Double Trouble - Or, Every Hero His Own Villain
by Herbert Quick
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines

DOUBLE TROUBLE Or, Every Hero His Own Villain



Author of Aladdin & Co., In the Fairyland of America

With Illustrations by Orson Lowell

[Frontispiece: Instantly he was aware of the descent upon him of a fiery comet of femininity]

Pervasive Woman! In our hours of ease, Our cloud-dispeller, tempering storm to breeze! But when our dual selves the pot sets bubbling, Our cares providing, and our doubles troubling! —Secret Ritual of the A.O.C.M.

Indianapolis The Bobbs-Merrill Company Publishers Copyright 1906 The Bobbs-Merrill Company January





Instantly he was aware of the descent upon him of a fiery comet of femininity . . . . . . Frontispiece

She seemed to emanate from the tiger-skin as a butterfly from the chrysalis

A new thrill ran through the man and a new light came into his eyes.

Vast and complete was the system of notes built up by the professor and the judge

There she sits so attentive to her book that his entrance has not attracted her notice

Soon their heads were close together over plans

"Those red ones," said the judge, "are the very devil for showing on black!"

"I am taking Miss Waldron home," said Mr. Amidon

The Persons of the Story:

FLORIAN AMIDON, a respectable young banker of literary and artistic tastes.

EUGENE BRASSFIELD, for a description of whose peculiarities the reader is referred to the text.

ELIZABETH WALDRON, a young woman just out of school.

JUDGE BLODGETT, an elderly lawyer.

MADAME LE CLAIRE, a professional occultist.

PROFESSOR BLATHERWICK, her father, a German scientist.

DAISY SCARLETT, a young woman of fervid complexion and a character to match.


ALVORD, a man about a small town.

AARON, a Sudanese serving-man.

MRS. PUMPHREY, ) MISS SMITH, ) DOCTOR JULIA BROWN, ) Members of the elite of Bellevale. MRS. ALVORD, ) MRS. MEYER, )

MRS. HUNTER, of Hazelhurst.

MR. SLATER, ) MR. BULLIWINKLE, ) Prominent male residents of Bellevale. MR. STEVENS, ) MR. KNAGGS, )

SHEEHAN, ) Labor leaders. ZALINSKY, )

CONLON, a contractor.


SCENE: In Hazelhurst, Wisconsin; New York City, and Bellevale, Pennsylvania. [N. B.—It might be anywhere else in these states, east or west.]

TIME: From June, 1896, to March, 1901—but this is not insisted upon.




Deep in the Well where blushing hides the shrinking and Naked Truth, I have dived, and dared to fetch ensnared this Fragment of tested Sooth; And one of the purblind Race of Men peered with a curious Eye Over the Curb as I fetched it forth, and besought me to drop that Lie: But all ye who long for Certitude, and who yearn for the Ultimate Fact, Who know the Truth and in spite of Ruth tear piecemeal the Inexact, Come list to my Lay that I sing to-day, and choose betwixt him and me, And choosing show that ye always know the Lie from the Veritee! —The Rime of the Sheeted Spoorn.

"Baggs," said Mr. Amidon, "take things entirely into your own hands. I'm off."

"All right," said Baggs. "It's only a day's run to Canada; but in case I should prove honest, and need to hear from you, you'll leave your address?"

Mr. Amidon[1] frowned and made a gesture expressive of nervousness.

"No," said he, in a high-pitched and querulous tone. "No! I want to see if this business owns me, or if I own it. Why should you need to communicate with me? Whenever I'm off a day you always sign everything; and I shall be gone but a day on any given date this time; so it's only the usual thing, after all. I shall not leave any address; and don't look for me until I step in at that door! Good-by."

And he walked out of the bank, went home, and began looking over for the last time his cameras, films, tripods and the other paraphernalia of his fad.

"This habit of running off alone, Florian," said Mrs. Baggs, his sister, housekeeper, general manager, and the wife of Baggs—his confidential clerk and silent partner—"gives me an uneasy feeling. If you had only done as I wanted you to do, you'd have had some one——"

"Now, Jennie," said he, "we have settled that question a dozen times, and we can't go over it again if I am to catch the 4:48 train. Keep your eye on the men, and keep Baggs up in the collar, and see that Wilkes and Ranger get their just dues. I must have rest, Jennie; and as for the wife, why, there'll be more some day for this purely speculative family of yours if we—— By the way, there's the whistle at Anderson's crossing. Good-by, my dear!"

On the 4:48 train, at least until it had aged into the 7:30 or 8:00, Mr. Florian Amidon, banker, and most attractive unmarried man of Hazelhurst, was not permitted to forget that his going away was an important event. The fact that he was rich, from the viewpoint of the little mid-western town, unmarried and attractive, easily made his doings important, had nothing remarkable followed. But he had exceptional points as a person of consequence, aside from these. His father had been a scholar, and his mother so much of a grande dame as to have old worm-eaten silks and laces with histories. The Daughters of the American Revolution always went to the Amidons for ancient toggery for their eighteenth-century costumes—and checks for their deficits. The family even had a printed genealogy. Moreover, Florian had been at the head of his class in the high school, had gone through the family alma mater in New England, and been finished in Germany. Hazelhurst, therefore, looked on him as a possession, and thought it knew him.

We, however, may confide to the world that Hazelhurst knew only his outer husk, and that Mr. Amidon was inwardly proud of his psychological hinterland whereof his townsmen knew nothing. To Hazelhurst his celibacy was the banker's caution, waiting for something of value in the matrimonial market: to him it was a bashful and palpitant—almost maidenly—expectancy of the approach of some radiant companion of his soul, like those which spoke to him from the pages of his favorite poets.

This was silly in a mere business man! If found out it would have justified a run on the bank.

To Hazelhurst he was a fixed and integral part of their society: to himself he was a galley-slave chained to the sweep of percentages, interest-tables, cash-balances, and lines of credit, to whom there came daily the vision of a native Arcadia of art, letters and travel. It was good business to allow Hazelhurst to harbor its illusions; it was excellent pastime and good spiritual nourishment for Amidon to harbor his; and one can see how it may have been with some quixotic sense of seeking adventure that he boarded the train.

What followed was so extraordinary that everything he said or did was remembered, and the record is tolerably complete. He talked with Simeon Woolaver, one of his tenants, about the delinquent rent, and gave Simeon a note to Baggs relative to taking some steers in settlement. This was before 5:17, at which time Mr. Woolaver got off at Duxbury.

"He was entirely normal," said Simeon during the course of his examination—"more normal than I ever seen him; an' figgered the shrink on them steers most correct from his standp'int, on a business card with a indelible pencil. He done me out of about eight dollars an' a half. He was exceedin'ly normal—up to 5:17!"

Mr. Amidon also encountered Mrs. Hunter and Miss Hunter in the parlor-car, immediately after leaving Duxbury. Miss Hunter was on her way to the Maine summer resorts with the Senator Fowlers, to whom Mrs. Hunter was taking her. Mrs. Hunter noticed nothing peculiar in his behavior, except the pointed manner in which he passed the chair by Minnie's side, and took the one by herself. This seemed abnormal to Mrs. Hunter, whose egotism had its center in her daughter; but those who remembered the respectful terror with which he regarded women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five failed to see exceptional conduct in this. His lawyer, Judge Blodgett, with whom he went into the buffet at about seven, found him in conversation with these two ladies.

"He seemed embarrassed," said the judge, "and was blushing. Mrs. Hunter was explaining the new style in ladies' figures, and asking him if he didn't think Minnie was getting much plumper. As soon as he saw me he yelled: 'Hello, Blodgett! Come into the buffet! I want to see you about some legal matters.' He excused himself to the ladies, and we went into the buffet."

"What legal matters did he place before you?" said his interlocutor.

"Two bottles of beer," said the judge, "and a box of cigars. Then he talked Browning to me until 9:03, when he got off at Elm Springs Junction, to take the Limited north. He was wrong on Browning, but otherwise all right."

It was, therefore, at 9:03, or 9:05 (for the engineer's report showed the train two minutes late out of Elm Springs Junction), that Florian Amidon became the sole occupant of this remote country railway platform. He sat on a trunkful of photographer's supplies, with a suit-case and a leather bag at his back. It was the evening of June twenty-seventh, 1896. All about the lonely station the trees crowded down to the right of way, and rustled in a gentle evening breeze. Somewhere off in the wood, his ear discerned the faint hoot of an owl. Across the track in a pool under the shadow of the semaphore, he heard the full orchestra of the frogs, and saw reflected in the water the last exquisite glories of expiring day lamped by one bright star. Leaning back, he partly closed his eyelids, and wondered why so many rays came from the star—with the vague wonder of drowsiness, which comes because it has been in the habit of coming from one's earliest childhood. The star divided into two, and all its beams swam about while his gaze remained fixed, and nothing seemed quite in the focus of his vision.

Putting out his hand, presently, he touched a window, damp with vapor and very cold. On the other side he felt a coarse curtain, and where the semaphore stood, appeared a perpendicular bar of dim light. A vibratory sound somewhere near made him think that the owls and frogs had begun snoring. He heard horrible hissings and the distant clangor of a bell; and then all the platform heaved and quaked under him as if it were being dragged off into the woods. He sprang upward, received a blow upon his head, rolled off to the floor, and——

Stood in the middle of a sleeping-car, clad only in pajamas; and a scholarly-looking negro porter looked down in his face, laying gentle hands upon him, and addressing him in soothing tones.

"Huht yo' haid, Mr. Brassfield? Kind o' dreamin', wasn't yo', suh?" said the porter. "Bettah tuhn in again, suh. I'll wake yo' fo' N'Yohk. Yo' kin sleep late on account of the snow holdin' us back. Jes' lay down, Mr. Brassfield; it's only 3:35."

A lady's eye peeped forth from the curtain of a near-by berth, and vanished instantly. Mr. Amidon, seeing it, plunged back into the shelter from which he had tumbled, and lay there trembling—trembling, forsooth, because, instead of summer, it seemed winter; for Elm Springs Junction, it appeared to be a moving train on some unknown road, going God knew where; and for Florian Amidon, in his outing suit, it had the appearance of a somnambulistic wretch in his night-clothes, who was addressed by the unfamiliar porter as Mr. Brassfield!

[1] Editorial Note: As reflecting light on the personal characteristics of Mr. Florian Amidon, whose remarkable history is the turning-point of this narrative, we append a brief note by his college classmate and lifelong acquaintance, the well-known Doctor J. Galen Urquhart, of Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. The note follows:

"At the time when the following story opens, Mr. Florian Amidon was about thirty years of age. Height, five feet ten and three-quarters inches; weight, one hundred and seventy-eight pounds. For general constitutional and pathological facts, see Sheets 2 to 7, inclusive, attached hereto. Subject well educated, having achieved distinction in linguistic, philological and literary studies in his university. (See Sheet 1, attached.) Neurologically considered, family history of subject (see Sheets 8 and 10) shows nothing abnormal, except that his father, a chemist, wrote an essay opposing the atomic theory, and a cousin is an epileptic. I regard these facts as significant. Volitional and inhibitory faculties largely developed; may be said to be a man of strong will-power end self-control. The following facts may be noted as possibly symptomatic of neurasthenia; fondness for the poetry of Whitman and Browning (see Nordau); tendency to dabble in irregular systems of medical practice; pronounced nervous and emotional irritability during adolescence; aversion to young women in society; stubborn clinging to celibacy. In posture, gait and general movements, the following may be noted: vivacious in conversation; possessed of great mobility of facial expression; anteroposterior sway marked and occasionally anterosinistral, and greatly augmented so as to approach Romberg symptom on closure of eyes, but no ataxic evidences in locomotion. Taking the external malleolus as the datum, the vertical and lateral pedal oscillation——"

The editor regrets to say that space forbids any further incorporation of Doctor Urquhart's very illuminating note at this place. It may appear at some time as a separate essay or volume.



From his eyne did the glamour of Faerie pass And the Rymour lay on Eildon grass. He lay in the heather on Eildon Hill; He gazed on the dour Scots sky his fill. His staff beside him was brash with rot; The weed grew rank in his unthatch'd cot: "Syne gloaming yestreen, my shepherd kind, What hath happ'd this cot we ruin'd find?" "Syne gloaming yestreen, and years twice three, Hath wind and rain therein made free; Ye sure will a stranger to Eildon be, And ye know not the Rymour's in Faerie!" —The Trewe Tale of Trewe Thomas.

As Mr. Amidon sensed the forward movement of the train in which he so strangely found himself, he had fits of impulse to leap out and take the next train back. But, back where? He had the assurance of his colored friend and brother that forward was New York. Backward was the void conjectural. Slowly the dawn whitened at the window. He raised the curtain and saw the rocks and fences and snow of a winter's landscape—saw them with a shock which, lying prone as he was, gave him the sensation of staggering. It was true, then: the thing he had still suspected as a nightmare was true. Where were all the weeks of summer and autumn? And (question of some pertinency!) where was Florian Amidon?

He groped about for his clothes. They were strange in color and texture, but, in such judgment as he could form while dressing in his berth, they fitted. He never could bear to go half-dressed to the toilet-room as most men do, and stepped out of his berth fully appareled—in a natty business sack-suit of Scots-gray, a high turn-down collar, fine enamel shoes and a rather noticeable tie. Florian Amidon had always worn a decent buttoned-up frock and a polka-dot cravat of modest blue, which his haberdasher kept in stock especially for him. He felt as if, in getting lost, he had got into the clothes of some other man—and that other one of much less quiet and old-fashioned tastes in dress. It made him feel as if it were he who had made the run to Canada with the bank's funds—furtive, disguised, slinking.

He looked in the pockets of the coat like an amateur pickpocket, and found some letters. He gazed at them askance, turning them over and over, wondering if he ought to peep at their contents. Then he put them back, and went into the smoking-room, where, finding himself alone, he turned up his vest as if it had been worn by somebody else whom he was afraid of disturbing, and looked at the initials on the shirt-front. They were not "F. A.," as they ought to have been, but "E. B."! He wondered which of the bags were his. Pressing the button, he summoned the porter.

"George," said he, "bring my luggage in here."

And then he wondered at his addressing the porter in that drummer-like way—he was already acting up to the smart suit—or down; he was in doubt as to which it was.

The bags, when produced, showed those metal slides, sometimes seen, concealing the owner's name. Sweat stood on Florian's brow as he slipped the plate back and found the name of Eugene Brassfield, Bellevale, Pennsylvania! A card-case, his pocketbook, all his linen and his hat—all articles of expensive and gentlemanly quality, but strange to him—disclosed the same name or initials, none of them his own. In the valise he found some business letterheads, finely engraved, of the Brassfield Oil Company, and Eugene Brassfield's name was there set forth as president and general manager.

"Great heaven!" exclaimed Florian, "am I insane? Am I a robber and a murderer? During this time which has dropped out of my life, have I destroyed and despoiled this gentleman, and—and run off in his clothes? I must denounce myself!"

The porter came, and, by way of denouncing himself, Mr. Amidon clapped his waistcoat shut and buttoned it, snapped the catches of the bags, and pretended to busy himself with the letters in his pockets; and in doing so, he found in an inside vest-pocket a long thin pocket-book filled with hundred-dollar bills, and a dainty-looking letter. It was addressed to Mr. Eugene Brassfield, was unstamped, and marked, "To be Read En Route."

There was invitation, there was allurement, in the very superscription. Clearly, it seemed, he ought to open and examine these letters. They might serve to clear up this mystery. He would begin with this.

"My darling!" it began, without any other form of address—and was not this enough, beloved?—

"My own darling! I write this so that you may have something of me, which you can see and touch and kiss as you are borne farther and farther from me. Distance unbridged is such a terrible thing—any long distance; and more than our hands may reach and clasp across is interstellar space to me. You said last night that all beauty, all sweetness, all things delectable and enticing and fair, all things which allure and enrapture, are so bound up in little me, that surely the very giants of steam and steel would be drawn back to me, instead of bearing you away. Ah, my Eugene! You wondered why I put my hands behind me, and would not see your out-stretched arms! Now that you are gone, and will not return for so long—until so near the day when I may be all that I am capable of becoming to you, let me tell you—I was afraid!

"Not of you, dearest, not of you—for with all your ardor of wooing (and no girl ever had a more perfect lover—I shall always thank God for that mixture of Lancelot and Sir Galahad in you which makes every moment in your presence a delight), I always knew that you could leave me like a sensible boy, and, while longing for me, stay away. But I—whom you have sometimes complained of a little for my coldness—had I not looked above your eyes, and put my hands behind me, I should have clung to you, dear, I was afraid, and never have allowed you to go as you are now going, and made you feel that I am not the perfect woman that you describe to me, as me. Even now, I fear that this letter will do me harm in your heart; but all the lover in me—and girls inherit from their fathers as well as from their mothers—cries out in me to woo you; and you must forget this, only at such times of tenderness as you will sometimes have while you are gone, when one embrace would be worth a world. Then read or remember this, as my return-clasp for such thoughts.

"Besides, may I not, now that you are away from me, give you a glimpse of that side of my soul which a girl is taught to hide? This was the 'swan's nest among the reeds' which Little Ellie meant to show to that lover who, maybe, never came. Ah, Mrs. Browning was a woman, and knew! (Mind, dear, it's Mrs. Browning I speak of!)

"Sometimes, when the Knight has come, and the wife wishes to show the glories of her soul, 'the wild swan has deserted, and a rat has gnawed the reed.' Let the wild and flowery little pool of womanhood which is yours—yours, dearest—grow somewhat less strange to you than it would have been—last evening—so that when you see me again you will see it as a part of me, and, without a word or look from me, know me, even more than you now do,



Florian read it again and again. Sometimes he blushed—not with shame, but with the embarrassment of a girl—at the fervid eloquence. And then he would feel a twinge of envy for this Eugene Brassfield who could be to such a girl "a perfect lover."

"From one soon to be a bride," said he to himself, "to the man she loves: it's the sweetest letter ever written. I wonder how long ago she wrote it! Here's the date: 7th January, 1901. Odd, that she should mistake the year! But it was the 7th, no doubt. By the way, I don't know the day of the week or month, or what month it is! Here, boy! Is that the morning paper?"

He seized the paper feverishly, held it crushed in his hand until the boy left him, and then spread it out, looking for the date. It was January the 8th, 1901! The letter had been written the preceding evening. Whatever had happened to this man Brassfield, had occurred within the past sixteen hours. And, great God! where had Florian Amidon been since June, 1896? All was dark; and, in sympathy with it, blackness came over his eyes, and he rode into New York in a dead faint.



Cosimo: Join us, Ludovico! Our plans are ripe, Our enterprise as fairly lamped with promise As yon steep headland, based, 'tis true, with cliff, But crowned with waving palms, and holding high Its beaconing light, as holds its jewel up, Your lady's tolling finger! Come, the stage Is set, your cue is spoke.

Ludovico: And all the lines Are stranger to my lips, and alien quite To car and eye and mind. I tell thee, Cosimo, This play of thine is one in which no man Should swagger on, trusting the prompter's voice; For mountains tipped with fire back up the scene, Out of the coppice roars the tiger's voice: The lightning's touch is death; the thunder rends The very rocks whereon its anger lights, The paths are mined with gins; and giants wait To slay me should I speak with faltering tongue Their crafty shibboleth! Most dearest coz, This part you offer bids me play with death! I'll none of it. —Vision of Cosimo.

"Comin' round all right, now, suh?" said the learned-looking porter. "Will you go to the Calumet House, as usual, suh? Ca'iage waitin', if you feel well enough to move, suh."

"I'm quite well," said Mr. Amidon, though he did not look it, "and will go to the—what hotel did you say?"

"Calumet, suh; I know you make it yo' headquahtahs thah."

"Quite right," said Mr. Amidon; "of course. Where's the carriage and my grips?"

He had never heard of the Calumet; but he wanted, more than anything else then, privacy in which he might collect his faculties and get himself in hand, for his whole being was in something like chaos. On the way, he stopped the cab several times to buy papers. All showed the fatal date. He arrived at the palatial hotel in a cab filled with papers, from which his bewildered countenance peered forth like that of a canary-bird in the nesting-season. He was scarcely within the door, when obsequious servants seized his luggage, and vied with one another for the privilege of waiting on him.

"Why, how do you do?" said the clerk, in a manner eloquent of delighted recognition. "Your old room, I suppose?"

"Yes, I think so," said Mr. Amidon.

The clerk whirled the register around, and pointing with his pen, said:

"Right there, Mr. Brassfield."

Mr. Amidon's pen stopped midway in the downward stroke of a capital F.

"I think," said he, "that I'll not register at present. Let me have checks for my luggage, please—I may not stay more than an hour or so."

"As you please," said the clerk. "But the room is entirely at your service, always, you know. Here are some telegrams, sir. Came this morning."

He took and eyed the yellow envelopes with "E. Brassfield" scrawled on them, as if they had been infernal machines; but he made no movement toward opening them. Something in the clerk's look admonished him that his own was extraordinary. He felt that he must seek solitude. To be called by this new and strange name; to have thrust on him the acting of a part in which he knew none of the lines and dared not refuse the character; and all these circumstances made dark and sinister by the mysterious maladjustment of time and place; the possession of another man's property; the haunting fear that in it somewhere were crime and peril—these things, he thought, would drive him out of his senses, unless he could be alone.

"I think I'll take the room," said he.

"If any one calls?" queried the clerk.

"I'm not in," said Amidon, gathering up the telegrams. "I do not wish to be disturbed on any account."

Five years! What did it mean? There must be some mistake. But the break in the endless chain of time, the change from summer to winter, and from the dropping to sleep at Elm Springs Junction to the awakening in the car—there could be no mistake about these. He sat in the room to which he had been shown, buried in the immense pile in the strange city, as quiet as a heron in a pool, perhaps the most solitary man on earth, these thoughts running in a bewildering circle through his mind. The dates of the papers—might they not have been changed by some silly trick of new journalism, some straining for effect, like the agreement of all the people in the world (as fancied by Doctor Holmes) to say "Boo!" all at once to the moon? He ran his eyes over the news columns and found them full of matter which was real news, indeed, to him. President Kruger was reported as about to visit President McKinley for the purpose of securing mediation in some South African war; and Senator Lodge had made a speech asking for an army of one hundred thousand men in, of all places, the Philippine Islands. The twentieth century, and with it some wonderful events, had stolen on him as he slept—if, indeed, he had slept—there could be no doubt of that.

He found his hands trembling again, and, fearing another collapse, threw himself upon the bed. Then, as drowsiness stole on him, he thought of the five years gone since last he had yielded to that feeling, and started up, afraid to sleep. He saw lying on the table the unopened telegrams, and tore them open. Some referred to sales of oil, and other business transactions; one was to inform Brassfield that a man named Alvord would not meet him in New York as promised, and one was in cipher, and signed "Stevens."

He took from his pocket the letters of Brassfield, and read them. One or two were invitations to social functions in Bellevale. One was a bill for dues in a boating-club; another contained the tabulated pedigree of a horse owned in Kentucky. A very brief one was in the same handwriting as the missive he had first read, was signed "E. W.," and merely said that she would be at home in the evening. But most of them related to the business of the Brassfield Oil Company, and referred to transactions in oil.

He lay back on the bed again, and thought, thought, thought, beginning with the furthest stretch of memory, and coming down carefully and consecutively—to the yawning chasm which had opened in his life and swallowed up five years. Time and again, he worked down to this abyss, and was forced to stop. He had heard of loss of memory from illness, but this was nothing of the sort. He had been tired and nervous that night at Elm Springs Junction, but not ill; and now he was in robust health. Perhaps some great fit of passion had torn that obliterating furrow through his mind. Perhaps in those five years he had become changed from the man of strict integrity who had so well managed the Hazelhurst Bank, into the monster who had robbed Eugene Brassfield of—his clothes, his property, the most dearly personal of his possessions—these, certainly (for Amidon knew the rule of evidence which brands as a thief the possessor of stolen goods); and who could tell of what else? Letters, bags, purses, money—these any vulgar criminal might have, and bear no deeper guilt than that of theft; but, the clothes! Mr. Amidon shuddered as his logic carried him on from deduction to reduction—to murder, and the ghastly putting away of murder's fruit. Imagination threw its limelight over the horrid scene—the deep pool or tarn sending up oilily its bubbles of accusation; the shadowy wood with its bulging mound of earth and leaves swept by revealing rains and winds; the moldy vat of corrosive liquid eating away the damning evidence; the box with its accursed stains, shipped anywhere away from the fatal spot, by boat or ship, to be relentlessly traced back—and he shivered in fearful wonder as to how the crime had been committed. In some way, he felt sure, Eugene Brassfield's body must have been removed from those natty clothes of his, before Florian Amidon could have put them on, and with them donned the personality of their former owner.

And here entered a mystery deeper still—the strange deception he seemed to impose on the dead man's acquaintances. And this filled him, somehow, with the most abject dread and fear. Brassfield seemed to have been a well-known man; for porters and clerks in New York do not call the obscure countryman by name. To step out on the street was, perhaps, to run into the very arms of some one who would penetrate the disguise. Yet he could not long remain in this room; his very retirement—any extraordinary behavior (and how did he know Brassfield's ordinary courses?)—would soon advertise his presence. Amidon walked to the window and peered down into the street. His eyes traveled to the opposite windows, and finally in the blind stare of absent-mindedness became fixed on a gold-and-black sign which he began stupidly spelling out, over and over. "Madame le Claire," it read, "Clairvoyant and Occultist." Not an idea was associated in his mind with the sign until the word "mystery," "mystery," began sounding in his ears—naturally enough, one would say, in the circumstances. Then the letters of the word floated before his eyes; and finally he consciously saw the full sign stretching across two windows: "Madame le Claire, Clairvoyant and Occultist. All Mysteries Solved."

Florian stared at this sign, until he became conscious of deep weariness at so long standing on his feet. Then he saw, blossoming, the multiplying lights of an early winter's dusk—so numbly had the time slipped by. And in the gruesome close of this dreadful day, the desperate and perplexed man stole timidly down the stairways—avoiding the elevator—and across the street to the place of the occultist.



The silly world shrieks madly after Fact, Thinking, forsooth, to find therein the Truth; But we, my love, will leave our brains unracked, And glean our learning from these dreams of youth: Should any charge us with a childish act And bid us track out knowledge like a sleuth, We'll lightly laugh to scorn the wraiths of History, And, hand in hand, seek certitude in Mystery. —When the Halcyon Broods.

The house of the occultist was one of a long row, all alike, which reminds the observer of an exercise in perspective, as one glances down the stretch of balustraded piazzas. Amidon walked straight across the street from the hotel, and counted the flights of stairs up to the fourth floor. There was no elevator. The denizens of the place gave him a vague impression of being engaged in the fine arts. A glimpse of an interior hung with Navajo blankets, Pueblo pottery, Dakota beadwork, and barbaric arms; the sound of a soprano practising Marchesi exercises; an easel seen through an open door and flanked by a Grand Rapids folding-bed with a plaster bust atop; and a pervasive scent of cigarettes, accounted for, and may or may not have justified, the impression. On the fourth floor the scent shaded off toward sandalwood, the sounds toward silence, Bohemia toward Benares. He walked in twilight, on inch-deep nap, to a door on which glowed in soft, purple, self-emitted radiance, the words:


The invitation was plain, and he opened the door. As he did so, the deep, mellow note of a gong filled the place with a gentle alarum. It was sound with noise eliminated, and matched, to the ear, the velvet of the carpet.

The room into which he looked was dark, save for light reflected from a marble ball set in a high recess in the ceiling. None of the lamps, whose rays illuminated the ball, could be seen, and the white globe itself was hung so high in the recess that none of its direct rays reached the corners of the apartment. A Persian rug lay in the center, and took the fullest light. There were no sharp edges of shadow, but instead there was a softly graduated penumbra, deepening into murk. Straight across was a doorway with a portiere, beyond was another, and still farther, a third, all made visible in silhouette by the light in a fourth room, seen as at the end of a tunnel.

Across this gossamer-barred arch of light, a black figure was projected, and swelled as it neared in silent approach. It came through the last portiere, on into the circle of light, and stood, a turbaned negro, bowing low toward the visitor.

"Madame le Claire," said Amidon feebly, "may I speak with her?"

There was no reply, unless a respectful scrutiny might be taken for one. Then the dumb Sudanese, carrying with him the atmosphere of a Bedouin tent, disappeared, lingered, reappeared, and beckoned Amidon to follow. As they passed the first portiere, that mellow and gentle gong-note welled softly again from some remote distance. At the second archway, it sounded nearer, if not louder. At the third, as Amidon stepped into the lighted room, it filled the air with a golden vibrancy. It was as if invisible ministers had gone before to announce him.

Amidon took one long look at the scene in the fourth room, and a great wave of unbelief rolled across his mind. Through this long day of shocks and surprises, he had reached that stage of amazedness where the evidential value of sensory impressions is destroyed. He covered his eyes with his hands, expecting that the phantasms before him might pass with vision, and that with vision's return might come the dear, familiar commonplaces of his commonplace life.

The room seemed to have no windows, and the roar of the New York street outside was gone, or faint as the hum of a hive. The walls were hung with fabrics of wool or silk, in dull greens and reds, and the floor was spread with rugs. With mouth redly ravening at him, and eyes emitting opalescent gleams, lay a great tiger-skin rug, upon which, on a kind of dais, sat a woman—a woman whose eyes sought his in a steady regard which flashed a thrill through his whole body as he gazed. For she seemed to emanate from the tiger-skin, as a butterfly from the chrysalis.

Her dress was of some combination of black and yellow which carried upward the tones of the great rug. Her bare arms—long, and tapering to lithe wrists and hands—were clasped by dull-gold bracelets of twisted serpents. Over shapely shoulders, the flesh of which looked white and young, there was thrown a wrap like feathery snow, from under which drooped down over the girlish bosom a necklace that seemed of pearl. The face was fair, its pallor tinged with red at lips, and rose on cheeks. The eyes, luminous and steady, shone out through heavy dark lashes, from under brows of black, and seemed, at that first glance, of oriental darkness. A great mass of dark-brown hair encircled the rather small face, and even in his first look, he noted at the temples twin strands of golden-blond which, carried out like rays in the fluffy halo about her brow, reappeared in all the twistings and turnings of the involved pile which crowned the graceful head. The yellow-and-black of the tiger appeared thus, from head to foot. It was afterward that he found out something of the secret of the peculiar fascination in the great dark eyes. One of them was gray, with that greenish tinge which has been regarded as the token of genius. The other was of a mottled golden-brown, with lights like those in the tiger's eye. In both, in any but strong light, the velvet-black pupils spread out, and pushed the iris back to a thin margin; and thus they varied, from gray or brown, to that liquid night, which Amidon now saw in them, as he stepped within the doorway, and looked so long on her, as she sat like a model for the Queen of the Jungle, that under other circumstances the gaze would have seemed rude. Some sense of this, breaking through his bewilderment, made him bow.

"Madame le Claire?" said he.

"The same," said she. "How can I serve you, sir?"

The voice, a soft contralto, was the complement of the steady regard of the eyes. As she spoke, she rose and stepped toward him, down from the little dais to the rug. She rose, not with the effort which marks the act in most, but lightly, as a flower rises from the touch of a breeze. She was tall and lithe, and all the curves of her figure were long and low—once more suggesting the soft strength of the tigress. But when speech parted the lips, the smile which overspread her face won him.

"How can I serve you, my friend?" she repeated.

"I am in great trouble," said he.

"Yes," she purred.

"I saw your sign," he went on. "And I want you to tell me where I have been since June, 1896—and who is Eugene Brassfield? Did I kill him—or only rob him? And who is Elizabeth?"

She had stepped close to him now, as if to catch the scent of some disturbing influence which might account for such incoherence; but Amidon's breath was innocent of taint.

"Yes!" said she, "I think we shall be able to tell you all. But, are you well?"

"I have had no breakfast," said he. "When I found that I had lost five years—I forgot. And—once—I fainted. I'm not quite—well, I'm afraid!"

Madame le Claire stepped to the wall and pushed a button. The turbaned Sudanese reappeared at once.

"Aaron," said she, "tell Professor Blatherwick that Mr.—Mr.——"

"Amidon," said Florian hastily—"Amidon is my name."

"—Amidon will dine with us," Madame le Clair continued smoothly. "He has some very interesting things for us to look into. And have dinner served at once."

Aaron! and dinner! and Blatherwick! The delicious vulgarity of the names was sweet music. For be it remembered that Florian was a banker, and a man of position; and sandalwood, Sudanese, Bedouins and illusions were ill for the green wound of his mystery—which, in all conscience, was bad enough in and of itself! Some confidence in the realities of things returned to him, but he followed Madame le Claire like a faithful hound.



Now, Red-Neck Johnson's right hand never knew his left hand's game; And most diverse were the meanings of the gestures of the same. For, benedictions to send forth, his left hand seemed to strive, While his right hand rested lightly on his ready forty-five. "Mr. Chairman and Committee," Mr. Johnson said, said he, "It is true, I'm tangled up some with this person's property; It is true that growin' out therefrom and therewith to arrive, Was some most egregious shootin' with this harmless forty-five: But list to my defense, and weep for my disease," said he; "I am double," half-sobbed Red-Neck, "in my personality!" —The Affliction of Red-Neck Johnson.

Madame le Claire led Mr. Amidon to the next room, turned him over to Aaron (now wonderfully healed of his dumbness) with a gesture of dismissal; and he was ushered by the negro into a most modern-looking chamber, in which was a brass bedstead with a snowy counterpane.

"Dinner will be suhved in ten minutes, suh," said Aaron.

They were waiting for him in the little dining-room, when he was wafted through the door by Aaron's obsequious bow. The tigrine Le Claire advanced from a bay-window, bringing a slender man with stooped shoulders.

"Papa," she said, "this is Mr. Amidon, whom I have induced to dine with us; Mr. Amidon, Professor Blatherwick."

Professor Blatherwick was bent, and much bleached, faded and wrinkled. His eyes seemed both enormous in size and sunk almost to his occiput, by reason of being seen through the thickest of glasses. His lank, grayish hair, of no particular color, but resembling autumnal roadside grasses, hung thinly from a high and asymmetrical head, and straggled dejectedly down into a wisp of beard on chin and lip—a beard which any absent-minded man might well be supposed to have failed to observe, and therefore to have neglected to shave. When Madame le Claire stopped in leading him forward, he halted, and feeling blindly forward into the air as if for Amidon's hand, though quite ten feet from him, he murmured:

"I am bleaced to meet you, sir."

"Evidently German," thought Amidon.

"I understandt," said the professor, opening the conversation, as Madame le Claire poured the tea, "that you haf hadt some interesding experiences in te realm of te supliminal."

Amidon's tension of mind, which had left him under the compulsion of the woman's mastery of him, returned at the professor's remark.

"I have been dead," said he, "since the twenty-seventh of June, 1896!"

Madame le Claire stared at him in unconcealed amazement. The professor calmly dipped toast in his tea.

"So!" said he. "Fife years. Goot! Dis case vill estaplish some important brinciples. Vill you be so kindt as to dell us te saircumstances?"

"Oh, papa!" broke in the lady. "You must wait until after dinner. I saw Mr. Amidon was weak and disturbed, and, I thought—hungry. So I asked him to stay."

"I have eaten nothing but this," said Mr. Amidon, "since June twenty-seventh, 1896——"

"So," said the professor calmly. "Dis vill brofe an important case."

"I saw the sign," said Amidon, "'All Mysteries Solved,' and I came here——"

"De sign," said the professor, "iss our goncession to te spirit of gommercialism, and te gompetitife system. It vas Clara's itea. But some mysteries ve do not attempt. In te realm of te supliminal, howefer, ve go up against almost any broposition. I am Cheneral Superintendent of Supliminal Enchineering; Clara is te executant. I make blance, and Clara does as she bleaces aboudt following dem. You vill, at your gonfenience, dell us all you can of your case. I vill analyze, glassify, and tiagnose; she vill unrafel."

It was late in the evening when the professor was through with his diagnosis. He made copious notes of Amidon's story. Several times his daughter called him away from some book in which he had lost himself while on an excursion in search of parallel cases. At last he paused, his face expressing the triumph of a naturalist at the discovery of a new beetle.

"You are not in te least insane!" said he, with the air of telling Florian something hard to believe; "ant you haf none of te stigmata of techeneration. I vould say that you are not a griminal—not much of a griminal anyhow, ant bropaply not at all!"

"Thank you! Oh, thank you!" fervently exclaimed Amidon.

"It iss a case," went on the professor, "of dual pairsonality. For fife years you haf bropaply been absent from Hazelhurst. You haf been someveres!"

"Where, where?" cried Amidon.

"Do not fear," said Madame le Claire, laying her hand on his arm. "If it is a case of dual personality, we shall soon find out all about it. You have mysteriously disappeared. Many men do. There was Lieutenant Rogers, of the navy; and Ansel Burns, of Ohio, who woke up in Kentucky in his own store, under the name of Brooks—Brooks' store, you know."

"And Ellis, of Bergen," said the professor, "who vas lost for a year, ant tiscofered himself in te pairson of a cook in a lumber-gamp in Minnesota, unter te name of Chamison. Oh, dere are many such! Te supchectife mind, te operations of vich are normally below te threshold of gonsciousness, suddenly dakes gontrol. Pouf! you are anodder man! You haf been Smidt; you are now Chones. As Chones you remember notting of Smidt. You go on, guided by instinct, ant te preacquired semi-intellichence of auto-hypnotismus——"

"Oh, papa!" said the tiger-lady, "those are awful words—for a sick man!"

"Vell," resumed Blatherwick, dropping into what he regarded as the vernacular, "you go on as Chones, all right all right. Some day, someveres—in dis case in a sleeping-car—you vake as Smidt again. You now do not remember Chones or te Chones life. You are all vorked up—vat you call it—flabbergasted. You come to Madame le Claire. Vat does she do? She calls te supchectife mind up abofe te threshold of gonsciousness, ant you are restored to te Chones blane of mentality. Hypnotismus, hypnotismus: that is vat does it!"

"And shall I stay—Jones?"

"No, no!" said Madame le Claire. "I will restore you. But while you are—Jones—I shall find out all you want to know about the—Jones—life, and I will tell you when you become yourself again. You will learn all about Bellevale, and Brassfield, and——"

"And Elizabeth?" asked Amidon.

Madame le Claire paused.

"Yes," said she, with much less cordiality, "I suppose so, if you want to know—about Elizabeth."



My lady's eyes Ensphere the skies, Abound in lovely mysteries: Behind their bars Are pent the stars, Warm Venus' glow, the shafts of Mars.

Once, murky night Shut in my sight: One glance revealed the source of light! Now, to be wise Or gay, I rise, By gazing in my lady's eyes! —Song from The Oculist.

The process of bringing the "Jones plane of mentality" uppermost in Mr. Amidon would not have been regarded by the masculine reader of the unregenerate sort (though to such far be it from me to appeal!) as an operation at all painful. But Mr. Amidon, I must declare, was not of the unregenerate sort.

"Now," said Madame le Claire, "sit down in the arm-chair, and in a few minutes you will feel a sensation of drowsiness. Soon you will sleep. Think with all your power that you are to sleep."

She was sitting in a very high chair, he in a low one, so that her eyes were above his. The professor was blent with the shadows of some corner, in silent self-effacement, with a note-book in his hand.

Amidon tried to think with all his power that he was to sleep; but the lights and shadows and depths of the woman's eyes drew all thoughts to them. Uncle Toby, looking for the mote in the eye of the Widow Wadman, must have felt as did our wandering Florian. Never before had he noted for more than a fleeting glance the light that lies in woman's eyes. Now those limpid orbs met his in a regard, kindly, steady, eloquent of unutterable things. He noted the dark, arched, ebon sweep of the eyebrow, the long dark lashes curved daintily upward, the shining whiteness in the corners, and the wondrous irises. The one which was gray was dark like a moonlit sky; the other, like the same sky necked with clouds, and filled with the golden smoke of some far-off conflagration; and at the inner margin of both, the black of the dilated pupils seemed to spread out into the iris in rays of feathery blackness. They seemed to him like twin worlds—great, capacious, mysterious, alluring, absorbing. Behind the feathery curtains of those irises lay all the lovely things of which he had ever thought or dreamed—the things which sculptors and poets and painters see, and seek to express. And without changing his gaze, he saw below the eyes the downy cheek, and the red lips so sweetly curved. A new thrill ran through the man, and a new light came into his eyes. Madame le Claire blushed.

"Are you thinking of going to sleep?"

"I beg your pardon," said he; "I was thinking—I am afraid I was not!"

"Try again," said she; "and please control your thoughts. Think that you—are—going—to sleep. To sleep——Sleep! Sleep!—— Slee—ee—eep!"

Now Amidon's eyes sought hers again, and held there; and the twin worlds, sphered in some slowly-turning orbit, seemed swinging in their native space. Now the cheeks and hair and mouth came out in their places, returning to distinctness like features of a face on a screen. Now the eyes became twin stars again, casting on him once more the effulgence of their binary glow.

And now eyes and face and hair, and Madame le Claire—all passed away; and Florian Amidon became as naught, and the tigrine lady and the faded professor played with the thing which had been he, as upon a machine. The pillar of Hazelhurst society, the banker now five years lost, the bewildered wretch of the sleeping-car, was now, by his own act, given over as passively as some inert instrument, body and soul, to the guidance and manipulation of this shady occultist, not four hours known to him—while outside droned the muffled roar of the human cyclone which sweeps and whirls and eddies through Manhattan. So stripped of stability was the pillar, that he was now a mere feather of humanity, self-abandoned to the clasp of the storm of the modern Babylon. Madame le Claire questioned, Amidon answered (or Something answered for him), and Professor Blatherwick wrote in his book—wrote the data, of "te Chones blane of mentality."

"Dis iss enough," said the professor, "for vunce. Pring him to!"

Madame le Claire leaned back, gave her subject a long look, and then, walking to him, took his head tenderly in her hands. With the left, she held his forehead; the fingers of the right crept insinuatingly among the curls resting on his neck, swept thence over to his brow, and down across his eyelids, closing them; and Amidon sat, senseless as a statue, and almost as still.

"Right!" said Madame le Claire sharply. "Wake!"

Amidon opened his eyes wearily.

"When are you going to begin?" said he.

"Ve are t'rough," said the professor. "Ve know it all."

"And Brassfield? Did I——?"

"You have done him notting," said the professor. "You are all recht. You need not fear——"

"And the lady—Elizabeth?" suggested Amidon, as passing to the thing of next importance.

"It is near morning," said Madame le Claire, "and you are prostrated. We are all very tired. Aaron must take you to your hotel. You must sleep. Never fear, no harm is coming to you. When you wake, come to me, and I will tell you all about it—'All Mysteries Solved,' you know. Good night. You will sleep late in the morning."



The need of lucre never looms so large As when 'tis gotten in some devious way: It mitigates the blackness of the charge That every nether level yielded pay.

The man who dares e'en to the prison's marge Should bring back what he went for—or should stay! The need of lucre never looms so large As when 'tis gotten in some devious way.

Men can o'erlook the stain upon the targe, If from its boss the jewel shoots its ray; Or blood upon the pirate's sable barge Covered by silks' and satins' bright array— The need of lucre never looms so large As when 'tis gotten in some devious way. —Rondels of the Curb.

Morning passed to noon, and the day aged into afternoon, before Amidon rose from the deep sleep which (according to Le Claire's prediction) followed his evening with her and the professor. With that odd sense of bewilderment which the early riser feels at this violation of habit, he went into the cafe for his belated breakfast. Impatient to finish the meal so that he might haste to the promised interview, he studied the menu, and with his eye scouted the room for a waiter—failing to bestow even the slightest glance on a man seated opposite. This fact, however, did not prevent the stranger from scrutinizing Amidon's face, his dress, and even his hands, as if each minutest detail were vitally important. He even dropped his napkin so as to make an excuse for looking under the table, and thus getting a good view of Florian's boots. Finally he spoke, as if continuing a broken-off conversation.

"As I said a while ago," he remarked, "Browning falls short of being a poet, just as a marble-cutter falls short of being a sculptor. You were quoting Love Among the Ruins, as the train stopped at Elm Springs Junction; or was it Evelyn——"

Amidon's eyes, during this apparently aimless disquisition, had been drawn from his meal to the speaker. He saw an elderly gentleman, clothed in the black frock-coat and black tie of the rural lawyer of the old school. His eyes shot keen and kindly glances from the deep ambush of great white brows, and his mouth was hidden under a snowy mustache. His features made up for a somewhat marked poverty of shape by a luxuriance of ruddy color, the culminating point of which was to be found in the broad and fleshy nose. His voice, soft and gentle when he began, swelled out, as he spoke, into something of the orator's orotund. When Amidon looked at him, the speaker returned the gaze in full measure, and leaning across the table, pointed his finger at his auditor, and slowly uttered the words, "—as—the train—stopped—at—Elm Springs Junction!"

"Why, Judge Blodgett!" exclaimed Amidon, "can this be you?"

"Can it be I?" exclaimed the judge. "Can it be me! No difficulty about that. Never mind the handshaking just yet—after a while, maybe. When it comes to the can-it-be part, how about you? How about the past five years, and Jennie Baggs keeping a place for you every meal for all this time, up to the present hour? I tell you, Florian, letting me down in that case of Amidon versus Cattermole, without a scrap of evidence, and getting me licked by a young practitioner who studied in my office, was bad—was damnable; but an only sister, Florian! and not one word in five years!"

"She's well, then, Jennie is?"

"She's as well, Florian, as a woman with the sorrow you've brought to her, and the mother of two infants, can be. But why do you ask?—why do you ask?—why is it necessary to go through the work of surplusage of asking?"

"Children, eh?" said Florian. "Good for Jennie! And how's Baggs?"

"Oh, Baggs, yes—why, Baggs has come through it all with his health about unimpaired, Baggs has! But no Baggs court of inquiry is going to switch me off the examination I'm now conducting; and I tell you, Mr. Amidon, you can't dodge me. What double life took you away from home, and property, and everything?"

"Judge Blodgett," said Mr. Amidon, in that low voice which, with the English language as the medium of communication, is known as the danger-signal the world over, "the term 'double life' has a meaning which is insulting. Don't use it again."

"Well, well, Florian," said the judge, evidently pleased, "sustaining the motion to strike that out, the question remains. You aren't obliged to answer, you know; but you know, too, what not answering it means."

"Judge," said Amidon, after a long pause, "to say that I don't know where I have been, or what I have been doing, since June twenty-seventh, 1896, until yesterday morning when I came to my senses in a moving sleeping-car, won't satisfy you; but it's the truth."

The judge looked off toward the ceiling in the manner of a jurist considering some complex argument, but was silent.

"Now I have found a way," said Amidon, "of having all this explained. Come with me, and let's find out. There may be complications; I may need your help. You are the one man in all the world that I was just wishing for."

"Complications, eh?" said the judge. "Well, well! Let us see!"

And now he dropped into the old manner so well known to his companion as his office style. Piece by piece, he drew from Amidon his story. He dropped back to previous parts of the narrative, and elicited repetitions. He slurred over crucial points as if he did not see their bearing, and then artfully assumed minute variations of the tale, but was always corrected.

"The prosecution is obliged to rest its case," said he, at last. "You're not crazy, or all my studies in diseases of the mind have done me no good. Your story hangs together as no fiction could. To believe you, brands us both as lunatics. Come on and let's see what your mesmerist frauds have to say. As a specialist in facts, I'm a drowning man catching at a straw. Come on: mesmerism, or astrology, or Moqui snake-dance, it's all one to me!"

Up the stairs again, this time with Judge Blodgett, warily snuffing the air, and shy of both Bohemia and Benares. Into the presence of Madame le Claire, now gowned appropriately for the morning, and looking—extraordinary, it is true, with her party-colored hair and luminous eyes—but not so jungly as when she greeted the despairing sight of Amidon the night before.

"Madame, and sir," said the judge, "as Mr. Amidon's friend and legal adviser, I am here to protect his interests."

"So! Goot!" said the professor. "Bud te matter under gonsideration is psychical, nod beguniary. Howefer, if you are interested in te realm of te supliminal, if you care for mental science——"

"Sir," said the judge, "I may almost claim to be a specialist (so far as a country practitioner is permitted to specialize) in senile and paretic dementia, since I had the honor to represent the proponents in the will case of Snoke versus Snoke. But it's only fair to say that I regard hypnotism as humbug—only fair."

"Goot, goot!" said the professor delightedly. "To temonstrate to an honest ant indellichent skeptic, is te rarest of brifileches. Ve vill now broceed to temonstrate. Here is our friendt Herr Amidon avokened in a car after fife years of lostness; he has anodder man's dotes, anodder man's dicket, letters—unt all. He gomes to Madame le Claire ant Blatherwick. He is hypnotized out of te Amidon blane of being, ant into anodder. He is mate to gife himself avay. Now ve vill broceed to dell aboudt his life since he vas lost—is it a dest, no?"

"Huh!" snorted the judge.

"Go on," cried Amidon; "tell me the story!"

"Vell," said the professor, "for four veeks after you left Elm Springs Chunction, you vandered—not, Clara?"

"Wandered," said Clara, "and to so many places that I can't remember them. Then you found oil, or traces of it—I can't get that very plainly—on a farm at Bunn's Ferry, Pennsylvania; and bought an option on the farm. Then you opened an office in Bellevale, and have been there in the oil business ever since.

"How's he been doin' financially?" interjected the judge.

"He has made a fortune," said Clara. "I believe him to be one of the principal men of the town, socially and in a business way. He didn't tell me this, but we think the circumstances seem to indicate it."

"Te saircumstances," said the professor, filling a pause, "show it."

"How is it," said the judge, "that no one has ever heard of his Bellevale career out in Hazelhurst, if he's so prominent? We read, out there, and once in a while one of us goes outside the corporation."

"His name," said Madame le Claire, "in Bellevale is not Florian Amidon."

"What is it?" cried Amidon. "Tell it to me!"

Madame le Claire restrained him with a calm glance.

"It is Eugene Brassfield," said she.

"It is your own dotes," cried the professor gleefully, "your own dicket, your own gorrespondence!"

Amidon was feeling in his breast-pocket for something. He withdrew his hand, holding in it a letter, and looked from it to Madame le Claire questioningly.

"Oh, yes!" said she, not quite in her usual manner, "it's yours. It's from Miss Elizabeth Waldron, of Bellevale, your affianced wife."

"Aha!" said the judge. "Now will you get mad when I speak of a double life? Engaged, hey?"

"I never saw the—the lady in my life," was the reply; "so how can I be—can I be—engaged to her?"

"In te Amidon blane of gonsciousness," said the professor, "you are stranchers. In te Brassfield pairsonality, you are:—Gott im Himmel, you are stuck on her, stuck on her—not, Clara? Vas he not gracey? Only Clara cut it short in te temonstration; but as a luffer, in te Brassfield blane, you are vot you call hot stuff."

"You had better read the gentlemen your notes," said Madame le Claire coldly. "And please excuse me. I hope to see you both again." And with a sinuous bow, she swept from the room.

Blodgett, keenly analytical, lost no word of the professor's notes. Florian sat with the letter from Miss Waldron in his hand, lost in thought. Sometimes his face burned with blushes, sometimes it paled with anxiety. His eyes ran over the letter full of sweet ardors; and when he thought of replying to them—or leaving them unanswered—his brow went moist and his heart sick. What should he do? What could he do?

When they returned to the hotel, the judge was in a fever of excitement.

"I tell you, Florian," said he, "I believe the professor is right about this. It seems that there are precedents, you know—cases on all-fours with yours. When I went to the telephone, up there, I called up Stacy and Stacy's and asked 'em to get me Dun's and Bradstreet's report on your Bellevale business. It ought to be up here pretty soon. There may be something down there worth looking after, and needing attention."

"Perhaps," groaned Amidon. "Do you know that I'm engaged——"

"One of the things I referred to," said the judge.

"—to a lady, down there, whom I shouldn't know if I were to meet her out in the hall? If I go back to Hazelhurst, she is put under a cloud as a deserted woman—to say nothing of her feelings. And if I go back to Bellevale—my God, Judge, how can I go back, and take my place in a society where every one knows me, and I know nobody; and be a lover to a girl who may be—anything, you know; but who has the highest sort of claims on me, and a nature, I'm sure, capable of the keenest suffering or pleasure—how can I?"

"Message, sir, from Stacy and Stacy," said a messenger boy at the door.

Judge Blodgett tore open the envelope, and read the telegraphic reports.

"M—m—m——Y—e—es," said he. "It'll take diplomacy, Florian, diplomacy. But, if these reports are to be trusted, and I guess they are, you've got about ten times as much at Bellevale as you have at Hazelhurst. And, as you say, the lady has claims. As an honorable man—an engaged man, who has received the plighted troth of a pure young heart—and a good financier, this Bellevale life demands resumption at your hands. Prepare, fellow citizen, to meet the difficulties of the situation."



Yea, all her words are sweet and fair, And so, mayhap, is she; But words are naught but molded air, And air and molds are free. Belike, the youth in charmed hall Some fardels sore might miss, Scanning his Beauty's household all, Or ere he gave the kiss! —The Knyghte's Discourse to his Page.

Now it happened that at Bellevale, the young woman whom we—with the sweet familiarity of art—have had the joy to know as Elizabeth, moved about in unconsciousness, mostly blissful, of the annihilation of Eugene Brassfield. The mails might take to Mrs. Baggs at Hazelhurst vague letters from Judge Blodgett hinting at clues and traces of Florian, preparatory to the restoration of the lost brother; but Brassfield, never anything but a wraith from the mysterious caves of the subconsciousness, was non-existent for evermore, except through the magic of Le Claire. But Elizabeth Waldron, just home from college, full of the wise unwisdom of Smith and twenty-three, and palpitating with the shock which had broken the cables by which she had so long, long ago moored herself in the safe and deep waters of the harbor of a literary and intellectual celibacy, still dreamed of the bubble personality which had vanished, although at times waves of anxious unrest swept across her bosom.

For one thing, that epistle of hers, made for his reading on the train—how could she have written it! Elizabeth's cheeks burned when she remembered it. Then she thought of the weeks of chaste dalliance between her acceptance of him and his departure, and of the elan with which he had entered that safe harbor of hers, and swept her from those moorings; and the letter seemed slight return for the rites of adoration he had performed before her.

But (and now the cheeks burned once more) why, why had he not written to her as soon as he reached New York? Was he one with whom it was out of sight, out of mind? Or was he one of those business men who can not place anything more delicate than price-quotations on paper? Or—and here the cheeks paled—was he suddenly ill? She wished, after all, that she had not written it!

And one day, when a special-delivery letter came and surprised her, she ran out in the winter sun to the summer-house where she had sat so much with him, and read it in quiet. Whereupon the unrest increased, because the letter seemed as unlike Eugene as if he had copied it from some Complete Letter Writer.

Florian had agonized over this letter—had even tried the experiment of writing one while in the "Chones blane" under the influence of Madame le Claire; but it was too incoherent for any use—and he had done the best he could. Professor Blatherwick and Judge Blodgett were working out a code of behavior for Mr. Amidon when he should return to Bellevale. They kept him in the Brassfield personality for hours every day; but such a matter as this letter to Elizabeth, he could not intrust to them. Every day, though, he looked into the varicolored eyes of Clara and willed to sleep; and every day the operation grew less and less painful to him.

Vast and complex was the system of notes built up by the professor and the judge. They told him all about his various properties and holdings of stock; they listed the clubs and social organizations to which he belonged, and the offices he held in each. They made a directory of names mentioned by him in his abnormal state, and compiled facts about each person. It must have been very much like the copious information that we think we have about historical characters—elaborate, and the best thing possible in the absence of the real facts; but only the reflection of these people in the mind of some one else, after all. Finally the judge brought the whole to his friend, neatly typewritten, paragraphs numbered, facts tabulated, and all provided with a splendid index and system of elaborate cross-references.

"You see, my boy," said Judge Blodgett, "all any one really needs to know of his surroundings is actually very little. Otherwise, most people never could get along at all. Neander couldn't find his way to market—the greatest philosopher of his time. Now these notes tell you more—actually more—of your Bellevale life, than some folks ever find out about themselves—with a little filling in, on the spot, you know, why, they'll do first rate. For instance, under 'S' we have a man named Stevens, 'Old Stevens' you playfully call him. I figure him out to be an elderly man in some position of authority—he seems to sort of govern things, even you. The professor thinks he's your banker, but his intellectual domination leads me to the conclusion that he's your lawyer. There is a Miss Strong, evidently an important person. I venture the assertion that she's a literary woman, as you speak about asking her to 'look at her notes.' I shouldn't wonder if she's a rival of Miss Waldron's, eh, Professor?"

"Well," said Amidon impatiently, "who else?"

"Oh, lots of 'em," answered the judge. "Here's 'A' for instance, and under it a man named Alvord—a close friend of yours——"

"The one this telegram is from," said Amidon. "And I suppose this one in cipher is from Stevens, the lawyer or banker. It must be important."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Judge Blodgett; "and this Mr. Alvord I take to be a minister, for you connect him with some topic relating to 'Christian Martyrs' and 'rituals.' He must be a close friend, for you sometimes call him 'Jim,' in strict privacy, I presume. Oh, there's a regular directory of 'em here. I've even discovered that you have a little friend, a child of say seven or eight years—tell by the tone, you know—that you call 'Daisy' and 'Daise' and sometimes 'Strawberry.' These fondnesses for children and clergymen prove to me, Florian, that an Amidon is good goods on any confounded plane of consciousness you can throw 'em into—conservative, respectable, and all that, you know."

Amidon looked suspiciously at the notes, unappeased by this flattery. What justification there was for suspicion we shall be better able to say when we meet these Bellevale acquaintances of his.

"Is this the guide by which I am to regulate my conduct in Bellevale?" asked he, after looking it over.

"Well," said the judge, "it may not be quite like remembering all about things; but anyhow it will help some, won't it?"

"I suppose I'm to carry it with me, and when an acquaintance accosts me on the street, I'm to look him up in the index and find out who he is, before I decide whether to shake hands with him or cut him, am I?"

"Not exactly that way," said the judge; "that wouldn't be practicable, you know; but it's ten to one you'll find his name there. I tell you, that compilation——"

"Te tifision into gategories," broke in the professor, "according to te brinciples of lotchik was te chutche's itea. A vonderfully inchenious blan. It vill enaple you——"

"Has it any plan of reference," interrupted Amidon, "by which I shall be enabled to find out about a man when I don't know who he is?"


"Or, in such a case, to give me knowledge of my past relations with him, or whether I like him or hate him?"

"Of course," said the judge, "we only try to do the possible. The law requires no man to do more."

"Does this thing," said Amidon, shaking it in evident disgust, "tell where I live in Bellevale, whether in lodgings or at a hotel, or in my own house? Could I take it and find my home?"

"Damn it, Florian!" said the judge, "I'm not here to be jumped on, am I? No one can remember everything all the time. We'll get those things and put them into a supplement, you know."

"Not for me," said Florian. "I've made up my mind definitely about this. I'll not depend on it. If I go back to Bellevale, I must have at hand at all times the means of connecting things as I find them with the life of this Brassfield. I must take with me the bridge which spans the chasm between Brassfield and Amidon—I mean our friend Clara. Without her, I shall never go back. I haven't the nerve. I should soon find myself in a tangle of mistakes from which I could never extricate myself—I've thought it all out. The Cretan Labyrinth would be like going home from school, in comparison."

"Pshaw!" said the judge, looking lovingly at Blodgett's Notes on the Compiled Statements of Brassfield, "you could feel your way along very well—with these."

"Would you go into the trial of a case," said Florian, "no matter how simple, in which not only your own future, but the happiness of others, might be involved, without even a speaking acquaintance with any of the parties, or one of the witnesses? I tell you, Judge, we must have Madame le Claire."

The judge rolled up the notes and snapped a rubber band about the roll. He said no more until evening.

"Then," said he, as if he had only just made up his mind to concede the point, "let's see if it can be arranged at once. Come over to the Blatherwicks' with me."

"I think," said Amidon slowly, "that I'll see her alone."

"Alone, yes—yes!" said the judge, changing an interjection into an assent. "By all means; by all means. Only don't you think there may be things down there needing attention, Florian—money matters—and—and other things, you know, my boy—and that we ought to be moving in the matter? I would respectfully urge," he concluded, using his orator's chest-tones to drown Amidon's protest against his joking, "that no time be lost in deciding on our course."

The judge had noted the increasing dependence of his client on the fair hypnotist, and the growing interest that she seemed to feel in him, and therefore showed some coolness toward the proposal to take her to Bellevale. The eyes inured to the perusal of dusty commentaries and reports were still sharp enough to see the mutual tenderness exchanged in the unwavering, eye-to-eye encounters whereby Amidon was converted into Brassfield, and to note the softness of the feline strokings by which Florian's catalepsy was induced or dispelled. He rather favored dropping the Blatherwick acquaintance: but he could not answer Amidon's arguments as to their need for its continuance.

So it was that, about the time when Elizabeth Waldron sat in the summer-house at Bellevale, with tears of disappointment in her pretty eyes, holding poor Florian's best-he-could-do but ineffective letter all crumpled up in her hand, the tigrine Le Claire rested her elbows upon a window-ledge in the attitude of gazing into the street (it was all attitude, for she saw nothing), and was disturbed by Aaron, who brought in Mr. Florian Amidon's penciled card. She gave a few pokes to her hair, of course, turned once or twice about before her mirror, and went into the parlor.

"The judge and your father," said Amidon, "have got up a wonderful guide from notes of this man Brassfield's talk."

"Yes," said she with a smile; "they are wonderful."

"And perfectly useless," he continued, "so far as my steering by them in Bellevale is concerned."

"As useless," she admitted, "as can be."

"You knew that?" he inquired. "Then why did you let them go on with it?"

"That's good," said she. "I like that! I was nicely situated to mention it, wasn't I?"

"The fact is, Clara," said he, "as you can see, that I've got to have you at Bellevale. I shall not go down there without you. I can't do it. I've thought it all out——"

"So have I," said she. "I knew that you'd have to have me—for a little while; knew it all the time. I was just thinking about it as you came up."

"Then can you—will you go?"

"Can I stay, Florian?" she inquired steadily. "Can I leave you like a just-cured blind and deaf man, and my work for you only begun? I must go! We were just talking about our going to Bellevale, as you came in, papa. Mr. Amidon will need us for a while when he first gets there."

"Surely, surely," said the professor. "Te most inderesting phaces of dis case vill arise in Bellevale. I grave te brifiletche of geeping you unter my opsairfation until—until to last dog is hunk! Let us despatch Chutche Blotchett to spy out te landt. In a day or two he can tiscofer vere dis man Brassfield lifes, vere te fair Fraulein Elizabeth resides, and chenerally get on to te logal skitivation. He vill meet up with us at te train, and see that ve don't put our foots in it. Ve vill dus be safed te mortification of hafing Alderman Brassfield, chairman of te street committee, asking te boliceman te vay to his lotchings; or te fiance of Miss Valdering bassing her on te street vit a coldt, coldt stare of unrecognition or embracing her young laty friendt py mistake. Goot! Let te chutche dake his tebarture fortwith. Clara and I vill be charmed and habby, my friendt, to aggompany you. Supliminally gonsidered, it vill be great stuff!"



The good God gave hands, left and right, To deal with divers foes in fight; And eyes He gave all sights to hold; And limbs for pacings manifold; Gave tongue to taste both sour and sweet, Gave gust for salad, fish and meat; But, Christian Sir, whoe'er thou art, Trust not thy many-chambered heart! Give not one bow'r to Blonde, and yet Retain a room for the Brunette: Whoever gave each other part, The devil planned and built the heart! —In a Double Locket.

Clara, Amidon and Blatherwick were on their way to Bellevale. The professor was in the smoking-car, his daughter and Florian in the parlor-car. Amidon, his nerves strained to the point of agony, sat dreading the end of the journey, as one falling from an air-ship might shrink from the termination of his. Madame le Claire brooded over him maternally.

"Of course," said Amidon, "this Brassfield must have adopted some course of behavior toward Miss Waldron, when——"

"You must call her Elizabeth," said Madame le Claire, "and——"

"And what?" he inquired, as she failed to break the pause. "Have you found out—much—about it—from him?"

"Not so very much," she replied, "only she'll expect such things as 'dearest' and 'darling' at times. And occasionally 'pet' and 'sweetheart'—and 'dearie.' I can't give them all; you must extemporize a little, can't you?"

"Merciful heaven!" groaned Amidon; "I can't do it!"

"You have," said Madame le Claire; "and more—a good deal more."

"It was that scoundrel Brassfield," said he, in perfect seriousness. "More? What do you mean by 'more'?"

"Well, sometimes you——"

"He, not I!"

"You, I think we had better say—sometimes, when you were alone, your arm went about her waist; her head was drawn down upon your bosom; and with your hand, you turned her face to yours, and——"

"Clara, stop!" Amidon's bashful being was wrung to the sweating-point as he uttered the cry. "I never could have done it! And do you mean to say I must now act up to a record of that kind—and with a strange woman? She—she won't permit it—— Oh, you must be mistaken! How do you know this?"

Madame le Claire blushed, and seemed to want words for a reply. Amidon repeated the question.

"I want to know if you are sure," said he. "To make a mistake in that direction would be worse than the other, you know."

"Ah, would it?" said Clara; "I didn't know that!"

"Oh! I think we may take that for granted."

"You really don't get a grain of good from your Brassfield experience," said she, "or you'd know better." Here ensued a long silence, during which Amidon appeared to be pondering on her extraordinary remark.

"But, as to the fact," urged he at last, "how can you guess out any such state of things as you describe?"

"Can't you guess a little bit more once in a while? I know about it, from Mr. Brassfield's treatment—of—of me—when I made him think—that I—was Elizabeth! Oh, don't you see that I had to do it, so as to know, and tell you? Oh, I wish I had never, never begun this! I do, I do!"

A parlor-car has no conveniences whatever for heroics, hysterics or weeping, so miserably are our American railways managed; and Clara winked back into her eyes the tears which filled them, and Amidon looked at her tenderly.

"Did I, really," said he confusedly—"to you?"

"M'h'm," said Madame le Claire, nodding affirmatively; "I couldn't stop you!"

"It must have been dreadful—for you," said Amidon.

"Awful," said she; "but the work had to be done, you know."

"Oh, if it were you, now," said he, laying his hand on hers, "I could do it, if you didn't mind. I—I should like to, you know."

"Now see here," said Clara; "if you're just practising this, as a sort of rehearsal, you must go further and faster than a public place like this allows, or you'll seem cold by comparison with what has passed. If you mean what you say, let me remind you that you're engaged!"

Mr. Amidon swore softly, but sincerely. Somehow, the pitiful case of the girl who had written that letter with which he had fallen in love, had less and less of appeal to him as the days drifted by. And now, while the duty of which he had assured himself still impelled him to her side, he confessed that this other girl with the variegated hair and eyes, and the power to annihilate and restore him, the occultist with the thrilling gaze and the strong, supple figure, was calling more and more to the aboriginal man within him. So, while he took Elizabeth's letters from his pocket and read them, to get, if possible, some new light on her character, it was Clara's face that his eyes sought, as he glanced over the top of the sheet. Ah, Florian, with one girl's love-letter in your hands, and the face of another held in that avid gaze, can you be the bashful banker-bachelor who could not discuss the new style of ladies' figures with Mrs. Hunter! And as we thus moralize, the train sweeps on and on, and into Bellevale, where Judge Blodgett waits upon the platform for our arrival.

The judge stood by the steps to seize upon Amidon as he alighted. That gentleman and Madame le Claire, however, perversely got off at the other end of the car. As they walked down the platform, Florian met his first test, in the salutation of a young woman in a tailor-made gown, who nodded and smiled to him from a smart trap at a short distance from the station, where she seemed to be waiting for some one.

"Any baggage, Mr. Brassfield?" said a drayman.

"Yes," said Amidon; "take the checks."

"Do these go to the hotel, or——" The man waited for directions.

"I don't—that is," said the poor fellow, "I really—— Just wait a minute! Judge," this in a whisper to his friend, who had reached his side, "this is terrible! Where do I want to go?—and for the love of Heaven, where does this hound take my luggage?"

"Your lodgings at the Bellevale House!" returned the judge.

"To my lodgings at the Bellevale House," announced Amidon.

"And say," said the judge, "don't look that way; but the young woman in the one-horse trap across the way is your intended."

"No!" said Amidon. "I lifted my hat to her—she nodded to me, you know!"

"The devil!" said the judge; "I'll bet you didn't put any more warmth than a clam into your manner. Well, you'll have to go over, and she'll take you up-town, I suppose. Don't stay with her long, if you can help it, and come to me at the hotel as soon as you can. She's been driving over to see who got off every New York train ever since I came. Go to her, and may the Lord be merciful to you! Here are these notes, if you think they'll help you any—I've added some to 'em since I got down here."

Amidon waved a contemptuous rejection of the notes, and, casting a despairing glance at Madame le Claire, walked over toward his fate. He could have envied the lot of the bull-fighter advancing into the fearful radius of action of a pair of gory horns. He would gladly have changed places with the gladiator who hears the gnashing of bared teeth behind the slowly-opening cage doors. To walk up to the mouths of a battery of hostile Gatlings would have seemed easy, as compared with this present act of his, which was nothing more than stepping to the side of a carriage in which sat a girl, for a place near whom any unattached young man in Bellevale would willingly have placed his eternal welfare in jeopardy.

Point by point, the girl's outward seeming met Amidon's eyes as he neared her. From the platform, it was an impressionistic view of a well-kept trap and horse, and a young woman wearing a picture-hat with a sweeping plume, habited in a gown of modish tailoring, and holding the reins in well-gauntleted hands. As he reached the middle of the street-crossing, the face, surmounted by dark hair, began to show its salient features—great dark eyes, strongly-marked brows, and a strong, sweet mouth with vivid lips. Then came the impression of a form held erect, with the strong shoulders and arms which come from athletics, and the roundnesses which denote that superb animal, the well-developed woman. But it was only as he stood by the side of the carriage that he saw and felt the mingled dignity and frankness, the sureness and lightness of touch, with which she acted or refrained from acting; the lack of haste, the temperateness of gesture and intonation, which bespoke in a moment that type of woman which is society's finished product.

Her lips were parted in a half-smile; the great dark eyes sought his in the calling glance which seeks its companion; and in the face and voice there was something tremulous, vibrant and pleadingly anxious. Yet she did and said only commonplaces. She gave him her hand, and threw over the lap-robe as an invitation for him to take the seat beside her.

"I am glad to see you back, dear," said she, "and a little surprised."

"I hardly expected to come on this train," he answered, "until the very hour of starting. I can—hardly say—how glad I am—to be here."

She was silent, as she drove among the drays and omnibuses, out into the open street. He looked searchingly, though furtively, at her, and blushed as if he had been detected in staring at a girl in the street as she suddenly looked him straight in the face.

"Have you been ill, Eugene?" said she. "You look so worn and tired."

"I have had a very hard time of it since I left," said he; "and have been far from well."

She patted him lightly with her glove.

"You must be careful of yourself," said she, and paused as if to let him supply her reasons for so saying. "I hope your trouble is over, dear."

"Thank you," said he. "I am sure that after a few hours in my rooms, I shall be quite refreshed. Will you please put me down at the Bellevale House? I shall beg the privilege of calling soon."

"Why!" She looked swiftly at him, looked at the horse, and again at him. "Soon?" she went on, as if astonished. "I shall be alone this evening—if you care about it!"

"Oh, yes!" said he confusedly, "this evening, yes! I meant sooner—in a few minutes, you know!"

"No," said she, in that tone which surely denotes the raising of the drawbridge of pique; "you must rest until this evening. Who is the old gentleman who has been waiting two or three days to see you?"

"Judge Blodgett, an old friend," said he, relieved to find some matter with reference to which he could tell the truth.

"And the queer-looking lady—do you know her?"

"Oh, yes!" said Amidon; "she is a good friend, too."

"Ah!" the girl answered, in a tone which said almost anything, but was not by any means without significance. "And who is she?"

"Her professional name is Madame le Claire; in private life, she is Miss Blatherwick."

"I didn't see the rest of the troupe," said Miss Waldron icily; "or perhaps she's an elocutionist."

"No," said Amidon, "she's an occultist—a sort of—well, a hypnotist."

There was a long pause here, during which they drew near to the big brick building on the side of which Amidon saw the sign of the Bellevale House.

"Also an old friend?" inquired Miss Waldron.

"Oh, no!" said Florian; "I met her only a week or two ago."

"She must be very charming," said Elizabeth, "to have inspired so much friendship in so short a time. Here we are at the hotel. Do you really think you'll call this evening? Au revoir, then."

Even the unsophisticated Amidon could perceive, now, that the drawbridge was up, the portcullis down, and all the bars and shutters of the castle in place. Moreover, in the outer darkness in which he moved, he imagined there roamed lions and wolves and ravening beasts—and he with no guide but Judge Blodgett, who stands there in the lobby, so wildly beckoning to him.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse