Most people would be struck by the utter insignificance of the small events
which, after the death of my parents, influenced my life and made me unhappy.
The grewsome forebodings of a Welsh nurse, which chanced to be realized
by an odd coincidence of events, should not seem enough to change the nature
of a child and to direct the bent of his character in after years.
The little disappointments of schoolboy life, and the somewhat less childish
ones of an uneventful and undistinguished academic career, should not have
sufficed to turn me out at one-and-twenty years of age a melancholic, listless
idler. Some weakness of my own character may have contributed to
the result, but in a greater degree it was due to my having a reputation
for bad luck. However, I will not try to analyze the causes of my
state, for I should satisfy nobody, least of all myself. Still less
will I attempt to explain why I felt a temporary revival of my spirits
after my adventure in the garden. It is certain that I was in love with
the face I had seen, and that I longed to see it again; that I gave up
all hope of a second visitation, grew more
sad than ever, packed up my
traps, and finally went abroad. But in my dreams I went back to my
home, and it always appeared to me sunny and bright, as it had looked on
that summer's morning after I had seen the woman by the fountain.
I went to Paris. I went farther, and wandered about Germany.
I tried to amuse myself, and I failed miserably. With the aimless
whims of an idle and useless man come all sorts of suggestions for good
resolutions. One day I made up my mind that I would go and bury myself
in a German university for a time, and live simply like a poor student.
I started with the intention of going to Leipzig, determined to stay there
until some event should direct my life or change my humor, or make an end
of me altogether. The express train stopped at some station of which
I did not know the name. It was dusk on a winter's afternoon, and
I peered through the thick glass from my seat. Suddenly another train
came gliding in from the opposite direction, and stopped alongside of ours.
I looked at the carriage which chanced to be abreast of mine, and idly
read the black letters painted on a white board swinging from the brass
handrail: BERLIN--COLOGNE--PARIS. Then I looked up at the window
above. I started violently, and the cold perspiration broke out upon
my forehead. In the dim light, not six feet from where I sat,
I saw the face of a woman, the
face I loved, the straight, fine features, the strange eyes, the wonderful
mouth, the pale skin. Her head-dress was a dark veil which seemed to be
tied about her head and passed over the shoulders under her chin.
As I threw down the window and knelt on the cushioned seat, leaning far
out to get a better view, a long whistle screamed through the station,
followed by a quick series of dull, clanking sounds; then there was a slight
jerk, and my train moved on. Luckily the window was narrow, being
the one over the seat, beside the door, or I believe I would have jumped
out of it then and there. In an instant the speed increased, and
I was being carried swiftly away in the opposite direction from the thing
For a quarter of an hour I lay back in my place, stunned by the suddenness
of the apparition. At last one of the two other passengers, a large
and gorgeous captain of the White Konigsberg Cuirassiers, civilly but firmly
suggested that I might shut my window, as the evening was cold. I
did so, with an apology, and relapsed into silence. The train ran
swiftly on for a long time, and it was already beginning to slacken speed
before entering another station, when I roused myself and made a sudden
resolution. As the carriage stopped before the brilliantly lighted platform,
I seized my belongings, saluted my fellow-passengers, and got out, determined
to take the first express back to Paris.
This time the circumstances of the vision had been so natural that it did
not strike me that there was anything unreal about the face, or about the
woman to whom it belonged. I did not try to explain to myself how
the face, and the woman, could be traveling by a fast train from Berlin
to Paris on a winter's afternoon, when both were in my mind indelibly associated
with the moonlight and the fountains in my own English home. I certainly
would not have admitted that I had been mistaken in the dusk, attributing
to what I had seen a resemblance to my former vision which did not really
exist. There was not the slightest doubt in my mind, and I was positively
sure that I had again seen the face I loved. I did not hesitate,
and in a few hours I was on my way back to Paris. I could not help
reflecting on my ill luck. Wandering as I had been for many months,
it might as easily have chanced that I should be traveling in the same
train with that woman, instead of going the other way. But my luck
was destined to turn for a time.
I searched Paris for several days. I dined at the principal hotels;
I went to the theaters; I rode in the Bois de Boulogne in the morning,
and picked up an acquaintance, whom I forced to drive with me in the afternoon.
I went to mass at the Madeleine, and I attended the services at the English
Church. I hung about the Louvre and Notre Dame. I went to Versailles.
I spent hours in parading the Rue de Rivoli, in the neighborhood of Meurice's
corner, where foreigners pass and repass from morning till night. At last
I received an invitation to a reception at the English Embassy. I
went, and I found what I had sought so long.
There she was, sitting by an old lady in gray satin and diamonds, who had
a wrinkled but kindly face and keen gray eyes that seemed to take in everything
they saw, with very little inclination to give much in return. But
I did not notice the chaperon. I saw only the face that had haunted
me for months, and in the excitement of the moment I walked quickly toward
the pair, forgetting such a trifle as the necessity for an introduction.
She was far more beautiful than I had thought, but I never doubted that
it was she herself and no other. Vision or no vision before, this
was the reality, and I knew it. Twice her hair had been covered,
now at last I saw it, and the added beauty of its magnificence glorified
the whole woman. It was rich hair, fine and abundant, golden, with
deep ruddy tints in it like red bronze spun fine. There was no ornament
in it, not a rose, not a thread of gold, and I felt that it needed nothing
to enhance its splendor; nothing but her pale face, her dark strange eyes,
and her heavy eyebrows. I could see that she was slender too, but
strong withal, as she sat there quietly gazing at the moving scene in the
midst of the brilliant lights and the hum of perpetual conversation.
I recollected the detail of introduction in time, and turned aside to look
for my host. I found him at last. I begged him to present me
to the two ladies, pointing them out to him at the same time.
"Yes--uh--by all means--uh," replied his Excellency with a pleasant smile.
He evidently had no idea of my name, which was not to be wondered at.
"I am Lord Cairngorm," I observed.
"Oh--by all means," answered the Ambassador with the same hospitable smile.
"Yes--uh--the fact is, I must try and find out who they are; such lots
of people, you know."
"Oh, if you will present me, I will try and find out for you," said I,
"Ah, yes--so kind of you--come along," said my host. We threaded
the crowd, and in a few minutes we stood before the two ladies.
"'Lowmintrduce L'd Cairngorm," he said; then, adding quickly to me, "Come
and dine to-morrow, won't you?" he glided away with his pleasant smile
and disappeared in the crowd.
I sat down beside the beautiful girl, conscious that the eyes of the duenna
were upon me.
"I think we have been very near meeting before," I remarked, by way of
opening the conversation.
My companion turned her eyes full upon me with an air of inquiry. She evidently
did not recall my face, if she had ever seen me.
"Really--I cannot remember," she observed, in a low and musical voice.
"In the first place, you came down from Berlin by the express ten days
ago. I was going the other way, and our carriages stopped opposite
each other. I saw you at the window."
"Yes--we came that way, but I do not remember--" She hesitated.
"Secondly," I continued, "I was sitting alone in my garden last summer--near
the end of July--do you remember? You must have wandered in there
through the park; you came up to the house and looked at me--"
"Was that you?" she asked, in evident surprise. Then she broke into
a laugh. "I told everybody I had seen a ghost; there had never been
any Cairngorms in the place since the memory of man. We left the
next day, and never heard that you had come there; indeed, I did not know
the castle belonged to you."
"Where were you staying?" I asked.
"Where? Why, with my aunt, where I always stay. She is your
neighbor, since it IS you."
"I--beg your pardon--but then--is your aunt Lady Bluebell? I did
not quite catch--"
"Don't be afraid. She is amazingly deaf. Yes. She is
the relict of my beloved uncle, the sixteenth or seventeenth Baron Bluebell--I
forget exactly how many of them there have been. And I--do you know
who I am?" She laughed, well knowing that I did not.
"No," I answered frankly. "I have not the least idea. I asked
to be introduced because I recognized you. Perhaps--perhaps you are
a Miss Bluebell?"
"Considering that you are a neighbor, I will tell you who I am," she answered.
"No; I am of the tribe of Bluebells, but my name is Lammas, and I have
been given to understand that I was christened Margaret. Being a
floral family, they call me Daisy. A dreadful American man once told
me that my aunt was a Bluebell and that I was a Harebell--with two l's
and an e--because my hair is so thick. I warn you, so that you may avoid
making such a bad pun."
"Do I look like a man who makes puns?" I asked, being very conscious of
my melancholy face and sad looks.
Miss Lammas eyed me critically.
"No; you have a mournful temperament. I think I can trust you," she
answered. "Do you think you could communicate to my aunt the fact
that you are a Cairngorm and a neighbor? I am sure she would like
I leaned toward the old lady, inflating my lungs for a yell. But
Miss Lammas stopped me.
"That is not of the slightest use," she remarked. "You can write
it on a bit of paper. She is utterly deaf."
"I have a pencil," I answered; "but I have no paper. Would my cuff
do, do you think?"
"Oh, yes!" replied Miss Lammas, with alacrity; "men often do that."
I wrote on my cuff: "Miss Lammas wishes me to explain that I am your neighbor,
Cairngorm." Then I held out my arm before the old lady's nose.
She seemed perfectly accustomed to the proceeding, put up her glasses,
read the words, smiled, nodded, and addressed me in the unearthly voice
peculiar to people who hear nothing.
"I knew your grandfather very well," she said. Then she smiled and
nodded to me again, and to her niece, and relapsed into silence.
"It is all right," remarked Miss Lammas. "Aunt Bluebell knows she
is deaf, and does not say much, like the parrot. You see, she knew
your grandfather. How odd that we should be neighbors! Why
have we never met before?"
"If you had told me you knew my grandfather when you appeared in the garden,
I should not have been in the least surprised," I answered rather irrelevantly.
"I really thought you were the ghost of the old fountain. How in
the world did you come there at that hour?"
"We were a large party and we went out for a walk. Then we thought
we should like to see what your park was like in the moonlight, and so
we trespassed. I got separated from the rest, and came upon you by
accident, just as I was admiring the extremely ghostly look of your house,
and wondering whether anybody would ever come and live there again.
It looks like the castle of Macbeth, or a scene from the opera. Do
you know anybody here?"
"Hardly a soul! Do you?"
"No. Aunt Bluebell said it was our duty to come. It is easy
for her to go out; she does not bear the burden of the conversation."
"I am sorry you find it a burden," said I. "Shall I go away?"
Miss Lammas looked at me with a sudden gravity in her beautiful eyes, and
there was a sort of hesitation about the lines of her full, soft mouth.
"No," she said at last, quite simply, "don't go away. We may like
each other, if you stay a little longer--and we ought to, because we are
neighbors in the country."
I suppose I ought to have thought Miss Lammas a very odd girl. There is,
indeed, a sort of freemasonry between people who discover that they live
near each other and that they ought to have known each other before.
But there was a sort of unexpected frankness and simplicity in the girl's
amusing manner which would have struck anyone else as being singular, to
say the least of it. To me, however, it all seemed natural enough.
I had dreamed of her face too long not to be utterly happy when I met her
at last and could talk to her as much as I pleased. To me, the man
of ill luck in everything, the whole meeting seemed too good to be true.
I felt again that strange sensation of lightness which I had experienced
after I had seen her face in the garden. The great rooms seemed brighter,
life seemed worth living; my sluggish, melancholy blood ran faster, and
filled me with a new sense of strength. I said to myself that without
this woman I was but an imperfect being, but that with her I could accomplish
everything to which I should set my hand. Like the great Doctor,
when he thought he had cheated Mephistopheles at last, I could have cried
aloud to the fleeting moment, Verweile doch, du bist so schon!
"Are you always gay?" I asked, suddenly. "How happy you must be!"
"The days would sometimes seem very long if I were gloomy," she answered,
thoughtfully. "Yes, I think I find life very pleasant, and I tell
"How can you 'tell life' anything?" I inquired. "If I could catch
my life and talk to it, I would abuse it prodigiously, I assure you."
"I dare say. You have a melancholy temper. You ought to live
out- of-doors, dig potatoes, make hay, shoot, hunt, tumble into ditches,
and come home muddy and hungry for dinner. It would be much better
for you than moping in your rook tower and hating everything."
"It is rather lonely down there," I murmured, apologetically, feeling that
Miss Lammas was quite right.
"Then marry, and quarrel with your wife," she laughed. "Anything
is better than being alone."
"I am a very peaceable person. I never quarrel with anybody.
You can try it. You will find it quite impossible."
"Will you let me try?" she asked, still smiling.
"By all means--especially if it is to be only a preliminary canter," I
"What do you mean?" she inquired, turning quickly upon me.
"Oh--nothing. You might try my paces with a view to quarreling in
the future. I cannot imagine how you are going to do it. You
will have to resort to immediate and direct abuse."
"No. I will only say that if you do not like your life, it is your
own fault. How can a man of your age talk of being melancholy, or
of the hollowness of existence? Are you consumptive? Are you
subject to hereditary insanity? Are you deaf, like Aunt Bluebell?
Are you poor, like--lots of people? Have you been crossed in love?
Have you lost the world for a woman, or any particular woman for the sake
of the world? Are you feeble-minded, a cripple, an outcast?
Are you--repulsively ugly?" She laughed again. "Is there any
reason in the world why you should not enjoy all you have got in life?"
"No. There is no reason whatever, except that I am dreadfully unlucky,
especially in small things."
"Then try big things, just for a change," suggested Miss Lammas. "Try and
get married, for instance, and see how it turns out."
"If it turned out badly it would be rather serious."
"Not half so serious as it is to abuse everything unreasonably. If
abuse is your particular talent, abuse something that ought to be abused.
Abuse the Conservatives--or the Liberals--it does not matter which, since
they are always abusing each other. Make yourself felt by other people.
You will like it, if they don't. It will make a man of you. Fill
your mouth with pebbles, and howl at the sea, if you cannot do anything
else. It did Demosthenes no end of good, you know. You will
have the satisfaction of imitating a great man."
"Really, Miss Lammas, I think the list of innocent exercises you propose--"
"Very well--if you don't care for that sort of thing, care for some other
sort of thing. Care for something, or hate something. Don't
be idle. Life is short, and though art may be long, plenty of noise
answers nearly as well."
"I do care for something--I mean, somebody," I said.
"A woman? Then marry her. Don't hesitate."
"I do not know whether she would marry me," I replied. "I have never
"Then ask her at once," answered Miss Lammas. "I shall die happy
if I feel I have persuaded a melancholy fellow creature to rouse himself
to action. Ask her, by all means, and see what she says. If she does
not accept you at once, she may take you the next time. Meanwhile, you
will have entered for the race. If you lose, there are the 'All-aged
Trial Stakes,' and the 'Consolation Race.'"
"And plenty of selling races into the bargain. Shall I take you at
your word, Miss Lammas?"
"I hope you will," she answered.
"Since you yourself advise me, I will. Miss Lammas, will you do me
the honor to marry me?"
For the first time in my life the blood rushed to my head and my sight
swam. I cannot tell why I said it. It would be useless to try
to explain the extraordinary fascination the girl exercised over me, or
the still more extraordinary feeling of intimacy with her which had grown
in me during that half hour. Lonely, sad, unlucky as I had been all
my life, I was certainly not timid, nor even shy. But to propose
to marry a woman after half an hour's acquaintance was a piece of madness
of which I never believed myself capable, and of which I should never be
capable again, could I be placed in the same situation. It was as
though my whole being had been changed in a moment by magic--by the white
magic of her nature brought into contact with mine. The blood sank
back to my heart, and a moment later I found myself staring at her with
anxious eyes. To my amazement she was as calm as ever, but her beautiful
mouth smiled, and there was a mischievous light in her dark-brown eyes.
"Fairly caught," she answered. "For an individual who pretends to
be listless and sad you are not lacking in humor. I had really not
the least idea what you were going to say. Wouldn't it be singularly
awkward for you if I had said 'Yes'? I never saw anybody begin to
practice so sharply what was preached to him--with so very little loss
"You probably never met a man who had dreamed of you for seven months before
"No, I never did," she answered gayly. "It smacks of the romantic.
Perhaps you are a romantic character, after all. I should think you
were if I believed you. Very well; you have taken my advice, entered
for a Stranger's Race and lost it. Try the All-aged Trial Stakes.
You have another cuff, and a pencil. Propose to Aunt Bluebell; she
would dance with astonishment, and she might recover her hearing."
End of PART TWO..... GO TO PART