortal power could do it, and regardless
of consequences to himself.
When Dartmouth had finished, Hollington lit a cigar and puffed at it
for a moment, meditatively regarding his friend meanwhile. Then he
remarked, in a matter-of-fact tone:
"So you are your own grandfather, and Miss Penrhyn is her own
Dartmouth moved uneasily. "It sounds ridiculous--but--don't chaff."
"My dear boy, I was never more serious in my life. I merely wanted to
be sure that I had got it straight. It is A.B.C. by this time to you,
but it has exploded in my face like a keg of gunpowder, and I am a
trifle dazed. But, to come down to deadly earnest, will you allow me
to speak to you from the medical point of view? You know I had some
idea at one time of afflicting the community with one more physician,
until we stumbled on those coal mines, and my prospective patients
were spared premature acquaintance with the golden stairs. May I
speak as an unfledged doctor, but still as one burdened with unused
"You can say what you like."
"Very well, then. You may or may not be aware that what you are
pleased to call the blues, or moods, are, in your case, nothing more
or less than melancholia. When they are at their worst they are the
form known as melancholia attonita. In other words, you are not only
steeped in melancholy, but your brain is in, a state of stupor:
you are all but comatose. These attacks are not frequent, and are
generally the result of a powerful mental shock or strain. I
remember you had one once after you had crammed for two months for an
examination and couldn't pull through. You scared the life out of
the tutors and the boys, and it was not until I threatened to put
you under the pump that you came to. Your ordinary attacks are not so
alarming to your friends, but when indulged in too frequently, they
are a good deal more dangerous."
He paused a moment, but Dartmouth made no reply, and he went on.
"Any man who yields habitually to melancholia may expect his brain,
sooner or later, to degenerate from its original strength, and relax
the toughness and compactness of its fibre. Absolute dementia may not
be the result for some years, but there will be occasional and
painful indications of the end for a long space before it arrives. The
indications, as a rule, will assume the form of visions and dreams and
wild imaginings of various sorts. Now do you understand me?"
"You mean," said Dartmouth, wheeling about and looking him directly in
the eyes, "you mean that I am going mad?"
"I mean, my dear boy, that you will be a raving maniac inside of a
month, unless you dislodge from your brain this horrible, unnatural,
and ridiculous idea."
"Do I look like a madman?" demanded Dartmouth.
"Not at the present moment, no. You look remarkably sane. A man with
as good a brain as yours does not let it go all at once. It will slide
from you imperceptibly, bit by bit, until one day there will be a
"I am not mad," said Dartmouth; "and if I were, my madness would be an
effect, not a cause. What is more, I know enough about melancholia to
know that it does not drift into dementia until middle age at least.
Moreover, my brain is not relaxed in my ordinary attacks; my
spirits are prostrate, and my disgust for life is absolute, but my
brain--except when it has been over-exerted, as in one or two climaxes
of this experience of mine--is as clear as a bell. I have done some of
my best thinking with my hand on the butt of a pistol. But to return
to the question we are discussing. You have left one or two of the
main facts unexplained. What caused Weir's vision? She never had an
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