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on a sunny wall of experience. She had never before had so deep a sense
of her intimacy with it, such a conviction that its secrets were
all beneficent, kept, as they said to children, "for one's good," so
complete a trust in its power to gather up her life and Ned's into the
harmonious pattern of the long, long story it sat there weaving in the
sun.

She heard steps behind her, and turned, expecting to see the gardener,
accompanied by the engineer from Dorchester. But only one figure was
in sight, that of a youngish, slightly built man, who, for reasons she
could not on the spot have specified, did not remotely resemble her
preconceived notion of an authority on hot-house boilers. The
new-comer, on seeing her, lifted his hat, and paused with the air of a
gentleman - perhaps a traveler - desirous of having it immediately known
that his intrusion is involuntary. The local fame of Lyng occasionally
attracted the more intelligent sight-seer, and Mary half-expected to see
the stranger dissemble a camera, or justify his presence by producing
it. But he made no gesture of any sort, and after a moment she asked,
in a tone responding to the courteous deprecation of his attitude: "Is
there any one you wish to see?"

"I came to see Mr. Boyne," he replied. His intonation, rather than his
accent, was faintly American, and Mary, at the familiar note, looked
at him more closely. The brim of his soft felt hat cast a shade on his
face, which, thus obscured, wore to her short-sighted gaze a look of
seriousness, as of a person arriving "on business," and civilly but
firmly aware of his rights.

Past experience had made Mary equally sensible to such claims; but she
was jealous of her husband's morning hours, and doubtful of his having
given any one the right to intrude on them.

"Have you an appointment with Mr. Boyne?" she asked.

He hesitated, as if unprepared for the question.

"Not exactly an appointment," he replied.

"Then I'm afraid, this being his working-time, that he can't receive you
now. Will you give me a message, or come back later?"

The visitor, again lifting his hat, briefly replied that he would come
back later, and walked away, as if to regain the front of the house. As
his figure receded down the walk between the yew hedges, Mary saw him
pause and look up an instant at the peaceful house-front bathed in faint
winter sunshine; and it struck her, with a tardy touch of compunction,
that it would have been more humane to ask if he had come from a
distance, and to offer, in that case, to inquire if her husband could
receive him. But as the thought occurred to her he passed out of
sight behind a pyramidal yew, and at the same moment her attention was
distracted by the approach of the gardener, attended by the bearded
pepper-and-salt figure of the boiler-maker from Dorchester.

The encounter with this authority led to such far-reaching issues that
they resulted in his finding it expedient to ignore his train, and
beguiled Mary into spending the remainder of the morning in absorbed
confabulation among the greenhouses. She was startled to find, when the
colloquy ended, that it was nearly luncheon-time, and she half expected,
as she hurried back to the house, to see her husband coming out to meet
her. But she found no one in the court but an under-gardener raking
the gravel, and the hall, when she entered it, was so silent that she
guessed Boyne to be still at work behind the closed door of the library.

Not wishing to disturb him, she turned into the drawing-room, and there,
at her writing-table, lost herself in renewed calculations of the outlay
to which the morning's conference had committed her. The knowledge that
she could permit herself such follies had not yet lost its novelty; and
somehow, in contrast to the vague apprehensions of the previous days, it
now seemed an element of her recovered security, of the sense that, as
Ned had said, things in general had never been "righter."

She was still luxuriating in a lavish play of figures when the
parlor-maid, from the threshold, roused her with a dubiously worded
inquiry as to the expediency of serving luncheon. It was one of their
jokes that Trimmle announced luncheon as if she were divulging a
state secret, and Mary, intent upon her papers, merely murmured an
absent-minded assent.

She felt Trimmle wavering expressively on the threshold as if in rebuke
of such offhand acquiescence; then her retreating steps sounded down the
passage, and Mary, pushing away her papers, crossed the hall, and went
to the library door. It was still closed, and she wavered in her turn,
disliking to disturb her husband, yet anxious that he should not exceed
his normal measure of work. As she stood there, balancing her impulses,
the esoteric Trimmle returned with the announcement of luncheon, and
Mary, thus impelled, opened the door and went into the library.

Boyne was not at his desk, and she peered about her, expecting to
discover him at the book-shelves, somewhere down the length of the room;
but her call brought no response, and gradually it became clear to her
that he was not in the library.

She turned back to the parlor-maid.

"Mr. Boyne must be up-stairs. Please tell him that luncheon is ready."

The parlor-maid appeared to hesitate between the obvious duty of obeying
orders and an equally obvious conviction of the foolishness of
the injunction laid upon her. The struggle resulted in her saying
doubtfully, "If you please, Madam, Mr. Boyne's not up-stairs."

"Not in his room? Are you sure?"

"I'm sure, Madam."

Mary consulted the clock. "Where is he, then?"

"He's gone out," Trimmle announced, with the superior air of one who has
respectfully waited for the question that a well-ordered mind would have
first propounded.

Mary's previous conjecture had been right, then. Boyne must have gone to
the gardens to meet her, and since she had missed him, it was clear that
he had taken the shorter way by the south door, instead of going round
to the court. She crossed the hall to the glass portal opening directly
on the yew garden, but the parlor-maid, after another moment of inner
conflict, decided to bring out recklessly, "Please, Madam, Mr. Boyne
didn't go that way."

Mary turned back. "Where _did_ he go? And when?"

"He went out of the front door, up the drive, Madam." It was a matter of
principle with Trimmle never to answer more than one question at a time.

"Up the drive? At this hour?" Mary went to the door herself, and
glanced across the court through the long tunnel of bare limes. But
its perspective was as empty as when she had scanned it on entering the
house.

"Did Mr. Boyne leave no message?" she asked.

Trimmle seemed to surrender herself to a last struggle with the forces
of chaos.

"No, Madam. He just went out with the gentleman."

"The gentleman? What gentleman?" Mary wheeled about, as if to front this
new factor.

"The gentleman who called, Madam," said Trimmle, resignedly.

"When did a gentleman call? Do explain yourself, Trimmle!"

Only the fact that Mary was very hungry, and that she wanted to consult
her husband about the greenhouses, would have caused her to lay so
unusual an injunction on her attendant; and even now she was detached
enough to note in Trimmle's eye the dawning defiance of the respectful
subordinate who has been pressed too hard.

"I couldn't exactly say the hour, Madam, because I didn't let the
gentleman in," she replied, with the air of magnanimously ignoring the
irregularity of her mistress's course.

"You didn't let him in?"

"No, Madam. When the bell rang I was dressing, and Agnes - "

"Go and ask Agnes, then," Mary interjected. Trimmle still wore her
look of patient magnanimity. "Agnes would not know, Madam, for she had
unfortunately burnt her hand in trying the wick of the new lamp from
town - " Trimmle, as Mary was aware, had always been opposed to the new
lamp - "and so Mrs. Dockett sent the kitchen-maid instead."

Mary looked again at the clock. "It's after two! Go and ask the
kitchen-maid if Mr. Boyne left any word."

She went into luncheon without waiting, and Trimmle presently brought
her there the kitchen-maid's statement that the gentleman had called
about one o'clock, that Mr. Boyne had gone out with him without leaving
any message. The kitchen-maid did not even know the caller's name, for
he had written it on a slip of paper, which he had folded and handed to
her, with the injunction to deliver it at once to Mr. Boyne.

Mary finished her luncheon, still wondering, and when it was over,
and Trimmle had brought the coffee to the drawing-room, her wonder had
deepened to a first faint tinge of disquietude. It was unlike Boyne
to absent himself without explanation at so unwonted an hour, and the
difficulty of identifying the visitor whose summons he had apparently
obeyed made his disappearance the more unaccountable. Mary Boyne's
experience as the wife of a busy engineer, subject to sudden calls and
compelled to keep irregular hours, had trained her to the philosophic
acceptance of surprises; but since Boyne's withdrawal from business he
had adopted a Benedictine regularity of life. As if to make up for the
dispersed and agitated years, with their "stand-up" lunches and dinners
rattled down to the joltings of the dining-car, he cultivated the last
refinements of punctuality and monotony, discouraging his wife's fancy
for the unexpected; and declaring that to a delicate taste there were
infinite gradations of pleasure in the fixed recurrences of habit.

Still, since no life can completely defend itself from the unforeseen,
it was evident that all Boyne's precautions would sooner or later prove
unavailable, and Mary concluded that he had cut short a tiresome visit
by walking with his caller to the station, or at least accompanying him
for part of the way.

This conclusion relieved her from farther preoccupation, and she went
out herself to take up her conference with the gardener. Thence she
walked to the village post-office, a mile or so away; and when she
turned toward home, the early twilight was setting in.

She had taken a foot-path across the downs, and as Boyne, meanwhile,
had probably returned from the station by the highroad, there was little
likelihood of their meeting on the way. She felt sure, however, of his
having reached the house before her; so sure that, when she entered it
herself, without even pausing to inquire of Trimmle, she made directly
for the library. But the library was still empty, and with an unwonted
precision of visual memory she immediately observed that the papers on
her husband's desk lay precisely as they had lain when she had gone in
to call him to luncheon.

Then of a sudden she was seized by a vague dread of the unknown. She had
closed the door behind her on entering, and as she stood alone in the
long, silent, shadowy room, her dread seemed to take shape and sound,
to be there audibly breathing and lurking among the shadows. Her
short-sighted eyes strained through them, half-discerning an actual
presence, something aloof, that watched and knew; and in the recoil from
that intangible propinquity she threw herself suddenly on the bell-rope
and gave it a desperate pull.

The long, quavering summons brought Trimmle in precipitately with a
lamp, and Mary breathed again at this sobering reappearance of the
usual.

"You may bring tea if Mr. Boyne is in," she said, to justify her ring.

"Very well, Madam. But Mr. Boyne is not in," said Trimmle, putting down
the lamp.

"Not in? You mean he's come back and gone out again?"

"No, Madam. He's never been back."

The dread stirred again, and Mary knew that now it had her fast.

"Not since he went out with - the gentleman?"

"Not since he went out with the gentleman."

"But who _was_ the gentleman?" Mary gasped out, with the sharp note of
some one trying to be heard through a confusion of meaningless noises.

"That I couldn't say, Madam." Trimmle, standing there by the lamp,
seemed suddenly to grow less round and rosy, as though eclipsed by the
same creeping shade of apprehension.

"But the kitchen-maid knows - wasn't it the kitchen-maid who let him in?"

"She doesn't know either, Madam, for he wrote his name on a folded
paper."

Mary, through her agitation, was aware that they were both designating
the unknown visitor by a vague pronoun, instead of the conventional
formula which, till then, had kept their allusions within the bounds of
custom. And at the same moment her mind caught at the suggestion of the
folded paper.

"But he must have a name! Where is the paper?"

She moved to the desk, and began to turn over the scattered documents
that littered it. The first that caught her eye was an unfinished letter
in her husband's hand, with his pen lying across it, as though dropped
there at a sudden summons.

"My dear Parvis," - who was Parvis? - "I have just received your letter
announcing Elwell's death, and while I suppose there is now no farther
risk of trouble, it might be safer - "

She tossed the sheet aside, and continued her search; but no folded
paper was discoverable among the letters and pages of manuscript which
had been swept together in a promiscuous heap, as if by a hurried or a
startled gesture.

"But the kitchen-maid _saw_ him. Send her here," she commanded,
wondering at her dullness in not thinking sooner of so simple a
solution.

Trimmle, at the behest, vanished in a flash, as if thankful to be out
of the room, and when she reappeared, conducting the agitated underling,
Mary had regained her self-possession, and had her questions pat.

The gentleman was a stranger, yes - that she understood. But what had he
said? And, above all, what had he looked like? The first question was
easily enough answered, for the disconcerting reason that he had said so
little - had merely asked for Mr. Boyne, and, scribbling something on a
bit of paper, had requested that it should at once be carried in to him.

"Then you don't know what he wrote? You're not sure it _was_ his name?"

The kitchen-maid was not sure, but supposed it was, since he had written
it in answer to her inquiry as to whom she should announce.

"And when you carried the paper in to Mr. Boyne, what did he say?"

The kitchen-maid did not think that Mr. Boyne had said anything, but she
could not be sure, for just as she had handed him the paper and he was
opening it, she had become aware that the visitor had followed her
into the library, and she had slipped out, leaving the two gentlemen
together.

"But then, if you left them in the library, how do you know that they
went out of the house?"

This question plunged the witness into momentary inarticulateness,
from which she was rescued by Trimmle, who, by means of ingenious
circumlocutions, elicited the statement that before she could cross the
hall to the back passage she had heard the gentlemen behind her, and had
seen them go out of the front door together.

"Then, if you saw the gentleman twice, you must be able to tell me what
he looked like."

But with this final challenge to her powers of expression it became
clear that the limit of the kitchen-maid's endurance had been reached.
The obligation of going to the front door to "show in" a visitor was
in itself so subversive of the fundamental order of things that it had
thrown her faculties into hopeless disarray, and she could only stammer
out, after various panting efforts at evocation, "His hat, mum, was
different-like, as you might say - "

"Different? How different?" Mary flashed out at her, her own mind, in
the same instant, leaping back to an image left on it that morning, but
temporarily lost under layers of subsequent impressions.

"His hat had a wide brim, you mean? and his face was pale - a youngish
face?" Mary pressed her, with a white-lipped intensity of interrogation.
But if the kitchen-maid found any adequate answer to this challenge,
it was swept away for her listener down the rushing current of her own
convictions. The stranger - the stranger in the garden! Why had Mary not
thought of him before? She needed no one now to tell her that it was he
who had called for her husband and gone away with him. But who was he,
and why had Boyne obeyed his call?



IV


It leaped out at her suddenly, like a grin out of the dark, that they
had often called England so little - "such a confoundedly hard place to
get lost in."

_A confoundedly hard place to get lost in!_ That had been her husband's
phrase. And now, with the whole machinery of official investigation
sweeping its flash-lights from shore to shore, and across the dividing
straits; now, with Boyne's name blazing from the walls of every town
and village, his portrait (how that wrung her!) hawked up and down the
country like the image of a hunted criminal; now the little compact,
populous island, so policed, surveyed, and administered, revealed itself
as a Sphinx-like guardian of abysmal mysteries, staring back into his
wife's anguished eyes as if with the malicious joy of knowing something
they would never know!

In the fortnight since Boyne's disappearance there had been no word of
him, no trace of his movements. Even the usual misleading reports that
raise expectancy in tortured bosoms had been few and fleeting. No one
but the bewildered kitchen-maid had seen him leave the house, and no one
else had seen "the gentleman" who accompanied him. All inquiries in the
neighborhood failed to elicit the memory of a stranger's presence that
day in the neighborhood of Lyng. And no one had met Edward Boyne, either
alone or in company, in any of the neighboring villages, or on the road
across the downs, or at either of the local railway-stations. The sunny
English noon had swallowed him as completely as if he had gone out into
Cimmerian night.

Mary, while every external means of investigation was working at its
highest pressure, had ransacked her husband's papers for any trace of
antecedent complications, of entanglements or obligations unknown to
her, that might throw a faint ray into the darkness. But if any such
had existed in the background of Boyne's life, they had disappeared as
completely as the slip of paper on which the visitor had written his
name. There remained no possible thread of guidance except - if it were
indeed an exception - the letter which Boyne had apparently been in the
act of writing when he received his mysterious summons. That letter,
read and reread by his wife, and submitted by her to the police, yielded
little enough for conjecture to feed on.

"I have just heard of Elwell's death, and while I suppose there is now
no farther risk of trouble, it might be safer - " That was all. The "risk
of trouble" was easily explained by the newspaper clipping which had
apprised Mary of the suit brought against her husband by one of his
associates in the Blue Star enterprise. The only new information
conveyed in the letter was the fact of its showing Boyne, when he wrote
it, to be still apprehensive of the results of the suit, though he
had assured his wife that it had been withdrawn, and though the letter
itself declared that the plaintiff was dead. It took several weeks
of exhaustive cabling to fix the identity of the "Parvis" to whom the
fragmentary communication was addressed, but even after these inquiries
had shown him to be a Waukesha lawyer, no new facts concerning the
Elwell suit were elicited. He appeared to have had no direct concern
in it, but to have been conversant with the facts merely as an
acquaintance, and possible intermediary; and he declared himself unable
to divine with what object Boyne intended to seek his assistance.

This negative information, sole fruit of the first fortnight's feverish
search, was not increased by a jot during the slow weeks that followed.
Mary knew that the investigations were still being carried on, but she
had a vague sense of their gradually slackening, as the actual march of
time seemed to slacken. It was as though the days, flying horror-struck
from the shrouded image of the one inscrutable day, gained assurance as
the distance lengthened, till at last they fell back into their normal
gait. And so with the human imaginations at work on the dark event. No
doubt it occupied them still, but week by week and hour by hour it grew
less absorbing, took up less space, was slowly but inevitably crowded
out of the foreground of consciousness by the new problems perpetually
bubbling up from the vaporous caldron of human experience.

Even Mary Boyne's consciousness gradually felt the same lowering of
velocity. It still swayed with the incessant oscillations of conjecture;
but they were slower, more rhythmical in their beat. There were moments
of overwhelming lassitude when, like the victim of some poison which
leaves the brain clear, but holds the body motionless, she saw herself
domesticated with the Horror, accepting its perpetual presence as one of
the fixed conditions of life.

These moments lengthened into hours and days, till she passed into a
phase of stolid acquiescence. She watched the familiar routine of life
with the incurious eye of a savage on whom the meaningless processes of
civilization make but the faintest impression. She had come to regard
herself as part of the routine, a spoke of the wheel, revolving with its
motion; she felt almost like the furniture of the room in which she sat,
an insensate object to be dusted and pushed about with the chairs and
tables. And this deepening apathy held her fast at Lyng, in spite of
the urgent entreaties of friends and the usual medical recommendation of
"change." Her friends supposed that her refusal to move was inspired by
the belief that her husband would one day return to the spot from which
he had vanished, and a beautiful legend grew up about this imaginary
state of waiting. But in reality she had no such belief: the depths of
anguish inclosing her were no longer lighted by flashes of hope. She was
sure that Boyne would never come back, that he had gone out of her sight
as completely as if Death itself had waited that day on the threshold.
She had even renounced, one by one, the various theories as to his
disappearance which had been advanced by the press, the police, and her
own agonized imagination. In sheer lassitude her mind turned from these
alternatives of horror, and sank back into the blank fact that he was
gone.

No, she would never know what had become of him - no one would ever know.
But the house _knew_; the library in which she spent her long, lonely
evenings knew. For it was here that the last scene had been enacted,
here that the stranger had come, and spoken the word which had caused
Boyne to rise and follow him. The floor she trod had felt his tread; the
books on the shelves had seen his face; and there were moments when the
intense consciousness of the old, dusky walls seemed about to break out
into some audible revelation of their secret. But the revelation
never came, and she knew it would never come. Lyng was not one of the
garrulous old houses that betray the secrets intrusted to them. Its
very legend proved that it had always been the mute accomplice, the
incorruptible custodian of the mysteries it had surprised. And Mary
Boyne, sitting face to face with its portentous silence, felt the
futility of seeking to break it by any human means.



V


"I don't say it _wasn't_ straight, yet don't say it _was_ straight. It
was business."

Mary, at the words, lifted her head with a start, and looked intently at
the speaker.

When, half an hour before, a card with "Mr. Parvis" on it had been
brought up to her, she had been immediately aware that the name had been
a part of her consciousness ever since she had read it at the head of
Boyne's unfinished letter. In the library she had found awaiting her a
small neutral-tinted man with a bald head and gold eye-glasses, and it
sent a strange tremor through her to know that this was the person to
whom her husband's last known thought had been directed.

Parvis, civilly, but without vain preamble, - in the manner of a man who
has his watch in his hand, - had set forth the object of his visit.
He had "run over" to England on business, and finding himself in the
neighborhood of Dorchester, had not wished to leave it without paying
his respects to Mrs. Boyne; without asking her, if the occasion offered,
what she meant to do about Bob Elwell's family.

The words touched the spring of some obscure dread in Mary's bosom.
Did her visitor, after all, know what Boyne had meant by his unfinished
phrase? She asked for an elucidation of his question, and noticed at


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