The sun was dipping into the sea as we trudged
across the meadows toward a high dome-shaped dune covered with cedars
and thickets of sweet bay. I saw no sign of habitation among the sand
hills. Far as the eye could reach, nothing broke the gray line of
sea and sky save the squat dunes crowned with stunted cedars.
as we rounded the base of the dune, we almost walked into the door
of a house. My amazement amused Miss Holroyd, and I noticed also a
touch of malice in her pretty eyes. But she said nothing, following
her father into the house, with the slightest possible gesture to
me. Was it invitation, or was it menace?
The house was merely a light wooden frame, covered with some waterproof
stuff that looked like a mixture of rubber and tar. Over this—in
fact, over the whole roof—was pitched an awning of heavy sail-cloth.
I noticed that the house was anchored to the sand by chains, already
rusted red. But this one-storied house was not the only building nestling
in the south shelter of the big dune. A hundred feet away stood another
structure-long, low, also built of wood. It had rows on rows of round
portholes on every side. The ports were fitted with heavy glass, hinged
to swing open if necessary. A single big double door occupied the
Behind this long, low building was still another, a mere shed. Smoke
rose from the sheet-iron chimney. There was somebody moving about
inside the open door.
As I stood gaping at this mushroom hamlet the professor appeared at
the door and asked me to enter. I stepped in at once.
The house was much larger than I had imagined. A straight hallway
ran through the centre from east to west. On either side of this hallway
were rooms, the doors swinging wide open. I counted three doors on
each side; the three on the south appeared to be bedrooms.
The professor ushered me into a room on the north side, where I found
Captain McPeek and Frisby sitting at a table, upon which were drawings
and sketches of articulated animals and fishes.
see, McPeek,” said the professor, “we only wanted one
more man, and I think I’ve got him.—Haven’t I?”
turning eagerly to me.
yes,” I said, laughing; “this is delightful. Am I invited
to stay here?”
bedroom is the third on the south side; everything is ready. McPeek,
you can bring his trunk to-morrow, can’t you?” demanded
The red-faced captain nodded, and shifted a quid.
it’s all settled,” said the professor, and he drew a sigh
of satisfaction. “You see,” he said, turning to me, “I
was at my wit’s end to know whom to trust. I never thought of
you. Jack’s out in China, and I didn’t dare trust anybody
in my own profession. All you care about is writing verses and stories,
like to shoot,” I replied mildly.
the thing!” he cried, beaming at us all in turn. “Now
I can see no reason why we should not progress rapidly. McPeek, you
and Frisby must get those boxes up here before dark. Dinner will be
ready before you have finished unloading. Dick, you will wish to go
to your room first.”
My name isn’t Dick, but he spoke so kindly, and beamed upon
me in such a fatherly manner, that I let it go. I had occasion to
correct him afterward, several times, but he always forgot the next
minute. He calls me Dick to this day.
It was dark when Professor Holroyd, his daughter, and I sat down to
dinner. The room was the same in which I had noticed the drawings
of beast and bird, but the round table had been extended into an oval,
and neatly spread with dainty linen and silver.
A fresh-cheeked Swedish girl appeared from a further room, bearing
the soup. The professor ladled it out, still beaming.
this is very delightful !—isn’t it, Daisy?” he said.
said Miss Holroyd, with the faintest tinge of irony.
I repeated heartily; but I looked at my soup when I said it.
suppose,” said the professor, nodding mysteriously at his daughter,
“that Dick knows nothing of what we’re about down here?”
suppose,” said Miss Holroyd, “that he thinks we are digging
for fossils.” I looked at my plate. She might have spared me
well,” said her father, smiling to himself; “he shall
know everything by morning. You’ll be astonished, Dick, my boy.”
name isn’t Dick,” corrected Daisy.
The professor said, “Isn’t it?” in an absentminded
way, and relapsed into contemplation of my necktie.
I asked Miss Holroyd a few questions about Jack, and was informed
that he had given up law and entered the diplomatic service—as
what, I did not dare ask, for I know what our diplomatic service is.
China,” said Daisy.
Choo is the name of the city,” added her father proudly; “it’s
the terminus of the new trans-Siberian railway.”
on the Yellow River,” said Daisy.
vice-consul,” added the professor triumphantly.
make a good one,” I observed. I knew Jack. I pitied his consul.
So we chatted on about my old playmate, until Freda, the red-checked
maid, brought coffee, and the professor lighted a cigar, with a little
bow to his daughter.
course, you don’t smoke,” she said to me, with a glimmer
of malice in her eyes.
mustn’t,” interposed the professor hastily; “it
will make his hand tremble.”
it doesn’t,” said I, laughing; “but my hand will
shake if I don’t smoke. Are you going to employ me as a draughtsman?”
know to-morrow,” he chuckled, with a mysterious smile at his
daughter.—”Daisy, give him my best cigars; put the box
here on the table. We can’t afford to have his hand tremble.”
Miss Holroyd rose, and crossed the hallway to her father’s room,
returning presently with a box of promising-looking cigars.
don’t think he knows what is good for him,” she said.
“He should smoke only one every day.”
It was hard to bear. I am not vindictive, but I decided to treasure
up a few of Miss Holroyd’s gentle taunts. My intimacy with her
brother was certainly a disadvantage to me now. Jack had apparently
been talking too much, and his sister appeared to be thoroughly acquainted
with my past. It was a disadvantage. I remembered her vaguely as a
girl with long braids, who used to come on Sundays with her father
and take tea with us in our rooms. Then she went to Germany to school,
and Jack and I employed our Sunday evenings otherwise. II is true
that I regarded her weekly visits as a species of infliction, but
I did not think I ever showed it.
is strange,” said I, “that you did not recognise me at
once, Miss Holroyd. Have I changed so greatly in live years?”
wore a pointed French beard in Paris,” she said—”a
very downy one. And you never stayed to tea but twice, and then you
only spoke once.”
said I blankly. “What did I say?”
asked me if I liked plums,” said Daisy, bursting into an irresistible
ripple of laughter.
I saw that I must have made the same sort of an ass of myself that
most boys of eighteen do.
It was too bad. I never thought about the future in those days. Who
could have imagined that little Daisy Holroyd would have grown up
into this bewildering young lady? It was really too bad. Presently
the professor retired to his room, carrying with him an armful of
drawings, and bidding us not to sit up late. When he closed his door
Miss Holroyd turned to me.
will work over those drawings until midnight,” she said, with
a despairing smile.
isn’t good for him,” I said. “What are the drawings?”
may know to-morrow,” she answered, leaning forward on the table
and shading her face with one hand. “Tell me about yourself
and Jack in Paris.”
I looked at her suspiciously.
There isn’t much to tell. We studied. Jack went to the law school,
and I attended—er-oh, all sorts of schools.”
you? Surely you gave yourself a little recreation occasionally?”
am afraid you and Jack studied too hard.”
may be,” said I, looking meek.
I couldn’t stand that.
Holroyd,” I said, “I do care for fossils. You may think
that I am a hum-bug, but I have a perfect mania for fossils—now.”
an hour ago,” I said airily. Out of the corner of my eye I saw
that she had flushed up. It pleased me.
will soon tire of the experiment,” she said with a dangerous
I may,” I replied indifferently.
She drew back. The movement was scarcely perceptible, but I noticed
it, and she knew I did. The atmosphere was vaguely hostile. One feels
such mental conditions and changes instantly. I picked up a chessboard,
opened it, set up the pieces with elaborate care, and began to move,
first the white, then the black. Miss Holroyd watched me coldly at
first, but after a dozen moves she became interested and leaned a
shade nearer. I moved a black pawn forward.
do you do that?” said Daisy.
said I, “the white queen threatens the pawn.”
was an aggressive move,” she insisted.
defensive,” I said. “If her white highness will let the
pawn alone, the pawn will let the queen alone.
Miss Holroyd rested her chin on her wrist and gazed steadily at the
board. She was flushing furiously, but she held her ground.
the white queen doesn’t block that pawn, the pawn may become
dangerous,” she said coldly.
I laughed, and closed up the board with a snap.
I said, “it might even take the queen.” After a moment’s
silence I asked, “What would you do in that case, Miss Holroyd?”
should resign,” she said serenely; then realizing what she had
said, she lost her self-possession for a second, and cried: “No,
indeed! I should fight to the bitter end! I mean—”
I asked, lingering over my revenge.
mean,” she said slowly, “that your black pawn would never
have the chance—never! I should take it immediately.”
believe you would,” said I, smiling; “so we’ll call
the game yours, and—the pawn captured.”
don’t want it,” she exclaimed. “A pawn is worthless.”
when it’s in the king row.”
is most interesting,” she observed sedately. She had completely
recovered her self-control. Still I saw that she now had a certain
respect for my defensive powers. It was very soothing to me.
know,” said I gravely, “that I am fonder of Jack than
of anybody. That’s the reason we never write each other, except
to borrow things. I am afraid that when I was a young cub in France
I was not an attractive personality.”
the contrary,” said Daisy, smiling, “I thought you were
very big and very perfect. I had illusions. I wept often when I went
home and remembered that you never took the trouble to speak to me
was a cub,” I said; “not selfish and brutal, but I didn’t
understand schoolgirls. I never had any sisters, and I didn’t
know what to say to very young girls. If I had imagined that you felt
I did—five years ago. Afterward I laughed at the whole thing.”
“Laughed?” I repeated, vaguely disappointed.
of course. I was very easily hurt when I was a child. I think I have
outgrown it.” The soft curve of her sensitive mouth contradicted
you forgive me now?” I asked.
I had forgotten the whole thing until I met you an hour or so ago.”
There was something that had a ring not entirely genuine in this speech.
I noticed it, but forgot it the next moment.
cubs have stripes,” said I. “Selfishness blossoms in the
cradle, and prophecy is not difficult. I hope I am not more selfish
than my brothers.”
hope not,” she said, smiling.
Presently she rose, touched her hair with the tip of one finger, and
walked to the door.
she said, curtseying very low.
said I, opening the door for her to pass.
End of PART TWO..... GO TO PART