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The Tyranny of the Dark
by Hamlin Garland
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -

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THE TYRANNY OF THE DARK



BY

HAMLIN GARLAND

AUTHOR OF "THE CAPTAIN OF THE GRAY-HORSE TROOP" "HESPER" "THE LIGHT OF THE STAR" ETC. ETC.



LONDON AND NEW YORK HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS :: MCMV



Copyright, 1905, by HAMLIN GARLAND.

All rights reserved. Published May, 1905.



CONTENTS

BOOK I

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE SETTING 1

II. THE MAID ON THE MOUNTAIN-SIDE 4

III. THE MAN 11

IV. A SECOND MEETING 15

V. PUPIL AND MASTER 23

VI. IN THE MARSHALL BASIN 42

VII. THE FORCES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS 59

VIII. DR. BRITT EXPLAINS 68

IX. ANTHONY CLARKE, EVANGEL 83

X. CLARKE'S WOOING 94

BOOK II

I. THE MODERNISTS 103

II. NEWS OF VIOLA 112

III. BRITT COMES TO DINE 132

IV. THE PATRON OF PSYCHICS 146

V. KATE VISITS VIOLA 164

VI. SERVISS LISTENS SHREWDLY 188

VII. THE SLEEPING SIBYL 201

VIII. KATE'S INTERROGATION 213

IX. VIOLA'S PLEA FOR HELP 224

X. MORTON SENDS A TELEGRAM 245

XI. DR. BRITT PAYS HIS DINNER-CALL 251

XII. VIOLA IN DINNER-DRESS 262

XIII. THE TEST SEANCE 283

XIV. PUZZLED PHILOSOPHERS 307

XV. VIOLA REVOLTS FROM CLARKE 328

XVI. THE HOUSE OF DISCORD 337

XVII. WHEN DOCTORS DISAGREE 353

XVIII. LAMBERT INTERVENES 370

XIX. SERVISS ASSUMES CONTROL 386

XX. THE MOTHER'S FAITH 399

XXI. CLARKE SHADOWS THE FEAST 413

XXII. THE SPIRITUAL RESCUE 429



ILLUSTRATIONS

"SHE CAME SLOWLY, WITH ONE SLIM HAND ON THE RAILING" Frontispiece

"THERE WAS IN HIS LOOK AN EXPRESSION OF ACKNOWLEDGED KINSHIP" Facing p. 6

"SERVISS LISTENED WITH GROWING AMAZEMENT" Facing p. 36

"VIOLA, TOO, CAME BACK TO BEWITCH HIM FROM HIS READING" Facing p. 108

"'WHAT DO YOU MEAN? DO YOU WANT TO KILL THE PSYCHIC?'" Facing p. 212

"'BUT, TELL ME, HOW DID THE CHANGE COME? WHAT BEGAN TO HAPPEN?'" Facing p. 276

"THE GIRL'S EYES WERE OPENING AS FROM NATURAL SLUMBER" Facing p. 308

"'YOU NEED NOT SPEAK—JUST PUT YOUR HAND IN MINE AND I WILL UNDERSTAND'" Facing p. 436



BOOK I



THE CHARACTERS CONCERNED

{ VIOLA LAMBERT, the subject { MRS. LAMBERT, her mother { JOS. LAMBERT, her step-father Those { ANTHONY CLARKE, her pastor in { DR. BRITT, her physician the Light { MORTON SERVISS, her lover { KATE RICE, her friend { DR. WEISSMANN, her investigator { SIMEON PRATT, her patron

{ WALDRON, her father Those { MCLEOD, her "control" in { WALTIE, her poltergeist the Dark { JENNIE PRATT, Pratt's eldest daughter { MRS. PRATT, "Loggy," and others dimly felt



THE TYRANNY OF THE DARK



I

THE SETTING

The village of Colorow is enclosed by a colossal amphitheatre of dove-gray stone, in whose niches wind-warped pines stand like spectators silent and waiting. Six thousand feet above the valley floor green and orange slopes run to the edges of perennial ice-fields, while farther away, and peering above these almost inaccessible defences, like tents of besieging Titans, rise three great mountains gleaming with snow and thunderous with storms. Altogether a stage worthy of some colossal drama rather than the calm slumber of a forgotten hamlet.

The railway enters the valley from the south by sinuously following the windings of a rushing, foam-white stream, and for many miles the engines cautiously feel their way among stupendous walls, passing haltingly over bridges hung perilously between perpendicular cliffs by slender iron rods, or creep like mountain-cats from ledge to ledge, so that when they have reached safe harbor beside the little red depot they never fail to pant and wheeze like a tired, gratified dog beside his master's door. Aside from the coming and going of these trains, the town is silent as the regarding pines.

The only other ways of entrance to this deep pocket lie over threadlike trails which climb the divide from Silver City and Toltec and Vermilion, and loop their terrifying courses down the declivities trod only by the sturdy burro or the agile, sure-footed mountain-horse. These wavering paths, worn deep and dusty once, are grass-grown now, for they were built in the days when silver was accounted a precious metal, and only an occasional hunter or prospector makes present use of them.

Colorow itself, once a flaming, tumultuous centre of miners, gamblers, and social outcasts, is now risen (or declined) to the quiet of a New England summer resort, supported partly by two or three big mines (whose white ore is streaked with gold), but more and more by the growing fame of its mountains and their medicinal springs, for these splendid peaks have their waters, hot and cold and sweet and bitter, whose healing powers are becoming known to an ever-growing number of those Americans who are minded to explore their native land.

This centre of aerial storms, these groups of transcendent summits, would be more widely known still, but for the singular sense of proprietorship with which each discoverer regards them. The lucky traveller who falls into this paradise is seized with a certain instant jealousy of it, and communicates his knowledge only to his family and his friends. Nevertheless, its fame spreads slowly, and each year new discoverers flock in growing numbers to the one little hotel and its ramshackle bath-house, so that the community once absolutely and viciously utilitarian begins to take timid account of its aesthetic surroundings, and here and there a little log-cabin (as appropriate to this land as the chalet to the Alps) is built beside the calling ripples of the river, while saddled horses, laden burros in long lines, and now and then a vast yellow or red ore-wagon creaking dolefully as it descends, still give evidence of the mining which goes on far up the zigzag trails towards the soaring, shining peaks of the Continental Divide.



II

THE MAID ON THE MOUNTAIN-SIDE

One day in July a fair young girl, with beautiful gray eyes, sat musingly beside one of these southern trails gazing upon the inverted pyramid of red sky which glowed between the sloping shoulders of the westward warding peaks. Her exquisite lips, scarlet as strawberry stains, were drawn into an expression of bitter constraint, and her brows were unnaturally knit. Her hat lay beside her on the ground, her brown hair was blowing free, and in her eyes was the look of one longing for the world beyond the hills. She appeared both lonely and desolate.

It was a pity to see one so young and so comely confronting with sad and sullen brow such aerial majesty as the evening presented. It was, indeed, a sort of impiety, and the girl seemed at last to feel this. Her frowning brow smoothed out, her lips grew more girlish of line, and at length, rapt with wonder, she fixed her eyes on a single purple cloud which was dissolving, becoming each moment smaller, more remote, like a fleeing eagle, yet burning each instant with even more dazzling flame of color than before—hasting as if to overtake the failing day. A dream of still fairer lands, of conquest, and of love, swept over her—became mirrored in her face. She had at this moment the wistful gaze which comes to the eyes of the young when desire of the future is strong.

Upon her musings a small sound broke, so faint, so far, she could not tell from whence it came nor what its cause might be. It might have been the rattle of a pebble under the feet of a near-by squirrel or the scrambling rush of a distant bear. A few moments later the voice of a man—very diminished and yet unmistakable—came pulsing down the mountain-side.

The girl rose as lightly, as gracefully as a fawn who, roused but not affrighted, stands on her imprint in the grass and waits and listens.

The man or men—for another voice could now be heard in answer—came rapidly on, and soon a couple of men and a small pack-train came out of a clump of thick trees at the head of a gulch, and, doubling backward and forward, descended swiftly upon the girl, who stood, with some natural curiosity, to let the travellers, whoever they might be, pass and precede her down to the valley. She resented them, for the reason that they cut short her reverie, her moment of spiritual peace.

The man who first appeared was a familiar type of the West, a small, lean, sharp-featured, foxy-eyed mountaineer, riding gracefully yet wearily—the natural horseman and trailer. Behind him two tired horses, heaped with a camp outfit, stumbled, with low-hanging heads, while at the rear, sitting his saddle sturdily rather than with grace, rode a young man bareheaded, but otherwise in the rough-and-ready dress of a plainsman. His eyes were on the sunset also, and something in the manner of his beard, as well as in the poise of his head, proclaimed him to be the master of the little train, a man of culture and an alien.

At sight of the girl he smiled and bowed with a look of frank and most respectful admiration, quite removed from the impudent stare of his guide. His hands were gloved, he wore a neat shirt, and his tie was in order—so much the girl saw as he faced her—and as he passed she apprehended something strong and manly in the lines of his back and shoulders. Plainly he was not to the saddle born, like the man ahead, and yet he was quite as bronzed and travel-worn.

A turn in the trail brought them both close under her feet, and again the man in the rear glanced up at the figure poised on the bowlder above him, and his eyes glowed once more with pleasure. There was in his look an expression of acknowledged kinship, as of one refined soul to another, a kind of subtle flattery which pleased while it puzzled the girl. Men with eyes of that appeal were not common in her world.

The bitter look vanished out of her face. She gazed after the trailer with the unabashed interest of a child, wondering who he might be. In that instant her soul, impressionable and eager, received and retained, like a sensitive plate, every line of his figure, every minute modelling of his face—even his fashion of saddle and the leather of his gun-case remained with her as food for reflection, and as she loitered down the trail a wish to know more about him rose in her heart. There was a kind of smiling ecstasy on his face before he saw her—as if he, too, were transported by the scene, and this expression came at last to be the chief revelation of his character.



The red went out of the sky. The golden eagle of cloud flew home over the illimitable seas of saffron, the purple shadows rose in the valleys, the lights of the town began to sparkle. Engine-bells clanged to and fro, and the strains of a saloon band rose to vex the girl's poetic soul with repugnant remembrances of the dance-hall. "I suppose he is only camping through," she thought, a little wistfully, referring back to the stranger. "I wish I knew who he is."

As she came down to the level of the stream its friendly roar cut off the ribald music and the clamor of the engines precisely as the bank shut away the visible town, leaving the little row of pretty cottages in the ward of the mountains and the martial, ranked, and towering firs.

At the foot of the trail a gray-haired woman met her. It was her mother, disturbed, indignant. "Viola Lambert, what do you mean by staying up there after dark? I'm all a-tremble over you."

"It isn't dark, mother," answered the girl; "and if it were, it isn't the first time I've been out alone."

Mrs. Lambert's voice softened. "Child, I can hardly see your face! You must not do such things. I don't mind your being out on horseback, but you must not go up there afoot. It is dangerous with all these tramp miners coming and going."

"Well, don't scold—I'm here safe and sound."

"I haven't had such a turn for years, Viola," the mother explained, as they waited side by side along the narrow walk. "I had an impression—so vivid—that I dropped my work and ran to find you. It was just as if you called me, asking for help. It seemed to me that some dreadful thing had happened to you."

"But nothing did. I went up to see the sunset. I didn't meet a soul." She ended abruptly, for she did not wish to retrace her sad reverie.

"Who were the two men who came down just now? They must have passed you."

"Yes, they passed me—I didn't know them. The one behind looked like an 'expert.' Perhaps he has come to examine the San Luis mine. Some one said they were expecting a man from England."

"He looked more like a Frenchman to me."

"It may be he is," answered Viola, restrainedly.

They turned in at a rustic gateway opening into the yard of a small and very pretty log-cabin which seemed a toy house, so minute was it in contrast to the mighty, fir-decked wall of gray and yellow rock behind it. Flowers had been planted along the path, and through the open door a red-shaded lamp shone like a poppy. Plainly it was the home of refined and tasteful women, a place where tall, rude men entered timidly and with apologies.

"Was there any mail?" asked the girl, as she put aside her hat.

"Not a thing."

The shadow deepened on her small, sensitive face. "Oh, why don't the girls write? they should know how horribly lonely it is here. I'm tired of everything to-day, mother—perfectly stone-blue. I don't like what I am; I'm tired of church-work and the people here. I want to go back East; I want to change my life completely."

The mother, a handsome woman, with fresh, unlined face, made no reply to this outburst. "Gusta won't be back until late; we will have to get our own supper."

The girl seemed rather pleased at this opportunity to do something, and went to her work cheerfully, moving with such grace and lightness that the mother stood in doting admiration to watch her; she was so tall and lithe and full-bosomed—her one treasure.

As she worked, the shadow again lifted from the girl's face, a smile came back to her scarlet lips, and she sang underbreath as only a young maiden can sing to whom love is a wonder and marriage a far-off dream.

She recalled the look which lay on the face of the man who was riding with bared head in ecstasy of the scene above and below him; but, most of all, she dwelt upon the gracious and candid glance of admiration with which he greeted her and which he repeated as he disappeared below her to be seen no more.

This look went with her to her room, and as she sat at her window, which opened upon the river, she wondered whether he had gone into camp in the pine groves just below the bridge, or whether he had taken lodgings at the hotel.

She had lovers—no girl of her charm could move without meeting the admiring glances of men; but this stranger's regard was so much more subtly exalting—it held an impersonal quality—it went beyond her entire understanding, adding an element of mystery to herself, to him, and to the sunset.



III

THE MAN

Meanwhile the young tourist had alighted before the door of the principal hotel, and, after writing his name in a clear and precise hand on the book in the office, had hastened to his supper, carrying a most vivid recollection of the slender figure and flushed and speaking face of the girl on the trail. That moment of meeting, accidental and fleeting, had already become a most beautiful climax of his pilgrimage. "She was born of the sunset; she does not really exist," he said, with unwonted warmth of phrase. "How could this little mining town produce so exquisite a flower?"

His grosser needs supplied, he lit his big student's pipe and went out upon the upper story of the hotel's rude porch, and there sat, listening to the rush of the stream, while the great yellow stars appeared one by one above the lofty peaks, and the air grew crisp to frostiness. He was profoundly at peace with the world and himself, his physical weariness being just sufficient to give this hour a sound completeness of content.

As the beauty of the night deepened, the girl's beauty allured like the moon. He still sought to explain her. "She is some traveller like myself," he said, "Bret Harte to the contrary, notwithstanding, the wilderness does not produce maids of her evident refinement and grace. She comes of a long line of well-bred people."

He was not an emotional person, and had not been permitted to consider pleasure the chief object, even of a vacation, but he went to his bed that night well pleased with Colorow, and with a half-defined sense that this was, after all, the point towards which his long journey, with all its windings, had really tended. However, he was not ready to acknowledge that a large part of the charm of the place was due to the glamour of a slender maid lit by the sunset light.

This delight in the town and its surroundings gained a new quality next morning as he looked from his window upon a single white cloud resting like a weary swan on the keen point of old Kanab. Though the mesas of New Mexico and the deserts of Arizona were his special field, he bared his head to the charm of "the high country."

Each summer, after months of prolonged peering into the hidden heart of microscopic things in his laboratory (he was both analytical chemist and biologist), it was his custom to return for a few weeks to huge, crude synthetic, nature for relief. After endless discussion of "whorls of force" and of "the office of germs in the human organism," he enjoyed the racy vernacular of the plainsman, to whom bacteria were as indifferent as blackberry-seeds. Each year he resolved to go to the forest, to the lake regions, or to the mountains; but as the day of departure drew near the desert and the strange peoples living thereon reasserted their dominion, and so he had continued to return to the sand, to the home of the horned toad and the rattlesnake. These trips restored the sane balance of his mind. To camp in the chaparral, to explore the source of streams, and to relive the wonder of the boy kept his faculties alert and keen.

His love of the sands and the purple buttes of the plain did not blind him to the beauty of coloring and the gracious majesty of these peaks, clothed as they were with the russet and gold and amber of ripened grasses, which grew even to the very summits (only the kingliest of the peaks were permitted to wear the ermine robes which denoted sovereignty); the Continental Divide was, indeed, much more impressive than he had expected it to be.

He was not one of those who seek out strange women, and he had no hope of meeting the girl of the mountain-side again. He was content to have her remain a poem—a song of the sunset—a picture seen only for a moment, yet whose impression outlasts iron. Everything in nature had converged to make her momentous. His long stay among the ugly, dusky women of the desert, his exultant joy in the mountain sunset, and his abounding health (which filled his heart with the buoyancy of a boy)—all these causes combined to revive emotions which his absorption in scientific investigation had set in the background—emotions which concern the common man, but which the deeply ambitious chemist, eager to discover the chemical molecular structure of the plasm, must put aside with a firm hand.



IV

A SECOND MEETING

Viola was just leaving her mother's gate the following afternoon when a man's voice, cordial, assured, and cultivated, startled her.

"Good-morning. Is this your home?"

She looked up to meet the smiling eyes of the stranger horseman. Again an indefinable charm of manner robbed his greeting of offence, and quite composedly she replied:

"Yes, this is our home."

"What a view you have, and what music!" He indicated the river which ran white and broad over its pebbles, just below the walk. "I am enchanted with the place. I think you must love it very much."

Her face expressed a qualified assent. "Oh yes, but I get tired of it sometimes, especially in winter when we are all shut in with snow."

"Then you really are a year-round resident? I suppose my view is the tourist's view. I can't believe anybody lives here in winter. I hope you won't mind my introducing myself"—he handed her a card. "You made such a pretty picture up there beside the trail yesterday that I couldn't forbear speaking to you on a second meeting. I wanted to know whether you were real or just a fragment of sunset cloud."

The ease and candor of his manner, joined to the effect of the name on the card, fully reassured her, and she looked up with a smile. "Won't you come in and rest?"

"Thank you, I should like particularly to do so, I've been for a climb up that peak behind your cottage and I'm tired."

Her reserve quite melted, the girl led the way to the door where her mother stood in artless wonder.

"Mother, this is Dr. Serviss, of Corlear College."

"I'm glad to know you, sir," said Mrs. Lambert, with old-fashioned formality. "Won't you come in?"

"Thank you. It will be a pleasure."

"Are you a physician?" she asked, as she took his hat and stick.

"Oh, dear, no! Nothing so useful as that. I'm a doctor by brevet, as they say in the army." Then, as though acknowledging that his hostess was entitled to know a little more about her intrusive guest, he added: "I am a student of biology, Mrs. Lambert, and assistant to Dr. Weissmann, the head of the bacteriological department of Corlear Medical College. We study germs—microscopic 'bugs,'" he ended, with humorous glance at Viola. "What a charming bungalow you have here! Did you gather those wild flowers?"

Viola answered in the tone of a pupil to her master, "Yes, sir."

"But some of them grow high. You must be a mountaineer. Pardon my curiosity—it is inexcusable—but how long have you lived here?"

The mother looked at her daughter for confirmation. "Eight years."

"Of course you are from the East?"

"Yes, from Wisconsin."

He laughed. "We call Wisconsin a Western State. Of course, it's the ignorant prejudice of the New-Yorker, but I find it hard to think of you as actual residents of this far-away little town. I thought only miners lived here?"

"We are miners. My husband has a mine up in the Basin, but he's putting in some new machinery just now and is unable to come down but once a week." Then mildly resenting his implied criticism of the town, she added: "We have just as nice people here as you'll find anywhere."

He responded gallantly, "I am quite prepared to believe that, Mrs. Lambert. But do many nice people like you live here all the year round?" He was bent on drawing the girl out, but she did not respond.

The mother answered: "I haven't been away except to take my daughter East to school."

He was cautious. "By East you mean Milwaukee?"

"Diamond Lake, Wisconsin."

He turned to the girl. "How long were you away?"

"Four years."

"Did you like it?"

"Very much."

"That is the reason you find it lonesome here." Up to this moment his attitude was that of a teacher towards a pretty pupil. "You miss your classmates, I suppose? Still there must be diversions here, even for a young girl."

The mother sighed. "It really is very lonesome here for Viola—if it weren't for her church work and her music I don't know what she'd do. There are so few young people, and then her years at the seminary spoiled her for the society out here, anyway."

"So much the worse for Colorow society," laughed Serviss. Then, to clear the shadow which had gathered on the girl's face, he said: "I see a fine piano, and shelves of music books. This argues that you love music. Won't you sing for me? I am hungry for a song."

"I do not sing," she replied, coldly, "I have no voice."

"Then play for me. I have been for eight weeks on the desert and I am famishing for music."

"Are you a musician?" asked Mrs. Lambert.

"Oh no, only a music-lover."

"My daughter is passionately fond of the piano," the mother explained, "and her teachers advised her to go on and make a specialty of it. They recommended Boston, but Viola wants to go to New York. She wanted to go last year, but I couldn't let her go. I'd been without her for four years, and Mr. Lambert's affairs wouldn't permit us both to go, and so she had to stay; but it does seem too bad for one as gifted as she is to give it up."

At this moment Serviss changed his entire attitude towards these people. They were too genuine, too trustful, and too fine to permit of any patronization, and the girl's dignified silence and the charm of her pellucid eyes and rose-leaf lips quite transmuted him from the curious onlooker to the friend. "I can understand your dilemma," he said, with less of formal cheer and more of genuine sympathy. "And yet, if your daughter has most decided talent it is only fair to give her a chance to show what she can do."

The girl flushed and her eyes fell as the mother bent towards her visitor.

"I wish you would listen to her play, Dr. Serviss, and tell me what you think of her talent."

His eyes shone with humor. "I will listen with great pleasure; but don't ask a chemist to judge a pianist. I love music—it is a sweet noise in my ears—but I can hardly distinguish Chopin from Schumann." He faced the girl. "Play for me. I shall be very deeply indebted." As she still hesitated he added: "Please do, or I will certainly think you consider me intrusive."

As Viola slowly rose, Mrs. Lambert said: "You must not feel that way, Dr. Serviss. We are highly honored to entertain one so eminent as you are. I was brought up to value learning. Play for him, Viola."

"What is the reason for her reluctance?" Serviss asked himself. "Is it shyness? Or does she resent me?"

With a glance of protest at her mother the girl took her seat at the piano. "I will try," she said, bluntly. "But I know I shall fail."

Twice she laid her hands upon the keys only to snatch them away again as if they were white-hot metal, and Serviss fancied her cheek grew pale. The third time she clashed out a few jarring chords intermixed with quite astonishing roulade on the treble—an unaccountable interruption, as if a third hand had been thrust in to confuse her. She stopped, and he began to share her embarrassment.

She tried again, shaking her head determinedly from side to side as if to escape some invisible annoying object. It seemed as if some mocking sprite in the instrument were laboring to make her every harmony a discord, and Serviss keenly regretted his insistence.

Suddenly she sprang up with an impatient, choking cry. "I can't do it! He won't let me!" she passionately exclaimed, and rushed from the room leaving her visitor gazing with pity and amazement into the face of the mother, who seemed troubled but in no wise astounded by her daughter's hysterical action. She sat in silence—a painful silence, as if lacking words to express her thought; and Serviss rose, rebuked, and for the first time ill at ease.

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Lambert; I didn't intend to embarrass your daughter."

"She is very nervous—"

"I understand. Being a complete stranger, I should not have insisted. One of the best singers I ever knew was so morbidly shy that on the platform she was an absolute failure. Her vocal chords became so contracted that she sang quite out of tune, and yet among friends she was magnificent."

The mother's voice was quite calm. "It was not your fault, sir. Sometimes she's this way, even when her best friends ask her to play. That's why I fear she will never be able to perform in concerts—she is liable to these break-downs."

He was puzzled by something concealed in the mother's tone, and pained and deeply anxious to restore the peaceful charm of the home into which he had, in a sense, unbiddenly penetrated. "I am guilty—unpardonably guilty. I beg you to tell her that my request was something more than polite seeming—I was sincerely eager to hear her play. Perhaps at another time, when she has come to know me better, she will feel like trying again. I don't like to think that our acquaintance has ended thus—in discord. May I not come in again, now that I am, in a sense, explained?"

He blundered on from sentence to sentence, seeking to soften the stern, straight line on the mother's lips—a line of singular repression, sweet but firm.

"I wish you would come again. I should really like your advice about Viola's future. Can't you come in this evening?"

"I shall be very glad to do so. At what hour?"

"At eight. Perhaps she will be able to play for you then."

With a feeling of having blundered into a most unpleasant predicament, through a passing interest in a pretty girl, Serviss retreated to his hotel across the river.



V

PUPIL AND MASTER

Once out of the spell of the immediate presence of this troubled mother and her appealing daughter, Serviss began to doubt and to question. "They are almost too simple, too confiding. Why should Mrs. Lambert, at a first meeting, accidental and without explanation, ask me to take thought of her daughter's future?" The fact that his connection with an institution of learning gave him a sort of sanctity in their eyes did not weigh with him. He was of those who take professorships in the modern way—with levity, either real or assumed.

"I think, on the whole, I'd better keep out of this family complication, whatever it may be," he concluded. "This absence of the husband in the hills may be more significant than at present appears—it may be a voluntary sequestration. I take the hint. I am not seeking new responsibilities, and I don't care to act as adviser, even to a pretty girl—especially not to a pretty girl." And he waved his hand in the manner of one declining a doubtful cigar.

But this slim young witch, with the scarlet lips and pleading gray eyes, was not so easily banished. His inward eye dwelt upon her with increasing joy, "How beautiful she was, as she stood there on that bowlder! Perhaps she was posing? She is now at the very height of her girlish charm. What an appeal she must make to the men of this region—those exquisite lips—that pliant waist—that full bosom! There is some antagonism between mother and daughter—something more than appears on the surface. She is both sullen and hysterical. What a pity!"

She continued to trouble him as he sat again after his evening meal on the veranda of the hotel. He could hear the slow tramp of heavy boots along the sidewalks beneath him, and the roar of the Colorow, softened by distance, rose and fell like a drowsy tune. On the highest peaks the after-glow still lingered, and from one of the little cottages deep in the shadow across the stream a light appeared like a signal, an invitation, and, the blood in him being young, accepted the lure. He rose with the impulse. "I'm going! Why not? 'Tis a night for adventure. There's no need of involving myself in any wise with their future. I'm an outsider, and will take precious good care to stay so." His face was impassive, but his heart was quick within him as he set foot on the bridge. "Perhaps this is my Rubicon?" he said, and paused with a moment's irresolution.

His doubt, his suspicion, instantly vanished as he re-entered the pretty little sitting-room and faced the sweet-visaged mother, who tacitly acknowledged her daughter as the cause of his coming by saying:

"Viola has just stepped over to the parsonage. She will return in a moment. Won't you please be seated?"

Serviss took a chair, quite ready—even eager—to listen to the further confidences which he perceived his hostess was about to give him.

"I hope you won't think it strange, professor—"

He interrupted her. "Please don't call me professor."

"I beg your pardon, sir. I understood that you were a professor in a university."

She seemed disappointed, and he explained: "It's true I am in the hand-book as a member of the faculty, and I plead guilty to the degree of doctor of philosophy—that I am proud of; but to be called professor robs me of my young humanity." This humorous explanation seemed to confuse her, and he added, kindly and naturally: "Really, Mrs. Lambert, I am a chemist and experimentalist in biology. I have no class-room work, because the college prefers to have me make what they call 'original investigation.' And, pray, let me say that while I am very willing to assist your daughter, or to advise you in any way, I see very little of musical New York. My work confines me to my 'shop' very closely, and when I go out I associate almost wholly with my peculiar kind. However, I can easily secure information as to the best schools of music, for I have several friends who know all about it. I interrupted you—please continue."

This pleasant, straightforward speech restored her confidence. "I think I was about to say, sir, that it may seem strange to you that I should so suddenly ask your advice, but, you see—"

"Oh, not at all," he genially interrupted. "I am consulted on all kinds of matters; in fact, I pass for a real doctor—out on the trail. I carry a little medicine-case for emergencies, and I assume all the authority of the regular practitioner—on occasion. I shall be very sorry if my distaste for the title 'professor' leads you to think me unsympathetic. I shall be very glad to assist you in any way."

"Thank you. You see, I was brought up to esteem learning, and we seldom meet one of your eminence—we are so completely out of the world here—it is a great pleasure to us—"

Footsteps just outside of the screen-door announced the return of the girl, who entered composedly, followed by a young man. Her manner was cold, her glance aloof, as she greeted Serviss.

"I'm glad you came," she said. "I was afraid you would forget us." She turned towards her escort, who had halted in the doorway. "Professor Serviss, this is the Reverend Mr. Clarke, the pastor of our church."

As Serviss shook hands with the Reverend Clarke he experienced a distinct shock of repulsion—an unaccountable feeling, for the clergyman was decidedly handsome, at first sight. But his hand was cold, his face pallid, and a bitter line, the worn pathway of a sneer, curved at one corner of his mouth. "Unwholesome, anaemic," was Serviss's inward comment as he turned away to address the girl, whose change of manner exerted a new witchery over him.

She was dressed in black for some reason, and her face seemed both sad and morose, but the graceful dignity of her strong young body was enhanced by her dark gown. Her hands, her feet, were shapely, without being dainty. "Plainly these women come of good stock, no matter what the husband and father may be," Serviss thought. He resented the clergyman's intrusive presence more and more. "Is he brought in as a safeguard?" he asked himself.

Mr. Clarke's attitude was certainly forbidding. He perched in grim, expectant silence on the edge of his chair, waiting, watching. His lean face had the blue-white look of the much-shaven actor, and his manner was as portentous as that of a tragedian.

"What the devil does he mean by staring at me like that?" Serviss continued to ask himself. "Does he expect me to go off like a bomb?"

He had started a discussion of the weather or some other harmless topic, when Clarke began, in a deep voice, with the formal inflections of the parson: "Miss Lambert tells me you are from Corlear University, professor?"

Serviss groaned and threw up his hands with a comical gesture. "Well, let it go at that. I suppose it explains me to call me 'professor.' Yes, I have a connection there—I draw a salary from the institution."

The clergyman regarded him soberly, as did the women, without sharing his humor in the least. Evidently being a professor in a university was no light thing to a Western preacher. "She tells me you have proposed to act as her adviser—"

Again Serviss protested. "Oh, nothing so formidable as that, my dear sir. I have promised to make inquiries for her." Then, obscurely moved to create a better impression in the girl's mind, he added: "I shall be very happy, of course, to do all that is in my power to aid you, Miss Lambert, but, as I have just been saying to your mother, I can only act through my friends. Nobody enjoys music more than I, but no one can possibly know less about it. In these days of specialization one is forced to one's own little groove in order to achieve practical results. General culture is impossible to specially trained sharps like myself."

"What is your specialty, may I ask?" inquired Clarke, remotely.

"I usually answer 'bugs,' but when I wish to be quite understood I explain that I am a physiological chemist and biologist. At the present moment I am assistant in the pathological department of the Corlear Medical College."

The preacher seemed to lighten a little. "Ah! that is a noble study, a study of incalculable service to mankind. I am deeply interested in that line of thought myself—I may say vitally interested, for I suffer from lung trouble. One by one the germs of disease are being discovered and their antitoxins catalogued." It was evident that he was anxious to impress the women with his wonderful understanding of the scientist's work and aims.

His tone was so sententious that Serviss instantly became flippant, as an offset. "Yes, one by one we round 'em up! But don't think me unfriendly to the 'beasts.' They have their uses. I'd no sooner kill a bacterium than a song-bird. I think we care too highly for the cancerous and the consumptive. I'm not at all sure that humanity oughtn't to be hackled like weeds, and so toughen its hold on life. Germs may be blessings in disguise."

Clarke pursued his way. "How little we know about their reactions—their secretions. You've given some attention to the X-ray and its effect on these cells, I presume?"

Serviss inwardly grinned to think what Weissmann would say at sight of his assistant sitting in solemn discussion of the germs and X-rays with a village clergyman and two reverential women. "Why, yes, I've considered it. Naturally, any new thing that bears on my specialty makes me sit up. I've even done a little experimenting with it."

"But have you considered the bearing of all these subtleties of science upon"—he hesitated—"a—upon certain—a—occult phenomena?"

Serviss eyed him non-committally. "Well, what, for instance?"

"Well, upon, say, telepathy—and—a—well, upon spiritual healing—and the like."

"I can't say that I have; I don't exactly see the connection. Furthermore, I don't believe in these particular delusions. My work concerns the material facts of life, not the dying superstitions of the race. I have no patience with any morbid theory of life."

This remark plainly produced a sensation. The preacher cast a significant glance at the mother, and the girl looked away at the lamp, a flush upon her face.

"Hello!" exclaimed Serviss, under his breath. "Have I discovered a neat of cranks? I've been enlisted on somebody's side—I wonder whose?"

The clergyman faced him again and calmly asked: "Have you ever investigated these occult phenomena?"

"Certainly not. I have no time to waste on such imaginings. My time is all taken in a study of certain definite processes in the living organism."

A light began to glow in the eyes of the young clergyman. "I suppose you class mental healing among the delusions?"

"Most assuredly I do," answered Serviss, with the remorselessness of youth.

"You would say that the mind of man cannot mend the body of another—"

"If you mean directly—in the manner of 'faith cures' and the like—I would answer certainly not, unless the disorder happens to be in itself due to a delusion. I can imagine the hypochondriac being cured by mental stimulus." He felt that he was drawing near the point at issue, and his eyes shone with glee.

The preacher set his trap. "You believe in the action of a drug—say, prussic acid—you believe it will kill?"

"Yes, and quite irrespective of the opinion of the one who takes it. His thinking it water will not check or change its action in the slightest degree."

"But how does it kill?" persisted Clarke. "What does it do?"

"If you mean why, at the last analysis, does one drug attack cells and the other nourish them, I answer, frankly, I don't know—nobody knows."

Clarke pursued his point. "Under the microscope, the germ of, say, tetanus is a minute bar with spore at the end like the head of a tadpole. Of what is this cell composed?"

"Probably of a jelly-like substance with excessively minute filaments, but we don't know. We are at the limit of the microscope. We trace certain processes, we even dissect certain cells, but elemental composition of plasm remains a mystery."

The preacher glowed with triumph. "Then you confess yourself baffled? The union of matter and spirit is beyond your microscope. What do you know about a drop of water? You say it is formed of hydrogen and oxygen in such and such proportions. What is hydrogen? Why do they unite?"

"I don't know," calmly replied Serviss. "We admit that any material substance remains inexplicable. The molecule lies far below the line of visibility. We only push the zone of the known a little farther into the realm of the unknown; but how does that serve your argument?"

"By demonstrating that the mind of a man is simply the mastering mystery in a world of mysteries, and that there is no known limit to what it may do. We say that at the point where life enters to differentiate the germ is beyond science—there of necessity faith is born."

"You say 'we'—are you an apostle of 'the new church'?" asked Serviss, abruptly.

The preacher visibly shrank. "I do not care to announce my growing conviction to my congregation, at present; but I find many things about the doctrine which appeal to me. Some form of spiritism is the coming religion—in my judgment. The old order changeth. The traditional theology—the very faith I preach—has become too gross, too materialistic, for this age; some sweeter and more mystic faith is to follow. Even science is prophesying new power for man, new realms for the spirit. You men of science pretend to lead, but you are laggards. You pore upon the culture of germs, but shut your eyes to the most vital of all truths. Is the life beyond the grave of less account than the habits of animalculae?"

The young scientist listened to this query with outward courtesy, but inwardly his gorge rose. "I see one gain in your new position," he answered, lightly. "Matter is no longer the dead, inorganic, 'godless thing' which the old-time theologians declared it to be. Matter, so far from being some inert lump, is permeated with life—is life itself. So far as we now know, all the visible and tangible universe is resolvable into terms of force—that is to say, chemical process. There may be no line of demarcation between the organic and the inorganic."

"And yet with your knowledge of the inscrutable final mystery of matter you set a mark at the grave! You condemn all manifestation of the spirit, all the phenomena of spiritism, for example?"

"Condemn is not the word—we simply say the phenomena are absurd, the spirit cannot exist without the body—"

"Have you ever investigated a single form of spirit manifestation? Have you studied the claims of those who are in touch with the spirit world?"

"No."

The preacher's sneer broke forth. "I can't see but you scientists are quite as dogmatic, quite as bigoted as the theologians."

Serviss laughed. "It does look a little that way. However, I'm not as uninformed as I seem. It happens that I am in close personal contact with men whose specialty is the study of morbid psychology, and I know the quality of those who act as mediums for the return of the dead." The intensity of the interest on the part of the little group before him was astonishing, not to say appalling. "It is evident that the mother and her pastor are both of the new dispensation or worse," was his thought, but his natural courtesy led him to say, placably: "There are mysteries in the world, I admit—in chemistry as in biology—but they seem to me to be different in very essence from the 'mysteries' of spiritualism and all allied 'psychic phenomena,' which appear to me essentially absurd, ignoble—'ratty,' to use a slang phrase—a faith founded upon things done in the dark, always in the dark."

The preacher flamed out at this. "I knew you would get round to that; that is the reason why I began by drawing you out on the X-ray. How little do we know of motion! The X-ray moves in straight lines, I understand, while light has a wave motion. Hence they are antagonistic. May it not be that the spirits of those gone before manifest by means of an unknown force which light neutralizes? May this not be the explanation why the phenomena of the spirit world require darkness?"

"It may," answered Serviss, dryly; "but there is a far easier explanation—But, see here," he returned to his boyish humor, "this is my vacation. I came out here to escape 'shop,' and here we are wasting time on X-rays and spiritism, and boring our patient hostess besides. Miss Lambert, won't you play for us and clear the air of our controversial dust?"

The girl, who had been sitting during this conversation in rigid immobility, intent on every word, now turned towards Clarke as if asking his consent. The mother, too, seemed to wait anxiously for the minister's answer, as if wondering whether he would willingly cut short his interrogation.

His eyes were still glowing with the heat of controversy, but he gravely said: "I hope you will give me another opportunity to discuss this matter. It is very important to me."

"Certainly, with pleasure," answered Serviss, glad to rid himself of the discussion of the moment.

As Viola stood slowly turning the leaves of her music, three loud knocks sounded upon the inner door, as if an insistent neighbor had entered and signalled for help. The mother rose and went out hurriedly, but the clergyman merely glanced after her, and said to the girl:

"You would better play, Viola."

The girl dashed into a stormy Polish march, which she played very well, but with a mechanical precision which seemed to offend Clarke, who rose and laid his hand on her arm. "Wait, you're not in the mood yet." He turned to Serviss. "The spirit of our discussion is upon her. She is very sensitive to such things. I will sing first—if you don't object," he added, in a new tone, a touch of apology in his voice, and he gave out the effect of addressing an unseen auditor—some one in the inner room.

"I shall be delighted," replied Serviss, with formal politeness, though he began to apprehend something morbidly forbidding in the minister and in his influence on the girl. An extraordinary intimacy was revealed, not so much in the words he spoke as in the tones he used. "Here is the girl's lover," he decided.

There was no timidity or hesitation in Viola's manner as she struck the first chords of an old ballad, and Clarke, transformed by a new and lofty mood, sang, with notable beauty of phrasing, "The Banks o' Ben Lomond." Something in the melancholy of the lover's cry seemed to fit with this singular young preacher's mood. His voice searched the heart, his eyes misted with feeling, and when he finished Serviss applauded most fervently, "Bravo!" and impulsively offered his hand.

"My dear fellow, you have a wonderful voice. You are the one to go to New York; you'd make Carolus look to his laurels. Sing something else—something of Strauss. Do you know Strauss?"

Clarke smiled with wistful sadness. "I sing very few ballads. My voice was given me to use in Christ's service, not for the gratification of my pride."

Serviss recoiled before this sanctimonious speech, and the light went out of his face. A disgust which he could not entirely conceal crossed his lips. "My dear sir, you can't serve the Lord better than by singing beautiful songs to the weary people of this earth. To wear out a voice like that on pinchbeck hymn tunes is a crime." Then, as if becoming conscious of a neglect of the girl, he added: "Now that you are in the mood, Miss Lambert, you must try that sonata again."

The girl seemed not to be offended by his enthusiasm over the minister's singing, and with a word in a low voice to Clarke, who placed a sheet of music before her, she began to play, opening the composition with unexpected breadth and dignity of phrasing. Serviss listened with growing amazement. Her hands were not large, but they had ample spread and were under perfect control. There was power in the poise of her head and in the rhythmic swaying of her body, but her playing was curiously unfeminine. There was no touch of girlish grace, of sentiment, in her performance, and with a sudden enlightenment Serviss inwardly exclaimed: "Aha! A clerical Svengali! This musical preacher has trained his pupil till she plays as he would play if he had the digital facility. It's all fine, but it is not the girl," and the question of their relationship again engaged him.



When the final stormy note was still, Viola remained on her stool, as though waiting for her critic to applaud.

Serviss broke the silence by exclaiming: "See here, you people are making game of me. You are both professionals in disguise. Come now, 'fess up," he challenged Clarke. "You are Senor Del Corte, barytone of the Salt-Air Opera Company; and you, Miss Lambert, belong to the Arion Ladies' Orchestra. I have found you both out!"

The girl smiled with pleasure, but Clarke remained so unassailably serious that Serviss was moved to further deeps of audacity. "Don't tell me you are a comedian, also! You certainly have me guessing. Who are you, really?"

Clarke answered, resentfully: "I am the pastor of the Presbyterian church in this village, as Miss Lambert has told you, and she is my organist."

Again that thump three times repeated sounded upon the door. Serviss, baffled and silenced by Clarke's impenetrable gravity, and by something inexplicably submissive, yet watchful, in the face of the girl, felt himself confronted by an intangible, sinister, and inescapable influence. The young clergyman seemed to darken and oppress both women. It was as if they were all leagued in a conspiracy to deceive and cajole. This bewilderment lasted but a moment, and he rose from his chair with a spring. "Well, now, play something else—give us a bit of rag-time; that last piece has left us all a little dashed—try a cake-walk."

Clarke interposed. "Miss Lambert does not play those trashy melodies. I consider them essentially irreligious."

Serviss resented the preacher's tone, but quickly answered: "They're not exactly reverent, I'll admit; but without them American music would be but a poor reflection of the German."

As if to save his reputation the preacher sang "The Palms," and sang it magnificently; and the girl accompanied him with such accuracy and good judgment that Serviss was able to infer long hours of practice, and this did not please him.

"His influence on her and on this household is not good," he decided. "That chap is decidedly morbid. If he is married, so much the worse. He's far too handsome to be a safe guide to an impressionable young girl. There is some mystery here," and he recalled that Viola's face was troubled when first he saw it. And at the close of this song, without a glance at the preacher, he offered a parting hand to Viola. "If I can be of any aid in putting you in touch with a teacher in New York, please write me. I think you have my card. You play with astonishing power and brilliancy. You would certainly interest a man like Greer."

Her face flamed with color—all her sullen restraint vanished, all her girlish charm came back. "Oh, do you think so? Do you suppose I could get him to teach me?"

"I don't say that—he is a very busy man—but I think you are decidedly to be encouraged. But I may be able to hear you again before I go. I want to hear you play alone."

"I wish you would come again." There was a subtle entreaty in her voice, almost a prayer; and in her uplifted face was expressed the respect and confidence of a child. His heart was moved with pity as well as with admiration, and, turning to the mother, he added: "I shall probably remain over Sunday, and it would be a pleasure if I might come again to your pretty home."

Mrs. Lambert's face glowed with pleasure. "It will be a great honor to have you, sir."

In this spirit he went away, without again taking Clarke's hand, with a last glance at the girl's face as she stood at the open door to let him pass. He turned from the gate with a sense of having been permitted a glance into the very heart of a secret drama which might at any moment become a tragedy. His interest was profoundly stirred, his sympathies wholly enlisted in behalf of this girl, so young and so aspiring.

As he stood above the roaring water he formulated a theory with regard to the relationship of the personalities he had just left behind him. "The girl is being persecuted by this man Clarke, who is madly in love with her. She has an inner repugnance to him; but he is a clergyman, and that means a great deal to a girl in the adoration stage. Her mother, a nice, religious sort of person, favors the preacher, of course; but the father probably despises him. Clarke is evidently losing his hold on the rock-ballasted keel of his creed, and in his shipwreck he may carry that girl down with him; such cases are all too common. If he is married, he is all the more dangerous. But it is not my duty to interfere." He ended, resolute to put the whole problem from him: "The girl has legal guardians—on them rests the blame if she is corrupted. To reform this world has never been my call."

But he could not rid himself of a growing sense of responsibility. His mind returned again and again to the complication into which he had suddenly been thrust. "Perhaps this desire on the part of the girl to go away to study is only an instinctive desire to escape. It would be like that preacher to have a worn, little, commonplace wife. What can Lambert be thinking of to let such a man come into his home and direct the daily life of both his wife and daughter? He is neglecting his plain duty."

He fell asleep, fancying himself on the way up the trail to the mine, and when he woke to find the good, rectifying rays of the morning sun filling his room the theories of the night were absurd. He desired to see the girl again, not to warn her of her peril, but because she was piquant and lovely, as befitted her romantic surroundings.



VI

IN THE MARSHALL BASIN

It must have been about eleven o'clock next morning when Serviss rode up and dismounted at the Lambert gate, and in the flaming light of mid-day the sense of mystification, the feeling that the girl was in the coils of some invisible menace, had entirely vanished. The preacher had sunk to the role of a conceited clerical ass who regarded science as an enemy to his especial theories and the visible universe as an outlying province of Calvinism; while Viola, who came to the door, was again most humanly charming, delighting his eyes like the morning.

She smiled blithely and spoke collectedly, in response to his greeting; but when he asked her to be his guide to the wonders of the region her face clouded in dismay.

"Oh, I'm sorry; I wish I could; but I must carry a message up to my father at the mine."

"Very well, why not take me? I infer you go on horseback?"

She hesitated. "Yes, but it's a long, hard ride—and you said you were tired of the saddle."

"I was yesterday; but I feel quite rested now. By all means let me accompany you. I should particularly enjoy mounting high to-day. I should also like to meet your father."

"Very well, I will speak to mother," she replied, with shining face, and disappeared within.

The mother, mindful of Serviss's connection with a great university, made no objection to the plan. On the contrary, she was pleased and flattered by his interest in her daughter, and a few moments later the young people rode off up the mountain road side by side and in high spirits.

Serviss winced at times at the childish flatness of Viola's comment, but her voice was musical and her face flower-like—therefore he forgave her. With all his knowledge of the constitution of matter, he was still young and in the mating mood.

They talked of the flowers, of the trails, of the birds to be found on the heights for a time; but soon, inevitably, they came to talk of themselves. Under his questioning she outlined her plans for a musical education, and this led at last to a consideration of the Reverend Mr. Clarke.

At the first mention of his name the girl's face distinctly darkened and her answers became curiously studied, almost evasive—or so it seemed to Serviss.

"Yes, I play in his church," she said, "and he teaches me. He is a splendid musician—don't you think so? I owe a great deal to him. He has helped me so much—especially in my phrasing. He is a wonderful man. We are fortunate in having him with us."

"He struck me as a little morbid, not to say morose. Has he had trouble in his church?"

Her answer was deep-toned and affectedly solemn in one so young. "No, but his wife passed out last year."

"Passed out? What do you mean by that?"

"I mean she died."

"Oh, I see!" His inflection checked her confidence, and they rode for a little way in silence.

Serviss was thinking. The situation is now clear. Clarke is working upon this sweet and charming girl in order to have her take the place of his dead wife. A sorrowful thing to think of, but not so bad as I have been imagining. At length he asked: "What else can you tell me about this Mr. Clarke? Is he a native of the West?"

"Oh no, he is from the East. He had a big church in Brooklyn; but his health gave out and he was forced to leave it. He came here for the baths and the air. He is much better now."

"He retains all his intellectual diseases, however. What medicine will he find for those?" Meeting the girl's startled glance, he hastened to add: "I beg your pardon, I was just wondering if he were as morbid when he came as he now seems."

"Oh no! He was quite cheerful till his wife went away. That changed him greatly. For months he hardly left his study. He reads too much even now. That is why he looks so pale. His house is packed with books."

"He seems in need of fresh air. How does your father get on with him?"

"Not at all well."

"I inferred that. Your father is a man of deeds—of open air—I take it."

"Mr. Lambert isn't my own father," she took this opportunity to explain. "My own father passed to the other side when I was eleven."

"Pardon my curiosity, Miss Lambert, but you've used a phrase once or twice which I've heard the people of a certain faith use. Is your mother a spiritualist?"

She looked at him with timid eyes, then turned quickly away. "She—she used to be; she's studying theosophy now."

"And the minister is trying to convert you all to his especial theory! I can imagine his discourses. No wonder you want to flee."

The girl's whole face, voice, and manner changed—became bitter, passionate. "Oh, I hate it! I hate it! I want to be free of it all!"

The intensity of her utterance amazed Serviss, and he studied her profile in silence before he answered. "I think I know what you mean, and I sympathize with you. You're too young to be troubled by the doubts and dismays of men like Clarke. He is preposterous in the face of a landscape like this. Let us forget him and his 'isms.'" With these words he straightened in his saddle and lifted his eyes towards the height before them. "Isn't that superb!"

They were drawing near the great gray boundary-wall of the valley, and the sound of roaring water grew tumultuous as they rounded the curve in the road and came into the little triangular nook which had been anciently formed by the Colorow as it descended in power from its source in the high parks. On the left the ledges rose almost sheer for a thousand feet, and from the edge of this cliff ore-buckets, a-slide on invisible cables, appeared in the sky, swooping like eagles, silently dropping one by one, to disappear, tamely as doves, in the gable end of a huge, drab-colored mill which stood upon the flat beside the stream. Beyond the mill Mount Ignacio rose darkly purple, hooded in white clouds.

The entire scene was typical of the West, of its energy, its greed, and its faith. Here was life—life and buoyant health—and the blood of the young scientist quickened as he comprehended the daring, the originality of the miner's plan.

"Is this your father's enterprise?" he asked, in the hope of an affirmative answer. A man of this quality would hang the minister if necessary.

"Oh no. We've got to climb the hill and cross the upper Basin before we reach our mine. This is the ore from the San Luis tunnel."

She was, happily, of the sunny world now, and, with a gay smile, turned her horse into a narrow trail and called back to him: "We climb here." He followed, admiring the strength and grace of her rounded figure as her horse zigzagged up the steep acclivity. She was troubled by no problems at this moment. She was rather a daughter of the mountains, a sister to the eagles.

She stopped once or twice to permit him to locate the far-famed peaks rising one by one to the south of them, and the third time she drew rein he was a-foot, and she said, "We're almost to the top of this grade; it's easier in the Basin."

"I am thinking only of my horse," he answered. "You see, he is carrying a forty-pound saddle, and is not so fresh as yours. I'm sorry to delay you."

The Basin was a most glorious valley, bowl-shaped, green with grass and groves of aspen and fir, and flooded with a cataract of sunshine. All about it ran a rim of lofty summits, purple in shadow, garnet and gold and green in the sun. Here and there a prospect-hole showed like a scar, or a gray, dismantled stamp-mill stood like a disintegrating bowlder beside its yellow-gray dump of useless ore. Serviss, familiar with the rise and fall of the silver-miner, looked over the lovely valley with a certain sense of satisfaction, for he was able to reconstruct its beauty before that flood of devastating humankind swept up from the eastern plain. "Nature is reasserting her dominion," he said, aloud. "Mining is a wounding business—like murder."

The girl glanced away to the south. "We'll have to hurry if we reach camp by one o'clock," she called, and he waved his hand as a sign of surrender to her leadership.

They overtook a long train of burros bearing a most miscellaneous cargo of odds and ends of machinery, nail-kegs, iron-rods, bundles of bolts, lumber, oil, and boxes of groceries.

"This is all father's—all for the new mill," said the girl, nodding and smiling at the Mexicans in charge of the donkeys. "Hello, Clint!" she called, cheerily, to another muleteer, a little farther up the trail, a brown, good-looking young fellow, who saluted her joyfully, his eyes aglow with adoration.

"Every man is her suitor," thought Serviss, with a twinge of disapproval. "Think what she must seem to that leather-colored Arab urging forward those donkeys!" And a knowledge of her danger—he put it that way—began to oppress him. "She is too fine and sweet to marry among these rough miners."

She, it seemed, was not afraid of mountaineers, for she had a gay nod and a bright word for every one she met, though some of them were brutal-mouthed and grimy and sullen. Serviss derived no comfort from the fact that the most sinister of them brightened for an instant in the light of her adorable smile.

At last, far ahead, they came in sight of the mill on a bare peak. The white clouds which had been silently gathering round the great domes swiftly overspread the whole sky. The air grew chill as November. The wind began to roar in the firs with a stern mournfulness which went to the heart of the man; but the girl, without once stopping her horse, unrolled her raincoat and put it on, calling back at her cavalier as she did so with a fine, challenging, gleeful shout.

They were very high now. Perennial ice lay in the gullies and on the north side of the cliffs, and the air was light and keen. Suddenly the wind died away. A gray hush came over the valley. The water in the streams lost its vivid green and became lead-color streaked with white foam. One by one the mountains were blotted out by the storm. The world of sky and rocks grew mysterious, menacing; but the girl pushed fearlessly forward, singing like a robin, while the rain slashed over her, and the thunder boomed and re-echoed from crag to crag like warning guns in magnificent alarums. "I love this!" she cried, her clear voice piercing the veil of water like a flute note. "Don't you?"

Serviss was not without imagination, and the contrast of this jocund, fearless, free young maid with the silent, constrained girl of the night before moved him to wonder. "Here she is herself—nature's own child," he thought. "Last night she was a 'subject'—a plaything of the preacher's. Strange the mother does not realize her daughter's danger."

The storm passed as quickly as it came, and when they drew rein at the mine the sun was shining. The mill, standing on a smooth, steep slope, and sheltered on the north by a group of low firs, seemed half a ruin, but was, in fact, being rebuilt and enlarged. All about it were dumps of clay, slippery with water, and rough bunk-houses and ore-sheds. All the structures were rude, masculine, utilitarian, and the girl grew each moment in delicacy and refinement by contrast.

In answer to her halloo a plainly clad man came to the door, his face set in amazement.

"Why—see here—daughter! I wasn't looking for you to-day."

"I'm here just the same," she laughingly replied. "Here are some telegrams. Professor Serviss, this is my father."

Joseph Lambert was a small man, with shy, blue eyes and a low and gentle utterance. He carried his head leaning a little to the left and seemed a shade discouraged, almost melancholy. He was, however, a brave, silent, tireless little man, who had made one great fortune in silver-mines only to lose it in the panic. He was now cannily working a vein which had a streak of gold in it, and, like all miners, was just on the point of making a "strike." He was distracted with work, and, though cordial, could not at the moment give much time to his visitor.

"Well, now, Viola, you take Professor Serviss into the cook-house and feed him. I guess you'll find something left over. If not, you will have to scratch up something."

Viola thereupon led the way into the kitchen, greeting each man she met, cooks and waiters alike, with impartial, clear-eyed joyousness and trust, and when the food came on she ate without grimace or hesitation. The cook, a big, self-contained Chinaman, came in with a china cup.

"Use this klup—tin klup no good for lady." His voice was gruff and his manner that of one who compels a child to use a napkin; but it was plain he adored her. As she thanked him he shuffled away with an irrepressible grin.

All this produced in Serviss an uneasiness. To him she was a lamb venturing among wolves. "She should not expose herself to the coarse comment, the seeking eyes of these fellows," he indignantly commented, blaming the acquiescent mother and the absent-minded step-father. "This childlike trust is charming, but it is not war."

Her essential weakness of defence, her innocence, began to move him deeply, dangerously. He began to understand how she had turned to Clarke for companionship, not merely because he was a clergyman, but because he was a young man of more than usual culture and attainment, whose sympathy and counsel promised aid and comfort in her loneliness. "She does not love him; she merely admires certain sides of his character; she fears to marry him, and quite properly. His morbid faith would destroy her."

As they were returning to the office they met the young driver of the mule-train, and Viola introduced him as "Mr. Ward, of Boston."

He was tall and spare, with a fine, sensitive, boyish face—a face of refinement which his rough, gray shirt, faded leggings, and badly battered hat belied.

"Mr. Ward is out here for his health, also," Viola explained. "All the really nice people are 'one-lungers.'"

"Isn't it sad?" said Ward, gravely. "However, Miss Lambert is only partly right. I made my health an excuse. I'm here because I like it."

Serviss bent a keen look upon him. "You don't look as if you had ever been sick."

"I'm not. I came out here to escape college—and my father's business." He laughed. "But don't betray me. I'm supposed to be 'slowly improving.'"

There was something fine and hawklike in the young fellow's profile as he stood negligently leaning on the door-frame, his eyes on the flushed face of the girl; and Serviss experienced another pang of jealous pain—they were so young, so comely, so full of the fire and imagination of youth. At the moment his own fame and special tasks were of small account.

Upon their return to the office Lambert met them in the same absent-minded, apologetic way. "I'm just getting some new machinery into place and haven't a minute, but you must make yourself as much at home as you can. Viola will show you around."

Serviss protested that he needed no entertainment, that he was not tired, and that he was well content to sit in the door and smoke and watch the changing glory of the peaks, and this he did while Viola moved about among the workmen in earnest conversation with her step-father.

"She is explaining me," Serviss reasoned. "I wish I could hear what she says. It would be amusing to know myself as she sees me. I hope she doesn't think me middle-aged as well as wise."

Lambert listened to his daughter's words with attention, for a professor in a college was an exalted person in his eyes, and one of his chief regrets at the moment was that he was unable to say to Serviss, "I am a college man myself"; but this he could not do for the reason that the death of his father had taken him out of his class at the beginning of his third year, and put him at the head of a large family as its breadwinner.

"He looks like a very young man, almost a boy—too young to be a professor; but then"—here his eyes twinkled—"when I was at Jefferson all professors seemed old to me. What's he doing here?"

"Just riding through the mountains on his vacation."

"What does your mother think of him?"

"She likes him very much."

"Well, I won't make any objection, then."

Viola stared—then blushed furiously. "What do you mean?"

"Why, didn't you bring him up here to see how I liked him?"

She pounded him with her little brown fist while tears of mortification filled her eyes. "Now, you stop that! You're teasing me. Why, I've only known him three days."

He laughed silently, shaking his head. "Well, these things move quickly sometimes—and how was I to know but you'd known him in the East—you seemed so chummy-like—"

"You've spoiled everything," she wailed, deeply disturbed and painfully self-conscious. "You're mean to me."

He became instantly contrite. "There, now, don't you mind my joking. Of course I was fooling. It's all safe between us, anyway."

But the mischief was done. She forgave him, but never again would she be the same to him, to her mother, or to the imperturbable young man smoking his pipe beneath the firs. He was young—that was only too plain to her now; not so young as Clinton, but not the middle-aged person she had been fancying him to be.

As they were about to start on their homeward trail, Serviss sought opportunity to say: "Mr. Lambert, I met this man Clarke at your house last night, and I want to say that I don't think his influence on your family is particularly wholesome. He's morbid and given to fads."

Lambert replied: "I know what you mean, professor, and I believe you're right. I don't believe in him myself, and I don't take any stock in any of his notions, but my wife does. She thinks he's of the Covenant, somehow. I wish you'd talk with her and try to have her let up on Viola. I don't think they're doin' right by her. If she was my own girl I'd stop it—I would so." Then he added, in a curious tone, this vague defence: "As for Viola, she would be all right if they would leave her alone. She's gifted in a way I don't understand; but if she isn't twisted by Clarke's foolishness she's going to make some man a good wife. She's a good girl, and, as I say, if she was my own child I'd serve notice that this circle business should stop. I wish you'd talk to 'em. I don't count—but they'll listen to you. I'm glad to have met you. I hope you'll come up again. I'd like to mill that business over with you; it's all very curious, but I'm just plumb distracted with work now."

"I beg you not to apologize—it's time to start back, anyhow."

As they rode away down the valley, the girl silent and constrained, Serviss pondered Lambert's words, which were plainly directed against Clarke. His sense of responsibility was increased by Lambert's trust in him. "This won't do," he decided; "I must pull out or I will find myself laden with the woes of the entire family, and Clarke's distresses besides."

The girl was invested now with compelling pathos. Each mile they descended seemed to deepen the returning shadow on her face. The gayety, the buoyancy of the upward trail was gone. She was silent, constrained, and sad; and he set to work to restore her to the simple and girlish candor of the morning. He called attention to the wonders of the western sky. He shouted to induce echoes, and challenged her to a race, and at the last descent dared her to ride down in one of the ore-buckets, seeking to bring the smiles back to her lips.

She responded to his cheer, but not as before. Something clouded her clear glance—her smiles died quickly, and the poise of her head was less alert.

When they had reached the wagon-road and he could ride by her side, he, too, became serious. "I hope I haven't given offence in any way, Miss Lambert? If I have, I assure you it was entirely unintentional, and I beg your pardon."

She looked away. "You have done nothing," she said, slowly.

"But you seem distinctly less friendly to me. I hope you didn't take anything I said concerning your mother's faith to heart. I had no intention of attacking her beliefs, but I must be honest with you—I don't like Mr. Clarke. There's something unwholesome about him, and what you've told me to-day is not reassuring. Evidently he took the death of his wife very hard, and it has added to his natural tendency towards a sort of spiritual monomania. As a matter of fact, he's more Spiritualist than Calvinist at present. Isn't that so?"

The girl's face grew sullen and weary. "Oh, I don't know, I'm tired of it all."

"He endlessly talks his grind, I suppose. How foolish, how sickly it all seems—here in the presence of uncontaminated nature! In such sunlight as this it seems insanity to sit in a book-walled room and grow bloodless with dreaming over insoluble problems. And yet a friend of mine told me that these towns, and especially California towns, were filled with seers and prophets. The occult flourishes in the high, dry atmosphere, those of the faith say. Don't you permit Clarke to destroy your love of nature, Miss Lambert; you belong to the sane and sunny world, and he has no right to bring his gloomy conceptions home to you. You are too young and too naturally joyous to be concerned with the problems of disease and death. You were made to be happy."

He ended with greater earnestness than he had intended to use, and the effect of his words on the girl was very great. She could not speak; tears were in her eyes, and her bosom heaved most piteously. His sense of her helplessness deepened, and he added, "Will you permit me to talk to Mr. Clarke about you and your plans?"

This seemed to alarm her. "No, no!" she cried out, distressfully. "Please don't say anything to him about me. It will do no good. You don't understand, and I can't tell you," she added, breathlessly.

"Very well," he said, soothingly; "but, remember, your case interests me exceedingly, and you may call on me at any time and I will gladly help."

She turned a pale and tearful face towards him and extended her hand.

"I thank you very, very much. You have helped me more than I can say."

During the remainder of the ride he discussed the springs, the source of the streams, the caverns, and other natural features of the scene, and had the satisfaction of seeing her face in a smile before he left her.

He went back to his hotel with a feeling of having spent six days in her company rather than six hours. She absorbed his entire thought, and so keen was his sense of her beleaguerment that he resolved to call upon Clarke in order to define his character and to understand his motives. "His passions or his doubt overshadow the girl's sky, and I'm going to find out whether his designs are those of friend or fiend." At the moment he had a feeling that they were those of a devouring fiend.



VII

THE FORCES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS

Clarke's church typified the decaying faith of its pastor. Grass was serenely pushing up through the rotting planks of the walk which led from the street to the basement "study" just as the natural goodness and cheer of man returns to dominion through the barriers of custom. The paint was blistering and peeling from the clap-boarding on the sunny side of the main building, and in one of the windows a piece of shingle had been set to repair a broken pane. It had the appearance of neglected age.

"The preacher was right—the creed of his church, as of all others, in a lesser degree perhaps, is too crass, too mechanical, too childish to tally the ideals of a generation which is each day awakening to some new potency of matter, some wider conception of the universe."

On the study door, checked by the sun and worn by the rain, the tourist applied his knuckle, and a voice, formal and sonorous, called out, "Come in!"

Opening the door, which led directly into a dark little den with only one window, Serviss confronted Clarke reading by a green-shaded lamp, in whose light he appeared as pallid, as remote from the sun, as a monk of the Middle Ages.

He rose quickly upon recognizing his visitor. "I'm glad to see you, professor; I beg your pardon for not rising. I thought the knock came from my janitor. Take a seat, please." He gathered a handful of books from a yellow arm-chair and pushed it forward with his foot. "Your visit is most opportune. I was meditating a call at your hotel to-night. I wanted to get your idea concerning two or three scientific discoveries which seem to me to have a most important bearing on the welfare of the race."

Serviss became each moment more keenly aware of being face to face with a task which required all his tact, his self-possession, and his wit, for the man before him was immured in self-conceit, accustomed to carrying his point by a rush of words, and was, withal, a student possessed of unusual intellectual resource. He made a very handsome figure as he took his seat amid his books. His face, freshly shaven, gleamed like blue-white marble, and his abundant dark hair, drawn away from his brow by careless fingers, lay in a tumbled mass above his ear, adding a noticeably sculptural finish to his shapely head. His hands, thin, long, and restless, alone betrayed the excitement which the coming of this Master of the Germ engendered in him. He was eager to question, but he waited for his visitor to begin, which he did with manly directness.

"I have called to talk with you about Miss Lambert. She and her mother having honored me by asking my advice as to her study in New York, I would like to know whether you, as their pastor, counsel this movement on her part?"

The clergyman's sentient fingers sought, found, and closed tightly upon a ruler. "That I cannot answer directly," he said, slowly. "Miss Lambert's case is not simple. She is a very remarkable musician, that you know, and yet her talent is fitful. She sometimes plays very badly. I am not at all sure she has the temperament which will succeed on the music-stage."

"I made a somewhat similar remark to the mother myself."

"Moreover, her interests are not the only factors in the problem. Mrs. Lambert's life is bound up in her daughter, and without her she would suffer. The well-being of the family as a whole is against her going."

"You have your own interests, too, I dare say."

Clarke's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"It would be difficult to replace her here in your church-work, would it not?"

The clergyman returned to his candid manner. "It would, indeed. She is the only organist in the village, and is invaluable to me, especially in the Sunday-school."

"I am disposed to consider her interests, and not those of the mother and father, or even the church," pursued Serviss. "I am of those who recognize the rights of the young as of chief importance to the race."

Clarke seized upon this as a gage of battle. "The race! Oh, you inexorable men of science! What do we care for the race? We would save individuals. The race can take care of itself. The race is only an abstraction—it cannot suffer. Of what avail to the individual to know that the race is to be perfected a thousand years hence?"

"We wander," interposed Serviss, with decision. "The question is really quite simple. Shall we advise the Lamberts to send their daughter to New York to study music, or shall we counsel her to remain here, and in marriage to some good, honest young miner resign herself to the common lot of women. Her talent should determine."

A dull flush rose to the cheek of the preacher, his eyes fell and his voice unconsciously softened. "Marriage is still a long way off for Viola Lambert; she is but a child, and, besides—" He paused.

Serviss smiled. "They marry young in the West, I believe. Besides, she must be twenty, and quite robust."

"She seems but a child to me," repeated Clarke, returning to his clerical manner, and something in the hypocritical tone of his speech angered and disgusted Serviss, and to himself he said: "He is a fraud. He does not intend to let the girl pass out of his control." Then aloud he reopened the discussion: "It all comes back to a question of the girl's talent. If it is sufficient to enable her to earn a living in some larger community, she has a right to go; if not, she should certainly stay here. I believe in the largest possible life for every human being, and Miss Lambert's ambition is a perfectly legitimate craving. Furthermore, she seems eager to escape from this life. She hints at some sort of mysterious persecution. She has not defined her troubles in detail, but I inferred that some undesirable suitor made life miserable for her." With these words he bent a keen glance at Clarke.

"You are quite mistaken, sir. Miss Lambert has many admirers but no suitors. I have cautioned her against entanglements of that kind. I have shown how they would interfere with her work."

"You mean her work in your church?"

Clarke's eyes again took on the narrowed glance of suspicion. "Partly that, but more on account of other and higher work which I hope to see her do."

"To what do you refer?"

"Pardon me, of that I cannot at present speak; I can only say that it is a work whose preliminary stages can be passed as well here as in New York City—better, in fact."

"You arouse my curiosity—"

Clarke suddenly awoke from his musing and became aggressive. He resolutely changed the subject. "Before you go I want to ask you—do you, as a chemist, deny the immortality of the soul?"

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