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 In and around the bank of “Lombard and Lombard” all was confusion. Arthur Lombard, the senior member of the firm, had suddenly fallen to the floor as he was entering his office, to all appearance dead. Physicians were hastily summoned; policemen were called to keep out the ubiquitous small boy, and the omnipresent curiosity seeker. The great doors were closed with a crash as the grave physician gave his verdict: “He is dead; heart failure!” The truth which conveys a great grief, ever seems heartless, and in a degree, coarse.
Death shocks us ever, we think of it as connected with a sick bed and fit preparation; deep down in our inner consciousness we form plans; when the dark angel shall knock at our door, we will hastily don our robes of sanctity, and fly away to eternal bliss. We are horrified when he smites one of our number unaware—but we never think it might have been us instead.
The dead body was removed to his residence in the most fashionable part of the city; crape hung from the elegant portal; crape draped the closed doors of the bank, and lent adventitious aid to the gloom of the high walled, narrow street.
68How many truly mourned I cannot say; a merchant in high standing exchanged views with an artisan, both equally interested, as both had all they possessed in the bark, albeit one had thousands of dollars deposited, the other but a few hundred.
“How will it affect the bank?” questioned the artisan.
“I really could not say, but I think not seriously,” was the guarded reply.
“As I understand, he was the head of the concern.”
“Y-e-s, but Gus Lombard is all right. It is a pity, though, that Arthur was taken off.”
Such is the sorrow of the world; a few who have known us intimately may feel a less selfish grief; our motives are so complex, and selfishness so much a part of human nature, that we seldom judge our own actions correctly. If but one or two can say with sincerity that our lives and our language were pure, then we shall not have lived in vain, as every living being—whether good or bad—will influence some other to follow his example. Lombard had been an unmarried man, who kept up a fine establishment, and lived in good style; but being very reticent few knew aught of his business affairs.
He was laid out in one of the parlors; windows were darkened; lamps were shaded; heavy carpets deadened the footfalls, until the silence and gloom became oppressive.
Late at night, three days after he was stricken down, a slight, fair girl entered the parlor noiselessly; Edith Herford had been his ward; she 69had also been his betrothed, although no one save his brother Gus was aware of the fact. Noiselessly she pushed aside the portières, and seeing the man on watch lying back in his chair, sleeping soundly, she crossed the room, and knelt beside the coffin.
Sobs shook her slight frame as she laid her face on his cold breast: “Oh, Arthur, my beloved!” she whispered, caressing his cold face, kissing the folded hands.
“To-morrow they will put you out of my sight, and I shall be indeed bereft. Oh, my love! my love!”
With bowed head she wept silently; the ticking of the clock sounded loud and awesome in the unnatural silence, “tick-tock, tick-tock; time-going, time-gone,” it seemed to say; the breathing of the sleeping watcher vibrated on the still air like an electric shock; a brooding mystery seemed to hang over the dead form, it appeared like sculptured marble, which at any moment might become instinct with life; it was hard to realize that the soul had gone from the body, the features were so placid, and were tinged with a roseate glow by the shades on the incandescent light.
Edith’s nerves were keyed up to their highest pitch, it seemed to her that she must scream; as she pressed her lips to the cold hand, she fancied that there was a slight movement of the fingers; she thought the eyelids quivered; she pressed her handkerchief over her mouth, afraid she should cry out.
“Oh, Arthur! My Arthur! I know that you 70are gone from me forever, and this is but a delusive fancy, would it were true, that I might not be so lonely!” she whispered, gazing mournfully at him.
The watcher stirred in his sleep, muttering low and indistinctly. Edith started up in wild affright, her heart beating tumultuously; to her excited imagination the lights seemed to burn dimly, as though about to go out.
The watcher shifted uneasily in his chair, then slept quietly on.
Edith turned toward her dear dead; she would once more kiss the cold lips, a last farewell, then return to her room.
An appalled scream shivered through the gruesome silence.
The watcher started from his sleep in wild affright, and caught Edith as she fell fainting.
Arthur Lombard was sitting upright, staring about with wondering eyes. Dropping the fainting girl on the nearest sofa, the watcher rang a hurried peal, and hastily dispatched a servant for a physician. He tremblingly approached Arthur, shivering as he laid his hand upon his shoulder; but managed to say soothingly: “Hadn’t you best lie down?” Arthur looked at him in a bewildered way, seeming not in the least to understand him.
Though trembling in every limb, he gently pressed Arthur backward; who gave a tired sigh, muttered something which the man did not understand, and instantly sank into a refreshing slumber.
A moment later the physician hurried in, 71looked wise, felt his pulse, tested his temperature, and said, as though the circumstance was of ordinary occurrence:
“Suspended animation! He will be all right in a few days; get these things off him, and get him into bed as gently as possible; do not let a hint of the preparation for burial reach him; the shock of such knowledge would in all probability actually kill him.”
Edith had regained consciousness, and with timid hand touched his sleeve. “You think that he will recover?”
“Certainly! Certainly, Miss Herford! I see nothing to prevent it.”
“But he looked and acted so strangely,” said Edith tremblingly.
“No doubt! No doubt! So would you or I, placed in the same circumstances. There, there! Run along to bed, I’ll stay here the rest of the night, and see that he is all right,” gently pushing her through the door as he ceased speaking.
The next morning Arthur awoke feeling comfortably well, but very weak. The physician was sitting beside the bed when he opened his eyes; Arthur regarded him curiously, a puzzled look overspreading his countenance as his gaze wandered about the room. He murmured something strange; receiving no reply, he said slowly, like a child just beginning to talk: “Where am I?”
“In your own bed, of course; where should you be?”
He lay quiet, looking around curiously, as 72though everything were new to him. “Why am I here?” still with the same hesitation, as though not certain as to the meaning of his words.
“Where in the mischief would you wish, or expect to be, if not in your own home?” answered the doctor a trifle impatiently.
He looked troubled but asked no more questions; presently he lifted his long, white hand, adorned with a handsome ring, and examined it as though he had never before seen it; he seemed strangely unable to express his feelings.
“Jove!” said the doctor later, “I wonder if the fellow has lost his wits! It is a pity if so, for he was one of the shrewdest of men, and a sharp financier.”
If Edith hovered about him, or caressed him with gentle touch, or called him fond names, he looked at her in surprise, and gave not the slightest return.
She would look at him in grieved surprise, and on one occasion asked him with trembling lips: “Do you no longer love me, Arthur?”
“Love you? I—guess—so! I do not know what you mean!” looking helplessly at her.
She burst into tears which were quickly suppressed as she coldly left the room. From that time she offered him no caresses, but he seemed not to notice the omission.
As Edith left the room in anger he looked after her, his brow wrinkled in perplexity.
He was certainly in a strange condition; he appeared to enjoy his meals; he slept well; but he seemed to take no interest in anything more 73than that—he did not seem to understand that there was anything in which he ought to take an interest.
One day, as he sat languidly looking out of the window, Gus said to him: “You will soon be well enough to attend to business!”
“What business?” he asked vacantly.
“Why, your banking business of course!” answered Gus in a tone of disgust; he thought his brother must be making a pretence of not understanding. Arthur looked at him blankly but made no reply.
Edith asked the physician: “What do you think of him? Is he insane?”
“No! Neither insane nor idiotic, mental shock! He will recover, he is like a child with everything to learn.”
It is hard to tell what were Arthur’s sensations; everything seemed so strange. He was told that these were his rooms; he had no recollection of ever having seen them until the morning when he opened his eyes on the physician’s face. Even the language sounded strange to him, though in a hazy way he knew what was meant; it was as though the sounds had been imprinted upon the brain by some other intelligence; as a picture is sensitized upon the plate by one artist for another artist’s use. The business so often mentioned to him, seemed like a hazy dream; something of which some other person being cognizant, had conveyed to him in a far-off manner, an impression of his knowledge. In the same way he knew that he was expected to love Edith; but there was a vague, 74elusive intuition of some actual affinity, a feeling which he could not shake off, and by which he knew that whatever of feeling he possessed for Edith was as the shadow to the real. This hazy something, which was not knowledge, nor yet a dream, strained his mental capacity in a vain effort after solution. He restlessly tried to gather up the threads of that which seemed to him a new life.
As Gus was vice-president of the bank everything went on smoothly; but he felt greatly annoyed at Arthur’s complete indifference when he wished to consult with him upon important business:
“You just manage everything, Gus, until I feel more like business.”
“You will have to pull yourself together, old man;” answered Gus, regarding him with troubled gaze.
No sooner had Gus left the room than all signs of languidness disappeared; he muttered angrily to himself; he paced up and down the floor; he tore the books from the shelves in frantic desire for something which would enlighten him on these things which seemed so hazy and bewildering; he threw the book he was holding from him in an excess of rage. Letters and words had a strangely familiar look, and yet—the mental strain was fearful—it was like hunting for faces whose lineaments were long since forgotten; like trying to decipher a faded picture imprinted in dim ink by some person unknown; and feeling, withal, that a perfect understanding of the dim lights and shadows was expected.
75That which gave him a still more restless pain was that other tantalizing consciousness which eluded him, though almost touching his memory. Every hour when alone was feverishly employed in trying to recall that which seemed to him like a lost treasure. He listened to every scrap of conversation, he watched the expression of every face, the gestures of every person. A sentence which puzzled him he would repeat over and over again, until he had fixed it firmly in his mind; then the full meaning was hunted out as soon as he was alone.
Edith often looked at him in wondering surprise; he seemed not in the least like the man whom she had loved; it is true the features were the same, but—where was the cultivated ease of manner, where the grace which had been so attractive; the clear, open expression of countenance which had distinguished the man she loved above his fellows? This discontented, rebellious soul looked out from under frowning brows; the brilliant blue eyes had a wary, suspicious look; the movements were awkward, the speech uncouth.
“Oh, Gus, how changed he is!” cried Edith.
“Yes, I scarcely know what to do; if one could but wake him in some way!” said Gus, sadly.
A year or more passed by; as he regained strength he developed strange desires; he absented himself from home for days together.
Edith remonstrated: “Why do you do so, Arthur?”
He answered her coarsely, like an undisciplined 76youth: “I do not think I need a keeper!”
Edith burst into tears: “I did not mean that; but you know—that—that—I am lonely when you are away,” she faltered.
A half-frightened look passed over his face, and was gone instantly, to be succeeded by a perplexed scowl.
“You act as though you owned me!” he said brutally.
Edith regarded him in pained surprise: “Arthur!” The single word expressed much.
He left the house, slamming the door after himself.
He began about this time assuming control of the business; things seemed to go wrong from that hour, and he appeared to have lost all judgment; heavy losses followed in rapid succession. He angrily resented advice, and Gus became so annoyed that he took him to task.
“See here, old man! You are going it a bit wild—you had best check up!”
Arthur’s moody eyes lit up with an angry flame: “Any person would think that you had the whole say so,” he sneered.
“You know, Arthur, that I have no wish to control, except for the mutual good. Great heaven, Arthur! You are ruining us!” cried Gus, aggravated into speaking his mind.
Arthur looked moodily down, and like a child caught in some misdemeanor, grumbled out: “Any person is liable to make a mistake.”
Gus looked at him curiously: “I’ve a great notion to pull out; I do not propose getting 77caught under the wreck when the crash comes,” said he angrily.
“Oh, well, get some one to do the work in my place, if you feel so terribly worried,” quite as angrily retorted Arthur.
A couple of weeks later Gus did put another man into the office; Arthur seemed rather relieved than otherwise.
Gus was talking to Edith a few days later; they had been speaking of Arthur, and incidentally of Wilbur the new man:
“He seems to understand his business; he has a way of going at it, as though he had been in that office all his life; actually, as he sank into that big, green chair, he sighed with satisfaction.”
“Tell me how he looks,” said Edith.
“Oh, tall and muscular; his hair is as black as the proverbial crow’s wing; the most piercing black eyes that I ever saw; his looks are rather fierce and brigandish, but his manner is most gentle and courteous; his voice is very sweet, the words and tones of a cultured man.”
“You make me very curious to see him,” answered Edith.
“He interests me strangely; it seems as though I had known him at some former time, but I cannot place him.”
“How does Arthur take it?”
“That is strangest of all; he glowers at him as though he hated him mortally; yet he obeys every suggestion of Wilbur’s as though he were afraid of him.”
Edith did not reply; she was conscious of a 78feeling of repulsion toward Arthur, which had been growing in force for the last year; she no longer had the slightest affection for him; if he laid his hand upon her shoulder, even his near proximity would send a shudder through her whole being. She felt ashamed and guilty that such was the case, and tried to conceal the fact. A feverish longing possessed her to see Wilbur; she was also ashamed of this feeling, and mentally took herself to task for the unmaidenly desire.
As to Arthur, everything worried him; he was restless and unhappy; he seemed to have no care as to the success of the business; instead, he burned with a wild desire to throw the money away; anything, any way, so as to be free from care and thought. He had a passionate wish to roam, to get away from the haunts of men into the green woods; to lie on his back and look up at the blue skies, listening to the rustle of the leaves; it smoothed the frown from his moody brow, and seemed to bring that floating affinity nearer his mental vision; at times it came so near that with a cry he would start up and fling his arms wide with a hoarse cry of mad impotence, as it faded delusively. He hated the conventionalities of society; he longed to do something outré, to shock those with whom he came into contact out of their calm; he looked with hatred upon all the refinements of life, as so many limitations, so many bars to personal enjoyment.
Through all the fierce rebellion ran a hazy admonition: “You ought to like these things, it 79is expected of you; your position requires it.” Accompanying these thoughts like a weird shadow was that intangible—what was it? A delusion, a dream, or the shadow of a memory?
A few days after Wilbur came, Gus one evening invited him to go home with them: “I wish to introduce you to Arthur’s ward, Edith,” he said.
“Edith! Edith!” said Wilbur dreamily; “I seem to see her—tall, fair—with the purity of the lily—” He paused, passing his hand over his brow, with a deep sigh.
Gus stared at him in amazement; “Do you know her?” he asked brusquely.
“No! no! I have sometimes dreamed of her, I think; I cannot recall what it is—” again he sighed deeply; he appeared like one awakening from sleep.
Arthur looked at him, his brows bent moodily.
Gus said nothing, but thought to himself; “Well, here is a pair of them!” As they were walking slowly homeward, through the level glow of the sunset, a woman brushed past them; she lifted her face to look at Wilbur, a look in which hate mingled strangely with love. Her eyes were like midnight, but a midnight lighted by a reddish glow, the reflection of the fires within; inky black brows, and hair of the same shade falling low on a forehead as colorless as marble. A face to glow with the fiercest abandonment of love, or burn with the seething fires of hate; her form was of voluptuous beauty, a something strange and foreign in the ensemble.
80Arthur stopped abruptly, giving vent to a strange, fierce cry:
“Andalusia! Andalusia!” The sound was like the voice of one in anguish. She swept him a burning glance, to which he replied in a strange language, gesticulating rapidly; with a look of wild amazement she passed on, and was lost to sight around a street corner.
Gus looked his displeasure: “I would not stop to talk with one of that kind on the street; who is she?”
Arthur looked at him as though he did not understand, but when the question was repeated, he replied absently:
“No; no; I must have been mistaken!”
Gus of course thought that he was telling an untruth; he judged her some disreputable woman of Arthur’s acquaintance. “Oh, it is all right, I do not blame you for being ashamed of it!” he answered sarcastically.
Arthur shot him a look of hatred from under moody brows, but made no reply. Wilbur seemed feverishly eager to reach their destination, and in preoccupied thought had hurried forward until he was considerably in advance of the others, consequently observed nothing.
When Gus introduced Wilbur to Edith, he blushed and stammered awkwardly; she was no less embarrassed. Throughout the whole evening Wilbur scarcely took his eyes from her face; once, inadvertently, he called her Edith; she blushed furiously, and Gus gave him a look of displeasure, which he did not observe.
Later in the evening Gus said to her: “I do 81not like Wilbur’s familiarity on so short an acquaintance.”
Edith hesitated a moment before answering: “I do not think it was intentional, Gus, doesn’t he remind you of some other person?”
“Yes; but I can never say who it is.”
They turned to look at him, as he sat talking to Arthur; the contrast between the two was very marked. Arthur was slouchingly leaning over the table; his carelessness of attire, an indefinable coarseness of look and action, contrasted most unfavorably with Wilbur’s refined manner, the neatness of his person, and the high thought written in characters unmistakable upon his countenance; yet the features of Arthur were far more regular, his physique finer.
Edith sighed. Gus answered her thought.
“Yes; he has changed awfully; I doubt his ever being quite himself again.”
“He seems an entirely different person; Mr. Wilbur is much more as Arthur used to be than Arthur himself.”
Gus started in amazement: “By Jove! That is so! Ever since he came it has puzzled me to know who he was like.”
They had been busying themselves over the tea things as they talked, and now brought them forward. As they sipped their tea Gus endeavored to lead the conversation toward Wilbur’s former life, but he plainly evaded the subject. Arthur the whole evening sat moodily gnawing his mustache, or paced the floor restlessly. It was late when Wilbur took his departure.
For a long time Gus could hear Arthur moving 82about his room, but at last he sank into dreamy slumber, in which Arthur and Wilbur were strangely intermingled, once starting up wide awake as he fancied he heard the hall door close. He lay a few minutes with every nerve quivering, afraid of—he knew not what; then took himself to task for being so foolish, and again dropped off to sleep.
Arthur did not appear in the morning; but his course was so erratic that this occasioned no surprise; but when a week, two weeks went by without his return, Gus began to be seriously alarmed.
Wilbur proved a treasure; everything went on in the most methodical manner; he seemed to understand every detail of the business; to know where papers and records were kept, of which others had no knowledge; moreover he seemed to enjoy his work.
The residence also, seemed strangely familiar to him; on more than one occasion he surprised them by mentioning articles placed in rooms of which he was supposed to know nothing.
One evening Gus asked him: “Were you ever in that room?”
Wilbur looked bewildered: “I think not—I do not know,” he said slowly.
“If not, how do you know where that picture is placed, and the subject of the painting?”
They had been talking of the works of a certain master, and Wilbur mentioned a painting which hung in Arthur’s room.
He rested his head upon his hand in an attitude familiar to both; “I do not know; I seem 83to see it, that is all that I can tell you,” he answered in a sad tone.
Gus looked at Edith questioningly; she did not notice him, her eyes were fixed upon Wilbur.
The next morning as they were sitting down to breakfast, Arthur returned. Edith and Gus rose to their feet, simultaneously; he was dirty, and disheveled, his clothing tattered and soiled; he had the look of a tramp. “Well! You are a sight, and no mistake! Where have you been?” said Gus laughingly.
His appearance was really ludicrous; he tried to pass it off lightly, but a heavy frown belied his flippant manner.
“Who made you your brother’s keeper?”
“Really, I do not know who appointed me, but you look as though you were in need of some person to fill that position,” retorted Gus.
Half defiantly he replied: “With your kind permission, I’ll take some breakfast,” tossing his hat on the floor, as he seated himself at the table.
Edith had not spoken, but looked at him in amazement and aversion. Gus laughed derisively: “I say, aren’t you forgetting something, old fellow?” laying his hand affectionately on his shoulder.
“What’s wrong, now?” looking scowlingly at him.
Gus made no reply in words, but looked significantly at his grimy hands; he frowned still more angrily; jerked himself out of his chair, and went to his room muttering: “Confounded 84bore! Mind his own business!” like an untrained, overgrown boy.
Edith could scarcely restrain her tears. “Is it not horrible?” she said with quivering lips.
“Yes it is, but we must overlook it as much as possible; he is to be pitied; he has never been quite right since—” he paused significantly.
“I know! But Gus, it makes me shudder to think of fulfilling my engagement to him; I just cannot—” she paused, a burning blush spreading over her face; she had never before spoken of it to Gus.
He sat thoughtfully toying with his fork for a few minutes:
“Do you think that he wishes it?”
“No, I do not; he never offers me the slightest token of affection, for which I am indeed grateful; truly, I do not believe that he ever thinks of it.” She laughed in an embarrassed manner.
“Taking it altogether, Wilbur, Arthur, and—ourselves, it’s a queer business.”
Edith flushed a fiery red; but if she intended an answer, which is doubtful, Arthur’s returning step put an end to the conversation. He at once seated himself at the table, and ate like one famished. A few evenings later Wilbur again came to dinner with Arthur and Gus. The air was very warm and pleasant, and after dinner they all went into the sitting room; the windows opened down to the floor, and were flung wide to admit the sweet, fresh evening air; a long vine-draped porch ran along the whole front of the house.
85“Do not have lights, they call the insects, and it is much pleasanter to sit on the porch,” said Edith.
Seated there, a strange silence fell over them; the full moon rode through the sky like a stately silver ship; a faint breeze stirred the leaves on the vines, and cast fitful arabesques on the floor; a cricket chirped lonesomely in the grass; dark shadows lay weirdly across the winding walks. Wilbur sat close to Edith, the shadows half enveloping them; in their concealment his hand had sought hers, and clasped it fondly. Arthur sat at the far end of the porch, in the densest gloom; only the fiery tip of his cigar betraying his presence. Gus lay stretched on a wooden settee, his eyes fixed dreamily on a few light, fleecy clouds showing through a break in the vines.
There was a faint rustling sound just where the foliage grew the most dense; the leaves were cautiously parted, and a pallid, vengeful face looked through. The intruder seemed as much surprised as were the group seated there; she had evidently expected to find the porch untenanted, and the sight revealed seemed to drive her to a frenzy of madness; a ray of moonlight fell upon the clasped hands of Edith and Wilbur, also showing the look of devotion upon Wilbur’s face, as he was bending toward her in the act of speaking.
There was a flash, the report of a pistol, intermingled with wild screams, and a hoarse, strange cry from Arthur:
“Andalusia! Andalusia!” Then, something 86wildly, rapidly spoken in a strange language; the vengeful, defiant air speedily changing to wonder and amazement; tones of fierce remonstrance from him, and scornful disbelief from her; then a word or two of pleading; a light in her eyes like blazing stars, and obeying his fierce gestures she slipped away among the winding walks, shadowy trees and shrubbery.
It has taken some time to tell all this, but the happening was so rapid that none save Gus saw or heard aught that passed between Arthur and the strange woman.
Wilbur was bending over the half-fainting Edith, whispering impassioned words in her ear, caution thrown to the winds on the near approach of danger.
Gus for a moment gazed speechless and motionless, amazed at the fierce gestures, and the strange language; and when he would have detained the woman, Arthur angrily threw him backward, saying: “Let her alone! She made a mistake!”
“A strange mistake, I take it!” hotly replied Gus.
“What is the use of raising more disturbance? No one is hurt! She thought that I was sitting there beside Edith.”
“Suppose you were? Why should she shoot you? It looks very peculiar!” said Gus angrily.
Arthur made no reply, but strode away into the darkness of the shrubbery.
Edith and Wilbur had entered the house, and their low tones, agitated conversation, reached Gus indistinctly as he stood irresolute; he had 87sent the servants back to their places, and their frightened tones reached him faintly; after some seconds’ indecision he plunged off down the path which Arthur had taken, but no trace of him or the woman could he find.
It was fully an hour before he returned to the house, feeling angry that he was no wiser than when he started; he was the more angry that he did not know what he expected to find. His astonishment was great to find Arthur seated in the self same place smoking as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
“Well, I declare! I have been looking everywhere for you;” he said.
“Yes! You have found me, now what will you have?”
It had seemed during the surprise and heat of anger easy enough to ask him what all this mystery meant; but looking Arthur in the face; listening to his cool, sneering tones, it was far from easy; so he hesitated and stammered out: “I don’t understand this business at all.”
Arthur broke in: “My dear Gus, neither do I.”
His tone implied so much more than the words that Gus was effectually silenced.
They soon separated for the night; Wilbur had gone home half an hour before, and Edith had retired to her room, her nerves in a tumult over the occurrences of the evening; but through all the fright and horror ran a thrill of sweetness.
Wilbur had whispered in her ear, as she lay 88half fainting: “My love! Do not be frightened; I will protect you!”
“Who could it be? I am so frightened!” clinging to his hand.
“It is all past now, dear; I think it must have been some crazy person.”
For another week things went on much as usual, except that Gus was now positive that Arthur went out each night at about half-past twelve; not returning until morning, always haggard and worn, and often in the most furious mood. Frequently he glared at Wilbur as though he would like to murder him; but if Wilbur turned, or he knew himself to be observed, his manner changed completely. He seemed anxious to throw Edith and Wilbur together; and yet, as they conversed or sat in silent contentment he would restlessly pace the floor, and finally fling himself out of the room angrily.
Of a sudden he changed entirely; he remained at home of nights, went to the bank early in the morning, and remained until the hour of closing, seemingly intent upon a thorough understanding of every phase of the business, but at times showing such a strange forgetfulness—or ignorance—that Wilbur would pause, and look at him in astonishment.
It was on Wednesday, there were papers missing, relating to some securities; Gus and Arthur had been vainly seeking them all the morning; finally Gus went over to Wilbur’s desk and asked, more because he was vexed and at a loss as to what to do, than for any other reason:
“Wilbur, do you know anything about those 89securities?” mentioning the particular ones he wished.
Without even pausing in his work Wilbur replied, naming the number of the drawer in the security vault where he would find them.
Gus made him no reply, but sought the drawer described, and returned with the papers.
He walked up to Wilbur, followed by Arthur:
“Will you explain to me how you knew where those securities were? After you told where they were, I remember placing them there; and I know that they have not been removed for over a year, long before you came here—” he paused significantly.
Wilbur looked up from his work in complete bewilderment:
“I do not know how I know it, but it is all clear to me; the moment you mention a thing I seem to see it, and a long-stored knowledge seems instantly to step forth. I seem to know every crevice in these stones; every bolt, bar and drawer; but how I gained that knowledge I can not tell, because—I do not know.”
As he talked he was gazing straight before him, with a strange, unseeing look.
“It is not so strange that you have the knowledge—it is easy to get, if one pokes his nose into everything; but it is hard to understand why I cannot remember anything concerning the business,” said Arthur disagreeably.
“It is no use quarreling!” said Gus, but it was evident that he was both puzzled and annoyed.
That night Gus again heard Arthur stealthily 90leaving the house, and he did not return until noon of the next day. He remained at the bank from that time until after the hour for closing, remarking that he had correspondence which he wished to finish; having completed it, he called the watchman and sent him to post the letters, saying that he would remain on watch until his return; as soon as he came back, Arthur went home.
He seemed moody and distrait all the evening, and several times Gus caught him glaring at Wilbur with the unmistakable light of hatred in his eyes. Wilbur spent nearly all of his evenings with Edith, and made no secret of his devotion to her. Gus was puzzled to account for Arthur’s manner toward Wilbur; that he hated him was very evident, but it certainly was not from jealousy, as he showed not the slightest love for Edith; on the contrary, he appeared actually to dislike and avoid her. Several times during the evening he sank into such gloomy abstraction as not to notice when he was addressed; at an early hour he left the parlor and went to his room, with not even an excuse or a good-night.
Edith looked pained, but Gus was too outspoken to keep silence:
“I do believe that Arthur is going insane; I never saw such a change in any one!”
He was again absent the next morning; but he was away so frequently that no one even spoke of it; but when a week passed without his return Gus began to be vaguely alarmed and suspicious; the reason for the latter feeling 91being that Arthur had drawn large sums of money on his personal check within the previous week. Only the day before this last departure he had taken out several thousand dollars.
On his way to his sleeping room that night, Gus, from some impulse unexplainable, tried the door of Arthur’s room. He did not know what he expected to discover, he was simply uneasy.
To his surprise he found the door unlocked; heretofore Arthur had been more than careful to keep his privacy secure. Gus entered and turned on the light, everything seemed as usual; he opened the door of the wardrobe, and looked within, it gave him a start to find it empty. Gus turned giddy; had his prediction come true? A prophecy which was born of vexation, instead of insight. Arthur had taken away all of his clothing; no interpretation could be put upon that action, but that he intended to abandon his home; but why should he do so, unless mentally unbalanced?
As he turned to extinguish the light he saw, placed conspicuously on the dresser, a letter; trembling with undefinable fear he caught it up; without address it abruptly commenced:
“When you find this I shall be far away. I have taken five thousand dollars in cash and the diamonds which were in my safe-deposit drawer, which amount to twenty thousand more. The balance of the money and the real estate I have turned over to Wilbur; I hate him, but he has a right to the property.
92“You do not understand, and will wonder; I will explain.
“You remember the time when, to all appearances, Arthur Lombard dropped dead; amid great, apparent grief, and much excitement he was carried to this house where he lay silent and motionless for three days.
“At the same instant in which he fell in his elegantly appointed office, almost in the same manner, fell Antoni Petronelli, one of a band of roving gypsies, who dwelt in a fair southern country, with no covering save the waving arms of the forest trees, or at most a house of boughs for shelter at night or in storm. As Edith and Gus mourned over Arthur Lombard, so Andalusia Varana mourned over Antoni—yet not the same—the cool blood of your race cannot realize the fierce love and desperate grief of the untrammeled children of the South.
“At the very instant that Arthur Lombard awoke to life again, that same instant arose as one from the dead, Antoni Petronelli.
“Now comes the really strange, and tragic part of the story. When these two souls were loosed from the body and entered space, they drifted without knowledge of their destination; but that an intelligent power directed them is proved by this; although so far apart, the soul of Arthur Lombard sought the body of the gypsy Petronelli; and the spirit of Petronelli was forced to enter the effeminate body of Arthur Lombard.
“I can speak only of my own impression; I, the soul of the gypsy, Petronelli, and the body 93of the aesthetic banker, Arthur Lombard. When I regained consciousness I had but a confused mingling of ideas; some things—impressions, knowledge, thoughts—which had been the property of Lombard, haunted me; it was as though these things had been photographed on the brain, to be brought forth and used by the occupant of the body as occasion required. I did not understand the use of this knowledge; I detested the fair-skinned body; I hated the limitations of his life—which you call refinements; the greatest trial of all was that for a long time I did not know what I was fighting against. I knew only that I was miserably unhappy.
“I hated the soft, cool caresses of Edith; I was tormented with a misty memory—which I could not drive from my mind—of arms which had encircled my neck, and had set my being on fire. I hated the reproof in Edith’s calm eyes, and the low voice which grew so cool as I pushed away her hands, or answered her roughly; she was offended in such a grand, cold way. My Andalusia would have upbraided me with hot words, uttered in her shrill, sweet voice; she would have given me blow for blow, then we should have kissed with fond words, and loved better than ever. I hated the house with its elegant furnishings, its heavy, hot carpets, and close, stifling atmosphere.
“I longed for the cool, leafy woods; for the carpet of green grass. I felt an insane desire to crush the globes on the incandescent lights, which parodied the light of the moon; that soft 94southern moon, which, with its coterie of stars, looked down upon my bed of boughs while I slept in that happy time before disaster came.
“For a long time I could not put these feelings into words, or even into thoughts; I knew only that these things I hated, and I madly desired to get away; it was like the restlessness of some caged animal. During all of this time those teachings which had left their impression upon the brain matter tortured me, suggesting and urging other thoughts so at variance with those rebellious feelings that it almost drove me mad.
“Then when Wilbur came it seemed as though my soul must leap out of the hateful body which held it in limitation. Instantly I recognized my own, my hands have many times itched to throttle the usurper of my person, so that I might seize that which belonged by right to me. Oh, how I hate this milk-and-water flesh! These soft muscles, and dainty palms!
“With his coming—Wilbur, by the way, is but an assumed name—it seemed to give that hazy sense of something gone before, something half remembered, like a dream of the night—a shock. I concentrated every effort of my being until scenes from my former life began to float before my mental vision; dense woods, with leaves of a glossy, dark green; lilies standing tall and white; a great bay of water reflecting the blue of a cloudless sky and the green of the trees on its placid bosom. There was ever the vague shadow of a form which filled my veins with fire, and my whole soul with longing, but 95it floated just beyond my mental grasp. Many a time as I walked under the stars I could have cried aloud, it seemed so near, and yet—eluded me I could not remain within the walls of that elegantly furnished room which was called mine; so at night I wandered far, and lay on the cool, dew wet grass, and strove to solve the tormenting problems.
“That evening when Andalusia followed us, I had been more than usually unsettled and troubled; there was a softness in the atmosphere; a mellow light shed by the descending sun; a faint, odorous stirring of the warm wind, which made my brain throb as though it would burst, so suggestive were all things of that half remembered southern land. When Andalusia brushed past us, and the light of her eyes entered my soul, the final knowledge came to me, as had that other; I remembered all, and in a transport of joy I called out her name. It was well for him that I cried out—my body would have been a vacant tenement otherwise; but unless I also was released from this hateful bondage it would have been useless, as I could not, unless through the same condition which at first existed, have reclaimed my own.
“Andalusia sought Wilbur, thinking herself deserted by me; she was mad with jealousy long before he fled; she frightened him with her ardent love, and I suppose when angered repelled him by her wild bursts of passion; his cold nature could not appreciate the tropical love of my Andalusia.
“That evening on the street, when I cried out 96‘Andalusia,’ she recognized my voice, but thought it some trick to deceive her; you know that in our land, and especially among our people, there are many incredible and wonderful things done to cheat the imagination; but when I said in Romany, which seemed to drop from my tongue without my will: “Be at the entrance of the park to-night at twelve; I, your Antoni, will meet you;” she swept me a burning gaze of wondering doubt, and disappeared. I met her as I promised, but could not convince her that I spoke the truth; she scornfully taunted me with the eyes, which she declared that I had stolen from the summer sky, an open page whereon to print all my baby passions; she lifted herself to look over my head, and mock me with her shrill laughter; one thing only consoled me; I knew when she promised again to meet me, that though she derided, she was not quite sure. It seemed that Wilbur—Ugh! I cannot call him Petronelli—he has no right to the name, he stole my body, but—I am I, in spite of it! Well, he utterly refused her love; he resisted her caresses, and showed such unmistakable aversion that he drove her wild; she upbraided him fiercely, and—like a coward—he fled from her.
“What led him here? Was it the hand of the All Wise, or the homing instinct implanted in man? He came, and you know how he filled the place, and how perfectly the place fitted him.
“For long weeks I failed to convince Andalusia; weeks that were filled with the madness of despair, with the agony of vain pleading, of being scorned and taunted with my baby skin, until 97every time that I looked at Wilbur, I could scarcely restrain my hands.
“Andalusia watched his every movement; that night when she fired the pistol she thought that she had found her rival, and had she been less angry would have killed her; her emotion, only, rendering her hand unsteady.
“I followed her and appointed a place of meeting; at first she would not listen, but finally consented; saying that old Martini Sistine was with her, hidden in the shrubbery. I was rejoiced, for old Martini knows much that is hidden from all the rest of the world; she can talk familiarly with those who have departed this life; and to her the stars are as an open book. Martini knew that I spoke the truth, and in trying to convince Andalusia she also explained much which I had been unable to grasp. Andalusia at first would hear nothing of it, but cried scornfully, touching the fair hair as though it were some vile thing, and prodding my flushed cheek viciously:
“‘This is not my Antoni!’ Then said Martini severely:
“Daughter of the South, born in the wild wood among nature’s sweetest mysteries, do you doubt the first one which touches you? For shame! If you saw a branch lopped off the tree under which you sat, would you cry out that this was no longer the same tree? If you should lose your fair right arm, are you not still Andalusia? If you were bereft of both limbs and arms, and nothing but the disfigured trunk remained, you would still be Andalusia. It is the 98within, which is in reality the personality. Your Antoni is the same, but he is unfortunate in having to bear this effeminate body; have you no pity for his misfortune?”
“Then my Andalusia wept on my neck, and begged forgiveness for all her unkind words; and though she cried continually: ‘Poor Antoni!’ I was so happy that for a time I forgot all about my hateful body.
“We are going to our own land; Martini, my Andalusia and I. Wilbur can take the cool-blooded Edith and welcome; their placid imitation of love is like ice to fire as compared to the glorious tumult of passion which swells in the hearts of the unfettered children of the free wild wood.
“I have taken this money and the diamonds, yet—I am no thief! That portion of myself, known to the sight as Arthur Lombard—the hateful body, thrust upon me without my consent—I am compelled to retain against my will; that body has a right to maintenance, and I have taken of Arthur Lombard’s money to care for it. I have left the balance to the soul of Arthur Lombard; and as a last request, I ask him to be kind to the body of poor, cheated Antoni Petronelli.”

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