The Grait God Pan
Baissd on the novela by
Arthur Machen (1863--1947) publishd in 1894.
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"Ie am glad yu caim, Clarke; verry glad indeed. Ie wos not suer yu cood spair the tym."
"Ie wos aibl tu maik arrainjmnts for a fue days; tthings ar not verry lyvly just now. But hav yu no misgivings, Raymond? Is it absoluotly saif?"
The tu men wr sloaly paissing the terress in front uv Dr. Raymonds houss. The sun stil hung abuv the westrn mountnlyn, but it shoan witth a dul red glo that cast no shadoas, and all the air wos quyet; a sweet bretth caim frum the grait wood on the hilsyd abuv, and witth it, at intervls, the soft mermering call uv the wyld duvs. Belo, in the long luvly valy, the rivr wound in and out between the loanly hils, and, as the sun huvrd and vanishd intu the west, a faint mist, puer whyt, began tu rys frum the hils. Dr. Raymond trnd sharply tu his frend.
"Saif? Uv corss it is. In itself the operaision is a perfectly simpl wun; eny serjn cood du it."
"And thair is no dainjr at eny uthr staij?"
"Nun; absoluotly no fizicl dainjr whotsoevr, Ie giv yu my wrd. Yu ar allways timid, Clarke, allways; but yu no my histry. Ie hav devoatd myself tu transndentl medisn for the last twenty yeers. Ie hav hrd myself calld quak and sharletn and impostr, but all the whyl Ie nue Ie wos on the ryt patth. Fyv yeers ago Ie reechd the gol, and sinss then evry day has bn a preparaision for whot we shal du tonyt."
"Ie shood lyk tu beleev it is all tru." Clarke nit his brows, and lookd doutfully at Dr. Raymond. "Ar yu perfectly suer, Raymond, that yor ttheory is not a fantazmagorea--a splendid vizion, sertnly, but a meer vizion aftr all?"
Dr. Raymond stopd in his wauk and trnd sharply. He wos a midl-aijd man, gaunt and tthin, uv a pail yelo complecsion, but as he ansrd Clarke and faissd him, thair wos a flush on his cheek.
"Look about yu, Clarke. Yu se the mountn, and hil folloing aftr hil, as waiv on waiv, yu se the woods and orchrd, the feelds uv ryp corn, and the medoas reeching tu the reed-beds by the rivr. Yu se me standing heer besyd yu, and heer my voiss; but Ie tel yu that all thees tthings -- yess, frum that star that has just shoan out in the sky tu the solid ground beneetth our feet--Ie say that all thees ar but dreems and shadoas; the shadoas that hyd the reel wrld frum our ies. Thair is a reel wrld, but it is beiond thiss glamr and thiss vizion, beiond thees 'chaises in Arras, dreems in a career,' beiond them all as beiond a vail. Ie du not no whethr eny huemn being has evr liftd that vail; but Ie du no, Clarke, that yu and Ie shal se it liftd thiss verry nyt frum befor anuthrs ies. Yu may tthink thiss all strainj nonsenss; it may be strainj, but it is tru, and the ainsionts nue whot lifting the vail meens. Thay calld it seing the god Pan."
Clarke shivrd; the whyt mist gathering oavr the rivr wos chily.
"It is wundrfl indeed," he sed. "We ar standing on the brink uv a strainj wrld, Raymond, if whot yu say is tru. Ie supoas the nyf is absoluotly nesesery?"
"Yess; a slyt lezion in the gray matr, that is all; a tryfling re-arrainjmnt uv sertn sels, a microscopicl alteraision that wood escaip the atension uv nynty-nyn brain spesialists out uv a hundred. Ie doant want tu bothr yu witth `shop,' Clarke; Ie myt giv yu a mass uv tecnicl detail which wood sound verry impoasing, and wood leev yu as enlytnd as yu ar now. But Ie supoas yu hav red, cazhuely, in out-uv-the-way cornrs uv yor paipr, that imenss stryds hav bn maid reesntly in the fizeolojy uv the brain. Ie saw a parragraf the uthr day about Digbys ttheory, and Browne Fabers discuverees. Theories and discuverees! Whair thay ar standing now, Ie stood fifteen yeers ago, and Ie need not tel yu that Ie hav not bn standing stil for the last fifteen yeers. It wil be enuf if Ie say that fyv yeers ago Ie maid the discuvry that Ie aluoded tu when Ie sed that ten yeers ago Ie reechd the gol. Aftr yeers uv laibr, aftr yeers uv toiling and groaping in the dark, aftr days and nyts uv disapointmnts and sumtyms uv despair, in which Ie uessd now and then tu trembl and gro cold witth the tthaut that prhaps thair wr uthrs seeking for whot Ie saut, at last, aftr so long, a pang uv sudn joy thrild my sol, and Ie nue the long jerny wos at an end. By whot seemd then and stil seems a chanss, the sugjestsion uv a moamnts iedl tthaut folload up upon familier lyns and patths that Ie had trakd a hundred tyms alredy, the grait trutth burst upon me, and Ie saw, mapd out in lyns uv syt, a hol wrld, a sfeer unnoan; continents and ielands, and grait oasions in which no ship has saild (tu my beleef) sinss a Man frst liftd up his ies and beheld the sun, and the stars uv hevn, and the quyet urtth beneetth. Yu wil tthink thiss all hy-floan langwaj, Clarke, but it is hard tu be literel. And yet; Ie du not no whethr whot Ie am hinting at cannot be set fortth in plain and loanly trms. For instenss, thiss wrld uv ours is prity wel gerdd now witth the telegraf wyrs and caibls; tthaut, witth sumtthing less than the speed uv tthaut, flashes frum sunrys tu sunset, frum nortth tu soutth, across the fluds and the dezrt plaisses. Supoas that an electrision uv today wr sudnly tu prseev that he and his frends hav meerly bn playing witth pebls and mistaiking them for the foundaisions uv the wrld; supoas that such a man saw utrmoast spaiss ly oapn befor the kerent, and wrds uv men flash fortth tu the sun and beiond the sun intu the sistms beiond, and the voiss uv articuelit-speeking men eko in the waist void that bounds our tthaut. As analojees go, that is a prity good analojy uv whot Ie hav dun; yu can undrstand now a litl uv whot Ie felt as Ie stood heer wun eavning; it wos a sumr eavning, and the valy lookd much as it dus now; Ie stood heer, and saw befor me the unuterabl, the untthinkabl gulf that yawns profound between tu wrlds, the wrld uv matr and the wrld uv spirit; Ie saw the grait empty deep strech dim befor me, and in that instnt a brij uv lyt leept frum the urtth tu the unnoan shor, and the abiss wos spand. Yu may look in Browne Fabers book, if yu lyk, and yu wil fynd that tu the preznt day men uv syenss ar unaibl tu acount for the preznss, or tu specify the funcsions uv a sertn group uv nrv-sels in the brain. That group is, as it wr, land tu let, a meer waist plaiss for fansifl ttheorees. Ie am not in the pozision uv Browne Faber and the spesialists, Ie am perfectly instructd as tu the posabl funcsions uv thoas nrv-sentrs in the skeem uv tthings. Witth a tuch Ie can bring them intu play, witth a tuch, Ie say, Ie can set fre the kerent, witth a tuch Ie can compleet the comuenicaision between thiss wrld uv senss and -- we shal be aibl tu finish the sentnss laitr on. Yess, the nyf is nesesery; but tthink whot that nyf wil efect. It wil levl uterly the solid wall uv senss, and probably, for the frst tym sinss man wos maid, a spirit wil gais on a spirit-wrld. Clarke, Mary wil se the god Pan!"
"But yu remembr whot yu roat tu me? Ie tthaut it wood be requizit that she--"
He whisprd the rest intu the doctrs ear.
"Not at all, not at all. That is nonsenss. Ie asuer yu. Indeed, it is betr as it is; Ie am quyt sertn uv that."
"Considr the matr wel, Raymond. Its a grait responsibility. Sumtthing myt go rong; yu wood be a mizerabl man for the rest uv yor days."
"No, Ie tthink not, eavn if the wrst hapnd. As yu no, Ie rescued Mary frum the gutr, and frum allmoast sertn starvaision, when she wos a chyld; Ie tthink hr lyf is myn, tu ues as Ie se fit. Cum, its geting lait; we had betr go in."
Dr. Raymond led the way intu the houss, tthru the hall, and doun a long dark passaj. He took a ke frum his poket and oapnd a hevy dor, and moasiond Clarke intu his laboratory. It had wunss bn a bilierd-ruom, and wos lytd by a glass doam in the sentr uv the seeling, whenss thair stil shoan a sad gray lyt on the figuer uv the doctr as he lit a lamp witth a hevy shaid and plaissd it on a taibl in the midl uv the ruom.
Clarke lookd about him. Scairsly a foot uv wall remaind bair; thair wr shelvs all around laidn witth botls and fyls uv all shaips and culrs, and at wun end stood a litl Chippendale bookcaiss. Raymond pointd tu thiss. "Yu se that parchmnt Oswald Crolius? He wos wun uv the frst tu sho me the way, tho Ie doant tthink he evr found it himself. That is a strainj saying uv his: 'In evry grain uv wheet thair lies hidn the sol uv a star.'"
Thair wos not much fernituer in the laboratory. The taibl in the sentr, a stoan slab witth a drain in wun cornr, the tu armchairs on which Raymond and Clarke wr siting; that wos all, exept an od-looking chair at the ferthest end uv the ruom. Clarke lookd at it, and raisd his iebrows.
"Yess, that is the chair," sed Raymond. "We may as wel plaiss it in pozision." He got up and wheeld the chair tu the lyt, and began raising and loering it, leting doun the seet, seting the bak at vaireus angls, and ajusting the foot-rest. It lookd comfrtabl enuf, and Clarke passd his hand oavr the soft green velvet, as the doctr manipuelaitd the levrs.
"Now, Clarke, maik yorself quyt comfrtabl. Ie hav a cupl ours wrk befor me; Ie wos oblyjd tu leev sertn matrs tu the last."
Raymond went tu the stoan slab, and Clarke wachd him dreerily as he bent oavr a ro uv fyls and lit the flaim undr the cruosibl. The doctr had a small hand-lamp, shaidd as the larjr wun, on a lej abuv his aparratus, and Clarke, hu sat in the shadoas, lookd doun at the grait shadaoy ruom, wundring at the bizar efects uv brilient lyt and undefynd darkness contrasting witth wun anuthr. Soon he becaim consius uv an od oadr, at frst the meerest sugjestsion uv oadr, in the ruom, and as it gru mor desydd he felt srpryzd that he wos not remyndd uv the kemists shop or the serjery. Clarke found himself iedly endevring tu analyz the sensaision, and haf consius, he began tu tthink uv a day, fifteen yeers ago, that he had spent roaming tthru the woods and medoas neer his oan hoam. It wos a brning day at the begining uv August, the heet had dimd the outlyns uv all tthings and all distnsses witth a faint mist, and peepl hu obzrvd the tthermometr spoak uv an abnorml rejistr, uv a tempretuer that wos allmoast tropicl. Strainjly that wundrfl hot day uv the fiftees roas up again in Clarkes imajinaision; the senss uv dazling all-prvaiding sunlyt seemd tu blot out the shadoas and the lyts uv the laboratory, and he felt again the heetd air beeting in gusts about his faiss, saw the shimr ryzing frum the trf, and hrd the meeried mermer uv the sumr.
"Ie hoap the smel duznt anoy yu, Clarke; thairs nutthing unholsum about it. It may maik yu a bit sleepy, thats all."
Clarke hrd the wrds quyt distinctly, and nue that Raymond wos speeking tu him, but for the lyf uv him he cood not rous himself frum his letthrjy. He cood oanly tthink uv the loanly wauk he had taikn fifteen yeers ago; it wos his last look at the feelds and woods he had noan sinss he wos a chyld, and now it all stood out in brilient lyt, as a pictuer, befor him. Abuv all thair caim tu his nostrils the sent uv sumr, the smel uv flours mingld, and the oadr uv the woods, uv cool shaidd plaisses, deep in the green deptths, draun fortth by the suns heet; and the sent uv the good urtth, lying as it wr witth arms strechd fortth, and smyling lips, oavrpourd all. His fansees maid him wandr, as he had wandred long ago, frum the feelds intu the wood, traking a litl patth between the shyning undrgroatth uv beech-trees; and the trikl uv wautr droping frum the lymstoan rok soundd as a cleer melody in the dreem. Tthauts began tu go astray and tu mingl witth uthr tthauts; the beech aly wos transformd tu a patth between ielex-trees, and heer and thair a vyn clymd frum bow tu bow, and sent up waiving tendrils and druopd witth perpl graips, and the sparss gray-green leevs uv a wyld olliv-tre stood out against the dark shadoas uv the ielex. Clarke, in the deep folds uv dreem, wos consius that the patth frum his fothrs houss had led him intu an undiscuvrd cuntry, and he wos wundring at the strainjness uv it all, when sudnly, in plaiss uv the hum and mermer uv the sumr, an infinit sylnss seemd tu fall on all tthings, and the wood wos hushd, and for a moamnt in tym he stood faiss tu faiss thair witth a preznss, that wos neethr man nor beest, neethr the living nor the ded, but all tthings mingld, the form uv all tthings but devoid uv all form. And in that moamnt, the sacramnt uv body and sol wos dizollvd, and a voiss seemd tu cry "Let us go henss," and then the darkness uv darkness beiond the stars, the darkness uv evrlasting.
When Clarke woak up witth a start he saw Raymond poring a fue drops uv sum oily fluid intu a green fyl, which he stoprd tytly.
"Yu hav bn doazing," he sed; "the jerny must hav tyrd yu out. It is dun now. Ie am going tu fech Mary; Ie shal be bak in ten minits."
Clarke lay bak in his chair and wundrd. It seemd as if he had but passd frum wun dreem intu anuthr. He haf expectd tu se the walls uv the laboratory melt and disapeer, and tu awaik in London, shudering at his oan sleeping fansees. But at last the dor oapnd, and the doctr retrnd, and behynd him caim a grl uv about sevnteen, dressd all in whyt. She wos so buetifl that Clarke did not wundr at whot the doctr had ritn tu him. She wos blushing now oavr faiss and nek and arms, but Raymond seemd unmuovd.
"Mary," he sed, "the tym has cum. Yu ar quyt fre. Ar yu willing tu trust yorself tu me entyrly?"
"Du yu heer that, Clarke? Yu ar my witness. Heer is the chair, Mary. It is quyt eazy. Just sit in it and leen bak. Ar yu redy?"
"Yess, deer, quyt redy. Giv me a kiss befor yu begin."
The doctr stuopd and kissd hr moutth, kyndly enuf. "Now shut yor ies," he sed. The grl cloasd hr ielids, as if she wr tyrd, and longd for sleep, and Raymond plaissd the green fyl tu hr nostrils. Her faiss gru whyt, whyt than hr dress; she strugld faintly, and then witth the feeling uv submision strong witthin hr, crossd hr arms upon hr brest as a litl chyld about tu say hr prairs. The bryt lyt uv the lamp fel full upon hr, and Clarke wachd chainjs fleeting oavr hr faiss as the chainjs uv the hils when the sumr clouds float across the sun. And then she lay all whyt and stil, and the doctr trnd up wun uv hr ielids. She wos quyt unconsius. Raymond pressd hard on wun uv the levrs and the chair instntly sank bak. Clarke saw him cuting away a sercl, lyk a tonsuer, frum hr hair, and the lamp wos muovd neerer. Raymond took a small glitering instrumnt frum a litl caiss, and Clarke trnd away shuderingly. When he lookd again the doctr wos bynding up the wuond he had maid.
"She wil awaik in fyv minits." Raymond wos stil perfectly cool. "Thair is nutthing mor tu be dun; we can oanly wait."
The minits passd sloaly; thay cood heer a slo, hevy, tiking. thair wos an old clok in the passaj. Clarke felt sik and faint; his nees shook beneetth him, he cood hardly stand.
Sudnly, as thay wachd, thay hrd a long-draun sy, and sudnly did the culr that had vanishd retrnd tu the grls cheeks, and sudnly hr ies oapnd. Clarke quaild befor them. Thay shoan witth an aufl lyt, looking far away, and a grait wundr fel upon hr faiss, and hr hands strechd out as if tu tuch whot wos invizabl; but in an instnt the wundr faidd, and gaiv plaiss tu the moast aufl terrer. The musls uv hr faiss wr hideusly convulssd, she shook frum hed tu foot; the sol seemd strugling and shudering witthin the houss uv flesh. It wos a horrabl syt, and Clarke rushd forwrd, as she fel shreeking tu the flor.
Tthre days laitr Raymond took Clarke tu Marys bedsyd. She wos lying wyd-awaik, roling hr hed frum syd tu syd, and grining vaicntly.
"Yess," sed the doctr, stil quyt cool, "it is a grait pity; she is a hoapless idiot. Howevr, it cood not be helpd; and, aftr all, she has seen the Grait God Pan."
MR. CLARKES MEMWARS
Mr. Clarke, the jentlmn choazn by Dr. Raymond tu witness the strainj experimnt uv the god Pan, wos a persn in huos carractr causion and cuereosity wr odly mingld; in his soabr moamnts he tthaut uv the unuezual and exentric witth undisgyzd averzion, and yet, deep in his hart, thair wos a wyd-ied inquizitivness witth respect tu all the mor recndyt and esoteric elemnts in the naituer uv men. The latr tendnsy had prevaild when he axeptd Raymonds invitaision, for tho his considrd jujmnt had allways repuedeaitd the doctrs ttheorees as the wyldest nonsenss, yet he seecretly hugd a beleef in fantasy, and wood hav rejoissd tu se that beleef confermd. The horrers that he witnessd in the dreery laboratory wr tu a sertn extent saluetory; he wos consius uv being involvd in an afair not alltogethr repuetaibl, and for meny yeers aftrwrds he clung braivly tu the comnplaiss, and rejectd all ocaizions uv ocult investigaision. Indeed, on sum homeopatthic prinsipl, he for sum tym atendd the saonses uv distingwishd meedeums, hoaping that the clumzy triks uv thees jentlmn wood maik him alltogethr disgustd witth mistisizm uv evry kynd, but the remedy, tho caustic, wos not eficaisius. Clarke nue that he stil pynd for the unseen, and litl by litl, the old pasion began tu reasert itself, as the faiss uv Mary, shudring and convulssd witth an unnoan terrer, faidd sloaly frum his memry. Ocuepyd all day in prsuots boatth seereus and luocrativ, the temptaision tu relax in the eavning wos tu grait, espesialy in the wintr muntths, when the fyr cast a worm glo oavr his snug bachlr apartmnt, and a botl uv sum choiss clarray stood redy by his elbo. His dinr dijestd, he wood maik a breef preetenss uv reeding the eavning paipr, but the meer catalog uv news suon palld upon him, and Clarke wood fynd himself casting glanses uv worm dezyr in the direcsion uv an old Japanees buero, which stood at a pleznt distnss frum the hrtth. Lyk a boy befor a jam-closet, for a fue minits he wood huvr indesysiv, but lust allways prevaild, and Clarke endd by drawing up his chair, lyting a candl, and siting doun befor the buero. Its pijn-hols and draurs teemd witth docuemnts on the moast morbid subjects, and in the wel repoasd a larj manuescript volluem, in which he had painfully entrd he gems uv his collecsion. Clarke had a fyn contempt for publishd literatuer; the moast goastly story seesd tu intrest him if it hapnd tu be printd; his sol plezuer wos in the reeding, compyling, and rearrainjing whot he calld his "Memwars tu Pruov the Existnss uv the Devl," and engaijd in thiss prsuot the eavning seemd tu fly and the nyt apeerd tu short.
On wun particuelr eavning, an ugly Desembr nyt, blak witth fog, and raw witth frost, Clarke hereed oavr his dinr, and scairsly daind tu observ his custemery ritual uv taiking up the paipr and laying it doun again. He paissd tu or thre tyms up and doun the ruom, and oapnd the buero, stood stil a moamnt, and sat doun. He leend bak, abzorbd in wun uv thoas dreems tu which he wos subject, and at lengtth dru out his book, and oapnd it at the last entry. Thair wr thre or for paijs densly cuvrd witth Clarkes round, set penmnship, and at the begining he had ritn in a sumwhot larjr hand:
Singuelr Narrative told me by my frend, Dr. Philips. He asuers me that all the facts relaitd thairin ar strictly and holy tru, but refuezs tu giv eathr the Sernaims uv the Persns Consrnd, or the Plaiss whair thees Extraordinary Events okerd.
Mr. Clarke began tu reed oavr the acount for the tentth tym, glansing now and then at the pensl notes he had maid when it wos told him by his frend. It wos wun uv his huemrs tu pryd himself on a sertn literary ability; he tthaut wel uv his styl, and took pains in arrainjing the sercmstanses in dramatic ordr. He red the folloing story:--
The persns consrnd in thiss staitmnt ar Helen V., hu, if she is stil alyv, must now be a wumn uv twenty-thre, Rachel M., sinss deseessd, hu wos a yeer yungr than the abuv, and Trevor W., an imbesl, aijd aiteen. Thees persns wr at the peereod uv the story inhabitnts uv a vilaj on the bordrs uv Wails, a plaiss uv sum importnss in the tym uv the Roamn ocuepaision, but now a scatrd hamlet, uv not mor than fyv hundred sols. It is situatd on ryzing ground, about six miles frum the sea, and is sheltrd by a larj and pictueresk forrest.
Sum elevn yeers ago, Helen V. caim tu the vilaj undr rathr pecuelier sercmstanses. It is undrstood that she, being an orfn, wos adoptd in hr infancy by a distnt relativ, hu braut hr up in his oan houss until she wos twelv yeers old. Tthinking, howevr, that it wood be betr for the chyld tu hav playmaits uv hr oan aij, he advertyzd in sevrel loacl paiprs for a good hoam in a comfrtabl farmhouss for a grl uv twelv, and thiss advertismnt wos ansrd by Mr. R., a wel-tu-du farmr in the abuv-mensiond vilaj. His referenses pruoving satisfactry, the jentlmn sent his adoptd dautr tu Mr. R., witth a letr, in which he stipuelaitd that the grl shood hav a ruom tu hrself, and staitd that hr gardeans need be at no trubl in the matr uv eduecaision, as she wos alredy sufisiontly eduecaitd for the pozision in lyf which she wood ocuepye. In fact, Mr. R. wos givn tu undrstand that the grl be aloud tu fynd hr oan ocuepaisions and tu spend hr tym allmoast as she lykd. Mr. R. duely met hr at the neerest stasion, a toun sevn myls away frum his houss, and seems tu hav remarkd nutthing extraudinary about the chyld exept that she wos retisnt as tu hr formr lyf and hr adoptd fothr. She wos, how-evr, uv a verry difrent typ frum the inhabitnts uv the vilaj; hr skin wos a pail, cleer olliv, and hr feetuers wr strongly markd, and uv a sumwhot foren carractr. She apeers tu hav setld doun eazily enuf intu farmhouss lyf, and becaim a favrit witth the children, hu sumtyms went witth hr on hr rambls in the forrest, for thiss wos hr amuezmnt. Mr. R. staits that he has noan hr tu go out by herself directly aftr thair urly brecfast, and not retrnd til aftr dusk, and that, feeling uneezy at a yung grl being out aloan for so meny ours, he comuenicaitd witth hr adoptd fothr, hu replyd in a breef noat that Helen must du as she choas. In the wintr, when the forrest patths ar impasabl, she spent moast uv hr tym in hr bedruom, whair she slept aloan, acording tu the instrucsions uv hr relativ. It wos on wun uv thees expedisions tu the forrest that the frst uv the singuelr insidnts witth which thiss grl is conectd okerd, the dait being about a yeer aftr hr arryvl at the vilaj. The preseeding wintr had bn remarkably seveer, the sno drifting tu a grait deptth, and the frost continuing for an unexampld peereod, and the sumr folloing wos as noatwerthy for its extreem heet. On wun uv the verry hotest days in thiss sumr, Helen V. left the farmhouss for wun uv hr long rambls in the forrest, taiking witth hr, as uezual, sum bred and meet for lunch. She wos seen by sum men in the feelds maiking for the old Roamn Road, a green causway which traverses the hyest part uv the wood, and thay wr astonishd tu observ that the grl had taikn auf hr hat, tho the heet uv the sun wos allredy tropicl. As it hapnd, a laibrer, Joseph W. by naim, wos wrking in the forrest neer the Roamn Road, and at twlv o'clok his litl son, Trevor, braut the man his dinr uv bred and chees. Aftr the meel, the boy, hu wos about sevn yeers old at the tym, left his fothr at wrk, and, as he sed, went tu look for flours in the wood, and the man, hu cood heer him shouting witth delyt at his discuverees, felt no uneasiness. Sudnly, howevr, he wos horrifyd at heering the moast dredfl screems, evidently the rezult uv grait terrer, proceeding frum the direcsion in which his son had gon, and he haistily tthru doun his tools and ran tu se whot had hapnd. Traissing his patth by the sound, he met the litl boy, hu wos runing hedlong, and wos evidently terribly frytnd, and on questsioning him the man elisitd that aftr piking a posy uv flours he felt tyrd, and lay doun on the grass and fel asleep. He wos sudnly awaiknd, as he staitd, by a pecuelier nois, a sort uv singing he calld it, and on peeping tthru the branchs he saw Helen V. playing on the grass witth a "strainj naikd man," hu he seemd unaibl tu descryb mor fully. He sed he felt dredfully frytnd and ran away crying for his fothr. Joseph W. proceeded in the direcsion indicaitd by his son, and found Helen V. siting on the grass in the midl uv a glaid or oapn spaiss left by charcol bernrs. He angrily charjd hr witth frytening his litl boy, but she entyrly denyd the acuezaision and lafd at the chylds story uv a "strainj man," tu which he himself did not atach much creednss. Joseph W. caim tu the concluozion that the boy had woak up witth a sudn fryt, as children sumtyms du, but Trevor prsistd in his story, and continued in such evidnt distress that at last his fothr took him hoam, hoaping that his muthr wood be aibl tu suoth him. For meny weeks, howevr, the boy gaiv his parrnts much anxyety; he becaim nervuss and strainj in his manr, refuezing tu leev the cotaj by himself, and constntly alarming the houshold by waiking in the nyt witth crys uv "The man in the wood! fothr! fothr!"
In corss uv tym, howevr, the impresion seemd tu hav worn auf, and about thre muntths laitr he acumpaneed his fothr tu the hoam uv a jentlmn in the naibrhood, for huom Joseph W. ocaizionally did wrk. The man wos shoan intu the study, and the litl boy wos left siting in the hall, and a fue minits laitr, whyl the jentlmn wos giving W. his instrucsions, thay wr boatth horrifyd by a peersing shreek and the sound uv a fall, and rushing out thay found the chyld lying senssless on the flor, his faiss contortd witth terrer. The doctr wos imeedeatly sumnd, and aftr sum examinaision he pronounssd the chyld tu be suffering form a kynd uv fit, apparrntly produessd by a sudn shok. The boy wos taikn tu wun uv the bedruoms, and aftr sum tym recuvrd consiusness, but oanly tu pass intu a condision descrybd by the medicl man as wun uv vylnt histerrea. The doctr exhibitd a strong sedativ, and in the corss uv tu ours pronounssd him fit tu wauk hoam, but in passing tthru the hall the paroxizms uv fryt retrnd and witth adisionl vylnss. The fothr prseevd that the chyld wos pointing at sum object, and hrd the old cry, "The man in the wood," and looking in the direcsion indicaitd saw a stoan hed uv grotesk apeernss, which had bn bilt intu the wall abuv wun uv the dors. It seems the owner uv the houss had reesntly maid alteraisions in his premises, and on diging the foundaisions for sum ofises, the men had found a cuereus hed, evidently uv the Roamn peereod, which had bn plaissd in the manr descrybd. The hed is pronounssd by the moast expereanssd arkeolojists uv the district tu be that uv a faun or satr. [Dr. Philips tels me that he has seen the hed in questsion, and asuers me that he has nevr reseevd such a vivid prezentmnt uv intenss eavl.]
Frum whotevr caus arryzing, thiss secnd shok seemd tu seveer for the boy Trevor, and at the preznt dait he sufrs frum a weekness uv intelect, which givs but litl promiss uv amending. The matr causd a good deel uv sensaision at the tym, and the grl Helen wos cloasly questsiond by Mr. R., but tu no prpuss, she stedfastly denying that she had frytnd or in eny way molestd Trevor.
The secnd event witth which thiss grls naim is conectd took plaiss about six yeers ago, and is uv a stil mor extraudinary carractr.
At the begining uv the sumr uv 1882, Helen contractd a frendship uv a pecuelierly intimit carractr witth Rachel M., the dautr uv a posperus farmr in the naibrhood. Thiss grl, hu wos a yeer yungr than Helen, wos considrd by moast peepl tu be the pritier uv the tu, tho Helens feetuers had tu a grait extent sofnd as she becaim oldr. The tu grls, hu wr togethr on evry availabl oprtuonity, prezentd a singuelr contrast, the wun witth hr cleer, olliv skin and allmoast Italien apeernss, and the uthr uv the proverbeal red and whyt uv our rurl districts. It must be staitd that the paymnts maid tu Mr. R. for the maintenenss uv Helen wr noan in the vilaj for thair exesiv liberality, and the impresion wos jenerel that she wood wun day inherit a larj sum uv muny frum hr relativ. The parrnts uv Rachel wr thairfor not avrss frum thair dautrs frendship witth the grl, and ravn enkerajd the intimasy, tho thay now bitrly regret having dun so. Helen stil retaind hr extraudinary fondness for the forrest, and on sevrel ocaizions Rachel acumpaneed hr, the tu frends seting out urly in the morning, and remaining in the wood until dusk. Wunss or twyss aftr thees exkerzions Mrs. M. tthaut hr dautrs manr rathr pecuelier; she seemd langwid and dreemy, and as it has bn expressd, "difrent frum herself," but thees pecuelearitees seem tu hav bn tthaut tu tryfling for remark. Wun eavning, howevr, aftr Rachel had cum hoam, hr muthr hrd a nois which soundd lyk supressd weeping in the grls ruom, and on going in found hr lying, haf undressd, upon the bed, evidently in the graitest distress. As suon as she saw hr muthr, she exclaimd, "Ah, muthr, muthr, why did yu let me go tu the forrest witth Helen?" Mrs. M. wos astonishd at so strainj a questsion, and proseedd tu maik inquyrees. Rachel told hr a wyld story. She sed --
Clarke cloasd the book witth a snap, and trnd his chair twords the fyr. When his frend sat wun eavning in that verry chair, and told his story, Clarke had interuptd him at a point a litl subsequnt tu thiss, had cut short his wrds in a paroxizm uv horrer. "My God!" he had exclaimd, "tthink, tthink whot yu ar saying. It is tu incredabl, tu monstruss; such tthings can nevr be in thiss quyet wrld, whair men and women liv and dy, and strugl, and concr, or maybe fail, and fall doun undr sorrow, and greev and sufr strainj fortuens for meny a yeer; but not thiss, Philips, not such tthings as thiss. Thair must be sum explanaision, sum way out uv the terrer. Why, man, if such a caiss wr posabl, our urtth wood be a nytmair."
But Philips had told his story tu the end, concluoding:
"Her flyt remains a mistery tu thiss day; she vanishd in broad sunlyt; thay saw hr wauking in a medo, and a fue moamnts laitr she wos not thair."
Clarke tryd tu conseev the tthing again, as he sat by the fyr, and again his mynd shudrd and shrank bak, apalld befor the syt uv such aufl, unspeekabl elemnts entthroand as it wr, and tryumfnt in huemn flesh. Befor him strechd the long dim vista uv the green cauzway in the forrest, as his frend had descrybd it; he saw the swaying leevs and the quivring shadoas on the grass, he saw the sunlyt and the flours, and far away, far in the long distnss, the tu figuer muovd tword him. Wun wos Rachel, but the uthr?
Clarke had tryd his best tu disbeleev it all, but at the end uv the acount, as he had ritn it in his book, he had plaissd the inscripsion:
ET DIABOLUS INCARNATE EST. ET HOMO FACTUS EST.
THE SITY OV REZERECSIONS
"Herbert! Good God! Is it posabl?"
"Yess, my naims Herbert. Ie tthink Ie no yor faiss, tu, but Ie doant remembr yor naim. My memry is verry queer."
"Doant yu recollect Villiers uv Wadham?"
"So it is, so it is. Ie beg yor pardn, Villiers, Ie didnt tthink Ie wos beging uv an old collaj frend. Good-nyt."
"My deer felo, thiss haist is unnesesery. My ruoms ar cloass by, but we wuont go thair just yet. Supoas we wauk up Shaftesbury Avenue a litl way? But how in hevns naim hav yu cum tu thiss pass, Herbert?"
"Its a long story, Villiers, and a strainj wun tu, but yu can heer it if yu lyk."
"Cum on, then. Taik my arm, yu doant seem verry strong."
The il-assorted pair muovd sloaly up Rupert Street; the wun in derty, eavl-looking rags, and the uthr atyrd in the reguelaision ueniform uv a man about toun, trim, glosy, and eminently wel-tu-du. Villiers had emrjd frum his restorant aftr an exlnt dinr uv meny corsses, asistd by an ingraisheaiting litl flask uv Chianti, and, in that fraim uv mynd which wos witth him allmoast cronic, had delayd a moamnt by the dor, peering round in the dimly-lytd street in srch uv thoas misteereus insidnts and persns witth which the streets uv London teem in evry quortr and evry our. Villiers prydd himself as a practissd explorer uv such obscuer maises and by-ways uv London lyf, and in thiss unprofitabl prsuot he displayd an asiduity which wos werthy uv mor seereus employmnt. Thuss he stood by the lamp-poast srvaying the passers-by witth undisgyzd cuereosity, and witth that gravity noan oanly tu the sistematic dynr, had just enunseaitd in his mynd the formula: "London has bn calld the sity uv encounters; it is mor than that, it is the sity uv Rezerecsions," when thees reflecsions wr sudnly interuptd by a piteus whyn at his elbo, and a deplorabl apeel for oms. He lookd around in sum iritaision, and witth a sudn shok found himself confrontd witth the embodeed proof uv his sumwhot stiltd fansees. Thair, close besyd him, his faiss alltrd and disfiguerd by povrty and disgraiss, his body bairly cuvrd by greezy il-fiting rags, stood his old frend Charles Herbert, hu had matricuelaitd on the saim day as himself, witth huom he had bn merry and wyz for twlv revolving trms. Difrent ocuepaisions and varrying intrests had interuptd the frendship, and it wos six yeers sinss Villiers had seen Herbert; and now he lookd upon thiss rek uv a man witth greef and dismay, mingld witth a sertn inquizitivness as tu whot dreery chain uv sercmstanses had dragd him doun tu such a dolfl pass. Villiers felt togethr witth compasion all the relish uv the amatuer in misterees, and congratuelaitd himself on his leezuerly specuelaisions outsyd the restorant.
Thay waukd on in sylnss for sum tym, and mor than wun passer-by staird in astonishmnt at the unacustmd spectacl uv a wel-dressd man witth an unmistaikabl begr hanging on tu his arm, and, obzrving thiss, Villiers led the way tu an obscuer street in Soho. Heer he repeetd his questsion.
"How on urtth has it hapnd, Herbert? Ie allways undrstood yu wood suxeed tu an exelnt pozision in Dorsetshire. Did yor fothr disinherit yu? Suerly not?"
"No, Villiers; Ie caim intu all the proprty at my poor fothrs detth; he dyd a yeer aftr Ie left Oxford. He wos a verry good fothr tu me, and Ie mornd his detth sinseerly enuf. But yu no whot yung men ar; a fue muntths laitr Ie caim up tu toun and went a good deel intu sosyety. Uv corss Ie had exlnt introducsions, and Ie manaijd tu enjoy myself verry much in a harmless sort uv way. Ie playd a litl, sertnly, but nevr for hevy staiks, and the fue bets Ie maid on raisses braut me in muny--oanly a fue pounds, yu no, but enuf tu pay for sigars and such pety plezuers. It wos in my second seezn that the tyd trnd. Uv corss yu hav hrd uv my marraj?"
"No, Ie nevr hrd enytthing about it."
"Yess, Ie marreed, Villiers. Ie met a grl, a grl uv the moast wundrfl and moast strainj buety, at the houss uv sum peepl huom Ie nue. Ie cannot tel yu hr aij; Ie nevr nue it, but, so far as Ie can gess, Ie shood tthink she must hav bn about nynteen when Ie maid hr aquaintnss. My frends had cum tu no hr at Florence; she told them she wos an orfn, the chyld uv an Inglish fothr and an Italien muthr, and she charmd them as she charmd me. The frst tym Ie saw hr wos at an eavning party. Ie wos standing by the dor tauking tu a frend, when sudnly abuv the hum and babl uv conversaision Ie hrd a voiss which seemd tu thril tu my hart. She wos singing an Italien song. Ie wos introduessd tu hr that eavning, and in thre muntths Ie marreed Helen. Villiers, that wumn, if Ie can call hr wumn, corruptd my sol. The nyt uv the weding Ie found myself siting in hr bedruom in the hoatel, lisning tu hr tauk. She wos siting up in bed, and Ie lisnd tu hr as she spoak in hr buetifl voiss, spoak uv tthings which eavn now Ie wood not dair whispr in the blakest nyt, tho Ie stood in the midst uv a wildrness. Yu, Villiers, yu may tthink yu no lyf, and London, and whot goas on day and nyt in thiss dredfl sity; for all Ie can say yu may hav hrd the tauk uv the vylest, but Ie tel yu can hav no consepsion uv whot Ie no, not in yor moast fantastic, hideus dreems can yu hav imaijd fortth the faintest shado uv whot Ie hav hrd--and seen. Yess, seen. Ie hav seen the incredabl, such horrers that eavn Ie myself sumtyms stop in the midl uv the street and ask whethr it is posabl for a man tu behold such tthings and liv. In a yeer, Villiers, Ie wos a ruind man, in body and sol--in body and sol."
"But yor proprty, Herbert? Yu had land in Dorset."
"Ie sold it all; the feelds and woods, the deer old houss--evryttthing."
"And the muny?"
"She took it all frum me."
"And then left yu?"
"Yess; she disapeered wun nyt. Ie doant no whair she went, but Ie am suer if Ie saw hr again it wood kil me. The rest uv my story is uv no intrest; sordid mizery, that is all. Yu may tthink, Villiers, that Ie hav exajeraitd and taukd for efect; but Ie hav not told yu haf. Ie cood tel yu sertn tthings which wood convinss yu, but yu wood nevr no a hapy day again. Yu wood pass the rest uv yor lyf, as Ie pass myn, a hauntd man, a man hu has seen hel."
Villiers took the unfortuenit man tu his ruoms, and gaiv him a meel. Herbert cood eat litl, and scairsly tuchd the glass uv wyn set befor him. He sat moody and sylnt by the fyr, and seemd releevd when Villiers sent him away witth a small preznt uv muny.
"By the way, Herbert," sed Villiers, as thay partd at the dor, "whot wos yor wyfs naim? Yu sed Helen, Ie tthink? Helen whot?"
"The naim she passd undr when Ie met hr wos Helen Vaughan, but whot hr reel naim wos Ie can't say. Ie doant tthink she had a naim. No, no, not in that senss. Oanly huemn beings hav naims, Villiers; Ie can't say enymor. Good-bye; yess, Ie wil not fail tu call if Ie se eny way in which yu can help me. Good-nyt."
The man went out intu the bitr nyt, and Villiers retrnd tu his fyrsyd. Thair wos sumtthing about Herbert which shokd him inexpresibly; not his poor rags nor the marks which povrty had set upon his faiss, but rathr an indefinit terrer which hung about him lyk a mist. He had aknollajd that he himself wos not devoid uv blaim; the wumn, he had avoud, had corruptd him body and sol, and Villiers felt that thiss man, wunss his frend, had bn an actr in seens eavl beiond the pour uv wrds. His story needd no confrmaision: he himself wos the embodeed proof uv it. Villiers muesd cuereusly oavr the story he had hrd, and wundrd whethr he had hrd boatth the frst and the last uv it. "No," he tthaut, "sertnly not the last, probably oanly the begining. A caiss lyk thiss is lyk a nest uv Chinees boxs; yu oapn wun aftr the uthr and fynd a quaintr wrkmnship in evry box. Most lykly poor Herbert is meerly wun uv the outsyd boxs; thair ar strainjr wuns tu follo."
Villiers cood not taik his mynd away frum Herbert and his story, which seemd tu gro wyldr as the nyt wor on. The fyr seemd tu brn lo, and the chily air uv the morning crept intu the ruom; Villiers got up witth a glanss oavr his sholdr, and, shivering slytly, went tu bed.
A fue days laitr he saw at his club a jentlmn uv his aquaintnss, naimd Austin, hu wos faimus for his intimit nollaj uv London lyf, boatth in its tenebrus and luominus faises. Villiers, stil full uv his encountr in Soho and its consequnses, tthaut Austin myt posibly be aibl tu shed sum lyt on Herberts histry, and so aftr sum cazhuel tauk he sudnly poot the questsion:
"Du yu hapn tu no enytthing uv a man naimd Herbert -- Charles Herbert?"
Austin trnd round sharply and staird at Villiers witth sum astonishmnt.
"Charles Herbert? Wrnt yu in toun thre yeers ago? No; then yu hav not hrd uv the Paul Street caiss? It causd a good deel uv sensaision at the tym."
"Whot wos the caiss?"
"Wel, a jentlmn, a man uv verry good pozision, wos found ded, stark ded, in the airea uv a sertn houss in Paul Street, auf Tottenham Court Road. Uv corss the poleess did not maik the discuvry; if yu hapn tu be siting up all nyt and hav a lyt in yor windo, the constabl wil ring the bell, but if yu hapn tu be lying ded in sumbodees airea, yu wil be left aloan. In thiss instenss, as in meny uthrs, the alarm wos raisd by sum kynd uv vagabond; Ie doant meen a comn tramp, or a public-houss loafer, but a jentlmn, huos bizness or plezuer, or boatth, maid him a spectaitr uv the London streets at fyv o'clok in the morning. Thiss individual wos, as he sed, 'going hoam,' it did not apeer whenss or whithr, and had ocaizion tu pass tthru Paul Street between for and fyv a.m. Sumtthing or uthr caut his Ie at Numbr 20; he sed, abserdly enuf, that the houss had the moast unpleznt fizeognomy he had evr obzrvd, but, at eny rait, he glanssd doun the airea and wos a good deel astonishd tu se a man lying on the stoans, his lims all hudld togethr, and his faiss trnd up. Our jentlmn tthaut his faiss lookd pecuelierly gastly, and so set auf at a run in srch uv the neerest poleesmn. The constabl wos at frst inclynd tu treet the matr lytly, suspecting comn drunkenness; howevr, he caim, and aftr looking at the mans faiss, chainjd his toan, quikly enuf. The urly brd, hu had pikd up thiss fyn worm, wos sent auf for a doctr, and the poleessmn rang and nokd at the dor til a slatrnly servnt grl caim doun looking mor than haf asleep. The constabl pointd out the contents uv the airea tu the maid, hu screemed loudly enuf tu wake up the street, but she nue nutthing uv the man; had nevr seen him at the houss, and so fortth. Meenwhyl, the orijnl discuvrer had cum bak witth a medicl man, and the next tthing wos tu get intu the airea. The orijnl wos oapn, so the hol quartet stumpd doun the steps. The doctr hardly needd a moamnts examinaision; he sed the poor felo had bn ded for sevrel ours, and it wos then the caiss began tu get intresting. The ded man had not bn robd, and in wun uv his pokets wr paiprs identifying him as--wel, as a man uv good family and meens, a faivrit in sosyety, and nobodees enmy, as far as cood be noan. Ie doant giv his naim, Villiers, becaus it has nutthing tu du witth the story, and becaus its no good raiking up thees afairs about the ded when thair ar no relaisions living. The next cuereus point wos that the medicl men coodnt agry as tu how he met his detth. Thair wr sum slyt bruoses on his sholdrs, but thay wr so slyt that it lookd as if he had bn pushd rufly out uv the kichn dor, and not throan oavr the railings frum the street or eavn dragd doun the steps. But thair wr positivly no uthr marks uv vylnss about him, sertnly nun that wood acount for his detth; and when thay caim tu the autopsy thair wosnt a traiss uv poizn uv eny kynd. Uv corss the poleess wontd tu no all about the peepl at Numbr 20, and heer again, so Ie hav hrd frum pryvet sorses, wun or tu uthr verry cuereus points caim out. It apeers that the ocuepnts uv the houss wr a Mr. and Mrs. Charles Herbert; he wos sed tu be a landd propryetr, tho it struk moast peepl that Paul Street wos not exactly the plaiss tu look for cuntry jentry. As for Mrs. Herbert, noabody seemd tu no hu or whot she wos, and, between ourselvs, Ie fansy the dyvrs aftr hr histry found themselvs in rathr strainj wautrs. Uv corss thay boatth denyd noing enytthing about the deseessd, and in defallt uv eny evidnss against them thay wr discharjd. But sum verry od tthings caim out about them. Though it wos between fyv and six in the morning when the ded man wos remuovd, a larj crowd had collectd, and sevrel uv the naibrs ran tu se whot wos going on. Thay wr prity fre witth thair commnts, by all acounts, and frum thees it apeerd that Numbr 20 wos in verry bad oadr in Paul Street. The detectivs tryd tu traiss doun thees ruomrs tu sum solid foundaision uv fact, but cood not get hold uv enytthing. Peepl shook thair heds and raisd thair iebrows and tthaut the Herberts rathr 'queer,' 'wood rathr not be seen going intu thair houss,'and so on, but thair wos nutthing tanjibl. The autthoritees wr morely sertn the man met his detth in sum way or anuthr in the houss and wos throan out by the kichn dor, but thay coodnt pruov it, and the absnss uv eny indicaisions uv vylnss or poizning left them helpless. An od caiss, wosnt it? But cuereusly enuf, thairs sumtthing mor that Ie havnt told yu. Ie hapnd tu no wun uv the doctrs hu wos consultd as tu the caus uv detth, and sum tym aftr the inquest Ie met him, and askd him about it. 'Do yu reely meen tu tel me,' Ie sed, 'that yu wr bafld by the caiss, that yu actualy doant no whot the man dyd uv?' `Pardn me,' he replyd, 'I no perfectly wel whot causd detth. Blank dyd uv fryt, uv sheer, aufl terrer; Ie nevr saw feetuers so hideusly contortd in the entyr corss uv my practiss, and Ie hav seen the faises uv a hol hoast uv ded.' The doctr wos uezually a cool custmr enuf, and a sertn veehemnss in his manr struk me, but Ie coodnt get enytthing mor out uv him. Ie supoas the Trezuery didnt se thair way tu prosecueting the Herberts for frytning a man tu detth; at eny rait, nutthing wos dun, and the caiss dropd out uv mens minds. Du yu hapn tu no enytthing uv Herbert?"
"Wel," replyd Villiers, "he wos an old collaj frend uv myn."
"Yu doant say so? Hav yu evr seen his wyf?"
"No, Ie havnt. Ie hav lost syt uv Herbert for meny yeers."
"Its queer, iznt it, parting witth a man at the collaj orijnl or at Paddington, seing nutthing uv him for yeers, and then fynding him pop up his hed in such an od plaiss. But Ie shood lyk tu hav seen Mrs. Herbert; peepl sed extraudinary tthings about hr."
"Whot sort uv tthings?"
"Wel, Ie hardly no how tu tel yu. Evryone hu saw hr at the poleess cort sed she wos at wunss the moast buetifl wumn and the moast repulsiv thay had evr set ies on. Ie hav spoakn tu a man hu saw hr, and Ie asuer yu he positivly shudrd as he tryd tu descryb the wumn, but he coodnt tel why. She seems tu hav bn a sort uv enigma; and Ie expect if that wun ded man cood hav told tails, he wood hav told sum uncomnly queer wuns. And thair yu ar again in anuthr puzl; whot cood a respectaibl cuntry jentlmn lyk Mr. Blank (weel call him that if yu doant mynd) want in such a verry queer houss as Numbr 20? Its alltogethr a verry od caiss, iznt it?"
"It is indeed, Austin; an extraudinary caiss. Ie didnt tthink, when Ie askd yu about my old frend, Ie shood stryk on such strainj metl. Wel, Ie must be auf; good-day."
Villiers went away, tthinking uv his oan conseet uv the Chinees boxs; heer wos quaint wrkmnship indeed.
THE DISCUVRY IN PAUL STREET
A fue muntths aftr Villers meeting witth Herbert, Mr. Clarke wos siting, as uezual, by his aftr-dinr hrtth, rezolluotly guarding his fansees frum wandring in the direcsion uv the buero. For mor than a week he had suxeedd in keeping away frum the "Memwars," and he cherishd hoaps uv a compleet self-reformasion; but, in spyt uv his endevrs, he cood not hush the wundr and the strainj cuereosity that the last caiss he had ritn doun had exytd witthin him. He had poot the caiss, or rathr the outlyn uv it, conjectuerely tu a syentific frend, hu shook his hed, and tthaut Clarke geting queer, and on thiss particuelr eavning Clarke wos maiking an effort tu rasionelyz the story, when a sudn knok at the dor rousd him frum his meditaisions.
"Mr. Villiers tu se yu sir."
"Deer me, Villiers, it is verry kynd uv yu tu look me up; Ie hav not seen yu for meny muntths; Ie shood tthink neerly a yeer. Cum in, cum in. And how ar yu, Villiers? Want eny advyss about investmnts?"
"No, thanks, Ie fansy evryttthing Ie hav in that way is prity saif. No, Clarke, Ie hav reely cum tu consult yu about a rathr cuereus matr that has bn braut undr my noatiss uv lait. Ie am afraid yu wil tthink it all rathr abserd when Ie tel my tail. Ie sumtyms tthink so myself, and thats just whot Ie maid up my mynd tu cum tu yu, as Ie no yor a practicl man."
Mr. Villiers wos ignerent uv the "Memwars tu Pruov the Existnss uv the Devl."
"Wel, Villiers, Ie shal be hapy tu giv yu my advyss, tu the best uv my ability. Whot is the naituer uv the caiss?"
"Its an extraudinary tthing alltogethr. Yu no my ways; Ie allways keep my ies oapn in the streets, and in my tym Ie hav chanssd upon sum queer custmrs, and queer caisses tu, but thiss, Ie tthink, beets all. Ie wos coming out uv a restorant wun nasty wintr nyt about thre muntths ago; Ie had had a capitl dinr and a good botl uv Chianti, and Ie stood for a moamnt on the paivmnt, tthinking whot a mistery thair is about London streets and the companees that pass along them. A botl uv red wyn enkerajs thees fansees, Clarke, and Ie dair say Ie shood hav tthaut a paij uv small typ, but Ie wos cut short by a begr hu had cum behynd me, and wos maiking the uezual apeels. Uv corss Ie lookd round, and thiss begr trnd out tu be whot wos left uv an old frend uv myn, a man naimd Herbert. Ie askd him how he had cum tu such a reched pass, and he told me. We waukd up and doun wun uv thoas long and dark Soho streets, and thair Ie lisnd tu his story. He sed he had marreed a buetifl grl, sum yeers yungr than himself, and, as he poot it, she had corruptd him body and sol. He woodnt go intu details; he sed he dair not, that whot he had seen and hrd hauntd him by nyt and day, and when Ie lookd in his faiss Ie nue he wos speeking the trutth. Thair wos sumtthing about the man that maid me shivr. Ie doant no why, but it wos thair. Ie gaiv him a litl muny and sent him away, and Ie asuer yu that when he wos gon Ie gaspd for bretth. His preznss seemd tu chil wuns blood."
"Iznt thiss all just a litl fansifl, Villiers? Ie supoas the poor felo had maid an impruodnt marraj, and, in plain Inglish, gon tu the bad."
"Wel, lisn tu thiss." Villiers told Clarke the story he had hrd frum Austin.
"Yu se," he concluodd, "thair can be but litl dout that thiss Mr. Blank, huevr he wos, dyd uv sheer terrer; he saw sumtthing so aufl, so terrabl, that it cut short his lyf. And whot he saw, he moast sertnly saw in that houss, which, sumhow or uthr, had got a bad naim in the naibrhood. Ie had the cuereosity tu go and look at the plaiss for myself. Its a sadning kynd uv street; the houses ar old enuf tu be meen and dreery, but not old enuf tu be quaint. As far as Ie cood se moast uv them ar let in lojings, fernishd and unfernishd, and allmoast evry dor has thre bells tu it. Heer and thair the ground flors hav bn maid intu shops uv the comenest kynd; its a dizml street in evry way. Ie found Numbr 20 wos tu let, and Ie went tu the aijnts and got the ke. Uv corss Ie shood hav hrd nutthing uv the Herberts in that quortr, but Ie askd the man, fair and squair, how long thay had left the houss and whethr thair had bn uthr tenents in the meenwhyl. He lookd at me queerly for a minit, and told me the Herberts had left imeedeatly aftr the unplezntness, as he calld it, and sinss then the houss had bn empty."
Mr. Villiers pausd for a moamnt.
"Ie hav allways bn rathr fond uv going oavr empty houses; thairs a sort uv fasenaision about the desollet empty ruoms, witth the nails stiking in the walls, and the dust thik upon the windo-sils. But Ie didnt enjoy going oavr Numbr 20, Paul Street. Ie had hardly poot my foot insyd the passaj when Ie notissd a queer, hevy feeling about the air uv the houss. Uv corss all empty houses ar stufy, and so fortth, but thiss wos sumtthing quyt difrent; Ie cant descryb it tu yu, but it seemd tu stop the bretth. Ie went intu the front ruom and the bak ruom, and the kichns dounstairs; thay wr all derty and dusty enuf, as yu wood expect, but thair wos sumtthing strainj about them all. Ie coodnt defyn it tu yu, Ie oanly no Ie felt queer. It wos wun uv the ruoms on the frst flor, tho, that wos the wrst. It wos a larjish ruom, and wunss on a tym the paipr must hav bn cheerfl enuf, but when Ie saw it, paint, paipr, and evryttthing wr moast dolfl. But the ruom wos full uv horrer; Ie felt my teetth grynding as Ie poot my hand on the dor, and when Ie went in, Ie tthaut Ie shood hav falln fainting tu the flor. How-evr, Ie pulld myself togethr, and stood against the end wall, wundring whot on urtth thair cood be about the ruom tu maik my lims trembl, and my hart beet as if Ie wr at the our uv detth. In wun cornr thair wos a pyl uv newspaiprs litrd on the flor, and Ie began looking at them; thay wr paiprs uv thre or for yeers ago, sum uv them haf torn, and sum crumpld as if thay had bn uesd for paking. Ie trnd the hol pyl oavr, and amungst them Ie found a cuereus drawing; Ie wil sho it tu yu prezntly. But Ie coodnt stay in the ruom; Ie felt it wos oavrpouring me. Ie wos thankfl tu cum out, saif and sound, intu the oapn air. Peepl staird at me as Ie waukd along the street, and wun man sed Ie wos drunk. Ie wos stagring about frum wun syd uv the paivmnt tu the uthr, and it wos as much as Ie cood du tu taik the ke bak tu the aijnt and get hoam. Ie wos in bed for a week, sufring frum whot my doctr calld nervuss shok and exhaustsion. Wun uv thoas days Ie wos reeding the eavning paipr, and hapnd tu noatiss a parragraf hedd: `Starvd tu Detth.' It wos the uezual styl uv tthing; a modl lojing-houss in Marlyebone, a dor lokd for sevrel days, and a ded man in his chair when thay broak in. 'The deseessd, sed the parragraf, 'was noan as Charles Herbert, and is beleevd tu hav bn wunss a posperus cuntry jentlmn. His naim wos familier tu the public thre yeers ago in conecsion witth the misteereus detth in Paul Street, Tottenham Court Road, the deseessd being the tenent uv the houss Numbr 20, in the airea uv which a jentlmn uv good pozision wos found ded undr sercmstanses not devoid uv suspision.' A trajic ending, wosnt it? But aftr all, if whot he told me wr tru, which Ie am suer it wos, the mans lyf wos all a trajidy, and a trajidy uv a strainjr sort than thay poot on the bords."
"And that is the story, is it?" sed Clarke muezingly.
"Yess, that is the story."
"Wel, reely, Villiers, Ie scairsly no whot tu say about it. Thair ar, no dout, sercmstanses in the caiss which seem pecuelier, the fynding uv the ded man in the airea uv Herberts houss, for instenss, and the extraudinary opinien uv the fizision as tu the caus uv detth; but, aftr all, it is conseevabl that the facts may be explaind in a straitforwrd manr. As tu yor oan sensaisions, when yu went tu se the houss, Ie wood sugjest that thay wr due tu a vivid imajinaision; yu must hav bn bruoding, in a semi-consius way, oavr whot yu had hrd. Ie doant exactly se whot mor can be sed or dun in the matr; yu evidently tthink thair is a mistery uv sum kynd, but Herbert is ded; whair then du yu popoas tu look?"
"Ie popoas tu look for the wumn; the wumn huom he marreed. She is the mistery."
The tu men sat sylnt by the fyrsyd; Clarke seecretly congratuelaiting himself on having suxesfully kept up the carractr uv advocait uv the comnplaiss, and Villiers rapd in his gluomy fansees.
"Ie tthink Ie wil hav a sigeret," he sed at last, and poot his hand in his poket tu feel for the sigeret-caiss.
"Ah!" he sed, starting slytly, "Ie forgot Ie had sumtthing tu sho yu. Yu remembr my saying that Ie had found a rathr cuereus skech amongst the pyl uv old newspaiprs at the houss in Paul Street? Heer it is."
Villiers dru out a small tthin parsl frum his poket. It wos cuvrd witth broun paipr, and secuerd witth string, and the nots wr trublsm. In spyt uv himself Clarke felt inquizitiv; he bent forwrd on his chair as Villiers painfully undid the string, and unfoldd the outr cuvring. Insyd wos a secnd raping uv tisue, and Villiers took it auf and handd the small peess uv paipr tu Clarke witthout a wrd.
Thair wos ded sylnss in the ruom for fyv minits or mor; the tu man sat so stil that thay cood heer the tiking uv the tall old-fashioned clok that stood outsyd in the hall, and in the mynd uv wun uv them the slo monotony uv sound woak up a far, far memry. He wos looking intently at the small pen-and-ink skech uv the wumns hed; it had evidently bn draun witth grait cair, and by a tru artist, for the wumns sol lookd out uv the ies, and the lips wr partd witth a strainj smyl. Clarke gaisd stil at the faiss; it braut tu his memry wun sumr eavning, long ago; he saw again the long luvly valy, the rivr wynding between the hils, the medoas and the cornfeelds, the dul red sun, and the cold whyt mist ryzing frum the wautr. He hrd a voiss speeking tu him across the waivs uv meny yeers, and saying "Clarke, Mary wil se the god Pan!" and then he wos standing in the grim ruom besyd the doctr, lisning tu the hevy tiking uv the clok, waiting and waching, waching the figuer lying on the green char beneetth the lamplyt. Mary roas up, and he lookd intu hr ies, and his hart gru cold witthin him.
"Hu is thiss wumn?" he sed at last. His voiss wos dry and horss.
"That is the wumn hu Herbert marreed."
Clarke lookd again at the skech; it wos not Mary aftr all. Thair sertnly wos Marys faiss, but thair wos sumtthing else, sumtthing he had not seen on Marys feetuers when the whyt-clad grl entrd the laboratory witth the doctr, nor at hr terrabl awaikning, nor when she lay grining on the bed. Whotevr it wos, the glanss that caim frum thoas ies, the smyl on the full lips, or the expresion uv the hol faiss, Clarke shudrd befor it at his inmoast sol, and tthaut, unconsiusly, uv Dr. Philips wrds, "the moast vivid prezentmnt uv eavl Ie hav evr seen." He trnd the paipr oavr mecanicly in his hand and glanssd at the bak.
"Good God! Clarke, whot is the matr? Yu ar as whyt as detth."
Villiers had startd wyldly frum his chair, as Clarke fel bak witth a groan, and let the paipr drop frum his hands.
"Ie doant feel verry wel, Villiers, Ie am subject tu thees attaks. Por me out a litl wyn; thanks, that wil du. Ie shal feel betr in a fue minits."
Villiers pikd up the falln skech and trnd it oavr as Clarke had dun.
"Yu saw that?" he sed. "Thats how Ie iedentifyd it as being a portrait uv Herberts wyf, or Ie shood say his widow. How du yu feel now?"
"Betr, thanks, it wos oanly a passing faintness. Ie doant tthink Ie quyt cach yor meening. whot did yu say enaibld yu tu identifye the pictuer?"
"Thiss wrd--'Helen'--wos ritn on the bak. Didnt Ie tel yu hr naim wos Helen? Yess; Helen Vaughan."
Clarke groand; thair cood be no shado uv dout.
"Now, doant yu agry witth me," sed Villiers, "that in the story Ie hav told yu tonyt, and in the part thiss wumn plays in it, thair ar sum verry strainj points?"
"Yess, Villiers," Clarke mutrd, "it is a strainj story indeed; a strainj story indeed. Yu must giv me tym tu tthink it oavr; Ie may be aibl tu help yu or Ie may not. Must yu be going now? wel, good-nyt, Villiers, good-nyt. Cum and se me in the corss uv a week."
THE LETR UV ADVYSS
"Du yu no, Austin," sed Villiers, as the tu frends wr paissing sedaitly along Piccadilly wun pleznt morning in May, "du yu no Ie am convinssd that whot yu told me about Paul Street and the Herberts is a meer episoad in an extraudinary histry? Ie may as wel confess tu yu that when Ie askd yu about Herbert a fue muntths ago Ie had just seen him."
"Yu had seen him? Whair?"
"He begd uv me in the street wun nyt. He wos in the moast piteabl plyt, but Ie recognyzd the man, and Ie got him tu tel me his histry, or at leest the outlyn uv it. In breef, it amountd tu thiss--he had bn ruind by his wyf."
"In whot manr?"
"He wood not tel me; he wood oanly say that she had destroyd him, body and sol. The man is ded now.
"And whot has becum uv his wyf?"
"Ah, thats whot Ie shood lyk tu no, and Ie meen tu fynd hr suonr or laitr. Ie no a man naimd Clarke, a dry felo, in fact a man uv bizness, but shruod enuf. Yu undrstand my meening; not shruod in the meer bizness senss uv the wrd, but a man hu reely noas sumtthing about men and lyf. Wel, Ie laid the caiss befor him, and he wos evidently impressd. He sed it needd consideraision, and askd me tu cum again in the corss uv a week. A fue days laitr Ie reseevd thiss extraudinary letr."
Austin took the enveloap, dru out the letr, and red it cuereusly. It ran as folloas:--
"MY DEAR VILLIERS,--Ie hav tthaut oavr the matr on which yu consultd me the uthr nyt, and my advyss tu yu is thiss. Tthro the portrait intu the fyr, blot out the story frum yor mynd. Nevr giv it anuthr tthaut, Villiers, or yu wil be sorry. Yu wil tthink, no dout, that Ie am in pozesion uv sum seecret informaision, and tu a sertn extent that is the caiss. But Ie oanly no a litl; Ie am lyk a travlr hu has peerd oavr an abiss, and has draun bak in terrer. Whot Ie no is strainj enuf and horrabl enuf, but beiond my nollaj thair ar deptths and horrers mor frytful stil, mor incredabl than eny tail told uv wintr nyts about the fyr. Ie hav rezollvd, and nutthing shal shaik that rezollv, tu explor no whit farthr, and if yu value yor hapyness yu wil maik the saim determinaision.
"Cum and se me by all meens; but we wil tauk on mor cheerfl topics than thiss."
Austin foldd the letr metthodicly, and retrnd it tu Villiers.
"It is sertnly an extraudinary letr," he sed, "whot dus he meen by the portrait?"
"Ah! Ie forgot tu tel yu Ie hav bn tu Paul Street and hav maid a discuvry."
Villiers told his story as he had told it tu Clarke, and Austin lisnd in sylnss. He seemd puzld.
"How verry cuereus that yu shood expereanss such an unpleznt sensaision in that ruom!" he sed at lengtth. "Iee hardly gathr that it wos a meer matr uv the imajinaision; a feeling uv repulsion, in short."
"No, it wos mor fizicl than mentl. It wos as if Ie wr inhailing at evry bretth sum dedly fuem, which seemd tu penetrait tu evry nrv and boan and sinue uv my body. Ie felt raikd frum hed tu foot, my ies began tu gro dim; it wos lyk the entrenss uv detth."
"Yess, yess, verry strainj sertnly. Yu se, yor frend confesses that thair is sum verry blak story conectd witth thiss wumn. Did yu noatissd eny particuelr emoasion in him when yu wr teling yor tail?"
"Yess, Ie did. He becaim verry faint, but he asuerd me that it wos a meer passing attak tu which he wos subject."
"Did yu beleev him?"
"Ie did at the tym, but Ie doant now. He hrd whot Ie had tu say witth a good deel uv indifrenss, til Ie showd him the portrait. It wos then that he wos seesd witth the attak uv which Ie spoak. He lookd gastly, Ie asuer yu."
"Then he must hav seen the wumn befor. But thair myt be anuthr explanaision; it myt hav bn the naim, and not the faiss, which wos familier tu him. Whot du yu tthink?"
"Ie coodnt say. Tu the best uv my beleef it wos aftr trnding the portrait in his hands that he neerly dropd frum the chair. The naim, yu no, wos ritn on the bak."
"Quyt so. Aftr all, it is imposabl tu cum tu eny rezoluosion in a caiss lyk thiss. Ie hait melodrama, and nutthing stryks me as mor comnplaiss and teedeus than the ordinery goast story uv comrss; but reely, Villiers, it looks as if thair wr sumtthing verry queer at the botm uv all thiss."
The tu men had, witthout noticing it, trnd up Ashley Street, leeding nortthwrd frum Piccadilly. It wos a long street, and rathr a gluomy wun, but heer and thair a brytr taist had iluominaitd the dark houses witth flours, and gay kertns, and a cheerfl paint on the dors. Villiers glanssd up as Austin stopd speeking, and lookd at wun uv thees houses; jeraineums, red and whyt, druopd frum evry sil, and dafodl-culrd kertns wr draipd bak frum each windo.
"It looks cheerfl, duznt it?" he sed.
"Yess, and the insyd is stil mor cheery. Wun uv the plezntest houses uv the seezn, so Ie hav hrd. Ie havnt bn thair myself, but I've met sevrel men hu hav, and thay tel me its uncomnly joaveal."
"Whose houss is it?"
"A Mrs. Beaumonts."
"And hu is she?"
"Ie coodnt tel yu. Ie hav hrd she cums frum Soutth America, but aftr all, hu she is is uv litl consequnss. She is a verry weltthy wumn, thairs no dout uv that, and sum uv the best peepl hav taikn hr up. Ie heer she has sum wundrfl clarray, reely marvluss wyn, which must hav cost a fabueluss sum. Lord Argentine wos teling me about it; he wos thair last Sunday eavning. He asuers me he has nevr taistd such a wyn, and Argentine, as yu no, is an exprt. By the way, that remynds me, she must be an odish sort uv wumn, thiss Mrs. Beaumont. Argentine askd hr how old the wyn wos, and whot du yu tthink she sed? 'About a thouznd yeers, Ie beleev.' Lord Argentine tthaut she wos chafing him, yu no, but when he lafd she sed she wos speeking quyt seereusly and ofrd tu sho him the jar. Uv corss, he coodnt say enytthing mor aftr that; but it seems rathr antiquaitd for a bevraj, duznt it? Why, heer we ar at my ruoms. Cum in, wuont yu?"
"Thanks, Ie tthink Ie wil. Ie havnt seen the cuereosity-shop for a whyl."
It wos a ruom fernishd richly, yet odly, whair evry jar and book-caiss and taibl, and evry rug and jar and ornamnt seemd tu be a tthing apart, prezerving each its oan individuality.
"Anyttthing fresh laitly?" sed Villiers aftr a whyl.
"No; Ie tthink not; yu saw thoas queer jugs, didnt yu? Ie tthaut so. Ie doant tthink Ie hav cum across enytthing for the last fue weeks."
Austin glanssd around the ruom frum cubrd tu cubrd, frum shelf tu shelf, in srch uv sum nue odity. His ies fel at last on an od chest, plezntly and quaintly carvd, which stood in a dark cornr uv the ruom.
"Ah," he sed, "Ie wos forgeting, Ie hav got sumtthing tu sho yu." Austin unlokd the chest, dru out a thik quarto volluem, laid it on the taibl, and rezuomd the sigar he had poot doun.
"Did yu no Arthur Meyrik the paintr, Villiers?"
"A litl; Ie met him tu or thre tyms at the houss uv a frend uv myn. Whot has become uv him? Ie havnt hrd his naim mensiond for sum tym."
"Yu doant say so! Quyt yung, wosnt he?"
"Yess; oanly tthirty when he dyd."
"Whot did he dy uv?"
"Ie doant no. He wos an intimit frend uv myn, and a ttherely good felo. He uessd tu cum heer and tauk tu me for ours, and he wos wun uv the best taukrs Ie hav met. He cood eavn tauk about painting, and thats mor than can be sed uv moast paintrs. About aiteen muntths ago he wos feeling rathr oavrwerkd, and partly at my sugjestsion he went auf on a sort uv roaving expedision, witth no verry definit end or aim about it. Ie beleev New York wos tu be his frst port, but Ie nevr hrd frum him. Tthre muntths ago Ie got thiss book, witth a verry sivl letr frum an Inglish doctr practissing at Buenos Ayres, stating that he had atendd the lait Mr. Meyrik duering his illness, and that the deseessd had expressd an urnest wish that the encloasd paket shood be sent tu me aftr his detth. That wos all."
"And havnt yu ritn for ferthr particuelrs?"
"Ie hav bn tthinking uv doing so. Yu wood advyz me tu ryt tu the doctr?"
"Sertnly. And whot about the book?"
"It wos seeld up when Ie got it. Ie doant tthink the doctr had seen it."
"It is sumtthing verry rair? Meyrik wos a collectr, prhaps?"
"No, Ie tthink not, hardly a collectr. Now, whot du yu tthink uv thees Ainu jugs?"
"Thay ar pecuelier, but Ie lyk them. But arnt yu going tu sho me poor Meyriks legasy?"
"Yess, yess, tu be suer. The fact is, its rathr a pecuelier sort uv tthing, and Ie havnt shoan it tu eny wun. Iee woodnt say enytthing about it if Ie wr yu. Thair it is."
Villiers took the book, and oapnd it at haphazrd.
"It iznt a printd volluem, then?" he sed.
"No. It is a collecsion uv drawings in blak and whyt by my poor frend Meyrik."
Villiers trnd tu the frst paij, it wos blank; the secnd bor a breef inscripsion, which he red:
Silet per diem universus, nec sine horrore secretus est; lucet nocturnis ignibus, chorus Aegipanum undique personatur: audiuntur et cantus tibiarum, et tinnitus cymbalorum per oram maritimam.
On the thrd paij wos a dezyn which maid Villiers start and look up at Austin; he wos gaizing abstractedly out uv the windo. Villiers trnd paij aftr paij, abzorbd, in spyt uv himself, in the frytful Walpurgis nyt uv eavl, strainj monstruss eavl, that the ded artist had set fortth in hard blak and whyt. The figuers uv Fauns and Satyrs and Aegipans danssd befor his ies, the darkness uv the thiket, the danss on the mountn-top, the seens by loanly shors, in green vinierds, by roks and dezrt plaisses, passd befor him: a wrld befor which the huemn sol seemd tu shrink bak and shudr. Villiers whrld oavr the remaining paijs; he had seen enuf, but the pictuer on the last leef caut his Ie, as he allmoast cloasd the book.
"Wel, whot is it?"
"Du yu no hu that is?"
It wos a wumns faiss, aloan on the whyt paij.
"No hu it is? No, uv corss not."
"Hu is it?"
"It is Mrs. Herbert."
"Ar yu suer?"
"Ie am perfectly suer uv it. Poor Meyrik! He is wun mor chaptr in hr histry."
"But whot du yu tthink uv the dezyns?"
"Thay ar frytful. Lok the book up again, Austin. If Ie wr yu Ie wood brn it; it must be a terrabl companien eavn tho it be in a chest."
"Yess, thay ar singuelr drawings. But Ie wundr whot conecsion thair cood be between Meyrik and Mrs. Herbert, or whot link between hr and thees dezyns?"
"Ah, hu can say? It is posabl that the matr may end heer, and we shal nevr no, but in my oan opinien thiss Helen Vaughan, or Mrs. Herbert, is oanly the begining. She wil cum bak tu London, Austin; depend on it, she wil cum bak, and we shal heer mor about hr then. Ie dout it wil be verry pleznt news."
Lord Argentine wos a grait faivrit in London Society. At twenty he had bn a poor man, dekd witth the sernaim uv an ilusteus family, but forssd tu urn a lyvleehood as best he cood, and the moast specuelativ uv muny-lendrs wood not hav entrusted him witth fifty pounds on the chanss uv his evr chainjing his naim for a tytl, and his povrty for a grait fortuen. His fothr had bn neer enuf tu the fountn uv good tthings tu secuer wun uv the family livings, but the son, eavn if he had taikn ordrs, wood scairsly hav obtaind so much as thiss, and moroavr felt no vocaision for the ecleezeasticl estait. Thuss he frontd the wrld witth no betr armr than the bachlrs goun and the wits uv a yungr sons grandson, witth which equipmnt he contryvd in sum way tu maik a verry tolerabl fyt uv it. At twenty-fyv Mr. Charles Aubernon saw himself stil a man uv strugls and uv worfair witth the wrld, but out uv the sevn hu stood befor him and the hy plaisses uv his family thre oanly remaind. Thees thre, howevr, wr "good lives," but yet not proof against the Zulu assegais and tyfoid feevr, and so wun morning Aubernon woak up and found himself Lord Argentine, a man uv tthirty hu had faissd the dificltees uv existnss, and had concrd. The situaision amuesd him imenssly, and he rezollvd that richs shood be as pleznt tu him as povrty had allways bn. Argentine, aftr sum litl consideraision, caim tu the concluozion that dyning, regardd as a fyn art, wos prhaps the moast amuezing prsuot oapn tu falln huemanity, and thus his dinrs becaim faimus in London, and an invitaision tu his taibl a tthing cuvetusly dezyrd. Aftr ten yeers uv lordship and dinrs Argentine stil declynd tu be jaidd, stil prsistd in enjoying lyf, and by a kynd uv infecsion had become recognyzd as the caus uv joy in uthrs, in short, as the best uv company. His sudn and trajicl detth thairfor causd a wyd and deep sensaision. Peepl cood scairsly beleev it, eavn tho the nuespaipr wos befor thair ies, and the cry uv "Misteereuss Detth uv a Noablmn" caim ringing up frum the street. But thair stood the breef parragraf: "Lord Argentine wos found ded thiss morning by his valay undr distressing sercmstanses. It is staitd that thair can be no dout that his lordship comitd suisyd, tho no moativ can be asynd for the act. The deseessd noablmn wos wydly noan in sosyety, and much lykd for his jeeniel manr and sumptuus hospitality. He is suxeedd by," etc., etc.
By slo degrees the details caim tu lyt, but the caiss stil remaind a mistery. The cheef witness at the inquest wos the deseessds valay, hu sed that the nyt befor his detth Lord Argentine had dynd witth a laidy uv good pozision, huos naim wos supressd in the nuespaipr reports. At about elevn o'clok Lord Argentine had retrnd, and informd his man that he shood not requyr his servisses til the next morning. A litl laitr the valay had ocaizion tu cross the hall and wos sumwhot astonishd tu se his mastr quyetly leting himself out at the front dor. He had taikn auf his eavning cloaths, and wos dressd in a Norfolk coat and nikrbokrs, and wor a lo broun hat. The valay had no reezn tu supoas that Lord Argentine had seen him, and tho his mastr rairly kept lait ours, tthaut litl uv the okerenss til the next morning, when he nokd at the bedruom dor at a quortr tu nyn as uezual. He reseevd no ansr, and, aftr noking tu or thre tyms, entrd the ruom, and saw Lord Argentines body leening forwrd at an angl frum the botm uv the bed. He found that his mastr had tied a cord secuerly tu wun uv the short bed-poasts, and, aftr maiking a runing nuoss and sliping it round his nek, the unfortuenit man must hav rezolluotly falln forwrd, tu dy by slo stranguelaision. He wos dressd in the lyt suit in which the valay had seen him go out, and the doctr hu wos sumnd pronounssd that lyf had bn extinkt for mor than for ours. All paiprs, letrs, and so fortth seemd in perfect ordr, and nutthing wos discoverd which pointd in the moast remoat way tu eny scandl eathr grait or small. Heer the evidnss endd; nutthing mor cood be discoverd. Sevrel persns had bn preznt at the dinr-party at which Lord Augustine had asistd, and tu all thees he seemd in his uezual jeeniel spirits. The valay, indeed, sed he tthaut his mastr apeerd a litl exytd when he caim hoam, but confessd that the alteraision in his manr wos verry slyt, hardly noatissabl, indeed. It seemd hoapless tu seek for eny clu, and the sugjestsion that Lord Argentine had bn sudnly atakd by acuet suisydl mainea wos jenerely axeptd.
It wos uthrwyz, howevr, when witthin thre weeks, thre mor jentlmn, wun uv them a noablmn, and the tu uthrs men uv good pozision and ampl meens, perrishd mizerably in the allmoast presysly the saim manr. Lord Swanleigh wos found wun morning in his dresing-ruom, hanging frum a peg afixd tu the wall, and Mr. Collier-Stuart and Mr. Herries had choazn tu dy as Lord Argentine. Thair wos no explanaision in eathr caiss; a fue bald facts; a living man in the eavning, and a body witth a blak swoln faiss in the morning. The poleess had bn forssd tu confess themselvs pourless tu arrest or tu explain the sordid merdrs uv Whitechapel; but befor the horrabl suisyds uv Piccadilly and Mayfair thay wr dumfoundd, for not eavn the meer ferosity which did duety as an explanaision uv the cryms uv the East End, cood be uv serviss in the West. Each uv thees men hu had rezollvd tu dy a tortuerd shaimfl detth wos rich, posperuss, and tu all apeernses in luv witth the wrld, and not the acuetest reserch shood ferret out eny shado uv a lerking moativ in eathr caiss. Thair wos a horrer in the air, and men lookd at wun anuthrs faises when thay met, each wundring whethr the uthr wos tu be the victim uv the fiftth naimless trajidy. Jernelists saut in vain for thair scrapbooks for materiels whairof tu concoct reminisnt articls; and the morning paipr wos unfoldd in meny a houss witth a feeling uv aw; no man nue when or whair the next blow wood lyt.
A short whyl aftr the last uv thees terrabl events, Austin caim tu se Mr. Villiers. He wos cuereus tu no whethr Villiers had suxeedd in discuvring eny fresh traises uv Mrs. Herbert, eathr tthru Clarke or by uthr sorses, and he askd the questsion suon aftr he had sat doun.
"No," sed Villiers, "Ie roat tu Clarke, but he remains obduerit, and Ie hav tryd uthr channels, but witthout eny rezult. Ie can't fynd out whot becaim uv Helen Vaughan aftr she left Paul Street, but Ie tthink she must hav gon abraud. But tu tel the trutth, Austin, Ie havnt paid much atension tu the matr for the last fue weeks; Ie nue poor Herries intimitly, and his terrabl detth has bn a grait shok tu me, a grait shok."
"Ie can wel beleev it," ansrd Austin graivly, "yu no Argentine wos a frend uv myn. If Ie remembr rytly, we wr speeking uv him that day yu caim tu my ruoms."
"Yess; it wos in conecsion witth that houss in Ashley Street, Mrs. Beaumonts houss. Yu sed sumtthing about Argentines dyning thair."
"Quyt so. Uv corss yu no it wos thair Argentine dynd the nyt befor--befor his detth."
"No, Ie had not hrd that."
"Oh, yess; the naim wos kept out uv the paiprs tu spair Mrs. Beaumont. Argentine wos a grait faivrit uv hers, and it is sed she wos in a terrabl state for sumtym aftr."
A cuereus look caim oavr Villiers faiss; he seemd undecided whethr tu speek or not. Austin began again.
"Ie nevr expereanssd such a feeling uv horrer as when Ie red the acount uv Argentines detth. Ie didnt undrstand it at the tym, and Ie doant now. Ie nue him wel, and it compleetly passes my undrstanding for whot posabl caus he -- or eny uv the uthrs for the matr uv that--cood hav rezollvd in cold blood tu dy in such an aufl manr. Yu no how men babl away each uthrs charactrs in London, yu may be suer eny berreed scandl or hidn skeletn wood hav bn braut tu lyt in such a caiss as thiss; but nutthing uv the sort has taikn plaiss. As for the ttheory uv mainea, that is verry wel, uv corss, for the correnrs juery, but evrybody noas that its all nonsenss. Suisydl mainea is not small-pox."
Austin relapssd intu gluomy sylnss. Villiers sat sylnt, also, waching his frend. The expresion uv indesizion stil fleetd across his faiss; he seemd as if waying his tthauts in the balnss, and the consideraisions he wos rezollving left him stil sylnt. Austin tryd tu shaik auf the remembrenss uv trajidees as hoapless and prplexd as the laberentth uv Daedalus, and began tu tauk in an indifrent voiss uv the mor pleznt insidnts and adventuers uv the seezn.
"That Mrs. Beaumont," he sed, "uv huom we wr speeking, is a grait suxess; she has taikn London allmoast by storm. Ie met hr the uthr nyt at Fulhams; she is reely a remarkabl wumn."
"Yu hav met Mrs. Beaumont?"
"Yess; she had quyt a cort around hr. She wood be calld verry handsm, Ie supoas, and yet thair is sumtthing about hr faiss which Ie didnt lyk. The feetuers ar exquizit, but the expresion is strainj. And all the tym Ie wos looking at hr, and aftrwrds, when Ie wos going hoam, Ie had a cuereus feeling that verry expresion wos in sum way or anuthr familier tu me."
"Yu must hav seen hr in the Row."
"No, Ie am suer Ie nevr set ies on the wumn befor; it is that which maiks it puzling. And tu the best uv my beleef Ie hav nevr seen enywun lyk hr; whot Ie felt wos a kynd uv dim far-auf memry, vaig but prsistnt. The oanly sensaision Ie can compair it tu, is that od feeling wun sumtyms has in a dreem, when fantastic sitees and wundruss lands and fantm persnajs apeer familier and acustmd."
Villiers nodd and glanssd aimlessly round the ruom, posibly in srch uv sumtthing on which tu trnd the conversaision. His ies fel on an old chest sumwhot lyk that in which the artists strainj legasy lay hid beneetth a Gotthic escuchn.
"Hav yu ritn tu the doctr about poor Meyrik?" he askd.
"Yess; Ie roat asking for full particuelrs as tu his illness and detth. Ie doant expect tu hav an ansr for anuthr thre weeks or a muntth. Ie tthaut Ie myt as wel inquyr whethr Meyrik nue an Inglishwoman naimd Herbert, and if so, whethr the doctr cood giv me eny informaision about hr. But its verry posabl that Meyrik fel in witth hr at New York, or Mexico, or San Francisco; Ie hav no iedea as tu the extent or direcsion uv his travls."
"Yess, and its verry posabl that the wumn may hav mor than wun naim."
"Exactly. Ie wish Ie had tthaut uv asking yu tu lend me the portrait uv hr which yu pozess. Ie myt hav encloasd it in my letr tu Dr. Matthews."
"So yu myt; that nevr okerd tu me. We myt send it now. Hark! whot ar thoas boys calling?"
Whyl the tu men had bn tauking togethr a confuesd nois uv shouting had bn graduely growing loudr. The nois roas frum the eastward and sweld doun Piccadilly, drawing neerer and neerer, a verry torrent uv sound; serjing up streets uezually quyet, and maiking evry windo a fraim for a faiss, cuereus or exytd. The crys and voises caim ekoing up the sylnt street whair Villiers livd, growing mor distinct as thay advanssd, and, as Villiers spoak, an ansr rang up frum the paivmnt:
"The West End Horrers; Anuthr Aufl Suisyd; Full Details!"
Austin rushd doun the stairs and baut a paipr and red out the parragraf tu Villiers as the upror in the street roas and fel. The windo wos oapn and the air seemd full uv nois and terrer.
"Anuthr jentlmn has falln a victim tu the terrabl epidemic uv suisyd which for the last muntth has prevaild in the West End. Mr. Sidney Crashaw, uv Stoke houss, Fulham, and Kings Pomeroy, Devon, wos found, aftr a prolongd srch, hanging ded frum the branch uv a tre in his gardn at wun o'clok today. The deseessd jentlmn dynd last nyt at the Carlton Club and seemd in his uezual heltth and spirits. He left the club at about ten o'clok, and wos seen wauking leezuerly up St. Jamess Street a litl laitr. Subsequent tu thiss his muovmnts cannot be traissd. On the discuvry uv the body medicl aid wos at wunss sumnd, but lyf had evidently bn long extinkt. So far as is noan, Mr. Crashaw had no trubl or anxyety uv eny kynd. Thiss painfl suisyd, it wil be remembrd, is the fiftth uv the kynd in the last muntth. The autthoritees at Scotland Yard ar unaibl tu sugjest eny explanaision uv thees terrabl okerensses."
Austin poot doun the paipr in muet horrer.
"Ie shal leev London tomorro," he sed, "it is a sity uv nytmairs. How aufl thiss is, Villiers!"
Mr. Villiers wos siting by the windo quyetly looking out intu the street. He had lisnd tu the nuespaipr report atentivly, and the hint uv indesizion wos no longr on his faiss.
"Wait a moamnt, Austin," he replyd, "Ie hav maid up my mynd tu mension a litl matr that okerd last nyt. It staitd, Ie tthink, that Crashaw wos last seen alyv in St. Jamess Street shortly aftr ten?"
"Yess, Ie tthink so. Ie wil look again. Yess, yu ar quyt ryt."
"Quyt so. Wel, Ie am in a pozision tu contradict that staitmnt at all events. Crashaw wos seen aftr that; considrably laitr indeed."
"How du yu no?"
"Becaus Ie hapnd tu se Crashaw myself at about tu o'clok thiss morning."
"Yu saw Crashaw? Yu, Villiers?"
"Yess, Ie saw him quyt distinctly; indeed, thair wr but a fue feet between us."
"Whair, in hevns naim, did yu se him?"
"Not far frum heer. Ie saw him in Ashley Street. He wos just leeving a houss."
"Did yu noatissd whot houss it wos?"
"Yess. It wos Mrs. Beaumonts."
"Villiers! Tthink whot yu ar saying; thair must be sum mistaik. How cood Crashaw be in Mrs. Beaumonts houss at tu o'clok in the morning? Suerly, suerly, yu must hav bn dreeming, Villiers; yu wr allways rathr fansifl."
"No; Ie wos wyd awaik enuf. Even if Ie had bn dreeming as yu say, whot Ie saw wood hav rous me efectualy."
"Whot yu saw? Whot did yu se? Wos thair enytthing strainj about Crashaw? But Ie can't beleev it; it is imposabl."
"Wel, if yu lyk Ie wil tel yu whot Ie saw, or if yu plees, whot Ie tthink Ie saw, and yu can juj for yorself."
"Verry good, Villiers."
The nois and clamr uv the street had dyd away, tho now and then the sound uv shouting stil caim frum the distnss, and the dul, ledn sylnss seemd lyk the quyet aftr an urtthquaik or a storm. Villiers trnd frum the windo and began speeking.
"Ie wos at a houss neer Regents Park last nyt, and when Ie caim away the fansy took me tu wauk hoam insted uv taiking a hansm. It wos a cleer pleznt nyt enuf, and aftr a fue minits Ie had the streets prity much tu myself.
Its a cuereus tthing, Austin, tu be aloan in London at nyt, the gas-lamps streching away in prspectiv, and the ded sylnss, and then prhaps the rush and clatr uv a hansm on the stoans, and the fyr starting up undr the horses huofs. Ie waukd along prity briskly, for Ie wos feeling a litl tyrd uv being out in the nyt, and as the cloks wr stryking tu Ie trnd doun Ashley Street, which, yu no, is on my way. It wos quyetr than evr thair, and the lamps wr fuer; alltogethr, it lookd as dark and gluomy as a forrest in wintr. Ie had dun about haf the lengtth uv the street when Ie hrd a dor cloasd verry softly, and natuerely Ie lookd up tu se hu wos abraud lyk myself at such an our. As it hapns, thair is a street lamp cloass tu the houss in questsion, and Ie saw a man standing on the step. He had just shut the dor and his faiss wos twords me, and Ie recognyzd Crashaw directly. Ie nevr nue him tu speek tu, but Ie had oftn seen him, and Ie am positiv that Ie wos not mistaikn in my man. Ie lookd intu his faiss for a moamnt, and then--Ie wil confess the trutth--Ie set auf at a good run, and kept it up til Ie wos witthin my oan dor."
"Why? Becaus it maid my blood run cold tu se that mans faiss. Ie cood nevr hav supoasd that such an infernl medley uv pasions cood hav glaird out uv eny huemn ies; Ie allmoast faintd as Ie lookd. Ie nue Ie had lookd intu the ies uv a lost sol, Austin, the mans outwrd form remaind, but all hel wos witthin it. Fuerieuss lust, and hait that wos lyk fyr, and the loss uv all hoap and horrer that seemd tu shreek aloud tu the nyt, tho his teetth wr shut; and the utr blakness uv despair. Ie am suer that he did not se me; he saw nutthing that yu or Ie can se, but whot he saw Ie hoap we nevr shal. Ie du not no when he dyd; Ie supoas in an our, or prhaps tu, but when Ie passd doun Ashley Street and hrd the cloazing dor, that man no longr belongd tu thiss wrld; it wos a devils faiss Ie lookd upon."
Thair wos an intrvl uv sylnss in the ruom when Villiers seesd speeking. The lyt wos failing, and all the tumlt uv an our ago wos quyt hushd. Austin had bent his hed at the cloass uv the story, and his hand cuvrd his ies.
"Whot can it meen?" he sed at lengtth.
"Hu noas, Austin, hu noas? Its a blak bizness, but Ie tthink we had betr keep it tu ourselvs, for the preznt at eny rait. Ie wil se if Ie canot lrn enytthing about that houss tthru pryvet chanls uv informaision, and if Ie du lyt upon enytthing Ie wil let yu no."
THE ENCOUNTR IN SOHO
Tthre weeks laitr Austin reseevd a noat frum Villiers, asking him tu call eathr that aftrnuon or the next. He choas the neerer dait, and found Villiers siting as uezual by the windo, aparrntly lost in meditaision on the drouzy trafic uv the street. Thair wos a bambo taibl by his syd, a fantastic tthing, enrichd witth gilding and queer paintd seens, and on it lay a litl pyl uv paiprs arrainjd and doketd as neetly as enytthing in Mr. Clarkes ofiss.
"Wel, Villiers, hav yu maid eny discuverees in the last thre weeks?"
"Ie tthink so; Ie hav heer wun or tu memoranda which struk me as singuelr, and thair is a staitmnt tu which Ie shal call yor atension."
"And thees docuemnts relait tu Mrs. Beaumont? It wos reely Crashaw huom yu saw that nyt standing on the dorstep uv the houss in Ashley Street?"
"As tu that matr my beleef remains unchanjd, but neethr my inquyrees nor thair rezults hav eny spesial relaision tu Crashaw. But my investigaisions hav had a strainj isue. Ie hav found out hu Mrs. Beaumont is!"
"Hu is she? In whot way du yu meen?"
"Ie meen that yu and Ie no hr betr undr anuthr naim."
"Whot naim is that?"
"Herbert!" Austin repeetd the wrd, daisd witth astonishmnt.
"Yess, Mrs. Herbert uv Paul Street, Helen Vaughan uv urlier adventuers unnoan tu me. Yu had reezn tu recognyz the expresion uv hr faiss; when yu go hoam look at the faiss in Meyriks book uv horrers, and yu wil no the sorses uv yor recollecsion."
"And yu hav proof uv thiss?"
"Yess, the best uv proof; Ie hav seen Mrs. Beaumont, or shal we say Mrs. Herbert?"
"Whair did yu se hr?"
"Hardly in a plaiss whair yu wood expect tu se a laidy hu livs in Ashley Street, Piccadilly. Ie saw hr entering a houss in wun uv the meenest and moast disrepuetabl streets in Soho. In fact, Ie had maid an appointmnt, tho not witth hr, and she wos precyss tu boatth tym and plaiss."
"All thiss seems verry wundrfl, but Ie cannot call it incredabl. Yu must remembr, Villiers, that Ie hav seen thiss wumn, in the ordinery adventuer uv London sosyety, tauking and lafing, and siping hr cofy in a comnplaiss drawing-ruom witth comnplaiss peepl. But yu no whot yu ar saying."
"Ie du; Ie hav not aloud myself tu be led by sermyzes or fansees. It wos witth no tthaut uv fynding Helen Vaughan that Ie serchd for Mrs. Beaumont in the dark wautrs uv the lyf uv London, but such has bn the isue."
"Yu must hav bn in strainj plaisses, Villiers."
"Yess, Ie hav bn in verry strainj plaisses. It wood hav bn uessless, yu no, tu go tu Ashley Street, and ask Mrs. Beaumont tu giv me a short skech uv hr previuss histry. No; asueming, as Ie had tu asuem, that hr recrd wos not uv the cleenest, it wood be prity sertn that at sum previuss tym she must hav muovd in sercls not quyt so refynd as hr preznt wuns. If yu se mud at the top uv a streem, yu may be suer that it wos wunss at the botm. Ie went tu the botm. Ie hav allways bn fond uv dyving intu Queer Street for my amuezmnt, and Ie found my nollaj uv that locality and its inhabitnts verry uessfl. It is, prhaps, needless tu say that my frends had nevr hrd the naim uv Beaumont, and as Ie had nevr seen the laidy, and wos quyt unaibl tu descryb hr, Ie had tu set tu wrk in an indirect way. The peepl thair no me; Ie hav bn aibl tu du sum uv them a serviss now and again, so thay maid no dificlty about giving thair informaision; thay wr awair Ie had no comuenicaision direct or indirect witth Scotland Yard. Ie had tu cast out a good meny lyns, tho, befor Ie got whot Ie wontd, and when Ie landd the fish Ie did not for a moamnt supoas it wos my fish. But Ie lisnd tu whot Ie wos told out uv a constituesionl lyking for uessless informaision, and Ie found myself in pozesion uv a verry cuereus story, tho, as Ie imajnd, not the story Ie wos looking for. It wos tu thiss efect. Sum fyv or six yeers ago, a wumn naimd Raymond sudnly maid hr apeernss in the naibrhood tu which Ie am refering. She wos descrybd tu me as being quyt yung, probably not mor than sevnteen or aiteen, verry handsm, and looking as if she caim frum the cuntry. Ie shood be rong in saying that she found hr levl in going tu thiss particuelr quortr, or asoaseating witth thees peepl, for frum whot Ie wos told, Ie shood tthink the wrst den in London far tu good for hr. The persn frum huom Ie got my informaision, as yu may supoas, no grait Pueritn, shudrd and gru sik in teling me uv the naimless infamies which wr laid tu hr charj. Aftr living thair for a yeer, or prhaps a litl mor, she disapeered as sudnly as she caim, and thay saw nutthing uv hr til about the tym uv the Paul Street caiss. At frst she caim tu hr old haunts oanly ocaizionly, then mor freequently, and fynly took up hr aboad thair as befor, and remaind for six or ait muntths. Its uv no uess my going intu details as tu the lyf that wumn led; if yu want particuelrs yu can look at Meyriks legasy. Those dezyns wr not draun frum his imajinaision. She again disapeered, and the peepl uv the plaiss saw nutthing uv hr til a fue muntths ago. My informnt told me that she had taikn sum ruoms in a houss which he pointd out, and thees ruoms she wos in the habit uv visiting tu or thre tyms a week and allways at ten in the morning. Ie wos led tu expect that wun uv thees visits wood be paid on a sertn day about a week ago, and Ie acordingly manajd tu be on the look-out in company witth my cicerone at a quortr tu ten, and the our and the laidy caim witth eaqul punctuality. My frend and Ie wr standing undr an archway, a litl way bak frum the street, but she saw us, and gaiv me a glanss that Ie shal be long in forgeting. That look wos quyt enuf for me; Ie nue Miss Raymond tu be Mrs. Herbert; as for Mrs. Beaumont she had quyt gon out uv my hed. She went intu the houss, and Ie wachd it til for o'clok, when she caim out, and then Ie folload hr. It wos a long chaiss, and Ie had tu be verry cairfl tu keep a long way in the bak-ground, and yet not luos syt uv the wumn. She took me doun tu the Strand, and then tu Westminster, and then up St. Jamess Street, and along Piccadilly. Ie felt queerish when Ie saw hr trnd up Ashley Street; the tthaut that Mrs. Herbert wos Mrs. Beaumont caim intu my mynd, but it seemd tu imposabl tu be tru. Ie waitd at the cornr, keeping my Ie on hr all the tym, and Ie took particuelr cair tu noat the houss at which she stopd. It wos the houss witth the gay kertns, the hoam uv flours, the houss out uv which Crashaw caim the nyt he hangd himself in his gardn. Ie wos just going away witth my discuvry, when Ie saw an empty carraj cum round and draw up in front uv the houss, and Ie caim tu the concluozion that Mrs. Herbert wos going out for a dryv, and Ie wos ryt. Thair, as it hapnd, Ie met a man Ie no, and we stood tauking togethr a litl distnss frum the carraj-way, tu which Ie had my bak. We had not bn thair for ten minits when my frend took auf his hat, and Ie glanssd round and saw the laidy Ie had bn folloing all day. 'Who is that?' Ie sed, and his ansr wos 'Mrs. Beaumont; livs in Ashley Street.' Uv corss thair cood be no dout aftr that. Ie doant no whethr she saw me, but Ie doant tthink she did. Ie went hoam at wunss, and, on consideraision, Ie tthaut that Ie had a sufisiontly good caiss witth which tu go tu Clarke."
"Why tu Clarke?"
"Becaus Ie am suer that Clarke is in pozesion uv facts about thiss wumn, facts uv which Ie no nutthing."
"Wel, whot then?"
Mr. Villiers leend bak in his chair and lookd reflectivly at Austin for a moamnt befor he ansrd:
"My iedea wos that Clarke and Ie shood call on Mrs. Beaumont."
"Yu wood nevr go intu such a houss as that? No, no, Villiers, yu cannot du it. Besyds, considr; whot rezult..."
"Ie wil tel yu suon. But Ie wos going tu say that my informaision dus not end heer; it has bn compleetd in an extraudinary manr.
"Look at thiss neat litl paket uv manuescript; it is paijinaitd, yu se, and Ie hav induljd in the sivl coketry uv a ribn uv red taip. It has allmoast a leegl air, haznt it? Run yor Ie oavr it, Austin. It is an acount uv the entertainmnt Mrs. Beaumont provydd for hr choissr gests. The man hu roat thiss escaipd witth his lyf, but Ie du not tthink he wil liv meny yeers. The doctrs tel him he must hav sustained sum seveer shok tu the nrvs."
Austin took the manuescript, but nevr red it. Oapening the neet paijs at haphazrd his Ie wos caut by a wrd and a frais that folload it; and, sik at hart, witth whyt lips and a cold swet poring lyk wautr frum his templs, he flung the paipr doun.
"Taik it away, Villiers, nevr speek uv thiss again. Ar yu maid uv stoan, man? Why, the dred and horrer uv detth itself, the tthauts uv the man hu stands in the keen morning air on the blak platform, bound, the bel toling in his ears, and waits for the harsh ratl uv the bolt, ar as nutthing compaird tu thiss. Ie wil not reed it; Ie shood nevr sleep again."
"Verry good. Ie can fansy whot yu saw. Yess; it is horrabl enuf; but aftr all, it is an old story, an old mistery playd in our day, and in dim London streets insted uv amidst the vinierds and the olliv gardns. We no whot hapnd tu thoas hu chanssd tu meet the grait God Pan, and thoas hu ar wyz no that all simbls ar simbls uv sumtthing, not uv nutthing. It wos, indeed, an exquizit simbl beneetth which men long ago vaild thair nollaj uv the moast aufl, moast seecret forsses which ly at the hart uv all tthings; forsses befor which the sols uv men must witthr and dy and blakn, as thair bodees blakn undr the electric kerent. Such forsses cannot be naimd, cannot be spoakn, cannot be imajnd exept undr a vail and a simbl, a simbl tu the moast uv us apeering a quaint, poetic fansy, tu sum a foolish tail. But yu and Ie, at all events, hav noan sumtthing uv the terrer that may dwel in the seecret plaiss uv lyf, manifestd undr huemn flesh; that which is witthout form taiking tu itself a form. Oh, Austin, how can it be? How is it that the verry sunlyt dus not trnd tu blakness befor thiss tthing, the hard urtth melt and boil beneetth such a burdn?"
Villiers wos paissing up and doun the ruom, and the beeds uv swet stood out on his forhed. Austin sat sylnt for a whyl, but Villiers saw him maik a sign upon his brest.
"Ie say again, Villiers, yu wil suerly nevr entr such a houss as that? Yu wood nevr pass out alyv."
"Yess, Austin, Ie shal go out alyv--Ie, and Clarke witth me."
Whot du yu meen? Yu cannot, yu wood not dair..."
"Wait a moamnt. The air wos verry pleznt and fresh thiss morning; thair wos a brees blowing, eavn tthru thiss dul street, and Ie tthaut Ie wood taik a wauk. Piccadilly strechd befor me a cleer, bryt vista, and the sun flashd on the carrajs and on the quivring leevs in the park. It wos a joiuss morning, and men and wimn lookd at the sky and smild as thay went about thair wrk or thair plezuer, and the wind blu as blytthly as upon the medoas and the sentd gorss. But sumhow or uthr Ie got out uv the busl and the gaiety, and found myself wauking sloaly along a quyet, dul street, whair thair seemd tu be no sunshyn and no air, and whair the fue foot-pasnjrs loitrd as thay waukd, and hung indesysivly about cornrs and archways. Ie waukd along, hardly noing whair Ie wos going or whot Ie did thair, but feeling impeld, as wun sumtyms is, tu explor stil ferthr, witth a vaig iedea uv reeching sum unnoan gol. Thuss Ie forjd up the street, noating the small trafic uv the milk-shop, and wundring at the incongruus medly uv peny pyps, blak tobaco, sweets, nuepaiprs, and comic songs which heer and thair josld wun anuthr in the short compass uv a singl windo. Ie tthink it wos a cold shudr that sudnly passd tthru me that frst told me that Ie had found whot Ie wontd. Ie lookd up frum the paivmnt and stopd befor a dusty shop, abuv which the letring had faidd, whair the red briks uv tu hundred yeers ago had grymd tu blak; whair the windows had gathrd tu themselvs the dust uv wintrs innuemerabl. Ie saw whot Ie requyrd; but Ie tthink it wos fyv minits befor Ie had stedeed myself and cood wauk in and ask for it in a cuol voiss and witth a com faiss. Ie tthink thair must eavn then hav bn a tremr in my wrds, for the old man hu caim out uv the bak parlr, and fumbld sloaly amongst his goods, lookd odly at me as he tyd the parsl. Ie paid whot he askd, and stood leening by the countr, witth a strainj reluctnss tu taik up my goods and go. Ie askd about the bizness, and lrnt that traid wos bad and the profits cut doun sadly; but then the street wos not whot it wos befor trafic had bn divertd, but that wos dun forty yeers ago, 'just befor my fothr dyd,' he sed. Ie got away at last, and waukd along sharply; it wos a dizml street indeed, and Ie wos glad tu retrn tu the busl and the nois. Wood yu lyk tu se my perchess?"
Austin sed nutthing, but nodd his hed slytly; he stil lookd whyt and sik. Villiers pulld out a draur in the bambu taibl, and showd Austin a long coil uv cord, hard and nue; and at wun end wos a runing nuoss.
"It is the best hempn cord," sed Villiers, "just as it uessd tu be maid for the old traid, the man told me. Not an inch uv juet frum end tu end."
Austin set his teetth hard, and staird at Villiers, groing whyt as he lookd.
"Yu wood not du it," he mermrd at last. "Yu wood not hav blood on yor hands. My God!" he exclaimd, witth sudn veehemnss, "yu cannot meen thiss, Villiers, that yu wil maik yorself a hangman?"
"No. Ie shal offer a choiss, and leev Helen Vaughan aloan witth thiss cord in a lokd ruom for fifteen minits. If when we go in it is not dun, Ie shal call the neerest poleesmn. That is all."
"Ie must go now. Ie cannot stay heer eny longr; Ie cannot bair thiss. Good-nyt."
The dor shut, but in a moamnt it wos oapn again, and Austin stood, whyt and gastly, in the entrenss.
"Ie wos forgeting," he sed, "that Ie tu hav sumtthing tu tel. Ie hav reseevd a letr frum Dr. Harding uv Buenos Ayres. He says that he atendd Meyrik for thre weeks befor his detth."
"And dus he say whot carreed him auf in the prym uv lyf? It wos not feevr?"
"No, it wos not feevr. Acording tu the doctr, it wos an utr collapss uv the hol sistm, probably causd by sum seveer shok. But he staits that the paisiont wood tel him nutthing, and that he wos consequently at sum disadvantaj in treeting the caiss."
"Is thair enytthing mor?"
"Yess. Dr. Harding ends his letr by saying: 'I tthink thiss is all the informaision Ie can giv yu about yor poor frend. He had not bn long in Buenos Ayres, and nue scairsly eny wun, witth the excepsion uv a persn hu did not bair the best uv charactrs, and has sinss left--a Mrs. Vaughan.'"
[Amungst the paiprs uv the wel-noan fizision, Dr Robert Matheson, uv Ashley Street, Piccadilly, hu dyd sudnly, uv apoplectic seezuer, at the begining uv 1892, a leef uv manuescript paipr wos found, cuvrd witth pensl jotings. Thees noats wr in Latin, much abreeveaitd, and had evidently bn maid in grait haist. The MS. wos oanly desyfrd witth dificlty, and sum wrds hav up tu the preznt tym evaidd all the efrts uv the exprt employd. The dait, "XXV Jul. 1888," is ritn on the ryt-hand cornr uv the MS. The folloing is a translaision uv Dr. Mathesons manuescript.]
"Whethr syenss wood benefit by thees breef noats if thay cood be publishd, Ie du not no, but rathr dout. But sertnly Ie shal nevr taik the responsibility uv publishing or divuljing wun wrd uv whot is heer ritn, not oanly on acount uv my oatth givn freely tu thoas tu persns hu wr preznt, but also becaus the details ar tu abominabl. It is probably that, upon matuer consideraision, and aftr waiting the good and eavl, Ie shal wun day destroy thiss paipr, or at leest leev it undr seel tu my frend D., trusting in his discresion, tu ues it or tu brn it, as he may tthink fit.
"As wos befiting, Ie did all that my nollaj sugjestd tu maik suer that Ie wos sufring undr no deluezion. At frst astoundd, Ie cood hardly tthink, but in a minits tym Ie wos suer that my pulss wos stedy and reguelr, and that Ie wos in my reel and tru sensses. Ie then fixd my ies quyetly on whot wos befor me.
"Tho horrer and revolting nauzea roas up witthin me, and an oadr uv corrupsion choakd my bretth, Ie remaind firm. Ie wos then privlejd or acrsd, Ie dair not say which, tu se that which wos on the bed, lying thair blak lyk ink, transformd befor my ies. The skin, and the flesh, and the musls, and the boans, and the frm structuer uv the huemn body that Ie had tthaut tu be unchainjabl, and permanent as adamnt, began tu melt and dizollv.
"Ie no that the body may be seperaitd intu its elemnts by extrnal aijnsees, but Ie shood hav refuesd tu beleev whot Ie saw. For heer thair wos sum intrnl force, uv which Ie nue nutthing, that causd disolluesion and chainj.
"Feer tu wos all the wrk by which man had bn maid repeetd befor my ies. Ie saw the form waivr frum sex tu sex, divyding itself frum itself, and then again re-uenytd. Then Ie saw the body desend tu the beests whenss it asendd, and that which wos on the hyts go doun tu the deptths, eavn tu the abiss uv all being. The prinsipl uv lyf, which maiks organizm, allways remaind, whyl the outwrd form chainjd.
"The lyt witthin the ruom had trnd tu blakness, not the darkness uv nyt, in which objects ar seen dimly, for Ie cood se cleerly and witthout dificlty. But it wos the negaision uv lyt; objects wr prezntd tu my ies, if Ie may say so, witthout eny meedeum, in such a manr that if thair had bn a prizm in the ruom Ie shood hav seen no culrs reprezentd in it.
"Ie wachd, and at last Ie saw nutthing but a substnss as jely. Then the ladr wos asendd again... [heer the MS. is ilejabl] ...for wun instnt Ie saw a Form, shaipd in dimness befor me, which Ie wil not farthr descryb. But the simbl uv thiss form may be seen in ainsiont sculptuers, and in paintings which survyvd beneetth the lava, tu foul tu be spoakn uv... as a horrabl and unspeekabl shaip, neethr man nor beest, wos chainjd intu huemn form, thair caim fynly detth.
"Ie hu saw all thiss, not witthout grait horrer and loattthing uv sol, heer ryt my naim, declaring all that Ie hav set on thiss paipr tu be tru.
"ROBERT MATHESON, Med. Dr."
* * *
...Such, Raymond, is the story uv whot Ie no and whot Ie hav seen. The berdn uv it wos tu hevy for me tu bair aloan, and yet Ie cood tel it tu nun but yu. Villiers, hu wos witth me at the last, noas nutthing uv that aufl seecret uv the wood, uv how whot we boatth saw dy, lay upon the smooth, sweet trf amidst the sumr flours, haf in sun and haf in shado, and holding the grl Rachels hand, calld and sumnd thoas companiens, and shaipd in solid form, upon the urtth we tred upon, the horrer which we can but hint at, which we can oanly naim undr a figuer. Ie wood not tel Villiers uv thiss, nor uv that rezemblnss, which struk me as witth a blo upon my hart, when Ie saw the portrait, which fild the cup uv terrer at the end. Whot thiss can meen Ie dair not gess. Ie no that whot Ie saw perish wos not Mary, and yet in the last agony Marys ies lookd intu myn. Whether thair can be eny wun hu can sho the last link in thiss chain uv aufl mistery, Ie du not no, but if thair be eny wun hu can du thiss, yu, Raymond, ar the man. And if yu no the seecret, it rests witth yu tu tel it or not, as yu plees.
Ie am writing thiss letr tu yu imeedeatly on my geting bak tu toun. Ie hav bn in the cuntry for the last fue days; prhaps yu may be aibl tu gess in which part. Whyl the horrer and wundr uv London wos at its hyt--for "Mrs. Beaumont," as Ie hav told yu, wos wel noan in sosyety--Ie roat tu my frend Dr. Philips, giving sum breef outlyn, or rathr hint, uv whot hapnd, and asking him tu tel me the naim uv the vilaj whair the events he had relaitd tu me okerd. He gaiv me the naim, as he sed witth the less hezitaision, becaus Rachels fothr and muthr wr ded, and the rest uv the family had gon tu a relativ in the Stait uv Washington six muntths befor. The parrnts, he sed, had undoutedly dyd uv greef and horrer causd by the terrabl detth uv thair dautr, and by whot had gon befor that detth. On the eavning uv the day which Ie reseevd Philips letr Ie wos at Caermaen, and standing beneetth the moldring Roamn walls, whyt witth the wintrs uv sevnteen hundred yeers, Ie lookd oavr the medo whair wunss had stood the oldr templ uv the "God uv the Deeps," and saw a houss gleeming in the sunlyt. It wos the houss whair Helen had livd. Ie stayd at Caermaen for sevrel days. The peepl uv the plaiss, Ie found, nue litl and had gessd less. Thoas huom Ie spoak tu on the matr seemd srpryzd that an antiquairean (as Ie professed myself tu be) shood trubl about a vilaj trajidy, uv which thay gaiv a verry comnplaiss verzion, and, as yu may imajn, Ie told nutthing uv whot Ie nue. Most uv my tym wos spent in the grait wood that ryzes just abuv the vilaj and climbs the hilsyd, and goas doun tu the rivr in the valy; such anuthr long luvly valy, Raymond, as that on which we lookd wun sumr nyt, wauking tu and fro befor yor houss. For meny an our Ie strayd tthru the mais uv the forrest, terning now tu ryt and now tu left, paissing sloaly doun long alees uv undrgroatth, shadoay and chil, eavn undr the midday sun, and hallting beneetth grait oaks; lying on the short trf uv a cleering whair the faint sweet sent uv wyld roases caim tu me on the wind and mixd witth the hevy perfuem uv the eldr, huos mingld oadr is lyk the oadr uv the ruom uv the ded, a vaipr uv insenss and corrupsion. Ie stood at the ejs uv the wood, gaising at all the pomp and prosesion uv the foxgluvs touring amidst the brakn and shyning red in the brod sunshyn, and beiond them intu deep thikets uv close undrgroatth whair springs boil up frum the rok and nerish the wautr-weeds, dank and eavl. But in all my wandrings Ie avoidd wun part uv the wood; it wos not til yestrday that Ie clymd tu the sumit uv the hil, and stood upon the ainsiont Roamn road that tthreds the hyest rij uv the wood. Heer thay had waukd, Helen and Rachel, along thiss quyet caus-way, upon the paivmnt uv green trf, shut in on eathr syd by hy banks uv red urtth, and tall hejs uv shyning beech, and heer Ie folload in thair steps, looking out, now and again, tthru partings in the bow, and seing on wun syd the sweep uv the wood streching far tu ryt and left, and sinking intu the braud levl, and beiond, the yelo see, and the land oavr the see. On the uthr syd wos the valy and the rivr and hil folloing hil as waiv on waiv, and wood and medo, and cornfeeld, and whyt houses gleeming, and a grait wall uv mountn, and far blu peeks in the nortth. And so at last Ie caim tu the plaiss. The trak went up a gentl sloap, and wydnd out intu an oapn spaiss witth a wall uv thik undrgroatth around it, and then, narroing again, passd on intu the distnss and the faint blu mist uv sumr heet. And intu thiss pleznt sumr glaid Rachel passd a grl, and left it, hu shal say whot? Ie did not stay long thair.
In a small toun neer Caermaen thair is a muezeum, containing for the moast part Roamn remains which hav bn found in the naibrhood at vaireus tyms. On the day aftr my arryvl in Caermaen Ie waukd oavr tu the toun in questsion, and took the oprtuenity uv inspecting the mueseum. Aftr Ie had seen moast uv the sculptuerd stoans, the cofns, rings, coins, and fragmnts uv teselaitd paivmnt which the plaiss contains, Ie wos shoan a small squair pilar uv whyt stoan, which had bn reesntly discoverd in the wood uv which Ie hav bn speeking, and, as Ie found on inquyry, in that oapn spaiss whair the Roamn road braudns out. On wun syd uv the pilar wos an inscripsion, uv which Ie took a noat. Sum uv the letrs hav bn defaissd, but Ie du not tthink thair can be eny dout as tu thoas which Ie suplye. The inscripsion is as folloas:
"Tu the grait god Nodens (the god uv the grait Deep or Abyss) Flavius Senilis has erectd thiss pilr on acount uv the marraj which he saw beneetth the shaid."
The custoadean uv the mueseum informd me that loacl antiquairees wr much puzld, not by the inscripsion, or by eny dificlty in translaiting it, but as tu the sercmstanss or ryt tu which aluozion is maid.
* * *
...And now, my deer Clarke, as tu whot yu tel me about Helen Vaughan, huom yu say yu saw dy undr sercmstanses uv the utmoast and allmoast incredabl horrer. Ie wos intrestd in yor acount, but a good deel, nay all, uv whot yu told me Ie nue alredy. Ie can undrstand the strainj lykness yu remarkd in boatth the portrait and in the actual faiss; yu hav seen Helens muthr. Yu remembr that stil sumr nyt so meny yeers ago, when Ie taukd tu yu uv the wrld beiond the shadoas, and uv the god Pan. Yu remembr Mary. She wos the muthr uv Helen Vaughan, hu wos born nyn muntths aftr that nyt.
Mary nevr recuvrd hr reezn. She lay, as yu saw hr, all the whyl upon hr bed, and a fue days aftr the chyld wos born she dyd. Ie fansy that just at the last she nue me; Ie wos standing by the bed, and the old look caim intu hr ies for a secnd, and then she shudrd and groand and dyd. It wos an il wrk Ie did that nyt when yu wr preznt; Ie broak oapn the dor uv the houss uv lyf, witthout noing or cairing whot myt pass fortth or entr in. Ie recollect yor teling me at the tym, sharply enuf, and rytly tu, in wun senss, that Ie had ruind the reezn uv a huemn being by a foolish experimnt, baisd on an abserd ttheory. Yu did wel tu blaim me, but my ttheory wos not all abserdity. Whot Ie sed Mary wood se she saw, but Ie forgot that no huemn ies can look on such a syt witth impuenity. And Ie forgot, as Ie hav just sed, that when the houss uv lyf is thuss throan oapn, thair may entr in that for which we hav no naim, and huemn flesh may becom the vail uv a horrer wun dair not express. Ie playd witth energees which Ie did not undrstand, yu hav seen the ending uv it. Helen Vaughan did wel tu bynd the cord about hr nek and dy, tho the detth wos horrabl. The blaknd faiss, the hideus form upon the bed, chainjing and melting befor yor ies frum wumn tu man, frum man tu beest, and frum beest tu wrss than beest, all the strainj horrer that yu witness, surpryzes me but litl. Whot yu say the doctr huom yu sent for saw and shudrd at Ie notissd long ago; Ie nue whot Ie had dun the moamnt the chyld wos born, and when it wos scairsly fyv yeers old Ie srpryzd it, not wunss or twyss but sevrel tyms witth a playmait, yu may gess uv whot kynd. It wos for me a constnt, an incarnit horrer, and aftr a fue yeers Ie felt Ie cood bair it no mor, and Ie sent Helen Vaughan away. Yu no now whot frytnd the boy in the wood. The rest uv the strainj story, and all elss that yu tel me, as discuvrd by yor frend, Ie hav contryvd tu lrn frum tym tu tym, allmoast tu the last chaptr. And now Helen is witth hr companiens...
The author, John J. Reilly, relinquishes all rights to the material on this page. Posted July 10, 1999.