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in no manner concerned any one outside their little
kingdom of revolt, we gave up the job. It was all very
well for Masterman to argue it was his business be-
cause it affected Rose. It simply wasn't, and he knew
it. Nobody could help. We must leave Rose Red to
her imprisonment in the dungeon she had found, by



THE CLUE 263

ill chance, within her castle of delight. We would go
away. If Rose had been afraid of her husband we
couldn't have gone; but it was apparent that both of
them were afraid of some trap between them. And
whoever had set it, the trap was theirs.

"But," said Masterman, when we owned our com-
mon aversion to the case as a case, "something, some-
time, will chuck the clue into our hands."

"Why will it?"

"Because that's the way things are. I don't believe
your Burns or your Sherlock really braids the rope
that hangs a man. No, he braids and braids, and gets
infernally stale over it, and then suddenly some little
kobold leaps out of the bush and twists all the strands
he's just made up his mind to drop. No, you do the
work, your part of it, and because you've done it,
something passes you the clue."

"Your rhetoric's mixed," said I.

"No matter. I know what I mean and it's so."

Then the incredible happened. The aunts, of all
rooted creatures in the world, they who had been
wedded to one spot through all the years of our trouble-
some nurture, the aunts disclosed to us their intention of
going abroad. We were mightily pleased, chiefly be-
cause that proved they still had the spirit to conceive
it, and instantly offered to put them in the way of a
fair start and a luxurious progress. But what fell upon
us then was the implication that we were to take them.
We who had dragged ourselves over unkindly heights,
and snatched breath out of rarefied air, were to potter
round the beaten ways of Europe with two darling
spinsters, who might we were rather galled under



264 VANISHING POINTS

that suspicion have concocted the scheme for our
sole benefit. We were wanderers by nature. It drove
them to a mild distraction to see us mulling over maps,
picking out the insufficiently charted spots to travel
in. Our immediate safety was assured, so they be-
nevolently reasoned, by going abroad with them. Thus
were we to satisfy our gypsy cravings while sticking
strictly to the spots whereof picture postals are made.
If we were taking a funicular to Fiesole, we couldn't,
at the same time, be rampaging up savage cliffs.

"Allee samee, we've got to go with them," said
Masterman, gloomily, when we met in the loft to con-
sider it.

"We owe it to them," I responded in the old phrase,
from as inexorable a certainty that certain debts had to
be paid.

"Sure! But what if we didn't? If two such infernal
old trumps want to go abroad again, why, they've got
to do it, that's all, and go the way they like."

This was in September, and actually in October we
sailed, each of us the rather awkward convoy of an
aunt, but resolved to show ourselves good and grateful
wards. Hamlin was the last man to bid us good-by.
He came to the station where Aunt Clara was adjust-
ing a lavender ribbon on her trunk, having removed
the red one she had affixed the previous week this
because red began to seem to her the color of universal
choice. He shook hands, with an air of liking us very
much, and feeling sure we could have helped him.

"I say, you know," he volunteered, just as Rose
came up and offered to tie Aunt Clara's ribbon, "you
won't forget?"



THE CLUE 265

There was nothing we were aware of having promised
to remember; and he continued instantly, with the
implication of suddenly recalling that his request was
more important to him than to us.

"If you find you're going on any sort of exploring
trip, just count me in."

Masterman, with a rueful look, indicated the aunts
where they stood, frail, and yet undaunted in their
determination to carry the traditions of the suburb
into a foreign continent.

"We're hardly likely to do much batting round," he
suggested.

"I know, I know," Hamlin concurred, with his
nervous conclusiveness. "But after this any time,
you know."

And then Rose had turned to us and said: "Good-by,
boys. Good luck." The smoke of the train was casting
its cloud behind, and for the first time we thought the
aunts trembled before their venture, and we snatched
in wild joyousness at the hope that they might give
it up. We should have lain down at their feet, I be-
lieve, if they had, and begged them to walk on us to
ways of security and peace. But they called on the
unchanging fibre within them, doubtless for our sakes,
and we dutifully supported them on board.

The winter passed in a conventional progress, under
which the aunts throve and Masterman and I sank.
We learned to know the capitals of Europe in all their
capacity for giving pain pain of boredom, wet and
cold. He and I hated pensions. The aunts loved them,
because they afforded social intercourse. We hated
the promenades of southern watering-places, and were



266 VANISHING POINTS

made indescribably wretched by being expected to
flaner before shop windows, where the aunts expressed
the most persistent interest in what they had no idea
of buying. But what could you do? They were dar-
ling aunts, and we owed them everything. One re-
ward we had : they seemed to grow more indestructible
every day, and we knew at last that, if they had kept
the life in our young bodies by strenuous coddling when
our pretty mothers died, at least we were pumping a
few extraneous years of vitality into them by abetting
them in sheer fun as they saw it. But at Lugano, one
languorous day in the early summer, we gave out. It
came upon us simultaneously, and the expression of it,
uttered while we sat under an oleander, sorting picture
cards so that the aunts should send them in the order
of topographical lucidity, was my saying, out of no
voluntary choice, and hardly knowing why I said it:

"We could climb the Matterhorn."

Masterman did not even answer with any directness.
He merely shuffled the cards together and tucked them
into their envelope.

'Til go in and tell them," he said, and go he did.

They were as surprised by the suddenness of it as I,
and chiefly on that account they yielded. Or had they
anticipated some divagation of the sort, and now ac-
cepted it as less serious than they had feared? Also
the sense of lightness, of variety, bound to uplift the
traveller abroad, whispered them that it would be no
ill matter, but rather a novelty the more, to be left
at Lugano in charge of their own fate. They merely
specified that we were to take care of ourselves and come
back soon. Of course we said nothing about the Matter-



THE CLUE 267

horn. That grim entity never once punctuated the
discussion. We merely said we were going, with their
accord, up to Zermatt for a breath of mountain air.

To Zermatt we went, gayer with every inch of alti-
tude, more like boys released from tasks that yesterday
had looked perennial. We went up by train, and also
from Zermatt on, because we had to be back with the
aunts in a reasonable time. We got into fits of laughter
over it all, our dash for exhilaration, and a little red-
headed English parson across the aisle watched us with
a tolerant interest. Finally he threw us a comment on
the day, and we gathered that he, too, though uncon-
sciously, was a little drunk on air. He was enchanted
with the idea of climbing the Matterhorn, of our doing
it, while he offered sage suggestion. He seemed, at
that altitude, to think it a mere question of vim and
go, and as to a guide, he scouted it. Our forethought
and our shoes he alike despised, intimating that he
could climb the Matterhorn in his ecclesiastical garb.

"Even," Masterman told him, "the apron and
gaiters of your future."

He smiled at that, but insisted that the precursors,
Tyndall and the rest, had robbed the adventure of its
quality by their "ropes and things".

In a pause of this descriptive fluency, while he was
temporarily engaged with the bleak world beside the
track, I turned to Masterman.

"I've been thinking," I said, "about Rose."

He nodded.

"So have I," said he, "all night. As if she were
near."

An unaccountable prescience came over me.



268 VANISHING POINTS



" Ralph," I said, "if it hadn't been Hamlin, it ought
to have been you."

He said nothing; but I knew he could not resent the
baldness of it. I saw how he had cherished the idea
of her, not in the least as I had, as an unattainable
dream, but a present necessity of his life. A height
always affected me foolishly. It made Masterman
melancholy and silent, but it loosed my thoughts and
tongue.

"I'm out of it," I said. "I'd do anything for her,
anything. But you're the man."

Still he said nothing, and we came to the land of
thin air and snow, and little black pools and ominously
dark birds hovering over them, and there we stayed all
night, the Englishman with us, rather more respectful
of our respect for mountains, the colder he grew and
the tighter the air bound his feet with invisible chains
the night had ready. And in the morning, overlooking
that icy edge of the world, we bade him good-by, and
with Max Stiege, prince of guides, began our climb.
As a feat, it was climbing made easy, after our un-
attended forays in the south. But the Matterhorn
hadn't made it easy. You could fancy it frozen there
in a rage at the chains put upon it by the dauntlessness
of man.

Not three hours up that cruel inaccessibility, we came
on a black figure prone across a jag of rock, as if he
had fallen and the rock impaled him. Stiege put his
great hands to the man, and turned him face upward
to the day, and we got brandy into him. A lone man,
a fool climbing without a guide. We swore over him
while we used the oxygen, and when he opened his



THE CLUE 269

eyes we swore again to another note. For this was
Hamlin. As soon as he got hold of himself he struck
our ministrants away, not, as I thought, from deliberate
purpose to die, but because the hostility of the outer
world had crazed him. There was left within him only
an instinct of resistance, a mad determination not to
endure defeat. But we turned brandy into him, we
covered him with our jackets, and he lay looking at us,
the agonized stare of the departing soul that has much
to say, and finds, instead of ordered words, confusion.
That look of his eyes had heartbreak in it, too, from
a foolish reason, but a very real one. They were near-
sighted eyes, and without their glasses they wore a
pleading softness. Mastermen bent over him. He,
with a more direct cognition than mine, understood
what must be asked.

"Where is she?"

The eyes seemed to make a sign, the slightest quiver
of the lid to the invisible safety below.

"Zermatt?" Masterman prompted.

The eyes said, "Yes." Then Hamlin seemed to
gather himself for the last disastrous leap, that wild
expenditure of breath whereby he must reach bank-
ruptcy the sooner.

"Tell her" he stopped.

' ' Tell her ' Masterman repeated.

"I don't understand about London. I never did."

And then, as we began the oxygen again, he died,
as if he willed it, in the face of science.

Masterman could not believe it. He was wild with an-
guish, and long after the moment of hope was over, he
kept up the fight. But Max Stiege and I knew it, and so



270 VANISHING POINTS

did Masterman at last, and that the only thing to do for
Hamlin was to carry him down to Zermatt to his waiting
wife; and when Masterman admitted it, he gave a big
sob like a woman and helped us readily. I believe at
the instant Hamlin seemed dearer to him than I, dearer
than Rose, perhaps for whatever the mischance be-
tween them the man belonged to Rose, and he was
dead.

When we had made our difficult way to the Corner
Grat, there was the Englishman ready to chaff us be-
cause we had retreated; but finding what wreckage
we bore, he sobered and helped us greatly. He had
really lingered at the Corner Grat out of some kindli-
ness for us, to see how we liked that needle of the
upper sleet, and now, with Stiege, took charge of our
miserable departing.

"Does anybody know the man?" he asked Stiege,
and we left Stiege to answer, " No." Then, in the course
of our terrible preparations, he did see Hamlin's face.
That was his clue, the clue he didn't seek, the clue
he tossed to us.

"My God!" he breathed, at first in awe, and then
reverently, as if appalled by the ordered paths of life.
"That's my man."

"What man?' Masterman demanded savagely.

At last we were to know Hamlin. At the same in-
stant we were sure of it. The Englishman, in that instant,
could no more help telling than we could help ask-
ing.

"It was two years ago," said he, "in London, near
the Strand. There was a runaway. This man was there,
a lady with him. There was the runaway. This man



THE CLUE 271

leaped aside. He pushed a woman, to get free. She
was killed, the woman. It was over in an instant.
Nobody seemed to see how it was, nobody but



me.'



i .



'Did she see it?" Masterman asked, steadily. "His
wife the lady, I should say?"

"I don't know. I hope not. That would have been
infernal. And I don't know whether she was his wife.
She was frightened, for she fell, fainted, perhaps, and
I saw her put into a cab."

I saw Masterman rejecting the clue as I rejected it.
Now we had it, we didn't want the horrible thing.
We would have given worlds not to have had it. Mas-
terman laughed rather foolishly, in the feint of tearing
up the clue.

"You wouldn't know him again," he said, "a live
man in the Strand and this dead man here."

The Englishman faced him down indignantly.

" Rather," said he immovably, in the tone of those
who have set their empire beyond the seas. "I'll tell
you how I know. In the instant after the woman
dropped, this fellow reeled back, he shut his eyes for
one second only, and he looked as if he were already
dead. He saw what he'd done, d'ye see? He saw
what he'd done. And he looked as he does now."

"We must get rid of him," I said to Ralph, on the
safe way down to Zermatt. "He mustn't see her.
He's got too keen an eye."

He nodded. But chance was good to us there, for
our helpful Englishman found a telegram at the hotel,
and it hurried him away. I felt dazed with the strange-
ness, the intention of it all. Had we two come up



272 VANISHING POINTS

here to the Matterhorn because we had desired the clue,
and that was where the clue could be given us? I
turned drunkenly to Ralph.

"I don't understand it," I babbled. " I can't."

"You mean you won't," he said doggedly. 'It's
plain enough."

"Was he a coward? Had she seen that in the
Strand? Was he forever after trying to reinstate him-
self with her? Did he climb the Matterhorn for that-
like a desperate fool, alone, with not even a flask in his
pocket, and in my God! in those shoes? Do you
remember his shoes?"

"Yes," said Masterman, dryly, "I saw his shoes."

And because his voice sounded as if it might break
and curse or sob, I gave over baiting him.

I was the one to tell Rose Red. Masterman said I
was, and I couldn't dispute it for a moment. There
were things to be said that Masterman mustn't say,
because his faith to her must not be violated; yet he
must hear them lest he afterward deny them to her.
We went up to her sitting-room, and she came forward
to meet us, dear Rose Red, all surprise and joy in us.
But she was not happy even yet: more of a woman,
perhaps, with a wistful pathos between her brows.
She looked at us, first one and then the other.

"What is it?" she asked.

Then I did my big deed, the one I am prouder of than
all the quiet honest ways I have lived since.

"Your husband- ' said I.

"Yes," she prompted.

"Your husband was on that devil of a Matterhorn.
He found a chap cast away there. He gave him his



It '
{I,



THE CLUE 273

brandy, gave him his clothes. The other man came
down. Hamlin

Her eyes shone with a terrible anguish of exultation.
: He died," she said.
! Of exhaustion," I told her.

"Where is the man he saved? I must see him. I
must hear She was all a passionate haste.

It was leading me further than I had stopped to
consider. That is the revenge of lies. They laugh at
us and take us centuries out of our way; for they, too,
are on the side of God, and would gladly die for him
and for his worlds. But I couldn't flinch.

"The man we lost in the flurry," I told her. "He'd
been through too much. His head wasn't quite right,
either, nor Ralph's. I'm the only one that got the story
straight. Ralph came up later. He never saw the man
at all. But he was the one to ease Hamlin for that few
minutes bef ore-
She turned from one to the other of us in a dumb
inquiry it was terrible to see. Was there no more,
it said? Could the man she had loved slip away from
her into everlasting silence and leave not the thinnest
whisper on the air.

"There was the message, Ralph," I said, roughly.
My lie had made a different man of me. I clung to it
doggedly as a criminal to a misbegotten deed; but I was
suddenly furious with circumstance for having forced
me to that ill companionship.

"A message?" Her look of hunger wrung my heart
to bleeding, and I loved my lie.

"'Tell her/ said Ralph, 'I don't understand about
London. I never did.' This he said grimly, as if



274 VANISHING POINTS

it saved his reason to have something to bring her that
was true. I knew Ralph. He hated and loved my lie
as I did. But he loved me for telling it.

Rose, incredulous joy upon her face, thanked God,
and let her tears flow, and told us God had sent us
to Hamlin and to her.

"We mustn't speak of this," I assured her, fencing
my lie with all the guile I had. "The man he saved-
when he comes to himself he'll feel like a cur for going.
There'll be inquiries talk talk. We want to get
you away, to the aunts down there. We'll say we found
him dying of exhaustion. You'd be willing? He
doesn't need credit with the world, if he's got his credit
mark from you."

She put her hand on my arm, partly in agreement,
partly to help her weakness.

"It shall be everything shall be as you think best,"
she said. "No matter whether anybody knows he
died gloriously, if we know it, we three

"Yes," said Masterman, and his hand was on my
shoulder. He was comforting me for my lie, blessing
me for it, old Masterman, "we know."




GOLDEN BABY

'E were in the Sycorax smoking-room, within
an hour of turning the lights out for the night.
The air was gray with smoke, and everybody,
even the men that made it, looked dulled by it. The
scion of one of our oldest families, who had seized the
occasion of an ocean voyage for extravagant over-
indulgence, sat at a little table, monotonously repeat-
ing, "She was the fairest of all the country round,"
in a tone of eccentric rhetorical emphasis. Nobody
took any notice of him, because we had ceased doing
that when he introduced us, one by one, to the aura of
his ancestor who had "preceded Sir Philip Sidney at
the battle of Zutphen." What he meant by that
initiatory phrase we never knew. We were merely con-
vinced, one after another, by the sound of it, that we
weren't strong enough to hear it again. The man who
was travelling round the globe on his own private
fortune to discover a parasite for hostile bugs was ab-
sorbedly making diagrams of larvae and what he called
winged coleoptera for a buyer of seersucker, who was
not listening to him, and the big fellow with the grizzled
beard and the William Morris look of the eyes was
sunk in some private reverie of his own. Suddenly
the clerical young fellow opposite him asked him a
question, whereupon he leaned back in his chair, gripped

275



276 VANISHING POINTS

the beer glass before him as if he might sling it, and
began, in a voice like a bell :

11 Logic is a fool. The mystery your calling is founded
on is no more a mystery than a million others. You
simply fail to get the connections. I could tell you a
dozen tales more unaccountable than that, because
they're just ripped out of the air and made manifest.
It's as if you should go out there on deck and see a
film of some kind of impalpable parchment hanging
from the topmast. You'd send up a man, he'd bring it
down to you, and you'd find on it characters you could
seem to read ; but the story they made would say noth-
ing whatever to you. I mean, it couldn't be hitched
on to the general course of things. Now I'll give you a
case in point."

He had given us no cases in point throughout the
voyage. He had simply rowed about labor and capital,
and said one was as bad as the other, capital being only
labor reversed, and we thought we had discovered his
pet nursling of a fad and just what road it was leading
him. Now two or three other men looked up, and then
moved a little nearer. They scented story as you do
when you buy the new magazine and are lotting on
having it to go to bed on. The scion of the noble
family leaned back in his chair, regarded us haughtily,
and said, "What's all this?" in a loud tone nobody
noticed except discouragingly because he was making
more noise. We left him to the solace of it, and drew
up in a circle about the William Morris man. He had
put the tip of his blunt finger the kind of digit artisans
work wonders with delicately into a little pond of
beer on the table and drawn out a line from it like a



GOLDEN BABY 277

peninsula. Then he dabbled his finger again and put it
down in another place, to make an island, and another.
A merchant of many sorts of goods, who sailed all seas,
burst out there, with a sudden recognition :

"Why, you're making islands!"

A white-faced young man of no breadth and incon-
siderable stature, who, we understood, had some
reputation as a poet of the minor variety, bent over the
table and put on his large horn-bowed spectacles to
look. He, too, spoke with an irrational quickness, as
if everything the William Morris man did suddenly
bore a meaning. It seemed as if the man had turned
on his battery and we had become aware of his voltage.

"Do you suppose that's how God did it?" asked the
little poet. "Before He ' came to the making of man '? "

But the William Morris man never answered him.
He did look up at the merchant.

"Yes," he said, "it's the West Indies." Then
he hunched his big frame back in his chair and
began speaking, rather slowly and in a quiet voice, as
if what he had to tell bore for him a significance of a
particular and really a solemn nature.

"It was a week before Christmas when we sailed.
Some company it was a bum company and went to
pieces afterward when its unseaworthy boats had all
gone cranky, one way or another, and the public had
turned back to the old standbys that rule the wave and
sap the pocket this company I forget the name-
had bought an old boat for a song and a promise,
knocked out bulkheads, furbished up some dog-holes
for new staterooms, put in red velvet and gilding,
called her the Siren, and advertised a grand excursion



278 VANISHING POINTS

to the West Indies. Somehow the idea took. It had
been a nasty winter, there was easy money, and without
much delay the Siren's list was full. I was among the
first to take passage. I was done up that winter with
statistics and the deviltry of the rich and, besides, I'd
always wanted a sniff of sugar, rum and spices on their
own ground. When I went on board there was a great
copper sunset; it looked as if it belonged to the land
exclusively and we might never have a whack at such
another when we'd left New York behind us. I turned
to look at it, as I'd been turning all the way along, and
I stood there till the splendors and banners of it blinded
me. So when I went aboard things were dark before
me momentarily, in queer shapes, the outlines of
warehouses and such, and I didn't feel that I'd really
seen anything, until, on the deck at the end of the
gangplank, I came face to face with a coolie woman,
the thinnest of her sort, with bare feet and legs, bare
arms, the slightest possible garment, and a weight of
silver bangles on her wrists and collars round her neck.
She stood there holding a child, a baby with a queer
expression of maturity, and her eyes as she looked at
me were black and solemn. They seemed to talk in a
language of their own, to sing things maybe, chant 'em
-talking wasn't good enough and they made me
shiver. The child sat there supported on the crook of
her arm and looked at me as seriously as she did, but
with a kind of well-wishing, too, as if he said :

"'Old man, you're tired, aren't you? Everybody's
tired. Glad you're shut of little old New York for a


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