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Title: The Last Bouquet: Some Twilight Tales (1933)
Author: Marjorie Bowen
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0900571.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2009
Date most recently updated: February 2013

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Marjorie Bowen

First published by John Lane/The Bodley Head, London, 1933



1. The Last Bouquet
(No record of prior publication found)
2. Madam Spitfire
(No record of prior publication found)
3. The Fair Hair of Ambrosine
(No record of prior publication found)
4. The Hidden Ape
(No record of prior publication found)
5. The Avenging of Ann Leete
(_Seeing Life! And Other Stories_, 1923)
6. The Crown Derby Plate
(_Grace Latouche and the Warringtons_, 1931
7. The Prescription (not included in this e-book)
(_The London Magazine_, Jan 1929
8. Elsie's Lonely Afternoon
(No record of prior publication found)
9. The Lady Clodagh
(No record of prior publication found)
10. A Plaster Saint (not included in this e-book)
(No record of prior publication found)
11. Florence Flannery
(variant title: _Florence Flannery--An Ornament in Regency Paste_, 1924)
12. Kecksies
(_Seeing Life! And Other Stories_, 1923)
13. The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes
(_Grace Latouche and the Warringtons_, 1931)
14. Raw Material
(_Grace Latouche and the Warringtons_, 1931)
The John Lane/The Bodley Head edition, 1933



Mme. Marcelle Lesarge and Miss Kezia Faunce quarrelled violently in the
private sitting-room of an expensive Parisian hotel. The interview had begun
with embarrassment, but decorously, and had proceeded through stages of mutual
exasperation to final outbursts of recrimination that were without restraint.
The disgust, contempt, and fury which each had cherished in their hearts for
years rose to their lips, and rage at being involved in such a humiliating
quarrel added force to the energy with which they abused each other.

Mme. Lesarge was a fashionable actress, beautifully dressed in a frilled
interchangeable crimson and blue silk, with dark red feathers in the small hat
exquisitely poised on her glossy curls. The reticule that dangled from the
wrist of her white kid pearl-buttoned gloves was of gold mesh, and the handle
of her parasol was carved ivory. There were real diamonds at her ears and in
the costly lace at her throat. All her movements were graceful and well
trained, at once impetuous and languishing.

Miss Faunce wore an ugly brown travelling dress frogged with black braid. Her
hair was grey and brushed into a chenille net. Her gestures were brusque and
her voice was harsh.

These two women, who seemed in everything dissimilar, were twin sisters. They
had not seen each other for ten years.

A spiteful curiosity that thinly masked hatred had brought Miss Faunce to
Paris, and the same emotion had induced Mme. Lesarge to call at her sister's
hotel. Yet the first interchanges after this long silence had been civil
enough. Miss Faunce had sent quite a friendly little note stating casually that
she was in Paris for a few days, naming her hotel and adding how pleased she
would be to see Martha again after so many years.

Mme. Lesarge replied in a letter written on an impulse of kindness and had
accepted, quite warmly, the invitation to renew the relationship broken off so
early and for such a great while, as it seemed, completely forgotten.

But, when they met, the first friendly conventionalities had soon changed into
this bitter quarrelling. Neither woman could forgive the appearance of the
other. Miss Kezia Faunce saw in the actress the woman who had attained
everything which she, in the name of Virtue, had denied herself. She admired,
envied and loathed all the manifestations of this unblushing Vice which had
made such a profitable use of its opportunities. In this successful wanton who
was really her twin sister Kezia Faunce saw the woman she would have liked to
have been, and the realisation of this brought to a climax the smouldering
anger of years. But, if she were enraged, no less deep was the fury of Martha
who called herself Marcelle Lesarge, for in this plain woman with the grey
hair, harsh voice, drab complexion, and clumsy clothes she saw herself, the
woman who, without her affectations, her graces, her costly clothes, her paints
and dyes, she really was.

It was true that she contrived to look thirty and that Kezia did not look a
day less than fifty, but they were twins and their common age, forty-five,
seemed to the actress to be written all over the red plush and gilt of the
hotel sitting-room.

There was a pause in their fierce speech and they sat slack, exhausted by
passion, staring at each other and each thought: 'It must never be known by any
of my friends that that dreadful woman is my sister.'

'I should be ruined,' the actress said to herself. 'Everyone would think I am
even older than I am. That hideous, middle-aged, dowdy _bourgeoise_my sister! I
should be laughed out of Paris. Why did she come here? Why was I such a fool as
to see her?'

And Kezia thought:

'If anyone at Stibbards were to see her I should be ruined and I should never
be able to hold up my head again. A great, blousy, painted trollop! I must have
been crazy to come.'

The actress was the first to recover herself. Her rage had resolved itself
into a steady fear that someone in Paris should get to know that this miserable
English provincial was her twin sister.

Mme. Lesarge was not without rivals nor fears for the future. She had
skilfully built up many legends about herself that even the whisper of the
existence of Miss Faunce would destroy.

So, pulling at the large pearls that fastened her pale grey gloves she said,
with some art:

'It is very stupid of us to quarrel. You should not have come and I should not
have seen you. But now I suppose we have said all the unpleasant things we can
think of. We had better try to forget each other again.'

'I wish I could forget, Martha, but you know perfectly well that one can't
forget just because one wants to...I've tried to forget you time and again for
years, but it's no use. You keep coming up in my mind--between me and my duty,
between me and my prayers, sometimes.'

Mme. Lesarge laughed uneasily. The more she considered the situation the more
she felt it imperative for her sister to leave Paris quietly and at once.

'Well, I can't help that, can I, Kezia? You must have got a morbid mind. I
can't say I ever think of you, though I very well might. I might say that you
got on my nerves.'

'That's impertinence,' put in Kezia sharply. Her lips were dry and trembling,
and her flaccid cheeks quite pale.

'I don't see that it is impertinence. I ran away from home when I was sixteen,
and I have had all manner of adventures since.'

'Pray don't relate any of them to me,' flung in Kezia.

'As if I should!' The actress smiled with a maddening self-complacency. 'You
wouldn't understand them. They are quite out of the range of your experience.
But, as I said, I left home when I was sixteen and I think it would be quite
reasonable for me to feel that it was rather dreadful to think of you at
Stibbards all that time--going on just the same, day in, day out. Doing
everything exactly as mother used to do it. And grandmother before that, I

'In other words,' interrupted Kezia, 'leading the life of a decent gentlewoman
with a sense of honour and of duty.'

'How can you talk like that?' asked Mme. Lesarge with a vicious smile. 'Don't
you realise how really shocking that sounds to me? But I suppose I ought to be
sorry for you. You never had the strength to break away.'

Miss Faunce rose and walked to the window and peered down through the stiff,
white, starched lace curtains into the narrow noisy street below and watched a
baker's boy putting the very long powdered loaves into a handcart. She wanted
to say what she had to say with the deadly effect of perfect calm. She realised
that it would, perhaps, be better to say nothing at all, but she could not
attain to that amount of self-control.

She must, clearly, and once and for all, get out of her heart and soul all her
thoughts about her twin sister.

Mme. Lesarge was glad of this respite. She was sorry about the quarrel, which
had been unbecoming and exhausting; she regretted that she had not had more
power over herself. It had been a very long time since she had been in such a
rage; she was, on the whole, a good-natured woman and not often crossed nor
exasperated. Her life had been easy, full of facile success, light friendships
and superficial adulation; she avoided everyone who disapproved of her,
therefore this violent interview had been a detestable experience.

She rose also and went, not to the window, but to a mirror and there skilfully
adjusted the smooth curls that should, perhaps, have been the same colour as
the harsh locks of her sister, but which were very carefully tinted a glossy
auburn. She took paint and powder from her reticule and made up her lips and
her cheeks; she always looked at herself a little anxiously when she studied
her face in the mirror, but never had she looked at herself so anxiously as she
did now. For she seemed to see in her comely face, which had satisfied her well
enough until the present moment, the ugly lines, the sour bilious tint, the
creeping wrinkles, and the sagging folds that for the last half-hour she had
been observing with fear and terror in the countenance of her twin sister.

She had thought, quite gaily, as she had come up the hotel stairs:

'I suppose Kezia will be looking a terrible frump by now.'

But she had been quite unprepared for what Kezia really did look like.

All the time they had been quarrelling she had been unable to take a
terrified, fascinated gaze from the plain woman seated opposite her, and she
had thought continuously, 'She is my age to the very minute.' Of course, no one
would recognize that there was the least likeness between them; it was not only
the dress and the paint and the dye and the acquired graces that disguised the
actress. Although they were twin sisters their natures were absolutely
different, always had been, but the fact remained that they were twin sisters,
and Mme. Lesarge knew that she would feel deeply uneasy until she was assured
that Kezia had left Paris and was not likely to return.

So, when she had a little reassured herself by that nervous, anxious
contemplation of her reflection in the mirror (her figure at least was very
good, and her taste in clothes excellent), she turned and said, with an attempt
at conciliation:

'Let us part with some civility at least, Kezia. I wish you no ill will. It
was a stupid mistake for us to meet. When are you leaving Paris?'

Miss Faunce turned round from the window. She felt she had herself well in
hand now, would be able to say exactly what she meant without allowing her
passion to betray her into useless abuse.

'I don't know that it was a mistake for me to come to Paris,' she said
deliberately. 'I felt it my duty to do so. As I said, I have been thinking of
you continuously for years. I live alone, as you know, and of course, there is
plenty to do, I am never idle. But there is no other person beside yourself
nearly connected with me. Say and think what you like, Martha, we are twin
sisters, and I suppose there is some sort of bond,' she paused and added, 'even
if it be a bond of hatred.'

'Hatred,' repeated the actress, with an elegant shrug, 'that's an ugly word to
use, isn't it? Why do you bother about me at all? I don't hate you, I assure

'Oh, yes, I think you do,' said Miss Faunce. 'I think you do, Martha. I saw
hatred in your eyes all the time we were talking together. You were thinking
that I was old and ugly and your twin sister.'

'Did you read me as clearly as that?' smiled Mme. Lesarge, rather pale under
the careful tinting of powder and rouge. 'Well, perhaps some such thought did
come into my mind. You've let yourself go, you see, terribly, Kezia. You look
fifteen years older than you are. I suppose you rather revel in it.'

'I've let myself alone,' replied Miss Faunce. 'I am as God made me. My hair is
the colour yours ought to be, my face looks as yours would look without all
that stuff you've got on it.'

'Not quite, I think,' said Mme. Lesarge. 'We have different thoughts,
different minds. We live very differently. I don't suppose if we were stripped
side by side we should look in the least alike.'

'Don't you? Well, I think that if we were stripped, people would know us for
twins, but that's not what I want to argue about. And I don't want to hear
about your life, which I am sure is vile and disgusting. It was thinking of
your life and how horrible it was that brought me here. I felt it was my duty
to try and save you.'

'Oh, for pity's sake,' murmured the actress. She picked up her gold-mesh bag
and her ivory-handled parasol. 'You are really becoming absurd, ridiculous.
Save me--from what?'

'You know quite well what I mean, and I really do want to save you. I dare say
that, as you boast, I don't know as much of the world as you do, but I know
what happens to women like you when they are not young. I suppose you haven't
saved anything?'

'No, and I am in debt,' smiled the actress.

'I thought so. What are you going to do when you can't any longer get parts--
when you can't find any friends?'

'That is many, many years ahead,' replied Mme. Lesarge. 'You need not concern
yourself about my future, my dear Kezia. Even if I do live to be old I shall--'

'Well, what will you do?'

Miss Faunce leaned forward eagerly.

'I shall repent, of course. Either marry some good man and go and live in the
country or go into a convent. You know I am a Roman Catholic?'

Miss Faunce shuddered.

'You are the first of our family to become that,' she said with real distress.

Mine. Lesarge laughed. She was uneasy and wanted to escape.

'Did you really come to Paris to say these silly things to me?' she said. 'You
have wasted your time and your money.'

'I have plenty of both,' replied Kezia, 'you know Grandmother Tallis died last
year. She left me all her fortune. Half of it would have been yours if you had
been--a different sort of woman. I'd give you what would have been your share
now, if you'd like to change your way of living.'

'Repent--I suppose, is what you wanted to say, Kezia. This is all so hopeless.
We don't even talk the same language. I don't want Grandmother Tallis's money
nor any of yours. Though you must admit,' she added, a little grimly, 'that it
has been fortunate for you, from a practical point of view, that I did take--
the primrose path, I suppose you'd call it, eh? You had everything, didn't you--
the house, the lands, the money, father's fortune, mother's fortune,
Grandmother Tallis's fortune. To whom are you going to leave it when you die?'

'To charities,' replied Kezia Faunce sternly. 'Every penny of that money will
be left to do good to someone. I am quite prepared, as I said just now, to give
you all you need, if you leave the stage--leave Paris.' Then, on another note,
she added, 'Don't you ever feel homesick, Martha?'

Mme. Lesarge reflected. The words did take her back to certain broken dreams
and odd moments of nostalgia. She had run away from home when she was sixteen,
a schoolgirl home for the holidays. She had eloped with a subaltern from the
neighbouring garrison. They had gone to India and in three years she had been
divorced ignominiously. There had been another marriage with a husband who
drank and ill-treated her, and this time a separation without a divorce. Then,
a long connection with Adrian Lesarge, the French actor, who had taught her his
language and his art, given her the place which she had contrived to hold
since. For she was industrious, clever, and talented, and had a rare charm and
radiance in her personality.

It seemed a long time ago since she had fled from Stibbards, with a veil down
over her bonnet and a small case in her hand. It was very early summer, she
could recall the scent of the flowering currant bushes as she had hurried
through the kitchen garden to let herself out by the back door in the red-brick
wall where the apricots grew.

Homesick--for those sixteen years in an English village! She remembered it as
always afternoon and always sunny, quiet, with the smell of hot jam coming from
the kitchen.

Kezia was watching her keenly.

'You are homesick,' she said, 'you are. Martha, why don't you come back?'

Mme. Lesarge looked up quickly, as if she wondered if these were the accents
of love. Love? How could it be, or any touch of affection or any kindly
feeling? Curiosity, envy, fused into hatred gazed out of Kezia's dull brown
eyes. And Mme. Lesarge knew that this expression was reflected in her own gaze.
Yes, envy too. There was something about Kezia's life and character which she
envied; when she looked at her sister she thought of things that she had
missed, just as Kezia thought of lacks in her own existence when she looked at
her sister.

Each woman hated and envied in the other what she might have been--it was a
complex and terrible emotion.

The actress contrived to speak lightly.

'Return! Impossible! And you know it is. You would not wish to have me at

'No, I suppose not,' agreed Miss Faunce. 'You're quite right, it would be a
scandal--intolerable. Unless some story could be made up or you came as a

Mme. Lesarge laughed.

'I suppose you really are crazy enough to think that might happen--that I
might come with a made-up story behind me, or as a penitent, and that you would
be able to torture me day after day! We're both going crazy, I think. Let's try
to talk of real things.'

She spoke with a good deal of resolution and with far fewer graces or
affectations than she had used on her entry into this gilt and plush sitting-
room. She was becoming indeed, though she did not know it, more like her sister
in manner than she had been for years, more familiar with her own language that
she had not spoken for so long, more like Kezia in abrupt gestures and straight

'You know that I am not coming back. You know that I am not going to take any
of Grandma Tallis's money. You know that I don't want ever to see you again. If
you should come to Paris again, pray don't disturb me.'

She grasped the ivory-handled parasol so tightly that it seemed it might
break. Kezia Faunce watched her very curiously.

'I daresay you think that I am completely degraded, but pray don't waste any
such pity on me. I am successful--I always have been successful. I am, in a
way, triumphant over everything, over the usual conventions, the traditions
that bind women, over the usual stupid emotions that cause them to waste their
hearts and lives; over all the pettifogging duties and obligations that wear
away a woman like you. Yes,' she repeated, with a shrill note creeping into her
voice, 'I am in every way successful and triumphant, and I beg that you will
not think of me with any compassion or believe that I have or ever could have
any regrets.'

Miss Faunce's contemptuous smile had deepened as she listened to this
flaunting speech.

'And the end?' she asked. 'What is the end to be?'

'I beg you not to concern yourself about that, Kezia. I daresay my end will be
as comfortable and as edifying as yours, and at least, it is a long way off.'

'You are not so secure as you think,' said Miss Faunce. 'I was in Paris two or
three days before I let you know that I was here, and I made inquiries, and I
read things for myself. You are not so popular as you were. Although you
deliberately blind yourself, people do realise that you are getting old.'

The actress gave a painful smile.

'A woman like myself is never old.'

'Oh, that is very easy to say, Martha, and I have no doubt that it consoles
you. You are forty-five. It will not be very long before you are fifty. There
are younger women, and I know that you do not get such good parts as you did.
And the men don't run after you like they used to. That you have lost one or
two wealthy--protectors, don't you call them? That you go about now with very
much younger men, quite young boys in fact.'

'So you have been spying on me!' cried Mme. Lesarge, who looked quite livid.
'You who call yourself an honest, honourable woman!'

'No, I haven't been spying on you, Martha. It wasn't difficult to find out
these things. Just a word here and there at the dressmakers, the perfumers, in
the foyer of the theatre itself. Oh, I've been to see you two or three times.
You act quite well, but you're getting tired, aren't you--very tired?'

'Your talk is ridiculous, inspired by envy. We are both of us in the prime of
life. You need not look an old woman. If you had ever lived you would not do
so, it is because everything has been dried up in you--always, you have faded
without blooming.' Then, in desperation, almost with a note of appeal, Mme.
Lesarge added: 'Why could you not let me alone? I haven't thought of you for
years. When your note came I did have an impulse of kindness.'

'Neither of those statements is true,' interrupted Kezia Faunce with a force
that held the other woman utterly silent. 'You know that you have thought about
me, again and again, and of Stibbards, and of the life I lead, of your own
childhood and our own father and mother and all our neighbours and friends.
Yes, we are twins, there is some affinity between us, and in a way we do know
each other's thoughts, and I know you have thought of me--that I have haunted
you like you have haunted me. That is the truth, is it not, Martha?'

With a half step threateningly forward the actress, with a shrug pulling at
the pearls fastening her pale gloves, admitted sullenly:

'Yes, I suppose it is true. You have rather haunted me. And that is why I
came. But what is there in it? Why do we talk about it or think of it?'

'And the other thing you said is not true, either,' continued Kezia coming
still closer to the other woman. 'You didn't come here in a fit of kindness.
You hate me as much as I hate you. You can't endure to think that I am existing
in Stibbards, any more than I can endure to think that you are existing in

'It does get on my nerves, sometimes,' admitted Mme. Lesarge, 'but I don't
know why it should. It is a mere accident that we're sisters--twin sisters.
We're quite different women.'

'I wonder,' said Kezia Faunce, with great bitterness. 'Perhaps we really are
the same kind of woman, only in you one side, and in I the other, has got the
uppermost. Well, it's no good talking about that. I, at least, have behaved
myself, and you haven't. I've every right to scorn you, but you've no right at
all to scorn me. You've been a bad woman since you were a young girl--bad
daughter, bad wife. Not fulfilling a single duty or obligation, while I did
everything that was expected of me.'

Mme. Lesarge echoed these words with an accent of mockery.

'Everything that was expected of you--poor Kezia!'

'It's all very well to jeer, but I stayed behind. I nursed mother, I nursed
father, I didn't get married when I might have got married, because it meant
leaving them. There were all kinds of things that I would have liked to have
done, but I didn't even think about them. And when father and mother were dead
I felt a duty towards Stibbards, to the name, the position we held.'

Mme. Lesarge interrupted this with great gusts of laughter, half-hysterical
laughter. She turned towards the door.

'I really think I shall go mad if I stay here and listen to you any longer. I
do hope you will leave Paris soon. And please don't try to see me again.'

'No,' said Kezia sourly, 'I won't try to see you again, it's too horrible. The
worst of it is that I shan't be able to avoid thinking about you.'

'I suppose not.'

Mme. Lesarge had her hand on the door-knob. The two sisters were looking at
each other very intently and in the utter unself-consciousness of that moment
of passion the likeness between them was quite strong. The dyed curls of the
actress and the harsh grey hair of Kezia Faunce seemed mere details in the
general resemblance, which was one of shape and structure.

'Are you going to act tonight?' asked Miss Faunce.

'Yes. I hope you won't be there to see me. It would make me nervous if I
thought you were watching.'

'I've watched you twice, as I told you. I shan't come again. I suppose
there'll be bouquets?'

'I suppose so. It is rather an especial occasion. Why did you ask?'

Kezia Faunce did not reply. She had grown flowers, profusion, multitudes of
flowers all her life, she had given away flowers for village weddings and
funerals, to the poor, the sick, to charity, to church festivals; she had
plucked flowers by the armful, the basketful, to adorn her room, but she had
never had as much as a single rose or lily given her, and all her life Martha
had been receiving bouquets.

'Well,' she said, 'one kiss has got to be the last kiss, you know, and one
bouquet the last bouquet. I wonder if you've ever thought of that?'

'Yes, I've thought of it,' replied the actress coolly. 'I daresay we have a
good many thoughts in common. Never mind, my dear, I daresay I shall repent, as
you call it, in time. I shall marry, as I said, some old respectable man, and
keep house for him to the best of my ability. Or I shall go into a convent, or,
I might die suddenly. In any of these cases there would be no more kisses nor
bouquets, and I suppose you would be satisfied, Kezia?'

'Satisfied? I don't know. But I should like to think that the kind of life you
are leading had come to an end. I shall watch the papers, Martha--the French

'Whatever I do won't be in the papers,' laughed Mme. Lesarge. 'I shall keep it

'How am I to know then? I don't want you to write to me. I don't want a French
letter to be seen at Stibbards.'

'Oh, I shan't write to you, but you'll know, somehow. I'll send you my last
bouquet, Kezia.'

She pulled the door open, and with the swiftness of one well versed in
dramatic effect was gone.

Kezia Faunce sat down, trembling; the palms of her hands and her forehead were
damp. How hateful this interview had been! What a mistake--this hideous visit
to Paris! She had certainly satisfied a curiosity that had haunted her for
years; through all her monotonous, orderly, placid life had always run the
question 'What is Martha like? She had sometimes woken up in the middle of the
night after a dream that had been of some other subject and sat up in bed and
said to herself, half-aloud: 'What is Martha doing now? What is she wearing?
Who is her present lover? What part is she playing? How many people are
drinking her health or sending her presents? What does she look like and how
much money has she got?' And all these questions had been like so many arrows
piercing her in the dark. She had felt that her own life was poor and mean
before the opulence and splendour of Martha's life and yet at the same time, by
a maddening paradox, she had felt intensely proud of her own virtue, supremely
scornful of her twin sister's wickedness.

Nobody ever spoke of Martha in Stibbards. It was nearly thirty years since she
had run away and Miss Faunce hoped that she had been forgotten through the
sheer force of never being mentioned. Many people, surely, believed she was
dead, and a great many more, even if they did occasionally read the newspapers
and see the name therein of a certain famous actress, would not associate the
name of Marcelle Lesarge with that of Martha Faunce. But always in her twin
sister's mind she had been alive, vital, and exasperating, until this
suppressed emotion had not been any longer endurable and Miss Faunce, under
some excuse, more or less feasible, had left Stibbards and come to Paris and
sought out and really seen Martha.

And now it was over, that momentous interview, and it had been nothing but
recriminations, a bitter and humiliating quarrelling and an intensifying of her
deep emotion of mingled contempt and envy. She sat stiffly in the red plush
empire chair and rested her head on the back and closed her eyes and imagined
herself in Martha's place.

She saw herself as Mme. Marcelle Lesarge stepping out into her little phaeton
with the smart groom in a smart livery on the box, and some comely, well-
dressed gentleman beside her. She saw herself being swept over the cobbled
Paris streets, laughing, chattering, bowing to acquaintances, and so to her
sumptuous apartments.

Why hadn't Martha asked her to her apartment, why hadn't she, Kezia, insisted
on going there? Merely through lack of courage. Because she had been ashamed of
herself as much as of her sister. She would not have known how to behave to the
people whom she might have met in Martha's bijou little house.

Ah, what was it like, that little house? Very different from Stibbards, Kezia
was sure, full of gilded furniture, of pictures and statuary, all presents from
her lovers, no doubt. And these lovers, who and what were they? Kezia Faunce
had heard many rumours, many scandalous tales. She did not know which of them
to credit. But what did that matter, the lovers were there, and she might
imagine them as she pleased.

She opened her eyes and sat up. She found that this identification of herself
with her twin sister was a dangerous pastime. Tomorrow she would return to
England and to Stibbards. Everything would be as it was, outwardly, at least.
She would not soon be able to forget, perhaps she would not be able to ever
forget the interview in this hateful, gaudy room, with the vulgar, red plush
and gilt furniture, the great mirrors, wreathed with coarse carvings that rose
to the ceiling. Neither of the sisters would influence the other by one iota.
Their tragedy was that neither could forget the other.

Her last bouquet!

What did she mean by that? How could she say anything so absurd?

'Send me her last bouquet!' Kezia Faunce could not get that out of her excited
mind. She, who all her life had never had a posy sent her, to receive that
bouquet which would mean that her sister's life of sin was over! The idea was
as exasperating, as ridiculous as it was hateful.

Miss Faunce left Paris the next day. Her progress to the station was rendered
hateful by constant glimpses of her sister, pretty, provoking, and elegant,
smiling at her in red and black paint from the bill posters. In one of these
she was depicted as holding an enormous cluster of scarlet roses in a stiff
white paper frill, and Miss Faunce, staring at the vivid drawing which had in
the set of the nose and chin a grotesque likeness to herself, repeated with
bitter vexation:

'Her last bouquet! Her last bouquet!'


Kezia Faunce lived very well at Stibbards. She had power, money, position,
activities and leisure, and valued all these things exactly in that order.

There was no one to dispute her authority either in her own household or in
the village; there was no fear of any contradiction either in her management of
the Manor or in her general supervision of her poorer neighbours' affairs. She
was charitable and even kind, for she felt these things to be virtuous and she
had early set herself out to be virtuous. The fine Palladian Manor House, Tudor
timber and bricks, re-fronted with eighteenth-century stone, classic portico
and windows, was far too large for her, for she lived alone and seldom
entertained. But she refused to shut up any of the rooms and the large staff of
servants kept everything as precise and orderly as if the original number for
which the house had been built still inhabited its spacious wings. And she
filled her days that would otherwise have been sometimes empty and often
lonely, by a minute supervision of all the details of her own household, by a
close supervision of all the affairs of all her servants, tenants, and poorer

For years she had led this active, authoritative life with no trouble save the
annoying thought of Martha in Paris, and since she had been to Paris and seen
Martha this thought had grown until it overspread all her days as a fungus will
overspread a healthy tree, seizing on a speck of diseased wood and growing
until there is no sap or vitality in root or branch, and, in the next Spring,
no leaves are put forth.

There was no one to whom Kezia Faunce could speak of her sister, and therefore
she brooded the more deeply day and night on that same personality that was at
once so alien and so much part of herself, leading that other life so distant
from her own, and yet very much a life that would have expressed something of
herself that had never been expressed. It was not likely that she would ever
see her again or that they would ever correspond. Some day she would read in
the paper of the retirement or the death of Mme. Marcelle Lesarge; possibly of
her marriage or her disappearance into a convent. There was only one thing that
Mme. Lesarge, supposing that she ever looked at an English newspaper, could
read of her, and that would be her death and her burial in the churchyard which
was so near Stibbards and where every other Faunce lay and would lie, except
Martha herself.

The estate would go to a distant cousin whose name was not Faunce, and Kezia's
money would go to austere charities. And so the very existence of the two
sisters would be, as it were, wiped off the earth. There would only be Kezia's
name among all her ancestors in the English churchyard, and that assumed, false
name of Marcelle Lesarge in some huge Parisian cemetery. And Kezia often
wondered which of them would die first. Which would read the notice of the
other's death in the paper? And what would it be like for her to realise that
that other self of hers in Paris had ceased to exist, or for Martha to know
that her second half which had stayed at home in Stibbards had left the
familiar rooms empty?

Kezia Faunce tried, often enough, to analyse her feelings towards her sister,
to get, as it were, to the very heart of this dull, envious hatred, but she
could not. Whenever she tried to do so she became both confused and rebellious.
She was quite sure that her scorn for Martha was sincere and that she despised
the kind of woman that Martha was, and yet she was forced to admit that Martha
had had a great deal that she would have liked to have had, experiences that
she would have given much to have enjoyed, adventures that she would have
delighted to have tested.

She believed that Martha felt much the same about her; surely she had seen
regret and envy in those dark, painted eyes under the elegant little hat with
the crimson ostrich feathers!

Martha had regretted, ah, surely, that she had forfeited her status as an
English gentlewoman, that she had no part in Stibbards, and all that Stibbards
meant. She had envied Kezia and the courage which had chosen the dull,
monotonous way, the dignity that had clung to duty, the self-sacrifice, the
austere decorum which would force even the most ribald and light-minded to
respect Miss Kezia Faunce.

This obsession about Martha, which she had hoped a sight of her would efface,
grew, on the contrary, from day to day, until it became almost unbearable.

'I suppose it will go on for years and years,' she thought, with a sense of
panic, 'I used to think I saw her sitting at table with me, walking beside me
in the garden, and even through the woods and the orchards; meeting me in the
village and coming into my bedroom at night. But I always saw her as I
remembered her--a young girl in a muslin frock, doeskin slippers, and long
curls falling from under a chip straw bonnet. Well, I have got rid of that
image, but it has been replaced by another. I see her now as I saw her in that
detestable red plush and gilt drawing-room in the Paris hotel, in that vulgar
interchangeable blue and red silk, in those diamonds--yes, I believe they were
real--in that lace, I was sure it was genuine, on her bosom, with her hair dyed
and her face painted, and the little hat with the crimson feather placed so
elegantly on her curls; looking, I must confess, no more than thirty-five, and
yet I thought that towards the end of the interview she looked as old as I do.
Yes I see her like that now. It is quite unescapable. I don't know what I shall
do. It must be some kind of an illness.'

And she wondered passionately if Martha were haunted by her, if Martha, at the
theatre, in her choice little apartment, in her tilbury, driving in the Bois in
the midst of her little supper parties, saw her, Kezia Faunce, in her plain
frock, cut by a provincial dressmaker, with her grey hair in the chenille net,
with her uncared-for complexion and dull eyes, with her keys at her waist, and
her account or receipt book in her hand, going from still-room to closet, from
kitchen to dairy, through all the handsome well-kept, unused rooms of Stibbards.

'It is grotesque, it is absurd.' With all the force of her strong mind she
endeavoured to shake off the obsession, and threw herself with suppressed and
burning energy into good works.

Her charities, always considerable, became lavish; she gave away blankets and
coals, medicines and foods, until the vicar protested that she was spoiling his
parishioners. She bought a new organ for the church, although she cared nothing
about music, and she spent many hours on her knees in her high pew with the
green curtains though she knew nothing about prayer.

She began several letters to her sister, formal epistles, asking after her
health, and the drama that she was appearing in, and asking, vaguely, for news.

But she sent none of these.

Towards September she felt much more at ease and she began to think with a
great thankfulness that the haunting, as she secretly named it to herself, had
ceased. She could not, of course, forget Martha, but the figure of the actress
became vague and blurred in her mind, and for hours together, when she was
absorbed in some task or in some outside interest she would not think at all of
the woman in the full, beruffled, interchangeable blue and red taffeta, in the
little hat and the crimson feathers.

She began to cease wondering how Martha was employing her time, to cease
turning over in her mind, so ignorant of such affairs, the possible various
episodes of that alien yet closely connected life. She ceased to wonder and to
brood over these coquetries, the wickednesses, the successes of Martha. She was
soothed by a sense of being more fairly treated than she had hitherto been, for
it had always seemed to her grossly unjust that she, the virtuous, the
spotless, the irreproachable, should have been troubled in the slightest by any
thought of the worthless, the degraded, the contemptible.

Surely the reward for her noble life of complete self-sacrifice should, at
least, have been complete peace of mind.

'God,' she thought, 'should have seen to that.' And now she felt that He had
done so, for when she did think of her sister it was in a vague, compassionate
fashion. She would still wake up suddenly in the night, alert, and full of
exasperation, expecting to be challenged by that thought of Martha. But now
there would be emptiness, merely her large, handsome, silent bedroom with the
harvest moon showing through the unshuttered windows, and a sense of security
all about. She would think of Martha, certainly, but only of someone very far
away who did not concern her in the least.

She would lie contentedly in the large bed considering her own possessions,
Stibbards, full of her furniture, her silver, her pictures, her china; the
stables, with her horses in them, the park full of her timber and sheep and
cattle; her farms, well stocked, prosperous. All hers, glorifying her,
supporting her, giving her honour, dignity and importance, while Martha had no
part in any of them. Martha had run away from all this thirty years before,
when she had gone through the garden perfumed by the early currants, and
slipped away to her worthless young soldier, to whom she had not been for very
long faithful.

In the first week of September, Miss Kezia Faunce superintended the making of
pickles, sauces, and relishes from the early unripe fruit. Never yet, since as
a girl of ten or so she began to help her mother in these domestic duties, had
Miss Kezia missed the different picklings, preservings, jam and wine making as
they came round at their several times of the year. The cupboards, closets, and
presses of Stibbards were filled by the products of her industry; perfumes,
lotions, preserves, balm, aromatics, sweet waters, washes, and confections,
more than she would be able to use in the rest of her life, stood stocked in
the darkness that they filled with a musty fragrance.

This year, when the last day of this work was over, Kezia Faunce felt suddenly
tired, almost as if she were going to be ill. She walked out into the garden
about the time of sunset in a lassitude that was too indifferent to seek rest.
The evening was cloudless, overwhelming in spacious gold, the landscape was
transfigured by the pure uninterrupted light of the western sun; the air was
full of Autumn fragrances, and from the house came the mingled sour-sweet smell
from the preserving-pans, still redolent of hot spices and sugared fruits.

The large house was silent, as if everyone rested after the day's labour.
There was no one in the wide trim gardens but Miss Kezia Faunce herself. She
wiped continually with a delicate handkerchief the last sparkles of sugar from
her fingers. She felt a mingled sensation of excitement and apprehension, but
she did not think of Martha at all. She went to the herb garden and noted how
the various plants, hot and cold, moist and dry, were growing in the warm air.
Everything grew well that year. It seemed as if there was going to be a
splendid harvest of every kind of fruit, a thing that Miss Kezia Faunce could
not remember having happened before--everything in fruitage at once. She found
herself trembling and she sat down on the circular stone seat beside the great
beds of thyme, rosemary, and lavender, all silver grey in that increasing
golden light, for, as a lamp will flare up at the last before it goes out, so
as the sun finally sank it seemed to give out a more powerful glow.

Miss Kezia Faunce thought that never before had she noted so much light. She
sat there on the semi-circular stone seat, between those high, silver-grey
plants of rosemary, lavender, marjoram; she felt her senses becoming slightly
confused and she had a sensation of light-headedness, as she had often
experienced before a severe thunderstorm. Her glance fastened on a large rose
bush in the bed opposite, which looked unnaturally tall and seemed to have
uncommonly large red thorns. There were no flowers now on this bush, but she
knew that it bore crimson blooms, the last of which had fallen about a week ago.

She thought then, not definitely of Martha, but of a bill poster that she had
seen stuck up on an ugly brick wall in Paris as she drove to the station. An
actress with a nose and mouth something like her own, holding a large bouquet
of crimson roses with a white paper frill. The garden seemed too large and the
sky too vast, and the bright light of the sunset too overwhelming for Miss
Kezia Faunce's senses.

She turned and walked back towards the house as one seeking a refuge. She had
not quite reached the large terrace when she saw Sarah, the new kitchen-maid,
coming hurriedly towards her.

Miss Faunce frowned. It was not part of Sarah's duties to run errands or take
messages to her mistress and she certainly had no business to be in the garden
in the print dress and the white apron, now slightly sticky, which she had worn
to help in the pickling and the preserving.

Miss Kezia Faunce hastened her step with a rebuke ready on her lips, but what
Sarah had to say was so curious that Miss Faunce forbore her reproof.

The little kitchen-maid, who spoke rather breathlessly, had, she said, been
standing at the kitchen door scouring out the last of Cook's pots when she had
looked up and seen a lady standing just before the square of potherbs. She had
stared at Sarah, smiled, turned away without a word, and gone through the gate
in the privet hedge towards the house. Sarah had run after her, but lost sight
of her. Then, seeing Miss Faunce in the distance, she had thought that she
should tell her of this stranger.

'What was there strange in it?' asked Miss Kezia quickly. 'It was some visitor
who had lost her way and come to the side kitchen door instead of to the front
entrance. I can't see anything peculiar about it, Sarah.'

'But she was so odd, ma'am, and not like anyone round here.'

'What was she like, child? Don't make so many words about nothing. What was
this lady like?'

'She was very finely dressed, ma'am, and had a queer look of you.'

'A look of me? What do you mean, child? Express yourself better. Do you mean
that she was like me?'

The kitchen-maid became confused under this severity.

'She was something like you, ma'am. I don't know. She made me think of you.
She had a big nosegay in her hand.'

Miss Kezia's lips pinched themselves together.

'Run away and finish your duties, Sarah. This lady has no doubt gone into the
house, where she is waiting for me.'

Dismissing the kitchen-maid, Miss Faunce continued her slow walk towards the

So, Martha had come to Stibbards. Now, why? And in what devilish mood of
mockery and spite? Was she going to be married or to enter a convent? Was she
at least leaving the stage and her disgraceful manner of life? Miss Kezia felt
her thin cheeks flush. Martha had come, bringing with her the bouquet.

The last bouquet?

'She means to disgrace me, I suppose. To make a scandal and a talk all over
the place. Perhaps she has lost all her money and may be dependent on me, after

Her thoughts full of hate, Miss Kezia Faunce entered the house which seemed to
her more than usually quiet. If Martha had left the side kitchen door and gone
through the gate in the privet hedge and then been lost sight of by Sarah, she
must have entered the house by the front door. So Miss Kezia Faunce went
directly to that and looked in the hall.

This was empty.

'I suppose that she would, even after all these years, remember the place very
well. She has probably gone to the green parlour, where she used to sit and do
her lessons with Mamma.'

So Miss Faunce opened the door of the green parlour, a room that, though kept
spotlessly clean, swept and dusted, had been long since shut up and disused.
The slatted dark-green shutters were closed now and the strong last sunlight
beating on them filled the room with a subdued glow, almost as if it were under

The walls were painted an old-fashioned, dull green; the carpet was green and
so were the rich curtains, the damask covered chairs. Everything was the same
as it had been when Martha and Kezia used to have their lessons there with
their mother.

There was the desk at which they had worked, the piano at which they had
practised, and on the walls still hung some of the water-colours of moss roses,
birds' eggs in nests, and white rabbits which they had drawn and painted

The room smelt slightly of musk and Miss Kezia, whose mind was not working
very alertly and who felt some vagueness over all her senses, thought:

'I must have the shutters opened tomorrow and a little sun and air let in. I
had forgotten quite how long it was since the room was used.'

And then she saw Martha standing up close against an inner door, looking at
her over her shoulder, holding rather stiffly in both hands, a large bouquet of
crimson roses, exactly as she had held them in the poster which Miss Kezia had
seen the day she drove to the railway station in Paris.

'Martha,' said Miss Faunce stiffly, 'so you've come home at last. To give me
the bouquet?'

Still smiling and still without speaking, Mme. Marcelle Lesarge's delicately
gloved hands held out the crimson bouquet.

Kezia Faunce took it, and as she did so all the roses turned to blood and
emptied themselves into her bosom.


Miss Kezia Faunce was found dead in the green parlour where she and her twin
sister Martha so often had lessons with their mother. She had fallen, and her
head had struck the harp, an instrument that she used, in her girlhood, to play
very well.

She had been dead several hours when she was found. The doctor said that her
heart had always been weaker than he dared to tell her. She had, of late, been
wearing herself out with good work and had been labouring in the kitchen on
that particular day. She might have fallen, when unconscious, and killed
herself by the blow given her by the harp.

There was no mystery about the affair and not much mourning.

Sarah, the kitchen-maid, did not dare to tell anyone about the lady who had
come to the kitchen door with the bouquet. She feared that she would get into
severe trouble for an untruthful romancing girl.


Mme. Marcelle Lesarge died in the same hour precisely as her twin sister, but
not in so agreeable a manner.

She had lately become rather desperate in her choice of admirers, and on that
September evening she had taken home to her apartments a worthless young rake
who for some while had been flattering her.

What passed between them on this particular evening no one would ever exactly
know, though it was not difficult to guess, for in the morning she was found
murdered, her room robbed and rifled, all her jewellery stolen, and nothing
left but the large bouquet of crimson roses, which were found flung down
carelessly on her bosom, profaned, drooping, and dappled with her blood.


A roofless house in the middle of a grove of firs, always in shade from the
blue-black foliage, and further darkened by a huge cypress. Who planted this
sombre, exotic tree so near a mansion of austere grey stone? One of gloomy
tastes, surely; perhaps, in a mood of heartbroken penitence, some wrongdoer
brought a long jade-coloured cone from the Holy Land in his pocket and dropped
it in this lonely place when, suddenly, the devils he had not been able to
placate, sprang up and pursued him through the haunted wood.

Roofless is this bluish granite mansion; from the broken hearth-stones
stinging-nettles grow thickly, and in the fallen doorway is an ash sapling,
that ill-omened tree; the window-spaces all open on to the darkness of the
trees; even from the top of the tower (more ancient, more stoutly built than
the house) up to which you may still mount by worn steps, weeds sprout in every
crack of stone, there is no prospect only the upper branches of the firs, the
flat boughs of the cypress, and the pale sky between appears very lonely, very
far away.

This was the jointure house; the vast mansion to which it was attached has
disappeared; only a sloping smoothness in the turf of the deserted park shows
where the terraced lawns sloped down to the artificial lake; only a broken row
of ancient chestnut trees shows where a grandiose avenue led to lordly portals
of stone and iron.

Many widowed women lived and died in the jointure house, retiring there after
handing over their keys to a son's or an heir's wife; but there came a time
when it was shut up and another dower house was built on the other side of the
spacious grounds.

This was because of Madam Spitfire; no one (they say) cared to live in the old
one after her; the house was avoided, it fell into decay; even when the great
mansion was pulled down later for building materials the old jointure house was
left alone...not that it had any reputation of ghost or goblin; it was simply
ignored. By then the tale of Madam Spitfire had worn thin, to a mere pale
tradition; now it is nearly forgotten altogether.

No one knows where she is buried; some say it is under the rank patch of
nettles on the broken hearth at which she used to sit; some that it is under
the heap of bricks and stone where the old Mausoleum once stood; at least it is
certain that she does not rest among her husband's kin in the solitary little
church on the edge of the estate, which stands among white grave-stones like an
old shepherd among a crowding flock.

_I do not know when she lived, and if I did I would not care to give this
story dates; it is simply a long time ago; the colours in it are faded like the
yarns in an old needlework piece which have changed to a uniform mignonette
green and indigo blue with here and there the dim russet of a fox, a pard, an

_Why am I impelled to relate the tale of Madam Spitfire? Why does it come to
me with such poignant clarity as I linger within the four walls of the old
jointure house and watch the rays of light cut through the cypress boughs and
show on the old dark stone where the tenacious ivy clings with threadlike
tendrils and glossy leaves?_

Madam Spitfire was married when she was not so very young; she came in her
full pride to the proud Hall in the great park and everything was refurnished
for her reception; the Squire was very much in love with her and--'under her
thumb' as his people said.

From the first there was hostile talk; neither her family nor her past was
known; some cried her down as a foreigner or even a play actress, but nothing
could be proved, and she was well enough bred.

Yet almost at once her sharp ways with the servants and tenants gained her the
name of Madam Spitfire; she was soon hated by her inferiors, and few of her
equals came to the vast mansion whilst she ruled there; she stood between her
husband and all his old friends and ways. He was a very good-natured man and
spared no expense to keep his wife in a pleasant mood; she was costly in
everything; _I can see her going to church in a coach new gilt, wearing a
cherry-coloured satin that flares impudently against the sober, lordly pew._

Two people beside her weak husband concerned Madam Spitfire. One was a young
woman named Agnes who occupied a sad enough place in the opulent household; a
dependent but not a servant; subject to all the insolence and caprice of a
mistress, but unpaid and unable to leave if tyranny became intolerable. It was
believed she was the Squire's daughter, but he never acknowledged this, though
he endeavoured to be kind to her in a secret feeble fashion. It certainly
appeared, at least, that she was an orphan, helpless, alone, entirely at the
mercy of those on whose charity she existed; she was pretty and gentle and
happy enough in a thoughtless fashion; her character was weak, and she was
uneducated save in household work.

The other personage who concerned Madam Spitfire was Mr Jenniston, the
steward; though he was agreeable with all, he was suspected of underhand
villainies; he was middle aged, ugly, elegant, and did what he would with his
master. Abroad, he affected to deplore the harsh temper, the greedy
extravagance of Madam Spitfire, but it was believed that they understood each
other very well.

You may believe that this passionate woman's intense hope was to have
children, to have an heir to secure her position and assure her future. She
remained barren and that sharpened her fiery disposition; she conceived such a
hatred for the heir-at-law, Mr William Garnet, her husband's nephew, that he
never dared visit the Hall; the spiteful servants watched her closely, for they
thought that she would not hesitate to introduce a false child as her own, if
she had the least opportunity.

If she were indeed waiting for such a chance the more horrible must have been
her disappointment when her husband was one day brought in dying from a hunting

Her face was frightful to see as she ran into the painted chamber where they
had laid him; the girl Agnes was on her knees by his side; the western sun
poured through the huge window and showed her white dress, her misery, her
piteous, childish fear.

'Remember,' slowly whispered the dying man, 'to keep very carefully what I
gave you, Agnes.'

Madam Spitfire snatched the girl aside and stared down at her husband; the
last sunlight tinged with red the yellow ribbons in her hair.

'I'm done for,' he murmured; a smile of apology spread over his fat white face.

'I'll never forgive you!' she cried furiously.

The bystanders, in horror, drew her out of the room; Agnes crept back to the
couch, crying and wringing her hands.

Well, that was the end of the reign of the proud, selfish woman; she was then
Madam Dowager and must go to the jointure house; she was not poor; her marriage
settlements were generous enough--but to be a childless widow in the Dower
House, while another ruled at the Hall, you may guess what that meant to this
fierce creature.

The day of the funeral she called to her side the trembling Agnes.

'What was it my husband told you to keep so carefully?'

'A bond, madam. For a thousand pounds, payable when I am of age.' Seeing the
other's look of fury, the weeping girl added: 'It is my sole fortune, madam!'

'And a very fine fortune, too, for a nameless charity brat like yourself! But
you are only eighteen; who is to look after you, feed and clothe a lazy, stupid
chit like you?'

'Indeed, I don't know. But Mr Barton' (she named the clergyman of the parish)
'said he would perhaps take me in--'

'That don't suit me. It would be to make me appear unnatural--no, you'll come
to the Dower House with me. Give me the bond to keep for you.'

Agnes said that she had already put it in the hands of Mr Barton to lock away
among the church papers.

'Cunning slut!' cried Madam Spitfire, giving the girl a blow on the side of
her face; but she insisted no more for she had other affairs to occupy her; on
the very day that the Squire was laid in the Mausoleum, Mr William Garnet had
declared that he wished immediate possession of the Hall.

'It will be ready for him in a week,' declared the angry widow, 'and not

He gave her so much grace; to his undoing, for when he came to reside in the
great mansion it was stripped bare; tapestries, porcelains, plate, pictures had
been moved to the Dower House; only a few poor hacks were in the stables, and
by an unaccountable accident a sudden fire had burnt out the coach-house and
destroyed the carriages, while the glass-houses having been left open a sharp
frost had destroyed the orange trees and other costly shrubs.

Mr Garnet lost no time in going to law; but by the time he had won his case
the property could not be traced; some she had sold, some hidden; in everything
she was helped by Edmund Jenniston, the steward, who had been instantly
dismissed by the new Squire, and found employment with the widow.

It is easy to imagine the furious bad blood between the great Hall where Mr
Garnet, a jolly young man, entertained his town friends, and the Dower House
where Madam Spitfire sulked.

This part of the tale is dark with evil passions, fierce ruminations, the
black clash of a high tide of bitterness, which one can no longer distinguish
in detail.

It might have been supposed that the disappointed and furious woman would have
gone to town or abroad; but, like many vindictive spirits, she chose to remain
on the scene of her defeat and plague her successor in her lost honours.

It seems that she made life almost intolerable for Mr William Garnet and
soured his pleasant nature to bitterness and an angry desire for revenge; the
climax of her tormenting was that she was able, by the most subtle and
underground intrigues, by secret slander, to break off the match between the
Squire and the amiable daughter of a wealthy neighbour.

At this, her satisfaction was as sharp as his deadly resentment.

She became, for a while, even agreeable to poor Agnes, whom she turned into a
slave as hard worked as any on the Plantations.

The meek girl, profoundly unhappy, would kneel, where the nettles grow now,
latching the vixen's shoes or holding a screen between the fire and her sullen
brooding face.

Is it not odd to imagine the flames flickering on that damp stone, a Persian
cloth where the parsley and sorrel flourish, a warm light where the shadows of
the trees fall so thickly? No one has seen a ghost here, but something is wrong
with the place, surely.

These people are now all lost on the endless sweeps of eternity, and it is
strange that even I recall their story which still vibrates in the air, in the
shiver of the cypress boughs, in the movement of the shadows among the weeds,
in the sighs, almost imperceptible, that come across the lonely park.

The figure of Edmund Jenniston loomed more important in the tale after the
final and deadly breach with the Hall; there was much land and several farms
attached to the jointure house and he managed all; affecting to deplore the
harshness and unjust exactions of his employer, lamenting her greed and penury,
but in reality he was only her faithful agent.

Of course it was said that he was more than her servant; her lover, or her
unacknowledged husband; it was certain that he lived in the jointure house and
bore himself as master, for all his cringing, humble ways.

The servants who came and went so frequently reported angry whispers from
behind locked doors, the low sounds of suppressed quarrels when Madam and her
steward came to a disagreement; they also gossiped over the constant weeping of
Miss Agnes; often she sobbed half through the night in her mean upper room; it
must have been where the tuft of pink stonecrop now grows out of the loosened
blocks of granite and at evening the solitary night-jar gives his rude cry; the
cypress boughs sweep close to the masonry here, and when the wind is strong the
sound of their swaying is not unlike a womanish lamenting; the constant fall of
the dry mortar and dust on to the leaves sounds like the rustle of a gown.

Shortly one of Madam's farms came into the market and such was her reputation
that Mr Jenniston had difficulty in finding a tenant.

At length a stranger applied for it, readily agreed to the bad terms, had the
best of credentials, and was duly installed at Summerbrayes.

This man's name was Francis Rowe and he came from a far part of the country,
being minded, he said, to try fortune on his own, away from friends and favour;
he was a gentleman and it was at once assumed that he was escaping some failure
or disappointment that had clouded him at home.

But all doubt of him was soon forgotten in the enchantment of his address and
the unusual attraction of his person, which was of an elegance that appeared
odd among the rustical farmers of the neighbourhood.

From the first Madam distinguished him with kindness, received him as an
equal, invited him often to the jointure house, favoured with regard
Summerbrayes above her other tenancies, and soon flattered and caressed him.

She was as passionate as she was cruel; her husband had been no more than a
shadow to her; she was in the prime of life still, all her emotions were
unsatisfied; hateful as she was, I think here she was to be pitied for she was
invaded in her sullen retreat, defenceless and unprotected as she was, by a man
irresistible to women.

If Edmund Jenniston was jealous he did not show it, he remained smiling in the
background and warmly praised the new favoured tenant.

Mr Rowe had the gift of music; there, near that broken stone window-frame
where the valerian blooms in June through the cracks in the sunk sill, stood
the harpsichord, and there Mr Rowe would play a _musette_or _rigadoon_, or sing-
-'As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending--' or 'Flora gave me fairest flowers-

Madam (here again you must see her where the nettles grow, pure small white
flowers gathering under the rank vicious leaves, on the hearth place),
listening with secret rapture, was eager to give him any blooms she had in her
posy; nervous and restless she was for his approach, his embrace.

She had long thrown off her mourning, her gowns were bright and glossy; she
affected the most brilliant colours, the most sparkling gems, her vivid
carnation needed no paint; to Francis Rowe she was soft and melting, showing
none of her tempers. She would ride with him through the park, flaunting the
Squire with this cavalier who was in all his superior; Mr Rowe had a fine seat,
easy, well back in his saddle, his mount was fastidiously chosen; all believed
that he would turn his graces to good account and marry the widow, ay, and
master her too.

But another figure, hitherto effaced, enters the drama; Agnes, from the window
where the stonecrop now shows succulent rosy leaves, watched the riders go
forth towards the now broken chestnut avenue then very straight and lordly.
Agnes, on her humble stool on this sunken hearthstone, also listened to the
music of Mr Rowe and let her heart be stolen without an effort to save it; she
knew nothing but unhappiness and she had no friends but the servants and the
purblind old parson.

But, and here an ironic bitterness flavours the tale, she was lovely; her
prettiness had opened into a beauty brilliant in freshness, she had abundant
charms, and, despite her miseries, also a stately air, that was more than
chance innocence; it was impossible to associate her with anything vulgar or

Madam was quick to sense a secret rival though she could not, with all her
cunning, detect any response on the part of her tenant, any indiscretion on the
part of Agnes who pined in silence and wept more abundantly, for her tyrant's
humours increased to a dreadful degree of sharpness. If the deep blue eyes of
Francis Rowe flickered for an instant to the poor dependant, if his soft voice
addressed her but one casual word, she had to pay for it in dismal torments.

She was then nearly twenty-one years of age and looked forward with breathless
impatience to the redeeming of her bond.

Madam demanded:

'What will you do, friendless, nameless, when you have this money?'

'Madam, I shall go from here--Mr Barton will find me some other place--'

As the woman jealously studied the girl's fair features she saw there a
dreadful resemblance to her dead husband, a repetition of that softness, that
gentle kindness she had so despised; her hatred was increased, nor was it a
little untouched by fear.

For of all the evil whispered of Madam Spitfire this was always accounted the
most awful--that she had said to a dying man to whom she owed everything--'I
will never forgive you.'

Many regarded her, because of this, with a kind of awe; men believed in Hell
fire then and there were those who thought that the woman who could have
uttered those words was damned; she was aware of this and shivered a little
before the dead man's look in the living girl.

And Agnes suffered.

Continually Madam tormented her to show her the bond.

'It may be a flam for all I know. I would like to see if it is the signature
of my dead husband--'

One darkening winter day the girl brought to her the precious paper, which,
she said, Mr Barton had reluctantly delivered to her...

Madam tore off the signature and threw it into the fire with a grin of triumph.

Agnes did not appear so perturbed as she should have been at this loss of her
fortune, and Madam soon got at the truth, for Mr Barton, mistrusting her, had
sent a careful duplicate of the bond, charging the girl not to divulge this;
but she, poor fool, was no match for Madam, and greatly she had to suffer for
what her tyrant termed her incredible insolence.

But Madam Spitfire felt oddly defeated; torment the girl as she would, Agnes
seemed every day to bloom more radiantly, to endure her miserable life more
patiently; Madam, watching her keenly, even saw her secretly smile, even heard
her secretly sing; was it possible that she was cherishing some joyous secret?

But the sharp, shrewd widow could surprise nothing; she could not believe that
Francis Rowe was such a consummate deceiver as to be able to woo the girl under
her nose and she not know it; why, that would have taxed the ingenuity of a
town libertine, and he was, after all, a country farmer.

But she mused as to whether this were a correct description of him--she liked
to think there was some romantic mystery attached to him, she liked to think
him in all more splendid than he was; but in truth the man was too fine for his
station; his farm did not prosper, his lease was short and against his
interests, he declared all his hopes lost in the venture--

'Why don't he offer himself?' thought Madam in an agony of waiting; she longed
to feel his fingers on her breasts, his smooth face so close to her that she
could detect the flecks of darker blue in his azure eyes.

She stared at herself in her mirror till her sight ached; she spent
extravagantly on adornment, on entertainment, and yet he checked his wooing (if
wooing it was) at a certain point, though she gave him opportunity after

One night Edmund Jenniston sneered:

'He is fooling you.'

'Bah, with you and I to watch them?'

'_Them?_ Of whom are _you_ thinking?'

'Why should he fool me? He ought to be mad with gratitude that I notice him!'

'Don't you see how pretty Agnes is? And so young!'

Madam Spitfire threw a paper-knife that gave him a broken bruise on the sallow
cheek; she thought:

'My God! In a few months she will have a thousand pounds. Are they waiting for
that? She will be free, free. I shall have no hold on the slut--'

She hastened to the parsonage (the modest house yet stands behind the grey
church, the grey graves) and so intimidated the poor old clergyman that he
delivered up the true bond to her keeping, but not before he had made her swear
on the altar to keep it safely, and menaced her with the law if she did not.

'Take care, madam; now everyone trembles before you, but the day will come! If
you break this oath your husband will surely return to punish you--'

'My husband? Standing among the dead she curbed her temper.

'Ah, madam, it was an awful thing to say to a dying man--"I will never forgive

Madam hastened home with the precious bond; Mr Rowe was in her parlour; he was
singing to himself--'Sombre Woods'; his voice came gently to her as she opened
the door; '--then I shall meet my beloved, then I shall keep her for

Singing to himself? Madam Spitfire thought she had heard a step on the stair
as if someone had fled at her approach.

She did not know what to say or do for passion; sank on to the low chair by
the hearth and told him how she had got the bond from the old, senile fellow--
'who might lose it, or destroy it--if he dies of a sudden where are we? But
with me the poor child's little fortune is safe.'

Mr Rowe's fingers lingered on the keys; he eyed her, smiling.

'Is she not old enough to have charge of it herself?'

'When she is of age, perhaps--though, Lord knows, I think her feeble-minded.'

'What do you intend, madam, for this poor friendless creature? 'Tis a sad case.'

'I will keep her till she marries some fellow of her own station; she is
useless--lazy, stupid, ill-tempered, but perhaps with the money some rustic may
take her--'

While she spoke she was thinking: 'Why don't he cross the room, why don't he
take me in his arms? Oh, God, how long am I to endure this?'

But Mr Rowe made no definite advances; when he had left the room Edmund
Jenniston told her that she was being 'talked about', that people laughed at
her gross infatuation; if the man had offered to marry her, why, very well, but
she seemed to woo him in vain--why didn't she put an end to it?

How could she put an end to it?

Mr Jenniston reminded her that Francis Rowe was at her mercy--it was not
likely that he would be able to pay his rent, he had a wretched lease--it was a
wonder that he had signed it--

'I know all that, you fool. Tell me,' her jealousy burst all decorum, all
discretion, 'have you noted anything--about Agnes?'

'That she is a beauty.'

'I did not mean that, and you know it, rogue--'

'Ah, with regard to this spark? Well, I do feel something in the air.'

'You have felt that, too? Tell me, Edmund Jenniston, we have been good friends
in our way, am I still a beautiful woman?'

He gave her a smiling glance that blasted her as surely as if he had uttered a
potent curse.

'You look your age and that is more than even your enemies guess.'

He was amused at her overthrow; she turned speechlessly and stared at the wall
where the spiders now creep in and out of the crannies; a mirror hung there

After that the position became still more terrible; what fearful passions,
what desperate emotions did not this roofless house then contain! What black
midnight meditations, what evening tears, what prayers at morning, what ill-
suppressed furies and half-hidden fears!

Only a little thing was needed to send Madam Spitfire into an open tempest,
for Mr Rowe still dallied; and that little thing she soon found.

She came upon Agnes practising a melody by Dowland which Francis Rowe had
played--named suitably enough 'The Sorrowful Pavane'--_Lachrimae Pavan_.

The girl sank before the abuse heaped on her; Madam withered her with insults,
branded her with the word then easily used for love children, snatched the
music and tore it up, accused her of all her own lascivious desires, her own
bitter miseries, her own consuming jealousies, revealed her own lustful heart
in such a torrent of horrible self-revelation that the girl, who understood
nothing of all this, started up suddenly, in the extreme of terror, like the
hare when the hunter is near his form and concealment is no longer possible,
and ran out into the frosty night in her poor darned dress, with her thin
patched shoes. It is not easy for simple, romantic childish first love to
endure the hot face of lust violently revealed.

When twilight falls the nettles give out a rank sickly odour, it is then that
you may believe that Madam Spitfire is buried beneath them.

Old Mr Barton, the parson, by his winter fire, heard a tapping and saw a
frantic face pressed against his window.

'Let me in, Mr Barton! Let me in!'

Agnes, on his hasty opening of the door, came cowering to the hearth and could
not speak a word; she bit her forefinger and her eyes were scared.

For a while in the reaction that followed the opening of her evil heart, Madam
was scared too; she went upstairs to destroy the bond and could not do it; her
sworn oath rose up, like a tangible object, and checked her wicked desire.

'But I did not swear to deliver it up, only not to destroy it.'

And she locked it securely into a casket that she placed in the press in
Agnes's room.

'If she wants it, let her come for it--'

But Agnes would not enter that house again, be the scandal what it might; and
soon Madam heard that Francis Rowe was visiting the parsonage.

Mr Jenniston laughed.

'Well, they are in your power, you can turn him out of his farm in March--
he'll be ruined if you take all his stock for rent. And you've got the slut's

This did not assuage her agonies; the thought of the two possible lovers,
beyond her ken, beyond her spying, was Hell fire to her; she resolved to make
away with the bond for which Mr Barton had already asked in vain.

When she had come to this resolution she was in her bed (in the room with the
great window through which the cypress bough now enters with the tips of black
foliage); mighty with wrath and hate she no longer felt afraid of anything.

But she was powerless before a dream.

She did not move, in this dream, from the heavy bed with the dark baldaquin
and stiff curtains; she still saw the glow of fading firelight on the floor;
then, moving across this, she observed what she thought to be a fat dog,
wheezing, uncomfortable; but a closer glance showed that this creature trailed
drapery, knotted like a bunch of leaves above the head; it was her husband. He
appeared to be nosing round the room on a tense quest.

'It is not here,' she jeered. 'You won't find it--'

He rose; his sagging body was stout and flabby as she remembered it, but his
legs had dwindled to mere bones, his shroud tied on the top of his skull was
rotted into tatters, his face was shapeless; she saw the dying fire through a
hole in his cheek; his decayed eyes had the glitter of foul, stagnant water.
Madam wanted to take back her last words to him; she wanted to say:

'I forgive you now, do you hear?'

But she could not speak, and abruptly he came at her, gathering together his
corrupted members for a leap on to her sumptuous bed.

A fury of terror woke Madam; she scrabbled aside her curtains for air and knew
that she would not be able to destroy the bond.

The next morning she rode through a fog frost to the parsonage. Agnes must
come home, this was a scandal, she would not endure the reflections cast on her
by the whims of a stupid girl; her face, usually so warmly coloured, was palely
vehement, but Mr Barton resisted her importunities; he had not only public
opinion on his side, but the Squire; Mr Garnet had declared that the girl might
be his cousin for all he knew, that he would not have her tormented, and that
when he married she might come to the Hall to goffer his wife's frills and comb
her lap-dog; he knew of the bond, too, and swore he would see it redeemed.

Madam had gone too far, but the horror of her defeat was softened by
comforting information she wormed out of the foolish, agitated old man.

Agnes had taken a queer aversion to Francis Rowe; she refused to see him, she
blushed painfully when he was mentioned, she spent much time in church and
seemed every whit as unhappy as she could possibly have been at the jointure
house; Mr Barton even feared for her mind; surely she was suffering from some
nervous disorder?

The sound of Mr Rowe's step or the clatter of his horse's hoofs was enough to
send her into convulsions...What had Madam done to her?

Madam rode home, not ill satisfied; she smiled into the frost fog that hung
between the bare boughs of the chestnut avenue; she understood very well what
she had done.

Her instinct had been right; of course the girl had begun to cherish a
delicate, tender, unavowed passion for the sumptuously handsome young man--but
she, the voluptuous woman, had poisoned that by accusing the girl of her own

'You want him to take you in his arms, you want him to cover you with kisses--
you can't rest for thinking of it--'

Very openly, very crudely had she spoken in her fury; the soul of Agnes was
destroyed like a bud pulled open before its time is destroyed before it has

Madam sent for Mr Rowe; she had her account books under her hand.

'My steward tells me that you are in trouble with your farm.'

'I have not complained.'

'I might. You are an ill tenant; it is clear that you'll not be able to pay in
March and the property is abused by your neglect.'

She was nettled by his indifference.

'I do what I can, madam.'

'No; you don't! There is one thing you could very easily do that would make
your fortune.' Her golden eyes, delicately suffused with blood, boldly invited
him; she had drawn the curtain between herself and the winter light to give
herself an illusion of youth; her bosom, still fair, was much exposed above a
gleaming bodice of saffron-coloured satin. As he did not answer, her hand
trembled on the books filled with the labours of Mr Jenniston. 'You know what I
mean.' She looked at his fine forehead, the sweep of his dark brows, the arch
of his upper lip.

'I am a wealthy woman, Francis--'

She was aware that he must have known that he could have had her, not only for
a wife but for a mistress, a creature to do what he pleased with...but he left
her with some casual courtesy.

A few days after this Agnes came of age; both the Squire and Mr Barton
demanded the bond.

'Let Agnes come herself for it,' said Madam, who was by then as vicious as a
pursued beast speared against a wall.

But no one knew better than she that on those conditions she was safe to keep
the bond till Judgment Day.

On an afternoon of drizzling rain and low clouds Francis Rowe came again to
the jointure house and what he said was beyond computation amazing to Madam.

He demanded the bond in the name of his future wife; he intended to marry
Agnes; he must have been a very fearless man to bring this news to Madam
Spitfire; she instantly resolved to, somehow, destroy them both, and consoled
by this, contrived a fair front.

'Ah! But I thought she was disordered in her mind and would not even see you--'

He gave her a distressed, a suspicious look.

'Assuredly I shall overcome that. And must if it takes years. I know she did
not regard me with aversion--and this unaccountable--timidity--'

He knew she had favoured him, the traitor, the serpent, he had contrived,
then, to elude her spying--he and Agnes; she had been deceived, mocked...all
the worse should be her revenge.

'How are you going to live? Your farming has failed.'

'Agnes has the thousand pounds.'

'I refuse to give it to you.'

'Very well, madam.'

He left her with no pleading or argument; she called, in her agony, Edmund

'Can you take your gun, go out and shoot that man? The scoundrel wants to
marry Tom's crazy wench--'

'And you must be content with my lean visage that is certainly beginning to
wear out.'

'Put a bullet through him, d'ye hear, rogue?'

'I'll not hang to please you. Be patient--the fool is ruined and she half out
of her mind. And you have the bond--danmed poor, that's what they'll be--that
will cool his ardour--stark poverty.'

That night Madam could not sleep for anguish, for terror of dreaming of her
husband, for longing for Francis Rowe.

And in the depth of the winter cold and dark she heard a sudden _fracas_, and
ran out with a candle and a chintz robe huddled on.

On the half-lit stairs Mr Jenniston was struggling with Francis Rowe, who
looked wild and dishevelled and had a short sword in his hand.

'A low ruffian after all!' she screamed, and shouted up the servants as the
younger man cast off the steward and sent him down the stairs; in his roused
strength and rage he was, in her eyes, even more admirable; she felt a great
pleasure at his overthrow of Edmund Jenniston. 'So you break into my house?'

He pulled his torn shirt together at his throat.

'Madam, you have received me with that kindness which made me think I might
not be unwelcome.'

He regarded her boldly, tossing back the loosened hair from his brow; she knew
then that she had never known him, that he had always been on his guard, even
in disguise before her; she approached him, laughing with excitement.

'Is it true you came to see me?'

The infatuate woman took no heed of the groans of Mr Jenniston from the well
of the stairs, of the gathering of the maids along the corridors.

'Should not you and I meet like this instead of formally? But your watch dog
is too shrewd, damn him!'

Francis Rowe was breathing heavily; she seized his arm; he smiled down at her,
yielding at last; she was about fiercely to order away the steward and
servants, even to say the man was there at her summons, when, leaning towards
him, she saw something familiar obtruding from the pocket of his full skirt
coat; it was the box in which she had locked the bond.

In one second the miserable woman realised that the fellow had broken into her
house with reckless daring to secure the fortune of his future wife and that in
desperation he had played his last card--her insensate passion, affecting the
lover to save his neck.

She shrieked out in fury.

'Thief! Murderer! Take him, you gaping fools! He was in my room, rifling my
jewels, he tried to murder Mr Jenniston! I saw him with his sword at his

She whirled into her chamber, snatched up what ornaments she had loose, ran
back with them, screamed that she had dragged them from the pockets of the
miscreant; the steward limped upstairs to corroborate her tale; hideous in his
night attire he showed blood on his hand, a bruise on his breast...unarmed,
half naked, he had been villainously attacked.

'Blasted liars!' shouted Mr Rowe, struggling with two bewildered grooms. 'A
trull and her jackal! I would I had put you both where you belong long since!'

'I'll put you where you belong, my pretty fellow--and that's the gallows!'

'Robbery with violence,' grinned Mr Jenniston. 'Nothing can save you, popinjay!'

Still resisting his captors, Mr Rowe passionately declared 'he had but come to
take what was unlawfully withheld and had offered no violence, only striving to
escape when surprised--' Then he groaned, as if suddenly fully realising his
miseries. 'I am not what you take me to be,' he said, and added that it was 'a
dirty game at best and he would he had not meddled in it--'

'He has lost his wits like his doxy,' said Madam. 'Trull did ye call me!
You'll soon be carrion,' and she struck the helpless man, pinioned by the
weight of three others, full in the flushed face.

But her own last word sobered her; 'carrion' reminded her of her dream of her
husband; she staggered into her room and closed the door; the prisoner was
dragged away.

And Mr Jenniston, alone on the landing, laughed with real amusement.

_Now, a butterfly (though butterflies rarely come here) could fly in a few
seconds across the roofless mansion, and now it is strange to think of it as it
was on that fearful night, the many dark rooms and corridors, the whispering,
frightened servants, the agonies of the woman locked in her bed-chamber, Mr
Jenniston's rank humour, the young man dragged away; the darkness flowing in
from the wood and flecked with hastily lighted candle and lamp._

Madam was assured of her revenge; he would hang; Agnes would go mad in truth,
no doubt; at least they would never lie in each other's arms.

Early in the morning Mr Barton, much overcome, waited on her, appealing for

'He is no criminal--a reckless fool, no doubt, but you had no right to detain
the bond.'

'He shall hang.'

'Ah, madam, do you want two injured souls waiting for you on the other side?'

She knew he referred to her husband, and she squinted dangerously.

'He shall hang--'

Close after the clergyman came the most unexpected visitor; one who had never
crossed her threshold before; the Squire; this robust young man seemed in the
most intolerable distress of mind; he stammered and sighed, and blurted out his
errand with a painful effort.

'Madam, you must withdraw the charges against Francis Rowe.'

'He shall hang.'

'Do you know what that means? A strong fellow to hang by the neck?'

She knew--to strangle by one's own weight; she knew what he would look like
afterwards; nothing less would satisfy her.

'A scoundrel, a villain, he corrupted my ward, he corrupted my maid--the slut
confessed this morning she had let him in and told him where the bond was. He
shall hang.'

'No,' said Mr Garnet. 'Not if I have to go to the King myself about it--'

At that she flew into a tearing passion.

'What the devil has this got to do with you?'

'I must tell you though 'tis the most awkward tale a man ever took on his

This was the story that Mr Garnet, miserably enough, confessed to Madam:

Francis Rowe was an assumed name; the young man was no farmer, but a city
gallant of a noble family and wild reputation, a close friend of the Squire,
who had agreed to play this part to avenge Mr Garnet on the widow; he was to
make her ridiculous, wither her reputation, even to lead her as far as the
altar, anything, before he dropped the mask--it had all been a plot, a jest
such as were then _à la mode_, ungentlemanly, vile, what you will, but the
taste of the times was coarse and Madam had pushed the Squire very far.

'But all was spoilt by the rogue taking a fancy to the girl--he's done no harm
there, I swear, and he wants to marry her.'

Madam sat silent (surely her ghost crouches sometimes among those nettles, on
the very place of her hearth-stone), she realised what an easy prey she had
been to the wicked devices of the young men, what an abject fool she had made
of herself, how rustical she was not to have guessed the quality of Francis
Rowe--how he had never been at her mercy through the farm lease...

'Has he money?'

'He will have--with the title--he lacks nothing now.'

'Why did he come to my house--stealing?'

'He was beside himself at your refusal to deliver the bond--he had set his
heart on earning the gratitude of Agnes by coming to her with it in his hand--'

'He shall hang.'

_Does it not sometimes seem when the trees send their whispers through the
empty, roofless house that these words sob through the swish of their boughs--
'he shall hang--'?_

Mr Garnet pleaded; he humbled himself, took all the blame of the malicious
trick, offered what reparation she would--he dwelt on the noble family of the
reckless youth--on the horrible ignominy of a felon's death--she had only to
say--'I asked him to the house. I gave him the bond.'

But Madam only revelled in the distress, the humiliation of the Squire, only
rejoiced that it was in her power to so utterly avenge herself.

'Leave my house. I will never forgive him--or you--'

Then Mr Garnet on his side flew into a fury.

'Take care--you said those words to a dying man before. You are an evil woman,
you blight all you meddle with!'

He rode away, grey of face; he believed that he must see his friend hang; he
had sworn not to reveal who he was, so that the scandal might be kept from the
world, so little or no influence could be used for the unfortunate wretch.

All Madam's servants left her, save an ancient couple, cut off by deafness
from gossip; she and Edmund Jenniston were alone in the jointure house the day
before the trial, when Mr Barton came to make a last appeal.

'Will you dare, madam, to go tomorrow and bear false witness? For you know
that he did not come for your jewels and had no intention of murdering Mr

'I shall say the truth and put the rope round the neck of a villain,' she
declared; then, as he was leaving she asked him for a copy of the Book with a
wafer on the cover.

'You must be in great extremity to ask me that--'

'I dream. I think I see the spectre of my husband. I want to say--"I forgive
you--go to your rest", but I cannot speak. I thought if I clasped the Book when
he appears my tongue might be loosened.'

'It will not be till you have come to a sincere repentance.'

Then Madam jeered and said she had spoken in a wry jest and was afraid of
nothing; she asked after Agnes, hoping the girl was dead or crazed; but Mr
Barton said:

'There has been a great change in the young woman, she has lost all her
timidity and terror of Mr Rowe. She declares she is betrothed to him and has
taken a lodging near the jail. If you would have mercy, madam, they would be a
very happy couple.'

He fled before her dreadful face, away into the grey mist of the park; I think
I can see him now, on his ambling pad, hastening through the chestnut avenue--
averting his face as he passes the uncertain shape of the Mausoleum where the
late Squire's body mouldered...but his spirit, where was it?

The poor parson put up a prayer to this wretched ghost which might be, for all
he knew, wandering in the neighbourhood, and bade him, if he could, save his
innocent daughter and her lover...and he believed that he saw an errant shape,
like a globe of pale wavering light, start through the ground mist and float
towards the jointure house.

Madam and Mr Jenniston were very silent that evening; she had prepared his
false evidence, all the lies he was to swear to, and presently went up to her
chamber, giving him a silent insult by her last look.

The steward sat alone where the nettles now grow and tried to warm himself,
but the fire seemed to give out no heat.

And as he sat there he heard a tapping on the window and rose and drew the
curtains fearfully.

There was a dim light showing without, as if one held a candle in the fog,
then Edmund Jenniston, peering closer, saw it was no light, but the fat face of
the dead Squire, luminous with charnel damps.

As he recoiled into the room he heard a squeaky voice say:

'Edmund Jenniston, wilt thou be damned for this wicked woman?'

The steward did not go to bed that night, but sat crouched over the flames,
thinking of many things not pleasant to consider even in the daylight.

On the morrow he took in Madam pillion to town (the Assizes being on) and
there she gave her false witness without a blush or a falter; had she needed an
incitement to her evil purpose she would have found it in the presence of Agnes
who sat close beneath the dock where the prisoner stood.

Then came the turn of Edmund Jenniston; there seemed, then, no hope for
Francis Rowe (the tale knows not his real name and rank) and I recall that in
those days a man went straight from his trial to his hanging, with the utmost
grace of about twenty-four hours...Madam had engaged a room at The Black Horse
that she might witness the execution.

But the steward's evidence changed all; he said that Madam had asked Mr Rowe
to the jointure house and that he had taken the message, that the young man had
come for the sake of the bond, that Madam had made love to him and, on his
coldness, staged the _fracas_.

The prisoner interrupted--'this was not true--he had had no such invitation'--
but his words were unheeded; what Edmund Jenniston had said was what everyone
wanted to hear; any evil was eagerly believed of Madam, and her infatuation for
the prisoner was well known, while the young lovers had the sympathy even of
the roughest; the verdict was 'Not Guilty', and the Judge sternly ordered Madam
to deliver up the bond.

The wretched woman fainted as she saw Francis Rowe leave the dock and take
Agnes in his arms, Mr Garnet, the parson, all the neighbours crowding round
them; they left her alone to recover as best she might.

When she got her senses, she cried out:

'Edmund Jenniston, take me home--'

'Nay,' he grinned. 'I do not like the company you keep.'

'How could you betray me?'

'I don't fancy Hell fire.'

He pushed through the crowd and was gone; to Canada, they said; he had amassed
a pretty fortune while in the service of Madam.

And she, abandoned by all, rode back alone through the winter evening to the
jointure house.

At the Mausoleum the horse shied violently; she believed that a hand caught at
the bridle; it was getting very dark.

Beatrice, say you forgive me for dying.'

'I cannot, my lips are sealed on those words.'

Her spirit was broken and her passion dead within her; not even the embraces
of Francis Rowe could have warmed her then, as she stumbled over the threshold
where the ash sapling now waves and the toads hide beneath flat stones.

Not even Edmund Jenniston for company that night and her utter defeat heavy on
her; the two old servants avoided her, frightened of her look.

She went up to her chamber with the bowed back and slow step of an old woman;
she was forced to go up, though she knew what awaited her there.

Only one person pitied Madam Spitfire; and that was Agnes, healed by love,
happy in all that makes life beautiful; she had persuaded her lover to take her
to the jointure house.

'We will ask her to forgive us--we will bring people, friends, round her again-

They came through the bare woods, he reluctant, she full of foolish hope.

The jointure house was empty save for the two old servants who were, they
muttered, leaving; nothing could be got out of them; they did not know what had
become of Madam.

No one ever saw her again, alive or dead.

Agnes, clinging to her lover, saw on the parlour table the bond signed by her
father; it was weighed down by a heavy gold signet ring the Squire was known to
have worn when he was buried in the Mausoleum.


No record of prior publication found

Claude Boucher found himself awaiting with increasing dread the approach of
the 12th of December.

He still called it December to himself; the new names of the divisions of the
years of liberty had never taken root in his heart, which remained faithful to
many of the old traditions.

Yet he was a good servant of the new Republic and had so far escaped peril
during perilous times without sinking into servile insignificance. He was a
clerk in the Chamber of Deputies, well paid and unmolested. From the safe
vantage of a dignified obscurity he watched greater men come and go; and ate
his supper and smoked his pipe in peace while the death-carts went to and from
the prisons and the Place de la Revolution--which Boucher, in his mind, thought
of as the Place du Louis XVI.

He had his ambitions, but he held them suspended till safer times: he was not
the man for a brilliant, fiery career ending in the guillotine; he was not,
either, pessimistic; a better epoch, he would declare, would certainly emerge
from the present confusion (he refused to accept it as anything else), which
could but be regarded as the birth-throes of a settled state.

Therefore, being young and calm and having lost nothing by the upheaval of
society, he waited, as he felt he could afford to wait, until the order of
things was once more stable and established. The horrors that had washed, like
a sea of filth and blood, round his safety, had scarcely touched him; this
terror he felt at looking forward to the 12th of December was the first fear
that he had ever known.

A fear unreasonable and by no means to be explained.

The first and main cause of his dread was a trifle, an affair so slight that
when he had first heard of it he had put it from his mind as a thing of no

One of the Deputies of Lille had put his finger on a conspiracy in the
Department of Béarn, involving several names that had hitherto passed as those
of good friends of the Republic. The matter did not loom large, but required
some delicacy in the handling. The Deputy for the Department concerned was
away; no steps were to be taken until his return, which would be on the 12th of
December; then Boucher, as a man reliable and trustworthy, was to carry all
papers relating to the alleged conspiracy to his house at Saint-Cloud.

At first the young clerk had thought nothing of this; then he had been rather
pleased at the slight importance the mission gave him. That night, over his
supper in the little café in the Rue Saint-Germains, he began to think of
Ambrosine, who had long been a forbidden memory.

She was a little actress in alight theatre that existed during the days of the
Terror like a poisonous flower blooming on corruption.

She had lived in a little house on the way to Saint-Cloud, a house on the
banks of the river, an innocent and modest-looking place to shelter Ambrosine,
who was neither innocent nor modest.

Claude Boucher had loved her; and every night she had finished her part in the
wild and indecent performance, he would drive her home in a little yellow
cabriolet which had once belonged to a lady of fashion.

They had been quite happy; she was certainly fond of Claude and, he believed,
faithful to him; he had rivals, and it flattered him to take her away from
these and make her completely his, almost subservient to him; she was only a
child of the gutters of Saint-Antoine, but she was graceful and charming, and
endearing too in her simplicity and ardour, which she preserved despite her
manifold deceits and vices.

She was not beautiful, but she had dark blue eyes and kept her skin lily pale,
and her hair was wonderful, and untouched by bleach or powder; fair and thick
and uncurling, yet full with a natural ripple, she kept it piled carelessly
high with such fantastic combs as she could afford, and from these it fell
continuously on to her thin bosom and slanting shoulders.

Claude, sitting in his café, remembered this fair hair, and how it would fly
about her when she ran from the stage, flushed, panting, half naked from the
dance by which she had amused men inflamed with blood.

He thought; 'To take those papers I shall have to pass the house where she

He checked himself then his thought continued: 'Where she died.' Ambrosine had
been murdered three years ago.

One day in winter she had not appeared at the theatre. As there was a new
topical song for her to learn, they had sent a messenger to the little house on
the river.

He found her in her bed-gown on the floor of her bedchamber, stabbed through
and through the fragile body. The house was in confusion and had been stripped
of its few poor valuables.

No-one knew anything: the house was lonely, and Ambrosine lived alone; the old
woman who worked for her came in for a portion of the day only. It was found
that she had no friends or relatives and that no-one knew her real name--she
was just a waif from the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

That night Claude went to see her; they had quarrelled a little, and for two
days he had kept away.

Rough care had disposed her decently on the tawdry silks of the canopied bed;
she was covered to the chin, and her face, bruised and slightly distorted, had
the aggrieved look of a startled child.

Her hair was smoothed and folded like a pillow beneath her head, her little
peaked features looked insignificant beside this unchanged splendour of, her

As Claude looked at her he wondered how he could have ever loved her--a
creature so thin, so charmless; his one desire was to forget her, for she now
seemed something malignant.

He paid what was needful to save her from a pauper's burial and went back to
Paris to forget. No-one found it difficult to forget Ambrosine; her obscure
tragedy troubled no-one--there was too much else happening in France. Thieves
had obviously murdered her for her few possessions: it was left at that, for no-
one really cared. The Faubourg Saint-Antoine could provide plenty such as she.

For a while she held Claude at night; with the darkness would come her image,
holding him off sleep.

Always he saw her dead, with the strained, half-open lips, the half-closed,
fixed eyes, the thin nose, and the cheeks and chin of sharp delicacy outlined
against the pillow of yellow hair.

Always dead. Again and again he tried to picture her living face, her moving
form, but he could not capture them.

He could not recall the feel of her kisses or her warm caresses, but the
sensation of her cold yet soft dead cheek as he had felt it beneath a furtive
touch was long with him.

But after a while he escaped from Ambrosine; he forgot.

Now, as he remembered the way his route took him on the 12th of December, he

Not that he had any horror of the house or the locality--it simply had not
happened that he had ever had occasion to go there since her death. Probably
there were other people living there now, or the house might even be destroyed--
in any case he would take a détour round the deserted park.

But it was absurd to suppose that he was afraid of that house or unwilling to
pass the way he had last passed coming from her deathbed. It was all over and
he had forgotten. So he assured himself; yet he began to recall Ambrosine, and
always with a sensation of faint horror.

That night was the beginning of his fear.

He went home late to his lodging near the café and, on sleeping, dreamt very
exactly this dream, which had the clearness and force of a vision.

He dreamt that it was the 12th of December and that he was riding towards
Saint-Cloud carrying the papers he was to take to the Béarnais Deputy.

It was a cold, clear, melancholy afternoon, and the silence of dreams
encompassed him as he rode.

When he reached the great iron gates of the dismantled park, his horse fell
lame. He was not very far from his destination, and he decided to go on foot.
Leaving his horse at a little inn, he struck out across the park.

He saw it all perfectly plainly--the great avenues of leafless trees, the
stretches of greensward scattered with dead leaves, the carp ponds and
fountains with their neglected statues and choked basins, the parterres where
flowers had bloomed not so long ago, and that now looked as utterly decayed;
and to his right, as he walked, always the pale glimpse of the river, shining
between the trees.

Now, as he proceeded and the dusk began to fill the great park with shadows,
he was aware of a companion walking at his side, step for step with him. He
could not discern the head and face of this man, which seemed inextricably
blended with the shadows, but he saw that he wore a green coat with dark blue

And he at once began to conceive of this companion a horror and dread
unspeakable. He hastened his steps; but the other, with the silent precision of
dreams, was ever beside him. The day had now faded to that fixed, colourless
light which is the proper atmosphere of visions, and the trees and grass were
still, the water without a ripple.

They came now, Claude and the figure that dogged him, to a flat carp-basin,
dried and lined with green moss. A group of trees overshadowed it with bare
branches; a straight stone figure rose behind, faceless and ominous. Claude
could not remember this place, well known as was Saint-Cloud to him.

His companion stopped and bent down to adjust the buckles of his shoe. Claude
longed to hasten on, but could not move; the other rose, took his hand, and led
him hurriedly across the dry grass.

They approached the bank of a river and a house that stood there, on the
confines of the park.

Claude knew the house. It was shuttered as when he had seen it on his last
visit to Ambrosine. The garden was a mass of tangled weeds--he noticed a
bramble that barred the door across and across.

'They did not find the place so easy to let,' he found himself saying.

His companion released him, and, wrenching off the rotting shutter of one of
the lower windows, climbed into the house. Claude, impelled against his will,

He saw, very distinctly (as, indeed, he had seen everything very distinctly in
his dream), the dreadful, bare, disordered room of Ambrosine.

Then a deeper and more utter horror descended on him. He knew, suddenly, and
with utter conviction, that he was with the murderer of Ambrosine.

And while he formed a shriek, the creature came at him with raised knife and
had him by the throat, and he knew that he was being killed as she had been
killed, that their two fates were bound together; and that her destiny, from
which he had tried to free himself, had closed on him also.

This being the culmination of the dream, he woke; he slept no more till
morning, and even in the daylight hours the dream haunted him with a great and
invincible dread.

It was the more horrible that reality mingled with it--remembrance of days
that had really existed were blended with remembrance of that dreadful day of
the dream, recollections of Ambrosine were blended with that vision of her
deserted home.

The past and the dream became one, rendering the dead woman an object of
horror, hateful and repellent. He could not without a shudder recall her gayest
moments or think of the little theatre where she used to act.

So three days passed, and then he dreamt the dream again.

In every detail he went through it as he had been through it before, and by no
effort could he awake until the dream was accomplished and he was in the grip
of the murderer of Ambrosine, with the steel descending into his side.

And the day of his journey was now only a week off he hardly thought of trying
to evade it, of pleading illness or asking another to take his place; it was
part of the horror of the thing that he felt that it was inevitable that he
should go--that his journey was not to be evaded by any effort, however
frantic, that he might make.

Besides, he had his sane, reasonable moments when he was able to see the folly
of being troubled by a dream which had recalled a little dancer with whom he
had once been in love, and involved her with a certain journey near her
dwelling that he was bound to make.

That was what it came to--just a dream and a recollection.

He argued in these quiet moments that it was not strange that his proposed
journey to Saint-Cloud should arouse memories of Ambrosine and that the two
should combine in a dream.

He distracted himself by taking a deeper interest in the wild, fierce life of
Paris, by listening to all the tragedies daily recounted, by visiting all the
quarters most lawless and most distressed. One day he even went, for the first
time, to watch the executions. The real horror would check, he thought, the
fanciful horror that haunted him.

But the first victim he saw was a young girl with hands red from the cold, a
strained mouth and fair hair turned up on her small head; her eyes, over which
the dullness of death seemed to have already passed, stared in the direction of
Claude. He turned away with a movement so rough that the crowd, pressing round
him, protested fiercely.

Claude strode through the chill and windy streets of Paris and thought of the
approaching 12th of December as of the day of his death. So intense became his
agitation that he turned instinctively towards his one friend, as one being
enclosed in darkness will turn towards the one light.

René Legarais was his fellow clerk and his first confidant and counsellor--a
man a few years older than himself, and, like himself, sober, quiet,
industrious, and well balanced.

Claude found his lodging near the Pre-aux-Clercs empty; René was yet at the

Claude waited; he found himself encouraged even by the sight of the cheerful,
familiar room, with books, and lamp, and fire, and the coffee-service waiting
for his friend's return.

He now tried hard to reason himself out of his folly.

He would tell René, and with the telling he would see the absurdity of the
whole thing and they would laugh it away together over a glass of wine.

René, he remembered, had also been in love with Ambrosine, but in a foolish,
sentimental fashion--Claude smiled to think of it, but he believed that René
had been ready to marry the little creature. She had even favoured his
respectful wooing (so gossip said) until Claude had appeared, with bolder
methods and his vivid good looks and his lavish purse.

René had retired with the best of grace, and that was all long ago and
forgotten by both; Claude wondered why he thought of it now, sitting here in
the warmth and light. Only because he was unnerved and unstrung and obsessed by
that weird dream.

René came home at his usual hour, flushed by the sharp wind and shaking the
raindrops from his frieze coat. He was a pale young man with heavy brown hair,
insignificant features, and a mole on his upper lip. He looked unhealthy and
pensive, and wore horn-rimmed glasses when he worked.

'Where were you this afternoon?' he asked. 'Your desk was empty.'

'I was not well,' said Claude.

René gave him a quick glance.

Claude looked well enough now, a colour from the fire in his handsome brown
face, his slim figure stretched at ease in the deep-armed leather chair and a
half-mocking smile on his lips.

'I went to see the executions,' he added.

'Bah!' said René.

He came to the fire and warmed his hands, which were stiff and red with cold;
they reminded Claude of the hands of the girl whom he had seen on the platform
of the guillotine.

'It is the first time,' replied Claude, 'and I shall not go again.'

'I have never been,' said René.

'There was a girl there.' Claude could not keep it off his tongue. 'There
always are girls, I believe.'

'She was quite young.'

'Yes?' René looked up, aware that interest was expected of him.

'And then--like Ambrosine.'


'You remember,' said Claude impatiently, 'the little Saint-Cloud.'

'Oh, whatever made you think of her?' René looked relieved, as if he had
expected something more portentous and terrible.

'That is what I wish to know--what has made me think of her? I believed that I
had forgotten.'

'I had, certainly.'

'So had I.'

'What has reminded you?'

Claude struggled with his trouble, which now seemed to him ridiculous.

'I have to go to Saint-Cloud,' he said at last.


'The 12th.'

'On business of the Chamber?'


'And this reminded you?'

'Yes--you see,' explained Claude slowly, 'I have not been there since.'

'Not since?' René pondered, and seemed to understand. 'And lately I have had a

'Oh, dreams,' said René; he lifted his shoulders lightly and turned to the fire.

'Do you dream?' asked Claude, reluctant to enter on the subject, yet driven to
seek the relief of speech.

'Who does not dream--now--in Paris?'

Claude thought of the thin girl on the steps of the guillotine. 'There is good
matter for dreams in Paris,' he admitted, adding gloomily; 'I wish that I had
not been to the executions.'

René was making the coffee; he laughed good-naturedly.

'Come, Claude, what is the matter with you? What have you on your conscience?'


René lifted his brows. 'Have you not found, in Paris, in three years, a woman
to make you forget Ambrosine, poor little fool?'

'I had forgotten,' said Claude fiercely, 'but this cursed journey--and this
cursed dream--made me remember.'

'You are nervous, overworked,' replied his friend; it was quite true that in
these few weeks Claude had been working with a desperate energy; he snatched
eagerly at the excuse.

'Yes, yes, that is it...but the times...enough to unnerve any man--death and
ruin on either side and the toils closing on so many one knew.'

René poured out the coffee, took his cup, and settled himself comfortably in
the armchair opposite Claude. He drank and stretched his limbs with the
satisfaction of a man pleasantly tired.

'After all, you need not take this journey,' he said thoughtfully; 'there are
a dozen would do it for you.'

'That is just it--I feel _impelled_ to go, as if no effort of mine would
release me.' He hesitated a moment, then added: 'That is part of the horror of

'The horror?'

'Of the whole thing--do you not see the horror?' asked Claude impatiently.

'My dear fellow, how can I--when you have not told me what this wonderful
dream is about?'

Claude flushed, and looked into the fire; after all, he thought, René was too
commonplace to understand his ghostly terrors--and the thing did seem
ridiculous when he was sitting there warm and comfortable and safe.

Yet it could not be dismissed from his mind--he had to speak, even if to a
listener probably unsympathetic.

'It is like a vision,' he said. 'I have had it three times it is a prevision
of the journey to Saint-Cloud.'

René, attentive, waited.

'It is so very exact,' continued Claude, 'and each time the same.'

'Tell me.'

'Oh, it is only that--the ride to the gate, the leaving of the lame horse, the
walk through the park, and then--'


'The appearance of a man walking beside me.'

'You know him?'

'I hardly saw the face.'

'Well?' René continued to urge Claude's manifest reluctance. 'We went,
finally, to the house of Ambrosine.'

'Ah yes, she lived there on the banks of the river--'

'Surely you remember--'

'We were never intimate,' smiled René. 'I do not believe that I ever went to
her house. Of course, it was familiar to you?'

'I saw it again exactly--it was shut up; deserted and in decay. My companion
broke the window shutters and stepped in. I followed. The room was in
disrepair, unfurnished. As I looked round the place--'

He shuddered, in spite of his strong control.

'The fiend with me revealed himself. I knew that he was the murderer of
Ambrosine, and he fell on me as he had fallen on her.' René was silent a moment.

'Why should the murderer of Ambrosine wish to murder you?' he asked at length.

'How do I know? I tell you my dream.'

'An extraordinary dream.'

'Would you take it as a warning?'

'A warning?'

'Of what will happen?'

'It is obviously absurd,' said René quietly.

'Yes, absurd--yet I feel as if the 12th of December would be the day of my

'You have brooded over it--you must put it out of your mind.'

'I cannot,' said Claude wildly. 'I cannot!'

'Then don't go.'

'I tell you it is out of my power to stay away.'

René looked at him keenly. 'Then how can I help you?'

Claude took this glance to mean that he doubted his wits. 'Only by listening
to my fool's talk,' he said, smiling.

'Does that help?'

'I hope it may. You see, the whole thing--that wretched girl--has become an
obsession, waking and sleeping.'


'Strange indeed.'

'After you had forgotten.'

'Yes, I had forgotten,' said Claude.

'So had I, to tell the truth.'

'Why should one remember? It was a curious affair.'

'Her death?'

'Her murder, yes.'

'I do not see that it was so curious. A little wanton, living alone with some
spoils foolishly displayed--she courted her fate.'

'But she had so little--a few bits of imitation jewellery, a few coins; and
who should have known of them?'

René shrugged and put down his empty coffee-cup.

'And they said she was liked by the few poor folk about--'

'There are always ruffians on the tramp on the watch for these chances.'

'Yes; yet it was strange--'

René interrupted with an expression of distaste. 'Why go back to this?'

Claude stared, as if amazed at himself. 'Why, indeed?'

'You become morbid, unreasonable, Claude; rouse yourself, forget this thing.'

The other laughed; it did not have a pleasant sound.

'I suppose I am haunted.'

'Why should you be? You did not do her any wrong.'

'She cared for me.'

René laughed now.

'By God!' said Claude fiercely. 'She cared for me--I believe she still cares.
That is why she will not let me go...'

René rose and took a step or two away from him.

'What are you talking of?' he asked.

'I say, she cares--that is why she is trying to warn me.'

'You think it is she?'


'You must not allow yourself these fancies, my poor fellow.'

'You may well pity me. I never cared for her; I think I hated her when she was
dead. I hate her now. Why won't she keep quiet in her grave and leave me alone?'

He rose and walked across the room with a lurching step. René, leaning against
the table, watched him.

'What was the house like--in your dreams?'

'I told you.'


'And tainted. It had a taint of death--like a smell of stale blood.'

'It is not likely,' said René, 'that the place is empty. Now, if it was
inhabited, would not that shake your faith in your vision?' Claude stopped
short in his walk; he had not thought of that.

'Now,' smiled René, 'send someone to look at the place.'

'Who could live there--after that?'

'Bah! Do you think people stop for that nowadays? If they did, half the city
would be uninhabited. The place is cheap, I presume, and someone's property. I
do not suppose it has been allowed to fall into disrepair. That was your fancy.'

'I might send someone to see,' reflected Claude.

'That is what I suggest--find out before the 12th, and if the house is
inhabited, as I am sure it is, all this moonshine will clear away from your
brain and you will undertake your journey with a good heart.'

'I will do that,' answered Claude gratefully. 'I knew that you would help me--
forgive me for having wearied you, René.'

His friend smiled.

'I want you to be reasonable--nothing is going to happen. After all, these
papers to the Béarnais are not of such importance; no-one would murder you to
get them.'

'Oh, it had nothing to do with the Béarnais, but with Ambrosine.'

'You must forget Ambrosine,' said René decidedly. 'She has ceased to exist and
there are no such things as ghosts.'

Claude smiled; he was thinking that once René had been quite sentimental over
Ambrosine; certainly he was cured of that fancy. Why could not he too
completely put the little dancer from his mind?

He also had long ceased to care.

But he was ashamed to refer further to his fears and imaginings.

'You have done me good,' he declared. 'I shall think no more of the matter.
After all, the 12th will soon come and go, and then the thing will cease to
have any meaning.'

René smiled, seemingly relieved by his returned cheerfulness. 'Still, send
someone to look at the house,' he said; 'that will send you on your journey
with a lighter heart.'

'At once--tomorrow.' They parted, and Claude went home through the cold streets.

As soon as he had left the lighted room and the company of his friend, the old
dreary terror returned.

He hastened to his chamber, hoping to gain relief amid his own surroundings,
and lit every candle he could find.

He would not go to bed, as he dreaded the return of the dream, yet he was
sleepy and had nothing to do.

Presently, he went to a bottom drawer in the modest bureau that served him as
a wardrobe and took out a small parcel wrapped in silver paper. He unfolded it
and brought forth a chicken-skin fan, wreathed with figures of flying loves in
rose and silver tones that surrounded a delicate pastoral river scene, the
banks trailing with eglantine, the azure sky veiled in soft clouds, and a blue,
satin-lined boat fastened by a gold cord to an alabaster pillar in readiness
for amorous passengers.

The fan was not new: there were the marks of some spots that had been cleaned
away, spots of blood perhaps, and the fine ivory sticks were stained in places.

Claude had bought it at a bric-à-brac shop filled with the plunder of château
and hôtel; it had been cheap and valuable, and at the time he had not cared
that it had probably been stolen from some scene of murder and violence and
that its one-time owner had almost certainly bowed her neck to a bitter fate--
no, it had rather amused him to buy for the little dancer of the Faubourg Saint-
Antoine the property of some great lady.

Now it seemed a sinister and horrid omen, this toy with the bloodspots
scarcely erased. It had been meant as a peace-offering for Ambrosine--after
their little quarrel, which was never to be mended this side of the grave.

He had had it in his pocket when he had gone to look at her for the last time.

Since then it had lain in the drawer forgotten, it had never occurred to him
to give it to another woman--it was doubly the property of the dead. Now he
handled it carefully, opening and shutting it in the candlelight and staring at
those cupids who brought no thoughts of love and that faery scene that brought
no thoughts of peace.

And as he looked he seemed to see the delicate thing in the small hands of
Ambrosine as she sat up in the big bed with the gaudy draperies, and her fair
hair fell down and obscured the fan.

Her fair hair...

How plainly he could see her fair hair as he had last seen it, folded into a
neat pillow for her head.

He put the fan away and built up a big fire, feeding it with pine knots; he
was possessed by the certainty that if he slept he would again dream of the
journey to Saint-Cloud.

It seemed as if Ambrosine was in the room, trying to speak to him, to tell him
something; but he would not let her, he would not put himself in her power; he
would not sleep.

Among the neglected books on the little shelf by his bed was an old copy of
Pascal. Claude took this down and began reading it with painful exactitude and
attention. With this and strong coffee he kept himself awake till morning.

Before he left for the Chamber, he paid his landlord's son to go to Saint-
Cloud and look at the house of Ambrosine, which he very carefully described,
adding the excuse that he had been told of the place as a desirable house for
the summer heat; above all things, the boy must notice whether it was inhabited
or not.

All that day he was languid and heavy-eyed, weary from lack of sleep, with his
nerves on the rack.

Through the dreary, monotonous hours he was picturing his messenger, treading
unconsciously the way that had become so terrible to him, approaching the fatal
house and finding it, as he had found it, three times in his dreams, deserted
and decayed.

René made no reference to their conversation of the previous night, but he was
more than ever friendly and pleasant.

When the intolerable day was at last over, he asked Claude to dine with him,
but the other declined; his reason, which he did not give, was that he was
desperately anxious to hear the news the boy had brought from Saint-Cloud.

When he reached home the fellow had returned; a boat had given him a lift each

Claude was foolishly relieved to see his calm cheerfulness. 'Well?' he asked,
with the best indifference he could assume.

'Well, Citizen Boucher, I should not take that house at Saint-Cloud.'

'Why?' The words came mechanically.

'First of all, there has been a bad murder there.'

'How did you find that out?'

'The people on the boat told me--they go past every day.' So the thing was

'Never mind that, boy. What of the house?'

'It is in ruins, decay--'


'Well, all shuttered up--'


'Yes, citizen,' he began, staring at Claude, whose manner was certainly
startling, 'and the garden full of weeds.'

Claude made an effort to speak rationally.

'So you did not see the house inside, eh?' he asked.

'No-one knew who had the key--the landlord lived in Paris, they said, and
never came there. The place had a bad reputation because of the horrid murder
done there.'

'In these times,' muttered Claude, 'are they so sensitive?'

'They are just ignorant people, citizen--those on the boat and those I met in
the forest.'

'And the house was impossible?'

'It would need a good deal of repairing.'


'And the weeds in the garden were monstrous--there was one great bramble
across and across the door.'

Claude gave him a terrible look and dismissed him.

So it was all there, exactly like his dream.

There were only three days to the 12th--only three days perhaps to live.

When he reached his room he looked at the calendar, hoping he had made some
mistake in the date.

No; in three days it would be the 12th.

He could not go to bed, but no coffee could keep him awake.

As soon as he was asleep he dreamed his dream of the journey to Saint-Cloud,
nor could he rouse himself until the horrid sequence of events was complete.

He awoke shivering, unnerved and cold with sweat. He had to take brandy before
he could fit himself to make his toilet and go to the Chamber.

As he hurried along the street fresh with the transient morning freshness of
the city, the burden of his misery was lightened by a sudden thought. He would
take a companion with him, he would take René.

That would defeat the dream.

The warning would have saved him; no-one would attack two of them and they
could go armed; they need not go near the house, and they could proceed by
water and not walk through the Park.

Claude felt almost himself again as he thought out this plan.

No sooner had he reached the Chamber than he found his friend and broached the
scheme to him. René was agreeable, and readily accorded his company.

'I thought of it myself,' he said. 'I can easily get permission to come with
you, and we will lay this ghost once and for ever.'

Claude was so relieved that he almost lost his old foreboding.

But the night before the journey he again dreamed that he was being murdered
by the murderer of Ambrosine, who wore a green coat with dark blue frogs.

At the appointed hour they set out, René endeavouring to cheer Claude, who was
gloomy and taciturn, but as the journey proceeded, his spirits rose; the charm
had been proved wrong in the first instance, he was not going on horseback to

But when they reached the gates of the park, he was disappointed to find the
boat stopped at the little quay and began unloading.

René had arranged with the captain; and René, it seemed, had misunderstood.

The boat went no farther.

But it was only a short walk across the park to Saint-Cloud and the Deputy's
house--the captain could not understand Claude's discomfiture.

Well, they must walk--here again the dream was wrong.

He had a companion. René laughed at him; the walk would do them good this cold
evening, and they would be at their destination long before dusk--as for the
return, if they were not offered hospitality, well, there were good inns at

They entered the magnificent iron gates, now always open, and started briskly
across the grass.

Here it was, exactly as he had seen it in his dreams, the huge bare trees, the
dead leaves underfoot, the pallid gleam of the river to the right, the expanse
of forest to the left, through which now and then a fountain or a statue showed.

It was bitterly cold, the sky veiled, and presently a thin mist rose off the
river, dimming everything with fog. Like the dim light of his dream.

'We shall lose our way,' he said.

'No; I know this way well.'

'You know it?'

'When I was a boy I used to live at Saint-Cloud,' said René.

They proceeded more slowly, muffled to the throats in their greatcoats, which
they had worn all the journey, for it had been cold on the river also.

Claude thought of Ambrosine till his senses reeled round that one image.

Here she had walked, he with her, often enough--near was her house, near her

He seemed to see her in every dimness between the trees--Ambrosine, with her
fair hair mingling with the mist.

Suddenly before him a huge fountain arose with a dried basin and a featureless
statue behind. And René stopped to latch up his shoe.

He was not thinking of his dream now, but he had the sensation that this had
all happened before. As he looked at René, he muttered to himself, half
stupidly: 'What an extraordinary coincidence!'

Then René straightened himself and slipped his hand through his friend's arm.

His mantle had fallen back a little, and Claude saw that he wore a new suit,
dark green, frogged with dark blue, and again he muttered: 'What an
extraordinary coincidence!'

'I know the way,' said René, and led him, as if he had been a blind man,
through the shifting mist.

In a few moments they stood on the outskirts of the park and before the
decayed and deserted house of Ambrosine--as he had seen it, with the weeds in
the garden and the bramble across the door.

They entered the little patch of ground.

'Now we are here,' said René, 'we may as well look inside.'

So saying, he wrenched off one of the rotting shutters and climbed into the

Claude followed him, like a creature deprived of wits.

They stood together in the damp, dull, bare room--as they had stood together
in the dream.

Claude looked at René's face, which had quite changed. 'So you murdered her?'
he said in a sick voice.

'You never guessed?' asked René. 'I loved her, you see, and she loved me till
you came. And then I hated both of you. I was mad from then, I think, as mad as
you with your infernal dreams.'

'You murdered Ambrosine!' whimpered Claude.

'And your dream showed me the way to murder you. I have been waiting so long
to find how to do it.'

Claude began laughing.

'Her fair hair--if one could open her grave one might see it again--like a
pillow for her head...' He looked at René, whose pale and distorted face seemed
to grow larger, until it bore down on him like an evil thing blotting out hope.

Claude did not put a hand .to any of the weapons he had brought; he fell on
his knees and held up his hands in an attitude of prayer, while he began to
gabble senseless words.

And René fell on him with the knife that had killed Ambrosine.


No record of prior publication found

"Nothing at all," smiled the Doctor, "but a few bruises and shock. No, really
nothing. It was a very brave thing for Joliffe to do," he added; "extremely

"Of course, I understand that," said Professor Awkwright, a little stiffly. He
felt that the Doctor thought him lacking in gratitude and sympathy, and he knew
that he was indeed incapable of any emotional expression, also that he
resented, deeply resented, the intrusion of the violent and sensational into a
life that he had contrived to make exactly as he wished it to be.

But, all the same, he did feel immensely grateful to Joliffe, and said so
again, snappishly, blinking behind the thick crystal spectacles that distorted
his pale eyes.

"Naturally I shall do all in my power to show my deep appreciation."

The Doctor, who did not like the Professor, cheerfully remarked:

"It is rather rare, you know, for a scholar--a man who leads an intellectual
and sedentary life--to be so prompt and decisive in action; it's no reflection
on Joliffe to say that I would have thought him the last man--not to have the
will to, but to have the power--to risk his life for another."

When the Doctor had gone Professor Awkwright rather resentfully considered
these words. He agreed with the Doctor; he secretly thought that Joliffe's
action was quite amazing and the last thing he would have expected of him.

"I could never have done it," he confessed to himself ruefully. He had always,
in a kindly fashion, patronized Joliffe, but now Joliffe was definitely
revealed as the superior being. Really, in the Professor's estimation, the
whole episode was disagreeable, and what was worse, slightly ridiculous; he was
sure that the Doctor had been faintly amused.

Yet, he certainly ought to feel grateful to Joliffe and on many counts.

The incident which had first alarmed, then irritated the Professor, was this:
his orphan ward Edmund had been out as usual with his tutor, Samuel Joliffe,
and Charles the vicar's son, just one of the usual rambles over the lovely
North Wales hills which were undertaken every day as a matter of duty; when
Edmund, scrambling on ahead, had slipped, like the clumsy lad he was, over a
precipice and hung, stunned, on a ledge overhanging a ravine.

Now the Professor would have thought that the jolly athletic Charles, a stout,
trained youth, would really without any fuss at all have gone down the face of
the rock and brought up Edmund; but Charles had done nothing of the kind; he
had just "lost his head" like a silly girl and could think of nothing better to
do than to run and fetch help from the nearest cottage which was some distance
away. On the other hand, Samuel Joliffe, middle-aged, stiff-limbed,
shortsighted, absent-minded to all appearances, cautious and timid, whom no one
would expect to be quick or active, had actually lowered himself down the face
of the precipice, supported Edmund till help arrived and then, with great
coolness and dexterity, with the aid only of a dubious rope and some frail
saplings, hauled up Edmund and himself to safety.

It was all, Professor Awkwright thought, very grotesque, the sort of thing one
would so much rather had not happened.

He peeped in at his nephew sleeping heavily on his bed behind a screen. Mrs.
Carter, the housekeeper, was in charge; the wretched woman seemed to enjoy the
sensation caused by the accident, as Professor Awkwright looked at the boy with
the bandaged head, breathing heavily under the influence of the sleeping
potion, she began to murmur the praises of Mr. Joliffe.

It was clear that the tutor would be a hero in the eyes of everyone; the
Professor resented this as a fuss and an interruption to a very smooth
existence, but he was, at bottom, a just, even an amiable man, and he did not
wish to evade his obligations to Samuel Joliffe.

So he went downstairs rather nervously to the study where he was sure the
tutor would be working and, as he went, he honestly put before himself the
extent of his obligations towards Samuel Joliffe; these were very varied and
deep and amounted to far more than gratitude for the rather absurd act of
heroism yesterday.

Professor Awkwright was a born scholar and solitary; his one interest and
passion was the most abstruse branch of archaeology, the deciphering of dead
languages; he had always had sufficient means to enable him to devote himself
entirely to this fascinating labor and the one interruption in a life otherwise
devoid of incident had been when his only brother had died and left in his
charge a sullen, unruly boy of ten years of age, of the type known as
"difficult and awkward," slightly abnormal and not very lovable, but a boy who
had a comfortable income from a nice little fortune that would make him, when
he attained his majority, quite a wealthy man.

Professor Awkwright had the conventional ideas of duty and subscribed, to the
full, to the codes endorsed by his class and training, so he very scrupulously
did his best with his unwelcome charge and made the great sacrifice of keeping
with him a boy so obviously unfitted for school.

And after the Professor had found Samuel Joliffe, Edmund was no trouble at
all; and the little household in the exceedingly comfortable but lonely Welsh
mansion ran very smoothly and with a most agreeable, if eventless, harmony.

For Samuel Joliffe, besides being the perfect tutor, was the perfect
secretary, the perfect assistant, and had thrown himself with the greatest
ardor into the Professor's enthusiastic labors.

Indeed, Professor Awkwright, pausing at the door of the study, realized, in
the emotional upset of the accident, that Joliffe was absolutely essential to
him; after eight years of his support, help, assistance and company Joliffe was
indeed indispensable; indispensable, that was the word.

"I daresay," said the little scholar to himself, pausing on the threshold, "I
never quite appreciated Joliffe--of course, he has been handsomely paid and
very well treated, but really I don't believe that I ever quite realized his--
his sterling worth."

And Professor Awkwright thought, with a shudder, how ghastly it would have
been if poor Edmund had died in that miserable way; he was fond of the
unattractive boy who would probably never evoke any other affection in all his
futile life.

And with that sharp realization of happiness that comes when happiness is
threatened, the Professor cast over with profound gratitude all the blessings
he had hitherto taken for granted...the smooth, easy life; the congenial,
successful work; the way that all four of them, himself, Joliffe, Edmund, Mrs.
Carter the housekeeper, all fitted together, like hand in glove--the comfort,
the peace, the ordered leisure of it all! And surely much of this was owing to
Joliffe--Joliffe who was never out of humor, nor ill, nor wanted a holiday, who
was never tired or dull, who had known from the first how to "manage" Edmund,
who never crossed Mrs. Carter nor vexed the servants, who worked so diligently,
with such enthusiasm and skill under his employer's direction...

The Professor opened the door quickly; he crossed to the desk where Joliffe
was sitting (as he had known he would be), and said:

"I don't know how to thank you, Joliffe, how to express my gratitude, I really

Joliffe rose and stared; this was the first time since his knowledge of him
that Awkwright had expressed himself on impulse; the tutor stood humbly; behind
him the huge desk was neatly piled with the manuscripts that embodied their
joint labors on the subject of the Minoan language.

"But," added the Professor with even greater warmth, "I am quite resolved that
you shall have your name on the book. That is only just--it is your work as
much as mine, you have been far more, for years now, than an assistant--"

Joliffe's sandy face flushed.

"I could not think of that, sir, really, I couldn't; what I have done has been
the greatest pleasure and honor."

He spoke sincerely, without servility; Awkwright grasped his hand.

"I know. But, of course, we are to go equal shares in this--I ought to have
thought of it before."

He glowed with the pleasure of his generous action; it was no ordinary prize,
no feeble glory that he offered; he believed that when his, their, book was
published it would bring to the authors a fame equal to that of Champollion.

For the two secluded scholars working almost in secret were convinced that
they had discovered the clue to the long-dead language of one of the most
interesting civilizations of prehistoric Greece, that of Crete.

Joliffe said:

"I hope, sir, yesterday had not put this into your mind. What I did was
nothing. Anyone would have done as much."

"I don't think so, Joliffe."

"Anyone, sir, as fond of Edmund as I am."

"Again I disagree. Presence of mind, coolness like that! Rare indeed. But, of
course, one can't talk of rewards; absurd, of course; but--"

The Professor sat down in front of the great bow-window; his kindly,
conventional and rather simple face, with the thin beard, speckled like his
grey tweed coat, and the thinner hair exact and glossy over the large brow was
clearly outlined against the shining laurels in the garden and the blue hills

Joliffe regarded him with meek intentness.

"But, you were saying, sir," he prompted--

"I was about to say," remarked the Professor candidly, "that a shock--like
this--clarifies the air, as it were. I suppose we live rather a monotonous,
rather an old-fogeyish sort of life, values get a little dimmed, one gets
absorbed in the past, in one's work. One's own life gets a little
unreal...until a thing like this happens..."

"I have never felt that," replied Joliffe thoughtfully.

"No? A remarkably clear brain," agreed the other with simple admiration. "I've
noticed how you never lose grip on things. That's why you've been so successful
with Edmund. But really, for myself, I confess that a--a revelation of this
kind--what the loss of Edmund would mean--the sort of man you really are--wakes
me up, puts everything clearly."

"I don't see that the fact that I rescued Edmund, in the most ordinary way,
reveals the sort of man I am."

"But that kind of prompt action isn't expected of--of our type, Joliffe. It's
most unusual; the Doctor said so."

"I don't think Dr. Jones knows very much."

"No, but I agreed with what he meant. And it is settled about the book."

Professor Awkwright felt very content for the rest of that day; the sense of
the absurdity of the accident, the irritating, disturbing excitement had passed
away. Edmund came down to tea and the household was stolidly normal again; but
the Professor continued, as he had himself put it, "to see clearly"--the vast
value of Joliffe, for instance, and Edmund's inarticulate and pathetic
affection for him, and the very agreeable intimacy that bound them all
together; it was surprising how fond he was himself of the unattractive,
slightly "mental" youth; why, he believed that if Edmund had really been killed
the shock would have prevented him from finishing the book.

When the two men settled down in the study that evening after Edmund had gone
to bed Professor Awkwright felt that their relationship had subtly changed;
never had they been so intimate, never so frank, as if there was no possibility
of any misunderstanding or irritation between them.

Joliffe seemed to "let himself go" intellectually; his usually respectful,
almost timid manner mellowed, he was more candid, more brilliant, slightly,
though quite unmistakably, different, Awkwright thought, from his habitual self.

One of Mrs. Carter's most tempting dinners had celebrated Edmund's escape;
there had been good wine and afterwards, contrary to custom, good brandy.

Perhaps it was the brandy that stimulated the Professor's added sense of
clarity, of which he had been aware all day; a most temperate man, he had
always, on the few occasions when he had drunk liberally, been teased as to the
right naming of his heightened perceptions. Did alcohol give everything an air
of caricature, or did it allow you to see everything as it really was?

Was it, for instance, just excitement and then the brandy that made him think
what a queer fellow Joliffe was?--or had he, Awkwright, always had his head so
in the air that he had never before observed the strangeness of his constant
companion? Joliffe sat a little more at his ease than he had ever sat before; a
very tall, stiff, long-legged man, with an odd look of being featureless; the
only definite object about his face was his glistening spectacles, for the rest
a sandy glow seemed to blot out any salient point in his countenance; even his
profile seemed to mean nothing; a closer inspection showed his features to be
sharp, small and neat, his expression composed and kindly.

He also must have been a little excited that night, also a little stimulated
by the occasion and the brandy, for he forgot (to the Professor's amusement) to
go up to his room and listen for the wireless news bulletin.

Professor Awkwright had always refused to have wireless, gramophone or
telephone; but Joliffe, with meek persistence, had indulged in all in his own
room; he had little chance of using any of these inventions and he scrupulously
contrived so that they never annoyed the rest of the household; but he liked to
"sneak off," as the Professor put it with indulgent irony, to listen to news, a
talk, or a concert; but tonight he seemed to have forgotten even the attraction
of the evening bulletin which he so seldom missed.

The two elderly men talked of their researches, of the book that was going to
bring glory to both, and of the accident of yesterday which the Professor, at
least, could by no means dismiss from his mind.

"It was pure impulse," said Joliffe at last; "if I had reflected at all I
don't suppose that I should have done it."

"I'm sure that you would."

"No, because I always think that we attach too much importance to human life.
And Edmund wouldn't really mind dying; I daresay he'd be better off in another

"I didn't know that you had those ideas."

"They aren't ideas. Surely, sir, you don't hold by all the orthodox views--"

"I'd really rather--"

"Oh, the sacredness of human life, et cetera, et cetera?"

"I suppose so, I haven't quite thought it out."

"I have. I can't see, sir, how, after all your researches you can avoid a
broader view...look at the East, Russia, Mexico, today--look at the
Elizabethans, look at America, at Italy--and how they regard and have regarded

"You don't think it matters--violent death?"

"No. An intelligent man should be able to deal with death--give it, withhold
it, accept it, avoid it, according to his reason. The world was more worthwhile
when this was so."

"But, my dear Joliffe, to argue like that is to condone murder," Awkwright
smiled, very comfortable in his chair, "and suicide."

Joliffe did not reply, he seemed sunk in a pleasing reverie; to rouse him
Awkwright said:

"I suppose one gets conventional-minded on these subjects, but I think the
West is right in the value put on human life--our violences, our indifferences
to right and wrong, our cowardices are nothing, I fear, but manifestations of
the hidden ape, still lurking within so many of us, alas!"

Joliffe listened to this speech with closed eyes.

"On the contrary," he declared, "I believe that the hidden ape in me made me
rescue Edmund."

"My dear Joliffe, as if apes--"

"They do--animal affection--animal devotion, no reason, no logic. I am fond of

"Why?" wondered the Professor rather wistfully.

"One doesn't know. The ape again! The boy never pretends, he is very wise
about some things, has extraordinary instincts! I believe I understand him as
no one else ever will."

Joliffe sat up suddenly. He was smiling, his small eyes looked yellow behind
the glasses, his movement seemed to dismiss the subject; they each drank some
more brandy and began to discuss the book; but this speedily brought them to
the same point; Joliffe remarked on the beauty of some of the Minoan seals he
had been copying the very morning of the accident, and Awkwright's comment was
that the artist who designed them had an evil mind.

"Why?" challenged the tutor with his new freedom.

"Well, they are evil. The Minoans were, it is acknowledged--cruel; consider
their bull-leaping sports--no soul..."

"Nonsense!" Never had Joliffe expressed himself so boldly to his employer; he
seemed really excited, "They were simply too civilized to put so much value on
individual life--"

"The hidden ape wasn't hidden, you mean?" smiled Awkwright.

They argued keenly and at length, remaining in the study long after their
usual hour for retiring; to Awkwright it was an entirely academical discussion,
but Joliffe seemed to throw more and more feeling into it until he was making
quite a personal point of his contention that no civilized people would
consider murder a crime.

The Professor did not know how they had got to this subject; it was strange
how the accident seemed to have thrown both a little out of their stride, a
little off their balance; even Awkwright felt the mental atmosphere becoming
distasteful, an unpleasant sense of unreality obscured the familiar cosy room;
he wished that Joliffe would not talk so much, so at random (and he had never
wished that before). He roused himself out of a disagreeable lethargy to say,
with a rather false attempt at authority:

"This sort of stuff is really absurd from a man like you, Joliffe." The tutor
rose and stood in front of the fire; his attitude was dogmatic, his habitual
featurelessness seemed to have developed into a face that Awkwright did not

"Pardon me, my dear sir, how do you know what kind of man I am?"

"We have been intimate for eight years."

"But I know you much better than you know me."

"I don't agree.

"Well, what do you know of me? You said yourself that what I did yesterday
surprised you."


Joliffe talked him down.

"You've always accepted me on my face value, you just met me through an
agency. I had excellent credentials and you were quite satisfied. You never
asked me why I had no relations, no friends, why I never wanted a holiday--"

"My dear Joliffe," interrupted the Professor testily, "don't try to make
yourself out a mysterious person. I know you as just a solitary scholar like
myself, one who happens to have drifted away from his relatives and not cared
to make friends; come, come, this is all really rather childish."

"Is it?" Joliffe peered over his glasses down on the little man in the chair,
his face was sharpened by what seemed a queer vanity. "So you think that you
know me through and through?"

"My dear fellow, of course I do."

"Well, to begin with, my name isn't Samuel Joliffe."

The Professor tried to smile; he thought this was a joke, but it was certainly
a stupid, vulgar joke, and he wished that the tutor, who must really be a
little drunk, would be quiet and go up to bed.

"Do you remember the Hammerton case--ten years ago?" demanded Joliffe.

"As if I ever took the slightest interest--"

"No, I thought you didn't. Well, it was the case of a man, an educated man of
means, well-connected, intelligent, being tried for the murder of his wife. The
usual arsenic from weed-killer."

"I do recall something--Hammerton was acquitted, wasn't he?"

"Yes. But no one thought he was innocent; the jury just gave him the benefit
of a very small doubt. A "not proven" it would have been in Scotland. He was
ruined--he had to disappear."

"But I don't see what all this has got to do with anything--"

"Wait a minute. Though everyone thought Hammerton was guilty, everyone had a
secret sympathy with him."

"Morbid sentimentality."

"No, his wife was such an awful woman, she nagged and whined and pestered and
was always sickly, and he was a very decent fellow; he just wanted peace and
quiet, and then, perhaps, one day she went too far even for his patience--"

"And the hidden ape leaped up in him? A very usual case--"

"Not at all. Perhaps he used his reason and removed a worthless, tiresome,
repulsive creature--"

"If he did he was a murderer," snapped the Professor. "And, since he was
acquitted, we have no right to assume that."

He rose, hoping to silence Joliffe, but the tutor leaned forward, took him by
the lapel of the coat, and said with a smile: "I am Hammerton."

The little Professor twisted and squealed in grotesque (through it all he felt
all was grotesque) horror.

"No," he cried, "no, we've both had too much to drink and it's time we went to

But the tutor did not release his calm, steady grasp on the other's lapel.

"A man of your intelligence, sir," he said gently, "should not find my
information so surprising, I merely gave it to prove a point; it can't possibly
make any difference to our relationship."

"Of course you were acquitted, but, but it is very terrible, very unfortunate.
And the false name..."

"I had no chance with my own. I waited for two years for an opportunity like
you gave me. And I did not deceive you. My credentials were exact save for the
name. I had all the attainments, the qualifications you required, and I believe
that I have served you faithfully--you and Edmund."

"Of course." The Professor made a show of recovering himself, he twisted away
from the other and sat down. "And then yesterday--but I wish that you hadn't
told me."

"Why, what difference can it make?"

"Well, it's a shock and you spoke just now as if--as if you were--but it's

"What's absurd?"

"Didn't you say that you had--that you were--?"

"Guilty? I assumed it, yes. I don't say so definitely--let it go. I was
acquitted and no one can touch me now, even if I confessed, and I don't intend
to confess. We need not talk of it again."

Professor Awkwright sickened; he sat shrunk together in the big cosy, pleasant
chair and felt all the agreeable, safe and familiar places of his life laid
bare and devastated.

"I should like to think that it isn't true, Joliffe." The little man's eyes
were pathetic behind the thick crystals.

"I can prove it if you wish. What difference can it make? There's the boy, our
work, the book, all our years together. Whatever I did can't affect any of

"Quite so. Quite so."

The tutor went to bed; he did not seem in the least disturbed, he spoke of the
Minoan seals he hoped to finish copying in the morning, and gave his usual
"Good night, sir" cheerfully.

The Professor sat alone with his problem.

What _ought_ he to do?

What did he _intend_ to do?

Joliffe was essential to him, to the boy, to the book...where would he find
another man who suited him so well, who would be willing to live his kind of
life? Who would put up with Edmund?

Professor Awkwright groaned and began to argue speciously with himself.

Joliffe had been acquitted, a victim of a terrible misfortune; it was ten
years ago and no one's business; Joliffe had put him under the greatest
obligation yesterday--why shouldn't everything go on as before?

"Just forget all about it, eh? Joliffe would never speak of it again."

But there was that stern streak in the Professor that made him soon reject the
easy, the convenient way, and all specious, fallacious reasonings.

He grimly tackled himself; the man was almost, on his own confession, a
murderer, and one without remorse; the Professor utterly rejected all arguments
about the codes of the Cretans, the Elizabethans, Mexico and Chicago and the
value of human life; he was an upright, law-abiding man; murder was murder,
deceit was deceit; of course it was most extraordinary that a cultured human
being like Joliffe...He returned to his own theory of the hidden ape, the ape
striking down where it hated, rescuing where it loved; he shuddered before the
horrid vision of Joliffe, suddenly agile as a monkey, scaling down those rocks
after Edmund...he had wondered how the stiff-limbed man had done it...the
Professor checked these crazy, miserable thoughts, he forced himself to be
brave and cool.

After all, there was only one thing to be done. Joliffe must go.

Yes, if all the Professor's peace and happiness went with him he must go; that
was the only right, reasonable and logical solution of the horrid problem.

And, screwed up to an unnatural courage that he feared would not last till the
morning, Professor Awkwright went up at once to Samuel Joliffe's (for so he
persisted in naming him) room.

The tutor opened the door to the timid knock of his employer. "I am afraid I
must speak to you, Joliffe, at once."

Joliffe wore a camel-hair dressing-gown, rather short in the sleeves, he
looked meek, surprised and of an imperturbable innocence; the Professor felt
very shaky indeed as he followed him into the neat bedroom.

"Speak to me, sir, at once? About the book?"

Joliffe glanced at a pile of notes on the table by his bedside, but Awkwright
glanced at the wireless set, the gramophone, the telephone.

Why had it not occurred to him before that these were outlets for the tutor's
personality which was by no means satisfied by the quiet scholarly life that,
outwardly, seemed so to content him?

Perhaps he spoke to friends of the old days on the telephone, no doubt he kept
in touch with the busy doings of the world by means of the wireless, and
indulged personal tastes with the gramophone discs--safety valves all these for
a dangerous, complex personality.

"I'm afraid"--Professor Awkwright checked himself with a cowardly clutching at
a faint hope--"I suppose it wasn't all a joke about your being Hammerton?"

"It wasn't a joke. I thought I knew you well enough to tell you. But you began
to say, am afraid'--?"

"I am afraid that you must go."

"I must go? You mean that I am dismissed?"

"I wouldn't put it like that--"

"But that is what it comes to--"

"I'm afraid so."

Joliffe seemed completely amazed; he took off his glasses, fidgeted with them,
returned them to his nose, and asked dully:

"What about the boy?"

"It's dreadful, I know--but--"

"What are you going to tell him?"

"Oh, not the truth--some excuse--I know it is all dreadful," repeated the
Professor feebly.

"Dreadful?" repeated Joliffe shortly. "It is absurd. It means that we have
never understood each other--indeed, totally mistaken each other--all these
years. I thought that, under your little mannerisms, you were a broad-minded

"But a question of--of--"

"Of murder? I never admitted to murder, but if I had? It can't be possible
that you take the view of the man in the street about that--think of these
ancient peoples we are always studying--"

"It is no use, Joliffe." Professor Awkwright was shuddering with anguish. "You
must go."

"And the book?"

The little Professor's drawn face took on a livelier expression of grief.

"The book must be sacrificed"--there was heroism in his supreme renunciation.
"I quite agree that you have a large share in it--but to publish it under an
assumed name--or under your own!"


"Quite impossible, you must see it."

"I don't see it."

They stared at each other with the bitter hostility only frustrated affection
can assume; Professor Awkwright's dry and trembling fingers stroked his thin
grey beard; he felt quite sick with the temptation to "forget all about it" as
he put it childishly to himself--why not, for the book's sake, the boy's sake,
hush up the whole affair? It was so long ago and who was to care now?

But the little man's innate integrity was too strong for his intense desires;
Joliffe was watching him quietly, with dignity, yet as a prisoner may watch a
judge about to pronounce sentence. "I'm happy here and useful," he remarked
drily. "And you have nothing to go on but bare suspicion--you might consider

"I can't tell you quite what it is, Joliffe--" The Professor's anguish was
very stressed and Joliffe's glance darkened into some emotion that seemed (the
other man thought) pity mingled with disdain.

"Perhaps," he said, "you are afraid? Of me? Of what you call 'the hidden ape'?"

"That's absurd!" Awkwright made a great effort to give the whole nightmare
business a commonplace, almost a jovial, air, to reduce what was so
fantastically horrible and had indeed changed the aspect of everything for him,
into an affair of everyday--just the giving of "notice" to a secretary, a
tutor, who had proved unsuitable--a distasteful business, no more, but he
shuddered with the desperate futility of this attempt; he made for the door
with an uncontrollable need to get away from Joliffe's gaze.

He had said that it was "absurd" for him to be afraid--but of course he was
afraid, horribly afraid, of Joliffe, of his own weakness, of something more
powerful than either that seemed to fill the room like a fearful miasma.

But nothing sensational happened; Joliffe said in the most ordinary tones:

"Very well. I will go tomorrow. Of course I shall miss the book. And Edmund."

At the door Professor Awkwright mumbled:

"I shall always remind Edmund that you saved his life--what a great deal he
owes you."

"Oh, there won't be any need of that--he'll remember me all right--good night,
Professor Awkwright."

The Professor closed the door, and went, not to his bedroom, but to his study
where he and Joliffe had worked for so long in complete harmony.

"I'm sure I've done right," he kept saying to himself, "I'm quite sure I've
done right." But he found it unbearable to look at the other man's notes, at
the neat evidences of his long labor, he found it impossible to rest or in any
way to consider the situation calmly, and he could not for a second conceive in
what manner he should deal with Edmund when that poor youth discovered that
Joliffe was gone.

And there was another torturing horror working in Awkwright's mind.

"I say I am quite sure, but I never shall be quite sure--I mean if he is--or

Professor Awkwright sat quite still for a full quarter of an hour; staring at
the materials for his book which showed familiar yet horrible in the shaded
electric lamp. He was really hardly able to grasp his misery nor the full value
of all that he had sacrificed to a principle; he tried to comfort himself by
the sheer strength of his integrity of purpose, the blamelessness of his own
motives--but it was useless; he could make himself conscious of nothing but his
great personal disaster.

The window had been set open to air the room and Awkwright became gradually
conscious of the physical discomfort of the cold draft blowing beneath the

He rose at last heavily, and almost without his own volition to remedy this;
exhausted by emotion he stood with the blind in his hand and stared stupidly
across the lawn and the shrubbery, faintly lit by the beams of a high moon
falling through a mist; he soon forgot that he had risen to shut the window,
and stood patiently in the cold air which harshly stirred his loose grey hair.

Suddenly his attention was aroused and held by an object which suddenly swung
into the circle of his vision and seemed immediately to become the focus of the
midnight landscape and of his own mind.

A thin, darkly clad figure was proceeding across the lawn, half leaping, half
crawling through the shadows; the arms looked very long, now and then the
lanky, uncouth shape appeared to sink to hands and knees in a scrawling effort
at haste.

Professor Awkwright dropped the blind; with no more hesitation than if an
imperative hand had seized his collar he swung round, ascended the stairs and
crept into Edmund's room.

Until he looked on the bed he did not know why the sight of the ape-like
figure had sent him to the boy.

The cosy glow of the carefully sheltered night light showed in the warm
flickers of soft illumination a lifeless body on the scarcely disarranged
pillow; powerful hands had skilfully strangled Edmund in his sleep.

Again Awkwright found himself at the window, trying now to scream, to signal,
to express his scattered soul; again he saw the ape-like figure, running over
the fields beyond the garden, towards the gloomy hills; it seemed to proceed
with a hideous exultation, a dark joy powerfully expressed in the swinging
animal movements, in the triumphant haste towards the wilderness, in the
challenging thrown back head which seemed to howl at the moon that swung in an
unfathomable, dreadful void.


Published in _Seeing Life! And Other Stories_, Hurst & Blackett, London, 1923

This is a queer story, the more queer for the interpretation of passions of
strong human heat that have been put upon it, and for glimpses of other motives
and doings, not, it would seem, human at all.

The whole thing is seen vaguely, brokenly, a snatch here and there; one tells
the tale, strangely another exclaims amaze, a third points out a scene, a
fourth has a dim memory of a circumstance, a nine-days' (or less) wonder, an
old print helps, the name on a mural tablet in a deserted church pinches the
heart with a sense of confirmation, and so you have your story. When all is
said it remains a queer tale.

It is seventy years odd ago, so dating back from this present year of 1845 you
come to nearly midway in the last century when conditions were vastly different
from what they are now.

The scene is in Glasgow, and there are three points from which we start, all
leading us to the heart of our tale.

The first is the portrait of a woman that hangs in the parlor of a respectable
banker. He believes it to be the likeness of some connection of his wife's,
dead this many a year, but he does not know much about it. Some while ago it
was discovered in a lumber-room, and he keeps it for the pallid beauty of the
canvas, which is much faded and rubbed.

Since, as a young man, I first had the privilege of my Worthy friend's
acquaintance, I have always felt a strange interest in this picture; and, in
that peculiar way that the imagination will seize on trifles, I was always
fascinated by the dress of the lady. This is of dark-green very fine silk, an
uncommon color to use in a portrait, and, perhaps, in a lady's dress. It is
very plain, with a little scarf of a striped Roman pattern, and her hair is
drawn up over a pillow in the antique mode. Her face is expressionless, yet
strange, the upper lip very thin, the lower very full, the light brown eyes set
under brows that slant. I cannot tell why this picture was always to me full of
such a great attraction, but I used to think of it a vast deal, and often to
note, secretly, that never had I chanced to meet in real life, or in any other
painting, a lady in a dark-green silk dress.

In the corner of the canvas is a little device, put in a diamond, as a
gentlewoman might bear arms, yet with no pretensions to heraldry, just three
little birds, the topmost with a flower in its beak.

It was not so long ago that I came upon the second clue that leads into the
story, and that was a mural tablet in an old church near the Rutherglen Road, a
church that has lately fallen into disrepute or neglect, for it was deserted
and impoverished. But I was assured that a generation ago it had been a most
famous place of worship, fashionable and well frequented by the better sort.

The mural tablet was to one "Ann Leete," and there was just the date (seventy-
odd years old) given with what seemed a sinister brevity. And underneath the
lettering, lightly cut on the time-stained marble, was the same device as that
on the portrait of the lady in the green silk dress.

I was curious enough to make enquiries, but no one seemed to know anything of,
or wished to talk about, Ann Leete.

It was all so long ago, I was told, and there was no one now in the parish of
the name of Leete.

And all who had been acquainted with the family of Leete seemed to be dead or
gone away. The parish register (my curiosity went so far as an inspection of
this) yielded me no more information than the mural tablet.

I spoke to my friend the banker, and he said he thought that his wife had had
some cousins by the name of Leete, and that there was some tale of a scandal or
great misfortune attached to them which was the reason of a sort of ban on
their name so that it had never been mentioned.

When I told him I thought the portrait of the lady in the dark-green silk
might picture a certain Ann Leete he appeared uneasy and even desirous of
having the likeness removed, which roused in me the suspicion that he knew
something of the name, and that not pleasant. But it seemed to me indelicate
and perhaps useless to question him. It was a year or so after this incident
that my business, which was that of silversmith and jeweller, put into my hands
a third clue. One of my apprentices came to me with a rare piece of work which
had been left at the shop for repair.

It was a thin medal of the purest gold, on which was set in fresh-water
pearls, rubies and cairngorms the device of the three birds, the plumage being
most skilfully wrought in the bright jewels and the flower held by the topmost
creature accurately designed in pearls.

It was one of these pearls that was missing, and I had some difficulty in
matching its soft lustre.

An elderly lady called for the ornament, the same person who had left it. I
saw her myself, and ventured to admire and praise the workmanship of the medal.

"Oh," she said, "it was worked by a very famous jeweller, my great-uncle, and
he has a peculiar regard for it--indeed I believe it has never before been out
of his possession, but he was so greatly grieved by the loss of the pearl that
he would not rest until I offered to take it to be repaired. He is, you will
understand," she added, with a smile, "a very old man. He must have made that
jewellery--why--seventy-odd years ago."

Seventy-odd years ago--that would bring one back to the date on the tablet to
Ann Leete, to the period of the portrait.

"I have seen this device before," I remarked, "on the likeness of a lady and
on the mural inscription in memory of a certain Ann Leete." Again this name
appeared to make an unpleasant impression.

My customer took her packet hastily.

"It is associated with something dreadful," she said quickly. "We do not speak
of it--a very old story. I did not know anyone had heard of it--"

"I certainly have not," I assured her. "I came to Glasgow not so long ago, as
apprentice to this business of my uncle's which now I own."

"But you have seen a portrait?" she asked.

"Yes, in the house of a friend of mine."

"This is queer. We did not know that any existed. Yet my great-uncle does
speak of one--in a green silk dress."

"In a green silk dress," I confirmed.

The lady appeared amazed.

"But it is better to let the matter rest," she decided. "My relative, you will
realize, is very old--nearly, sir, a hundred years old, and his wits wander and
he tells queer tales. It was all very strange and horrible, but one cannot tell
how much my old uncle dreams."

"I should not think to disturb him," I replied.

But my customer hesitated.

"If you know of this portrait--perhaps he should be told; he laments after it
so much, and we have always believed it an hallucination--"

She returned the packet containing the medal.

"Perhaps," she added dubiously, "you are interested enough to take this back
to my relative yourself and judge what you shall or shall not tell him?"

I eagerly accepted the offer, and the lady gave me the name and residence of
the old man who, although possessed of considerable means, had lived for the
past fifty years in the greatest seclusion in that lonely part of the town
beyond the Rutherglen Road and near to the Green, the once pretty and
fashionable resort for youth and pleasure, but now a deserted and desolate
region. Here, on the first opportunity, I took my way, and found myself well
out into the country, nearly at the river, before I reached the lonely mansion
of Eneas Bretton, as the ancient jeweller was called.

A ferocious dog troubled my entrance in the dark overgrown garden where the
black glossy laurels and bays strangled the few flowers, and a grim woman, in
an old-fashioned mutch or cap, at length answered my repeated peals at the
rusty chain bell.

It was not without considerable trouble that I was admitted into the presence
of Mr. Bretton, and only, I think, by the display of the jewel and the refusal
to give it into any hands but those of its owner.

The ancient jeweller was seated on a southern terrace that received the faint
and fitful rays of the September sun. He was wrapped in shawls that disguised
his natural form, and a fur and leather cap was fastened under his chin.

I had the impression that he had been a fine man, of a vigorous and handsome
appearance; even now, in the extreme of decay, he showed a certain grandeur of
line and carriage, a certain majestic power in his personality. Though
extremely feeble, I did not take him to be imbecile nor greatly wanting in his

He received me courteously, though obviously ill-used to strangers.

I had, he said, a claim on him as a fellow-craftsman, and he was good enough
to commend the fashion in which I had repaired his medal.

This, as soon as he had unwrapped, he fastened to a fine gold chain he drew
from his breast, and slipped inside his heavy clothing. "A pretty trinket," I
said, "and of an unusual design."

"I fashioned it myself," he answered, "over seventy years ago. The year
before, sir, she died."

"Ann Leete?" I ventured.

The ancient man was not in the least surprised at the use of this name.

"It is a long time since I heard those words with any but my inner ear," he
murmured; "to be sure, I grow very old. You'll not remember Ann Leete?" he
added wistfully.

"I take it she died before I was born," I answered.

He peered at me.

"Ah, yes, you are still a young man, though your hair is grey." I noticed now
that he wore a small tartan scarf inside his coat and shawl: this fact gave me
a peculiar, almost unpleasant shudder. "I know this about Ann Leete--she had a
dark-green silk dress. And a Roman or tartan scarf."

He touched the wisp of bright-colored silk across his chest. "That is it. She
had her likeness taken so--but it was lost."

"It is preserved," I answered. "And I know where it is. I might, if you
desired, bring you to a sight of it."

He turned his grand old face to me with a civil inclination of his massive head.

"That would be very courteous of you, sir, and a pleasure to me. You must not
think," he added with dignity, "that the lady has forsaken me or that I do not
often see her. Indeed, she comes to me more frequently than before. But it
would delight me to have the painting of her to console the hours of her

I reflected what his relative had said about the weakness of his wits, and
recalled his great age, which one was apt to forget in face of his composure
and reasonableness.

He appeared now to doze and to take no further notice of my presence, so I
left him.

He had a strange look of lifelessness as he slumbered there in the faintest
rays of the cloudy autumn sun.

I reflected how lightly the spirit must dwell in this ancient frame, how
easily it must take flight into the past, how soon into eternity. It did not
cost me much persuasion to induce my friend, the banker, to lend me the
portrait of Ann Leete, particularly as the canvas had been again sent up to the

"Do you know the story?" I asked him.

He replied that he had heard something; that the case had made a great stir at
the time; that it was all very confused and amazing, and that he did not desire
to discuss the matter.

I hired a carriage and took the canvas to the house of Eneas Bretton.

He was again on the terrace, enjoying with a sort of calm eagerness the last
warmth of the failing sun.

His two servants brought in the picture and placed it on a chair at his side.

He gazed at the painted face with the greatest serenity.

"That is she," he said, "but I am glad to think that she looks happier now,
sir. She still wears that dark-green silk. I never see her in any other

"A beautiful woman," I remarked quietly, not wishing to agitate or disturb his
reflections, which were clearly detached from any considerations of time and

"I have always thought so," he answered gently, "but I, sir, have peculiar
faculties. I saw her, and see her still as a spirit. I loved her as a spirit.
Yet our bodily union was necessary for our complete happiness. And in that my
darling and I were balked."

"By death?" I suggested, for I knew that the word had no terrors for him.

"By death," he agreed, "who will soon be forced to unite us again."

"But not in the body," I said.

"How, sir, do you know that?" he smiled. "We have but finite minds. I think we
have but little conception of the marvellous future."

"Tell me," I urged, "how you lost Ann Leete."

His dim, heavy-lidded, many-wrinkled eyes flickered a glance over me.

"She was murdered," he said.

I could not forbear a shudder.

"That fragile girl!" I exclaimed. My blood had always run cool and thin, and I
detested deeds of violence; my even mind could not grasp the idea of the murder
of women save as a monstrous enormity. I looked at the portrait, and it seemed
to me that I had always known that it was the likeness of a creature doomed.

"Seventy years ago and more," continued Eneas Bretton, "since when she has
wandered lonely betwixt time and eternity, waiting for me. But very soon I
shall join her, and then, sir, we shall go where there is no recollection of
the evil things of this earth."

By degrees he told me the story, not in any clear sequence, nor at any one
time, nor without intervals of sleep and pauses of dreaming, nor without
assistance from his servants and his great-niece and her husband, who were his
frequent visitors.

Yet it was from his own lips and when we were alone together that I learned
all that was really vital in the tale.

He required very frequent attendance; although all human passion was at the
utmost ebb with him, he had, he said, a kind of regard for me in that I had
brought him his lady's portrait, and he told me things of which he had never
spoken to any human being before. I say human on purpose because of his intense
belief that he was, and always had been, in communication with powers not of
this earth. In these words I put together his tale.

As a young man, said Eneas Bretton, I was healthy, prosperous and happy.

My family had been goldsmiths as long as there was any record of their
existence, and I was an enthusiast in this craft, grave, withal, and studious,
over-fond of books and meditation. I do not know how or when I first met Ann

To me she was always there like the sun; I think I have known her all my life,
but perhaps my memory fails.

Her father was a lawyer and she an only child, and though her social station
was considered superior to mine, I had far more in the way of worldly goods, so
there was no earthly obstacle to our union.

The powers of evil, however, fought against us; I had feared this from the
first, as our happiness was the complete circle ever hateful to fiends and
devils who try to break the mystic symbol.

The mistress of my soul attracted the lustful attention of a young doctor, Rob
Patterson, who had a certain false charm of person, not real comeliness, but a
trick of color, of carriage and a fine taste in clothes.

His admiration was whetted by her coldness and his intense dislike of me.

We came to scenes in which he derided me as no gentleman, but a beggarly
tradesman, and I scorned him as an idle voluptuary designing a woman's min for
the crude pleasure of the gratification of fleeting passions.

For the fellow made not even any pretence of being able to support a wife, and
was of that rake-helly temperament that made an open mock of matrimony.

Although he was but a medical student, he was of what they call noble birth,
and his family, though decayed, possessed considerable social power, so that
his bold pursuit of Ann Leete and his insolent flaunting of me had some
licence, the more so that he did not lack tact and address in his manner and

Our marriage could have stopped this persecution, or given the right to
publicly resent it, but my darling would not leave her father, who was of a
melancholy and querulous disposition.

It was shortly before her twenty-first birthday, for which I had made her the
jewel I now wear (the device being the crest of her mother's family and one for
which she had a great affection), that her father died suddenly. His last
thoughts were of her, for he had this very picture painted for her birthday
gift. Finding herself thus unprotected and her affairs in some confusion, she
declared her intention of retiring to some distant relative in the Highlands
until decorum permitted of our marriage.

And upon my opposing myself to this scheme of separation and delay she was
pleased to fall out with me, declaring that I was as importunate as Dr.
Patterson, and that I, as well as he, should be kept in ignorance of her

I had, however, great hopes of inducing her to change this resolution, and, it
being then fair spring weather, engaged her to walk with me on the Green,
beyond the city, to discuss our future. I was an orphan like herself, and we
had now no common meeting-place suitable to her reputation and my respect.

By reason of a pressure of work, to which by temperament and training I was
ever attentive, I was a few moments late at the tryst on the Green, which I
found, as usual, empty; but it was a lovely afternoon of May, very still and
serene, like the smile of satisfied love. I paced about, looking for my darling.

Although she was in mourning, she had promised me to wear the dark-green silk
I so admired under her black cloak, and I looked for this color among the
brighter greens of the trees and bushes. She did not appear, and my heart was
chilled with the fear that she was offended with me and therefore would not
come, and an even deeper dread that she might, in vexation, have fled to her
unknown retreat.

This thought was sending me hot-foot to seek her at her house, when I saw Rob
Patterson coming across the close-shaven grass of the Green.

I remembered that the cheerful sun seemed to me to be at this moment darkened,
not by any natural clouds or mists, but as it is during an eclipse, and that
the fresh trees and innocent flowers took on a ghastly and withered look.

It may appear a trivial detail, but I recall so clearly his habit, which was
of a luxury beyond his means--fine grey broadcloth with a deep edging of
embroidery in gold thread, little suited to his profession.

As he saw me he cocked his hat over his eyes, but took no other notice of my
appearance, and I turned away, not being wishful of any encounter with this
gentleman while my spirit was in a tumult.

I went at once to my darling's house, and learnt from her maid that she had
left home two hours previously.

I do not wish to dwell on this part of my tale--indeed, I could not, it
becomes very confused to me.

The salient facts are these--that no one saw Ann Leete in bodily form again.

And no one could account for her disappearance; yet no great comment was
aroused by this, because there was no one to take much interest in her, and it
was commonly believed that she had disappeared from the importunity of her
lovers, the more so as Rob Patterson swore that the day of her disappearance he
had had an interview with her in which she had avowed her intention of going
where no one could discover her. This, in a fashion, was confirmed by what she
had told me, and I was the more inclined to believe it, as my inner senses told
me that she was not dead.

Six months of bitter search, of sad uneasiness, that remain in my memory
blurred to one pain, and then, one autumn evening, as I came home late and
dispirited, I saw her before me in the gloaming, tripping up the street,
wearing her dark-green silk dress and tartan or Roman scarf.

I did not see her face as she disappeared before I could gain on her, but she
held to her side one hand, and between the long fingers I saw the haft of a
surgeon's knife.

I knew then that she was dead.

And I knew that Rob Patterson had killed her.

Although it was well known that my family were all ghost-seers, to speak in
this case was to be laughed at and reprimanded.

I had no single shred of evidence against Dr. Patterson.

But I resolved that I would use what powers I possessed to make him disclose
his crime.

And this is how it befell.

In those days, in Glasgow, it was compulsory to attend some place of worship
on the Sabbath, the observation of the holy day being enforced with peculiar
strictness, and none being allowed to show themselves in any public place
during the hours of the church services, and to this end inspectors and
overseers were employed to patrol the streets on a Sabbath and take down the
names of those who might be found loitering there.

But few were the defaulters, Glasgow on a Sunday being as bare as the Arabian

Rob Patterson and I both attended the church in Rutherglen Road, towards the
Green and the river.

And the Sunday after I had seen the phantom of Ann Leete, I changed my usual
place and seated myself behind this young man. My intention was to so work on
his spirit as to cause him to make public confession of his crime. And I
crouched there behind him with a concentration of hate and fury, forcing my
will on his during the whole of the long service.

I noticed he was pale, and that he glanced several times behind him, but he
did not change his place or open his lips; but presently his head fell forward
on his arms as if he was praying, and I took him to be in a kind of swoon
brought on by the resistance of his spirit against mine.

I did not for this cease to pursue him. I was, indeed, as if in an exaltation,
and I thought my soul had his soul by the throat, somewhere above our heads,
and was shouting out: "Confess! Confess!"

One o'clock struck and he rose with the rest of the congregation, but in a
dazed kind of fashion. It was almost side by side that we issued from the
church door.

As the stream of people came into the street they were stopped by a little
procession that came down the road.

All immediately recognized two of the inspectors employed to search the Sunday
streets for defaulters from church attendance, followed by several citizens who
appeared to have left their homes in haste and confusion.

These people carried between them a rude bundle which some compassionate hand
had covered with a white linen cloth. Below this fell a swathe of dark-green
silk and the end of a Roman scarf. I stepped up to the rough bier.

"You have found Ann Leete," I said.

"It is a dead woman," one answered me. "We know not her name."

I did not need to raise the cloth. The congregation was gathering round us,
amongst them was Rob Patterson.

"Tell me, who was her promised husband, how you found her," I said.

And one of the inspectors answered:

"Near here, on the Green, where the wall bounds the grass, we saw, just now,
the young surgeon, Rob Patterson, lying on the sward, and put his name in our
books, besides approaching him to enquire the reason of his absence from
church. But he, without excuse for his offence, rose from the ground,
exclaiming: 'I am a miserable man! Look in the water!'

"With that he crossed a stile that leads to the river and disappeared, and we,
going down to the water, found the dead woman, deep tangled between the willows
and the weeds--"

"And," added the other inspector gravely, "tangled in her clothes is a
surgeon's knife."

"Which," said the former speaker, "perhaps Dr. Patterson can explain, since I
perceive he is among this congregation--he must have found some quick way round
to have got here before us."

Upon this all eyes turned on the surgeon, but more with amaze than reproach.

And he, with a confident air, said:

"It is known to all these good people that I have been in the church the whole
of the morning, especially to Eneas Bretton, who sat behind me, and, I dare
swear, never took his eyes from me during the whole of the service."

"Ay, your body was there," I said.

With that he laughed angrily, and mingling with the crowd passed on his way.

You may believe there was a great stir; the theory put abroad was that Ann
Leete had been kept a prisoner in a solitary, mined hut there was by the river,
and then, fury or fear, slain by her jailer and cast into the river.

To me all this is black. I only know that she was murdered by Rob Patterson.

He was arrested and tried on the circuit.

He there proved, beyond all cavil, that he had been in the church from the
beginning of the service to the end of it; his alibi was perfect. But the two
inspectors never wavered in their tale of seeing him on the Green, of his self-
accusation in his exclamation; he was very well known to them; and they showed
his name written in their books.

He was acquitted by the tribunal of man, but a higher power condemned him.

Shortly after he died by his own hand, which God armed and turned against him.

This mystery, as it was called, was never solved to the public satisfaction,
but I know that I sent Rob Patterson's soul out of his body to betray his
guilt, and to procure my darling Christian burial.

This was the tale Eneas Bretton, that ancient man, told me, on the old
terrace, as he sat opposite the picture of Ann Leete.

"You must think what you will," he concluded. "They will tell you that the
shock unsettled my wits, or even that I was always crazed. As they would tell
you that I dream when I say that I see Ann Leete now, and babble when I talk of
my happiness with her for fifty years."

He smiled faintly; a deeper glory than that of the autumn sunshine seemed to
rest on him.

"Explain it yourself, sir. What was it those inspectors saw on the Green?"

He slightly raised himself in his chair and peered over my shoulder.

"And what is this," he asked triumphantly, in the voice of a young man,
"coming towards us now?"

I rose; I looked over my shoulder.

Through the gloom I saw a dark-green silk gown, a woman's form, a pale hand

My impulse was to fly from the spot, but a happy sigh from my companion
reproved my cowardice. I looked at the ancient man whose whole figure appeared
lapped in warm light, and as the apparition of the woman moved into this glow,
which seemed too glorious for the fading sunshine, I heard his last breath flow
from his body with a glad cry. I had not answered his questions; I never can.


Published in _Grace Latouche and the Warringtons_, Selwyn & Blount,London, 1931

Martha Pym said that she had never seen a ghost and that she would very much
like to do so, "particularly at Christmas, for you can laugh as you like, that
is the correct time to see a ghost."

"I don't suppose you ever will," replied her cousin Mabel comfortably, while
her cousin Clara shuddered and said that she hoped they would change the
subject for she disliked even to think of such things.

The three elderly, cheerful women sat round a big fire, cosy and content after
a day of pleasant activities; Martha was the guest of the other two, who owned
the handsome, convenient country house; she always came to spend her Christmas
with the Wyntons and found the leisurely country life delightful after the
bustling round of London, for Martha managed an antique shop of the better sort
and worked extremely hard. She was, however, still full of zest for work or
pleasure, though sixty years old, and looked backwards and forwards to a
succession of delightful days.

The other two, Mabel and Clara, led quieter but none the less agreeable lives;
they had more money and fewer interests, but nevertheless enjoyed themselves
very well.

"Talking of ghosts," said Mabel, "I wonder how that old woman at 'Hartleys' is
getting on, for 'Hartleys,' you know, is supposed to be haunted."

"Yes, I know," smiled Miss Pym, "but all the years that we have known of the
place we have never heard anything definite, have we?"

"No," put in Clara; "but there _is_ that persistent rumour that the House is
uncanny, and for myself, _nothing_ would induce me to live there!"

"It is certainly very lonely and dreary down there on the marshes," conceded
Mabel. "But as for the ghost--you never hear _what_ it is supposed to be even."

"Who has taken it?" asked Miss Pym, remembering "Hartleys" as very desolate
indeed, and long shut up.

"A Miss Lefain, an eccentric old creature--I think you met her here once, two
years ago--"

"I believe that I did, but I don't recall her at all."

"We have not seen her since, 'Hartleys' is so un-get-at-able and she didn't
seem to want visitors. She collects china, Martha, so really you ought to go
and see her and talk 'shop.'"

With the word "china" some curious associations came into the mind of Martha
Pym; she was silent while she strove to put them together, and after a second
or two they all fitted together into a very clear picture.

She remembered that thirty years ago--yes, it must be thirty years ago, when,
as a young woman, she had put all her capital into the antique business, and
had been staying with her cousins (her aunt had then been alive) that she had
driven across the marsh to "Hartleys," where there was an auction sale; all the
details of this she had completely forgotten, but she could recall quite
clearly purchasing a set of gorgeous china which was still one of her proud
delights, a perfect set of Crown Derby save that one plate was missing.

"How odd," she remarked, "that this Miss Lefain should collect china too, for
it was at 'Hartleys' that I purchased my dear old Derby service--I've never
been able to match that plate--"

"A plate was missing? I seem to remember," said Clara. "Didn't they say that
it must be in the house somewhere and that it should be looked for?"

"I believe they did, but of course I never heard any more and that missing
plate has annoyed me ever since. Who had 'Hartleys'?"

"An old connoisseur, Sir James Sewell; I believe he was some relation to this
Miss Lefain, but I don't know--"

"I wonder if she has found the plate," mused Miss Pym. "I expect she has
turned out and ransacked the whole place--"

"Why not trot over and ask?" suggested Mabel. "It's not much use to her, if
she has found it, one odd plate."

"Don't be silly," said Clara. "Fancy going over the marshes, this weather, to
ask about a plate missed all those years ago. I'm sure Martha wouldn't think of

But Martha did think of it; she was rather fascinated by the idea; how queer
and pleasant it would be if, after all these years, nearly a lifetime, she
should find the Crown Derby plate, the loss of which had always irked her! And
this hope did not seem so altogether fantastical, it was quite likely that old
Miss Lefain, poking about in the ancient house, had found the missing piece.

And, of course, if she had, being a fellow-collector, she would be quite
willing to part with it to complete the set.

Her cousin endeavoured to dissuade her; Miss Lefain, she declared, was a
recluse, an odd creature who might greatly resent such a visit and such a

"Well, if she does I can but come away again," smiled Miss Pym. "I suppose she
can't bite my head off, and I rather like meeting these curious types--we've
got a love for old china in common, anyhow."

"It seems so silly to think of it--after all these years--a plate!"

"A Crown Derby plate," corrected Miss Pym. "It is certainly strange that I
didn't think of it before, but now that I have got it into my head I can't get
it out. Besides," she added hopefully, "I might see the ghost."

So full, however, were the days with pleasant local engagements that Miss Pym
had no immediate chance of putting her scheme into practice; but she did not
relinquish it, and she asked several different people what they knew about
"Hartleys" and Miss Lefain.

And no one knew anything save that the house was supposed to be haunted and
the owner "cracky."

"Is there a story?" asked Miss Pym, who associated ghosts with neat tales into
which they fitted as exactly as nuts into shells.

But she was always told: "Oh, no, there isn't a story, no one knows anything
about the place, don't know how the idea got about; old Sewell was half-crazy,
I believe, he was buried in the garden and that gives a house a nasty name--"

"Very unpleasant," said Martha Pym, undisturbed.

This ghost seemed too elusive for her to track down; she would have to be
content if she could recover the Crown Derby plate; for that at least she was
determined to make a try and also to satisfy that faint tingling of curiosity
roused in her by this talk about "Hartleys" and the remembrance of that day, so
long ago, when she had gone to the auction sale at the lonely old house.

So the first free afternoon, while Mabel and Clara were comfortably taking
their afternoon repose, Martha Pym, who was of a more lively habit, got out her
little governess cart and dashed away across the Essex flats.

She had taken minute directions with her, but she had soon lost her way.

Under the wintry sky, which looked as grey and hard as metal, the marshes
stretched bleakly to the horizon, the olive-brown broken reeds were harsh as
scars on the saffron-tinted bogs, where the sluggish waters that rose so high
in winter were filmed over with the first stillness of a frost; the air was
cold but not keen, everything was damp; faintest of mists blurred the black
outlines of trees that rose stark from the ridges above the stagnant dykes; the
flooded fields were haunted by black birds and white birds, gulls and crows,
whining above the long ditch grass and wintry wastes.

Miss Pym stopped the little horse and surveyed this spectral scene, which had
a certain relish about it to one sure to return to a homely village, a cheerful
house and good company.

A withered and bleached old man, in colour like the dun landscape, came along
the road between the sparse alders.

Miss Pym, buttoning up her coat, asked the way to "Hartley" as he passed her;
he told her, straight on, and she proceeded, straight indeed across the road
that went with undeviating length across the marshes.

"Of course," thought Miss Pym, "if you live in a place like this, you are
bound to invent ghosts."

The house sprang up suddenly on a knoll ringed with rotting trees, encompassed
by an old brick wall that the perpetual damp had overrun with lichen, blue,
green, white colours of decay.

"Hartleys," no doubt, there was no other residence of human being in sight in
all the wide expanse; besides, she could remember it, surely, after all this
time, the sharp rising out of the marsh, the colony of tall trees, but then
fields and trees had been green and bright--there had been no water on the
flats, it had been summer-time.

"She certainly," thought Miss Pym, "must be crazy to live here. And I rather
doubt if I shall get my plate."

She fastened up the good little horse by the garden gate which stood
negligently ajar and entered; the garden itself was so neglected that it was
quite surprising to see a trim appearance in the house, curtains at the window
and a polish on the brass door knocker, which must have been recently rubbed
there, considering the taint in the sea damp which rusted and rotted everything.

It was a square-built, substantial house with "nothing wrong with it but the
situation," Miss Pym decided, though it was not very attractive, being built of
that drab plastered stone so popular a hundred years ago, with flat windows and
door, while one side was gloomily shaded by a large evergreen tree of the
cypress variety which gave a blackish tinge to that portion of the garden.

There was no pretence at flower-beds nor any manner of cultivation in this
garden where a few rank weeds and straggling bushes matted together above the
dead grass; on the enclosing wall which appeared to have been built high as
protection against the ceaseless winds that swung along the flats were the
remains of fruit trees; their crucified branches, rotting under the great nails
that held them up, looked like the skeletons of those who had died in torment.

Miss Pym took in these noxious details as she knocked firmly at the door; they
did not depress her; she merely felt extremely sorry for anyone who could live
in such a place.

She noticed, at the far end of the garden, in the corner of the wall, a
headstone showing above the sodden colourless grass, and remembered what she
had been told about the old antiquary being buried there, in the grounds of

As the knock had no effect she stepped back and looked at the house; it was
certainly inhabited--with those neat windows, white curtains and drab blinds
all pulled to precisely the same level.

And when she brought her glance back to the door she saw that it had been
opened and that someone, considerably obscured by the darkness of the passage,
was looking at her intently.

"Good afternoon," said Miss Pym cheerfully. "I just thought that I would call
to see Miss Lefain--it is Miss Lefain, isn't it?"

"It's my house," was the querulous reply.

Martha Pym had hardly expected to find any servants here, though the old lady
must, she thought, work pretty hard to keep the house so clean and tidy as it
appeared to be.

"Of course," she replied. "May I come in? I'm Martha Pym, staying with the
Wyntons, I met you there--"

"Do come in," was the faint reply. "I get so few people to visit me, I'm
really very lonely."

"I don't wonder," thought Miss Pym; but she had resolved to take no notice of
any eccentricity on the part of her hostess, and so she entered the house with
her usual agreeable candour and courtesy.

The passage was badly lit, but she was able to get a fair idea of Miss Lefain;
her first impression was that this poor creature was most dreadfully old, older
than any human being had the right to be, why, she felt young in comparison--so
faded, feeble, and pallid was Miss Lefain.

She was also monstrously fat; her gross, flaccid figure was shapeless and she
wore a badly cut, full dress of no colour at all, but stained with earth and
damp where Miss Pym supposed she had been doing futile gardening; this gown was
doubtless designed to disguise her stoutness, but had been so carelessly pulled
about that it only added to it, being rucked and rolled "all over the place" as
Miss Pym put it to herself.

Another ridiculous touch about the appearance of the poor old lady was her
short hair; decrepit as she was, and lonely as she lived she had actually had
her scanty relics of white hair cropped round her shaking head.

"Dear me, dear me," she said in her thin treble voice. "How very kind of you
to come. I suppose you prefer the parlour? I generally sit in the garden."

"The garden? But not in this weather?"

"I get used to the weather. You've no idea how used one gets to the weather."

"I suppose so," conceded Miss Pym doubtfully. "You don't live here quite
alone, do you?"

"Quite alone, lately. I had a little company, but she was taken away, I'm sure
I don't know where. I haven't been able to find a trace of her anywhere,"
replied the old lady peevishly.

"Some wretched companion that couldn't stick it, I suppose," thought Miss Pym.
"Well, I don't wonder--but someone ought to be here to look after her."

They went into the parlour, which, the visitor was dismayed to see, was
without a fire but otherwise well kept.

And there, on dozens of shelves was a choice array of china at which Martha
Pym's eyes glistened.

"Aha!" cried Miss Lefain. "I see you've noticed my treasures! Don't you envy
me? Don't you wish that you had some of those pieces?"

Martha Pym certainly did and she looked eagerly and greedily round the walls,
tables, and cabinets while the old woman followed her with little thin squeals
of pleasure.

It was a beautiful little collection, most choicely and elegantly arranged,
and Martha thought it marvellous that this feeble ancient creature should be
able to keep it in such precise order as well as doing her own housework.

"Do you really do everything yourself here and live quite alone?" she asked,
and she shivered even in her thick coat and wished that Miss Lefain's energy
had risen to a fire, but then probably she lived in the kitchen, as these
lonely eccentrics often did.

"There was someone," answered Miss Lefain cunningly, "but I had to send her
away. I told you she's gone, I can't find her, and I am so glad. Of course,"
she added wistfully, "it leaves me very lonely, but then I couldn't stand her
impertinence any longer. She used to say that it was _her_ house and her
collection of china! Would you believe it? She used to try to chase me away
from looking at my own things!"

"How very disagreeable," said Miss Pym, wondering which of the two women had
been crazy. "But hadn't you better get someone else."

"Oh, no," was the jealous answer. "I would rather be alone with my things, I
daren't leave the house for fear someone takes them away--there was a dreadful
time once when an auction sale was held here--"

"Were you here then?" asked Miss Pym; but indeed she looked old enough to have
been anywhere.

"Yes, of course," Miss Lefain replied rather peevishly and Miss Pym decided
that she must be a relation of old Sir James Sewell. Clara and Mabel had been
very foggy about it all. "I was very busy hiding all the china--but one set
they got--a Crown Derby tea service--"

"With one plate missing!" cried Martha Pym. "I bought it, and do you know, I
was wondering if you'd found it--"

"I hid it," piped Miss Lefain.

"Oh, you did, did you? Well, that's rather funny behaviour. Why did you hide
the stuff away instead of buying it?"

"How could I buy what was mine?"

"Old Sir James left it to you, then?" asked Martha Pym, feeling very muddled.

"_She_ bought a lot more," squeaked Miss Lefain, but Martha Pym tried to keep
her to the point.

"If you've got the plate," she insisted, "you might let me have it--I'll pay
quite handsomely, it would be so pleasant to have it after all these years."

"Money is no use to me," said Miss Lefain mournfully. "Not a bit of use. I
can't leave the house or the garden."

"Well, you have to live, I suppose," replied Martha Pym cheerfully. "And, do
you know, I'm afraid you are getting rather morbid and dull, living here all
alone--you really ought to have a fire--why, it's just on Christmas and very

"I haven't felt the cold for a long time," replied the other; she seated
herself with a sigh on one of the horsehair chairs and Miss Pym noticed with a
start that her feet were covered only by a pair of white stockings; "one of
those nasty health fiends," thought Miss Pym, "but she doesn't look too well
for all that."

"So you don't think that you could let me have the plate?" she asked briskly,
walking up and down, for the dark, neat, clean parlour was very cold indeed,
and she thought that she couldn't stand this much longer; as there seemed no
sign of tea or anything pleasant and comfortable she had really better go.

"I might let you have it," sighed Miss Lefain, "since you've been so kind as
to pay me a visit. After all, one plate isn't much use, is it?"

"Of course not, I wonder you troubled to hide it--"

"I couldn't _bear_," wailed the other, "to see the things going out of the

Martha Pym couldn't stop to go into all this; it was quite clear that the old
lady was very eccentric indeed and that nothing very much could be done with
her; no wonder that she had "dropped out" of everything and that no one ever
saw her or knew anything about her, though Miss Pym felt that some effort ought
really to be made to save her from herself.

"Wouldn't you like a run in my little governess cart?" she suggested. "We
might go to tea with the Wyntons on the way back, they'd be delighted to see
you, and I really think that you do want taking out of yourself."

"I was taken out of myself some time ago," replied Miss Lefain. "I really was,
and I couldn't leave my things--though," she added with pathetic gratitude, "it
is very, very kind of you--"

"Your things would be quite safe, I'm sure," said Martha Pym, humouring her.
"Who ever would come up here, this hour of a winter's day?"

"They do, oh, they do! And _she_ might come back, prying and nosing and saying
that it was all hers, all my beautiful china, hers!"

Miss Lefain squealed in her agitation and rising up, ran round the wall
fingering with flaccid yellow hands the brilliant glossy pieces on the shelves.

"Well, then, I'm afraid that I must go, they'll be expecting me, and it's
quite a long ride; perhaps some other time you'll come and see us?

"Oh, must you go?" quavered Miss Lefain dolefully. "I do like a little company
now and then and I trusted you from the first--the others, when they do come,
are always after my things and I have to frighten them away!"

"Frighten them away!" replied Martha Pym. "However do you do that?"

"It doesn't seem difficult, people are so easily frightened, aren't they?"

Miss Pym suddenly remembered that "Hartleys" had the reputation of being
haunted--perhaps the queer old thing played on that; the lonely house with the
grave in the garden was dreary enough around which to create a legend.

"I suppose you've never seen a ghost?" she asked pleasantly. "I'd rather like
to see one, you know--"

"There is no one here but myself," said Miss Lefain.

"So you've never seen anything? I thought it must be all nonsense. Still, I do
think it rather melancholy for you to live here all alone--"

Miss Lefain sighed:

"Yes, it's very lonely. Do stay and talk to me a little longer." Her whistling
voice dropped cunningly. "And I'll give you the Crown Derby plate!"

"Are you sure you've really got it?" Miss Pym asked.

"I'll show you."

Fat and waddling as she was, she seemed to move very lightly as she slipped in
front of Miss Pym and conducted her from the room, going slowly up the stairs--
such a gross odd figure in that clumsy dress with the fringe of white hair
hanging on to her shoulders.

The upstairs of the house was as neat as the parlour, everything well in its
place; but there was no sign of occupancy; the beds were covered with dust
sheets, there were no lamps or fires set ready. "I suppose," said Miss Pym to
herself, "she doesn't care to show me where she really lives."

But as they passed from one room to another, she could not help saying:

"Where _do_ you live, Miss Lefain?"

"Mostly in the garden," said the other.

Miss Pym thought of those horrible health huts that some people indulged in.

"Well, sooner you than I," she replied cheerfully.

In the most distant room of all, a dark, tiny closet, Miss Lefain opened a
deep cupboard and brought out a Crown Derby plate which her guest received with
a spasm of joy, for it was actually that missing from her cherished set.

"It's very good of you," she said in delight. "Won't you take something for
it, or let me do something for you?"

"You might come and see me again," replied Miss Lefain wistfully.

"Oh, yes, of course I should like to come and see you again."

But now that she had got what she had really come for, the plate, Martha Pym
wanted to be gone; it was really very dismal and depressing in the house and
she began to notice a fearful smell--the place had been shut up too long, there
was something damp rotting somewhere, in this horrid little dark closet no

"I really must be going," she said hurriedly.

Miss Lefain turned as if to cling to her, but Martha Pym moved quickly away.

"Dear me," wailed the old lady. "Why are you in such haste?"

"There's--a smell," murmured Miss Pym rather faintly.

She found herself hastening down the stairs, with Miss Lefain complaining
behind her.

"How peculiar people are--_she_ used to talk of a smell--"

"Well, you must notice it yourself."

Miss Pym was in the hall; the old woman had not followed her, but stood in the
semi-darkness at the head of the stairs, a pale shapeless figure.

Martha Pym hated to be rude and ungrateful but she could not stay another
moment; she hurried away and was in her cart in a moment--really--that smell--

"Good-bye!" she called out with false cheerfulness, "and thank you _so_much!"

There was no answer from the house.

Miss Pym drove on; she was rather upset and took another way than that by
which she had come, a way that led past a little house raised above the marsh;
she was glad to think that the poor old creature at "Hartleys" had such near
neighbours, and she reined up the horse, dubious as to whether she should call
someone and tell them that poor old Miss Lefain really wanted a little looking
after, alone in a house like that, and plainly not quite right in her head.

A young woman, attracted by the sound of the governess cart, came to the door
of the house and seeing Miss Pym called out, asking if she wanted the keys of
the house?

"What house?" asked Miss Pym.

"'Hartleys,' mum, they don't put a board out, as no one is likely to pass, but
it's to be sold. Miss Lefain wants to sell or let it--"

"I've just been up to see her--"

"Oh, no, mum--she's been away a year, abroad somewhere, couldn't stand the
place, it's been empty since then, I just run in every day and keep things tidy-

Loquacious and curious the young woman had come to the fence; Miss Pym had
stopped her horse.

"Miss Lefain is there now," she said. "She must have just come back--"

"She wasn't there this morning, mum, 'tisn't likely she'd come, either--fair
scared she was, mum, fair chased away, didn't dare move her china. Can't say
I've noticed anything myself, but I never stay long--and there's a smell--"

"Yes," murmured Martha Pym faintly, "there's a smell. What--what--chased her

The young woman, even in that lonely place, lowered her voice.

"Well, as you aren't thinking of taking the place, she got an idea in her head
that old Sir James--well, he couldn't bear to leave 'Hartleys,' mum, he's
buried in the garden, and she thought he was after her, chasing round them bits
of china--"

"Oh!" cried Miss Pym.

"Some of it used to be his, she found a lot stuffed away, he said they were to
be left in 'Hartleys,' but Miss Lefain would have the things sold, I believe--
that's years ago--"

"Yes, yes," said Miss Pym with a sick look. "You don't know what he was like,
do you?"

"No, mum--but I've heard tell he was very stout and very old--I wonder who it
was you saw up at 'Hartleys'?"

Miss Pym took a Crown Derby plate from her bag.

"You might take that back when you go," she whispered. "I shan't want it,
after all--"

Before the astonished young woman could answer Miss Pym had darted off across
the marsh; that short hair, that earth-stained robe, the white socks, "I
generally live in the garden--"

Miss Pym drove away, breakneck speed, frantically resolving to mention to no
one that she had paid a visit to "Hartleys," nor lightly again to bring up the
subject of ghosts.

She shook and shuddered in the damp, trying to get out of her clothes and her
nostrils--that indescribable smell.


First published in _The London Magazine_, Jan 1929

Not included in this e-book

Elsie was always lonely, but her desolation seemed more poignant when the day
was sunny.

Elsie lived with her grandmother in a large house at Hampstead. She thought
that there could not be, anywhere, a house with more rooms, more stairs, more
quiet and empty.

There were three servants. They lived in the day downstairs in a large
basement, and nightly slept in attics at the top of the house. Both basement
and attics were out of Elsie's reach; she was not allowed to speak to the
servants. There was not, to Elsie's mind, a single thing in this great house
that was cheerful or pleasant. A great many people must have lived there once,
there were so many empty rooms. There was an empty schoolroom, the inky,
tattered lesson-books still on the shelves round the walls, a globe in one
corner, and a tattered map hanging between the windows, and worn cut desks and
benches as if quite a number of children had once learnt their lessons there.

There was also an empty study, with a huge bookcase with a glass front, that
was always locked; and there was a drawing-room in which no-one ever sat. The
shutters were always closed in this room into which Elsie had only, just by
chance, once peeped. It was full of mirrors with glass frames and little
cabinets lined with quilted silk in which stood china figures.

Then there was the dining-room, so much too large for Elsie, who had her
dinner and tea there alone on a little cloth laid at one end of the long,
shining mahogany table.

But Grandmamma always had her meals in bed. She suffered from what Elsie had
been told was a 'stroke'. When Elsie asked what that was, her grandmother
replied, 'The hand of God'.

So Elsie thought of God's hand reaching out of heaven into Grandmamma's large
bedroom and stroking her down one side and leaving that dead.

Elsie did not find Grandmamma's bedroom a pleasant place, either. It was very
large and had two windows which looked on to the garden at the back. Between
the two windows was a dressing-table, covered in white spotted muslin over
stiff pink stuff.

There were a great many engravings on the walls. They seemed to be all very
much alike, with a smooth baby face, like a china doll, and each of these
pictures had a little story.

One was of a young prince: the Prince Imperial, Grandmamma said, who had
recently been killed by blackamoors. Another was of a girl, crying over a dead
bird which she held in her hand, and there was a little hole at her feet where
the bird was presently to be buried. And another was of a woman tying a scarf
on to a man's arm, and Grandmamma explained that if he went out without the
scarf he would be murdered.

Grandmamma's bed was very large. Grandpapa used to sleep there, too, before he
had died. It had curtains at the back which looped on to the wall. Beside the
curtain was Grandmamma's slipper-case and watch-case, made of stiff, white,
perforated cardboard, tied up with dark ribbon. There were a great many objects
in the room, but Elsie was forbidden to touch any of them. Grandmamma sat up in
bed in a little wool jacket and knitted and crocheted all day long. She had on
a lace cap with thick, pale mauve, velvet ribbons on it. Sometimes she would be
helped to a chair and drawn to the window. The doctor used to come to see her
every day; sometimes another man, whom Elsie heard referred to as a lawyer; and
whenever these people were there, Elsie was sent out of the way.

Her grandmother used to tell her to 'efface herself', and Elsie soon became
aware that this word meant that she was to act as if she didn't exist. She soon
began to understand that she ought never to have existed. Her father,
Grandpapa's son, was dead and her mother was poor, therefore neither of them
were of any use to Elsie.

She was six years old and could neither read nor write, but she soon
understood quite plainly that she ought never to have been born. Indeed, Mrs
Parfitt, the cook, had once said as much in her hearing: 'Poor little thing, it
was a pity she was ever born.'

Elsie thought so too. She had never enjoyed a moment of her short life, Father
being dead and Mother being poor, and Elsie having to suffer for something very
wrong which they had evidently both done.

Everything that Elsie did was wrong too. She knew that, and was resigned to
the fact. Whenever her grandmother spoke to her it was nearly always to say
something beginning with 'don't'.

The few people who ever came to the house and who ever took any notice of her
nearly always also said something beginning with 'don't', or else 'run away'.

Elsie liked the servants, Grace and Sarah and Mrs Parfitt. Sometimes she
opened the swing door at the top of the basement stairs and sat there listening
to their talk and laughter; not that she could hear what they said, but the
sound of voices was comforting in the large, empty house, with Grandmamma
sleeping or dozing and no other company at all.

When Mrs Parfitt found Elsie one day at the top of the stairs, she too began
to talk of 'don't' and 'mustn't'. She said that Elsie was a 'telltale' and a
'spy' and a 'nuisance' and would lose them all their places. Though Elsie did
not understand what any of this meant, she realised that she had again done
something wrong.

But sometimes, even after that, the servants were kind. Mrs Parfitt once
brought her up an apple after her lunch, and on another occasion, in the middle
of a long afternoon, some sandwiches. Once, when there was a thunderstorm and
Grandmamma had had her sent to bed, the servants allowed Elsie to come down and
sit by the kitchen fire. There was a cat on the hearth and a kettle, and rows
of shining pots and plates on the walls and red curtains at the windows, and
for a little while Elsie felt almost happy, though she shuddered whenever the
door was opened to think of the stone passage without, and all the vaults and
cellars and closets and presses, which, like the rest of the house, were

But the moment came when Elsie had to go upstairs to her little bed in the
dressing-room which opened out of Grandmamma's great room. Cook said it 'was a
shame', but Elsie had to go just the same, and lie awake all night in the dark
room, listening to the thunder and watching the lightning, her teeth chattering
with terror, biting the pillow for fear she cried out.

She lay awake the most part of every night. She had only cried out once. That
time she had disturbed Grandmamma and been punished, beaten very hard on the
backs of her hands with a hairbrush, by Mary, who looked after Grandmamma, and
made to stay in bed all the next day with nothing but bread and water to eat
and drink. This diet was no such very great change for the little girl, for her
fare was of the plainest and often such as she could not stomach. She was
fastidious and preferred to go hungry rather than eat fat cold mutton, coarse
boiled potatoes, stiff rice-puddings, and Normandy pippins boiled into a pulp.
She did not know why she was living with Grandmamma, but she understood it was
very kind of Grandmamma to have her there. Indeed, it was very kind of anybody
to endure her at all; nobody wanted her, and of course she must be, she was
sure, quite useless and a nuisance.

Once she had contrived to creep into the wide hall when Sarah, who was good-
humoured, was washing the black and red tiles, and Sarah began to talk to her.
She was evidently smarting under some reprimand from Grandmamma, and Elsie
understood from what Sarah said in a low, careful voice, that all Grandmamma's
children had been useless and nuisances.

It seemed hard to believe that once that great house had been full of people.
Grandmamma had had quite a lot of children, boys and girls. They were all dead
or had gone away. None of them, so Elsie understood, was any good. Only
Grandmamma remained, powerful and, of course, virtuous, always there and always

'Your poor papa was the favourite,' said Sarah. 'I shouldn't be surprised if
you was to get the money after all.'

'But Grandmamma hasn't got any money,' said Elsie. 'When she talks to me she
always says: "Mind, I haven't got a farthing!"'

At that Sarah laughed, and pushed back a lock of hair from her forehead with
her wet hand that still held the scrubbing brush. She said that Grandmamma was
very rich, but a miser; that no doubt there was gold hidden all over the house
if one only knew where to look for it.

Elsie asked what was the good of it? Sarah said that it was all the good in
the world. If you had gold you could do anything. She said that that was what
Master Tom used to come about. That's why the old lady had a stroke,
quarrelling with him.

Elsie asked who was Master Tom? Sarah said: Why, your uncle of course, silly.'
And then Mrs Parfitt called out to Sarah and Elsie had to go away.

After that, she used to look for gold for something to do in the long
afternoons--she even ventured into those empty rooms which she held most in
horror. One had a large hole in the floor. She used to lean down and bring her
little face close to the hole and peer into the darkness and think that she
might see gold lying there among the dust. She knew what gold was like--there
was a gold clock in the drawing-room and her grandmamma had a gold watch, and
her wedding ring, which moved round on her thin, knobby finger, was gold too.
And on Grandmamma's kidney-shaped dressing-table were boxes that Grandmamma
kept locked. Once, on a wet day, she had let Elsie bring them to the bed, and
opened them, and there was this gold too, brooches and chains and earrings, and
Elsie had played with them on the down coverlet.

Elsie never found any gold--gold which would do anything, even procure an
escape from this house. She frightened herself very much wandering in and out
of those empty rooms, some furnished, some unfurnished, but all silent, dusty,
and desolate. The whole street, which was full of large houses with pillared
porticoes like Grandmamma's, seemed to Elsie to be always silent, desolate.
Occasionally a carriage and pair passed, and sometimes, peering from the window
in the midst of an afternoon that seemed endless, she would see some woman and
child go by and her little heart would be pinched with an odd nostalgia for a
happiness she had never known--no, not even the name of, and then for hours and
hours the wide street would seem as silent, as empty as the house. Even the
sunshine--and that summer there was a great deal of sunshine--could not lighten
the tedium of that street and house to Elsie.

Even the flowering trees, lilac, laburnum, and may (for every house had before
the basement a little square in which grew such trees and shrubs), could not
give an air of cheerfulness and joy to those dreary sunny afternoons.

Every house had striped sunblinds out over the windows and striped curtains
hanging in front of the door. The very sight of these awnings, mostly red and
white, filled Elsie with an unutterable woe, born of complete loneliness. She
had nothing to do, neither work nor play. Mrs Parfitt had said that she was
getting a big girl and would soon be sent to school, and Elsie had hoped that
as she was such a nuisance and ought to efface herself, she might indeed be
sent away somewhere. She did not know what 'school' was; it could not be worse
than the great house in Hampstead.

Once Mary turned her into the back garden, shut the door of the schoolroom
that gave on to it, and told her to stay there all the afternoon. Elsie hated
the garden almost as much as she hated the house. It had a dirty, high brick
wall all round it and at the bottom a sloping bank on which were four tall
poplar trees. The heart-shaped leaves fluttered continually to the ground; they
were dirty and had a disagreeable smell and a harsh texture. The stems of the
lilac bushes were thick with soot and the flowers were tarnished and brown
almost as soon as they came out.

There were no other flowers in the garden. The square of grass in the middle
was rusty and dirty. Everything in the garden was dirty; Elsie never played in
it, but she often got a scolding when she came in for having spoiled her
pinafore. And this afternoon she began to amuse herself by trying to make a mud
pie. The first digging with her fingers brought up some worms, and she left
off, sick with disgust, that attempt at diversion.

When at last she was allowed into the house Mary scolded her, as she had
expected to be scolded, as a naughty, naughty girl for getting herself into a
mess. The servants all seemed rather excited. She was given her tea in the
schoolroom, bread-and-butter and milk and a piece of seed cake, and scolded
again because she did not like the seeds and tried to pull them out with her
unskilful fingers.

When she had finished she tried to creep into the kitchen, with a hope of a
sight of the cat or the kettle. She heard the servants talking about Master Tom
and how he had been there that afternoon. There had been 'a scene', and Elsie
wondered what 'a scene' was. It all seemed even more wrong and unhappy than
before. It seemed to Elsie not only a pity that she had ever been born, but
that anyone else had.

'He's a regular scapegrace, and will come to a bad end, you mark my words,'
said Cook; and Elsie longed to ask what a bad end was, but she did not dare to
be seen. She was discovered just the same, and smacked and turned out of the
kitchen up into the lonely, empty passage, study, and dining-room, where she
roamed at will all day, when she was not sitting by Grandmamma's bed or in her
own room, which was quite bare, save for a bed and a tin wash-hand stand.
Everything had been taken out of it when Elsie came to live there for fear she
should touch something. She quite accepted the justice of this, because
everything she touched was either spoilt or broken or soiled, for her hands
were never clean and she seemed incredibly clumsy.

Except on those rare trembling expeditions when she had been looking for
secret gold in a desperate hope that it might somehow procure her release from
her present predicament, Elsie had never ventured up above her grandmother's
bedroom, though there were three stories above that floor. The servants slept
up there, but that did not seem to give an air of human habitation to those
dreadful upper floors. One of them contained a large black oil painting the
sight of which had made Elsie sick with terror. Some children, long ago,
perhaps her own uncles and aunts, had used the picture for a target, and filled
it full of small holes from toy arrows or darts.

It was the portrait of a dark man, and Elsie thought that he scowled in agony
from his many wounds and that he would leap from the canvas to pursue her if
she stared at him a second longer. Elsie had never looked into that room again,
and besides that there were ghosts upstairs. Mrs Parfitt and Mary and Sarah had
all said so.

Once, when she had lain awake listening to Grandmamma's snoring in the other
room, she had certainly heard footsteps overhead, and unable at length to bear
her torture any longer she had run downstairs in her nightgown and screamed out
at the top of the basement stairs that she had heard steps overhead.

Mrs Parfitt had said good-humouredly: 'Nonsense! There's nobody up there.'
Words which had filled Elsie with complete terror.

Sarah had laughed and said: 'The ghosts, I dare say.'

Mary had added: 'Of course--the ghosts!'

Mrs Parfitt, meaning to console, had assured Elsie that if she was a good girl
and behaved herself and kept out of the way and didn't annoy Grandmamma ghosts
would leave her alone.

Elsie had not returned to her own bed that night. She had not enough courage
to do so. She had crept, instead, into her grandmother's room, and lain awake,
curled, cold and sweating, on the outside of the coverlet, taking what comfort
she could from the old lady's heavy snoring. And in the morning, just before
Mary came in to bring Grandmamma her tea and wash her and comb her hair and put
on her thick lace cap with the heavy, pale-violet, velvet ribbons, Elsie had
crept away into her own bed and pretended to sleep.

All the next day she tried to make herself very agreeable to Grandmamma
because she wanted to ask her about the ghosts upstairs. She held her wool for
her and fetched her scissors and tried to remember to close the door quietly
and not to raise her voice nor to talk too loud nor too fast.

Presently, in the afternoon, holding on her tiny hands the skein of orange
wool, she asked: 'Have you ever seen the ghost upstairs, Grandmamma?'

Grandmamma was in a good humour that day. You would hardly have thought she
was ill at all. She had been a very handsome woman and she still had an air of
energy and vigour.

Propped up against her big pillows she laughed and said: 'I should think there
are a good many ghosts in this house, my dear. Think of all the people who have
been born and died here, even in my time, and only you and I left, eh, little

'How many people were there, Grandmamma?'

'Eh, I couldn't remember now. You see, this was your grandfather's father's
house. He had it when it was first built and there were a lot of children then.
They died or scattered. Mostly died, I think. I remember four of them went off
in a week with typhus. Then there were my own. Plenty of them, little Elsie.
You wouldn't think now, would you, there used to be such a noise here that I
often didn't know what to do. Children all over the place, boys and girls--in
the schoolroom, running up and down the stairs, playing in the garden--'

She stopped and dropped her knitting needles on to the sheets. 'Plenty of
noise then, little Elsie; quiet enough now, isn't it?'

'Are they all ghosts now?' asked Elsie, and she dropped the skein of wool on
to her lap.

'Ghosts--or worse,' said Grandmamma, with a sigh; 'most of them seemed to go
wrong somehow.'

'Were they nuisances, like I am?'

Grandmamma looked at her sharply, as if she suspected her of an impertinence.

'Never mind what's become of them, Elsie, or whether they're ghosts or not.
Pick up that wool--it'll get tangled; and put the pillow straight under my left
arm. Mary knows I can't knit like this.'

Though Grandmamma was partially paralysed down one side, she could, by a deft
arrangement of pillows propping up one of her elbows, still knit and crochet,
which she did for hours every day with a certain ferocity, making thick grey
garments for the poor and the heathen and squares and squares of crochet in
bright colours, which were going to be sewn together one day into a great quilt.

Elsie thought of the poor and the heathen with horror; she saw armies and
armies of them in grey woollen petticoats advancing on her with hostile looks
and menacing cries when she woke in the middle of the night.

Cunningly she tried to get more information about the ghosts. 'Are there
ghosts in the schoolroom, Grandmamma?'

'Aye, indeed, I should think there are ghosts in there. That's where they
learnt their lessons, all of them. Learnt no good, no, not one of them. That's
a strange thought, Elsie--all of them down there, learning lessons year after
year and not one of them learning anything good.'

'And the ghosts upstairs in the bedroom?' persisted Elsie.

'There'd be ghosts there. That's where a lot of them died. Your grandfather
died in this room, but I don't suppose you'll see his ghost. Why are you so
interested, little Elsie? It's a funny thing for a child to talk about, isn't
it? Have you been gossiping with the servants?'

Elsie shook her head. She was accustomed to the quick lying of utter fear.

'I thought I heard one last night, Grandmamma. Walking about.' Her child's
vivid imagination forced her to add: 'When I got out of bed and opened the door
I thought I saw a ghost coming down the stairs and I wondered who it was.'

'Who would you like it to be?' grinned the old lady. 'Who would you like it to
be out of all your uncles and aunts and great-uncles and aunts? Well, they
weren't any of them any good, as I told you. Except your father, perhaps. Yes,
that now, your father.'

'I'd like to see him,' said Elsie. 'Is he a ghost, too?'

Grandmamma was silent for a while. She seemed to be dozing, and Elsie felt
even more afraid than she usually did when the old lady went off into one of
her half-trances, half-sleeps, sitting propped up against the pillows, with her
sharp chin on the little jacket of white Iceland wool she wore across her
shoulder and breast.

Elsie began to whimper through fear of the ghosts and of Grandmamma and of
loneliness of the great empty house. But Grandmamma was not asleep nor ill. She
had only been thinking of the past.

'Your father would be a very pleasant sort of ghost. He was my youngest--the
flower of the flock. Yes, if you saw him, Elsie, you would see a very handsome
young man. Well, he wouldn't be so young now, I suppose. He died soon after you
were born. How old are you, Elsie?'

'Nearly seven years old, Grandmamma.'

'Yes, he wouldn't be such a very young man, but he was handsome. Oh yes, my
James was handsome. He had a mole on his left cheekbone.'

'I hope I won't see him,' said Elsie, shuddering, as she sat rigid on her
little stool. 'I hope he'll stay upstairs. I wonder where he lived. I expect in
that room with the big black picture all full of holes.'

'He used to amuse himself with that old canvas,' said Grandmamma, smiling, as
if at a pleasant recollection. 'He used to have his games and sport there. He
always was bold and spirited, and very loving to me, whatever they say about

'And Uncle Tom?' asked Elsie. Was he loving too?'

At that name a convulsive spasm passed over Grandmamma's face. She struck out
angrily with her strongest hand, missing Elsie, Who shrank back from the

'You have been gossiping with the servants! You haven't got an Uncle Tom!
There's no such person! He doesn't exist! Who told you there was an Uncle Tom?

'Nobody,' said Elsie, 'only you yourself, Grandmamma, the other day when you
seemed half asleep you said something about Uncle Tom coming.'

The old woman looked at her dubiously, but was not able to contradict this,
for she knew that she had not always full control over her senses.

'Well, perhaps I did, perhaps I did,' she grumbled. 'You shouldn't have taken
any notice. I didn't know what I was saying. I dare say I've been dreaming
about the ghosts upstairs, Elsie, just like you have--a lot of nonsense!
There's no Uncle Tom. If you ever meet one who says he's your Uncle Tom or says
he's any son of mine, you tell him that he's a scoundrel and a liar, Elsie.
I've no son, do you hear? Do you hear? All my sons are dead--dead.'

Elsie said 'Yes' obediently and readily. Uncle Tom did not, after all, matter
much to her. It was the ghost upstairs who concerned her and about whom she
wanted to hear.

One afternoon in that odious June was more dreadful than any other afternoon
to Elsie, for she was left quite alone in the house with her Grandmamma. Of
course, this should never have happened and was not meant to happen. It
occurred like this.

Mary and Sarah were, it seemed, both nieces of Mrs Parfitt, and when an uncle
of theirs died all three wanted to go to the funeral. Grandmamma, of course,
could not be left alone. Mrs Parfitt said she could easily arrange to send in a
friend--a Mrs Skerrell--who would sit with Grandmamma and give Elsie her tea
and do anything that was wanted until she, Mrs Parfitt, and the two girls came
back about six o'clock, as they easily could, for the funeral was at Highgate.

So Mrs Parfitt told Elsie to be a good girl and Mary said, 'Don't get into
mischief; Sarah said, 'Don't you go telling no tales to your grandmother about
what you haven't seen or heard'; and Elsie was left alone with Grandmamma and
Mrs Skerrell, who was a dreary widow woman in a long black garment and a bonnet
with jet flowers.

Elsie had taken advantage of this unusual confusion to get down into the
kitchen. She was staring at Mrs Skerrell just untying the strings of the black
bonnet when there was a sharp ring at the bell. Both the woman and the child
started. Nothing was, as Mrs Parfitt had put it to Mrs Skerrell, 'expected'.
All the tradespeople had called and visitors were rare.

Mrs Skerrell said 'Drat it', retied the strings of her bonnet, and ran up the
stairs from the basement into the hall. Elsie remained alone in the kitchen.
She wished she had the strength to get down one of the jars full of sultanas or
sugar or motley biscuits and spice and eat large handfuls. She was always
hungry. She had neither the strength nor the courage, so she remained standing
beside the large, scrubbed, white-deal table, and looking up through the
kitchen window into the area, she could just see a foot or so of the railings
which divided the stone area, with its doors into coal cellars, from the square
of garden where grew the ragged laburnum tree and the sooty lilac bushes.

Mrs Skerrell seemed to have been gone a very long time and loneliness
increased and crystallised on the small figure of Elsie. She was shut into the
desolation like a fly into a lump of amber, not daring to move for fear of
finding worse things than loneliness in the other parts of the house. She
peered up at the railings. Presently she saw the bottom of Mrs Skerrell's
beaded mantle and black skirt going past. Then Elsie ran to the window and,
pressing her face to the panes, looked up. Mrs Skerrell was certainly leaving
the house. Elsie listened and heard the gate go 'click', the iron tongue of the
lock into the iron socket. She knew that sound so well; indeed, she knew every
sound in the large empty house in which she had spent her entire life.

She was, then, in the house alone with Grandmamma, who, about this time in the
early afternoon, was always asleep. Elsie's first sensation was not one of
added fear, but rather of deliverance. She now, given so much time, might be
able to climb up on to the dresser and get down some of those canisters of
things good to eat. She might be able to make a slow and careful hunt right
through the kitchen and find out where the biscuits and the candied peel were
kept; she might be able to tiptoe to the pantry, discover if there was a slice
of pie or a portion of cake or a dish of fruit there. All things which she was
not allowed and that were not good for Grandmamma, and off which the servants
freely feasted.

Then she thought of an even fiercer temptation--an even more resplendent
opportunity--the long, darkly gleaming sideboard in the dining-room. There was
no speculation about that--there would not need to be any search. Elsie knew
exactly where, on the top shelf when the large folding doors underneath the
drawers were open, was kept jam, marmalade, and sugar. She was never allowed
any of these delicacies. The marmalade used to go on her Grandmamma's breakfast
tray, the jam on her afternoon tea tray. There were preserves, too, and cherry
and quince, that were brought out for the rare visitors.

It was true that this cupboard, which was large enough to have contained a
dozen Elsies, was usually locked, and Grandmamma had the keys. Elsie had seen
her take them out of a little box on the table by her bedside and give them to
Mary, and seen Mary give them back to her. And once Elsie had found the
cupboard open. It was true she had been discovered before she had time to take
anything, but perhaps, just perhaps, Mrs Parfitt, in the excitement of her
day's outing, had left it open again, then Elsie would be able to help herself.

She would be discovered without doubt. She had little hope of being able to
conceal the crime, there would be horrid stickiness on her fingers. When her
fingers were sticky, she could, somehow, never get it off, even though she held
them under the tap or wiped them on the towels.

But to satisfy her hungry craving for something sweet and delicious and
delicate it would be worth enduring the punishment of being smacked on the
backs of both her hands with a hard hairbrush, sent to bed in the daylight, or
something worse if Grandmamma and Mrs Parfitt could think of a more severe

So she crept quietly up the stairs into the large, empty house. It was the
very worst part of the afternoon, sunny, silent, with a feeling that it would
be hours and hours and hours before the dark fell, as if the world had stopped
and all life was in suspension and only she, Elsie, was alive and miserable.

As cautious as if she were certain that she would be overheard, Elsie went
down the wide, black and red tiled corridor and into the dining-room, which was
shuttered against the sun and full of dusty shadows, which lay in little
straight lines of gold from the slats of the Venetian blinds.

Elsie had no luck. She found the sideboard locked. She had become by now
reckless and daring; she would go upstairs, she decided, and take the key from
the little box beside Grandmamma's bed. Grandmamma would be asleep, and she had
heard Mrs Parfitt tell Mrs Skerrell the old lady `had had her medicine and
wouldn't give any trouble'.

The sunny, silent afternoon hung like a halter round Elsie's soul. She thought
that if she could get the keys and open the cupboard, a pot of jam, yes, a
whole pot of jam, eaten slowly and with relish, would do something to mitigate
the horrible loneliness of her imprisonment.

Grandmamma was, as she had thought she would be, asleep. The clothes were
drawn up over her face as usual, and only the top of her cap with violet
ribbons could be seen against the pillow. There were the slippers in the
slipper-case, the watch neatly in the watchcase, there was the box standing
beside the bottle of medicine with the glasses, the spectacles in their case,
the Bible with the bronze clasp, and the different balls of wool, the various
pieces of knitting.

The sunblinds were drawn over Grandmamma's window; the poplars in the garden
made a fluttering shadow on them. The little breeze lifted them now and then so
that a spurt of golden sunlight would fall into the shadowed room. All the
smooth-faced pictures on the wall seemed to be watching Elsie--the girl with
the dead bird, the girl tying the bandage on the man's arm, the baby-faced boy
who was called the `Prince Imperial'; all these, in their pale, smooth, shining
frames, seemed to turn and stare at Elsie, but she did not falter.

She lifted the lid of the key-box and was putting in her hand to take out the
key when she heard, overhead, footsteps.

The ghost of course, undoubtedly the ghost, and she alone in the house and at
its mercy. On a frantic impulse of terror she turned and tried to rouse her
grandmother, even venturing, seldom as she dared to touch the invalid, to shake
the gaunt shoulder that heaved up the clothes. Grandmamma was very soundly
asleep and did not rouse. The steps came nearer, unmistakably descending the
stairs from the upper room. Elsie thought only of hiding, of creeping under the
bed or into the huge cupboard where Grandmamma kept hanks and hanks of brightly-
coloured wool and skeins and skeins of grey wool. But before she had time to
run farther than the length of the bed, the door, which she had left ajar, was
pushed open and the ghost walked in.

It was a handsome man with red hair and a mole on the left cheekbone. Elsie
remembered what Grandmamma had said about her father and stood still at the end
of the bed, staring. The apparition gave her no special feeling of terror; it
was, indeed, far less terrible than she had supposed it would be. She even
thought that in the warm glint of the eyes, the half curl of the lips, she
detected promise of an ally. He was, at least, younger and more attractive than
any creature she had seen for a long time, nay, than she had ever seen before.

'Hullo, little nipper,' said the ghost. 'What are you doing here?' And as
Elsie did not answer he advanced into the room and said in a low, steady voice,
'Oh, you're Elsie, I suppose, James's child.'

'And you're James,' said Elsie. 'Grandmother told me about you.'

'James,' said the ghost, 'your father do you mean? He's dead.'

'Yes, I meant that. I meant that you are my father and dead and a ghost. Isn't
that right, please?'

The apparition seemed to reflect and gave a frown that made Elsie feel as if
she were dwindling away with terror, then he said shortly, in the same low,
cautious tone: 'Well, if you like. Come here and let me have a look at you.'

Elsie stood mute, shaking her head in terror. The ghost became at once angry.

'Don't be a little fool. I'm here for your good as well as my own. You don't
have much of a life, do you? They've always packed you out of the way when I've
been before.'

'Oh, you've been before?' whispered Elsie in a thin tone of curiosity.

'Yes, I don't suppose you heard anything about that. Well, I shan't come
again. Come outside, anyway, I might help you. How old are you?'

'Seven,' replied Elsie, who felt that the extra six months gave her added
importance. Not for anything would she have admitted to six and a half.

'I see. Well, you're old enough to have some sense. I've come here looking for
something. Perhaps you could help me find it.'

'Grandmamma would know where it is,' said Elsie, pointing to the bed.

'I don't want to wake her,' said the man, with a queer look. 'She's asleep. I
think she's going to sleep for a long time.'

'Mrs Skerrell ought to be looking after her,' whispered Elsie. 'What happened
to Mrs Skerrell?'

'I sent her away with a cock-and-bull story. Never you mind that. I want a
little time in this house to myself. I've been looking out for an opportunity
for a long while. I had it today when the women went out. Now look here, if
you'll help me, I'll do something for you. Is there anything you want?'

Elsie understood nothing of this except the last question. She did not know to
what sort of creature she spoke; she was quite bewildered. She felt more
confident than she had ever felt before, more happy than she had been since she
had been brought, so long ago that she could not remember it, to this house.

'I came up for Grandmamma's keys.'

'Her keys?' asked the other sharply. 'Where are they?'

'In the little box by the bed.'

'What did you want with her keys?'

'I was going to take something out of the sideboard--jam.'

'I see.'

The man looked at her very shrewdly out of narrow eyes.

'I suppose the old miser--God forgive me--keeps you half-starved. Well, you
shall have some jam, Elsie, and something else too. What else would you like?'

'Sixpence,' said Elsie, in wild bravado.

The stranger smiled sourly.

'I'll give you a gold sovereign. You could do a lot with that, couldn't you, a
child of your age?'

Elsie's senses reeled. On rare occasions Mary or Sarah had taken her for short
walks, but she had seen, oh, a long way off, shops in which, the servants had
told her, almost anything could be purchased for money. There would not be any
limit to what one could get with a golden sovereign.

'What do you want me to do?' she asked. Then her small shrewd face clouded.
'Have you come here looking for gold?'

He seemed startled.

'Gold! What made you think of that? I promised you a sovereign. I didn't say
I'd come here looking for gold.'

'I thought perhaps you had, because there isn't any. Grandmamma's only got
farthings, she told me so herself. Mrs Parfitt said something about gold hidden
in the house, but I looked, and there wasn't any. Grandmamma,' she repeated,
'has only farthings. I think they're hidden under her pillow.'

'No, I haven't come looking for gold. I want to know where your grandmother
keeps her writing-desk, her papers. Has she got them here? Or does Furnival,
that's the lawyer, have them all?'

Elsie shook head, not understanding.

'Don't be a stupid,' said the man keenly, and with a certain desperation she
had thought was impatience. 'How can I put it so that you'll understand? I'm
looking for a piece of paper, do you see? And it's very important. It may not
be here; but she used to, when I lived here, keep all her papers under her own
eye and look at them secretly. Now, have you ever seen her sit up in bed and
call for a little desk or a box and turn it over and look at the papers?'

Elsie nodded.

'Yes, she does that sometimes. And I have to fetch them.'

'Good girl.' The man seemed with difficulty to control an intense eagerness.
'Now, if you can find those papers and let me see them, I suppose the key's on
the same bunch where the key for your jam cupboard is?'

Elsie nodded again. She began to feel herself important.

At least here was action, a chance to express oneself, to show one's quickness
and courage. She opened the box, put her hand in, and took out the bunch of
keys. She knew them all, through quick observation and a keen memory.

'This opens the cupboard downstairs, the jam and sugar cupboard. This is the
key of the little box that Grandmamma keeps in her wool cupboard underneath her
grey wool, and I bring it to her sometimes, and there are papers in it.'

'Give it to me.'

He held the keys in his hand, while Elsie went to the cupboard and quickly
found this box of inlaid wood.

'Aren't you afraid she'll wake?' she said, as she came back and laid this on
the quilted coverlet.

'No,' he said, tucking up his lips in a peculiar smile. 'I'm not afraid she'll
wake. I'm not afraid of her at all.'

He quickly found the right key. His deft, swift fingers turned over the papers
in the small box. The child stared at him, her peaked face taut with interest.

'I don't believe you're a ghost,' she said at length. 'I think you're Uncle

At that he turned on her with a low snarl. 'Who told you there was an Uncle

'Mrs Parfitt talked about him.'

'And she...' The man pointed to the huddled outline of the sleeping woman in
the bed. Did she say anything about me?'

'No,' said Elsie; 'she said there was no such person as Uncle Tom.'

'Well, isn't that right? Wouldn't she know? There is no such person. I am
James, the ghost of James, your father, as you said just now when you saw me.
That's right, isn't it?'

'I suppose so,' said Elsie, 'but I don't seem to be afraid like I should have
been if you were a ghost.'

'You've forgotten your pot of jam, my dear,' he said, taking envelope, after
envelope out of the box and scanning them keenly. 'Yes, and the golden
sovereign I promised you. Ah, here we are. I knew she'd keep it. She was always
in two minds about everything.'

He had taken two documents that looked very dull to Elsie and laid them on the

'You can't read, I suppose, my little dear, can you?'

The child shook her head.

'Will you give me the other key and I'll run downstairs and get the jam,' she
said. 'If they punish me afterwards you might come back and say you let me take

'They won't punish you. They'll have something else to think about.' He tossed
her the keys. 'Bring them back here. You seem sharp and spry. You ought to know
your way about.'

'What are those two pieces of paper?'

'Never you mind. I've found what I want. I'll give you two sovereigns, but
you're not to tell anybody you saw me. You understand?'

'Oh, why mayn't I say I've seen a ghost? I said the other night I'd seen one
and I hadn't really and nobody minded.'

He laughed and the tension of his dark face relaxed.

'Oh, well, you can say you've seen a ghost if you like. That will do very
well. Why not?'

'Didn't Mrs Skerrell see you?' asked the child cunningly.

'No she didn't. What's that to you, anyway? Yet I ought to be grateful to you
for reminding me. I suppose the hag'll be back soon.'

He stood staring at the two papers in his hand, then put one paper carefully
back into the box, locked it, and watched Elsie while she cunningly returned it
underneath the piles of grey wool in the cupboard. Then he tore the second
piece of paper into small pieces and put them carefully in the inner breast
pocket of his coat and followed Elsie downstairs and stood over her in a
listening attitude while she unlocked the cupboard and took out a pot of
apricot jam.

Her eyes glistened and her mouth watered so at the sight of the jam that she
almost forgot about the two sovereigns and her bewilderment as to whether or
not the man was an apparition or flesh and blood. Whoever he was, he took two
sovereigns out of his pocket and placed them on the end of the shining mahogany

'There you are, my dear; you can't say I haven't kept my bargain. Now mind, I
am a ghost. If you say anything about me I don't like, I shall come in the
middle of the night and give you a fright. Perhaps carry you away to where it's
all bogies and blue flames.'

'Oh, please,' said Elsie, nearly dropping the pot of jam in her terror, 'I'll
do anything you like. What do you want me to say?'

'Nothing at all. Only that you've just seen a ghost. Better not mention the
jam or the keys or those papers I took. See--not a word.'

He frowned and thrust his head forward and made himself look so menacing and
hideous that Elsie began to weep.

'There, I know you're a good girl and won't say anything. Now take the jam
somewhere you're not likely to be found and remember you've simply seen a ghost
this afternoon--the ghost of your father, James.'

'Are you going away now? Where do you go? Through that stepladder up on to the
roof? .I think that's the way the ghosts come.'

'No, I shall go out the back. Do you know who lives next door? Anybody likely
to be about just now?'

'One house is empty,' said Elsie, 'there's only a caretaker there, and they
don't come until the evening. The other side the people are away. There's never
anyone there at all.'

'Good! My lucky day. Now remember what I told you about the ghost.'

Then he was gone.

When Elsie had finished her pot of jam she looked round for the sovereigns,
but they had gone too. This caused her to weep bitterly, for it was the
vanishing of the brightest dream of her life. Yet in her soul she felt that it
was logical. What could a ghost leave but fairy gold? But she cried all the
same in pure disappointment at the loss of the golden visions that the two
golden coins had conjured up.

Mrs Skerrell, coming back hurried and panting, and out of temper, found her
crying in the dining-room.

'Why aren't you up with your grandmother, you naughty girl? You're old enough--
you might have been watching of her. What'll happen to me if the old lady's
come to some harm while I was away?'

Mrs Skerrell, untying her bonnet and unfastening her cloak, began to mutter
about a queer business--a boy had come with a message to say she was wanted at
home, a matter of illness, serious and immediate. When she'd rushed back there
had been nothing at all. The boy had said that it was a stranger whom he had
never seen before had told him to give the message. He thought the gentleman
was a doctor, he was very civil and had given him half a crown.

'All a lot of rubbish,' said Mrs Skerrell, going upstairs, considerably
ruffled and discomposed, with Elsie behind her for the sake of company.

'Grandmamma's asleep,' said Elsie, 'Better leave her alone.' Then, because she
could not keep her great secret any longer to herself: 'I've seen a ghost. He
gave me two sovereigns, and as soon as he went the money went too.'

'Don't be a naughty wicked girl and tell a pack of lies,' scolded Mrs
Skerrell. The old lady seems asleep,' she added with a sigh of relief. 'Better
leave her, she won't want her tea before five, and by that time Mrs Parfitt
will be home.'

Mrs Parfitt was punctual. At the usual appointed hour when she brought up
Grandmamma's tea Elsie was sitting on her little stool sobbing to herself at
the loss of the fairy gold, trying to wind the yellow wool. When Mrs Parfitt
and Mrs Skerrell endeavoured to rouse Grandmamma they found they could not do

The old lady was dead.

When the doctor came he said she had been dead for some hours. Of course, it
was quite likely that she might have had a sudden stroke. 'She passed away,' as
the phrase went on, in her sleep. It was really not worth while making any
question or raising any fuss. What else could have happened?

Mrs Skerrell did not admit that she had been decoyed away from the house and
Elsie did not even mention the ghost. The doctor had thought that there were
queer marks round the old woman's throat, as if her frail life had been
impetuously shaken out of her, but of course, he assured himself, this must
have been a delusion.

The lawyer said that Grandmamma had left a recent will leaving everything to
Elsie, but as this could not be found he was quite prepared to believe that the
old lady, in a capricious mood, had destroyed it. The earlier will, then, which
was found quite readily in a box where the old lady kept her important papers
hidden under the pile of grey wool which she knitted into petticoats for the
poor, was proved.

Grandmamma's only surviving son, Mr Thomas, came into all her money and into
the big lonely house at Hampstead. Grandmamma was a much wealthier woman than
anyone had thought she was, and Mr Thomas behaved generously towards Elsie.

He paid for her to go into an orphanage for the daughters of decayed gentlefolk.

He did not come near the house at Hampstead himself, so Elsie never saw him.

She left the house with a great feeling of relief. She did not, of course,
expect to be happy in the orphanage nor anywhere. She knew that she was a
nuisance and not wanted and must always efface herself, but she was glad to get
away from the house which was haunted by the ghost of her father, James. Though
she had loyally kept her word to him, and never said a word about what he had
done when he visited her the day Grandmamma died, she was filled with fear that
his angry apparition might return one night under some hideous form.

And another reason for her relief at leaving the great house in Hampstead was
the fact that now there was hardly any possibility that anyone would discover
that she had stolen the pot of apricot jam.


The Lady Clodagh now found pleasure in detaching herself from the world; the
sharp sadness of her grief was assuaged by the sublime and gentle comforting of
religion; in an ancient convent near Douai in Flanders she mourned without
bitterness and endured her widow's black without too gross a pang; she felt
herself being drawn daily nearer to the Heaven where her lost beloved surely
dwelt--the kind good man! Truly there would be no more than the briefest taste
of Purgatory for him, with his upright life and the great benefactions he had
made to Holy Church.

Clodagh, her short period of probation over, intended to take her vows, to
become a _religieuse_; the poor woman! what had she now to live for?

The grey nuns, the grey church, the shadowed cloisters, the convent building
of small lamp-lit cells closed her in; dark low clouds blew across the flat
land and cast heavy rain over the plain gravestones, the wreaths of withered
leaves in the earth, the stone statues of saints resigned in their weather-worn
draperies, and all seemed to enfold Clodagh, wrapping her away from life.

She had great estates in Connacht; though the law was cruel then against those
of her faith, it was often not enforced, and peaceable people, if discreet,
were allowed to live in peace; these lands were held in trust for her only son
Dermot, who was being trained for the great place he would one day inherit--but
what had she to do with him, the poor foolish creature she knew herself to be?
He had his tutors and counsellors, her kin and his father's kin; let her leave
him alone lest her maternal love engrossed her, hindered the youth and
distracted her from the decent dedication of her widowhood to Heaven.

So the Lady Clodagh mourned in the convent near Douai, not without patience,
knowing peace at least. And when she had been in the convent nearly three years
she forgot that she was a beautiful woman and her son Dermot became a faint
tender memory only, scarcely stronger than the memory of Dermot her husband.

Then Clodagh was disturbed in the sloth of her piety, for her Irish steward
wrote urgently:

'Madam, you must surely now return to Connacht, as the guardian of my young
lord and in your own name you must plead before the law against the vexations,
insolent villainies of your neighbour who is a notorious rogue and breaker of
the peace; he has consumed his own fortune and now infringes on yours, for he
seizes your meadows where the estates march, your cattle and your timber and
has trumped up a case to get Murrish, your jointure, into his possession. I
speak of Thomond O'Malley, God help him, a heretic and one who learnt more than
his native evil, serving the Usurper's Government in Flanders--'

There was much more of this, and Clodagh was bewildered and not a little
troubled; what did she know of such things? Let her kin and her husband's kin
concern themselves with these worldly matters...

But no, she must face the matter, though the abbess and nuns cried out against
this interference with her holy peace, her piety, her withdrawal from all that
was earthly.

'I'll not go.' She shuddered at the thought of leaving her retreat where she
was so sheltered, where her soul was being daily wafted Heavenwards on the
incense of perpetual prayers; she even had a faint but terrible perception of
fierce danger awaiting her if she ventured to turn aside from her chosen path
of abnegation and resignation.

But her husband, in his complete love and trust, had left her in charge of his
estates and guardian of the son; besides, some of the lands this ruffian
Thomond O'Malley had dared to claim were hers, an inheritance from her father;
was not this wicked man, already infamous for his great daring and wrongdoing,
venturing on his insolence because he believed the Lady Clodagh was a foolish
grief-smitten widow who had not wit nor courage to defend her own? A
_religieuse_, dedicated to God and memory?

So Clodagh, trembling and weeping, returned to Connacht to defend her right to
the lands and that of her son.

What must she now do, the sad, pious woman? Her steward, her lawyers, her kin
(distant and strange to her) gathered round with advice, with suggestions; she
heard much evil of Thomond O'Malley, yet the worst known of him was not fit to
tell to any woman; she felt lonely and frightened in the large empty mansion
where she had been richly happy; she was homesick for the convent, for the
nuns, for the quiet peace of Douai.

Her son was almost a stranger, too, now a grave youth immersed in his studies,
absorbed by his tutors; his coldness increased her timidity.

'When this law case is over I shall return to Douai, Dermot.'

'It is fitting that you should do so, Madam.'

'Soon,' said Clodagh wistfully. 'You will be a man and all will be put into
your hands.'

'I shall be glad to take charge of all, Madam.'

'I shall want nothing, Dermot, you may take even my jointure--it is my desire
to strip myself and hide my bereavement under the veil of a nun.'

The young lord inclined his head.

'I am indeed very sorry, Madam, that the action of this scoundrel Thomond
O'Malley has disturbed your pious solitude, and brought you to Ireland again.'

He regarded her, she saw, with profound respect, almost as a saint already in
a shrine, and she sighed, not having yet, she discovered, overcome all desire
for the soft fond follies of the human heart--the poor weak woman!

On a chill golden day of autumn, with the clouds curdling high in a faint blue
heaven, the Lady Clodagh went to the Court-house, and all the countryside
turned out to see her pass, applauding her sorrow, her courage, loving her for
her beauty, her chastity, her wrongs; ah, the hard things they said of her
persecutor, the wicked man! And wasn't he hated already by high and low and the
mark of Satan was on him?

She took her seat in the Court-house and all turned towards her with admiring
respect and deference; she was tender and trembling in her full suit of
mourning with her veil of widowhood, almost she was dedicated to God.

As she took her oath she glanced timidly round the filled Court, abashed by
all these stern-looking men, by the Judge and the lawyers, amazed by the grim
parade of the place; she saw her son, silent and austere, proudly controlled,
her kin and her counsellors, and in a long beam of sunshine in which the motes
played, she saw a man who made all these others seem but of pale worth.

The man moved his head in the beautiful light that sent gold through his dark
hair, and now he smiled at the Lady Clodagh.

Her words broke on her lips, she sank down and the Book fell from her hand;
they feared that a swooning fit was upon her and that this appearance after so
long a seclusion was more than she could well endure.

Her laces were loosened and her veils lifted and the throwing aside of this
cloud of dark gauze revealed her as soft and lovely so that even the dry Judge
thought: 'A fair woman indeed'.

She composed herself as her breeding enabled her, and looked again at the
stranger seated the other side of the Court, and again he smiled as if they
were alone in the chamber.

Then the Lady Clodagh knew that never had she loved her husband nor any man,
that her life till then had been pretence and sham, that never could she be a
_religieuse_, that God was so far away that it was hopeless to think of
reaching Him.

She gave her evidence in much confusion of mind, which passed very well for a
natural emotion; her case was manifestly just; but what cared the Lady Clodagh
now for that, or even for her son's heritage?

Who was the man who had smiled at her?

She was soon to know; he was the defendant in the case--Captain Thomond

'I am sure,' sighed Clodagh in her heart, 'he is not wicked.'

She marvelled indeed that anyone could suppose he was evil; all he did was
engaging and his bearing had nothing of the villain; from under her lids she
marked his figure, slim waisted, broad shouldered, in the blue riding-coat with
silver buttons--aye, every detail of him, from the folds of muslin at his
throat to the bullion tassels on his sword string, did the poor woman note; and
while her lawyer was pleading her just cause, she was thinking: 'Whatever they
said of Thomond O'Malley, no one could deny that he had a perfect mouth.'

She listened not at all to her own case, but when he came to speak (he took
charge of his own defence, being more cunning than any attorney) she listened
with all her soul.

Everyone there was hostile to Thomond O'Malley, a renegade, who served the
usurper, despised by those who employed him, and hated by his countrymen, for
he might call himself what he would, his breed was clear enough in the look of
him; he was direct descendant of the Ni Inhaille, sea kings of the Isle of
Clare, and of the great Grainne, ruler of Clew Bay, who had defied Queen
Elizabeth of England--was it not in their right he still held Achill and

A shame and a disgrace, surely, was this man to such noble ancestors of

Yet his pleasant modesty and his manly candour almost seduced his enemies and
hushed their malice against their wish; he looked no more at Clodagh and she
thought: 'How can any resist him when he speaks in such a voice?'

Very skilfully he put his case, using all the nice arts of a fine gentleman
which he had learned in France.

'Far be it from me to wrong a widow and her son--if there has been marauding
of land and cattle by men of mine, it has been without my knowledge and
consent. Who can be responsible for the villainies of his people? Very
willingly will I see any hanged who have disturbed this noble lady and this
gallant youth'--and he bowed slightly, like a King granting a favour, towards
my young lord, who bit his lip and looked bitterly offended--'and as for my
occupation of the lands of Ballycroy and Curraun, I believed I had a good title
to them.'

And he dwelt at length on old title deeds in the Latin which all present
believed to be forged, running over ancient claims and descents with learning
and clarity, turning with great deference to the Judge, yet without abasement
or servility.

And what was the Lady Clodagh thinking of the while? She was in a deep muse,
and precious delights that she had dreamed of long ago yet never known and
believed forgotten, returned to her, thick as bees round a blossoming lime-tree.

Ah, the thoughts she had had as a young girl alone in the walled garden of her
father's house, in the still drowsy afternoons; the lover she had imagined
coming through the flowering grasses, embracing her beneath the fruiting trees,
loosening her hair, raising her face, kissing her lips, all in the lonely,
lovely silence...

And there he stood, that lover, with his law papers clasped in his fine hand;
Clodagh blushed at the thought of those long white fingers stealing across her
bosom, and they thought she coloured with shame at the man's false, specious

Captain O'Malley lost his case; yet he had cast some spell on them all, for
though he had done what merited hanging, yet he was acquitted of blame and went
unpunished; how may this be accounted for? They all knew the evil he had done
and many had suffered from it, but he seemed armoured against all attack, and
when he left all with suave compliments none could deny a civil reply, though
all felt uneasy.

The kin of Clodagh were discontented.

'He escapes without punishment! The Government protects him because he is a
renegade! He will be a perilous neighbour yet--'

'He looks like a King,' thought Clodagh.

She waited at the door of the Court-house for her sedan; my young lord fumed
at her side, complaining of injustice and the heavy disabilities he was under
because of his ancient Faith; little heed gave Clodagh to that, she was
lingering for the coming forth of Thomond O'Malley, and when he came,
descending the steps slowly while he drew the buckles of his gloves, she had
but one desire and that was to turn about and follow him, not asking where he

He paused and saluted her and my lord very civilly, regretting (he smiled) the
vexatious manner of their making acquaintance; Clodagh ventured to give him a
close glance, so anxious was she to know the colour of his eyes at a near view,
and he looked at her as the lover she had never known would have looked.

'Sir,' said young Dermot in a voice which was not yet that of a man, 'I can
scarcely pretend to desire a closer knowledge of you--'

And, awkwardly, yet grandly, he handed his mother into her chair, while
Thomond O'Malley stood at pause on the steps, unperturbed, and smiling with his
eyes on Clodagh; now she knew the colour of them, flecked green and brown they
were, very clear and radiant, like water of a shallow mountain stream.

Thomond O'Malley returned to his Castle of Carrigahooly, which had been one of
the strongholds of the sea kings of Clare and which lay beneath the mountains
of Buckoogh and Bengoern and close to the glen running into the heart of the
hills that all held to be haunted; he was glad to hide himself for a while, men
declared, and the simple folk thought that he had gone to consult with Satan
his master in the lonely mountain pass by Lough Fee.

Clodagh returned to her demesne of Aghagower, and everyone expected her soon
to return to Douai; what was to prevent her now?

But it was impossible for her to go.

'I would sooner be under the seas or the mountains than in the grey church
with the grey nuns, and what would be coming between me and my prayers?' she
mourned to herself, and aloud she made excuses of this and that, and so all was
delayed through the warm autumn weather.

Lonely was the great mansion and not built for a widow surely; the Lady
Clodagh went timidly through the vast rooms and up the wide stairs, and shadows
seemed to start and fly before her; there was no one to keep her company;
Dermot was shut away with his tutors, and the servants with their work, and the
day seemed so long.

'I would like again to see a man's beaver and gloves, sword and cane in the
hall,' mused Clodagh. 'And to open a press and see his coats and boots, aye,
and the impress of his head on the smooth pillow by my side.'

But it was not for the return of her husband that she longed; the poor man!
she had forgotten him, save when she wondered sometimes how she had come to wed
one so fair, when all her delight was in a dark complexion.

But for the boy she felt a frightened tenderness and tried to woo him into her

'Dermot, there are only the two of us and we should be more together. Have a
little patience with me--for soon you will bring a wife home and I shall have
no part in you.'

'I shall always love and protect you, Madam. But were you not more happy at
Douai? Everyone wonders that you do not return there.'

'Oh, Dermot, if you do love me a little you will want to keep me here and
cherish me.'

There was a sighing wistfulness in her words that the boy did not understand;
he was uneasy because everyone said that his mother should return to the
convent, and because something (he knew not what) about her was strange and

The truth was that Clodagh had grown in beauty since the day of the trial and
was soft, warm and dazzling as a rose widespread to the sun at crown of summer;
and though this tall boy was her son, she was younger than anyone thought, so
childish had she been at her wedding, the poor creature!

What background was this empty house for her, what adornment her widow's

When she went to her husband's grave in Burrishoule Abbey she felt she stood
by the last bed of a stranger, and all the gay little grasses that fringed his
stone seemed more important than his bones beneath.

Ah, she was sorry for young Dermot because she had cared so little for his
father, and so maybe caused the coldness in him, and she yearned over him

From his Castle of Carrigahooly Thomond O'Malley came to wait on her; it was a
beautiful horse he had and he rode superbly, it was natural to him to have all
splendid about him, but in his person he was very plain in the finely cut blue
coat with the silver buttons and his black hair in a club.

'I have not been able to rest, Madam, thinking of the disease I put you to,
with that unlucky lawsuit of mine. You so lonely, Lady Clodagh, in this great
house--you'll never return to Douai?' he added abruptly.

'Here or there is my life--lonely--and both places lonely too, Captain

'And you obscured in this ugly crape! Had I left a sweet fair creature behind
in the world, I would not wish her to go in black, surely.'

Oh, he changed the very air she breathed, the gay, bold man! So gentle he was
and deferential, yet the look in his eyes made her cast hers down; her heart
sang like a bird in May and when he had gone from her she locked herself in her
room and took out a shift of pale satin, yellow and pink interchanged, and
flung off her mourning and stood in the dainty night rail, half naked, laughing
before the long mirror which had reflected her husband's stiff outline straight
between the tall death-watch candles.

Three times did Thomond O'Malley come to woo her and she did not listen to the
outcry this caused, nor to the reproaches of my young lord; on the third visit
he asked her for his wife.

'Dear woman, indeed I love you--from the first when I saw you in the Court-
house and cared no longer how my cause went! Whatever you have heard of me,
never has it been like this with me before--here my life changes, stops, and is
offered to you--do with it what you will!'

Clodagh made no feint of resistance; that was beyond her power, from the first
moment she had seen him her spirit had sent up the old cry of surrender--'_I
can deny thee nothing._'

She gave him her hand and the tears lay in her gentle eyes; she thought: 'If
God meant this man to be refused He should have fashioned him differently.'

And when he embraced her, gently, delicately, all her childish, bright dreams
crowded round her heart, so dazzling and overwhelming her that she was near
fainting in his arms.

Ah, the exclaim and the scandal there was!--the sending to and fro of
expresses, the visits of angry kin.

'The fellow is a blackguard, suffocated with debts, of a foul reputation, no
honourable woman would endure his presence! Clodagh, you're never in love with
a mere fine figure and handsome face, surely?'

And others, the women, more deadly, more correct:

'Ahi, well, he's a pretty fellow and you've tumbled into his arms just like
every other woman he's ever seduced!'

Clodagh cared nothing for all this, but she winced before the bitter scorn,
the cold fury of her son.

'Will you put this scoundrel in my father's place? Am I to be beggared to pay
his creditors? This is a shameful and an awful thing surely.'

'Dermot,' she pleaded with him earnestly, 'I'll never love you less for loving
another--and you are heir of all your father's estate.'

'You, God help me, are my guardian till I am twenty-one. All is in your hands.'

'Do you think I would touch a pebble or a blade of grass that is yours?'

'I fear it. So gross a passion for so worthless a creature!'

'Dermot, that I will not hear. The man is noble, of higher birth than ours--of
great estates, too.'

'All encumbered, Madam. Even you know his reputation, surely?'

'I have heard of some reckless passages in his youth much blown on-but--'

The youth interrupted:

'--but, Madam, you intend to have him, and I then can hold myself no better
than ruined.'

It was true that Clodagh meant to marry Thomond O'Malley whatever was said
against him, but there was more truth in her than that; she really believed the
man to be what he appeared to her, noble, generous, honourable, fine and
greatly maligned by mean spirits.

And in the matter of her son's right she felt herself impregnable.

Candidly she broached the subject to her lover.

'All that is mine is yours to the pearls at my breast--but what I have in
trust from my husband is for Dermot--forgive me that I speak of this.'

So intense was her love that she wished his disinterestedness confirmed by his
own lips, and publicly known.

He responded just as she wished him to do.

'Surely I am not so mean as to encroach on the boy's rights! I shall not even
enquire after the amount of his fortune. My own is not so poor though something
disordered--but what is all this compared to what is betwixt me and thee, my

She married him in Burrishoule Abbey; nor were those lacking to applaud him as
well as those who pitied her, for he had his friends and followers, his
creditors and those who hoped to profit from his wife's wealth; ah, they knew
already that the fond woman had put into his hands all her property with
softest words of adoration--'Would I had more to give thee, Love.'

In grief and fury her kin stayed away; and Dermot's face was pinched and
shadowed as he put off his mourning to attend his mother's wedding. Yet truly
he had nothing against Thomond O'Malley who had behaved to him openly with
flattering respect, and had told him: 'It is my last desire to interfere with
your affairs--you must acquit me of any intention of vexing you. God grant we
may live in friendliness, my dear lord.'

It was the palest day of earliest spring and veils on veils of fine vapour
were blown across the ancient sides of the mountains when Clodagh came to
Carrigahooly Castle; ah, she was happy, the wedded woman, could she believe how
happy she was?

In every kiss he gave her she felt some foretaste of an infinity of bliss and
her spirit entered into the surrender of her body surely.

With her girdle and her garters on the floor at her feet, all her laces
loosened, she lay against his breast and over his shoulder watched the clouds
flying past the mountain gorges trembling with the hues of sunset.

And when the sun rose again and she woke to find him asleep at her side, how
could she say how happy she was then?

Trembling, she touched the dark locks on the pillow and vowed to his service
her all; with joy she noted that his alluring face was candid in sleep; this
man had no secrets, surely.

Even her angry kin sullenly admitted that the ill-omened (so they called it)
marriage went very smoothly; some began to think Captain O'Malley maligned.

What had they against him? Nothing.

Truly he managed them all with consummate skill; he had great arts; he could
find the weakness of each and flatter it, he could make common events exciting,
gild dullness, create gaiety and touch all with ardour and enthusiasm; in all
he did was the sense of a passion of life surging up and held in, as if the
world was too small for what he might do; nor was he gross in anything, neither
a drunkard nor a glutton nor foul mouthed.

With these graces he won over even my young lord, at least to the extent of
inducing him to live under the same roof, for Clodagh loved better to be at
Aghagower than Carrigahooly, which was so vast and lonely in the mountains,
built for war and close to the darkly haunted glen of the fatal Lough Fee.

So she returned with her second husband to her son's demesne and it was agreed
that when Dermot married, the jointure house should be rebuilt for her; no one
could say that she was not the contented woman, surely.

At the end of six months her stewards, her attorneys had one tale to tell and
told it grimly:

'Madam, will you not look into your affairs? Is Captain O'Malley our master?
He bids us sell and mortgage--cut timber--neglect farms.

'He is master.'

She dismissed her stewards, she sent away her lawyers, she said to her husband:

'All is yours. I know you have good reason for all you do.'

My lord's tutor said to her face:

'Madam, if Captain O'Malley could not get your estates one way he has another;
I pray you consider a little, for the sake of your son--'

'Sir, I forgive your indiscretion--your mistake--because of your long, loving
service. My lord's estates shall not be touched.'

What did her husband's extravagance matter to her?---did she need an account
from him of what he spent, as if he were a hired servant? She liked to see his
fine horses, his liveried servants, the rich wine and food on the table, his
clothes from Paris, his dogs, his costly equipage; she liked his lavish
entertainments, his presents of jewels, of enamel, of porcelain to herself, for
were they not always given with kind and loving words? Nay, she even endured
his long absences in Dublin, in London, and none dare tell any tale of him; for
did he not always return with an eager air and caress her tenderly?

It took him a year to come to the end of her resources and by then her
happiness was a little clouded because she had had no child; she became
restless, secretly tormented by this insatiable passion that possession could
not allay; she had utterly divorced herself from holy thoughts, she dared not
pray, no priest came to the house, her visits to church were few and hurried;
she could not believe that the quiet woman mourning at Douai was herself, so
completely had she given herself to an earthly love.

The return of the spring reminded her of her passionate bridals; she besought
him to put off a proposed visit to Dublin.

'Why, if you will, my love, but will you not rather come with me to the city?'

Clodagh shook her head; she would not have the world break in on their love.

'Stay here--why should you go?'

'I have some business, Clodagh. You know I struggle against embarrassments. I
cannot free myself--'

'All I have is yours--'

'But it is not enough, Clodagh,' he smiled tenderly. 'You do not understand,
sweet, what our spendings are--'

'It is true, my dear love.' She sighed, wishing she were a wealthy woman; no
one had told her how he gambled, what debts he had all over Mayo, the
mistresses he kept in London and Dublin. What would have been the use? She
would have believed none of it. 'I would I had more,' she mourned.

'You could raise what you wished on Dermot's estates.'

'That I will never do,' said the Lady Clodagh.

'It is three years before he is of age--in that while I could repay--'

'Thomond, I must not do it. I have sworn to respect Dermot's possessions.'

'What do you know of oaths, pretty Clodagh?'

'I have kept that I made to you. But for the boy--'

'He is a boy--what does he want with all that great wealth lying idle?'

Clodagh was very pale; never before had she refused him anything.

'I cannot. The boy--and the dead--trust in me.'

Her husband regarded her smilingly; his courteous demeanour did not falter.

'Make me the boy's guardian,' he said. 'Leave all in my hands--you have given
me everything, why refuse me this?'

'It is not mine to give.'

'All is in your power, to the last farthing, you know that?'

'That is why I cannot touch it. If we did we should provoke the Judgment and
the Fire of Hell.'

'Do you not love me, my wife, better than this child and his dead father?'

'I love you so much, Thomond, that I would give you everything I have. But
this I have not.'

He saw she was not to be moved and he embraced her, telling her that he but
spoke to test her spirit and applauding her loyalty to the boy. And presently
he went to Dublin, leaving her for a long while alone.

When Captain O'Malley's influence was withdrawn, my young lord began to turn
restive and listen to tales of his stepfather which he understood better than
he had a year ago; shameful things cannot long be hushed up and Dermot
discovered that all his mother had to give she had given; he learnt, too,
something of the way in which Clodagh's portion had been spent, and being
serious and shrewd he took counsel secretly with his kin.

'Your mother is in the power of a villain, surely, but she will hold out
against wronging you. Make no broil, but be patient, enduring all until in
three years you are your own master. We watch your interests and will quickly
make a scandal if he touches a stone of yours--but before the law we are

This was the answer my young lord got and he was much disturbed in mind and
dreaded what might happen in those three years to come by reason of Thomond
O'Malley working subtly on his mother.

Taking advantage of his stepfather's absence he said:

'Madam, my affairs are a vast burden and responsibility, and though my father,
God save his soul, left all to you in love, yet it was too much for a woman.
And would it not relieve you if all your powers were transferred to my kin, men
of my father's house?'

'You fear my husband,' said Clodagh. 'What has he ever done to you?'

'Nothing. I think him too courteous, perhaps, I fear he flatters me.'

'Indeed you grow too much of a man, Dermot, to be so suspicious.'

'Alas, many give me advice!'

'And tell you tales, too, Dermot.'

'At least it is known that he is ruined and has ruined you.'

Clodagh was stricken that this should be common talk, though she thought it a

'I will give your estates into the keeping of your kin, surely.'

The boy kissed her, wistfully, with regret; why had she left Douai, where she
was safe, soul, body and estate, in the keeping of God?

When Thomond O'Malley returned to Aghagower his wife told him of her design to
transfer the guardianship of Dermot to his kin; to her deep pleasure her
husband agreed instantly and offered to assist in every way.

''Twill be a weight off you, and maybe a slander off me--for they say I meddle
in the lad's affairs.'

'This will prove them wrong--and, Thomond, it is not true that we are ruined?'

'Why, no,' he laughed. 'We are very well, my difficulties that I lamented are
solved. I have found a way out of all of them. Come, we have been married a
year, what fault have you to find with this rogue who was to break your heart?'

'None, ah, none!' Her whole soul spoke in the passionate affirmation.

That night he helped her write to Dermot's kin and when the letter was
dispatched by express to Sligo to the Castle by Lough Gill, my young lord felt
all his suspicions vanish and the charm of Captain O'Malley exert itself again
so strongly that he could almost persuade himself that he liked the man and
credited none of the gossip as to his wickedness.

And in pleasant amity they spent some days in Aghagower, awaiting the answer
from Sligo.

It was near the anniversary of the death of Dermot's father, early summer and
fine weather; my young lord rode morning and evening to the Abbey to attend
Masses and prayers for his father's soul, and sometimes Thomond O'Malley (who
had re-entered Holy Church) accompanied him; but on a day of sharp clouding and
sudden thunder darkness, he did not do so, for it was time, surely, he said,
that the answer arrived from Lough Gill, and he was impatient to receive it, so
he stayed with Clodagh and was busy with the plans for rebuilding the jointure

In the afternoon the express arrived from Dermot's kin and Clodagh ran to show
the letter to her husband; she did not immediately find him, and in her
excitement finally went to his private toilet closet where she had never been
before, and after one knock opened the door.

He was changing his clothes, buttoning on a long skirted waistcoat, and
Clodagh stepped back, smiling and begging forgiveness for her intrusion and a
little bewildered also, by two queer little details.

The first was the look her husband had given her when she had broken in on
him; surely her impulsive entry on to his toilet (fastidious as she knew him to
be) did not justify those dark flames in his eyes, the frown that changed his
whole face, the first anger he had ever shown her?

The second was a glimpse she had had of a fine white cord wound round and
round his waist over his shirt; this was an odd manner of belt for a man so
nice in his attire.

But he had fastened his waistcoat so quickly, smiled so instantly, rejoiced
with her so heartily over the friendly, grateful letter from Sligo, that she
forgot these things.

It was a riding-suit he had changed to, and though the day was darkening down
he would go abroad for a little air and exercise.

'To meet Dermot?'

'Nay, in the other direction, the road is better--the boy will be pleased with
the letter!'

He smiled, kissed her and was gone; how happy then was Clodagh, secure in his
good faith, his love, his honour, the future of her son secured!

Yet as the twilight deepened she grew a little uneasy for Dermot had never
been so late before and to return from the Abbey he had to take a mountain path
which was, to her woman's nervous fancy, perilous.

When her husband returned, flushed from the ride, he chided her fears; but
when complete dark fell, he led her servants in a search for my young lord.

It was near the dawn before they brought him back to the weary wretched
waiting woman; they carried him on a gate, covered by his own summer cloak;
they had found him and his horse dead with broken necks, beneath the steep
narrow mountain path that Clodagh had been justified in thinking perilous.

An accident and one not so difficult to understand--the dusk, a nervous mount,
a youthful rider, the sudden alarm of bird or beast--a bolt, a slip--and no
need for anyone to concern themselves about the future of my young lord.

Clodagh was ill with grief, with horror, with a strange remorse; yet what
wrong had she done, the poor woman? This perhaps--the day that her son was laid
in holy turf beside his father she thought (her senses coming back to her
slowly): 'Supposing it had been Thomond?'

Now one grave held all of her past; she need struggle with her infatuate
passion no more; there was no one to claim the wide lands, the money, the
castles, the lakes, the villages she had held in trust for young Dermot.

'All that is mine is thine.'

Within three months of her son's cruel death she had placed all his
possessions in her husband's hands, not keeping even a pittance for herself,
and all her grief was that she still had no other child.

And in her distress she resolved to consult a wise old woman, esteemed through
the whole of Connacht; and so set out secretly, ashamed of her superstitious
credulity, to the Isle of Clare where the beldam dwelt.

So, on a late autumn day Clodagh, cloaked like a peasant, was rowed out to
Roonagh through the mists, and entered the hut of the wise woman, who peered at
her through the peat smoke.

'Is it of the son whom you have lost or the son whom you hope to have you have
come to ask me, Clodagh O'Malley?'

'The son I have lost lies in the lap of God, surely. There is an unchangeable
loss. But may I hope for an heir to the line of Ni Inhaille, sea kings of Clare
and Clew? Truly I love my lord, truly he loves me, and I am shamed because I am

'You should have deeper shames than that, Clodagh O'Malley. Are you a fool
that you do not hear the whispers all round you? The man whom you love has sold
himself to Satan.'

'Truly I did not think to hear the wild speech of ignorance here.'

'Return home and thank God fasting that you have borne no child to that man.'

Clodagh rose, frightened.

'Have you no more to say beyond this foolish spite?'

'Ask Matty O'Flaterty, a servant in your house, what he knows.'

Clodagh fled; when she returned to Aghagower it was evening, and in the
twilight she sent for O'Flaterty, who was a man employed in the stables, and
across the dim room she addressed him, holding her muff before her face.

'O'Flaterty, what do you know that I ought to know?'

'Who said I knew anything?' he muttered, troubled.

'Someone speaks behind my back. I am told of whispers. What do you know?'

'Something I do not wish to tell you.'

'Yet speak.'

He approached reluctantly across the grand, shadowed room, and pulled from his
pocket and showed her a length of broken white cord.

'I found that the day of my young lord's death tied round the stem of a tree
on the mountain path. Who dares say anything? A cord drawn tight across his way
in the dusk. All had been removed but this--Captain O'Malley was there first.'

Clodagh took the cord in her hand; in that moment she had a vision of the
devil standing in a clear spurt of Hell Fire--he was buttoning a long skirted
waistcoat over a cord wound round his waist; his eyes were angry and he had the
charming aspect of the man in whose arms she had so often lain with rapture.

'She takes it very easy,' thought O'Flaterty. 'Is it that she knew, God help

Clodagh left him standing troubled in the dusk; she went to her husband's room
where he was writing letters by the light of fine candles.

'I am going to Douai tonight,' she said.

He looked up, smiled, looked again, rose and smiled no more.

'Is it that you have had all? All of mine, all of theirs? God let me be
tempted and now I must be damned.'

She did not speak with any extravagance of passion but simply as a natural
expression of her intense misery.

'And you so courteous and kind, loving, too--it must have been the Devil,
surely, lent you such arts. And you caring nothing for me.'

'I have cared for you more than I ought for my own interests.' Thomond
O'Malley was more troubled than she had ever known him; but she did not
perceive that. 'I was sure of you,' he added. 'Have you at last been listening
to tales of me?'

Clodagh had nothing more to say to this man; she took the piece of broken cord
she had held behind her back and placed it between the two candles; her husband
was silent and she left him.

When he enquired of her he learnt that she had left Aghagower with two
servants for Galway.

Then he had everything, the cunning, scheming man! And if people said again
that the Devil had helped him surely, was that a wonder?

There was then no restraint on him; all the great properties of the dead man
and the murdered boy were, through a woman's folly, in his hands to do as he
would with, and no one daring to say a word against him save very secretly.

And Clodagh was in a convent, mortifying the feeble flesh that had betrayed
her spirit.

In Aghagower Captain O'Malley held festival, bringing about him the friends,
hangers-on and flatterers he had kept at a distance while Clodagh was there;
very gay were they all with the substance he had so easily cajoled from his
wife, very sumptuously he entertained them with games, gambling and all
wantonness of music, dancing, plays and indulgence of all carnal lusts.

Her house was filled with these people and he was drinking at her board (since
she had left him he was not so sober) when he heard the news of her death.

Not for long had her poor body withstood the penance she had inflicted on it;
God (the nuns said) had had pity on her remorse; she had died in her bare cell,
wearing a hair shirt--but what was all this to Thomond O'Malley enjoying the
fruits of his wickedness?

She had sent him a letter, sealed in black; he thrust it into his pocket and
went on with his merriment.

Then, in the middle of the feast, when they were bringing out the dice boxes
and more wax lights he left the chamber suddenly and went upstairs to my young
lord's room.

There he lit a taper and looked about; all was neatly arrayed; the boy's
globes and his books, his gloves and his cane; on the bed the valances were
folded and the curtains carefully laid by.

Thomond O'Malley opened the shutters, for the air was close; but, in the
moonbeams that flowed in from across the mountains he hid his face as if he
feared the cold light would discover what he wished to conceal.

He opened her letter, leaning against the heavy bedpost; why should he be
reading it?

It would contain nothing but a withering curse; he had had her soul, her
honour, her son, her possessions; because of him she had died miserably, in her
own estimation horribly dishonoured, the fond creature!

But he read her message, in the light of taper and moon.

His companions missed him; his wantons and toadies called up the stairs to him
with sallies and jests, entreating him to return to the festival.

Clodagh had written:

<'Through you I have had all the joy and happiness that I have ever known.'

And he was snared.

He heard them coming up the stairs joyously to draw him back into their wicked
plays and he bolted the door; how had it come about that he must pass judgment
and sentence on himself?

He did not know; as his fellow-sinners retreated from the locked door and went
away whispering, he took from his pocket a piece of broken white cord that he
always carried with him and made it into a noose.


No record of prior publication found

Not included in this e-book

First published as "Florence Flannery--An Ornament in Regency Paste," 1924

She who had been Florence Flannery noted with a careless eye the stains of wet
on the dusty stairs, and with a glance ill used to observance of domesticities
looked up for damp or dripping ceilings. The dim-walled staircase revealed
nothing but more dust, yet this would serve as a peg for ill-humor to hang on,
so Florence pouted. "An ill, muddy place," said she, who loved gilding and
gimcracks and mirrors reflecting velvet chairs, and flounced away to the upper
chamber, lifting frilled skirts contemptuously high. Her husband followed; they
had been married a week and there had never been any happiness in their wilful
passion. Daniel Shute did not now look for any; in the disgust of this draggled
homecoming he wondered what had induced him to marry the woman and how soon he
would come to hate her.

As she stood in the big bedroom he watched her with dislike; her tawdry charms
of vulgar prettiness had once been delightful to his dazed senses and muddled
wits, but here, in his old home, washed by the fine Devon air, his sight was
clearer and she appeared coarse as a poppy at the far end of August.

"Of course you hate it," he said cynically, lounging with his big shoulders
against one of the bedposts, his big hands in the pockets of his tight nankeen
trousers, and his fair hair, tousled from the journey, hanging over his mottled

"It is not the place you boasted to have," replied Florence, but idly, for she
stood by the window and looked at the tiny leaded panes; the autumn sun
gleaming sideways on this glass, picked out a name scratched there:

Florence Flannery.
Borne 1500.

"Look here," cried the woman, excited, "this should be my ancestress!"

She slipped off a huge diamond ring she wore and scratched underneath the
writing the present year, "1800." Daniel Shute came and looked over her

"That reads strange--'Born 1500'--as if you would say died 1800," he remarked.
"Well, I don't suppose she had anything to do with you, my charmer, yet she
brought you luck, for it was remembering this name here made me notice you when
I heard what you were called."

He spoke uncivilly, and she responded in the same tone. "Undervalue what is
your own, Mr. Shute. There was enough for me to choose from, I can swear!"

"Enough likely gallants," he grinned, "not so many likely husbands, eh?"

He slouched away, for, fallen as he was, it stung him that he had married a
corybante of the opera, an unplaced, homeless, nameless creature for all he
knew, for he could never quite believe that "Florence Flannery" was her real

Yet that name had always attracted; it was so queer that he should meet a real
woman called Florence Flannery when one of the earliest of his recollections
was tracing that name over with a curious finger in the old diamond pane.

"You have never told me who she was," said Mrs. Shute.

"Who knows? Three hundred years ago, m'dear. There are some old wives' tales,
of course."

He left the great bedroom and she followed him doggedly downstairs.

"Is this your fine manor, Mr. Shute? And these your noble grounds? And how am
Ito live here, Mr. Shute, who left the gaieties of London for you?"

Her voice, shrill and edged, followed him down the stairs and into the vast
dismantled drawing-room where they paused, facing each other like things caught
in a trap, which is what they were.

For he had married her because he was a ruined man, driven from London by
duns, and a drunken man who dreaded lonely hours and needed a boon companion to
pledge him glass for glass, and a man of coarse desires who had bought with
marriage what he was not rich enough to buy with money, and she had married him
because she was past her meridian and saw no more conquests ahead and also was
in love with the idea of being a gentlewoman and ruling in the great grand
house by the sea--which was how she had thought of Shute Manor.

And a great grand house it had been, but for twenty years it had been
abandoned by Daniel Shute, and stripped and mortgaged to pay for his vices, so
that now it stood barren and desolate, empty and tarnished, and only a woman
with love in her heart could have made a home of it; never had there been love
in Florence Flannery's heart, only greed and meanness.

Thus these two faced each other in the gaunt room with the monstrous
chandelier hanging above them wrapped in a dusty brown holland bag, the walls
festooned with cobwebs, the pale wintry sunshine showing the thick dust on the
unpolished boards.

"I can never live here!" cried Mrs. Shute. There was a touch of panic in her
voice and she lifted her hands to her heart with a womanly gesture of grief.

The man was touched by a throb of pity; he did not himself expect the place to
be so dilapidated. Some kind of a rascally agent had been looking after it for
him, and he supposed some effort would have been made for his reception.

Florence saw his look of half-sullen shame and urged her point.

"We can go back, cannot we?" she said, with the rich drop in her voice, so
useful for coaxing; "back to London and the house in Baker Street? All the old
friends and old pleasures, Mr. Shute, and a dashing little cabriolet to go
round the park?"

"Curse it!" he answered, chagrined. "I haven't the money. Flo; I haven't the
damned money!" She heard the ring of bitter truth in his voice and the
atrocious nature of the deception he had practiced on her overwhelmed her
shallow understanding.

"You mean you've got no money, Mr. Shute?" she screamed. "Not enough for
London, m'dear."

"And I've to live in this filthy barn?"

"It has been good enough for my people, Mrs. Shute," he answered grimly. "For
all the women of my family, gentlewomen, all of 'em with quarterings, and it
will be good enough for you, m'dear, so none of your Bartholomew Fair airs and

She was cornered, and a little afraid of him; he had been drinking at the last
place where they stopped to water the horses and she knew how he could be when
he was drunk; she remembered that she was alone with him and what a huge man he

So she crept away and went down into the vast kitchens where an old woman and
a girl were preparing a meal.

The sight of this a little heartened Mrs. Shute; in her frilled taffetas and
long ringlets she sat down by the great open hearth, moving her hands to show
the firelight flashing in her rings and shifting her petticoats so that the
girl might admire her kid shoes.

"I'll take a cordial to stay my strength," she said, "for I've come a long way
and find a sour welcome at the end of it, and that'll turn any woman's blood."

The old dame smiled, knowing her type well enough; for even in a village you
may find women like this.

So she brought Mrs. Shute some damson wine and a plate of biscuits, and the
two women became friendly enough and gossiped in the dim candle-lit kitchen
while Daniel Shute wandered about his old home, even his corrupt heart feeling
many a pang to see the places of his childhood desolate, the walks overgrown,
the trees felled, the arbors closed, the fountains dried, and all the spreading
fields about fenced by strangers.

The November moon was high in a misted space of open heaven by the time he
reached the old carp pond.

Dead weeds tangled over the crumbling, moss-grown stone, trumpery and slime
coated the dark waters.

"I suppose the carp are all dead?" said Mr. Shute.

He had not been aware that he spoke aloud, and was surprised to hear himself

"I believe there are some left, esquire."

Mr. Shute turned sharply and could faintly discern the figure of a man sitting
on the edge of the pond so that it seemed as if his legs half dangled in the
black water.

"Who are you?" asked Daniel Shute quickly.

"I'm Paley, sir, who looks after the grounds."

"You do your work damned badly," replied the other, irritated. "It is a big
place, esquire, for one man to work."

He seemed to stoop lower and lower as if at any moment he would slip into the
pond; indeed, in the half dark, it seemed to Mr. Shute as if he was already
half in the water; yet, on this speech, he moved and showed that he was but
bending over the sombre depths of the carp pond.

The moonlight displayed him as a drab man of middling proportions with slow
movements and a large languid eye which glittered feebly in the pale light; Mr.
Shute had an impression that this eye looked at him sideways as if it was set
at the side of the man's head, but soon saw that this was an illusion.

"Who engaged you?" he asked acidly, hating the creature.

"Mr. Tregaskis, the agent," replied the man in what appeared to be a thick
foreign accent or with some defect of speech, and walked away into the wintry

Mr. Shute returned home grumbling; in the grim parlor Mr. Tregaskis was
waiting for him--a red Cornishman, who grinned at his employer's railings. He
knew the vices of Mr. Shute, and the difficulties of Mr. Shute, and he had seen
Mrs. Shute in the kitchen deep in maudlin gossip with old Dame Chase and the
idiot-faced girl, drinking the alcoholic country wine till it spilled from her
shaking fingers on to her taffeta skirt.

So he assumed a tone of noisy familiarity that Mr. Shute was too sunken to
resent; the last of the old squire's Oporto was sent for and the men drank
themselves on to terms of easy good-fellowship.

At the last, when the candles were guttering, the bottles empty, and the last
log's ashes on the hearth, Mr. Shute asked who was the creature Paley he had
found hanging over the carp pond.

Mr. Tregaskis told him, but the next morning Mr. Shute could not recollect
what he had said; the whole evening had, in his recollection, an atmosphere of
phantasmagoria; but he thought that the agent had said that Paley was a
deserted sailor who had wandered up from Plymouth and taken the work without
pay, a peculiar individual who lived in a wattled hut that he had made himself,
and on food he caught with his own hands.

His sole explanation of himself was that he had waited for something a long
time and was still waiting for it; useful he was, Mr. Tregaskis had said, and
it was better to leave him alone.

All this Mr. Shute remembered vaguely, lying in the great bed staring at the
pale sun glittering on the name "Florence Flannery" scratched on the window
with the two dates.

It was late in the autumnal morning, but his wife still lay beside him,
heavily asleep, with her thick heavy chestnut hair tossed over the pillow and
her full bosom panting, the carnation of her rounded face flushed and stained,
the coarse diamonds glowing on her plump hands, the false pearls slipping round
her curved throat.

Daniel Shute sat up in bed and looked down at her prone sleep. "Who is she?
And where does she come from?" he wondered. He had never cared to find out, but
now his ignorance of all appertaining to his wife annoyed him.

He shook her bare shoulder till she yawned out of her heavy sleep. "Who are
you, Flo?" he asked. "You must know something about yourself."

The woman blinked up at him, drawing her satin bedgown round her breast.

"I was in the opera, wasn't I?" she answered lazily. "I never knew my people."

"Came out of an orphanage or the gutter, I suppose?" he returned bitterly.


"But your name?" he insisted. "That is never your name, 'Florence Flannery'?"

"I've never known another," she responded indifferently. "You're not Irish."

"I don't know, Mr. Shute. I've been in many countries and seen many strange

He laughed; he had heard some of her experiences.

"You've seen so much and been in so many places I don't know how you've ever
got it all into one life."

"I don't know myself. It's all rather like a dream and the most dreamlike of
all is to be lying here looking at my own name written three hundred years ago."

She moved restlessly and slipped from the bed, a handsome woman with troubled

"'Tis the drink brings the dreams, m'dear," said Mr. Shute. "I had some dreams
last night of a fellow named Paley I met by the carp pond."

"You were drinking in the parlor," she retorted scornfully. "And you in the
kitchen, m'dear."

Mrs. Shute flung a fringed silk shawl, the gift of an Indian nabob, round her
warm body and dropped, shivering and yawning, into one of the warm tapestry

"Who was this Florence Flannery?" she asked idly.

"I told you no one knows. An Irish girl born in Florence, they said, when I
was a child and listened to beldam's gossip. Her mother a Medici, m'dear, and
he a groom! And she carne here, the trollop, with some young Shute who had been
travelling in Italy--picked her up and brought her home, like I've brought you!"

"He didn't marry her?" asked Mrs. Shute indifferently.

"More sense," said her husband coarsely. "I'm the first fool of me family. She
was a proper vixen. John Shute took her on his voyages; he'd a ship and went
discovering. They talk yet at Plymouth of how she would sit among the parrots
and the spices and the silks when the ship came into Plymouth Hoe."

"Ah, the good times!" sighed Mrs. Shute, "when men were men and paid a good
price for their pleasures!"

"You've fetched your full market value, Mrs. Shute," he answered, yawning in
the big bed.

"I'd rather be John Shute's woman than your wife," she returned. "What do you
know of him?"

"I saw his portrait on the back stairs last night. Goody Chase showed me. A
noble man with a clear eye and great arms to fight and love with."

"He used 'em to push Florence Flannery out with," grinned Mr. Shute, "if half
the tales are true. On one of their voyages they picked up a young Portuguese
who took the lady's fancy and she brought him back to Shute Court."

"And what was the end of it?"

"I know no more, save that she was flung out, as I'd like to fling you out, my
beauty!" foamed Mr. Shute with gusty violence. His wife laughed and got up

"I'll tell the rest of the tale. She got tired of her new love, and he wasn't
a Portuguese, but an Indian, or partly, and his name was D'Ailey, Daly the
people called it here. On one voyage she told John Shute about him, and he was
marooned on a lonely island in the South Seas--tied up to a great, great stone
image of a god, burning hot in the tropic sun. He must have been a god of
fishes for there was nothing else near that island but monstrous fish."

"Who told you this?" demanded Mr. Shute. "Old Dame Chase, with her lies? I
never heard of this before."

"'Tis the story," resumed his wife. "The last she saw of him was his bound
figure tied tight, tight, to the gaping, grinning idol while she sat on the
poop as the ship--the _Phoenix_--sailed away. He cursed her and called on the
idol to let her live till he was avenged on her--he was of the breed, or partly
of the breed, that these gods love, and Florence Flannery was afraid, afraid,
as she sailed away--"

"Goody Chase in her cups!" sneered Mr. Shute. "And what's the end of your

"There's no end," said the woman sullenly. "John Shute cast her off, for the
bad luck that dogged him, and what became of her I don't know."

"It's an ugly tale and a stupid tale," grumbled Daniel Shute with a groan as
he surveyed the bleak chill weather beyond the lattice panes. "Get down and see
what's to eat in the house and what's to drink in the cellar, and if that rogue
Tregaskis is there send him up to me."

Mrs. Shute rose and pulled fiercely at the long wool-embroidered bell-rope so
that the rusty bell jangled violently.

"What'll you do when the wine is all drunk and the boon companions have
cleared out your pockets?" she asked wildly. "Do your own errands, Mr. Shute."

He flung out of bed with a pretty London oath, and she remained huddled in the
chair while he dressed and after he had left her, wringing her hands now and
then and wailing under her breath, till Dame Chase came up with a posset and
helped her to dress. The sight of her dishevelled trunks restored some of Mrs.
Shute's spirits; she pulled out with relish her furbelows and flounces,
displaying to Goody Chase's amazed admiration the last fashions of Paris and
London, mingling her display with fond reminiscences of gilded triumphs.

"Maybe you'd be surprised to learn that Mr. Shute isn't my first husband," she
said, tossing her head.

The fat old woman winked.

"I'd be more surprised, m'lady, to learn he was your last."

Mrs. Shute laughed grossly, but her spirits soon fell; kneeling on the floor
with her tumbled finery in her lap, she stared out through the window on which
her name was written at the tossing bare boughs, the chill sky, the dry flutter
of the last leaves.

"I'll never get away," she said mournfully, "the place bodes me no good. I've
had the malaria in me time, Mrs. Chase, in one of those cursed Italian swamps
and it affected me memory; there's much I can't place together and much I
recall brokenly--dreams and fevers, Mrs. Chase."

"The drink, m'ady."

"No," returned the kneeling woman fiercely. "Wasn't the drink taken to drown
those dreams and fevers? I wish I could tell you half I know--there's many a
fine tale in me head, but when I begin to speak it goes!"

She began to rock to and fro, lamenting.

"To think of the fine times I've had with likely young men drinking me health
in me slipper and the little cabriolet in Paris and the walks in the Prater
outside Vienna. So pleasant you would hardly believe!"

"You'll settle down, m'lady, like women do."

Indeed, Mrs. Shute seemed to make some attempt at "settling down"; there was
something piteous in the despairing energy with which she set to work to make
her life tolerable; there was a suite of rooms lined with faded watered green
silk that she took for her own and had cleaned and furnished with what she
could gather from the rest of the house--old gilt commodes and rococo chairs
and threadbare panels of tapestries and chipped vases of Saxe or Lunéville, one
or two pastel portraits that the damp had stained, together with some tawdry
trifles she had brought in her own baggage.

She employed Mr. Tregaskis to sell her big diamond in Plymouth and bought pale
blue satin hangings for her bedroom and spotted muslin for her bed, a carpet
wreathed with roses, a gaudy dressing-table and phials of perfume, opopanax,
frangipane, musk, potent, searing, to dissipate, she said, the odors of must
and mildew.

Arranging these crude splendors was her sole occupation. There were no
neighbors in the lonely valley and Mr. Shute fell into melancholy and solitary
drinking; he hung on to his existence as just more tolerable than a debtor's
prison, but the fury with which he met his fate expressed itself in curses
awful to hear. Such part of the estate as still belonged to him he treated with
complex contempt; Mr. Tregaskis continued to supervise some rough farming and
the man Paley worked in the garden; taciturn, solitary and sullen, he made an
ill impression on Mr. Shute, yet he cost nothing and did some labor, as
carrying up the firewood to the house and clearing away some of the thickets
and dying weeds and vast clumps of nettles and docks.

Mrs. Shute met him for the first time by the carp pond; she was tricked out in
a white satin pelisse edged with fur and a big bonnet, and wandered forlornly
in the neglected paths. Paley was sitting on the edge of the carp pond, looking
intently into the murky depths.

"I'm the new mistress," said Mrs. Shute, "and I'll thank you to keep better
order in the place."

Paley looked up at her with his pale eyes.

"Shute Court isn't what it was," he said, "there is a lot of work to do."

"You seem to spend a power of time by the pond," she replied. "What are you
here for?"

"I'm waiting for something," he said. "I'm putting in time, Mrs. Shute."

"A sailor, I hear?" she said curiously, for the draggled nondescript man in
his greenish-black clothes was difficult to place; he had a peculiar look of
being boneless, without shoulders or hips, one slope slipping into another as
if there was no framework under his flabby flesh.

"I've been at sea," he answered, "like yourself, Mrs. Shute." She laughed

"I would I were at sea again," she replied; "this is horror to me."

"Why do you stay?"

"I'm wondering. It seems that I can't get away, the same as I couldn't help
coming," a wail came into her voice. "Must I wait till Mr. Shute has drunk
himself to death?"

The wind blew sharp across the pond, cutting little waves in the placid
surface, and she who had been Florence Flannery shuddered in the bite of it and
turned away and went muttering up the path to the desolate house.

Her husband was in the dirty parlor playing at bezique with Mr. Tregaskis and
she flared in upon them.

"Why don't you get rid of that man Paley? I hate him. He does no work--Mrs.
Chase told me that he always sits by the carp pond and today I saw him--ugh!"

"Paley's all right, Mrs. Shute," replied Tregaskis, "he does more work than
you think."

"Why does he stay?"

"He's waiting for a ship that's soon due in Plymouth."

"Send him off," insisted Mrs. Shute. "Isn't the place melancholic enough
without you having that sitting about?"

Her distaste and disgust of the man seemed to amount to a panic, and her
husband, whose courage was snapped by the drink, was infected by her fear.

"When did this fellow come?" he demanded.

"About a week before you did. He'd tramped up from Plymouth."

"We've only his word for that," replied Mr. Shute with drunken cunning; "maybe
he's a Bow Street runner sent by one of those damned creditors! You're right,
Flo, I don't like the wretch--he's watching me, split him! I'll send him off."

Mr. Tregaskis shrugged as Daniel Shute staggered from his chair.

"The man's harmless, sir; half-witted if you like, but useful."

Still Mr. Shute dragged on his greatcoat with the capes and followed his wife
out into the grey garden.

The carp pond was not near the house, and by the time that they had reached it
a dull twilight had fallen in the cold and heavy air.

The great trees were quite bare now and flung a black tracing of forlorn
branches against the bleak evening sky; patches and clumps of dead weeds
obstructed every path and alley; by the carp pond showed the faint outline of a
blind statue crumbling beneath the weight of dead mosses.

Paley was not there.

"He'll be in his hut," said Mr. Shute, "sleeping or spying--the ugly old
devil. I'll send him off."

The dead oyster white of Mrs. Shute's pelisse gleamed oddly as she followed
her husband through the crackling undergrowth.

There, in the thickening twilight, they found the hut, a queer arrangement of
wattles cunningly interwoven in which there was no furniture whatever, nothing
but a bare protection from the wind and weather.

Paley was not there.

"I'll find him," muttered Mr. Shute, "if I have to stay out all night."

For his half-intoxicated mind had fixed on this stranger as the symbol of all
his misfortunes and perhaps the avenger of all his vices.

His wife turned back, for her pelisse was being caught on the undergrowth; she
went moodily towards the carp pond.

A moment later a sharp shriek from her brought Mr. Shute plunging back to her
side. She was standing in a queer bent attitude, pointing with a shaking plump
hand to the murky depths of the pond.

"The wretch! He's drowned himself!" she screamed.

Mr. Shute's worn-out nerves reacted to her ignoble panic; he clutched her arm
as he gazed in the direction of her finger; there was something dark in the
shallower side of the pond, something large and dark, with pale flat eyes that
glittered malevolently.

"Paley!" gasped Mr. Shute.

He bent closer in amazed horror, then broke into tremulous laughter.

"'Tis a fish," he declared; "one of the old carp."

Mrs. Shute indeed now perceived that the monstrous creature in the water was a
fish; she could make out the wide gaping jaw, tall spines shadowing in the
murk, and a mottled skin of deadly yellow and dingy white.

"It's looking at me," she gasped. "Kill it, kill it, the loathsome wretch!"

"It's--it's--too big," stammered Mr. Shute, but he picked up a stone to hurl;
the huge fish, as if aware of his intentions, slipped away into the murky
depths of the pond, leaving a sluggish ripple on the surface.

Daniel Shute now found his courage.

"Nothing but an old carp," he repeated. "I'll have the thing caught."

Mrs. Shute began to weep and wring her hands. Her husband dragged her roughly
towards the house, left her there, took a lantern, and accompanied now by Mr.
Tregaskis returned in search of Paley.

This time they found him sitting in his usual place by the side of the pond.
Mr. Shute had now changed his mind about sending him away; he had a muddled
idea that he would like the pond watched, and who was to do this if not Paley?

"Look here, my man," he said, "there's a great carp in this pond--a very big,
black old carp."

"They live for hundreds of years," said Paley. "But this isn't a carp."

"You know about it, then?" demanded Mr. Shute.

"I know about it."

"Well, I want you to catch it--kill it. Watch till you do. I loathe it--ugh!"

"Watch the pond?" protested Mr. Tregaskis, who held the lantern and was
chilled and irritable. "Damme, esquire, what can the thing do? It can't leave
the water."

"I wouldn't," muttered Mr. Shute, "promise you that."

"You're drunk," said the other coarsely.

But Mr. Shute insisted on his point.

"Watch the pond, Paley, watch it day and night till you get that fish."

"I'll watch," answered Paley, never moving from his huddled position.

The two men went back to the desolate house. When Mr. Shute at last staggered
upstairs he found his wife with half a dozen candles lit, crouching under the
tawdry muslin curtains with which she had disfigured the big bed.

She clutched a rosary that she was constantly raising to her lips as she
muttered ejaculations.

Mr. Shute lurched to the bedside.

"I didn't know that you were a Papist, Flo," he sneered. She looked up at him.

"That story's got me," she whispered, "the man tied up to the fish god--the
curse--and he following her--tracking her down for _three hundred years_, till
she was hounded back to the old place where they'd loved."

Daniel Shute perceived that she had been drinking, and sank into a chair.

"Goody Chase's gossip," he answered, yawning, "and that damned ugly fish. I've
set Paley to catch him--to watch the pond till he does."

She looked at him sharply, and appeared relieved.

"Anyhow, what's it to do with you?" he continued. "You ain't the jade who left
the man on the island!" He laughed crudely. Mrs. Shute sank down on her pillows.

"As long as the pond is watched," she murmured, "I don't mind."

But during the night she tossed and panted in a delirium, talking of great
ships with strange merchandise, of lonely islands amid blazing seas, of mighty
stone gods rearing up to the heavens, of a man in torture and a curse following
a woman who sailed away, till her husband shook her and left her alone,
sleeping on a couch in the dreary parlor.

The next day he spoke to Mrs. Chase.

"Between your news and your lies you've turned your mistress's head. Good God!
she is like a maniac with your parcel of follies!"

But Goody Chase protested that she had told her nothing.

"_She_ told _me_ that story, esquire, and said she had found it in an old
book. What did I know of Florence Flannery? Many a time you've asked me about
her when you were a child and I've had no answer to give you--what did I know
save she was a hussy who disgraced Shute Court?"

At this Daniel Shute vehemently demanded of his wife where she had got the
tales which she babbled about, but the woman was sullen and heavy and would
tell him nothing; all the day she remained thus, but when the few hours of
wintry light were over she fell again into unbridled terror, gibbering like a
creature deprived of reason, beating her breast, kissing the rosary, and
muttering, "_Mea culpâ, mea culpâ, mea maximâ culpâ_!"

Mr. Shute was not himself in any state to endure this; he left his wife to
herself and made Tregaskis sleep with him for company in another room.

Winter froze the bleak countryside; Paley kept guard by the pond and the
Shutes somehow dragged on an intolerable existence in the deserted house.

In the daytime Mrs. Shute revived a little and would even prink herself out in
her finery and gossip with Mrs. Chase over the vast log fire, but the nights
always found her smitten with terror, shivering with cowardly apprehension; and
the object of all her nightmare dread was the fish she had seen in the pond.

"It can't leave the water," they told her, and she always answered: "The first
night I was here I saw wet on the stairs."

"My God, my God!" Daniel Shute would say, "this is like living with someone
sentenced to death."

"Get a doctor over from Plymouth," suggested Mr. Tregaskis.

But Mr. Shute would not, for fear of being betrayed to his creditors.

"Better rot here than in the Fleet," he swore.

"Then take her away--and keep her from the bottle."

The wretched husband could do neither of these things; he had no money and no
influence over Mrs. Shute. He was indeed indifferent to her sufferings save in
so far as they reacted on him and ever accustomed him to the spectacle of her
breakdown; he knew it was not really strange that a woman such as she was
should collapse under conditions such as these, and his life was already so
wretched that he cared little for added horrors.

He began to find a strange comfort in the man Paley, who, taciturn, slow and
queer, yet did his work and watched the pond with an admirable diligence.

One night in the blackest time of the year, the bitter dark nights before
Christmas, the shrieks of Mrs. Shute brought her husband cursing up the stairs.

Her door was unbolted and she sat up in bed, displaying, in the light of his
snatched-up taper, some red marks on her arm. "Let him kill me and done with
it," she jabbered.

Mr. Tregaskis came pushing in and caught rudely hold of her arm. "She's done
it herself," he cried; "those are the marks of her own teeth."

But Mrs. Shute cried piteously:

"He came flopping up the stairs, he broke the bolts; he jumped on the bed! Oh!
oh! oh! Isn't this the bed, the very bed I slept in then--and didn't he used to
creep into this room when John Shute was away?"

"Still thinking of that damned fish," said Mr. Tregaskis, "and it's my belief
you neither of you saw it at all, esquire--that man Paley has been watching,
and he's seen nothing."

Mr. Shute bit his fingernails, looking down on the writhing figure of his wife.

"Light all the candles, can't you?" he said. "I'll stay with the poor fool

While Mr. Tregaskis obeyed he went to the door and looked out, holding his
taper high.

There were pools of wet and a long trail of slime down the dusty, neglected

He called Mr. Tregaskis.

"Ugh!" cried the Cornishman, then, "It's from Goody Chase's water crock."

On the following windy morning Mr. Shute went out, shivering in the nipping
air, to the carp pond.

"I don't want another night like last," he said.

"You'll sleep across my wife's door--she thinks that cursed carp is after her--"

Then, at the gross absurdity of what he said, he laughed miserably. "This is a
pretty pantomime I'm playing," he muttered. A horrid curiosity drove him up to
look at his wife.

She sat between the draggled muslin curtains hugging her knees in the tumbled
bed; a wretched fire flickered wanly in the chill depths of the vast room; a
wind blew swift and remote round the window on which was scratched the name of
Florence Flannery. Mr. Shute shivered.

"I must get you away," he said, stirred above his fears for himself; "this is
a damned place--the Fleet would be better, after all." She turned lustreless
eyes on him.

"I can't get away," she said dully. "I've come here to die--don't you see it
on that window--'Died 1800'?"

He crossed the floor and peered at the scratching on the glass. Someone had
indeed added the word "died" before the last date.

"These are the tricks of a Bedlamite," he said nervously. "Do you think there
was only _one_ Florence Flannery?"

"And do you think," she returned harshly, "that there were two?"

She looked so awful crouched up in bed with her hanging hair, her once plump
face fallen in the cheeks, her soiled satin gown open over her laboring breast,
her whole air and expression so agonized, so malevolent, so dreadful, that
Daniel Shute passed his hand over his eyes as if to brush away a vision of
unsubstantial horror.

He was shaken by an hallucination of light-headedness; he appeared to enter
another world, in which many queer things were possible.

"What are you?" he asked uneasily. "He's been after you for nearly three
hundred years? Aren't you punished enough?"

"Oh, oh!" moaned the woman. "Keep him out! Keep him out!"

"I'll put Paley at the door tonight," muttered Mr. Shute.

He crept out of the horrible chamber; he now detested his wife beyond all
reason, yet somehow he felt impelled to save her from the invincible furies who
were pursuing her in so gruesome a fashion.

"She's a lunatic," said Mr. Tregaskis brusquely. "You'll have to keep her shut
in that room--it's not difficult to account for--with the life she's led and
this place and the coincidence of the names." The first snow of the year began
to fall that night, sullen flakes struggling in the coils of the leaping wind
that circled round Shute Court.

In the last glimmer of daylight Paley came to take up his post. Drab, silent,
with his sloping shoulders and nondescript clothes, he went slowly upstairs and
sat down outside Mrs. Shute's door. "He seems to know the way," remarked Daniel

"Don't you know he works in the house?" retorted Mr. Tregaskis.

The two men slept, as usual, in the parlor, on stiff horsehair couches bundled
up with pillows and blankets; the litter of their supper was left on the table
and they piled the fire up with logs before going to sleep. Mr. Shute's nerves
were in no state to permit him to risk waking up in the dark.

The wind dropped and the steady downdrift of the soft snow filled the
blackness of the bitter night.

As the grandfather clock struck three Daniel Shute sat up and called to his

"I've been thinking in my dreams," he said, with chattering teeth. "Is it
Paley, or Daley? You know the name was D'Ailey."

"Shut up, you fool," returned the agent fiercely; but he then raised himself
on his elbow, for a hoarse, bitter scream, followed by some yelled words in a
foreign language tore through the stillness.

"The mad woman," said Mr. Tregaskis; but Daniel Shute dragged the clothes up
to his chattering teeth.

"I'm not going up," he muttered. "I'm not going up!"

Mr. Tregaskis dragged on his trousers and flung a blanket over his shoulders
and so, lighting a taper at the big fire, went up the gaunt stairs to Mrs.
Shute's room. The glimmering beams of the rushlight showed him tracks of wet
again on the dirty boards.

"Goody Chase with her crocks and possets," he murmured; then louder, "Paley!

There was no one outside Mrs. Shute's door, which hung open. Mr. Tregaskis

She who had been Florence Flannery lay prone on her tawdry couch; the deep
wounds that had slain her appeared to have been torn by savage teeth; she
looked infinitely old, shrivelled and detestable.

Mr. Tregaskis backed on to the stairs, the light lurching round him from the
shaking of his taper, when Mr. Shute came bustling up out of the darkness.

"Paley's gone," whispered Mr. Tregaskis dully.

"I saw him go," gibbered Mr. Shute, "as I ventured to the door--by the
firelight; a great fish slithering away with blood on his jaws."


Published in _Seeing Life! And Other Stories_, Hurst & Blackett, London, 1923

Two young esquires were riding from Canterbury, jolly and drunk, they shouted
and trolled and rolled in their saddles as they followed the winding road
across the downs.

A dim sky was overhead and shut in the wide expanse of open country that one
side stretched to the sea and the other to the Kentish Weald.

The primroses grew in thick posies in the ditches, the hedges were full of
fresh hawthorn green, and the new grey leaves of eglantine and honeysuckle, the
long boughs of ash with the hard black buds, and the wand-like shoots of sallow
willow hung with catkins and the smaller red tassels of the nut and birch;
little the two young men heeded of any of these things, for they were in their
own country that was thrice familiar; but Nick Bateup blinked across to the
distant purple hills, and cursed the gathering rain. "Ten miles more of the
open," he muttered, "and a great storm blackening upon us."

Young Crediton who was more full of wine, laughed drowsily. "We'll lie at a
cottage on the way, Nick--think you I've never a tenant who'll let me share
board and bed?"

He maundered into singing,

"There's a light in the old mill, Where the witch weaves her charms; But dark
is the chamber, Where you sleep in my arms. Now came you by magic, by trick or
by spell, I have you and hold you, And love you right well!"

The clouds overtook them like an advancing army; the wayside green looked
livid under the purplish threat of the heavens, and the birds were all still
and silent.

"Split me if I'll be soaked," muttered young Bateup. "Knock up one of these
boors of thine, Ned--but damn me if I see as much as hut or barn!"

"We come to Banells farm soon, or have we passed it?" answered the other
confusedly. "What's the pother? A bold bird as thou art, and scared of a drop
of rain?"

"My lungs are not as lusty as thine," replied Bateup, who was indeed of a
delicate build and more carefully dressed in greatcoat and muffler.

"But thy throat is as wide!" laughed Crediton, "and God help you, you are
muffled like an old woman--and as drunk as a shorn parrot."

"Tra la la, my sweeting, Tra la la, my May, If now I miss the meeting I'll
come some other day."

His companion took no notice of this nonsense, but with as much keenness as
his muddled faculties would allow, was looking out for some shelter, for he
retained sufficient perception to enable him to mark the violence of the
approaching storm and the loneliness of the vast stretch of country where the
only human habitations appeared to be some few poor cottages, far distant in
the fields.

He lost his good-humor, and as the first drops of stinging cold rain began to
fall, he cursed freely, using the terms common to the pot-houses where he had
intoxicated himself on the way from Canterbury.

Urging their tired horses, they came on to the top of the little hill they
ascended; immediately before them was the silver ashen skeleton of a blasted
oak, polished like worn bone standing over a small pool of stagnant water (for
there had been little rain and much east wind), where a few shivering ewes
crouched together from the oncoming storm.

Just beyond this, rising out of the bare field, was a humble cottage of black
timber and white plaster with a deep thatched roof. For the rest, the crest of
the hill was covered by a hazel copse and then dipped lonely again to the
clouded lower levels that now began to slope into the marsh.

"This will shelter us, Nick," cried Crediton.

"'Tis a foul place and the boors have a foul reputation," objected the lord of
the manor. "There are those who swear to seeing the Devil's own phiz leer from
Goody Boyle's windows--but anything to please thee and thy weak chest."

They staggered from their horses, knocked open the rotting gate and leading
the beasts across the hard dry grazing field, knocked with their whips at the
small door of the cottage.

The grey sheep under the grey tree looked at them and bleated faintly; the
rain began to fall, like straight yet broken darts out of the sombre clouds.

The door was opened by a woman very neatly dressed, with large scrubbed hands,
who looked at them with fear and displeasure; for if her reputation was bad,
theirs was no better; the lord of the manor was a known roysterer and wild
liver, and spent his idleness in rakish expeditions with Sir Nicholas Bateup
from Bodiam, who was easily squandering a fine property.

Neither was believed to be free of bloodshed, and as for honor, they were as
stripped of that as the blasted tree by the lonely pool was stripped of leaves.

Besides, they were both, now, as usual, drunk.

"We want shelter, Goody Boyle," cried Crediton, pushing his way in as he threw
her his reins. "Get the horses into the barn."

The woman could not deny the man who could make her homeless in a second; she
shouted hoarsely an inarticulate name, and a loutish boy came and took the
horses, while the two young men stumbled into the cottage which they filled and
dwarfed with their splendor.

Edward Crediton had been a fine young man, and though he was marred with
insolence and excess, he still made a magnificent appearance, with his full
blunt features, his warm coloring, the fair hair rolled and curled and all his
bravery of blue broadcloth, buckskin breeches, foreign lace, top boots, French
sword and gold rings and watch chains.

Sir Nicholas Bateup was darker and more effeminate, having a cast of weakness
in his constitution that betrayed itself in his face; but his dress was
splendid to the point of foppishness and his manners even more arrogant and

Of the two he had the more evil repute; he was unwed and therefore there was
no check upon his mischief, whereas Crediton had a young wife whom he loved
after his fashion, who checked some of his doings, softened others, and stayed
very faithful to him and adored him still, after five years of a wretched
marriage, as is the manner of some women.

The rain came down with slashing severity; the little cottage panes were
blotted with water.

Goody Boyle put logs on the fire and urged them with the bellows. It was a
gaunt white room with nothing in it but a few wooden stools, a table and an eel-
catcher's prong.

On the table were two large fair wax candles.

"What are these for, Goody?" asked Crediton.

"For the dead, sir."

"You've dead in the house?" cried Sir Nicholas, who was leaning by the
fireplace and warming his hands. "What do you want with dead men in the house,
you trollop?"

"It is no dead of mine, my lord," answered the woman with evil civility, "but
one who took shelter here and died."

"A curst witch!" roared Crediton. "You hear that, Nick! Came here--died--and
now you'll put spells on us, you ugly slut--"

"No spells of mine," answered the woman quietly, rubbing her large clean hands
together. "He had been long ailing and died here of an ague."

"And who sent the ague?" asked Crediton with drunken gravity. "And who sent
him here?"

"Perhaps the same hand that sent us," laughed Sir Nicholas. "Where is your
corpse, Goody?"

"In the next room--I have but two."

"And two too many--you need but a bundle of faggots and a tuft of tow to light
it--an arrant witch, a contest witch," muttered Crediton; he staggered up from
the stool. "Where is your corpse? I've a mind to see if he looks as if he died
a natural death."

"Will you not ask first who it is?" asked the woman, unlatching the inner door.

"Why should I care?"

"Who is it?" asked Sir Nicholas, who had the clearer wits, drunk or sober.

"Richard Horne," said Goody Boyle.

Ned Crediton looked at her with the eyes of a sober man.

"Richard Horne," said Sir Nicholas. "So he is dead at last--your wife will be
glad of that, Ned."

Crediton gave a sullen laugh.

"I'd broken him--she wasn't afraid any longer of a lost wretch, cast out to
die of ague on the marsh."

But Sir Nicholas had heard differently; he had been told, even by Ned himself,
how Anne Crediton shivered before the terror of Richard Horne's pursuit, and
would wake up in the dark crying out for fear of him, like a lost child; for he
had wooed her before her marriage, and persisted in loving her afterwards with
mad boldness and insolent confidence, so that justice had been set on him and
he had been banished to the marsh, a ruined man.

"Well, sirs," said Goody Boyle, in her thin voice that had the pinched accent
of other parts, "my lady can sleep o' nights now--for Robert Horne will never
disturb her again."

"Do you think he ever troubled us?" asked Crediton with a coarse oath. "I
flung him out like an adder that had writhed across the threshold--"

"A wonder he did not put a murrain on thee, Ned. He had fearful ways and a
deep knowledge of unholy things."

"A warlock. God help us," added the woman.

"The Devil's proved an ill master then," laughed Crediton. "He could not help
Richard Horne into Anne's favor--nor prevent him lying in a cold bed in the
flower of his age."

"The Devil," smiled Sir Nicholas, "was over busy, Ned, helping you to the
lady's favor and a warm bed. You were the dearer disciple."

"Oh, good lords, will you talk less wildly with a lost man's corpse in the
house, and his soul riding the storm without?" begged Goody Boyle; and she
latched again the inner door.

Murk filled the cottage now; waves of shadow flowed over the landscape without
the rain-blotted window, and drowned the valley. In the bitter field, the
melancholy ewes huddled beneath the blasted oak beside the bare pool, the
stagnant surface of which was now broken by the quick raindrops; a low thunder
grumbled from the horizon and all the young greenery looked livid in the
ghastly light of heaven.

"_I'll see him_," said Ned Crediton, swaggering. "I'll look at this gay
gallant in his last smock!--so that I can swear to Anne he has taken his
amorous smile to the earthworms--surely."

"Look as you like," answered Sir Nicholas, "glut your eyes with looking--"

"But you'll remember, sirs, that _he was a queer man and died queerly_, and
there was no parson or priest to take the edge off his going, or challenge the
fiends who stood at his head and feet."

"Saw _you_ the fiends?" asked Ned curiously.

"Question not what I saw," muttered the woman. "You'll have your own
familiars, Esquire Crediton."

She unlatched the inner door again and Ned passed in, bowing low on the

"Good day, Robert Horne," he jeered. "We parted in anger, but my debts are
paid now and I greet you well."

The dead man lay on a pallet bed with a coarse white sheet over him that
showed his shape but roughly; the window was by his head and looked blankly on
to the rain-bitten fields and dismal sky; the light was cold and colorless on
the white sheet and the miserable room.

Sir Nicholas lounged in the doorway; he feared no death but his own, and that
he set so far away it was but a dim dread.

"Look and see if it is Robert Horne," he urged, "or if the beldam lies."

And Crediton turned down the sheet.

"'Tis Robert Horne," he said.

The dead man had his chin uptilted, his features sharp and horrible in the
setting of the spilled fair hair, on the coarse pillow. Ned Crediton triumphed
over him, making lewd jests of love and death, and sneering at this great
gallant, who had been crazed for love and driven by desire, and who now lay

And Sir Nicholas in the doorway listened and laughed and had his own wicked
jeers to add; for both of them had hated Robert Horne as a man who had defied

But Goody Boyle stole away with her fingers in her ears.

When these two were weary of their insults they returned the flap of the sheet
over the dead face and returned to the outer room. And Ned asked for drink,
declaring that Goody Boyle was a known smuggler and had cellars of rare stuff.

So the lout brought up glasses of cognac and a bottle of French wine, and
these two drank grossly, sitting over the fire; and Goody Boyle made excuse for
the drink, by saying that Robert Horne had given her two gold pieces before he
died (not thin pared coins but thick and heavy) for his funeral, and the
entertainment of those who should come to his burying.

"What mourners could he hope for?" laughed Ned Crediton. "The crow and the
beetle and the death-watch spider!"

But Goody Boyle told him that Robert Horne had made friends while he had lived
an outcast on the marshes; they were, no doubt, queer and even monstrous
people, but they were coming tonight to sit with Robert Horne before he was put
in the ground.

"And who, Goody, have warned this Devil's congregation of the death of Robert
Horne?" asked Sir Nicholas.

She answered him--that Robert Horne was not ill an hour or a day but for a
long space struggled with fits of the marsh fever, and in between these bouts
of the ague, he went abroad like a well man, and his friends would come up and
see him and the messenger who came up to enquire after him was Tora, the
Egyptian girl who walked with her bosom full of violets.

The storm was in full fury now, muttering low and sullen round the cottage
with great power of beating rain.

"Robert Horne was slow in dying," said Sir Nicholas. "Of what did he speak in
those days?"

"Of a woman, good sir."

"Of my wife!" cried Ned.

Goody Boyle shook her head with a look of stupidity.

"I know nothing of that. Though for certain he called her Anne, sweet Anne,
and swore he would possess her yet--in so many words and very roundly."

"But he died balked," said Ned, swaying on his stool, "and he'll rot outside
holy ground."

"They'll lay him in Deadman's Field, which is full of old bones none can
plough and no sheep will graze," answered the woman, "and I must set out to see
lame Jonas who promised to have the grave ready--but maybe the rain has
hindered him."

She looked at them shrewdly as she added,

"That is, gentles, if you care to remain alone with the body of Robert Horne."

"I think of him as a dead dog," replied Ned Crediton.

And when the woman had gone, he, being loosened with the French brandy,
suggested a gross jest.

"Why should Robert Horne have all this honor, even from rogues and Egyptians?
Let us fool them--throwing his corpse out into the byre, and I will lie under
the sheet and presently sit up and fright them all, with the thought it is the

Sir Nicholas warmly cheered this proposal and they lurched into the inner
chamber which was dark enough now by reason of a great northern cloud that
blocked the light from the window.

They pulled the sheet off Robert Horne and found him wrapped in another that
was furled up under his chin, and so they carried him to the back door and
peered through the storm for some secret place where they might throw him.

And Ned Crediton saw a dark bed of rank hemlock and cried, "Cast him into the
kecksies," that being the rustic name for the weed.

So they flung the dead man into the hemlocks which were scarce high enough to
cover him, and to hide the whiteness of the sheet, broke off boughs from the
hazel copse and put over him, and went back laughing to the cottage, and there
kept a watch out from the front window and when they saw Goody Boyle toiling
along through the rain, Ned took off his hat and coat and sword and folded them
away under the bed, then Sir Nicholas wrapped him in the under sheet, so that
he was shrouded to the chin, and he lay on the pillow, and drew the other sheet
over him.

"If thou sleepst do not snore," said Sir Nicholas, and went back to the fire
and lit his long clay full of Virginian tobacco.

When Goody Boyle entered with her wet shawl over her head, she had two ragged
creatures behind her who stared malevolently at the fine gentleman with his
bright clothes and dark curls, lolling by the fire and watching the smoke rings
rise from his pipe.

"Esquire Crediton has ridden for home," he said, "but I am not minded to risk
the ague."

And he sipped more brandy and laughed at them, and they muttering, for they
knew his fame, went into the death-chamber and crouched round the couch where
Sir Nicholas had just laid Ned Crediton under the sheet.

And presently others came up, Egyptians, eel-catchers and the like, outcasts
and vagrants who crept in to watch by the corpse. Sir Nicholas presently rolled
after them to see the horror and shriekings for grace there would be, when the
dead man threw aside his shroud and sat up.

But the vigil went on till the night closed in and the two wax candles were
lit, and still Ned Crediton gave no sign, nor did he snore or heave beneath the
sheet, and Sir Nicholas became impatient, for the rain was over and he was
weary of the foul air and the grotesque company.

"The fool," he thought (for he kept his wits well even in his cups), "has gone
into a drunken sleep and forgot the joke."

So he pushed his way to the bed and turned down the sheet, whispering,

"This jest will grow stale with keeping."

But the words withered on his lips, for he looked into the face of a dead man.
At the cry he gave they all came babbling about him and he told them of the
trick that had been put upon them.

"But there's Devil's work here," he added. "For here is the body back again--
or Ned Crediton dead and frozen into a likeness of the other"--and he flung the
sheet end quickly over the pinched face and fair hair.

"And what did ye do with Robert Horne, outrageous dare fiend that ye be?"
demanded an old vagrant; and the young lord passed the ill words and answered
with whitened lips.

"We cast him into yon bed of kecksies."

And they all beat out into the night, the lout with a lantern. And there was
nothing at all in the bed of kecksies...and Ned Crediton's horse was gone from
the stable.

"He was drunk," said Sir Nicholas, "and forgot his part--and fled that moment
I was in the outer room."

"And in that minute did he carry Robert Horne in alone and wrap him up so
neatly?" queried Goody Boyle.

"Well go in," said another hag, "and strip the body and see which man it be--"

But Sir Nicholas was in the saddle.

"Let be," he cried wildly, "there's been gruesome work enough for tonight--
it's Robert Horne you have there--let be--Ill back to Crediton Manor--"

And he rode his horse out of the field, then more quickly down the darkling
road, for the fumes of the brandy were out of his brain and he saw clearly and
dreaded many things.

At the cross-roads when the ghastly moon had suddenly struck free of the
retreating clouds he saw Ned Crediton ahead of him riding sharply, and he
called out:

"Eh, Ned, what have you made of this jest? This way it is but a mangled folly."

"What matter now for jest or earnest?" answered the other. "I ride home at

Sir Nicholas kept pace with him; he was hatless and wore a shabby cloak that
was twisted about him with the wind of his riding.

"Why did not you take your own garments?" asked Sir Nicholas. "Belike that rag
you've snatched up belonged to Robert Horne--"

"If Crediton could steal his shroud he can steal his cloak," replied Ned, and
his companion said no more, thinking him wrought into a frenzy with the brandy
and the evil nature of the joke.

The moon shone clear and cold with a faint stain like old blood in the halo,
and the trees, bending in a seaward wind, cast the recent rain that loaded them
heavily to the ground, as the two rode into the gates of Crediton Manor.

The hour was later than even Sir Nicholas knew (time had been blurred for him
since the coming of the storm) and there was no light save a dim lamp in an
upper window.

Ned Crediton dropped out of the saddle, not waiting for the mounting block,
and rang the iron bell till it clattered through the house like a madman's fury.

"Why, Ned, why this panic homecoming?" asked Sir Nicholas; but the other
answered him not, but rang again.

There were footsteps within and the rattle of chains, and a voice asked from
the side window:

"Who goes there?"

And Crediton dragged at the bell and screamed:

"I! The Master!"

The door was opened and an old servant stood there, pale in his bedgown.

Ned Crediton passed him and stood by the newel post, like a man spent, yet

"Send some one for the horses," said Nick Bateup, "for your master is crazy
drunk--I tell you, Mathews, he has seen Robert Horne dead tonight--"

Crediton laughed; the long rays of the lamp light showed him pale, haggard,
distorted with tumbled fair hair and a torn shirt under the mantle, and at his
waist a ragged bunch of hemlock thrust into his sash.

"A posy of kecksies for Anne," he said; and the sleepy servants now up, began
to come into the hall, looked at him with dismay. "I'll lie here tonight," said
Sir Nicholas; "bring me lights into the parlor. I've no mind to sleep."

He took off his hat and fingered his sword and glanced uneasily at the figure
by the newel post with the posy of kecksies.

Another figure appeared at the head of the stairs, Anne Crediton holding her
candle, wearing a grey lutestring robe and a lace cap with long ribbons that
hung on to her bosom; she peered over the baluster and some of the hot wax from
her taper fell on to the oak treads.

"I've a beau pot for you, Anne," said Crediton, looking up and holding out the
hemlocks. "I've long been dispossessed, Anne, but I've come home at last."

She drew back without a word and her light flickered away across the landing;
Crediton went up after her and they heard a door shut.

In the parlor the embers had been blown to flames and fresh logs put on and
Sir Nicholas warmed his cold hands and told old Mathews (in a sober manner for
him) the story of the jest they had striven to put on Goody Boyle and the
queer, monstrous people from the marsh, and the monstrous ending of it, and the
strangeness of Ned Crediton; it was not his usual humor to discourse with
servants or to discuss his vagrant debaucheries with any, but tonight he seemed
to need company and endeavored to retain the old man, who was not reluctant to
stay though usually he hated to see the dark face and bright clothes of Nick
Bateup before the hearth of Crediton Manor.

And as these two talked, disconnectedly, as if they would fill the gap of any
silence that might fall in the quiet house, there came the wail of a woman,
desperate yet sunken.

"It is Mistress Crediton," said Mathews with a downcast look. "He ill-uses her?"

"God help us, he will use buckles and straps to her, Sir Nicholas." A
quivering shriek came brokenly down the stairs and seemed to form the word

Sir Nicholas was an evil man who died unrepentant; but he was not of a temper
to relish raw cruelty or crude brutalities to women; he would break their souls
but never their bodies.

So he went to the door and listened, and old Mathews had never liked him so
well as now when he saw the look on the thin dark face. For the third time she
shrieked and they marvelled that any human being could hold her breath so long;
yet it was muffled as if some one held a hand over her mouth.

The sweat stood out on the old man's forehead.

"I've never before known her complain sir," he whispered. "She is a very dog
to her lord and takes her whip mutely--"

"I know, I know--she adores his hand when it caresses or when it strikes--but
tonight--if I know anything of a woman's accents, that is a note of abhorrence-

He ran up the stairs, the old man panting after him with the snatched-up

"Where is her chamber?"

"Here, Sir Nicholas."

The young man struck on the heavy oak panels with the hilt of his sword.

"Madam, Madam Crediton, why are you so ill at ease?" She moaned from within.

"Open to me, Ill call some of your women--come out--" Their blood curdled to
hear her wails.

"Damn you to Hell," cried Sir Nicholas in a fury. "Come out, Ned Crediton, or
I'll have the door down and run you through." The answer was a little break of
maniac laughter.

"She has run mad or he," cried Mathews, backing from the room. "And surely
there is another clamor at the door--"

Again the bell clanged and there were voices and tumult at the door; Mathews
went and opened, and Sir Nicholas looking down the stairs saw in the moonlight
a dirty farm cart, a sweating horse and some of the patched and rusty crew who
had been keeping vigil in Goody Boyle's cottage.

"We've brought Esquire Crediton home," said one; and the others lifted a body
from the cart and carried it through the murky moonlight.

Sir Nicholas came downstairs, for old Mathews could do nothing but cry for

"It was Edward Crediton," repeated the eel-catcher, shuffling into the hall,
"clothed all but his coat and hat and that was under the bed--there be his
watches and chains, his seals and the papers in his pockets--and for his visage
now there is no mistakening it."

They had laid the body on the table where it had so often sat and larked and
ate and drunk and cursed; Sir Nicholas gazed, holding up the lantern.

Edward Crediton--never any doubt of that now, though his face was distorted as
by the anguish of a sudden and ugly death. "We never found Robert Horne,"
muttered one of the mourners, trailing his foul muddy rags nearer the fire, and
thrusting his crooked hands to the blaze.

And Mathews fell on his knees and tried to pray, but could think of no words.

"Who is upstairs?" demanded Sir Nicholas in a terrible voice. "Who is with
that wretched woman?"

And he stared at the body of her husband.

Mathews, who had loved her as a little child, began gibbering and moaning.

"Did he not say he'd have her? And did not yon fool change places with him? Oh
God, oh God, and has he not come to take his place--"

"But Robert Horne was _dead_. I saw him dead," stammered Sir Nicholas, and set
the lantern down, for his hand shook so the flame waved in the gusts.

"Eh," shrieked old Mathews, grovelling on his hands and knees in his bedgown.
"Might not the Devil have lent him his body back for his own pitchy purposes?"

They looked at him a little, seeing he was suddenly crazed; then Sir Nicholas
ran up the stairs with the others at his heels and thundered with his sword,
and kicked and shouted outside Anne Crediton's chamber door.

All the foul, muddy, earthy crew cowered on the stairs and chittered together,
and in the parlor before the embers old Mathews crouched huddled, and whimpered.

The bedroom door opened and Robert Horne came out and stood and smiled at
them, and the young man in his fury fell back and his sword rattled from his
hand to the floor.

Robert Horne was a white death, nude to the waist and from there swathed in
grave clothes; under the tattered dark cloak he had ridden in, was his shroud
knotted round his neck; his naked chest gleamed with ghastly dews and under the
waxen polish of his sunken face the decayed blood showed in discolored patches;
he went down the stairs and they hid their faces while his foul whiteness

Sir Nicholas stumbled into the bedchamber. The moonlight showed Anne Crediton
tumbled on the bed, dead, and staring with the posy of kecksies on her bare
breast, and her mouth hung open and her hands clutching at the curtains.

The mourners rode back and picked up Robert Horne's body whence it had
returned from the kecksie patch and buried it in unholy ground with great
respect, as one to whom the Devil had given his great desire.


Published in _Grace Latouche and the Warringtons_,Selwyn & Blount, London, 1931

The house was built beside a river. In the evening the sun would lie reflected
in the dark water, a stain of red in between the thick shadows cast by the
buildings. It was twilight now, and there was the long ripple of dull crimson,
shifting as the water rippled sullenly between the high houses.

Beneath this house was an old stake, hung at the bottom with stagnant green,
white and dry at the top. A rotting boat that fluttered the tattered remains of
faded crimson cushions was affixed to the stake by a fraying rope. Sometimes
the boat was thrown against the post by the strong evil ripples, and there was
a dismal creaking noise.

Opposite this house was a garden--a narrow strip of ground closed round by the
blank, dark houses, and led up to from the water by a flight of crumbling steps.

Nothing grew in this garden but tall, bright, rank grass and a small tree that
bore white flowers. The house it belonged to was empty and shuttered; so was
every house along the canal except this one, at the top window of which Lucius
Cranfield sat shivering in his mean red coat. He was biting his finger and
looking out across the water at the tree with pale flowers knocking at the
closed shutter beside it.

The room was bare and falling to decay. Cobwebs swung from the great beam in
the roof, and in every corner a spider's web was spun across the dirty plaster

There was no glass in the window, and the shutters swung loose on broken
hinges. Now and again they creaked against the flat brick front of the house,
and then Lucius Cranfield winced.

He held a round, clear mirror in his hand, and sometimes he looked away from
the solitary tree to glance into it. When he did so he beheld a pallid face
surrounded with straight brown hair, lips that had once been beautiful, and
blurred eyes veined with red like some curious stone.

As the red sunlight began to grow fainter in the water a step sounded on the
rotting stairway, the useless splitting door was pushed open, and Lord James
Fontaine entered.

Slowly, and with a mincing step, he came across the dusty floor. He wore a
dress of bright violet watered silk, his hair was rolled fantastically, and
powdered such a pure white that his face looked sallow by contrast. To remedy
this he had painted his cheeks and his lips, and powdered his forehead and
chin. But the impression made was not of a pink and fresh complexion, but of a
yellow countenance rouged. There were long pearls in his ears and under his
left eye an enormous patch. His eyes slanted towards his nose, his nostrils
curved upwards, and his thin lips were smiling.

He carried a cane hung with blood-colored tassels, and his waistcoat was
embroidered with green flowers, the hue of an emerald, and green flowers the
tint of a pale sea.

"You paint signs, do you not?" he said, and nodded.

"Yes, I paint signs," answered the other. He looked away from Lord James and
across the darkening water at the lonely tree opposite. The sky above the
deserted houses was turning a cold wet grey. A flight of crows went past, clung
for a moment round the chimney-pots, and flew on again.

"Will you design me a sign-board?" asked Lord James, smiling. "Something noble
and gay, for I have taken a new house in town."

"My workshop is downstairs," said Lucius Cranfield, without looking round.
"Why did you come up?" He laid down the mirror and rubbed his cold fingers

"I rang and there was no answer, I knocked and there was no answer, so I
pushed open the door and came up; why not?" Lord James regarded the sign-
painter keenly, and smiled again, and pressed the knob of his clouded cane
against his chin.

"Oh, why not?" echoed Lucius Cranfield. "Only this is a poor place to come to
for a gay and noble sign."

He turned his head now, and there was a curious twist on his colorless lips.

"But you have a very splendid painting swinging outside your own door," said
Lord James suavely. "Never did I see fairer drawing nor brighter hues. It is
your work?" he questioned.

"Mine, yes," assented the sign-painter drearily.

"Fashion me a sign-board such as that," said Lord James. Lucius Cranfield left
off rubbing his hands together.

"The same subjects?" he asked.

The other lowered his lids.

"The subjects are curious," he replied. "Where did you get them?"

"From life," said the sign-painter, staring at the tattered veils of cobwebs
fluttering on the broken window-frame. "From my life."

The bright dark eyes of the visitor flickered from right to left. He moved a
little nearer the window, where, despite the thickening twilight, his violet
silk coat gleamed like the light on a sheet of water.

"You have had a strange life," he remarked, sneering, "to cull from it such

"What did you behold that was so extraordinary?" asked Lucius Cranfield.

"On one side there is depicted a gallows, a man in a gay habit hanging on it,
and his face has some semblance to your own; the reverse bears the image of a
fish, white, yet shot with all the is so skilfully executed that it
looks as if it moved through the water..."

An expression of faint and troubled interest came over the sign-painter's face.

"Have you ever seen such a fish?" he asked.

Lord James's features seemed to contract and sharpen.

"Never," he said hastily.

Lucius Cranfield rose slowly and stiffly.

"There are two in the world," he said, half to himself; "and before the end I
shall find the other, and then everything will be mended and put straight."

"Unless you lose your own token first," remarked Lord James harshly.

"How did you know I had one?" asked the sign-painter sharply. Lord James

"Oh, you're going mad, my fine friend! Do you not feel that you must be,
living alone in such fashion in this old house?" Lucius Cranfield dragged
himself to a cupboard in the wall.

"How my limbs ache!" he muttered. "Mad?" A look of cunning spread over his
features. "No, I shall not go mad while I have the one crystal fish, nor before
I find the owner of the other."

It was so dark they could barely see each other; but the nobleman's dress
still shone bright and cold in the gloom.

"Yet it is enough to make a man go mad," he remarked suavely, "to reflect how
rich and handsome you were once, with what fine clothes and furniture and
friends...and then to remember how your father was hanged, and you were ruined,
and all through the lies of your enemy...

"But my enemy died, too," said Lucius Cranfield. He took a thick candle and a
rusty tinder-box out of the cupboard.

"His son is alive," replied Lord James.

A coarse yellow flame spurted across the dust.

"I wish I had killed them both," said the sign-painter; "but I could never
find the son...How badly the candle burns!..."

He held the tinder to the cold wax, and only a small tongue of feeble fire
sprang up.

"You are quite mad!" smiled Lord James. "You never killed either...and now
that your blood is chilled with misery and weakened with evil days, you never

The candle-flame strengthened and illumined the chamber. It showed Lord James
holding his sharp chin in a long white hand, and woke his diamonds into stars.

"Will you come downstairs and choose your design?" said Lucius Cranfield,
shivering. "Take care of the stairs. They are rather dusty."

He shuffled to the door and held aloft the light. It revealed the twisting
stairway where the plaster hung cracked and dry on the walls, or bulged damp
and green in patches as the damp had come through. The rafters were warped and
bending, and in one spot a fan-shaped fungus had spread in a blotch of mottled

Lord James came softly up behind the sign-painter, and peered over the stairs.

"This is a mean place," he said, smiling, "for a great gentleman to live
in...and you were a great gentleman once, Mr. Cranfield." The other gave him a
cunning look over his shoulder.

"When I find the owner of the fish," he answered, "I shall be a great
gentleman again or kill my enemy--that is in the spell." They went downstairs
slowly because of the rotting steps and uncertain light. Lord James rested his
long fingers lightly on the dusty balustrade.

"Do you not find the days very long and dull here?" he asked.

The reply came unsteadily from the bowed red figure of the sign-painter.

"No...I paint...and then I make umbrellas."

"Umbrellas!" Lord James laughed unpleasantly.

"And parasols. Would you not like a parasol for your wife, James Fontaine?"

"Ah, you know me, it seems."

"I know what you call yourself," said Lucius Cranfield. "And here is my
studio. Will you look at the designs upon the wall?"

Lord James grinned and stepped delicately along the dark passage to the door
indicated. It opened into a low chamber the entire depth of the house. There
were windows on either side: one way looking onto the river, the other onto the

Lucius Cranfield set the candle in a green bottle on the table, and pointed
round the walls where all manner of drawings on canvas, wood, and paper hung.
They depicted horrible and fantastic things--mandrakes, dragons, curious shells
and plants, monsters, and distorted flowers. In one corner were a number of
parasols of silk and brocade, ruffled and frilled, having carved handles and
ribboned sticks.

Lord James put up his glass and looked about him.

"So you know who I am?" he said, speaking in an absorbed way and keeping his
back to Lucius Cranfield, who stood huddled together on the other side of the
table, staring before him with dead-seeming eyes.

There was no answer, and Lord James laughed softly.

"You paint very well, Mr. Cranfield, but I must have something more cheerful
than any of these"--he pointed his elegant cane at the designs. "That fish,
now, that you have on your own sign, that is a beautiful thing."

The sign-painter groaned and thrust his fingers into his untidy brown hair.

"I cannot paint that again," he said.

"Sell me the sign, then." Lord James spoke quickly.

"I is hanging there that it may be seen...that whosoever holds the
other fish may see it...and then..."

"How mad you are!" cried Lord James. "What then, even should one come who has
the other fish?" His black eyes blinked sharply, and his lips twitched back
from his teeth.

"Then I shall find my enemy. The witch said so..."

"But you may die first."

"I cannot die till the spell is accomplished," shivered Lucius Cranfield. "Nor
can I lose the fish."

Lord James put his hand to his waistcoat-pocket.

"Your light is very dim," he remarked. "I do not see clearly, but I think I
observe a violet-colored parasol--"

The other lifted his head.

"They are very interesting to make."

"Will you show me that one?"

Lucius Cranfield turned slowly towards the far corner of the room.

"I began to work on that the night my father was I sewed on the
frills I thought of my enemies and how I hated them; and the night I killed one
of them I finished it, carving the handle into the likeness of an ivory rose."

"You have sinned also," said Lord James, through his teeth. He took his hand
from his pocket and put it behind his back. "I have been a great sinner,"
answered the sign-painter.

He took the purple parasol from the corner and shook out its shimmering silk

"I will buy that." Lord James leant against the table, close to the candle
flaring in the green bottle. In its yellow light the brilliant color of his
coat shone like a jewel.

"The parasol is not for sale," said Lucius Cranfield sourly, gazing down on
it. "Why do you not choose your design and go?" Now it was quite dark, both
outside, beyond the windows, and in the corners of the long room. The waters
sounded insistently as they lapped against the house. There was no moon; but
through a rift in the thick, murky sky one star flickered, and the sign-painter
lifted his dimmed eyes from the candle-flame and looked at it.

"What do you see?" asked Lord James curiously. He came softly up bed the other.

"A star," was the reply. "It is shining above the lonely white tree that is
always knocking at the closed shutters..."

Lord James's hand came round from behind his back.

"But one can never see them both at the same time," continued the sign-
painter. "When the star comes out, the tree is hidden; and only when the star

Lord James's fine hand rose slowly and fell swiftly...

Lucius Cranfield sank on his face silently, and the flaring light of the
unsnuffed candle glistened on the wet dagger as it was withdrawn from between
his shoulders.

Lord James stepped back and gazed with a long smile at his victim, who writhed
an instant and then lay still on the dusty floor.

The sound of the water without seemed to increase his strength. The secretive
yet turbulent noise of it filled the chamber like a presence as Lord James
turned over the body of the sign-painter and opened his red coat.

In an inner pocket he found it, wrapped in a piece of blue satin.

The crystal fish. It was of all colors yet of no color; translucent as water,
holding, like a bubble, all hues, finely wrought with fins and scales, light
and cold to the hand, shining with a pure light of its own to the eye.

Lord James rose from his knees and put out the candle.

The river sounded so loud that he paused to listen to it. He thought he could
distinguish the swish of oars and the latter of them in the rowlocks.

He went to the window and looked out. By the glimmer of the star and the
radiance cast by the fish in his hand he could discern that there was nobody on
the river, only the deserted boat fastened to the rotting stake.

He smiled; the faint light was caught in his ribbons, his diamonds, his dark,
evil eyes. As he stared up and down the black road of water, the crystal fish
began to writhe in his hand. It pushed and struggled, then leapt through his
fingers and plunged into the blackness of the river.

Lord James peered savagely after it, his smile changing to a grin of anger.
But the fish had sunk like a bolt of iron, and thinking of the depth of the
river Lord James was comforted.

He came back to the table. It was quite dark, but his eyes served him equally
well day or night. He picked up his clouded cane with the crimson tassels, his
black hat laced with gold, his vivid green cloak, he kissed his hand to the
prone body of the sign-painter, and left the room. In a leisurely fashion he
walked down the passage, pushed open the crazy front door, and stepped out into
the lonely street.

He looked up at the sign on which were painted the crystal fish and the man on
the gallows; then he began to put on his gloves.

As he did so the violet parasol came to his mind. He turned back.

Softly he re-entered the long studio. The noise of the water had subsided to a
mere murmur. Rats were running about the room and sitting on the body of Lucius
Cranfield. He could see them despite the intense darkness, and he stepped
delicately to avoid their tails.

The violet parasol was on the floor near the dead man. He stooped to pick it
up, and the rats squealed and showed their teeth.

Lord James nodded to them and left the house again with the parasol under his


The garden sloped down to the straight high-road upon the side to which the
house faced, and at the back ran the river dividing the pleasaunce from the

Separating the garden from the road was a prim box hedge, very high, very
wide, and very old. Behind this grew the neat garden flowers, and beneath it
the tangled weeds that edged the road.

Here sat Lord James on a milestone, playing Faro with a one-eyed gipsy

The summer sunset sparkled on the red gables of the house and in the clothes
of Lord James, which were of crimson and blue sarcenet branched with gold and

The gipsy was young and ugly; he wore a green patch over his eyeless socket,
and now and then listened, keenly, to the sound of the church-bells that came
up from the valley, for the village ringers were practicing for Lord James's

The two played silently. The red and black cards scattered over the close
green grass shaded by the large wild-parsley flowers. Beside the milestone lay
Lord James's hat, stick, and cloak. His horse was fastened by its bridle to a
stout branch of a laurel-tree that bent over from the garden.

"You always win," said the gipsy.

Lord James smiled, then coughed till he shook the powder off his face on to
his cravat.

"Another game," he said, and shuffled the cards.

At this a lady looked over the box hedge, and gave them both a bitter frown.

Little bright pink and blue ribbons were threaded through her high-piled white
curls, round her neck was a diamond necklace, and on the front of her black
velvet bodice a long trail of jasmine was pinned. Her painted lips curled
scornfully, and her azure eyes darkened as she stared across and over the box
hedge at Lord James.

He looked up at her, waved his hand, and rose.

"You are late," she remarked stiffly.

"I have been playing cards," he answered. "May I present you to my friend?" He
pointed to the gipsy.

"No," she said, and turned her back.

The gipsy laughed silently. The sound of the bells swelled and receded in the
golden evening.

"Take my horse round to the stables." Lord James grinned at the gipsy, and
gathered up his hat and cloak from the grass.

"I hate those bells!" cried the lady pettishly.

"They will ring no more after tomorrow, my dear."

Lord James came round to the gate as he spoke, and entered the garden.

She gave him a side-glance, and pouted. Her enormous pink silk hoop, draped
with festoons of white roses, overspread the narrow garden-path, and crushed
the southernwood that edged it. Her hands rested on her black velvet panniers
embroidered with garlands of crimson carnations. There was a moon-shaped patch
on her bare throat and one like a star on her rouged cheek; beneath her short
skirts showed her black buckle shoes and immensely high red heels. Her name was
Serena Thornton.

"I have broken my parasol," she said, looking at the gables of her house where
the red-gold sunset rested. "The violet one you brought me."

"It can be mended," answered Lord James.

He came up to her, and they kissed.

"Yes," assented Serena. "I sent it to be mended today," she added. He laughed.

"There is no one here can mend a parasol like that. You must give it to me,
Serena, and I will take it to town."

They moved slowly along the gravel walk, he in front of her, since her hoop
did not allow him to be by her side.

It was a very pleasant garden. There were beds of pinks, of stocks, of roses,
bushes of laurel, yew, and box, all intersected with little paths that crossed
one another and led towards the house.

"There is a man in the village," said Lady Serena, "who is a maker of
umbrellas. He came here yesterday."

"Ah?" questioned Lord James. He glanced back over his shoulder. "I heard he
was painting a new sign for 'The Goat and Compasses,' and that he had made a
beautiful blue umbrella for the host, so I sent down my parasol."

A slight greenish tinge, visible through the paint and powder, overspread Lord
James's handsome face.

"It was careless of you to break it," he said softly.

Lady Serena lifted her shoulders.

"I could not help it. Shall I tell you how it happened?"

They had reached a square plot of close grass round which ran the box hedge
and a low stone coping. In the center stood a prim fountain, and in its clear
water swam the golden and ruby carp.

"Yes, tell me how it happened," said Lord James. He pressed his handkerchief
to his thin lips and looked up at the sunset.

"I wish they would stop those bells!" cried Lady Serena.

"They are practicing for our wedding tomorrow, my dear," he smiled.

They could walk now side by side, she looking in front of her, and he gazing
at the sunset that was pale and bright, the color of soft gold, of pink coral,
and of a dove's wings above the gables of her house.

"I was walking by the river two days ago," said Lady Serena, "and I had in my
hand the crystal fish. Do you remember, Lord James, that I showed it to you
just before you left for town?"

"Yes; a foolish toy," he answered.

"How pleasant the box smells!" murmured Lady Serena, in a softer tone. "Well,
I walked along the bank, thinking of you, and as I looked into the water I saw
another fish--it floated just as if it were swimming--and oh, it was like the
one I held in my hand! Just as it neared me it became entangled in the water

"This does not explain how you broke your parasol," remarked Lord James.

"I drew the fish to land with it--my new parasol that your little black boy
had just brought me--and broke the handle."

Lord James turned his pallid face towards her.

"Did you get the fish?"

"Yes. It is just like the one I have." She pulled out a green ribbon from the
white velvet bag that hung on her arm, and at the end of it dangled two crystal
fishes, cut and carved finely, holding a clear light, and filled with changing

Lady Serena touched one with her scented forefinger. "That is the one I found.
See, it has a bright blood-like stain across the side."

"So it has," said Lord James, putting up his glass. "It is curious you should
have found it. A witch gave you the other, did you not say?"

"Yes," she answered half sullenly. "And she told me that the other was owned
by my lover, and that he must live in misery till he found me." She turned the
blue light of her eyes on her companion.

"_You_ should have had it," she said, and slipped the fishes back into her bag.

The afterglow was fading from the sky, and they turned towards the house.

"I won three thousand pounds at Faro last night," said Lord James, "and I have
brought you some presents."

And he thrust his hand into his pocket and drew out a string of amethysts.

"I dislike the color," said Lady Serena, and put it aside. "It is the color
you wear," he answered.

She took the necklace at this with a sudden laugh, and fastened it round her
long, pale throat.

They reached the three shallow steps that led to the open door of the house,
and passed side by side out of the sunset glow into the soft-hued gloom of the
wide hall.

In the great banqueting-room a dinner of two covers was laid. The service was
of agate and silver, the glasses twisted with milk-white lines. The table was
lit by six tall candles painted with wreaths of pinks and forget-me-nots, and
their light ran gleaming and faint over the white cloth.

"I am going to try on my wedding-dress," said Lady Serena. "Will you wait for

"It is unlucky to wear your wedding-dress before your wedding-day," answered
Lord James.

But she left the chamber without a word or a smile.

The room opened by wide windows onto the terrace at the back that sloped down
to the river, and the sound of the water throbbing between its banks seemed to
grow in volume and to speak threateningly to Lord James as he sat at the table
with the glass and silver glittering before him, and the heart-shaped candle-
flames casting a flickering glow over his sickly face.

It was the same river, and he knew it. As the last flush of light faded from
the heavens he could see the moon, a strong pearl color, rise above the trees,
and a great sparkling reflection fell across the river, marking with lines of
silver the turbulent eddies that chased one another down the stream.

After a while Lord James rose and walked softly to the window, and his eyes
became wide and bright as he stroked his chin and stared at the river.

When he turned round again, Lucius Cranfield stood in the doorway looking at

A spasm of fear contracted Lord James's features; then he spoke evenly.

"Good evening," he said.

"Good evening," replied Lucius Cranfield, and he bowed. "I have brought back a
parasol I have mended--a lady's parasol, purple, with an ivory rose on the

Between them was an ill-lit space of room and the bright table bearing the
candles. They looked at each other, and Lord James's face grew long and foxy.

"How much do I owe you, Mr. Cranfield?" he asked.

"A great deal," said the sign-painter, shaking his head. "Oh, a great deal!"

Smiling, he set the parasol against a chair. His eyes were no longer bloodshot
nor his cheeks pallid. His hair was neatly dressed. He wore the same red suit,
and between the shoulder-blades it had been slit and mended with stitchings of
gold thread.

"How much?" repeated Lord James.

Lucius Cranfield laughed.

"I do not believe that you are alive at all," sneered the other, rubbing his
hands together. "How did you get away from the rats?"

"Do you hear the river?" whispered the sign-painter. "It is the same river."

Lord James came towards the table.

"I will pay you tomorrow for your work," and he pointed to the mended parasol.

"That is no debt of yours," answered Lucius Cranfield. "I did it for the lady
of the house, Serena Thornton."

"She is my betrothed," said Lord James. "And I will pay you tomorrow--"


And the sign-painter smiled and stepped nearer.

"You lost the crystal fish," murmured Lord James, biting his forefinger and
glancing round the dark, lonely room.

"But someone else has found it."

The other gave a snarl of rage.

"No! It is at the bottom of the river!"

At that Lucius Cranfield leant forward and seized his enemy by the throat.
Lord James shrieked, and they swayed together for a moment. But the sign-
painter twisted the other's head round on his shoulders and dropped him, a heap
of gay clothes, on the waxed floor.

Then he began to sing, and turned to the open window.

The river was quiet now, flowing peacefully in between its banks, and Lucius
Cranfield stepped out onto the terrace and walked towards its waters shining in
the moonlight.

Almost before the last echo of his footsteps had died away in the silent room,
Lady Serena Thornton entered, holding her dress up from her shoes.

Her gown was white, all wreathed across the hoop with ropes of seed-pearls,
and laced across the bodice with diamonds. In her high head-dress floated two
soft plumes fastened with clusters of pale roses. Round her neck hung Lord
James's gift of amethysts.

She stood in the doorway, her painted lips parted, her dark blue eyes fixed on
the body of her betrothed husband.

Presently she went up and looked at him; then she sat down on the chair by the
table--sat down, breathing heavily--with her right hand on the smooth satin of
her bodice, and slow, strange changes passing over her face. She glanced at the
purple parasol, resting across the chair where Lord James should have sat, and
then out at the distant river, that showed white as her bridal-dress where the
moonlight caught its ripples.

She heard the far-off singing of the sign-painter, and she sighed, closing her

The six candles burnt steadily, casting a rim of dark shadow round the table
and the dead man on the floor, and glittering in the embroidered flowers on his
gaudy coat and in the jewels of the woman at the table.

The black clock on the mantelshelf struck ten. The sound was echoed by the
chimes from the village church.

Lady Serena Thornton rose and went upstairs, he: wide hoop brushing the
balustrade either side, her high heels tapping on the polished wood.

She entered her room and lit a little silver lamp on the dressing-table.

The chamber looked out upon the back; the window was open, and she could still
see the river and hear Lucius Cranfield singing.

Slowly she took the feathers, ribbons and flowers out of her curls, and laid
them on the tulip-wood table. Then she shook down her hair from its wire frame
and brushed the powder out of it. She had almost forgotten what color it was--
in reality a ruby golden-brown, like the tint of wallflowers.

She unlaced her bodice and flung aside her jewels. She stepped out of her hoop
and took off her satin coat, staring at herself in the gilt oval mirror.

Then she washed her face free of paint and powder in her gold basin, and tied
up her locks with a red ribbon. She cast off her long earrings, her bracelets,
her rings, the necklace Lord James had given her. This slipped, like a glitter
of purple water, through her fingers, and shone in a little heap of stars on
the gleaming waxed floor.

She arrayed herself in a brown dress, plain and straight, and took the two
fishes from their velvet bag to hang them round her neck. Again she looked at
herself. Who would have known her? Not Lord James himself, could he have risen
from the floor in the solitary room below, and come up the wide stairs to gaze
at her. Her face was utterly changed, her carriage different.

She blew out the lamp. A faint trail of smoke stained the moonlight that
filled the room. She listened and heard the river and the sign-painter singing.
On her bosom the fishes throbbed and glowed, opal-colored and luminous.

Leaving the room lightly, softly she descended through the dark to the dining-

The six flower-wreathed candles still burnt steadily among the glass and
silver. She glanced at Lord James sorrowfully, and picked up the mended parasol.

As she did so the bells broke out in a volume of glad sound--the villagers
practicing yet again for her wedding on the morrow.

Lady Serena Thornton smiled, and as Lucius Cranfield had done, and almost in
his steps, went down the long room and through the open window on to the
terrace. Slowly she walked towards the river, which she could see moving
restlessly under the moonlight. The bells were very loud, but through them came
the words of his song--

"The clouds were tangled in the trees They broke the boughs and spoiled the
fruit; The sleeper knows what the sleeper sees-- You play spades, and I follow

The clouds came down the drops of rain, And woke the grass to blooms of fire;
The sleeper tore his dream in twain, And sought for the cards in the bitter

The bells ceased suddenly. Lady Serena saw the dark figure of the sign-
painter, standing at the edge of the water, his back to her.

"If I have won, 'tis little matter; If I have lost, 'tis naught at all; The
wind will chill and the sun will flatter, And the damp earth fill the mouth of

There was a boat before him, rocking on the argent water, and as the lady came
up the sign-painter stooped over it. Then he turned and saw her.

"Good even," said Lady Serena. He took her hands and kissed her face. The
sound of the river was heavily in their ears.

"I found your fish," she whispered.

He nodded, and they entered the boat. It was lined with violet silk and
scented with spices.

"The villagers will have practiced for nothing," said Lady Serena. Lucius
Cranfield loosened the rope that held the boat fast to a willow, and it began
to drift down the stream towards the town.

"We are going to a house where a tree with white flowers knocks for admittance
on the shutters," he said.

"I know," she answered; "I know."

She sat opposite to him, leaning back, and the light night wind blew apart her
brown robe here and there on the gleam of the bright green petticoat beneath.
Her yellow hair floated behind her, and the crystal fishes rose and fell with
her breathing. Across her knees lay the purple parasol.

They looked at each other and smiled with parted lips. The boat sped swiftly
under a high bank, treeless and full under the rays of the moon. Here, by a
round stone, sat two figures playing cards.

Lucius Cranfield glanced up. The players turned white, grinning faces down
towards the boat. They were the one-eyed gipsy and Lord James.

"Good night," nodded the sign-painter. "I do not believe you are alive at all.
Why, I can almost see through you!..."

"Do you know me?" mocked Lady Serena.

And the boat was swept away along the winding river.

Lord James listened to the sign-painter's song that floated up from the dark

"If I win, 'tis little matter;
If I lose, 'tit naught at all;
The wind will chill and the sun will flatter,
And the red earth stop the mouths of all."

"They will never get there," grinned Lord James. "T shall go down tomorrow and
see the empty boat upside down, tossing outside the shuttered house."

"There is no tomorrow for such as you," leered the gipsy. "You had your neck
broken an hour ago...presently we will go home...your deal..."

Lord James sighed, and a great cloud suddenly overspread the moon.

The gipsy began to sing in a harsh voice, and his eyes turned red in his head
as he shuffled the cards.

"If I win, 'tis little matter;
If I lose, 'tis naught at all;
The wind will chill and the sun will flatter,
And the damp earth stop the mouths of all."

Far away down the river the boat flashed for the last time in the moonlight,
then was lost to sight under the shadow of the overhanging trees.


Published in _Grace Latouche and the Warringtons_,Selwyn & Blount, London, 1931

Linley was fond of collecting what he called "raw material" and, as a fairly
successful barrister, he had good opportunity for doing so. He despised
novelists and romancists, yet one day he hoped to become one of these gentry
himself, hence his collection of the raw material...however, after some years
he became disgusted and overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" (as he termed it)
which he had gathered together--scenes, episodes, characters, dialogues,
descriptions and decorations for all or any possible type of tale; he remained,
he declared, surprised at the poverty of invention of the professional story-
tellers who gave so little for the public's money in the way of good, strong,
rousing drama, such as he, Robert Linley, had come across, well, more times
than he cared to count...

"There isn't anything," he declared with some vehemence, "of which I haven't
had experience."

"Ghosts?" I asked, and he smiled contemptuously.

"Yes, of course, I've had any amount of experiences with ghosts, with people
who've seen 'em, and people who think they've seen 'em, and with the ghosts

"Well," I asked, "have you come across a real Christmas ghost story--what we
used to call the old-fashioned kind? They're getting a bit threadbare now, you
know; they've been told over and over again, year after year; have you got a
novelty in that direction?" Linley, after a moment's pause, said that he had.

"There's some raw material for you," he cried, waxing enthusiastic, "the story
of the Catchpoles and Aunt Ursula Beane, there's some raw material--why,
there's everything in it--comedy, tragedy, drama, satire, farce--"

"Hold on!" I cried, "and just tell us as briefly as possible what your 'raw
material' consists of. I'm out for a Christmas ghost story, you know, and I
shall be disappointed if you don't give us something of that kind."

Linley made himself extremely comfortable and, with a lawyer's relish of the
right phrase and the correct turn of sentence, gave us the history of Aunt
Ursula Beane, with the usual proviso, of course, that the names and places had
been altered. Before he began his narration Linley insisted on the novelty of
the story, and before he had finished we all of us (those select few who were
privileged to hear him hold forth) agreed that it was very novel indeed.

The case of Aunt Ursula Beane, as he called her, had come under his notice in
a professional way and in the following manner, commonplace enough from a
lawyer's point of view, although the subsequent case was one which the papers
endeavored to work up into what is described by that overworked word
"sensational." As far as the lawyers and the public were concerned it began
with an inquest on Mrs. Ursula Beane. In Linley's carefully selected phrases
the case was this:

"Mrs. Ursula Beane had died suddenly at the age of seventy-five. The doctor
who had been intermittently attending her--she was an extremely robust and
healthy old woman--had not been altogether satisfied with her symptoms. He had
refused a death certificate, there had been an autopsy, and it was discovered
that Mrs. Ursula Beane had died from arsenical poisoning. The fact established,
an enquiry followed, eliciting the following circumstances. Mrs. Ursula Beane
had lived for forty years in a small house at Peckham Rye which had belonged to
her father and his father before him. The house had been built in the days when
Peckham Rye--well, was not quite like it is now. She resided with a nephew and
niece--James and Louisa Catchpole. Neither of them had ever married, neither of
them had ever left Peckham Rye for more than a few weeks at a time, and the
most minute investigation did not discover that either of them had had the
least adventure or out-of-the-way event in their lives. They enjoyed a small
annuity from a father who had been a worthy and fairly prosperous tradesman.
James was, at the time of the inquest, a man over sixty and had been for many
years a clerk--'confidential clerk' as he emphasized it--with a large firm of
tea merchants. He received a sufficient, if not a substantial salary and was
within a year or two of a pension. His sister, Miss Louisa Catchpole, was
younger--fifty or so; she also had a substantial, if not a brilliant, position
as a journalist on one of those few surviving monthlies which rather shun
publicity and cater for the secluded and the virtuous. She wrote occasional
short stories in which the hero was always a clergyman and the heroine _sans
peur et sans reproche_. She also wrote little weekly causeries--as I believe
they are called--'Meditations in a Garden'; they were headed and adorned with a
little cut of an invalid in a basket-chair gazing at a robin. In these same
_causeries_ Miss Louisa Catchpole affected month after month, year after year,
with unfaltering fortitude, a vein of Christian cheerfulness, and encouraged
her readers with such maxims as 'Character is stronger than Destiny,' 'A man is
only as strong as his faith in himself,' and chirpings about the recurring
miracle of spring, together with quotations from the more minor poets--you know
the type of thing.

"It is irrelevant to our story to go into why Aunt Ursula Beane lived with
those two; they seemed to be the only surviving members of their very
unimportant family, and they had lived together in the house at Peckham Rye for
forty years, ever since Louisa was quite a small child and had gone there to
live with Aunt Ursula who, on her husband's death, had retired to this paternal
abode. Nobody could think of them as apart one from the other. During those
forty years James had gone to and fro his work, Louisa had written her articles
and stories, and at first had been looked after by, and afterwards had looked
after, Aunt Ursula Beane. Their joint earnings kept the tiny establishment
going; they were considerably helped by the fact that there was no rent to pay
and they lived in modest comfort, almost with (what James would have called)
'every luxury.' Besides giving them the house to live in, Mrs. Beane paid them
at first thirty shillings, then, as the cost of living went up, two pounds a
week for what she called 'her keep.' What, you will say, could have been more
deadly commonplace than this? But there was just one touch of mystery and
romance. Aunt Ursula was reputed to be of vast wealth and a miser--this was one
of those family traditions that swell and grow on human credulity from one
generation to another. The late Mr. Beane was spoken of with vague awe as a
very wealthy man, and it appeared that the Catchpoles believed that he had left
his widow a considerable fortune which she, a true miser, had concealed all
those years, but which they might reasonably hope to inherit on her death, as a
reward for all their faithful kindness. Investigation proved that what had
seemed rather a fantastic delusion had some startling foundation. Mrs. Ursula
Beane employed a lawyer and his evidence was that her late husband, who had
been a tobacconist, had left her a tidy sum of money when he had died forty
years ago, amounting to fifteen thousand pounds, which had been safely invested
and not touched till about five years before. What Mrs. Beane lived on came
from another source--a small capital left by her father that brought her in
about a hundred and fifty pounds a year; therefore this main sum had been, as I
have said, untouched and had accrued during those thirty-five years into a
handsome sum of nearly fifty thousand pounds. The lawyer agreed that the old
lady was a miser, nothing would induce her to draw out any of this money, to
mention its existence to a soul, or to make a will as to its final disposal.
The lawyer, of course, was pledged to secrecy. He knew that the Catchpoles
guessed at the existence of the hoard, he also knew that they were not sure
about it and that they had no idea as to its magnitude. Five years before her
death the old lady had drawn out all her capital--forty-eight thousand pounds--
without any explanation whatever to the lawyer, and had taken it away in a
black bag, going off in a taxicab from the lawyer's office in Lincoln's Inn. It
might have been the Nibelung hoard flung into the Rhine for all the mystery
that was attached to it, for nobody saw or heard of it again. Both the
Catchpoles swore that they had no knowledge whatever of the old woman realizing
her capital; she had certainly not banked it anywhere, she must have taken that
very large sum of money in notes and, I believe, a few bonds, to that small
house at Peckham Rye and in some way disposed of it. A most exhaustive search
revealed not so much as a five-pound note. In the bank was just the last
quarterly instalment of her annuity--barely enough, as Louisa Catchpole
remarked with some passion, 'to pay the doctor and the funeral expenses.'

"There you have the situation. This old woman dead in what was almost poverty,
the disappearance of this large sum of money she had realized five years
previously, and the fact that she had died from arsenical poisoning. To explain
this there were the usual symptoms, or excuses, whatever you like to call them;
she had been having medicine with arsenic in it, and she might have taken an
overdose. There had been arsenic in the house in the shape of powders for an
overgrown and aged dog, and in the shape of packets of weed-killer, James had
always taken an industrious interest in the patch of garden that sloped to the
Common. The old lady might have committed suicide, she might have taken some of
the stuff in mistake, or the Catchpoles might have been murderers. The only
possible reason for suspecting foul play would have been that the Catchpoles
knew of her hoard and wished to get hold of it. But this it was impossible to
prove. I was briefed to watch the case for the Catchpoles. There was, of
course, a certain sensation and excitement over the fact of the large sum of
money, the only startling and brilliant fact about the whole commonplace, drab
and rather depressing story. I myself thought it rather absurd that any
question of suspicion should attach to the Catchpoles. After forty years of
placid uninspired devotion to Aunt Ursula Beane, why should they suddenly
decide to put her out of the way when, in the nature of things, she could not
have had more than a few years to live? Their demeanor, too, impressed me very
favorably. There was none of the flaunting vanity, posing or vehement talk of
the real criminal, they seemed slightly bewildered, not very much disturbed,
and to trust wholly in their undeniable innocence, they almost found the whole
thing grotesque and I could understand their point of view. The verdict,
however, was rather surprising. It was confidently expected that it would be
Death from misadventure,' but instead, the verdict was 'Death from arsenical
poisoning not self-administered.' This is really about as near as we can get in
England to the Scottish verdict 'Not proven,' and I was rather indignant, for
it seemed to me to attach a great deal of wholly unmerited suspicion to the two
Catchpoles. Still, of course, they were quite free and no direct blame was laid
on them. In fact, the coroner had remarked on their devoted care of an old lady
who must have been, from the various facts proved by the doctors, 'very trying
and difficult,' as the saying goes. They conducted themselves very well after
the inquest, still with that slightly bewildered patient air of resignation. It
seemed to me that they did not realize the ghastly position in which they stood
and, as I knew when I heard the verdict, the very narrow escape they had had
from being arrested on a charge of murder. They paid all the expenses connected
with the inquest at once and without any trouble. They had, as James explained
with a certain mild pride, 'savings.' I was interested in them, they were so
meek and drab, so ordinary and repressed; there was something kindly and
amiable about them and they were very attached to each other. I questioned them
about this mysterious hoard, the existence of which would have been difficult
to believe but for the evidence of the lawyer. They did not seem very
concerned, they had always known that Aunt Ursula Beane had money and, said
Louisa without passion, they had always guessed that she had tried to do them
out of it--she had been an extraordinarily malicious old woman, they
complained, and it was quite likely that the money was buried somewhere, or had
been destroyed. She was capable of feeding the fire with it, of sticking it in
a hole in the ground, of throwing it into the water in a bag weighed down with
stones, in fact of doing anything in the world with it except putting it to
some profitable use. She was undoubtedly not right in her head.

"'She ought to have been certified years ago,' I declared.

"James Catchpole shook his head. 'She was never bad enough for that,' he
announced with resignation.

"They had really been slaving and 'bearing' things for forty years for that
money, and they took the loss of it, I thought, with extreme gallantry.

"They returned to the little house in Peckham Rye which came to them as next-
of-kin. The little annuity, which was all that Aunt Ursula had left of her
worldly goods after she had disposed of her main fortune, perished with her.
James and Louisa would have to live on his clerkship and her journalism."

At this point Linley stopped to ask me if we did not perceive a real strong
drama in what he had told us--"A whole novel, in fact," he added triumphantly.

"Well," I replied, "one might make it into a whole novel by inserting
incidents and imagining this and that and the other. As you have given it, it
seems a dreary stretch of nothingness with a rather damp squib at the end.
After all, there was no murder, I suppose the old woman took an overdose of
medicine by mistake. Where," asked, "does the Christmas ghost story come in?"

"I will tell you if you will have just a little more patience. Well, I have
said that I was interested in the Catchpoles, I even went to see them once or
twice. They seemed to me to be what used to be called 'human documents'--the
very fact that they had such blank faces made me want to study them. I know
there must be some repression somewhere, some desire, some hope, something
beside what there appeared on the surface--this blank negation. They did not
betray themselves. Louisa said she missed the old lady and that she was having
quite a handsome headstone put on her grave in the vast London cemetery where
she had been laid to rest. James spoke of the old lady with a certain
deference, as if the fact of her being dead had made a saint of Aunt Ursula

"I continually asked them if they had had any news of the money. They shook
their heads with a compassionate smile at my hopefulness. They were convinced
that during those five years Aunt Ursula Beane had completely destroyed the
forty-eight thousand pounds--easily destroyed, for most of it had been in
hundred- and thousand-pound notes. Of course the garden had been dug over and
every brick and plank in the house disturbed, with no result.

"'And if she never left the house and garden?' I asked.

"They told me she had. She was a robust old woman, as I said before, and she
used to take long walks and every year during those five years she went away
for a fortnight--sometimes with Louisa, sometimes with James, sometimes to the
seaside and sometimes to lodgings in a farmhouse, and on all these different
occasions she had had plenty of opportunity of getting rid of her money. Of
course these five several lodgings had been searched and the country round
about them, but always with no result.

"'You see, sir,' said James, with his meek and placid smile, his pale faded
eyes gleaming at me behind the glasses, 'she was far too cunning for all of us.'

"One winter evening about a year after the inquest the mood took me to go and
visit these two curious specimens. I found them with a planchette, their eyes
goggling at the sprawling writing that appeared on the piece of paper beneath.
James informed me without excitement that they had 'taken up' spiritualism, and
Miss Louisa chirped in that they were getting 'the most wonderful results.'

"Aunt Ursula Beane had 'come through,' as they put it, almost at once, and was
now in constant communication with them. "'Well, I hope she can tell you what
she did with the money.' "They answered me quite seriously that that was what
they were trying to find out, but that the old lady was just as tricky and
malicious on the other side, as they termed it, as she had been on this, luring
them on with false scents and wayward suggestions. At the same time, they
declared, placidly but with intense conviction, they believed that sooner or
later she would disclose to them her secret.

"I soon began to lose interest in them after this. When people of the type of
the Catchpoles get mixed up with this spiritualistic business they cease to be--
well, almost cease to be 'human documents.' I thought I'd leave 'em to it, when
I received a rather urgent invitation from Miss Louisa Catchpole, begging me to
be present at a 'demonstration' at which Aunt Ursula Beane would undoubtedly
appear in person.

"I went to the little house in Peckham where the furniture, the wallpaper,
even the atmosphere did not appear to have been changed all those monotonous
forty years--forty-one now to be exact. There was a medium present and no one
else save myself and the brother and sister. We sat round the table. The medium
who beamed with a rather fussy kindness went off with surprising celerity into
a trance, and soon the 'demonstration' took place.

"At first I was cynical, secondly I was disgusted, and thirdly, I was rather
disturbed, finding myself first in the midst of farce, low charlatanry and
chicanery, then suddenly in the presence of something which I could not
understand. The 'demonstration' began by groans and squeaks issuing from the
lips of the medium, greetings to Louisa and James (presumably in the voice of
the defunct Aunt Ursula), various jovial references to a bottle containing
poison, a few other crude remarks of that nature, and then several knocks from
different parts of the room--rappings loud and quick, and then beating time, as
if to a piece of music, then a sudden clatter on the table in the middle of us
as if the old lady were dancing there with heavy boots on. James and Louisa sat
side by side, their hands clasped, listening to all this without a shade of
expression on their blank faded faces. The hideous little room was the last
resort of the antimacassar, and presently these began to fly about, scraps of
the horrible white crocheted tatting gliding through the air in a way which
would have been very funny if it hadn't been rather dreadful. Of course I knew
that many mediums have these powers and there is nothing much in them--I mean,
it can all be explained in a perfectly practical and satisfactory fashion. At
the same time I did not greatly care about the exposition, and I begged the
Catchpoles to bring it to an end, particularly as the old lady had nothing
definite to say. James whispered that the medium must not be disturbed while
she was in trance. Aunt Ursula Beane then began to sing a hymn, but with a very
unpleasant inflection, worse than any outspoken mockery. While the hymn was
being sung I gained the impression far more vividly than I had ever received
before that Aunt Ursula Beane had been a rather terrible person. When she had
finished the hymn she began in an old half-broken voice softly to curse them
all in a language that was not at all agreeable to listen to, coming as it did
in those querulous, ancient feminine tones. This was rather too much for me,
and I shook the medium violently. She came out of her trance. Louisa and James
did not seem in the least affected, drank tea, ate biscuits, and discussed in
banal terms the doings of those on 'the other side.'

"I received no more invitations from the Catchpoles and did not go near them
for a considerable time. In fact, I think I had rather forgotten about them, as
I had had a great many other interesting cases and a good many other
interesting specimens had come my way. I had heard a vast number of stories as
good as the story of Aunt Ursula Beane, but it did happen one day that I had to
pass through Peckham and could not resist the passing impulse of curiosity that
urged me to go and look at the house on the Common. It was 'To Let' or 'To be
Sold,' according to two or three estate agents' blatant boards on the front
railing. I called next door and was received with the inevitable suspicion with
which the stranger is usually regarded in small places. I did, however,
discover what I had set out to discover, namely, that the Catchpoles had left
the neighborhood about six months ago, and no one knew where they were. I took
the trouble to go to one of the estate agents whose address was given on the
board, to make further enquiries. The house was to be let or sold, it did not
seem to have been considered a great prize, and it certainly had not gone off
very quickly, though it was cheap enough; the neighborhood, even the estate
agent admitted, 'was not what it had been.' Then, of course, one couldn't deny
that the Ursula Beane case and the fact that the old lady had died there, and
of poison, had given a slightly sinister air to the modest stucco building. As
to the Catch-poles, the estate agent did not know where they had gone; all he
had was the address of a bank, nor was it any of my business, so I decided to
dismiss the whole thing from my mind.

"Good raw material, no doubt, but none of it worked up sufficiently to be of
much interest."

Linley glanced round at us all triumphantly as he said this.

"But it was all rounded off as neatly as any novelist could do it. Let me tell
you," he added with unction.

"Five years afterwards I ran over to Venice for Christmas--I don't know why,
except just the perverse desire to see the wrong place at the wrong time,
instead of forever the right place at the right time. I like Venice in the
winter fogs, with a thin coat of ice on the canals, and if you can get a
snowstorm--well, so much the better--St. Marco, to me, looks preferable with
the snowflakes in front of the blue and the bronze instead of that eternal
sunshine...Well, there I was in Venice, and I'm not going to bore you with any
more local color or picturesque details. I was in Venice, very well satisfied
with myself, very comfortable and alone. I was tolerably familiar with the city
and I always stay at the same hotel. One of the first things I noticed was that
a large and very pretentious palace near by had recently been handsomely and
expensively 'done up'; I soon elicited the fact that the place which I had
always envied had been bought by the usual rich American who had spent a great
deal of money in restoring and furnishing it, but who did not very often live
there, he only came and went after the fashion of all Americans, and was
supposed to travel considerably in great luxury. Once or twice I saw this
American going past in a gondola, wrapped in a foreign, rather theatrical-
looking cloak, lounging with a sort of ostentation of ease on the cushions. He
was an elderly man with a full grey beard, and wore, even now in the winter,
blue sunglasses. On two separate occasions when I was sitting on the hotel
balcony in the mild winter sunlight and he was being rowed past underneath I
had the impression that he was looking at me sharply and keenly behind those
colored spectacles, and also the impression, which was likely enough to be
correct, that I had seen him before. I meet, of course, a great many people,
but even with a memory on which I rather pride myself, cannot immediately place
everyone. The hotel at which I was staying--and this was one of the reasons I
always selected it--did not have any of those ghastly organized gaieties at
Christmas; we were left to ourselves in a poetic gloom best suited to the
season and the city. I was seated by myself enjoying a delicious kind of
mournful repose, piquantly in contrast with my usual life, when I received a
message and a very odd one: the gentleman, Signor Hayden, the American from
next door, would very much like to see me. He had observed me on the balcony,
knew my name and my profession, and requested the honor of my company.
Attracted by anything queer or the least out of the way, I at once accepted,
and in ten minutes or so found myself in the newly-restored palace which I had
so often admired and envied. The place was furnished with a good deal of taste,
but rather, I suspected, the orthodox taste of the professional decorator. Mr.
Hayden was not immediately visible, but, I understood, in bed ill; I expressed
my willingness to go to his bedside and was shortly conducted there. The room
was very handsome, the servants very well trained, and I was impressed by the
fact that this rich American must be very rich indeed. One knows, of course,
what these out-of-the-way little caprices of newly-restored palaces in Venice
cost. The owner of this up-to-date luxury was in bed, propped up with pillows
and shaded by old-fashioned mauve velvet curtains. He still wore the colored
glasses, and I concluded that he had some defect in his sight. He appeared to
see me perfectly well, however, and beckoned to me to approach his bedside. As
I did so he removed his glasses; there was an electric standard lamp on an
antique table by the bedside and the light of it was turned full on to the sick
man's face, which I immediately recognized. I was looking down into the faded,
mild, light-blue eyes of James Catchpole.

"'Very odd that you should be here,' he smiled at me, 'very odd indeed. You've
always been interested in us and I thought perhaps you'd like to hear the end
of the story, that is, if any story ever does end; there's a pause in ours at
this point, anyway.'

"I expressed due surprise and gratification at seeing him. In truth, I was
considerably amazed. I was startled, too, to see how ill he was. He asked me to
help him up in bed. He declared, without emotion, that he knew himself to be

"'Where's Miss Louisa?' I asked; 'where is your sister?'

"'She died last year,' he answered placidly. 'She had a thoroughly good time
for four years and I suppose it killed her, you know; but, of course, it was
worth it, she always said so.'

"The inevitable conclusion had jumped to my mind.

"'You found Miss Ursula Beane's hoard?' I suggested.

"James Catchpole, passing his hand over the full grey beard which had so
changed his face, replied simply:

"'We never lost it--we had it all the time.'

"'You mean _you_?' I asked dubiously, and he nodded and replied:


"'That you--?' I suggested, and this time he nodded and said:


"'Louisa persuaded her to realize her capital,' he continued with childish
calm. 'She was a proper miser and she rather fretted not having the actual
stuff in her hands. It wasn't difficult to make her get it--she liked a real
hoard, a thing you can put under the hearthstone or in the mattress, you know.
We thought we should get hold of it easier that way when she came to die. You
never knew with anyone like that what she might do in the way of a will, she
was keen on lost cats and Christians. We thought she would enjoy herself
playing with it, and then we'd get it if we were patient enough.'

"He blinked up at me and added, with the faintest of ironic smiles--We'd been
patient for forty years, don't you suppose we spent some part of that time
planning what we would do with the money? We were both engaged, to start with,
but her young man and my young woman couldn't wait all those years...We read a
good deal, we made lists of things we wanted, and places we wanted to go
to...We had quite a little library of guide-books, you may have noticed them on
the bookshelf--one of them was a guide to Venice. Louisa, writing her piffling
articles, and I at my piffling job, to and fro--well, you don't suppose we
didn't have our ideas?'

"'I see,' I said doubtfully, 'and then, when there was that little misfortune
about the arsenic, I suppose you didn't care to mention the hoard?'

"'It wouldn't have been altogether wise, sir, would it?' smiled James
Catchpole simply. It would have thrown a lot of suspicion on us, and we'd been
very careful. There wasn't any proof, not a shred. We had to wait until the
case had blown over a bit, and then we--well, we did the best we could with the
time that was left us. We lived at the rate of ten thousand a year. We had the
best of everything...Of course it was the pace--don't you call it?--that
killed. We were neither of us young, and we knew we couldn't stand it for long,
so we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, believe me, sir, _thoroughly_.'

"He paused and added reflectively:

"'But it's a good thing we made a move when we did, we shouldn't have been
able to get about at seventy; _she_--she might have gone on to a hundred and

"'Do you mean that you--?' I suggested quietly.

"'It was the easiest thing in the world,' he smiled, 'to drop a couple of
those dog powders into her milk...'

"I'd always been intensely interested in murderers. I tried to question James
Catchpole as to his motives, his sensations, his possible remorse; he appeared
to have had none of any of these...

"'You didn't regret it afterwards, you haven't felt the Furies behind you, or
anything of that sort?'

"He replied, as far as his feeble strength would permit:

"'I have enjoyed myself thoroughly. I wish we hadn't waited so long.'

"I was puzzled. They had always seemed such very nice people.

"'I am dying now,' said James Catchpole, 'and it's about time, for I've spent
all the money. The doctor said my next heart attack would be fatal, and I've
done my best to bring one on. I couldn't go back to lack of money.'

"'Who are you going to leave all this to?' I asked with professional interest.
I glanced round the handsome room.

"He smiled at me with what I thought was compassion.

"'I haven't been so silly as all that,' he replied. 'Everything that I possess
wouldn't pay half of my debts. I have had full value, I can assure you. After
all, I had a right to it, hadn't I? I'd waited long enough.'

"'What about the planchette and the demonstrations?' I asked. 'I suppose all
that was a fake to throw us off the scent?'

"'Not at all,' he declared, in what seemed to be hurt surprise, 'that was
perfectly genuine. We made up our minds to get in touch with Aunt Ursula Beane,
to find out what she thought about it all.'

"'And what did she think?' I asked, startled.

"'She said we were a couple of fools not to have done it sooner.' "'Come,
come, Mr. Catchpole,' I cried, something shocked, 'this is unseemly jesting.'

"'No jesting at all,' he assured me. 'Aren't I dying myself? I shall be in the
old girl's company in a few minutes, I daresay. You heard her yourself, sir,
dancing on the table that evening. She said she'd been a perfect fool herself,
and now that she'd "got over" she realized it. She said if we didn't have a
good time, or someone didn't have a good time with that damn money, she'd never
forgive us. You see, sir, at first we began to have that miserly feeling too
and didn't want to spend it. We thought we'd go on hoarding it, living just the
same and knowing it was there. She used to scribble out on the planchette
saying what idiots we were. That's why she used all that strong language.
"You've got it--now use it!" That was what she always said. "I'll go with you
and share in your good time"--and so she has, sir, believe me. We've often seen
her sitting at the table with us, nodding over the champagne; she'd have been
fond of champagne if she'd allowed herself...We've seen her dancing in some of
those jazz-halls, we've seen her in boxes listening to opera, we've seen her
sitting in the Rolls-Royce revelling in the cushions and the speed...Remorse?
Why, I tell you we've given the old girl the good time she ought to have had
years ago.'

"'Come, come, James Catchpole,' I said, 'you're delirious. I'd better fetch
the doctor.'

"He smiled at me with compassion and some contempt.

"'You're a clever lawyer,' he said, 'but there are a lot of things you don't

"Even as he spoke he seemed to fall into a peaceful sleep and I thought it was
my responsibility to fetch a doctor. Of course I believed hardly anything he
said--I thought it was quite likely that he hadn't poisoned Aunt Ursula Beane,
but that he had invented the story. At the same time there was the hard
concrete evidence of the palace, the servants, the furniture--he had got money
from somewhere.

"'Good raw material, eh? Think what you could make of it if you wrote it up!'

"I went downstairs, telephoned on my own responsibility to the address of one
of the English doctors. It was Christmas Eve and I could not find him at home.
I was quite uncertain what to do. I stood hesitant at the foot of the wide
magnificent staircase, when I observed a dreadful old woman creeping up the
stairs with a look of intense enjoyment on her face--Mrs. Ursula Beane--not a
doubt of it--Aunt Ursula Beane! I saw her so clearly that I could have counted
the stitches in the darns at the elbows of her black sleeves. I ran up after
her, but of course she was there before I was. When I carne up to the bedside
James Catchpole was dead, with an extremely self-satisfied smug smile on his

"There's my Christmas Eve ghost! An hallucination, of course, but you can give
it all the usual explanation. There's the story, you can put it together as you
will. There's plenty of stuff in it--good raw material, eh, take it how you

We all agreed with Linley.


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