Meredith Nicholson.

The House of a Thousand Candles online

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“And now, gentlemen, I must go to my service.
I’ll see you again before the day is over.”

“And we make no confidences!” I admonished.

“‘Sdeath!—I believe that is the proper expression under
all the circumstances.” And the Reverend Paul
Stoddard laughed, clasped my hand and went up into
the chapel vestry.

I closed the door in the wainscoting and hung the
map back in place.

We went up into the little chapel and found a small
company of worshipers assembled,—a few people from
the surrounding farms, half a dozen Sisters sitting somberly
near the chancel and the school servants.

Stoddard came out into the chancel, lighted the altar
tapers and began the Anglican communion office. I had
forgotten what a church service was like; and Larry, I
felt sure, had not attended church since the last time
his family had dragged hint to choral vespers.

It was comforting to know that here was, at least, one
place of peace within reach of Glenarm House. But I
may be forgiven, I hope, if my mind wandered that
morning, and my thoughts played hide-and-seek with
memory. For it was here, in the winter twilight, that
Marian Devereux had poured out her girl’s heart in a
great flood of melody. I was glad that the organ was
closed; it would have wrung my heart to hear a note
from it that her hands did not evoke.

When we came out upon the church porch and I stood
on the steps to allow Larry to study the grounds, one of
the brown-robed Sisterhood spoke my name.

It was Sister Theresa.

“Can you come in for a moment?” she asked.

“I will follow at once,” I said.

She met me in the reception-room where I had seen
her before.

“I’m sorry to trouble you on Christmas Day with my
affairs, but I have had a letter from Mr. Pickering, saying
that he will he obliged to bring suit for settlement
of my account with Mr. Glenarm’s estate. I needn’t
say that this troubles me greatly. In my position a lawsuit
is uncomfortable; it would do a real harm to the
school. Mr. Pickering implies in a very disagreeable
way that I exercised an undue influence over Mr. Glenarm.
You can readily understand that that is not a
pleasant accusation.”

“He is going pretty far,” I said.

“He gives me credit for a degree of power over others
that I regret to say I do not possess. He thinks, for instance,
that I am responsible for Miss Devereux’s attitude
toward him,—something that I have had nothing
whatever to do with.”

“No, of course not.”

“I’m glad you have no harsh feeling toward her. It
was unfortunate that Mr. Glenarm saw fit to mention
her in his will. It has given her a great deal of notoriety,
and has doubtless strengthened the impression in
some minds that she and I really plotted to get as much
as possible of your grandfather’s estate.”

“No one would regret all this more than my grandfather,
—I am sure of that. There are many inexplicable
things about his affairs. It seems hardly possible
that a man so shrewd as he, and so thoughtful of the
feelings of others, should have left so many loose ends
behind him. But I assure you I am giving my whole
attention to these matters, and I am wholly at your
service in anything I can do to help you.”

“I sincerely hope that nothing may interfere to prevent
your meeting Mr. Glenarm’s wish that you remain
through the year. That was a curious and whimsical
provision, but it is not, I imagine, so difficult.”

She spoke in a kindly tone of encouragement that
made me feel uneasy and almost ashamed for having
already forfeited my claim under the will. Her beautiful
gray eyes disconcerted me; I had not the heart to
deceive her.

“I have already made it impossible for me to inherit
under the will,” I said.

The disappointment in her face rebuked me sharply.

“I am sorry, very sorry, indeed,” she said coldly.
“But how, may I ask?”

“I ran away, last night. I went to Cincinnati to see
Miss Devereux.”

She rose, staring in dumb astonishment, and after a
full minute in which I tried vainly to think of something
to say, I left the house.

There is nothing in the world so tiresome as explanations,
and I have never in my life tried to make them
without floundering into seas of trouble.



The next morning Bates placed a letter postmarked
Cincinnati at my plate. I opened and read it aloud to
On Board the Heloise

December 25, 1901.
John Glenarm, Esq.,
Glenarm House,
Annandale, Wabana Co., Indiana:
DEAR SIR—I have just learned from what I believe to
be a trustworthy source that you have already violated
the terms of the agreement under which you entered into
residence on the property near Annandale, known as
Glenarm House. The provisions of the will of John Marshall
Glenarm are plain and unequivocal, as you undoubtedly
understood when you accepted them, and your absence,
not only from the estate itself, but from Wabana
County, violates beyond question your right to inherit.
I, as executor, therefore demand that you at once vacate
said property, leaving it in as good condition as when
received by you. Very truly yours,
Arthur Pickering,
Executor of the Estate of John Marshall Glenarm.

“Very truly the devil’s,” growled Larry, snapping
his cigarette case viciously.

“How did he find out?” I asked lamely, but my heart
sank like lead. Had Marian Devereux told him! How
else could he know?

“Probably from the stars,—the whole universe undoubtedly
saw you skipping off to meet your lady-love.
Bah, these women!”

“Tut! They don’t all marry the sons of brewers,”
I retorted. “You assured me once, while your affair
with that Irish girl was on, that the short upper lip
made Heaven seem possible, but unnecessary; then the
next thing I knew she had shaken you for the bloated
masher. Take that for your impertinence. But perhaps
it was Bates?”

I did not wait for an answer. I was not in a mood
for reflection or nice distinctions. The man came in
just then with a fresh plate of toast.

“Bates, Mr. Pickering has learned that I was away
from the house on the night of the attack, and I’m ordered
off for having broken my agreement to stay here.
How do you suppose he heard of it so promptly?”

“From Morgan, quite possibly. I have a letter from
Mr. Pickering myself this morning. Just a moment,

He placed before me a note bearing the same date as
my own. It was a sharp rebuke of Bates for his failure
to report my absence, and he was ordered to prepare to
leave on the first of February. “Close your accounts at
the shopkeepers’ and I will audit your bills on my arrival.”

The tone was peremptory and contemptuous. Bates
had failed to satisfy Pickering and was flung off like a
smoked-out cigar.

“How much had he allowed you for expenses, Bates?”

He met my gaze imperturbably.

“He paid me fifty dollars a month as wages, sir, and
I was allowed seventy-five for other expenses.”

“But you didn’t buy English pheasants and champagne
on that allowance!”

He was carrying away the coffee tray and his eyes
wandered to the windows.

“Not quite, sir. You see—”

“But I don’t see!”

“It had occurred to me that as Mr. Pickering’s allowance
wasn’t what you might call generous it was better
to augment it—Well, sir, I took the liberty of advancing
a trifle, as you might say, to the estate. Your
grandfather would not have had you starve, sir.”

He left hurriedly, as though to escape from the consequences
of his words, and when I came to myself
Larry was gloomily invoking his strange Irish gods.

“Larry Donovan, I’ve been tempted to kill that fellow
a dozen times! This thing is too damned complicated
for me. I wish my lamented grandfather had left
me something easy. To think of it—that fellow, after
my treatment of him—my cursing and abusing him
since I came here! Great Scott, man, I’ve been enjoying
his bounty, I’ve been living on his money! And
all the time he’s been trusting in me, just because of
his dog-like devotion to my grandfather’s memory.
Lord, I can’t face the fellow again!”

“As I have said before, you’re rather lacking at times
in perspicacity. Your intelligence is marred by large
opaque spots. Now that there’s a woman in the case
you’re less sane than ever. Bah, these women! And
now we’ve got to go to work.”

Bah, these women! My own heart caught the words.
I was enraged and bitter. No wonder she had been
anxious for me to avoid Pickering after daring me to
follow her!

We called a council of war for that night that we
might view matters in the light of Pickering’s letter.
His assuredness in ordering me to leave made prompt
and decisive action necessary on my part. I summoned
Stoddard to our conference, feeling confident of his

“Of course,” said the broad-shouldered chaplain, “if
you could show that your absence was on business of
very grave importance, the courts might construe in
that you had not really violated the will.”

Larry looked at the ceiling and blew rings of smoke
languidly. I had not disclosed to either of them the
cause of my absence. On such a matter I knew I should
get precious little sympathy from Larry, and I had,
moreover, a feeling that I could not discuss Marian
Devereux with any one; I even shrank from mentioning
her name, though it rang like the call of bugles in
my blood.

She was always before me,—the charmed spirit of
youth, linked to every foot of the earth, every gleam of
the sun upon the ice-bound lake, every glory of the winter
sunset. All the good impulses I had ever stifled
were quickened to life by the thought of her. Amid the
day’s perplexities I started sometimes, thinking I heard
her voice, her girlish laughter, or saw her again coming
toward me down the stairs, or holding against the light
her fan with its golden butterflies. I really knew so
little of her; I could associate her with no home, only
with that last fling of the autumn upon the lake, the
snow-driven woodland, that twilight hour at the organ
in the chapel, those stolen moments at the Armstrongs’.
I resented the pressure of the hour’s affairs, and chafed
at the necessity for talking of my perplexities with the
good friends who were there to help. I wished to be
alone, to yield to the sweet mood that the thought of her
brought me. The doubt that crept through my mind
as to any possibility of connivance between her and
Pickering was as vague and fleeting as the shadow of a
swallow’s wing on a sunny meadow.

“You don’t intend fighting the fact of your absence,
do you?” demanded Larry, after a long silence.

“Of course not!” I replied quietly. “Pickering was
right on my heels, and my absence was known to his
men here. And it would not be square to my grandfather,
—who never harmed a flea, may his soul rest in
blessed peace!—to lie about it. They might nail me for
perjury besides.”

“Then the quicker we get ready for a siege the better.
As I understand your attitude, you don’t propose to
move out until you’ve found where the siller’s hidden.
Being a gallant gentleman and of a forgiving nature,
you want to be sure that the lady who is now entitled to
it gets all there is coming to her, and as you don’t trust
the executor, any further than a true Irishman trusts a
British prime minister’s promise, you’re going to stand
by to watch the boodle counted. Is that a correct analysis
of your intentions?”

“That’s as near one of my ideas as you’re likely to
get, Larry Donovan!”

“And if he comes with the authorities,—the sheriff
and that sort of thing,—we must prepare for such an
emergency,” interposed the chaplain.

“So much the worse for the sheriff and the rest of
them!” I declared.

“Spoken like a man of spirit. And now we’d better
stock up at once, in case we should be shut off from our
source of supplies. This is a lonely place here; even
the school is a remote neighbor. Better let Bates raid
the village shops to-morrow. I’ve tried being hungry,
and I don’t care to repeat the experience.”

And Larry reached for the tobacco jar.

“I can’t imagine, I really can’t believe,” began the
chaplain, “that Miss Devereux will want to be brought
into this estate matter in any way. In fact, I have heard
Sister Theresa say as much. I suppose there’s no way
of preventing a man from leaving his property to a
young woman, who has no claim on him,—who doesn’t
want anything from him.”

“Bah, these women! People don’t throw legacies to
the birds these days. Of course she’ll take it.”

Then his eyes widened and met mine in a gaze that
reflected the mystification and wonder that struck both
of us. Stoddard turned from the fire suddenly:

“What’s that? There’s some one up stairs!”

Larry was already running toward the hall, and I
heard him springing up the steps like a cat, while Stoddard
and I followed.

“Where’s Bates?” demanded the chaplain.

“I’ll thank you for the answer,” I replied.

Larry stood at the top of the staircase, holding a
candle at arm’s length in front of him, staring about.

We could hear quite distinctly some one walking
on a stairway; the sounds were unmistakable, just as
I had heard them on several previous occasions, without
ever being able to trace their source.

The noise ceased suddenly, leaving us with no hint of
its whereabouts.

I went directly to the rear of the house and found
Bates putting the dishes away in the pantry.

“Where have you been?” I demanded.

“Here, sir; I have been clearing up the dinner things,
Mr. Glenarm. Is there anything the matter, sir?”


I joined the others in the library.

“Why didn’t you tell me this feudal imitation was
haunted?” asked Larry, in a grieved tone. “All it needed
was a cheerful ghost, and now I believe it lacks absolutely
nothing. I’m increasingly glad I came. How
often does it walk?”

“It’s not on a schedule. Just now it’s the wind in
the tower probably; the wind plays queer pranks up
there sometimes.”

“You’ll have to do better than that, Glenarm,” said
Stoddard. “It’s as still outside as a country graveyard.”

“Only the slaugh sidhe, the people of the faery hills,
the cheerfulest ghosts in the world,” said Larry. “You
literal Saxons can’t grasp the idea, of course.”

But there was substance enough in our dangers without
pursuing shadows. Certain things were planned
that night. We determined to exercise every precaution
to prevent a surprise from without, and we resolved
upon a new and systematic sounding of walls and floors,
taking our clue from the efforts made by Morgan and
his ally to find hiding-places by this process. Pickering
would undoubtedly arrive shortly, and we wished to
anticipate his movements as far as possible.

We resolved, too, upon a day patrol of the grounds
and a night guard. The suggestion came, I believe,
from Stoddard, whose interest in my affairs was only
equaled by the fertility of his suggestions. One of us
should remain abroad at night, ready to sound the alarm
in case of attack. Bates should take his turn with the
rest—Stoddard insisted on it.

Within two days we were, as Larry expressed it, on a
war footing. We added a couple of shot-guns and several
revolvers to my own arsenal, and piled the library
table with cartridge boxes. Bates, acting as quarter-master,
brought a couple of wagon-loads of provisions.
Stoddard assembled a remarkable collection of heavy
sticks; he had more confidence in them, he said, than in
gunpowder, and, moreover, he explained, a priest might
not with propriety hear arms.

It was a cheerful company of conspirators that now
gathered around the big hearth. Larry, always restless,
preferred to stand at one side, an elbow on the
mantel-shelf, pipe in mouth; and Stoddard sought the
biggest chair,—and filled it. He and Larry understood
each other at once, and Larry’s stories, ranging in subject
from undergraduate experiences at Dublin to adventures
in Africa and always including endless conflicts
with the Irish constabulary, delighted the big boyish

Often, at some one’s suggestion of a new idea, we ran
off to explore the house again in search of the key to the
Glenarm riddle, and always we came back to the library
with that riddle still unsolved.



“Sister Theresa has left, sir.”

Bates had been into Annandale to mail some letters,
and I was staring out upon the park from the library
windows when he entered. Stoddard, having kept watch
the night before, was at home asleep, and Larry was off
somewhere in the house, treasure-hunting. I was feeling
decidedly discouraged over our failure to make any
progress with our investigations, and Bates’ news did
not interest me.

“Well, what of it?” I demanded, without turning

“Nothing, sir; but Miss Devereux has come back!”

“The devil!”

I turned and took a step toward the door.

“I said Miss Devereux,” he repeated in dignified rebuke.
“She came up this morning, and the Sister left
at once for Chicago. Sister Theresa depends particularly
upon Miss Devereux,—so I’ve heard, sir. Miss
Devereux quite takes charge when the Sister goes away.
A few of the students are staying in school through the

“You seem full of information,” I remarked, taking
another step toward my hat and coat.

“And I’ve learned something else, sir.”


“They all came together, sir.”

“Who came; if you please, Bates?”

“Why, the people who’ve been traveling with Mr.
Pickering came back with him, and Miss Devereux came
with them from Cincinnati. That’s what I learned in
the village. And Mr. Pickering is going to stay—”

“Pickering stay!”

“At his cottage on the lake for a while. The reason
is that he’s worn out with his work, and wishes quiet.
The other people went back to New York in the car.”

“He’s opened a summer cottage in mid-winter, has

I had been blue enough without this news. Marian
Devereux had come back to Annandale with Arthur
Pickering; my faith in her snapped like a reed at this
astounding news. She was now entitled to my grandfather’s
property and she had lost no time in returning
as soon as she and Pickering had discussed together at
the Armstrongs’ my flight from Annandale. Her return
could have no other meaning than that there was a
strong tie between them, and he was now to stay on the
ground until I should be dispossessed and her rights
established. She had led me to follow her, and my forfeiture
had been sealed by that stolen interview at the
Armstrongs’. It was a black record, and the thought of
it angered me against myself and the world.

“Tell Mr. Donovan that I’ve gone to St. Agatha’s,”
I said, and I was soon striding toward the school.

A Sister admitted me. I heard the sound of a piano,
somewhere in the building, and I consigned the inventor
of pianos to hideous torment as scales were
pursued endlessly up and down the keys. Two girls
passing through the hall made a pretext of looking for
a book and came in and exclaimed over their inability
to find it with much suppressed giggling.

The piano-pounding continued and I waited for what
seemed an interminable time. It was growing dark and
a maid lighted the oil lamps. I took a book from the
table. It was The Life of Benvenuto Cellini and “Marian
Devereux” was written on the fly leaf, by unmistakably
the same hand that penned the apology for
Olivia’s performances. I saw in the clear flowing lines
of the signature, in their lack of superfluity, her own
ease, grace and charm; and, in the deeper stroke with
which the x was crossed, I felt a challenge, a readiness
to abide by consequences once her word was given.
Then my own inclination to think well of her angered
me. It was only a pretty bit of chirography, and I
dropped the book impatiently when I heard her step
on the threshold.

“I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr. Glenarm.
But this is my busy hour.”

“I shall not detain you long. I came,”—I hesitated,
not knowing why I had come.

She took a chair near the open door and bent forward
with an air of attention that was disquieting. She
wore black—perhaps to fit her the better into the house
of a somber Sisterhood. I seemed suddenly to remember
her from a time long gone, and the effort of memory
threw me off guard. Stoddard had said there were
several Olivia Armstrongs; there were certainly many
Marian Devereuxs. The silence grew intolerable; she
was waiting for me to speak, and I blurted:

“I suppose you have come to take charge of the property.”

“Do you?” she asked.

“And you came back with the executor to facilitate
matters. I’m glad to see that you lose no time.”

“Oh!” she said lingeringly, as though she were finding
with difficulty the note in which I wished to pitch
the conversation. Her calmness was maddening.

“I suppose you thought it unwise to wait for the
bluebird when you had beguiled me into breaking a
promise, when I was trapped, defeated,—”

Her elbow on the arm of the chair, her hand resting
against her check, the light rippling goldenly in her
hair, her eyes bent upon me inquiringly, mournfully,—
mournfully, as I had seen them—where?—once before!
My heart leaped in that moment, with that thought.

“I remember now the first time!” I exclaimed, more
angry than I had ever been before in my life.

“That is quite remarkable,” she said, and nodded her
head ironically.

“It was at Sherry’s; you were with Pickering—you
dropped your fan and he picked it up, and you turned
toward me for a moment. You were in black that
night; it was the unhappiness in your face, in your
eyes, that made me remember.”

I was intent upon the recollection, eager to fix and
establish it.

“You are quite right. It was at Sherry’s. I was
wearing black then; many things made me unhappy
that night.”

Her forehead contracted slightly and she pressed her
lips together.

“I suppose that even then the conspiracy was thoroughly
arranged,” I said tauntingly, laughing a little
perhaps, and wishing to wound her, to take vengeance
upon her.

She rose and stood by her chair, one hand resting
upon it. I faced her; her eyes were like violet seas.
She spoke very quietly.

“Mr. Glenarm, has it occurred to you that when I
talked to you there in the park, when I risked unpleasant
gossip in receiving you in a house where you had
no possible right to be, that I was counting upon something,
—foolishly and stupidly,—yet counting upon it?”

“You probably thought I was a fool,” I retorted.

“No;”—she smiled slightly—“I thought—I believe
I have said this to you before!—you were a gentleman.
I really did, Mr. Glenarm. I must say it to justify
myself. I relied upon your chivalry; I even thought,
when I played being Olivia, that you had a sense of
honor. But you are not the one and you haven’t the
other. I even went so far, after you knew perfectly
well who I was, as to try to help you—to give you another
chance to prove yourself the man your grandfather
wished you to be. And now you come to me in a shocking
bad humor,—I really think you would like to be
insulting, Mr. Glenarm, if you could.”

“But Pickering,—you came back with him; he is
here and he’s going to stay! And now that the property
belongs to you, there is not the slightest reason why
we should make any pretense of anything but enmity.
When you and Arthur Pickering stand together I take
the other side of the barricade! I suppose chivalry
would require me to vacate, so that you may enjoy at
once the spoils of war.”

“I fancy it would not be very difficult to eliminate
you as a factor in the situation,” she remarked icily.

“And I suppose, after the unsuccessful efforts of Mr.
Pickering’s allies to assassinate me, as a mild form of
elimination, one would naturally expect me to sit calmly
down and wait to be shot in the back. But you may tell
Mr. Pickering that I throw myself upon your mercy.
I have no other home than this shell over the way, and
I beg to be allowed to remain until—at least—the bluebirds

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonThe House of a Thousand Candles → online text (page 14 of 19)