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can stay here always and be my little girl. It all rests with you."

"I can't stay," she sobbed. "I can't!"

"And that is what made you so sad once or twice?" he asked, with a
double eagerness.

She made no reply.

"Oh!" he said, passionately, "give me your confidence, Blanche. You are
the only breathing thing that I love."

"If I could I would," she said. "But I don't know - not quite."

"How much do you know?"

But she sobbed again and would not answer. He dared not risk too much.
After all, the physical barrier between the past and the present was
very young.

"Well, well, then, we will talk about the other matter. I will not
pretend to disguise the fact that your mother is distressed at the idea
of parting from you, and thinks it would be as sad for your brothers
and sisters, whom she says you influence for their good. Do you think
that you do?"

"Yes."

"How do you know this?"

"Do you know why you know everything?"

"No, my dear, and I have great respect for your instincts. But your
sisters and brothers are now old enough to take care of themselves. They
must be of poor stuff if they cannot live properly without the aid of a
child. Moreover, they will be marrying soon. That will also mean that
your mother will have many little grandchildren to console her for your
loss. I will be the one bereft, if you leave me. I am the only one who
really needs you. I don't say I will go to the bad, as you may have very
foolishly persuaded yourself your family will do without you, but I
trust to your instincts to make you realize how unhappy, how
inconsolable I shall be. I shall be the loneliest man on earth!"

She rubbed her face deeper into his flannels, and tightened her embrace.
"Can't you come, too?" she asked.

"No; you must live with me wholly or not at all. Your people are not my
people, their ways are not my ways. We should not get along. And if you
lived with me over there you might as well stay here, for your
influence over them would be quite as removed. Moreover, if they are of
the right stuff, the memory of you will be quite as potent for good as
your actual presence."

"Not unless I died."

Again something within him trembled. "Do you believe you are going to
die young?" he blurted out.

But she would not answer.

He entered the nursery abruptly the next day and found her packing her
dolls. When she saw him, she sat down and began to weep hopelessly. He
knew then that his fate was sealed. And when, a year later, he received
her last little scrawl, he was almost glad that she went when she did.




II

The Striding Place


Weigall, continental and detached, tired early of grouse-shooting. To
stand propped against a sod fence while his host's workmen routed up the
birds with long poles and drove them towards the waiting guns, made him
feel himself a parody on the ancestors who had roamed the moors and
forests of this West Riding of Yorkshire in hot pursuit of game worth
the killing. But when in England in August he always accepted whatever
proffered for the season, and invited his host to shoot pheasants on his
estates in the South. The amusements of life, he argued, should be
accepted with the same philosophy as its ills.

It had been a bad day. A heavy rain had made the moor so spongy that it
fairly sprang beneath the feet. Whether or not the grouse had haunts of
their own, wherein they were immune from rheumatism, the bag had been
small. The women, too, were an unusually dull lot, with the exception of
a new-minded _débutante_ who bothered Weigall at dinner by demanding the
verbal restoration of the vague paintings on the vaulted roof above
them.

But it was no one of these things that sat on Weigall's mind as, when
the other men went up to bed, he let himself out of the castle and
sauntered down to the river. His intimate friend, the companion of his
boyhood, the chum of his college days, his fellow-traveller in many
lands, the man for whom he possessed stronger affection than for all
men, had mysteriously disappeared two days ago, and his track might have
sprung to the upper air for all trace he had left behind him. He had
been a guest on the adjoining estate during the past week, shooting with
the fervor of the true sportsman, making love in the intervals to
Adeline Cavan, and apparently in the best of spirits. As far as was
known there was nothing to lower his mental mercury, for his rent-roll
was a large one, Miss Cavan blushed whenever he looked at her, and,
being one of the best shots in England, he was never happier than in
August. The suicide theory was preposterous, all agreed, and there was
as little reason to believe him murdered. Nevertheless, he had walked
out of March Abbey two nights ago without hat or overcoat, and had not
been seen since.

The country was being patrolled night and day. A hundred keepers and
workmen were beating the woods and poking the bogs on the moors, but as
yet not so much as a handkerchief had been found.

Weigall did not believe for a moment that Wyatt Gifford was dead, and
although it was impossible not to be affected by the general uneasiness,
he was disposed to be more angry than frightened. At Cambridge Gifford
had been an incorrigible practical joker, and by no means had outgrown
the habit; it would be like him to cut across the country in his evening
clothes, board a cattle-train, and amuse himself touching up the picture
of the sensation in West Riding.

However, Weigall's affection for his friend was too deep to companion
with tranquillity in the present state of doubt, and, instead of going
to bed early with the other men, he determined to walk until ready for
sleep. He went down to the river and followed the path through the
woods. There was no moon, but the stars sprinkled their cold light upon
the pretty belt of water flowing placidly past wood and ruin, between
green masses of overhanging rocks or sloping banks tangled with tree and
shrub, leaping occasionally over stones with the harsh notes of an angry
scold, to recover its equanimity the moment the way was clear again.

It was very dark in the depths where Weigall trod. He smiled as he
recalled a remark of Gifford's: "An English wood is like a good many
other things in life - very promising at a distance, but a hollow mockery
when you get within. You see daylight on both sides, and the sun
freckles the very bracken. Our woods need the night to make them seem
what they ought to be - what they once were, before our ancestors'
descendants demanded so much more money, in these so much more various
days."

Weigall strolled along, smoking, and thinking of his friend, his
pranks - many of which had done more credit to his imagination than
this - and recalling conversations that had lasted the night through.
Just before the end of the London season they had walked the streets one
hot night after a party, discussing the various theories of the soul's
destiny. That afternoon they had met at the coffin of a college friend
whose mind had been a blank for the past three years. Some months
previously they had called at the asylum to see him. His expression had
been senile, his face imprinted with the record of debauchery. In death
the face was placid, intelligent, without ignoble lineation - the face of
the man they had known at college. Weigall and Gifford had had no time
to comment there, and the afternoon and evening were full; but, coming
forth from the house of festivity together, they had reverted almost at
once to the topic.

"I cherish the theory," Gifford had said, "that the soul sometimes
lingers in the body after death. During madness, of course, it is an
impotent prisoner, albeit a conscious one. Fancy its agony, and its
horror! What more natural than that, when the life-spark goes out, the
tortured soul should take possession of the vacant skull and triumph
once more for a few hours while old friends look their last? It has had
time to repent while compelled to crouch and behold the result of its
work, and it has shrived itself into a state of comparative purity. If I
had my way, I should stay inside my bones until the coffin had gone into
its niche, that I might obviate for my poor old comrade the tragic
impersonality of death. And I should like to see justice done to it, as
it were - to see it lowered among its ancestors with the ceremony and
solemnity that are its due. I am afraid that if I dissevered myself too
quickly, I should yield to curiosity and hasten to investigate the
mysteries of space."

"You believe in the soul as an independent entity, then - -that it and
the vital principle are not one and the same?"

"Absolutely. The body and soul are twins, life comrades - sometimes
friends, sometimes enemies, but always loyal in the last instance. Some
day, when I am tired of the world, I shall go to India and become a
mahatma, solely for the pleasure of receiving proof during life of this
independent relationship."

"Suppose you were not sealed up properly, and returned after one of your
astral flights to find your earthly part unfit for habitation? It is an
experiment I don't think I should care to try, unless even juggling with
soul and flesh had palled."

"That would not be an uninteresting predicament. I should rather enjoy
experimenting with broken machinery."

The high wild roar of water smote suddenly upon Weigall's ear and
checked his memories. He left the wood and walked out on the huge
slippery stones which nearly close the River Wharfe at this point, and
watched the waters boil down into the narrow pass with their furious
untiring energy. The black quiet of the woods rose high on either side.
The stars seemed colder and whiter just above. On either hand the
perspective of the river might have run into a rayless cavern. There
was no lonelier spot in England, nor one which had the right to claim so
many ghosts, if ghosts there were.

Weigall was not a coward, but he recalled uncomfortably the tales of
those that had been done to death in the Strid.[1] Wordsworth's Boy of
Egremond had been disposed of by the practical Whitaker; but countless
others, more venturesome than wise, had gone down into that narrow
boiling course, never to appear in the still pool a few yards beyond.
Below the great rocks which form the walls of the Strid was believed to
be a natural vault, on to whose shelves the dead were drawn. The spot
had an ugly fascination. Weigall stood, visioning skeletons, uncoffined
and green, the home of the eyeless things which had devoured all that
had covered and filled that rattling symbol of man's mortality; then
fell to wondering if any one had attempted to leap the Strid of late. It
was covered with slime; he had never seen it look so treacherous.

[Footnote 1:
"This striding place is called the 'Strid,'
A name which it took of yore;
A thousand years hath it borne the name,
And it shall a thousand more."
]

He shuddered and turned away, impelled, despite his manhood, to flee the
spot. As he did so, something tossing in the foam below the
fall - something as white, yet independent of it - caught his eye and
arrested his step. Then he saw that it was describing a contrary motion
to the rushing water - an upward backward motion. Weigall stood rigid,
breathless; he fancied he heard the crackling of his hair. Was that a
hand? It thrust itself still higher above the boiling foam, turned
sidewise, and four frantic fingers were distinctly visible against the
black rock beyond.

Weigall's superstitious terror left him. A man was there, struggling to
free himself from the suction beneath the Strid, swept down, doubtless,
but a moment before his arrival, perhaps as he stood with his back to
the current.

He stepped as close to the edge as he dared. The hand doubled as if in
imprecation, shaking savagely in the face of that force which leaves its
creatures to immutable law; then spread wide again, clutching,
expanding, crying for help as audibly as the human voice.

Weigall dashed to the nearest tree, dragged and twisted off a branch
with his strong arms, and returned as swiftly to the Strid. The hand was
in the same place, still gesticulating as wildly; the body was
undoubtedly caught in the rocks below, perhaps already half-way along
one of those hideous shelves. Weigall let himself down upon a lower
rock, braced his shoulder against the mass beside him, then, leaning out
over the water, thrust the branch into the hand. The fingers clutched it
convulsively. Weigall tugged powerfully, his own feet dragged perilously
near the edge. For a moment he produced no impression, then an arm shot
above the waters.

The blood sprang to Weigall's head; he was choked with the impression
that the Strid had him in her roaring hold, and he saw nothing. Then the
mist cleared. The hand and arm were nearer, although the rest of the
body was still concealed by the foam. Weigall peered out with distended
eyes. The meagre light revealed in the cuffs links of a peculiar device.
The fingers clutching the branch were as familiar.

Weigall forgot the slippery stones, the terrible death if he stepped too
far. He pulled with passionate will and muscle. Memories flung
themselves into the hot light of his brain, trooping rapidly upon each
other's heels, as in the thought of the drowning. Most of the pleasures
of his life, good and bad, were identified in some way with this friend.
Scenes of college days, of travel, where they had deliberately sought
adventure and stood between one another and death upon more occasions
than one, of hours of delightful companionship among the treasures of
art, and others in the pursuit of pleasure, flashed like the changing
particles of a kaleidoscope. Weigall had loved several women; but he
would have flouted in these moments the thought that he had ever loved
any woman as he loved Wyatt Gifford. There were so many charming women
in the world, and in the thirty-two years of his life he had never known
another man to whom he had cared to give his intimate friendship.

He threw himself on his face. His wrists were cracking, the skin was
torn from his hands. The fingers still gripped the stick. There was life
in them yet.

Suddenly something gave way. The hand swung about, tearing the branch
from Weigall's grasp. The body had been liberated and flung outward,
though still submerged by the foam and spray.

Weigall scrambled to his feet and sprang along the rocks, knowing that
the danger from suction was over and that Gifford must be carried
straight to the quiet pool. Gifford was a fish in the water and could
live under it longer than most men. If he survived this, it would not be
the first time that his pluck and science had saved him from drowning.

Weigall reached the pool. A man in his evening clothes floated on it,
his face turned towards a projecting rock over which his arm had fallen,
upholding the body. The hand that had held the branch hung limply over
the rock, its white reflection visible in the black water. Weigall
plunged into the shallow pool, lifted Gifford in his arms and returned
to the bank. He laid the body down and threw off his coat that he might
be the freer to practise the methods of resuscitation. He was glad of
the moment's respite. The valiant life in the man might have been
exhausted in that last struggle. He had not dared to look at his face,
to put his ear to the heart. The hesitation lasted but a moment. There
was no time to lose.

He turned to his prostrate friend. As he did so, something strange and
disagreeable smote his senses. For a half-moment he did not appreciate
its nature. Then his teeth clacked together, his feet, his outstretched
arms pointed towards the woods. But he sprang to the side of the man and
bent down and peered into his face. There was no face.




III

The Dead and the Countess

(Republished from the _Smart Set_)


It was an old cemetery, and they had been long dead. Those who died
nowadays were put in the new burying-place on the hill, close to the
Bois d'Amour and within sound of the bells that called the living to
mass. But the little church where the mass was celebrated stood
faithfully beside the older dead; a new church, indeed, had not been
built in that forgotten corner of Finisterre for centuries, not since
the calvary on its pile of stones had been raised in the tiny square,
surrounded then, as now, perhaps, by gray naked cottages; not since the
castle with its round tower, down on the river, had been erected for the
Counts of Croisac. But the stone walls enclosing that ancient cemetery
had been kept in good repair, and there were no weeds within, nor
toppling headstones. It looked cold and gray and desolate, like all the
cemeteries of Brittany, but it was made hideous neither by tawdry
gewgaws nor the license of time.

And sometimes it was close to a picture of beauty. When the village
celebrated its yearly _pardon_, a great procession came out of the
church - priests in glittering robes, young men in their gala costume of
black and silver, holding flashing standards aloft, and many maidens in
flapping white head-dress and collar, black frocks and aprons flaunting
with ribbons and lace. They marched, chanting, down the road beside the
wall of the cemetery, where lay the generations that in their day had
held the banners and chanted the service of the _pardon_. For the dead
were peasants and priests - the Croisacs had their burying-place in a
hollow of the hills behind the castle - old men and women who had wept
and died for the fishermen that had gone to the _grande pêche_ and
returned no more, and now and again a child, slept there. Those who
walked past the dead at the _pardon_, or after the marriage ceremony, or
took part in any one of the minor religious festivals with which the
Catholic village enlivens its existence - all, young and old, looked
grave and sad. For the women from childhood know that their lot is to
wait and dread and weep, and the men that the ocean is treacherous and
cruel, but that bread can be wrung from no other master. Therefore the
living have little sympathy for the dead who have laid down their
crushing burden; and the dead under their stones slumber contentedly
enough. There is no envy among them for the young who wander at evening
and pledge their troth in the Bois d'Amour, only pity for the groups of
women who wash their linen in the creek that flows to the river. They
look like pictures in the green quiet book of nature, these women, in
their glistening white head-gear and deep collars; but the dead know
better than to envy them, and the women - and the lovers - know better
than to pity the dead.

The dead lay at rest in their boxes and thanked God they were quiet and
had found everlasting peace.

And one day even this, for which they had patiently endured life, was
taken from them.

The village was picturesque and there was none quite like it, even in
Finisterre. Artists discovered it and made it famous. After the artists
followed the tourists, and the old creaking _diligence_ became an
absurdity. Brittany was the fashion for three months of the year, and
wherever there is fashion there is at least one railway. The one built
to satisfy the thousands who wished to visit the wild, sad beauties of
the west of France was laid along the road beside the little cemetery
of this tale.

It takes a long while to awaken the dead. These heard neither the
voluble working-men nor even the first snort of the engine. And, of
course, they neither heard nor knew of the pleadings of the old priest
that the line should be laid elsewhere. One night he came out into the
old cemetery and sat on a grave and wept. For he loved his dead and felt
it to be a tragic pity that the greed of money, and the fever of travel,
and the petty ambitions of men whose place was in the great cities where
such ambitions were born, should shatter forever the holy calm of those
who had suffered so much on earth. He had known many of them in life,
for he was very old; and although he believed, like all good Catholics,
in heaven and purgatory and hell, yet he always saw his friends as he
had buried them, peacefully asleep in their coffins, the souls lying
with folded hands like the bodies that held them, patiently awaiting the
final call. He would never have told you, this good old priest, that he
believed heaven to be a great echoing palace in which God and the
archangels dwelt alone waiting for that great day when the elected dead
should rise and enter the Presence together, for he was a simple old man
who had read and thought little; but he had a zigzag of fancy in his
humble mind, and he saw his friends and his ancestors' friends as I have
related to you, soul and body in the deep undreaming sleep of death, but
sleep, not a rotted body deserted by its affrighted mate; and to all who
sleep there comes, sooner or later, the time of awakening.

He knew that they had slept through the wild storms that rage on the
coast of Finisterre, when ships are flung on the rocks and trees crash
down in the Bois d'Amour. He knew that the soft, slow chantings of the
_pardon_ never struck a chord in those frozen memories, meagre and
monotonous as their store had been; nor the bagpipes down in the open
village hall - a mere roof on poles - when the bride and her friends
danced for three days without a smile on their sad brown faces.

All this the dead had known in life and it could not disturb nor
interest them now. But that hideous intruder from modern civilization, a
train of cars with a screeching engine, that would shake the earth which
held them and rend the peaceful air with such discordant sounds that
neither dead nor living could sleep! His life had been one long unbroken
sacrifice, and he sought in vain to imagine one greater, which he would
cheerfully assume could this disaster be spared his dead.

But the railway was built, and the first night the train went screaming
by, shaking the earth and rattling the windows of the church, he went
out and sprinkled every grave with holy-water.

And thereafter, twice a day, at dawn and at night, as the train tore a
noisy tunnel in the quiet air, like the plebeian upstart it was, he
sprinkled every grave, rising sometimes from a bed of pain, at other
times defying wind and rain and hail. And for a while he believed that
his holy device had deepened the sleep of his dead, locked them beyond
the power of man to awake. But one night he heard them muttering.

It was late. There were but a few stars on a black sky. Not a breath of
wind came over the lonely plains beyond, or from the sea. There would be
no wrecks to-night, and all the world seemed at peace. The lights were
out in the village. One burned in the tower of Croisac, where the young
wife of the count lay ill. The priest had been with her when the train
thundered by, and she had whispered to him:

"Would that I were on it! Oh, this lonely lonely land! this cold echoing
château, with no one to speak to day after day! If it kills me, _mon
père_, make him lay me in the cemetery by the road, that twice a day I
may hear the train go by - the train that goes to Paris! If they put me
down there over the hill, I will shriek in my coffin every night."

The priest had ministered as best he could to the ailing soul of the
young noblewoman, with whose like he seldom dealt, and hastened back to
his dead. He mused, as he toiled along the dark road with rheumatic
legs, on the fact that the woman should have the same fancy as himself.

"If she is really sincere, poor young thing," he thought aloud, "I will
forbear to sprinkle holy-water on her grave. For those who suffer while
alive should have all they desire after death, and I am afraid the count
neglects her. But I pray God that my dead have not heard that monster
to-night." And he tucked his gown under his arm and hurriedly told his
rosary.

But when he went about among the graves with the holy-water he heard the
dead muttering.

"Jean-Marie," said a voice, fumbling among its unused tones for
forgotten notes, "art thou ready? Surely that is the last call."

"Nay, nay," rumbled another voice, "that is not the sound of a trumpet,
François. That will be sudden and loud and sharp, like the great blasts
of the north when they come plunging over the sea from out the awful
gorges of Iceland. Dost thou remember them, François? Thank the good
God they spared us to die in our beds with our grandchildren about us
and only the little wind sighing in the Bois d'Amour. Ah, the poor
comrades that died in their manhood, that went to the _grande pêche_
once too often! Dost thou remember when the great wave curled round


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