A FEW days later, the Carvels were installed for the summer in one of the many large houses on the Buyukdere quay, which are usually let to any one who will hire them. These dwellings are mostly the property of Armenians and Greeks who lost heavily during the war, and whose diminished fortunes no longer allow them to live in their former state. They are vast wooden buildings, for the most part, having a huge hall on each floor, from which smaller rooms open on two sides ; large windows in front afford a view of the Bosphorus, and at the back the balconies are connected with the gardens by flights of wooden steps. In one of these, not far from the Russian embassy, the Carvels took up their abode, and John expressed himself extremely well satisfied with his choice and with his bargain. In the course of their stay in Pera, the family had contrived to collect a considerable quantity of Oriental carpets and other objects : some good, some utterly worthless in themselves, but useful in filling up the immense rooms of the house. Chrysophrasia seemed to find the East sympathetic to her nerves, and was certainly more in her element in Constantinople than in Brompton or Carvel Place. Strange to say, she was the one of the family who best understood the Turks and their ways. In contact with a semibarbarous people, she developed an amount of common sense and keen intelligence which I had never suspected her of possessing.
As for me, I had gone up to Buyukdere one day, and had then and there changed my mind in regard to my departure. The roses were in full bloom, and everything looked so unusually attractive that I could not resist the temptation of spending the summer in the place. A few years ago, when I thought of traveling, I set out without hesitation, and went to the ends of the earth. I suppose I am growing old, for I begin to dislike perpetual motion. The little kiosk on the hill, at the top of a beautiful garden, was very tempting, too, and after a few hours’ consideration I hired it for the season, with that fine disregard for consequences which one learns in the East. The only furniture in the place was an iron bedstead and an old divan. There was not a chair, not a bit of matting ; not so much as an earthen pot in the kitchen, nor a deal table in the sitting-room. But in Turkey such conveniences are a secondary consideration. The rooms were freshly whitewashed, the board floors were scrubbed, and the view from the windows was one of the most beautiful in the world. A day spent in the bazaar did the rest. I picked up a queer, wizened old Dalmatian cook, and with the help of my servant was installed in the little place eight and forty hours after I had made up my mind.
The life on the Bosphorus is totally different from that in Pera. Everybody either keeps a horse or keeps a sailboat, and many people do both ; for the Belgrade forest stretches five and twenty miles inland from Buyukdere and Therapia, and the broad Bosphorus lies before, widening into a deep bay between the two. The fresh northerly breeze blows down from the Black Sea all day, and often all night ; and there is something invigorating in the air, which revives one after the long, gay season in Pera, and makes one feel that anything and everything is possible in such a place.
The forest was different in May from what it had been on that bitter March night when Gregorios and I drove down to Laleli’s house. The maidám — the broad stretch of grass at the opening of the valley, before you reach the woods — was green, and fresh, and smooth. The trees were full of leaves, and gypsies were already camping out for the season. The woodland roads were not as full of riders as they are in July and August, and the summer dancing had not yet begun, nor the garden parties, nor any kind of gayety. There was peace everywhere, — the peace of quiet spring weather before one learns to fear the sun and to long for rain, when the crocus pushes its tender head timidly through the grass, and the bold daisies gayly dance by millions in the light breeze, as though knowing that their numbers save them from being plucked up and tied into nosegays, and otherwise barbarously dealt with, according to the luck of rarer flowers.
So we rode in the forest, and sailed on the Bosphorus, and enjoyed the freedom of the life and the freshness of the cool air, and things went on very pleasantly for every one, as far as outward appearances were concerned. But it was soon clear to me that the matter which more or less interested the whole party was no nearer to its termination than it had been before. Paul came and went, and his face betrayed no emotion when he met Hermione or parted from her. They were sometimes alone together, but not often, and it did not seem to me that they showed any very great anxiety to procure themselves such interviews. A keen observer might have noticed, indeed, that Hermione was a shade less cordial in her relations with Alexander, but he himself did not relax his attentions, and was as devoted to her as ever. He followed her about, always tried to ride by her side in the forest and to sit by her in the boat ; but under no circumstances did I see Paul’s face change either in color or expression. He did not look scornful and cynical, as he formerly did, nor was there anything hostile in his manner towards his brother. He merely seemed very calm and very sure of himself, — too sure, I thought. But he had made up his mind to win, and meant to do it in his own fashion, and he appeared to be indifferent to the fact that while his duties often kept him at the embassy the whole day, Alexander had nothing to do but to talk to Hermione from morning till night. I fancied that he was playing a waiting game, but I feared that he would wait too long, and lose in the end. I knew, indeed, that under his calm exterior his whole nature was wrought up to its highest point of excitement ; but if he persisted in exercising such perfect self-control he ran the risk of being thought too cold, as he appeared to be. I was called upon to give an opinion on the matter before we had been many days in Buyukdere, and I was embarrassed to explain what I meant.
John Carvel and Hermione, Alexander and I, rode together in the woods, one afternoon. Paul was busy that day, and could not come. It fell out naturally enough that the young girl and her cousin should pair off together, leaving us two elderly men to our conversation. Hermione was mounted on a beautiful Arab, nearly black, which her father had bought for her in Pera, and Alexander rode a strong white horse that he had hired for the short time which remained to him before he should be obliged to return to St. Petersburg. They looked well together, as they rode before us, and John watched them with interest, if not altogether with satisfaction.
“ Griggs,” he observed, at last, “ it is very odd. I don’t know what to make of it at all. You remember the conversation we had in Pera, the first night after our arrival ? I certainly believed that Hermy wanted to marry Paul. She seems to get on amazingly well with his brother. Don’t you think so ? ”
“ It is natural,” I answered. “ They are cousins. Why should they not like each other ? Alexander is a most agreeable fellow, and makes the time pass very pleasantly, when Paul is not there.”
“ What surprises me most,” said John Carvel, “ is that Paul does not seem to mind in the least. And he has never spoken to me about it, either. I am beginning to think he never will. Well, well, there is no reason why Hermy should marry just yet, and Paul is no great match, though he is a very good fellow.”
“ A very good fellow,” I assented. “ A much better fellow than his brother, I fancy, — though Alexander has what women call charm. But Paul will not change his mind. You need not be afraid of that.”
“ I should be sorry if Hermy did,” said Carvel, gravely. “ I should not like my daughter to begin life by jilting an honest man for the sake of a pretty toy soldier like Alexander.”
It was very clear that John Carvel had a fixed opinion in the case, and that his judgment did not incline to favor Alexander. On the other hand, he could not but be astonished at Paul’s silence. Of course I defended the latter as well as I could, but as we rode slowly on, talking the matter over, I could see that John was not altogether pleased.
Alexander and Hermione had passed a bend in the road before us, and had been hidden from our view for some time, for they were nearly half a mile in front when we had last seen them. They rode side by side, and Alexander seemed to have plenty to say, for he talked incessantly in his pleasant, easy voice, and Hermione listened to him. They came to a place where the road forked to the right and left. Neither of them was very familiar with the forest, and, without stopping to think, they followed the lane which looked the straighter and broader of the two, but which in reality led by winding ways to a distant part of the woods. When John Carvel and I came to the place, I naturally turned to the left, to cross the little bridge and ascend the hill towards the Khedive’s farm. In this way the two young people were separated from us, and we were soon very far apart, for we were in reality riding in opposite directions.
The lane taken by Hermione and her cousin led at first through a hollowed way, above which the branches of the trees met and twined closely together, — as beautiful a place as can be found in the whole forest. Alexander grew less talkative, and presently relapsed altogether into silence. They walked their horses, and he looked at his cousin’s face, half shaded by a thin gray veil, which set off admirably the beauty of her mouth and chin.
“ Hermione,” he said after a time, in his softest voice.
The girl blushed a little, without knowing why, but did not answer. He hesitated, as though he could get no further than her name. As the blush faded from her cheek, his cousin glanced timidly at him, not at all as she generally looked. Perhaps she felt the magic of the place. She was not used to be timid with him, and she experienced a new sensation. There was generally something light and gay in his way of speaking to her which admitted of a laughing answer ; but just now he had spoken her name so seriously, so gently, that she felt for the first time that he was in earnest. Instinctively she put her horse to a brisker pace, before he had said anything more. He kept close at her side.
“ Hermione,” he said again, and his voice sounded in her ear like the voice of an unknown spell, weaving charms about her under the shade of the enchanted forest. “ Hermione, my beloved, do not laugh at me any more. It is earnest, dear, — it is my whole life.”
Still she said nothing, but the blush rose again to her face and died away, leaving her very pale. She shortened the reins in her hands, keeping the Arab at a regular, even trot.
“ It is earnest, darling,” continued her cousin, in low, clear tones. “ I never knew how much I loved you until today. No, do not laugh again. Tell me you know it is so, as I know it.”
The lane grew narrower and the branches lower, but Hermoine would not slacken speed, though now and then she had to bend her head to avoid the leafy twigs as she passed. But this time she answered, not laughing, but very gravely.
“ You must not talk like that any more,” she said. “I do not like to hear it.”
“ Is it so bitter to be told that you are loved — as I love ? Is it so hard to hear ? But you have heard once — twice, twenty times ; you will not always think it bad to hear ; your ears will grow used to it. Ah, Hermione, if you could guess how sweet it is to love as I love, you would understand ! ”
“ I do not know — I cannot guess — I would not if I could,” answered the young girl, desperately. “ Hush, Alexander ! Do not talk in that way. You must not. It is not right.”
“ Not right ? ” echoed the young man, with a soft laugh. “I will make it right ; you shall guess what it is to love, dear, — to love me as I love you.”
He bent in his saddle as he rode beside her, and laid his left hand on hers, but she shook his fingers off impatiently.
“Why are you angry, love?” he asked. “ You have let me say it lightly so often ; will you not let me say it earnestly for once ? ”
“ No,” she answered, firmly. “ I do not want to hear it. I have been very wrong, Alexander. I like you very much — because you are my cousin — but I do not love you — I will not — I mean, I cannot. No, I am in earnest, too, — far more than you are. I can never love you — no, no, no, never ! ”
But she had let fall the words “ I will not,” and Alexander knew that there was a struggle in her mind.
“ You will not?” he said, tenderly. " No — but you will, darling. I know you will. You must ; I will make you ! ”
Again he leaned far out of his saddle, and in an instant his left arm went round her slender waist, as they rode quickly along, and his lips touched her soft cheek just below the little gray veil. But he had gone too far. Hermione’s spurred heel just touched the Arab’s flank, and he sprang forward in a gallop up the narrow lane. Alexander kept close at her side. His blood was up, and burning in his delicate cheek. He still tried to keep his hand upon her waist, and bent towards her, moving in his saddle with the ease of a born horseman as he galloped along. But Hermione spurred her horse, and angrily tried to elude her cousin’s embrace, till in a moment they were tearing through the woods at a racing pace.
Suddenly there came a crash, followed by a dull, heavy sound, and Hermione saw that she was alone. She tried to look behind her, but several seconds elapsed before her Arab could be quieted ; at last she succeeded in making him turn, and rode quickly back along the path. Alexander’s horse was standing across the way, and Hermione was obliged to dismount and turn him before she could see beyond. Her cousin lay in the lane, motionless as he had fallen, his face pale and turned upwards, one arm twisted under his body, the other stretched out upon the soft mould of the woodland path. Hermione stood holding the two horses, one with each hand, and looking intently at the insensible man. She did not lose her presence of mind, though she was frightened by his pallor ; but she could not let the horses run loose in such a place, when they might be lost in a moment. She paused an instant, and listened for the sound of hoofs, thinking that her father and I could not be far behind. But the woods were very still, and she remembered that she and her cousin had ridden fast over the last two miles. Drawing the bridles over the horses’ heads, she proceeded to fasten them to a couple of trees, not without some trouble, for her own horse was excited and nervous from the sharp gallop ; but at last she succeeded, and, gathering her habit in one hand, she ran quickly to Alexander’s side.
There he lay, quite unconscious, and so pale that she thought he might be dead. His head was bare, and his hat, crumpled and broken, lay in the path, some distance behind him. There was a dark mark on the right side of his forehead, high up and half covered by his silky brown hair. Hermione knelt down, and tried to lift his head upon her knee. But his body was heavy, and she was not very strong. She dragged him with difficulty to the side of the path, and raised his shoulders a little against the bank. She felt for his pulse, but there was no motion in the lifeless veins, nor could she decide whether he breathed or not. Utterly without means of reviving him, for she had not so much as a bottle of salts in the pocket of her saddle, she kneeled over him, and wiped his pale forehead with her handkerchief, and blew gently on his face. She was pale herself, and was beginning to be frightened, though she had good nerves. Nevertheless, she took courage, feeling sure that we should appear in five minutes at the latest.
It was clear that in galloping by her side at full speed Alexander’s head had struck violently against a heavy branch, which grew lower than the rest. His eyes had been turned on her, and he had not seen the danger. The branch was so placed that Hermione, lowering her head to avoid the leaves, as she looked straight before, had passed under it in safety ; whereas her cousin must have struck full upon the thickest part, three or four feet nearer to the tree. At the pace they were riding, the blow might well have been fatal, and as the moments passed, and the injured man showed no signs of life, Hermione’s heart beat faster and her face grew whiter. Her first thought was of his mother, and a keen, sharp fear shot through her as she thought of the dreadful moment when Madame Patoff must be told ; but the next instant brought her a feeling of far deeper horror. He had been hurt almost while speaking words of love to her ; he had struck his head because he was looking at her instead of before him, and it was in some measure her fault, for she had urged the speed of that foolish race. She bent down over him, and the tears started to her eyes. She tried to listen for the beating of his heart, and, opening his coat, she laid her ear to his breast. Something cold touched her cheek, and she quickly raised her head again and looked down. It was a small flat silver flask which he carried in the pocket of his waistcoat, and which in the fall had slipped up from its place. Hermione withdrew it eagerly, and unscrewed the cap. It contained some kind of spirits, and she poured a little between Alexander’s parted lips.
The deathly features contracted somewhat, and the eyelids quivered. She poured the brandy into the palm of her hand, and chafed his temples and forehead. Alexander drew a long breath, and slowly opened his eyes ; then shut them again ; then, after a few moments, opened them wide, stared, and uttered an exclamation of surprise in Russian.
“ Are you better ? ” asked Hermione, breathlessly. “ I thought you were dead.”
“ No, I am all right,” he said, faintly, trying to raise himself. But his head swam, and he fell back, once more insensible. This time, however, the fainting fit did not last long, and he soon opened his eyes again, and looked at Hermione without speaking. She continued to rub the spirits upon his forehead. Then he put out his hand and grasped the flask she held, and drank a long draught from it.
“ It is nothing,” he said. “ I can get up now, thank you.” He struggled to his feet, leaning on the young girl’s arm. “ How did it happen ? ” he asked. “ I cannot remember anything.”
“ You must have struck your head against that branch,” answered Hermione, pointing to the thick bough which projected over the lane. “ Do you feel better ? ”
“ Yes. I can mount in a minute,” he replied, steadying himself. “ I have had a bad shaking, and my head hurts me. It is nothing serious.”
“ Better sit down for a few minutes, until the others come up,” suggested the young girl, who was surprised to see him recover himself so quickly.
He seemed glad enough to follow her advice, and they sat down together on the mossy bank.
“ It was my fault,” said Hermione, penitently. “ It was so foolish of me to ride fast in such a place.”
“ Women care for nothing but galloping, when they are on horseback,” said Alexander. It was not a very civil speech, and though Hermione forgave him because he was half stunned with pain, the words rang unpleasantly in her ear. He might have been satisfied, she thought, when she owned that it was her fault. It was not generous to agree with her so unhesitatingly. She wondered whether Paul would have spoken like that.
“ Do you really think you can ride back ? ” she asked, in a colder tone.
“ Certainly,” he said, “ provided we ride slowly. What can have become of uncle John and Griggs ? ”
Uncle John and Griggs were at that moment wondering what had become of the two young people. We had ridden on to the top of the hill, and had stopped on reaching the open space near the Khedive’s farm, where there is a beautiful view, and where we expected to find our companions waiting for us. But we were surprised to see no one there. After a great deal of hesitation we agreed that John Carvel, who did not know the forest, should follow the main road down the hill on the other side, while I rode back over the way we had come. I suspected that Alexander and Hermione had taken the wrong turn, and I was more anxious about them than I would show. The forest is indeed said to be safe, but hardly a year passes without some solitary rider being molested by gypsies or wandering thieves, if he has ventured too far from the beaten tracks. I rode as fast as I could, but it was nearly twenty minutes before I struck into the hollow lane. I found the pair seated on the bank, a mile further on, and Hermione hailed me with delight. Everything was explained in a few words. Alexander seemed sufficiently recovered from his accident to get into the saddle, and we were soon walking our horses back towards the maidám of Buyukdere. Neither Alexander nor Hermione talked much by the way, and we were all glad when we reached the tiny bazaar, and were picking our way over the uneven street, amongst the coppersmiths, the lounging soldiers, the solemn narghylè smokers, the kaffejis, the beggars, and the halfnaked children.
On that evening, two things occurred which precipitated the course of events : John Carvel had an interview with Hermione, and I had a most unlucky idea. John Carvel’s mind was disturbed concerning the future of his only daughter ; and though he was not a man who hastily took fright, his character was such that when once persuaded that things were not as they should be, he never hesitated as to the course he should pursue. Accordingly, that night he called Hermione into his study, and determined to ask her for an explanation. The poor girl was nervous, for she suspected trouble, and did not see very clearly how it could be avoided.
“ Sit down, Hermy,” said John, establishing himself in a deep chair with a cigar. “ I want to talk with you, my dear.”
“ Yes, papa,” answered Hermione, meekly.
“ Hermy, do you mean to marry Paul, or not ? Don’t be nervous, my child, but think the matter over before you answer. If you mean to have him, I have no objection to the match ; but if you do not mean to, I should like to know. That is all. You know you spoke to me about it in England, before we left home. Things have been going on a long time now, and yet Paul has said nothing to me about it.”
It was impossible to put the matter more clearly than this, and Hermione knew it. She said nothing for some minutes, but sat staring out of the window at the dark water, where the boats moved slowly about, each bearing a little light at the bow. Far down the quay a band was playing the eternal Stella Confidente, which has become a sort of national air in Turkey. The strains floated in through the window, and the young girl struggled hard to concentrate her thoughts, which somehow wound themselves in and out of the music in a very irrelevant manner.
“ Must I answer now, papa ? ” she asked at last, almost desperately.
“ My dear,” replied the inexorable John, in kind tones, “ I cannot see why you should not. You are probably in very much the same state of mind tonight as you were in yesterday, or as you will be in to-morrow. It is better to settle the matter and be done with it. I do not believe that a fortnight, a month, or even a longer time will make any perceptible difference in your ideas about this matter.” He puffed at his cigar, and again looked at his daughter. “ Hermy,” he continued, after another interval of silence, " if you do not mean to marry Paul, you are treating him very badly. You are letting that idiot of a brother of his make love to you from morning till night.”
“ Oh, papa ! How can you ! ” exclaimed Hermione, who was not accustomed to hearing any kind of strong language from her father.
“ Idiot, — yes, my dear, that expresses it very well. He is my nephew, and I have a right to call him an idiot, if I please. I believe the fellow wears stays, and curls his hair with tongs. He has a face like a girl, and he talks unmitigated rubbish.”
“ I thought you liked him, papa,” objected Hermione. “I do not think he is at all as silly as you say he is. He is very agreeable.”
“ I have no objection to him,” retorted John Carvel. “ I tolerate him. Toleration is not liking. He fascinated us all for a day or two, but it did not last very long. That sort of fascination never does.”
There was another long pause. The band had finished the Stella Confidente, and ran on without stopping to the performance of the drinking chorus in the Traviata. Hermione twisted her fingers together, and bit her lips. Her father’s opinion of Alexander was a revelation to her, but it carried weight with it, and it aroused a whole train of recollections in her mind, culminating in the accident of the afternoon. She remembered vividly what she had felt during those long minutes before Alexander had recovered consciousness, and she knew that her feelings bore not the slightest relation to love. She had been terrified, had blamed herself, and had thought of his mother ; but the idea that he might be dead had not hurt her as it would have done had she loved him. She had felt no wild grief, no awful sense of blankness ; the tears which had risen to her eyes had been tears of pity, of genuine sorrow, but not of despair. She tried to think what she would have felt had she seen Paul lying dead before her, and the mere idea sent a sharp thrust through her heart that almost frightened her.
“ Well, my dear,” said John, at last, “ can you give me an answer ? Do you mean to marry Paul or Alexander, or neither ? ”
“ Not Alexander, — oh, never ! ” exclaimed Hermione. “ I never thought of such a thing.”
“ Paul, then ? ”
“Papa, dear,” said the young girl, after a moment’s hesitation, “ I will tell you all about it. When Paul came, I firmly intended to marry him. Then I began to know Alexander — and — well, I was very wrong, but he began to make pretty phrases, and to talk of loving me. Of course I told him he was very foolish, and I laughed at him. But he only went on, and said a great deal more, in spite of me. Then I thought that because I could not stop him I was interested in him. Paul wanted to speak to you, but I would not let him. I did not feel that my conscience was quite clear. I was not sure that I should always love him. Do you see ? I think I love him, really, but Alexander interests me.”
“ But you never for a moment thought of marrying Alexander? You said so just now.”
“ Oh, never ! I laughed at him, and he amused me, — nothing more than that.”
“ Then I don’t quite see ” — began John Carvel, who was rather puzzled by the explanation.
“ Of course not. You are a man,— how can you understand ? I will promise you this, papa : if I cannot make up my mind in a week, I will tell Paul so.”
“ How will a week help you, my dear ? Ever so many weeks have passed, and you are still uncertain.”
“ I am sure that a week will make all the difference. I think I shall have decided then. I am in earnest, dear papa,” she added, gravely. “ Do you think I would willingly do anything to hurt Paul ? ”
“ No, my dear, I don’t,” answered John Carvel. “Only — you might do it unwillingly, you know, and as far as he is concerned it would come to very much the same thing.” And with this word of warning the interview ended.
When I went home to dinner, I found Gregorios Balsamides seated on the wooden bench under the honeysuckle outside my door. He had escaped from the dust and heat of Pera, and had come to spend the night, sure of finding a hearty welcome at my kiosk on the hill. I sat down beside him, and he began asking me questions about the people who had arrived, giving me in return the news and gossip of Pera.
“ You have a very pretty place here,” he said. “ A man I knew took it last summer, and used to give tea-parties and little fêtes in the evening. It is easy to string lanterns from one tree to another, and it makes a very pretty effect. It is a mild form of idiocy, it is true, — much milder than the prevailing practice of dancing in-doors, with the thermometer at the boiling point.”
“ It is not a bad idea,” I answered. “ We will experiment upon our friends the Carvels in a small way. I will ask them and the Patoffs to come here next Saturday. Can you come, too ? ”
The thing was settled, and Gregorios promised to be of the party. We dined, and sat late together, talking long before we went to bed. Gregorios is a soldier, and does not mind roughing it a little ; so he slept on the divan, and declared the next day that he had slept very well.
Madame Patoff had not received the news of Alexander’s accident with indifference, and it had been necessary that he should assure her himself that he was not seriously hurt before she could be quieted. He had been badly stunned, however, and his head gave him much pain during several days, as was natural enough. He spent most of his time on the sofa in his mother’s sitting-room, and she would sit for hours talking to him and trying to soothe his pain. The sympathy between the two seemed strengthened, and it was strange to see how, when together, their manner changed. The relation between the mother and the spoiled child is a very peculiar one, and occupies an entirely separate division in the scale of human affections ; for while the mother’s love in such a case is sincere, though generally founded on a mere capricious preference, the over-indulged affection of the child breeds nothing but caprice and a ruthless desire to see that caprice satisfied. Madame Patoff loved Alexander so much that the belief in his death had driven her mad ; he, on his side, loved his mother because he knew that in all cases, just and unjust, she would defend him, take his part, and help him to get what he wanted. But he never missed her when they were separated, and he never took any pains to see her unless in so doing he could satisfy some other wish at the same time. He was selfish, willful, and obstinate at two and thirty as he had been at ten years of age. His mother was willful, obstinate, and capricious, but as far as he was concerned she was incapable of selfishness.
What was most remarkable in her manner was her ease in talking with Professor Cutter, and her indifference in referring to her past insanity. She did not appear to realize it ; she hardly seemed to care whether any one knew it or not, and regarded it as an unfortunate accident, but one which there was little object in concealing. As the scientist talked with her and observed her, he opened his eyes wider and wider behind his gold-rimmed spectacles, and grew more and more silent when any one spoke to him of her. I knew later that he detected in her conduct certain symptoms which alarmed him, but felt obliged to hold his peace on account of the extreme difficulty of his position. He felt that to watch her again, or to put her under any kind of restraint, might now lead to far more serious results than before, and he determined to bide his time. An incident occurred very soon, however, which helped him to make up his mind.
One afternoon we arranged an excursion to the ruined castle of Anadoli Kavák, on the Asian shore, near the mouth of the Black Sea. Mrs. Carvel, who was not a good sailor, stayed at home, but Miss Dabstreak, Madame Patoff, and Hermione were of the party, with Paul, Macaulay Carvel, Professor Cutter, and myself. Macaulay had borrowed a good-sized cutter from one of his many colleagues who kept yachts on the Bosphorus, and at three o’clock in the afternoon we started from the Buyukdere quay.
There was a smart northerly breeze as we hoisted the jib, and it was evident that we should have to make several tacks before we could beat up to our destination. The boat was of about ten tons burden, with a full deck, broken only by a well leading to the cabin ; a low rail ran round the bulwarks, for the yacht was intended for pleasure excursions and the accommodation of ladies. The members of the party sat in a group on the edge of the well, and I took the helm. Chrysophrasia was in a particularly Oriental frame of mind. The deep blue sky, the emerald green of the hills, and the cool clear water rippling under the breeze no doubt acted soothingly upon her nerves.
“ I feel quite like Sindbad the Sailor,” she said. “ Mr. Griggs, you ought really to tell us a tale from the Arabian Nights. I am sure it would seem so very real, you know.”
“ If I were to spin yarns while steering, Miss Dabstreak,” I said, “ your fate would probably resemble Sindbad’s. You would be wrecked six or seven times between here and Kavák.”
“ So delightfully exciting,” murmured Chrysophrasia. “ Annie,” she continued, addressing her sister, “ shall we not ask Mr. Griggs to wreck us? I have always longed to be on a wreck.”
“ No,” said Madame Patoff, glancing at her foolish sister with her great dark eyes. “ I should not like to be drowned.”
“ Of course not ; how very dreadful ! ” exclaimed Miss Dabstreak. “ But Sindbad was never drowned, you remember. It was always somebody else.”
“ Oh — somebody else,” repeated Madame Patoff, looking down at the deep water. “ Yes, to drown somebody else, — that would be very different.”
I think we were all a little startled, and Hermione looked at Paul and turned pale. As for Cutter, he very slowly and solemnly drew a cigar from his case, lit it carefully, crossed one knee over the other, and gazed fixedly at Madame Patoff during several minutes, before he spoke.
“ Would you really like to see anybody drowned ? ” he asked, at last.
“ Why do you ask ? ” inquired Madame Patoff, rather sharply.
“ Because I thought you said so, and wanted to know if you were in earnest.”
“ I suppose we should all like to see our enemies die,” said the old lady. “ Not painfully, of course, but so that we should be quite sure of it.” She laid a strong emphasis on the last words, and as she looked up I thought she glanced at Paul.
“ If you had seen many people die, you would not care for the sight,” said the professor, quietly. “ Besides, you have no enemies.”
“ What is death ? ” asked Madame Patoff, looking at him with a curiously calm smile, as she asked the question.
“ The only thing we know about it is that it appears to be in every way the opposite of life,” was the scientist’s answer. “ Life separates us for a time from the state of what we call inanimate matter. When life ceases we return to that state.”
“ Why do you say ‘ what we call inanimate matter ’ ? ” inquired Paul.
“ Because it has been very well said that names are labels, not definitions. As a definition, inanimate matter means generally the earth, the water, the air ; but the name would be a very poor definition, — as poor as the word ‘ man ’ used to define the human animal.”
“You do not think that inanimate matter is really lifeless ? " I asked.
“ Unless it is so hot that it melts,” laughed the professor. “ Even then it may not be true,—indeed, it may be quite false. We call the moon dead, because we have reason to believe that she has cooled to the centre. We call Jupiter and Saturn live planets, though we believe them still too hot to support life.”
“All that does not explain death,” objected Madame Patoff.
“If I could explain death, I could explain life,” answered Cutter. “And if I could explain life, I should have made a great step towards producing it artificially.”
“ If one could only produce artificial death ! ” exclaimed Madame Patoff.
“ It would be very amusing,” answered Cutter, with a smile, folding his huge white hands upon his knee. “We could try it on ourselves, and then we should know what to expect. I have often thought about it, I assure you. I once had the curiosity to put myself into a trance by the Munich method of shining disks, — they use it in the hospitals instead of ether, you know, — and I remained in the state half an hour.”
“ And then, what happened when you woke up ? ”
“ I had a bad headache and my eyes hurt me,” replied the professor, dryly.
“ I dare say that if a dead man came to life he would feel much the same thing.”
“ I dare say,” assented Madame Patoff ; but there was a vague look in her eyes, which showed that her thoughts were somewhere else. We were close upon the Asian shore, and I put the helm down to go about. The ladies changed their places, and there was a little confusion, in which Cutter found himself close to me.
“ Keep an eye on her,” he said, quickly, in a low voice. “ She is very queer.”
I thought so, too, and I watched Madame Patoff to see whether she would return to the subject which seemed to attract her. Cutter kept up the conversation, however, and did not again show any apprehension about his former patient’s state of mind, though I could see that he watched her as closely as I did. The fresh breeze filled the sails, and the next tack took us clear up to Yeni Mahallè, on the European side ; for the little yacht was quick in stays, and, moreover, had a good hold on the water, enabling her to beat quickly up against wind and current. Once again I went about, and, running briskly across, made the little pier below Anadoli Kavák, little more than three quarters of an hour after we had started. We landed, and went up the green slope to the place where the little coffee-shop stands under the trees. We intended to climb the hill to the ruined castle. To my surprise, Professor Cutter suggested to Madame Patoff that they should stay below, while the rest of us made the ascent. He said he feared she would tire herself too much. But she would not listen to him.
“ I insist upon going,” she said. “ I am as strong as any of you. It is quite absurd.”
Cutter temporized by suggesting that we should have coffee before the walk, and Chrysophrasia sank languidly down upon a straw chair.
“ If the man has any loukoum, I could bear a cup of coffee,” she murmured. The man had loukoum, it appeared, and Chrysophrasia was satisfied. We all sat down in a circle under the huge oak-tree, and enjoyed the freshness and greenness of the place. The kaffeji, in loose white garments and a fez, presently brought out a polished brass tray, bearing the requisite number of tiny cups and two little white saucers filled with pieces of loukoum-rahat, the Turkish national sweetmeat, commonly called by schoolboys fig-paste.
“ Why was I not born a Turk! ” exclaimed Chrysophrasia. “ This joyous life in the open air is so intensely real, so profoundly true ! ”
“ Life is real anywhere,” remarked Cutter, with a smile. “ The important question is whether it is agreeable to the liver.”
“ Death is real, too,” said Madame Patoff, in such a curious tone that we all started slightly, as we had done in the boat. My nerves are good, but I felt a weird horror of the woman stealing over me. The imperturbable scientist only glanced at me, as though to remind me of what he had said before. Then he took up the question.
“ No, madam,” he said, coldly. “ Death is a negation, almost a universal negation. It is not real ; it only devours reality, and then denies it. You can say that life is to breathe, to think, to eat, to drink, to love, to fear, —any of these. Death is only the negation of all these things, because we can only say that in death we do none of them. Reality is motion, in the broad sense, as far as man is concerned ; death is only the cessation of the ability to move. You cannot predicate anything else of it.”
“ Oh, your dry, dry science! ” exclaimed Chrysophrasia, casting up her green eyes. “ You would turn our fair fields and limpid — ahem — skies — into the joyless waste of a London pavement, or one of your horrid dissecting-rooms ! ”
“ I don’t see the point of your simile, Miss Dabstreak,” answered Cutter, with pardonable bluntness. “ Besides, that is philosophy, and not science.”
“ What is the difference, Mr. Griggs ? ” asked Hermione, turning to me.
“ My dear young lady,” said, I “ science, I think, means the state of being wise, and hence the thing known, which gives a man the title of wise. Philosophy means the love of wisdom.”
“ Rather involved definition,” observed the professor, with a laugh. “There is not much difference between the state of being wise and the state of loving wisdom.”
“ The one asserts the possession of that which the other aspires to possess, but considers to be very difficult of attainment,” I tried to explain. “ The scientist says to the world, ‘ I have found the origin of life : it is protoplasm, it is your God, and all your religious beliefs are merely the result of your ignorance of protoplasm.’ The philosopher answers, ‘ I allow that this protoplasm is the origin of life, but how did this origin itself originate ? And if you can show how it originated from inanimate matter, how did the inanimate matter begin to exist ? And how was space found in which it could exist ? And why does anything exist, animate or inanimate ? And is the existence of matter a proof of a supreme design, or is it not ? ’ Thereupon Science gets very red in the face, and says that these questions are absurd, after previously stating that everything ought to be questioned.”
“ Science,” answered the professor, “ says that man has enough to do in questioning his immediate surroundings, without going into the matter of transcendental inquiry.”
“ Then she ought to keep to her own proper sphere,” said I, waxing hot. “ The fact is that Science, armed with miserably imperfect tools, but unbounded assumption, has discovered a jelly-fish in a basin of water, and has deduced from that premise the tremendous conclusion that there is no God.”
“ That is strong language, Mr. Griggs, — very strong language,” repeated the professor. “ You exaggerate the position too much, I think. But it is useless to argue with transcendentalists. You always fall back upon the question of faith, and you refuse to listen to reason.”
“ When you can disprove our position, we will listen to your proof. But since the whole human race, as far as we can ascertain, without any exception whatsoever, has believed always in the survival of the soul after death, allow me to say that when you deny the existence of the soul the onus probandi lies with you, and not with us.”
Therewith I drank my coffee in silence, and looked at the half-naked Turkish children playing upon the little pier over the bright water. It struck me that if the learned scientist had told them that they had no souls, they would have laughed at him very heartily. I think that in the opinion of the company I had the best of the argument, and Cutter knew it, for he did not answer.
“I have always believed that I have a soul,” said Macaulay Carvel, in his smooth, monotonous tone. But there was as much conviction in his tone as though he had expressed his belief in the fact that he had a nose.
“ Of course you have,” said Hermione. “ Let us go up to the castle, and see the view before it is too late. Aunt Annie, do wait for us here ; it is very tiring, really.”
“ You seem to think I am a decrepit old woman,” answered Madame Patoff, impatiently, as she rose from her chair.
Paul felt that it was his duty to offer his mother his arm for the ascent, though the professor came forward at the same moment.
“ Dear Paul, you are so good,” said she, accepting his assistance as we began to climb the hill.
I saw her face in that moment. It was as calm and beautiful as ever, but I thought she glanced sideways to see whether every one had heard her speech and appreciated it. Little was said as we breasted the steep ascent, for the path was rough, and there was barely room for two people to walk side by side. At last we emerged upon a broad slope of grass outside the walls of the old fortress. A goatherd lives inside it, and has turned the old half-open vaults into a stable for his flocks. We paused under the high walls, which on one side are built above the precipitous cliff, with a sheer fall of a hundred feet or more. Towards the land they are not more than forty feet high, where the grass grows up to their base. There is a curious gate on that side, with the carved arms of the Genoese republic imbedded in the brick masonry.
Some one suggested that we should go inside, and after a short interview with the goatherd he consented to chain up his enormous dog, and let us pass the small wooden gate which leads to the interior. Inside the fortress, the falling in of the roof and walls has filled the old court so that it is nearly on a level with the walls. It is easy to scramble up to the top, and the thickness is so great that it is safe to walk along for a little distance, provided one does not go too near the edge. We wandered about below, and some of us climbed up to see the beautiful view, which extends far down the Bosphorus on the one side, and looks over the broad Black Sea on the other. Madame Patoff still leaned on Paul’s arm, while the professor gallantly helped the languid Chrysophrasia to reach the most accessible places. Macaulay was engaged in an attempt to measure the circumference of the castle, and rambled about in quest of facts, as usual, noting down the figures in his pocket-book very conscientiously. I was left alone with Hermione for a few minutes. We sat down on a heap of broken masonry to rest, talking of the place and its history. Hermione was so placed that she could not see the top of the wall which overhung the precipice on the outer side, but from where I sat I could watch Paul slowly helping his mother to reach the top.
“ It belonged to the Genoese, and was built by them,” I said. “ The arms over the gate are theirs. Perhaps you noticed them.” Paul and his mother had reached the summit of the wall, and were standing there, looking out at the view.
“ How did the Genoese come to be here ? " asked Hermione, digging her parasol into the loose earth.
“ They were once very powerful in Constantinople,” I answered. “ They held Pera for many years, and ” —
I broke off with an exclamation of horror, starting to my feet at the same instant. I had idly watched the mother and son as they stood together, and I could hear their voices as they spoke. Suddenly, and without a moment’s warning, Madame Patoff put out her hand, and seemed to push Paul with all her might. He stumbled and fell upon the edge, but from my position I could not tell whether he had saved himself or had fallen into the abyss.
I suppose Hermione followed my look, and saw that Madame Patoff was standing alone upon the top, but I did not stop to speak or explain. I sprang upon the wall, and in a second more I saw that Paul had fallen his full length along the brink, but had saved himself, and was scrambling to his feet. Madame Patoff stood quite still, her face rigid and drawn, and an expression of horror in her eyes that was bad to see. But I was not alone in coming to Paul’s assistance. As I put out my arm to help him to his feet, I saw Hermione’s small hands lay hold of him with desperate strength, dragging him from the fatal brink. But Paul was unhurt, and was on his legs in another moment. He was ghastly white, and his lips worked curiously as his eyes settled on his mother’s face.
“ How did it happen ? ” asked Hermione, as soon as she could speak, but still clinging to his arm, while she glanced inquiringly at her aunt.
“ I do not know,” said Paul, in a thick voice, between his teeth.
“ I was dizzy,” gasped Madame Patoff. “ I put out my hand to save myself ” —
“ Do me the favor to come down from this place at once,” I said, grasping her firmly by the arm, and leading her away.
“ Paul, Paul, how did it happen ? ” I heard Hermione saying, as we descended.
But Paul’s lips were resolutely shut, and he would say nothing more about it. Indeed, he was badly startled, but I knew his paleness was not caused by fear. In my own mind the conviction was strong that his mother had deliberately attempted to murder him by pushing him over the edge. I remembered Cutter’s warning, and I wondered that he should have allowed her to go out of his sight, since he recognized the condition of her brain ; but a moment’s reflection made me recollect that I had understood him differently. He had meant that she might try to kill herself, not her son ; and that had been my own impression, for it was not till later that I learned how she had spoken of Paul to herself, that night in Pera, after the ball. At that time the professor knew more about the matter than I did, for Hermione had confided in him when they were alone in Santa Sophia.
I think Madame Patoff tried to explain the accident to me, as I got her down into the ruined court, but I do not remember what she said. My only wish was to get the party back to Buyukdere, and to be alone with Cutter for five minutes.
“ Patoff has met with an accident,” I said, as the others came up. “ He stumbled near the edge of the wall, and is badly shaken. We had better go home.”
There was very little explanation needed, and Paul protested that he had incurred no danger, though he acquiesced readily enough to the suggestion. I did not let Madame Patoff leave my arm until we were once more on board the little yacht, for I was convinced that the woman was dangerously mad. The drawn expression of her pale face did not change, and she soon ceased speaking altogether. I noted the fact that in all the excitement of the moment she expressed no satisfaction at Paul’s escape. It was not until we reached the water that she said something about “ dear Paul,” in a tone that made me shudder.
We were a silent party, as we ran down the wind to Buyukdere. Cutter sat beside Madame Patoff, and watched her curiously ; for the expression of her face had not escaped him, though he had no idea of what had happened. Sitting on the deck, at the edge of the well, she looked down at the water, as we rushed along.
“ What do you see in the water ? ” asked the professor, quietly. The answer came in a very low voice, but I heard it as I stood by the helm : —
“ I see a man’s face under the water, looking up at me.”
“ And whose face is it ? ” inquired Cutter, in the same matter-of-fact tone.
“ I will not tell you, nor any one,” she answered. Cutter looked up at me to see whether I had heard, and I nodded to him. In a few minutes we were alongside of the pier. I refused Chrysophrasia’s not very pressing invitation to tea, and, bidding good-by to the rest, I put my arm through the professor’s. He seemed ready enough to go with me, so we walked along the smooth quay in the sunset, arm in arm.
“ I wanted to speak to you,” I said. “ You ought to know what happened up there this afternoon. Madame Patoff tried to push Paul over the edge. It was a deliberate attempt to murder him.” Cutter stopped in his walk, and looked earnestly into my face.
“ Did you see it yourself ? Did you positively see it, or is that only your impression ? ”
“ I saw it,” I answered, shortly.
“ She is quite mad still, then. No one but a mad woman would attempt such a thing. What is worse, it is a fixed idea that she has.” He told me what Hermione had confided to him.
“ Then Paul’s life is not safe for a moment,” I said, after a slight pause.
“ Unless his brother marries Miss Carvel, I should advise him to be on his guard when he is alone with his mother. He is safe enough when other people are present. I know those cases. They are sly, cautious, timid. She will try and push him over the edge of a precipice, when nobody is looking. Before you she will call him ‘ dear Paul,’ and all the rest of it.”
“ That looks to me more like the cunning of a murderess than the slyness of a maniac,” I said.
“ Most murderers are only maniacs, mad people,” answered the professor. “ Men and women are born with a certain tendency of mind which makes them easily brood over an idea. Their life and circumstances foster one particular notion, till it gets a predominant weight in their weak reasoning. The occasion presents itself, and they carry out the plan they have been forming for years in secret, or even unconsciously. If in carrying out their ideas they kill anybody, it is called murder. It makes very little difference what you call it. The law distinguishes between crimes premeditated and crimes unpremeditated. Murder, willful and premeditated, involves in my opinion a process of mind so similar to that found in lunatics that it is impossible to distinguish the one from the other, and I am quite ready to believe that all premeditated murders are brought about by mental aberration in the murderer. On the other hand, manslaughter, quick, sudden, and unplanned, is the result of more or less inhuman instincts, and those who commit the crime are people who approach more or less nearly to wild beasts. For the advancement of science, murderers should not be hanged, but should be kept as interesting cases of insanity. Much might be learned by carefully observing the action of their minds upon ordinary occasions. As for homicides, or manslaughterers, — I wish we could use the English word, — they are less attractive as a study, and I do not care what becomes of them. The brain of a freshly killed tiger would be far more interesting.”
“ What do you propose to do with Madame Patoff ? ” I asked. “You do not suppose that Miss Carvel will marry Alexander Patoff in order to prevent his mother from murdering Paul ? ”
“ She ought to,” answered Cutter, quietly. “ It would be most curious to see whether there would be any change in her fixed dislike of the younger son.”
“ And do you mean that that young girl should sacrifice her life to your experiments ? ” I asked, rather hotly. I hated the coldness of the man, and his ruthless determination to make scientific capital out of other people’s troubles.
“ I can neither propose nor dispose,” he answered. “ I only wish that it might be so. After all, she could be quite as happy with Alexander as with Paul. I doubt whether she has a strong preference for either.”
“You are mistaken,” said I. “She loves Paul much more than she herself imagines. I saw her face to-day when Paul was lying on the edge of the precipice. You did not. I have watched them ever since they have been together in Constantinople, and I am convinced that she loves Paul, and not Alexander. What do you intend to do with Madame Patoff ? You know I have a little party at my cottage on Saturday, — you promised to come. Is it safe to let her come, too ? ”
“ Perfectly,” answered my companion. “ The only thing to be done at present is to prevent her remaining alone with Paul.”
“ Suppose that Paul tells what happened this afternoon. What then ? ”
“ He will not tell it. I have a great admiration for the fellow, he is so manly. If she had done worse than that, he would not tell any one, because she is his mother. But he will be on his guard, never fear. She will not get such a chance again. Good-night.”
The professor left me at the door of the garden through which I had to pass to reach the little kiosk. I walked slowly up through the roses and the flowers, meditating as I went. Paul had a new enemy in the professor, who would certainly try and help Alexander, in order to continue his experiments upon Madame Patoff’s mind. Poor Paul! He seemed to be persecuted by an evil fate, and I pitied him sincerely.
It was Saturday afternoon, and my preparations for my little tea-party were complete. Gregorios Balsamides had arrived from Pera, and we were waiting for the Carvels, seated on the long bench before the house, where the view overlooks the Bosphorus. The sun had almost set, and the hills of Asia were already tinged with golden light, which caught the walls of the white mosque on the Giant’s Mountain,—the YushaDagh, where the Mussulmans believe that Joshua’s body lies buried ; Anadoli Kavák was bathed in a soft radiance, in which every line of the old fortress stood out clear and distinct, so that I could see the very spot where Paul had fallen a few days before ; the far mouth of the Black Sea looked cold and gray in the shadows below the hills, but down below the big steamers, the little yachts, the outlandish Turkish schooners, and the tiny caïques moved quickly about in the evening sunshine. My garden had become a wilderness of roses, in the soft spring weather, too, and each flower took a warmer hue as the sun sank in the west, and slowly neared the point where it would drop behind the European foreland.
The kiosk was a wooden building, narrow and tall, so that the rooms within were high, and the second story was twenty feet above the ground. I had caused hundreds of lamps to be hung within and without, to be lighted so soon as the darkness set in, and my man, who has an especial talent for all sorts of illuminations, and in general for everything which in Southern Italy comes under the head of festa, had borrowed long strings of little signal flags and streamers, which he had hung fantastically from the house to the surrounding trees. When once the lamps should be lighted the effect would be very pretty, and to the eyes of English people utterly new.
Gregorios sat beside me on the garden-seat, and we talked of Madame Patoff and her latest doings. My mind was not at rest about her, and I inwardly wished that some accident might prevent her from coming that day. I had more than once almost determined to speak to my old friend John Carvel, and to tell him what had occurred at Anadoli Kavák. Nothing but my respect for Professor Cutter’s opinion as a specialist had prevented me from doing so ; but now, at the last moment, I wished I had not been overruled, for I had an unpleasant conviction that his prudence had been forgotten in his desire to study the case. For men of his profession there seems to be an absorbing interest in deciding the question of where crime ends and madness begins, and to put Madame Patoff under restraint would have been to cut short one of the most valuable experiences of Cutter’s life. He probably knew that in the present stage of her malady such a proceeding would very likely have driven her into hopeless and evident insanity. I could have forgiven him if I had thought that he regarded the question from a moralist’s point of view, and balanced the danger of leaving the unfortunate woman at large against the possible advantage she herself might gain from enjoying unrestricted liberty. But I was sure that the scientist was not thinking of that. He had expressed interest rather than horror at her attempt to push Paul over the edge of the wall. He had answered my anxious questions concerning the treatment of Madame Patoff by a short dissertation on insanity in general, and had left me to continue his studies, regardless of any danger to his patient’s relations. The moral point of view shrank into insignificance as he became more and more absorbed in the result of the case, and I believe that he would have let us all perish, if necessary, rather than consent to relinquish his study. He might have regretted his indifference afterwards, especially if he had arrived at no satisfactory conclusion in regard to the unhappy woman ; but in the fervor of scientific speculation, minor considerations of safety were forgotten. Cutter is not a bad man, though he is ruthless. He would be incapable of doing any one an injury from a personal motive, but in comparison with the importance of one of his theories the life of a man is no more to him than the life of a dog. I said something of the kind to Balsamides.
“ My dear fellow,” he answered, “ do you expect common sense from people who waste their lives in such a senseless fashion ? Can anything be more absurd than to attempt to explain the vagaries of a diseased mind ? They call that science in the professor’s country. They may as well give it up. They will never ultimately discover any better treatment for dangerous lunatics than solid bolts and barred windows.”
“ I believe you are right,” I said. “ If we could put medicine into the head as we can into the stomach, something might be accomplished. It is very unpleasant to think that I am to entertain a lady at my tea-party who only the other day tried to murder her son in my sight.”
“ Very,” assented Gregorios. “ Here they come.”
We heard the sound of voices in the garden, and rose to meet the party as they came up towards the house. None of them had been to see me before, except Paul, and they at once launched into extravagant praises of the view and of the kiosk. Chrysophrasia raved about the sunset effects, and Hermione was delighted with the way the flags were arranged. Macaulay consulted his pocket barometer to see how many feet above the sea the house was built, and declared that the air must be far more healthy in such a place than on the quay. Madame Patoff looked silently out at the view, leaning on Alexander’s arm, while John Carvel and his wife stood close together, smiling and appreciative, the ideal of a well-assorted and perfectly happy middle - aged couple. Cutter talked to Balsamides, and Paul followed Hermione as she slowly moved from point to point. I stood alone for a few moments, and looked at them, going over in my mind all that had happened during the last seven months, and wondering how it would all end.
These ten people had lived much together, and had found themselves lately united in some very strange occurrences. With the exception of Balsamides and the professor, they were all nearly related, and yet they were as unlike each other as people of one family could be. The gentle, saintly Mary Carvel had little in common with her æsthetic sister Chrysophrasia Dabstreak, and neither of them was very like Madame Patoff.
Sturdy John Carvel was not like his sleek son Macaulay, except in honesty and good nature. Alexander Patoff was indeed like his mother, but Paul’s stern, cold nature was that of his father, long dead and forgotten. As for Hermione, she presented a combination of character derived from the best points in her father and mother, marred only, I thought, by a little of that vacillation which was the chief characteristic of her aunt Chrysophrasia. Cutter and Balsamides were men of widely different nationalities and temperaments : the one a ruthless scientist, the other an equally ruthless fatalist ; the one ready to sacrifice the lives of others to a fanatic worship of his profession, the other willing to sacrifice himself to the inevitable with heroic courage, but holding other men’s lives as of no more value than his own. A strange company, I thought, and yet in many respects a most interesting company as well.
“ Shall we go in-doors and have tea ? ” I said, after a few moments, collecting my guests together. “The view is even better from the windows above.”
I led them into the stone-paved vestibule of the wooden house, and up the wooden stairs to the upper story. Presently they were all installed in the large room where the preparations for the small festivity had been made, and I began to do the honors of my bachelor establishment.
In a Turkish family, the room where we were sitting, and the three others upon the same floor, would have been set apart for the harem ; for one door separated them from the staircase and from all the rest of the house, — a large, strong door, painted white, and provided with an excellent lock and key. I had selected one room for my bedroom, and the rest were furnished with Oriental simplicity, not to say economy. But Balsamides had sent down a bale of beautiful carpets, which he lent me for the occasion, and which I had hung upon the walls and spread upon the floors and divans. Tea, coffee, sherbet, a beautiful view, and a little illumination of the gardens constituted the whole entertainment ; but the enthusiasm of my guests knew no bounds, probably because they had never seen anything of the kind before.
“ Griggs is growing to be a true Oriental,” remarked Balsamides, approvingly, “ He understands how the Turks live.”
“ Yes,” I answered, “ I present you the thing in all its bareness. You may take this as a specimen of an Eastern house. People are apt to fancy that those long, latticed houses on the Bosphorus conceal unheard-of luxuries, and that the people live like Sybarites. It is quite untrue. They either try to imitate the French style, and do it horribly, or else they live in great bare rooms like these.”
“ What do the women do, all day long ? ” asked Chrysophrasia. “ I am sure they do not pass their time upon a straw matting, staring at each other, — so very dreary ! ”
“Nevertheless they do,” said Gregorios. “ They smoke and eat sweetmeats from morning till night, and occasionally an old woman comes and tells them stories. Some of them can read French. They learn it in order to read novels, but cannot speak a word of the language.”
“ Dreary, dreary ! ” sighed Chrysophrasia. “ And then, the division of the affections, you know, — so sad.”
“ Many of them die of consumption,” said Gregorios.
“ It would be curious to watch the phases of their intelligence,” said the professor, slowly sipping his coffee, and staring out of the window through his great gold-rimmed spectacles.
The sun had gone down, and the darkness gathered quickly over the beautiful scene. At one of the windows Hermione sat silently enjoying the evening breeze ; Alexander was seated beside her, while Paul stood looking out over her head. Neither of the two men spoke, but from time to time they exchanged glances which were anything but friendly. Outside, my man and the gardener were lighting the little lamps, and gradually, as each glass cup received its tiny light, the festoons of white and red grew, and seemed to creep stealthily from tree to tree. The conversation languished, and the deepening twilight brought with it that pleasant silence which is the very embodiment of rest descending at evening on the tired earth.
“ It is like an evening hymn,” said Mrs. Carvel, whose gentle features were barely visible in the gloom.
No one spoke, but I fancied I saw John Carvel lay his hand affectionately on his wife’s arm, as they sat together. There was a light above the eastern hills, brightening quickly as we looked, and presently the full moon rose and shed her rays through the low open windows, making our faces look white and deathly in the dark room. It shone on Madame Patoff’s marble features, and cast strange shadows around her mouth.
“ Shall we have lights ? ” I asked. There was a general refusal ; everybody preferred the moonlight, which now flooded the apartment.
“ It seems to me,” said Chrysophrasia, half sadly, — “ it seems to me — ah, no ! I must be mistaken, — and yet — it seems to me that I smell something burning.”
“ I think it is the lamps outside,” I answered. No one else took any notice of the speech, which jarred upon the pleasant stillness. I myself thought she was mistaken.
“What a wonderful contrast!” said Hermione. “ I mean the lamps and the moonlight.” Then she added, suddenly, “ Do you know, Mr. Griggs, there is really something burning. I can smell it quite well.”
A fire in a Turkish house is a serious matter. The old beams and boarded walls are like so much tinder, and burn up immediately, as though soaked with some inflammable liquid. I rose, and went out to see if there were anything wrong. As I opened the door which shut off the whole apartment from the stairs, I heard a strange crackling sound, and outside the window of the staircase, which was in the back of the house, I saw a red glare, which brightened in the moment while I watched it. I did not go further, for I knew the danger was imminent.
“ Will you be good enough to come down-stairs ? ” I said, quietly, as I reëntered the room where my guests were assembled. “ I am afraid that something is wrong, but there is plenty of time.”
A considerable confusion ensued, and everybody rushed to the door. Protestations were vain, for all the women were frightened, and all the men were anxious to help them. The sight of the flames outside the window redoubled their fears, and they rushed out, stumbling on the dusky landing. In the confusion of the moment, I did not realize how it all happened. Chrysophrasia, who was mad with fright, caught her foot against something, and fell close beside me. The other ladies were already down-stairs, I thought. I picked her up, and carried her down as fast as I could, and out into the garden.
“ Come away from the house ! ” I cried. “ Away from the trees ! ”
Chrysophrasia was senseless with fear, and I bore her hastily on till I reached the fountain, some twenty yards down the hill. Then I put her down upon a bench. There were two buckets and a couple of watering-pots there, and I shouted to the other men to come to me, as I filled two of the vessels and ran round to the back of the house. I passed Madame Patoff, standing alone under a festoon of little lamps, by a tree, and I remember the strange expression of gladness which was on her face. But I had no time to speak to her, and rushed on with my water-cans.
Meanwhile, the flames rose higher and higher, crackling and licking the brown face of the old timber. There was small chance of saving the building now. My men had been busy lighting the lamps in the garden, but I found them already on the spot, dipping water out of a small cistern with buckets, and dashing it into the fire with all their might, their dark faces grim and set in the light of the flames. I worked as hard as I could, supposing that all the party were safe. I had no idea of what was going on upon the opposite side of the house. In truth, it was horrible enough.
Paul and Cutter were very self-possessed, and their first care was to see that the four ladies were safe. They had Hermione and her mother with them, and, taking the direction of the fountain, they found Chrysophrasia upon the bench where I had left her, in a violent fit of hysterics. Madame Patoff was not there.
“ I was going back for aunt Annie,” said Macaulay Carvel, “ for I counted them as they came out, and missed her. She ran right into my arms, as I stood in the door. She is somewhere in the garden. I am quite sure of it.”
Cutter hurried off, and began to search amongst the trees. Already the bright flames could be seen in the lower story, and in a moment more the glass of one of the windows cracked loudly, and the fire leapt through. Then from the high windows above a voice was heard calling, loud and clear, to those below: —
“ The door is locked ! Can any one help me ? ” The voice belonged to Gregorios, and the party looked into each other’s faces in sudden horror, and then glanced at the burning house.
“ Save him ! Save him ! ” cried Hermione.
But Paul had already left her side, and had reached the open door of the porch. Alexander stood still, staring at the flames.
“ He saved you ! ” said Hermione, grasping his arm fiercely. “ Will you do nothing to help him ? ”
“ Paul is gone already,” answered Alexander, impatiently. “There is nothing the matter. Paul will let him out.”
But the other men were less apathetic, and had followed the brave man to the door. He had disappeared already, and as they came up a tremendous puff of smoke and ashes was blown into their faces, stifling and burning them, so that they drew back.
“ Jump for your life ! ” shouted John Carvel, looking up at the window from which the voice had proceeded.
“ Yes, jump ! ” cried Alexander, who had reluctantly followed. “We will catch you in our arms ! ”
But no one answered them. Nothing was heard but the crackling of the burning timber and the roaring of the flames, during the awful moments which followed. Stupefied with horror, the three men stood staring stupidly at the hideous sight. Then suddenly another huge puff of smoke and fiery sparks burst from the door, and with it a dark mass flew forward, as though shot from a cannon’s mouth, and fell in a heap upon the ground outside. All three ran forward, but some one else was there before them, dragging away a thick carpet, of which the wool was all singed and burning.
There lay Gregorios Balsamides as he had fallen, stumbling on the doorstep, with the heavy body of Paul Patoff in his arms. Hermione fell on her knees, and shrieked aloud. It was plain enough. Paul, without the least protection from the flames, had struggled up the burning staircase, and had unlocked the door, losing consciousness as he opened it. Gregorios, who was not to be outdone in bravery, and whom no danger could frighten from his senses, had wrapped a carpet round the injured man, and, throwing another over his own head, had borne him back through the fire, the steps of the wooden staircase, already in flames, almost breaking under his tread. But he had done the deed, and had lived through it.
He looked up faintly at Hermione, as she bent over them both.
“ I think he is alive,” he gasped, and fainted upon the ground.
They bore the two senseless bodies away to the fountain, and laid them down, and sprinkled water on their faces. Behind them they could hear the crash of the first timbers falling in, as the fire reached the upper story of the kiosk ; at their feet they saw only the still, pale faces of the men who had been ready to give their lives for each other.
But Cutter had gone in search of Madame Patoff, during the five minutes which had sufficed for the enacting of this scene. He had found her where I had passed her, looking up with a strange smile at the doomed house.
“ Paul is looking for you,”said the professor, taking her arm under his. She started, and trembled violently.
“ Paul ! ” she cried, in surprise. Then, with a wild laugh, she stared into Cutter’s eyes. He had heard that laugh many a time in his experience, and he silently tightened his grip upon her arm. “ Paul! ” she repeated wildly. “ There is no more Paul,” she added, suddenly lowering her voice, and speaking confidentially. “Hermione can marry my dear Alexander now. There is no more Paul. You do not know? It was so quickly done. He stayed behind in the room, and I locked the door, so tight, so fast. He can never get out. Ah! ” she screamed all at once. “ I am so glad! Let me go — let me go ” —
At that moment, I came upon them. Relinquishing all hopes of saving the house, and wondering vaguely, in my confusion of mind, why nobody had come to help me, I called my two men off, and was going to see what had become of the party. I found Madame Patoff a raving maniac, struggling in the gigantic hands of the sturdy scientist. I will not dwell upon the hideous scene which followed. It was the last time I ever saw her, and I pray that I may never again see man or woman in such a condition.
Meanwhile, the two men who lay by the fountain in the moonlight showed signs of life. Gregorios first came to himself, for he had only fainted. He was in great pain, but was as eager as the rest to restore Paul to consciousness. Patoff was almost asphyxiated by the smoke, his hair and eyebrows and mustache were almost burnt off, and his right hand was injured. But he was alive, and at last he opened his eyes. In a quarter of an hour he could be helped upon his feet. Balsamides was already standing, and Paul caught at his hand.
“Not that arm,” said Gregorios calmly, holding out the other. In his fall he had broken his wrist.
In answer to my cries, the two Carvels left the injured men and came to our assistance, while we struggled with the mad woman, who seemed possessed of the strength of a dozen athletes. Hermione was left by the fountain.
“I was quite sure it would be all right,” said Alexander to her, presently. It was more than the young girl could bear. She turned upon him fiercely, and her beautiful face was very white.
“ I despise you ! ” she exclaimed. That was all she said, but in the next moment she turned and threw her arms about Paul’s neck, and kissed his burnt and wounded face before them all.
There is little more to be said, for my story is told to the end. When I found them all together, Gregorios took me aside, and drew a crumpled mass of papers from his pocket with his uninjured hand.
“ I stayed behind to save your papers and your money,” he said, quietly. “ I have seen houses burn before, and there is generally no time to be lost.”
I wonder what there is at the bottom of that man’s strange nature. Cold, indifferent, and fatalistic, apparently one of the most selfish of men, he nevertheless seems to possess somewhere a kind of devoted heroism, an untainted quality of friendship, only too rare in our day.
Hermione Carvel is to be married to Paul in the autumn, but there is reason to believe that Alexander, who has rejoined his regiment in St. Petersburg, will not find it convenient to be at the wedding. When Balsamides was crying for help from the upper window, and when Alexander stood quietly by Hermione’s side while his brother faced the danger, the die was cast, and she saw what a wide gulf separated the two men, and she knew that she loved the one, and hated the other with a fierce hatred.
Poor Madame Patoff is dead, but before he left Constantinople Professor Cutter spent half an hour in trying to demonstrate to me that she might have been cured if Hermione had married Alexander. I am glad he is gone, for I always detested his theories.
So the story is ended, my dear friend ; and if it is told badly, it is my fault, for I assure you that I never in my life spent so exciting a year. It has been a long tale, too, but you have told me from time to time that you were interested in it ; and, after all, a tale is but a tale, and is a very different affair from an artistically constructed drama, in which facts have to be softened, so as not to look too startling in print. I have given you facts, and if you ever meet Gregorios Balsamides he will tell you that I have exaggerated nothing. Moreover, if you will take the trouble to visit Santa Sophia during the last nights of Ramazán, you will understand how Alexander Patoff disappeared ; and if you will go over the house of Laleli Khanum Effendi, which is now to be sold, you will see how impossible it was for him to escape from such a place. In the garden above Mesar Burnu you will see the heap of ashes which is all that remains of the kiosk where I gave my unlucky tea-party ; and if you will turn up the bridle-path at the left of the Belgrade road, a hundred yards before you reach the aqueduct, you will come upon the spot where Gregorios threatened to kill Selim, the wicked Lala, on that bitter March night. I dare say, also, that if you visit any of these places by chance you will remember the strange scenes they have witnessed, and I hope that you will also remember Paul Griggs, your friend, who spun you this yarn because you asked him for a story, when he was riding with you on that rainy afternoon last month. I only wish you knew the Carvels, for I am sure you would like them, and you would find Chrysophrasia very amusing.
F. Marion Crawford.