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Title: A Capillary Crime and other Stories
Author: Millet, F. D.
Language: English
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  [Illustration: APPEARANCE OF MANDEL’S STUDIO THE MORNING AFTER HIS
                                DEATH.]



                           A CAPILLARY CRIME

                           AND OTHER STORIES


                                  BY

                             F. D. MILLET


                              ILLUSTRATED


                       [Illustration: colophon]


                               NEW YORK
                     HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS
                                 1892


                Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                        _All rights reserved._



CONTENTS.


                           PAGE

A CAPILLARY CRIME             3

A FADED SCAPULAR             53

YATIL                        87

TEDESCO’S RUBINA            129

MEDUSA’S HEAD               165

THE FOURTH WAITS            191

THE BUSH                    269



A CAPILLARY CRIME


Near the summit of the hill in the Quartier Montmartre, Paris, is a
little street in which the grass grows between the paving-stones, as in
the avenues of some dead old Italian city. Tall buildings border it for
about one third its length, and the walls of tiny gardens, belonging to
houses on adjacent streets, occupy the rest of its extent. It is a
populous thoroughfare, but no wheels pass through it, for the very good
reason that near the upper end it suddenly takes a short turn, and
shoots up the hill at an incline too steep for a horse to climb. The
regular morning refuse cart, and on rare occasions a public carriage,
venture a short distance into the lower part of the street, and even
these, on wet, slippery days, do not pass the door of the first house.
Scarcely two minutes’ walk from the busy exterior boulevards, this
little corner of the great city is as quiet as a village nearly all day
long. Early in the morning the sidewalks clatter with the shoes of
workmen hurrying down to their work, children scamper along playing
hide-and-seek in the doorways on their way to school, and then follows a
long silence, broken only by the glazier with his shrill cry,
“Vi-i-i-tri-er!” or the farmer with his “À la crème, fromage à la
crème!” In the late summer afternoons the women bring their babies out
and sit on the doorsteps, as the Italians do, gossiping across the
street, and watching the urchins pitch sous against the curb-stone, or
draw schoolboy hieroglyphics on the garden walls. There is a musical
quiet in this little street. Birds sing merrily in the stunted trees of
the shady gardens, the familiar calls of hens and chickens and the
shrill crows of the cock come from every enclosure, and all the while is
heard the deep and continuous note of the rumble of the city down below.
At night the street is lighted by two lanterns swung on ropes between
opposite houses; and the flickering, dim light, sending uncertain
shadows upon the blank walls and the towering façades, gives the place a
weird and fantastic aspect.

Montmartre is full of these curious highways. Quite distinct from the
rest of the city by reason of its elevated position, few or no modern
improvements have changed its character, and a large extent of it
remains to-day much the same as it was fifty years ago.

It is perhaps the cheapest quarter of the city. Rents are low, and the
necessities and commodities of life are proportionately cheaper than in
other parts of the town. This fact, and the situation the quarter
affords for unobstructed view of the sky, have always attracted artists,
and many cosy studios are hidden away in the maze of housetops there. On
the little street I have just described are several large windows
indicating unmistakably the profession of those occupying the
apartments.

Late one dark and stormy evening a gate creaked and an automatic bell
sounded at the entrance to one of the little gardens halfway up the
street. A young woman came out into the light of the swinging lantern,
and hurried down the sidewalk. Her unnaturally quick and spasmodic
movements showed she was anxious to get away from the neighborhood as
quickly as possible. Her instinctive avoidance of the bad places in the
sidewalk gave evidence of her familiarity with the locality. In a few
moments she had left the tortuous narrow side street that led down the
hill, and stood upon the brilliantly lighted boulevard. Pausing for an
instant only, she rapidly crossed the street, and soon stood beside the
fountain in the Place Pigalle. Here she watched for a moment the surface
of the water, ruffled by the gusts of wind and beaten by the fierce
rain-drops. Suddenly she turned and hurried away down the Rue Pigalle,
across to the Rue Blanche, and was shortly lost in the crowd that was
pouring out of the doorway of the skating-rink.

The little street on the hill remained deserted and desolate. The
lights in the windows went out one by one. The wind gusts swayed the
lanterns to and fro, creaking the rusty pulleys and rattling the glass
in the iron frames. Now and then a gate was blown backward and forward
with a dull sound, a shutter slammed, and between the surges of the wind
could be heard the spirting of the stream from the spouts and the rush
of the water in the gutters. Towards midnight a single workman staggered
up the street from the cheap cabaret kept in the wood-and-charcoal shop
on the corner. A little later a _sergent de ville_, wrapped in a cloak,
passed slowly up the sidewalk, until he came to a spot where the asphalt
was worn away, and there was a great pool of muddy water. There he
stopped, turned around, and strode down the street again. The melancholy
music of the storm went on.

Suddenly, towards morning, there was a dull, prolonged report like the
sound of a distant blast of rocks. The great studio window over the
little garden flashed red for an instant, then grew black again, and
all was still. Away up on the opposite side of the street a window was
opened, a head thrust out, and, meeting the drenching rain, was quickly
withdrawn. A hand and bare arm were pushed through the half-open window,
feeling for the fastening of the shutter. In an adjoining house a light
was seen in the window, and it continued to burn. Then the mournful
music of the tempest went on as before.

Shortly after daybreak the same young woman who had fled so hastily the
evening before, slowly and with difficulty mounted the hill. Her clothes
were saturated with the rain, and clung to her form as the violent wind
caught her and sent her staggering along. Her bonnet was out of shape
and beaten down around her ears, and her dark hair was matted on her
forehead. Her face was haggard, and her eyes were large and full of a
strange gleam. She was evidently of Southern birth, for her features had
the sculpturesque regularity of the Italian, and her skin, though pallid
and bloodless, was still deep in tone. She hesitated at the garden gate
for a while, then opened it, entered, and shut it behind her, the
automatic bell tinkling loudly. No one appearing at the door, she opened
and shut the gate again to ring the bell. A second and third time she
rang in the same way, and without any response from the house. At last,
hearing no sound, she crossed the garden, tried the house door, and,
finding it unlocked, opened it and went in. Shortly afterwards a
frightened cry was heard in the studio, and a moment later the girl came
out of the house, her haggard face white with fear. Clutching her hands
together with a nervous motion, she hastened down the street. A
half-hour later a _femme de ménage_ opened the gate, passed through the
garden, and tried her key in the door. Finding it unlocked, she simply
said, “Perhaps he’s gone out,” and went into the kitchen and began to
prepare breakfast. Before the water boiled the gate opened sharply, and
three persons entered; first, the martial figure of a _sergent de
ville_; second, a tall, blond young man in a brown velveteen coat and
waistcoat and light trousers; and, lastly, the girl, still trembling and
panting. The _sergent_ carefully locked the gate on the inside, taking
the key with him, and, followed by the young man, entered the house,
paused in the kitchen for a few rapid words with the _femme de ménage_,
and then went up into the studio. The girl crouched down upon the stone
step by the gate and hid her face.

The studio was of irregular shape, having curious projections and
corners, and one third of the ceiling lower than the rest. The alcove
formed by this drop in the ceiling was about the size of an ordinary
bedchamber. The drawn curtain of the large side window shut out so much
of the dim daylight that the whole studio was in twilight. In the
farther corner of the deep alcove was a low divan, filling the recess
between a quaint staircase which led into the attic and the wall
opposite the window. This divan served as a bed, and on it, half covered
with the bedclothes, lay a man, stretched on his back, with his face
turned towards the window. The left arm hung over the edge of the
divan, and the hand, turned inertly under the wrist, rested on the
floor. There was the unmistakable pallor of death on the face, visible
even in the uncertain gloom. The _sergent_ quickly lowered the curtain,
letting in a flood of cold, gray light. Then great blood-stains were
seen on the pillow, and on the neck and shoulders of the shirt. Beside
the bed stood, like a grim guard of the dead body, the rigid and angular
figure of a manikin dressed in Turkish costume. Between the manikin and
the window lay on the floor a large flint-lock pistol. Near the window
stood an easel, with a large canvas turned away from the light.

The two men paused in the middle of the studio, and looked at the
spectacle without speaking. Then the young man rushed to the divan, and
caught the arm that hung over the side, but dropped it instantly again.

“Touch nothing. Do not touch a single object,” commanded the _sergent_,
sternly. Then he approached the body himself, put his hand on the face,
and said, “He is dead.” Taking the young man by the arm, he led him out
of the room, carefully locking the door behind him. In the kitchen he
wrote a few words on a leaf torn from his note-book, gave it to the
_femme de ménage_ with a hasty direction, checked her avalanche of
questions with a single, significant gesture, led the way into the
garden, unlocked the gate, and half pushed her into the street.

He stood quietly watching the crouching figure of the young girl for
some time, then stooping over her, raised her, half forcibly, half
gently, to her feet, and pointed out that the place where she sat was
wet and muddy. Then he made a few commonplace remarks about the weather.
In a short time the _femme de ménage_ returned, breathless, accompanied
by two more officers, one of them a lieutenant.

It was curious to see the instantaneous transformation of the little
street when the _femme de ménage_ and the two policemen entered the
gate. Windows were opened and heads thrust out on all sides. It was
impossible to say where the people came from, but in a very short time
the street was blocked with a crowd that gathered around the gate. Those
on the sidewalk struggled to get a peep through the gate, while those in
the street stared fixedly at the studio window. One or two tried to
force the gate open, but a _sergent de ville_, posted inside, pushed the
bolts in place. The _femme de ménage_, who had managed to get a glimpse
of the scene in the studio, sat weeping dramatically at the kitchen
window.

The lieutenant and the _sergent_ who first came went from one room to
another, examining everything with care, to see if there had been a
robbery. In the studio they scrutinized every inch of the room, even to
the dust-covered stairway that led to the little attic over the alcove.
Then, after a hasty examination of the corpse, they mounted the stairway
that led from the entry to the roof, and searched for fresh scratches on
the lead-covered promenade there. Apparently satisfied with the
completeness of their search, they remained awhile there, looking at the
slated roof, and at the hawthorn-tree which stretched two or three
strong branches almost up to the iron railing of the balcony.

The lieutenant then, with great deliberation, took down in his note-book
the exact situation in the studio, measuring carefully the distance of
the pistol from the body, noting the angle of the wound (for the ball
had gone through the head just over the ear), taking account of many
things that would have escaped the attention of the ordinary observer.
When this was finished, he sent away one of the _sergents_, who shortly
returned with two men bearing a stretcher, or rather a rusty black bier.
The men were conducted to the studio, and there, with business-like
haste, they placed the body on the bier, strapped it firmly there,
covered it with a soiled and much-worn black cloth, and with the aid of
the officers carried it down the stairs and out of the house into the
garden. The girl, who had remained standing where the _sergent_ had
placed her, sank down again on the stone steps at the sight of the black
bier and its burden, and hid her face in her hands. There was a
momentary gleam of something like satisfaction in the eye of the
_sergent_ who stood beside her.

The lieutenant, who had remained to put seals on the door of the studio,
on the door which led out upon the promenade, and upon all the windows
of the upper stories, came out of the house, followed by the young man
in the velveteen coat, and the weeping _femme de ménage_. The lieutenant
had a bundle in his arms a foot and a half long, done up in a newspaper.
He gave the _sergent_ at the gate a brief order, then went out into the
street, clearing the sidewalk of the crowd. The body was next borne out,
and the young man and the two women, followed by one of the _sergents_,
presented themselves to the eyes of the curious multitude. Without delay
the two bearers marched off down the street at a rapid pace, the heavy
burden shaking with the rhythm of their step. The little procession of
officers and prisoners, accompanied by the whole of the great crowd,
followed the bier to the prefecture. There a preliminary examination of
the two women and the young man was held, and they were all detained as
witnesses. The body was carried to the morgue.

It would be tedious to describe in detail the different processes of law
which to our Anglo-Saxon eyes appear but empty and useless indignities
heaped upon the defenceless dead. Neither would it be an attractive task
to give a minute account of the meagre funeral ceremonies which the
friends of the dead artist conducted, after they had succeeded in
getting possession of the body for burial. The grave was dug in the
cemetery of Montmartre, and the few simple tributes of friendship placed
on the mound were lost among the flashing filigree emblems and gaudy
wreaths which adorned the surrounding tombstones.

The theories which were advanced by the three officers who had examined
the premises were distinguished by some invention and ingenuity. From
carefully collected information concerning the intimate life and whole
history of the three persons kept as witnesses, the officers
constructed each his separate romance about the motives for the crime
and the manner in which it was committed. The lieutenant had quite a
voluminous biography of each character.

Concerning Charles Mandel, the dead artist, it was found that he was a
native of Styria, in Austria; that his parents and all his relatives
were exceedingly poor; that he had worked his way up from a place as a
farmer’s boy to a position as attendant in the baths at Gastein, and
thence he had found his way to Munich, and to the School of Fine Arts
there. He had taken a good rank in the Academy, and after several years’
study, supporting himself meanwhile on a small government subsidy and by
the sale of pen-and-ink sketches, he began to paint pictures. When he
had saved money enough he came to Paris, where he had lived about
eighteen months. His character was unimpeachable. He lived quietly, and
rarely went out of the quarter; was never seen at the balls in the old
windmill on the summit of Montmartre, nor did he frequent the Élisée
Montmartre, the skating rink, the Cirque Fernando, nor any other place
of amusement in the neighborhood. The little Café du Rat Mort, in the
Place Pigalle, was the only café he visited, and in this he was
accustomed to pass an hour or two every evening in company with his
friend, the sculptor Paul Benner. He was not known to have any enemies,
there was no suspicion that he was connected with the Internationalists,
and the only reason he had been remarked at all as an individual was
because he spoke French badly, and always conversed in German with his
friend Benner.

The information concerning the latter was a great deal more accurate and
precise. A great deal of it, however, was irrelevant. He was born in
Strasburg, in 1849, and began the study of his profession there. He came
to Paris when he was twenty years old, and entered the Académie des
Beaux Arts. After he had finished the course he set up his studio in
Montmartre, and had already exhibited successful works in three
_salons_. He had a great many friends in the city, and was well spoken
of by all who knew him. The only thing that could possibly be urged
against him was the fact that he seemed very little disturbed at the
idea of being a Prussian subject. But he was consistently cosmopolitan,
as his intimate friendship with the Austrian and his equally close
relations with fellow-students in the Beaux Arts abundantly proved.

The inquiries about the girl were, judging from the frequent gaps in the
history as written in the lieutenant’s note-book, conducted with
difficulty, and with only partial success. She was a Corsican, and was
generally called Rose Blanche, the translation of her Corsican name,
Rosina Bianchi. By the artists she was facetiously called La Rose
Blanche, partly because of her hair and complexion, which were of the
darkest Southern hue, and partly for the sake of the grammatical harmony
of the name thus altered. Nothing in particular was found out about her
early life. She herself declared she was born in a small village in the
mountains of Corsica, and that her father, mother, and several brothers
and sisters were still living there. She had come to Paris as a model
just before the siege, having first begun to pose in Marseilles, whither
she had gone from Corsica to live with an aunt. This aunt had married a
crockery merchant, and was a respectable member of the community. From
her was gleaned some notion of the family. It was of genuine Corsican
stock, and they all had the violent passions which are the common
characteristic of that people. Rosina, while in Marseilles, had been
quiet and proper enough except when she had been, as her aunt described,
_un peu toquee_. At long intervals it seems that she became highly
sensitive and excitable. She would on these occasions fly into a mad
rage at a trifle, and when she grew calmer would sob and weep for a
while, and end by remaining sullen and morose for hours, sometimes for
days. Her aunt had opposed her going to Paris, prophesying all sorts of
evil. She had never seen her since her departure, and had only heard
from her twice or three times since she had left Marseilles.

There was scarcely a better-known model in Paris than La Rose Blanche.
She was not one of those choice favorites who are engaged for months and
sometimes for a year in advance at double prices, but she was in great
demand, especially among sculptors. Her head was Italian enough to serve
as a model for the costume pictures of the Campagna peasants, but she
was much more picturesque as a Spanish girl, and her employment among
the painters was chiefly with those who painted Spanish or Eastern
subjects. The sculptors found in her form a certain girlishness which
had not disappeared with age, and although she was twenty-five years
old, she had the lithe, slender figure of a girl of seventeen. There was
something of the faun in the accents of her limbs, and she was active,
wiry, and muscular. The artists connected the peculiarities of her
figure with the characteristics of her disposition, and often said to
her, “What a hand and arm for a stiletto!” “Yes,” she would answer, with
a glittering eye; “and it isn’t afraid to hold one either!” Every one
had noticed her violent temper, and some of those who were best
acquainted with her confessed to the feeling that it was like playing
with gunpowder to have much to do with her. When she was in good
spirits, she was soft-mannered and amiable; but when roused in the
least, she became like a fury. She had frequently posed in the
_ateliers_, and then she had been treated with great respect by the
students. For the past year she had served often as a model for Benner
in the execution of his statue “Diana surprised at her Bath,” and when
she was not at work with him was generally in Mandel’s studio, where she
posed for a figure in a picture from the history of Hungary, an event in
one of the Turkish invasions. With the exception of the report of her
eccentricities of temper, nothing had counted against her. Even this was
partly counterbalanced by the testimony of many to whom she had been
both kind and useful. As far as her moral character went, some had said,
with an expressive shrug of the shoulders, “She’s a model, and like all
the rest of them.” Others had declared that she was undoubtedly honest
and virtuous. No one knew anything--at least no one confessed to any
positive knowledge--of her suspected transgressions.

The poor _femme de ménage_, whose life had been hitherto without an
event worth the attention of the police, did not escape the most rigid
scrutiny. Her history was sifted out as carefully as that of the other
three. She was married to a second husband, and the mother of a boy of
eighteen, who was salesman in one of the large dry-goods shops. Her
husband, besides the duties of concierge in the house where they
lived--an occupation which paid for the rent of the rooms they
occupied--managed to make a trifle at his trade of tailor, repairing and
turning old garments, and on rare occasions making a new coat or a pair
of trousers for an old customer. He was also employed as a supernumerary
in the Grand Opera, a duty which obliged him to attend the theatre
often, to the serious interruption of his home occupations. He could not
well give up the place in the theatre, for his salary was just enough,
with the rest he earned, to make both ends meet. The wife was obliged to
be at home so much, to fill her husband’s place in the care of the great
house, that she could only manage to do very little outside work. The
families in the house were all working people, and consequently could
not afford the luxury of assistance in the kitchen. She therefore found
a place as _femme de ménage_ with some family in the vicinity. For some
time she had been in the employ of the dead artist, and was particularly
satisfied with the place, first because she could choose her own hours,
and then because she had very little to do, and was paid as much as if
she took care of a family--twenty francs a month. One circumstance
excited the suspicion of the police. She had been gone nearly the whole
afternoon of the day before the murder. When she returned at dark her
husband noticed that she was heated and confused, and asked her where
she had been. She refused to tell him, painfully trying to make the
refusal palatable by jokes. And the police with little difficulty found
out exactly what she had been doing for the three or four hours in
question. She had been to the Cemetery of Montmartre. She had been seen
by the keepers there busy near a grave on the third side avenue to the
left, about a quarter way up the slope. They had observed her digging up
the two small flowering shrubs she had planted there years before, and
had constantly tended. These shrubs she had wrapped up in an old colored
shirt, and had carried them away. Further, a neighbor of the dead artist
in the little street on Montmartre deposed that late in the afternoon of
the day before the tragedy she had seen the _femme de ménage_ enter the
gate of the studio garden, bearing an irregular-shaped bundle of
considerable size. The police, on visiting the garden, found the two
shrubs described by the keepers of the cemetery freshly planted in the
little central plot.

Then for the first time they questioned the _femme de ménage_ herself,
and she confessed, with an abundance of tears, that her only daughter
had died five years previous, and that she had been buried in the
Cimetière Montmartre, and the grave had been purchased for the period of
five years. The term was to expire within a few days, and the poor
woman, unable to pay for a further lease of ground, was obliged to give
up her claim to the grave. She could not bear to lose the shrubs, for
they were souvenirs of her dead child, who cultivated them when very
small plants in flower-pots on the balcony. The mother had dug them up
in the cemetery, and transplanted them in the garden of the house where
she worked, having no garden-plot of her own. She intended the next day
to tell the artist what she had done, and to get his permission to let
the shrubs flourish there. She had refused to explain her absence to her
husband because the girl had been dead a year when she married him, and
he had sometimes reproached her for spending her time in the cemetery.
As it was not his child, he could not be expected to care for it; and
the poor mother, not having the courage to ask for money to renew the
lease of the grave, kept her own counsel about the matter.

The examination of the witnesses, and the investigation of their
personal history, threw but little light upon the exact state of the
relations which existed between the painter and La Rose Blanche. The
neighbors had overheard at various times loud talking in the studio, and
occasionally some violent language that sounded very much like a
quarrel. One or two of the shrewd ones, especially an old woman who sold
vegetables from a little hand-cart on the corner, volunteered their
opinion that the model was in love with the artist. The withered and
blear-eyed old huckster gave as reason for her opinion that the model
had generally stayed long after painting hours, and was unusually prompt
in the morning. But there was quite as much proof that Mandel did not
care for the model as that she was enamoured of him. He never watched
for her in the morning, never came to the door with her; treated her
always, as far as was noticed by any one who had seen them together, as
if on the most formal terms with her. In the Café du Rat Mort it was
found that La Rose Blanche had often come in during the evening,
sometimes in fine costume and elaborate toilet, and had placed herself
at the table where Mandel and Benner sat. The latter always appeared
glad to see her, and joked and chatted with her, while Mandel was
evidently annoyed by her presence, and did not try very hard to conceal
his feelings.

An almost inquisitorial examination of Benner elicited the fact that his
friend had confided to him that the model tormented him with her
attentions, and so thrust herself upon him that he was at a loss what to
do about it. He had thought seriously of giving up the picture he was at
work on, so that she might have no excuse for coming to his studio. The
same examination drew out the confession that he was in love with La
Rose Blanche himself, and had been for some time.

Now the most plausible theory of the three officers was apparently well
enough supported by the fact to warrant a most careful investigation.
This theory was based chiefly on the common French axiom that a woman is
at the bottom of every piece of mischief. The strongest suspicion
pointed towards La Rose Blanche, and no motive but that of jealousy
could be assigned for the deed. It was necessary, then, to find some
cause for jealousy before this theory could be accepted. Mandel was, as
the study of his character had proved to the officers, of a quiet and
peaceable disposition, and not in the habit of frequenting society.
Although, like most young men, he spent part of his time in the café, he
was more disposed to stay at home than to join in any time-killing
amusement. After the most diligent search, the officers only succeeded
in finding one girl besides La Rose Blanche who had been at all on
friendly terms with the artist. She was a model who had posed for a
picture he painted while he occupied a studio in Rue Monsieur le Prince,
in the Latin Quarter. But it was also found out that La Rose Blanche
had never seen Mandel until long after the picture was finished and the
model dismissed. In this way the investigation went on with all possible
ingenuity and most wearisome deliberation. No effort was more fruitful
than the one just described. Every clue which promised to lead to the
slightest knowledge of the life of the artist or the character of the
model was followed out persistently, doggedly, and often even cruelly.
Thus months passed.

Benner had been discharged from custody after his first long and trying
examination. Unable to work, he wandered around the city in an aimless
way. He could not help having a faint yet agonizing glimmer of hope that
he might meet with a solution of the mystery of his friend’s death. This
solution would, he was sure, prove La Rose Blanche innocent. His
unfinished statue in the clay, moistened only at irregular intervals,
cracked and shrunk, and gradually fell to pieces. Dust settled in his
studio, and his modelling tools rusted where they lay. At first he had
tried to work, and, summoning another model, he had uncovered the clay.
But he only spoiled what he touched, and after a short time he threw
down his tools and walked away.

La Rose Blanche languished in the house of detention. Benner gradually
began to lose courage, and perhaps even his faith wavered a little. When
he learned that in the course of the examination the sleepy concierge of
the house where the model lived had testified that she was absent all
night at the time of the tragedy, Benner felt convinced that
circumstances had combined to convict the girl. Her explanation had been
most unsatisfactory. She had quarrelled with the artist because he told
her he was annoyed by her. She did not remember what she said or did;
she only knew that she left the house in a great passion, and walked the
streets all night in the rain. Her passion gave way to her affection for
the artist, and as soon as it was light she went to the studio to ask
him to forgive her. She found him dead.

It was the apathy of La Rose Blanche quite as much as her inability to
prove herself innocent that caused the increasing uneasiness in Benner’s
mind. Not that he believed her for a moment guilty, but he knew that she
was convicting herself with fatal rapidity. He, knowing her character,
could understand how she could walk the streets all night in the storm.
He, in the warmth of his passion for her, had often fought with the
weather for the relief the struggle afforded him. Love-madness is
nothing new, and the model’s actions were only one phase of it. At the
little Café du Rat Mort, Benner now spent all his evenings, and on some
days part of the afternoon. He grew to be one of the fixtures of the
establishment. The habitués of the place had ceased to talk about him,
and no longer pointed him out to the new-comers as the friend of the
dead artist. The self-consciousness, which in the beginning was painful
to him, gradually wore away, and he almost forgot himself at times in
connection with the tragedy, and only kept constantly a dull sense of
waiting--waiting for he knew not what. Evening after evening he sat at
the little corner table of the front room of the café, smoking
cigarettes, playing with the curious long-handled spoons, and
occasionally sipping coffee or a glass of beer. The two tables between
his seat and the window on the street changed occupants many times
during the evening, and the newspapers grew sticky, fumbled, and worn at
the hands of the frequent readers. The opposite side of this room of the
café was filled by a long counter, covered on top with shining zinc, and
divided into several compartments, on the highest of which stood the
water carafes and a filter. Behind this counter sat Madame Lépic, the
wife of the proprietor, placidly knitting from morning until midnight.
When the street door opened she raised her eyes and greeted the comer
with a hospitable smile; then her face resumed its normal expression of
contentment. By carefully watching her it could be discovered that she
had a habit of quickly glancing out from under her eyebrows and taking
in the whole interior of the café in a flash of her dark little eye.
Just beyond the end of the counter a partition, wainscoted as high as a
man’s shoulder and with glass above, divided the café into two rooms.
From where she sat Madame Lépic could overlook the four tables in the
inner room as well as the three in the front. Her habit of constant
watchfulness was cultivated, of course, by the necessity of keeping run
of the two tired-looking waiters, who, like the rest of their class, had
the weakness of being tempted by the abundance of money which passed
through their hands. The police had already approached Madame Lépic, and
she had given her testimony in regard to the actions of the model with
the two young men. The police would not have been Parisian if they had
not engaged madame to keep an eye on Benner. If he had not been too much
occupied with his own thoughts, he might have detected her watching him
constantly and persistently, even after he had ceased to be interesting
in the eyes of the old habitués of the café.

It was a long four months after that terrible morning when Benner sat,
late one afternoon, in the café brooding as usual. Before him on the
stained marble slab stood a glass of water, a tall goblet and long spoon
with twisted handle, and a porcelain match-holder half full of matches.
Bent over the table, Benner was absent-mindedly arranging bits of
matches on the slab, something in the shape of a guillotine. There were
few people in the café. The click of the dominoes in the back room, an
occasional word from one of the players, and the snap, snap, of Madame
Lépic’s needles alone broke the quiet of the interior. As Benner sat
watching the outline of the guillotine he had formed of broken matches,
he saw one of the corner pieces straighten out, and thus destroy the
symmetry of the arrangement. This was a piece which had been bent at
right angles and only half broken off. Without paying particular
attention to the occurrence, he took up the bit, threw it on the floor,
and put another one, similarly broken, in its place. In a few moments
this straightened out also, and this time the movement attracted
Benner’s curiosity. Throwing it aside, he replaced it by a fresh piece,
and this repeated the movement of the first two. Now his curiosity was
excited in earnest, and his face and figure expressed such unusual
interest that the sharp glitter was visible under Madame Lépic’s
eyebrows, and her knitting went on only spasmodically. A fourth, fifth,
and sixth piece was put in place on the corner of the little guillotine,
and as the last one was moving in the same way as the first one did,
Benner perceived that the water spilled on the table trickled down to
where the broken match was placed. He took another match, as if to break
it, but before the brittle wood snapped, his face lit up with a sudden
expression of surprise and joy, and he started to his feet so violently
as to nearly throw the marble slab from the iron legs. The click of the
dominoes ceased, faces were seen at the glass of the partition, and
Madame Lépic fairly stared, forgetting for once her rôle of
disinterested knitter.

Without stopping to pay, without seeming to see anybody or anything,
Benner strode nervously and quickly out of the café. When he was gone,
Madame Lépic touched her bell, one of the drowsy waiters came, received
a whispered order, and went out of the front door hatless. A few moments
later, even before Benner had disappeared along the boulevard in the
direction of his studio, a neatly dressed man came out of the police
station near the café and walked in the same direction, the sculptor had
taken. After Benner had entered the _porte-cochère_ of the great
building where his studio was, the police agent went into the
concierge’s little office near the door, and sat there as if he were at
home. In a few moments a nervous step was heard on the asphalt of the
court-yard, and the agent had only time to withdraw into the gloom of
the corner behind the stove when Benner passed out again, looking
neither to the right nor the left. He was evidently much excited, and
clutched rather than held a small parcel in his hand. The agent followed
him a short distance behind, and, meeting a _sergent de ville_, paused
to say a word to him. As Benner climbed on the top of an Odéon omnibus,
the agent took a seat inside. Benner had not reached the interior
boulevard before his studio was searched.

It was now nearly six o’clock, and the omnibus was crowded all the way
across the city. As soon as the foot of the Rue des Beaux Arts was
reached, Benner hurriedly descended, without waiting to stop the
omnibus, and ran to the Academy. Here he sought the concierge, asked him
a few questions, and then walked quickly away to the east side of the
Luxembourg Gardens, where he rang the bell at the door of a house. He
asked the servant who answered the bell if Professor Brunin was at home,
and was evidently chagrined at being told he was absent and would not
return for an hour or two. Entering the nearest café, he called for pen
and paper, and wrote three pages rapidly, but legibly. By this time he
had grown calmer in mind, not losing, however, the physical spring which
his first excitement had induced. When his letter was finished he put it
in an envelope, addressed it, and left it at the professor’s house. This
done, he walked rapidly across the Luxembourg Gardens to the Odéon,
took an omnibus, accompanied as before by the agent, and at the end of
the route, in the Place Pigalle, he descended, hastened to his studio,
and did not come out again that evening. The great window was lighted
all night long, and the agent in the entry could hear sawing, hammering,
and filing at intervals, as he listened at the door every hour or two.

The gray morning broke, and Benner was still at his work. As the
daylight dimmed the light of the lamp, he seemed not to notice it, but
continued bent over his table, where various blocks, pieces of sheet
brass, and a few tools were scattered promiscuously about. A piece of
brown paper lay on the floor with what appeared to be a glove. On the
corner of the table was a rude imitation of a human hand made of wood,
hinged so that the fingers would move. This was not of recent
construction; but on a small drawing-board, over which Benner was
leaning, was fixed a curious piece of mechanism which he was adjusting,
having apparently just put it in working order. He had joined together
five pieces of oak-wood, about three quarters of an inch wide and half
an inch thick, arranged according to their length. The joints had been
cut in the shape of quarter-circles, like the middle hinge of a
carpenter’s rule. After these were fitted to each other, a sawcut was
made in each one, and a piece of sheet brass inserted which joined the
concave to the convex end. Two rivets on one end and one on the other,
serving as a pivot, completed the hinge. The joints were so arranged
that, when opened to the greatest extent, the five pieces composing the
whole made a straight line. The longest piece of wood was fastened at
the middle and outer end by screws, which held it firmly to the
drawing-board. The shortest piece, on the opposite end of the line, had
attached to it on the under side a pointed bit of brass like an index.
As morning broke, Benner was engaged in fixing a bit of an ivory metre
measure, which is marked to millimetres, underneath this index point.
After this scale was securely fastened in its place the mechanism was
evidently completed, for he straightened up, looked at his work from a
distance, then bent over it again, and gently tried the joints, watching
with some satisfaction the index as it moved along the scale. While
preoccupied with this study, a sudden knock at the door caused him to
start like a guilty man. He threw open the door almost tragically. It
was only the concierge, who brought him a letter. He tore it open, and
read it and re-read it with eagerness; then went to the table and
carefully measured several times the whole length of the mechanism, from
the inner screw of the longest piece to the end of the shortest. He then
began to calculate and to cipher on the edge of the drawing-board. The
letter read as follows:


     “MONSIEUR,--En fait de renseignements sur la dilatation du bois je
     ne connais que ceux donnés par M. Reynaud dans son traité
     d’architecture, vol. i., pages 84 à 87 de la 2ᵉ êdition.

     “Il en résulte que:

     “1. Les bois verts se dilatent beaucoup plus que ceux purgés de
     sève.

     “2. Que le chêne se dilate tantôt plus tantôt moins que le sapin,
     mais plus que le noyer.

     “3. Que dans les conditions ordinaires, c’est à dire, avec les
     variations hygrométriques de l’air seulement, le coefficient de
     dilatation atteint au plus 0.018, d’où résulte qu’une planche de
     0.20 deviendrait 0.2036.

     “4. Qu’en plongeant dans l’eau pendant longtemps une planche
     primitivement très sèche, le coefficient de dilatation peut
     atteindre 0.0375, ce que donnerait pour la planche de 0.20, 0.2075.

     “Peut-être vous trouverez d’autres renseignements dans le traité de
     charpente du Colonel Emy, ou dans celui de menuiserie de Roubo.

     “Recevez, Monsieur, l’assurance de mes sentiments distingués.

                                                             P. BRUNIN.


A few days later there was gathered in a small room in the prefecture
quite a knot of advocates and police officers. They were soon joined by
Benner himself, accompanied by a short, stout gentleman with
eye-glasses. Besides the ordinary furniture of the room, there was a
wash-tub, a pail of water, a manikin, and the drawing-board with the
mechanism on it. The entrance of the judge put a stop to the buzz of
conversation, and when he took a seat on the low platform the rest of
the company placed themselves on the benches in front. The judge, after
a few preliminary remarks on the subject of the mystery of Montmartre,
said that there had lately been developed such a new and surprising
theory to account for the death of the artist that he had consented to
give a hearing to the explanation of the theory. Benner then arose and
made the following statement: “In the Café du Rat Mort, a few days ago,
I noticed a peculiar movement in a broken match as it lay on the table
before me. At first my curiosity was excited only to a moderate degree,
but shortly this inexplicable motion interested me so that I
experimented until I found the cause of it. At the same moment there
flashed into my mind what I had learned long ago at school about
capillary force, and the solution of the mystery of my friend’s death
was at once plain to me. Hurrying to my studio, I cut off the hand of my
manikin, and carried it to the Academy of Fine Arts to show it to
Professor Brunin, of the Architectural Department, and ask his
assistance. Finding him neither there nor at his house, I wrote him a
note and left it for him. All that night I worked constructing a
working model of a manikin’s finger, and the next morning I received a
letter from Professor Brunin which gave me the data I was in search
of--the facts in regard to the expansion of wood when moistened. I
should read that letter here, but Professor Brunin is present, and will
explain the phenomenon. My theory is very simple. My friend Charles
Mandel was shot by his own manikin. There are witnesses enough to prove
that the pistol had been loaded for a long time, and that Mandel had
often tried in vain to draw the charge. It is also well known that the
pistol was cocked when it was in the manikin’s belt, for on the
half-completed picture it was so painted by Mandel on the last day of
his life. Furthermore, the position of the right index finger of the
manikin can also be plainly seen in the picture; for the artist, not
having a model to hold the weapon, had roughly rubbed in the angular
fingers of the lay figure, preparatory to finishing the hand from life.
The pistol then, being loaded and cocked, needed but the pressure of
the finger to discharge it. That pressure was given by the rain on the
night of the death of my friend. The lieutenant will find, on reference
to his note-book, that on the morning when he examined the studio there
had been quite a serious leak in the ceiling, and that the water had
fallen directly on the manikin. He will find also in his notes the exact
position of the manikin in reference to the divan on which the corpse
lay. Now, it is clear that when the wrist of the manikin was bent, and
the index finger was placed on the trigger of the pistol, only a very
slight motion of the whole was necessary to give the pressure required
to fire a pistol. The weapon was braced against the inside of the thumb
of the hand, and thus held firmly there as it stuck in the belt ready to
be drawn and fired. When the water first fell from the ceiling, it
soaked the covering of the wrist and hand, and swelled the wrist joint
so that it became absolutely immovable. Next the moisture extended to
the tip of the fingers, the hand being held somewhat downward. In the
manikin we have here, the exact construction of the fingers and the
movement of the joints of the hand and wrist can be plainly seen. In my
working model I have imitated the mechanism of one finger, so arranging
it that the least deflection of the finger from the straight line will
be measured on a scale of millimetres. The joints are so constructed
that any elongation of the pieces of wood will curve the line of joints
away from the straight line which I have drawn on the board. I propose
to experiment with this model so as to make it perfectly plain that my
friend’s death was accidental. If the experiment were tried on the
manikin, and with a flint-lock pistol, it would doubtless fail
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. In the accident which caused my
friend’s death everything happened to be perfectly adjusted. If my model
works, of course the manikin might have worked in exactly the same way.”

The lieutenant gave his explanation of the position in which the body
was found, and added that he had calculated at the time that the shot
must have been fired from the direction of the manikin, and from about
the height of its waist. He found in his notes the statement that the
roof had leaked, and the manikin was wet. Furthermore, the pistol was
found just where the recoil would have thrown it backward out of the
manikin’s hand. He ended by declaring that the theory just advanced was
new to him then, and that he was convinced of its probability by the
manner in which it harmonized with the conditions of the tragedy.

The professor proceeded next to give a full account of the expansion of
wood by moisture, and went into the study of the whole phenomenon of
capillary force. He was somewhat verbose in his statement, probably
because he, like other regular lecturers, had been accustomed to spread
a very little fact over a great deal of time. His closing argument in
favor of the theory set forth by Benner was this: “In the ancient
quarries wedges of wood were driven into holes in the rock, water was
poured on the wedges, and the wood, expanding, split the solid mass.
Capillary force is irresistible. It was this force which caused the
deplorable accident which Mr. Benner has so ingeniously and logically
explained.”

At the command of the judge the sculptor proceeded with his experiment.
He simply fastened the drawing-board with the mechanism to the bottom of
the inside of the tub by means of screws. When it was in place it was
covered by about an inch of water. The lieutenant then recorded on his
note-book the time of day and the position of the index, and every one
present made mental note of it. It was necessary, in order to give the
wood sufficient time to swell, to leave it in the water for four or five
hours. Consequently the judge adjourned the sitting until the afternoon
at four o’clock. The room was locked and put in charge of the lieutenant
and two men.

When the same company assembled at the appointed hour the door was
opened by the lieutenant, and the judge, with genuine human curiosity,
stepped up to the tub, looked into it, and gave an exclamation of
surprise. The others approached and looked in. The lieutenant
announced, almost triumphantly, that the index had moved seven
millimetres--enough to have fired a cannon. The judge turned to the
excited company and said, simply, “Messieurs, it was a capillary
crime.”



A FADED SCAPULAR


We are seldom able to trace our individual superstitions to any definite
cause, nor can we often account for the peculiar sensations developed in
us by the inexplicable and mysterious incidents in our experience. Much
of the timidity of childhood may be traced to early training in the
nursery, and sometimes the moral effects of this weakness cannot be
eradicated through a lifetime of severe self-control and mental
suffering. The complicated disorders of the imagination which arise from
superstitious fears can frequently be accounted for only by inherited
characteristics, by peculiar sensitiveness to impressions, and by an
overpowering and perhaps abnormally active imagination. I am sure I am
confessing to no unusual characteristic when I say that I have felt
from childhood a certain sentiment or sensation in regard to material
things which I can trace to no early experience, to the influence of no
literature, and to no possible source, in fact, but that of inherited
disposition.

The sentiment I refer to is this: whatever has belonged to or has been
used by any person seems to me to have received some special quality,
which, though often invisible and still oftener indefinable, still
exists in a more or less strong degree, according to the amount of the
impressionable power, if I may call it so, which distinguished the
possessor. I am aware that this sentiment may be stigmatized as of the
school-girl order; that it is, indeed, of the same kind and class with
that which leads an otherwise honest person to steal a rag from a famous
battle flag, a leaf from an historical laurel wreath, or even to cut a
signature or a title-page from a precious volume; but with me the
feeling has never taken this turn, else I should not have confessed to
the possession of it. Whatever may be said or believed, however, I must
refer to it in more or less comprehensible terms, because it may
explain the conditions, although it will not unveil the causes, of the
incidents I am about to describe with all honesty and frankness.

Nearly twenty years ago I made my first visit to Rome, long before it
became the centre of the commercial and political activity of Italy, and
while it was yet unspoiled for the antiquarian, the student, the artist,
and the traveller. Never shall I forget the first few hours I spent
wandering aimlessly through the streets--so far as I then knew, a total
stranger in the city, with no distinct plan of remaining there, and with
only the slight and imperfect knowledge of the place that one gains from
the ordinary travellers’ descriptions. The streets, the houses, the
people, the strange sounds and stranger sights, the life so entirely
different from what I had hitherto seen--all this interested me greatly.
Far more powerful and far more vivid and lasting, however, was the
impression of an inconceivable number of presences--I hesitate to call
them spirits--not visible, of course, nor tangible, but still
oppressing me mentally and morally, exactly the same as my physical
self is often crushed and overpowered in a great assembly of people. I
walked about, visited the cafés and concert-halls, and tried in various
ways to shake off the uncomfortable feeling of ghostly company, but was
unsuccessful, and went to my lodgings much depressed and nervous. I took
my note-book, and wrote in it: “Rome has been too much lived in. Among
the multitude of the dead there is no room for the living.” It seemed
then a foolish memorandum to write, and now, as I look at the
half-effaced pencil lines, I wonder why I was not ashamed to write it.
Yet there it is before me, a witness to my sensations at the time, and
the scrawl has even now the power to bring up to me an unpleasantly
vivid memory of that first evening in Rome.

After a few days passed in visiting the galleries and the regular sights
of the town, I began to look for a studio and an apartment, and finally
found one in the upper story of a house on the Via di Ripetta. Before
moving into the studio, I met an old friend and fellow-artist, and, as
there was room enough for two, gladly took him in with me.

The studio, with apartment, in the Via di Ripetta was by no means
unattractive. It was large, well lighted, comfortably and abundantly
furnished. It was, as I have said, at the top of the house; the studio
overlooked the Tiber, and the sitting-room and double-bedded
sleeping-room fronted the street. The large studio window was placed
rather high up, so that the entrance door--a wide, heavy affair, with
large hinges and immense complicated lock and a “judas”--opened from the
obscurity of the hall directly under the large window into the full
light of the studio. The roof of the house slanted from back to front,
so that the two rooms were lower studded than the studio, and an empty
space or low attic opening into the studio above them was partly
concealed by an ample and ragged curtain. The fireplace was in the
middle of the left wall as you entered the studio; the door into the
sitting-room was in the farther right-hand corner, and the bedroom was
entered by a door on the right-hand wall of the sitting-room, so that
the bedroom formed a wing of the studio and sitting-room, and from the
former, looking through two doors, the bedroom window and part of the
street wall could be seen. Both the beds were hidden from sight of any
one in the studio, even when the doors were open.

The apartment was furnished in a way which denoted a certain amount of
liberality, but everything was faded and worn, though not actually
shabby or dirty. The carpets were threadbare, the damask-covered sofa
and chairs showed marks of the springs, and the gimp was fringed and
torn off in places. The beds were not mates; the basin and ewer were of
different patterns; the few pictures on the wall were, like everything
else in the place, curiously gray and dusty-looking, as if they had been
shut up in the darkened rooms for a generation. Beyond the fireplace in
the studio, the corner of the room was partitioned off by a dingy
screen, six feet high or more, fixed to the floor for the space of two
yards, with one wing which shut like a door, enclosing a small space
fitted up like a miniature scullery, with a curious and elaborate
collection of pots and pans and kitchen utensils, all hung in orderly
rows, but every article with marks of service on it, and more recent and
obtrusive traces of long disuse.

In one of the first days of my search for a studio I had found and
inspected this very place, but it had given me such a disagreeable
feeling--it had seemed so worn out, so full of relics of other
people--that I could not make up my mind to take it. After a thorough
search and diligent inquiry, however, I came to the conclusion that
there was absolutely no other place in Rome at that busy season where I
could set up my easel, and, after having the place recommended to me by
all the artists I called upon as a well-known and useful studio, and a
great find at the busy season of the year, I took a lease of the place
for four months.

My friend and I moved in at the same time, and I will not deny that I
planned to be supported by his presence at the moment of taking
possession. When we arrived and had our traps all deposited in the
middle of the studio, there came over the spirits of us both a strange
gloom, which the bustle and confusion of settling did not in the least
dispel. It was nearly dark that winter afternoon before we had finished
unpacking, and the street lights were burning before we reached the
little restaurant in the Via Quattro Fontane, where we proposed to take
our meals. There was a cheerful company of artists and architects
assembled there that evening, and we sat over our wine long after
dinner. When the jolly party at last dispersed, it was well past
midnight.

How gloomy the outer portal of the high building looked as we crossed
the dimly lighted street and pushed open the back door! A musty, damp
smell, like the atmosphere of the catacombs, met us as we entered. Our
footsteps echoed loud and hollow in the empty corridor, and the large
wax match I struck as we came in gave but a flickering light, which
dimly shadowed the outline of the stone stairway, and threw the rest of
the corridor into a deep and mysterious gloom. We tramped up the five
long flights of stone stairs without a word, the echo of our footsteps
sounding louder and louder, and the murky space behind us deepening into
the damp darkness of a cavern. At last, after what seemed an
interminable climb, we came to the studio entrance. I put the large key
in the lock, turned it, and pushed open the door. A strong draught, like
the lifeless breath from the mouth of a tunnel, extinguished the match
and left us in darkness. I hesitated an instant, instinctively dreading
to enter, and then went in, followed by my friend, who closed the door
behind us. The heavy hinges creaked, the door shut into the jambs with a
solid thud, the lock sprang into place with a sharp click, and a noise
like the clanging of a prison gate resounded and re-echoed through the
corridor and through the spacious studio. I felt as if we were shut in
from the whole world.

Lighting all the candles at hand and stirring up the fire, we endeavored
to make the studio look cheerful, and, neither of us being inclined to
go to bed, we sat for a long time talking and smoking. But even the
bright fire and the soothing tobacco smoke did not wholly dispel the
gloom of the place, and when we finally carried the candles into the
bedroom, I felt a vague sense of dismal anticipation and apprehension.
We left both doors open, so that the light from our room streamed across
the corner of the sitting-room, and threw a great square of strong
reflection on the studio carpet. While undressing, I found that I had
left my matchbox on the studio table, and thought I would return for it.
I remember now what a mental struggle I went through before I made up my
mind to go without a candle. I glanced at my friend’s face, partly to
see if he noticed any indication of nervousness in my expression, and
partly because I was conscious of a kind of psychological sympathy
between us. But fear of his ridicule made me effectually conceal my
feelings, and I went out of the room without speaking. As I walked
across the non-resonant, carpeted stone floor I had the most curious
set of sensations I have ever experienced. At nearly every step I took I
came into a different stratum or perpendicular layer of air. First it
was cool to my face, then warm, then chill again, and again warm.
Thinking to calm my nervous excitement, I stood still and looked around
me. The great window above my head dimly transmitted the sky reflection,
but threw little light into the studio. The folds of the curtain over
the open space above the sitting-room appeared to wave slightly in the
uncertain light, and the easels and lay figure stood gaunt and ghostly
along the further wall. I waited there and reasoned with myself, arguing
that there was no possible cause for fear, that a strong man ought to
control his nerves, that it was silly at my time of life to begin to be
afraid of the dark; but I could not get rid of the sensation. As I went
back to the bedroom I experienced the same succession of physical
shocks; but whether they followed each other in the same order or not I
was unable to determine.

It was some time before I could get to sleep, and I opened my eyes once
or twice before I lost consciousness. From the bedroom window there was
a dim, very dim, light on the lace curtains, but the window itself was
visible as a square mass, and did not appear to illuminate the room in
the least. Suddenly, after a dreamless sleep of some duration, I awoke
as completely as if I had been startled by a loud noise. The lace
curtains were now quite brilliantly lighted from somewhere, I could not
tell where, but the window itself seemed to be as little luminous as
when I went to sleep. Without moving my head, I turned my eyes in the
direction of the studio, and could see the open door as a dark patch in
the gray wall, but nothing more. Then, as I was looking again at the
curious illumination of the curtains, a moving mass came into the angle
of my vision out of the corner of the room near the head of the bed, and
passed slowly into full view between me and the curtain. It was
unmistakably the figure of a man, not unlike that of the better type of
Italian, and was dressed in the commonly worn soft hat and ample cloak.
His profile came out clearly against the light background of the lace
curtain, and showed him to be a man of considerable refinement of
feature. He did not make an actually solid black silhouette against the
light, neither was the figure translucent, but was rather like an object
seen through a vapor or through a sheet of thin ground glass.

I tried to raise my head, but my nerve force seemed suddenly to fail me,
and while I was wondering at my powerlessness, and reasoning at the same
time that it must be a nightmare, the figure had moved slowly across in
front of the window, and out through the open door into the studio.

I listened breathlessly, but not a sound did I hear from the next room.
I pinched myself, opened and shut my eyes, and noticed that the
breathing of my room-mate was irregular, and unlike that of a sleeping
man. I am unable to understand why I did not sit up or turn over or
speak to my friend to find out if he were awake. I was fully conscious
that I ought to do this, but something, I know not what, forced me to
lie perfectly motionless watching the window. I heard my room-mate
breathing, opened and shut my eyes, and was certain, indeed, that I was
really awake. As I reasoned on the phenomenon, and came naturally to the
unwilling conclusion that my hallucination was probably premonitory of
malaria, my nerves grew quiet, I began to think less intensely, and then
I fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke with a feeling of disagreeable anticipation. I
was loath to rise, even though the warm Italian sunlight was pouring
into the room and gilding the dingy interior with brilliant reflections.
In spite of this cheering glow of sunshine, the rooms still had the same
dead and uninhabited appearance, and the presence of my friend, a
vigorous and practical man, seemed to bring no recognizable vitality or
human element to counteract the oppressiveness of the place. Every
detail of my waking dream or hallucination of the night before was
perfectly fresh in my mind, and the sense of apprehension was still
strong upon me.

The distracting operations of settling the studio, and the frequent
excursions to neighboring shops to buy articles necessary to our meagre
housekeeping, did much towards taking my mind off the incident of the
night; but every time I entered the sitting-room or the bedroom it all
came up to me with a vividness that made my nerves quiver. We explored
all the corners and cupboards of the place. We even crawled up over the
sitting-room behind the dingy curtain, where a large quantity of disused
frames and old stretchers were packed away. We familiarized ourselves,
in fact, with every nook and cranny of each room; moved the furniture
about in a different order; hung up draperies and sketches; and in many
ways changed the character of the interior. The faded, weary-looking
widow from whom I had hired the place, and who took care of the rooms,
carried away to her own apartment many of the most obnoxious trifles
which encumbered the small tables, the étagère, and the wall spaces. She
sighed a great deal as we were making the rapid changes to suit our own
taste, but made no objection, and we naturally thought it was the
regular custom of every new occupant to turn the place upside down.

Late in the afternoon I was alone in the studio for an hour or more, and
sat by the fire trying to read. The daylight was not gone, and the
rumble of the busy street came plainly to my ears. I say “trying to
read,” for I found reading quite impossible. The moment I began to fix
my attention on the page, I had a very powerful feeling that some one
was looking over my shoulder. Do what I would, I could not conquer the
unreasonable sensation. Finally, after starting up and looking about me
a dozen times, I threw down the book and went out. When I returned,
after an hour in the open air, I found my friend walking up and down in
the studio with open doors, and two guttering candles alight.

“It’s a curious thing,” he said, “I can’t read this book. I have been
trying to put my mind on it a whole half-hour, and I can’t do it. I
always thought I could get interested in ‘Gaboriau’ in a moment under
any circumstances.”

“I went out to walk because I couldn’t manage to read,” I replied, and
the conversation ended.

We went to the theatre that evening, and afterwards to the Café Greco,
where we talked art in half a dozen languages until midnight, and then
came home. Our entrance to the house and the studio was much the same as
on the previous night, and we went to bed without a word. My mind
naturally reverted to the experience of the night before, and I lay
there for a long time with my eyes open, making a strong effort of the
imagination to account for the vision by the dim shapes of the
furniture, the lace curtains, and the suggestive and shadowy
perspective. But, although the interior was weird enough, by reason of
the dingy hangings and the diffused light, I was unable to trace the
origin of the illusion to any object within the range of my vision, or
to account for the strange illumination which had startled me. I went to
sleep thinking of other things, and with my nerves comparatively quiet.

Sometime in the early morning, about three o’clock, as near as I could
judge, I slowly awoke, and saw the lace curtains illuminated as before.
I found myself in an expectant frame of mind, neither calm nor excited,
but rather in that condition of philosophical quiet which best prepared
me for an investigation of the phenomenon which I confidently expected
to witness. Perhaps this is assuming too eagerly the position of a
philosopher, but I am certain no element of fear disturbed my reason,
that I was neither startled nor surprised at awakening as I did, and
that my mind was active and undoubtedly prepared for the investigation
of the mystery.

I was therefore not at all shocked to observe the same shape come first
into the angle of my eye, and then into the full range of my vision,
next appear as a silhouette against the curtains, and finally lose
itself in the darkness of the doorway. During the progress of the shape
across the room I noticed the size and general aspect of it with keen
attention to detail, and with satisfactory calmness of observation. It
was only after the figure had passed out of sight, and the light on the
window curtains grew dim again, much as an electric light loses its
brilliancy with the diminution of the strength of the current, that it
occurred to me to consider the fact that during the period of the
hallucination I had been utterly motionless. There was not the slightest
doubt of my being awake. My friend in the adjoining bed was breathing
regularly, the ticking of my watch was plainly audible, and I could feel
my heart beating with unusual rapidity and vigor.

The strange part of the whole incident was this incapacity of action;
and the more I reasoned about it the more I was mystified by the utter
failure of nerve force. Indeed, while the mind was actively at work on
this problem, the physical torpor continued, a languor not unlike the
incipient drowsiness of anæsthesia came gradually over me, and, though
mentally protesting against the helpless condition of the body, and
struggling to keep awake, I fell asleep, and did not stir till morning.

With the bright, clear winter’s day returned the doubts and
disappointments of the day before--doubts of the existence of the
phenomenon, disappointment at the failure of any solution of the
hallucination. A second day in the studio did little towards dispelling
the mental gloom which possessed us both, and at night my friend
confessed that he thought we must have stumbled into a malarial quarter.

At this distance of time it is absolutely incomprehensible to me how I
could have gone on as I did from day to day, or rather from night to
night--for the same hallucination was repeated nightly--without speaking
to my friend, or at least taking some energetic steps towards an
investigation of the mystery. But I had the same experience every night
for fully a week before I really began to plan serious means of
discovering whether it was an hallucination, a nightmare, or a
flesh-and-blood intruder. First, I had some curiosity each night to see
whether there would be a repetition of the incident. Second, I was eager
to note any physical or mental symptom which would serve as a clue to
the mystery. Pride, or some other equally authoritative sentiment,
continued to keep me from disclosing my secret to my friend, although I
was on the point of doing so on several occasions. My first plan was to
keep a candle burning all night, but I could invent no plausible excuse
to my comrade for this action. Next I proposed to shut the bedroom door,
and on speaking of it to my friend, he strongly objected on the ground
of the lack of ventilation, and was not willing to risk having the
window open on account of the malaria. After all, since this was an
entirely personal matter, it seemed to me the only thing to do was to
depend on my own strength of mind and moral courage to solve this
mystery unaided. I put my loaded revolver on the table by the bedside,
drew back the lace curtain before going to bed, and left the door only
half open, so I could not see into the studio. The night I made these
preparations I awoke as usual, saw the same figure, but, as before,
could not move a hand. After it had passed the window, I tried hard to
bring myself to take my revolver, and find out whether I had to deal
with a man or a simulacrum. But even while I was arguing with myself,
and trying to find out why I could not move, sleep came upon me before I
had carried out my purposed action.

The shock of the first appearance of the vision had been nearly
overbalanced by my eagerness to investigate, and my intense interest in
the novel condition of mind or body which made such an experience
possible. But after the utter failure of all my schemes and the collapse
of my theories as to evident causes of the phenomenon, I began to be
harassed and worried, almost unconsciously at first, by the ever-present
thought, the daily anticipation, and the increasing dread of the
hallucination. The self-confidence that first supported me in my nightly
encounter diminished on each occasion, and the curiosity which
stimulated me to the study of the phenomenon rapidly gave way to the
sentiment akin to terror, when I proved myself incapable of grappling
with the mystery.

The natural result of this preoccupation was inability to work and
little interest in recreation, and as the long weeks wore away I grew
morose, morbid, and hypochondriacal. The pride which kept me from
sharing my secret with my friend also held me at my post, and nerved me
to endure the torment in the rapidly diminishing hope of finally
exorcising the spectre or recovering my usual healthy tone of mind. The
difficulty of my position was increased by the fact that the apparition
failed to appear occasionally; and while I welcomed each failure as a
sign that the visits were to cease, they continued spasmodically for
weeks, and I was still as far away from the interpretation of the
problem as ever. Once I sought medical advice, but the doctor could
discover nothing wrong with me except what might be caused by tobacco,
and, following his advice, I left off smoking. He said I had no malaria;
that I needed more exercise, perhaps; but he could not account for my
insomnia, for I, like most patients, had concealed the vital facts in my
case, and had complained of insomnia as the cause of my anxiety about my
health.

The approach of spring tempted me out of doors, and in the warm villa
gardens and the sun-bathed Campagna I could sometimes forget the
nightmare that haunted me. This was not often possible, unless I was in
the company of cheerful companions, and I grew to dread the hour when I
was to return to the studio after an excursion into the country among
the soothing signs of returning summer. To shut the clanging door of the
studio was to place an impenetrable barrier between me and the outside
world; and the loneliness of that interior seemed to be only intensified
by the presence of my companion, who was apparently as much depressed in
spirits as myself.

We made various attempts at the entertainment of friends, but they all
lacked that element of spontaneous fun which makes such occasions
successful, and we soon gave it up. On pleasant days we threw open the
windows on the street to let in the warm air and sunshine, but this did
not seem to drive away the musty odors of the interior. We were much too
high up to feel any neighborly proximity to the people on the other
side of the street. The chimney-pots and irregular roofs below and
beyond were not very cheerful objects in the view; and the landlady,
who, as far as we knew, was the only other occupant of the upper story,
did not give us a great sense of companionship. Never once did I enter
the studio without feeling the same curious sensation of alternate warm
and cool strata of air. Never for a quarter of an hour did I succeed in
reading a book or a newspaper, however interesting it might be. We
frequently had two models at a time, and both my friend and myself made
several beginnings of pictures, but neither of us carried the work very
far.

On one occasion a significant remark was made by a lady friend who came
to call. She will undoubtedly remember now when she reads these lines
that she said, on leaving the studio: “This is a curiously draughty
place. I feel as if it had been blowing hot and cold on me all the time
I have been here, and yet you have no windows open.”

At another time my comrade burst out as I was going away one evening
about eleven o’clock to a reception at one of the palaces: “I wish you
wouldn’t go in for society so much. I can’t go to the café; all the
fellows go home about this time of the evening. I don’t like to stay
here in this dismal hole, all cooped up by myself. I can’t read, I can’t
sleep, and I can’t think.”

It occurred to me that it was a little queer for him to object to being
left alone, unless he, like myself, had some disagreeable experiences
there, and I remembered that he had usually gone out when I had, and was
seldom, if ever, alone in the studio when I returned. His tone was so
peevish and impatient that I thought discussion was injudicious, and
simply replied, “Oh, you’re bilious; I’ll be home early,” and went away.
I have often thought since that it was the one occasion when I could
have easily broached the subject of my mental trouble, and I have always
regretted I did not do so.

Matters were brought to a climax in this way: My friend was summoned to
America by telegraph a little more than two months after we took the
studio, and left me at a day’s notice. The amount and kind of moral
courage I had to summon up before I could go home alone the first
evening after my comrade left me can only be appreciated by those who
have undergone some similar torture. It was not like the bracing up a
man goes through when he has to face some imminent known danger, but was
of a more subtle and complex kind. “There is nothing to fear,” I kept
saying to myself, and yet I could not shake off a nameless dread. “You
are in your right mind and have all your senses,” I continually argued,
“for you see and hear and reason clearly enough. It is a brief
hallucination, and you can conquer the mental weakness which causes it
by persistent strength of will. If it be a simulacrum, you, as a
practical man, with good physical health and sound enough reasoning
powers, ought to investigate it to the best of your ability.” In this
way I endeavored to nerve myself up, and went home late, as usual. The
regular incident of the night occurred. I felt keenly the loss of my
friend’s companionship, and suffered accordingly, but in the morning I
was no nearer to the solution of the mystery than I was before.

For five weary, torturing nights did I go up to that room alone, and,
with no sound of human proximity to cheer me or to break the wretched
feeling of utter solitude, I endured the same experience. At last I
could bear it no longer, and determined to have a change of air and
surroundings. I hastily packed a travelling-bag and my color-box,
leaving all my extra clothes in the wardrobes and the bureau drawers,
told the landlady I should return in a week or two, and paid her for the
remainder of the time in advance. The last thing I did was to take my
travelling-cap, which hung near the head of my bed. A break in the
wall-paper showed that there was a small door here. Pulling the knob
which had held my cap, the door was readily opened, and disclosed a
small niche in the wall. Leaning against the back of the niche was a
small crucifix with a rude figure of Christ, and suspended from the
neck of the image by a small cord was a triangular object covered with
faded cloth. While I was examining with some interest the hiding-place
of these relics, the landlady entered.

“What are these?” I asked.

“Oh, signore!” she said, half sobbing as she spoke. “These are relics of
my poor husband. He was an artist like yourself, signore. He was--he
was--ill, very ill--and in mind as well as body, signore. May the
Blessed Virgin rest his soul! He hated the crucifix, he hated the
scapular, he hated the priests. Signore, he--he died without the
sacrament, and cursed the holy water. I have never dared to touch those
relics, signore. But he was a good man, and the best of husbands;” and
she buried her face in her hands.

I took the first train for Naples, and have never been in Rome since.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three years later I was making an afternoon call in Boston, and met for
the first time since we parted in Rome the friend who had occupied the
studio with me there.

When our greetings were over I asked, without any preliminary remark or
explanation:

“Did you ever notice anything peculiar about that studio in Rome?”

“If you hadn’t asked me that question,” he replied, “I should have put a
similar one to you. I remember it as the most dismal and oppressive
place I ever was in. I had a constant presentiment that something
terrible was going to happen there. The air in the studio was often cold
and warm in streaks. I couldn’t read, write, or paint without feeling
that some one was looking over my shoulder. Every night I waked up
towards morning and lay awake for some time, and often thought of
speaking to find out whether you were awake too; for it seemed as if you
must be, from your breathing. I couldn’t bear to stay alone there either
in the daytime or at night, and even now I would rather live in the
catacombs than set my easel up in that studio again. Now, what made you
ask me about it?”

“Because I have never felt quite certain that I was in my right mind
during the season we spent in Rome, and the memory of that studio has
always haunted me like a horrid dream,” I replied. “Did you never have
any hallucinations or nightmares there?”

“No,” he said, “unless you call the whole thing a nightmare.”

“Why didn’t you say something to me about it at the time?” I asked.

“Why didn’t you say something, if you felt as you say you did?” was his
reply.



YATIL


While in Paris, in the spring of 1878, I witnessed an accident in a
circus, which for a time made me renounce all athletic exhibitions. Six
horses were stationed side by side in the ring before a springboard, and
the whole company of gymnasts ran and turned somersaults over the
horses, alighting on a mattress spread on the ground. The agility of one
finely developed young fellow excited great applause every time he made
the leap. He would shoot forward in the air like a javelin, and in his
flight curl up and turn over directly above the mattress, dropping on
his feet as lightly as a bird. This play went on for some minutes, and
at each round of applause the favorite seemed to execute his leap with
increased skill and grace. Finally, he was seen to gather himself a
little farther in the background than usual, evidently to prepare for a
better start. The instant his turn came, he shot out of the crowd of
attendants and launched himself into the air with tremendous momentum.
Almost quicker than the eye could follow him, he had turned and was
dropping to the ground, his arms held above his head, which hung
slightly forward, and his legs stretched to meet the shock of the
elastic mattress.

But this time he had jumped an inch too far. His feet struck just on the
edge of the mattress, and he was thrown violently forward, doubling up
on the ground with a dull thump, which was heard all over the immense
auditorium. He remained a second or two motionless, then sprang to his
feet, and as quickly sank to the ground again. The ring attendants and
two or three gymnasts rushed to him and took him up. The clown, in
evening dress, personating the mock ring-master, the conventional
spotted merryman, and a stalwart gymnast in buff fleshings, bore the
drooping form of the favorite in their arms, and, followed by the
by-standers, who offered ineffectual assistance, carried the wounded man
across the ring and through the draped arch under the music gallery.
Under any other circumstances the group would have excited a laugh, for
the audience was in that condition of almost hysterical excitement when
only the least effort of a clown is necessary to cause a wave of
laughter. But the moment the wounded man was lifted from the ground, the
whole strong light from the brilliant chandelier struck full on his
right leg dangling from the knee, with the foot hanging limp and turned
inward. A deep murmur of sympathy swelled and rolled around the crowded
amphitheatre.

I left the circus, and hundreds of others did the same. A dozen of us
called at the box-office to ask about the victim of the accident. He was
advertised as “The Great Polish Champion Bare-back Rider and Aerial
Gymnast.” We found that he was really a native of the East, whether Pole
or Russian the ticket-seller did not know. His real name was Nagy, and
he had been engaged only recently, having returned a few months before
from a professional tour in North America. He was supposed to have
money, for he commanded a good salary, and was sober and faithful. The
accident, it was said, would probably disable him for a few weeks only,
and then he would resume his engagement.

The next day an account of the accident was in the newspapers, and
twenty-four hours later all Paris had forgotten about it. For some
reason or other I frequently thought of the injured man, and had an
occasional impulse to go and inquire after him; but I never went. It
seemed to me that I had seen his face before, when or where I tried in
vain to recall. It was not an impressive face, but I could call it up at
any moment as distinct to my mind’s eye as a photograph to my physical
vision. Whenever I thought of him, a dim, very dim memory would flit
through my mind, which I could never seize and fix.

Two months later, I was walking up the Rue Richelieu, when some one,
close beside me and a little behind, asked me in Hungarian if I was a
Magyar. I turned quickly to answer no, surprised at being thus
addressed, and beheld the disabled circus-rider. The feeling that I had
met him before came upon me even stronger than at the time of the
accident, and my puzzled expression was evidently construed by him into
vexation at being spoken to by a stranger. He began to apologize for
stopping me, and was moving away, when I asked him about the accident,
remarking that I was present on the evening of his misfortune. My next
question, put in order to detain him, was:

“Why did you ask if I was a Hungarian?”

“Because you wear a Hungarian hat,” was the reply.

This was true. I happened to have on a little, round, soft felt hat,
which I had purchased in Buda-Pesth.

“Well, but what if I were Hungarian?”

“Nothing; only I was lonely and wanted company, and you looked as if I
had seen you somewhere before. You are an artist, are you not?”

I said I was, and asked him how he guessed it.

“I can’t explain how it is,” he said, “but I always knew them. Are you
doing anything?”

“No,” I replied.

“Perhaps I may get you something to do,” he suggested. “What is your
line?”

“Figures,” I answered, unable to divine how he thought he could assist
me.

This reply seemed to puzzle him a little, and he continued:

“Do you ride or do the trapeze?”

It was my turn now to look dazed, and it might easily have been
gathered, from my expression, that I was not flattered at being taken
for a sawdust artist. However, as he apparently did not notice any
change in my face, I explained without further remark that I was a
painter. The explanation did not seem to disturb him any: he was
evidently acquainted with the profession, and looked upon it as kindred
to his own.

As we walked along through the great open quadrangle of the Tuileries, I
had an opportunity of studying his general appearance. He was neatly
dressed, and, though pale, was apparently in good health.
Notwithstanding a painful limp, his carriage was erect and his movements
denoted great physical strength. On the bridge over the Seine we paused
for a moment and leaned on the parapet, and thus, for the first time,
stood nearly face to face. He looked earnestly at me a moment without
speaking, and then, shouting “_Torino_” so loudly and earnestly as to
attract the gaze of all the passers, he seized me by the hand, and
continued to shake it and repeat “_Torino_” over and over again.

This word cleared up my befogged memory like magic. There was no longer
any mystery about the man before me. The impulse which now drew us
together was only the unconscious souvenir of an early acquaintance, for
we had met before. With the vision of the Italian city, which came
distinctly to my eyes at that moment, came also to my mind every detail
of an incident which had long since passed entirely from my thoughts.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was during the Turin carnival in 1875 that I happened to stop over
for a day and a night, on my way down from Paris to Venice. The festival
was uncommonly dreary, for the air was chilly, the sky gray and gloomy,
and there was a total lack of spontaneity in the popular spirit. The
gaudy decorations of the Piazza, and the Corso, the numberless shows and
booths, and the brilliant costumes, could not make it appear a season of
jollity and mirth, for the note of discord in the hearts of the people
was much too strong. King Carnival’s might was on the wane, and neither
the influence of the Church nor the encouragement of the State was able
to bolster up the superannuated monarch. There was no communicativeness
in even what little fun there was going, and the day was a long and a
tedious one. As I was strolling around in rather a melancholy mood, just
at the close of the cavalcade, I saw the flaming posters of a circus,
and knew my day was saved, for I had a great fondness for the ring. An
hour later I was seated in the cheerfully lighted amphitheatre, and the
old performance of the trained stallions was going on as I had seen it a
hundred times before. At last, the “Celebrated Cypriot Brothers, the
Universal Bare-back Riders,” came tripping gracefully into the ring,
sprang lightly upon two black horses, and were off around the narrow
circle like the wind, now together, now apart, performing all the while
marvellous feats of strength and skill. It required no study to discover
that there was no relationship between the two performers. One of them
was a heavy, gross, dark-skinned man, with the careless bearing of one
who had been nursed in a circus. The other was a small, fair-haired
youth of nineteen or twenty years, with limbs as straight and as shapely
as the Narcissus, and with joints like the wiry-limbed fauns. His head
was round, and his face of a type which would never be called beautiful,
although it was strong in feature and attractive in expression. His eyes
were small and twinkling, his eyebrows heavy, and his mouth had a
peculiar proud curl in it which was never disturbed by the tame smile of
the practised performer. He was evidently a foreigner. He went through
his acts with wonderful readiness and with slight effort, and, while
apparently enjoying keenly the exhilaration of applause, he showed no
trace of the _blasé_ bearing of the old stager. In nearly every act that
followed he took a prominent part. On the trapeze, somersaulting over
horses placed side by side, grouping with his so-called brother and a
small lad, he did his full share of the work, and, when the programme
was ended, he came among the audience to sell photographs while the
lottery was being drawn.

As usual during the carnival, there was a lottery arranged by the
manager of the circus, and every ticket had a number which entitled the
holder to a chance in the prizes. When the young gymnast came in turn
to me, radiant in his salmon fleshings and blue trunks, with slippers
and bows to match, I could not help asking him if he was an Italian.

“No, signore, Magyar!” he replied, and I shortly found that his
knowledge of Italian was limited to a dozen words. I occupied him by
selecting some photographs, and, much to his surprise, spoke to him in
his native tongue. When he learned I had been in Hungary, he was greatly
pleased, and the impatience of other customers for the photographs was
the only thing that prevented him from becoming communicative
immediately. As he left me I slipped into his hand my lottery-ticket,
with the remark that I never had any luck, and hoped he would.

The numbers were, meanwhile, rapidly drawn, the prizes being arranged in
the order of their value, each ticket taken from the hat denoting a
prize, until all were distributed. “Number twenty-eight--a pair of
elegant vases!” “Number sixteen--three bottles of vermouth!” “Number one
hundred and eighty-four--candlesticks and two bottles of vermouth!”
“Number four hundred and ten--three bottles of vermouth and a set of
jewelry!” “Number three hundred and nineteen--five bottles of vermouth!”
and so on, with more bottles of vermouth than anything else. Indeed,
each prize had to be floated on a few litres of the Turin specialty, and
I began to think that perhaps it would have been better, after all, not
to have given my circus friend the ticket if he were to draw drink with
it.

Many prizes were called out, and at last only two numbers remained. The
excitement was now intense, and it did not diminish when the conductor
of the lottery announced that the last two numbers would draw the two
great prizes of the evening, namely: An order on a Turin tailor for a
suit of clothes, and an order on a jeweller for a gold watch and chain.
The first of these two final numbers was taken out of the hat.

“Number twenty-five--order for a suit of clothes!” was the announcement.

Twenty-five had been the number of my ticket. I did not hear the last
number drawn, for the Hungarian was in front of my seat trying to press
the order on me, and protesting against appropriating my good-luck. I
wrote my name on the programme for him, with the simple address, U. S.
A., persuaded him to accept the windfall, and went home. The next
morning I left town.

On the occasion of our mutual recognition in Paris, the circus-rider
began to relate, as soon as the first flush of his surprise was over,
the story of his life since the incident in Turin. He had been to New
York and Boston, and all the large sea-coast towns; to Chicago, St.
Louis, and even to San Francisco; always with a circus company. Whenever
he had had an opportunity in the United States, he had asked for news of
me.

“The United States is so large!” he said, with a sigh. “Every one told
me that, when I showed the Turin programme with your name on it.”

The reason why he had kept the programme and tried to find me in
America was because the lottery-ticket had been the direct means of his
emigration, and, in fact, the first piece of good-fortune that had
befallen him since he left his native town. When he joined the circus he
was an apprentice, and, besides a certain number of hours of gymnastic
practice daily and service in the ring both afternoon and evening, he
had half a dozen horses to care for, his part of the tent to pack up and
load, and the team to drive to the next stopping-place. For sixteen, and
often eighteen hours of hard work, he received only his food and his
performing clothes. When he was counted as one of the troupe his duties
were lightened, but he got only enough money to pay his way with
difficulty. Without a _lira_ ahead, and, with no clothes but his rough
working suit and his performing costume, he could not hope to escape
from this sort of bondage. The luck of number twenty-five had put him on
his feet.

“All Hungarians worship America,” he said, “and when I saw that you were
an American, I knew that my good-fortune had begun in earnest. Of
course, I believed America to be the land of plenty, and there could
have been no stronger proof of this than the generosity with which you,
the first American I had ever seen, gave me, a perfect stranger, such a
valuable prize. When I remembered the number of the ticket and the
letter in the alphabet, Y, to which this number corresponds, I was dazed
at the significance of the omen, and resolved at once to seek my fortune
in the United States. I sold the order on the tailor for money enough to
buy a suit of ready-made clothes and pay my fare to Genoa. From this
port I worked my passage to Gibraltar, and thence, after performing a
few weeks in a small English circus, I went to New York in a
fruit-vessel. As long as I was in America everything prospered with me.
I made a great deal of money, and spent a great deal. After a couple of
years I went to London with a company, and there lost my pay and my
position by the failure of the manager. In England my good-luck all
left me. Circus people are too plenty there; everybody is an artist. I
could scarcely get anything to do in my line, so I drifted over to
Paris.”

We prolonged our stroll for an hour, for, although I did not anticipate
any pleasure or profit from continuing the acquaintance, there was yet a
certain attraction in his simplicity of manner and in his naïve faith in
the value of my influence on his fortunes. Before we parted he expressed
again his ability to get me something to do, but I did not credit his
statement enough to correct the impression that I was in need of
employment. At his earnest solicitation I gave him my address,
concealing, as well as I could, my reluctance to encourage an
acquaintance which would doubtless prove a burden to me.

One day passed, and two, and, on the third morning, the porter showed
him to my room.

“I have found you work!” he cried, in the first breath.

Sure enough, he had been to a Polish acquaintance who knew a
countryman, a copyist in the Louvre. This copyist had a superabundance
of orders, and was glad to get some one to help him finish them in
haste. My gymnast was so much elated over his success at finding
occupation for me that I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I was at
leisure only while hunting a studio. I therefore promised to go with him
to the Louvre some day, but I always found an excuse for not going.

For two or three weeks we met at intervals. At various times, thinking
he was in want, I pressed him to accept the loan of a few francs; but he
always stoutly refused. We went together to his lodging-house, where the
landlady, an Englishwoman, who boarded most of the circus people, spoke
of her “poor, dear Mr. Nodge,” as she called him, in quite a maternal
way, and assured me that he had wanted for nothing, and should not as
long as his wound disabled him. In the course of a few days I had
gathered from him a complete history of his circus-life, which was full
of adventure and hardship. When we met in Turin, he was, as I thought
at the time, somewhat of a novice in the circus business, having left
his home less than two years before. He had, indeed, been associated as
a regular member of the company only a few months, after having served a
difficult and wearing apprenticeship. He was born in Koloszvar, where
his father was a professor in the university, and there he grew up with
three brothers and a sister, in a comfortable home. He always had had a
great desire to travel, and, from early childhood, developed a special
fondness for gymnastic feats. The thought of a circus made him fairly
wild. On rare occasions a travelling show visited this Transylvanian
town, and his parents with difficulty restrained him from following the
circus away. At last, in 1873, one show, more complete and more
brilliant than any one before seen there, came on the newly opened
railway, and he, now a man grown, went away with it, unable longer to
restrain his passion for the profession. Always accustomed to horses,
and already a skilful acrobat, he was immediately accepted by the
manager as an apprentice, and, after a season in Roumania and a
disastrous trip through Southern Austria, they came into Northern Italy,
where I met him.

Whenever he spoke of his early life he always became quiet and
depressed, and, for a long time, I believed that he brooded over his
mistake in exchanging a happy home for the vicissitudes of Bohemia. It
came out slowly, however, that he was haunted by a superstition, a
strange and ingenious one, which was yet not without a certain show of
reason for its existence. Little by little I learned the following facts
about it: His father was of pure Szeklar, or original Hungarian, stock,
as dark-skinned as a Hindoo, and his mother was from one of the families
of Western Hungary, with probably some Saxon blood in her veins. His
three brothers were dark like his father, but he and his sister were
blondes. He was born with a peculiar red mark on his right shoulder,
directly over the scapula. This mark was shaped like a forked stick. His
father had received a wound in the insurrection of ’48, a few months
before the birth of him, the youngest son, and this birth-mark
reproduced the shape of the father’s scar. Among Hungarians his father
passed for a very learned man. He spoke fluently German, French, and
Latin (the language used by Hungarians in common communication with
other nationalities), and took great pains to give his children an
acquaintance with each of these tongues. Their earliest playthings were
French alphabet-blocks, and the set which served as toys and tasks for
each of the elder brothers came at last to him as his legacy. The
letters were formed by the human figure in different attitudes, and each
block had a little couplet below the picture, beginning with the letter
on the block. The Y represented a gymnast hanging by his hands to a
trapeze, and, being a letter which does not occur in the Hungarian
language except in combinations, excited most the interest and
imagination of the youngsters. Thousands of times did they practise the
grouping of the figures on the blocks, and the Y always served as a
model for trapeze exercises. My friend, on account of his birth-mark,
which resembled a rude Y, was early dubbed by his brothers with the
nickname Yatil, this being the first words of the French couplet printed
below the picture. Learning the French by heart, they believed the _Y
a-t-il_ to be one word, and, with boyish fondness for nicknames, saddled
the youngest with this. It is easy to understand how the shape of this
letter, borne on his body in an indelible mark, and brought to his mind
every moment of the day, came to seem in some way connected with his
life. As he grew up in this belief he became more and more superstitious
about the letter and about everything in the remotest way connected with
it.

The first great event of his life was joining the circus, and to this
the letter Y more or less directly led him. He left home on his
twenty-fifth birthday, and twenty-five was the number of the letter Y in
the block-alphabet.

The second great event of his life was the Turin lottery, and the
number of the lucky ticket was twenty-five. “The last sign given me,” he
said, “was the accident in the circus here.” As he spoke, he rolled up
the right leg of his trousers, and there, on the outside of the calf,
about midway between the knee and ankle, was a red scar forked like the
letter Y.

From the time he confided his superstition to me he sought me more than
ever. I must confess to feeling, at each visit of his, a little
constrained and unnatural. He seemed to lean on me as a protector, and
to be hungry all the time for an intimate sympathy I could never give
him. Although I shared his secret, I could not lighten the burden of his
superstition. His wound had entirely healed, but, as his leg was still
weak and he still continued to limp a little, he could not resume his
place in the circus. Between brooding over his superstition and worrying
about his accident, he grew very despondent. The climax of his
hopelessness was reached when the doctor told him at last that he would
never be able to vault again. The fracture had been a severe one, the
bone having protruded through the skin. The broken parts had knitted
with great difficulty, and the leg would never be as firm and as elastic
as before. Besides, the fracture had slightly shortened the lower leg.
His circus career was therefore ended, and he attributed his misfortune
to the ill-omened letter Y.

Just about the time of his greatest despondency, war was declared
between Russia and Turkey. The Turkish embassadors were drumming up
recruits all over Western Europe. News came to the circus boarding-house
that good riders were wanted for the Turkish mounted gendarmes. Nagy
resolved to enlist, and we went together to the Turkish embassy. He was
enrolled after only a superficial examination, and was directed to
present himself on the following day to embark for Constantinople. He
begged me to go with him to the rendez-vous, and there I bade him adieu.
As I was shaking his hand he showed me the certificate given him by the
Turkish embassador. It bore the date of May 25, and at the bottom was a
signature in Turkish characters which could be readily distorted by the
imagination into a rude and scrawling Y.

       *       *       *       *       *

A series of events occurring immediately after Nagy left for
Constantinople resulted in my own unexpected departure for the seat of
war in a civil capacity in the Russian army. The series of curious
coincidences in the experience of the circus-rider had impressed me very
much when he related them, but in the excitement of the Turkish campaign
I entirely forgot him and his story. I do not, indeed, recall any
thought of Nagy during the first five months in the field. The day after
the fall of Plevna I rode towards the town through the line of deserted
earthworks. The dead were lying where they had fallen in the dramatic
and useless sortie of the day before. The corpses on a battle-field
always excite fresh interest, no matter if the spectacle be an every-day
one; and as I rode slowly along I studied the attitudes of the dead
soldiers, speculating on the relation between the death-poses and the
last impulse that had animated the living frame. Behind a rude barricade
of wagons and household goods, part of the train of non-combatants which
Osman Pasha had ordered to accompany the army in the sortie, a great
number of dead lay in confusion. The peculiar position of one of these
instantly attracted my eye. He had fallen on his face against the
barricade, with both arms stretched above his head, evidently killed
instantly. The figure on the alphabet-block, described by the
circus-rider, came immediately to my mind. My heart beat as I dismounted
and looked at the dead man’s face. It was unmistakably Turkish.

This incident revived my interest in the life of the circus-rider, and
gave me an impulse to look among the prisoners to see if by chance he
might be with them. I spent a couple of days in distributing tobacco and
bread in the hospitals and among the thirty thousand wretches herded
shelterless in the snow. There were some of the mounted gendarmes among
them, and I even found several Hungarians; but none of them had ever
heard of the circus-rider.

The passage of the Balkans was a campaign full of excitement, and was
accompanied by so much hardship that selfishness entirely got the
upperhand of me, and life became a battle for physical comfort. After
the passage of the mountain range, we went ahead so fast that I had
little opportunity, even if I had the enterprise, to look among the few
prisoners for the circus-rider.

Time passed, and we were at the end of a three days’ fight near
Philippopolis, in the middle of January. Suleiman Pasha’s army,
defeated, disorganized, and at last disbanded, though to that day still
unconquered, had finished the tragic act of its last campaign with the
heroic stand made in the foot-hills of the Rhodope Mountains, near
Stanimaka, south of Philippopolis. A long month in the terrible cold, on
the summits of the Balkan range; the forced retreat through the snow
after the battle of Taskosen; the neck-and-neck race with the Russians
down the valley of the Maritza; finally, the hot little battle on the
river-bank, and the two days of hand-to-hand struggle in the vineyards
of Stanimaka--this was a campaign to break the constitution of any
soldier. Days without food, nights without shelter from the mountain
blasts, always marching and always fighting, supplies and baggage lost,
ammunition and artillery gone--human nature could hold out no longer,
and the Turkish army dissolved away into the defiles of the Rhodopes.
Unfortunately for her, Turkey has no literature to chronicle, no art to
perpetuate, the heroism of her defenders.

The incidents of that short campaign are too full of horror to be
related. Not only did the demon of war devour strong men, but found
dainty morsels for its bloody maw in innocent women and children. Whole
families, crazed by the belief that capture was worse than death, fought
in the ranks with the soldiers. Women, ambushed in coverts, shot the
Russians as they rummaged the captured trains for much-needed food.
Little children, thrown into the snow by the flying parents, died of
cold and starvation, or were trampled to death by passing cavalry. Such
a useless waste of human life has not been recorded since the
indiscriminate massacres of the Middle Ages.

The sight of human suffering soon blunts the sensibilities of any one
who lives with it, so that he is at last able to look upon it with no
stronger feeling than that of helplessness. Resigned to the inevitable,
he is no longer impressed by the woes of the individual. He looks upon
the illness, wounds, and death of the soldier as a part of the lot of
all combatants, and comes to consider him an insignificant unit of the
great mass of men. At last, only novelties in horrors will excite his
feelings.

I was riding back from the Stanimaka battle-field, sufficiently elated
at the prospect of a speedy termination of the war--now made certain by
the breaking-up of Suleiman’s army--to forget where I was, and to
imagine myself back in my comfortable apartments in Paris. I only awoke
from my dream at the station where the highway from Stanimaka crosses
the railway line about a mile south of Philippopolis. The great wooden
barracks had been used as a hospital for wounded Turks, and, as I drew
up my horse at the door, the last of the lot of four hundred, who had
been starving there nearly a week, were being placed upon carts to be
transported to the town. The road to Philippopolis was crowded with
wounded and refugees. Peasant families struggled along with all their
household goods piled upon a single cart. Ammunition wagons and droves
of cattle, rushing along against the tide of human beings towards the
distant bivouacs, made the confusion hopeless. Night was fast coming on,
and, in company with a Cossack, who was, like myself, seeking the
headquarters of General Gourko, I made my way through the tangle of men,
beasts, and wagons in the direction of the town. It was one of those
chill, wet days of winter when there is little comfort away from a
blazing fire, and when good shelter for the night is an absolute
necessity. The drizzle had saturated my garments, and the snow-mud had
soaked my boots. Sharp gusts of piercing wind drove the cold mist
along, and as the temperature fell in the late afternoon, the slush of
the roads began to stiffen and the fog froze where it gathered. Every
motion of the limbs seemed to expose some unprotected part of the body
to the cold and wet. No amount of exercise that was possible with
stiffened limbs and in wet garments would warm the blood. Leading my
horse, I splashed along, holding my arms away from my body, and only
moving my benumbed fingers to wipe the chill drip from my face. It was
weather to take the courage out of the strongest man, and the sight of
the soaked and shivering wounded, packed in the jolting carts or limping
through the mud, gave me, hardened as I was, a painful contraction of
the heart. The best I could do was to lift upon my worn-out horse one
brave young fellow who was hobbling along with a bandaged leg. Followed
by the Cossack, whose horse bore a similar burden, I hurried along,
hoping to get under cover before dark. At the entrance to the town
numerous camp-fires burned in the bivouacs of the refugees, who were
huddled together in the shelter of their wagons, trying to warm
themselves in the smoke of the wet fuel. I could see the wounded, as
they were jolted past in the heavy carts, look longingly at the kettles
of boiling maize which made the evening meal of the houseless natives.

Inside the town, the wounded and the refugees were still more miserable
than those we had passed on the way. Loaded carts blocked the streets.
Every house was occupied, and the narrow sidewalks were crowded with
Russian soldiers, who looked wretched enough in their dripping
overcoats, as they stamped their rag-swathed feet. At the corner, in
front of the great Khan, motley groups of Greeks, Bulgarians, and
Russians were gathered, listlessly watching the line of hobbling wounded
as they turned the corner to find their way among the carts, up the hill
to the hospital, near the Konak. By the time I reached the Khan the
Cossack who accompanied me had fallen behind in the confusion, and,
without waiting for him, I pushed along, wading in the gutter, dragging
my horse by the bridle. Half-way up the hill I saw a crowd of natives
watching with curiosity two Russian guardsmen and a Turkish prisoner.
The latter was evidently exhausted, for he was crouching in the freezing
mud of the street. Presently the soldiers shook him roughly, and raised
him forcibly to his feet, and, half supporting him between them, they
moved slowly along, the Turk balancing on his stiffened legs, and
swinging from side to side.

He was a most wretched object to look at. He had neither boots nor fez;
his feet were bare, and his trousers were torn off near the knee, and
hung in tatters around his mud-splashed legs. An end of the red sash
fastened to his waist trailed far behind in the mud. A blue-cloth jacket
hung loosely from his shoulders, and his hands and wrists dangled from
the ragged sleeves. His head rolled around at each movement of the body,
and at short intervals the muscles of the neck would rigidly contract.
All at once he drew himself up with a shudder and sank down in the mud
again.

The guardsmen were themselves near the end of their strength, and their
patience was well-nigh finished as well. Rough mountain marching had
torn the soles from their boots, and great, unsightly wraps of raw-hide
and rags were bound on their feet. The thin, worn overcoats, burned in
many places, flapped dismally against their ankles; and their caps,
beaten out of shape by many storms, clung drenched to their heads. They
were in no condition to help any one to walk, for they could scarcely
get on alone. They stood a moment shivering, looked at each other, shook
their heads as if discouraged, and proceeded to rouse the Turk by
hauling him upon his feet again. The three moved on a few yards, and the
prisoner fell again, and the same operation was repeated. All this time
I was crowding nearer and nearer, and as I got within a half-dozen
paces, the Turk fell once more, and this time lay at full length in the
mud. The guardsmen tried to rouse him by shaking, but in vain. Finally,
one of them, losing all patience, pricked him with his bayonet on the
lower part of the ribs exposed by the raising of the jacket as he fell.
I was now near enough to act, and with a sudden clutch I pulled the
guardsman away, whirled him around, and stood in his place. As I was
stooping over the Turk he raised himself slowly, doubtless aroused by
the pain of the puncture, and turned on me a most beseeching look, which
changed at once into something like joy and surprise. Immediately a
death-like pallor spread over his face, and he sank back again with a
groan.

By this time quite a crowd of Bulgarians had gathered around us, and
seemed to enjoy the sight of a suffering enemy. It was evident that they
did not intend to volunteer any assistance, so I helped the wounded
Russian down from my saddle, and invited the natives rather sternly to
put the Turk in his place. With true Bulgarian spirit they refused to
assist a Turk, and it required the argument of the raw-hide (_nagajka_)
to bring them to their senses. Three of them, cornered and flogged,
lifted the unconscious man and carried him towards the horse; the
soldiers meanwhile, believing me to be an officer, standing in the
attitude of attention. As the Bulgarians bore the Turk to the horse, a
few drops of blood fell to the ground. I noticed then that he had his
shirt tied around his left shoulder, under his jacket. Supported in the
saddle by two natives on each side, his head falling forward on his
breast, the wounded prisoner was carried with all possible tenderness to
the Stafford House Hospital, near the Konak. As we moved slowly up the
hill, I looked back, and saw the two guardsmen sitting on the muddy
sidewalk, with their guns leaning against their shoulders--too much
exhausted to go either way.

I found room for my charge in one of the upper rooms of the hospital,
where he was washed and put into a warm bed. His wound proved to be a
severe one. A Berdan bullet had passed through the thick part of the
left pectoral, out again, and into the head of the humerus. The surgeon
said that the arm would have to be operated on, to remove the upper
quarter of the bone.

The next morning I went to the hospital to see what had become of the
wounded man, for the incident of the previous evening had made a deep
impression on my mind. As I walked through the corridor I saw a group
around a temporary bed in the corner. Some one was evidently about to
undergo an operation, for an assistant held at intervals a great cone of
linen over a haggard face on the pillow, and a strong smell of
chloroform filled the air. As I approached, the surgeon turned around,
and, recognizing me, said with a nod and a smile, “We are at work on
your friend.” While he was speaking, he bared the left shoulder of the
wounded man, and I saw the holes made by the bullet as it passed from
the pectoral into the upper part of the deltoid. Without waiting longer,
the surgeon made a straight cut downward from near the acromion through
the thick fibre of the deltoid to the bone. He attempted to sever the
tendons so as to slip the head of the humerus from the socket, but
failed. He wasted no time in further trial, but made a second incision
from the bullet-hole diagonally to the middle of the first cut, and
turned the pointed flap up over the shoulder. It was now easy to unjoint
the bones, and but a moment’s work to saw off the shattered piece of the
humerus, tie the severed arteries, and bring the flap again into its
place.

There was no time to pause, for the surgeon began to fear the effects of
the chloroform on the patient. We hastened to revive him by every
possible means at hand, throwing cold water on him and warming his hands
and feet. Although under the influence of chloroform to the degree that
he was insensible to pain, he had not been permitted to lose his entire
consciousness, and he appeared to be sensible of what we were doing.
Nevertheless, he awoke slowly, very slowly, the surgeon meanwhile
putting the stitches in the incision. At last he raised his eyelids,
made a slight movement with his lips, and then deliberately surveyed the
circle of faces gathered closely around the bed. There was something in
his eyes which had an irresistible attraction for me, and I bent forward
to intercept his gaze. As his eyes met mine they changed as if a sudden
light had struck them, and the stony stare gave way to a look of
intelligence and recognition. Then, through the beard of a season’s
growth, and behind the haggard mask before me, I saw at once the
circus-rider of Turin and Paris. I remember being scarcely excited or
surprised at the meeting, for a great sense of irresponsibility came
over me, and I involuntarily accepted the coincidence as a matter of
course. He tried in vain to speak, but held up his right hand and feebly
made with his fingers the sign of the letter which had played such an
important part in the story of his life. Even at that instant the light
left his eyes, and something like a veil seemed drawn over them. With
the instinctive energy which possesses every one when there is a chance
of saving human life, we redoubled our efforts to restore the patient to
consciousness. But while we strove to feed the flame with some of our
own vitality, it flickered and went out, leaving the hue of ashes where
the rosy tinge of life had been. His heart was paralyzed.

As I turned away, my eye caught the surgeon’s incision, which was now
plainly visible on the left shoulder. The cut was in the form of the
letter Y.



TEDESCO’S RUBINA


Any one may see among the fragments of antique sculpture in one of the
museums of Rome a marble head of a young maiden which has been rudely
broken off at the neck. It bears no marks of restoration, and is mounted
on the conventional pedestal or support. There is a half-coquettish
twinkle in the lines of the mouth and eyes, and a most bewitching
expression of innocent youthful happiness about the face, which at once
attract and fascinate the eye of even the most careless observer of
these relics of ancient art. The head is gracefully poised and
exquisitely proportioned, but is not conventionalized to the degree
usual in busts of a similar character. Indeed, notwithstanding its
classical aspect, there is a marked individuality of treatment
noticeable in its composition, if I may so call the arrangement of the
hair and the pose of the head. The features are small and regular; the
chin a trifle too delicate, if possible, to complete the full oval
suggested by the upper part of the face; and the hair, in which a wreath
of ivy is twined, clusters in slender, irregular curls around a low
forehead, and is gathered behind in a loose knot. One tress of hair,
escaping from the embrace of the ivy-branch, caressingly clings to the
neck. On the pedestal is the label:

     “A Roman Nymph--Fragment.”

Visiting the museum one day in company with two artist friends, I
pointed this head out to them as we were hastily passing through the
room. Like myself, they were enchanted with the fragment, and lingered
to sketch it. They were very long in making their sketches; and after
they declared them finished, shut their books with a resolute air,
walked briskly off, but returned again, one after the other, to take
another look. At last I succeeded in dragging them away; but while we
were examining another part of the collection, in an adjoining room,
each disappeared in turn, and came back, after a few minutes’ absence,
with the volunteered excuse that he had found it necessary to put a last
touch on his drawing of the attractive fragment. When we left the museum
both of my infatuated friends had made arrangements with the custodian
to permit a moulder to come and take a cast of the head.

The island of Capri is the most delightful spot in the Mediterranean.
Blessed with a fine climate, a comparatively fertile soil, and a
contented population, it is one of the best places accessible to the
ordinary traveller in which to spend a quiet season. In this refuge life
does not sparkle, but stagnates. Tired nerves recover their tone in the
eventless succession of lazy days. Overtaxed digestion regains its
normal strength through the simple diet, the pure air, and the repose of
mind and body which are found in this paradise. Of late years the island
has become a great resort for artists of all nationalities. Many good
studios are to be had there; plenty of trained models of both sexes and
all ages are eager to work for trifling wages; living is cheap, rents
are by no means exorbitant, and subjects for pictures abound at every
step.

A few modern buildings of some pretensions to size and architectural
style have been erected within the last twenty or thirty years, but the
greater part of the houses on the island, both in the town of Capri and
in the village of Anacapri, are very old and exceedingly simple in
construction. The streets of the town are narrow and crooked, and twist
about in a perfect maze of tufa walls and whitewashed façades,
straggling away in all directions from the piazza. The dwellings of the
poorer classes are jumbled together along these narrow streets as if
space were very valuable. They overhang and even span the roadway at
intervals, and frequently the flat roof of one house serves as a
_loggia_, or broad balcony, for the one above it. Small gardens are
sometimes cultivated on these housetops, and the bleating of goats and
cackling of hens are often heard in the shrubbery there. Not the least
among the many attractions of Capri are its historical relics. Ruined
Roman villas and palaces abound all over the hills; traces of ancient
baths and grottos of the nymphs may be seen along the water’s edge; and
fragments of Roman architecture are built into every wall, and into
almost every house. The peculiar geological formation of the island
furnishes the excuse for a variety of short and pleasant excursions; for
there are numbers of interesting caves, strange rock forms, and grandly
picturesque cliffs and cañons within easy reach by sea or by land.

When I was in Capri, there was one remarkably pretty girl among the
models, called Lisa. She was only fifteen years old, but, like the usual
type of Southern maiden, was as fully developed as if she were three or
four years older. Her father and mother were dead, and she lived with
her great-grandmother in a small house of a single room in a narrow
street which ran directly under my bedroom. None of the houses of the
quarter where my studio and apartment were situated had glass in the
windows, but the interiors were lighted, like those of the ancient
Romans, by square holes provided with wooden shutters. From the rude
window in my bedroom, and also from the _loggia_ in front of the studio,
I could look directly down into the small dwelling below, and at all
times of the day could see the old woman knitting in the shadow just
inside the open door, and Lisa flitting about, busy with the primitive
housekeeping. Whenever I wanted the girl to sit for me, I had only to
call down and she would come up to the studio. It takes but a few days
to become intimately acquainted with the simple-hearted islanders, and
in a short time the old woman grew very friendly and communicative. At
my invitation she frequently came to sit on the _loggia_, whence she
could look over the sea, towards the south, to watch for returning coral
fishermen, or on the other side, to the north and east, where Naples
shimmered in the sun, and Vesuvius reared its sombre cone. She was not
comely to look upon, for she was wrinkled beyond belief, and her
parchment skin was the color of oak-tanned leather. She often said that
Lisa was the image of her own family, but I could trace no resemblance
between the blooming maid and the withered dame. The chief beauty of the
young girl’s face, or at least the most remarkable feature of it, was
the eyes, which were of a deep-blue gray, almost as brilliant as the
rich, dark ones common to the Italian type, but more unique and more
charming in contrast with the olive-tinted skin and black hair. The old
woman’s eyes were as dark as those of the generality of her race, and
apparently but little dimmed by her great age. All over the island she
had the reputation of being the oldest inhabitant; but as she could not
remember the date of her birth--if, indeed, she ever knew it--and as
there had been no records kept at the time she was born, there was no
means of proving the truth or the falsity of the tales about her
wonderful age. She bore everywhere the peculiar name of La Rubina di
Tedesco--Tedesco’s Rubina--the significance of which, although it was
variously explained by common tradition, had really been forgotten more
than a generation before, and was now known only to herself. The
islanders are fond of giving nicknames, and I should not have remarked
this one among so many others if it had not been for the word Tedesco,
which in Italian means German. My curiosity was excited on this account,
to discover what the name really meant and why it had been given to her.

In the long summer twilights I used to talk with the old woman by the
hour, or rather I used to listen to her by the hour, for without a word
of encouragement from me she would drone on in her queer patois in the
garrulous way very old people have, elaborating the details of the most
trivial incidents, and rehearsing the intimate family history of all her
numerous acquaintances. She looked upon me with the more favor because
it happened that I was the only artist who employed Lisa, and
consequently furnished all the money for the support of the small
household. Relying on the position I held in her esteem as patron, and
cannily increasing her obligation to me by various small presents, I
schemed for a long time to make her tell the history of her own life.
She had an aggravating way of either utterly ignoring all questions on
this subject, or else of taking refuge in a series of wails on the
change in the times and on the degeneracy of the islanders. By degrees
and at long intervals I did, however, succeed in getting a full account
of her early life and of the origin of her popular name.

Long ago, even long before any steamers were seen on the Bay of Naples,
two young Germans--a sculptor and an architect--wandered down to Capri,
to study the antiquities of the island. They were both captivated by the
beauties of the spot, by the delights of the pastoral life they led
there, and possibly also by the charms of the island maidens, who even
then had a wide reputation for beauty, and they consequently stayed on
indefinitely. Rubina was then a girl of fourteen, and held the enviable
position of belle of Anacapri. The sculptor, whose name was Carl
Deutsch, somehow made the acquaintance of the beauty, and after a time
persuaded her to sit to him. He first made a bust in wax, and then began
to work it out in marble, using for his material an antique block found
in one of the ruined palaces of Tiberius. Days and weeks he toiled over
this bust, and as he worked he grew hopelessly in love with his model.
As time passed, the islanders, with their usual freedom with foreigners’
names, translated Carl Deutsch into its Italian equivalent, Carlo
Tedesco, and Rubina, who was constantly employed by the sculptor as a
model, was naturally called Tedesco’s Rubina.

Then on the peaceful island was enacted the same old tragedy that has
been played all over the world myriads of times before and since.
Tedesco’s friend, the architect, also fell in love with the model, and
took advantage of the sculptor’s preoccupation with his work to gain the
girl’s affection. Early in the morning, while his friend was engaged in
preparing his clay and arranging his studio for the day, he would toil
up the six hundred stone steps which led to the village of Anacapri, on
the plateau above, meet Rubina, and accompany her down as far as the
outskirts of the town. Then often, at the close of the day, when the
sculptor, oppressed with the hopeless feeling of discouragement and
despair which at times comes over every true artist, would give up his
favorite stroll with Rubina and remain to gaze at his work and ponder
over it, the architect would be sure to take his place. So it went on to
the usual climax. Rubina, flattered by the assiduous attentions of the
one, and somewhat piqued by the frequent fits of absent-mindedness and
preoccupation of the other, at last reluctantly gave her consent to
marry the architect, who planned an elopement without exciting a
suspicion on the part of the sculptor that his idol was stolen from him.
The faithless friend, pretending to the innocent girl that, being of
different religions, it was necessary for them to go to the mainland to
be married, sailed away with her one morning at daybreak without the
knowledge of any one save the two men who were hired to row them to
Naples. Where they went, and how long they lived together, I could not
find out, for she would not open her lips about that portion of her
history. Only after a great deal of persuasive interrogation did I learn
that when she came back she brought with her a girl baby a few months
old. It was always believed in the village that her husband had died. I
drew my own inference about the circumstances of her return.

When she reached the island, Tedesco had long since disappeared, and,
although there were no absolute proofs, he was thought to be dead. For
months after he had learned of the faithlessness of both sweetheart and
friend he had been seen very little outside his studio. What he did
there was not known, for he invited nobody to enter. Even the neighbor’s
wife who had done the housekeeping for the two young men did not see the
interior of the studio after Rubina ran away. She gossiped of the
sculptor to the women down the street, and they all shook their heads,
touched their foreheads significantly with index-fingers, and sadly
repeated, “_Un po’ matto, un po’ matto_”--“A little mad.” Several weeks
passed after the flight of the young couple, and then the sculptor was
observed nearly every morning to walk over one of the hills in the
direction of a high cliff. Sometimes he was absent but a few hours, but
on other days he did not return until night. At length, towards the end
of winter, he gave up his studio and apartment without a word of his
plans to any one. When he had departed, carrying the few articles of
clothing which were kept in the outer room, the housekeeper entered the
studio and found, to her astonishment, that, with the sculptor, all
traces of his work had disappeared.

After a while it was discovered that he had taken up his abode in a
certain cave near the water’s edge, at the foot of the cliff, along the
top of which he had been frequently seen walking. This cave had always
been considered approachable only from the water side; but some men who
were fishing for cuttlefish near the shore had seen the mad sculptor
clamber down the precipice and enter the mouth of the cave, which was
half closed by accumulated rubble and sand. The fishermen, of course,
exaggerated their story, and the simple islanders, who always regard a
demented person with awe, came to believe that the sculptor possessed
superhuman strength and agility; and, although their curiosity
concerning his mode of life and occupation was much excited, their
superstitious fears prevented them from interfering with him or
attempting to investigate his actions. At long intervals the hermit
would appear in the piazza, receive his letters, buy a few articles of
food, and disappear again, not to be seen for weeks.

Summer passed and a second winter came on, and with it a succession of
unusually severe storms. During one of these long gales the sea rose
several feet, and the breakers beat against the rocks with terrific
force. On the weather side of the island all the boats which had not
been hauled up much higher than usual were dashed to pieces. No one
dared to leave the island, and there was no communication with the
mainland for nearly two weeks. After that storm the sculptor was never
seen again. Some fishermen ventured into the mouth of the cave, now
washed clear of rubbish, but discovered nothing. It was therefore
believed that the hermit, with all his belongings, was swept out to sea
by the waves. Of late years no one had visited the cave, because the
military guard stationed near by to prevent the people from gathering
salt on the rocks, and thus evading the payment of the national tax on
this article, had prohibited boats from landing there. This prohibition
was strengthened by the orders which forbade the exploration of any of
the Roman ruins or grottos on the island by persons not employed for
that purpose by the government. Several years before, the authorities
had examined all the ruins. They had carried to Naples all the
antiquities they could find, and then had put a penalty on the
explorations of the islanders, to whom the antiquities are popularly
supposed to belong by right of inheritance. This regulation had created
a great deal of bad feeling, particularly since several peasants had
been fined and imprisoned for simply digging up a few relics to sell to
travellers.

I asked the old woman what became of her child, for she did not readily
volunteer any information concerning her.

“_Ah, signor padrone_,” she said, “she was a perfect little German, with
hair as blond as the fleece of the yellow goats. She was a good child,
but was never very strong. She married a coral fisherman when she was
seventeen, and died giving birth to Lisa’s mother. Poor thing! May the
blessed Maria, mother of God, rest her soul! Lisa’s mother was blond
also, but with hair like the flame of sunset. She was a fine, strong
creature, and could carry a sack of salt up the steps to Anacapri as
well as any girl in the village--yes, even better than any other. She
married a custom-house officer and moved to Naples, where she had meat
on her table once every blessed week. But even in her prosperity the
misfortunes of the family followed her, and the cholera carried off her
husband, herself, and a boy baby--may their souls rest in
Paradise!--leaving Lisa alone in the world but for me, who have lived to
see all this misery and all these changes. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Lisa resembles her mother only in her eyes. All the rest of her is
Caprian. Ah me! ah me! She’s the image of what I was, except her eyes.
By the grace of God I am able to see it! May the Virgin spare her to
suffer--” and so on to the end of the chapter of mingled family history
and invocations.

Lisa resemble her? I thought. Impossible. What! that wrinkled skin ever
know the bloom of youth like that on Lisa’s cheek; that sharp chin ever
have a rounded contour; that angular face ever show as perfect an oval
as the one fringed by the wavy hair straggling out from Lisa’s kerchief?
Did that mask, seared with the marks of years of suffering, privation,
and toil, ever bear the sweet, bewitching expression which in Lisa’s
face haunts me with a vague, half-remembered fascination? Never! It
cannot be!

This history of a love-tragedy, enacted when Goethe was still walking
among the artificial antiquities in the groves of Weimar had a curious
charm for me. I patiently listened to hours of irrelevant gossip and
uninteresting description of family matters before I succeeded in
getting together even as meagre a thread of the story as the one I have
just repeated. The old woman had a feeble memory for recent events and
dates, but she seemed to be able to recollect as well as ever incidents
which took place at the beginning of the century. She retailed the
scandals of fifty years ago with as much delight as if the interested
parties had not all of them long since been followed to the hillside
graveyard or been buried in the waste of waters in that mysterious
region known as the coral fisheries.

Partly in order to test the accuracy of her memory, and partly to
satisfy my curiosity, I persuaded her to show me the place where the
sculptor used to walk along the edge of the cliff. I had previously
taken a look at the cave from the water, and knew its position in
relation to the cliff, but had never been able to discover how the
German had succeeded in clambering up and down. Accordingly, one Sunday
afternoon, when most of the islanders were in church, she hobbled along
with me a short distance up the hillside and pointed out the spot where
the children had seen the mad sculptor vanish in the air. This place was
marked by a projecting piece of rock, which cropped out of the turf on
the very edge of the cliff, not at its highest point, but at some
distance down the shoulder of the hill, where it had been broken sheer
off in the great convulsion of nature which raised the isolated, lofty
island above the sea. I could not induce her to go within a dozen rods
or more of the edge of the cliff, and, having shown me the spot I wished
to find, she hobbled homeward again.

There was no path across the hill in any direction, and the scant grass
was rarely trodden except by the goats and their keepers. On that Sunday
forenoon there was no one in sight except, a long distance off, a
shepherd watching a few goats. Thinking it a favorable opportunity to
investigate the truth of the story about the sculptor, I walked up to
the very brink of the precipice and lay down flat on the top of the
piece of rock pointed out by the old woman, and cautiously looked over
the abyss. The cliff below me was by no means sheer, for it was broken
by a number of irregular shelf-like projections, a few inches wide, upon
which loose bits of falling stone had caught from time to time.
Cautiously looking over the cliff, I saw at once that it would be
possible for me to let myself down to the first irregular projection, or
bench, provided I could get some firm hold for my hands. The turf
afforded no such hold, and at the very edge, where it was crumbled by
the weather, it was so broken as to be dangerous to stand on. I looked
along the smooth, perpendicular ledge, but found no ring to fasten a
rope to and no marks of any such contrivance. A careful search in the
immediate neighborhood disclosed no signs of a wooden post or stake, or,
indeed, anything which would serve as an anchor for a hand rope. I lay
down and hung over the cliff, to see if I could discover any traces of a
ladder, marks of spikes, tell-tale streaks of iron-rust, or anything to
show how the descent had been made. Nothing of the kind was visible.

Far below, the great expanse of turquoise sea, stained with the shadows
of summer clouds, seemed to rise with a convex surface to meet the sky
at the distant horizon line. Away off to the south, towards Stromboli
and Sicily, a few sails, minute white dots relieved against the delicate
blue water, hung motionless, as if suspended in an opalescent ether. To
the left the green shores of the mainland stretched away to hazy Pæstum.
To the right the headland of Anacapri rose majestically against the
tender summer sky, and a bank of cumulus clouds was reflected in the
smooth sea. Beneath screamed a flock of sea-gulls, sailing hither and
thither in graceful flight.

While dreaming over the beauty of the scene before me, I suddenly caught
sight out of the very corner of my eye, as it were, of a crevice in the
ledge beside me, almost hidden by the grass which grew tall against the
rock. Hastily tearing the grass away with my right hand, I found that
this cleft, which was only a couple of inches wide at the most,
continued downward along the face of the cliff in a slanting direction,
rapidly diminishing in width until it lost itself or became a simple
crack in the rock. With my knife and fingers I dug the cleft out clean,
as far in as I could reach, expecting to find an iron rod or a spike or
something to which a rope could be fastened. But I was again
disappointed, for there were no signs of iron and no visible marks of
man’s handiwork. Whether this was an artificial excavation in the rock,
or merely an accidental irregularity, I could not determine, but it made
a perfect hold for the hand, like an inverted draw-pull. The moment I
discovered this I saw how the descent could easily be accomplished, and
without stopping to reflect I clutched my right hand firmly in the cleft
and swung off the cliff. My feet struck a pile of loose stones, but I
soon kicked them off, made a solid foothold for myself, and then
cautiously turned around. The wall of rock pitched backward sufficiently
for me to lean up against it, with my face to the sea, and stand there
perfectly secure. When I turned again and stood facing the rock, my head
was above the edge of the cliff so that I could overlook quite an area
of the hilltop. Before attempting to descend the cliff I thought it
prudent to test my ability to reach the turf again. Seizing the cleft
with the fingers of my right hand, and clutching the irregularities of
the edge of the rock with my left, I easily swung myself upon my chest,
and then upon my knees, and stood on the turf. Elated now by my success,
I let myself over the edge again, and began the difficult task of
picking my way down the face of the cliff. By diligently kicking and
pushing the rubble from the bench I was on, I slowly made my way along,
steadying myself as well as I could by putting my fingers in the
crevices of the rock. In two places I found three or four holes, which
had the appearance of having been artificially made, and by the aid of
these I let myself down to the second and third projecting benches. From
this point the descent was made without much difficulty, although I
carefully refrained from casting my eyes seaward during the whole climb.
Fortunately I was on the face of the cliff, which was at a receding
angle, and consequently was not swept by the telescope of the guard on
the beach to the right, and I finished the descent and reached a point
to the left of the mouth of the cave, and on a level with it, without
any interruption. I was too much fatigued to care to risk discovery by
the guard in entering the cave, which was in full sight of his station;
so, after resting awhile on the rocks, I clambered up the path I had
come, and found that the ascent, though toilsome, was not particularly
difficult.

I told no one of my adventure, not even the old woman; but early the
next Sunday morning I went down the cliff again, unobserved as before,
and, watching my chance when the guard was sweeping the shore to the
right with his glass, I stole into the cave. It was an irregular hole,
perhaps thirty feet deep at its greatest length, and not over ten feet
high in any part. Three shallow, alcove-like chambers led off the main
room. These were all three nearly full of gravel, sand, and
disintegrated rock, and the floor of the whole cavern was covered with
this same accumulation. There were plentiful marks of the labors of the
Italian antiquarians, for the ground had all been dug up, and the last
shallow pits which had been excavated to the bed-rock had not been
refilled.

With no settled purpose I took up a piece of an old spade I found there,
and began to dig on one side of the cave near the largest alcove. The
accumulation was not packed hard, and I easily threw it aside. I had
removed a few feet of earth without finding anything to reward my
labors, and then began to dig in the heap of rubbish which was piled in
the alcove, nearly touching its low ceiling. Almost the first shovelful
of earth I threw out had a number of small gray tesseræ in it. Gathering
these up and taking them to the light, I found that part of them were of
marble, or other light-colored stone; but that a few were of glass with
a corroded surface, which could be clipped off with great ease,
disclosing beautiful iridescent cubes underneath. The whole day was
passed in this work, for I was much interested in my discovery. The
tesseræ were of no great value, to be sure, but they proved that the
cave had been used by the Romans, probably as a grotto of the nymphs,
and they were certainly worth keeping in a private collection. Possibly
not a little of the charm of the operation of excavating was due to the
element of danger in it. The guard was stationed less than a rifle-shot
away, and if I had been discovered, fine and possibly imprisonment would
have been my lot.

To make a long story short, I made several excursions to the cave in the
same manner, and dug nearly the whole ground in a systematic way,
leaving until the last a small alcove near the mouth of the cave,
because I found very few tesseræ anywhere in the strong daylight.
Everything which was not a simple, uninteresting piece of stone or shell
I stowed away in a bag and carried to my studio. In a few Sundays I had
a peck or more of tesseræ, a quarter of them glass ones, and a great
many bits of twisted glass rod and small pieces of glass vessels. One
day the spade turned out, among other things, several small pieces of
brown, porous substance which looked in the dim light like decayed wood.
I put them in the bag with the rest, to be examined at my leisure at
home. The next morning, when I came to turn out the collection gathered
the day before, these curious pieces fell out with the rest, and
immediately attracted my attention. In the strong light of day, I saw at
once what they were. They were the decayed phalanges of a human hand.
The story of Tedesco and Rubina was always in my mind; and I compared
the bones with my own fingers, and found them to be without doubt the
bones of an adult, and probably of a man.

I could scarcely wait for the next Sunday to arrive, but I did not dare
to risk the descent of the cliff on a week-day lest I should be seen by
the fishermen. When at last I did reach the cave again, I went at my
work with vigor, continuing my search in the place where I left off the
previous week. In a short time I unearthed several more bones similar
to those I already had, but, although I thoroughly examined every cubic
foot of earth which I had not previously dug over, I found no more of
the skeleton.

In my studio that evening I arranged the little bones as well as I could
in the positions they had occupied in the human hand. As far as I could
make out, I had the thumb, the first and third fingers and one joint of
the second, three of the bones of the hand, and one of the wrist-bones.
There could be no question but these had once belonged to a human hand,
and to the right hand, too. There was no means of knowing how long ago
the person had died, neither could there be any possible way of
identifying these human relics. The possession of the grewsome little
objects seemed to set my imagination on fire. After going to bed at
night I often worked myself into a state of disagreeable nervous tension
by meditating on the history of the sculptor, and revolving in my mind
the theories I had formed of the mystery of his life and the manner of
his death. For some reason the old woman had never told me where his
studio had been, and it never occurred to me to ask her until the
thought suddenly came during one of these night-hours of wakefulness.
When I put the question to her the next afternoon, she replied, simply:

“This studio was his, _signor padrone_.”

The poor old soul had been living her life over again, day after day, as
she sat knitting and looking out to sea, her imagination quickened and
her memory refreshed by the surroundings which in many decades had
scarcely changed at all.

This information gave a new stimulus to my thoughts, and I lay awake and
pondered and surmised more than ever. There seemed to be something
hidden away in my own consciousness, which was endeavoring to work its
way into recognition. It would almost come in range of my mental vision,
and then would lose itself again, just as some well-known name will
coquettishly elude the grasp of the memory. While lying awake in a real
agony of thought, a vague feeling would enter my mind for an instant,
that I had only to interpret what I already knew, and the mystery of my
imagination would be clear to me. Then I would revolve and revolve again
all the details of the story, but the fugitive idea always escaped me.
With that discouraging persistence which is utterly beyond our control,
whenever great anxiety weighs upon our minds, I would repeat, again and
again, the same series of arguments and the same line of theories until
at last, utterly worn out, I would go to sleep. It was quite
inexplicable that I should think so much about a sculptor of whom I had
never heard, except from Tedesco’s Rubina, and who died long before I
was born; but, in spite of my reason, I could not rid myself of the
vague consciousness that there was something I was unwittingly hiding
from myself.

One warm night in summer I sat up quite late writing letters, and then,
thinking I should go to sleep at once on account of my fatigue, went to
bed. But sleep came only after some hours, and even then not until I had
stood for a long time looking out of the window on the moonlit houses
below, with my bare feet on the cold stone floor. The first thought that
came to my head, as I awoke the next morning, was about that marble head
I had seen in Rome a year before. The dark page of my mind became
illuminated in an instant. I did not need to summon Lisa to note the
resemblance of her face to the marble one which had so fascinated me,
for I was familiar enough with her features to require no aid to my
memory. Besides, I had a fairly accurate study of her head on my easel,
and I compared the face on the canvas with the marble one which I now
remembered so vividly. There was the identical contour of the cheeks and
forehead, with the hyper-delicate chin; the nose, the mouth, the eyes,
each repeated the forms of the marble bust. It was the color alone that
gave the painting its modern aspect, and it had been, I now saw, my
preoccupation with the color which had prevented my observing the
resemblance before. The only thing my portrait lacked, as a
representation of the model from whom the marble was made, was that
fascinating expression of girlhood, which, I was obliged to confess to
myself, I had not succeeded in catching.

Full of my discovery, I wrote at once to the authorities in Rome, asking
for a history of the fragment.

In a few days I received the not unexpected information that it had been
given by the Naples Museum in exchange for another piece of antique
sculpture. I hurried across to Naples and interviewed the authorities
there, requesting precise statements about the bust, on the plea that I
was interested in the particular period of art which it represented. In
the list of objects of antiquity excavated in the summer of 18--, I
found this entry, under the head of Capri:

“Female head with ivy wreath in hair--Marble--Broken off at neck--No
other fragments discovered. Mem.: This probably belonged to a statue of
a sea-nymph, as it was found in a grotto with the remains of mosaic
pavement and ceiling.”

In return for this information I gave the authorities my sincere
thanks, but not my secret.

Three years later I met my two artist friends in New York. Like all who
have torn themselves away from the enchanting influences of Italy, we
reviewed with delight every incident of our sojourn there, not
forgetting the visit to the museum in Rome. Two plaster copies of the
head had been made, and the mould then broken.

In each of the studios the plaster head occupied the place of honor, and
its owner exhausted the choicest terms of art phraseology in its praise.
Foolish fellows, they could not escape from the potent spell of its
bewitching expression, and, burdened with the weight of the sentimental
secret, each of them took occasion, privately and with great hesitation
and shamefacedness, to confess to me that he had stolen away, while we
were together in the museum in Rome, to kiss the marble lips of the
fascinating fragment.

To each of them I made the same remark:

“My dear fellow, if you were so foolish as to fall in love with a marble
head, and a fragment at that, what would you have done in my place? I
was intimately acquainted with the model who sat for it!”



MEDUSA’S HEAD


Henry Seymour fancied he was a realist. Indeed, he was very much annoyed
when his work was described by an art critic as idealistic, or when he
was alluded to in the art columns as “a rising young artist quite out of
place in the realistic circle to which he affects to belong.” But the
bias of mind which prevented him from recognizing the real qualities in
his own productions, equally hindered him from accomplishing what was
his present highest ambition--an accurate and realistic imitation of
nature. In common with the large majority of the young artists of the
day, he studied two or three years in Europe, notably in Paris, where he
learned to believe, or fancied he believed, that the most hopeful
tendency of modern art consisted in the elimination of all idea and all
sentiment from the motive of a picture, and the glorification of the
naturalistic and, if I may say so, earthly qualities of the model.

After his return from the ateliers of Paris, Seymour divided his time
between the apotheosis of rags and squalor and the delineation of the
features of the New York banker, broker, or insurance president, with an
occasional excursion into the field of female portraiture, which was
opened to him through the large and influential circle of friends and
acquaintances of his family. His efforts in this direction frequently
resulted in popular and artistic success, and after a season or two
gained for him a profitable and exceedingly agreeable line of sitters. A
strange jumble of millionaires, bootblacks, society ladies, and
beggar-women covered the canvases that encumbered his studio. The
portraits went away in their turn, but the pictures, after brief
absences at exhibitions, remained his own property, testifying to the
practical worthlessness of the encouragement of his comrades, who would
sniff at his portraits of ladies and gentlemen, and prostrate themselves
before his studies of gutter-snipe. It must be understood that no one of
his artistic clique disapproved of his painting society portraits, for
they had all adopted some means of gaining a livelihood outside of the
special line of art which they, in their mistaken zeal, believed to be
the only true and worthy one. Most of his comrades taught in the art
schools of the city; some of the more fortunate ones conducted highly
profitable private classes, where, at an enormously extravagant price
per season, they actively stimulated and encouraged the artistic
illusions of wealthy young ladies, and helped them to acquire a
superficial and dangerous facility, which, for a future mistress of a
house, is the most useless accomplishment imaginable.

Seymour was of an energetic and enterprising turn of mind, and if it had
not been for his unwavering devotion to his artistic creed, he would
have speedily made a wide reputation for himself as a painter with an
original and charming talent. But accident of situation had exposed him
to the contagion of realism, and the fever which seized him in Paris was
now kept alive, in a milder form to be sure, by association with the
young painters in New York, who had been abroad the same time as
himself. After two seasons at home he found his studio too small and
inconvenient, and he turned a stable in the spacious back yard of his
father’s house, on one of the cross streets near Fifth Avenue, into a
fine studio, with a side and top light, and transported thither his
easels, his bric-à-brac, and the lares and penates of his Bohemian
quarters. The new studio was entered by a _porte-cochère_ at one side of
the house, and was therefore as isolated and private as if it stood in
the centre of an acre of ground.

Among the sitters who came to him in his new studio was Miss Margaret
Van Hoorn, the only daughter of a well-known wealthy man, who had a
stalwart pride in his Knickerbocker origin, and boasted generations of
opulent Van Hoorns before him. Miss Van Hoorn was not an ordinary
society belle, but an intelligent, capable, sensible girl, and a
favorite no less for the charm of her personal character than for a
distinguished type of face and figure, which would stimulate the
ambition of the most worn and weary portrait-painter.

Here, then, was Seymour’s golden opportunity. He recognized it, and
began to make the most of it by starting to paint a portrait of the
young lady in a party dress. It had hitherto been his custom to deny to
his sitters the privilege of watching his work in its various stages,
but he was unable to refuse Miss Van Hoorn’s request that she might be
permitted to see the portrait in progress. Her desire to watch his work
was excusable, because she had already taken lessons in painting, and
had some little knowledge of technique. After the first sitting was over
she occupied the divan under the large window, and chatted cheerfully an
hour or more, thus initiating an intimacy which grew rapidly as the
sittings went on. The painter, as long as he had his palette on his
thumb, looked upon his sitter as a sort of automaton, watched the pure
lines of her neck and arms with no conscious feeling except that of keen
anxiety to reproduce their grace, and studied the mobile turn of the
lips and the varying curve of the eyelids with a single-minded desire to
catch something of their charm and fix it on the canvas.

But soon another element crept insensibly into the relation between
sitter and painter, and long before it was recognized by either of them,
became a potent factor in the growing problem. Miss Van Hoorn first
began to question Seymour about his artistic creed, then showed an
interest in his early life, thus encouraging the artist to talk about
himself. She grew bold in criticising his work, and even modestly
declared her disapproval of the confusion of his studio, and
occasionally gave to the arrangement of the objects a few of those
skilful feminine touches which add an indefinable charm to any interior.
The artist, in his turn, suggested books for her to read, frequently
joined her in the box at the Metropolitan Opera-house, accompanied her
to picture exhibitions, and even advised her as to the color and style
of dress most suited to her complexion and figure. They were all the
while under the protection of that unwritten social law which grants a
certain brief license to sitter and painter, which, like the freedom of
a picnic or an excursion party, usually lasts no longer than the
conditions which make this freedom innocent and desirable.

“Mr. Seymour,” said the sitter one day, “why don’t you paint an ideal
subject, something classical or poetical?”

“I’m a realist, Miss Van Hoorn, and I have come to the conclusion, since
I began your portrait, that I had better stick to copper pots and
cabbages.”

“But no one cares for copper pots and cabbages, even if the former do
have the sheen of burnished gold, and the latter sparkle with dew-drop
jewels. I think every painter ought to paint something more than the
surface of things.”

“How about Vollon and--”

“You know,” she interrupted, “I am not far enough along, as you call it,
to appreciate the wild combinations of color and the hodge-podge of
splashes and dashes affected by the modern school. I have tried to
acquire this taste under your tuition, but I cannot do it. I shall
always believe in the verdict of past centuries, that good art has its
reason in the immortalization of the beautiful.”

“But there’s Terburg--” he began.

“Raphael,” she interrupted.

“Van der Meer de Delft,” he suggested.

“Botticelli,” she argued, and so the conversation went on, and at last
ended, as discussions on religion, politics, and art always do, in each
declaring unwavering adherence to original views.

Excursions to the art galleries and to the Metropolitan Museum were
often the result of these little flutters; but although neither the
artist nor the sitter would confess to the least disturbance of artistic
faith, Seymour actually began, before he knew why, to select an ideal
subject. Several motives from classical poetry, from mythology, and from
modern writers came to his mind, and he was unable to decide, nor did
he know that he really cared to fix on any one of them. Meanwhile the
sittings continued, and the portrait approached completion. Suddenly one
day a compromise suggested itself to the painter, how or why he never
knew, and he quietly remarked, “Miss Van Hoorn, I am going to paint a
Medusa’s head.”

“Horrid,” she said, frankly. “I hate snakes.”

Seymour was somewhat discouraged by her impulsive disapproval of his
subject, but, nevertheless, warmly defended his choice, and was all the
more eloquent, perhaps, because he felt that she had recognized his
ingenious compromise between idealism and realism. He insisted that the
proportions of her face had suggested the subject to him, and was so
serious in his assertion that she was in this degree responsible for his
choice of motive, that she finally yielded to his eager solicitation,
and consented to sit for the eyes and mouth of the Medusa’s head.

The same afternoon he went down-town to a shop near the docks, where
all kinds of birds, animals, and reptiles were sold alive--a sort of
depot, in fact, for the dime museums and small menageries--and bought a
box of a dozen moccasin snakes recently arrived from the South. He
selected this variety on account of the venomous appearance of the small
heads, the repulsive thickness of the bodies, and the richness of color
of the mottled scales, intending to make a close study of all the
characteristics of this variety of the serpent. He could in this way
heighten the contrast which he proposed to make between the calm beauty
of the woman’s face and the repulsiveness of the serpent locks. He
ordered the box to be sent to his studio the same afternoon, and spent
that evening in blocking out on the canvas a charcoal sketch of the head
he had in his mind.

The following day was Sunday, and during the night a severe cold wave,
accompanied by a blizzard of unusual severity, began to sweep over the
city. Early on Monday morning the artist went around into the studio,
and was surprised to find that the snow had blown in through the
ventilator, and that the temperature was very low, notwithstanding the
fact that a fire had been kept up all the time in the great magazine
stove. His first thought was for the snakes, and, by no means certain
that they were not already frozen, he moved the box near the fire,
closed the ventilators in the roof of the studio, opened the dampers in
the stove, and shook the grate, so as to start the fire more briskly.

It was the last day Miss Van Hoorn could come, because she was about to
accompany her family to Florida for a few weeks, and in order to sit a
little for the picture she had promised to come earlier than usual.

Seymour, like all who were not obliged to brave the blizzard on that now
memorable Monday, had no idea of the severity of the storm which was
raging, and was not surprised, therefore, at the appearance of his
sitter shortly after nine o’clock. She was accompanied, as usual, by her
maid and by her pug-dog. Miss Van Hoorn never looked more charming than
she did at that moment, for her cheeks were ruddy with the cold, and her
eyes sparkled with the excitement of the drive.

“Do you know,” she said, “we came very near not getting here. The drifts
were so high that John was scarcely able to get the horses through the
street; and as for the cold, I never felt anything like it. There now, I
do believe I have left my opera cloak at home, and you must finish the
drapery to-day. You’ll have to run back and bring it,” she added,
turning to her maid. “I don’t think the storm is as bad as it was; the
wind does not sound so loud, at any rate.”

The maid courageously set out on her walk, but before she crossed the
avenue was blown down, half smothered with the snow and half frozen, and
was finally rescued by a policeman, who carried her into the basement of
the nearest house, where she was obliged to remain the larger part of
the day.

Meanwhile the artist and his sitter sat for a long time beside the fire,
expecting the return of the maid at every moment. Almost the first
thing Miss Van Hoorn noticed was the box of snakes, and, although she
was horrified and disgusted at the first sight of them, soon began to
look at them with interest, because the artist was so enthusiastic about
the use he proposed to make of them, and so full of the picture he had
begun. The glass in front of the box was slightly clouded by vapor
condensed by the change in temperature, and in order to examine more
closely the beautiful colors of the scales, Seymour took out the glass,
placed it on top of the box, and went to get a paint-rag to wipe off the
vapor. The moccasins made no sign of life.

Miss Van Hoorn was very much interested in the charcoal sketch of the
head, criticised it frankly and freely, and they both grew quite
absorbed in the changes the artist rapidly made in the proportions of
the face. The loud striking of the antique clock soon reminded them,
however, that the hour for the sitting was long past, and that the
portrait was of more present importance than the embryonic picture.

The artist was shortly busy with his painting, and the sitter, now well
accustomed to the pose, endeavored to facilitate the progress of the
work by remaining as quiet as possible. The silence of the studio was
broken only by the stertorous breathing of the pug, asleep on the
Turkish carpet in front of the stove, and by the rattle of the sleet
against the large window.

Suddenly the shrill yelps of the dog startled them from their
preoccupation. On the carpet, near the stove, one of the moccasins was
coiled, ready to strike the pug, who, in an agony of terror, could not
move a foot, but only uttered wild and piercing shrieks.

“Never mind; I’ll soon settle him,” said Seymour; and he rushed at the
snake with his maul-stick. But before he could cross the room, the
moccasin had struck his victim; and as the artist shattered his slender
stick at the first blow, he saw that the box was empty, and that the
other snakes were wriggling around the studio.

Miss Van Hoorn was transfixed with horror, but she neither shrieked nor
fainted, although she looked as if she would swoon before Seymour could
reach her. The pair were fairly surrounded by the reptiles before the
artist had time to think of another weapon.

The only thing to do in the emergency occurred to both of them at the
same instant, and in a much shorter time than it takes to tell it Miss
Van Hoorn was safely perched on the solid crossbar of the French easel,
four feet or more from the ground; and the painter, who had hastily
thrown the portrait on the floor, face upward, was standing on the
shelf.

Knowing the venomous character of the moccasin, Seymour was not eager
for a fight with the snakes, particularly since he was without a weapon.
It was impossible to reach the trophy of Turkish yataghans on the
farther wall of the studio without encountering at least two of the
reptiles, and after a moment’s consideration he climbed up and sat down
beside Miss Van Hoorn, _tête-à-tête_ fashion, and, like herself, put
his arm around the upright piece between them.

Neither one of them spoke for a moment; and then he, overcome with
remorse at his carelessness, and trembling at the possible result of the
adventure, exclaimed, in a tone of despair, “Here’s a situation!”

This commonplace remark did not carry with it a hint of a satisfactory
solution of the difficulty, and he felt this the moment he had uttered
it. Miss Van Hoorn made no reply, but with pale cheeks and frightened
eyes sat silent, clinging almost convulsively to her support.

“We can easily bring the people by shouting,” suggested her companion.

“No, no!” she half gasped. “What a ridiculous position to be found in!
Indeed, I--I--Are you sure the neighbors cannot see through the window?”

“Of course they can’t; it’s corrugated glass. But then, after all, if
any one should come, the moccasins might bite them, and we should be no
better off.”

The snakes became more and more active.

[Illustration: “MISS VAN HOORN WAS SAFELY PERCHED ON THE SOLID
CROSSBAR.”]

The pug lay in his last death-agonies, and as he struggled on the
carpet, almost under their feet, the soft fingers of the young lady
instinctively found their way to the firm, muscular hand of the artist,
and closed around it with a confiding pressure, as if she recognized in
him her sole protector in this danger, and had great need of his
sympathy and support.

If the truth must be told, her sweet unconsciousness was not shared by
her companion, for he felt a distinct sense of satisfaction at the touch
of her hand, and this sensation fully dominated for a moment the complex
feeling of relief at escape from recent imminent danger and of great
present perplexity, uncertainty, and fear.

They were now fairly besieged; and although no harm could come to them
in their present position, it was by no means comfortable to sit perched
on a narrow oak bar, and it was impossible to tell how or when they
would be delivered from their enemy.

A strange and oppressive silence seemed to have come over the whole
city; not so much a silence, perhaps, as an unusual muffling of all the
ordinary sounds of traffic and activity. The swish of the sleet against
the window was almost continuous, but when it ceased for a moment there
was heard no rattle of the streets, no rumble of the horse-cars, no
clatter of trains on the elevated railroad. Instead of these familiar
sounds, a wide, deep, and ominous murmur filled the air. This was not a
loud and heavy sound, like the roar of the ocean, nor yet shrill, like
the rush and whistling of a gale, but had a peculiar low and muffled
quality that made a weird accompaniment to the dramatic situation of the
artist and sitter in the storm-and-serpent-beleaguered studio.

There was a horrible fascination in watching the movements of the snakes
as they restlessly glided from one part of the studio to another, the
scales on their thick repulsive bodies glistening in the strong light,
and flashing a variety of colors. The stove was now red-hot, and the
fire was roaring loudly. In spite of the intense cold outside, the heat
became oppressive at the height where they sat, and Miss Van Hoorn,
whose nerves were much shaken by her fright, and kept in a flutter by
the movements of the snakes below, began to feel faint. The
house-servants had standing orders never to interrupt the sittings on
any excuse until the artist rang for luncheon. It was now half-past
eleven, and Seymour, despairing of the return of the maid, at last
resolved to shout as loudly as possible, and to stop the servant from
opening the door by calling out to him as he came along the passageway.
He explained this plan to Miss Van Hoorn, and proceeded to shout and
halloo with the full strength of his lungs. He waited a few moments, but
no sound of footsteps was heard, and then he shouted again and again.
Still the roaring of the fire, the grumble of the storm, and the hideous
rustling of the snakes alone greeted their eager ears. At last he was
obliged to conclude that the noise of the storm prevented his cries from
reaching the house.

What to do next he did not know, but as he was fanning Miss Van Hoorn
with a letter out of his pocket--indeed, with one of her own notes to
him--he struck upon a plan of letting in air, and at the same time
attracting the attention of some one. When the brief faint turn had
passed off, he climbed down to the shelf, gathered up his tubes of
color, and returned to his perch. After a few vigorous throws with the
heaviest tubes, he succeeded in breaking one of the panes of the large
window, and a fierce gust of wind blew upon them. To their great
disappointment the opening in the glass disclosed only the blank wall of
the opposite extension; and as he had wasted all his heavy ammunition,
he could not break another pane higher up in the window. He tried
shouting again, but with no result.

The situation was now worse than before, for Miss Van Hoorn was in her
evening dress and exposed to the freezing draught of a blizzard.
Seymour persuaded her to put on his velveteen jacket, and, after a few
attempts, succeeded in tearing down a curtain that hung from the ceiling
alongside the opening in the roof in order to cast a shadow on the
background. This he wrapped around both of them, then sat and considered
what to do next. No new plan, however, suggested itself to either of
them. They did not talk much, for they were too seriously occupied with
the problem of escape to waste words. The single hand of the antique
clock moved with agonizing slowness, and the pair sat there a long time
in silence, shivering, despairing. Once or twice a sense of the
ludicrousness of their position came over them, and they laughed a
little; but their mirth was almost hysterical, and was succeeded by a
greater depression of spirits than before. Seymour had proposed several
times to make a dash for the door, but two or three of the reptiles were
always moving about between the easel and the entrance, and Miss Van
Hoorn entreated him tearfully not to attempt it. The cold seemed to
increase, and Seymour soon noticed that the fire was burning itself out.
This was a new source of anxiety, and neither of them cared to
anticipate their sufferings on the top of the easel with the temperature
below zero.

“Just look at the snakes!” suddenly cried Seymour, in great excitement.

Miss Van Hoorn was startled by the vehemence of his cry, and could only
gasp: “No, no! I can’t bear to look at them any more.”

“The cold is making them torpid again,” he fairly shrieked, in the joy
of his discovery. “How stupid not to have thought of this before!” he
added, in a tone of disgust.

He was right. One by one they ceased to crawl, and those nearest the
window soon lay motionless. Checking his impatience to descend on the
snakes until those by the stove ceased to show signs of active life, he
dropped from the perch, seized a yataghan from the wall, and speedily
despatched them all.

Miss Van Hoorn anxiously watched the slaughter from the safe elevation
of the easel, and, when it was over, fainted into the artist’s arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most unique and remarkable engagement ring ever marked with a date
at Tiffany’s was a beautiful antique intaglio of Medusa’s head set in
Etruscan gold.



THE FOURTH WAITS


I.

The click of dominos is an accompaniment scarcely in harmony with a
discussion of psychology and religion. But no subject is too sacred, or
too profane, to be discussed in a café--that neutral ground where all
parties and all sects meet; and it was a serious debate during a game of
dominos that marked the beginning of a course of strange coincidences
and sad occurrences that crowd one chapter in an eventful Bohemian life.

There were four of us art-students in the Academy of Antwerp assembled,
as was our custom after the evening life-class, at a café in a quiet
_faubourg_ of the city. It was a gloomy November evening, cold and raw
in the wind, but not too chill to sit in the open air under the lee of
the wooden shed which enclosed two sides of the café garden. The heavy
atmosphere had not crushed every spark of cheerfulness out of the
buoyant natures of the materialistic Flemings, and the tables were
filled with noisy _bourgeois_ and their families, drinking the mild beer
of Louvain or generous cups of coffee. Their gayety seemed sacrilegious
in the solemn presence of approaching winter--that long, depressing,
ghostly season which in the Low Countries gives warning of its coming
with prophetic sobs and continued tears, and trails the shroud of summer
before the eyes of shrinking mortals for weeks before it buries its
victim. In a climate like that of Flanders, the winter, rarely marked by
severe cold, really begins with the rainy season in early autumn, and it
continues in an interminable succession of dismal days with shrouded
skies.

On the evening in question the clouds seemed lower than usual; the wind
was fitful and spasmodic, and came in long, mournful, insinuating sighs
that stole in mockingly between the peals of music and laughter, and
startled every one in his gayest mood. The gas-jets flickered and
wavered weirdly, and the dry leaves danced accompaniment to the
movements of the swift-footed waiters. The clatter of wooden shoes on
the pavement without, and the measureless but not unmusical songs of the
jolly workmen on their way home, filled the score of the medley of
sounds that broke the sepulchral quiet of the evening.

There were four of us, as I have said: old Reiner, Tyck, Henley, and
myself. Each represented a different nationality. Reiner was a Norwegian
of German descent, tall and ungainly, with a large head, a shock of
light-colored, coarse hair, a virgin beard, and a good-humored face
focused in a pair of searching gray eyes that pried their way into
everything that came under their owner’s observation. He was by no means
a handsome man, neither was he unattractive; and his sober habits, cool
judgment, and great stock of general information gained for him the
familiar name of old Reiner among the more thoughtless and more
superficial students who were his friends. He was by nature of a more
scientific than artistic turn of mind. He was conversant with nine
languages, including Sanskrit, had received a thorough university
education in Norway and Germany, took delight in investigating every
subject that came in his way--from the habits of an ant to the movements
of the gold market in America--and could talk intelligently and
instructively on every topic proposed to him. Indeed, his scientific and
literary attainments were a wonder to the rest of us, who had lived
quite as long and had accomplished much less. As an artist he had great
talents as well; but here also his love of investigation constantly
directed his efforts. In his academic course he had less success than
might have been anticipated, except in the direction of positive
rendering of certain effects. He was not a colorist; such natures rarely
are; and it is probable that he would never have made a brilliant artist
in any branch of the profession, for he was too much of a positivist,
and even his historical pictures would have been little more than
marvels of correctness of costume and accessories. In his association
with us, the flow of his abundant good-humor, which sometimes seemed
unlimited, was interrupted by occasional spells of complete reaction,
when he neither spoke to nor even saw any one else, but made a hermit of
himself until the mood had passed.

Tyck at first sight looked like a Spaniard. He was slight in stature,
one short leg causing a stoop which made him appear still smaller than
he was. His skin was of a clear brown, warmed by an abundance of rich
blood; a mass of strong, curling hair, and a black moustache and
imperial framed in a face of peculiar strong beauty. His eyes had
something in them too deep to be altogether pleasing, for they caused
one to look at him seriously, yet they were as full of laughter and
good-nature and cheerfulness as dark eyes can be. His face was one that,
notwithstanding its peculiarities, gave a good first impression; and a
long friendship had proved him to be chargeable with fewer blemishes of
character than are written down against the most of us. But his hands
were not in his favor. They were long, bony, and cold; the finger-joints
were large and lacked firmness, and the pressure of the hand was
listless or unsympathetic. The lines of life were faint and
discouraging, and there were few prominent marks in the palm. The secret
of his complexion lay in his parentage, for his mother was a native
woman of Java, and his father a Dutch merchant, who settled in that
far-off country, built up a fortune, and raised a small family of boys,
who deserted the paternal nest as soon as they were old enough to
flutter alone. Tyck was a colorist. He seemed to see the tones of nature
rich with the warm reflections of a tropical sun; and his studies from
life, while strong and luscious in tone, were full of fire and subtle
gradations--qualities combined rarely enough in the works of older
artists. He was to all appearance in the flush of health, and,
notwithstanding his deformity, was uncommonly active and fond of
exercise. We who knew him intimately, however, always looked upon him
as a marked man. With all his rugged, healthy look, his physique was not
vigorous enough to resist the attacks of the common foe, winter, and we
knew that he occasionally pined mentally and physically for the
luxurious warmth of his native land. He flourished in the raw climate of
Flanders only as a transplanted flower flourishes; still, he was not
declining in health or strength.

It is a long and delicate process to build up an intimate friendship
between men of mercurial temperament and such an impersonation of
coolness and deliberation and studied manners as was Henley, the third
member of our group. From his type of face and his peculiar bearing he
was easily recognizable as an Englishman, and even as a member of the
Church of England. His manner was plainly the result of a severe and
formal training; his whole life, as he told us himself, had been passed
under the careful surveillance of a strict father, who was for a long
time the rector of one of the first churches of London. But Henley,
serious, formal, and cool, was not uncompanionable; and I am not quite
sure whether it was not the bony thinness of his face, his straggling
black beard and abundant dead-colored hair, that predisposed one at
first sight to judge him as a sort of melancholy black sheep among his
lighter-hearted companions. So we all placed him at our first meeting.
When once the ice was broken, and we felt the sympathetic presence that
surrounded him in his intercourse with friends, he became a necessity to
complete the current of our little circle, and his English steadiness
often served a good purpose in many wordy tempests.

In religious opinions we four were as divided as we were distinct in
nationality. Henley, as I have said, was a member of the Church of
England. Tyck was a Jew and a Freemason. Reiner entirely disbelieved in
everything that was not plain to him intellectually. Our discussions on
religious subjects were long and warm, for the theories of the fourth
member of the circle piled new fuel upon the flames that sprang up under
the friction of the ideas of the other three, and on these topics alone
we were seriously at variance. Rarely were our disputes carried to that
point where either of us felt wounded after the discussion was ended,
but on more than one occasion they were violent enough to have ruptured
our little bond if it had not been strengthened by ties of more than
ordinary friendship.

This friendship was of the unselfish order, too. We were in the habit of
living on the share-and-share-alike principle. Henley was the only one
who had any allowance, and he always felt that his regular remittance
was rather a bar to his complete and unqualified admission to our little
ring. The joint capital among us was always kept in circulation. When
one had money and the others had none, and it suited our inclinations or
the purposes of our study to visit the Dutch cities, or even to cross
the Channel, we travelled on the common purse. Share-and-share-alike in
cases less pressing than sickness or actual want may not be a sound
mercantile principle; but where the freemasonry of mutual tastes, united
purposes, and common hardships binds friend to friend, the spirit of
communism is half the charm of existence. Especially is this true of
Bohemian life.

In introducing the characters a little time has been taken, partly in
order to give us a chance to move our table into a more sheltered
corner, and to allow us to get well started in another game of dominos.
As I remember that evening, Reiner, who had not entirely recovered from
an attack of one of his peculiar moods, had been discussing miracles and
mysteries with more than his accustomed warmth, and the rest of us had
been cornered and driven off the field in turn; even to Henley, who was
not, with all his study, quite as well up on the subject of the Jewish
priests and the Druids as old Reiner, whom no topic seemed to find
unprepared. When the discussion was at its height I observed in Reiner
certain uneasy movements, and I instinctively looked behind him to see
if any one was watching him, as his actions resembled those of a person
under the mesmerism of an unseen eye. I saw no one, and concluded that
my imagination had deceived me. But Reiner became suddenly grave and
even solemn, and the debate stopped entirely. At last, after a long
silence, Reiner proposed another game of dominos. When the pieces were
distributed he began the moves, saying at the same time, quite in
earnest and as if talking to himself, “This will decide it.”

His voice was so strange and his look so determined that we felt that
something was at stake, and instinctively and in chorus declared that it
was useless to play the game out, and proposed an adjournment to the
sketching-club. Reiner did not object, and we rose to go. As we left the
table I saw behind Reiner’s chair two small, luminous, green balls, set
in a black mass, turned towards us--evidently the eyes of a dog,
glistening in the reflection of the gas like emerald fires. Possibly the
others did not notice the animal, and I was too much startled at the
discovery of the unseen eye to speak of it at that moment. Before I had
recovered myself completely we were out of the gate, followed by the
dog. Under the street-lamp, he leaped about and seemed quite at home. He
was seen to be a perfectly black Spitz poodle, with cropped ears and
tail, very lively in his movements, and with a remarkably intelligent
expression. He was a dog of a character not commonly met, and once
observed was not easily mistaken for others of the same breed. Our walk
to the club was dreary enough. The gloomy manner of old Reiner was
contagious, and no one spoke a word. I was too busy reflecting on the
strange manner in which our game had been interrupted to occupy myself
with my companion, remembering the now frequent recurrence of Reiner’s
blue days, and dreading his absence from the class and the club, which I
knew from experience was sure to follow such symptoms as I had observed
in the café. To the sketching-club we brought an atmosphere so
forbidding that it seemed as if we were the heralds of some misfortune.
Scarcely a cheerful word was said after our entrance, and frequent
glasses of Louvain or _d’orge_, drunk on the production of new
caricatures, failed to raise the barometer of our spirits. The meeting
broke up early, and we four separated. The dog, which had been lying
under a settee near the door, followed Reiner as he turned down the
boulevard.

For a week we did not meet again. Reiner kept his room or was out of
town. He made no sign, and without him we frequented neither the café
nor the club. The weather grew cold and rainy; the last evening at the
café proved to have been the final gasp of dying autumn, and winter had
fairly begun. At last Reiner made his appearance at dinner one dark
afternoon, and took his accustomed seat at our table, near the window
which opened out upon the glass-covered court-yard of the small hotel
where we used to dine, a score of us, artists and students all. He
looked very weary and hollow-eyed; said he had been unwell, had taken an
overdose of laudanum for neuralgia, and had been confined to his room
for a few days. Expecting each day to be able to go out the next
morning, he had neglected to send us word, and so the week had passed.
As he was speaking I noticed a dog in the court-yard, the same black
poodle that attached himself to us in the café. Reiner, observing my
surprise, explained that the dog had been living with him at his room in
the Steenhouwersvest, and that they were inseparable companions now. We
could all see that old Reiner was not yet himself again. One of us
ventured to suggest that there might be something Mephistophelian about
the animal, and that Reiner was endeavoring, Faust-like, to get at the
kernel of the beast, so as to fathom whatever mystery of heaven or earth
was as yet to him inexplicable. No further remarks were made, as Reiner
arose to go away, leaving his dinner untouched. He shook hands with us
all almost solemnly, and with the poodle went out into the gloomy
street.

Another week passed, and we saw neither Reiner nor the poodle. December
began, and the days were short and dark, the sun scarcely appearing
above the cathedral roof in his course from east to west. The absence of
old Reiner was a constant theme of conversation, and there were
multitudes of conjectures as to whether he were in love, in debt, or
really ill. We had no message from him, not a word, not a written line.

One evening as we sat at dinner--it was Thursday, and a heavy rain was
falling--the black poodle dashed suddenly in, closely followed by
Reiner’s servant-girl, bonnetless and in slippers, and drenched to the
skin. Her message was guessed before she had time to gasp out, “Och,
Mynheeren, uwer vriend Reiner is dood!” Not waiting for explanations, we
followed her as she returned through the slippery streets, scarcely
walking or running. How I got there I never knew; it seemed at the time
as if I were carried along by some superior force. Filled with dread and
fear, mingled with hope that it was an awful mistake and that something
might yet be done, I reached the door of the house. Through the
grocery-shop, where was assembled a crowd of shivering, drenched people
who had gathered there on hearing of the event, conscious that all were
watching our entrance with solemn sympathy, not seeing distinctly any
one or anything, forgetting the narrow, dark, and winding wooden stair,
I was at the door of Reiner’s room in an instant. The tall figure of a
gendarme was silhouetted against the window; a few women stood by the
table whispering together, awe-stricken at the sight of something that
was before them, to the left, and still hidden from me as I took in the
scene on entering the door.

Another step brought me to the bedside. There in the dim light lay old
Reiner, not as if asleep, for the awful pallor of death was on his face,
but with an expression as calm and peaceful as if he were soon to awake
from pleasant dreams, as if his soul were still dreaming on. He lay on
his right side, with his head resting on his doubled arm. The bedclothes
were scarcely disturbed, and his left arm lay naturally on the sheet
which was turned over the coverlid. Great, dark stains splashed the wall
behind the bed and the pillow; dark streaks ran along over the linen and
made little pools upon the floor. His shirt-bosom was one broad,
irregular blotch of blood, and in his left hand I could see the carved
ivory handle of the little Scandinavian sheath-knife that he always
carried in his belt. Before I had fully comprehended the awful reality
of poor Reiner’s death, the doctor arrived, lights were brought, and the
examination began. Our dead comrade’s head being raised and his
shirt-bosom opened, there were exposed two great gashes across the left
jugular vein and one across the right, and nine deep wounds in the
breast. Few of the cuts would not have proved mortal, and the ferocity
with which the fatal knife had been plunged again and again into his
breast testified to the madness of the determination to destroy his
life. On the dressing-table by the bed we found two small laudanum
vials, both empty, and one over-turned, as if placed hastily beside its
fellow. In all probability poor Reiner took this large dose of laudanum
early in the morning, as it was found that he had been in bed during the
entire day, and was seen by the servant to be sleeping at three o’clock
in the afternoon. His iron constitution and great physical strength
overcoming the effects of the narcotic, he probably awoke to
consciousness late in the afternoon. Finding himself still alive, in the
agonies of despair and disappointment at the unsuccessful attempt to
dream over the chasm into the next world, he seized his knife and madly
stabbed himself, doubtless feeling little pain, and only happily
conscious that his long-planned step was successfully taken at last. The
room was unchanged, nothing was disturbed, and there was no evidence of
the premeditation of the suicide, except an open letter on the table,
addressed to us, his friends. It contained a simple statement of his
reasons for leaving the world, saying that he was discouraged with his
progress in art, that he could not establish himself as an artist
without great expense to his family and friends, and that he believed by
committing suicide he simply annihilated himself--nothing more or
less--and so ceased to trouble himself or those interested in him. He
gave no directions as to the disposal of his effects, but enclosed a
written confession of faith, which read:

     “Frederik Reiner, athée, ne croyant à rien que ce que l’on peut
     prouver par la raison et l’expérience. Croyant tout de même à
     l’existence d’un esprit, mais d’un esprit qui dissoud et disparaît
     avec le corps.

     “L'âme c’est la vie, c’est un complexité des forces qui sont
     inséparables des atoms ou des molecules dont se compose le corps.
     L’un comme l’autre a existé depuis l’éternité. Moi-même, mon âme
     comme mon corps, un complexité accidentel, une réunion passagère.

     “J’insisterai toujours dans les éléments qui me composent mais
     dissoudent en d’autres complexités. Ainsi, _moi, ma personnalité_,
     n’existera plus après ma mort.”

Beside this letter on the table lay Henri Murger’s “Scènes de la Vie de
Bohème,” open, face downward. The pages contained the description of the
death of one of the artists, and the following brief and touching
sentence was underlined: _“Il fut enterré quelquepart.”_ A litter was
brought from the hospital, and four men carried away the body; the dog,
which we had come to look upon almost with horror, closely following
the melancholy procession as it gradually disappeared in the drizzling
gloom of the narrow streets. We three went to our rooms in a strange
bewilderment, and huddled together in speechless grief and horror around
the little fireplace. When bedtime came we separated and tried to sleep,
but I doubt if an eye was closed or the awful vision of poor Reiner, as
we last saw him, left either of us for a moment.

The days that followed were, to me at least, most agonizing. The
terrible death of old Reiner grew less and less repulsive and more
horribly absorbing. I had often read of the influence of such examples
on peculiarly constituted minds, but had never before felt the dread and
ghastly fascination which seemed to grow upon me as the days following
the tragedy drew no veil across the awful spectacle, ever present in my
mind’s eye, but rather added vividness and distinctness to the smallest
details of the scene. My bed, with its white curtains, the conventional
pattern of heavy Flemish furniture found in every room, came to be
almost a tomb, in the morbid state of my imagination. I could never look
at its long, spotless drapery without fancying my own head on the
pillow, my own blood on the wall and staining with splashes of deep red
the curtain and sheets. The number and shape of the spots on old
Reiner’s bed seemed photographed on the retina of my eye, and danced
upon the slender, graceful folds of the curtains as often as I dared
look at them. A little nickel-plated derringer, always lying on my table
as a paper-weight, often found its way into my hands, and I would
surprise myself wondering whether death by such a means were not, after
all, preferable to destruction by the knife. A few cartridges in the
corner of my closet, which I had hidden away to keep them from the
meddling hands of the servant, seemed to draw me towards them with a
constant magnetism. I could not forget that shelf and that particular
spot behind a bundle of paint-rags. If there was need of anything on
that particular shelf for months after Reiner’s death, I always took it
quickly and resolutely, shutting the closet door as if I were shutting
in all the evil spirits that could possess me. The tempter was
exorcised, but with difficulty, and to this day, for all I know, the
cartridges may still lie hidden there. Then, too, a quaint Normandy
hunting-knife was quite as fiendish in its influence as the derringer.
Its ugly, crooked blade, and strong, sharp point were very suggestive,
and for a time I was almost afraid to touch the handle, lest the demon
of suicide should overcome me. Still, in the climax of this fever, which
might well have resulted in the suicide of another of the four, for it
was evident that Henley and Tyck were also under the same influences
that surrounded me day and night, the thought of burdening our friends
with our dead bodies was the strongest inducement that stayed our hands.
It is certain that if we had been situated where the disposal of our
bodies would have been a matter of little or no difficulty--as, for
example, on board ship--one or perhaps all three of us would have
succumbed to the influence of the mania that possessed us.

It was on the Sunday forenoon--a grim, gray morning threatening a
storm--following the fatal Thursday, that we met in the court-yard of
the city hospital to bury poor Reiner.

The hideous barrenness of a Flemish burial-ground, even in bright,
cheerful weather, is enough to crush the most buoyant spirits; it is
indescribably oppressive and soul-sickening. The awful desolation of the
place in the dreariness of that day will ever remain a horrid souvenir
in my mind. Nature did not seem to weep, but to frown; and in the heavy
air one felt a deep and solemn reproach. The soaked and dull atmosphere
was stifling in its density, like the overloaded breath from some newly
opened tomb. There was an army of felt but unseen spirits lurking in the
ghostly quiet of the place, which the presence of a hundred mortals did
not disturb. There was no breath of wind, and the settling of the snow
and a faint, faint moan of the distant rushing tide made the silence
more oppressive. The drip of the water from the drenched mosses on the
brick walls; the faintest rustle of the wreaths of immortelles hung on
every hideous black cross; the fall of one withered flower from the
forgotten offerings of some friend of the buried dead--every sound at
other times and in other places quite inaudible, broke upon that
unearthly quiet with startling distinctness. The sound of our footsteps,
as we followed the winding path to the fresh heap of earth in a remote
corner, fell heavily on the thick air, and the high brick walls, mouldy
and rotting in the sunless angles, gave a deep and unwilling echo. It
was like treading the dark and skull-walled passages of the Catacombs
without the grateful veil of a partial darkness. All that was mortal and
subject to decay, all that was to our poor human understanding immortal
and indestructible, seemed buried alike in this rigid, barren enclosure.
Beyond? There was no beyond; the straight, barren walls on all sides,
and the impenetrable murkiness of the gray vault that covered us, barred
out the material and the spiritual world. Here was the end, here all was
certain and defined--a narrow ditch, a few shovelfuls of earth, and
nothing more that needed or invited explanation. There was no future, no
waking from that sleep: all exit from that narrow and pitiless graveyard
seemed forever closed. Such thoughts as these were, until then,
strangers to us. Could it be the unextinguishable influence of that
nerveless body that filled the place with the dread and uncongenial
presence that urged us to accept for the time, then and there, the
theories and convictions of the mind which once animated that cold and
motionless mass?

The fresh, moist earth was piled on one side of the grave, and the
workmen with their shovels stood near the heap as we filed up, and at a
sign lowered the coffin into the grave. A Norwegian minister approached
to conduct the services. He took his place apart from all, at the head
of the grave, and began with the customary prayer in the Norwegian
language. He was dressed in harmony with the day and scene. A long,
black gown fell to the feet and was joined by a single row of thickly
sewn buttons; a white band hung from his neck low down in front, and
white wristbands half covered his gloved hands; a silk hat completed the
costume. His face was of the peculiar, emotionless Northern type,
perfectly regular in feature, with well-trimmed reddish-brown beard and
hair, and small, unsympathetic gray eyes, and it bore an expression of
congealed conviction in the severity of divine judgment. His prayer was
long and earnest, and the discourse which followed was full of honest
regret for the loss of our friend, but mainly charged with severe
reproach against the wickedness of the suicide, the burden of the sermon
being, “The wages of sin is death.” We stood there, shivering with the
penetrating chill of the damp atmosphere, filled with the horrors of
this acre of the dead, and listened patiently to the long discourse. In
the very middle of the argument there was a sudden rustle near the head
of the grave, a momentary confusion among those standing near the
minister, and, to the great amazement and horror of Tyck, Henley, and
myself, that black poodle, draggled but dignified, walked quietly to the
edge of the pit as if he had been bidden to the funeral, and sat down
there, midway between the minister and the little knot of mourners,
eying first the living and then the dead with calm and portentous
gravity. He seemed to pay the closest attention to the words of the
discourse, and with an expression of intelligent triumph, rather than
grief, cocked his wise little head to one side and eyed the minister as
he dilated on the sin of suicide, and then looked solemnly down into the
grave. His actions were so human and his expression so fiendishly
exultant that to the three of us, who had previously made his
acquaintance, his presence was an additional horror; among the rest it
merely excited comment on the sagacity of the beast. There he sat
through the whole of the services, and nothing could move him from his
post.

At the close of the sermon, and after a short eulogy in Flemish
delivered by one of us, the minister gave out the Norwegian hymn with
this refrain:

    “Min Gud! gjör dog for Christi Blod
     Min sidste Afskedstime god!”

The first part of the air is weird and Northern, and the last strain is
familiar to us by the name of “Hebron.” The Norwegian words were
significant and well-chosen for this occasion, very like the simple
stanzas of our “Hebron.” The hymn is sad enough at all times; when tuned
to the mournful drag of our untrained voices it seemed like the sighing
of unshrived spirits.

As the sad measures wailed forth, the day seemed to grow colder and
darker; a dreary wind rustled the dry branches of the stunted trees, and
rattled the yellow wreaths of immortelles and the dry garlands and
bouquets. The dog grew uneasy between the verses, and howled long and
piteously, startling us all in our grief, and causing a dismal echo from
the cold, bare walls that hemmed us in. At last the painfully long hymn
was ended, immortelles were placed upon the coffin-lid, each one threw
in a handful of earth, and we turned our faces towards the gate, away
from death and desolation to dismal and melancholy life and our now
distasteful occupation. With one last look into the enclosure, we passed
out of the gate, closing it behind us. The dog was still at his post.

A rapid drive brought us in fifteen minutes to the Place de Meir, where
we alighted and found to welcome us the same black poodle that we left
at the grave. The cemetery of Kiel is at least two miles from the Place
de Meir; yet the dog left it after we did, and, panting and covered with
mud, was awaiting us at the latter place. He could have made his escape
from the cemetery only by the aid of some one to open the heavy gate for
him, and, considering this necessary delay, his appearance in the city
before us was, to say the least, startling. He welcomed us cheerfully,
but we gave him no encouragement. The inexplicable ubiquity of the beast
horrified us too much to allow any desire for such a companion. As we
separated and took three different roads, to my great relief he followed
neither of us, but stood undecided which way to turn.

The circumstances attending the burial of poor Reiner and the events
which followed tended to increase our disposition to imitate the
questionable action of our friend; but the annual _concours_ of the
academy, which demanded the closest attention and the most severe work
for nearly three months, counteracted all such evil tendencies, and by
spring-time we laughed at the morbid fancies of the previous winter.

The evening after the funeral, on my way to the life class, I met the
poodle again, and, in reply to his recognition, drove him away with my
cane. Both Tyck and Henley related at the class a similar experience
with the dog, which we had now come to look upon as a fiend in disguise.
After this the meetings with the poodle were daily and almost hourly. He
would quietly march into the hotel court-yard as we were at dinner; we
would stumble over him on the stairs; at a café the _garçon_ would hunt
him from the room; at the academy he would startle us, amuse the rest of
the students, and enrage the professor by breaking the guard of the old
surveillant, and rushing into the life class. He seemed to belong to no
one and to have no home, and yet he was an attractive animal with his
long, glossy coat, saucy ears and tail, and bright, intelligent eyes. We
often endeavored to rid ourselves of him. Many times I tried my best to
kill him, arming myself expressly with my heavy stick; but he avoided
all my attacks, and always met me cheerfully at our next interview. At
times he was morose and meditative. It used to be a theory of mine that
at these seasons he was making up his mind which one of us he had better
adopt as his master, declaring--only half in earnest, however--that the
one whom the animal especially favored would be sure to meet poor
Reiner’s fate. The months of January and February passed, and the poodle
still haunted us. In the course of these dark months we repeatedly
attempted to make friends with the dog, finding that we could not make
an enemy of him, and hoped thus to disprove the imagined fatality of the
beast or else to break the spell by our own wills. All efforts at
conciliation failed; he would never enter even to take food the room
where we three were alone, and would show signs of general recognition
only, and those but sparingly, when we were together. He seemed content
with simply watching us, and not desirous of further acquaintance. Yet,
in the face of this mysterious behavior, I doubt very much if any one of
us really believed that anything would come of our forebodings; for we
began to speak of the dog at first quite in jest, and grew more serious
only as we were impressed after the death of Reiner by the consistent
impartiality of his fondness for our society, and by the unequalled
persistency with which he haunted us wherever we went abroad.

We made inquiries about the dog at the house where old Reiner used to
live, and diligently searched various localities, but we could not find
out where he passed his nights, and we discovered only that he was known
all about the town simply as Reiner’s dog, the story of his presence at
the funeral having been repeated by some of those who noticed his
actions at the grave. March came and went, and the dog had not yet taken
his choice of us, and we began to be confident that he never would. But
in one of the first warm days of spring we noticed his absence, and for
a day or two saw nothing of him. One Sunday, after a fête-day when we
three had not met as usual at the academy, a pure spring day, I received
a short note from Henley, asking me to come to his room on the Place
Verte, as he was unwell. I went immediately to his lodgings, and found
him sitting up, but quite pale and with a changed expression on his
face. I knew he had been suffering from a severe cold for some time, but
we all had colds in the damp, unhealthful old academy. His noticeably
increasing paleness was due, I had supposed, to the anxious labor and
prolonged strain of the _concours_. In one instance when we had been for
thirty-six hours shut up in a room with sealed doors and windows,
threescore of us, together with as many large kerosene lamps and nearly
the same number of foul pipes, with three large, red-hot cylinder
stoves, and no exit allowed on any excuse, we were all more or less
affected by the poisoned air and the long struggle with the required
production. The idea, then, that there was anything serious the matter
with Henley never entered my head as I saw him sitting there in his
room; but his first words brought me to a realization of the case, and
all the horror of that long winter and its one mournful event came back
to me in a flash. His remark was significant. He simply said, “That dog
is here.”

To be sure, the poodle was quietly sleeping near Henley’s easel, in the
sun. After a few general remarks, my friend said to me, quite abruptly,
as if he had made up his mind to come to the point at once:

“I thought I would send for you, old boy, to give you a souvenir or two.
I am more seriously ill than you imagine. My brother will be here
to-morrow; I shall return with him to England, and you and I shall
probably meet no more.”

There was resignation in every word he uttered, and he was evidently
convinced of the hopelessness of attempting to struggle with the
disease, his languid efforts to throw it off not having in the least
retarded its advance. I tried to prove to him the folly of the
superstition about the dog, but it was useless. He quietly said that the
doctor had assured him of the necessity of an immediate return to a
warmer climate and to the care of his friends. Tyck, who had been sent
for at the same time, came in shortly after, and was completely shaken
by the strange fulfilment of our mysterious forebodings. We passed a sad
hour in that little room, and took our leave only when we saw that
Henley was fatigued with too much talking, for he began to cough
frightfully, and could hardly speak above a whisper. He gave to each of
us, with touching tenderness, a palette-knife--the best souvenirs we
could have, he said, because they would be in our hands constantly--and
we took our leave, promising to meet him on the boat the following day.
We learned from the servant that the poodle had inhabited the cellar for
several days, and that they had not been able to drive him away.

Tyck seemed perfectly dazed by the severity of Henley’s malady and the
suddenness of his departure. Both of us avoided speaking of the dog,
each fearing that his own experience with the unlucky acquaintance might
follow that of our two companions. Tyck, I knew, was more subject to
colds than the rest of us, for he had never been completely acclimated
in Flanders, and he doubtless feared that one of the frequent slight
attacks that troubled him might prove at last as serious as the illness
that now threatened poor Henley. With Henley’s departure Antwerp would
lose half its attraction for us, for since the death of old Reiner we
three had been even more closely attached than before. Henley had lost
some of his insular coldness and formality of manner, was daily assuming
more and more the appearance and acquiring the free and easy habits of
an art-student, and his unchanging good-nature, his stability of
character, and his entertaining conversation made him the leader of our
trio. During the exhausting months of the _concours_, and in face of
the discouraging results of weeks of most energetic and nervous toil, he
never lost his patience, but encouraged us by his superior strength of
purpose and scorn of minor disappointments.

The next day we three met on board the Baron Osy just before the cables
were cast off the quay. Henley was one of the last passengers to get
aboard, and fortunately our parting was by necessity short. He was very
weak, and evidently failed from hour to hour, for he could walk only
with the support of his brother’s arm. He said good-by hopelessly but
calmly, and we parted with scarcely another word. We felt that regrets
were useless and words of encouragement vain, and that the only thing
that remained to do was to accept his fate calmly, and as calmly await
our own. There was not a shadow of hope that we would ever meet again,
and I can never forget the far-off look in Henley’s face as he turned
his eyes for an instant towards the swift, yellow current of the
Scheldt, with the rich-hued sails, the fleecy spring clouds, and the
gorgeously colored roofs of Saint Anneke reflected in its eddying
surface. The cables were cast off and we hurried ashore. In the bustle
and confusion a black poodle was driven off the plank by one of the
stewards, but the crowd was so great and the noise and the tumult of the
wharf-men so distracting, that it was impossible to see whether the dog
remained on the boat or was put ashore. However, we saw him no more, and
did not doubt that he went with Henley to London. In less than two weeks
a letter from Henley’s brother announced the death of our friend from
quick consumption. Nothing was said of the dog.

From that time Tyck was preoccupied; he was much alone, ceased to
frequent the academy, and neither worked nor diverted himself: it was
plain that he needed change. Antwerp, at the best a cheerless town, gay
on the surface, perhaps, because its people are as thoughtless and
improvident as children, but full of misery and well-concealed
wretchedness, grew hateful to us both.

Suddenly Tyck announced his purpose of going to Italy, and I resolved to
break my camp as well, make an artistic tour of the East, and meet my
friend in Rome in the autumn. We divided our canvases and easels among
the rest of the fellows, rolled up our studies, and with the color-box,
knapsack, and travelling-rug were prepared in a day to leave the scene
of our sad experiences. It was with feelings of great relief and
satisfaction that we saw the red roofs of Antwerp disappear behind the
fortifications as the train carried us southward.


II.

Eight months after Tyck and I parted at Brussels, I arrived in Rome.
Sharing, as I did, the general ignorance in regard to the severity of
the Italian winters, I was surprised to find the weather bitterly cold.
It was the day before Christmas, and a breeze that would chill the bones
swept the deserted streets. After three months’ idling in the East,
paddling in the Golden Horn, dreamily watching from the hills of Smyrna
the far-off islands of the Grecian Archipelago, and sleeping in the sun
on the rocks at Piræus, Italy seemed as cold and barren as the shores of
Scandinavia. It is a popular mistake to winter in Italy. The West of
England, the South of France, and many sections of our own country are
far preferable. It is not to be denied that Italy can be thoroughly
enjoyed only in the warm months. Even in the hottest season, Americans
find Naples, Rome, and Florence less uncomfortable than Boston, New
York, and Philadelphia. Immediately on my arrival Tyck came to meet me
at the hotel, and we spent a happy Christmas Eve, discussing the
thousand topics that arise when two intimate friends meet after a
separation like our own. Tyck was in better health and spirits than I
had ever known him to be in before, and to all appearances Italian air
agreed with him. In the course of the evening he gave me an invitation
to make one of a breakfast-party that was to celebrate Christmas in his
studio the next day, and the invitation was accompanied with the request
to bring eatables and liquids enough to satisfy my own appetite on that
occasion--a Bohemian fashion of giving dinner-parties to which we were
no strangers. Accordingly, the next morning at eleven o’clock we were to
meet again in Tyck’s quarters.

The studio was in the fifth story of a large block not far from the
Porta del Popolo, and looked out upon a large portion of the city, the
view embracing the Pincio and St. Peter’s, Monte Mario, and the
Quirinal. The entrance on the street was dismal and prison-like. A long,
dark corridor led back to a small court at the bottom of a great pit
formed by the walls of the crowded houses, and the stones of the
pavement were flooded with the drippings from the buckets of all the
neighborhood, as they slid up and down the wire guys leading into the
antique well in one corner, and rattled and splashed until they were
drawn up by an unseen hand far above in the maze of windows and
balconies--an ingenious and simple way of drawing water, quite common in
Rome. From this sunless court-yard a broad, musty staircase twisted and
turned capriciously up past narrow, gloomy passages to the upper floors
of the house. At the fourth story began a narrow wooden staircase,
always perfumed with the odors of the adjacent kitchens; and it grew
narrower and steeper and more crooked until it met a little dark door at
the very top, bearing the name of Tyck. The suite of rooms which Tyck
occupied made up one of those mushroom-like wooden stories that are
lightly stuck on the top of substantial stone or brick buildings. They
add to the beauty of the silhouette, but detract from the dignity of the
architectural effect, and look like the cabin of a wrecked ship flung
upon the rocks. From the outside, quaint little windows, pretty hanging
gardens, or an airy _loggia_ make the place look cheerful and cosy.
Within, one feels quite away from the world; far up beyond neighbors and
enclosing walls, tossed on a sea of roofs, and with a broad sweep of the
horizon on every side. Such a perch is as attractive as it is difficult
to reach, and offers to the artist the advantages of light, quiet, and
perfect freedom. Tyck’s rooms were three in number. A narrow corridor
led past the door of the store-room to the studio--a large, square room
with a great window on the north side and smaller ones with shutters on
the east and west. From the studio a door opened into the chamber, in
turn connected with the store-room. Thus there was a public and a
private entrance to the studio.

The Christmas breakfast had more than ordinary significance: it was to
be the occasion of the presentation of Tyck’s household to his artist
friends. This, perhaps, needs explanation. At the time of our departure
from Antwerp, Tyck was engaged to be married to a young lady, the
daughter of a Flemish merchant, and there was every prospect of a
wedding within a year. After he had been absent two or three months her
letters ceased to come, and Tyck learned from a friend that the thrifty
father of the girl had found a match more desirable from a mercenary
point of view, and had obliged his daughter to break engagement number
one in order to enter into a new relation. Tyck, after some months of
despondency, at last made an alliance with a Jewish girl of the working
class, and it was at the Christmas breakfast that Lisa was to be
presented for the first time to the rest of the circle. When I entered
the studio there were already a good many fellows present. The apartment
was a picture in itself; and a long dining-table placed diagonally
across the room, bearing piles of crockery and a great _pièce montée_ of
evergreen and oranges, and surrounded by a unique and motley assemblage
of chairs, did not detract from the picturesqueness of the interior.

As studios go, this would not, perhaps, have been considered luxurious
or of extraordinary interest, but it had a character of its own. Two
sides of the room were hung with odd bits of old tapestry and stray
squares of stamped leather, matched together to make an irregular
patchwork harmonious in tone and beautifully rich in color. In the
corner were bows and arrows, spears, and other weapons, brought from
Java, a branch or two of palm, and great reeds from the Campagna with
twisted and shrivelled leaves, yellow and covered with dust. Studies of
heads and small sketches were tucked away between the bits of tapestry
and leather, and thus every inch of these walls was covered. On another
wall was a book-shelf with a confused pile of pamphlets and
paper-covered books, and under this hung a number of silk and satin
dresses, various bits of rich drapery, a coat or two, and a Turkish fez.
The remaining wall, and the two narrow panels on either side of the
great window, were completely covered with studies of torsos, drawings
from the nude, academy heads, sketches of animals and landscapes,
together with a shelf of trinkets, a skeleton, and a plaster death-mask
of a friend hung with a withered laurel-wreath. Quaint old chairs, bits
of gilded stage furniture, racks of portfolios, a small table or two
covered with the odds and ends of draperies, papers, sketches, the
accumulation of months, filled the corners and spread confusion into the
middle of the room. Three or four easels huddled together under the
light, holding stray panels and canvases and half-finished pictures, a
lay-figure--that stiff and angular caricature of the human form--and a
chair or two loaded with brushes, color-box, and palettes, witnessed
that tools were laid aside to give room for the table that filled every
inch of vacant space. In one corner was an air-tight stove, and this was
piled up with dishes and surrounded by great tin boxes, whence an
appetizing steam issued forth, giving a hint of the good things awaiting
us. The bottles were beginning to form a noble array on the table, and
as often as a new guest appeared, a servant with a _porte-manger_ and a
couple of bottles would contribute to the army of black necks and add to
the breastwork of loaded dishes that flanked the stove. Tyck was in his
element, welcoming heartily and with boyish enthusiasm every arrival,
and leading the shout of joy at the sight of a fat bundle or a heavy
weight of full bottles. By eleven o’clock every one was on hand, and
there was an embarrassment of riches in the eating and drinking line.
Before sitting down at the table--there were eighteen of us--we made a
rule that each one should in turn act as waiter and serve with his own
hand the dishes he had brought, the intention being to divide the
accumulated stock of dishes into a great many different courses. French
was chosen as the language of the day.

While we were discussing the question of language, Lisa came in and was
presented to us all in turn, impressing us very favorably. She was
slight, but not thin, with dark hair, large brown eyes, and a
transparent pink-and-white complexion--a fine type of a Jewess. She took
the place of honor at Tyck’s right hand, and we sat down in a very jolly
mood.

The _menu_ of that breakfast would craze a French cook, and the
arrangement of the courses was a work of great difficulty, involving
much general discussion. The _trattorie_ of Rome had been ransacked for
curious and characteristic national dishes; every combination of goodies
that ingenious minds could suggest was brought, and plain substantials
by no means failed. In the _hors d'œuvre_, we had excellent fresh
caviare, the contribution of a Russian; Bologna sausage and nibbles of
radish; and, to finish, _pâté de foie gras_. Soup _à la jardinière_ was
announced, and was almost a failure at the start-off, because one very
important aid to the enjoyment of soup, the spoons, had been forgotten
by the contributor. A long discussion as to the practicability of
leaving the soup to the end of the meal, meanwhile ordering spoons to be
brought, terminated in the employment of extra glasses in place of
spoons and soup-plates. Then all varieties of fish followed in a rapid
succession of small courses. Tiny minnows fried in delicious olive-oil;
crabs and crawfish cooked in various ways; Italian oysters, small, thin,
and coppery in flavor; canned salmon from the Columbia River; _baccalà_
and herrings from the North Sea; broad, gristly flaps from the body of
the devil-fish, the warty feelers purple and suggestive of the stain of
sepia and of Victor Hugo--all these, and an abundance of each, were
passed around. An immense joint of roast beef, with potatoes,
contributed by an Englishman; a leg of mutton, by a Scotchman; a roast
pig, from a Hungarian; the potted meat of Australia, and the tasteless
_manzo_ of Italy, formed the solid course. Next we devoured a whole
flock of juicy larks with crisp skins, pigeons in pairs, ducks from the
delta of the Tiber, a turkey brought by an American, pheasants from a
Milanese, squash stuffed with meat and spices, and a globe of _polenta_
from a Venetian. At this point in the feast there were cries of quarter,
but none was given. An English plum-pudding of the unhealthiest species,
with flaming sauce; a pie or two strangely warped and burned in places,
from the ignorance of the Italian cook or the bad oven; pots of jelly
and marmalade, fruit mustard, stewed pears, and roasted chestnuts,
_ekmekataïf_ and _havláh_ from a Greek, a profusion of fruits of all
kinds, were offered, and at last coffee was served to put in a
paragraph. The delicate wines of Frascati and Marino, the light and dark
Falernian, a bottle of Tokay, one of Vöslau, thick red wine of Corfu,
and flasks of the ordinary Roman mixture--a little more than water, a
little less than wine--Capri _rosso_ and _bianco_, Bordeaux and
Burgundy, good English ale and porter, Vienna beer, American whiskey,
and Dutch gin, Alkermes, Chartreuse, and Greek mastic, made, all told, a
wine-list for a king, and presented a rank of arguments to convert a
prohibitionist. This was no orgy that I am describing, simply a jolly
breakfast for eighteen Bohemians of all nationalities--a complex,
irregular affair, but for that reason all the more delightful.

When we were well along in the bill of fare, a little incident occurred
which put me out of the mood for further enjoyment of the breakfast, and
for the rest of the day my position was that of silent spectator,
watching the amusements with an expression not calculated to encourage
sport. To begin with, I was unusually sensitive to nervous shocks, from
the fact that my first impression of Rome had been intensely
disagreeable. I found myself in a strangely exciting atmosphere, and
subject to unpleasant influences. The first night passed in Rome was
crowded with visions, and I cannot recall a period of twenty-four hours
during my residence in that city that has not its unpleasant souvenir
of strange hallucinations, wonderful dreams, or some shock to my nerves.
The meeting with Tyck was doubtless the occasion of my visions and
restlessness on the night before the Bohemian breakfast. The events of
the previous winter in Antwerp came freshly to my mind; I lived over
again that dark season of horrors, and the atmosphere of Rome nourished
the growth of similar strange fancies. There was, however, in my train
of thoughts on Christmas Eve no foreboding that I can recall, no
prophetic fear of a continuance of the strange relations with that black
poodle which had already taken away the best half of our circle. It
needed little, nevertheless, to put me in a state of mind very similar
to that which tortured me for months in Antwerp.

But to return to the breakfast. While we were at the table a hired
singer and guitar-player, a young girl of sixteen or seventeen years,
sang Italian popular songs and performed instrumental pieces. She had
nearly exhausted her list when she began to sing the weird, mournful
song of Naples, “Palomella,” at that time quite the rage, but since worn
threadbare, and its naïve angles and depressions polished down to the
meaningless monotony of a popular ditty. We heard a dog howl in the
sleeping-room as the singer finished the ballad, and Lisa rose to open
the door. My seat on Tyck’s left brought me quite near the door, and I
turned on my chair to watch the entrance of the animal. A black poodle,
as near as I could judge the exact counterpart of the Flemish dog,
quietly walked into the room, evidently perfectly at home. My first calm
reflection was that it was an hallucination, a mental reproduction of
one of the grim pictures of the past winter; I could not believe my own
vision, and it was some time before I came to realize the fact that my
senses were not deceived. I was about to ask Tyck if he had noticed in
the dog any curious resemblance to our self-appointed companion in
Antwerp, when he turned, and, as I thought then, with a lingering touch
of the old superstitious fear in his voice, said: “You’ve noticed the
dog; he belongs to Lisa. When he first came here, a month ago, I was
horrified to find in him the image of our Flemish friend. Lisa laughed
me out of my fears, saying that the animal had been in the family for
six months or more, and at last I began to look upon him as a harmless
pup, and to wonder only at the strange coincidence.” But I could not
turn the affair into a joke or forget for a moment past events, now
recalled so vividly to my mind. This was the third time that a black
poodle had taken a liking to one of us, and two out of the three
attachments had already proved fatal to the human partner. It was not by
any means clear that the same dog played these different renderings of
one part, but to all appearance it was the identical poodle. If in two
cases this friendship of the dog for his self-chosen master had proved
fatal, it was but a natural inference that the third attachment would
terminate in a similar manner. But Tyck was in better health than ever
before, notwithstanding the companionship of the dog. Was not this a
proof of the folly of my superstition? I asked myself. Reasons were not
wanting to disprove the soundness of my logic. It was undoubtedly true
that stranger and more wonderful coincidences had happened, and nothing
had come of them, and it was undeniable that the imagination might
distort facts to such a degree that coincidences would be suspected
where none existed. If it were only a coincidence, fears were childish.
And the dog manifested no particular friendship for Tyck; he belonged to
Lisa, and seemed to take no special notice of any one else.

The _déjeuner_ went on without further interruption, and the guitar girl
drummed away until the table was cleared. We were not at a loss for
entertainments after the feast was ended. Tyck’s costumes were drawn
upon, and a Flemish musician sang a costume duet with a Walloon
sculptor, one being laced up in a blue satin ball-dress, and the other
staggering under the weight of a janissary’s uniform. Later on there
was a dancing _concours_, in which the Indian war-dance, the English
jig, the negro walk-around, the tarantella, the Flemish _reuske_, and
the Hungarian _csárdás_ each had its nimble-footed performers. The scene
was worth putting upon canvas. The confusion of quaint and rare
trinkets, the abundance of color-bits, and the picturesque groups of
figures in all the costumes that could be improvised for the dance or
the song--a museum of _bric-à-brac_ and a carnival of characters--all
this made a _tableau vivant_ of great richness and interest.

About the middle of the afternoon the entertainment began to flag a
little, and the moment there was a lull in the sport some one proposed a
trip to Ponte Molle. The vote was immediately taken and carried, and we
marched out to the Piazza del Popolo and engaged an omnibus for the rest
of the day.

The straggling suburb outside the Porta del Popolo was lively with
pleasure-seeking Romans. The wine-shops were full of sad-eyed peasants
and weary, careworn laborers; all the mournful character of a Roman
merry-making was unusually prominent on this cheerless holiday, and the
cloaked natives chatted as solemnly as if they were mourners at a
funeral. Roman festivities are, in general, not calculated to divert the
participants to a dangerous extent. Wine-drinking is the chief
amusement; and even under the enlivening influences of his potations the
Roman rarely loses his habitual seriousness of manner, but bears himself
to the end of the orgy as if he expected every moment to be called upon
to answer for the sins of his ancestors. As we drove along the straight,
broad road that raw afternoon, we met numberless carts and omnibuses
filled with laborers returning from the wine-shops in the Campagna; the
sidewalks were crowded with people on their way to and from the
_trattorie_ near the Tiber; and scarcely a song was heard, rarely a
laugh sounded above the rattle of the wheels. The natives were making a
business of amusement, and formed a staid and sober procession, on an
occasion when in Germany or Belgium the frolics and noisy merriment of
the people would have known no bounds short of the limit of physical
endurance. We were probably regarded as escaped maniacs because we
persisted in breaking the voiceless confusion by our hearty Flemish
songs. We left the omnibus in the yard of a _trattoria_ at some distance
out in the Campagna, and strolled over the hills for an hour, watching
the dark, cold mountains and the broad, sad-tinted waste spread out
before us. The solemn beauty of the Campagna is always impressive; under
a gray sky it assumes a sombre and mournful aspect. To the north of the
city, the low, flat-topped hills combine in a peculiar way to form
silhouettes of great nobleness of character and simplicity of line. They
are the changeless forms that endure like the granite cliffs, monumental
in their grandeur. When moving shadows of the clouds form purple patches
across these hills, and the dull gray of the turf comes into occasional
relief in a spot of strong sunlight, the scene is one of unique and
matchless beauty--a heroic landscape, with wonderful vigor and dignity
of line and extraordinary delicacy of tone. That afternoon the dog,
which had accompanied Tyck on the excursion, furnished us our chief
amusement. We tossed sticks down the steep gravel banks, to watch his
lithe black form struggle through the brambles, seize the bit, and
return it to us. He, poor animal, had probably been shut up within the
walls of Rome longer than the rest of the party, and entered into the
outdoor frolics with even more zest than his human companions. Below the
_trattoria_ there was a narrow brook bridged by a rail, and we tried to
get the poodle to walk this narrow path, but with no success. Tyck at
last made the attempt, to encourage the dog, but on his way back he
slipped and wet his feet and ankles thoroughly. Most of us thought this
accident of not the least importance, but one or two of the old
residents advised a return to the wine-shop, hinting of a possible
serious illness in consequence of the wetting. At the _trattoria_ Tyck
dried himself at the large open fire in the kitchen, and we thought no
more of it. The old Porta del Popolo answered our chorus with a
welcoming echo as we drove in, shortly after dark, and mingled with the
shivering crowd hurrying to their homes. Our Christmas had at least been
a merry one to the most of us, but I could not forget the incident of
the dog; and as I walked through the streets to my cheerless room a
strange dread gradually took entire possession of me in spite of my
reason.

For a day or two, that least amusing of all occupations, studio-hunting,
kept me busy from morning till night, and I saw none of the
breakfast-party. It was beginning to surprise me that Tyck did not make
his appearance, when I had a call from Lisa, bearing a message from him,
saying he was slightly unwell and wanted me to come and see him. I lost
no time in complying with his request. On my way to his room the same
old dread, stifled for a while in the busy search for rooms, came back
with all its force, and I already began to suffer the first agonies of
grief at the loss of my friend. For, although the message was hopeful
enough, it came at a time when it seemed the first sign of the
fulfilment of my forebodings, and from that moment I looked upon Tyck as
lost to us. Not pretending to myself that it was an excusable weakness
on my part to become the victim of what would generally be declared a
morbid state of the imagination; reasoning all the while that the
weather, the peculiar, tomb-like atmosphere of Rome, our previous
experience in Antwerp, and our long absence from the distractions and
worldliness of a civilized society would have caused this state of mind
in healthier organizations than my own; I still could not help thinking
of my friend as already in the clutch of death, and soon to be numbered
as the third lost from our little circle, while the fourth was still to
wait.

Tyck was in bed when I entered his chamber. There was a fresh glow deep
in his brown cheek, and his eyes seemed to me brighter than usual; still
there was no visible sign of a dangerous illness, and my reason laughed
at my fears. He complained of dizziness, headache, pains in the back,
and coughed at intervals. His manner showed that his mind was troubled,
and from Lisa I learned that he had not yet received the expected
remittance for the sale of his last pictures sent to London. The winter
was severe and fuel expensive; models were awaiting payment, and the
rent-day was drawing near. I gave Lisa all the money I had with me, and
charged her to keep me posted as to the wants of the household, if by
any bad fortune Tyck should be obliged to keep his room for any length
of time. She afterwards told me that later in the day several friends
called, suspected the state of affairs, and each contributed according
to his purse--always without the knowledge of the sufferer.

Every day after that, I passed a portion of the daylight in Tyck’s room.
His cough gradually grew more violent, and in a day or two he became
seriously ill with high fever. The doctor, a spare, wise-looking German,
of considerable reputation as a successful practitioner in fever cases,
was called that day and afterwards made more frequent visits than the
length of our purses would warrant. On the third or fourth day he
decided that the disease was typhoid fever, and commenced a severe and
to us inexperienced nurses a harsh treatment, dosing continually with
quinine and blistering the extremities. Before the end of a week Tyck
fell into long spells of delirium, and recognized his friends only at
intervals. His tongue was black, and protruded from his mouth, and
between his fits of coughing he could at last only whisper a few words
in Italian. We had been in the habit of conversing at discretion in
English, French, Flemish, or German; talking always on art questions in
French, telling stories in the picturesque Flemish patois, and reserving
the German and English languages for more solemn conversation. Tyck
would frequently attempt to use one of these languages when he wished to
speak with me during his illness, aware of my slight acquaintance with
Italian, and it was most painful to witness his struggles with an
English or French sentence. The words seemed too rasping for his tender
throat and blistered tongue; the easy enunciation of the Italian vowels
gave him no pain, and in a sigh he could whisper a whole sentence.

When at last Lisa was quite worn out with nursing, and there was need of
more skilful and experienced hands to administer the medicines and
perform the thousand duties of a sick-room, the doctor advised us to
make application at a convent for a sister to come and watch at night.
We did so, and on the evening of the same day a cheerful, home-like
little body, in the stiffest of winged bonnets, climbed the long stairs
and took immediate possession of the sick-room, putting things into
faultless order in a very few moments. Her first step was to banish the
dog to a neighboring studio, and I awaited her entrance into the
painting-room with some anxiety. The long table had been removed, but
otherwise the studio remained just the same as it was on the day of the
feast. A regiment of bottles was drawn up near the window; various
tell-tale dishes, broken glasses, and other _débris_ cluttered the
corner near where the stove stood, and I was sure that a lecture on the
sin of the debauchery which had brought my friend to a sick-bed awaited
me the moment the sister saw these proofs of our worldliness. She
trotted out into the studio at last, in the course of her busy
preparation for the night; and then, instead of bursting forth with a
reproof, she covered her face with her hands, turned about, and walked
out of the house. I, of course, followed her and begged for an
explanation. She hesitated long, but finally with some difficulty said
she could not stay in a room where such pictures decorated the walls,
and before she would consent to return she must be assured of their
removal or concealment. I hastened up, covered all the academy studies
with bits of newspaper; and the sister returned and went on with her
duties as if nothing had happened. So the expected lecture was never
delivered. In the sight of the greater enormity of academy studies, she
clearly thought it useless to lecture on the appetite.

Few days elapsed after the sister took charge of the sick-room before we
were all rejoiced at an improvement in Tyck. He grew better rapidly, and
in two weeks was able to sit up in bed and talk to us. Though we were
full of joy at his apparent speedy recovery, there was always a
bitterness in the thought that the fatal relapse might be expected at
every moment, and this shadow hung over us even in the most hopeful
hours. The sister gave up her charge, and as Tyck grew better day by
day, Lisa came to act as sole nurse and companion, although we made
daily visits to the sick-room. The month of January passed, and Carnival
approached. Tyck was able to have his clothes put on, and to move around
the room a little. The doctor made infrequent and irregular visits, and
but for the fear of a relapse would have ceased to come altogether.

The morning of the first day of Carnival week, I was awakened while it
was still dark by the ringing of my door-bell, and lay in bed for a
while undecided whether it was not a dream that had roused me. My studio
and apartment were of a very bogyish character, located at the top of a
house on the Tiber, completely shut away from the world, and full of
dream-compelling influences that lurked in the dingy and long-disused
bedroom with its worn and faded furniture, and filled the spacious
studio and the musty little _salon_ with an oppressive presence, which
did not vanish in the brightest days nor in the midst of the liveliest
assembly that ever gathered there. So it never astonished me to be
awakened by some unaccountable noise, or by the mental conviction that
there was some disturbance in the crowded atmosphere. When I was aroused
that dark, drizzly morning, I awaited the second pull of the bell before
I summoned courage enough to pass through the shadowy _salon_ and the
lofty studio, with its ghostly lay-figure and plaster casts, like pale
phantoms in the dim light of a wax taper, and open the great door that
led into the narrow corridor. A slender form wrapped in a shawl entered
the studio, and Lisa stood there, pale with fright, her great brown eyes
drowned in tears, shrinking from the invisible terrors that seemed to
pursue her. She whispered that Tyck was worse, and asked me to go for
the doctor. I led her back to Tyck’s room, and in an hour the doctor was
there.

The details of that last illness are painful in the extreme. The sister
was not in attendance, it having been decided by the superior that
artists’ studios were places whither the duties of the sisterhood did
not call its members, and so Lisa’s mother came and did her best to
fill, in a rough sort of way, the delicate office of nurse. On the last
day of Carnival, little suspecting that the end of my friend was near, I
was occupied in my own studio, until nearly dark, and just as the sport
was at its height I struggled through the crowd and reached Tyck’s
studio, white with _confetti_ and flour, and in a state of mind hardly
fitted for the sick-room. In the studio two doctors sat in consultation,
and their serious faces, with the frightened look in Lisa’s eyes, told
me the sad story at once. They had decided that Tyck must die, and made
a last examination just after I entered. They raised him in bed, thumped
his poor back, pulled out his swollen tongue, and felt of his tender
scalp, burned with fever and frozen with a sack of ice. The group at the
bedside, so picturesquely impressive, will always remain in my memory
like the souvenir of some gloomy old picture. Lisa’s mother was seated
on the back of the bed, raising Tyck like a sick child, his limp arms
dangling over her shoulders and his head drooping against her cheek. To
the right the slight and graceful form of Lisa, holding the earthen
lamp; one doctor bending over to listen at the bared back, the focus of
the dim light; the other doctor solemn and motionless, a dark silhouette
against the bed and the wall beyond. The examination only proved the
truth of the decision just reached, and it was then announced for the
first time that the real malady was lung-fever, with the not
infrequently accompanying first symptoms of typhoid. A few moments
later one or two young artists dropped in, learned the sad news, and
went away to warn the rest of the friends. At eight o’clock we were all
in the studio, and after a hushed and hasty discussion as to whether or
not a priest should be called in this last hour, the Catholic friends
were overruled, and it was decided to consult no spiritual adviser.
Tyck, meanwhile, was scarcely able to talk. One by one the fellows came
to his bedside, were recognized, and went away. I alone stayed in the
studio, waiting, waiting. The doctor was to come at half-past nine, and
the fellows had promised to return again at ten.

For a long hour we sat in silence, Lisa and I, and watched the approach
of death. The mother, completely exhausted, lay on the bare floor near
the stove, as motionless as a corpse; the dim light reflected from the
sick-room transformed the draperies into mysterious shapes, and made the
lay-figure look vaporous and spectral. Frequent fits of violent,
suffocating cough would call us to the bedside, and after a severe
struggle Tyck would for a moment throw off the clutch of the malady and
breathe again. He was in agony to speak with me, but was unable to. I
guessed part of his wishes, repeated them in Flemish, and he made a
signal of assent when I was right. In this way he communicated certain
directions about his affairs, and I promised to see Lisa provided for
and all his business properly settled. But there was something more he
was anxious to tell, and he continued to the last his vain struggle to
express it.

The stillness of the studio in the intervals between the spasms of
suffocation was painfully broken, as the long hour passed, by his heavy
breathing and by the stifled sobs of the poor girl, who, at last, cried
herself to sleep, exhausted by her watching. From outside, a dog’s
mournful howl, breaking into a short, spasmodic bark, came up at
intervals, and I could see that this sound disturbed the sufferer,
probably recalling to his waning faculties the history of the dog that
had so haunted us. From the street the chorus of the maskers came
floating to us, sounding hollow and far away, like the chant of a
distant choir in some great cathedral. Occasionally a carriage rumbled
over the rough pavement, the deep sound echoing through the deserted
court-yard and up the long, dreary stairways. It was within a few
moments of the doctor’s expected visit that a spasm more violent than
any previous one called me to the bedside. We had long since stopped the
medicine, and nothing remained to do but to ease the sufferer over the
chasm as gently as possible. He did not seem at all anxious to live, and
in the agonies of the suffocation there was no fear in those dark eyes
that rolled in their hollow sockets. I raised him in bed, and at last,
after the most prolonged fight, he caught his breath, opened his eyes,
turned towards me, and said plainly in English, “All right, old boy.”
Then he relapsed into a comatose state and never spoke again. The doctor
found him rapidly sinking, and another spasm came on while he was
feeling the pulse. The patient recovered from it only to pass into
another and more protracted one, at the end of which he sighed twice and
was dead. For a second or two after the last deep breath his face had
all the fever-flush and the look of life, but almost instantly he fell
over towards me, changed beyond recognition. The wave of death had
passed over us, carrying with it the last trace of life that lingered in
the face of my friend, and a ghastly pallor crept over his cheeks,
transforming him that I loved into an unrecognizable, inert thing. I
turned away and never saw that face again, although they told me it was
nobly beautiful in its Egyptian, changeless expression. That pause of an
instant, while death was asserting its power, impressed me
strangely--and this was no new experience for me. In that pause, when
time seemed to stand still, something urged me to raise my eyes in
confident expectation of seeing the spirit as it left the body. Even my
heated imagination, to which I was ready to charge much that was
inexplicable in my experience, did not produce an image, but instead,
where the wall should have been I seemed to look into space, into a
wide, wide distance. An awful vacancy, an infinity of emptiness, yawned
before me, and I looked down to meet the fixed expression of that
changed face. For that moment there was no lingering presence of my
friend that I could feel; in that short struggle he had separated
himself entirely from us and from the place he used to fill with his
charming presence. In the chamber of death there was no adumbration of
the life that once flourished there, of the soul that had just fled. And
so I thought only of burying the body and providing for poor Lisa.

The rest of the fellow-painters came a few moments after it was all
over, and received the news with surprise. Lisa still slept, and we did
not wake her. I remained in the studio all night, and in the morning the
formalities of the police notification were gone through with, and the
preparations made for the funeral. In the studio, unchanged in every
respect from the day when Tyck put his brushes in his palette and laid
it upon a chair, we held a meeting to decide upon the funeral
ceremonies. Lisa was completely broken down by grief and exhaustion,
and, with her mother and the dog, who joyfully occupied his old place by
the stove and disputed the entrance of every one, lived in the studio
and the store-room.

On Sunday morning we buried our friend in the Protestant cemetery.
Arriving at the little house in the enclosure, we found the coffin
there, with the undertaker, Lisa, her mother, and the dog. An hour later
an English minister came and conducted the ceremonies in a cold, hurried
manner; but perhaps the services were quite as satisfactory, after all,
because his language was unintelligible to the majority of those
present. We stood shivering in a circle around the coffin until the
services were over, and then bore the burden to the grave, dug deep near
the wall in a picturesque nook under a ruined tower--a fit monument to
our friend. Lisa and her mother stood a little apart, holding the dog,
while we put the body in the grave, and a cold sun shone down upon us,
quite as cheerless and as unsympathetic as the dull, lowering clouds of
that day in Flanders a year before. After the customary handful of earth
had been thrown, we turned away and separated, for the living had no
sympathy with each other after the cold formality of the funeral. As I
strolled across the field in the direction of Monte Testaccio, I looked
back once only. There, on the mound of fresh earth, stood the dog, and
Lisa was bending over to arrange a wreath of immortelles.

After the sale of Tyck’s effects, which brought a comfortable little sum
to Lisa, I left Rome, now unbearable, and sought the distractions of
busy Naples. Later, with warm weather, I settled in a solitary nest in
Venice, where the waves of the lagoon lapped my door-step. The
distressed cries of a dog called me to the water door, one rainy
morning, while I was writing a part of this very narrative, and I pulled
out of the water a half-drowned, shaggy black dog. With some anxiety I
assisted the poor animal to dry his fur, and found, instead of my old
enemy, a harmless shaggy terrier, who rests his dainty nose on the paper
as I write.

And so the fourth still waits.



THE BUSH


The six short stories in this volume have all been written at sea in
those brief intervals of enforced rest from an exacting profession which
a transatlantic voyage compels; and I have offered them to the public
with the full knowledge of the necessity of some explanation to palliate
my offence of meddling with literature, and in the belief that I must
hang out some sort of a bush to call attention to whatever merits they
may have. This bush will be a confession, made, like the confidential
communications in all prefaces, into the ear of the reader alone. The
reason why I have put my preface--if I may be permitted to misuse the
term--at the end of the book instead of at the beginning, is that the
confidences I impart may be, by reason of their position between the
covers, less likely to be read by the careless or mechanical reviewer or
by the superficial “skimmer” of fiction. I was afraid that if the reader
should by chance read the preface first, he would not care to peruse the
stories, because, having been admitted to the dark room, as it were, and
having had the formula of the developer told to him, he might, after he
had seen one set of images come up on the dull surface of the negative,
find his curiosity abated, his interest gone, and his desire satisfied.

These stories have been published in various magazines, at different
times, since the centennial year. When the earliest one of the series
appeared, I was not a little flattered by being often asked how much of
it was true. When the second one came out, this question grew a little
stale, and I began to resent the curiosity as to my method of
story-telling. The climax was finally reached when I received a letter
from a writer of most excellent short stories, in which communication he
desired information about the characters in the tale, and led me to
understand that he believed the main part of the tale to be true. In my
answer to his letter I wrote him this old story of the Western bar-room:
A crowd of men were leaning over a bar drinking together and listening
to the yarns of a frontiersman who, stimulated by the laughter and
applause, was drawing a very long bow. His triumph was not quite
complete, however, for he noticed a thin, silent man at the farther end
of the bar, whose face did not change its habitual expression at any of
the mirth-or wonder-compelling incidents. At last, having directed the
fire of his dramatic expression for some time towards the silent man
with no result, the Western Munchausen turned to him with an oath and
said: “Why in ---- don’t you laugh or cry, or do something, when I tell a
story?” “The fact is, stranger,” the sad man replied, in a mournful tone
of voice--“the fact is, I’m a liar myself!” I never heard from my
correspondent again.

We all think we have fertile imaginations, and no one can blame me for
not liking to be denied the credit of invention and imagination, even
if the stories be mostly true. It seemed to me quite as foolish to
expect a short story to be a simple chronicle of some experience with
changed names and localities as it would be to demand of an historical
artist that he paint only those events of history of which he has been
an actual spectator. However, while this suspicion of the existence of a
foundation of truth was not altogether flattering or encouraging, it did
set me to thinking what part of these stories was actually drawn from my
real experience, in what way the ideas arose, grew, and developed into
stories. The result of this examination--the confession of the
proportion of truth to fiction--is the bush, then, which I propose to
hang out.

The plot of the “Capillary Crime” turns on the force of capillary
attraction in wood. The remote origin of the idea was reading about the
employment of wooden wedges in ancient quarries, which were first driven
in dry and then, on being wetted, swelled and burst off the blocks of
stone. While living in Paris, in the Rue de l’Orient, a small street on
Montmartre, which was lighted at that time by lanterns hung on ropes
across from house to house, I had occasion to take out the breech-pin of
an old Turkish flint-lock gun in order to draw the charge. It was
impossible to start the plug at first, but after it had been soaked for
a short time in petroleum it was easily unscrewed. Capillary attraction
had carried the oil into the rusted threads of the screw. The knowledge
of this action, together with the memory of the immense power of wooden
wedges, naturally brought to my mind a possible case where the wetting
of wood in a gun-stock might so affect the mechanism of the lock that
the hammer would fall without the agency of the trigger. I constructed a
model on the plan of the finger of a manikin, and it worked perfectly.
An artist in the neighborhood committed suicide just about this time. My
studio on Montmartre had once been the scene of a similar tragedy. There
was every reason, then, why I selected that studio as the scene; there
was a plausible excuse for connecting capillary force with the
discharge of a gun; there was my recent experience with suicide to
warrant a realistic description of such an event. My story was
ready-made. I had only to sew together the patchwork pieces.

While I was engaged in revising “A Capillary Crime” for publication in
book form, a friend sent me a slip cut from a Western newspaper, which
testifies in such an unexpected manner to the possibility of the
combination of circumstances described in my story that I insert it
here:


                        “FACT AGAINST FICTION.

             “A STRIKING INSTANCE OF THE UNRELIABILITY OF
                       CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.

     “There is no figment of the imagination--if it is at all within the
     limit of possibilities--more curious or strange than some things
     that actually happen. The following is an instance in proof of
     this:

     “A few years ago Frank Millet, the well-known artist, war
     correspondent, and story-writer, published a short story in a
     leading magazine which had as its principal features the mysterious
     killing of a Parisian artist in his own studio. A web of
     circumstantial evidence led to the arrest of a model who had been
     in the habit of posing for him. But through some chain of
     circumstances which the writer of this has now forgotten, the
     murder--if murder it can be called--was found to have been caused
     by the discharge of a firearm through the force of capillary
     attraction. The firearm was used by the artist as a studio
     accessory, and was hung in such a manner that he was directly in
     line with it. Its discharge occurred when he was alone in his
     studio.

     “The story was a vivid and ingenious flight of the imagination. Now
     for its parallel in fact:

     “A recent number of the Albany _Law Journal_ tells of the arrest of
     a man upon the charge of killing his cousin. The dead man was found
     lying upon a lounge, about three o’clock in the afternoon, with a
     32-caliber ball in his brain. The cousin, who had an interest of
     $100,000 in his death, was alone with him in the house at the time.
     The discovery of the real cause of death was due to the lawyer of
     the accused, who took the rifle from which the ball had been fired,
     loaded and hung it upon the wall, and then marked the form of a man
     upon a white sheet and placed it upon the lounge where the man had
     been found. Then a heavy cut-glass pitcher of water was placed upon
     a shelf above. The temperature was 90° in the shade. The pitcher of
     water acted as a sun-glass, and the hot rays of the sun shining
     through the water were refracted directly upon the cartridge
     chamber of the rifle. Eight witnesses were in the room, and a few
     minutes after three o’clock there was a puff and a report, and the
     ball struck the outlined form back of the ear, and the theory of
     circumstantial evidence was exploded.

     “This is interesting, not only because the real occurrence is quite
     as strange as the imagined one, but because the fact came after the
     fiction and paralleled it so closely.”


I have accurately reported the brief conversation I had with the friend
who occupied the Roman studio with me, and can give no further proof of
the peculiar character of the place nor add to the description of the
uncomfortable sensations we endured there. My friend’s remarks so far
confirmed my own impressions that I have always felt that he must have
had the same experience as myself--if I may call the incident of the
simulacrum an experience. He has never to my knowledge talked with any
one about this, but now that I have broken the ice in this public manner
he may feel called upon to tell his own story, if he has any to relate.

There used to come and pose for me in my Paris studio a Hungarian model
who had been a circus athlete. The ranks of male models are largely
recruited from circus men, actors, lion-tamers--people of all trades and
professions, indeed--and it is not unusual to find among them
individuals of culture and ability whom some misfortune or bad habit has
reduced to poverty. This one was an unusually useful model. He had
tattooed on the broad surface of skin over his left biceps his name,
Nagy, not in ordinary letters, but in human figures in different
distorted positions, representing letters of the alphabet, evidently
copied from a child’s cheap picture-book. While I was painting from him,
the war between Russia and Turkey broke out, and the model came one day
and announced that he had joined the Hungarian Legion, and was off for
Turkey. As he left me I said:

“If you’re killed, there’ll be no trouble in identifying you, for,
unless your left arm is shot off, you have your passport always with
you.”

At that time I had no intention of going to Turkey myself, but in a few
days I found myself on the way there, and, while passing through
Hungary, Nagy naturally came to my mind, and it occurred to me that I
might possibly run across him. However, the fortunes of war did not
bring us together, and I never saw him or heard of him again. On my way
through London to America, after the war, I was witness to a slight
trapeze accident in a circus which, though by no means startling,
recalled to my mind Nagy and his tattooed name; and then, thinking over
the campaign and meditating on the possibilities of my having met him
there, the plan of the tale developed itself in a perfectly easy and
regular way. I had only to introduce a little incident of my Italian
travels, a bit of local coloring from Turkey, and the thing was done.

The evolution of “Tedesco’s Rubina” was simpler than that of either of
the preceding stories. Any one familiar with Capri will remember a
grotto similar to the one described, and probably many visitors to that
little terrestrial paradise have been made acquainted with the secret of
the smugglers’ path down into the grotto. A dozen years or more ago,
there was a very old model in Capri who had a remarkable history, and
who was accustomed to drone on for hours at a stretch about her early
experiences and the artists of a generation or two ago. Sketches of her
at different periods of her life hung in most of the public resorts of
the island. I made a careful study of this old and wrinkled face, still
bearing traces of youthful beauty. The contrast between this painting
and the plaster cast of the head of a Roman nymph which occupied a
prominent place in my studio was the cause of many a jest, and called
forth many a tradition of model life from the garrulous members of that
profession. The visible proofs that the old woman had once been the
great beauty of the island; the incident of the bust in the museum at
Rome; the discovery of human bones in the grotto--all were interwoven
together in a web of romance before I even thought of putting it on
paper. When I came to write it out, it was very much like telling a
threadbare story.

The Latin Quarter in Paris is the most fertile spot in the world for
the growth of romances, most of them of the mushroom species. If a
stenographer were to take down the stories he might hear any evening in
a _brasserie_ there, he would have a unique volume of strange
incidents--some of them incredible, perhaps, but all with much flavor of
realism about them to make them interesting from a human point of view.
Not a few strange suicides, incomprehensible alliances, marvellously
curious and pathetic bits of human history, have come under my own
notice there. Student life in the Latin Quarter is not all “beer and
skittles,” for its sordid side is horribly depressing and hopeless. Few
who have experienced it have ever entirely recovered from the taint of
this unnatural and degrading life.

Away up in the top of one of the largest and most populous hotels of the
quarter, an American artist has kept “bachelor hall” for a score of
years or more. He is an animal-painter, and spends the winter in
elaborating his summer’s studies, and in preparing immense canvases for
sacrifice before that Juggernaut, the annual Salon. He received once a
commission to paint a portrait--a “post-mortem,” as such a commission is
usually called--of a deceased black-and-tan terrier. The only data he
had to work from were a small American tintype and the tanned skin of
the defunct pet. Having been inoculated with the spirit of modern French
realism, the artist could not be content with constructing a portrait of
the dog out of the materials provided, and went to a dog-fancier and
hired an animal as near as could be like the one in the tintype. At the
appointed hour the dog was brought to the studio in a covered basket.
When the canvas was ready and the palette set, the artist opened the lid
of the basket and the animal sprang out and began to run about the room.
The artist thought the dog would soon make himself at home, so at first
he did not attempt to secure him. But he shortly found that he grew
wilder and more excited every moment, and that catching him was no easy
matter. After knocking over all the furniture in the room except the
heavy easel, he succeeded in cornering him and seized him by the
collar. A savage bite through the thumb made him loose his hold, and the
rôles of pursuer and pursued immediately changed. The beast flew into a
terrible state of rage, snapping and snarling like a mad thing. As there
was no safer refuge than the large easel, the artist climbed upon that
to escape his infuriated enemy. By the aid of a long mahl-stock he
fished up the bell-cord which hung within reach, and pulled it until the
concierge came. The owner of the dog was speedily brought, and the siege
of the studio was raised. The same artist brought in from the country
one autumn a torpid snake, which he kept in a box all through the
winter. One morning in spring he was horrified to find the reptile
coiled up on the rug beside his bed. He killed it by dropping a heavy
color-box on it, without stopping to find out whether it was venomous or
not. It is easy to see how my story grew out of these two incidents.

Now that the chief actors in the drama which I have sketched in “The
Fourth Waits” are long since dead, I may confess without fear of
hurting anybody’s feelings that all the incidents in this tale are
absolutely true. There are plenty of witnesses to the accuracy of this
statement, and I have no doubt they would, if called upon, gladly
testify to almost every detail of the descriptions. No one who was
present at the funeral ceremonies in Antwerp and Rome can ever forget
the impression made upon him at the time; neither is any member of the
little artistic circle likely to forget to the end of his days the
strange sensation of superstitious awe with which the incidents of the
story of the stray dog were listened to every time the subject was
broached among us. The memory of this experience weighed heavily upon my
mind for two or three years, and I only threw off the load after I had
written the story.

It is only to complete this series of confessions that I explain how
this preface came to be written. I was riding home with a friend late
one raw afternoon at the close of a long day’s hunting in one of the
Midland counties of England, and we stopped to refresh ourselves and
horses at a wayside inn called The Holly Bush. When we mounted again at
the door, I reached up with my hunting crop and struck the holly bush
that hung over the door as a sign. It rattled like metal, and as we rode
away I said to my companion:

“That wasn’t a real holly bush!”

“That wasn’t real whiskey!” he replied.

The memory of the mongoose story which these remarks called up cheered
us more than the pause at the inn.

“The mongoose story is almost the only tale that need not be explained
even to a Scotchman,” my friend added.

This is how I came to think of explaining the construction of my
stories, and how I came to call my confessions “The Bush.”


THE END.





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