Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton.

What Dreams May Come online

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by Frank Lin (pseud. of Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton)

Dedicated to Muriel Atherton



Constantinople; the month of August; the early days of the century. It
was the hour of the city's most perfect beauty. The sun was setting,
and flung a mellowing glow over the great golden domes and minarets
of the mosques, the bazaars glittering with trifles and precious with
elements of Oriental luxury, the tortuous thoroughfares with their
motley throng, the quiet streets with their latticed windows, and
their atmosphere heavy with silence and mystery, the palaces whose
cupolas and towers had watched over so many centuries of luxury and
intrigue, pleasure and crime, the pavilions, groves, gardens, kiosks
which swarmed with the luxuriance of tropical growth over the hills
and valleys of a city so vast and so beautiful that it tired the brain
and fatigued the senses. Scutari, purple and green and gold, blended
in the dying light into exquisite harmony of color; Stamboul gathered
deeper gloom under her overhanging balconies, behind which lay hidden
the loveliest of her women; and in the deserted gardens of the Old
Seraglio, beneath the heavy pall of the cypresses, memories of a
grand, terrible, barbarous, but most romantic Past crept forth and
whispered ruin and decay.

High up in Pera the gray walls of the English Embassy stood out
sharply defined against the gold-wrought sky. The windows were thrown
wide to invite the faint, capricious breeze which wandered through
the hot city; but the silken curtains were drawn in one of the smaller
reception-rooms. The room itself was a soft blaze of wax candles
against the dull richness of crimson and gold. Men and women were
idling about in that uneasy atmosphere which precedes the announcement
of dinner. Many of the men wore orders on their breasts, and the
uniforms of the countries they represented, and a number of Turks
gave a picturesque touch to the scene, with their jewelled turbans and
flowing robes. The women were as typical as their husbands; the wife
of the Russian Ambassador, with her pale hair and moonlight eyes, her
delicate shoulders and jewel-sewn robe; the Italian, with her lithe
grace and heavy brows, the Spanish beauty, with her almond,
dreamy eyes, her chiselled features and mantilla-draped head; the
Frenchwoman, with her bright, sallow, charming, unrestful face; the
Austrian, with her cold repose and latent devil. In addition were the
Secretaries of Legation, with their gaily-gowned young wives, and
one or two English residents; all assembled at the bidding of Sir
Dafyd-ap-Penrhyn, the famous diplomatist who represented England at
the court of the Sultan.

Sir Dafyd was standing between the windows and underneath one of the
heavy candelabra. He was a small but striking-looking man, with a
great deal of head above the ears, light blue eyes deeply set and far
apart, a delicate arched nose, and a certain expression of brutality
about the thin lips, so faint as to be little more than a shadow. He
was blandly apologizing for the absence of his wife. She had dressed
to meet her guests, but had been taken suddenly ill and obliged to

As he finished speaking he turned to a woman who sat on a low chair
at his right. She was young and very handsome. Her eyes were black
and brilliant, her mouth was pouting and petulant, her chin curved
slightly outward. Her features were very regular, but there was
neither softness nor repose in her face. She looked like a statue that
had been taken possession of by the Spirit of Discontent.

"I am sorry not to see Dartmouth," said the great minister, affably.
"Is he ill again? He must be careful; the fever is dangerous."

Mrs. Dartmouth drew her curved brows together with a frown which did
not soften her face. "He is writing," she said, shortly. "He is always

"O, but you know that is a Dartmouth failing - ambition," said Sir
Dafyd, with a smile. "They must be either in the study or dictating to
the King."

"Well, I wish my Fate had been a political Dartmouth. Lionel sits in
his study all day and writes poetry - which I detest. I shall bring up
my son to be a statesman."

"So that his wife may see more of him?" said Sir Dafyd, laughing. "You
are quite capable of making whatever you like of him, however, for you
are a clever woman - if you are not poetical. But it is hard that you
should be so much alone, Catherine. Why are not you and Sionèd more
together? There are so few of you here, you should try and amuse
each other. Diplomatists, like poets, see little of their wives, and
Sionèd, I have no doubt, is bored very often."

Dinner was announced at the moment, and Mrs. Dartmouth stood up and
looked her companion full in the eyes. "I do not like Sionèd," she
said, harshly. "She, too, is poetical."

For a moment there was a suspicion of color in Sir Dafyd's pale face,
and the shadow on his mouth seemed to take shape and form. Then he
bowed slightly, and crossing the room offered his arm to the wife of
the Russian Ambassador.

* * * * *

The sun sank lower, Constantinople's richer tints faded into soft opal
hues, and the muezzin called the people to prayer. From a window in a
wing of the Embassy furthest from the banqueting hall, and overlooking
the city, a woman watched the shifting panorama below. She was more
beautiful than any of her neglected guests, although her eyes were
heavy and her face was pale. Her hair was a rich, burnished brown, and
drawn up to the crown of her head in a loose mass of short curls, held
in place by a half-coronet of diamonds. In front the hair was parted
and curled, and the entire head was encircled by a band of diamond
stars which pressed the bronze ringlets low over the forehead. The
features were slightly aquiline; the head was oval and admirably
poised. But it was the individuality of the woman that made her
beauty, not features or coloring. The keen, intelligent eyes, with
their unmistakable power to soften, the spiritual brow, the strong,
sensuous chin, the tender mouth, the spirited head, each a poet's
delight, each an artist's study, all blended, a strange, strong,
passionate story in flesh and blood - a remarkable face. Her neck and
arms were bare, and she wore a short-waisted gown of yellow satin,
which fell in shining lines from belt to hem.

Pale as she was she assuredly did not look ill enough to justify her
desertion of her guests. As a matter of fact she had forgotten both
guests and excuse. When a woman has taken a resolution which flings
her suddenly up to the crisis of her destiny she is apt to forget
state dinners and whispered comment. To-morrow state dinners would
pass out of her life, and they would go unregretted. She turned
suddenly and picked up some loose sheets of manuscript which lay on a
table beside her - a poem which would immortalize the city her window
overlooked. A proud smile curved her mouth, then faded swiftly as she
pressed the pages passionately to her lips. She put them back on
the table and turning her head looked down the room with much of the
affection one gives a living thing. The room was as Oriental as any
carefully secluded chamber in the city below. The walls were hung
with heavy, soft Eastern stuffs, dusky and rich, which shut out all
suggestion of doors. The black marble floor was covered with a strange
assortment of wild beasts' skins, pale, tawny, sombre, ferocious.
There were deep, soft couches and great piles of cushions, a few rare
paintings stood on easels, and the air was heavy with jasmine. The
woman's lids fell over her eyes, and the blood mounted slowly, making
her temples throb. Then she threw back her head, a triumphant light
flashing in her eyes, and brought her open palm down sharply on the
table. "If I fall," she said, "I fall through strength, not
through weakness. If I sin, I do so wittingly, not in a moment of
overmastering passion."

She bent suddenly forward, her breath coming quickly. There were
footsteps at the end of the marble corridor without. For a moment she
trembled from head to foot. Remorse, regret, horror, fear, chased each
other across her face, her convulsed features reflecting the emotions
which for weeks past had oppressed heart and brain. Then, before the
footsteps reached the door, she was calm again and her head erect.
The glory of the sunset had faded, and behind her was the short grey
twilight of the Southern night; but in her face was that magic light
that never was on sea or land.

The heavy portière at the end of the room was thrust aside and a man
entered. He closed the door and pushed the hanging back into place,
then went swiftly forward and stood before her. She held out her hand
and he took it and drew her further within the room. The twilight had
gone from the window, the shadows had deepened, and the darkness of
night was about them.

* * * * *

In the great banqueting-hall the stout mahogany table upheld its
weight of flashing gold and silver and sparkling crystal without a
groan, and solemn, turbaned Turks passed wine and viand. Around
the board the diplomatic colony forgot their exile in remote
Constantinople, and wit and anecdote, spicy but good-humored political
discussion, repartee and flirtation made a charming accompaniment
to the wonderful variety displayed in the faces and accents of the
guests. The stately, dignified ministers of the Sultan gazed at the
fair faces and jewel-laden shoulders of the women of the North, and
sighed as they thought of their dusky wives; and the women of the
North threw blue, smiling glances to the Turks and wondered if it were
romantic to live in a harem.

At the end of the second course Sir Dafyd raised a glass of wine to
his lips, and, as he glanced about the table, conversation ceased for
a moment.

"Will you drink to my wife's health?" he said. "It has caused me much
anxiety of late."

Every glass was simultaneously raised, and then Sir Dafyd pushed back
his chair and rose to his feet. "If you will pardon me," he said, "I
will go and see how she is."

He left the room, and the wife of the Spanish Ambassador turned to
her companion with a sigh. "So devot he is, no?" she murmured. "You
Eenglish, you have the fire undere the ice. He lover his wife very
moocho when he leaver the dinner. And she lover him too, no?"

"I don't know," said the Englishman to whom she spoke. "It never
struck me that Penrhyn was a particularly lovable fellow. He's so
deuced haughty; the Welsh are worse for that than we English. He's as
unapproachable as a stone. I don't fancy the Lady Sionèd worships the
ground he treads upon. But then, he's the biggest diplomate in Great
Britain; one can't have everything."

"I no liker all the Eenglish, though," pursued the pretty Spaniard.
"The Señora Dar-muth, I no care for her. She looker like she have the
tempere - how you call him? - the dev-vil, no? And she looker like she
have the fire ouside and the ice in."

"Oh, she's not so bad," said the Englishman, loyally. "She has
some admirable traits, and she's deuced clever, but she has an
ill-regulated sort of a nature, and is awfully obstinate and
prejudiced. It's a sort of vanity. She worries Dartmouth a good deal.
He's a born poet, if ever a man was, and she wants him to go into
politics. Wants a _salon_ and all that sort of thing. She ought to
have it, too. Political intrigue would just suit her; she's diplomatic
and secretive. But Dartmouth prefers his study."

The lady from Spain raised her sympathetic, pensive eyes to the
Englishman's. "And the Señor Dar-muth? How he is? He is nice fellow? I
no meeting hime?"

"The best fellow that ever lived, God bless him!" exclaimed the young
man, enthusiastically. "He has the temperament of genius, and he isn't
always there when you want him - I mean, he isn't always in the right
mood; but he's a splendid specimen of a man, and the most likeable
fellow I ever knew - poor fellow!"

"Why you say 'poor fel-low'? He is no happy, no?"

"Well, you see," said the young man, succumbing to those lovely,
pitying eyes, and not observing that they gazed with equal tenderness
at the crimson wine in the cup beside her plate - "you see, he and his
wife are none too congenial, as I said. It makes her wild to have him
write, not only because she wants to cut a figure in London, and he
will always live in some romantic place like this, but she's in love
with him, in her way, and she's jealous of his very desk. That makes
things unpleasant about the domestic hearthstone. And then she doesn't
believe a bit in his talent, and takes good care to let him know it.
So, you see, he's not the most enviable of mortals."

"Much better she have be careful," said the Spanish woman; "some day
he feel tire out and go to lover someone else. Please you geeve me
some more clarette?"

"Here comes Sir Dafyd," said the Englishman, as he filled her glass.
"It has taken him a long time to find out how she is."

The shadow had wholly disappeared from Sir Dafyd's mouth, a faint
smile hovering there instead. As he took his seat the Austrian
Ambassador leaned forward and inquired politely about the state of
Lady Sionèd's health.

"She is sleeping quietly," said Sir Dafyd.




The Hon. Harold Dartmouth was bored. He had been in Paris three months
and it was his third winter. He was young. He possessed a liberal
allowance of good looks, money, and family prestige. Combining these
three conditions, he had managed to pretty thoroughly exhaust the
pleasures of the capital. At all events he believed he had exhausted
them, and he wanted a new sensation. He had "done" his London until it
was more flavorless than Paris, and he had dawdled more or less in the
various Courts of Europe. While in St. Petersburg he had inserted
a too curious finger into the Terrorist pie, and had come very
near making a prolonged acquaintance with the House of Preventative
Detention; but after being whisked safely out of the country under
cover of a friend's passport, he had announced himself cured of
further interest in revolutionary politics. The affair had made him
quite famous for a time, however; Krapotkin had sought him out and
warmly thanked him for his interest in the Russian Geysers, and begged
him to induce his father to abjure his peace policy and lend his hand
to the laudable breaking of Czarism's back. But Lord Cardingham, who
was not altogether ruled by his younger son, had declined to expend
his seductions upon Mr. Gladstone in the cause of a possible laying of
too heavy a rod upon England's back, and had recommended his erratic
son to let the barbarism of absolutism alone in the future, and try
his genius upon that of democracy. Dartmouth, accordingly, had spent
a winter in Washington as Secretary of Legation, and had entertained
himself by doling out such allowance of diplomatic love to the fair
American dames as had won him much biographical honor in the press
of the great republic. Upon his father's private admonition, that it
would be as well to generously resign his position in favor of some
more needy applicant, with a less complex heart-line and a slight
acquaintance with international law, he had, after a summer at
Newport, returned to Europe and again devoted himself to winning a
fame not altogether political. And now there was nothing left, and he
felt that fate had used him scurrilously. He was twenty-eight, and had
exhausted life. He had nothing left but to yawn through weary years
and wish he had never been born.

He clasped his hands behind his head and looked out on the brilliant
crowd from his chair in the Café de la Cascade in the Bois. He was
handsome, this blasé young Englishman, with a shapely head, poised
strongly upon a muscular throat. Neither beard nor moustache hid the
strong lines of the face. A high type, in spite of his career, his
face was a good deal more suggestive of passion than of sensuality.
He was tall, slight, and sinewy, and carried himself with the indolent
hauteur of a man of many grandfathers. And indeed, unless, perhaps,
that this plaything, the world, was too small, he had little to
complain of. Although a younger son, he had a large fortune in his own
right, left him by an adoring grandmother who had died shortly before
he had come of age, and with whom he had lived from infancy as adopted
son and heir. This grandmother was the one woman who had ever shone
upon his horizon whose disappearance he regretted; and he was wont
to remark that he never again expected to find anything beneath
a coiffure at once so brilliant, so fascinating, so clever, so
altogether "filling" as his lamented relative. If he ever did he would
marry and settle down as a highly respectable member of society, and
become an M.P. and the owner of a winner of the Derby; but until then
he would sigh away his tired life at the feet of beauty, Bacchus, or

"What is the matter, Hal?" asked Bective Hollington, coming up behind
him. "Yawning so early in the day?"

"Bored," replied Dartmouth, briefly. "Don't expect me to talk to you.
I haven't an idea left."

"My dear Harold, do not flatter yourself that I came to you in search
of ideas. I venture to break upon your sulky meditations in the cause
of friendship alone. If you will rouse yourself and walk to the window
you may enrich your sterile mind with an idea, possibly with ideas.
Miss Penrhyn will pass in a moment."

"The devil!"

"No, not the devil; Miss Penrhyn."

"And who the devil is Miss Penrhyn?"

"The new English, or rather, Welsh beauty, Weir Penrhyn," replied
Hollington. "She came out last season in London, and the Queen
pronounced her the most beautiful girl who had been presented at Court
for twenty years. Such a relief from the blue-eyed and 'golden-bronze'
professional! She will pass in a moment. Do rouse yourself."

Dartmouth got up languidly and walked to the window. After all, a new
face and a pretty one was something; one degree, perhaps, better than
nothing. "Which is she?" he asked. "The one in the next carriage, with
Lady Langdon, talking to Bolton."

The carriage passed them, and Harold's eyes met for a moment those
of a girl who was lying back chatting idly with a man who rode on
horseback beside her. She was a beautiful creature, truly, with a
rich, dark skin, and eyes like a tropical animal's. A youthful face,
striking and unconventional.

"Well?" queried Hollington.

"Yes, a very handsome girl," said Dartmouth. "I have seen her before,

"What! you have seen that woman before and not remembered her?
Impossible! And then you have not been in England for a year."

"I am sure I have seen her before," said Dartmouth. "Where could it
have been?"

"Her father is a Welsh baronet, and your estates are in the North, so
you could hardly have known her as a child. She was educated in the
utmost seclusion at home; no one ever saw her or heard of her until
the fag end of the last London season, and she only arrived in Paris
two days ago, and made her first appearance in public last night at
the opera, where you were not. So where could you have seen her?"

"I cannot imagine," said Dartmouth, meditatively. "But her face is
dimly familiar, and it is a most unusual one. Tell me something about
her;" and he resumed his seat.

"She is the daughter of Sir Iltyd-ap-Penrhyn," said Hollington,
craning his neck to catch a last glimpse of the disappearing beauty.
"Awfully poor, but dates back to before Chaos. Looks down with scorn
upon Sir Watkin Wynn, who hangs up the flood on the middle branch of
his family tree. They live in a dilapitated old castle on the coast,
and there Sir Iltyd brought up this tropical bird - she is an only
child - and educated her himself. Her mother died when she was very
young, and her father, with the proverbial constancy of mankind, has
never been known to smile since. Lively for the tropical bird, was
it not? Lady Langdon, who was in Wales last year, and who was an old
friend of the girl's mother, called on her and saw the professional
possibilities, so to speak. She gave the old gentleman no peace
until he told her she could take the girl to London, which she did
forthwith, before he had time to change his mind. She has made a
rousing sensation, but she is a downright beauty and no mistake. Lady
Langdon evidently intends to hold on to her, for I see she has her

"I could not have known her, of course; I have never put my foot in
Wales. But I suppose I shall meet her now. Is she to be at the Russian
Legation to-night?"

"Yes; I have it from the best authority - herself. You had better go.
She is worth knowing, I can tell you."

"Well, I'll think of it," said Dartmouth. "I must be off now; I have
no end of letters to write. I'll rely upon you to do the honors if I
go!" and he took up his hat and sauntered out.

He went directly to his apartments on the Avenue Champs Élysées, and
wrote a few epistles to his impatient and much-enduring relatives in
Britain; then, lighting a cigar, he flung himself upon the sofa. The
room accorded with the man. Art and negligence were hand-in-hand.
The hangings were of dusky-gold plush, embroidered with designs which
breathed the fervent spirit of Decorative Art, and the floor was
covered with the oldest and oddest of Persian rugs. There were
cabinets of antique medallions, cameos, and enamels; low brass
book-cases, filled with volumes bound in Russian leather, whose
pungent odor filled the room; a varied collection of pipes; a case of
valuable ceramics, one of the collection having a pedigree which
no uncelestial mind had ever pretended to grasp, and which had been
presented to Lord Cardingham, while minister to China, by the Emperor.
That his younger son had unblushingly pilfered it he had but recently
discovered, but demands for its return had as yet availed not. There
were a few valuable paintings, a case of rare old plates, many with
the coats of arms of sovereigns upon them, strangely carved chairs,
each with a history, all crowded together and making a charming nest
for the listless, somewhat morbid, and disgusted young man stretched
out upon a couch, covered with a rug of ostrich feathers brought from
the Straits of Magellan. Over the onyx mantel was a portrait of his
grandmother, a handsome old lady with high-piled, snow-white hair, and
eyes whose brilliancy age had not dimmed. The lines about the mouth
were hard, but the face was full of intelligence, and the man at her
feet had never seen anything of the hardness of her nature. She had
blindly idolized him.

"I wish she were here now," thought Dartmouth regretfully, as he
contemplated the picture through the rings of smoke; "I could talk
over things with her, and she could hit off people with that tongue of
hers. Gods! how it could cut! Poor old lady! I wonder if I shall ever
find her equal." After which, he fell asleep and forgot his sorrows
until his valet awakened him and told him it was time to dress for


I hope I have not conveyed to the reader the idea that our hero is
frivolous. On the contrary, he was considered a very brilliant young
man, and he could command the respect of his elders when he chose.
But, partly owing to his wealth and independent condition, partly to
the fact that the world had done its best to spoil him, he had led a
very aimless existence. He was by no means satisfied with his life,
however; he was far too clever for that; and he had spent a good deal
of time, first and last, reviling Fate for not having endowed him with
some talent upon which he could concentrate his energies, and with
which attain distinction and find balm for his ennui. His grandmother
had cherished the conviction that he was an undeveloped genius; but
in regard to what particular field his genius was to enrich, she had
never clearly expressed herself, and his own consciousness had not
been more explicit. He had long ago made up his mind, indeed, that
his grandmother's convictions had been the fond delusions of a doting
parent, and that the sooner he unburdened himself of that particular
legacy the better. The unburdening, however, had been accomplished
with a good deal of bitterness, for he was very ambitious and very
proud, and to be obliged to digest the fact that he was but a type of
the great majority was distinctly galling. True, politics were left.
His father, one of the most distinguished of England's statesmen, and

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Online LibraryGertrude Franklin Horn AthertonWhat Dreams May Come → online text (page 1 of 10)