Thirty-Seven Hundred and Fifty-Eight: In Three Parts. Part Iii
IN THREE PARTS. PART III.
His voice brought the whole group back, and the light showed the body of Thomas Green, a tumbled bloody heap on the floor of his own wagon. Thinking there had been some accident, they lifted out the yet warm body, and tried to believe he was not dead. The lawyer, alert and suspicious, was the first to say, “ How could he have been hurt in his wagon so as to die ? If we had found him bleeding by the roadside it would not have been so strange,—but in his wagon ! ”
They laid it back, stretched out with face upturned to the sky. There was no longer any thought of life.
The little group closed together again, and each man looked in his neighbor’s face for some suggestion of what to do next.
“ His mother is a widow woman, and alone ; it would be a pity to take him back to her sudden,” said the one who had offered to drive the lawyer.
“An’ it wouldn’t be any better to take him to Janet Wareham’s,” said another.
The lawyer struck in here with a wholesome suggestion: “Take him to the nearest doctor, and let him find out what has really killed him.”
They clustered together arouud Cherry’s head, one man leading her. The lantern swinging in the station-master’s hand threw a fitful light on the road, on the feet of the men, but left the wagon and its dead owner in deep shade.
The little village was black and silent, — not a light nor a sign of life. It was with the greatest difficulty that the doctor was knocked, rung, aud pounded awake. At last he appeared in a dressing-gown, combing his hair with a pocket comb as he came hurriedly out the door. It was his habit, although it had horrified more than one patient, and he did it now, with his hat in the other hand, and talking all the way between the door and the gate.
“ I have known the Green family and its constitution these forty years,” said he, “ and I did not expect any of them to die suddenly. It must have been an accident.”
“We found him lying on his face,” said the lawyer, answering a question of the doctor’s. “ He was bloody and still warm.”
“ The Greens never died of apoplexy,” said the doctor. “ Thomas was not of full habit, — he could not have had a fit. I met him two days ago, and never saw clearer eyes or a healthier skin.” As he spoke he handled the body with a skill which showed that he knew his profession, if he had lived twenty years in an obscure village, and acquired not a few eccentricities.
Copyright, 1880, by HOUGHTON, OSGOOD & Co.
“ The blood did not seem to have come from anywheres, as we could find,” said a by stander. “ But then the mare had been going so hard and so long, it might have tumbled him round so’s not to be easy found.”
“ The Greens were sensitive about the head,” muttered the doctor, as he turned from his rapid feeling of the limbs to the face. “ No wound there — the skull uninjured.” The doctor’s face began to lengthen. “ This blood must have come from somewhere. Hold that light nearer — Ah ! ”
He tore away cravat and collar. “ There it is ! —— a little wound, but in the right place. A pin-prick there would be surer than a bludgeon on the top of the head. Nobody can meddle with the spinal marrow and the medulla oblongata and live afterward.”
The doctor, with a mixture of grief and professional satisfaction at having finally found the cause, pointed to a small wound in the back of the neck. “ It is a clean little cut, and whoever did it knew where to strike.”
“ Whoever did it!” repeated a voice sharp with horror. " Then there has been murder ! ”
The words, the voice, struck a terror to the hearts of those standing round, and the gloom of the night seemed to deepen as each man suddenly realized what subtle treachery must have been at work in the wide darkness around them. The deep sleep of the village had been broken by the strange tumult and the lights at the doctor’s door. Windows were raised, heads popped out, questions sharply asked and quickly answered, and the crowd had increased in numbers.
“ We must see to this,” said the same voice. “ Has he been robbed ? ” The pockets of the dead man showed no signs of having been disturbed
“ Then it was not his money. Boys, we must take him back to his mother — or to — to — no, to his mother. Some of you do that, and the rest of us will go ahead, find the wagon tracks, and see where this was done. I harnessed the mare to-night, and I know he meant to leave home about ’leven. Somewhere on the road we shall find the marks of this.”
It was Caleb who spoke, and his words appealed at once to that desire for action which comes after the first paralyzing influence of a great shock.
Other lanterns were brought and carried carefully along the road. It was easy to trace the wheel tracks ; the mare had swerved here and there from the beaten ruts, as if with great shuddering fits and starts at the thought of the load she carried. For two miles beyond the village there was no other sign ; then at the beginning of the narrow pass which led through the grove of pines they found a hat, — his hat, —and it was carefully laid on the seat above the dead man’s head. Here, about half-way down the length of the gorge, the wagon tracks ceased their deviations, and could no longer be distinguished from other wheel tracks.
Caleb stopped and held up his lantern, speaking again in that sharp, hollow voice which had chilled his hearers before, “ He stopped guidin’ her here, — it was done here, and we shall find the traces.” Every lantern was lowered to the ground, throwing the strongest possible light around. They scanned the road with care, but Caleb’s prophecy was not fulfilled. There was not a leaf disturbed among the ferns and grasses at the foot of the rocks, not a footstep except what they had made themselves. The lightning might have struck from the clouds and left more trace of its passage than they found here.
“ Nevertheless,” said Caleb obstinately, “ it was done here. Them pine-trees could tell, if they would stop their everlastin’ sighin’ and groanin’. I’ve always hated ’em. Well, I suppose we must go on.”
They went; but from that place nothing was found that could give the slightest clue to the murder.
There was a light in the window of Janet’s parlor, and as the roll of the wagon wheels sounded through the stillness the little procession saw it move up and down ; then the door opened, and a low, sweet call sounded through the darkness. The men drew together, and one whispered, “ It’s her, — that’s her call. I’ve heard her before, once. Shall we tell her ? He will never answer her.”
“ No,” broke in Caleb ; “ let her alone to night. She will hear quickly enough in the morning.”
The house of Jack Osborn, a little further up the road, was dark and still when they went past, as if the inmates had been asleep for hours. Caleb eyed it keenly, as if he would penetrate the shadows and learn if all there slept the sleep of the just, or if there might not be one who wrestled with the horrors of a guilty conscience.
Mrs. Green was expecting her son with a guest, and as the wagon rolled slowly to the door and stopped they saw the light pass from one window to another and then pause in the hall. The men, too, paused and whispered, as when they went by the other house where there was an expectant watcher. Who was to tell her ? The lawyer stepped forward. “ I will meet her and break it to her as gently as I can. It will not be quite as hard for me, a total stranger, as for you who knew them both. Wait here, so as to bring it in.”
They waited ten minutes and heard nothing; then the lawyer called from the door, “ Come in here, some of you.”
Mrs. Green was lion-hearted. She did not faint. Caleb wished she had, as he helped carry the body of her dead son past her into the house. She stood stiff in the position in which the lawyer had first met her, and then she turned and followed the regular tread of the four bearers, and then stood stiff again when they laid it down. There was no softening the awful blow, and the stout heart had to bear it as it best could. Caleb took charge, and worked or gave orders, as were needed. He sent down and called up Jack Osborn’s mother to come up and stay with Mrs. Green ; he thought of everything, and was as skillful, thoughtful, and tender as a woman. Late in the night, when some measure of quietness was restored to the house, he remembered Cherry, and went out to feed her. As he stood by her manger the mare turned her fine-pointed ears restlessly back and forth, and looked at him with soft, dark eyes full of wistful questioning. He patted her neck. “Poor old girl, you will miss him, too. You would tell if you could, — and you have made me think of something; so eat your oats, and let me think,” which he did to such purpose that the earliest light of the August morning found him on the way to the pine grove. He walked fast and talked to himself to relieve his feelings.
“ Le’ ’s see — the fellow would have come from this direction, if my guess is right, and there would be some mark on the bank above where the wheel tracks Showed Cherry begun to run.” As he spoke, he reached the top of the bluff, and looked cautiously over; the tracks were to be easily discerned, but the bank was smooth, with not a trace of displaced stones or turf. Undiscouraged, he went back along the brow. “ Perhaps he done it here, and Cherry did not realize it until she got a little farther along—E-h-h-h! ” The mingled horror and satisfaction of that exclamation were tremendous, yet all that he discovered was a spot of moss on the edge of the bluff recently torn up, and below on a shelf of rock a bunch of sorrel crushed by the weight of feet. Caleb had made out his case to himself clearly. He folded his arms and grimly surveyed the spot as the light of the sun fell redly on it.
“ A fellow that can jump like a leopard, as he can, would n’t make nothin’ o’ that, —’specially if he was mad with hate. That’s the way it was done, and he done it, or I miss my guess. I did n’t know why it made cold shivers run down my legs when I saw him jump on that cow and kill her so quick, but I guess it was a kind of forerunnin’. I’ll measure that stab in the back of his neck when I git back to the house, and in a day or two I’ll have a chance at that long narrer knife blade, — if he’s got it yet. Perhaps he might — have dropped it.” and at the words Caleb stopped his meditation and began to hunt about. But a few minutes’ careful search gave no return. “ ’T ain’t likely he ’d have dropped it, any way, — he 'd have been much too cool-headed for that. He’d remember that that knife was known ; too many seen it a month ago when he used it. He ’d know it would testify against him if’t was found here. Oh-h-h ! you cunning, creeping devil! ” Caleb shook his stout old fists in the direction of Jack Osborn’s house, and then went back.
He found the lawyer, intending to make out the case to him, but was ruthlessly snubbed by that acute individual before he had spoken ten words.
“ I see ; you suspect some one of being the murderer. Do not say anything about it to me ; that sort of thing is not in my line. I am not a criminal lawyer.”
His words had no effect on Caleb, to whom a lawyer meant merely a man conversant with law and skilled on any point. He overwhelmed the man by his simply inability to understand, made him listen, and interested him in spite of his determination to the contrary. He became thoughtful. “It looks plausible, and I should think there might be ground for an investigation, at least. But there is one point you must be clear on before you say anything about it and cast suspicion on what may be, you know, an innocent man.”
“ He—innocent! ” Caleb ground out the words through set teeth “ Somebody must ha’ done it.”
“ No doubt. Nevertheless, before you can make your case clear, you must find out where your man was between the hours of ten and half past eleven, last night. If he cannot account for himself satisfactorily during that time, then you may begin to make a case of it; but if you cannot do that, I advise you to leave the matter alone, and keep your suspicions to yourself.”
This looked like an easy thing to Caleb : one or two questions asked in a free and easy way of some of Jack’s household would undoubtedly give the desired information, and he left the lawyer, to assume the new character of detective.
When the quivering messenger, sent to Janet the next morning, told the terrible news, her eyes dilated with horror at the thought, and for a time it was all the feeling she had. Taken from her ruthlessly, violently, at one stroke ! She could not realize that he was gone, that the call he had given the night before was the last sound she was to hear from him. She went immediately to the house, and stayed with Mrs. Green, but would not go in to see her dead lover.
“I cannot, — do not ask me. I wish to remember him only as I saw him last, alive and well. How can I carry with me, all the weary years that are stretching out before me, a recollection of him as pale and cold, not answering to my look, or holding out his arms to me ? ”
So she pleaded with tearless eyes, and they said no more. Mrs. Green was large-hearted enough to see the force of her reasoning, and Mrs. Wareham said to herself, “ Sorrow has many forms; my daughter’s is different from what mine was for her father, but then Thomas was not her husband.”
For days the expectancy of seeing him lingered with Janet, and she restlessly awaited him as of yore; then, as he did not come, the full sense of her loss began to fold and close in upon her. This had been the foreboding thought when she spoke of “ the long, weary years to come; ” they stretched out before her a desolate waste, full of the sorrow which gets up and lies down with one, and knows no interval of peace. Tears sometimes eased her for a moment, but they were rare. Her mother would have comforted her, but could not.
“ There is no comfort,” said she. “ Time and use may dull the edge of my sorrow, but I cannot be comforted. How could I, unless he were given back to me ? That is what I want, and of that there is no hope.”
Both Mrs. Green and Janet talked over Thomas’s great discovery, and decided, if it were possible, to give it to the public at once, and they both turned to Jack Osborn for help. He had been a little distant and absent in manner since the death of Thomas ; yet he gave Janet a sense as if he were hovering round to help her, but would not intrude a word or an act. She sent for him one day, a month after the event which had so changed her life, explained to him what they wished to do, and said, “ Jack, you can do this best. Thomas told you more of the details than he ever did me. I often prevented him from telling me, because I wanted to keep my eyes on the bright side when he came to me despondent with failure. But you were with him in his laboratory, and used to see him experimenting. You can understand those curious machines and the papers covered with figures and odd names, if any one can.”
Jack made a pretense of objecting at first. “No, no,” said he, “you can do it as well as I. You could learn all the signs and abbreviations in a day, and you ought to have the privilege.” He looked at her, and her clear, sad eyes met his, — his with a spark of anger at the lines of sorrow in her face, but with never a spark of remorse. For the time the whole strength of his nature was given over to its passion for her, and nothing else found room.
“ No, you must do it. You were his dearest friend and best knew his plans. You must be the greatest friend to his mother and his —widow, I almost said.”
Jack gave a little start at the words. “ No, not that. Give me the key to the laboratory, and I will go in now, since you wish it so much, and take a look at things.”
Mrs. Green handed it to him, and he passed up the stairs, opened the door of the little room, and went in.
He was bending over a sheet of manuscript, when something, a feeling of a presence, although there had been no sound of footsteps, made him turn round. Old Caleb stood close behind him, looking at him silently. How could those stubbed, cowhide boots have brought him into the room so quietly ! It gave Jack a feeling of resentment. “ How like a cat you can walk, Caleb ! I would not suppose that three inches of sole leather could be carried so still. You crept in like a wild cat.”
“ When he means mischief, eh ? I ain’t equal to nothin’ of that kind. I could n’t come creepin’ and crawlin’ up behind a man, and jump on him tigercat fashion, and send him rolling in his blood afterward. I come to ask if ye could give me the measure of that knife ye had the day ye stuck the cow in the back of the neck so handsome.”
Caleb had one satisfaction in his new career of detective: he made Jack Osborn wince for a moment. For a moment that supple, nervous hand hesitated ; the eyes wandered round the room uneasily, and could not brook the old man’s keen glance. With a wavering movement he took the knife from a pocket at the hip, and gave it to Caleb without asking what he wanted it for.
“ Five inches long, and an inch wide at the widest part. A knife like that don’t make a very wide cut, but if it goes deep enough in the right place it’s just as good. Thankee, Mr. Osborn. I ’ll remember ye when ye want any favors of me.”
It was all the satisfaction Caleb was ever to have, that single interview with Jack, in which the latter lost his presence of mind a little. The link which would have made his case was never found. Janet had seen Jack at eleven, and at half past eleven he was heard by several members of his family going up the stairs to his own room. Caleb, knowing the capacity of Jack’s wiry frame, believed that the deed had been done in that half hour; but who else would believe that a man could go a mile to the pine gorge, commit a deed which required a jump like that, and get back again to his bed so quickly? The amateur detective was baffled here and thrown utterly off the track. Nobody else had suspected Jack, and Caleb was too honest a man to breathe his suspicions unless he had proof enough to sustain him. Day after day went by, and he felt that his chance grew less and less. Jack was never off his guard, — was never again betrayed into anything which even to the watchful Caleb seemed like a flicker of guilt.
Meantime, Jack worked over the papers that Thomas had left. At first he thought he should easily succeed in arranging and reading them. So many theories had been confided to him and talked over with him by Thomas, he had seen so many experiments tried and had them explained to him, that he did not dream of any difficulty. But as he went on, he found greater and greater difficulties. As usual, Jack had been mistaken in his estimate of Thomas. Thomas had a trifle more man of the world in him than even the latest revelations of his character had let Jack suppose. The latter found out that, intimate as they had been, Thomas had never dropped a word, or explained an experiment, by which any one could follow closely the labyrinth of his plans and imitate the conclusion to which he had arrived. Jack worked steadily a week, and then did his late friend’s character that posthumous amount of justice. He threw down the papers one day in a fit as nearly like despair as his temperament would allow.
“ Where a man has invented arbitrary signs to describe chemical results following upon the use of certain chemical constituents of which one has no idea, how is it possible to see what he means ! Then add to that a system of values known only to himself, expressed by letters, and both signs and letters used in equation and formulae, and where are the Egyptian hieroglyphics, I should like to know—a mere A B C by the side of this. I am not superstitious,” and he glanced up at a picture of Thomas which Janet had hung on the wall that day, saving that it would serve as an inspiration, “but if I were, I should say that that photograph was mocking my failure.”
Failure ! The word stung him like an insult; it was something which had never overtaken him yet. Wherever he had really given his whole soul to a thing, he had succeeded sooner or later. He could not give up this, so rich a prize, so near him.
“ I must find it, — I must get the secret,” he murmured. “ Then the patent I shall persuade Mrs. Green to have made out for Janet; then when I marry her I shall ” — He stopped there, not from remorse or fear, — the time for those had not come, — but simply because he would not blind himself by thoughts of his success. For several days he abandoned all effort with the papers, intending to take hold freshly after the interval of rest thus obtained.
Caleb, the faithful, had attached himself to Janet and Mrs. Green, as if he belonged to them by right. He religiously carried out on the farm all the plans Thomas had so much as hinted at, and used his best endeavors to prevent Mrs. Green from selling the place.
“ Nothin’ will ever seem like home to ye as this place has,” said he. “ You ’re too old and set in your ways to like new places, and as sure as you try it you will have a great hankerin’ after the house you have lived in for forty year, and you won’t nowhere find nothin’ like it. You ’ll want to be seein’ them smooth, green fields without a rock in ’em, thanks to the great invention, when you look out the window, and you ’ll miss ’em if you are away from ’em.”
There was truth in this which struck Mrs. Green, though she knew that there were two sides to the argument. She needed a change of some kind ; to live there alone was impossible. She offered to rent half her house to Janet and Mrs. Wareham, an offer which they accepted at once, understanding that it meant companionship and consolation, and also that they would be near the laboratory and Jack.
The way in which Caleb contrived to give his suspicions of Jack Osborn to Janet, and to her alone, would have been a curious psychical study. She would not at first recognize that she shrank from Jack as she never had before; she was continually obliged to force herself to be open and friendly and on the old terms with him. Finally, the effort became too great to be ignored any longer. She took hold of it with her strong reason ; looked at it in different lights ; asked herself sternly if she could show just cause for shrinking from the most intimate friend of Thomas, who was trying to help her, trying to put the discovery of her lover before the world, doing her a great favor with entire unselfishness. She turned her feelings about, scrutinized them thoroughly, and found not a shadow of justification for her aversion, and therefore decided she would have none. She hunted and chased her feelings out and shut the door, and there they were again, — impalpable, formless, below reason, and uncontrollable. She began to wonder if there could be any truth in the popular idea that women were unreasonable beings guided by a few instincts, like will-o’-the-wisps, and not amenable to the same mental laws as men.
Caleb first put her feelings into a shape which her reason could pronounce worthy of attention. He went from his work one evening in the twilight past the house of Janet. She had gone back there to nail up an Ayrshire rose which had been blown from its fastenings by the wind. It was a thrifty briery climber, and as she scratched her hands with the long sprays there arose a vivid memory of Thomas and herself as he helped her train it two years before. Caleb came along, and paused at the gate.
“ Good evenin’,” said he.
Janet responded kindly, as she always did, knowing his worth and his devotion to the memory of Thomas.
“ I 've got a fine new knife, Miss Wareham, just like the one your friend Jack Osborn always carries.” He took it out and brought it to her. She showed a little aversion to taking hold of it, which those clear old blue eyes instantly saw. “’T ain’t like his exactly, Miss Janet; there ain’t no blood on it.”
She shivered and looked in his face, wide-eyed, and with suspicions gathering and pressing in formless crowds. He waited a moment to let them take shape, and nodded without speaking. “ Caleb, Caleb,” she stammered, putting her hand on his arm, " what is all this ? There has been something in the air, I think, for weeks, which I have felt, but could not explain. Do you feel it too ? ”
“ I feel it, but it’s not in the air; it’s in my mind. Perhaps I spiritooally conveyed it to you, though I hain’t ever set up for a meejum.”
“ Do you know anything, Caleb ? Has any one found out who the — who it was ? ”
“ Nobody but me, and I always knew. But it ain’t no use. The lawyer said it would n’t be, and it ain’t. Who’d believe that anything but a leopard or a tiger could go a mile, do a thing like that, and get back to bed inside of half an hour ! It’s my belief that he slowed the clock that his mother said struck the half hour just as he came in and went up-stairs, — slowed it before he went out. He is smart enough for that. But there’s no proof.”
Janet questioned a little more, and her mind, quickened in action by the horror of the thought, soon straightened and made clear Caleb’s somewhat disconnected story, — how his suspicions were first aroused, what he had seen at the gorge, and also that he had measured the wound inflicted on the body, and found it the same width as Jack’s knife blade at the widest part.
“ But you see it’s all circumstantial, the lawyer said, and there’s a link wantin’, besides. I dunno as I should have thought of it, to begin with, if I had n’t been lookin’ at the mare’s ears, and thinkin’ how she knew, and wishin’ she could tell; and it seemed a’most as if she did tell me when she heard me say so out loud.”
Janet saw as clearly as Caleb that there was not proof enough to make a formal accusation ; nevertheless, the conviction sank into her heart, like a stone into a well, that Jack was the murderer.
Later, when she was half-way home, she met Jack, and he, turning back, walked along with her, talking in his low, pleasant tones and most genial mood. She met him with all the awfulness of the belief that he had killed her lover fresh in her mind, and her looks, her tone, must have showed that there was something wrong. Yet his manner gave no token of anything unusual in her. She felt her suspicions begin to die down a little. It could not be possible. If he were such a guilty creature, how could he meet her eyes with that soft, approving glance which always made her feel that everything she did was agreeable to him ? How could he take her hand in the easy way he now did and draw it through his arm, remarking something about the darkness coming on ? Human nature was not equal to such heights of deception, such depths of wickedness. Surely, if he were guilty, the sense of it ought to be on her as strongly in his presence as in his absence. She did not understand how the magnetism, the fascination, which the powerful nature of the man exercised on all that came near him could restore in a great measure the old charm of their intercourse.
As they entered the house, he turned to go up the stairs toward the laboratory, and then pausing said, “ After a week of rest, I am to have a night of work; ” and added in a lower voice, the tones of which were full of longing and defiance curiously blended, “Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.”
Her startled eyes met his, and for a second he seemed to search hers to their depths and find the secret she was trying to hide. He went on up the stairs three steps at a time. He had felt her changed manner — he felt every shade of change in her ; sometimes to his discouragement — to-night the marked difference stung him to his work. His determination not to fail strengthened with every inch of the gulf that was widening between them. Never had his whole will and energy been so wrought up and concentrated ; he felt that if it were necessary he could almost penetrate the veil between him and the unseen, to wrest its secret from the spirit that had passed through.
As the hours went on, his intellect working at its best, he began to perceive a clue to the meaning of the calculations which covered sheet after sheet of manuscript in a close hand. He followed it with the silent, cat-like intensity characteristic of his nature. He made no movement, save occasionally to stretch out his hand for another sheet with a quiet, gliding motion, but sat, his limbs tense with excitement, his face pale, his eyes broadly opened, as if he saw the moment drawing near when he could spring upon the desired object. The night was dark with a velvety blackness, different from that blue darkness which the presence of stars gives, and so still and warm as to be oppressive. The windows and blinds were thrown open, and some moths, attracted by the light, came in and scorched themselves in the flame of the lamp, after the manner of their kind ; and after the manner of mankind, while they fluttered with pain, they were unable to resist temptation.
As hour after hour went by, the stillness and blackness of the night began to be deepened by the heavy mutterings of thunder and by gleams of lightning. The storm came nearer, bringing a warning force of electricity on its black wings that awoke the deepest sleepers far and near in every house.
Jack heard and saw nothing save that he was drawing near the end of his quest; he was at last reading the problem aright. Opposite the window, on a low platform, stood a complicated and delicate machine, — an orderly, glittering combination of wheels, chains, bolts, and glass, ending in a plate-glass retort, steel-hooped, and with a slender, pointed cap of solid steel riveted on at the turn of the neck. Manuscript in hand, he went over the machine carefully, and felt sure he understood the method of its working.
“ There is neither cold nor hail tonight,” he said to himself; “but I must put this into operation.” As he spoke, he hooked chains, fastened bolts, inserted staples, with quick-moving fingers, and lastly connected the whole with a bright steel rod that ran upward through the roof. Lightning immediately began to play down this and over the instrument in pale blue flickers. He smiled a little and bent nearer, to see any effects that might have begun to appear. There was a roar that shook the house from chimney-top to foundation stone, and brought each living person in it to his feet. It was thunder, — yet not thunder alone. What mighty spirits had Jack invoked other than the lightning?
When silence came at last, and the three terrified women mustered courage to move and speak again, they went as by a common instinct to the little laboratory. It was easy to enter, — the splinters of the door strewed the staircase from top to bottom. Clinging to Janet, who was the calmest of the three, although her hand shook as she held the lamp above her head, they saw the inside of the room completely gutted by the tremendous forces that had been at work; and under the twisted, shivered, blackened ruins of the machine lay the body of Jack Osborn, with the pointed cap of the retort driven into his brain. After the terror of the first moment was over, Mrs. Green, hoping that there might be some life in him yet, wished to get into the room. But Janet was at first cold and silent, and then resolutely turned away, and would offer no assistance, give no encouraging advice. If she opened her lips, or permitted herself a word, she feared she should say, “It is retribution. Let him lie, as a better than he has lain.” Her passive resistance prevailed, though Mrs. Green never understood it, and Jack lay there, until a little later the voice of Caleb was heard at the door, and they hastened to let him in.
“ I kind o’ scented that something was wrong, and so I come over. My spiritooality is pretty wide awake these days, Miss Janet.” It was Caleb who made his way through the wreck and ruin of the room, and who said to Mrs. Green, lamenting that she had not been able to do it herself, “ ’T wa n’t no sort of use ; he was stone dead before you got here. It’s likely he never knew himself what killed him, it was done so quick,” and an odd tone of regret, as if he wished it could have been a longer agony, was in the old man’s voice, but no tinge of sorrow.
And so the secret of the great discovery was lost.
— “ To be found,” said Areto, “ centuries later, by another race of men, and applied to a civilization then undreamed of.” He rolled up the yellow leaves of the manuscript, and the group began to rouse themselves from the spell which the story had cast over them, and to separate. Hamas was left with Areto.
“ I am conceited enough,” said the former, " to think that we Maoris have advanced in all points far beyond this race. Their civilization in some respects had reached a high pitch, yet it was uneven. In this day it is hard to imagine a man going about with murder lying dormant in his heart, as the Jack Osborn does in this story, and yet associating on equal terms with a woman like Janet and a man like Thomas.”
“ We are beyond them in our general average of advancement,” said Areto; “yet I think people could be found among us as full of evil possibilities and capacities as that handsome, fiendish, interesting Jack.”
“ Doubted,” replied Hamas. “ Ages of culture have had their effect on us. The evil has been educated out of the natures of the fathers, and the children have inherited a less capacity for it, and their children still less, and so on down the generations, until in our day to carry envy to such a point that it can provoke murder is as unimaginable by us as that we should rack and torture our neighbors and burn them at the stake. Very likely the Yankee of 1879 could not imagine how his ancestors four hundred years before could do that.”
Areto smiled, and answered, “ So you have been reading that Fox’s Book of Martyrs and believing it. It lay in the ruined house where it was found along with a book three hundred years younger, — a navigator’s book, upon which we have made no improvement, boast as we may. But, as I said, we may be beyond them in our average civilization, yet there are not now among our own women any finer, stronger characters than this Janet Wareham showed.”
“ Still, that it must have been a rare character is evident by the whole tone of the story. All the women of her time were not like her.”
“ That must be true, Hamas ; for even to you as well as to me she is a remarkable person. Think what qualities she showed: such entire sympathy with her lover’s work, — she could have understood it in its smallest details, if she had chosen, — and then such splendid practical knowledge ; how she got the patent for his rock-burner ; what strong self-control not to breathe her suspicions of Jack, for she did not positively know he was guilty ! I can fancy that her life after the death of Thomas was one of devotion to his memory and of kindness to his mother. I am certain she never married, but died at last leaving a void in the hearts of all that knew her. What a pity that she had to die, — that she is not living now! ”
“ Areto, I believe you have fallen in love with this maiden eighteen hundred years old. Why do you not try to find some trace of her? The manuscript speaks of her having a house in some city. Who knows but it was this one ; and who knows but that somewhere in it there may be found some personal trace of her, — a jewel with her name on it, a ring, something by which you will be able to realize her to yourself ?”
“ That is my dream,” said Areto, in an intense tone, “ and yon spur me on to new efforts. I hoped in every pause of my reading that I might hear a shout from my men, and that in the new excavation I should find some trace of her. What happiness it would be to find anything that actually belonged to her ! ”
“ Why may you not ? ” said Hamas.
“ The story speaks of a picture ” —
“ It does ; and in this very city it was left, as you may remember.”
“ Ah,” said Hamas, “ then you know it was this city ? ”
“Yes,” replied Areto, looking a little confused. “ I have reason to think so. The name in her letter is the same as part of that on the stone panel which I said was Hartford Fire Insurance. She uses the first part only, Hartford, which may have been a colloquial expression for the whole.”
“I believe, Areto, you have certainly fallen in love with her. If you should meet her counterpart in the course of your life, you would immediately love her.”
“ Her counterpart, — there could be no one like her.”
“ Why not ? Does nature never repeat herself? You know there is a tradition that a remnant of that Yankee nation survived as late as two hundred years ago. If that is so, there may be descendants who would still have a touch of that blood and many of the characteristics.”
“Would it might be so! But that tradition is obscure, and those survivors were far from here, and all is so uncertain.”
“ True, true ; and yet far back among my own kindred there is a story of an ancestress from one of these very people. I will look into it.”
“Why trouble yourself, Hamas? If it were so, would there be any one like this girl ? I trow not.” So they separated, and each went to his own house.
The next day Areto explored again the ruin in which the manuscript had been found, half hoping that it might prove to be the house he wanted. Not a lump of earth but was broken, lest it should contain some treasure; not a particle of brick or mortar but was carefully taken up, lest there might be something under it, but he received no reward for his search. As he climbed out from the pit, an outcry was heard among his men, who were still digging at the spot where the rustling leaf of manuscript had been wafted by the wind. His heart beat quickly, and he flew toward the spot.
“ We have come upon a house, we think,” said the foreman, “but Gioglio has fallen in. He is not hurt, however, and we shall soon dig him out.”
The deep, strong substratum of red clay, nearly as hard as the red sandstone which lay still further below, had been penetrated only by severe labor with the picks; but at the last it had suddenly caved in, betraying the fact that there was a room or cellar below. This was an unusual thing, and Areto gazed down into it with the most ardent hopes. The form of the man Gioglio was already emerging from the débris in which he had fallen, and in another moment he was dragged out and found unhurt. The labor of clearing away the solid pieces of clay from the interior and of uncovering the rest of the room took an hour or two more, and then Areto sent away his men, and stood alone on the floor of what had been a small marble-paved vestibule, the traces of the wall dividing it from a larger room being perfectly apparent. The outer walls were standing to the height of six feet, having been preserved by the stiffness and weight of the clay. In the larger room some glimmering remains of color showed that the wainscot had been painted, and as he slowly traced out the design he felt a keen pulsation of joy. The glimmering gold of the groundwork was not all gone, and on it was the dull green stem, the blue blossom, of the blue-weed which Janet Wareham had written about so many years before. He would not believe it fully until, with further search, he discovered the delicate tracery of the morning-glory between each stiff, upright stem. Then he stood back in the middle of the room, and for a few minutes allowed himself the full belief that he had at last found the long-sought house, — that he at last stood in the very room which this girl had once brightened with her presence. He drew a sigh of contentment, and then sprang to renewed search. To the floor he now looked; the dry, hard clay had preserved the different articles as in a sheath, or as a fossil fish is sometimes found in a geode. A large lump of clay gently cracked revealed a small bronze figure, the Florentine flying Mercury, with its exquisite proportions, the little wings of the cap and ankle a-flutter with the instinct of flight which pervades the limbs.
“ Good work,—good work,” muttered Areto, “ but copied. That is not the Yankee type of limb and face, if I have studied these ruins aright.”
The next thing was a bronze vase, rough with writhing dragons and fighting birds. “ Good again in its way,” said he, “but not native art. This people must have borrowed all that was beautiful from every nation under the sun. Could not they sit still long enough to invent something typical of themselves alone ? ”
But one treasure greater than all the rest waited to reward his patient search. Near the wall, as if fallen from it, incrusted with mud, stained and crocked, but not ruined, he found a picture painted on a plate of ivory. As he wiped off the stains, the face began to reveal itself, and his heart beat quicker, his hand moved faster, as he began to recognize it in a faint, dreamy way, as he had the pattern on the wall. Somewhere that face had been described to him ; his practiced hand trembled as he went on cleansing the ivory surface. It was, it certainly was, the face of Janet Wareham which at last looked at him; proof positive was at hand. The straight line of the nose just above the nostrils showed faintly, but distinctly, the little sear which she had said was gained in a desperate conflict with a Maori chieftain.
“If an ancestor of mine did it,” thought Areto, “I give him my blessing, for now I know that it is she, and that she is — what I dreamed.”
He stood lost in contemplation, realizing to himself all she must have been, when a voice roused him.
“ What is it, Areto, holds you so fast ? I have spoken three times, and you have not answered.”
Areto held the picture toward Hamas, whose entrance he had not heard. Hamas gazed at it with a little start, and then with a thoughtful, inquiring look.
“ It is a beautiful face,” said he, quietly. “ She has a restful look, —not that anxious, self-conscious air we noticed in those pictures you showed us the day we first came here.” Areto felt that his friend was a little cool and unsympathetic, and Hamas went on : “ Her place
in life made it possible for her to be at ease.”
“ No doubt,” replied Areto, adopting the cool, reasonable voice of his friend, “ she was at ease pecuniarily. She had, evidently, no petty ambitions to give her a restless air, and the current of her life flowed with an even, deep smoothness, except for the interruptions of those two deaths. But do you not see more, Hamas ? ”
The answer of Hamas was an abrupt change of the subject. “ Come to me this evening,”said he, “and let nothing prevent you. I have something to show you ; ” and then he went away without further ceremony.
Areto felt for a moment longer a little pain at the lack of sympathy in his discovery, but forgot it soon in the renewed contemplation of the picture. He studied it long and deeply, taking it more and more into his soul. He returned to it again and again in the rest of the time he spent in the ruin, and nothing else had any value after that. He took the picture home wrapped in a fold of soft wool, and carried it up into his own room. No eyes but his own and Hamas’s had seen it, and he felt as if no other could.
“ You shall have a shrine, my angel,” said he, addressing the face as if it could understand, “ of fair carved ivory and gold, and you shall dwell always here, — here and in my heart.”
It was late before he remembered the invitation of Hamas, — an invitation in form, but in the tones a command, which he now recalled for the first time. He must go, however much he might wish not. Changing his dress for one not less easy, but lighter and more festal in style, he turned toward the door, first covering the picture, saying, “ I leave you, but I carry you in my heart.”
Then he went out and walked through the streets which separated his house from that of Hamas. In that city it was the law that houses should be built with an open space of at least twenty-five feet around them on all sides, so that even in the business quarters there were small lawns or well-kept gardens around every building. The streets were wide, and there was no sense of being shut in, no feeling of being barred away from air and sky. Everywhere pleasant breezes blew and the circulation of air was free. This, with the perfect system of sewerage, made the city as wholesome and sweet as a broad sweep of open country. The pavement was smooth and solid, yet the wheels of vehicles moved over it with little noise, and there was neither dust nor mud. The faces of the people were strong and serene,'—the face of a race that has conquered its way to an easy life, but has not grown effeminate. As Areto passed along, occasionally meeting a friend, each noticed a little look of care on his face, an unusual thing in that day. It made his countenance more like the Yankee nation of which he had been thinking so much lately, and less like the high-bred Maori he was. Could it be that the thought of that fair face would actually give him that look?
The house of Hamas, low and wide, with broad doors and many windows, stood in the centre of a beautiful garden where grew semi-tropical plants. A giant orange-tree stood like a warder at the gate and shook down fragrant blossoms on his head as he passed underneath.
The daughter of Hamas met him at the door, a child of ten. “ Thou hast come,” she said, — on that day the children addressed their elders using the beautiful thee and thou; it was considered appropriate, — “ thou hast come,” she said, “and art crowned with orange flowers, like a wedding guest.”
Areto put his hand to his head, and feeling the tender petals answered with careless smiles, “ Perhaps it is to a wedding I am come.”
“ There is a beautiful girl here,” replied the child, looking at him with an air of amused gravity ; “ there may be a bridal wreath for her and thee.”
“ Lead on to thy father,” replied Areto, “ that I may tell him why I came so late.”
The small damsel danced on before him, until in the last of several large rooms he saw Hamas among a group of friends and acquaintances. They were standing about talking, the perfect language they spoke seeming to lend an added charm to their full, soft voices.
Areto greeted his host and one and another of his friends, and felt a sensation of mild astonishment that his presence had been so particularly commanded when there seemed no occasion. His thoughts reverted to the picture he had left behind, and he was becoming a little absent-minded, when Hamas, touching his sleeve, said, “This is my object in causing you to come this evening without fail.” He led the way, followed by all the guests, to a small room having at one side a recess in the wall usually filled with flowering plants and climbers. These had been removed, and the softly shaded light of two or three lamps fell upon a picture placed on an easel. As the eyes of Areto rested upon this he felt a thrill traverse his frame from head to foot. It was a portrait of larger size, but otherwise exactly resembling the one he had that day found. He could not speak, but devoured it with his eyes. There was the noble, serene look, and yet the arch, bright expression lighting it up ; there were the straight line of the dark brows, the smooth breadth of forehead, the soft golden curls and puffs, the full white throat with the quaint necklace. He stood as if petrified, while a murmur rose around him.
“ A face much like those we have among us to-day,” said a brother professor standing near Areto. “ The head is fine in its outlines, and the mouth is exquisite.”
“ You say, Hamas, that she was one of the race long since extinct whose remains we occasionally find among those buried ruins, a mile or two from this city,” said another.
“ She is a descendant of that race, and has reproduced, apparently, its types and characteristics,” answered Hamas in a guarded voice, so different from its usual frank sweetness that it pierced the torpor which had seized Areto, and a wild thought sprang up in his heart. He turned a flashing look on Hamas, which the latter met with a smile.
Areto began to move forward slowly, crossing the line Hamas had asked his friends to keep as giving the best view of the picture. At every step the color on that fair cheek deepened, or else the light flickered strangely on it; in a moment more he stood by the frame, and the beautiful lips quivered with an arch smile, the eyelids slid down over the eyes embarrassed by his fixed, ardent gaze. Conscious of nothing but the overwhelming thought that this face he loved seemed to have crossed the shades of eighteen hundred years to meet him in life, he held out his hand. At the motion she made in giving hers, with its warm, convincing touch, he at last drew a long breath, and murmured, “ It is she — and she lives.”
Hamas and those of the guests to whom he had revealed the secret smiled as they saw what the end of this meeting would be. Others asked an explanation.
“ It is a theory of mine,” said he, “that nature occasionally goes back to first principles and gives us our greatgrandmothers again, after we have forgotten that we had any. Areto disagreed with me. This lady is a distant cousin of mine, and a remote ancestress of our family was a descendant of the Yankees. Areto found to-day in his ruined city a portrait of one of that race, and my cousin simply from race connection bears the strongest resemblance to it. I determined to give him this little surprise, and you see how be recognized it at once; all the types of that nation have appeared in her after a lapse of many generations.”