AT ten o’clock on that morning, Paul and the kaváss went on board the steam launch at Beshik Tash, the landing most convenient for persons coming from the upper part of Pera. They had done everything possible, and it was manifestly Paul’s duty to inform his chief of the occurrences of the night. The authorities had been put in possession of the details of Alexander’s disappearance, and the scanty machinery of the Stamboul police had been set in motion; notice had been given at every hotel and circulated to every place of resort, and it was impossible that if Alexander showed himself in Pera he should escape observation, even if he desired to do so. But Stamboul was not Pera, and as Paul gave the order to steam to Buyukdere he resolutely turned his back on the eastern shore of the Golden Horn, unable to bear the sight of the buildings so intimately associated with his night’s search. He was convinced that his brother was in Stamboul, and he knew that the search in Pera was a mere formality. He knew, also, that to find any one in Stamboul was only possible provided the person were free, or at least able to give some sign of his presence ; and he began to believe that Alexander had fallen a victim to some rash prank. He had, perhaps, repeated his folly of the previous afternoon, — had wandered into the streets, had foolishly ventured to look too closely at a pair of black eyes, and had been spirited away by the prompt vengeance of the lady’s attendants.
But Paul’s speculations concerning the fate of his brother were just now interrupted by the consideration of the difficulties which lay before him. Cold and resolute by nature, he found himself in a position in which any man’s calmness would have been shaken. He knew that he must tell his tale to his chief, and he knew that he was to blame for not having watched Alexander more closely. It was improbable that any one who had not been present could understand how. in the intense interest caused by the ceremony, Paul could have overlooked his brother’s departure from the gallery. But not only had Paul failed to notice his going; the kaváss had not observed the lost man’s movements any more than Paul himself. It was inconceivable to any one except Paul that Alexander should have been capable of creeping past him and the soldier, on tip-toe, purposely eluding observation ; nevertheless, such an action would not be unnatural to his character. He had perhaps conceived a sudden desire to go down into the church and view the ceremony more closely. He must have known that both his companions would forcibly prevent him from such a course, and it was like him to escape them, laughing to himself at their carelessness. The passion for adventure was in his blood, and his training had not tended to cool it; fate had thrown an attractive possibility into his way, and he had seized the opportunity of doing something unusual, and annoying his more prudent brother at the same time.
But though Paul understood this clearly enough, he felt that it would be anything but easy to make it clear to his chief ; and yet, if he did not succeed in doing so, it would be hard for him to account for his carelessness, and he might spend a very unpleasant season of waiting until the missing man was found. In such a case as this, Paul was too good a diplomatist not to tell the truth very exactly. Indeed, he was always a truthful man, according to his lights ; but had it been necessary to shield his brother’s reputation in any way, he would have so arranged his story as not to tell any more of the truth than was necessary. What had occurred was probably more to his own discredit than to Alexander’s, and Paul reflected that, on the other hand, there was no need to inform the ambassador of the quarrel on the previous afternoon, since the chief had overheard it, and had himself interposed to produce quiet, if not peace. He resolved, therefore, to tell every particular, from the moment of his arrival with Alexander at the Vinegar Sellers’ Landing to the time of his leaving Pera, that morning, on his way back to Buyukdere.
There was some relief in having thus decided upon the course he should follow ; but the momentary satisfaction did not in the least lighten the burden that weighed upon his heart. His anxiety was intense, and he could not escape it. nor find any argument whereby to alleviate it. He did not love his brother, or at least had never loved him before ; but we often find in life that a sudden fear for the safety of an individual, for whom we believe we care nothing, brings out a latent affection which we had not expected to feel. The bond of blood is a very strong one, and asserts itself in extreme moments with an unsuspected tenacity which works wonders, and which astonishes ourselves. The silken cord is slender, but the hands must be strong that can break it. In spite of all the misery his brother had caused him in boyhood, in spite of the coolness which had existed between them in later years, in spite of the humiliation he had so often suffered in seeing Alexander preferred before him, yet at this moment, when, for a time, the only man who bore his name had suddenly disappeared from the scene of life, Paul discovered deep down in his heart a strange sympathy for the lost man. He blamed himself bitterly for his carelessness, and, going back in his memory, he recalled with sorrow the hard words which had passed between them. He would have given much to be able to revoke the past and to weave more affection into his remembrance of his brother; and at the idea that he might perhaps never see him again, he turned pale, and twisted his fingers uneasily in his agitation.
Meanwhile, the launch steamed bravely against the current, deftly avoiding the swift eddies under the skillful hand of the pilot, slackening her pace to let a big ferry-boat cross before her from Europe to Asia, facing the fierce stream at Bala Hissar, — the devil’s stream, as the Turks call it, — and finally ploughing through the rushing waters of Yeni Köj round the point where the Therapia pier juts out into the placid hay of Buyukdere. Paul could see far down the pier the white gates of the Russian embassy, and when, some ten minutes later, the launch ran alongside the landing, he gathered his courage with all his might, and stepped boldly ashore, and entered the grounds, the kaváss following him with bent head and dejected looks.
His excellency the Russian ambassador was seated in his private study, alternately sipping a cup of tea and puffing at a cigarette. The green blinds were closed, and the air of the luxurious little apartment was cool and refreshing. The diplomatist had very little to do, as no business could be transacted until after the Bairam feast, which begins with the new moon succeeding the month Ramazán ; he sat late over his tea, smoking and turning over a few letters, while he enjoyed the gentle breeze which found its way into his room with the softened light. He was a gray-headed man, but not old. His keen gray eyes seemed exceedingly alive to every sight presented to them, and the lines on his face were the expression of thought and power rather than of age. He was tall, thin, and soldier-like, extremely courteous in manner and speech, but grave and not inclined to mirth ; he belonged to that class of active men in whom the constant exercise of vitality and intelligence appears to prolong life instead of exhausting its force, who possess a constitution in which the body is governed by the mind, and who, being generally little capable of enjoying the pleasure of the moment, find it easy to devote their energies to the attainment of an object in the future. Count Ananoff was the ideal diplomatist: cautious, far-sighted, impenetrable, and exact, outwardly ceremonious and dignified, not too skeptical of other men’s qualities nor too confident of his own. His convictions might be summed up, according to the old Russian joke, in the one word Nabuchadnezar, — Na Bogh ad ne Czar, — “ There is no God but the Czar.”
As Paul entered the ambassador’s study, he was glad that he had always been on good terms with his chief. Indeed, there was much sympathy between them, and it might well have been predicted at that time that Paul would some day become just such a man as he under whom he now served. Convinced as he was that in his present career quite as much of success depended upon the manner of carrying out a scheme as on the scheme itself, Paul had long come to the conclusion that no manner could possibly be so effective as that of Count Ananoff, and that in order to cultivate it the utmost attention must be bestowed upon the study of his chief’s motives. Himself grave and cautious, he possessed the two main elements noticeable in the character of his model, and to acquire the rest could only be a matter of time. The ambassador noticed the ease with which Paul comprehended his point of view, and fancied that he saw in his secretary a desire to imitate himself, which of course was flattering. The result was that a sincere good feeling existed between the two, made up of a genuine admiration on the one side, and of considerable self-satisfaction on the other. Patoff felt that the moment had come when he must test the extent of the regard his chief felt for him, and, considering the difficulty of his position and the personal anxiety he felt for his brother, it is not surprising that he was nervous and ill at ease.
“ I have a painful story to tell, excellency,” he said, standing before the broad writing-desk at which the count was sitting. The latter looked up from his tea.
“ Be seated,” he said gravely, but fixing a keen look on Paul’s haggard face.
“ I will tell you everything, with all the details,” said Patoff, sitting down; and he forthwith began his story. The narrative was clear and connected, and embraced the history of the night from the time when Paul had left Buyukdere with his brother to the time of his return. Nothing was omitted which he could remember, but when he had done he was conscious that he had only told the tale of his long search for the missing man. He had thrown no light upon the cause of the disappearance. The ambassador looked very grave, and his thoughtful brows knit themselves together, while he never took his eyes from Paul’s face.
“ It is very serious,” he said at last. ” Will you kindly explain to me, if you can do so without indiscretion, the causes of the violent quarrel which took place between you yesterday afternoon ? ” Paul had foreseen the question, and proceeded to detail the occurrences in the Valley of Roses, explaining the part he had played, and how he had remonstrated with Alexander. The latter, he said, had lost his temper, after they had got home.
“ I would not tell that story to any one else,” said Paul, in conclusion. “ It shows the disposition of my brother, and does him no credit. It was a foolish escapade, but I should be sorry to have it known. I expected that a complaint would have been lodged already.”
“ None has been made. Is the kaváss who went with you come back ? ” “ Yes.”
“ Do you think,” said the count, looking quietly at Paul, “ that he can tell us anything you have forgotten ? ”
There was a peculiar emphasis upon the last words which did not escape the secretary, though in that first moment he did not understand what was meant.
“ No,” he answered, quite simply, returning his chief’s look with perfect calmness. “ I do not believe he can tell anything more. I will call him.”
“ By all means. There is the bell,” said the ambassador. Paul rang, and sent the servant to call the kaváss, who had been waiting, and appeared immediately, looking very ill and exhausted with the fatigue of the night. He trembled visibly, as he stood before the table and made his military salute, bringing his right hand quickly to his mouth, then to his forehead, and letting it drop again to his side. Count Ananoff cross-examined him with short, sharp questions. The man was very pale, and stammered his replies, but the extraordinary accuracy with which he recounted the details already given by Patoff did not escape the diplomatist.
“ Have you anything more to tell ? ” asked the ambassador, at last.
“ It was not my fault, Effendim,” said the kaváss, in great agitation. “ Paul Effendi and I were looking at the people, and when we turned Alexander Effendi was gone, and we could not find him. I had warned him beforehand not to separate himself from us ” —
“ Do you think he can be found ? ” inquired Ananoff, cutting short the man’s repetitions.
“ Surely, the Effendi can be found,” returned the kaváss. “ But it may take time.”
“ Why should it take time ? Unless he is injured or imprisoned somewhere, he ought to find his way to Pera to-day.”
“ Effendim, he may have strayed into the dark streets. If the bekji found him without a lantern, he would be arrested, according to the law.”
“ He had our lantern,” said Paul. “We could not find it.”
“That is true,” answered the kaváss, in dejected tones. “ There is the Persian ambassador, Effendim,” he said, with a sudden revival of hope.
“ What can he do ? ” asked the count.
“ He is lord over all the donkeydrivers in Stamboul, Effendim. The Sultan allows him to exact tribute of them, which is the most part of his fortune.1 Perhaps if he gave orders that they should all be beaten unless they found Alexander Effendi, they would find him. They go everywhere and see everybody.”
“ That is an idea,” said the ambassador, hardly able to repress a grim smile. “ I will send word to his excellency at once. I have no doubt but that he will do it.”
“ But it was not my fault ” — began the kaváss again.
“ I am not sure of that,” answered the diplomatist. “If you find him, you will be excused.”
“ I think the man is not to be blamed,” remarked Paul, who had not forgotten the anxiety the kaváss had shown in trying to find Alexander. “ It is my belief that my brother’s disappearance did not occur in any ordinary way.”
“ I think so, too,” replied the count.
“ You may go.” he said to the soldier, who at once left the room. A short silence followed his departure.
“ Monsieur Patoff,” resumed the elder man presently, “ you are in a very dangerous and distressing position.”
“ Distressing,” said Paul. “ Not dangerous. so far as I can see.”
“ Let us be frank,” answered the other. “Alexander Patoff is your elder brother. You feel that he had too large a share of your father’s fortune. You have never liked him. He came here without an invitation, and made himself very disagreeable to you. You had a violent quarrel yesterday afternoon, and you were justly provoked, — quite justly, I have no doubt. You go to Stamboul at night with only one man to attend you. You come back without your rich, overbearing, intolerable brother. What will the world say to all that ? ”
In spite of his pallor, the blood rushed violently to Paul’s face, and he sprang from his chair in the wildest excitement.
“ You have no right — you do not mean to say it— Great God! How can you think of such a” —
“ I do not think it,” said the ambassador, seizing him by the arm and trying to calm him. “ I do not think anything of the kind. Command yourself, and be a man. Sit down, — there, be reasonable. I only mean to put you in your right position.”
“You will drive me mad,” answered Paul in low tones, sinking into the chair again.
“Now listen to me,” continued the count, “ and understand that you are listening to your best friend. The world will not fail to say that you have spirited away your brother, — got rid of him, in short, for your own ends. There is no one but a Turkish soldier to prove the contrary. No, do not excite yourself again. I am telling you the truth. I know perfectly well that Alexander has lost himself by his own folly, but I must foresee what other people will say, in case he is not found ” —
“ But he must be found! ” interrupted Paul. “ I say he shall be found ! ”
“ Yes, so do I. But there is just a possibility that he may not be found. Meanwhile, the alarm is given. The story will be in every one’s mouth tonight, and to-morrow you will be assailed with all manner of questions. My dear Patoff, if Alexander does not turn up in a few days, you had better go away, until the whole matter has blown over. You can safely leave your reputation in my hands, as well as the care of finding your brother, if he can be found at all, and you will be spared much that is painful and embarrassing. I will arrange that you may be transferred for a year to some distant post, and when the mystery is cleared up you can come back and brave your accusers.”
“But,” said Paul, who had grown pale again, “ it seems to me impossible that I could be accused of murdering my brother on such slender grounds, even if the worst were to happen and he were never found. It is an awful imputation to put upon a man. I do not see how any one would dare to suggest such a thing.”
“ In the first place,” answered the ambassador, arguing the point as he would have discussed the framing of a dispatch, “the Turks are very cunning, and they hate us. They will begin by saying that you had an interest in disposing of Alexander. They will search out the whole story, and will assert the fact because they will be safe in saying that there is no evidence to the contrary. They will take care that the suggestion shall reach our ears, and that it shall spread throughout our little society. What can you answer to the question, ‘ Where is your brother ? ’ If people do not ask it, they will let you know that it is in their hearts.”
“ I do not know,” said Paul, stunned by the possible truth of his chief’s argument.
“ Exactly. You do not know, nor I either. But if you stay here, you will have to fight for your own reputation. If you are absent, I can put down such scandal by my authority, and it will soon be forgotten. I do not believe that this disappearance can remain a secret forever. At present, and for some time to come, it is only a disappearance, and it will be expected that your brother may yet come back. But when months are past, — should such a catastrophe occur, — people will find another word, and the murder of Alexander Patoff will be the common topic of conversation.”
“ It is awful to think of,” murmured Paul. “ But why do you suppose that he will not come back ? He may have got into some scrape, and he may appear this evening. There is hope yet and for days to come.”
“ I am sorry to say I do not believe it,” answered the count. “ There have been several disappearances of insignificant individuals since I have been here. No pains were spared to find them, but no one ever obtained the smallest trace of their fate. They were probably murdered for the small sums of money they carried. Of course there is possibility, but I think there is very little hope.”
“ But I cannot bear to think that poor Alexander should have come to such an end,” cried Paul. “ I could not go away feeling that I had left anything untried in searching for him. I never loved him, God forgive me ! But he was my brother, and my mother’s favorite son. He was with me, and by my carelessness he lost himself. Who is to tell her that ? No, I cannot go until I know what has become of him.”
“ My friend,” said old Ananoff gently, “you have all my sympathy, and you shall have all my help. I will myself write to your mother, if Alexander does not return in a week. But if in a month he is not heard of, there will be no hope at all. Then you must go away, and I will shut the mouths of the gossips. Now go and rest, for you are exhausted. Be quite sure that between the measures you have taken yourself and those which I shall take, everything possible will be done.”
Paul rose unsteadily to his feet, and took the count’s hand. Then, without a word, he went to his pavilion, and gave himself up to his own agonizing thoughts.
The ambassador lost no time, for he felt how serious the case was. In spite of the heat, he proceeded to Stamboul at once, visited Santa Sophia, and explored every foot of the gallery whence Alexander had disappeared, but without discovering any trace. He asked questions of the warden of the church, the scowling Turk who had admitted the brothers on the previous night; but the man only answered that Allah was great, and that he knew nothing of the circumstances, having left the two gentlemen in charge of their kaváss. Then the count went to the house of the Persian ambassador, and obtained his promise to aid in the search by means of his army of donkey-drivers. He went in person to the Ottoman Bank, to the chief of police, to every office through which he could hope for any information. Returning to Buyukdere, he sent notes to all his colleagues, informing them of what had occurred, and requesting their assistance in searching for the lost man. At last he felt that he had done everything in his power, and he desisted from his labors. But, as he had said, he had small expectation of ever hearing again from Lieutenant Alexander Patoff, and he meditated upon the letter he had promised to write to the missing man’s mother. He was shocked at the accident, and he felt a real sympathy for Paul, besides the responsibility for the safety of Russian subjects in Turkey, which in some measure rested with him.
As for Paul, he paced his room for an hour after he had left his chief, and then at last he fell upon the divan, faint with bodily fatigue and exhausted by mental anxiety. He slept a troubled sleep for some hours, and did not leave his apartments again that day.
The view of the situation presented to him by Count Ananoff had stunned him almost beyond the power of thought, and when he tried to think his reflections only confirmed his fears. He saw himself branded as a murderer, though the deed could not be proved, and he knew how such an accusation, once put upon a man, will cling to him in spite of the lack of evidence. He realized with awful force the meaning of the question, “ Where is your brother? ” and he understood how easily such a question would suggest itself to the minds of those who knew his position. That question which was put to the first murderer, and which will be put to the last, has been asked many times of innocent men, and the mere fact that they could find no ready answer has sufficed to send them to their death. Why should it not be the same with him ? Until he could show them his brother, they would have a right to ask, and they would ask, rejoicing in the pain inflicted. Paul cursed the day when Alexander had come to visit him, and he had received him with a show of satisfaction. Had he been more honest in showing his dislike, the poor fellow would perhaps have gone angrily away, but he would not have been lost in the night in the labyrinths of Stamboul. And then again Paul repented bitterly of the hard words he had spoken, and, working himself into a fever of unreasonable remorse, walked the floor of his room as a wild beast tramps in its cage.
The night was interminable, though there were only six hours of darkness; but when the morning rose the light was more intolerable still, and Paul felt as though he must go mad from inaction. He dressed hastily, and went out into the cool dawn to wait for the first boat to Pera. Even the early shadows on the water reminded him of yesterday, when he had crossed Galata bridge on foot, still feeling some hope. He closed his eyes as he leaned upon the rail of the landing, wishing that the sun would rise and dispel at least some portion of his sorrow.
He reached Pera, and spent the whole day in fruitless inquiries. In the evening he returned, and the next morning he went back again ; sleeping little, hardly eating at all, speaking to no one he knew, and growing hourly more thin and haggard, till the Cossacks at the gate hardly recognized him. But day after day he searched, and all the countless messengers, officials, guides, porters, and people of every class searched, too, attracted by the large reward which the ambassador offered for any information concerning Alexander Patoff. But not the slightest clue could be obtained. Alexander Patoff had disappeared hopelessly and completely, and had left no more trace than if he had been thrown into the Bosphorus, with a couple of round shot at his neck. The days lengthened into weeks, and the weeks became a month, and still Paul hoped against all possibility of hope, and wearied the officials of every class with his perpetual inquiries.
Count Ananoff had long since communicated the news of Alexander’s disappearance to the authorities in St. Petersburg, thinking it barely possible that he might have gone home secretly, out of anger against his brother. But the only answer was an instruction to leave nothing untried in attempting to find the lost man, provided that no harm should be done to the progress of certain diplomatic negotiations then proceeding. As the count had foreseen, the Turkish authorities, while exhibiting considerable alacrity in the prosecution of the search, vaguely hinted that Paul Patoff himself was the only person able to give a satisfactory explanation of the case; and in due time these hints found their way into the gossip of the Bosphorus tea-parties. Paul was not unpopular, but in spite of his studied ease in conversation there was a reserve in his manner which many persons foolishly resented; and they were not slow to find out that his brother’s disappearance was very odd, — so strange, they said, that it seemed impossible that Paul should know nothing of it. The ambassador thought it was time to speak to him on the subject. Moreover, in his present state of excitement Paul was utterly useless in the embassy, and the work which had accumulated during the month of Ramazán was now unusually heavy. Count Ananoff had arranged this matter, without speaking of it to any one, a fortnight after Alexander’s disappearance, and now a secretary who had been in Athens had arrived, ostensibly on a visit to the ambassador. But Ananoff had Paul’s appointment to Teheran in his pocket, with the permission to take a month’s leave for procuring his outfit for Persia.
The explanation was inevitable. It was impossible that things should go on any longer as they had proceeded during the last fortnight; and now that there was really no hope whatever, and people were beginning to talk as they had not talked before, the best thing to be done was to send Paul away. Count Ananoff came to his rooms one morning, and found him staring at the wall, his untasted breakfast on the table beside him, his face very thin and drawn, looking altogether like a man in a severe illness. The ambassador explained the reason of his visit, reminded him of what had been said at their first interview, and entreated him to spend his month’s leave in regaining some of his former calmness.
“ Go to the Crimea, or to Tiflis,” he said. “You will not be far from your way. I will write to Madame Patoff.”
“ You are kind, —too kind,” answered Paul. “ Thank you, but I will go to my mother myself. I will be back in time,” he added bitterly. “ She will not care to keep me, now that poor Alexander is gone. Yes, I know; yon need not tell me. There is no hope left. We shall not even find his body now. But I must tell my mother. I have already written, for I thought it better. I told her the story, just as it all happened. She has never answered my letter. I fancy she must have had news from some one else, or perhaps she is ill.”
“ Do not go,” said his chief, looking sorrowfully at Paul’s white face and wasted, nervous hands. “ You are not able to bear the strain of such a meeting. I will write to her, and explain.”
“ No,” answered Paul firmly, “ I must go myself. There is no help for it. May I leave to-day ? I think there is a boat to Varna. As for my strength, I am as strong as ever, though I am a little thinner than I was.”
The old diplomatist shook his head gravely, but he knew that it was of no use to try and prevent Paul from undertaking the journey. After all, if he could bear it, it was the most manly course. He had done his best, had labored in the search as no one else could have labored, and if he were strong enough he was entitled to tell his own tale.
The two men parted affectionately that day, and when Paul was fairly on board the Varna boat Count Ananoff owned to himself that he had lost one of the best secretaries he had ever known.
Three days later Paul descended from the train which runs twice a day from Pforzheim to Constance, at a station in the heart of the Swabian Black Forest. The name painted in black Gothic letters over the neat, cottage-like building before which the train stopped was Teinach. Paul had never heard of the place until his mother had telegraphed that she was there, and he looked about him with curiosity, while a dark youth, in leather breeches, rough stockings, and a blouse, possessed himself of the traveler’s slender luggage, and began to lead the way to the hotel.
It was late in the afternoon, and the sinking sun had almost touched the top of the hill. On all sides but one the heavy pines and firs presented a black, absorbing surface to the light, while at the upper end of the valley the ancient and ruined castle of Zavelstein caught the sun’s rays, and stood clearly out against the dark background. It is impossible to imagine anything more monotonous in color than this boundless forest of greenish-black trees, and it is perhaps for this reason that the ruins of the many old fortresses, which once commanded every eminence from Weissenstein to the Boden-See, are seen to such singular advantage. The sober gray or brown masonry, which anywhere else would offer but a neutral tint in the landscape, here constitutes high lights as compared with the impenetrable shadows of the woods ; and even the sky above, generally seen through the thick masses of evergreen, seems to be of a more sombre blue. In the deep gorges the black water of the Nagold foams and tumbles among the hollow rocks, or glides smoothly over the long and shallow races by which the jointed timber rafts are shot down to the Neckar, and thence to the Rhine and the ocean, many hundreds of miles away. For the chief wealth of Swabia and of the kingdom of Würtemberg lies in the splendid timber of the forest, which is carefully preserved, and in which no tree is felled without the order of the royal foresters. Indeed, Nature herself does most of the felling, for in winter fierce wind-storms gather and spend themselves in the winding valleys, tearing down acres of trees upon the hillsides in broad, straight bands, and leaving them there, uprooted and fallen over each other in every direction, like a box of wooden matches carelessly emptied upon a dark green table. Then come the wood-cutters in the spring, and lop off the branches, and roll the great logs down to the torrent below, and float them away in long flexible rafts, which spin down the smooth water-ways at a giddy speed, or float silently along the broad, still reaches of the widening river, or dash over the dangerous rapids, skillfully guided by the wild raftsmen, bare-legged and armed with long poles, whose practiced feet support them as safely on the slippery, rolling timber as ours would carry us on the smoothest pavement.
At Teinach the valley is wider than in other places, and a huge establishment, built over the wonderful iron springs, rears above the tops of the trees its walls of mingled stone, wood and stucco, gayly painted and ornamented with balconies and pavilions, in startling and unpleasant contrast with the sober darkness of the surroundings. The broad post-road runs past the hotels and bath-houses, and a great garden, or rather an esplanade with a few scattered beds of flowers, has been cleared and smoothed for the benefit of the visitors, who take their gentle exercise in the wide walks, or sip their weak German coffee, to the accompaniment of a small band, at the wooden tables set up under the few remaining trees. The place is little known, either to tourists or invalids, beyond the limits of the kingdom of Würtemberg, but its waters are full of healing properties, and the seclusion of the little village amidst the wild scenery of the Black Forest is refreshing to soul and body.
Paul followed his guide along the winding path which leads from the railway station to the hotel, smelling with delight the aromatic odor of the pines, and enjoying the coolness of the eveningair. The fatigues of the last month and of the rapid journey from Varna had told upon his strength, as the fearful anxiety he had endured had wearied his brain. He felt, as he walked, how delicious it would, be to forget all the past, to shoulder a broad axe, and to plunge forever into the silent forest; to lead the life of one of those rude woodmen, without a thought at night save of the trees to be felled to-morrow ; to rise in the morning with no care save to accomplish the daily task before night; to sleep in summer on the carpet of sweet pine needles, and to watch the stars peep through the lofty branches of the ancient trees; in winter to lie by the warm fire of some mountain hut, with no disturbing dreams or nervous wakings, master of himself, his axe, and his freedom.
But the thought of such peace only made the present moment more painful, and Paul bent his head as though to shut out all pleasant thoughts, till presently he reached the wide porch of the hotel, and, summoning his courage, asked for Madame Patoff.
“Number seventeen,” said the Swiss clerk, laconically, to the waiter who stood at hand, by way of intimating that he should conduct the gentleman to the number he had mentioned. As Paul turned to follow the functionary in the white tie and the shabby dress-coat, he was stopped by a thick-set, broad-shouldered man, with gold-rimmed spectacles and a bushy beard, who addressed him in English : —
“ I beg your pardon, I heard you ask for Madame Patoff. Have I the honor of addressing her son ? ”
“Yes,” said Paul, bowing stiffly, for the man was evidently a gentleman. “ May I ask to whom ” —
“ I am Dr. Cutter,” replied the other, interrupting him. “ Madame Patoff is ill. and I am taking care of her.”
The average doctor would have said, “ I am attending her,” and Paul, whose English mother had brought him up to speak English as fluently and correctly as Russian, noticed the shade in the expression. But he was startled by the news of his mother’s illness, and did not stop to think of such a trifle.
“ What is the matter with her ? ” he asked briefly, turning from the desk of the hotel office, and walking across the vestibule by Dr. Cutter’s side.
“ I don’t know,” replied the doctor, quietly.
“ You are a strange physician, sir,” said Paul sternly. “You tell me that you are attending my mother, and yet you do not know what is the matter with her.”
The doctor was not in the least offended by Paul’s sharp answer. He smiled a little, but instantly became grave again, as he answered, —
“ I am not a practicing physician. I am a specialist, and I devote my life to the study of mental complaints. Your mother is ill in mind, not in body.”
“ Mad ! ” exclaimed Paul, turning very pale. His life seemed to be nothing but a series of misfortunes.
“ Certainly not hopelessly insane,” replied Dr. Cutter, in a musing tone. “She has suffered a terrible shock, as you may imagine.”
“Yes,” said Paul, “of course. That is the reason why I have come all the way from Constantinople to see her. I could not go to my new post without telling her the whole story myself.”
“ Her manner is very strange,” returned the other. “ That is the reason why I waited for you here. I could not have allowed you to see her without being warned. She has a strange hallucination, and you ought to know it.”
“ What is it ? ” asked Paul, in a thick voice.
“It is a very delicate matter. Come out into the garden, and I will tell you what I know.”
The two men went out together, and walked slowly along the open path towards the woods. In the distance a few invalids moved painfully about the garden, or rested on the benches beneath the trees. Far off a party of children were playing and laughing merrily at their games.
“ It is a delicate matter,” repeated Dr. Cutter. “ In the first place, I must explain my own position here. I am an Englishman, devoted to scientific pursuits. Originally a physician, subsequently professor in one of our universities, I have given up both practice and professorship in order to be at liberty to follow my studies. I am often abroad, and I generally spend the summer in Switzerland or somewhere in South Germany. I was at Rugby with Madame Patoff’s brother-in-law, John Carvel, whom I dare say you know, and I met Madame Patoff two years ago at Wiesbaden. I met her there again last year, and this summer, as I was coming to the South, I found her in the same place, — little more than a month ago. In both the former years your brother Alexander came to visit her, on leave from St. Petersburg. I knew him, therefore, and was aware of her deep affection for him. This time I found her very much depressed in spirits because he had resolved to join you in Constantinople. Excuse me if I pain you by referring to him. It is unavoidable. One morning she told me that she had made up her mind to go to Turkey, traveling by easy stages through Switzerland to Italy, and thence by steamer to the East. She dreaded the long railway journey through Austria, and preferred the sea.
She was in bad health, and seemed very melancholy, and I proposed to accompany her as far as the Italian frontier. We went to Lucerne, and thence to Como, where I intended to leave her. She chose to wait there a few days, in order to have her letters sent on to her before going to the East. Among those which came was a long letter from you, in which you told in detail the story of your brother’s disappearance. Your mother was alone in her sitting-room when she received it, but the effect of the news was such that her maid found her lying insensible in her chair some time afterwards, and thought it best to call me. I easily revived her from the fit of fainting, and when she came to herself she thrust your letter into my hand, and insisted that I should read it. She was very hysterical, and I judged that I should comply with her request. The scene which followed was very painful.”
“Well ? ” asked Paul, who was visibly agitated. “ What then ? ” he inquired rather sharply, seeing that Dr. Cutter was silent.
“ To be short about it,” said the professor, “ it has been evident to me from that moment that her mind is deranged. No argument can affect the distorted view she takes.”
“ But what is the view ? What does she think ? ” inquired Paul, trembling with excitement.
“ She thinks that you were the cause of your brother’s death,” answered Cutter shortly.
“ That I murdered him ? ” cried Paul, feeling that his worst fears were realized.
“ Poor lady! ” exclaimed the professor, fixing his gray eyes on Paul’s face. “ It is of no use to go over the story. That is what she thinks.”
Paul turned from his companion, and leaned against a tree for support. He was utterly overcome, and unmanned for the moment. Cutter stood beside him, fearing lest he might fall, for he could see that he was wasted with anxiety and weak with fatigue. But he possessed great strength of will and that command of himself which is acquired by living much among strangers. After a few seconds he stood erect, and, making a great effort, continued to walk upon the road, steadying himself with his stick.
“ Go on, please,” he said. “ How did you come here ? ”
“You will understand that I could not leave Madame Patoff at such a time,” continued the professor, inwardly admiring the strength of his new acquaintance. “ She insisted upon returning northwards, saying that she would go to her relations in England. Fearing lest her mind should become more deranged, I suggested traveling slowly by an unfrequented route. I intended to take her to England by short stages, endeavoring to avoid all places where she might, at this season, have met any of her numerous acquaintances. I chose to cross the Splügen Pass to the Lake of Constance. Thence we came here by the Nagold railway. I propose to take her to the Rhine, where we will take the Rhine boat to Rotterdam. Nobody travels by the Rhine nowadays. You got my telegram at Vienna ? Yes. Yours went to Wiesbaden, was telegraphed to Como, and thence here. I had just time to send an answer directed to you at Vienna, as a passenger by the Oriental Express, giving you the name of this place. I signed it with your mother’s name.”
“ She does not know I have left Constantinople, then ? ”
“No. I feared that the news would have a bad effect. She receives her letters, of course, but telegrams often do harm to people in her state. — so I naturally opened yours.”
“ Is she perfectly sane in all other respects ? ” asked Paul, speaking with an effort.
“ Then she is not insane at all,” said Paul, in a tone of conviction.
“ I do not understand you,” answered the professor, staring at him in some surprise.
“ If you knew how she loved my poor brother, and how little she loves me, you would understand better. Without being insane, she might well believe that I had let him lose himself in Stamboul, or even that I had killed him. You read my letter, — you can remember how strange a story it was. There is nothing but the evidence of a Turkish soldier to show that I did not contribute to Alexander’s disappearance.”
“ It was certainly a very queer story,” said the professor gravely. “ Nevertheless, I am of opinion that Madame Patoff is under the influence of an hallucination. I cannot think that if she were in her right mind she would insist as she does, and with such violence, that you are guilty of making away with your brother.”
“ I must see her,” said Paul firmly, “ I have come from Constantinople to see her, and I cannot go back disappointed.”
“ I think it would be a great mistake for you to seek an interview,” answered the professor, no less decidedly. “It might bring on a fit of anger.”
“ Which might be fatal ? ” inquired Paul.
“ No, but which might affect her brain.”
“ I do not think so. Pardon my contradicting you, professor, but I have a very strong impression that my mother is not in the least insane, and that I may succeed in bringing her to look at this dreadful business in its true light.”
“ I fear not,” answered Dr. Cutter sadly.
“ But you do not know,” insisted Paul. “ Unless you are perfectly sure that my mother is really mad, you can have no right to prevent my seeing her. I may possibly persuade her. I am the only one left,” he added bitterly, “ and I must be a son to her in fact as well as in relation. I cannot, for my own sake, let her go to our English relatives, with this story to tell, without at least contradicting it.”
“ It is of no use to contradict it to her.”
“ Of no use! ” exclaimed Paul, impatiently. “ Do you think that if the slightest suspicion, however unfounded, had rested on me, my chief would have allowed me to leave Constantinople without clearing it up ? I should think that anybody in his senses would see that! ”
“ Yes, — anybody in his or her senses,” answered the professor coldly.
Paul stopped in his walk, and faced the strong man with the gold spectacles and the intelligent features who had thus obstinately thrust himself in his path.
“ Sir,” he said, “ I know you very slightly, and I do not want to insult you. But if you continue to oppose me, I shall begin to think that you have some other object in view besides a concern for my mother’s health.” His drawn and haggard features wore an expression of desperate determination as he spoke, and his cold blue eyes began to brighten dangerously.
“ I have nothing more to say,” replied the scientist, meeting his look with perfect steadiness. “ I admit the justice of your argument. I can only implore you to take my advice, and to reflect on what you are doing. I have no moral right to oppose you.”
“ No,” said Paul, “ and you must not prevent this meeting. I wish to see her only once. Then I will go. I need not tell you that I am deeply indebted to you for the assistance you have rendered to my mother in this affair. If she does not believe my story, she will certainly not tolerate my presence, and I venture to hope that you will see her safely to England. If possible, I should like to meet her to-night.”
“ You shall,” replied the professor. “ But if any harm comes of it, remember that I protested against the meeting. That is all I ask.”
I will remember,” answered Paul quietly. Both men turned in their walk, and went back towards the hotel.
“ You must give me time to warn her of your presence,” said Cutter, as they reached the steps.
Paul nodded, and they both went in. Cutter disappeared up-stairs, and Patoff was shown to his room by a servant.
“ I shall probably leave to - morrow morning,” he remarked, as the man deposited his effects in the corner, and looked round, waiting for orders. Paul threw himself on the bed, closing his eyes, and trying to collect his courage and his senses for this meeting, which had turned out so much more difficult than he had expected. Nevertheless, he was glad that Cutter had met him, and had warned him of the state of his mother’s mind. He did not in the least believe her insane, — he almost wished that he could. Lying there on his bed, he remembered his youth, and the time when he had longed for some little portion of the affection lavished on his elder brother. He remembered how often he had in vain looked to his mother for a smile of approbation, and how he had ever been disappointed. He had grown up feeling that, by some fault not his own, he was disliked and despised, a victim to one of those unreasoning antipathies which parents sometimes feel for one of their children. He remembered how he had choked down his anger, swallowed his tears, and affected indifference to censure, until his child’s heart had grown case - hardened and steely ; asking nothing, doing his tasks for his own satisfaction, and finally taking a sad pleasure in that silence which was so frequently imposed upon him. Then he had grown up, and the sullen determination to outdo his brother in everything had got possession of his strong nature. He remembered how, coming home from school, he had presented his mother with the report which spoke of his final examinations as brilliant compared with Alexander’s; how his mother had said a cold word of praise ; and how he himself had turned silently away, able already, in his young self-dependence, to rejoice secretly over his victory, without demanding the least approbation from those who should have loved him best. He remembered, when his brother was an ensign in the guards, spoiled and reckless, making debts and getting into all kinds of trouble, how he himself had labored at the dry work assigned to him in the foreign office, without amusements, without pleasure, and without pocket money, toiling day and night to win by force that position which Alexander had got for nothing; never relaxing in his exertions, and scrupulous in the performance of his duties. Even in the present moment of anxiety he thought with satisfaction of his well-earned advancement, and of the promotion which could not now be far distant. He remembered himself a big, bony youth of twenty, and he reflected that he had made himself what he now was, the accomplished man of the world, the rising diplomatist among those of his years, steadily moving on to success. But he saw that he was the same to-day as he had been then ; if he had not gained affection in his life, he had gained strength and hardness and indifference to opposition.
Then this blow had come upon him. This brother, whom he had striven to surpass in everything, had been suddenly and mysteriously taken from his very side ; and not that only, but the mother who had borne them both had put the crowning touch to her life-long injustice, and had accused him of being his brother’s murderer, — accused him to a stranger, or to one who was little nearer than a stranger, — refusing to hear him in his own defense.
He wished that she might be indeed mad. He hoped that she was beside herself with grief, even wholly insane, rather than that he should be forced to believe that she could be so unjust. What construction the world would put upon the catastrophe he knew from Count Ananoff; but surely he might expect his mother to be more merciful. A mother should hope against hope for her child’s innocence, even when every one else has forsaken him; how was it possible that this mother of his could so harden her heart as to be first to suspect him of such a crime, and to be of all people the one to refuse to hear his defense! He hoped she was mad, as he lay there on his bed, in the little room of the hotel, in the gathering gloom.
At last some one knocked at the door, and Professor Cutter entered, admitting a stream of light from the corridor outside. Paul sprang to his feet, pale and haggard.
“You are in the dark,” said the professor quietly, as he shut the door behind him. Then he struck a match, and lit the two candles which stood on each side of the mirror on the bare dressing-table.
“ Can I go now ? ” asked Paul. The scientist eyed him deliberately.
“ Pardon me,” he said. “ You have not thought of your appearance. You have traveled for three or four days, and look rather disheveled.”
Paul understood. The professor did not want him to be seen as he was. He was wild and excited, and his clothes were in disorder. Silently he unlocked his dressing-case and bag, and proceeded to dress himself. Cutter sat quietly watching him, as though still studying his character ; for he was a student of men, and prided himself on Ids ability to detect people’s peculiarities from them unconscious movements. Paul dressed rapidly, with the neatness of a man accustomed to wait upon himself. In twenty minutes his toilet was completed, during which time neither of the two spoke a word. At last Paul turned to the professor. “ Did you have difficulty in arranging it ? ” he asked coldly.
“ Yes. But you may see her, if you go at once,” answered the other.
“ I am ready,” said Paul. “ Let us go.” They left the room, and went down the corridor together. The quiet and solitude of his room had strengthened Paul’s nerves, and he walked more erect and with a firmer step than before. Presently the professor stopped before one of the doors.
“ Go in,” he said. “ This is a little passage room. Knock at the door opposite. She is there, and will receive you.”
Paul followed the professor’s instructions, and knocked at the door within. A voice which he hardly recognized as his mother’s bid him enter, and he was in the presence of Madame Patoff.
A bright lamp, unshaded and filling the little sitting-room with a broad yellow light, stood upon the table. The details of the apartment were insignificant, and seemed to throw the figure of the seated woman into strong relief. She had been beautiful, and was beautiful still, though now in her fifty-second year. Her features were high and noble, and her rich dark hair was only lightly streaked with gray. Her eyes were brown, hut of that brown which* easily looks black when not exposed directly to the light. Her face was now very pale, but there was a slight flush upon her cheeks, which for a moment brought back a reflection of her former brilliant beauty. She was dressed entirely in black, and her thin white hands lay folded on the dark material of her gown; she wore no ring save the plain band of gold upon the third finger of her left hand.
Paul entered, and closed the door behind him without taking his eyes from his mother. She rose from her seat as he came forward, as though to draw back. He came nearer, and bending low would have taken her hand, hut she stepped backwards and withdrew it, while the flush darkened on her cheek.
“ Mother, will you not give me your hand ? ” he asked, in a low and broken voice.
“No,” she answered sternly. “Why have you come here ? ”
“ To tell you my brother’s story,” said Paul, drawing himself up and facing her. When he entered the room he had felt sorrow and pity for her, in spite of Cutter’s account, and he would willingly have kneeled and kissed her hand. But her rough refusal brought vividly to his mind the situation.
“You have told me already, by your letter,” she replied. “ Have you found him, that you come here ? Do you think I want to see you — you ? ” she repeated, with rising emphasis.
“ I might think it natural that you should,” said Paul, very coldly. “ Be calm. I am going to-morrow. Had I supposed that you would meet me as you have, I should have spared myself the trouble of coming here.”
“ Indeed you might! ” she exclaimed scornfully. “ Have you come here to tell me how you did it ? ” Her voice trembled hysterically.
“ Did what ? ” asked Paul, in the same cold tone. “ Do you mean to accuse me to my face of my brother’s death, as your doctor says you do behind my back ? And if you dare to do so, do you think I will permit it without defending myself ? ”
His mother looked at him for one moment ; then, clasping her hands to her forehead, she staggered across the room, and hid her face in the cushions of the sofa, moaning and crying aloud.
“ Alexis, Alexis ! ” she sobbed. “Ah — my beloved son — if only I could have seen your dear face once more —to close your eyes — and kiss you — those sweet eyes — oh, my boy, my boy! Where are you — my own child ? ”
She was beside herself with grief, and ceased to notice Paul’s presence for some minutes, moaning, and tossing herself upon the sofa, and wringing her hands as the tears streamed down. Paul could not look unmoved on such a sight. He came near and touched her shoulder.
“You must not give up all hope, mother,” he said softly. “ He may yet come back.” He did not know what else to say, to comfort her.
“ Come back ? ” she cried hysterically, suddenly sitting up and facing him. “ Come back, when you are standing there with his blood on your hands! You murderer ! You monster ! Go — for God’s sake, go! Don’t touch me ! Don’t look at me ! ”
Paul was horrified at her violence, and could not believe that she was in her senses. But he had heard the words she had spoken, and the wound had entered into his soul. His look was colder than ever as he answered.
“You are evidently insane,” he said.
“ Go — go, I tell you ! Let me never see you again ! ” cried the frantic woman, rising to her feet, and staring at him with wide and blood-shot eyes.
Paul went up to her, and quickly seizing her hands held them in his firm grip, without pressure, but so that she could not withdraw them.
“ Mother,” he said, in low and distinct tones, “I believe you are mad. If you are not, God forgive you, and grant that you may forget what you have said. I am as innocent of Alexander’s death — if indeed he is dead — as you are yourself.”
She seemed awed by his manner, and spoke more quietly.
“ Where is he, then ? Paul, where is your brother ? ”
“ I cannot tell where he is. He left me and never returned, as the man who was with me can testify. I came here to tell you the story with my own lips. If you do not care to hear it, I will go, and you shall have your wish, for you need never see me again.” He released her hands, and turned from her as though to leave the room.
Madame Patoff’s mood changed. Though Alexander was more like her, she possessed, too, some of the inexorable coldness which Paul had inherited so abundantly. She now drew herself up, and retired to the other side of the room. Paul’s hand was on the door. Then she turned once more, and he saw that her face was as pale as death.
“ Go,” she said, for the last time. “ And above all, do not come back. Unless you can bring Alexis with you, and show him to me alive, I will always believe that you killed him, like the heartless, cruel monster you have been from a child.”
“ Is that your last word, mother ? ” asked Paul, controlling his voice by a great effort.
“ My very last word, to you,” she answered, pointing to the door.
Paul went out, and left her alone. In the corridor he found Professor Cutter, calmly walking up and down. The scientist stopped, and looked at Paul’s pale face.
“ Was I right ? ” he asked.
“ Too right.”
“ I thought so,” said the professor. “ Do you mean to leave to-morrow ? ”
“Yes,” answered Paul quietly. “I must eat something. I am exhausted.”
He staggered against Dr. Cutter’s strong arm, and caught himself by it. The professor held him firmly on his feet, and looked at him curiously.
“ You are worn out.” he said. “ Come with me.”
He led him through the corridor to the restaurant of the hotel, and poured out a glass of wine from a bottle which stood on a table set ready for dinner. Paul drank it slowly, stopping twice to look at his companion, who watched him with the eye of a physician.
“ Have you ever had any trouble with your heart ? ” asked the latter.
“ No,” said Paul. “ I have never been ill.”
“Then you must have been half starved on your journey,” replied the professor, philosophically. “ Let us dine here.”
They sat down, and ordered dinner. Paul was conscious that his manner must seem strange to his new acquaintance, and indeed what he felt was strange to himself. He was conscious that since he had left his mother his ideas had undergone a change. He was calmer than he had been before, and he could not account for it on the ground of his having begun to eat something. He was indeed exhausted, for he had hardly thought of taking any nourishment during his long journey, and the dinner revived him. But the odd consciousness that he was not exactly the same man he had been before had come upon him as he closed the door of his mother’s room. Up to the time he had entered her presence he had been in a state of the wildest anxiety and excitement. The moment the interview was over his mind worked normally and easily, and he felt himself completely master of his own actions.
Indeed, a change had taken place. He had gone to his mother feeling that he was accountable to her for his brother’s disappearance, and prepared to tell his story with every detail he could recall, yet knowing that he was wholly innocent of the catastrophe, and that he had done everything in his power to find the lost man. But in that moment he was unconscious of two things : first, of the extreme hardness of his own nature ; and secondly, that he had not in reality the slightest real love either for his mother or for Alexander. The moral sufferings of his childhood had killed the natural affections in him, and there had remained nothing in their stead but a strongsense of duty to his nearest relations. It was this sense which had prompted him to receive Alexander kindly, and to take the utmost care of him during his visit; and it was the same feeling which had impelled him to come to his mother, in order to give the best account he could of the terrible catastrophe. But the frightful accusation she had put upon him, and her stubborn determination to abide by it, had destroyed even that lingering sense of duty which he had so long obeyed. He knew now that he experienced no more pain at Alexander’s loss than he would naturally have felt at the death of an ordinary acquaintance, and that his mother had absolved him by her crowning injustice from the last tie which bound him to his family. In the first month at Buyukdere, after Alexander had disappeared, he had been overcome by the horror of the situation, and by the knowledge that he must tell his mother of the loss of her favorite son. He had mistaken these two incentives to the search for a feeling of love for the missing man. A quarter of an hour with his mother had shown him how little love there had ever been between them, and her frantic behavior, which he felt was not insanity, had disgusted him, and had shown him that he was henceforth free from all responsibility towards her.
The love of a child for his mother may be instinctive in the first instance, but as the child grows to manhood he becomes subject to reason ; and that which reason first rejects is injustice, because injustice is the most destructive form of lie imaginable. Paul had borne much, had cherished to the last his feeling of duty and his outward rendering of respect, but his mother had gone too far. He felt that she was not mad, and that in accusing him she was only treating him as she had always done since he was a boy ; giving way to her unaccountable dislike, and suffering her antipathy to get the better of all sense of truth.
As Paul sat at table with Professor Cutter, he felt that the yoke had suddenly been taken from his neck, and that he was henceforth free to follow his own career and his own interests, without further thought for her who had cast him off. He was not a boy, to grow sulky at an unkind word, or to resent a fancied insult. He was a grown man, more than thirty years of age, and he fully realized his position, without exaggeration and without any superfluous exhibition of feeling. All at once he felt like a man who has done his day’s work, and has a right to think no more about it.
“I am glad to see that you have a good appetite,” observed the professor.
“ I am conscious of not having eaten for a long time,” answered Paul. “ I suppose I was too much excited to be hungry before.”
“You are not excited any longer?” inquired Dr. Cutter, with a smile.
“ No. I believe I am perfectly calm. I have accomplished the journey, I have seen my mother, I have heard her last word, and I shall go to Persia to-morrow.”
“ Your programme is a simple one,” answered his companion. “ However, I am sure you can be of no use here. Your mother is quite safe under my care.”
“ It is my belief that she would be quite safe alone,” said Paul, “though your presence is a help to her. You are a friend of her family, you knew my poor brother, you are intimate with my uncle by marriage, Mr. John Carvel. I am sure that, since you are good enough to accompany my mother, she cannot fail to appreciate your kindness and to enjoy your society. But I do not think she really stands in need of assistance.”
“ That is a matter of opinion,” replied the professor, sipping his wine.
“ Yes ; but shall I be frank with you, Dr. Cutter ? I fancy that, as a scientist and a student of diseases of the mind, you are over ready to suspect insanity where my mother’s conduct can be explained by ordinary causes.”
“ My dear sir,” said the professor, “if I am a scientist, I am not one for nothing. I know how very little science knows, and in due time I shall be quite ready to own myself mistaken, if your mother turns out to be perfectly sane.”
“You are very honest,” returned Patoff. “ All I want to express is that, although I am grateful to you for taking her home, I think she is quite able to take care of herself. I should be very sorry to think that you felt yourself bound not to leave her. She is fifty-two years old, I believe, but she is very strong, though she used to fancy herself in bad health, for some reason or other; she has a maid, a courier, and plenty of money. You yourself admit that she has no hallucination except about this sad business. I think that under the circumstances she could safely travel alone.”
“ Possibly. But the case is an interesting one. I am a free man, and your mother’s age and my position procure me the advantage of studying the state of her mind by traveling with her without causing any scandal. I am not disposed to abandon my patient.”
“ I can assure you,” said Paul, “ that if I thought she would tolerate my presence I should go with her myself, and I repeat that I am sincerely obliged to you. Only, I do not believe she is mad. I hope you will write to me, however, and tell me how she is.”
“ Of course. And I hope you will tell me whether you have changed your mind about her. I confess that you seem to me to be the calmest person I ever met.”
“I?” exclaimed Paul. ‘‘Yes, I am calm now, but I have not had a moment’s rest during the last month.”
“ I can understand that. You know the worst now, and you have nothing more to anticipate. I have no right to inquire into your personal feelings, but I should say that you cared very little for your mother, and less for your brother, and that hitherto you had been animated by a sort of fictitious sense of responsibility. That has ceased, and you feel like a man released from prison.”
The professor fixed his keen gray eyes on Paul’s face as he spoke. His speech was rather incisive, considering how little he had seen of Paul. Perhaps he intended that it should be, for he watched the effect of his words with interest.
“You are not a bad judge of human nature,” answered Patoff, coolly. But he did not vouchsafe any further answer.
“It is my business,” said the professor. “ If, as a friend of Madame Patoff’s family, I take the liberty of being plain, and of telling you what I think, you may believe that I have not wholly misjudged your mother, since I have hit the mark in judging you,”
“ I am not sure that you have hit the mark,” replied Paul. “ Perhaps you have. Time will show. Meanwhile, I am going to Teheran to reflect upon it. It is impossible to choose a more secluded spot,” he added, with a smile.
“ Why do you not return to Constantinople ? ” asked the inquisitive professor.
“ Because it has pleased the Minister for Foreign Affairs to send me to Persia. I am a government servant, and must go whither I am sent. I dare say I shall not be there very long. The climate is not very pleasant, and the society is limited. But it will be an agreeable change for me.”
“ I suppose that efforts will still be made to find your brother ? ”
“ Yes. The search will never be given up while there is the least hope.”
“ I wonder what the effect would be upon Madame Patoff, if Alexander were found after six months ? ”
“ I have not the least idea,” answered Paul. “ I suppose we should all return to our former relations with each other. Perhaps the shock might drive her mad in earnest, — I cannot tell. You are a psychologist; it is a case for you.”
“ A puzzle without an answer. I am afraid it can never be tried.”
“ No, I am afraid not,” said Paul quietly.
The two men finished their dinner, and went out. Paul meant to leave early the next morning, and was anxious to go to bed. He felt that at last he could sleep, and he took his leave of Professor Cutter.
“ Good-by,” he said, with more feeling than he had shown since he had left his mother’s room. “ I am glad we have met. Believe me, I am really grateful to you for your kindness, and I hope you will let me know that you have reached England safely. If my mother refers to me, please tell her that after what she said to me I thought it best to leave here at once. Good-by, and thank you again.”
“ Good-by,” said the professor, shaking Paul’s hand warmly. “ The world is a little place, and I dare say we shall meet again somewhere.”
“ I hope so,” answered Paul.
And so these two parted, to go to the opposite ends of the earth, not satisfied with each other, but each feeling that he should like to meet his new acquaintance again. But Persia and England, in the present imperfect state of civilization, are tolerably far apart.
F. Marion Crawford.