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A Woman Named Smith
by Marie Conway Oemler
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The thought of The Author confused me. I wasn't so much flattered as astounded. He was not offering me a light honor: The Author's name meant a great deal. Who, then, was I, a woman named Smith, to say nay to this miraculous possibility? Was it not rather for me to accept, meekly, the high gift that the gods in a sportive moment chose to toss to me? Yea, verily. And yet— My hand stole to the half of a thin old foreign coin hidden in my breast.

The Author behaved with exemplary patience and dignity. He went about his own work and left me to mine, and though I knew I was under his hawklike watchfulness, his matter-of-fact manner set me at my ease. You can't dread to meet a man, of a morning, who pays more attention to his batter-cakes than to you.

I was just beginning to breathe freely, when Doctor Richard Geddes came over one afternoon, and, finding me in our living-room with only the Black family to keep me company, flung himself into an arm-chair, seized Sir Thomas More Black by the scruff, and pulled his whiskers and rubbed his fur the wrong way until Sir Thomas More scratched him with thoroughness.

"Get out, then, you black hellion!" growled the doctor. Sir Thomas More got out. He hadn't wanted to stay in the first place.

"Shall I bind your hand for you?" I asked. But the doctor refused. He tapped his foot on the floor, and hemmed, and looked at me strangely. Then:

"Sophronisba Two, you consider me a reasonably decent sort, don't you?"

"That goes without saying."

"Think I'd make a woman a reasonably good husband?"

"I do," said I, truthfully. Whatever ailed the man?

"Good! And I," the doctor said, deliberately, "know that you'd make any man more than a reasonably good wife. Should you like to be mine, Sophronisba Two?"

The jump I gave threw Potty Black off my knees.

"You're ill, wandering in your wits, you poor man!" I was genuinely alarmed. "Isn't there something I can do for you, doctor?"

"There is: you can marry me, if you want to," replied the doctor, soberly. "Honestly, my dear girl, I'd be kind to you. I like and admire and respect you more than I can tell you, Sophy."

"My dear friend," I said, when I caught my breath, "I like, admire, and respect you, too. But people who marry each other need something more than that. They—well, they need—love."

His shoulders twitched.

"This business of love is the devil's own invention!" he cried. "It's safer and saner to like and respect people than to love them, and lots harder. Now, what do you say to marrying me?"

"I say you had no such notion in your head the last time you and I talked together. When did it seize you?" I demanded, suspiciously.

"I began to think about it seriously—er—ah—some days ago," he said, reddening.

"What day, to be exact?"

"Well," said he, resentfully, "it occurred to me last Wednesday, if you want to be so all-fired sure!"

"What happened last Wednesday to make you think of asking me to marry you?"

The doctor looked at me very much as a little boy looks at a grown-up who is holding a soapy wash-cloth in one hand and an ear in the other.

"What do you want to know for?"

"Because. I just want to know because. Well?" He squirmed, and was silent. "Was it because you have ceased to care for Alicia, already?" His glare answered that question. "No? Why, then, didn't you ask Alicia, instead of coming to me for second choice? Look here, Doctor Richard Geddes: if I was not firmly and truly your friend, I should be furious, do you understand? Or," I added, darkly, "I might even revenge myself by taking you at your word!"

"Sophronisba Two!" The doctor looked at, me piteously.

"Why didn't you ask Alicia?" I persisted, inexorably.

"I did!" gulped the doctor. "But she said she couldn't. She said, why didn't I care for you instead of her? You were so much better—and—and I'd be happier with you, for I'd have the most unselfish angel—" he stopped miserably.

"Well?"

"Well, I kept turning it over in my mind; and the more I thought of it, the clearer I perceived that with a wife like you I'd be a better and a more worth-while man. I—I think so much of you, Sophy, that I'm telling you the whole truth," he finished.

"That's why I'm going to keep on being friends with you—better friends than ever," I told him.

"You're going to marry me, then, Sophy?"

"Didn't you just hear me tell you I meant to keep on being friends with you?"

"You won't, then?"

"I won't, then."

"Yet there are good reasons why you might reconsider your decision," he said, after a pause. "We are so diametrically opposed it would seem inevitable we should marry each other. Why, Sophy, we've got enough to quarrel happily about for the rest of our lives. For instance, do you sleep with all your windows open?"

"I close two, and leave two open."

"Every window open, day and night, hot or cold, rain or shine," said the doctor, firmly. "Do you use pillows?"

"Two."

"None at all. Sleep with your head flat. How many blankets?"

"Two, and a comfort."

"One army blanket, except in extremely cold weather," said the doctor. "Do you like a pipe?"

"It always makes me sick. I peculiarly and particularly loathe and detest a pipe."

"A pipe, my dear, deluded woman, is a comfort, a stay, a prop to a man's soul, an aid to meditation and repose. I insist upon a pipe—within moderation, of course. Do you like parrots? Sophy, are you capable of supporting a parrot? I have already perceived your reprehensible fondness for cats." He looked at his scratched hand.

"I have always wanted a parrot. I think they're the most—"

"Damnable brutes!" finished the doctor. "Gad, I'd as lief live in the house with Sophronisba One! It is not moral to like a parrot. What do you think of stewed rhubarb?"

I made a wry face. I abhor stewed rhubarb. Somehow, it always makes me think of orphans in long-waisted gingham dresses with white china buttons down the back. One way of punishing children for losing their parents is to make them wear dark gingham dresses with china buttons down the back and to eat stewed rhubarb for dessert.

"Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are," pronounced the doctor. "It's a sign of moral rectitude to eat stewed rhubarb. Now, as to science: what is your attitude toward evolution?"

"Well, I think plenty of men turn themselves into monkeys, but I refuse to believe that God ever turned a monkey into a man."

"Ha!" mused the doctor, pulling his nose; "I see! Do you insist upon a sacrosanct meal hour? Are your meal hours fixed, even as the laws of the Medes and the Persians?"

"How else, pray, shall one run one's house with any degree of system?" I wanted to know.

"Bunk!" snorted the doctor. "I eat when I'm hungry! Now, lastly, sister, tell me truthfully: are you a Democrat or a Republican?"

"I don't see much difference: they're both of them nothing but men."

"I knew it!" The doctor shook his head with sad triumph. "She'd scratch Brown, because she didn't like the expression of his ears, and vote for Jones, because he had such beautiful whiskers! My dear, dear woman, can't you see that it's almost a law of nature for you and me, who don't agree about anything, to marry each other?"

"I don't even agree with you as to that!" said I, and fell into helpless laughter.

"It rather looks like flying in the face of Providence not to," he warned me. "In the meantime—"

"In the meantime, let us be grateful Alicia didn't put the notion into your head to ask somebody who might have taken you seriously."

"That means you don't, and won't." He drew a long breath. "But we're good friends; aren't we, Sophy?"

"If a man never does anything worse than ask a woman to marry him, he will probably retain her friendship until she dies," I replied.

"Provided she refuses him," the doctor said, gratefully. And bending down, he kissed me brotherly on the cheek, an honest and resounding smack; at which opportune moment Alicia walked in.

Wholly unabashed, the doctor spoke pleasantly to Alicia, shook hands with me effusively, and went off whistling. All was right with the world. I'd refused him, you understand! Instead of being enraged and offended, I found myself giggling.

That night, as Alicia didn't come in my room, I went into hers.

"I know what you've come to tell me, Sophy dear," she said, directly. "I've seen it for some time. And I'm glad as glad—glad with all my heart, Sophy." Her voice was tenderness itself, her eyes melted. But the hand on my hand was cold. "I love you a great deal, Sophy," she whispered. "More than anybody else in the world, I think."

"And was it because you loved me, dear girl, that you put the absurd notion of asking me to marry him into Doctor Geddes's head?"

"Absurd notion?" repeated Alicia. "Absurd notion? But he asked you! Didn't he ask you?"

"As to that, he told me I could marry him if I wanted to," I admitted. "Oh, Leetchy, it was funny, though! If you could have seen the poor dear, trying to martyr himself, just to oblige you—"

"You refused him?" breathlessly.

"Of course. There wasn't anything to say but 'No.'"

"But—I saw—"

"You saw him kiss me on the cheek? Honey, that wasn't love: that was gratitude!"

"I don't understand!" stammered Alicia, twisting her hands. "Why, you cared for him—I thought you cared."

"Of course I care for him! But not like that! Good heavens, Alicia, however did you get such a notion? My dear, if I loved you less, or him more, I should never, never be able to forgive either of you. As it is, we'll forget it."

At that Alicia began to cry.

"Oh, what have I done?" she whimpered. "Sophy, you don't know—what I've done!"

"You haven't done anything that can't be undone," said I, comfortably. "You and I, my dear, fell into a Hynds House maze. Now we're out of it!" And thinking she would be better by herself, I kissed her good night.

Out of Hynds House maze, indeed! I had only to step back into my own room to have it again enmesh me. For on the prie-dieu that had once held Freeman Hynds's Bible and now held mine, was the lost diary.



CHAPTER XIII

FIRES OF YESTERDAY

I wasn't frightened, of course. There isn't anything terrifying in finding a little old leather-covered book on a prie-dieu by one's bedside. But it was some minutes before I could induce myself to take up that yellowed old diary and examine it.

It begins the year of Freeman's return from college, "a Finish'd Young Gentleman." He has refused to go abroad, considering that "our Young Gentlemen have enough Fripperies & Fopperies at Home without bringing worse Ones from Abroad." Brother Richard has been abroad more than once, and Freeman does not "find him Improv'd save in Outer Elegancies."

The only person that "much Travelling hath not Spoil'd," he finds, is Mistress Emily Hope of Hope Plantation. "Shee was a Sweet Child," he remembers; and now that the dew of their youth is upon them both, he finds her "of a Graceful and Delicate Shape, with the Most Beautiful Countenance in the World, a Sweet & Modest Demeanour, a Sprightly Wit, an Accomplish'd Mind, & a Heart Fix'd upon Virtue."

The estates are near each other, the families intimate friends. Emily seems to like the boy. At any rate, she doesn't repel him. And then returns Richard—the gay, the handsome, the irresistible Richard—who adds to the stalwart comeliness of a colonial gentleman the style, the grace, the cultivated manners of the Old World.

Almost fiercely Freeman notes the effect he produces, and how "Women do catch an Admiration for him as't were a Pox."

Then he begins to set down, grimly, "The Sums my Father hath paid for My Brother's Debts." A little later, he adds: "You Might Pour the Atlantic Ocean full of Gold through his Pocketts & Overnight would He empty Them." Richard, also, "Makes Choice of rake-hell Companions," to his father's growing unease and indignation, his mother's distress. But "Good God! how is all Forgiven the Beautiful, the Gift'd!"

"Jezebel herself, that carries her Head so High, wears her Heart upon her Sleeve, een like a simple Milkmaid! 'Tis a Rare Spectacle. Sure there's a Fatality about this Man!"

* * * * *

"This Day dress'd I in my new Blue Cloathes, the which become me not Ill & riding over to Hope Plant'n did ask for Emily's Hand. Alas, 'Tis even as my Fears foretold! Shee loves me Not. 'Tis Richard alone hath her Heart.

"I do Fear Shee will sup Sorrow & drink Tears that setts her Affection upon the Unstable. Shee's too Mild, too Tender, hath not a Firm enough Hand to restrain him. He should een have ta'en Madame Jezebel. Hath a Grand Passion for him. Will not lightly wear the Willow."

* * * * *

"This Day did Richard my Brother Wed Emily Hope," he records, after a six-months' silence. "All say 'tis a most Noble Mating. My Mother in a Gown from London Town, & our Finest Gems, enow to make a Dutchess envious of a Carolina Lady. My Father in high Spiritts.

"I danc'd with the Bridesmaids, but Salut'd not the Bride, the Which noted Madame Jezebel. Was Handsomer than ever I did See her, many thinking her Handsomer than the Bride. Had a great Following, the which the Hussy treat'd with Disdain.

"'Have you Kiss'd the Bride, Sir?' says shee, a-mocking of me after her Wont. 'What a Fine Thing is a Love-Match, Master Freeman!'

"'Have you Wish'd the Bridegroom Joy?' says I. The woman anger'd me.

"'May Heaven send him all the Happiness he Deserves!' cries shee. 'Sure, you'll echo that yourself, Master Freeman!' 'Tis a jibing Wench. Would to God Richard had Wedded her!"

Then came dry notes of a visit to Kinsfolk in Virginia. Freeman seems to have been away from home for some time. When he returns, it is to chronicle in brief his brother's downward course. "They have sold Hope Plantation and Most of the Slaves. 'Tis an evil Chance."

"I shall be Twenty-one next month, though I feel a Thousand. We shall have a Ball, after the Custom of our House. 'Tis to be a Grand Affair. I do think my Parents are somewhat Tender of Conscience to meward. Though my Father Loves me not as he Loves my Brother, yet he begins to Lean upon me more & More Heavily. My poor Mother is a Little Envious of these Dry Virtues of mine, seeing her Darling is like to come to Shipwreck for Lack of them. Yet had he Fortune & Beauty & Emily!"

The next entry records the loss of the Hynds jewels. "'Tis a great Mystery!" One is sorely puzzled here. There is no getting at what Freeman really thinks. Coldly, tritely, he sets down the bald, bare facts of the tragedies that wrecked the Hyndses.

With a strange lack of emotion he chronicles Richard's death, and adds: "At the Pleasure of God his Birth fell upon a Wednesday, at Sun-rising, the which was by some Accounted Favourable. His Death came upon a Friday, at Noone, it Raining heavily."

Then comes his father's sudden death; and this curious item:

"Despite his Anguish & Affliction of Spiritt upon that Date, he did tell me Part, after the Custom of our House, the morning of my Twenty-first Birthday. Alas, when he was Stricken, upon the News of Richard's Demise, he had no Chance to tell me All, nor was there among his Papers the Keye nor any Clue to It. When J. call'd us, he was Beyond Speech & shee Hystericall with Affright. Thus the Whole Secret perishes, since Without the Keye & his Instructions 'twould be Impossible to Proceed."

* * * * *

"This evening came Capt. B., the worst of the Plundering Crew that pluck'd Richard. 'Sirrah,' says he, impudently, 'thy Brother owe'd me three thousand pounds.' And he pulls me out a great fistfull of Billets.

"'Sirrah,' says I, 'my Brother owes his Wife and Orphan'd Infant three thousand times more than that. There be Debts of Nature which precede so-called Debts of Honour. Each billet in thy hand, thou swindling runnigate, calls for a bullet. Begone, lest I owe thee a horse-whipping.'

"'Anan!' says he, 'and one of you a Thief! That for Honour, in the mouth of a Hynds!' And snapp'd me his fingers under my Nose.

"We arrang'd a Meeting, though 'T was Foolish to Risk myself, with the Roof tottering over my Mother's Head. My fellow Pompey, Mr. G. Dalzell, Mr. F. Mayne, & Dr. Baltassar Bobo with me. Two of his scoundrelly Associates with him. His ball graz'd my arm above the Elbow & Burnt the Linen of my Shirt. Mine Finish'd him. 'T was too great an Honour & more than he Deserv'd, to die by the Hand of a Gentleman."

A little later: "This morn disappear'd my Cozen Jessamine.

"Nothing discover'd of her Whereabouts," he records from time to time.

"This morn saw I Emily & Richard's little Son. 'T is a Fine child, much Resembling my Brother. Emily turn'd her Face away, drawing down of her Widow's Weeds, & turn'd also the Babe's face aside. I felt Embitter'd."

By this time he has taken over the whole Hynds estate as heir. He mentions his sisters' marriages, notes that they have received their dowers, and so dismisses them.

His mother has been dead some time when he marries. One wonders what the bride was like, whom he commends for "Housekeeping Virtues, so that the Servants instantly Obey, there is no Pilfering & Loitering, & the House moves like Clockwork."

He must have been like clockwork, himself. There seems less and less human emotion in him. The birth of his only child gets this:

"This day was born Sophronisba Harriott Hynds, nam'd for her Estimable Mother. I am told 'Tis a fine healthy Child."

Casually thereafter he mentions "my Daughter." Twice her mother "Requested me to Chastise her for Unchristian Temper," which chastisement he seems to have administered with thoroughness and a rattan, in his office. On the second occasion, "I whip'd her Severely & did at the same Time admonish her to Ask Pardon of God. Whereupon she Yell'd Aloud & did Seize the Calf of my Leg & Bite me, Causing me Great Physical Pain and Mental Anguish. How sharper than a Serpent's Tooth is an Ungrateful Child!"

(Oh, Ungrateful Child, I do not find it in my heart to blame you overmuch. Somehow I can't feel sorry that you bit him, Sophronisba!)

"This day died my Wife, an Estimable Helpmeet. I shall sadly Lack her Management of the House." In spite of which, he buys more land. Life seems to run smoothly enough. "The Lord hath bless'd me with Abundance. They that Spoke evil of me are Astonied & made Asham'd. The Lord hath done it."

Then comes this last entry:

"Two nights since died Scipio, son of old Shooba's last Wife, the which did send for me, Urgently entreating of my Presence. 'T was ever a Simple-minded Creature & found a faithful Servant, wherefore I did go to him.

"He was greatly in Dread of Dying, for that he was in mortal Terrour of old Shooba, fearing to Meet that Evil Being outside of the Flesh. Had been with Shooba when the wretched Creature passed away, a harden'd Heathen among Convert'd & Profess'd Christians. Said he was a Snake Soul.

"The man was craz'd with Fear, dreading Shooba to be even then in the Room. And indeed the Tale he whisper'd me was enough to Craze a Christian Man, & hath all but crack'd mine own Witts. If 't were not for the Paper he slip't into my Palm, I should sett it down for a Phantazy, one of old Shooba's evil Spells. Most merciful God, how came he by that Paper if the Tale be untrue?

"Greatly am I upsett by this Improbable & Frightful Thing. Sure this requires Prayer & Fasting, lest I be Delud'd."

Between the pages following this last entry was a piece of yellowed paper, the paper that had been lost from the Author's coat pocket, in the locked closet of his room.

After a while I managed to work the slit of a drawer open, and to this hiding-place I returned Freeman's diary, and with it the faintly scented bit of paper that The Author mourned.

* * * * *

The failure of her matrimonial plans for me did not occasion Miss Alicia Gaines overmuch grief. She seemed to have dismissed the whole matter from her mind. Restored to her old time gaiety, she sang like a thrush as she worked. She bubbled over with the sheer joy of living, until the very sight of her gladdened one. And she simply couldn't make her feet behave! She danced with the broom one morning, to the great amusement of our scholarly old Englishman.

"I'm supposed to be somewhat of an old stick myself: why not try me, instead of the broom?" he suggested slyly. Instantly she took him at his word, and danced him up and down the hall until he was breathless.

"This," panted the scholar, "is a fair sample of what the Irish do to the English."

"We do lead you a pretty dance, don't we, dear John Bull?" dimpled Alicia.

"You do, you engaging baggage!" he admitted. "But," he added, in a tone of satisfaction, "we manage to keep step, my dear! Oh, yes, we manage to keep step!" And he trotted off, chuckling.

"There are times," said The Author to me, darkly, "when the terrifying tirelessness of youth gives me a vertigo. Come away, Miss Smith. Leave that kitten to chase her own shadow up the wall."

"Cross-patch, draw the latch, Sit by the fire and spin—yarns!"

chanted Alicia.

"Go away, you pink-and-white delusion!" said The Author, severely. "You have made Scholarship and Wisdom put on cap and bells and prance like a morris-dancer. Isn't that mischief enough for one day?"

Alicia has a round, snow-white chin, and when she tilts it the curve of her throat is distracting.

"On second thoughts," said The Author, critically, "I discover that I do not wholly disapprove of you. Come outside. I wish to talk about the venerable, and yet common design that tops every outside window and door of this house.—What do you call that design, may I ask?"

"Why, everybody knows the Greek fret!" said Alicia, staring at it. "It's as old as the hills."

"Exactly," agreed The Author. "The Greek fret is as old as the hill. And, with the single exception of the swastika, it is the design most universally known to man. You may find it on a bit of ancient Greek pottery, or on a crumbling wall in Yucatan. Many people refer to it as the Greek key."

Something began to glimmer in my mind—the vaguest, most tenuous shadow of an idea; a tantalizing, hide-and-seek phantom of a thought.

"Turne Hellens Keye Three Tennes and Three,"

he quoted the doggerel verse.

We looked at him mutely.

"It is a tiresome truism," he went on, reflectively, "that what lies close to the eye often escapes observation. For instance, these windows have been staring at me daily, each with its nice little eyebrow of design, and I overlooked the design until my subconscious mind suggested to me that here, in all probability, lies Hellen's Keye."

I remembered the entry in Freeman's diary, concerning the loss of a "Keye," which hadn't been found among his father's papers, and of a secret which had died with the older man.

"I think I told you," said The Author, "that this house was built by master masons, shortly after the Grand Lodge was established in London. Thirty-three is rather a significant number. Yet, how to apply it," he paused, frowning.

"Without disturbing a Watcher in the Dark?" Alicia made light of The Authors itch for mystery. "Aren't you rather forgetting the Watcher in the Dark? Teller of tales, isn't it moon-stuff you're trying to spin?"

"Who talks of a Watcher in the Dark?" asked a pleasant voice. Accompanied by Mr. Johnson, Mr. Nicholas Jelnik had strolled up unperceived.

"The Author," Alicia explained, mischievously, "is trying to make sense out of nonsense."

"That," said Mr. Jelnik, smiling, "is not an uncommon occupation."

"It's all about a bit of doggerel we found on a scrap of paper in the attic," I told him. And I quoted it, adding: "There was a column of dots under it. The Author laments that he lost it, before he had chance to unravel it."

"I lost it, walking in my sleep," said The Author, disagreeably.

"And now he's trying to make us believe that the design in the brick-work above our windows, just because it's the Greek fret, is Hellen's Keye," Alicia said, jestingly.

"Well, you know, if a thing means anything, it's got to mean something," put in Mr. Johnson.

"Ain't it the truth, though?" hissed The Author, with fury.

Mr. Johnson was saved from stammering explanations by the irruption of Beautiful Dog, who at sound of his voice had wriggled, and cringed, and fawned his way out of the shrubbery, cocking a wary eye to see that none of the Black family was around. Beautiful Dog rolled his eyes at his god, swung his tail, waggled his ears, made uncouth movements with his splay feet, and grinned from ear to ear. He was so utterly absurd that he claimed everybody's amused attention.

"Why, old chap! You're rather glad to see your friends, aren't you?" the secretary said in his pleasant voice.

Beautiful Dog yelped with rapture, darted back into the shrubbery, and a moment later emerged and laid at his adored one's feet all his treasure, a chewed slipper. He tried to say that precious as this gift undoubtedly was, he gave it willingly, joyfully. But scenting other white people too near, he backed off, and fled.

The Author's eyes followed him.

"I wonder if I'd have been equal to that, myself, if I'd been born a nigger dog with an ingrained distrust of the white man?" he questioned. "Gad! it comes near being the real thing, Johnson!"

The secretary looked at the slipper lying at his feet: "I wonder where he found that, now?"

I was wondering the same thing, and so was Alicia.

"Let's show Beautiful Dog the Chinese politeness of being decent enough not to accept his gift when he's decent enough to offer it," she suggested.

"Yes, throw it into the shrubbery and let him find it. That may raise white people somewhat in his estimation," I added, hastily.

Instantly Mr. Jelnik picked it up and tossed it among the bushes. His action seemed the merest polite compliance with my request, and he barely glanced at the object he cast away. Yet it was really worth a second glance. Chewed, frayed, and torn, it had once been of finest red Morocco leather; and it was such a flat and heelless slipper as no native Hyndsville foot had ever worn. It was The Jinnee's slipper.



CHAPTER XIV

THE TALISMAN

Mrs. Cheshire Scarboro was far from the fool her cousin Sophronisba had credited her with being. She had sufficient cleverness to understand that Hyndsville wasn't big enough to hold two factions. For a faction was forming with Hynds House as its storm-center, and it was one which threatened Mrs. Scarboro's hitherto unquestioned sovereignty. Jimmy Scarboro himself, a most personable youth, was one of the ringleaders of revolt.

A weaker woman would have kept up the fight. Mrs. Scarboro understood that to spend one's powers trying to hold an untenable position is a proof not of valor but of stupidity. She quietly declared a truce, sending out, in the form of an invitation to one of her sacred card-parties, tentative notice that she would consider joining forces. We recognized the olive-branch, seriously extended. The next move was ours.

"There's a time to fight, and a time to leave off fighting," Alicia decided. "Here's where we disarm. When these people come from under the shade of the dear old family tree, they're quite human. We have got to let them give themselves the opportunity to discover that we're human, too."

It wasn't necessary to explain things to The Author, because a portion of his brain is purely and cattily feminine. That's why he is a genius. No man is a genius whose brain isn't bisexual.

"I shall have to lay aside a cherished prejudice and lend this lady the light of my countenance, although I loathe card-parties. I abhor cards, outside of draw-poker on shipboard, with a crook of sorts sitting in to lend the game a fillip. Despite the fact that poor Mrs. Scarboro couldn't lay hands on a decent crook to save her life, I think I shall go, and thereby acquire merit," he concluded, with the air of a martyr.

I looked at him gratefully.

"I'll wager that little Sophy thinks she wants to go because she desires to be friends and neighbors. 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'—You're a transparent person, you Sophy!"

"But I do desire to be friends with them. I have to live here all the rest of my life, haven't I?"

"Not necessarily," replied The Author, arching his eyebrows. "For instance, you can live in New York any time you want to, Sophy."

"I've never told you that you might call me Sophy," I parried, hastily.

"Oh, but I like to call you Sophy," he responded airily. "And really, you shouldn't mind. I've called people lots worse things than Sophy, in my time! But then," he added, "I didn't happen to like them. As for you, I find you a very likeable being, Sophy; upon my word, extremely likeable!"

"Thank you," said I. I wasn't anxious to hear The Author tell me how likable he found me; at least, not yet.

* * * * *

For pride's sake as well as for the sake of custom—and in South Carolina custom has all the power of a fetish—Mrs. Scarboro would have died rather than vary by one jot or tittle her usual refreshments, or wear a new frock, on that particular night. Yet the occasion, despite its mild diversions, was distinctly epochal, in that it marked the reunion of Hyndsville. Even Mr. Nicholas Jelnik, for the first time, put in his decorative appearance, to The Author's fidgety surprise. He played a highly creditable game of bridge. And after a while he sang "Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms," so exquisitely that a hushed and rapturous silence fell upon everybody, and the old ladies and gentlemen present held their hands before misty eyes. They used to sing that song when the old men were boy soldiers marching off to the tune of "The Bonnie Blue Flag," and the old ladies were ringleted girls in hoop-skirts bidding them good-by.

"My dear boy," Mrs. Scarboro told him, with great feeling, "you have been forgetting that you're a cousin of mine. Your mother and I were girls together. I want you to meet some other old friends of hers and your grandfather's," and she carried him off to a group of those wonderful old ladies who grow to purest perfection in South Carolina—low-voiced lovely old ladies, dressed in black silk, with cameo brooches at their throats, and lace caps on their white hair.

A little group of old gentlemen immediately foregathered with them. They knew who was and wasn't kin to Sally Hynds's son, unto the seventh generation.

"They've begun on the begats," chuckled The Author, "First Book of Chronicles, Chapters One to Four."

"Jelnik's really kin to them, and he ought to pay for the privilege," said Mr. Johnson.

The Author looked at the old ladies, on whose delicate withered hands the wedding-rings hung loosely, and at the erect old gentlemen with white goatees, and something whimsically tender came into his clever face.

"It is worth the price," he said, very gently—for him.

"Now, that was your soul speaking!" said Miss Emmeline, warmly. Instantly The Author wrinkled his nose, bristled his mustache, and looked like a hyena. Miss Martha Hopkins, worshipfully observant of the great man, caught his eye at that moment and thought he was scowling at her. She looked so stricken that The Author presently strolled over and sat down beside her, to her fluttering delight. But discovering that she was wholly unacquainted with the original verse of J. Gordon Coogler of Columbia, he first bitterly reproached her for neglecting home-made talent, and then proceeded to make sure that she would remember the Bard of the Congaree so long as she lived.

"Not know Coogler!" cried The Author, shrilly; "ignorant of the bard raised, so to speak, around your own door-step? Horrible! Listen to this!" said he, accusingly:

"Fair lady, on that snowy neck and half-clad bosom Which you so publicly reveal to man, There's not a single outward stain or speck. Would that you had given but half the care To the training of your intellect and heart, As you have given to that spotless neck!"

"Gracious Heavens!" gasped Miss Martha, who showed a modest salt-cellar in the mildest of Vs.

"Is it possible you don't like him?" demanded The Author, amazedly. "But, my dear woman! Coogler's—why, Coogler's ginger-pop to a thirsty world!"

"I—I don't drink ginger-pop!" confessed the be-deviled Center of Culture, foggily.

"Alas! for the South, her books have grown fewer, She never was much given to literature,"

quoted The Author, pensively.

She was speechless. The shameless Author, fixing upon her a last long, lingering look of sorrowful reproach, said with emotion:

"From early youth to the frost of age Man's days have been a mixture Of all that constitutes in life A dark and gloomy picture."

And he stalked off, leaving Miss Martha Hopkins in a state of mind.

"Friend Author," Alicia murmured, as he paused beside her, "I wish you were my own dear little boy for just five merry minutes. I'd show you," she declared, divided between Irish mirth and human pity for Miss Martha, "I'd show you what a hair-brush could accomplish!"

"Too late!" regretted The Author, shaking his head. "But," he suggested, brightening, "couldn't you wish to be my own dear little girl, instead?"

"This is so sudden!" murmured Alicia, coyly.

"Deluding devilette!" breathed The Author, "get thee behind me!"

That evening was the first time I had ever heard myself called "pretty." I was used to "businesslike" and "efficient" and "trustworthy"—all excellent terms, in their way, but not such happy things, any one of them, as "pretty."

"What are you thinking of, Sophy?" asked The Author. "Something over the hills and far away? Because you look as Maude Adams used to look when she first played 'Peter Pan.'"

I hoped it might be true, because—

I looked up then and met Mr. Nicholas Jelnik's dark eyes. They were falcon eyes, but now there was something in them that made me, to my rage and confusion and chagrin, blush like a silly school-girl. When I again ventured to glance in his direction he was patiently and politely listening to a white-goateed, game-legged U.C.V. refight the Civil War with so fiery a zest that he presently caught another veteran a resounding crack on the funny-bone with the gold-headed stick he was flourishing. Both gentlemen half rose, the one making wry faces and rubbing his elbow, the other bowing and apologetic.

"Pahdon me, Majah! My deah suh, pahdon me! But I was just tellin' this boy about the day in the Wilderness his grandfathah Hynds took a Yankee bullet out of my leg with a paih of silvah scissahs and bandaged it with the tail of his shirt.

"'I've lost my niggah and my instruments, Sam,' says the doctah, 'but that's no reason why the damyankees should have the satisfaction of killin' a puffeckly good rebel, when there's not enough to go around now. Hold your leg still,' says he, rollin' up his sleeves, 'an' with the help of God and my scissahs and my shirt-tail, I'll save it for you.' An' he did. I walked home from Appomattox on that same leg, suh," said the veteran, and brought his stick down on the toes of it with a force that made him utter a muffled bellow.

The other, still nursing an outraged elbow, smiled sweetly.

"Thanks, Sam," he drawled.

The Author chuckled appreciatively. "And to think we Americans rush abroad, when the republic of South Carolina is right next-door to us!" he murmured.

A gentle change was creeping over Hynds House, perhaps because of the delightful old ladies who had begun to come there. Old gentlemen, too, formed the pleasant habit of dropping in, beguiled by the artful Author, waited upon son-like by his secretary, foregathered with as kith and kin by the Englishman, mint-juleped by the three of them, enchanted by Alicia, and teaed and caked and beloved by me. Even our cats adored them. The Black family could spot a Confederate veteran as far off as the front gate, and would rush wildly to meet him, rubbing and roaching and purring in and out of his old legs. The Author insisted that their passion for U.C.V.'s was an inherited trait with our cats, and that we ourselves were merely acquired characteristics.

In April, just before Miss Emmeline was to return to Boston, and the Englishman and his daughter were to go back home, Alicia and I decided to give a farewell dance. It was to be in costume.

Hyndsville was pleasantly excited. Never had there been such rummaging of attics, such searchings of old trunks! We rummaged our attic, too. I selected a yellow brocade trimmed with seed-pearls and cascades of lace, and Alicia chose a skimpy blue satin frock with a round neck, an upstanding lace collar, and absurd little puffed sleeves. The Englishman was a Puritan, his daughter a Quakeress, Mr. Johnson a Huguenot Lover, Miss Emmeline a Colonial Lady, Doctor Geddes a bearded and belted Boyar, and The Author a painfully realistic Mephistopheles, his eyebrows corked upward and his mustache waxed into points. Mr. Jelnik sent regrets.

We had waxed the floors, and moved most of the furniture out of the big front drawing-room; and this and the wide halls were used for a ball-room, just as they had been used in the old days. The older people played cards in the living-room and library. Every now and then, between pauses, some masked and brilliant figure, like a bright ghost from the past, would steal in to look over their shoulders and whisper in their ears.

But those grandparents weren't content to sit down and play cards while others footed it. Not they! They danced the Lancers, and a polka or two, and waltzed and dipped and bowed to "Comin' through the Rye" while all the masqueraders lined up against the walls to admire and applaud. And after the gayest sort of a buffet supper, the prizes that had been won by a belle and a trooper of '61—she in her grandmother's crinoline and he in his grandfather's gray jacket—were turned over by acclaim to a sprightly lady of seventy and her sprightlier partner of seventy-five, for coming disguised as old folks. The Author made the presentation speech. He began it by saying that in South Carolina any man might well be excused for falling in love with his grandmother.

Then the oldsters began to depart, with laughter and gay good nights. It had been a delightful affair, one of those affairs that go with a swing and a rhythm all their own, and that one remembers with a pleasant taste in the mouth.

Only the more indefatigable youngsters remained. They hadn't the slightest intention of foregoing half a night's dancing. They danced in the hall to the music of the victrola, while the regular musicians were being feted in the kitchen by Mary Magdalen, Queenasheeba, and Fernolia.

I missed my fan, and went into the drawing-room to look for it. The room was quite empty for the moment, and looked lonesome for all its blazing lights. A cool, sweet night wind came in through the open windows, refreshingly. And quite suddenly there was framed in one of them a figure more exotic, more bizarre, than any of our maskers had been.

His dark robe was folded over his breast, and the silver shaft of a knife showed in his red girdle. His white wool stuck out from under his red fez, and his ear-rings gleamed against his black cheeks, and the bracelets on his wiry arms made a faint tinkling as he leaned forward. Emboldened by his twinkling eyes, his crooked, friendly smile, eager to question him, I drew nearer. He stretched out his hand, and slipped into mine the half of a broken coin.



CHAPTER XV

THE HEART OF HYNDS HOUSE

I stood staring at the broken coin in my hand with a sort of stupefaction, while The Jinnee moved slowly away from the window. I had received a summons I could not ignore. Had I not promised, smilingly indeed, but sincerely, to answer that call whenever and however it should come?

The music had ceased for the moment, and the big hall was quite empty, for the dancers had trooped into the dining-room, from which came laughter and chattering voices, and the chink of silver and china. The great front doors were wide open. I slipped unseen into the darkly bright, whispering night.

The moon was high in the heavens, for it was past midnight; the wind was chill upon my shoulders, the dew silvery under my feet. There was an odor abroad—the ineffable odor of sleepily stirring spring, of young new leaves budding, of tender grass, growing like a baby's hair.

At some distance ahead I could just distinguish the dark figure of the messenger, flitting soundless as a shadow. And then, to my infinite relief, out of the shrubbery stepped Boris, and thrust his doggy nose into my hand. I laid hold of his collar, and he trotted sedately beside me.

I had half expected to be led to the gray-gabled cottage, but The Jinnee stole along in the shadow of the hedge, stopped beside the spring-house, and held up his hand.

"In the name of God!" said I, involuntarily.

"The compassionate, the merciful!" finished The Jinnee, and turning to the east made a profound reverence. There was something so simple and so sincere in his manner that my momentary fear subsided.

"But why have I been sent for? Why are you here?" I wondered.

He folded his arms upon his breast, and in a sing-song voice, curiously unlike any other I had ever heard, answered parrotlike:

"This is the word of the master: Take to the fair-haired lady the broken coin, my sign, and she will remember her word to me. Verily, for the sign's sake, she will follow without fear."

"The master is not ill, then?"

"In his body he is well. But of the spirit of man, and what help he needs, there is but one judge, namely, God."

"He has need of me?"

"He sends the token by me, Achmet." And he stood there with a motionless patience, waiting.

Achmet! I remembered an afternoon in the Enchanted Wood, and that name ringing in my ears—Achmet!

"I will follow you," I said. And instantly The Jinnee pushed open the unlocked door of the spring-house and stepped inside.

I hesitated for a moment, turning my head toward Hynds House, blazing with lights. I could hear voices, laughter, snatches of song. From the kitchen Mary Magdalen's great, rich, unctuous laugh rolled out like an organ peal. Silhouetted against the lighted library window was one of our big black cats, with an arched back and an uplifted and expressive tail.

"I wait," said a quiet voice. And, clutching Boris by the collar, I stepped inside the door.

It was dark in there; only a faint and broken light came through the one window, set high in the wall. Boris's eyes were balls of fire, and his feet made a stealthy, scuffling sound on the flagged floor. The little spring bubbling in its stone basin was like a whispering, secretive voice.

Achmet stooped down, over in one corner. Then, shading a very modern flash-light with a fold of his robe, he showed me one of the square flags lifted, and a black hole yawning in the floor.

I backed away. With a crooked, sly smile, The Jinnee snapped his fingers at Boris. The big dog jerked himself free of my hand and disappeared.

"Now!" said The Jinnee. And like one in a dream I gathered my lace-trimmed skirts in my hand and backed down a spider-web stairway that barely gave one foothold. Achmet waited until I reached the bottom, then he, too, backed in, and I heard the flagstone fall to over my head.

There was a moment of utter and awful blackness and stillness. I was upon the point of shrieking, when something cold and friendly touched my hand: Boris was nosing me. The Jinnee, at the bottom of the steps, showed the light.

We were in a circular shaft, narrowing upward like an inverted funnel. It was quite clean and dry, lined with hard cement. Branching from it were two wedge-shaped openings, just wide enough to allow one person at a time to walk through.

The Jinnee plunged into one of these, and Boris and I followed. There was nothing else for us to do.

"This is safest way. If I come through house, I am seen. Not want that," said Achmet, over his shoulder.

I made no reply. I was wondering what The Author would have said had he seen us at that moment—The Jinnee shuffling ahead in heelless slippers and Oriental dress, upon his woolly head a red fez with a silver crescent on it, and on his breast a string of saphies, verses from the Koran, in exquisite Arabic script, framed in flat round pieces of silver and strung on a chain. Boris, larger and nobler even than most of his breed, paced behind him. Then came I, a slim blonde woman, with fair hair powdered, in a dress a century old.

The passage wasn't quite six feet high, and so still that you could hear the beating of your heart. Achmet's slippers went scuf-scuf-scuf. Boris swayed from side to side, his tongue lolling, his eyes phosphorescent. He resembled those ghost-hounds of old stories, terrific beasts that follow the Wild Huntsman.

We went down some steps. I shouldn't have been surprised had I found myself climbing the beanstalk after Jack. Dazedly I thought: "I'll wake up in the morning and tell them at the breakfast-table what a wonderful dream I had." I could fancy the Lady with the Soul clasping her hands, and The Author crinkling his eyes, and Alicia laughing.

This last passage, which, I learned afterward, ran under the carriage house, presently crooked like an elbow and led us into a windowless and stone-floored little room, under the cellar. On the opposite side of the room was the opening of another such passage, with stone steps leading to it. On these steps sat Nicholas Jelnik.

He got to his feet and stood looking at me. A momentary red rushed to his cheek, and his eyes flashed. Boris, tongue out, tail wagging, rubbed against him, and the master's hand dropped between the speaking eyes with a swift caress.

"Good dog! You came with her!"

"And I. Am I not also a good dog?" asked The Jinnee, jealously.

Mr. Jelnik's reply I did not understand, but Achmet made a respectful salutation, and his grin was the grin of a little boy.

"Sophy!" said Nicholas Jelnik, and his voice shook, "Sophy! Oh, I knew you would come!" He gave a low, pleased laugh. "And now she is here, she doesn't even ask why I have sent for her!"

"The mistress," said Achmet, "should have been of the Faith. May Allah enlighten her!"

"Sit down here beside me for a few minutes, Sophy, and rest," said Mr. Jelnik, seating himself. "And do not look so pale, my little comrade."

"I thought—that you might be ill," I faltered. "I thought—that you needed me."

"I am not ill, but I do need you," he said quickly, and took my hand in a firm clasp. The touch of that hand brought me out of my trance-like state. It was all right, and the most natural thing in the world, that I should be sitting in this windowless vault, with two candles and a shadowy lantern burning dimly in the still air, an old black Jinnee squatting on his heels watching me, a great wolf-hound stretched beside him. Wasn't Nicholas Jelnik holding my hand?

"Sophy," he said directly, "I have found the lost Key of Hynds House." I looked at him dumbly. "I have reached that point where I can tell you everything, little friend. Thank Heaven you have come!" But of a sudden his-forehead was damp.

"You will remember," he said, after a moment's silence, and still holding my hand—and I think that now he held it as he had once held his mother's—"when I talked to you about my childhood and my mother, I told you she had made me more of an American than an Austrian. This old home-town of her people, this old house, the mystery that blackened the Hynds name, were as real to me as the scenes and people that actually surrounded me.

"When I was older, she turned over to me all her family papers, and I sifted and assorted and reduced them to system and order. I found among them Richard Hynds's own brief account of the affair, and copies of letters to his father, but the bulk of the papers consisted of such data as his son and namesake could gather. This formed a copious mass, for he had set down every least circumstance that he thought might have any bearing upon his father's case. These papers, guarded so jealously, bequeathed to his successors the sacred task of righting Richard Hynds.

"In Richard's short statement, left for his little son, he, as rightful heir of Hynds House, mentions the secret passages and tells how they may be entered. He had been taught that much, himself, on reaching his majority. But there was one vital secret that hadn't been revealed to Richard, for not until the head of Hynds House knew he was about to die did he give to his successor the Key to the hidden room; the room concealed so cunningly that without the Key one could never hope to find it. They planned and built wonderfully well, those old master work-men. They meant that secret room to be the strong-box, the inviolate hiding-place which should keep what might be entrusted to it. It was, as it were, the heart of Hynds House.

"Remember that Richard's father died of a stroke of apoplexy, and without speaking. Thus Freeman would know no more than Richard did. There was but one person alive who knew, and that was—"

"A slave?" I whispered, remembering Freeman's diary.

"A slave, an unlettered slave. How he discovered it I do not know. But he did discover it. He knew, and the Hyndses did not. In regard to this same slave, a curious item was set down by Richard's son:

"'This day Black Shooba's son told me of a heathen song Shooba made before he died and swore him to forget not. 'Tis a strange chaunt:

"I, Shooba, the Snake Soul, make me a Song. In the night I sing it for my Snake. My Snake showed me a Secret Thing. Two Eyes and Two Eyes looked upon One Eye. One Eye is open and sees, and sees not. This my Snake showed me, in the Dark. But the Strong Ones, the White Ones, They have no Snake. Ho! Never shall they see it!"'

"Sounds like a stark raving, doesn't it? One can fancy the doctor feeling a bit ashamed of himself when he wrote it down.

"I rather fancied it raving, myself, until one day I came across—" here he paused, and looked at me intently—"a yellowed slip of paper between the pages of an old diary that had been accidentally discovered. I knew then that there was really something to be discovered, and that I had not been a visionary sentimentalist when I yielded to my mother's last expressed wish that I should come here and search.

"I suppose," he went on dreamily, "that it was in my blood, the desire to come here to Hyndsville, like a homing bird. But when my mother died, the ties that bound me to her country seemed to be in a measure loosened. Then, too, the Wanderlust had me in its grip. I put aside the profession my father had bred me to, left my affairs in what I thought capable hands, and indulged my desire to wander up and down the earth and sail the seven seas. It was upon one of these prowls that I came upon my old Achmet here, and induced a master who didn't love him to part with him." And he looked at the old man with whimsical tenderness.

"I am your slave," spoke up The Jinnee, sturdily. "I am the fostered offspring of my master's bounty. May he live a thousand years!"

That shocked my Yankee ears. Achmet smiled his crooked smile.

"Why did the sahiba follow when I showed her a broken coin?" he asked.

"Because I knew that Mr. Jelnik needed me."

"Even in the bowels of the earth?" I was silent.

"Because he is the master!" said The Jinnee. "Therefore you obeyed. He is the master. Wherefore am I, Achmet, his slave." Oh, shame upon you, Sophy Smith, for there was that in you, and that not the least divine part, which was in full accord with black Achmet!

"Achmet's ideas are of the immutable East," said Mr. Jelnik, with a faint smile. "He is archaic." And dismissing this persiflage with a wave of the hand, he continued:

"Behold me, then, footing it up and down the highways and byways of the world. But it was as if I had disobeyed the dead, and they would give me no rest. So presently I stopped short and came to Hyndsville.

"With Richard's directions in my possession, it was comparatively easy for me to find the passageways, and after the old woman's death I had chance to examine the house room by room. And sometimes, Sophy, when I have been alone in this tragic old place—" he paused, and looked at me with a puzzled frown—"it has seemed to me that there were—well, secret influences, say; things outside of our sphere. I have felt a sense of horror and despair descend upon my spirit, a weight almost too heavy to bear. Sometimes it would be so powerful, so insistent, so vivid, that I had to fly from it.

"Then I happened to remember something that a gipsy, an old, old man reputed to be very wise, told me when I was a boy. He said that troubled spirits can be soothed and sent hence by music. It is the old and sure charm, as David found when he played upon the harp and drove the evil spirit out of Saul the king. I brought my violin and tried it. And," said the cosmopolitan Mr. Jelnik, "the gipsy was right."

"Ah, yes, I see you know, now. It was I whom you heard playing, that first day. It was I, touched by your plight in that forlorn and dusty barracks, who gave you some slight relief. It was easy enough for me to cut across to Geddes's house, reach in through his kitchen window, lift his tray, and escape through the ragged hedges while his cook's broad back was turned. Achmet was willing enough to play the obliging Jinnee. You had your dinner, and I had a bit of harmless amusement. It pleased me to hear Alicia call me Ariel. It pleased me to stand by, to protect you, if that should be necessary. Achmet and I took turns in safeguarding you at night.

"You will understand"—he gave me a straight, clear, proud look—"that it was never my desire to mystify or to frighten you. But I couldn't take you offhand into my confidence, could I? I had to find out something more about you. Remember, too, that my search in no wise jeopardizes your interests.

"Day after day, night after night, Sophy, I have pored over old papers, or burrowed mole-like into the black recesses of Hynds House. Bit by bit I have pieced scraps of evidence together—Shooba's savage chant with Scipio's dying whisper in Freeman's ear, and these two with a rude verse and a line of dots. But there the thread snapped.

"Do you remember the morning you told me, The Author's guess that 'Hellen's Keye' was the Greek fret, the design over all the windows and doors of Hynds House? The trail was plain then. I was to follow the line of the Greek key for three and thirty turnings, when I should come upon a sign. I tried and tried. And to-night—I reached the end of it, Sophy. I found it." Again his forehead was damp, and his pallor, if possible, deepened.

I rose as if on springs. The hair of my head rose, too, I thought, and my scalp tingled.

"Found what?"

"The hidden room that the masters built for the master of Hynds House." He stopped, and a shudder passed over him. His hand closed upon mine, and it was deathly cold.

"You have been in a secret room?—here in Hynds House?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes," said he in a whisper. "I opened the door—and went in. The room hadn't been opened for a hundred years, Sophy. There was a table in one corner, and I went over to it. There was something else there, too, Sophy." He moistened his lips, and looked at me with dilated eyes.

"What?" I asked; "in God's name, what?"

"The thief," said Nicholas Jelnik.



CHAPTER XVI

THE DEVILL HIS RAINBOW

I was taken with a cold grue.

"Is it—murder?" It seemed to me that the still room shook and echoed to the barely whispered word, that the candles stirred and flickered as in a wind of passing wings.

"Not in the sense you mean," he replied. "But whatever it may be, Sophy, this thing has got to be met and faced by us two together. It concerns you now, as well as me." He stood up as he spoke. "And now," he asked, "are you strong enough to come with me?"

I gathered the living spirit within me and looked him in his eyes.

"Yes," I said steadily.

"Allah! but here is a woman a man may serve without shame to his beard!" quoth The Jinnee, wagging his old white head. And with Boris stretched beside him he resigned himself to wait with the tireless patience of the East.

If the other passages had been narrow, that which we now entered was worse. It was so narrow that the wall on each side seemed about to close in and crush us, like those frightful sliding walls that became a living coffin for the victims of medieval cruelty. Always one was confronted by solid brick walls; and to turn back was to meet others seemingly risen to cut off all escape. For this passage follows the simple and yet intricate pattern of the Greek key. Thus:



I fancied myself doomed to spend a frightful eternity of burrowing through brick wormholes which led nowhere. I lost all sense of location, time, and direction. I wasn't even sure of my own identity any more: things like this couldn't happen to a woman named Smith! Just when I reached the stage where I was ready to drop down and lie there unmoving until I died, he turned his head and gave me a comradely smile of assurance and trust. I plucked up heart of grace and staggered on. Of a sudden he stopped. The pale circle of the flash-light moved up, inch by inch, steadied, and stayed on one spot.

I found myself staring fixedly at the old and familiar enough symbol of the rayed eye within the triangle. It was not commonplace or familiar set up there in that secret and awesome place and seen by a pale light. There was about it a stark and stern solemnity, such as suggested the winged circle of immortality carved above the rock-hewn doors of the tombs of Egyptian kings. Higher than a tall man's head, it was painted on bricks of a lighter hue than the surrounding ones, and when the light touched it it seemed to leap out of the dark like a thing alive, a thing that watched with an unwinking and terrifying intensity.

I remembered Shooba's savage chant of the One Eye that his Snake had shown him; and the doggerel verse on the frayed paper in Freeman's diary.

"The Watcher in the Dark!" I stammered; "the Watcher in the Dark! Why—why, that paper was the Key itself!"

"Exactly. And a very simple key, though it took me a heartbreaking length of time to turn it. The cipher was easy enough. It falls apart into the figures three, five, seven, and nine; it was also the simplest train of reasoning to apply these figures to the column of dots. Only, I hadn't the remotest idea what the dots themselves represented. Nor did it occur to me that the tortuous turnings of any of the passageways of Hynds House might follow the pattern of the Greek key, until The Author called your attention to the design over the outside windows. Clever man, The Author!

"I lost the paper in the attic the night you heard me stumble on the stairs. Fortunately, The Author put it in his coat in the closet and locked the door on the outside. You can enter any room in the Hynds House through those closet-walls, Sophy. They're paneled, remember. I hated to have to go through The Author's pockets like a burglar, but I had to have the key."

He handed me the flash-light.

"Now for the column of dots, each of which represents a brick," he said, and began to count, from the first dark brick immediately under the center of the triangle. At the third brick he paused; I could see his fingers moving around the white line that, apparently, held it in place. And that third brick, which looked so solidly placed, turned as upon a pivot and swung out sideways. Still counting from top to bottom, he paused at the fifth, the seventh, and the ninth, and they, too, behaved in the same manner. As the ninth one turned, that which had seemed a section of solid wall rose soundlessly from the floor and left in its place an opening, a door, as it were, some six feet high and about eighteen inches wide.

"It is not brick at all, but painted wood. A really wonderful bit of work," explained Mr. Jelnik.

I could only stare, owlishly.

"You are wondering where we are?" He answered the unspoken question: "Above the library, between the outside wall and the chimney-stacks. You'd have to tear the house down to find it, without the Key." As he spoke, he was lighting two of the candles Achmet had provided us with, and although his hand was quite steady, he had become frightfully pale. I, too, felt myself growing paler, felt again the cold grue, as if the wind of death had stirred my hair.

"Reach into my breast pocket and you'll find a small vial. Put a drop of the contents on your handkerchief and hold it against your mouth for a moment," said Mr. Jelnik, with a sharp glance at me.

I obeyed mechanically. The scent had an indescribably tingling, spicy odor, and left a cool and grateful sensation in one's parched and dry throat. My blurred vision cleared, my dull and throbbing head was relieved.

"An Alexandrine Copt gave me that," he said, watching its effect with satisfaction. "He told me he had gotten it from a temple papyrus, and that it was undoubtedly one of the lost perfumes of Punt, used by the higher priesthood in their mysteries. Once a year he sends me such a tiny vial as you see. I could hardly have survived my searchings in this house, without that saving perfume. Do you feel able to go on?"

"Yes."

"Come, then," and with that he stepped through the opening, and I after him.

The room was not large—perhaps some nine feet high, some eight feet wide. The walls were of such exquisitely grooved and polished red mahogany that the candle-light was reflected in them as in mirrors; one seemed to be surrounded by twinkling red stars. On each side of the opening stood a tall and narrow cabinet, somewhat like a high-boy, and in one corner was a chest with iron clasps and handles. Over in another corner was a heavy, medium-sized square table, on which stood a blackened candelabrum and a tarnished silver-gilt cup. There were two chairs drawn up to this table. On one of them, fallen forward, was something.

Mr. Jelnik placed the candles in the empty sconces. We two stood looking down, he with pity, I with a mounting, sick horror, at the thing before us—the poor, huddled thing that had lain there so long. For it was not, as one might suppose at first glance, a frayed and threadbare mantle flung across one corner of the table. By the long black hair it was a woman, and a young woman.

She had on what must once have been a most beautiful brown silk dress, trimmed with quantities of fine lace, and looped up over a stiff brocaded petticoat. Her skeleton feet were in the smallest of low-cut shoes, the tarnished silver buckles of which were set with rhinestones. Her head rested on her arm, outflung across the table. The other arm hung limp, and the fingers pointed downward, as if accusingly. She had quantities of glorious black hair, and this alone had death respected; nothing else of her loveliness remained. Under her fleshless hand lay the soiled and yellowed papers she had written, and over which, in biting mockery, she had kept watch and ward.

"Who is it? Oh, God, God!—who is it?" I gasped, and heard my voice rattling in my throat like a dying woman's. As, perhaps her voice had rattled, here in the dark. The thought of her, sitting here in awful loneliness these long, long years, while life, all unknowing, ebbed and flowed within reach of her, made me shudder.

"It is Jessamine Hynds, lost Jessamine Hynds," said her kinsman of a later day, looking down upon the wreck of her with compassion.

"But how—how—why did she come here? To die thus—Oh, my God! my God!"

"I saw the papers under her hand, and her name written upon the first page," he said. "What further things she has written, I do not know. I waited, Sophy, until we should read it together." He smiled at me wanly. "I could bear it better, with you beside me. You see how much I need you!" And he took the papers from her and spread them upon the table. What she had written I shall insert here, as its properest place.

I, Jessamine Hynds, Gentlewoman, being of sound Mind (though they do say I am mad) but of infirm Body, the which I am shortly to be rid of, do state and declare before God that it was I who did take the Hynds Jewells, being help'd thereto by black Shooba the witch doctor, who was my father's man before my Uncle James Bought him at the Publick Outcry of our Effects.

As to the Why & Wherefore I have act'd thus, thou knowest, thou cruel God, who made me a beggar'd Orphan, a poor dependant in this House of Pride!

Yet, God, thou knoweth I lov'd them well enow until Richard came home the last Time from Abroad, a Young Man in the Beauty of his Youth, who saw not Jessamine the poor Cozzen, but Jessamine the fair woman. He would have me sing him Ballads, he would hang Entranc'd upon the Spinet when I play'd. Now would he fetch me a flower for my hair, placing of it himself. And now 't was a knot of ribband for my dress, and himself fetch'd home broach and ear-rings for my Birthday Gift, saying in my ear no fairer woman's face had gladded his eyes since he left home. And by the clipt Hedge on a May night he kiss'd me. Alas, oh blind high God, alas, alas!

'T was Wondrous to see how even the Servants did catch the Humour, they waiting upon me Marvelous ready. Until came my dear Aunt, smiling sickly, and laying of her Hand upon my Sholder said she must speak for mine own Good. Richard was but a young Man, wild & headlong, and I a fair Woman thrown in his Way in an empty betweenwhiles ere his own true love came. See to it, Jessamine, says she, that a Boy's short-liv'd Fancy makes not a mock of thee, at thy years, that should know better!

Mine Uncle ever twitt'd me for liking of Books, & laugh'd when I beg'd I might have my Chance of Becoming an Artist. "What," says he, "a Hynds woman painting of strange folks their faces? Out upon thy notion, Jessamine!" And my Cozzens laugh'd and said, Ever did Gentlemen dislike a Learn'd Female. Should have gotten me a good Husband this Ten Years since but for my Shrew's Temper & Vanity of Books.

To cure me they did Cruelly bait me to Marry the Pursy Ninny that hath the Plantation beyond the Hopes, he that hath been Ogling of me for years. Could scratch the Wretch his eyes Out! Puffeth with his mouth in a way hateful to me & hath pig's jowls. Yet were all they fair mad I should marry me this Paragon. Should have a home of mine Own, worthy a Lady. Aye,—and be out of the way, lest I lead Richard Astray.

Mine Uncle chid me for Ingratitude to God in that I stamp'd my foot and said No! But Richard laugh'd at the idea of Jessamine wedding yon tun. Quoth Richard, "Let Jessamine be, all of ye! she is meat for his masters." Freeman smil'd sourly, & shrug'd. I love not Freeman, nor do I hate him overmuch though he call'd me "Madame Jezebel."

And then came Emily home from Visiting of her Aunts in London Town. And they made a Marriage between her and Richard, Richard that was mine. He had lov'd me an they had let us be. Once pledg'd, he had held fast to his word. Nor would I, for his own Soul's sake, have let him go. There is none, none under the sun but me alone, was strong enough to have sav'd Richard.

'T is true, as men judge such things, his Conduct to me was but Gallant Pleasantry, such as Fine Gentlemen do show to Favour'd Ladies. And he did Spare my Pride. Never did he show by word or Deed, or admit to any, that I had car'd more Deeply than he. But Emily knew. I knew she knew. Saw it in her Eyes, that look'd on me with Pity. I will not brok that any mortal Woman shall Pity me!

Secretly I suffer'd, suffer'd so that a Burning fire crept & crept into my Brain and Stay'd, nor has left me, Day or Night. And in all the World was no one I might Weep before, or that would Comfort me and leave me Unasham'd, save Shooba, the witch doctor, whom the slaves Fear for that he hath a Snake-soul and makes Charms and casts Spells.

'T is true, that Shooba hath a Spiritt. When it worketh upon him he is Dull and Overcast and may not Labour untill it be gone. And then will he rise and Speak strange and sometimes Terrible things, and Prophesy. In the old times my Father smil'd, and let him be. But here 't is otherwise. When Shooba's Spiritt made him Heavy and Sleepy, and when he woke again and Spoke, mine Uncle's new Overseer had the old man Whip't. Twice did this Happen before I knew of It.

Then went I to the Overseer, with Indignation, and said: "Do not whip Shooba, any more. 'T is Monstrous, to Whip an old man that hath a Spiritt! 'T is not true he makes dissentions and plots Revolt among the slaves. 'T is not true he is lazy & will not Work. There is no better Workman than Shooba. 'T is only true you are a cruel man and misuse your Power."

Flick'd with his Whip his worsted Stockings. Said in a hateful voice: "'Taint your place, Miss, to be a-giving of orders to the Overseer. I take orders only from them that has the right to Give 'em. When I think that old Nigger ought to be whipt, whipt he 'll be."

Then march'd he to mine Uncle and ask'd was Mistress Jessamine to oversee the Overseer, and call him hard Names for the whipping of a Troublesome Nigger? And my Uncle fell into a Fury With me. Allowed the wretch to Triumph. Shooba was whipt again. I saw his Back.

Once old Shooba cur'd me of a pestilent Fever, with Simples, when I was a little Child, and our Leech had given me Over, nor did he Bleed me once. Now Shooba's Back was Bleeding, and I might not help him!

Now in the night I had gone secretly to his Hut to fetch him such poor little Comforts as I might secretly get & give. He took them, & look'd at me long & long, with his brooding, deep, strange eyes.

"For the man that whipt me, I have sent forth my Snake. My Snake will have a Thing to say to him. The man will die. Then laughed he, and hugg'd his knees.—And 't is true Meekins the Overseer one week later was bitten by a Serpent in the Field and died an Unlovely Death.

"Missy," whispered Shooba, "in my country when I young, chief get mad with chief more stronger, not fight with spears. Call Witch doctor and make Medicine. Stronger chief, him come dead one day soon. Maybe bumbye you and me make some Medicine?" My lips curl'd somewhat. Poor old Shooba making medicine against the Hyndses. "You go now and think some. I stay here, and think some, too. Maybe one time you find medicine. Maybe one time my Snake find."

I went away, smiling sadly. 'T would need strong medicine to heal me and Shooba!

Now Time pass'd, and they fell to planning for Freeman's Ball. 'T was to be a Grand affair, and there was Talk of my Aunt's Frock, and wearing of the Hynds Jewells. And Richard's Wife was to be Allow'd to wear the Queen's Emerald.

Came Emily to me in secret, and says she, "Come, Jessamine, be Friends with me. My Mind is Fix'd you shall Outshine all the other Ladies. I have the very Frock for you, just new come from London, a lustrous thing will make you glow & Sparkle like a Ruby. We shall make it a State Secret, Jessamine. Not a word shall be breath'd, but you shall burst upon them all like a Meteor!"

I do admit that ever was something Noble & Generous in Emily, that something in myself did Honour. I had thank'd her Thought, but that Richard came in & kiss'd her for it, saying he een Lov'd her the Better for that she lov'd his haughty Cozzen. But, O God, they Two went away Hand in Hand! He forgot me for her sake, so completely that he said not even, "Good-by."

That night went I to Shooba secretly, and said, "Is thy Snake awake? For A Thought is in my mind." Then took we Counsel together. Shooba is a man most cunning in all manner of Herbs and Simples. They in Hynds House began for to sleep sweetly and soundly, but felt no ill Effects. Nay, they rose betimes most pleasantly rest'd & refresh'd.

Then did Shooba and I, who thus had undisturb'd Access to my Aunt's room, work swiftly until Dawn. Three nights and a half night did we two work, before our Task was compleat'd, the Kernell's filch'd from the Nuts, and the Empty Shells left for my lady's adorning of herself at my lord's birth-night Ball.

Oh, 't was a rare, rare Jest! I laugh'd and old Shooba laugh'd. And I did chap them atween my hands, those flaming Bawbles, as children chap chaff. And they did sparkle & glow like the Devill his Rainbow! All day was I Happy, Hugging of my Secret to my Heart.

Emily had the brown dress brought Secretly into the House, & Made for me in mine Own Room. Once was she wishful I might wear one of the Hynds Rubies, just for one Night, but I chid her, saying that already the Frock was more than Enough. Indeed 't is a beautiful Dress. Will serve me well for a Shroud.

Ever came the Ball nearer & nearer, and all we a-flutter, I with my hands overfull, my hours overcrowd'd, with Helping of them. I could not have slept in peace did I not know what was a-coming.

And then open'd they the Safe in my Aunt's morning-room. Shall be such a Howling from the Damn'd on the Day of Judgment as went up from Hynds House that day! Makes me to think of the text, And there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Lord, how did they run Hither & Thither, what Wailing & Reproaching & Accusing & Screeching! How did my dear Aunt's eyes grow Redder than ever Mine had been! How did my Proud Uncle find his Lofty Crest Lower'd, and was in that Honour of his Scourg'd more Cruelly than ever old Shooba's Back had been! How, too, was her Happiness burst like a Bubble, that had been so rainbow Bright! In that house all wept save me alone. Nor did one of them so much as dream in 's sleep of suspecting Jessamine Hynds!

And then—oh, God! oh, God—Richard, my Richard, that I Lov'd more than mine own Soul, died! As a Candle is snuff'd out, so went Richard that was so comely and so strong. I had only thought to Punish him, Make them all Suffer to Pay me for mine own Suffering. Never, never, had I meant that Richard should Die. 'Twas a Thunder-bolt upon my Head, 'twas Lightning splitting my Heart.

'Twas I brought the News of Richard's death to my Uncle James. Was sitting in the Library pretending for to read. Then came I in, and clos'd the Door, and said:

"Richard is dead." How the man star'd! Had a ruddy face, very Handsome. Before my eyes it pal'd and pinch'd. I said again: "Don't you understand? Richard is dead."

As a tree falls, he fell. I knew his Time was come, and gently I rais'd him. He claw'd at his Breast and mouth'd "Richard—Freeman—Pocket-book—The Key, the Key!" Look'd at me piteously. 'Twould melt one's Heart to see his Eyes.

I did thrust my hand into the breast of his blue Broad-cloath Coat, and draw forth his Pocket-Book. 'Twas in Dark Green leather, & upon it the Arms of our House. There were bank-notes in't, some silver, two or three folded papers, and one in a small silk Cover, put by itself. I saw his Fading Eyes brighten as I held it up. He maw'd, "Key—Freeman—" and puff'd with his Lips, and fell Unconscious. I slipt the Book back into his breast, put the silk-covered paper in mine own, and ran out of the Room, Calling Loudly for help.

He dy'd that Night. And when I look'd at the "Key" 'twas naught but a silly Verse. Yet I was doubtful of Giving it to Freeman. Instead, I did show it to old Shooba.

"I will ask my Snake if he knows anything of Keyes," said Shooba. And remembering the Overseer, I did not smile, but gave him the Paper. I like not to think of Shooba's Snake.

Then buried we mine Uncle in the Hynds tomb and my Aunt was left to wander ghostlike, seeking for what she should never find.—Oh, why did not they leave Richard and me alone!

I repent not. But I am Troubled because of Richard who comes in the Night and looks at me, and asks, without anger, only with Sorrow, "Was it well done, Jessamine?" I answer, weeping; "Richard, it was to be. You made me Love you, Richard, and you put me by. For which Cause, and for that their Pride was beyond Bearing, did I pull down the Roof of Hynds House over their heads, and these my Hands did push you into your Grave. But go you back to Sleep, my dearest Dear. I shall Find mine Own Grave shortly, and then I shall be able to come closer to you. When I am Dead, Richard, you will understand."

Sometimes he will go, looking at me over his Sholder with Eyes so sad that for Pity I must weep mine own eyes Blind. But sometimes he will say, in a Voice none may hear but me: "Cruel, cruel Jessamine! You shall not come near me even when you are Dead: You shall be Farther from me than when we two walk'd Quick under the Sun. Never, never did you truly Love me: I know, the Dead being Wiser than the Living! 'T is Emily Lov'd me truest."

And oh, thou awful, far-off God, I cannot make him Understand! And unless I can make him understand, I am lost! My misery, my misery! He will not listen. I am dying of this thing!

Now did Shooba's Death-in-Life come upon him once more, and for a day and a night he lay Stark. And in the Sleep his Snake came and show'd him the untying of the Knot, and the Turning of the Keye. In proof whereof Shooba took me by the hand & Show'd me the Watcher in the Darke.

"Do but one thing more for me, old Shooba: Put out the Fire in my Brain, Shooba, for I would Sleep. And I would Sleep here, in Secret, where none but the Watcher may see."

For a while he ponder'd, Watching of me with still eyes.

"Not good to stay awake too long. You shall Sleep," he said.

Last night he Brought me the Pinch of Powder that is an Open Door. To what? I know not. But I go without Fear, because without Hope. So shall I sleep in the secret Chamber, and it maybe I shall Dream that Richard lightly Lov'd and as lightly Left me. Whereof Richard Died. And, that Freeman thinks his Brother Guilty and a Thief: A Hynds a Thief! so that Hynds House hangs Heavy above his head. And that Emily begins to Hate Freeman, who Loves her. She thinks he hath play'd Judas. I shall have Pleasant dreams!

Never shall they Find where Shooba hid the Gems, between a night and a morning. Never shall any look upon my face more, nor read what I have written, nor know what I have done. I repent not, O God! What I am I am, Not I but Thou hast created me! Having liv'd mine own Life, I do die mine Own Death.

JESSAMINE HYNDS.

"This is the Horror that we have—felt!" I babbled. "She's been sitting here—by herself—all the time—" and my voice failed me, remembering that dark and anguished sense of guilt and ruin, of unease and terror, that at times fell upon one in the night like a smothering garment. Cold drops came upon my forehead, when I reflected that we had been living under the same roof with This, and we all unknowing. And I began to whimper: "I cannot stay even one night more under the same roof with her. I cannot! I cannot!"

"Sophy," said Nicholas Jelnik's quiet voice, "I brought you here because I relied upon your courage, your common sense, and your charity."

I gulped. In the most matter-of-fact manner, he gave me another whiff of that incomparable perfume, and I felt my taut nerves steady. Not untruthfully had the Coptic physician claimed magic qualities for that perfume.

Mr. Jelnik said gently: "Had you been other than you are, I would not have dared call you to my aid to-night. But when I discovered the real thief—and she Jessamine Hynds—I could not bear that any other eyes than yours should see her as she is. And—I want you to be with me when I find the jewels."

The jewels? I blinked at him. Immersed in the tragedy of the woman Jessamine, her piteous fate had put all thought of everything save herself out of my mind.

"Shooba hid them, between a night and a morning. Shooba brought her here, between a night and a morning. Where should the jewels be but here?"

At his words the grim and mocking ghost of that terrible old African, who had been whipped for falling into trances, and who had so tragically revenged himself and his slighted mistress, seemed to rise behind all that remained of her.

"Yes, he would put them where she could keep watch over them. Why should she come here, make her way through those dreadful passages, save for that? Think of her stealing out of her room in the dead of night, coming alive to what she knew was her tomb, shutting that door upon herself—" I looked at the tarnished cup, and hoped that the witch doctor's potion had given her a speedy sleep. I looked at the blackened candelabrum, and wondered whether that candle had gone out before she had, or whether her head had fallen upon her arm, and she had died wide-eyed in the black, black dark. The cold grue shook me again, and I beat my hands together for terror and pity.

"Do not think of that!" said Mr. Jelnik. "Death rectifies human wrongs, and all of them have long, long since been healed of their hurts. Come, let us find the jewels. We are losing time."

We opened the cabinets first. They held papers that had been precious in their day—old deeds, old charters and grants, with the king's seals and the signatures of the Lords Proprietors upon them; correspondence, a casual glance at which showed Revolutionary activities—a hanging matter once, but harmless enough now; a box of foreign coins, all gold; a charge, in medieval Latin, on fine parchment, which exquisitely illuminated initial letters; a plain silver chalice and a patten; some threadbare robes and regalia, and a gavel; a most carefully done chart of the Hynds family, ending, however, with Colonel James Hampden Hynds himself; two letters, and a miniature of Charles the First; letters signed, "Yours, B. Franklin," "Yours, John Hancock"; several from "Geo. Washington."

The chest held two uniforms, one British, the other buff and blue; a pair of pistols, spurs, and a sword. The buff-and-blue uniform was worn and stained, with a burnt and ragged hole in the breast. It had belonged, said the slip pinned to it, to "Captain Lewis De Lacy Hynds, my youngest Brother, the youngest of our House, who Fell Gloriously at the Battle of Cowpens."

And that was all. Although we examined every inch of that floor, every board of the walls, and made the most scrupulously careful search of the cabinets and the chest. I even dared pass my hands over Jessamine herself.

Shooba the witch doctor had done the unexpected. Wherever he might have hidden them between a night and a morning, he had not hidden the Hynds jewels in the secret room of Hynds House. And she who alone could have solved the mystery and told us the truth, lay there with a lipless mouth.



CHAPTER XVII

ON THE KNEES OF THE GODS

We gave over the futile search at last. Mr. Jelnik sat down and took his head in his hands, for the moment a prey to overwhelming disappointment. I could have wept for him. Presently:

"Is it so hard to lose that which you never possessed?" I ventured to ask.

"It is always bitter to fail."

"But you haven't really failed. You have succeeded in proving that both Richard and Freeman were the victims of an insane jealousy and a terrible revenge."

"Jessamine's confession might well be set aside: insane people often accuse themselves of crimes committed only in their own disordered brains. The one indisputable proof would be the jewels in my hands." He added, with a faint smile: "I should have liked to see those accursed things made clean by your wearing them, Sophy."

"I don't want them!" I said, and my head went up. "I don't care that for all the Hynds jewels ever lost! I wouldn't have come here to-night for their sake or mine, not if they were worth an empire's ransom! I wanted them for Richard's sake, and—and yours."

"I know, I know. At first I wanted them for him and me, too. Afterward I wanted them for him and for you, Sophy."

"For me? I have no right to them. What have I to do with Hynds jewels?" And then I stopped. If Jessamine's confession were true—and I believed in my heart that every word Jessamine had written was the truth—what right had I to Hynds House itself? "As to that, I have no right to Hynds House, either. It is yours," I said.

He stared at me thoughtfully.

"It is yours," I repeated, gaining courage. "I am an outsider, to whom this house was left from motives of malice and revenge. Mr. Jelnik, this thing must be set straight. We will show Jessamine's confession and clear Richard's name. We will bring Freeman's diary forward to prove the truth of our assertions. Then you can come into your own."

"Ah!" said Mr. Jelnik, gently, "I see. Quite simple, and perfectly feasible. And after I have taken Hynds House, what of you? What do you get?"

"I get out," I said briefly. And a horrid qualm came over me. Leave Hynds House, forever? Go away from Hyndsville, leaving this friendlier, pleasanter, happier life behind?

"You are forgetting my training," I reminded him, trying to keep my voice steady. "I can always do what I did before I came here. I—I'm really an excellent private secretary, Mr. Jelnik."

"That," said Mr. Jelnik, smiling curiously, "may very well be. But I think the stars in their courses fought to bring you here. And I really do not at all relish the notion of your turning backward into a private secretary, although there is, of course, the alternative of The Author. And what of Alicia?"

"Alicia's sense of justice is quite as well developed as mine," I told him proudly.

"Alicia is a dear girl," he agreed. "But, my dear lady, your plan wouldn't hold water in any court. This place isn't mine, legally or morally, though the jewels would be if I could find them. If ever I do find them, which is highly improbable, I may be tempted to make you an offer of exchange."

"You don't want Hynds House? Richard's house? You won't take Hynds House?"

"I don't want Hynds House. I won't take Hynds House. Further, if anybody on earth but you made me such an offer, in such circumstances, I should find it hard to forgive. Even from you I hardly think I could bear it twice." A bright red showed in his cheeks for an instant, his nostrils quivered, his whole face was a blaze of pride. "What! Nicholas Jelnik accept gifts from women?"

"As good and proud men as Nicholas Jelnik have accepted gifts from women, and been none the worse for it," said I, tartly. "You offered me your jewels. Why shouldn't I offer you my house?—particularly when it should have been your house. I also have my pride, Mr. Jelnik!"

The hauteur went out of his face, and something sweet and quizzical and boyish flooded it.

"Keep Hynds House, dear, dear Donna Quixotta," said he, gently. "You have given me something I needed a thousand times more."

Now, although we had not found the jewels, we had found Jessamine Hynds, and there remained to be done a thing that called for what strength of will and courage we possessed. And we had need to make haste. Already more time had been consumed than we bargained for.

Mr. Jelnik fetched a deep breath, and went over to the Thing in the chair. There was in his manner neither repugnance nor horror, nothing but an almost divine compassion. Never, never, had I respected the courage, the honor, the mercy of man so greatly as I did then.

It was a ghastly task; I do not like to remember it. In the hot, dry air of the room without windows she had become, not a bleached skeleton, but a shriveled, fleshless, blackened mummy. The hair still clung tightly to the skull, the discolored skin was stretched over the bony contour of the face; the lips had shriveled away from the teeth, which showed in a sort of jeering grin. And—well, we had to tie her hair, like a rope, around her chest and arms; and I tore the ruffles off my petticoat, to tie her skirts at the knees and ankles.

The brown frock was low-necked and short-sleeved, too. And the picture of her, down-stairs, showed her with so red a lip, so round an arm, so soft, so white a bosom!

Thou might'st think thou hadst drunk the water of Paradise who had tasted the nectar of her lip.... The ends of her ringlets fell into the hand like as the sleeve of the generous in the hand of the needy.

Oh, Jessamine!

She had been so splendidly tall a woman, that as he held her grisly head upon his shoulder the little shoes that rattled upon her shriveled feet were well below his knees. One great rope of her blue-black hair escaped and fell down the back of his white coat, and as he moved it moved, too, with a lazy and languid coquettishness horribly travesting youth and beauty. It was such wonderful hair! Small wonder young Richard had praised its dark splendor, and kissed its shining folds to his undoing!

"Jessamine," Nicholas Jelnik said as he bent over her, "you shall have your chance to rest. You shall sleep under the open sky. Nature shall have you, Jessamine, and make you over into something of loveliness and of peace."

"Because she loved much, much shall be forgiven her," I whispered. Ah! At the last, who but Him of Galilee shall speak for us?

Never, until I shall be what she was then, shall I be able to forget that return journey. Mr. Jelnik walked ahead, holding her on one arm, and carrying the flash-light with his free hand. I followed with a candle that burned with a low and reddish glare and gave off a heavy, waxy odor in the still air. Whenever the faintest draft lifted the dull flame, we two living creatures seemed to recede into darkness, while the light sought her out and stayed upon her. The motion of his body shook her lightly, and she gave forth a dry and stealthy rattling, an uneasy rustling. One hand hung down, with a loose, loose bracelet jingling on the brittle brown wrist. And her poor little feet with the rotting shoes upon them moved delicately, as if they trod the impalpable air. Once her head struck, with a hollow thud, as we turned a corner. It was almost more than flesh and blood could bear,—like things you were afraid of when you were a child in the dark—the candles melting audibly, and walls, walls, pressing us in.

I think it took us years to reach the room where Achmet waited. At sight of what the master bore, The Jinnee started up and called upon God the Lord Paramount, Help of the Faithful. Then, like the fine old fighter he was, he squared his shoulders, folded his arms, and waited orders. Boris, with a deep-throated, smothered growl of fear and protest, bared his teeth and sidled against him, bristling and trembling.

We consulted briefly. Mr. Jelnik was for leaving her there in the cellar room, until a fitter opportunity offered to give her sepulture. But to this I vehemently objected. I could not have stayed another hour in that house while I knew she was in it. I wanted Jessamine Hynds consigned to the grave from which she had been too long kept. I wanted her to sleep in the brown bosom of the earth, with the impartial grass to cover her, and roses to blow over her by and by, when summer should have come back to South Carolina.

Achmet led the way, and presently we were in the spring-house. When I am feverish I dream of that last climb up the spidery stair, with Jessamine's jaws widened into a soundless laugh, and The Jinnee's light playing at hide-and-seek upon her.

I knelt down and plunged my face into the cold spring-water, and drank and drank. How good it was! And how grateful to my lungs was the outside air, so sweet, so fresh, so clean! I loved the friendly trees waving in the good wind, I blessed the friendly stars.

We stopped at Mr. Jelnik's house, and the man Daoud appeared in answer to a low-voiced summons and fetched me a most beautiful shawl, which I found extremely comfortable. A stately and stoical personage was Daoud, unlike shy black Achmet, who hid himself from observation so thoroughly that people in Hyndsville were not aware of his existence. I sat on the steps while for Jessamine Hynds was fetched a length of canvas, a linen sheet, and a gray army blanket. Achmet appeared with spades. And so we set out.

The old cemetery in Hyndsville, unlike the newer one in which folks take a sort of ghastly pride, one lot differing from another lot in glory, is an unpretentious place, enclosed by crumbling walls, the iron gates of which have rusted ajar. It is a grassy, bird-haunted, tree-shaded spot, with some dozen or so old family vaults, some modest monuments that bear stately names, some raised marble slabs supported on carved and slender legs, like Death's own little card-tables, some stones let flat into the earth, with names and dates long since erased by rain and wind and fallen leaf. Nobody comes here any more. Sophronisba Scarlett was the first and last to be interred in the old cemetery within the memory of the present generation.

We went down dismal paths where the night wind sighed a miserere in the cedars, and things of the dark scurried away with furtive noises, or flapped ill-omened black wings overhead. In a corner shaded by cypresses was the Hynds vault, a venerable affair with a slate roof. Outside, in an inclosed space were some marble-covered graves and in a corner the simplest of all, one marked "R.H." Emily slept beside him, and their son beside her. But on the farther side, next the wall, was room for one more sleeper. And here, while Mr. Jelnik laid down his burden, Daoud and Achmet began to dig.

She lay there in the ghostly light and shade, so utterly cast aside and forgotten, so unloved, so unwept, so far removed from every human tie, that terror and pity filled my heart. While Daoud and Achmet were making ready her bed, Nicholas Jelnik and I spread out the length of canvas, and wrapped her securely in the sheet and blanket. We folded her claws upon the empty breast in which had once pulsed the passionate heart of Jessamine Hynds, and spread her hair over what had been her face.

Over in a sheltered spot behind the vault clambered a huge, overgrown, briery rose, and by some sweet impatience of nature one shoot had budded before its time. I broke off the small, pale roses and placed them in her grasp. But Mr. Jelnik took from his breast a pearl and silver crucifix, and this, reverently, he laid upon hers.

"It was my father's grandmother's. She held it when she was dying. She was an old saint. It would please her to know that her crucifix should stay, one holy thing, with Jessamine Hynds."

"'Verily, the gate of repentance is not nor shall be shut upon God's creatures until the sun shall rise in the west,'" The Jinnee quoted his Prophet And he broke off two of his saphies, each with a holy verse written upon it, and dropped them upon her out of pure charity.

Daoud, who was intelligent and orthodox where Achmet was emotional and tender, was evidently not altogether sure of the wisdom of this proceeding; but he was not too orthodox to stand up arrow-straight, face the East, and pray for her.

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