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The Queen of Sheba by Thomas Bailey Aldrich


THE QUEEN OF SHEBA
I. MARY
II. IN WHICH THERE IS A FAMILY JAR
III. IN WHICH MARY TAKES A NEW DEPARTURE
IV. THE ODD ADVENTURE WHICH BEFELL YOUNG LYNDE IN THE HILL COUNTRY
V. CINDERELLA'S SLIPPER
VI. BEYOND THE SEA
VII. THE DENHAMS
VIII. FROM GENEVA TO CHAMOUNI
IX. MONTANVERT
X. IN THE SHADOW OF MONT BLANC
XI. FROM CHAMOUNI TO GENEVA

 

THE QUEEN OF SHEBA

I. MARY

In the month of June, 1872, Mr. Edward Lynde, the assistant cashier and bookkeeper of the Nautilus Bank at Rivermouth, found himself in a position to execute a plan which he had long meditated in secret.

A statement like this at the present time, when integrity in a place of trust has become almost an anomaly, immediately suggests a defalcation; but Mr. Lynde's plan involved nothing more criminal than a horseback excursion through the northern part of the State of New Hampshire. A leave of absence of three weeks, which had been accorded him in recognition of several years' conscientious service, offered young Lynde the opportunity he had desired. These three weeks, as already hinted, fell in the month of June, when Nature in New Hampshire is in her most ravishing toilet; she has put away her winter ermine, which sometimes serves her quite into spring; she has thrown a green mantle over her brown shoulders, and is not above the coquetry of wearing a great variety of wild flowers on her bosom. With her sassafras and her sweet- brier she is in her best mood, as a woman in a fresh and becoming costume is apt to be, and almost any one might mistake her laugh for the music of falling water, and the agreeable rustle of her garments for the wind blowing through the pine forests.

As Edward Lynde rode out of Rivermouth one morning, an hour or two before anybody worth mention was moving, he was very well contented with this world, though he had his grievances, too, if he had chosen to think of them.

Masses of dark cloud still crowded the zenith, but along the eastern horizon, against the increasing blue, lay a city of golden spires and mosques and minarets—an Oriental city, indeed, such as is inhabited by poets and dreamers and other speculative persons fond of investing their small capital in such unreal estate. Young Lynde, in spite of his prosaic profession of bookkeeper, had an opulent though as yet unworked vein of romance running through his composition, and he said to himself as he gave a slight twitch to the reins, "I'll put up there to-night at the sign of the Golden Fleece, or may be I'll quarter myself on one of those rich old merchants who used to do business with the bank in the colonial days." Before he had finished speaking the city was destroyed by a general conflagration; the round red sun rose slowly above the pearl-gray ruins, and it was morning.

In his three years' residence at Rivermouth, Edward Lynde had never chanced to see the town at so early an hour. The cobble-paved street through which he was riding was a commercial street; but now the shops had their wooden eyelids shut tight, and were snoozing away as comfortably and innocently as if they were not at all alive to a sharp stroke of business in their wakeful hours. There was a charm to Lynde in this novel phase of a thoroughfare so familiar to him, and then the morning was perfect. The street ran parallel with the river, the glittering harebell-blue of which could be seen across a vacant lot here and there, or now and then at the end of a narrow lane running up from the wharves. The atmosphere had that indescribable sparkle and bloom which last only an hour or so after daybreak, and was charged with fine sea-flavors and the delicate breath of dewy meadow-land. Everything appeared to exhale a fragrance; even the weather-beaten sign of "J. Tibbets Son, West India Goods Groceries," it seemed to Lynde, emitted an elusive spicy odor.

Edward Lynde soon passed beyond the limits of the town, and was ascending a steep hill, on the crest of which he proposed to take a farewell survey of the picturesque port throwing off its gauzy counterpane of sea-fog. The wind blew blithely on this hilltop; it filled his lungs and exhilarated him like champagne; he set spur to the gaunt, bony mare, and, with a flourish of his hand to the peaked roof of the Nautilus Bank, dashed off at a speed of not less than four miles an hour—for it was anything but an Arabian courser which Lynde had hired of honest Deacon Twombly. She was not a handsome animal either—yellow in tint and of the texture of an ancestral hair-trunk, with a plebeian head, and mysterious developments of muscle on the hind legs. She was not a horse for fancy riding; but she had her good points—she had a great many points of one kind and another—among which was her perfect adaptability to rough country roads and the sort of work now required of her.

"Mary ain't what you'd call a racer," Deacon Twombly had remarked while the negotiations were pending; "I don't say she is, but she's easy on the back."

This statement was speedily verified. At the end of two miles Mary stopped short and began backing, deliberately and systematically, as if to slow music in a circus. Recovering from the surprise of the halt, which had taken him wholly unawares, Lynde gathered the slackened reins firmly in his hand and pressed his spurs to the mare's flanks, with no other effect than slightly to accelerate the backward movement.

Perhaps nothing gives you so acute a sense of helplessness as to have a horse back with you, under the saddle or between shafts. The reins lie limp in your hands, as if detached from the animal; it is impossible to check him or force him forward; to turn him around is to confess yourself conquered; to descend and take him by the head is an act of pusillanimity. Of course there is only one thing to be done; but if you know what that is you possess a singular advantage over your fellow- creatures.

Finding spur and whip of no avail, Lynde tried the effect of moral suasion: he stroked Mary on the neck, and addressed her in terms that would have melted the heart of almost any other Mary; but she continued to back, slowly and with a certain grace that could have come only of confirmed habit. Now Lynde had no desire to return to Rivermouth, above all to back into it in that mortifying fashion and make himself a spectacle for the townsfolk; but if this thing went on forty or fifty minutes longer, that would be the result.

"If I cannot stop her," he reflected, "I'll desert the brute just before we get to the toll-gate. I can't think what possessed Twombly to let me have such a ridiculous animal!"

Mary showed no sign that she was conscious of anything unconventional or unlooked for in her conduct.

"Mary, my dear," said Lynde at last, with dangerous calmness, "you would be all right, or, at least, your proceeding would not be quite so flagrant a breach of promise, if you were only aimed in the opposite direction."

With this he gave a vigorous jerk at the left-hand rein, which caused the mare to wheel about and face Rivermouth. She hesitated an instant, and then resumed backing.

"Now, Mary," said the young man dryly, "I will let you have your head, so to speak, as long as you go the way I want you to."

This manoeuvre on the side of Lynde proved that he possessed qualities which, if skilfully developed, would have assured him success in the higher regions of domestic diplomacy. The ability to secure your own way and impress others with the idea that they are having THEIR own way is rare among men; among women it is as common as eyebrows.

"I wonder how long she will keep this up," mused Lynde, fixing his eye speculatively on Mary's pull-back ears. "If it is to be a permanent arrangement I shall have to reverse the saddle. Certainly, the creature is a lusus naturae—her head is on the wrong end! Easy on the back," he added, with a hollow laugh, recalling Deacon Twombly's recommendation. "I should say she was! I never saw an easier."

Presently Mary ceased her retrograde movement, righted herself of her own accord, and trotted off with as much submissiveness as could be demanded of her. Lynde subsequently learned that this propensity to back was an unaccountable whim which seized Mary at odd intervals and lasted from five to fifteen minutes. The peculiarity once understood not only ceased to be an annoyance to him, but became an agreeable break in the ride. Whenever her mood approached, he turned the mare round and let her back to her soul's content. He also ascertained that the maximum of Mary's speed was five miles an hour.

"I didn't want a fast horse, anyway," said Lynde philosophically. "As I am not going anywhere in particular, I need be in no hurry to get there."

The most delightful feature of Lynde's plan was that it was not a plan. He had simply ridden off into the rosy June weather, with no settled destination, no care for to-morrow, and as independent as a bird of the tourist's ordinary requirements. At the crupper of his saddle—an old cavalry saddle that had seen service in long-forgotten training-days— was attached a cylindrical valise of cowhide, containing a change of linen, a few toilet articles, a vulcanized cloth cape for rainy days, and the first volume of The Earthly Paradise. The two warlike holsters in front (in which Colonel Eliphalet Bangs used to carry a brace of flintlock pistols now reposing in the Historical Museum at Rivermouth) became the receptacle respectively of a slender flask of brandy and a Bologna sausage; for young Lynde had determined to sell his life dearly if by any chance of travel he came to close quarters with famine.

A broad-brimmed Panama hat, a suit of navy-blue flannel, and a pair of riding-boots completed his equipment. A field-glass in a leather case was swung by a strap over his shoulder, and in the breast pocket of his blouse he carried a small compass to guide him on his journey due north.

The young man's costume went very well with his frank, refined face, and twenty-three years. A dead-gold mustache, pointed at the ends and sweeping at a level right and left, like a swallow's wings, gave him something of a military air; there was a martial directness, too, in the glance of his clear gray eyes, undimmed as yet with looking too long on the world. There could not have been a better figure for the saddle than Lynde's—slightly above the average height, straight as a poplar, and neither too spare nor too heavy. Now and then, as he passed a farm- house, a young girl hanging out clothes in the front yard—for it was on a Monday—would pause with a shapeless snowdrift in her hand to gaze curiously at the apparition of a gallant young horseman riding by. It often happened that when he had passed, she would slyly steal to the red gate in the lichen-covered stone wall, and follow him with her palm- shaded eyes down the lonely road; and it as frequently happened that he would glance back over his shoulder at the nut-brown maid, whose closely clinging, scant drapery gave her a sculpturesque grace to which her unconsciousness of it was a charm the more.

These flashes of subtile recognition between youth and youth—these sudden mute greetings and farewells—reached almost the dimension of incidents in that first day's eventless ride. Once Lynde halted at the porch of a hip-roofed, unpainted house with green paper shades at the windows, and asked for a cup of milk, which was brought him by the nut- brown maid, who never took her flattering innocent eyes off the young man's face while he drank—sipping him as he sipped the milk; and young Lynde rode away feeling as if something had really happened.

More than once that morning he drew up by the roadside to listen to some lyrical robin on an apple-bough, or to make friends with the black- belted Durham cows and the cream-colored Alderneys, who came solemnly to the pasture wall and stared at him with big, good-natured faces. A row of them, with their lazy eyes and pink tongues and moist india-rubber noses, was as good as a play.

At noon that day our adventureless adventurer had reached Bayley's Four- Corners, where he found provender for himself and Mary at what had formerly been a tavern, in the naive stage-coach epoch. It was the sole house in the neighborhood, and was occupied by the ex-landlord, one Tobias Sewell, who had turned farmer. On finishing his cigar after dinner, Lynde put the saddle on Mary, and started forward again. It is hardly correct to say forward, for Mary took it into her head to back out of Bayley's Four-Corners, a feat which she performed to the unspeakable amusement of Mr. Sewell and a quaint old gentleman, named Jaffrey, who boarded in the house.

"I guess that must be a suck-cuss hoss," remarked Mr. Sewell, resting his loosely jointed figure against the rail fence as he watched his departing guest.

Mary backed to the ridge of the hill up which the turnpike stretched from the ancient tavern, then recovered herself and went on.

"I never saw such an out-and-out wilful old girl as you are, Mary!" ejaculated Lynde, scarlet with mortification. "I begin to admire you."

Perhaps the covert reproach touched some finer chord of Mary's nature, or perhaps Mary had done her day's allowance of backing; whatever the case was, she indulged no further caprice that afternoon beyond shying vigorously at a heavily loaded tin-pedler's wagon, a proceeding which may be palliated by the statement of the fact that many of Mary's earlier years were passed in connection with a similar establishment.

The afterglow of sunset had faded out behind the serrated line of hills, and black shadows were assembling, like conspirators, in the orchards and under the spreading elms by the roadside, when Edward Lynde came in sight of a large manufacturing town, which presented a sufficiently bizarre appearance at that hour.

Grouped together in a valley were five or six high, irregular buildings, illuminated from basement to roof, each with a monstrous chimney from which issued a fan of party-colored flame. On one long low structure, with a double row of windows gleaming like the port-holes of a man-of- war at night, was a squat round tower that now and then threw open a vast valve at the top, and belched forth a volume of amber smoke, which curled upward to a dizzy height and spread itself out against the sky. Lying in the weird light of these chimneys, with here and there a gable or a spire suddenly outlined in vivid purple, the huddled town beneath seemed like an outpost of the infernal regions. Lynde, however, resolved to spend the night there instead of riding on farther and trusting for shelter to some farm-house or barn. Ten or twelve hours in the saddle had given him a keen appetite for rest.

Presently the roar of flues and furnaces, and the resonant din of mighty hammers beating against plates of iron, fell upon his ear; a few minutes later he rode into the town, not knowing and not caring in the least what town it was.

All this had quite the flavor of foreign travel to Lynde, who began pondering on which hotel he should bestow his patronage—a question that sometimes perplexes the tourist on arriving at a strange city. In Lynde's case the matter was considerably simplified by the circumstance that there was but a single aristocratic hotel in the place. He extracted this information from a small boy, begrimed with iron-dust, and looking as if he had just been cast at a neighboring foundry, who kindly acted as cicerone, and conducted the tired wayfarer to the doorstep of The Spread Eagle, under one of whose wings—to be at once figurative and literal—he was glad to nestle for the night.

II. IN WHICH THERE IS A FAMILY JAR

While Lynde is enjoying the refreshing sleep that easily overtook him after supper, we will reveal to the reader so much of the young man's private history as may be necessary to the narrative. In order to do this, the author, like Deacon Twombly's mare, feels it indispensable to back a little.

One morning, about three years previous to the day when Edward Lynde set forth on his aimless pilgrimage, Mr. Jenness Bowlsby, the president of the Nautilus Bank at Rivermouth, received the following letter from his wife's nephew, Mr. John Flemming, a young merchant in New York—

NEW YORK, May 28,1869.

MY DEAR UNCLE: In the course of a few days a friend of mine, Mr. Edward Lynde of this city, will call upon you and hand you a note of introduction from myself. I write this to secure for him in advance the liking and interest which I am persuaded you will not be able to withhold on closer acquaintance. I have been intimate with Edward Lynde for twelve years or more, first at the boarding-school at Flatbush, and afterwards at college. Though several years my junior, he was in the same classes with me, and, if the truth must be told, generally carried off all the honors. He is not only the most accomplished young fellow I know, but a fellow of inexhaustible modesty and amiability, and I think it was singularly malicious of destiny to pick him out as a victim, when there are so many worthless young men (the name of John Flemming will instantly occur to you) who deserve nothing better than rough treatment. You see, I am taking point-blank aim at your sympathy.

When Lynde was seven or eight years old he had the misfortune to lose his mother; his father was already dead. The child's nearest relative was an uncle, David Lynde, a rich merchant of New York, a bachelor, and a character. Old Lynde—I call him old Lynde not out of disrespect, but to distinguish him from young Lynde—was at that period in his sixtieth year, a gentleman of unsullied commercial reputation, and of regular if somewhat peculiar habits. He was at his counting-room precisely at eight in the morning, and was the last to leave in the evening, working as many hours each day as he had done in those first years when he entered as office-boy into the employment of Briggs Livingstone—the firm at the time of which I am now writing was Lynde, Livingstone Co. Mr. David Lynde lived in a set of chambers up town, and dined at his club, where he usually passed the evenings at chess with some brother antediluvian. A visit to the theatre, when some old English comedy or some new English ballet happened to be on the boards, was the periphery of his dissipation. What is called society saw nothing of him. He was a rough, breezy, thickset old gentleman, betrothed from his birth to apoplexy, enjoying life in his own secluded manner, and insisting on having everybody about him happy. He would strangle an old friend rather than not have him happy. A characteristic story is told of a quarrel he had with a chum of thirty or forty years' standing, Ripley Sturdevant Sen. Sturdevant came to grief in the financial panic of 1857. Lynde held a mortgage on Sturdevant's house, and insisted on cancelling it. Sturdevant refused to accept the sacrifice. They both were fiery old gentlemen, arcades ambo. High words ensued. What happened never definitely transpired; but Sturdevant was found lying across the office lounge, with a slight bruise over one eyebrow and the torn mortgage thrust into his shirt-bosom. It was conjectured that Lynde had actually knocked him down and forced the cancelled mortgage upon him!

In short, David Lynde was warm-hearted and generous to the verge of violence, but a man in every way unfitted by temperament, experience, and mode of life to undertake the guardianship of a child. To have an infant dropped into his arms was as excellent an imitation of a calamity as could well happen to him. I am told that no one could have been more sensible of this than David Lynde himself, and that there was something extremely touching in the alacrity and cheerfulness with which he assumed the novel responsibility.

Immediately after the funeral—Mrs. Lynde had resided in Philadelphia— the uncle brought the boy to New York. It was impossible to make a permanent home for young Lynde in bachelor chambers, or to dine him at the club. After a week of inconvenience and wretchedness, complicated by the sinister suspicions of his landlady, David Lynde concluded to send the orphan to boarding-school.

It was at Flatbush, Long Island, that I made the acquaintance of the forlorn little fellow. His cot was next to mine in the dormitory; we became close friends. We passed our examinations, left Flatbush at the same time, and entered college together. In the meanwhile the boy's relations with his guardian were limited to a weekly exchange of letters, those of the uncle invariably beginning with "Yours of Saturday duly at hand," and ending with "Enclosed please find." In respect to pocket-money young Lynde was a prince. My friend spent the long vacations with me at Newburgh, running down to New York occasionally to pass a day or so with the uncle. In these visits their intimacy ripened. Old Lynde was now become very proud of his bright young charge, giving him astonishing dinners at Delmonico's, taking him to Wallack's, and introducing him to the old fossils at the club as "my boy Ned."

It was at the beginning of Lynde's last term at college that his uncle retired from business, bought a house in Madison Avenue, and turned it into a sort of palace with frescoes and upholstery. There was a library for my boy Ned, a smoking-room in cherry-wood, a billiard-room in black walnut, a dining-room in oak and crimson—in brief, the beau-ideal of a den for a couple of bachelors. By Jove! it was like a club-house—the only model for a home of which poor old Lynde had any conception. Six months before Ned was graduated, the establishment was in systematic running order under the supervision of the pearl of housekeepers. Here David Lynde proposed to spend the rest of his days with his nephew, who might, for form's sake, adopt some genteel profession; if not, well and good, the boy would have money.

Now just as Ned was carrying off the first prizes in Greek and mathematics, and dreaming of the pleasant life he was to lead with his amiable old benefactor, what does that amiable old benefactor go and do but marry the housekeeper!

David Lynde knew very little of women: he had not spoken to above a dozen in his whole life; did not like them, in fact; had a mild sort of contempt for them, as persons devoid of business ability. It was in the course of nature that the first woman who thought it worth her while should twist him around her finger like a remnant of ribbon. When Ned came out of college he found himself in the arms of an unlooked-for aunt who naturally hated him at sight.

I have not the time or space, my dear uncle, to give you even a catalogue of the miseries that followed on the heels of this deplorable marriage; besides, you can imagine them. Old Lynde, loving both his wife and his nephew, was by turns violent and feeble; the wife cool, cunning, and insidious—a Vivien of forty leading Merlin by the beard. I am not prepared to contend that the nephew was always in the right, but I know he always got the worst of it, which amounts to about the same thing. At the end of eight or ten months he saw that the position was untenable, packed his trunk one night, and quitted the MENAGE—the menagerie, as he calls it.

This was three weeks ago. Having a small property of his own, some fifteen hundred dollars a year, I believe, Lynde at first thought to go abroad. It was always his dream to go abroad. But I persuaded him out of that, seeing how perilous it would be for a young fellow of his inexperience and impressible disposition to go rambling alone over the Continent. Paris was his idea. Paris would not make a mouthful of him. I have talked him out of that, I repeat, and have succeeded in convincing him that the wisest course for him to pursue is to go to some pleasant town or village within hailing distance of one of our larger cities, and spend the summer quietly. I even suggested he should make the personal acquaintance of some light employment, to help him forget the gorgeous castle of cards which has just tumbled down about his ears. In six words, I have sent him to Rivermouth.

Now, my dear uncle, I have wasted eight pages of paper and probably a hundred dollars' worth of your time, if you do not see that I am begging you to find a position for Lynde in the Nautilus Bank. After a little practice he would make a skilful accountant, and the question of salary is, as you see, of secondary importance. Manage to retain him at Rivermouth if you possibly can. David Lynde has the strongest affection for the lad, and if Vivien, whose name is Elizabeth, is not careful how she drags Merlin around by the beard, he will reassert himself in some unexpected manner. If he were to serve her as he is supposed to have served old Sturdevant, his conduct would be charitably criticised. If he lives a year he will be in a frame of mind to leave the bulk of his fortune to Ned. THEY have not quarrelled, you understand; on the contrary, Mr. Lynde was anxious to settle an allowance of five thousand a year on Ned, but Ned would not accept it. "I want uncle David's love," says Ned, "and I have it; the devil take his money."

Here you have all the points. I could not state them more succinctly and do justice to each of the parties interested. The most unfortunate party, I take it, is David Lynde. I am not sure, after all, that young Lynde is so much to be pitied. Perhaps that club-house would not have worked well for him if it had worked differently. At any rate he now has his own way to make, and I commend him to your kindness, if I have not exhausted it.

Your affectionate nephew, J. FLEMMING.

Five or six days after this letter reached Mr. Bowlsby, Mr. Edward Lynde presented himself in the directors' room of the Nautilus Bank. The young man's bearing confirmed the favorable impression which Mr. Bowlsby had derived from his nephew's letter, and though there was really no vacancy in the bank at the moment, Mr. Bowlsby lent himself to the illusion that he required a private secretary. A few weeks later a vacancy occurred unexpectedly, that of paying-teller—a position in which Lynde acquitted himself with so much quickness and accuracy, that when Mr. Trefethen, the assistant cashier, died in the December following, Lynde was promoted to his desk.

The unruffled existence into which Edward Lynde had drifted was almost the reverse of the career he had mapped out for himself, and it was a matter of mild astonishment to him at intervals that he was not discontented. He thought Rivermouth one of the most charming old spots he had ever seen or heard of, and the people the most hospitable. The story of his little family jar, taking deeper colors and richer ornamentation as it passed from hand to hand, made him at once a social success. Mr. Goldstone, one of the leading directors of the bank, invited Lynde to dinner—few persons were ever overburdened with invitations to dine at the Goldstones'—and the door of many a refined home turned willingly on its hinges for the young man. At the evening parties, that winter, Edward Lynde was considered almost as good a card as a naval officer. Miss Mildred Bowlsby, then the reigning belle, was ready to flirt with him to the brink of the Episcopal marriage service, and beyond; but the phenomenal honeymoon which had recently quartered in Lynde's family left him indisposed to take any lunar observations on his own account.

With his salary as cashier, Lynde's income was Vanderbiltish for a young man in Rivermouth. Unlike his great contemporary, he did not let it accumulate. Once a month he wrote a dutiful letter to his uncle David, who never failed to answer by telegraph, "Yours received. God bless you, Edward." This whimsical fashion of reply puzzled young Lynde quite as much as it diverted him until he learned (through his friend, John Flemming) that his aunt Vivien had extorted from the old gentleman a solemn promise not to write to his nephew.

Lynde's duties at the bank left him free every afternoon at four o'clock; his work and his leisure were equally pleasant. In summer he kept a sail-boat on the river, and in winter he had the range of a rich collection of books connected with an antiquated public reading-room. Thus very happily, if very quietly, and almost imperceptibly the months rolled round to that period when the Nautilus Bank gave Edward Lynde a three weeks' vacation, and he set forth, as we have seen, on Deacon Twombly's mare, in search of the picturesque and the peculiar, if they were to be found in the northern part of New Hampshire.

III. IN WHICH MARY TAKES A NEW DEPARTURE

It was still dark enough the next morning to allow the great chimneys to show off their colored fires effectively, when Lynde passed through the dingy main street of K—-and struck into a road which led to the hill country. A short distance beyond the town, while he was turning in the saddle to observe the singular effect of the lurid light upon the landscape, a freight-train shot obliquely across the road within five rods of his horse's head, the engine flinging great flakes of fiery spume from its nostrils, and shrieking like a maniac as it plunged into a tunnel through a spur of the hills. Mary went sideways, like a crab, for the next three quarters of a mile.

To most young men the expedition which Edward Lynde had undertaken would have seemed unattractive and monotonous to the last degree; but Lynde's somewhat sedentary habits had made him familiar with his own company. When one is young and well read and amiable, there is really no better company than one's self—as a steady thing. We are in a desperate strait indeed if we chance at any age to tire of this invisible but ever- present comrade; for he is not to be thrown over during life. Before now, men have become so weary of him, so bored by him, that they have attempted to escape, by suicide; but it is a question if death itself altogether rids us of him.

In no minute of the twenty-four hours since Lynde left Rivermouth had he felt the want of other companionship. Mary, with her peculiarities, the roadside sights and sounds, the chubby children with shining morning face, on the way to school, the woodland solitudes, the farmers at work in the fields, the blue jays and the robins in the orchards, the blonde and brown girls at the cottage doors, his own buoyant, unreproachful thoughts—what need had he of company? If anything could have added to his enjoyment it would have been the possibility of being waylaid by bandits, or set upon in some desolate pass by wild animals. But, alas, the nearest approximation to a bandit that fell in his way was some shabby, spiritless tramp who passed by on the further side without lifting an eyelid; and as for savage animals, he saw nothing more savage than a monkish chipmunk here and there, who disappeared into his stonewall convent the instant he laid eyes on Lynde.

Riding along those lonely New England roads, he was more secure than if he had been lounging in the thronged avenues of a great city. Certainly he had dropped on an age and into a region sterile of adventure. He felt this, but not so sensitively as to let it detract from the serene pleasure he found in it all. From the happy glow of his mind every outward object took a rosy light; even a rustic funeral, which he came upon at a cross-road that fore-noon, softened itself into something not unpicturesque.

For three days after quitting K—-Lynde pushed steadily forward. The first two nights he secured lodgings at a farm-house; on the third night he was regarded as a suspicious character, and obtained reluctant permission to stow himself in a hay-loft, where he was so happy at roughing it and being uncomfortable that he could scarcely close an eye. The amateur outcast lay dreamily watching the silver spears of moonlight thrust through the roof of the barn, and extracting such satisfaction from his cheerless surroundings as would have astonished a professional tramp. "Poverty and hardship are merely ideas after all," said Lynde to himself softly, as he drifted off in a doze. Ah, Master Lynde, playing at poverty and hardship is one thing; but if the reality is merely an idea, it is one of the very worst ideas in the world.

The young man awoke before sunrise the next morning, and started onward without attempting to negotiate for breakfast with his surly host. He had faith that some sunburnt young woman, with bowl of brown-bread and milk, would turn up farther on; if she did not, and no tavern presented itself, there were the sausage and the flask of eau-de-vie still untouched in the holsters.

The mountain air had not wholly agreed with Mary, who at this stage of the journey inaugurated a series of abnormal coughs, each one of which went near to flinging Lynde out of the saddle.

"Mary," he said, after a particularly narrow escape, "there are few fine accomplishments you haven't got except a spavin. Perhaps you've got that, concealed somewhere about your person."

He said this in a tone of airy badinage which Mary seemed to appreciate; but he gravely wondered what he could do with her, and how he should replace her, if she fell seriously ill.

For the last two days farm-houses and cultivated fields had been growing rarer and rarer, and the road rougher and wilder. At times it made a sudden detour, to avoid the outcropping of a monster stratum of granite, and in places became so narrow that the rank huckleberry-bushes swept the mare's flanks. Lynde found it advisable on the morning in question to pick his way carefully. A range of arid hills rose darkly before him, stretching east and west further than his eye could follow—rugged, forlorn hills covered with a thick prickly undergrowth, and sentinelled by phantom-like pines. There were gloomy, rocky gorges on each hand, and high-hanging crags, and where the vapor was drawn aside like a veil, in one place, he saw two or three peaks with what appeared to be patches of snow on them. Perhaps they were merely patches of bleached rock.

Long afterwards, when Edward Lynde was passing through the valley of the Arve, on the way from Geneva to Chamouni, he recollected this bit of Switzerland in America, and it brought an odd, perplexed smile to his lips.

The thousand ghostly shapes of mist which had thronged the heights, shutting in the prospect on every side, had now vanished, discovering as wild and melancholy a spot as a romantic heart could desire. There was something sinister and ironical even in the sunshine that lighted up these bleak hills. The silver waters of a spring—whose source was hidden somewhere high up among the mossy boulders—dripping silently from ledge to ledge, had the pathos of tears. The deathly stillness was broken only by the dismal caw of a crow taking abrupt flight from a blasted pine. Here and there a birch with its white satin skin glimmered spectrally among the sombre foliage.

The inarticulate sadness of the place brought a momentary feeling of depression to Lynde, who was not usually given to moods except of the lighter sort. He touched Mary sharply with the spurs and cantered up the steep.

He had nearly gained the summit of the hill when he felt the saddle slipping; the girth had unbuckled or broken. As he dismounted, the saddle came off with him, his foot still in the stirrup. The mare shied, and the rein slipped from his fingers; he clutched at it, but Mary gave a vicious toss of the head, wheeled about, and began trotting down the declivity. Her trot at once broke into a gallop, and the gallop into a full run—a full run for Mary. At the foot of the hill she stumbled, fell, rolled over, gathered herself up, and started off again at increased speed. The road was perfectly straight for a mile or two. The horse was already a small yellow patch in the distance. She was evidently on her way back to Rivermouth! Lynde watched her until she was nothing but a speck against the gray road, then he turned and cast a rueful glance on the saddle, which suddenly took to itself a satirical aspect, as it lay sprawling on the ground at his feet.

He had been wanting something to happen, and something had happened. He was unhorsed and alone in the heart of the hill country—alone in a strange and, it seemed to Lynde as he looked about him, uninhabited region.

IV. THE ODD ADVENTURE WHICH BEFELL YOUNG LYNDE IN THE HILL COUNTRY

It had all happened so suddenly that one or two minutes passed before Edward Lynde took in the full enormity of Mary's desertion. A dim smile was still hovering about his lips when the yellow speck that was Mary faded into the gray distance; then his countenance fell. There was no sign of mortal habitation visible from the hillside where he stood; the farm at which he had spent the night was five miles away; his stiff riding-boots were ill-adapted to pedestrianism. The idea of lugging that heavy saddle five miles over a mountain road caused him to knit his brows and look very serious indeed. As he gave the saddle an impatient kick, his eyes rested on the Bologna sausage, one end of which protruded from the holster; then there came over him a poignant recollection of his Lenten supper of the night before and his no breakfast at all of that morning. He seated himself on the saddle, unwrapped the sausage, and proceeded to cut from it two or three thin slices.

"It might have been much worse," he reflected, as he picked off with his penknife the bits of silver foil which adhered to the skin of the sausage; "if Mary had decamped with the commissary stores, that would have been awkward." Lynde devoured the small pieces of pressed meat with an appetite born of his long fast and the bracing upland air.

"Talk about pate de foie gras!" he exclaimed, with a sweep of his arm, as if he were disdainfully waving back a menial bearing a tray of Strasbourg pates; "if I live to return to Rivermouth I will have Bologna sausage three times a day for the rest of my life."

A cup of the ice-cold water which bubbled up from a boss of cresses by the roadside completed his Spartan breakfast. His next step was to examine his surroundings. "From the top of this hill," said Lynde, "I shall probably be able to see where I am, if that will be any comfort to me."

It was only fifty or sixty rods to the crown of the hill, where the road, viewed from below, seemed abruptly to come to an end against the sky. On gaining the summit, Lynde gave an involuntary exclamation of surprise and delight. At his feet in the valley below, in a fertile plain walled in on all sides by the emerald slopes, lay the loveliest village that ever was seen. Though the road by which he had approached the eminence had been narrow and steep, here it widened and descended by gentle gradations into the valley, where it became the main street of the village—a congregation of two or possibly three hundred houses, mostly cottages with gambrel and lean-to roofs. At the left of the village, and about an eighth of a mile distant, was an imposing red brick building with wings and a pair of octagon towers. It stood in a forest of pines and maples, and appeared to be enclosed by a high wall of masonry. It was too pretentious for an almshouse, too elegant for a prison; it was as evidently not a school-house, and it could not be an arsenal. Lynde puzzled over it a moment, and then returned for his saddle, which he slung across his back, holding it by a stirrup-strap brought over either shoulder.

"If Mary has got a conscience," muttered Lynde, "it would prick her if she could see me now. I must be an affecting spectacle. In the village they won't know whether I am the upper or the lower half of a centaur. They won't know whether to rub me down and give me a measure of oats, or to ask me in to breakfast."

The saddle with its trappings probably weighed forty pounds, and Lynde was glad before he had accomplished a third of the way to the village to set down his burden and rest awhile. On each side of him now were cornfields, and sloping orchards peopled with those grotesque, human- like apple-trees which seem twisted and cramped by a pain possibly caught from their own acidulous fruit. The cultivated land terminated only where the village began. It was not so much a village as a garden— a garden crowded with flowers of that bright metallic tint which distinguishes the flora of northern climes. Through the centre of this Eden ran the wide main street, fringed with poplars and elms and chestnuts. No polluting brewery or smoky factory, with its hideous architecture, marred the idyllic beauty of the miniature town—for everything which is not a city is a town in New England. The population obviously consisted of well-to-do persons, with outlying stock-farms or cranberry meadows, and funds snugly invested in ships and railroads.

In out-of-the-way places like this is preserved the greater part of what we have left of the hard shrewd sense and the simpler manner of those homespun old worthies who planted the seed of the Republic. In our great cities we are cosmopolitans; but here we are Americans of the primitive type, or as nearly as may be. It was unimportant settlements like the one we are describing that sent their quota of stout hearts and flintlock muskets to the trenches on Bunker Hill. Here, too, the valorous spirit which had been slumbering on its arm for half a century started up at the first shot fired against Fort Sumter. Over the chimney-place of more than one cottage in such secluded villages hangs an infantry or a cavalry sword in its dinted sheath, looked at to-day by wife or mother with the tenderly proud smile that has mercifully taken the place of tears.

Beyond the town, on the hillside which Edward Lynde had just got within the focus of his field-glass, was the inevitable cemetery. On a grave here and there a tiny flag waved in the indolent June breeze. If Lynde had been standing by the head-stones, he could have read among the inscriptions such unlocal words as Malvern Hill, Andersonville, Ball's Bluff, and Gettysburg, and might have seen the withered Decoration Day wreaths which had been fresh the month before.

Lynde brought his glass to bear on the red brick edifice mentioned, and fell to pondering it again.

"I'll be hanged if I don't think it's a nunnery," he said. By and by he let his gaze wander back to the town, in which he detected an appearance of liveliness and bustle not usual in New England villages, large or small. The main street was dotted with groups of men and women; and isolated figures, to which perhaps the distance lent a kind of uncanny aspect, were to be seen hurrying hither and thither.

"It must be some local celebration," thought Lynde. "Rural oratory and all that sort of thing. That will be capital!"

He had returned the glass to its leather case, and was settling it well on his hip, when he saw a man approaching. It was a heavily built old gentleman in a suit of black alpaca, somewhat frayed and baggy at the knees, but still respectable. He carried his hat in his hand, fanning himself with it from time to time, as if overcome by heat and the fatigue of walking. A profusion of snow-white hair, parted in the middle, swept down on either side of a face remarkable—if it was remarkable for anything—for its benign and simple expression. There was a far-off, indescribable something about this person, as though he had existed long ago and once had a meaning, but was now become an obsolete word in the human dictionary. His wide placid brows and the double chin which asserted itself above his high neckcloth gave him a curious resemblance to portraits of Dr. Franklin.

"The country parson," said Lynde to himself. "Venerable and lovely old character. I'll speak to him."

The old gentleman, with his head slightly thrown back, had his eyes fixed intently on some object in the sky, and was on the point of passing Lynde without observing him, when the young man politely lifted his hat, and said, "I beg your pardon, sir, but will you be kind enough to tell me the name of the town yonder?"

The old gentleman slowly brought his eyes down from the sky, fixed them vacantly upon Lynde, and made no response. Presuming him to be deaf, Lynde repeated his question in a key adapted to the exigency. Without a change in his mild, benevolent expression, and in a voice whose modulations were singularly musical, the old gentleman exclaimed, "Go to the devil!" and passed on.

The rejoinder was so unexpected, the words themselves were so brusque, while the utterance was so gentle and melodious, that Lynde refused to credit his ears. Could he have heard aright? Before he recovered from his surprise the gentleman in black was far up the slope, his gaze again riveted on some remote point in the zenith.

"It wasn't the country parson after all," said Lynde, with a laugh; "it was the village toper. He's an early bird—I'll say that for him—to have secured his intoxicating worm at this hour of the morning."

Lynde picked up the saddle and resumed his march on the town in the happy valley. He had proceeded only a little way when he perceived another figure advancing towards him—a figure not less striking than that of the archaic gentleman, but quite different. This was a young girl, of perhaps seventeen, in a flowing dress of some soft white stuff, gathered at the waist by a broad red ribbon. She was without hat or shawl, and wore her hair, which was very long and very black, hanging loosely down her shoulders, in exaggeration of a style of coiffure that afterwards came into fashion. She was moving slowly and in the manner of a person not accustomed to walking. She was a lady—Lynde saw that at a glance—probably some city-bred bird of passage, resting for the summer in this vale of health. His youthful vanity took alarm as he reflected what a comical picture he must present with that old saddle on his back. He would have dumped it into the barberry-bushes if he could have done so unobserved; but it was now too late.

On perceiving Lynde, the girl arrested her steps a moment irresolutely, and then came directly towards him. As she drew nearer Lynde was conscious of being dazzled by a pair of heavily fringed black eyes, large and lustrous, set in an oval face of exquisite pallor. The girl held a dandelion in one hand, twirling it by the end of its long, snake- like stem as she approached. She was close upon him now; for an instant he caught the wind of the flower as it swiftly described a circle within an inch of his cheek. The girl paused in front of him, and drawing herself up to her full height said haughtily—

"I am the Queen of Sheba."

Then she glided by him with a quickened pace and a suddenly timid air. Lynde was longer recovering himself, this time. He stood rooted to the ground, stupidly watching the retreating gracious form of the girl, who half turned once and looked back at him. Then she vanished over the ridge of the hill, as the old gentleman had done. Was she following him? Was there any connection between those two? Perhaps he was the village clergyman. Could this be his daughter? What an unconventional costume for a young lady to promenade in—for she was a lady down to her finger- nails! And what an odd salutation!

"The Queen of Sheba!" he repeated wonderingly. "What could she mean by that? She took me for some country bumpkin, with this confounded saddle, and was laughing at me. I never saw a girl at once so—so audacious and modest, or so lovely. I didn't know there was anything on earth so lovely as that girl."

He had caught only an instantaneous glimpse of her face, but he had seen it with strange distinctness, as one sees an object by a flash of lightning; and he still saw it, as one seems still to see the object in the after-darkness. Every line of the features lived in his eyes, even an almost indistinguishable scar there was on the girl's right cheek near the temple. It was not a flaw, that faint scar; it seemed somehow to heighten her loveliness, as an accent over a word sometimes gives it one knows not what of piquancy.

"Evidently she lives in the town or in the neighborhood. Shall I meet her again, I wonder? I will stay here a week or a month if—What nonsense! I must have distinguished myself, staring at her like a gawk. When she said she was the Queen of Sheba, I ought instantly to have replied—what in the deuce is it I ought to have replied? How can a man be witty with a ton of sole-leather pressing on his spine!"

Edward Lynde, with the girl and her mocking words in his mind, and busying himself with all the clever things he might have said and did not say, mechanically traversed the remaining distance to the village.

The street which had seemed thronged when he viewed it from the slope of the hill was deserted; at the farther end he saw two or three persons hurrying along, but there were no indications whatever of the festival he had conjectured. Indeed, the town presented the appearance of a place smitten by a pestilence. The blinds of the lower casements of all the houses were closed; he would have supposed them unoccupied if he had not caught sight of a face pressed against the glass of an upper window here and there. He thought it singular that these faces instantly withdrew when he looked up. Once or twice he fancied he heard a distant laugh, and the sound of voices singing drunkenly somewhere in the open air.

Some distance up the street a tall liberty-pole sustaining a swinging sign announced a tavern. Lynde hastened thither; but the tavern, like the private houses, appeared tenantless; the massive pine window- shutters were barred and bolted. Lynde mounted the three or four low steps leading to the piazza, and tried the front door, which was locked. With the saddle still on his shoulders, he stepped into the middle of the street to reconnoitre the premises. A man and two women suddenly showed themselves at an open window in the second story. Lynde was about to address them when the man cried out—

"Oh, you're a horse, I suppose. Well, there isn't any oats for you here. You had better trot on!"

Lynde did not relish this pleasantry; it struck him as rather insolent; but he curbed his irritation, and inquired as politely as he could if a horse or any kind of vehicle could be hired in the village.

The three persons in the window nodded to one another significantly, and began smiling in a constrained manner, as if there were something quite preposterous in the inquiry. The man, a corpulent, red-faced person, seemed on the point of suffocating with merriment.

"Is this a public house?" demanded Lynde severely.

"That's as may be," answered the man, recovering his breath, and becoming grave.

"Are you the proprietor?"

"That's jest what I am."

"Then I require of you the accommodation which is the right of every traveller. Your license does not permit you to turn any respectable stranger from your door."

"Now, my advice to you," said the man, stepping back from the window, "my advice to you is to trot. You can't get in here. If you try to, I'll pepper you as sure as you live, though I wouldn't like to do it. So trot right along!"

The man had a gun in his hands; he clutched it nervously by the stock; his countenance worked strangely, and his small, greenish eyes had a terrified, defiant expression. Indisputably, the tavern-keeper looked upon Lynde as a dangerous person, and was ready to fire upon him if he persisted in his demands.

"My friend," said Lynde through his set teeth, "if I had you down here I'd give you a short lesson in manners."

"I dare say! I dare say!" cried the man, flourishing the shot-gun excitedly.

Lynde turned away disgusted and indignant; but his indignation was neutralized by his astonishment at this incomprehensible brutality. He had no resource but to apply to some private house and state his predicament. As that luckless saddle had excited the derision of the girl, and drawn down on him the contumely of the tavern-keeper, he looked around for some safe spot in which to deposit it before it brought him into further disgrace. His linen and all his worldly possessions, except his money, which he carried on his person, were in the valise; he could not afford to lose that.

The sun was high by this time, and the heat would have been intolerable if it had not been for a merciful breeze which swept down from the cooler atmosphere of the hills. Lynde wasted half an hour or more seeking a hiding-place for the saddle. It had grown a grievous burden to him; at every step it added a pound to its dead weight. He saw no way of relieving himself of it. There it was perched upon his shoulders, like the Old Man of the Sea on the back of Sindbad the Sailor. In sheer despair Lynde flung down his load on the curb-stone at a corner formed by a narrow street diagonally crossing the main thoroughfare, which he had not quitted. He drew out his handkerchief and wiped the heavy drops of perspiration from his brows. At that moment he was aware of the presence of a tall, cadaverous man of about forty, who was so painfully pinched and emaciated that a sympathetic shiver ran over Lynde as he glanced at him. He was as thin as an exclamation point. It seemed to Lynde that the man must be perishing with cold even in that burning June sunshine. It was not a man, but a skeleton.

"Good heavens, sir!" cried Lynde. "Tell me where I am! What is the name of this town?"

"Constantinople."

"Constan"—

"—tinople," added the man briskly. "A stranger here?"

"Yes," said Lynde abstractedly. He was busy running over an imaginary map of the State of New Hampshire in search of Constantinople.

"Good!" exclaimed the anatomy, rustling his dry palms together, "I'll employ you."

"You'll employ me? I like that!"

"Certainly. I'm a ship-builder."

"I didn't know they built vessels a hundred miles from the coast," said Lynde.

"I am building a ship—don't say I'm not!"

"Of course I know nothing about it."

"A marble ship."

"A ship to carry marble?"

"No, a ship made of marble; a passenger ship. We have ships of iron, why not of marble?" he asked fiercely.

"Oh, the fellow is mad!" said Lynde to himself, "as mad as a loon; everybody here is mad, or I've lost my senses. So you are building a marble ship?" he added aloud, good-naturedly. "When it is finished I trust you will get all the inhabitants of this town into it, and put to sea at once."

"Then you'll help me!" cried the man enthusiastically, with his eyes gleaming in their sunken sockets. More than ever he looked like a specimen escaped from some anatomical museum.

"I do not believe I can be of much assistance," answered Lynde, laughing. "I have had so little experience in constructing marble vessels, you see. I fear my early education has been fearfully neglected. By the bye," continued the young man, who was vaguely diverted by his growing interest in the monomaniac, "how do you propose to move your ship to the seaboard?"

"In the simplest manner—a double railroad track—twenty-four engines— twelve engines on each side to support the hull."

"That WOULD be a simple way."

Edward Lynde laughed again, but not heartily. He felt that this marble ship was a conception of high humor and was not without its pathetic element. The whimsicality of the idea amused him, but the sad earnestness of the nervous, unstrung visionary at his side moved his compassion.

"Dear me," he mused, "may be all of us are more or less engaged in planning a marble ship, and perhaps the happiest are those who, like this poor soul, never awake from their delusion. Matrimony was uncle David's marble ship—he launched his! Have I one on the ways, I wonder?"

Lynde broke with a shock from his brief abstraction. His companion had disappeared, and with him the saddle and valise. Lynde threw a hasty glance up the street, and started in pursuit of the naval-architect, who was running with incredible swiftness and bearing the saddle on his head with as much ease as if it had been a feather.

The distance between the two men, some sixty or seventy yards, was not the disadvantage that made pursuit seem hopeless. Lynde had eaten almost nothing since the previous noon; he had been carrying that cumbersome saddle for the last two or three hours; he was out of breath, and it was impossible to do much running in his heavy riding-boots. The other man, on the contrary, appeared perfectly fresh; he wore light shoes, and had not a superfluous ounce of flesh to carry. He was all bone and sinew; the saddle resting upon his head was hardly an impediment to him. Lynde, however, was not going to be vanquished without a struggle; though he recognized the futility of pursuit, he pushed on doggedly. A certain tenacious quality in the young man imperatively demanded this of him.

"The rascal has made off with my dinner," he muttered between his clinched teeth. "That completes the ruin Mary began. If I should happen to catch up with him, I trust I shall have the moral strength not to knock his head off—his skull off; it isn't a head."

Lynde's sole hope of overtaking him, and it was a very slender hope, was based on the possibility that the man might fall and disable himself; but he seemed to have the sure-footedness as well as the lightness of a deer. When Lynde reached the outskirts of the village, on the road by which he had entered, the agile ship-builder was more than halfway up the hill. Lynde made a fresh spurt here, and lost his hat; but he had no time to turn back for it. Every instant widened the space between the two runners, as one of them noticed with disgust. At the top of the ascent the man halted a moment to take breath, and then disappeared behind the ridge. He was on the down grade now, and of course gaining at each stride on his pursuer, who was still toiling upward. Lynde did not slacken his pace, however; he had got what runners call their second wind. With lips set, elbows pressed against his sides, and head thrown forward, he made excellent time to the brow of the hill, where he suddenly discovered himself in the midst of a crowd of men and horses.

For several seconds Lynde was so dazed and embarrassed that he saw nothing; then his eyes fell upon the girl with the long hair and the white gown. She was seated sidewise on a horse without saddle, and the horse was Mary. A strapping fellow was holding the animal by the head- stall.

"By Jove!" cried Lynde, springing forward joyfully, "that's my mare!"

He was immediately seized by two men who attempted to pass a cord over his wrists. Lynde resisted so desperately that a third man was called into requisition, and the three succeeded in tying his hands and placing him upon a saddle vacated by one of the riders. All this occupied hardly a minute.

"Will you go along quietly," said one of the men roughly, "or will you be carried?"

"What is the meaning of this?" demanded Lynde, with the veins standing out on his forehead.

He received no reply from any of the group, which seemed to be composed of farmers and laboring-hands, with two or three persons whose social status did not betray itself. Directly behind the girl and, like her, mounted on a horse led by a couple of rustics, was the white-haired old gentleman who had repulsed Lynde so rudely. Lynde noticed that his hands were also secured by cords, an indignity which in no wise altered the benevolent and satisfied expression of his face. Lynde's saddle and valise were attached to the old gentleman's horse. Lynde instinctively looked around for the ship-builder. There he was, flushed and sullen, sitting on a black nag as bony and woe-begone as himself, guarded by two ill-favored fellows. Not only were the ship-builder's arms pinioned, but his feet were bound by a rope fastened to each ankle and passed under the nag's belly. It was clear to Lynde that he himself, the old clergyman, and the girl were the victims of some dreadful misconception, possibly brought about by the wretch who had purloined the saddle.

"Gentlemen!" cried Lynde, as the party began to advance, "I protest against this outrage so far as I am concerned, and I venture to protest on the part of the lady. I am convinced that she is incapable of any act to warrant such treatment. I—I know her slightly," he added, hesitating.

"Oh, yes," said the girl, folding her hands demurely in her lap, "and I know you, too, very well. You are my husband."

This announcement struck Lynde speechless. The rough men exchanged amused glances, and the ship-builder gave vent to a curious dry laugh. Lynde could have killed him. The party moved on. Up to this moment the young man had been boiling with rage; his rage now yielded place to amazement. What motive had prompted the girl to claim that relationship? Was it a desperate appeal to him for protection? But brother, or cousin, or friend would have served as well. Her impulsive declaration, which would be at once disproved, might result in serious complications for him and her. But it had not been an impulsive declaration; she had said it very calmly, and, he fancied, with just the lightest touch of coquetry, "You are my husband!" For several minutes Lynde did not dare to let his eyes wander in her direction. She was a pace or so in the rear at his right. To see her he would be obliged to turn slightly; this he presently did, with a movement as if settling himself more easily in the saddle. The girl's loose hair was blown like a black veil over her face, putting her into mourning; she was steadying herself with one hand resting on Mary's mane; her feet were crossed, and a diminutive slipper had fallen from one of them. There was something so helpless and appealing in the girl's attitude that Lynde was touched.

"May I speak with you, sir?" he said, addressing himself to a man whom somebody had called Morton, and who appeared to issue the orders for the party. The man came to Lynde's side.

"For Heaven's sake, sir, explain this! Who is that young woman?"

"You said you knew her," returned the man, not unpleasantly.

"Indeed I said so," replied Lynde, reddening. "What has happened? What has she done, what have I done, what has the old clergyman done, that we should be seized like murderers on the public highway?"

"Be quiet now," said the man, laying his hand soothingly on Lynde's arm, and looking at him steadily. "Everything will be satisfactorily explained by and by."

Lynde's indignation blazed up again.

"I can assure you, sir," he cried, as the man returned to his former position, "that the result of the explanation will be far from satisfactory to you. I shall hold to strict account every man who has had a hand in this business. I demand to be brought before a magistrate, or a justice of the peace, if there is one in this God-forsaken country."

No attention was paid to Lynde's fresh outbreak. Some one picked up his hat and set it on the back of his head, giving him quite a rakish air. His dignity suffered until the wind took the hat again. The party proceeded in silence, halting once to tighten a girth, and another time to wait for a straggler. If the men spoke to one another it was in subdued tones or whispers. Two of the horsemen trotted on a hundred yards in advance, like skirmishers thrown out in front of an attacking force. There was something in all this mysterious precaution and reticence which bewildered and exasperated Lynde, who noted every detail. Mary, in a transient spasm of backing, had fallen to the rear; the young man could no longer see the girl, but ever before his eyes was the piteous, unslippered little foot with its arched instep.

The party was now at the base of the declivity. Instead of following the road to the village, the horses turned abruptly into a bridle-path branching off to the left, and in the course of a few minutes passed through an iron-spiked gateway in a high brick wall surrounding the large red structure which had puzzled Lynde on first discovering the town. The double gates stood wide open and were untended; they went to, however, with a clang, and the massive bolts were shot as soon as the party had entered. In the courtyard Lynde was hastily assisted from the horse; he did not have an opportunity to observe what became of the other three prisoners. When his hands were freed he docilely allowed himself to be conducted up a flight of stone steps and into the vestibule of the building, and thence, through a long corridor, to a small room in which his guard left him. The door closed with a spring not practicable from the inside, as Lynde ascertained on inspection.

The chamber was not exactly a cell; it resembled rather the waiting-room of a penitentiary. The carpet, of a tasteless, gaudy pattern, was well worn, and the few pieces of hair-cloth furniture, a sofa, a table, and chairs, had a stiff, official air. A strongly barred window gave upon a contracted garden—one of those gardens sometimes attached to prisons, with mathematically cut box borders, and squares of unhealthy, party- colored flowers looking like gangs of convicts going to meals. On his arrival at the place Edward Lynde had offered no resistance, trusting that some sort of judicial examination would promptly set him at liberty. Faint from want of food, jaded by his exertions, and chafing at the delay, he threw himself upon the sofa, and waited.

There was a great deal of confusion in the building. Hurried footsteps came and went up and down the passages; now and then he heard approaching voices, which tantalizingly passed on, or died away before reaching his door. Once a shrill shriek—a woman's shriek—rang through the corridor and caused him to spring to his feet.

After the lapse of an hour that had given Lynde some general idea of eternity, the door was hastily thrown open, and a small, elderly, blue- eyed gentleman, followed by a man of gigantic stature, entered the chamber.

"My dear sir," cried the gentleman, making a courteous, deprecatory gesture with his palms spread outward, "we owe you a million apologies. There has been a most lamentable mistake!"

"A mistake!" said Lynde haughtily. "Mistake is a mild term to apply to an outrage."

"Your indignation is just; still it was a mistake, and one I would not have had happen for the world. I am Dr. Pendegrast, the superintendent of this asylum."

"This is an asylum!"

"An asylum for the insane," returned Dr. Pendegrast. "I do not know how to express my regret at what has occurred. I can only account for the unfortunate affair, and throw myself upon your generosity. Will you allow me to explain?"

Lynde passed his hand over his forehead in a bewildered way. Then he looked at the doctor suspiciously; Lynde's late experience had shaken his faith in the general sanity of his species. "Certainly," he said, "I would like to have this matter explained to me; for I'll be hanged if I understand it. This is an asylum?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you are the superintendent?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then—naturally—you are not a lunatic?"

"Certainly not!" said the doctor, starting.

"Very well; I didn't know. I am listening to you, sir."

"Early this morning," said Dr. Pendegrast, somewhat embarrassed by Lynde's singular manner, "a number of patients whom we had always considered tractable seized the attendants one by one at breakfast, and, before a general alarm could be given, locked them in the cells. Some of us were still in our bedrooms when the assault began and were there overpowered. We chanced to be short-handed at the time, two of the attendants being ill, and another absent. As I say, we were all seized— the women attendants and nurses as well—and locked up. Higgins here, my head-man, they put into a strait-jacket."

"Yes, sir," spoke up Higgins for himself, "they did so!"

"Me," continued Dr. Pendegrast, smiling, "they confined in the padded chamber."

Lynde looked at him blankly.

"A chamber with walls thickly cushioned, to prevent violent patients from inflicting injury on themselves," explained the doctor. "_I_, you see, was considered a very bad case indeed! Meanwhile, Morton, the under-keeper, was in the garden, and escaped; but unfortunately, in his excitement, he neglected to lock the main gate after him. Morton gave the alarm to the people in the village, who, I am constrained to say, did not behave handsomely. Instead of coming to our relief and assisting to restore order, which might easily have been done even then, they barricaded themselves in their houses, in a panic. Morton managed to get a horse, and started for G—In the meantime the patients who had made the attack liberated the patients still in confinement, and the whole rushed in a body out of the asylum and spread themselves over the village."

"That must have been the crowd I saw in the streets when I sighted the town," said Lynde, thinking aloud.

"If you saw persons in the street," returned the doctor, "they were not the townsfolk. They kept very snug, I assure you. But permit me to finish, Mr."—

"My name is Lynde."

"Morton," continued the doctor, bowing, "having secured several volunteers before reaching G—, decided to return with what force he had, knowing that every instant was precious. On his way back he picked up three of the poor wanderers, and, unluckily, picked up you."

"He should not have committed such a stupid error," said Lynde, clinging stoutly to his grievance. "He ought to have seen that I was not an inmate of the asylum."

"An attendant, my dear Mr. Lynde, is not necessarily familiar with all the patients; he may know only those in his special ward. Besides, you were bare-headed and running, and seemed in a state of great cerebral excitement."

"I was chasing a man who had stolen my property."

"Morton and the others report that you behaved with great violence."

"Of course I did. I naturally resented being seized and bound."

"Your natural violence confirmed them in their natural suspicion, you see. Assuredly they were to blame; but the peculiar circumstances must plead for them."

"But when I spoke to them calmly and rationally"—

"My good sir," interrupted the doctor, "if sane people always talked as rationally and sensibly as some of the very maddest of my poor friends sometimes do, there would be fewer foolish things said in the world. What remark is that the great poet puts into the mouth of Polonius, speaking of Hamlet? 'How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of.' My dear Mr. Lynde, it was your excellent good sense that convicted you! By the way, I believe you claimed the horse which Morton found adrift on the road."

"Yes, sir, it was mine; at least I was riding it this morning when the saddle-girth broke, and the mare got away from me."

"Then of course that was your saddle Blaisdell was running off with."

"Blaisdell?"

"One of our most dangerous patients, in fact, the only really dangerous patient at present in the establishment. Yet you should hear HIM talk sometimes! To-day, thank God, he happened to be in his ship-building mood. Otherwise—I dare not think what he might have done. I should be in despair if he had not been immediately retaken. Oddly enough, all the poor creatures, except three, returned to the asylum of their own will, after a brief ramble through the village."

"And the white-haired old gentleman who looked like a clergyman, is he mad?"

"Mackenzie? Merely idiotic," replied the doctor, with the cool professional air.

"And the young girl," asked Lynde hesitatingly, "is she"—

"A very sad case," interrupted Dr. Pendegrast, with a tenderer expression settling upon his countenance. "The saddest thing in the world."

"Insane?"

"Hopelessly so, I fear."

A nameless heaviness fell upon Lynde's heart. He longed to ask other questions, but he did not know how to shape them. He regretted that subsequently.

"And now, Mr. Lynde," said the doctor, "in your general pardon I wish you to include my unavoidable delay in coming or sending to you. When you were brought here I was still in durance vile, and Higgins was in his strait-jacket. On being released, my hands were full, as you can suppose. Moreover, I did not learn at once of your detention. The saddle and the valise caused me to suspect that a blunder had been committed. I cannot adequately express my regrets. In ten minutes," continued Dr. Pendegrast, turning a fat gold watch over on its back in the palm of his hand, where it looked like a little yellow turtle, "in ten minutes dinner will be served. Unless you do me the honor to dine with me, I shall not believe in the sincerity of your forgiveness."

"Thanks," said Lynde dejectedly. "I fully appreciate your thoughtfulness; I am nearly famished, but I do not think I could eat a mouthful here. Excuse me for saying it, but I should have to remain here permanently if I were to stay another hour. I quite forgive Mr. Morton and the others," Lynde went on, rising and giving the doctor his hand; "and I forgive you also, since you insist upon being forgiven, though I do not know for what. If my horse, and my traps, and my hat—really, I don't see how they could have helped taking me for a lunatic—can be brought together, I will go and dine at the tavern."

Half an hour afterward Edward Lynde dismounted at the steps of the rustic hotel. The wooden shutters were down now, and the front door stood hospitably open. A change had come over the entire village. There were knots of persons at the street corners and at garden gates, discussing the event of the day. There was also a knot of gossips in the hotel barroom to whom the landlord, Mr. Zeno Dodge, was giving a thrilling account of an attack made on the tavern by a maniac who had fancied himself a horse!

"The critter," cried Mr. Dodge dramatically, "was on the p'int of springin' up the piazzy, when Martha handed me the shot-gun."

Mr. Dodge was still in a heroic attitude, with one arm stretched out to receive the weapon and his eye following every movement of a maniac obligingly personated by the cuspidor between the windows, when Lynde entered. Mr. Dodge's arm slowly descended to his side, his jaw fell, and the narrative broke off short.

Lynde requested dinner in a private room, and Mr. Dodge deposed the maid in order to bring in the dishes himself and scrutinize his enigmatical guest. In serving the meal the landlord invented countless pretexts to remain in the room. After a while Lynde began to feel it uncomfortable to have those sharp green eyes continually boring into the back of his head.

"Yes," he exclaimed wearily, "I am the man."

"I thought you was. Glad to see you, sir," said Mr. Dodge politely.

"This morning you took me for an escaped lunatic?"

"I did so—fust-off."

"A madman who imagined himself a horse?"

"That's what I done," said Mr. Dodge contritely, "an' no wonder, with that there saddle. They're a very queer lot, them crazy chaps. There's one on 'em up there who calls himself Abraham Lincoln, an' then there's another who thinks he's a telegraph wire an' hes messages runnin' up an' down him continally. These is new potatoes, sir—early rosers. There's no end to their cussed kinks. When I see you prancin' round under the winder with that there saddle, I says at once to Martha, 'Martha, here's a luny!'"

"A very natural conclusion," said Lynde meekly.

"Wasn't it now?"

"And if you had shot me to death," said Lynde, helping himself to another chop, "I should have been very much obliged to you."

Mr. Dodge eyed the young man dubiously for a dozen seconds or so.

"Comin'! comin'!" cried Mr. Dodge, in response to a seemingly vociferous call which had failed to reach Lynde's ear.

When Edward Lynde had finished dinner, Mary was brought to the door. Under the supervision of a group of spectators assembled on the piazza, Lynde mounted, and turned the mare's head directly for Rivermouth. He had no heart to go any farther due north. The joyousness had dropped out of the idle summer journey. He had gone in search of the picturesque and the peculiar; he had found them—and he wished he had not.

V. CINDERELLA'S SLIPPER

On the comb of the hill where his adventure had begun and culminated—it seemed to him now like historic ground—Edward Lynde reined in Mary, to take a parting look at the village nestled in the plain below. Already the afternoon light was withdrawing from the glossy chestnuts and drooping elms, and the twilight—it crept into the valley earlier than elsewhere—was weaving its half invisible webs under the eaves and about the gables of the houses. But the two red towers of the asylum reached up into the mellow radiance of the waning sun, and stood forth boldly. They were the last objects his gaze rested upon, and to them alone his eyes sent a farewell.

"Poor little thing! poor little Queen of Sheba!" he said softly. Then the ridge rose between him and the village, and shut him out forever.

Nearly a mile beyond the spot where Mary had escaped from him that morning, Edward Lynde drew up the mare so sharply that she sunk back on her haunches. He dismounted in haste, and stooping down, with the rein thrown over one arm, picked up an object lying in the middle of the road under the horse's very hoofs.

 It was on a Tuesday morning that Lynde reentered Rivermouth, after an absence of just eight days. He had started out fresh and crisp as a new bank-note, and came back rumpled and soiled and tattered, like that same note in a state to be withdrawn from circulation. The shutters were up at all the shop-windows in the cobble-paved street, and had the appearance of not having been taken down since he left. Everything was unchanged, yet it seemed to Lynde that he had been gone a year.

On Wednesday morning when Mr. Bowlsby came down to the bank he was slightly surprised at seeing the young cashier at his accustomed desk. To Mr. Bowlsby's brief interrogations then, and to Miss Mildred Bowlsby's more categorical questions in the evening, Lynde offered no very lucid reason for curtailing his vacation. Travelling alone had not been as pleasant as he anticipated; the horse was a nuisance to look after; and then the country taverns were snuffy and unendurable. As to where he had been and what he had seen—he must have seen something and been somewhere in eight days—his answers were so evasive that Miss Mildred was positive something distractingly romantic had befallen the young man.

"If you must know," he said, one evening, "I will tell you where I went."

"Tell me, then!"

"I went to Constantinople."

Miss Mildred found that nearly impertinent.

There was, too, an alteration in Lynde's manner which cruelly helped to pique her curiosity. His frank, half satirical, but wholly amiable way— an armor that had hitherto rendered him invulnerable to Miss Mildred's coquettish shafts—was wanting; he was less ready to laugh than formerly, and sometimes in the midst of company he fell into absent- minded moods. Instead of being the instigator and leader of picnics up the river, he frequently pleaded bank duties as an excuse for not joining such parties. "He is not at all as nice as he used to be," was Miss Mildred's mental summing up of Lynde a fortnight after his return.

He was, in fact, unaccountably depressed by his adventure in the hill country; he could not get it out of his mind. The recollection of details which he had not especially remarked at the time came to him in the midst of his work at the bank. Sometimes when he turned off the gas at night, or just as he was falling asleep, the sharp, attenuated figure of the ship-builder limned itself against the blackness of the chamber, or the old gentleman's vacuous countenance in its frame of silver hair peered in through the hangings of the bed. But more frequently it was the young girl's face that haunted Lynde. He saw her as she came up the sunny road, swinging the flower in her hand, and looking like one of Fra Angelico's seraphs or some saint out of an illuminated mediaeval missal; then he saw her seated on the horse, helpless and piteous with the rude, staring men about her. If he dreamed, it was of her drawing herself up haughtily and saying, "I am the Queen of Sheba." On two or three nights, when he had not been dreaming, he was startled out of his slumber by a voice whispering close to his ear: "I know you, too, very well. You are my husband."

Mr. Bowlsby and his daughter were the only persons in Rivermouth to whom Lynde could have told the story of his journey. He decided not to confide it to either, since he felt it would be vain to attempt to explain the sombre effect which the whole affair had had on him.

"I do not understand what makes me think of that poor girl all the time," mused Lynde one day, as he stood by the writing-table in his sitting-room. "It can't be this that keeps her in my mind."

He took up a slipper which was lying on the table in the midst of carved pipes and paper-weights and odds and ends. It was a very small slipper, nearly new, with high pointed heel and a square jet buckle at the instep: evidently of foreign make, and cut after the arch pattern of the slippers we see peeping from the flowered brocade skirts of Sir Peter Lely's full-length ladies. It was such an absurd shoe, a toy shoe, a child might have worn it!

"It cannot be this," said Lynde.

And yet it was that, more or less. Lynde had taken the slipper from his valise the evening he got home, and set it on the corner of the desk, where it straightway made itself into a cunning ornament. The next morning he put it into one of the drawers; but the table looked so barren and commonplace without it that presently the thing was back again. There it had remained ever since.

It met his eye every morning when he opened the door of his bedroom; it was there when he came home late at night, and seemed to be sitting up for him, in the reproachful, feminine fashion. When he was writing his letters, there it was, with a prim, furtive air of looking on. It was not like a mere slipper; it had traits and an individuality of its own; there were moments when the jet beads in the buckle sparkled with a sort of intelligence. Sitting at night, reading under the drop-light, Lynde often had an odd sensation as if the little shoe would presently come tripping across the green table-cloth towards him. He had a hundred fanciful humors growing out of that slipper. Sometimes he was tempted to lock it up or throw it away. Sometimes he would say to himself, half mockingly and half sadly, "That is your wife's slipper;" then he would turn wholly sad, thinking how tragic that would be if it were really so.

It was a part of the girl's self; it had borne her lovely weight; it still held the impress of her foot; it would not let Lynde entirely forget her while it was under his eyes.

The slipper had stood on the writing-table four or five months—an object of consuming curiosity and speculation to the young woman who dusted Lynde's chambers—when an incident occurred which finally led to its banishment.

Lynde never had visitors; there were few men of his age in the town, and none was sufficiently intimate with him to come to his rooms; but it chanced one evening that a young man named Preston dropped in to smoke a cigar with Lynde. Preston had recently returned from abroad, where he had been an attache of the American Legation at London, and was now generally regarded as the prospective proprietor of Miss Mildred. He was an entertaining, mercurial young fellow, into whose acquaintanceship Lynde had fallen at the Bowlsbys'.

"Ah, you rogue!" cried Preston gayly, picking up the slipper. "Did she give it you?"

"Who?" asked Lynde, with a start.

"Devilish snug little foot! Was it a danseuse?"

"No," returned Lynde freezingly.

"An actress?"

"No," said Lynde, taking the slipper from Preston's hand and gently setting it back on the writing-table. "It was not an actress; and yet she played a role—in a blacker tragedy than any you ever saw on the stage."

"Lynde, I beg your pardon. I spoke thoughtlessly, supposing it a light matter, don't you see?"

"There was no offence," said Lynde, hiding his subtile hurt.

"It was stupid in me," said Preston the next night, relating the incident to Miss Bowlsby. "I never once thought it might be a thing connected with the memory of his mother or sister, don't you see? I took it for a half sentimental souvenir of some flirtation."

"Mr. Lynde's mother died when he was a child, and he never had a sister," said Miss Bowlsby thoughtfully. "I shouldn't wonder," she added irrelevantly, after a pause.

"At what, Miss Mildred?"

"At anything!"

One of those womanly intuitions which set mere man-logic at defiance was come to whisper in Miss Bowlsby's ear that that slipper had performed some part in Edward Lynde's untold summer experience.

"He was laughing at you, Mr. Preston; he was grossly imposing on your unsophisticated innocence."

"Really? Is he as deep as that?"

"He is very deep," said Miss Bowlsby solemnly.

On his way home from the bank, one afternoon in that same week, Lynde overtook Miss Mildred walking, and accompanied her a piece down the street.

"Mr. Lynde, shall you go on another horseback excursion next summer?" she asked, without prelude.

"I haven't decided; but I think not."

"Of course you ought to go."

"Why of course, Miss Mildred?"

"Why? Because—because—don't ask me!"

"But I do ask you."

"You insist?"

"Positively."

"Well, then, how will you ever return Cinderella her slipper if you don't go in search of her?"

Lynde bit his lip, and felt that the blackest criminals of antiquity were as white as driven snow compared with Preston.

"The prince in the story, you know," continued Miss Bowlsby, with her smile of ingenue, "hunted high and low until he found her again."

"That prince was a very energetic fellow," said Lynde, hastily putting on his old light armor. "Possibly I should not have to travel so far from home," he added, with a bow. "I know at least one lady in Rivermouth who has a Cinderella foot."

"She has two of them, Mr. Lynde," responded Miss Mildred, dropping him a courtesy.

The poor little slipper's doom was sealed. The edict for its banishment had gone forth. If it were going to be the town's talk he could not keep it on his writing-desk. As soon as Lynde got back to his chambers, he locked up Cinderella's slipper in an old trunk in a closet seldom or never opened.

The enchantment, whatever it was, was broken. Although he missed the slipper from among the trifles scattered over his table, its absence brought him a kind of relief. He less frequently caught himself falling into brown studies. The details of his adventure daily grew more indistinct; the picture was becoming a mere outline; it was fading away. He might have been able in the course of time to set the whole occurrence down as a grotesque dream, if he had not now and then beheld Deacon Twombly driving by the bank with Mary attached to the battered family carry-all. Mary was a fact not easily disposed of.

Insensibly Lynde lapsed into his old habits. The latter part of this winter at Rivermouth was unusually gay; the series of evening parties and lectures and private theatricals extended into the spring, whose advent was signalized by the marriage of Miss Bowlsby and Preston. In June Lynde ran on to New York for a week, where he had a clandestine dinner with his uncle at Delmonico's, and bade good-by to Flemming, who was on the eve of starting on a protracted tour through the East. "I shall make it a point to visit the land of the Sabaeans," said Flemming, with his great cheery laugh, "and discover, if possible, the unknown site of the ancient capital of Sheba." Lynde had confided the story to his friend one night, coming home from the theatre.

Once more at Rivermouth, Edward Lynde took up the golden threads of his easy existence. But this life of ideal tranquillity and contentment was not to be permitted him. One morning in the latter part of August he received a letter advising him that his uncle had had an alarming stroke of apoplexy. The letter was followed within the hour by a telegram announcing the death of David Lynde.

VI. BEYOND THE SEA

In the early twilight of a July evening in the year 1875, two young Americans, neither dreaming of the other's presence, came face to face on the steps of a hotel on the Quai du Montblanc at Geneva. The two men, one of whom was so bronzed by Eastern suns that his friend looked pallid beside him, exchanged a long, incredulous stare; then their hands met, and the elder cried out, "Of all men in the world!"

"Flemming!" exclaimed the other eagerly; "I thought you were in Egypt."

"So I was, a month ago. What are you doing over here, Ned?"

"I don't know, to tell the truth."

"You don't know!" laughed Flemming. "Enjoying yourself, I suppose."

"The supposition is a little rash," said Edward Lynde. "I have been over nearly a year—quite a year, in fact. After uncle David's death"—

"Poor old fellow! I got the news at Smyrna."

"After he was gone, and the business of the estate was settled, I turned restless at Rivermouth. It was cursedly lonesome. I hung on there awhile, and then I came abroad."

"A rich man—my father wrote me. I have had no letter's from you. Your uncle treated you generously, Ned."

"Did he not always treat me generously?" said Lynde, with a light coming into his face and instantly dying out again. "Yes, he left me a pile of money and a heart-ache. I can hardly bear to talk of it even now, and it will be two years this August. But come up to my room. By Jove, I am glad to see you! How is it you are in Geneva? I was thinking about you yesterday, and wondering whether you were drifting down the Nile in a dahabeeah, or crossing the desert on a dromedary. Of course you have hunted tigers and elephants: did you kill anything?"

"I haven't killed anything but time. I was always a dead shot at that."

Lynde passed his arm through Flemming's, and the two friends mounted the staircase of the hotel.

"How is it you are in Geneva?" repeated Lynde.

"By luck," answered Flemming. "I am going home—in a zigzag way. I've been obliged to take a reef in my Eastern itinerary. The fact is, I have had a letter from the old gentleman rather suggesting it. I believe he has availed himself of my absence to fall into financial difficulties."

"Why, I thought he was rolling in wealth."

"No, he is rolling in poverty, as nearly as I can make out. Well, not so bad as that. Nothing is ever as bad as it pretends to be. But he has met with heavy losses. I shall find letters in London and learn all about it. He wrote me not to hurry, that a month or two would make no difference. When I got to Munich I thought I would take a peep at Switzerland while I had the opportunity. I have done a good piece—from Lindau to Lucerne, from Lucerne to Martigny by way of the Furca; through the Tete Noire Pass to Chamouni, and from Chamouni, here."

While Flemming was speaking, Lynde unlocked a door at the end of the hall and ushered him into a sitting-room with three windows, each opening upon a narrow balcony of its own.

"Sit there, old fellow," said Lynde, wheeling an easy-chair to the middle window, "and look through my glass at the view before it takes itself off. It is not often as fine as it is this evening."

In front of the hotel the blue waters of the Rhone swept under the arches of the Pont des Bergues, to lose themselves in the turbid, glacier-born Arve, a mile below the town. Between the Pont des Bergues and the Pont du Montblanc lay the island of Jean Jacques Rousseau, linked to the quay by a tiny chain bridge. Opposite, upon the right bank of the Rhone, stretched the handsome facades of tile-roofed buildings, giving one an idea of the ancient quarter which a closer inspection dispels; for the streets are crooked and steep, and the houses, except those lining the quays, squalid. It was not there, however, that the eye would have lingered. Far away, seen an incredible distance in the transparent evening atmosphere, Mont Blanc and its massed group of snowy satellites lifted themselves into the clouds. All those luminous battlements and turrets and pyramids—the Mole, the Grandes Jorasses, the Aiguilles du Midi, the Dent du Geant, the Aiguilles d'Argentiere— were now suffused with a glow so magically delicate that the softest tint of the blush rose would have seemed harsh and crude in comparison.

"You have to come away from Mont Blanc to see it," said Flemming, lowering the glass. "When I had my nose against it at Chamouni I didn't see it at all. It overhung me and smothered me. Old boy"—reaching up his hand to Lynde who was leaning on the back of the chair—"who would ever have thought that we two"—Flemming stopped short and looked earnestly into his comrade's face. "Why, Ned, I didn't notice how thin and pale you are. Are you ill?"

The color which had mantled Lynde's cheeks in the first surprise and pleasure of meeting his friend had passed away, leaving, indeed, a somewhat haggard expression on the young man's countenance.

"Ill? Not that I know."

"Is anything wrong?"

"There is nothing wrong," replied Lynde, with some constraint. "That is to say, nothing very wrong. For a month or six weeks I have been occupied with a matter that has rather unsettled me—more, perhaps, than I ought to have allowed."

"What is that?"

"It doesn't signify. Don't let's speak of it."

"But it does signify. You are keeping something serious from me. Out with it."

"Well, the truth is," said Lynde after a moment's hesitation, "it IS something serious and nothing very positive: that's the perplexing part of it."

"You are not making it clear to me."

"I don't know that I can, Flemming."

"Try, then."

Lynde reflected a few seconds, with his eyes fixed on the remote mountain lines imperceptibly melting into the twilight. "Do you remember our walk home from the theatre, one night, two or three days before you sailed from New York?"

"Perfectly," replied Flemming.

"Do you recollect my telling you of a queer thing that happened to me up in the New Hampshire hills?"

"Your encounter with the little lunatic? Perfectly."

"Don't!" said Lynde, shrinking as if some sharp instrument had pierced him. "She is here!"

"Here!" exclaimed Flemming, half rising from the chair, and glancing towards a draped door which connected the suite of apartments.

"Not in these rooms," said Lynde, with a short laugh, "but in Geneva—in this hotel."

"You do not mean it."

"When I say it is she, I'm not sure of it."

"Of course it isn't."

"That's what I say, and the next moment I know it is."

"And is THIS your trouble?"

"Yes," answered Lynde, knitting his brows. "I felt that I shouldn't make it clear to you."

"I am afraid you haven't, Ned. What earthly difference does it make to you whether or not it's the same girl?" "What difference!" cried Lynde impetuously; "what difference—when I love the very ground she walks on!"

"Oh, you love her! Which one?"

"Don't laugh at me, Flemming."

"I am not laughing," said Flemming, looking puzzled and anxious. "It is not possible, Ned, you have allowed yourself to go and get interested in a—a person not right in her mind!"

"Miss Denham is as sane as you are."

"Then Miss—Denham, is it?—cannot be the girl you told me about."

"That's the point."

"I don't see why there should be any confusion on that point."

"Don't you?"

"Come, let us go to the bottom of this. You have fallen in with a woman in Switzerland, and you suspect her of being a girl you met years ago in New Hampshire under circumstances which render her appearance here nearly an impossibility. As I am not a man of vivid imagination, that floors me. What makes you think them identical?"

"A startling personal resemblance, age, inflection of voice, manner, even a certain physical peculiarity—a scar."

"Then what makes you doubt?"

"Everything."

"Well, that's comprehensive, at all events."

"The very fact of her being here. The physician at the asylum said that that girl's malady was hopeless. Miss Denham has one of the clearest intellects I ever knew; she is a linguist, an accomplished musician, and, what is more rare, a girl who has moved a great deal in society, or, at least, has travelled a great deal, and has not ceased to be an unaffected, fresh, candid girl."

"An American?"

"Of course; didn't I say so?"

"The other may have been a sister, then, or a cousin," suggested Flemming. "That would account for the likeness, which possibly you exaggerate. It was in 1872, wasn't it?"

"I have been all over that. Miss Denham is an only child; she never had a cousin. To-day she is precisely what the other would have been, with restored health and three years added to her seventeen or eighteen."

"Upon my word, Ned, this is one of the oddest things I ever heard. I feel, though, that you have got yourself into an unnecessary snarl. Where does Miss Denham come from? She is not travelling alone? How did you meet her? Tell me the entire story."

"There is nothing to tell, or next to nothing. I met the Denhams here, six weeks ago. It was at the table d'hote. Two ladies came in and took places opposite me—a middle-aged lady and a young one. I did not notice them until they were seated; it was the voice of the younger lady that attracted me; I looked up,—and there was the Queen of Sheba. The same eyes, the same hair, the same face, though not so pale, and fuller; the same form, only the contours filled out. I put down my knife and fork and stared at her. She flushed, for I fancy I stared at her rather rudely, and a faint mark, like a star, came into her cheek and faded. I saw it as distinctly as I saw it the day she passed me on the country road, swinging the flower in her hand."

"By Jove! it's a regular romance—strawberry mark and all."

"If you don't take this seriously," said Lynde, frowning, "I am done."

"Go on."

"I shall never know how I got through the endless courses of that dinner; it was an empty pantomime on my part. As soon as it was over I rushed to the hotel register. The only entry among the new arrivals which pointed to the two ladies was that of Mrs. William Denham and Niece, United States. You can understand, Flemming, how I was seized with a desire to know those two women. I had come to Geneva for a day or so; but I resolved to stay here a month if they stayed, or to leave the next hour if they left. In short, I meant to follow them discreetly; it was an occupation for me. They remained. In the course of a week I knew the Denhams to speak to them when we met of a morning in the English Garden. A fortnight later it seemed to me that I had known them half my life. They had come across the previous November, they had wintered in Italy, and were going to Chamouni some time in July, where Mr. Denham was to join them; then they were to make an extended tour of Switzerland, accompanied by an old friend of the family, a professor, or a doctor, or something, who was in the south of France for his health. Miss Denham—her name is Ruth—is an orphan, and was educated mostly over here. When the Denhams are at home they live somewhere in the neighborhood of Orange, New Jersey. There are all the simple, exasperating facts. I can add nothing to them. If I were to tell you how this girl has perplexed and distressed me, by seeming to be and seeming not to be that other person—how my doubts and hopes have risen and fallen from day to day, even from hour to hour—it would be as uninteresting to you as a barometrical record. But this is certain: when Miss Denham and I part at Chamouni, as I suppose we shall, this world will have come to an end so far as I am concerned."

"The world doesn't come to an end that way—when one is twenty-six. Does she like you, Ned?"

"How can I say? She does not dislike me. We have seen very much of each other. We have been together some portion of each day for more than a month. But I've never had her a moment alone; the aunt is always present. We are like old friends—with a difference."

"I see; the aunt makes the difference! No flirting allowed on the premises."

"Miss Denham is not a girl to flirt with; she is very self-possessed, with just a suspicion of haughtiness; personally, tall, slight, a sort of dusky Eastern beauty, with the clear warm colors of a New England September twilight—not like the brunettes on this side, who are apt to have thick complexions, saving their presence. I say she is not a girl to flirt with, and yet, with that sensitive-cut mouth and those deep eyes, she could do awful things in the way of tenderness if she had a mind to. She's a puzzle, with her dove's innocence and her serpent's wisdom. All women are problems. I suppose every married man of us goes down to his grave with his particular problem not quite solved."

Flemming gave a loud laugh. The "every married man of us" tickled him. "Yes," said he; "they are all daughters of the Sphinx, and past finding out. Is Miss Denham an invalid?" he asked, after a pause.

"No; she is not strong—delicate, rather; of the pure type of American young-womanhood—more spirit than physique; but not an invalid—unless"- -

"You have let a morbid fancy run away with you, Ned. This lady and the other one are two different persons."

"If I could only believe it!" said Lynde. "I do believe it at times; then some gesture, some fleeting expression, a turn of the head, the timbre of her voice—and there she is again! The next moment I am ready to laugh at myself."

"Couldn't you question the aunt?"

"How could I?"

"You couldn't!"

"I have thought of that doctor at the asylum—what in the devil was his name? I might write to him; but I shrink from doing it. I have been brutal enough in other ways. I am ashamed to confess to what unforgivable expedients I have resorted to solve my uncertainty. Once we were speaking of Genoa, where the Denhams had spent a week; I turned the conversation on the church of St. Lorenzo and the relic in the treasury there—the Sacra Catino, a supposed gift to Solomon from the Queen of Sheba. Miss Denham listened with the calmest interest; she had not seen it the day she visited the church; she was sorry to have missed that. Then the aunt changed the subject, but whether by accident or design I was unable for the soul of me to conjecture. Good God, Flemming! could this girl have had some terrible, swift malady which touched her and passed, and still hangs over her—an hereditary doom?"

"Then she's the most artful actress that ever lived, I should say. The leading lady of the Theatre Francais might go and take lessons of her. But if that were so, Ned?"

"If that were so," said Lynde slowly, "a great pity would be added to my love."

"You would not marry her!"

Lynde made no reply.

The night had settled down upon Geneva while the friends were talking. The room was so dark they could not distinguish each other; but Flemming was conscious of a pale, set face turned towards him in the obscurity, in the same way that he was conscious of the forlorn whiteness of Mont Blanc looming up out yonder, unseen. It was dark in the chamber, but the streets were gay now with the life of a midsummer night. Interminable lines of lamps twinkled on the bridges and along the quays; the windows of the cafes on the opposite bank of the Rhone were brilliant with gas jets; boats, bearing merry cargoes to and from the lake, passed up and down the river; the street running under the hotel balcony was crowded with loungers, and a band was playing in the English Garden. From time to time a strain of music floated up to the window where the two men were sitting. Neither had spoken for some minutes, when Lynde asked his friend where he was staying.

"At the Schweizerhof," replied Flemming. "I always take the hotel nearest the station. Few Americans go there, I fancy. It is wonderfully and fearfully Swiss. I was strolling in here to look through the register for some American autographs when I ran against you."

"You had better bring your traps over here."

"It would not be worth while. I am booked for Paris to-morrow night. Ned—come with me!"

"I can't, Flemming; I have agreed to go to Chamouni with the Denhams."

"Don't!"

"That is like advising a famishing man not to eat his last morsel of food. I have a presentiment it will all end there. I never had a presentiment before."

"I had a presentiment once," said Flemming impressively. "I had a presentiment that a certain number—it was number twenty-seven—would draw the prize in a certain lottery. I went to the office, and number twenty-seven was one of the two numbers unsold! I bought it as quick as lightning, I dreamed of number twenty-seven three successive nights, and the next day it drew a blank."

"That has the ring of the old Flemming!" cried Lynde, with an unforced laugh. "I am glad that I have not succeeded in turning all your joyous gold into lead. I'm not always such dull company as I have been to- night, with my moods and my presentiments. I owe them partly, perhaps, to not seeing Miss Denham to-day, the aunt having a headache."

"You were not in a rollicking humor when I picked you up."

"I had been cruising about town all the morning alone, making assaults on the Musee Fol, the Botanic Garden, and the Jewish Synagogue. In the afternoon I had wrecked myself on Rousseau's Island, where I sat on a bench staring at Pradier's poor statue of Jean Jacques until I fancied that the ugly bronze cannibal was making mouths at me. When the aunt has a headache, _I_ suffer. Flemming, you must see Miss Denham, if only for a moment."

"Of course I should like to see her, Ned."

"You do not leave until evening," Lynde said, reflecting. "I think I can manage a little dinner for to-morrow. Now let us take a breath of fresh air. I know the queerest old nook, in the Rue de Chantpoulet, where the Bavarian beer is excellent and all the company smoke the most enormous porcelain pipes. Haven't I hit one of your weaknesses?"

"You have hit a brace!"

VII. THE DENHAMS

When Edward Lynde returned to the hotel that night, after parting with Flemming at the head of a crooked, gable-hung street leading to the Schweizerhof, the young man regretted that he had said anything on the subject of the Denhams, or rather, that he had spoken of the painful likeness which had haunted him so persistently. The friends had spent the gayest of evenings together at a small green-topped table in one corner of the smoky cafe. Over their beer and cheese they had chatted of old days at boarding-school and college, and this contact with the large, healthy nature of Flemming, which threw off depression as sunshine dissipates mist, had sent Lynde's vapors flying. Nothing was changed in the circumstances that had distressed him, yet some way a load had removed itself from his bosom. He was sorry he had mentioned that dark business at all. As he threaded the deserted streets—it was long after midnight—he planned a dinner to be given in his rooms the next day, and formulated a note of invitation to the ladies, which he would write when he got back to the hotel, and have in readiness for early delivery in the morning.

Lynde was in one of those lightsome moods which, in that varying month, had not unfrequently followed a day of doubt and restless despondency. As he turned into the Quai des Bergues he actually hummed a bar or two of opera. He had not done that before in six weeks. They had been weeks of inconceivable torment and pleasure to Lynde.

He had left home while still afflicted by David Lynde's death. Since the uncle's ill-advised marriage the intercourse between them, as the reader knows, had all but ceased; they had met only once, and then as if to bid each other farewell; but the ties had been very close, after all. In the weeks immediately following his guardian's death, the young man, occupied with settling the estate, of which he was one of the executors, scarcely realized his loss; but when he returned to Rivermouth a heavy sense of loneliness came over him. The crowded, happy firesides to which he was free seemed to reproach him for his lack of kinship; he stood alone in the world; there was no more reason why he should stay in one place than in another. His connection with the bank, unnecessary now from a money point of view, grew irksome; the quietude of the town oppressed him; he determined to cut adrift from all and go abroad. An educated American with no deeper sorrow than Lynde's cannot travel through Europe, for the first time at least, with indifference. Three months in Germany and France began in Lynde a cure which was completed by a winter in Southern Italy. He had regained his former elasticity of spirits and was taking life with a relish, when he went to Geneva; there he fell in with the Denhams in the manner he described to Flemming. An habitual shyness, and perhaps a doubt of Flemming's sympathetic capacity, had prevented Lynde from giving his friend more than an outline of the situation. In his statement Lynde had omitted several matters which may properly be set down here.

That first day at the table d'hote and the next day, when he was able more deliberately to study the young woman, Edward Lynde had made no question to himself as to her being the same person he had seen in so different and so pathetic surroundings. It was unmistakably the same. He had even had a vague apprehension she might recognize him, and had been greatly relieved to observe that there was no glimmer of recognition in the well-bred, careless glance which swept him once or twice. No, he had passed out of her memory—with the other shapes and shadows! How strange they should meet again, thousands of miles from New England; how strange that he alone, of all the crowded city, should know there had been a dark episode in this girl's history! What words she had spoken to him and forgotten, she who now sat there robed in the beauty of her reason!

It was a natural interest, and a deep interest, certainly, that impelled Lynde to seek the acquaintance of the two ladies. On the third day a chance service rendered the elder—she had left a glove or a handkerchief beside her plate at table, and Lynde had followed her with it from the dining-room—placed him upon speaking terms. They were his country-women, he was a gentleman, and the surface ice was easily broken. Three days afterwards Lynde found himself oddly doubting his first conviction. This was not that girl! The likeness was undeniable: the same purple-black hair, the same long eyelashes, a very distinctive feature. In voice and carriage, too, Miss Denham curiously recalled the other; and that mark on Miss Denham's cheek—a birth-mark—was singular enough. But there the analogies ended. Miss Denham was a young woman who obviously had seen much of the world; she possessed accomplishments which could have been acquired only by uninterrupted application; she spoke French, German, and Italian with unusual purity. That intellect, as strong and clear as crystal, could never have suffered even a temporary blur. He was beginning to be amazed at the blunder he had committed, when suddenly, one evening, a peculiar note in her voice, accompanied by a certain lifting of the eyelashes—a movement he had noticed for the first time, but which was familiar to him—threw Lynde into great perplexity. It WAS that other girl! How useless for him to try to blind himself to the truth! Besides, why should he wish to, and why should the fact of the identity trouble him to such a degree? The next day he was staggered by Miss Denham alluding incidentally to the circumstance that she and her aunt had passed a part of the spring of 1872 in Florida. That was the date of Lynde's adventure, the spring of 1872. Here was almost positive proof that Miss Denham could not have been in New England at the time. Lynde did not know what to think. Of course he was mistaken; he must be mistaken—and yet! There were moments when he could not look at Miss Denham without half expecting to see the man Blaisdell flitting somewhere in the background. Then there were days when it was impossible for Lynde to picture her as anything different from what she now was. But whatever conclusion he came to, a doubt directly insinuated itself.

While he was drifting from one uncertainty to another, a fortnight elapsed in which his intimacy with the Denhams had daily increased. They were in Geneva for an indefinite time, awaiting directions from Mr. Denham. The few sights in the city had been exhausted; the places of interest in the environs could not be visited by ladies without escort; so it fell out that Lynde accompanied the Denhams on several short excursions—to Petit and Grand Sacconnex, to the Villa Tronchin, to Pregny and Mornex. These were days which Lynde marked with a red letter. At the end of the month, however, he was in the same state of distressing indecision relative to Miss Denham. On one point he required no light—he was deeply interested in her, so deeply, indeed, that it had become a question affecting all his future, whether or not she was the person he had encountered on his horseback journey three years before. If she was—

But Edward Lynde had put the question out of his thought that night as he walked home from the cafe. His two bars of opera music lasted him to the hotel steps. Though it was late—a great bell somewhere, striking two, sent its rich reverberation across the lake while he was unlocking his chamber door—Lynde seated himself at a table and wrote his note to the Denhams.

Flemming had promised to come and take coffee with him early the next morning, that is to say at nine o'clock. Before Flemming arrived, Lynde's invitation had been despatched and accepted. He was re-reading Miss Denham's few lines of acceptance when he heard his friend, at the other end of the hall, approaching with great strides.

"The thousandth part of a minute late!" cried Flemming, throwing open the door. "There's no excuse for me. When a man lives in a city where they manufacture a hundred thousand watches a year—that's one watch and a quarter every five minutes day and night—it's a moral duty to be punctual. Ned, you look like a prize pink this morning." "I have had such a sleep! Besides, I've just gone through the excitement of laying out the menu for our dinner. Good heavens, I forgot the flowers! We'll go and get them after breakfast. There's your coffee. Cream, old man? I am in a tremor over this dinner, you know. It is a maiden effort. By the way, Flemming, I wish you'd forget what I said about Miss Denham, last evening. I was all wrong."

"I told you so; what has happened?"

"Nothing. Only I have reconsidered the matter, and I see I was wrong to let it upset me."

"I saw that from the first."

"Some persons," said Lynde gayly, "always see everything from the first. You belong to the I-told-you-so family, only you belong to the cheerful branch."

"Thank the Lord for that! A wide-spreading, hopeful disposition is your only true umbrella in this vale of tears."

"I shall have to borrow yours, then, if it rains heavily, for I've none of my own."

"Take it, my boy; my name's on the handle!"

On finishing their coffee the young men lighted cigars and sallied forth for a stroll along the bank of the river, which they followed to the confluence of the Rhone with the Arve, stopping on the way to leave an order at a florist's. Returning to the hotel some time after mid-day, they found the flowers awaiting them in Lynde's parlor, where a servant was already laying the cloth. There were bouquets for the ladies' plates, an imposing centre-piece in the shape of a pyramid, and a profusion of loose flowers.

"What shall we do with these?" asked Lynde, pointing to the latter.

"Set 'em around somewhere," said Flemming, with cheerful vagueness.

Lynde disposed the flowers around the room to the best of his judgment; he hung some among the glass pendants of the chandelier, gave a nosegay to each of the two gilt statuettes in the corners, and piled the remainder about the base of a monumental clock on the mantelpiece.

"That's rather a pretty idea, isn't it?—wreathing Time in flowers," remarked Flemming, with honest envy of his friend's profounder depth of poetic sentiment.

"I thought it rather neat," said Lynde, who had not thought of it at all.

In the course of that dinner if two or three unexplained demure smiles flitted over Miss Denham's face, they might, perhaps, have been indirectly traced to these floral decorations, though they pleased her more than if a woman's hand had been visible in them.

"Flemming," said Lynde, with a severe aesthetic air, "I don't think that arrangement in the fireplace is quite up to the rest of the room."

"Nor I either," said Flemming, who had been silently admiring it for the last ten minutes.

The fireplace in question was stuffed with a quantity of long, delicately spiral shavings, sprinkled with silver spangles or flakes of isinglass, and covered by a piece of pale blue illusion. This device— peculiarly Genevese—was supposed to represent a waterfall.

"Take a match and touch it off," suggested Flemming.

"If we had some more flowers, now"—"Exactly. I am going to the hotel to get myself up like a head-waiter, and I'll bring some when I come back."

In an hour afterwards Flemming reappeared, followed by a youth bearing an immense basket. Lynde removed the Alpine waterfall to an adjoining chamber, and built up a huge fire of flame-colored flowers in the grate. The two friends were standing in the middle of the room, gravely contemplating the effect, when a servant opened the door and announced Mrs. and Miss Denham. A rustle of drapery at the threshold was followed by the entrance of the two ladies in ceremonious dinner toilets.

Lynde had never seen Miss Denham in any but a dark travelling-dress, or in such unobtrusive costume as a modest girl may wear at a hotel table. He stood motionless an instant, seeing her in a trailing robe of some fleecy, maize-colored material, with a cluster of moss-roses at her corsage and a cross of diamonds at her throat. She was without other ornament. The shade of her dress made her hair and eyes and complexion wonderful. Lynde was proud to have her look like that for Flemming, though he was himself affected by a queer impression that this queenly young person was not the simple, lovely girl he had known all along. He was embarrassed by her unexpected elegance, but he covered his embarrassment and his pleasure by presenting his friend to the ladies, and ordering the servant to serve the dinner immediately.

Lynde's constraint was only momentary, and the others had experienced none. Flemming, indeed, had a fleeting surprise at finding in the aunt a woman of thirty-five or thirty-eight, in the Indian summer of her beauty. Lynde had given him the idea of an elderly person with spectacles. As to Miss Denham, she had not fallen short of the mental picture Flemming had drawn of her—which ought to have surprised him. No charms or graces in a woman, however, could much surprise Flemming; he accepted them as matters of course; to him all women were charming in various degrees. He had that general susceptibility which preserves us the breed of bachelors. The constant victim of a series of minor emotions, he was safe from any major passion. There was a certain chivalrous air of camaraderie in his manner to women which made them like him sooner or later; the Denhams liked him instantly. Even before the potage was removed, Lynde saw that his dinner was a success. "The cook may drop dead now, if he wants to," said Lynde to himself; "he can't spoil anything."

"You are not entirely a stranger to us, Mr. Flemming," said Mrs. Denham, looking at him from behind the floral pyramid, which had the happy effect of isolating two guests who sat opposite each other. "There is a person who goes about foreign lands with no other ostensible mission than to sound your praise."

"You must set down a great deal to filial gratitude," returned Flemming. "I have been almost a father to our young friend."

"He tells me that your being here is quite accidental."

"It was one of those fortunate things, madam, which sometimes befall undeserving persons, as if to refute the theory of a special providence."

"On the contrary, Mr. Flemming"—it was Miss Ruth who spoke—"it was evidently arranged with the clearest foresight; for if you had been a day later, perhaps you would not have found your friend in Geneva—that is, if Mr. Lynde goes with us to Chamouni."

"You have heard from Mr. Denham, then?" said Lynde, turning to the aunt.

"We had letters this morning. Mr. Denham is in Paris, where he will remain a week or ten days, to show the sights to an old American friend of ours who is to join our party. I think I told you, Mr. Lynde? Supposing us to be weary of Geneva by this time, Mr. Denham suggests that we go on to Chamouni and wait there. I have left the matter to Ruth, and she decides in favor of leaving to-morrow, if the weather is fine."

"We are not tired of Geneva," said Miss Denham; "it would be ingratitude to Mr. Lynde to admit that; but we are longing for a nearer view of the Mont Blanc groups. One ought to know them pretty well after six weeks' constant looking at them; but the changes in the atmosphere make any certain intimacy impossible at this distance. New ranges loom up and disappear, the lines alter almost every hour. Were you ever at the Isles of Shoals, Mr. Flemming?"

Flemming started slightly. Since Miss Denham entered the room, he had given scarcely a thought to Lynde's dismal suspicions. Once or twice they had come into Flemming's mind, but he had promptly dismissed them. The girl's inquiry concerning a locality in New Hampshire suddenly recalled them, and recalled the motive with which Lynde had planned the dinner. Flemming flushed with vexation to think he had lent himself to the arrangement.

"I have spent parts of two summers at the Isles of Shoals," he said.

"Then you must have observed the singular changes that seem to take place on the mainland, seen from Appledore. The mirage on the Rye and Newcastle coasts—is it Newcastle?—sometimes does wonderful things. Frequently you see great cities stretching along the beach, some of the houses rising out of the water, as in Venice, only they are gloomy, foggy cities, like London, and not like Venice. Another time you see ships sailing by upside down; then it is a chain of hills, with peaks and projections that melt away under your eyes, leaving only the flat coast-line."

Flemming had seen all this, and seemed again to see it through the clear medium of the young girl's words. He had witnessed similar optical illusions in the deserts, also, which he described to her. Then he remembered a curious trick of refracted light he had once seen in the sunrise on Mount Washington, and suddenly he found himself asking Miss Denham if she were acquainted with the interior of New Hampshire. Flemming had put the interrogation without a shadow of design; he could have bitten his tongue off an instant after.

Lynde, who had been discussing with Mrs. Denham the details of the next day's journey, looked up quickly and sent Flemming a rapid scowl.

"I have never been inland," was Miss Denham's answer. "My acquaintance with New Hampshire is limited to the Shoals and the beaches at Rye and Hampton. In visiting the Alps first I have, I know, been very impolite to the mountains and hills of my own land."

"Ruth, dear, Mr. Lynde and I have been speaking of the conveyance for to-morrow; shall it be an open or a close carriage?"

"An open carriage, by all means, aunt."

"That would have its inconvenience in case of showers," said Lynde; "when April takes her departure from the Alps, she is said to leave all her capriciousness behind her. I suggest a partially closed vehicle; you will find a covering comfortable in either rain or shine."

"Mr. Lynde thinks of everything," remarked Mrs. Denham. "He should not allow himself to be dictated to by unforeseeing woman."

"In strict confidence, Mrs. Denham, I will confess that I have arbitrarily taken this business in hand. For nearly a week, now, I have had my eye on a vehicle that must have been built expressly for us; it is driven by a tall, distinguished person, frosty of mustache and affable of manner—evidently a French marquis in disguise."

"What an adroit fellow Ned is!" Flemming said to himself. "I wonder that with all his cleverness he could have got such a foolish notion into his head about this girl."

"We must have the French marquis at any cost," said Miss Denham.

"The truth is," remarked Lynde, "I have secured him."

"We are to start at eight, Ruth."

"Which means breakfast at seven. Is Mr. Lynde equal to a feat like that, aunt?"

"As I intend to have watchers and sit up all night," said Lynde, "I think I can promise to be on hand."

This matter decided, the conversation, which had been carried on mostly in duets, became general. Flemming soon recovered from the remorse of his inadvertent question, or rather from his annoyance at the thought that possibly it had struck Lynde as having an ulterior motive.

As to Lynde, he was in the highest humor. Miss Denham had been thoroughly charming to his friend, with her serious and candid manner—a manner as far removed from reserve as from the thin vivacity of the average young woman of the period. Her rare smile had been finer than another's laugh. Flemming himself went as near to falling in love with her and the aunt as his loyalty to Lynde and the supposed existence of a Mr. Denham permitted.

After a while the window curtains were drawn, though it was scarcely dusk without, and candles brought; then the ices were served, and then the coffee; and then the clock on the mantelpiece, as if it took malicious satisfaction in the fleetness with which Time (wreathed in flowers) slips away from mortals, set up a silvery chime—it sounded like the angelus rung from some cathedral in the distance—to tell Flemming that his hour was come. He had still to return to the hotel to change his dress-suit before taking the train. Mrs. Denham insisted on Lynde accompanying his friend to the station, though Flemming had begged that he might be allowed to withdraw without disturbing the party, and even without saying farewell. "I don't recognize good-bys," said he; "there are too many sorrowful partings in the world already. I never give them the slightest encouragement." But the ladies persisted in considering the dinner at an end; then the two friends conducted the Denhams to the door of their own parlor and there took leave of them.

"Well?" said Lynde as he seated himself beside Flemming in the carriage. "What do you think of her?"

"An unusually agreeable woman," returned Flemming carelessly. "She is thirty-eight, she looks twenty-six, and is as pleasant as nineteen."

"I mean Miss Denham!"

"Ned, I don't care to discuss Miss Denham. When I think of your connecting that lovely lady with a crazy creature you met somewhere or other, I am troubled touching your intellect."

"But I do not any longer connect her with that unfortunate girl. I told you to put all that out of your mind."

"I don't find it easy to do, Ned; it is so monstrous. Was not this dinner an arrangement for me to see Miss Denham and in some way judge her?"

"No, Flemming; there was a moment yesterday evening when I had some such wild idea. I had grown morbid by being alone all day and brooding over a resemblance which I have not been able to prevent affecting me disagreeably at intervals. This resemblance does not exist for you, and you have not been subtile enough to put yourself in my place. However, all that is past; it shall not disturb me in future. When I invited the Denhams to this dinner it was solely that I might present you to the woman I shall marry if she will have me."

"She is too good for you, Ned."

"I know it. That's one thing makes me love her. I admire superior people; it is my single merit. I wouldn't stoop to marry my equal. Flemming, what possessed you to question her about New Hampshire?"

"We were speaking of the White Hills, and the question asked itself. I wasn't thinking of your puerilities; don't imagine it. I hope her reply settled you. What are you going to do now?"

"I shall go with them to Chamouni."

"And afterwards?"

"My plan is to wait there until the uncle comes."

"That would be an excellent plan if you wanted to marry the uncle. If I were you, Ned, I would go and speak with Miss Denham, and then with the aunt, who will be worth a dozen uncles if you enlist her on your side. She doesn't seem unfriendly to you."

"I will do that, Flemming," returned Lynde thoughtfully. "I am not sure that Miss Denham would marry me. We are disposing of her as if she could be had for the asking. I might lose everything by being premature."

"Premature! I've a mind to stay over and fall in love with her myself. I could do it in a day and a half, and you have been six weeks about it."

"Six weeks! I sometimes think I have loved her all my life," said Lynde.

From the Schweizerhof the young men drove without speaking to the railroad station, which they reached just in time for Flemming to catch his train. With hurriedly exchanged promises to write each other, the two parted on the platform. Then Lynde in a serenely happy frame of mind caused himself to be driven to the Rue des Paquis, where he stopped at the chateau of the French marquis, which looked remarkably like a livery-stable, and arranged for a certain travelling-carriage to be at the door of the hotel the next morning at eight.

VIII. FROM GENEVA TO CHAMOUNI

If there is in all the world as lovely a day's ride as that from Geneva to Chamouni, it must be the ride from Chamouni to Geneva. Lynde would not have made even this concession the next morning, as a heavy-wheeled carriage, containing three travellers and drawn by four stout Savoy horses, rolled through the Grande Place, and, amid a salvo of whip-lash and a cloud of dust, took the road to Bonneville.

"I did not think I cared very much for Geneva," said Miss Denham, leaning from the carriage side to look back at the little Swiss capital set so prettily on the blue edge of Lake Leman; "I did not think I cared for it at all; yet I leave it with a kind of home-leaving regret."

"That is because you found complete repose there, I imagine," said Lynde. "Geneva is blessed among foreign cities in having no rich picture-galleries, or famous cathedrals, or mouldy ruins covered all over with moss and history. In other places, you know, one is distracted by the things which it is one's imperative duty to see, and by the feeling that a lifetime is too short properly to see them. Coming from the great Italian cities to Geneva is like falling asleep after some prolonged mental strain. I do not object to waking up and leaving it, however. I should not mind leaving Eden, in pleasant company, on such a morning as this."

"The company, and I dare say the morning, are not insensible to your handsome compliment, Mr. Lynde."

The morning was without flaw, and the company, or at least that part of it represented by Miss Ruth Denham, had more color in its cheeks than usual, and its dark eyes looked very dark and melting under their long fringes. Mrs. Denham was also of a high complexion, but, having a practical turn of mind, she was wondering whether the trunks, which rose like a monument from the footboard of the vehicle, were quite secure. It was a lumbering, comfortable concern, with red and black wheels, and a maroon body set upon complicated springs. The back seat, occupied by the Denhams, was protected by a leather hood, leaving the forward portion of the carriage open. The other seat was amicably shared between Lynde and a pile of waterproofs and woollen wraps, essentials in Switzerland, but which the ladies doubtless would have provided themselves if they had been in the tropics. On the high box in front sat the driver, speaking from time to time in low, confidential tones to the four powerful black horses, whose harnesses were lavishly hung with flaunting chamois-tails and made merry with innumerable silver bells.

For the last two weeks Lynde had been impatiently looking forward to this journey. The thought of having an entire day with Miss Denham, on such terms of intimacy as tacitly establish themselves between persons travelling together in the same carriage, had softened the prospect of the final parting at Chamouni; though now he did not intend they should separate there, unless she cruelly willed it. The nature of Miss Denham's regard for him Lynde had not fathomed. She had been frank and friendly with him, as she might have been with a cousin or a person much older than herself. As he told Flemming, he had never had her a minute alone. The aunt had always accompanied them on their brief walks and excursions about Geneva; whenever she had been unable to do so, the excursion or the walk had been abandoned. Lynde saw, among other gracious things in this day's ride, a promising opportunity for a tete- a-tete with Miss Denham. Here and there, along the winding ascents, would be tempting foot-paths, short pine—shaded cuts across the rocks, by which the carriage could be intercepted farther on. These five or ten minutes' walks, always made enchanting by some unlooked-for grove, or grotto, or cascade, were nearly certain to lure Miss Ruth to her feet. Then he would have her to himself, for Mrs. Denham seldom walked when she could avoid it. To make assurance doubly sure Lynde could almost have wished her one of those distracting headaches from which hitherto he had suffered so keenly.

For the first few miles the road lay through a succession of villas and cultivated gardens; indeed, these gardens and villas extend all the way to Chene, where a thin ribbon of a stream, the Foron, draws the boundary line between the canton of Geneva and Savoy. At this point the scenery begins, not too aggressively, to be picturesque; you catch some neat views of the Voirons, and of the range of the Jura lying on your right. Beyond is the village of Annemasse, and the Chateau of Etrambiere, with its quartette of towers, rises from the foot of the Petit-Saleve in the bluish-gray distance. You no longer see Mont Blanc, except at intervals. Here and there a knot of hamlets clings to some fir-dotted slope, or tries to hide itself away in the bosom of a ravine. All these Alpine villages bear the same resemblance to one another as so many button- moulds of different sizes. Each has its quaint little church of stucco, surrounded by clusters of gray and dingy-white head-stones and crosses— like a shepherd standing in the midst of his flock; each has its bedrabbled main street, with a great stone trough into which a stream of ice-cold water is forever flowing, and where comely young women of substantial ankles, with their flaxen hair braided down their backs, are forever washing linen; each has its beggar, with a goitre or a wooden leg, lying in wait for you; and each, in turn, with its purple and green and red tiled roofs, is charming to approach and delightful to get away from.

After leaving Annemasse, the road runs up the valley of the Arve and crosses a bridge over the Menoge. Then comes the village of Nangy, and then Contamines, beyond which, on a bold height, stand the two wrinkled, crumbling towers of the ancient castle of Faucigny, whence the province takes its name. It was at Nangy that a pretty incident befell our travellers. On the outskirts of the village they met fifty or sixty school-children marching three abreast, the girls on one side of the road and the boys on the other. The girls—each in a coarse blue or yellow frock, with a snowy neckerchief pinned over her bosom and a pig- tail of hair hanging down her shoulders—seemed for all the world like little old women; and not one of the little men appeared to be less than a hundred and five years old. They suggested a collection of Shems and Japhets, with their wives, taken from a lot of toy Noah's arks. As the carriage rolled between the two files, all the funny little women bobbed a simultaneous courtesy, and all the little old-fashioned men lifted their hats with the most irresistible gravity conceivable. "Fancy such a thing happening in the United States!" said Lynde. "If we were to meet such a crowd at home, half a dozen urchins would immediately fasten themselves to the hind axle, and some of the more playful spirits would probably favor us with a stone or two, or a snowball, according to the season."

"There comes the curee, now," said Miss Denham. "It is some Sunday- school fete."

As the curee, a florid, stout person, made an obeisance and passed on, fanning himself leisurely with his shovel-hat, his simple round face and white feathery hair put Lynde in mind of the hapless old gentleman whom he mistook for the country parson that morning so long ago. Instantly the whole scene rose before Lynde's vision. Perhaps the character of the landscape through which they were passing helped to make the recollection very vivid. There was not a cloud in the pale arch; yonder were the far-reaching peaks with patches of snow on them, and there stretched the same rugged, forlorn hills, covered with dwarf bushes and sentinelled with phantom-like pines. An odd expression drifted across Lynde's countenance.

"What are you smiling at, Mr. Lynde, in that supremely selfish manner?" inquired Mrs. Denham, looking at him from under her tilted sun-umbrella.

"Was I smiling? It was at those droll little beggars. They bowed and courtesied in an unconcerned, wooden way, as if they were moved by some ingenious piece of Swiss clock-work. The stiff old curee, too, had an air of having been wound up and set a-going. I could almost hear the creak of his mainspring. I was smiling at that, perhaps, and thinking how strongly the scenery of some portions of our own country resembles this part of Switzerland."

"Do you think so? I had not remarked it."

"This is not the least like anything in the Adirondack region, for example," observed Miss Ruth.

"It may be a mere fancy of mine," returned Lynde. "However, we have similar geological formations in the mountainous sections of New England; the same uncompromising Gothic sort of pines; the same wintry bleakness that leaves its impress even on the midsummer. A body of water tumbling through a gorge in New Hampshire must be much like a body of water tumbling through a gorge anywhere else."

"Undoubtedly all mountain scenery has many features in common," Mrs. Denham said; "but if I were dropped down on the White Hills, softly from a balloon, let us say, I should know in a second I was not in Switzerland."

"I should like to put you to the test in one spot I am familiar with," said Lynde.

"I should not like to be put to the test just at present," rejoined Mrs. Denham. "I am very simple in my tastes, and I prefer the Alps."

"Where in New England will you see such a picture as that?" asked Miss Ruth, pointing to a village which lay in the heart of the valley, shut in on the right by the jagged limestone rocks of the Brezon and on the left by the grassy slopes of the Mole.

"Our rural towns lack color and architecture," said Lynde. "They are mostly collections of square or oblong boxes, painted white. I wish we had just one village composed exclusively of rosy-tiled houses, with staircases wantonly running up on the outside, and hooded windows, and airy balconies hanging out here and there where you don't expect them. I would almost overlook the total lack of drainage which seems to go along with these carved eaves and gables, touched in with their blues and browns and yellows. This must be Bonnevine we are coming to. We change horses here."

In a few minutes they swept through an avenue of noble trees, and stopped at the doorstep of an inn alive with passengers by the diligence just arrived from Sallanches, on its way to Geneva.

Lynde was beginning to feel a trifle out of spirits. The journey thus far had been very pleasant, but it had not wholly fulfilled his expectations. The Denhams had occupied themselves with the scenery; they had not been much inclined to talk; and Lynde had; found no opportunity to make himself especially agreeable. They had spoken several times of Flemming, in a vein of eulogy. Lynde loved Flemming; but Flemming as a topic of conversation possessed no particular advantage over landscape. Miss Denham had never looked so lovely to Lynde as she did this day; he was glad to get her again in that closely fitting drab travelling-dress, laced up to the shapely white throat. A sense of great comfort had stolen over him the two or three times when she had sunk back in the carriage cushions and let her eyes dwell upon him contemplatively for a moment. He was beginning to hate Mrs. Denham, and he thoroughly loathed Bonneville, where a polyglot crowd of tourists came flocking into the small waiting-room just as Miss Ruth was putting up her hair and unconsciously framing for Lynde a never-to-be-forgotten picture in the little cracked inn-mirror.

Passengers by diligence usually dine at Bonneville, a fact which Lynde had ascertained when he selected Cluses, nine miles beyond, as the resting-place for his own party. They were soon on the road again, with the black horses turned into roan, traversing the level meadow lands between the Brezon and the Mole. With each mile, now, the landscape took on new beauty and wildness. The superb mountains—some with cloudy white turrets, some thrusting out huge snow-powdered prongs, and others tapering to steely dagger-points—hemmed them in on every side.

Here they came more frequently on those sorrowful roadside cairns, surmounted by a wooden cross with an obliterated inscription and a shrivelled wreath, marking the spot where some peasant or mountaineer had been crushed by a land-slide or smothered in the merciless winter drift. As the carriage approached Cluses, the road crept along the lips of precipices and was literally overhung by the dizzy walls of the Brezon. Crossing the Arve—you are always crossing the Arve or some mad torrent on your way from Geneva to Chamouni—the travellers entered the town of Cluses and alighted at one of those small Swiss hotels which continually astonish by their tidiness and excellence.

In spite of the intermittent breeze wandering down from the regions above the snow-line, the latter part of the ride had been intensely hot. The cool, shadowy room, with its table ready laid for dinner near the latticed window, was a welcome change to the three dusty voyagers as they were ushered into it by the German landlord, whose round head thinly thatched with whitey-brown hair gave him the appearance of having been left out over night in a hoar frost. It was a refreshment in itself to look at him, so crisp and cool, with that blinding afternoon glare lying on the heated mountain-slopes.

"I could be contented here a month," said Mrs. Denham, throwing off her bonnet, and seating herself in the embrasure of the window.

"The marquis allows us only three quarters of an hour," Lynde observed. "He says we cannot afford to lose much time if we want to reach Chamouni before sundown."

"Chamouni will wait for us."

"But the sunset won't."

Lynde had a better reason than that for wishing to press on. It was between there and Magland, or, rather, just beyond Magland, that he proposed to invite Miss Denham to walk. The wonderful cascade of Arpenaz, though it could be seen as well from the carriage, was to serve as pretext. Of course he would be obliged to include Mrs. Denham in his invitation, and he had sufficient faith in the inconsistency of woman not to rely too confidently on her declining. "As she never walks, she'll come along fast enough," was Lynde's grim reflection.

He had by no means resolved on what he should say to Miss Ruth, if he got her alone. In the ten minutes' walk, which would be almost equivalent to a first interview, he could not say much. He could tell her how grieved he was at the thought of the approaching separation, and tell her in such a manner as would leave her in no great doubt as to the state of his feelings. But whether he went so far as that was a problem which he intended to let chance solve for him.

Lynde was standing on the inn steps with his after-dinner cheroot, meditatively blowing circles of smoke into the air, when the carriage drove round from the stable and the Denhams appeared in the doorway. The young woman gave Lynde an ungloved hand as he assisted her to the seat. The slight pressure of her fingers and the touch of her rings were possessions which he retained until long after the carriage had passed that narrow defile near the stalactite cavern in the Balme, where a couple of tiresome fellows insist on letting off a small cannon for you, to awaken a very disobliging old Echo who refuses to repeat anything more than twice. What a magic there is in hands—in some hands! Lynde could have held Mrs. Denham's hand a fortnight without getting anything so tangible as that fleeting touch of Miss Ruth's.

"Is the grotto worth seeing?" Mrs. Denham asked, with a speculative glance up the mountain side.

"It is an hour's hard climb, and scarcely pays," replied Lynde, appalled by this indication of Alpine enterprise. "I visited it the first time I came over the road. You get a good look at the peaks of Mont Douron on the other side of the valley, and that's all; the grotto itself is not remarkable. But I think it will be worth while to halt a moment when we come to the fall of Nant d'Arpenaz. That is really marvellous. It is said to be nearly as fine as the Staubbach."

As Miss Ruth leaned back in the cushions, lazily fastening the third button of her glove with a hair-pin, there was just the faintest glimmer of humor in the eyes that looked up into the young man's face. He was being read, and he knew it; his dark intentions in regard to that waterfall were probably as legible to her as if they had been printed in great-primer type on his forehead. On two or three occasions at Geneva she had wrested his unworded thought from him with the same effortless sorcery. Lynde evaded her look, and studied a spire-like peak on his left. "I shall have an air of detected villainy now, when I ask her," he mused. "That's the first shade of coquetry I ever saw in her. If she accepts my invitation without the aunt, she means either to flirt with me or give me the chance to speak to her seriously. Which is it to be, Miss Ruth? I wonder if she is afraid of Mrs. Denham. Sometimes it seems to me she would be a different girl if it were not for the presence of the aunt."

By and by, at a bend of the road after passing Magland, the waterfall became visible in the distance. The cascade of Nant d'Arpenaz is one of the highest falls in Savoy, and if it is not the most beautiful, one can still well afford, having seen that, not to see the others. It is not a large volume of water, except when swollen by rains, as it happened to be this day, but its plunge from the dizzy brown cliff is the gracefulest thing in the world. The curiously stratified face of the precipice is concave, and the water has a fall of several hundred feet to reach the slope, which, indeed, it seems never to reach; for before the stream has accomplished half the descent it is broken into fine spray, and flaunts loosely in the wind like a veil of the most delicate lace, or, when the sunlight drifts through it, a wondrously wrought Persian scarf. There it appears to hang, miraculously suspended in mid- air, while in fact it descends in imperceptible vapors to the slope, where it re-forms and becomes a furious little torrent that dashes across the road under a bridge and empties itself into the Arve.

The carriage-road skirts the base of the mountain and offers numberless fine views of the cascade as you approach or leave it. It was directly in front of the fall, half a mile distant, though it did not look so far, that the driver, in obedience to previous instruction from Lynde, drew up the horses and halted. At that instant the sunshine slanted across the fall and dashed it with prismatic colors.

"It is almost too exquisite to look at," said Mrs. Denham. "It makes one doubt one's own eyes."

"I saw it once," Lynde said, "when I thought the effect even finer. I was induced by some pleasant English tourists to stop over night at Magland, and we walked up here in the moonrise. You can't imagine anything so lovely as that long strip of gossamer unfolding itself to the moonlight. There was an English artist with us, who made a sketch of the fall; but he said a prettier thing about it than his picture."

"What was that?" inquired Miss Ruth.

"He called it Penelope's web, because it is always being unravelled and reknitted."

"That artist mistook his profession."

"Folks often do," said Lynde. "I know painters who ought to be poets, and poets who ought to be bricklayers."

"Why bricklayers?"

"Because I fancy that bricklaying makes as slight drain on the imagination as almost any pursuit in life. Speaking of poets and waterfalls, do you remember Byron's daring simile in Manfred? He compares a certain waterfall at the foot of the Jungfrau to the tail of the pale horse ridden by Death in the Apocalypse. Mrs. Denham," said Lynde abruptly, "the marquis tells me there's a delightful short cut, through the rocks here, which strikes into the road a mile further on."

"Let us take it then," answered Mrs. Denham, settling herself comfortably in the cushions.

"It is a foot-path," explained Lynde.

"Oh!"

"Our reputation as great American travellers will suffer, Mrs. Denham, if we fail to do a bit of Switzerland on foot. Rather than have that happen I would undertake the expedition alone. It would be mere martyrdom, though, without company." As Lynde turned the handle of the carriage door and planted his foot on the first step, he ventured a glance at Miss Ruth, who was sitting there with a face as impenetrable as that of the Memphian Sphinx.

"Certainly, if our reputation is at stake," exclaimed Mrs. Denham, rising with alacrity. Lynde could not help his clouded countenance. "No," she added, slowly sinking back into the seat, "I've no ambition as an explorer. I really have not."

"And Miss Denham?" said Lynde, drawing a scarcely repressed breath of relief.

"Oh, Ruth can go if she likes," replied Mrs. Denham, "provided it is not too far."

"It is hardly an eighth of a mile across," said Lynde. "You will find us waiting for you at the opposite end of the cut, unless you drive rapidly. It is more than a mile by the road."

"Do you wish to go, Ruth?"

Miss Denham hesitated an instant, and then answered by rising impulsively and giving her hand to Lynde. Evidently, her first intention had been to refuse. In a moment more she was standing beside him, and the carriage was lazily crawling up the hill with Mrs. Denham looking back through her glass at the cascade.

A dozen rude steps, partly artificial and partly formed by the strata of the limestone bank, led from the roadside up to the opening of the foot- way. For thirty or forty yards the fern-fringed path was too narrow to admit of two persons walking abreast. Miss Denham, with her skirts gathered in one hand, went first, picking her way over the small loose stones rendered slippery by the moss, and Lynde followed on in silence, hardly able to realize the success of the ruse which had come so near being a failure. His companion was equally preoccupied. Once she stopped for Lynde to detach her dress from a grasping twig, and once to pluck one of those pallid waxen flowers which sometimes dauntlessly find a footing even among the snowdrifts of the higher Alps. The air was full of the resinous breath of the pines, whose boughs, meeting and interlacing overhead, formed an arabesqued roof, through the openings of which the afternoon sunshine sifted, as if through stained glass. With the slender stems of the trees rising on each side in the semi-twilight, the grove was like the transept of a cathedral. It seemed a profanation to speak in such a place. Lynde could have wandered on forever in contented silence, with that tall, pliant figure in its severely cut drapery moving before him. As he watched the pure outline defining itself against the subdued light, he was reminded of a colored bas- relief he had seen on a certain Egyptian vase in the Museum at Naples. Presently the path widened, a brook babbled somewhere ahead among the rocks, and the grove abruptly ended. As Lynde stepped to Miss Denham's side he heaved a deep, involuntary sigh.

"What a sigh, Mr. Lynde!" she cried, swiftly turning upon him with a surprised smile. "It was scarcely complimentary."

"It was not exactly a compliment; it was an unpremeditated monody on the death of this day, which has flown too soon."

"You are very ready with your monody; it yet lacks three or four hours of sunset, when one might probably begin to lament. I am enjoying it all too much to have a regret."

"Do you know, I thought you were not enjoying it—the journey, I mean? You have not spoken a hundred words since we left Geneva."

"That was a proof of my perfect enjoyment, as you would know if you knew me better. Fine scenery always affects me like music, and, with Jessica, 'I am never merry when I hear sweet music.' Besides, Mr. Lynde, I was forming a plan."

"A plan?"

"A dark conspiracy"—

"Is the spirit of Lucretia Borgia present?"

—"in which you are to be chief conspirator, Mr. Lynde."

"Miss Denham, the person is dead, either by steel or poison; it is all one to me—I am equally familiar with both methods."

As the girl lifted up her eyes in a half-serious, half-amused way, and gave him a look in which gentleness and a certain shadow of hauteur were oddly blended, Lynde started in spite of himself. It was the very look of the poor little Queen of Sheba.

"With your bowl and dagger and monody," said Miss Denham, breaking into one of her rare laughs, "you are in full tragedy this afternoon. I am afraid my innocent plot will seem very tame to you in the face of such dreadful things."

"I promise beforehand to regard it as the one important matter in the world. What is it?"

"Nothing more than this: I want you to insist that aunt Gertrude and I ought to make the ascent of Montanvert and visit the Mer de Glace— before uncle Denham arrives."

"Why, would he object?"

"I do not think anything would induce him to trust either of us on one of those narrow mule-paths."

"But everybody goes up Montanvert as a matter of course. The bridle-way is perfectly safe."

"Uncle Denham once witnessed a painful accident on the Wetterhorn— indeed, he himself barely escaped death; and any suggestion of mountain climbing that cannot be done on wheels always meets a negative from him. I suspect my aunt will not strongly favor the proposal, but when I make it I shall depend on you to sustain me."

"I shall surely do so, Miss Denham. I have had this same excursion in my mind all along."

"I was wondering how I should get the chance to ask the favor of you, when that special Providence, which your friend Mr. Flemming pretends not to believe in, managed it for me."

"It wasn't I, then, but Providence, that invited you to walk?"

"It looks like it, Mr. Lynde."

"But at first you were disposed to reject the providential aid."

"I hesitated about leaving aunt Gertrude alone."

"If you had refused me, there would have been no end to my disappointment. This walk, though it is sixty or seventy miles too short, is the choicest thing in the whole journey."

"Come, Mr. Lynde, that is an improvement on your sigh."

"Does it occur to you that this is the first time we have chanced to be alone together, in all these weeks?"

"Yes," said Miss Ruth simply, "it is the first time."

"I am a great admirer of Mrs. Denham"—

"I do not see how you can help being; she is charming, and she likes you."

"But sometimes I have wished that—that Mr. Denham was here."

"Why?" asked Miss Ruth, regarding him full in the face.

"Because then, may be, she would have been less devoted to you."

Miss Denham did not reply for a moment.

"My aunt is very fond of me," she said gravely. "She never likes to have me absent an hour from her side."

"I can understand that," said Lynde, with an innocent air.

The girl glanced at him quickly, and went on: "She adopted me when I was only three years old; we have never been separated since. She lived in Paris all the time I was at school there, though she did not like Paris as a residence. She would make any sacrifice for me that a mother would make for a daughter. She has been mother and sister to me. I cannot overpay her devotion by any unselfishness of mine."

As she spoke, Lynde caught a hateful glimpse of the road through the stubby pine-trees beyond. It appeared to him only two minutes ago that he was assisting Miss Denham to mount the stone steps at the other extremity of the foot-path; and now he was to lose her again. She was with him alone for perhaps the last time.

"Miss Ruth!" said Lynde, with sudden earnestness in his voice. He had never before addressed her as Miss Ruth. She raised her eyes furtively to his face. "Miss Ruth"—

"Oh, there's the carriage, Mr. Lynde!" exclaimed Miss Denham, releasing the arm she had accepted a few paces back, and hurrying down the path, which here narrowed again as at the entrance to the grove. "And there is aunt Gertrude," she added, half turning to Lynde, with a rich bloom on her cheeks, "looking as distressed as if we had slipped over some precipice. But we have not, have we, Mr. Lynde?"

"No, we haven't slipped over any precipices," answered Lynde, with a curt laugh. "I wish we had," he muttered to himself. "She has dragged me through that grove and over those stones, and, without preventing me, has not permitted me to breathe the least word of love to her. I don't know how she did it. That girl's the most consummate coquette I ever saw. I am a child in her hands. I believe I'm beginning to be afraid of her."

Miss Ruth was already in the carriage, pinning the Alpine flower to the corsage of her aunt's dress, when Lynde reached the steps. Mrs. Denham's features expressed no very deep anxiety that he could discover. That was clearly a fiction of Miss Ruth's. Lynde resumed his place on the front seat, and the horses started forward. He was amused and vexed at the inconsequence of his interview with Miss Denham, and did not know whether to be wholly vexed or wholly amused. He had, at least, broken the ice, and it would be easier for him to speak when another opportunity offered. She had understood, and had not repulsed him; she had merely evaded him. Perhaps he had been guilty of a mismove in attempting to take her at a disadvantage. He was too discreet to dream of proposing any more walks. A short cut was plainly not the most direct way to reach Miss Denham.

She was in livelier spirits now than she had been in at any time during the day. "The exercise has done you good, Ruth," remarked Mrs. Denham; "I am sorry I did not accept Mr. Lynde's invitation myself." Mr. Lynde was also politely sorry, and Miss Ruth contributed her regrets with an emphasis that struck Lynde as malicious and overdone.

Shortly before arriving at St. Martin, Miss Ruth broached her Montanvert project, which, as she had prophesied, was coldly received by the aunt. Lynde hastened to assure Mrs. Denham that the ascent was neither dangerous nor difficult. Even guides were not necessary, though it was convenient to have them to lead the animals. On the way up there were excellent views of the Flegere and the Brevent. There was a capital inn at the summit, where they could lunch, and from the cliff behind the inn one could look directly down on the Mer de Glace. Then Lynde fell back upon his Murray and Baedeker. It was here that Professor Tyndall spent many weeks, at different times, investigating the theory of glacier motion; and the Englishman's hut, which Goethe mentions in his visit to the scene in 1779, was still standing. Miss Ruth begged with both eyes; the aunt wavered, and finally yielded. As a continuance of fine weather could not be depended on, it was agreed that they should undertake the ascent the following morning immediately after daybreak. Then the conversation drooped.

The magnificent scenery through which their route now wound began to absorb them. Here they crossed a bridge, spanning a purple chasm whose snake-like thread of water could be heard hissing among the sharp flints a hundred feet below; now they rattled through the street of a sleepy village that seemed to have no reason for being except its picturesqueness; now they were creeping up a tortuous steep gloomed by menacing crags; and now their way lingered for miles along a precipice, over the edge of which they could see the spear-like tips of the tall pines reaching up from the valley.

At the bridge between St. Martin and Sallanches the dazzling silver peaks of Mont Blanc, rising above the green pasturage of the Forclaz, abruptly revealed themselves to the travellers, who fancied for the moment that they were close upon the mountain. It was twelve miles away in a bee-line. From this point one never loses sight of those vast cones and tapering aiguilles. A bloom as delicate as that of the ungathered peach was gradually settling on all the fairy heights.

As the travellers drew nearer to the termination of their journey, they were less and less inclined to converse. At every turn of the sinuous road fresh splendors broke upon them. By slow degrees the glaciers became visible: first those of Gria and Taconay; then the Glacier des Boissons, thrusting a crook of steel-blue ice far into the valley; and then—faintly discernible in the distance, and seemingly a hand's breadth of snow framed by the sombre gorge—the Glacier des Bois, a frozen estuary of the Mer de Glace.

The twilight was now falling. For the last hour or more the three inmates of the carriage had scarcely spoken. They had unresistingly given themselves over to the glamour of the time and place. Along the ravines and in the lower gorges and chasms the gray dusk was gathering; high overhead the domes and pinnacles were each instant taking deeper tinges of rose and violet. It seemed as if a word loudly or carelessly uttered would break the spell of the alpgluhen. It was all like a dream, and it was in his quality of spectral figure in a dream that the driver suddenly turned on the box, and, pointing over his shoulder with the handle of his whip said—

"Chamouni!"

IX. MONTANVERT

The mist was still lingering in the valleys, though the remote peaks had been kindled more than an hour by the touch of sunrise. As Lynde paced up and down the trottoir in front of the Couronne hotel, he drew out his watch from time to time and glanced expectantly towards the hotel entrance. In the middle of the street stood a couple of guides, idly holding the bridles of three mules, two of which were furnished with side-saddles. It was nearly half an hour past the appointment, and the Denhams, who had retired at eight o'clock the night before in order to be fresh for an early start up the mountain, had made no sign. Lynde himself had set the lark an example that morning by breakfasting by candle-light. Here were thirty minutes lost. He quickened his pace up and down in front of the hotel, as if his own rapidity of movement would possibly exert some occult influence in hastening the loiterers; but another quarter of an hour dragged on without bringing them.

Lynde was impatiently consulting his watch for the twentieth time when Miss Denham's troubled face showed itself in the doorway.

"Isn't it too bad, Mr. Lynde? Aunt Gertrude can't go!"

"Can't go!" faltered Lynde.

"She has a headache from yesterday's ride. She got up, and dressed, but was obliged to lie down again."

"Then that's the end of it, I suppose," said Lynde despondently. He beckoned to one of the guides.

"I don't know," said Miss Denham, standing in an attitude of irresolution on the upper step, with her curved eyebrows drawn together like a couple of blackbirds touching bills. "I don't know what to do...she insists on our going. I shall never forgive myself for letting her see that I was disappointed. She added my concern for her illness to my regret about the excursion, and thought me more disappointed than I really was. Then she declared she would go in spite of her headache... unless I went."

The gloom which had overspread Lynde's countenance vanished.

"It is not one of her severest turns," continued Miss Ruth, ceasing to be a statue on a pedestal and slowly descending the hotel steps with her waterproof trailing from her left arm, "and she is quite capable of executing her threat. What shall we do, Mr. Lynde?"

"I think we had better try the mountain—for her sake," answered Lynde. "We need not attempt the Mer de Glace, you know; that can be left for another day. The ascent takes only two hours, the descent half an hour less; we can easily be back in time for lunch."

"Then let us do that."

Lynde selected the more amiable-looking of the two mules with side- saddles, dismissed one of the guides after a brief consultation, and helped Miss Denham to mount. In attending to these preliminaries Lynde had sufficient mastery over himself not to make any indecorous betrayal of his intense satisfaction at the turn affairs had taken. Fortune had given her into his hands for five hours! She should listen this time to what he had to say, though the mountain should fall.

At a signal from Lynde the remaining guide led the way at a brisk pace through the bustling town. In front of the various hotels were noisy groups of tourists about to set forth on pilgrimages, some bound for the neighboring glaciers and cascades, and others preparing for more distant and more hardy enterprises. It was a perfect Babel of voices—French, Scotch, German, Italian, and English; with notes of every sort of patois—above which the strident bass of the mules soared triumphantly at intervals. There are not many busier spots than Chamouni at early morning in the height of the season.

Our friends soon left the tumult and confusion behind them, and were skirting the pleasant meadows outside of the town. Passing by the way of the English church, they crossed to the opposite bank of the Arve, and in a few minutes gained the hamlet lying at the foot of Montanvert. Then the guide took the bridle of Miss Ruth's mule and the ascent began. The road stretches up the mountain in a succession of zigzags with sharp turns. Here and there the path is quarried out of the begrudging solid rock; in places the terrace is several yards wide and well wooded, but for the most part it is a barren shelf with a shaggy wall rising abruptly on one hand and a steep slope descending on the other. Higher up, these slopes become quite respectable precipices. A dozen turns, which were accomplished in unbroken silence, brought the party to an altitude of several hundred feet above the level.

"I—I don't know that I wholly like it," said Miss Ruth, holding on to the pommel of her saddle and looking down into the valley, checkered with fields and criss-crossed with shining rivulets. "Why do the mules persist in walking on the very edge?"

"That is a trick they get from carrying panniers. You are supposed to be a pannier, and the careful animal doesn't want to brush you off against the rocks. See this creature of mine; he has that hind hoof slipping over the precipice all the while. But he'll not slip; he's as sure- footed as a chamois, and has no more taste for tumbling off the cliff than you have. These mules are wonderfully intelligent. Observe how cautiously they will put foot on a loose stone, feeling all around it."

"I wish they were intelligent enough to be led in the middle of the path," said Miss Ruth, "but I suppose the guide knows."

"You may trust to him; he is a person of varied accomplishments, the chief of which is he doesn't understand a word of English. So you can scold, or say anything you like, without the least reserve. I picked him out for that," added Lynde, with a bland smile. "His comrade was a linguist."

"If I have anything disagreeable to say," replied Miss Ruth, with another bland smile, "I shall say it in French."

The guide, who spoke four languages, including English, never changed a muscle. Lynde, just before starting, had closely examined the two guides on their lingual acquirements—and retained the wrong man.

"I trust you will have no occasion, Miss Denham, to be anything but amiable, and that you will begin by granting me a favor. Will you?"

"Cela depend."

"There you go into French! I haven't offended you?"

"Oh, no. What is the favor?—in English."

"That you will let me call you Miss Ruth, instead of Miss Denham."

"I haven't the slightest objection, Mr. Lynde."

"And now I want you"—

"What, another favor?"

"Of course. Who ever heard of one favor?"

"To be sure! What is the second?"

"I want that you should be a little sorry when all this comes to an end."

"You mean when we leave Chamouni?"

"Yes."

"I shall be sorry then," said Miss Ruth frankly, "but I am not going to be sorry beforehand."

There was something very sweet to Lynde in her candor, but there was also something that restrained him for the moment from being as explicit as he had intended. He rode on awhile without speaking, watching the girl as the mule now and then turned the sharp angle of the path and began a new ascent. This movement always brought her face to face with him a moment—she on the grade above, and he below. Miss Ruth had grown accustomed to the novel situation, and no longer held on by the pommel of the saddle. She sat with her hands folded in her lap, pliantly lending herself to the awkward motion of the animal. Over her usual travelling-habit she had thrown the long waterproof which reached to her feet. As she sat there in a half-listless attitude, she was the very picture of the Queen of Sheba seated upon Deacon Twombly's mare. Lynde could not help seeing it; but he was schooling himself by degrees to this fortuitous resemblance. It was painful, but it was inevitable, and he would get used to it in time. "Perhaps," he mused, "if I had never had that adventure with the poor insane girl, I might not have looked twice at Miss Denham when we met—and loved her. It was the poor little queen who shaped my destiny, and I oughtn't to be ungrateful." He determined to tell the story to Miss Ruth some time when a fitting occasion offered.

It was only when the likeness flashed upon Lynde suddenly, as it had done in the grove the previous day, that it now had the power to startle him. At the present moment it did not even seriously annoy him. In an idle, pensive way he noted the coincidence of the man leading the mule. The man was Morton and the mule was Mary! Lynde smiled to himself at the reflection that Mary would probably not accept the analogy with very good grace if she knew about it. This carried him to Rivermouth; then he thought of Cinderella's slipper, packed away in the old hair-trunk in the closet, and how perfectly the slipper would fit one of those feet which a floating fold of the waterproof that instant revealed to him— and he was in Switzerland again.

"Miss Ruth," he said, looking up quickly and urging his mule as closely behind hers as was practicable, "what are your plans to be when your uncle comes?"

"When my uncle comes we shall have no plans—aunt Gertrude and I. Uncle Denham always plans for everybody."

"I don't imagine he will plan for me," said Lynde gloomily. "I wish he would, for I shall not know what to do with myself."

"I thought you were going to St. Petersburg."

"I have given that up."

"It's to be Northern Germany, then?"

"No, I have dropped that idea, too. Will Mr. Denham remain here any time?"

"Probably not long."

"What is to become of me after you are gone!" exclaimed Lynde. "When I think of Mr. Denham sweeping down on Chamouni to carry you off, I am tempted to drive this mule straight over the brink of one of these precipices!"

The girl leaned forward, looking at the rocky wall of the Flegere through an opening in the pines, and made no reply.

"Miss Ruth," said Lynde, "I must speak!"

"Do not speak," she said, turning upon him with a half-imperious, half- appealing gesture, "I forbid you;" and then, more gently, "We have four or five days, perhaps a week, to be together; we are true, frank friends. Let us be just that to the end."

"Those are mercifully cruel words," returned the young man, with a dull pain at his heart. "It is a sweet way of saying a bitter thing."

"It is a way of saying that your friendship is very dear to me, Mr. Lynde," she replied, sitting erect in the saddle, with the brightness and the blackness deepening in her eyes. "I wonder if I can make you understand how I prize it. My life has not been quite like that of other girls, partly because I have lived much abroad, and partly because I have been very delicate ever since my childhood; I had a serious lung trouble then, which has never left me. You would not think it, to look at me. Perhaps it is the anxiety I have given aunt Gertrude which has made her so tenacious of my affection that I have scarcely been permitted to form even those intimacies which girls form among themselves. I have never known any one—any gentleman—as intimately as I have known you. She has let me have you for my friend."

"But Miss Ruth"—

"Mr. Lynde," she said, interrupting him, "it was solely to your friendship that my aunt confided me to-day. I should be deceiving her if I allowed you to speak as—as you were speaking."

Lynde saw his mistake. He should have addressed himself in the first instance to the aunt. He had been lacking in proper regard for the convenances, forgetting that Ruth's education had been different from that of American girls. At home, if you love a girl you tell her so; over here, you go and tell her grandmother. Lynde dropped his head and remained silent, resolving to secure an interview with Mrs. Denham that night if possible. After a moment or two he raised his face. "Miss Ruth," said he, "if I had to choose, I would rather be your friend than any other woman's lover."

"That is settled, then," she returned, with heightened color. "We will not refer to this again;" and she brushed away a butterfly that was fluttering about her conceitedly in its new golden corselet.

Meanwhile the guide marched on stolidly with Ruth's reins thrown loosely over the crook of his elbow. In his summer courses up and down the mountain, the man, with his four languages, had probably assisted dumbly at much fugitive love-making and many a conjugal passage-at-arms. He took slight note of the conversation between the two young folks; he was clearly more interested in a strip of black cloud that had come within the half hour and hung itself over the Aiguille du Dru.

The foot-path and the bridle-road from Chamouni unite at the Caillet, a spring of fresh water halfway up the mountain. There the riders dismounted and rested five or six minutes at a rude hut perched like a brown bird under the cliff.

"I've the fancy to go on foot the rest of the distance," Lynde remarked, as he assisted Ruth into the saddle again.

"Then I'll let you lead the mule, if you will," said Ruth. "I'm not the least afraid."

"That is an excellent idea! Why did you not think of it sooner? I shall expect a buonamano, like a real guide, you know."

"I will give it you in advance," she said gayly, reaching forward and pretending to hold a coin between her thumb and finger.

Lynde caught her hand and retained it an instant, but did not dare to press it. He was in mortal fear of a thing which he could have crushed like a flower in his palm.

The young man drew the reins over his arm and moved forward, glancing behind him at intervals to assure himself that his charge was all right. As they approached the summit of the mountain the path took abrupter turns, and was crossed in numberless places by the channels of winter avalanches, which had mown down great pines as if they had been blades of grass. Here and there a dry water-course stretched like a wrinkle along the scarred face of the hill.

"Look at that, Miss Ruth!" cried Lynde, checking the mule and pointing to a slope far below them.

Nature, who loves to do a gentle thing even in her most savage moods, had taken one of those empty water-courses and filled it from end to end with forget-me-nots. As the wind ruffled the millions of petals, this bed of flowers, only a few inches wide but nearly a quarter of a mile in length, looked like a flashing stream of heavenly blue water rushing down the mountain side.

By and by the faint kling-kling of a cowbell sounding far up the height told the travellers that they were nearing the plateau. Occasionally they descried a herdsman's chalet, pitched at an angle against the wind on the edge of an arete, or clinging like a wasp's-nest to some jutting cornice of rock. After making four or five short turns, the party passed through a clump of scraggy, wind-swept pines, and suddenly found themselves at the top of Montanvert.

A few paces brought them to the Pavilion, a small inn kept by the guide Couttet. Here the mules were turned over to the hostler, and Miss Ruth and Lynde took a quarter of an hour's rest, examining the collection of crystals and moss-agates and horn-carvings which M. Couttet has for show in the apartment that serves him as salon, cafe, and museum. Then the two set out for the rocks overlooking the glacier.

The cliff rises precipitously two hundred and fifty feet above the frozen sea, whose windings can be followed, for a distance of five miles, to the walls of the Grandes and Petites Jorasses. Surveyed from this height, the Mer de Glace presents the appearance of an immense ploughed field covered by a fall of snow that has become dingy. The peculiar corrugation of the surface is scarcely discernible, and one sees nothing of the wonderful crevasses, those narrow and often fathomless partings of the ice, to look into which is like looking into a split sapphire. The first view from the cliff is disappointing, but presently the marvel of it all assails and possesses one.

"I should like to go down on the ice," said Ruth, after regarding the scene for several minutes in silence.

"We must defer that to another day," said Lynde. "The descent of the moraine from this point is very arduous, and is seldom attempted by ladies. Besides, if we do anything we ought to cross the glacier and go home by the way of the Mauvais Pas. We will do that yet. Let us sit upon this boulder and talk."

"What shall we talk about? I don't feel like talking."

"I'll talk to you. I don't know of what... I will tell you a story."

"A story, Mr. Lynde? I like stories as if I were only six years old. But I don't like those stories which begin with 'Once there was a little girl,' who always turns out to be the little girl that is listening."

"Mine is not of that kind," replied Lynde, with a smile, steadying Miss Ruth by the hand as she seated herself on the boulder; "and yet it touches on you indirectly. It all happened long ago."

"It concerns me, and happened long ago? I am interested already. Begin!"

"It was in the summer of 1872. I was a clerk in a bank then, at Rivermouth, and the directors had given me a vacation. I hired a crazy old horse and started on a journey through New Hampshire. I didn't have any destination; I merely purposed to ride on and on until I got tired, and then ride home again. The weather was beautiful, and for the first three or four days I never enjoyed myself better in my life. The flowers were growing, the birds were singing—the robins in the sunshine and the whippoorwills at dusk—and the hours were not long enough for me. At night I slept in a tumble-down barn, or anywhere, like a born tramp. I had a mountain brook for a wash-basin and the west wind for a towel. Sometimes I invited myself to a meal at a farm-house when there wasn't a tavern handy; and when there wasn't any farm-house, and I was very hungry, I lay down under a tree and read in a book of poems."

"Oh, that was just delightful!" said Ruth, knitting the fingers of both hands over one knee and listening to him with a child-like abandon which Lynde found bewitching.

"On the fourth day—there are some persons crossing on the ice," said Lynde, interrupting himself.

"Never mind the persons on the ice!"

"On the fourth day I came to a wild locality among the Ragged Mountains, where there was not a human being nor a house to be seen. I had got up before breakfast was ready that morning, and I was quite anxious to see the smoke curling up from some kitchen chimney. Here, as I mounted a hill-side, the saddle-girth broke, and I jumped off to fix it. Somehow, I don't know precisely how, the horse gave a plunge, jerked the reins out of my hands, and started on a dead run for Rivermouth."

"That wasn't very pleasant," suggested Ruth.

"Not a bit. I couldn't catch the animal, and I had the sense not to try. I climbed to the brow of the hill and was not sorry to see a snug village lying in the valley."

"What village was that?"

"I don't know to this day—with any certainty. I didn't find out then, and afterwards I didn't care to learn. Well, I shouldered my traps and started for the place to procure another horse, not being used to going under the saddle myself. I had a hard time before I got through; but that I shall not tell you about. On my way to the village I met a young girl. This young girl is the interesting part of the business."

"She always is, you know."

"She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen—up to that time. She was dressed all in white, and looked like an angel. I expected she would spread wing and vanish before I could admire her half enough; but she did not. The moment she saw me she walked straight to the spot where I stood, and looked me squarely in the face."

"Wasn't that rather rude—for an angel?"

"You wouldn't have thought so. She did it like a young goddess with the supreme prerogative to flash herself that way on mortals by the roadside."

"Oh, she was a young goddess as well as an angel."

"After she had looked me in the eye a second," continued Lynde, not heeding the criticism, "she said—what do you suppose she said?"

"How can I imagine?"

"You could not, in a thousand years. Instead of saying, 'Good-morning, sir,' and dropping me a courtesy, she made herself very tall and said, with quite a grand air, 'I am the Queen of Sheba!' Just fancy it. Then she turned on her heel and ran up the road."

"Oh, that was very rude. Is this a true story, Mr. Lynde?"

"That is the sad part of it, Miss Ruth. This poor child had lost her reason, as I learned subsequently. She had wandered out of an asylum in the neighborhood. After a while some men came and took her back again— on my horse, which they had captured in the road."

"The poor, poor girl! I am sorry for her to the heart. Your story began like a real romance; is that all of it! It is sad enough."

"That is all. Of course I never saw her afterwards."

"But you remembered her, and pitied her?"

"For a long time, Miss Ruth."

"I like you for that. But what has this to do with me? You said"—

"The story touched on you indirectly?"

"Yes."

"Well, so it does; I will tell you how. This poor girl was beautiful enough in your own fashion to be your sister, and when I first saw you"- -

"Monsieur," said the guide, respectfully lifting a forefinger to his hat as he approached, "I think it looks like rain."

The man had spoken in English. Ruth went crimson to the temples, and Lynde's face assumed a comical expression of dismay.

"Looks like rain," he repeated mechanically. "I thought you told me you did not understand English."

"Monsieur is mistaken. It is Jean Macquart that does not spik English."

"Very well," said Lynde; "if it is going to rain we had better be moving. It would not be pleasant to get blockaded up here by a storm—or rather it would! Are the animals ready?"

"They are waiting at the foot of the path, monsieur."

Lynde lost no time getting Ruth into the saddle, and the party began their descent, the guide again in charge of the girl's mule. On the downward journey they unavoidably faced the precipices, and the road appeared to them much steeper than when they ascended.

"Is it wind or rain, do you think?" asked Lynde, looking at a wicked black cloud that with angrily curled white edges was lowering itself over the valley.

"I think it is both, monsieur."

"How soon?"

"I cannot know. Within an hour, surely."

"Perhaps we were wrong to attempt going down," said Lynde.

"Monsieur might be kept at Couttet's one, two—three days. But, if monsieur wishes, I will go on and tell the friends of mademoiselle that you are detained."

"Oh, no!" cried Ruth, filled with horror at the suggestion. "We MUST return. I shall not mind the rain, if it comes."

As she spoke, a loose handful of large drops rustled through the pine- boughs overhead, and softly dashed themselves against the rocks.

"It has come," said Lynde.

"I have my waterproof," returned the girl. "I shall do very well. But you"—

The sentence was cut short by a flash of lightning, followed by a heavy peal of thunder that rolled through the valley and reverberated for one or two minutes among the hills. The guide grasped the reins close up to the bits, and urged the mule forward at a brisk trot. The sky cleared, and for a moment it looked as if the storm had drifted elsewhere; but the party had not advanced twenty paces before there was a strange rustling sound in the air, and the rain came down. The guide whipped off a coarse woollen coat he wore, and threw it over the girl's shoulders, tying it by the sleeves under her chin.

"Oh, you must not do that!" she cried, "you will catch your death!"

"Mademoiselle," he replied, laughing, as he gave another knot to the sleeves, "for thirty-eight years, man and boy, I have been rained upon and snowed upon—and voila!"

"You're a fine fellow, my friend, if you do speak English," cried Lynde, "and I hope some honest girl has found it out before now."

"Monsieur," returned the man, signing himself with the cross, "she and the little one are in heaven."

The rain came down in torrents; it pattered like shot against the rocks; it beat the air of the valley into mist. Except the path immediately before them, and the rocky perpendicular wall now on their right and now on their left, the travellers could distinguish nothing through the blinding rain. Shortly the wind began to blow, whistling in the stiff pines as it whistles among the taut cordage of a ship in a gale. At intervals it tore along the salient zigzags and threatened to sweep the mules off their legs. The flashes of lightning now followed one another in rapid succession, and the thunder crashed incessantly through the gorges. It appeared as if the great cones and cromlechs were tumbling pell-mell from every direction into the valley.

Though the situation of the three persons on the mountain side was disagreeable to the last extent, they were exposed to only one especial danger—that from a land-slide or a detached boulder. At every ten steps the guide glanced up the dripping steep, and listened. Even the mules were not without a prescience of this peril. The sharpest lightning did not make them wince, but at the faintest sound of a splinter of rock or a pebble rustling down the slope, their ears instantly went forward at an acute angle. The footing soon became difficult on account of the gullies formed by the rain. In spite of his anxiety concerning Ruth, Lynde could not help admiring the skill with which the sagacious animals felt their way. Each fore hoof as it touched the earth seemed endowed with the sense of fingers.

Lynde had dismounted after the rain set in and was walking beside the girl's mule. Once, as an unusually heavy clap of thunder burst over their heads, she had impulsively stretched out her hand to him; he had taken it, and still held it, covered by a fold of the waterproof, steadying her so. He was wet to the skin, but Ruth's double wraps had preserved her thus far from anything beyond the dampness.

"Are you cold?" he asked. Her hand was like ice.

"Not very," she replied in a voice rendered nearly inaudible by a peal of thunder that shook the mountain. A ball of crimson fire hung for a second in the murky sky and then shot into the valley. The guide glanced at Lynde, as much as to say, "That struck."

They were rapidly leaving the wind above them; its decrease was noticeable as they neared the Caillet. The rain also had lost its first fury, and was falling steadily. Here and there bright green patches of the level plain showed themselves through the broken vapors. Ruth declined to halt at the Caillet; her aunt would be distracted about her, and it was better to take advantage of the slight lull in the storm, and push on. So they stopped at the hut only long enough for Lynde to procure a glass of cognac, a part of which he induced the girl to drink. Then they resumed their uncomfortable march.

When Lynde again looked at his companion he saw that her lips were purple, and her teeth set. She confessed this time to being very cold. The rain had at length penetrated the thick wrappings and thoroughly chilled her. Lynde was in despair, and began bitterly to reproach himself for having undertaken the excursion without Mrs. Denham. Her presence could not have warded off the storm, but it would have rendered it possible for the party to postpone their descent until pleasant weather. Undoubtedly it had been his duty to leave Miss Ruth at the inn and return alone to Chamouni. He had not thought of that when the guide made his suggestion. There was now nothing to do but to hurry.

The last part of the descent was accomplished at a gait which offered the cautious mules no chance to pick their steps. Lynde's animal, left to its own devices, was following on behind, nibbling the freshened grass. But the road was not so rough, and the stretches protected by the trees were in good condition. In less than three quarters of an hour from the half-way hut, the party were at the foot of the mountain, where they found a close carriage which Mrs. Denham had thoughtfully sent to meet them. Benumbed with the cold and cramped by riding so long in one position, the girl was unable to stand when she was lifted from the saddle. Lynde carried her to the carriage and wrapped her in a heavy afghan that lay on the seat. They rode to the hotel without exchanging a word. Lynde was in too great trouble, and Ruth was too exhausted to speak. She leaned back with her eyes partially closed, and did not open them until the carriage stopped. Mrs. Denham stood at the hall door.

"Mr. Lynde! Mr. Lynde!" she said, taking the girl in her arms.

The tone of reproach in her voice cut him to the quick.

"He was in no way to blame, aunt," said Ruth, trying to bring a smile to her blanched face; "it was I who WOULD go." She reached back her hand unperceived by Mrs. Denham and gave it to Lynde. He raised it gratefully to his lips, but as he relinquished it and turned away he experienced a sudden, inexplicable pang—as if he had said farewell to her.

X. IN THE SHADOW OF MONT BLANC

By the time Lynde had changed his wet clothing, the rain had turned into a dull drizzle, which folded itself like a curtain about the valley. Mont Blanc, with its piled-up acres of desolation, loomed through the mist, a shapeless, immeasurable cloud, within whose shadow the little town was to live darkly, half blotted out, for the next four days.

Lynde spent the afternoon between his own chamber and the reading-room of the hotel, wandering restlessly from one to the other, and not venturing to halt at Mrs. Denham's door to inquire after Ruth. Though he held himself nearly guiltless in what had occurred, Mrs. Denham's rebuking tone and gesture had been none the less intolerable. He was impatient to learn Ruth's condition, and was growing every moment more anxious as he reflected on her extreme delicacy and the severe exposure she had undergone; but he could not bring himself just then to go to Mrs. Denham for information. He concluded to wait until he met her at dinner; but Mrs. Denham did not come down to the table d'hote.

The twilight fell earlier than usual, and the long evening set in. Lynde smoked his cigar gloomily at an open window looking upon the street. It was deserted and dismal. Even the shop across the way, where they sold alpenstocks and wood-carvings and knick-knacks in polished lapis, was empty; in pleasant weather the shop was always crowded with curiosity- mongers. The raw wind spitefully blew the rain into Lynde's face as he looked out. "Quel temps de loup!" sighed a polite little French gentleman, making his unlighted cigarette an excuse for addressing Lynde. The wretched little French gentleman was perishing with a desire to say a thousand graceful things to somebody, but Lynde was in no mood for epigrams. He gave his interlocutor a light, and sheered off. In a corner of the reading-room was a tattered collection of Tauchnitz novels; Lynde picked up one and tried to read, but the slim types ran together and conveyed no meaning to him. It was becoming plain that he was to have no communication with the Denhams that night unless he assumed the initiative. He pencilled a line on the reverse of a visiting card and sent it up to Mrs. Denham's parlor. The servant returned with the card on his waiter. The ladies had retired. Then Lynde took himself off to bed disconsolately.

It was nearly nine o'clock when he awoke the following morning. The storm had not lifted; the colorless clouds were still letting down a fine, vapory rain that blurred everything. As soon as he had breakfasted, Lynde went to Mrs. Denham's rooms. She answered his knock in person and invited him by a silent gesture to enter the parlor. He saw by the drawn expression of her countenance that she had not slept.

"Ruth is ill," she said in a low voice, replying to Lynde's inquiry.

"You do not mean very ill?"

"I fear so. She has passed a dreadful night. I have had a doctor."

"Is it as serious as that? What does he say?"

"He says it is a severe cold, with symptoms of pneumonia; but I do not think he knows," returned Mrs. Denham despairingly. "I must despatch a courier to my husband; our old family physician is now with him at Paris. I have just received a letter, and they are not coming this week! They must come at once. I do not know how to telegraph them, as they are about to change their hotel. Besides, I believe a telegram cannot be sent from here; the nearest office is at Geneva. I must send some messenger who will have intelligence enough to find Mr. Denham wherever he is."

"I will go."

"You?"

"Why not? I shall waste less time than another. There should be no mistake in the delivery of this message. A courier might get drunk, or be stupid. I can do nothing here. If it had not been for me, possibly this unfortunate thing would not have happened. I am determined to go, whether you consent or not."

"I shall be grateful to you all my life, Mr. Lynde. I should not have thought of asking such a favor. Ruth says I was rude to you yesterday. I did not mean to be. I was distracted with anxiety at having her out in such a storm. If there is any blame in the matter it is entirely mine. You forgive me?"

"There is nothing to forgive, Mrs. Denham; blame rests on no one; neither you nor I could foresee the rain. Write a line to Mr. Denham while I pack my valise; I shall be ready in ten minutes. Who is his banker at Paris?" "I think he has none."

"How do you address your letters?"

"I have written but once since Mr. Denham's arrival, and then I directed the letter to the Hotel Walther."

"He has probably left his new address there. However, I shall have no difficulty in finding him. Mrs. Denham"—Lynde hesitated.

"Mr. Lynde?"

"Can I not see her a moment?"

"See Ruth?"

"My request appears strange to you, does it not? It would not appear strange if you knew all."

"All? I don't understand you," replied Mrs. Denham, resting her hand on the back of a chair and regarding him with slowly dilating pupils.

"If you knew how troubled I am—and how deeply I love her."

"You love Ruth!"

"More than I can tell you."

"Have you told HER?" Mrs. Denham demanded.

"Not in so many words."

Mrs. Denham slowly sank into the chair and for several seconds appeared completely oblivious of the young man's presence; then, turning sharply on Lynde, and half rising, she asked with a kind of fierceness, "Does Ruth know it?"

"A woman always knows when she is loved, I fancy. Miss Denham probably knew it before I did."

Mrs. Denham made an impatient gesture and subsided into the chair again. She remained silent a while, staring at the pattern of the carpet at her feet.

"Mr. Lynde," she said at length, "I was not prepared for this. The possibility that you might grow interested in my niece naturally occurred to me at first. I was pleased when I became convinced that the acquaintance between you had resolved itself into merely a friendly liking. I was thrown off my guard by your seemingly frank manner. I trusted you. You have been alone with my niece but twice—once for only ten minutes. I will do you the justice to say that you have made the most of those two occasions."

"I made very little of those two occasions," said Lynde reflectively.

"I think you have been—treacherous!"

"I do not see what there can be of treachery in my admiring Miss Denham," he replied, with a flush. "I entered into no compact not to admire her."

"Mr. Lynde, Mr. Denham will not approve of this."

"Not at first, perhaps...but afterwards?"

"Neither now nor afterwards, Mr. Lynde."

"Why not?"

"He has other views for Ruth," said Mrs. Denham coldly.

"Other views!" repeated Lynde, paling. "I thought her free."

"She is not free in that sense."

The assertion Ruth had made to him the previous day on the mountain side, to the effect that she had never known any gentleman as intimately as she had known him, flashed across Lynde's memory. If Mr. Denham had views for her, certainly Ruth was either ignorant of them or opposed to them.

"Is Miss Ruth aware of Mr. Denham's intentions regarding her?"

"I must decline to answer you, Mr. Lynde," said Mrs. Denham, rising with something like haughtiness in her manner.

"You are right. I was wrong to speak at present. I cannot conceive what impelled me; it was neither the time nor the place. I beg you to consider everything unsaid, if you can, and I especially beg you not to mention this conversation in your note to Mr. Denham. The one important thing now is to have proper medical attendance for your niece. The rest will take care of itself."

Lynde bowed somewhat formally and was turning away, when Mrs. Denham laid her fingers lightly on the sleeve of his coat. "I am sorry I have pained you," she said, as if with a touch of remorse.

"I confess I am pained," he replied, with the faintest smile, "but I am not discouraged, Mrs. Denham."

A quarter of an hour later Lynde was on the way to Geneva. Life and the world had somehow darkened for him within the hour. It seemed to him incredible that that was the same road over which he had passed so joyously two days before. The swollen torrents now rushed vengefully through the arches of the stone bridges; the low-hanging opaque clouds pressed the vitality out of the atmosphere; in the melancholy gray light the rain-soaked mountains wore a human aspect of dolor. He was not sorry when the mist gathered like frost on the carriage windows and shut the landscape from his sight.

The storm had been terrible in Geneva and in the neighborhood. It was a scene of devastation all along the road approaching the town. Most of the trees in the suburbs had been completely stripped of foliage by the hailstones; the leaves which still clung to the bent twigs were slit as if volleys of buckshot had been fired into them. But the saddest thing to see was field after field of rich grain mown within a few inches of the ground by those swift, keen sickles which no man's hand had held. In the section of the city through which Lynde passed to the railroad the streets were literally strewn with broken tiles and chimney-pots. In some places the brown and purple fragments lay ankle-deep, like leaves in autumn. Hundreds of houses had been unroofed and thousands of acres laid waste in a single night. It will take the poor of the canton fifty years to forget the summer storm of 1875.

By noon the next day Lynde was in Paris. As he stepped from the station and stood under the blue sky in the sparkling Parisian atmosphere, the gloom and desolation he had left behind at Geneva and Chamouni affected him like the remembrance of a nightmare. For a brief space he forgot his sorrowful errand; then it came back to him with its heaviness redoubled by the contrast. He threw his valise on the seat of a fiacre standing near the crossway, and drove to the office of Galignani in the Rue de Rivoli—the morgue in which the names of all foreign travellers are daily laid out for recognition. The third name Lynde fell upon was that of William Denham, Hotel Meurice. The young man motioned to the driver to follow him and halt at the hotel entrance, which was only a few steps further in the arcade facing the gardens of the Tuileries.

Mr. Denham was at breakfast in the small salon opening on the paved square formed by the four interior walls of the building; he had just seated himself at the table, which was laid for two persons, when the waiter brought him Mrs. Denham's note and Lynde's card. Mr. Denham glanced from one to the other, and then broke the seal of the envelope with a puzzled air which directly changed into a perturbed expression.

"Show the gentleman in here," he said, speaking over the top of the note-sheet to the servant, "and set another cover."

It was a strongly featured person of fifty or fifty-five, slightly bald, and closely shaven with the exception of a heavy iron-gray mustache, who rose from the chair and stepped forward to meet Lynde as he entered. Lynde's name was familiar to Mr. Denham, it having figured rather prominently in his wife's correspondence during the latter part of the sojourn at Geneva.

"You have placed us all under deep obligations to you, sir," said Mr. Denham, with a smile in which the severity of his features melted.

"The obligations are on my side, sir," replied Lynde. "I owe Mrs. Denham a great many kindnesses. I wish I could have found some happier way than the present to express my sense of them."

"I sincerely hope she was not justified in allowing you to take this long journey. I beg of you to tell me what has happened. Mrs. Denham has been anything but explicit."

She had merely announced Ruth's illness, leaving it to Lynde to inform Mr. Denham of the particulars. That gentleman wrinkled his brows involuntarily as he listened to Lynde's account of his mountain excursion alone with Ruth and the result. "I have not seen Miss Denham since," said Lynde, concluding his statement, in which he had tripped and stumbled woefully. "I trust that Mrs. Denham's anxiety has exaggerated her niece's condition."

"Ruth is far from strong," replied Mr. Denham, "and my wife is almost morbidly quick to take alarm about her. In fact, we both are. Do you know how the trains run to Geneva? Is there anything earlier than the evening express?"

Lynde did not know.

"We will ascertain after breakfast," continued Mr. Denham. "Of course you have not breakfasted yet. You ought to be in appetite by this time. I am unusually late myself, this morning, and my friend, the doctor, is still later. We tired ourselves out yesterday in a jaunt to Fontainebleau. The doctor's an incorrigible sightseer. Ah, there he is! Mr. Lynde, my friend, Dr. Pendegrast."

Lynde did not start at hearing this unexpected name, though it pierced his ear like a sharp-pointed arrow. He was paralyzed for an instant; a blur came over his eyes, and he felt that his hands and feet were turning into ice However, he made an effort to rise and salute the elderly gentleman who stood at his side with a hand stretched out in the cordial American fashion.

Evidently Dr. Pendegrast did not recognize Lynde, in whose personal appearance three years had wrought many changes. The doctor himself had altered in no essential; he was at that period of man's life—between fifty and sixty—when ravaging time seems to give him a respite for a couple of lustrums. As soon as Lynde could regain his self-possession he examined Dr. Pendegrast with the forlorn hope that this was not HIS Dr. Pendegrast; but it was he, with those round eyes like small blue-faience saucers, and that slight, wiry figure. If any doubt had lingered in the young man's mind, it would have vanished as the doctor drew forth from his fob that same fat little gold watch, and turned it over on its back in the palm of his hand, just as he had done the day he invited Lynde to remain and dine with him at the asylum.

"Why, bless me, Denham!" he exclaimed. laying his ear to the crystal of the time-piece as if he were sounding a doubtful lung, "my watch has run down—a thing that hasn't happened these twenty years." As he stood with his head inclined on one side, the doctor's cheery eyes inadvertently rested upon Mr. Denham's face and detected its unwonted disturbance.

"Mr. Lynde has just come from Chamouni," said Mr. Denham, answering the doctor's mute interrogation. "It seems that Ruth is ill."

Dr. Pendegrast glanced at Lynde and turned to Mr. Denham again.

"I imagine it is only a cold," Mr. Denham continued. "She was caught in a rain-storm on the mountain and got very wet. Mrs. Denham is of course worried about her, and Mr. Lynde has been kind enough to come all the way to Paris for us."

"That WAS very kind in him."

Dr. Pendegrast drew a chair up to the table and began questioning Lynde. Beyond satisfying such of the doctor's inquiries as he could, Lynde did not speak during the meal. He managed to swallow a cup of black coffee, which revived him; but he was unable to eat a mouthful. The intelligence he had brought so occupied his companions that the young man's very noticeable agitation and constraint escaped them. In a few minutes Mr. Denham rose from his seat and begged the two gentlemen to finish their breakfast at leisure, while he went to consult the time-table at the bureau of the hotel.

"The doctor can give you a genuine Havana," he remarked to Lynde. "I will join you shortly in the smoking-room."

While Dr. Pendegrast silently drank his coffee, Lynde pieced his scattered thoughts together. What course should he pursue? Should he take the doctor into his confidence, or should he let himself drift? How could the doctor help him in the circumstances? Ruth had been insane. What could do away with that dreadful fact, the revelation of which now appalled him as if he had never suspected it. Ruth, Ruth—the very name was significant of calamity! Flemming's words rang in his ears: "You would not marry her!" He had not replied to Flemming that night when the case was merely supposititious. But now—it seemed to Lynde that he had never loved Ruth until this moment. The knowledge of her misfortune had added to his love that great pity of which he had spoken to his friend. But could he marry her? He did not dare put the question squarely, for he dared not confess to himself that he could not give her up. This, then, was the key to Mrs. Denham's cold rejection of his suit; it explained, also, Ruth's unwillingness to have him speak to her of his love. How poignant must have been her anguish that day on Montanvert if she cared for him! She loved him—how could he doubt it?—but she had accepted the hopelessness of the position. In his own mind he had accused her of coquetry in their walk at the cascade of Nant d'Arpenaz. He saw through it all now; the scales had fallen from his eyes. She was hiding her misery under a smooth face, as women will. A sudden reflection sent a chill over Lynde; what if she had recognized him that first day at dinner in Geneva and had been playing a part all the while! Then she was the most subtile actress that ever lived, and the leading lady of the Theatre Francais might indeed go and take lessons of her, as Flemming had said. The thought gave Lynde a shock. He would not like to have the woman he loved such an actress as that. Had Ruth revealed everything to the aunt, and was she too playing a part? In her several allusions to Dr. Pendegrast Mrs. Denham had called him "the doctor" simply, or "an old friend of our family," and never once pronounced his name. "Was that accidental or intentional?" Lynde wondered. "It was inevitable that he and I should meet sooner or later. Was she endeavoring to keep the knowledge of Dr. Pendegrast from me as long as possible? The exigency has unmasked her!"

"Now, Mr. Lynde, I am at your service."

Lynde gave a start, as if the doctor had suddenly dropped down at his side from out of the sky.

Dr. Pendegrast pushed back his chair and led the way across the quadrangle, in which a number of persons were taking coffee at small tables set here and there under oleander-trees in green-painted tubs. The smoking-room was unoccupied. Lynde stood a moment undetermined in the centre of the apartment, and then he laid his hand on the doctor's shoulder.

"You don't remember me?"

"Ah, then I HAVE seen you before!" exclaimed Dr. Pendegrast, transfixed in the act of drawing a cigar from his case. "Your name and your face puzzled me, but I could not place you, so I didn't mention it. You must pardon an old man's bad memory. I am confused. When and where have I had the pleasure of seeing you?"

"It was scarcely a pleasure," said Lynde, with bitterness.

"Indeed! I cannot imagine that; it is a pleasure now," returned the doctor courteously. "It was three years ago, at your asylum. As you will recollect, I was brought there by mistake the day the patients"—

"Bless me!" exclaimed the doctor, dropping the ignited match. "How could I forget you! I took such a great liking to you, too. I have thought of that awkward affair a thousand times. But, really, coming across you in this unexpected manner"—

"I suppose I have changed somewhat," Lynde broke in. "Dr. Pendegrast, I am in a very strange position here. It is imperative you should be perfectly frank with me. You will have to overlook my abruptness. Mr. Denham may return any instant, and what I have to say cannot be said in his presence. I know that Miss Denham has been under your charge as a patient. I want to know more than that bare circumstance."

The doctor recoiled a step. "Of course," he said, recovering himself, "you must have recognized her."

"I met your friends six or seven weeks ago at Geneva," continued Lynde. "I recognized Miss Denham at once; but later I came to doubt and finally to disbelieve that I had ever seen her elsewhere. I refused to accept the testimony of my eyes and ears because—because so much of my happiness depended on my rejecting it."

"Does Mrs. Denham know that you are in possession of the fact you mention? Denham of course doesn't."

"No; it is my meeting with you that he turned my discarded doubt into a certainty."

"Then, I beg of you," said Dr. Pendegrast throwing a glance across the quadrangle, "not to breathe a syllable of this; do not even think of it. It has been kept from every one—from even the most intimate friends of the family; Ruth herself is not aware of her temporary derangement."

"Miss Denham does not know it?"

"She has not the remotest suspicion of the misfortune which befell her three years ago."

"Miss Denham does not know it?" repeated Lynde in a dazed way. "That— that seems impossible! Pardon me. How did it happen, Dr. Pendegrast?"

"I assume that you are not asking me through idle curiosity," said the doctor, looking at him attentively.

"I have vital reasons for my question, Doctor."

"I do not see why I should not tell you, since you know so much. The family were in Florida that spring. Ruth had not been well for several months; they had gone South on her account. It was partly a pulmonary difficulty. On their return North, Ruth was prostrated by a typhoid fever. She recovered from that but with her mind strangely disordered. The mental malady increased with her convalescence. Denham and I were old friends; he had faith in my skill, and she was placed in my care. She was brought to the asylum because I could not attend to her anywhere else. I considered her case serious at first, even hopeless. The human body is still a mystery, after science has said its last word. The human mind is a deeper mystery. While I doubted of her recovery, she recovered. At the first intimation of returning health, she was taken home; when her wandering thought came back to her she was in her own room. She remembered that she had been very ill, a long time ill; she had a faint impression that I had attended her meanwhile; but she remembered nothing more. The knowledge of her affliction was kept a secret from her—unwisely, I think. They put it off and put it off, until it became very awkward to tell her."

Lynde started as he recalled his conversation with Miss Denham on the rocks overhanging the Mer de Glace. With unwitting cruelty he had told Ruth her own pathetic story, and she had unconsciously pitied herself! A lump came into his throat as he remembered it.

"That was a mistake," said Lynde, with an effort, "not to tell her."

"An absurd mistake. It has given my friends no end of trouble and embarrassment."

"How long was she afflicted this way?"

"Something less than two months." "It was the result of the fever?"

"That chiefly."

"It was not—hereditary?" Lynde lingered on the word.

"No."

"Then it is not likely to occur again?"

"I cannot think of anything more unlikely," returned the doctor, "unless the same conditions conspire, which is scarcely supposable, as I could easily prove to you. You can understand, Mr. Lynde, that this has been a sore trial to Denham and his wife; they have had no children, and their hearts are bound up in Ruth. The dread of a recurrence of the trouble has haunted them night and day in spite of all the arguments I could advance to reassure them. They have got what our French friends call a fixed idea, which is generally an idea that requires a great deal of fixing. The girl ought to marry—every woman ought to marry, it is her one mission; but between their affections and their apprehensions, my friends have allowed Ruth no opportunity to form attachments."

"I'm glad of that," said Lynde quietly.

"Are you!" snapped the doctor. "I am not. I would like to see her married some day. Meanwhile I would like to see a dozen lovers about her. It is as natural for a young girl to coquet as it is for a canary to peck at its seed or trim its bill on a bit of fishbone. It is had for the girl and the canary when they are prevented."

"There is something human in this crisp old doctor," said Lynde to himself, and then aloud: "So Mr. Denham has no matrimonial plans for her?"

"None whatever. Since Ruth's recovery the family have been constantly on the wing, either at home or abroad. Most of Ruth's life has been passed over here. I trust to your discretion. You will perceive the necessity of keeping all this to yourself."

"I do, and I now see that your travelling with the Denhams is a circumstance in no way connected with the state of Miss Denham's health."

"Not in the most distant manner, Mr. Lynde. I am with them because they are my old friends. I was worn out with professional work, and I ran across the sea to recuperate. It is fortunate I did, since Ruth chances to need me."

Lynde pondered a moment, and then asked abruptly: "Does Mrs. Denham know of my former meeting with her niece?"

"I never breathed a word to Mrs. Denham on the subject of Ruth's escapade," replied the doctor. "It would have pained her without mending matters. Besides, I was not proud of that transaction."

Mrs. Denham's suppression of the doctor's name, then, in speaking of him to Lynde, had been purely accidental.

"Miss Ruth's strange hallucination, in her illness, as to personality, her fancy about the Queen of Sheba—what was that traceable to?" asked Lynde, after a pause.

"Heaven only knows. She was reading the Old Testament very much in those days. I have sometimes accepted that as an explanation. It often happens that a delusion takes its cue from something read, or thought, or experienced in a rational state. In the case of the man Blaisdell, for example—you remember him, with his marble ship? He was formerly an enterprising ship-builder; during the Southern war he filled a contract with government for a couple of ironclads, and made his fortune. The depression in shipping afterwards ruined him—and he fell to constructing marble vessels! He is dead, by the way. I wonder if his reason has been given back to him—in that other world."

Lynde did not speak immediately, and the doctor relighted his cigar, which had gone out.

"Dr. Pendegrast, you have lifted a crushing weight from me. I cannot explain it to you now and here; but you shall know some day."

Dr. Pendegrast smiled. "I didn't recollect you at first, Mr. Lynde; my memory for names and faces is shockingly derelict, but I have retained most of my other faculties in tolerably good order. I have been unreserved with you because I more than suspect"—

The doctor's sentence was cut short by Mr. Denham, who entered at the instant. He had learned that there was no train for Geneva before the night-express. Lynde lighted the cigar which he had been unconsciously holding between his fingers all this while, and on the plea of cashing a draft at a banker's left the two gentlemen together. He wandered absently into the Place de la Concorde, crossed the crowded bridge there, and plunged into the narrow streets of the Latin Quarter. Finding his way back after an hour or so to the other bank of the Seine, he seated himself on one of those little black iron chairs which seem to have let themselves down like spiders from the lime-trees in the Champs Elysees, and remained for a long time in a deep study.

The meeting with Dr. Pendegrast had been so severe a shock to Lynde that he could not straightway recover his mental balance. The appalling shadow which the doctor's presence had for the moment thrown across him had left Lynde benumbed and chilled despite the reassuring sunshine of the doctor's words. By degrees, however, Lynde warmed to life again; his gloom slipped off and was lost in the restless tides of life which surged about him. It was the hour when Paris sits at small green tables in front of the cafes and sips its absinthe or cassis; when the boulevards are thronged, and the rich equipages come and go. There was not a cloud in the tender blue sky against which the reddish obelisk of Luxor looked like a column of jet; the fountains were playing in the Place de la Concorde, and in the Tuileries gardens beyond the breeze dreamily stirred the foliage which hid from Lynde's view the gray facade of the gutted palace, still standing there, calcined and cracked by the fires of the Commune. Presently all this began to distract him, and when he returned to the hotel he was in a humor that would have been comparatively tranquil if so many tedious miles had not stretched between Paris and Chamouni.

He found Mr. Denham and Dr. Pendegrast delaying dinner for him. After dinner, seeing no prospect of renewing conversation in private with the doctor, Lynde killed the time by writing a voluminous letter to Flemming, whose name he had stumbled on in the passenger-list of a steamer advertised to sail two days later from Liverpool.

As Lynde took his seat in the railroad carriage that night he had a feeling that several centuries had elapsed since daybreak. Every moment was a month to him until he could get back to Chamouni. The thought that Ruth might be dangerously ill scarcely presented itself among his reflections. She was free, he loved her, and there was no reason why he should not try to win her, however strongly the Denhams might be opposed to him. His mind was perfectly easy on that score; they had no right to wreck the girl's future in their shallow fear. His two travelling companions shortly dropped asleep, but Lynde did not close his eyes during those ten weary hours to Macon. Thence to Geneva was five hours more of impatience. At Geneva the party halted no longer than was necessary to refresh themselves at a buffet near the station and hire a conveyance to Chamouni, which they reached two or three hours after sunset. The town still lay, as Lynde had left it, in the portentous shadow of the mountain, with the sullen rain dropping from the black sky.

Lynde drew an alarming augury from the circumstance that Mrs. Denham did not come down to greet them. It dawned upon him then for the first time with any distinctness that Ruth might be fatally ill. Mr. Denham, accompanied by Dr. Pendegrast, hastened to his wife's apartments, and Lynde stationed himself at the head of a staircase in the hall, where he waited nearly an hour in intolerable suspense before the doctor reappeared.

"What is it, Doctor?"

"Pneumonia. No," he added, divining Lynde's unspoken thought even before it had fairly shaped itself in his brain, "it is not the other business."

"You are hiding the truth from me," said Lynde, with a pang. "She is dead!"

"No, but she is very low. The disease is approaching a crisis; a change must take place by to-morrow. Frankly, I dread that change. I am hiding nothing from you."

"Is there no hope? You do not mean that!"

"I am afraid I do. Perhaps it is because she is so dear to me that I always anticipate the worst when she is concerned. The other physician is more sanguine; but then he does not love Ruth as I do."

"You might have saved her!"

"Everything has been done that could be done. He is a person of remarkable skill, this Paris physician. I could have advised no change in his treatment of the case if I had been on the spot at first. That is a great deal for one physician to say of another. You had better go and get some rest," added Dr. Pendegrast in a changed voice, struck by the young man's ghastly look. "Your two night-journeys have used you up."

Lynde went mechanically to his room and threw himself upon the bed without undressing. He had no inclination to sleep, but his fatigue, bodily and mental, overcame him unawares as he lay listening to the wind which swept through the mountain-gorges, and rose and fell monotonously with a sound like the rote of the sea. It was a vision of the sea that filled his unrestful slumber: Ruth was dead, she had died in his arms, and he was standing woe-begone, like a ghost, on the deck of a homeward bound ship, with the gray, illimitable waste of waters stretching around him.

It appeared to Lynde to be in the middle of the night, though it was in fact on the edge of daybreak, that he was awakened by some one knocking softly at his door. He lighted a match, and by its momentary flicker saw Mr. Denham standing on the threshold.

"Ruth wishes to see you," he said indistinctly and with an indecisive air. "As nearly as we can gather, that is what she wants. Come quickly!"

Without waiting for a reply Mr. Denham turned and passed through the hall. Lynde followed in silence. He was less surprised than agitated by the summons; it was of a piece with the dream from which he had been roused.

There were candles burning on the mantel-piece of the chamber, and the dawn was whitening the window-panes. In that weird, blended light the face of the sick girl shone like a fading star. Lynde was conscious of no other presence, though Mrs. Denham and Dr. Pendegrast with a third person were standing near the chimney-place. Ruth raised her eyes and smiled upon Lynde as he came in; then her lids closed and did not open again, but the smile stayed in a dim way on her features, and a flush almost too faint to be perceived crept into her cheeks. Lynde stooped by the bed and took one of Ruth's hands. She turned her head slightly on the pillow, and after a moment her lips moved as if she were making an effort to speak. Lynde remained immobile, fearing to draw breath lest a word should escape his ear. But she did not speak. As he stood there listening in the breathless stillness, the flame of the candles burned fainter and fainter in the increasing daylight; a bird twittered somewhere aloft; then the sunshine streamed through the windows, and outside all the heights were touched with sudden gold.

[Illustration: But she did not speak]

Dr. Pendegrast approached Lynde and rested one finger on his arm. "You had better go now," the doctor whispered hastily. "I will come to you by and by."

Lynde was sitting on the side of the bed in his own room in the broad daylight. He had been sitting motionless in one posture for an hour— perhaps two hours, he could not tell how long—when Dr. Pendegrast opened the door without pausing to knock. Lynde felt the cold creeping about his heart.

"Doctor," he said desperately, "don't tell me!"

"Mr. Lynde," said Dr. Pendegrast, walking up to the bedside and speaking very slowly, as if he were doubtful of his own words and found it difficult to articulate them, "a change has taken place, but it is a change for the better. I believe that Ruth will live."

"She will live!"

"We thought she was sinking; she thought so herself, the poor child. You were worth a thousand doctors to her, that's my belief. Mrs. Denham was afraid to tell her you had gone to Paris to fetch us, thinking it would excite her. Ruth imagined that her aunt had offended you, and thought you had gone not to return."

"Ah!"

"That troubled her, in the state she was in—troubled her mightily. She has been able to take a few spoonfuls of nourishment," the doctor went on irrelevantly; "her pulse is improved; if she has no drawback she will get well."

Lynde looked around him bewilderedly for a moment; then he covered his face with his hands. "I thought she was dying!" he said under his breath.

That day and the next the girl's life hung by a thread; then the peril passed, and her recovery became merely a question of careful nursing. The days which immediately followed this certainty were the happiest Lynde had ever experienced. Perhaps it was because his chamber was directly over Ruth's that he sat there in the window-seat, reading from morning until night. It was as near to her as he was permitted to approach. He saw little of Mr. Denham and still less of Mrs. Denham during that week; but the doctor spent an hour or two every evening with Lynde, and did not find it tiresome to talk of nothing but his patient. The details of her convalescence were listened to with an interest that would have won Dr. Pendegrast if he had not already been very well disposed towards the young fellow, several of whose New York friends, as it transpired, were old acquaintances of the doctor's—Dr. Dillon and his family, and the Delaneys. The conversation between Lynde and Dr. Pendegrast at the Hotel Meurice had been hurried and disjointed, and in that respect unsatisfactory; but the minute history of Ruth's previous case, which the doctor related to Lynde in the course of those long summer nights, set his mind completely at rest.

"I could never have given her up, anyway," said Lynde to himself. "I have loved her for three years, though I didn't know it. That was my wife's slipper after all," he added, thinking of the time when it used to seem to be sitting up for him at night, on his writing-table at Rivermouth, and how often it threw a gloom over him with its tragic suggestion. "My wife's slipper!" He repeated the phrase softly to himself. There was nothing tragic in it now.

By and by the hours began to drag with him. The invalid could not get well fast enough to keep pace with his impatience. The day she was able for the first time to sit up a while, in an armchair wheeled by the bedside, was a fete day to the four Americans in the Couronne hotel. If Lynde did not exhaust his entire inheritance in cut flowers on this occasion, it was because Dr. Pendegrast objected to them in any profusion in a sick-chamber.

"When am I to see her?" asked Lynde that evening, as the doctor dropped into the room to make his usual report.

"Let me think. To-day is Tuesday—perhaps we shall let you see her by Friday or Saturday."

"Good heavens! why don't you put it off thirty or forty years?"

"I haven't the time," returned Dr. Pendegrast, laughing. "Seriously, she will not be strong enough until then to bear the least excitement. I am not going to run any risks with Ruth, I can tell you. You are very impatient, of course. I will give you a soothing draught."

"What is it?"

"A piece of information."

"I'll take it!"

"And a piece of advice."

"I'll take that, too; you can't frighten me."

"It is a betrayal of confidence on my part," said the doctor slowly, and with an air of reconsidering his offer.

"No matter."

"Well, then, Ruth's asking for you, the other night, rather amazed Denham when he came to think it over quietly, and Mrs. Denham judged it best to inform him of the conversation which took place between you and her the morning you set out for Paris. Denham was still more amazed. She had attempted to cure him of one astonishment by giving him another. Similia similibus curantur did not work that time. Then the two came to me for consultation, and I told them I thought Ruth's case required a doctor of divinity rather than a doctor of medicine."

"Did you say that!"

"Certainly I did. I strongly advised an operation, and designated the English church here as a proper place in which to have it performed. Moreover, as a change of air would be beneficial as soon as might be afterwards, I suggested for the invalid a short trip to Geneva—with not too much company. My dear fellow, you need not thank me; I am looking exclusively to Ruth's happiness—yours can come in incidentally, if it wants to. Mrs. Denham is YOUR ally."

"Is she, indeed? I thought differently. And Ruth"—

"Ruth," interposed the doctor, with a twinkle in his eyes, "Ruth is the good little girl in the primer who doesn't speak until she's spoken to."

"By Jove, she doesn't speak even then! I have tried her twice: once she evaded me, and once she refused to listen."

"The results of her false education," said the doctor sententiously.

Lynde laughed.

"To what view of the question does Mr. Denham incline?" he asked.

"Denham is not as unreasonable as he used to be; but he is somewhat stunned by the unexpectedness of the thing."

"That's the information; and now for the advice, Doctor."

"I advise you to speak with Denham the first chance you get. You will have an opportunity this evening. I took the liberty of asking him to come up here and smoke a cigar with us as soon as he finishes his coffee."

Lynde nodded his head approvingly, and the doctor went on—

"I shall leave you together after a while, and then you must manage it. At present he is in no state to deny Ruth anything; he would give her a lover just as he would buy her a pair of ear-rings. His joy over her escape from death—it was a fearfully narrow escape, let me tell you— has left him powerless. Moreover, her illness, in which there has not been a symptom of the old trouble, has reassured him on a most painful point. In short, everything is remarkably smooth for you. I think that's Denham's step now in the hall," added Dr. Pendegrast hurriedly." You can say what you please to him of Ruth; but mind you, my dear boy, not a word at this juncture about the Queen of Sheba—she's dethroned, you know!"

XI. FROM CHAMOUNI TO GENEVA

One morning in September, a month after all this, three persons, a lady and two gentlemen, stood on the upper step of the Couronne hotel, waving farewell with their handkerchiefs to a carriage which had just started from the door and was gayly taking the road to St. Gervais-les-Bains, on the way to Geneva.

A cool purple light stretched along the valley and reached up the mountain side to where the eternal snows begin. The crown of Mont Blanc, muffled in its scarf of cloud, was invisible. The old monarch was in that disdainful mood which sometimes lasts him for months together. From those perilous heights came down a breath that chilled the air and tempered the sunshine falling upon Chamouni, now silent and deserted, for the season was well-nigh over. With the birds, their brothers, the summer tourists had flown southward at the rustling of the first autumnal leaf. Here and there a guide leaned idly against a post in front of one of the empty hotels. There was no other indication of life in the main street save the little group we have mentioned watching the departing carriage.

This carriage, a maroon body set upon red and black wheels, was drawn by four white horses and driven by the marquis. The doctor had prescribed white horses, and he took great credit to himself that morning as he stood on the hotel steps beside Mr. and Mrs. Denham, who followed the retreating vehicle rather thoughtfully with their eyes until it turned a corner of the narrow street and was lost to them.

As the horses slackened their speed at an ascending piece of ground outside the town, Lynde took Ruth's hand. The color of health had reasserted itself in her cheeks, but her eyes had not lost a certain depth of lustre which they had learned during her illness. The happy light in them illumined her face as she turned towards him.

"I don't believe a word of it!" cried Lynde. "It is just a dream, a cheating page out of a fairy-book. These horses are simply four white mice transformed. An hour ago, perhaps, this carriage was a pumpkin lying on the hearth of the hotel kitchen. The coachman is a good fairy in thin disguise of overcoat and false mustache. I am doubtful of even you. The whole thing is a delusion. It won't last, it can't last! Presently the wicked gnome that must needs dwell in a stalactite cavern somewhere hereabouts will start up and break the enchantment."

"It will never be broken so long as you love me," said Ruth softly. She smiled at Lynde's fancy, though his words had by no means badly expressed her own sense of doubt in respect to the reality of it all.

Here the driver leaned forward, skilfully touching the ear of the off- leader with the tip of his lash, and the carriage rolled away in the blue September weather. And here our story ends—at the very point, if we understand it, where life began for those two.