Meredith Nicholson.

The House of a Thousand Candles online

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“Mr. Glenarm always breakfasted at seven-thirty, sir,
as near as he could hit it without a timepiece, and he
was quite punctual. His ways were a little odd, sir. He
used to prowl about at night a good deal, and there was
no following him.”

“I fancy I shan’t do much prowling,” I declared.
“And my grandfather’s breakfast hour will suit me exactly,

“If there’s nothing further, sir—”

“That’s all;—and Bates—”

“Yes, Mr. Glenarm.”

“Of course you understand that I didn’t really mean
to imply that you had fired that shot at me?”

“I beg you not to mention it, Mr. Glenarm.”

“But it was a little queer. If you should gain any
light on the subject, let me know.”

“Certainly, sir.”

“But I believe, Bates, that we’d better keep the shades
down at night. These duck hunters hereabouts are apparently
reckless. And you might attend to these now,
—and every evening hereafter.”

I wound my watch as he obeyed. I admit that in my
heart I still half-suspected the fellow of complicity with
the person who had fired at me through the dining-room
window. It was rather odd, I reflected, that the shades
should have been open, though I might account for this
by the fact that this curious unfinished establishment
was not subject to the usual laws governing orderly
housekeeping. Bates was evidently aware of my suspicions,
and he remarked, drawing down the last of the
plain green shades:

“Mr. Glenarm never drew them, sir. It was a saying
of his, if I may repeat his words, that he liked the open.
These are eastern windows, and he took a quiet pleasure
in letting the light waken him. It was one of his oddities,

“To be sure. That’s all, Bates.”

He gravely bade me good night, and I followed him
to the outer door and watched his departing figure,
lighted by a single candle that he had produced from
his pocket.

I stood for several minutes listening to his step, tracing
it through the hall below—as far as my knowledge
of the house would permit. Then, in unknown regions,
I could hear the closing of doors and drawing of bolts.
Verily, my jailer was a person of painstaking habits.

I opened my traveling-case and distributed its contents
on the dressing-table. I had carried through all
my adventures a folding leather photograph-holder, containing
portraits of my father and mother and of John
Marshall Glenarm, my grandfather, and this I set up
on the mantel in the little sitting-room. I felt to-night
as never before how alone I was in the world, and a
need for companionship and sympathy stirred in me.
It was with a new and curious interest that I peered
into my grandfather’s shrewd old eyes. He used to come
and go fitfully at my father’s house; but my father had
displeased him in various ways that I need not recite,
and my father’s death had left me with an estrangement
which I had widened by my own acts.

Now that I had reached Glenarm, my mind reverted
to Pickering’s estimate of the value of my grandfather’s
estate. Although John Marshall Glenarm was an eccentric
man, he had been able to accumulate a large fortune;
and yet I had allowed the executor to tell me that
he had died comparatively poor. In so readily accepting
the terms of the will and burying myself in a region of
which I knew nothing, I had cut myself off from the
usual channels of counsel. If I left the place to return
to New York I should simply disinherit myself. At
Glenarm I was, and there I must remain to the end of
the year; I grew bitter against Pickering as I reflected
upon the ease with which he had got rid of me. I had
always satisfied myself that my wits were as keen as his,
but I wondered now whether I had not stupidly put myself
in his power.



I looked out on the bright October morning with a
renewed sense of isolation. Trees crowded about my
windows, many of them still wearing their festal colors,
scarlet and brown and gold, with the bright green of
some sulking companion standing out here and there
with startling vividness. I put on an old corduroy outing
suit and heavy shoes, ready for a tramp abroad, and
went below.

The great library seemed larger than ever when I beheld
it in the morning light. I opened one of the
French windows and stepped out on a stone terrace,
where I gained a fair view of the exterior of the house,
which proved to be a modified Tudor, with battlements
and two towers. One of the latter was only half-finished,
and to it and to other parts of the house the workmen’s
scaffolding still clung. Heaps of stone and piles of lumber
were scattered about in great disorder. The house
extended partly along the edge of a ravine, through
which a slender creek ran toward the lake. The terrace
became a broad balcony immediately outside the library,
and beneath it the water bubbled pleasantly around
heavy stone pillars. Two pretty rustic bridges spanned
the ravine, one near the front entrance, the other at the
rear. My grandfather had begun his house on a generous
plan, but, buried as it was among the trees, it suffered
from lack of perspective. However, on one side toward
the lake was a fair meadow, broken by a water-tower,
and just beyond the west dividing wall I saw a little
chapel; and still farther, in the same direction, the outlines
of the buildings of St. Agatha’s were vaguely perceptible
in another strip of woodland.

The thought of gentle nuns and school-girls as neighbors
amused me. All I asked was that they should keep
to their own side of the wall.

I heard behind me the careful step of Bates.

“Good morning, Mr. Glenarm. I trust you rested
quite well, sir.”

His figure was as austere, his tone as respectful and
colorless as by night. The morning light gave him a
pallid cast. He suffered my examination coolly enough;
his eyes were, indeed, the best thing about him.

“This is what Mr. Glenarm called the platform. I
believe it’s in Hamlet, sir.”

I laughed aloud. “Elsinore: A Platform Before the

“It was one of Mr. Glenarm’s little fancies, you might
call it, sir.”

“And the ghost,—where does the murdered majesty of
Denmark lie by day?”

“I fear it wasn’t provided, sir! As you see, Mr. Glenarm,
the house is quite incomplete. My late master had
not carried out all his plans.”

Bates did not smile. I fancied he never smiled, and
I wondered whether John Marshall Glenarm had played
upon the man’s lack of humor. My grandfather had
been possessed of a certain grim, ironical gift at jesting,
and quite likely he had amused himself by experimenting
upon his serving man.

“You may breakfast when you like, sir,”—and thus
admonished I went into the refectory.

A newspaper lay at my plate; it was the morning’s
issue of a Chicago daily. I was, then, not wholly out of
the world, I reflected, scanning the head-lines.

“Your grandfather rarely examined the paper. Mr.
Glenarm was more particularly interested in the old
times. He wasn’t what you might call up to date,—if
you will pardon the expression, sir.”

“You are quite right about that, Bates. He was a
medievalist in his sympathies.”

“Thank you for that word, sir; I’ve frequently heard
him apply it to himself. The plain omelette was a great
favorite with your grandfather. I hope it is to your liking,

“It’s excellent, Bates. And your coffee is beyond

“Thank you, Mr. Glenarm. One does what one can,

He had placed me so that I faced the windows, an
attention to my comfort and safety which I appreciated.
The broken pane told the tale of the shot that had so
narrowly missed me the night before.

“I’ll repair that to-day, sir,” Bates remarked, seeing
my eyes upon the window.

“You know that I’m to spend a year on this place;
I assume that you understand the circumstances,” I
said, feeling it wise that we should understand each

“Quite so, Mr. Glenarm.”

“I’m a student, you know, and all I want is to be left

This I threw in to reassure myself rather than for
his information. It was just as well, I reflected, to assert
a little authority, even though the fellow undoubtedly
represented Pickering and received orders from

“In a day or two, or as soon as I have got used to the
place, I shall settle down to work in the library. You
may give me breakfast at seven-thirty; luncheon at one-thirty
and dinner at seven.”

“Those were my late master’s hours, sir.”

“Very good. And I’ll eat anything you please, except
mutton broth, meat pie and canned strawberries.
Strawberries in tins, Bates, are not well calculated to
lift the spirit of man.”

“I quite agree with you, sir, if you will pardon my

“And the bills—”

“They are provided for by Mr. Pickering. He sends
me an allowance for the household expenses.”

“So you are to report to him, are you, as heretofore?”

I blew out a match with which I had lighted a cigar
and watched the smoking end intently.

“I believe that’s the idea, sir.”

It is not pleasant to be under compulsion,—to feel
your freedom curtailed, to be conscious of espionage. I
rose without a word and went into the hall.

“You may like to have the keys,” said Bates, following
me. “There’s two for the gates in the outer wall
and one for the St. Agatha’s gate; they’re marked, as
you see. And here’s the hall-door key and the boat-house
key that you asked for last night.”

After an hour spent in unpacking I went out into the
grounds. I had thought it well to wire Pickering of
my arrival, and I set out for Annandale to send him a
telegram. My spirit lightened under the influences of
the crisp air and cheering sunshine. What had seemed
strange and shadowy at night was clear enough by

I found the gate through which we had entered the
grounds the night before without difficulty. The stone
wall was assuredly no flimsy thing. It was built in a
thoroughly workmanlike manner, and I mentally computed
its probable cost with amazement. There were,
I reflected, much more satisfactory ways of spending
money than in building walls around Indiana forests.
But the place was mine, or as good as mine, and there
was no manner of use in quarreling with the whims of
my dead grandfather. At the expiration of a year I
could tear down the wall if I pleased; and as to the incomplete
house, that I should sell or remodel to my

On the whole, I settled into an amiable state of mind;
my perplexity over the shot of the night before was passing
away under the benign influences of blue sky and
warm sunshine. A few farm-folk passed me in the
highway and gave me good morning in the fashion of
the country, inspecting my knickerbockers at the same
time with frank disapproval. I reached the lake and
gazed out upon its quiet waters with satisfaction. At
the foot of Annandale’s main street was a dock where
several small steam-craft and a number of catboats were
being dismantled for the winter. As I passed, a man
approached the dock in a skiff, landed and tied his boat.
He started toward the village at a quick pace, but turned
and eyed me with rustic directness.

“Good morning!” I said. “Any ducks about?”

He paused, nodded and fell into step with me.

“No,—not enough to pay for the trouble.”

“I’m sorry for that. I’d hoped to pick up a few.”

“I guess you’re a stranger in these parts,” he remarked,
eying me again,—my knickerbockers no doubt
marking me as an alien.

“Quite so. My name is Glenarm, and I’ve just come.”

“I thought you might be him. We’ve rather been expecting
you here in the village. I’m John Morgan, caretaker
of the resorters’ houses up the lake.”

“I suppose you all knew my grandfather hereabouts.”

“Well, yes; you might say as we did, or you might
say as we didn’t. He wasn’t just the sort that you got
next to in a hurry. He kept pretty much to himself.
He built a wall there to keep us out, but he needn’t have
troubled himself. We’re not the kind around here to
meddle, and you may be sure the summer people never
bothered him.”

There was a tone of resentment in his voice, and I
hastened to say:

“I’m sure you’re mistaken about the purposes of that
wall. My grandfather was a student of architecture. It
was a hobby of his. The house and wall were in the line
of his experiments, and to please his whims. I hope the
people of the village won’t hold any hard feelings
against his memory or against me. Why, the labor there
must have been a good thing for the people hereabouts.”

“It ought to have been,” said the man gruffly; “but
that’s where the trouble comes in. He brought a lot of
queer fellows here under contract to work for him,
Italians, or Greeks, or some sort of foreigners. They
built the wall, and he had them at work inside for half
a year. He didn’t even let them out for air; and when
they finished his job he loaded ’em on to a train one
day and hauled ’em away.”

“That was quite like him, I’m sure,” I said, remembering
with amusement my grandfather’s secretive

“I guess he was a crank all right,” said the man conclusively.

It was evident that he did not care to establish friendly
relations with the resident of Glenarm. He was about
forty, light, with a yellow beard and pale blue eyes. He
was dressed roughly and wore a shabby soft hat.

“Well, I suppose I’ll have to assume responsibility
for him and his acts,” I remarked, piqued by the fellow’s

We had reached the center of the village, and he left
me abruptly, crossing the street to one of the shops. I
continued on to the railway station, where I wrote and
paid for my message. The station-master inspected me
carefully as I searched my pockets for change.

“You want your telegrams delivered at the house?”
he asked.

“Yes, please,” I answered, and he turned away to
his desk of clicking instruments without looking at me

It seemed wise to establish relations with the post-office,
so I made myself known to the girl who stood at
the delivery window.

“You already have a box,” she advised me. “There’s
a boy carries the mail to your house; Mr. Bates hires

Bates had himself given me this information, but the
girl seemed to find pleasure in imparting it with a certain
severity. I then bought a cake of soap at the principal
drug store and purchased a package of smoking-tobacco,
which I did not need, at a grocery.

News of my arrival had evidently reached the villagers;
I was conceited enough to imagine that my presence
was probably of interest to them; but the station-master,
the girl at the post-office and the clerks in the
shops treated me with an unmistakable cold reserve.
There was a certain evenness of the chill which they
visited upon me, as though a particular degree of frigidity
had been determined in advance.

I shrugged my shoulders and turned toward Glenarm.
My grandfather had left me a cheerful legacy of
distrust among my neighbors, the result, probably, of
importing foreign labor to work on his house. The surly
Morgan had intimated as much; but it did not greatly
matter. I had not come to Glenarm to cultivate the
rustics, but to fulfil certain obligations laid down in
my grandfather’s will. I was, so to speak, on duty, and
I much preferred that the villagers should let me alone.
Comforting myself with these reflections I reached the
wharf, where I saw Morgan sitting with his feet dangling
over the water, smoking a pipe.

I nodded in his direction, but he feigned not to see
me. A moment later he jumped into his boat and rowed
out into the lake.

When I returned to the house Bates was at work in
the kitchen. This was a large square room with heavy
timbers showing in the walls and low ceiling. There
was a great fireplace having an enormous chimney and
fitted with a crane and bobs, but for practical purposes
a small range was provided.

Bates received me placidly.

“Yes; it’s an unusual kitchen, sir. Mr. Glenarm
copied it from an old kitchen in England. He took
quite a pride in it. It’s a pleasant place to sit in the
evening, sir.”

He showed me the way below, where I found that the
cellar extended under every part of the house, and was
divided into large chambers. The door of one of them
was of heavy oak, bound in iron, with a barred opening
at the top. A great iron hasp with a heavy padlock and
grilled area windows gave further the impression of a
cell, and I fear that at this, as at many other things in
the curious house, I swore—if I did not laugh—thinking
of the money my grandfather had expended in realizing
his whims. The room was used, I noted with pleasure,
as a depository for potatoes. I asked Bates whether
he knew my grandfather’s purpose in providing a cell in
his house.

“That, sir, was another of the dead master’s ideas.
He remarked to me once that it was just as well to have
a dungeon in a well-appointed house,—his humor again,
sir! And it comes in quite handy for the potatoes.”

In another room I found a curious collection of lanterns
of every conceivable description, grouped on
shelves, and next door to this was a store-room filled
with brass candlesticks of many odd designs. I shall not
undertake to describe my sensations as, peering about
with a candle in my hand, the vagaries of John Marshall
Glenarm’s mind were further disclosed to me. It was
almost beyond belief that any man with such whims
should ever have had the money to gratify them.

I returned to the main floor and studied the titles of
the books in the library, finally smoking a pipe over a
very tedious chapter in an exceedingly dull work on
Norman Revivals and Influences. Then I went out, assuring
myself that I should get steadily to work in a day
or two. It was not yet eleven o’clock, and time was sure
to move deliberately within the stone walls of my
prison. The long winter lay before me in which I must
study perforce, and just now it was pleasant to view the
landscape in all its autumn splendor.

Bates was soberly chopping wood at a rough pile of
timber at the rear of the house. His industry had already
impressed me. He had the quiet ways of an ideal
serving man.

“Well, Bates, you don’t intend to let me freeze to
death, do you? There must be enough in the pile there
to last all winter.”

“Yes, sir; I am just cutting a little more of the hickory,
sir. Mr. Glenarm always preferred it to beech or
maple. We only take out the old timber. The summer
storms eat into the wood pretty bad, sir.”

“Oh, hickory, to be sure! I’ve heard it’s the best firewood.
That’s very thoughtful of you.”

I turned next to the unfinished tower in the meadow,
from which a windmill pumped water to the house. The
iron frame was not wholly covered with stone, but material
for the remainder of the work lay scattered at the
base. I went on through the wood to the lake and inspected
the boat-house. It was far more pretentious
than I had imagined from my visit in the dark. It was
of two stories, the upper half being a cozy lounging-room,
with wide windows and a fine outlook over the
water. The unplastered walls were hung with Indian
blankets; lounging-chairs and a broad seat under the
windows, colored matting on the floor and a few prints
pinned upon the Navajoes gave further color to the

I followed the pebbly shore to the stone wall where
it marked the line of the school-grounds. The wall, I
observed, was of the same solid character here as along
the road. I tramped beside it, reflecting that my grandfather’s
estate, in the heart of the Republic, would some
day give the lie to foreign complaints that we have no
ruins in America.

I had assumed that there was no opening in the wall,
but half-way to the road I found an iron gate, fastened
with chain and padlock, by means of which I climbed
to the top. The pillars at either side of the gate were of
huge dimensions and were higher than I could reach.
An intelligent forester had cleared the wood in the
school-grounds, which were of the same general character
as the Glenarm estate. The little Gothic church
near at hand was built of stone similar to that used in
Glenarm House. As I surveyed the scene a number of
young women came from one of the school-buildings
and, forming in twos and fours, walked back and forth
in a rough path that led to the chapel. A Sister clad in a
brown habit lingered near or walked first with one and
then another of the students. It was all very pretty and
interesting and not at all the ugly school for paupers I
had expected to find. The students were not the charity
children I had carelessly pictured; they were not so
young, for one thing, and they seemed to be appareled
decently enough.

I smiled to find myself adjusting my scarf and
straightening my collar as I beheld my neighbors for
the first time.

As I sat thus on the wall I heard the sound of angry
voices back of me on the Glenarm side, and a crash of
underbrush marked a flight and pursuit. I crouched
down on the wall and waited. In a moment a man
plunged through the wood and stumbled over a low-hanging
vine and fell, not ten yards from where I lay.
To my great surprise it was Morgan, my acquaintance
of the morning. He rose, cursed his ill luck and, hugging
the wall close, ran toward the lake. Instantly the
pursuer broke into view. It was Bates, evidently much
excited and with an ugly cut across his forehead. He
carried a heavy club, and, after listening for a moment
for sounds of the enemy, he hurried after the caretaker.

It was not my row, though I must say it quickened
my curiosity. I straightened myself out, threw my legs
over the school side of the wall and lighted a cigar,
feeling cheered by the opportunity the stone barricade
offered for observing the world.

As I looked off toward the little church I found two
other actors appearing on the scene. A girl stood in a
little opening of the wood, talking to a man. Her hands
were thrust into the pockets of her covert coat; she wore
a red tam-o’-shanter, that made a bright bit of color in
the wood. They were not more than twenty feet away,
but a wild growth of young maples lay between us,
screening the wall. Their profiles were toward me, and
the tones of the girl’s voice reached me clearly, as she
addressed her companion. He wore a clergyman’s high
waistcoat, and I assumed that he was the chaplain whom
Bates had mentioned. I am not by nature an eavesdropper,
but the girl was clearly making a plea of some
kind, and the chaplain’s stalwart figure awoke in me an
antagonism that held me to the wall.

“If he comes here I shall go away, so you may as well
understand it and tell him. I shan’t see him under any
circumstances, and I’m not going to Florida or California
or anywhere else in a private car, no matter who
chaperones it.”

“Certainly not, unless you want to—certainly not,”
said the chaplain. “You understand that I’m only giving
you his message. He thought it best—”

“Not to write to me or to Sister Theresa!” interrupted
the girl contemptuously. “What a clever man
he is!”

“And how unclever I am!” said the clergyman, laughing.
“Well, I thank you for giving me the opportunity
to present his message.”

She smiled, nodded and turned swiftly toward the
school. The chaplain looked after her for a few moments,
then walked away soberly toward the lake. He
was a young fellow, clean-shaven and dark, and with a
pair of shoulders that gave me a twinge of envy. I could
not guess how great a factor that vigorous figure was to
be in my own affairs. As I swung down from the wall
and walked toward Glenarm House, my thoughts were
not with the athletic chaplain, but with the girl, whose
youth was, I reflected, marked by her short skirt, the unconcern
with which her hands were thrust into the
pockets of her coat, and the irresponsible tilt of the tam-o’-shanter.
There is something jaunty, a suggestion of
spirit and independence in a tam-o’-shanter, particularly
a red one. If the red tam-o’-shanter expressed, so to
speak, the key-note of St. Agatha’s, the proximity of the
school was not so bad a thing after all.

In high good-humor and with a sharp appetite I went
in to luncheon.



“The persimmons are off the place, sir. Mr. Glenarm

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonThe House of a Thousand Candles → online text (page 4 of 19)