Meredith Nicholson.

The House of a Thousand Candles online

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with your case.”

“To be sure,” resumed my grandfather calmly;
“Bates did make false affidavits about my death; but

“It was in a Pickwickian sense, sir,” said Bates

“And in a righteous cause,” declared my grandfather.
“I assure you, Pickering, that I have every intention of
taking care of Bates. His weekly letters giving an account
of the curious manifestations of your devotion to
Jack’s security and peace were alone worth a goodly
sum. But, Bates—”

The old gentleman was enjoying himself hugely. He
chuckled now, and placed his hand on my shoulder.

“Bates, it was too bad I got those missives of yours
all in a bunch. I was in a dahabiyeh on the Nile and
they don’t have rural free delivery in Egypt. Your
cablegram called me home before I got the letters. But
thank God, Jack, you’re alive!”

There was real feeling in these last words, and I
think we were all touched by them.

“Amen to that!” cried Bates.

“And now, Pickering, before you go I want to show
you something. It’s about this mysterious treasure, that
has given you—and I hear, the whole countryside—so
much concern. I’m disappointed in you, Jack, that you
couldn’t find the hiding-place. I designed that as a part
of your architectural education. Bates, give me a

The man gravely drew a chair out of the wreckage
and placed it upon the hearth. My grandfather stepped
upon it, seized one of the bronze sconces above the mantel
and gave it a sharp turn. At the same moment,
Bates, upon another chair, grasped the companion
bronze and wrenched it sharply. Instantly some mechanism
creaked in the great oak chimney-breast and the
long oak panels swung open, disclosing a steel door with
a combination knob.

“Gentlemen,”—and my grandfather turned with a
quaint touch of humor, and a merry twinkle in his
bright old eyes—“gentlemen, behold the treasury! It
has proved a better hiding-place than I ever imagined
it would. There’s not much here, Jack, but enough to
keep you going for a while.”

We were all staring, and the old gentleman was unfeignedly
enjoying our mystification. It was an hour
on which he had evidently counted much; it was the
triumph of his resurrection and home-coming, and he
chuckled as he twirled the knob in the steel door. Then
Bates stepped forward and helped him pull the door
open, disclosing a narrow steel chest, upright and held
in place by heavy bolts clamped in the stone of the chimney.
It was filled with packets of papers placed on
shelves, and tied neatly with tape.

“Jack,” said my grandfather, shaking his head, “you
wouldn’t be an architect, and you’re not much of an
engineer either, or you’d have seen that that paneling
was heavier than was necessary. There’s two hundred
thousand dollars in first-rate securities—I vouch for
them! Bates and I put them there just before I went
to Vermont to die.”

“I’ve sounded those panels a dozen times,” I protested.

“Of course you have,” said my grandfather, “but
solid steel behind wood is safe. I tested it carefully before
I left.”

He laughed and clapped his knees, and I laughed with

“But you found the Door of Bewilderment and Pickering’s
notes, and that’s something.”

“No; I didn’t even find that. Donovan deserves the
credit. But how did you ever come to build that tunnel,
if you don’t mind telling me?”

He laughed gleefully.

“That was originally a trench for natural-gas pipes.
There was once a large pumping-station on the site of
this house, with a big trunk main running off across
country to supply the towns west of here. The gas was
exhausted, and the pipes were taken up before I began
to build. I should never have thought of that tunnel in
the world if the trench hadn’t suggested it. I merely
deepened and widened it a little and plastered it with
cheap cement as far as the chapel, and that little room
there where I put Pickering’s notes had once been the
cellar of a house built for the superintendent of the gas
plant. I had never any idea that I should use that passage
as a means of getting into my own house, but Marian
met me at the station, told me that there was trouble
here, and came with me through the chapel into the
cellar, and through the hidden stairway that winds
around the chimney from that room where we keep the

“But who was the ghost?” I demanded, “if you were
really alive and in Egypt?”

Bates laughed now.

“Oh, I was the ghost! I went through there occasionally
to stimulate your curiosity about the house.
And you nearly caught me once!”

“One thing more, if we’re not wearing you out—I’d
like to know whether Sister Theresa owes you any

My grandfather turned upon Pickering with blazing

“You scoundrel, you infernal scoundrel, Sister
Theresa never borrowed a cent of me in her life! And
you have made war on that woman—”

His rage choked him.

He told Bates to close the door of the steel chest, and
then turned to me.

“Where are those notes of Pickering’s?” he demanded;
and I brought the packet.

“Gentlemen, Mr. Pickering has gone to ugly lengths
in this affair. How many murders have you gentlemen

“We were about to begin actual killing when you arrived,”
replied Larry, grinning.

“The sheriff got all his men off the premises more or
less alive, sir,” said Bates.

“That is good. It was all a great mistake,—a very
great mistake,”—and my grandfather turned to Pickering.

“Pickering, what a contemptible scoundrel you are!
I lent you that three hundred thousand dollars to buy
securities to give you better standing in your railroad
enterprises, and the last time I saw you, you got me to
release the collateral so you could raise money to buy
more shares. Then, after I died”—he chuckled—“you
thought you’d find and destroy the notes and that would
end the transaction; and if you had been smart enough
to find them you might have had them and welcome.
But as it is, they go to Jack. If he shows any mercy
on you in collecting them he’s not the boy I think he is.”

Pickering rose, seized his hat and turned toward the
shattered library-door. He paused for one moment, his
face livid with rage.

“You old fool!” he screamed at my grandfather.
“You old lunatic, I wish to God I had never seen you!
No wonder you came back to life! You’re a tricky old
devil and too mean to die!”

He turned toward me with some similar complaint
ready at his tongue’s end; but Stoddard caught him by
the shoulders and thrust him out upon the terrace.

A moment later we saw him cross the meadow and
hurry toward St. Agatha’s.



John Marshall Glenarm had probably never been so
happy in his life as on that day of his amazing home-coming.
He laughed at us and he laughed with us, and
as he went about the house explaining his plans for its
completion, he chaffed us all with his shrewd humor
that had been the terror of my boyhood.

“Ah, if you had had the plans of course you would
have been saved a lot of trouble; but that little sketch
of the Door of Bewilderment was the only thing I left,
—and you found it, Jack,—you really opened these good
books of mine.”

He sent us all away to remove the marks of battle, and
we gave Bates a hand in cleaning up the wreckage,—
Bates, the keeper of secrets; Bates, the inscrutable and
mysterious; Bates, the real hero of the affair at Glenarm.

He led us through the narrow stairway by which he
had entered, which had been built between false walls,
and we played ghost for one another, to show just how
the tread of a human being around the chimney sounded.
There was much to explain, and my grandfather’s
contrition for having placed me in so hazardous a predicament
was so sincere, and his wish to make amends
so evident, that my heart warmed to him. He made me
describe in detail all the incidents of my stay at the
house, listening with boyish delight to my adventures.

“Bless my soul!” he exclaimed over and over again.
And as I brought my two friends into the story his delight
knew no bounds, and he kept chuckling to himself;
and insisted half a dozen times on shaking hands with
Larry and Stoddard, who were, he declared, his friends
as well as mine.

The prisoner in the potato cellar received our due attention;
and my grandfather’s joy in the fact that an
agent of the British government was held captive in
Glenarm House was cheering to see. But the man’s detention
was a grave matter, as we all realized, and made
imperative the immediate consideration of Larry’s future.

“I must go—and go at once!” declared Larry.

“Mr. Donovan, I should feel honored to have you remain,”
said my grandfather. “I hope to hold Jack
here, and I wish you would share the house with us.”

“The sheriff and those fellows won’t squeal very hard
about their performances here,” said Stoddard. “And
they won’t try to rescue the prisoner, even for a reward,
from a house where the dead come back to life.”

“No; but you can’t hold a British prisoner in an
American private house for ever. Too many people
know he has been in this part of the country; and you
may be sure that the fight here and the return of Mr.
Glenarm will not fail of large advertisement. All I can
ask of you, Mr. Glenarm, is that you hold the fellow a
few hours after I leave, to give me a start.”

“Certainly. But when this trouble of yours blows
over, I hope you will come back and help Jack to live
a decent and orderly life.”

My grandfather spoke of my remaining with a
warmth that was grateful to my heart; but the place and
its associations had grown unbearable. I had not mentioned
Marian Devereux to him, I had not told him of
my Christmas flight to Cincinnati; for the fact that I
had run away and forfeited my right made no difference
now, and I waited for an opportunity when we should
be alone to talk of my own affairs.

At luncheon, delayed until mid-afternoon, Bates produced
champagne, and the three of us, worn with excitement
and stress of battle, drank a toast, standing, to the
health of John Marshall Glenarm.

“My friends,”—the old gentleman rose and we all
stood, our eyes bent upon him in, I think, real affection,
—“I am an old and foolish man. Ever since I was
able to do so I have indulged my whims. This house
is one of them. I had wished to make it a thing of
beauty and dignity, and I had hoped that Jack would
care for it and be willing to complete it and settle here.
The means I employed to test him were not, I admit,
worthy of a man who intends well toward his own flesh
and blood. Those African adventures of yours scared
me, Jack; but to think”—and he laughed—“that I
placed you here in this peaceful place amid greater dangers
probably than you ever met in tiger-hunting! But
you have put me to shame. Here’s health and peace to

“So say we all!” cried the others.

“One thing more,” my grandfather continued, “I don’t
want you to think, Jack, that you would really have
been cut off under any circumstances if I had died while
I was hiding in Egypt. What I wanted, boy, was to
get you home! I made another will in England, where
I deposited the bulk of my property before I died, and
did not forget you. That will was to protect you in case
I really died!”—and he laughed cheerily.

The others left us—Stoddard to help Larry get his
things together—and my grandfather and I talked for
an hour at the table.

“I have thought that many things might happen
here,” I said, watching his fine, slim fingers, as he polished
his eye-glasses, then rested his elbows on the table
and smiled at me. “I thought for a while that I should
certainly be shot; then at times I was afraid I might
not be; but your return in the flesh was something I
never considered among the possibilities. Bates fooled
me. That talk I overheard between him and Pickering
in the church porch that foggy night was the thing that
seemed to settle his case; then the next thing I knew he
was defending the house at the serious risk of his life;
and I was more puzzled than ever.”

“Yes, a wonderful man, Bates. He always disliked
Pickering, and he rejoiced in tricking him.”

“Where did you pick Bates up? He told me he was
a Yankee, but he doesn’t act or talk it.”

My grandfather laughed. “Of course not! He’s an
Irishman and a man of education—but that’s all I know
about him, except that he is a marvelously efficient servant.”

My mind was not on Bates. I was thinking now of
Marian Devereux. I could not go on further with my
grandfather without telling him how I had run away
and broken faith with him, but he gave me no chance.

“You will stay on here,—you will help me to finish
the house?” he asked with an unmistakable eagerness
of look and tone.

It seemed harsh and ungenerous to tell him that I
wished to go; that the great world lay beyond the confines
of Glenarm for me to conquer; that I had lost as
well as gained by those few months at Glenarm House,
and wished to go away. It was not the mystery, now
fathomed, nor the struggle, now ended, that was uppermost
in my mind and heart, but memories of a girl
who had mocked me with delicious girlish laughter,—
who had led me away that I might see her transformed
into another, more charming, being. It was a comfort
to know that Pickering, trapped and defeated, was not
to benefit by the bold trick she had helped him play upon
me. His loss was hers as well, and I was glad in my
bitterness that I had found her in the passage, seeking
for plunder at the behest of the same master whom Morgan,
Ferguson and the rest of them served.

The fight was over and there was nothing more for me
to do in the house by the lake. After a week or so I
should go forth and try to win a place for myself. I
had my profession; I was an engineer, and I did not
question that I should be able to find employment. As
for my grandfather, Bates would care for him, and I
should visit him often. I was resolved not to give him
any further cause for anxiety on account of my adventurous
and roving ways. He knew well enough that his
old hope of making an architect of me was lost beyond
redemption—I had told him that—and now I wished to
depart in peace and go to some new part of the world,
where there were lines to run, tracks to lay and bridges
to build.

These thoughts so filled my mind that I forgot he
was patiently waiting for my answer.

“I should like to do anything you ask; I should like
to stay here always, but I can’t. Don’t misunderstand
me. I have no intention of going back to my old ways.
I squandered enough money in my wanderings, and I
had my joy of that kind of thing. I shall find employment
somewhere and go to work.”

“But, Jack,”—he bent toward me kindly,—“Jack, you
mustn’t be led away by any mere quixotism into laying
the foundation of your own fortune. What I have is
yours, boy. What is in the box in the chimney is yours

“I wish you wouldn’t! You were always too kind,
and I deserve nothing, absolutely nothing.”

“I’m not trying to pay you, Jack. I want to ease my
own conscience, that’s all.”

“But money can do nothing for mine,” I replied, trying
to smile. “I’ve been dependent all my days, and
now I’m going to work. If you were infirm and needed
me, I should not hesitate, but the world will have its
eyes on me now.”

“Jack, that will of mine did you a great wrong; it
put a mark upon you, and that’s what hurts me, that’s
what I want to make amends for! Don’t you see? Now
don’t punish me, boy. Come! Let us be friends!”

He rose and put out his hands.

“I didn’t mean that! I don’t care about that! It
was nothing more than I deserved. These months here
have changed me. Haven’t you heard me say I was going
to work?”

And I tried to laugh away further discussion of my

“It will be more cheerful here in the spring,” he said,
as though seeking an inducement for me to remain.
“When the resort colony down here comes to life the
lake is really gay.”

I shook my head. The lake, that pretty cupful of
water, the dip and glide of a certain canoe, the remembrance
of a red tam-o’-shanter merging afar off in an
October sunset—my purpose to leave the place strengthened
as I thought of these things. My nerves were
keyed to a breaking pitch and I turned upon him stormily.

“So Miss Devereux was the other person who shared
your confidence! Do you understand,—do you appreciate
the fact that she was Pickering’s ally?”

“I certainly do not,” he replied coldly. “I’m surprised
to hear you speak so of a woman whom you can
scarcely know—”

“Yes, I know her; my God, I have reason to know her!
But even when I found her out I did not dream that
the plot was as deep as it is. She knew that it was a
scheme to test me, and she played me into Pickering’s
hands. I saw her only a few nights ago down there in
the tunnel acting as his spy, looking for the lost notes
that she might gain grace in his eyes by turning them
over to him. You know I always hated Pickering,—he
was too smooth, too smug, and you and everybody else
were for ever praising him to me. He was always held
up to me as a model; and the first time I saw Marian
Devereux she was with him—it was at Sherry’s the night
before I came here. I suppose she reached St. Agatha’s
only a few hours ahead of me.”

“Yes. Sister Theresa was her guardian. Her father
was a dear friend, and I knew her from her early childhood.
You are mistaken, Jack. Her knowing Pickering
means nothing,—they both lived in New York and
moved in the same circle.”

“But it doesn’t explain her efforts to help him, does
it?” I blazed. “He wished to marry her,—Sister
Theresa told me that,—and I failed, I failed miserably
to keep my obligation here—I ran away to follow her!”

“Ah, to be sure! You were away Christmas Eve,
when those vandals broke in. Bates merely mentioned
it in the last report I got as I came through New York.
That was all right. I assumed, of course, that you had
gone off somewhere to get a little Christmas cheer; I
don’t care anything about it.”

“But I had followed her—I went to Cincinnati to see
her. She dared me to come—it was a trick, a part of
the conspiracy to steal your property.”

The old gentleman smiled. It was a familiar way of
his, to grow calm as other people waxed angry.

“She dared you to come, did she! That is quite like
Marian; but you didn’t have to go, did you, Jack?”

“Of course not; of course I didn’t have to go, but—”

I stammered, faltered and ceased. Memory threw
open her portals with a challenge. I saw her on the
stairway at the Armstrongs’; I heard her low, soft
laughter, I felt the mockery of her voice and eyes! I
knew again the exquisite delight of being near her. My
heart told me well enough why I had followed her.

“Jack, I’m glad I’m not buried up there in that Vermont
graveyard with nobody to exercise the right of
guardianship over you. I’ve had my misgivings about
you; I used to think you were a born tramp; and you disappointed
me in turning your back on architecture,—the
noblest of all professions; but this performance of yours
really beats them all. Don’t you know that a girl like
Marian Devereux isn’t likely to become the agent of any
rascal? Do you really believe for a minute that she
tempted you to follow her, so you might forfeit your
rights to my property?”

“But why was she trying to find those notes of his?
Why did she come back from Cincinnati with his party?
If you could answer me those things, maybe I’d admit
that I’m a fool. Pickering, I imagine, is a pretty plausible
fellow where women are concerned.”

“For God’s sake, Jack, don’t speak of that girl as
women! I put her in that will of mine to pique your
curiosity, knowing that if there was a penalty on your
marrying her you would be wholly likely to do it,—for
that’s the way human beings are made. But you’ve
mixed it all up now, and insulted her in the grossest
way possible for a fellow who is really a gentleman. And
I don’t want to lose you; I want you here with me,
Jack! This is a beautiful country, this Indiana!
And what I want to do is to found an estate, to
build a house that shall be really beautiful,—something
these people hereabouts can be proud of,—
and I want you to have it with me, Jack, to
link our name to these woods and that pretty lake. I’d
rather have that for my neighbor than any lake in Scotland.
These rich Americans, who go to England to live,
don’t appreciate the beauty of their own country. This
landscape is worthy of the best that man can do. And
I didn’t undertake to build a crazy house so much as
one that should have some dignity and character. That
passage around the chimney is an indulgence, Jack,—
I’ll admit it’s a little bizarre,—you see that chimney
isn’t so big outside as it is in!”—and he laughed and
rubbed his knees with the palms of his hands,—“and my
bringing foreign laborers here wasn’t really to make it
easier to get things done my way. Wait till you have
seen the May-apples blossom and heard the robins sing
in the summer twilight,—help me to finish the house,—
then if you want to leave I’ll bid you God-speed.”

The feeling in his tone, the display of sentiment so
at variance with my old notion of him, touched me in
spite of myself. There was a characteristic nobility and
dignity in his plan; it was worthy of him. And I had
never loved him as now, when he finished this appeal,
and turned away to the window, gazing out upon the
somber woodland.

“Mr. Donovan is ready to go, sir,” announced Bates
at the door, and we went into the library, where Larry
and Stoddard were waiting.



Larry had assembled his effects in the library, and to
my surprise, Stoddard appeared with his own hand-bag.

“I’m going to see Donovan well on his way,” said the

“It’s a pity our party must break up,” exclaimed my
grandfather. “My obligations to Mr. Donovan are very
great—and to you, too, Stoddard. Jack’s friends are
mine hereafter, and when we get new doors for Glenarm
House you shall honor me by accepting duplicate

“Where’s Bates?” asked Larry, and the man came in,
respectfully, inperturbably as always, and began gathering
up the bags.

“Stop—one moment! Mr. Glenarm,” said Larry.
“Before I go I want to congratulate you on the splendid
courage of this man who has served you and your house
with so much faithfulness and tact. And I want to tell
you something else, that you probably would never learn
from him—”

“Donovan!” There was a sharp cry in Bates’ voice,
and he sprang forward with his hands outstretched entreatingly.
But Larry did not heed him.

“The moment I set eyes on this man I recognized
him. It’s not fair to you or to him that you should not
know him for what he is. Let me introduce an old
friend, Walter Creighton; he was a student at Dublin
when I was there,—I remember him as one of the best
fellows in the world.”

“For God’s sake—no!” pleaded Bates. He was deeply
moved and turned his face away from us.

“But, like me,” Larry went on, “he mixed in politics.
One night in a riot at Dublin a constable was killed.
No one knew who was guilty, but a youngster was suspected,
—the son of one of the richest and best-known
men in Ireland, who happened to get mixed in the row.
To draw attention from the boy, Creighton let suspicion
attach to his own name, and, to help the boy’s case
further, ran away. I had not heard from or of him until
the night I came here and found him the defender of
this house. By God! that was no servant’s trick,—it was
the act of a royal gentleman.”

They clasped hands; and with a new light in his face,
with a new manner, as though he resumed, as a familiar
garment, an old disused personality, Bates stood transfigured
in the twilight, a man and a gentleman. I think
we were all drawn to him; I know that a sob clutched
my throat and tears filled my eyes as I grasped his hand.

“But what in the devil did you do it for?” blurted
my grandfather, excitedly twirling his glasses.

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