Meredith Nicholson.

The House of a Thousand Candles online

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moment in our relations.

“Well,” he began deliberately, “I dislike to make
charges against a fellow man, but I strongly suspect one
of the men of being—”

“Yes! Tell the whole truth or it will be the worse
for you.”

“I very much fear one of them was Ferguson, the
gardener over the way. I’m disappointed in him,

“Very good; and now for the other one.”

“I didn’t get my eyes on him. I had closed with
Ferguson and we were having quite a lively time of it
when the other one came in; then the man who came to
my help mixed us all up,—he was a very lively person,—
and what became of Ferguson and the rest of it I don’t

There was food for thought in what he said. He had
taken punishment in defense of my property—the crack
on his head was undeniable—and I could not abuse
him or question his veracity with any grace; not, at
least, without time for investigation and study. However,
I ventured to ask him one question.

“If you were guessing, shouldn’t you think it quite
likely that Morgan was the other man?”

He met my gaze squarely.

“I think it wholly possible, Mr. Glenarm.”

“And the man who helped you—who in the devil was

“Bless me, I don’t know. He disappeared. I’d like
mightily to see him again.”

“Humph! Now you’d better do something for your
head. I’ll summon the village doctor if you say so.”

“No; thank you, sir. I’ll take care of it myself.”

“And now we’ll keep quiet about this. Don’t mention
it or discuss it with any one.”

“Certainly not, sir.”

He rose, and staggered a little, but crossed to the
broad mantel-shelf in the great chimney-breast, rested
his arm upon it for a moment, passed his hand over the
dark wood with a sort of caress, then bent his eyes upon
the floor littered with books and drawings and papers
torn from the cabinets and all splashed with tallow and
wax from the candles. The daylight had increased until
the havoc wrought by the night’s visitors was fully apparent.
The marauders had made a sorry mess of the
room, and I thought Bates’ lip quivered as he saw the

“It would have been a blow to Mr. Glenarm; the room
was his pride,—his pride, sir.”

He went out toward the kitchen, and I ran up stairs
to my own room. I cursed the folly that had led me to
leave my window open, for undoubtedly Morgan and
his new ally, St. Agatha’s gardener, had taken advantage
of it to enter the house. Quite likely, too, they had
observed my absence, and this would undoubtedly be
communicated to Pickering. I threw open my door
and started back with an exclamation of amazement.

Standing at my chiffonnier, between two windows,
was a man, clad in a bath-gown—my own, I saw with
fury—his back to me, the razor at his face, placidly
shaving himself.

Without turning he addressed me, quite coolly and
casually, as though his being there was the most natural
thing in the world.

“Good morning, Mr. Glenarm! Rather damaging
evidence, that costume. I suppose it’s the custom of the
country for gentlemen in evening clothes to go out by
the window and return by the door. You might think
the other way round preferable.”

“Larry!” I shouted.


“Kick that door shut and lock it,” he commanded, in
a sharp, severe tone that I remembered well—and just
now welcomed—in him.

“How, why and when—?”

“Never mind about me. I’m here—thrown the enemy
off for a few days; and you give me lessons in current
history first, while I climb into my armor. Pray pardon
the informality—”

He seized a broom and began work upon a pair of
trousers to which mud and briers clung tenaciously.
His coat and hat lay on a chair, they, too, much the
worse for rough wear.

There was never any use in refusing to obey Larry’s
orders, and as he got into his clothes I gave him in as
few words as possible the chief incidents that had
marked my stay at Glenarm House. He continued dressing
with care, helping himself to a shirt and collar from
my chiffonnier and choosing with unfailing eye the
best tie in my collection. Now and then he asked a
question tersely, or, again, he laughed or swore direly in
Gaelic. When I had concluded the story of Pickering’s
visit, and of the conversation I overheard between the
executor and Bates in the church porch, Larry wheeled
round with the scarf half-tied in his fingers and surveyed
me commiseratingly.

“And you didn’t rush them both on the spot and have
it out?”

“No. I was too much taken aback, for one thing—”

“I dare say you were!”

“And for another I didn’t think the time ripe. I’m
going to beat that fellow, Larry, but I want him to
show his hand fully before we come to a smash-up. I
know as much about the house and its secrets as he does,
—that’s one consolation. Sometimes I don’t believe
there’s a shilling here, and again I’m sure there’s a big
stake in it. The fact that Pickering is risking so much
to find what’s supposed to be hidden here is pretty fair
evidence that something’s buried on the place.”

“Possibly, but they’re giving you a lively boycott.
Now where in the devil have you been?”

“Well,—” I began and hesitated. I had not mentioned
Marian Devereux and this did not seem the time
for confidences of that sort.

He took a cigarette from his pocket and lighted it.

“Bah, these women! Under the terms of your revered
grandfather’s will you have thrown away all your rights.
It looks to me, as a member of the Irish bar in bad
standing, as though you had delivered yourself up to
the enemy, so far as the legal situation is concerned.
How does it strike you?”

“Of course I’ve forfeited my rights. But I don’t
mean that any one shall know it yet a while.”

“My lad, don’t deceive yourself. Everybody round
here will know it before night. You ran off, left your
window open invitingly, and two gentlemen who meditated
breaking in found that they needn’t take the trouble.
One came in through your own room, noting, of
course, your absence, let in his friend below, and tore
up the place regrettably.”

“Yes, but how did you get here?—if you don’t mind

“It’s a short story. That little chap from Scotland
Yard, who annoyed me so much in New York and drove
me to Mexico—for which may he dwell for ever in fiery
torment—has never given up. I shook him off, though,
at Indianapolis three days ago. I bought a ticket for
Pittsburg with him at my elbow. I suppose he thought
the chase was growing tame, and that the farther east
he could arrest me the nearer I should be to a British
consul and tide-water. I went ahead of him into the
station and out to the Pittsburg sleeper. I dropped my
bag into my section—if that’s what they call it in your
atrocious American language—looked out and saw him
coming along the platform. Just then the car began to
move,—they were shunting it about to attach a sleeper
that had been brought in from Louisville and my carriage,
or whatever you call it, went skimming out of
the sheds into a yard where everything seemed to be
most noisy and complex. I dropped off in the dark
just before they began to haul the carriage back. A
long train of empty goods wagons was just pulling
out and I threw my bag into a wagon and climbed after
it. We kept going for an hour or so until I was thoroughly
lost, then I took advantage of a stop at a place
that seemed to be the end of terrestrial things, got out
and started across country. I expressed my bag to you
the other day from a town that rejoiced in the cheering
name of Kokomo, just to get rid of it. I walked into
Annandale about midnight, found this medieval marvel
through the kindness of the station-master and was reconnoitering
with my usual caution when I saw a gentleman
romantically entering through an open window.”

Larry paused to light a fresh cigarette.

“You always did have a way of arriving opportunely.
Go on!”

“It pleased my fancy to follow him; and by the time
I had studied your diggings here a trifle, things began
to happen below. It sounded like a St. Patrick’s
Day celebration in an Irish village, and I went down at
a gallop to see if there was any chance of breaking in.
Have you seen the room? Well,”—he gave several
turns to his right wrist, as though to test it,—“we all
had a jolly time there by the fireplace. Another chap
had got in somewhere, so there were two of them. Your
man—I suppose it’s your man—was defending himself
gallantly with a large thing of brass that looked like
the pipes of a grand organ—and I sailed in with a chair.
My presence seemed to surprise the attacking party,
who evidently thought I was you,—flattering, I must
say, to me!”

“You undoubtedly saved Bates’ life and prevented the
rifling of the house. And after you had poured water
on Bates,—he’s the servant,—you came up here—”

“That’s the way of it.”

“You’re a brick, Larry Donovan. There’s only one of
you; and now—”

“And now, John Glenarm, we’ve got to get down to
business,—or you must. As for me, after a few hours
of your enlivening society—”

“You don’t go a step until we go together,—no, by
the beard of the prophet! I’ve a fight on here and I’m
going to win if I die in the struggle, and you’ve got to
stay with me to the end.”

“But under the will you dare not take a boarder.”

“Of course I dare! That will’s as though it had
never been as far as I’m concerned. My grandfather
never expected me to sit here alone and be murdered.
John Marshall Glenarm wasn’t a fool exactly!”

“No, but a trifle queer, I should say. I don’t have
to tell you, old man, that this situation appeals to me.
It’s my kind of a job. If it weren’t that the hounds are
at my heels I’d like to stay with you, but you have
enough trouble on hands without opening the house to
an attack by my enemies.”

“Stop talking about it. I don’t propose to be deserted
by the only friend I have in the world when I’m up
to my eyes in trouble. Let’s go down and get some

We found Bates trying to remove the evidences of the
night’s struggle. He had fastened a cold pack about his
head and limped slightly; otherwise he was the same—
silent and inexplicable.

Daylight had not improved the appearance of the
room. Several hundred books lay scattered over the
floor, and the shelves which had held them were hacked
and broken.

“Bates, if you can give us some coffee—? Let the
room go for the present.”

‘‘Yes, sir.”

“And Bates—”

He paused and Larry’s keen eyes were bent sharply
upon him.

“Mr. Donovan is a friend who will be with me for
some time. We’ll fix up his room later in the day”

He limped out, Larry’s eyes following him.

“What do you think of that fellow?” I asked.

Larry’s face wore a puzzled look.

“What do you call him,—Bates? He’s a plucky fellow.”

Larry picked up from the hearth the big candelabrum
with which Bates had defended himself. It
was badly bent and twisted, and Larry grinned.

“The fellow who went out through the front door
probably isn’t feeling very well to-day. Your man was
swinging this thing like a windmill.”

“I can’t understand it,” I muttered. “I can’t, for
the life of me, see why he should have given battle to
the enemy. They all belong to Pickering, and Bates is
the biggest rascal of the bunch.”

“Humph! we’ll consider that later. And would you
mind telling me what kind of a tallow foundry this is?
I never saw so many candlesticks in my life. I seem
to taste tallow. I had no letters from you, and I supposed
you were loafing quietly in a grim farm-house,
dying of ennui, and here you are in an establishment
that ought to be the imperial residence of an Eskimo
chief. Possibly you have crude petroleum for soup and
whipped salad-oil for dessert. I declare, a man living
here ought to attain a high candle-power of luminosity.
It’s perfectly immense.” He stared and laughed. “And
hidden treasure, and night attacks, and young virgins
in the middle distance,—yes, I’d really like to stay a

As we ate breakfast I filled in gaps I had left in my
hurried narrative, with relief that I can not describe filling
my heart as I leaned again upon the sympathy of
an old and trusted friend.

As Bates came and went I marked Larry’s scrutiny of
the man. I dismissed him as soon as possible that we
might talk freely.

“Take it up and down and all around, what do you
think of all this?” I asked.

Larry was silent for a moment; he was not given to
careless speech in personal matters.

“There’s more to it than frightening you off or getting
your grandfather’s money. It’s my guess that
there’s something in this house that somebody—Pickering
supposedly—is very anxious to find.”

“Yes; I begin to think so. He could come in here
legally if it were merely a matter of searching for lost

“Yes; and whatever it is it must be well hidden. As
I remember, your grandfather died in June. You got
a letter calling you home in October.”

“It was sent out blindly, with not one chance in a
hundred that it would ever reach me.”

“To be sure. You were a wanderer on the face of the
earth, and there was nobody in America to look after
your interests. You may be sure that the place was
thoroughly ransacked while you were sailing home. I’ll
wager you the best dinner you ever ate that there’s more
at stake than your grandfather’s money. The situation
is inspiring. I grow interested. I’m almost persuaded
to linger.”



Larry refused to share my quarters and chose a room
for himself, which Bates fitted, up out of the house
stores. I did not know what Bates might surmise about
Larry, but he accepted my friend in good part, as a
guest who would remain indefinitely. He seemed to interest
Larry, whose eyes followed the man inquiringly.
When we went into Bates’ room on our tour of the
house, Larry scanned the books on a little shelf with
something more than a casual eye. There were exactly
four volumes,—Shakespeare’s Comedies, The Faerie
Queen, Sterne’s Sentimental Journey and Yeats’ Land
of Heart’s Desire.

“A queer customer, Larry. Nobody but my grandfather
could ever have discovered him—he found him
up in Vermont.”

“I suppose his being a bloomin’ Yankee naturally accounts
for this,” remarked Larry, taking from under the
pillow of the narrow iron bed a copy of the Dublin
Freeman’s Journal.

“It is a little odd,” I said. “But if you found a Yiddish
newspaper or an Egyptian papyrus under his pillow
I should not be surprised.”

“Nor I,” said Larry. “I’ll wager that not another
shelf in this part of the world contains exactly that collection
of books, and nothing else. You will notice that
there was once a book-plate in each of these volumes and
that it’s been scratched out with care.”

On a small table were pen and ink and a curious
much-worn portfolio.

“He always gets the mail first, doesn’t he?” asked

“Yes, I believe he does.”

“I thought so; and I’ll swear he never got a letter
from Vermont in his life.”

When we went down Bates was limping about the
library, endeavoring to restore order.

“Bates,” I said to him, “you are a very curious person.
I have had a thousand and one opinions about you
since I came here, and I still don’t make you out.”

He turned from the shelves, a defaced volume in his

“Yes, sir. It was a good deal that way with your lamented
grandfather. He always said I puzzled him.”

Larry, safe behind the fellow’s back, made no attempt
to conceal a smile.

“I want to thank you for your heroic efforts to protect
the house last night. You acted nobly, and I must
confess, Bates, that I didn’t think it was in you. You’ve
got the right stuff in you; I’m only sorry that there are
black pages in your record that I can’t reconcile with
your manly conduct of last night. But we’ve got to
come to an understanding.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The most outrageous attacks have been made on me
since I came here. You know what I mean well enough.
Mr. Glenarm never intended that I should sit down in
his house and be killed or robbed. He was the gentlest
being that ever lived, and I’m going to fight for his
memory and to protect his property from the scoundrels
who have plotted against me. I hope you follow me.”

“Yes, Mr. Glenarm.” He was regarding me attentively.
His lips quavered, perhaps from weakness, for
he certainly looked ill.

“Now I offer you your choice,—either to stand loyally
by me and my grandfather’s house or to join these
scoundrels Arthur Pickering has hired to drive me out.
I’m not going to bribe you,—I don’t offer you a cent for
standing by me, but I won’t have a traitor in the house,
and if you don’t like me or my terms I want you to go
and go now.”

He straightened quickly,—his eyes lighted and the
color crept into his face. I had never before seen him
appear so like a human being.

“Mr. Glenarm, you have been hard on me; there have
been times when you have been very unjust—”

“Unjust,—my God, what do you expect me to
take from you! Haven’t I known that you were in
league with Pickering? I’m not as dull as I look, and
after your interview with Pickering in the chapel porch
you can’t convince me that you were faithful to my interests
at that time.”

He started and gazed at me wonderingly. I had had
no intention of using the chapel porch interview at this
time, but it leaped out of me uncontrollably.

“I suppose, sir,” he began brokenly, “that I can hardly
persuade you that I meant no wrong on that occasion.”

“You certainly can not,—and it’s safer for you not
to try. But I’m willing to let all that go as a reward
for your work last night. Make your choice now; stay
here and stop your spying or clear out of Annandale
within an hour.”

He took a step toward me; the table was between us
and he drew quite near but stood clear of it, erect until
there was something almost soldierly and commanding
in his figure.

“By God, I will stand by you, John Glenarm!” he
said, and struck the table smartly with his clenched

He flushed instantly, and I felt the blood mounting
into my own face as we gazed at each other,—he, Bates,
the servant, and I, his master! He had always addressed
me so punctiliously with the “sir” of respect that his
declaration of fealty, spoken with so sincere and vigorous
an air of independence, and with the bold emphasis
of the oath, held me spellbound, staring at him. The
silence was broken by Larry, who sprang forward and
grasped Bates’ hand.

“I, too, Bates,” I said, feeling my heart leap with
liking, even with admiration for the real manhood that
seemed to transfigure this hireling,—this fellow whom I
had charged with most infamous treachery, this servant
who had cared for my needs in so humble a spirit of

The knocker on the front door sounded peremptorily,
and Bates turned away without another word, and admitted
Stoddard, who came in hurriedly.

“Merry Christmas!” in his big hearty tones was
hardly consonant with the troubled look on his face. I
introduced him to Larry and asked him to sit down.

“Pray excuse our disorder,—we didn’t do it for fun;
it was one of Santa Claus’ tricks.”

He stared about wonderingly.

“So you caught it, too, did you?”

“To be sure. You don’t mean to say that they raided
the chapel?”

“That’s exactly what I mean to say. When I went
into the church for my early service I found that some
one had ripped off the wainscoting in a half a dozen
places and even pried up the altar. It’s the most outrageous
thing I ever knew. You’ve heard of the proverbial
poverty of the church mouse,—what do you suppose
anybody could want to raid a simple little country
chapel for? And more curious yet, the church plate
was untouched, though the closet where it’s kept was
upset, as though the miscreants had been looking for
something they didn’t find.”

Stoddard was greatly disturbed, and gazed about the
topsy-turvy library with growing indignation.

We drew together for a council of war. Here was an
opportunity to enlist a new recruit on my side. I already
felt stronger by reason of Larry’s accession; as to
Bates, my mind was still numb and bewildered.

“Larry, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t join forces
with Mr. Stoddard, as he seems to be affected by this
struggle. We owe it to him and the school to put him
on guard, particularly since we know that Ferguson’s
with the enemy.”

“Yes, certainly,” said Larry.

He always liked or disliked new people unequivocally,
and I was glad to see that he surveyed the big clergyman
with approval.

“I’ll begin at the beginning,” I said, “and tell you
the whole story.”

He listened quietly to the end while I told him of my
experience with Morgan, of the tunnel into the chapel
crypt, and finally of the affair in the night and our interview
with Bates.

“I feel like rubbing my eyes and accusing you of
reading penny-horrors,” he said. “That doesn’t sound
like the twentieth century in Indiana.”

“But Ferguson,—you’d better have a care in his direction.
Sister Theresa—”

“Bless your heart! Ferguson’s gone—without notice.
He got his traps and skipped without saying a word to
any one.”

“We’ll hear from him again, no doubt. Now, gentlemen,
I believe we understand one another. I don’t like
to draw you, either one of you, into my private affairs—”

The big chaplain laughed.

“Glenarm,”—prefixes went out of commission quickly
that morning,—”if you hadn’t let me in on this I
should never have got over it. Why, this is a page out
of the good old times! Bless me! I never appreciated
your grandfather! I must run—I have another service.
But I hope you gentlemen will call on me, day or night,
for anything I can do to help you. Please don’t forget
me. I had the record once for putting the shot.”

“Why not give our friend escort through the tunnel?”
asked Larry. “I’ll not hesitate to say that I’m dying
to see it.”

“To be sure!” We went down into the cellar, and
poked over the lantern and candlestick collections, and
I pointed out the exact spot where Morgan and I had
indulged in our revolver duel. It was fortunate that
the plastered walls of the cellar showed clearly the cuts
and scars of the pistol-balls or I fear my story would
have fallen on incredulous ears.

The debris I had piled upon the false block of stone
in the cellar lay as I had left it, but the three of us
quickly freed the trap. The humor of the thing took
strong hold of my new allies, and while I was getting a
lantern to light us through the passage Larry sat on the
edge of the trap and howled a few bars of a wild Irish
jig. We set forth at once and found the passage unchanged.
When the cold air blew in upon us I paused.

“Have you gentlemen the slightest idea of where
you are?”

“We must be under the school-grounds, I should say,”
replied Stoddard.

“We’re exactly under the stone wall. Those tall posts
at the gate are a scheme for keeping fresh air in the

“You certainly have all the modern improvements,”
observed Larry, and I heard him chuckling all the way
to the crypt door.

When I pushed the panel open and we stepped out
into the crypt Stoddard whistled and Larry swore

“It must be for something!” exclaimed the chaplain.
“You don’t suppose Mr. Glenarm built a secret passage
just for the fun of it, do you? He must have had some
purpose. Why, I sleep out here within forty yards of
where we stand and I never had the slightest idea of

“But other people seem to know of it,” observed

“To be sure; the curiosity of the whole countryside
was undoubtedly piqued by the building of Glenarm
House. The fact that workmen were brought from a
distance was in itself enough to arouse interest. Morgan
seems to have discovered the passage without any

“More likely it was Ferguson. He was the sexton of
the church and had a chance to investigate,” said Stoddard.

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonThe House of a Thousand Candles → online text (page 13 of 19)