V. “A Case of Dual Personality”
HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL
AFTER a failure so humiliating and ignominious, the blue devils entered once more into Wendover, and took possession. Out of the murk, however, glimmered his faith in Babbington-Raikes. Reason urged him to make full confession to the Sage; Unreason, having the upper hand for the moment, kept him a brooding prisoner in his flat, where Judkins was instructed that he was “not at home” to anybody. He transacted pressing business over the 'phone and wrote a few letters. For the rest he only “glumped,” to use an expression of his own, sitting huddled up in a chair cursing the imps that paralysed his brain. At night, being unable to sleep properly, he walked immense distances, dismally conscious that physical vigour only served to accentuate moral inertia. Strength of body mocked derisively weakness of mind. Never had he felt so tempted to resort to drugs, drink or the use of tobacco. Fortunately habit was too strong for him. Over-indulgence gave him no pleasure whatever. He considered the expediency of trying the primal life of a trapper in some far-away Canadian forest. But indolence prevented this interesting experiment. Upon the third morning, he lay in bed for no better reason than the inability to shave himself. Some ruthless hand seemed to force his head back upon the pillow. When the faithful Judkins said deferentially: “You wish to
breakfast in bed, sir?” Wendover replied savagely: “No, I don't. Come when I ring for you, not before.”
“Very good, sir.”
And after Judkins had gone, Wendover kept repeating, like a parrot, "Very good, sir,” till it occurred to him that he was going mad. He flung back the bedclothes, and rushed into his bathroom, where he whacked a punching ball for a quarter of an hour. Later, hearing from his broker that oil was booming furiously—and he held thousands of Shells and Burmahs -melancholia almost strangled him. His luck was the root of the mischief. The immutable law of Compensation had so decreed it .
He found himself back in his armchair, staring miserably nto a wretched future.
Suddenly, he was hurled back into the present. The door of the sitting-room opened, and Judkins’ voice floated to him:
COMPLE T E IN THIS ISSUE
The Last of a Series of Five Stories
“Sir Arthur BabbingtonRaikes.”
As the Sage entered, Judkins vanished. The Sage said blandly:
“Your man told me that you wrere not at home to anybody. But I persuaded him that I was Somebody, and, incidentally, your medical attendant. More, as your colleague, I have a case for you of urgent importance."
Wendover felt slightly less limp.
“A relapse, I perceive,” said Babbington-Raikes. “I expected it. I warned you, didn’t I, to prepare yourself for disappointment, if—if you went on your own?”
He chuckled so genially, that Wendover laughed.
“I am down and out,” he confessed.
' I 'HE Sage listened attentively -*• to the tale of woe. When his patient ended upon a flat note, he said soothingly:
“If I told you of my failures— But I spare you. Besides, I am very busy this morning. Give me your undivided attention for & few minutes. I, too, have failed lamentably in a case of extraordinary interest.”
“Very good, sir,” murmured Wendover. “I mean,” he added hurriedly, “that what is left of me is at your service.”
“Are you prepared to tackle a young and attractive female?” “I’m not,” stormed Wendover. “I know what you're up to. You've kept this young and attractive female up your sleeve. Thank you for nothing. I am not a present for a young and attractive female. Not much!"
"Tch, tch! I leave matchmaking to the old and unattractive females."
'T beg your pardon. Who is she?”
"For the moment, my dear fellow, I withhold her name till —till I am assured of your willingness to tackle her.’
"Go ahead. I should like to tell you that I am interested, but I'm not, damn it! I'm enraged with all women. I am furious with my mother because she brought me into this accursed world."
"Pull yourself together, and listen. Have you ever known a case of dual personality0" "Dual personality—’ I've read Hyde and Jekyll.”
"Of course. But Stevenson merely presented an allegory. In this sense we are all dual per(`jyll w `~ Q~'v~I •.t~i ii Ir v~'. it'$-.t•. F i~ `~v we um~ rhs1i-r~t~ tv~ `t'iin. I' & !~. iric~I~~ h. 1J :.~ `.111, dl Ft t~ IflTII~s
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ion over birds. \\ hen her pets died, she solable for many days, so inconsolable o have provoked in her parents a certain n she was fifteen, they made a horrible rvant, unseen by the girl, saw her kill an
"You will be. bang out of the water, when I’ve finished. Call this girl AÍ. She is AÍ in her normal condition, suddenlyand these lapses are, unhappily, becoming more frequent she becomes A2. And then the horrible
instinct to kill what she loves possesses her Such an instinct might become, you understand, homicidal.”
Yes; jolly for her mother who is devoted to her. Y'ou >k amazed, but Prince and Myers and Féré have estabished the fact that such cases occur and can be treated
to a successful issue.”
"Hypnosis is the treatment indicated. It doesn’t always work. I had a bad failure the other day; a man ffering from shell shock. He had lost himself entirely and become somebody else. He couldn’t recognize his s or his sweetheart. He couldn't read or write. In the hypnotic trance, he became himself, recognized his ». was able to read and write. But when I took him t of hypnosis he became the other fellow. And. to-day
‘Exactly. I am still treating him; I don’t despair. The
in these queer cases, is simple. The new personr must be dissociated from the old. If one can establish a link between the two. if, I mean, to go back to i can, so to speak, make the left hand know what íe right hand is doing, if AÍ is brought to realize and rehat she does as A2, why, then, there is hope of exorcising A2 altogether.”
"But, my dear Sir Arthur, you don’t think that I can do this, when you have failed?”
"That remains to be 3een. Y'ou can try. Will you try?” Wendover frowned. The Sage shrugged his shoulders, and the gesture was challenging. fil 'nave a G. lent like.’"
V .>u ha\ en't seen her!"
\o Vers wisely her parents came to me alone. SiituralK. the\ didn't wish to alarm the girl; she believes herself to l>e strong and well. Also, ever since they made
this shocking discovery, she has been kept under their eye. She is Lady Betty Moy.”
Wendover looked incredulous. "But I met her, here in London, at Moy House.”
"1 know that. It is also a fact that these seizures, so to speak, have not taken place in London, but in Scotland. She is in Scotland now. That is why you can help.”
“Help? How on earth can I help?”
"You will begin by accepting an invitation to stalk from Lord Glenava.”
"But why should he send me an invitation?” "Because he and Lady Glenava, a charming woman, will welcome you cordially as—as my colleague. I can’t go myself. And, if I could, I should be recognized at once by the young lady as a medical attendant, the one thing we want to avoid. The same objection applies, of course, to a nurse or a companion. Lady Betty will never suspect a guest such as you. You will make friends with her— and the rest lies on the knees of the gods.”
“And will remain there, I should imagine.”
"I perceive you are backing out?”
“Nothing of the sort. Yesterday I was regretting that I had not taken a forest this season. But what am I to do?”
“My written instructions will beguile, I hope, your journey north. Within forty-eight hours the
in forty-eight hours the invitation will arrive.” Wendover laughed.
"When it does arrive, I shall begin to think there is something in this.”
"It will be an adventure, anyway.”
' I 'HE invitation duly arrived, and was accepted. By *■ this time, Wendover had come to the conclusion that the Sage was prescribing for a male patient—himself. That would be exactly what he would do, laughing in his sleeve. However, he amended this conclusion when a formidable packet of typescript was delivered by hand; the written instructions, with a note asking Wendover not to read them till he found himself on the train.
This injunction was obeyed. Wendover read and reread every line. Having done so, he told himself that Babbington-Kaikes had tried him too high. He was riding for a fall. The tonic reflection that Lord Glenava’s forest held some of the heaviest stags in Scotland consoled him. He wondered whether Lady Betty would take the hill with him. He recalled her slender figure, finely proportioned. Did she carry a rifle or play ghillie? He felt sure that she could throw a fly, get out a straight line in the teeth of an adverse winti. And he was rather a duffer at all that, an indifferent shot, lacking practice. It would be humiliating to lose a fish or miss a good beast with her clear eyes upon him. Being alone in hissleeping berth, he said aloud: "I’m a damned fool.”
A motor met him at Inverness, and he was whirled some thirty miles into the wilds of the Highlands. The chauffeur told him that his destination was not, as he supposed, the grim castle of the Moys, but the stalking lodge high up in the hills.
On his arrival Lord Glenava welcomed him cordially. His first words, when they were alone in the smokingroom, put Wendover happily at ease:
"I am delighted to see you. Lady Glenava and I hope that the sport will not disappoint you. The real object of your visit need not be touched upon.” Wendover nodded. "Frankly, I regard that as an experiment. We are alone here. You will meet my daughter in a few minutes. Y'ou know her slightly; up here you will get to know her intimately. Shall we go in to tea?” Lady Betty poured out Wendover’s tea. It struck him at first sight that she was slightly thinner and paler, although she presented the appearance of a young Diana. But she chattered gaily enough about sport and other subjects well within her ken, exhibiting an alert intelligence and a sense of humour. When he confessed that he was not a mighty hunter she smiled at him. “Father doesn’t mind his best stags being missed. I believe he misses them himself, on purpose sometimes. But it breaks his heart when somebody across the marsh gets them. I do my stalking with a camera. Do you object to petticoats on the hill?”
He hastened to reassure her.
Within an hour or two he felt pleasantly at home, accepted by his hosts as one of the family. Whether he owed this to Babbington-Raikes or to himself, he was unprepared to say. Hitherto, he had regarded magnates, like the Moys, as inaccessible peaks soaring above ordinary society, frigidly exclusive. Moy House in London was one of the few stately houses which remained closed to the pushing mob. He had dined there once, a signal honour, and he could remember feeling envy because the wheels of the great establishment ran so smoothly. How little had he suspected the skeleton in the closet.
A FTER tea he was invited to try his luck with the Txtrout. A broad burn bubbled past the lodge. Lord Glenava said:
“Betty will show you the best pools.”
A ghillie accompanied them. One incident worth recording happened, which brought to mind the Sage’s affirmation that his patient was tender-hearted. Wendover hooked a half-pounder, played the fish, and brought it to the landing-net which Lady Betty had taken from the ghillie.
“What a beauty!” she exclaimed. “Throw him back— do!”
The fish was hooked in the mouth. Wendover extricated the hook and tossed the trout back into the burn. He seemed to give a grateful wriggle as he disappeared. The girl laughed. Wendover said solemnly:
“That trout ought to be your friend for life.”
“I should like to think he knew. Why not? But he will come again to the lure. Last year father hooked a salmon which broke him. He caught him again an hour afterwards with a second Jock Scott. The first was in his gills. Really, it’s too lovely an evening to kill things. Shall I show you our country?”
He followed her up a steep hill, heather-covered and strewn with huge granite boulders. She indicated presently a hollow, with a spring hard by.
“This is one of the spying-places. Y'ou can see everything in that corrie if the light is good. I can see deer now.”
“It’s not easy to pick up deer. I have wonderful sight."
“And I haven’t.”
“Perhaps you may have insight. I often think that insight is given to those who can’t see too well the outside of things. You must have insight, Mr. Wendover."
“Now why do you say that?”
“Because you are so successful in business."
“Luck. I am lucky Wendover."
“You look as if you got what you wanted."
“But I don’t,” he replied curtly.
Possibly his tone chilled her. She remained silent, gazing across the landscape. Suddenly, she shivered, but the sun had not yet set; the air was delightfully warm; and the midges persecutinglv busy.
“You are cold, Lady Betty?”
She seemed to stare at him oddly as if the obvious remark astonished her.
“Cold?” she repeated. “What made you think so?"
“Well, you shivered.”
She replied banteringly: "I am very Scotch, you know. Perhaps somebody was walking over my grave. W hat wretches these midges are! If we get out of the shelter, the wind will blow them away."
They climbed a little higher, and then returned slowiy to the lodge.
A S HE dressed for dinner, Wendover almost pinched Tx. himself to make sure that he was not dreaming. He believed in first impressions. And Lady Betty had impressed him delightfully. She aroused an arresting expectation which seemed to crystallize into satisfaction. To think of her as other than what she appeared to be strained imaginative powers to breaking point. And yet. for one moment, as she sat silent in the spying place, he had been vouchsafed a glimpse of somebody else. VS hen she shivered, her face had changed. Wendover had been prepared for just such a change. In the w ritten instructions, locked up in his handbag, was an illuminating line: “A2 is likely to take possession when you least expect it.
Alone with his host, after the ladies had gone to bed. Wendover smoked a pipe or two. Presentl\. Lord Glenava said abruptly: “Betty has not had a seizure since we came here, but her mother thinks that one is due. There are—signs.” "Signs?”
“Yes. An unmistakable languor when she is left alone, fits of abstraction.”
Wendover said impulsively:
“Babbington-Raikes, of course, in discussing this extraordinary case with me stuck to professional ruts, cited similar cases, but he never even attempted to guess at the cause. Or rather, he took for granted that the cause had eluded him. But do you know anything which might account for these horrible changes?”
His host remained silent, slightly frowning. Wendover, conscious that information, however slight, was being withheld, continued eagerly:
"i ask for a straw, which might serve to indicate the strength and direction of this current that seems to sweep her away from—from—”
“From heaven into hell, Mr. Wendover. Before I attempt to answer your question, answer frankly one of mine. Why have you interested yourself in my daughter’s case?”
At that, hesitatingly, Wendover spoke of his own trouble, the blue devils that obsessed him. He was astonished to find that he could speak of himself so candidly, but the quiet, sympathetic face of this great Scotch prince invited confidence and sustained it.
“Thank you, Mr. Wendover; it was not easy for you to tell me this, and it is not easy for me to tell what you want to know. There is a secret of our House which I did not disclose to Sir Arthur. This secret, such as it is, if my daughter knew it, might account for—for something. But I am reasonab ly sure she doesn’t know it. Perhaps I shrank from telling the story to Babbington-Raikes, fearing ridicule.”
“I rather feared that from you,” said Wendover.
Lord Glenava went on slowly, inckinz his words:
“I’M THE head, as you know, * of an ancient family. We pride ourselves upon being Scotch to the marrow, but really we are Pictish—Highlanders. You Sassen achs accuse us of being superstitious. We are. Some of us have reason to be. The Seaforth Mackenzies for instance ...”
Wendover nodded; he had read the prophecies of the Braughan Seer.
“In the sixteenth century a chief of our House married an Italian lady, a kinswoman of Cosimo de Medici, very beautiful and not too scrupulous. A cousin, one of Cosimo’s sons, murdered his own brother. My ancestor brought his bride to Glenava Castle, and her portrait hangs in the main gallery. I can imagine that the change from Florence to Glenava was not altogether agreeable, the more so as my ancestor was out of favour at Court and more or less a prisoner upon his own property. This Medici woman murdered her husband and then took poison. The affair was hushed up at the time, but you will find it hinted at in the histories and memoires of the time.”
“Murdered her husband," repeated Wendover. “There must have been provocation, some big motive?”
“She adored him, Mr. Wendover; and she was intensely jealous. That's the story, and it has, as 1 say, been kept secret.”
“But are you sure of that, Lord Glenava? If Lady Betty
knew--! If she had brooded
“I am almost certain she doesn't know. Now, you know. And I am astonished that I have told you, but. under the circumstances, and anxious as I am to do anything—anythihg to help you, I felt bound to answer your question.”
Wendover bowed. It seemed to him that his kindly host was hypersensitive, but he couldn't say so. Aloud, he murmured tentatively: “You called yourself superstitious?”
“I—I am not singular, Mr. Wendover, in my belief that occasionally a ban is imposed upon certain families. There is the curse, for example, which seems to attach itself to lands filched from the Church. You may be aware that there are families in the kingdom in which the eldest son never succeeds.
“How do you account for that? I can’t. But it is so. I believe further that uneasy spirits may hover about us, influence us, use, in fine, our bodies to achieve their own evil ends and desires. If we admit, as I do, that good comes from without, from the Supreme Source of good, we must surely admit also that evil has similar potentialities, although in the end, we may humbly hope, it is vanquished by good.”
His sincerity and humility made a profound impression upon Wendover.
“That hypothesis. Lord Glenava, resurrects demoniac possession. Can you call for bell, candle and book to exorcise this unclean spirit?”
“You are incredulous.”
“No; I carry an open mind. What you have said interests me immensely. I must let it soak in. Goodnight—and thank you.”
“Good-night, Mr. Wendover.”
WENDOVER had arrived at the lodge on a Wednesday. Nothing happened of interest between that day and the following Saturday. He went out stalking on Thursday and Friday. Lady Betty accompanied him, together with the head stalker and a ghillie. Wendover missed two stags handsomely, but killed a third later on Friday afternoon. On Saturday a fine rain began to fall, making stalking impracticable. Whereupon Lord Glenava suggested that the week-end should be spent at the Castle. The motion was carried unanimously.
By this time, Highland air and exercise, and the companionship of a charming girl had made of Wendover a new man. In all his tissues he was conscious of rejuvenation, the sense of well-being which is half physical and half mental. It became increasingly difficult to believe that he had come north upon a serious errand. And. naturally, the zest in life that radiated from him affected Lady Betty. He divined that she liked him; and he knew that he liked her and—supreme test was at his best with her.
The Castle impressed him as a gloomy place, built of granite, and situated at the head of Glenava loch, overshadowed by great hills. It looked exactly what it was— a feudal fortress. Wendover passed through a gallery on the way to his bedroom, and as he did so was arrested by the portrait of the Medici beauty that bore her name in faint yellow script upon the canvas. He stopped for a minute to stare at it, half expecting to find in it sonrm resemblance to Lady Betty. There was none. It bore, however, a likeness to the famous Cer.ci portrait which hangs in the Barberini Palace, one of the saddest pictures in the world.
He found a peat fire smouldering in his room and a comfortable arm-chair in front of it, reassuringly covered in chintz. Before sitting down he glanced out of the window, observing the tremendous thickness of the walls. The rain fell steadily into a stone-paved courtyard. He sat down thinking of the beautiful Italian brought as a bride to this grim castle. How had she endured the solitude of Glen A va, cut off, forever, from the laughterloving court of the Florentine? To what pass of misery and despair had she come before she contemplated murder and suicide?
HE DRESSED for dinner rather earlier than necessary, and lingered in the gallery to stare again at the Medici portrait. As he was standing in front of it, he heard Lady Betty’s soft voice behind him.
“Do you admire her?” she asked.
He thought swiftly: “She
doesn't know.” Aloud, he said curtly: “No.”
“But she is lovely. I am ever so proud of being descended from such a beauty.”
“I am glad you are not like her. Lady Betty.”
As he spoke, he glanced keenly at her. She was wearing a smart frock, of palest blue and silver, which became admirably her blonde colouring.
“Give me a fair woman,” he murmured.
She blushed slightly, conscious of an intense gaze and, sensitive himself, Wendover realized that he had made her blush. To cover an unintentional remark, he said lightly:
"Can you show me the portrait of the beauty’s husband?'
“Oh, yes. He hangs over there.” She pointed. "Odd, isn't it?”
“Odd?” he repeated.
“Why, yes. Their marriage was a romantic affair, a runaway love match. You will find-it mentioned in Yillari. And the portraits ought to hang side by side, but when I asked fath er to do it, he was quite funny and cross. He hates altering things.'
They moved across the gallery and looked at the husband of the beauty.
"Do you admire him?" asked Wendover.
“He is very handsome. But it's rather a weak face. 1 admire strength."
Her eyes lingered innocently upon her companion. Almost he blushed, but not quite. She continued artlessly;
“He died young—and so did she."
The gong for dinner re-echoed through the long gallery. Lady Betty’s voice prattled on:
Continued on page 44
Continued from page 11
“The gong goes five minutes before dinner is announced. I must show you something—a perfect treasure.”
He followed her into a small sittingroom, obviously her own. She switched on the electric light. Wendover observed walls lined with books, a baby grand piano and a basket in front of another peat fire.
_ Out of the basket she lifted a tiny kitten, a blue Persian, with a coat like floss silk. She held the kitten against her face and laughed.
“I admire that,” said Wendover decisively. But he was looking at her smiling face, not at the kitten. He could see that the little creature seemed to snuggle up against her soft bosom, purring with pleasure.
“You are fond of animals,” he said.
“I love them,” she answered seriously. Then, suddenly, her face clouded, as she added sadly: “I have been so un-
lucky with my pets. If I love them too much they die.”
She kissed the kitten and put it back into the basket.
A minute later they were in the drawing-room.
THE dinner was ceremonious, in striking contrast to the simple meals served at the lodge. They dined at a small round table set near an immense fire-place. The table was brilliantly illuminated, whereas the rest of the great room remained in shadow. As they sat down, Lord Glenava’s pipers were heard in the hall. Lady Betty said to Wendover:
“Had you killed a ‘royal’ yesterday they would have marched round the dinner table.”
“Perhaps it’s as well I didn’t,” said Wendover. Nevertheless the skirl of the pipes affected him, conjuring up visions. As the pibroch died away in a wheezing moan, he felt relieved.
“How old is this room?” he asked. Lady Glenava answered him:
“Early fifteenth century. James the Fourth sat on that dais, and Mary Stuart, and Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Inevitably, the talk drifted back and back on an ebbing tide of historical reminiscence, an experience new to Wendover and slightly disconcerting. He reckoned himself to be a son of his own century, modern to his fingertips. But, looking at his host wearing the kilts, listening attentively to his quiet voice with its mournful inflections, gazing now and again into the shadows of the minstrels’ gallery, the spirit of the ancient banqueting hall began to obsess him. He was being treated, for the first time in his life, as a member of an ancient family. It was taken for granted that he would be interested in events of long ago that concerned his friends, and he was immensely interested, carried out of himself, captivated by Romance, saying to himself: “I am listening to a chapter
of Froissart or Monstrelet.”
In due time, the ladies vanished, leaving the men alone with a decanter of port between them. As he sipped his wine, Wendover said abruptly:
“I have seen the portrait of the Medici lady. And Lady Betty pointed out to me her husband. When she told me that she had urged you to hang the two pictures together, it became obvious that she knew nothing.” As his host remained silent, Wendover went on: “I can’t help
wondering at my reception here, that I should be treated with such confidence and kindness.”
“Babbington-Raikes persuaded me. I am much obliged to him.”
“But—what can I do? According to my written instructions, I am to watch and wait for an opportunity that may never come!”
“I know nothing, Mr. Wendover, of these instructions. It is a fact that neither Lady Glenava nor I have ever witnessed these dreadful changes, of which, as you know, Betty is quite unconscious. Your Sage, as you call him, seems to have confidence in you. That was enough for me. I trust him, and I trust you.”
“According to Sir Arthur,” said Wendover, “the one thing needful is to establish the sense of identity between the two personalities. If the change you speak of takes place in my presence I have been instructed what to do. But isn’t it possible that there has been some mistake, some blunder? What I have seen of Lady Betty makes what I have been told about her seem incredible.”
“There has been no mistake, Mr. Wendover.” The butler came in.
“Coffee has been served in the drawingroom, my lord.”
Wendover refused another glass of wine, and followed his host into the drawing room. Presently, Lady Betty sat down to the piano, and sang the old Jacobite song, “Farewell to Manchester.” Lady Glenava took up her knitting: her husband began to lay out a patience. Wendover watched the girl at the piano. The feeling and pathos in her contralto voice moved him strangely. He kept on thinking: “This monstrous thing is impossible
—a nightmare. I can’t believe it—and I won’t.”
AS SHE sang other songs, Scotch ballads, for the most part, he asked himself, with slight irritation, why she appealed to him. It annoyed him that she should, because, being so rich a man, he distrusted supermen, having suffered from their activities. He detested the up-to-date, flamboyant female, preposterously exploiting herself and her charms, with her audacious air, as much as to say: “Who bids for me?”
Some of these syrens had “bid” for him— shamelessly. Lady Betty seemed to disdain the ordinary lures. Obviously, she had been guarded by old-fashioned parents,kept in lavender, never allowed to touch or see—pitch. It was intolerable to think that any curse should fall upon so fair and ingenuous a creature. And if it had fallen, surely it could be lifted. The mere possibility of helping stirred him to his marrow. How could he help? The question became insistent as he admitted her attractiveness, her unconscious grace and charm. And she liked him, smiled at him with the smile of an innocent child, the sexless smile of happy youth. When he praised her singing she dimpled with pleasure.
He expected to lie awake that night, but he slept well and soundly. Next morning the skies had cleared. He was tempted to bathe in the loch, but a servant told him that the water was too cold. Instead, he took a brisk walk before breakfast, and returned to the Castle with a ravenous appetite.
He found Lord Glenava alone at the breakfast table. The ladies didn’t appear. Wendover was slightly surprised, but made no comment. His host ate sparingly, in silence, taking a few spoonsful of porridge as he walked up and down the breakfast-room. Wendover reflected that this was the Scotch Sabbath. Probably he would be invited to attend the kirk. It might be “wee” or “free.” He finished his breakfast, anticipating comedy.
“Shall we smoke our pipes outside?” ¡ asked his host.
Part of the Castle was surrounded ¡ by a moat, now dry. Host and guest crossed the ancient drawbridge, raised and lowered each night and morning, and strolled along a stone-paved causeway. Then they ascended a gentle slope with the loch immediately below them. Wendover stood still, inhaling the delicious 1 breeze, immensely struck by the tranquil beauty of the loch and the heathercovered hills rising out of it. In the soft sunshine, the grim fortress became, for the moment, a sort of enchanted castle.
“What a wonderful place it is!” he exclaimed.
Lord Glenava said sombrely:
“Betty is miserable this morning. And ¡ last night the child was happier than I’ve seen her for months.”
“And what has happened?”
“Her kitten is dead. She found it dead in its basket at the foot of her bed early this morning.”
WHEN man and maid met at luncheon, Lady Betty exhibited no signs of suffering, other than slightly j reddened eyelids and pale cheeks. But, I as soon as she was alone with Wendover, she spoke artlessly of what had happened.
“I shall have no more pets,” she declared vehemently. .“It’s an odd thing, Mr. Wendover, but father was vexed when that darling kitten was given to me.
I had not had a pet for some time, simply because I have been dreadfully ¡ unlucky with them. It’s almost frightening, isn’t it?”
He was so sorry for her, and so disturbed, that he exerted himself to comfort her, betraying a sympathy and feeling which brought the colour back to her cheeks. And, immediately afterwards, attempting to wean her thoughts from the kitten, he began to talk about himself with a queer arresting sincerity that beguiled her interest and curiosity. He succeeed in making her forget the kitten, although the tiny pretty creature haunted every corner of his mind. The facts, such as they were, had been given to him by Lord Glenava. The poor little beast had been strangled. Lord Glenava was quite convinced of this after careful examination. Nobody had entered Betty’s room except her nurse, now her maid, who had called her in the morning. This ; woman, a discreet retainer, had found the body. “Does she know?” asked Wendover. Yes, this woman knew. She had witnessed the killing of the owl. Her lips, Scotch lips, were most assuredly sealed. From the conviction in Lord | Glenava’s tone, Wendover inferred that j the woman was to be trusted, and this ' inference was turned into conviction j when the father added quietly: “She
is quite devoted to poor Betty.”
“Might I talk to her?” he had asked. Lord Glenava hesitated, but made no objections. If a suitable opportunity presented itself, why not? Wendover clutching at straws, said that he would arrange an opportunity. At the lodge, not at the Castle, it would be easy to get the woman alone. Lord Glenava smiled somewhat derisively:
“You won’t get much out of Grizel Ross.”
On the day following they returned to the lodge. Here, within twenty-four hours, Betty’s natural gaiety and high I spirits returned to her. Incidentally, she made things easier for Wendover by observing lightly:
“Isn’t, it a pity? My brother doesn’t care for stalking. And my father doesn’t ask the ordinary sportsman here who cares for nothing else. You are the right man. I wonder how he discovered that. He loathes shooting parties. Are you very bored at finding nobody to meet you?”
“I am singing paeans of thanksgiving.”
“Does that mean you aren t thinking of rushing off in a day or two?”
“I shall not outstay my welcome. Lady Betty.”
“Then it’s all quite right. Father and mother like you ever so much. I suppose you have heaps of friends?”
“But I haven’t.”
“How extraordinary!” HE THOUGHT that she eyed him analytically, as if the thought oppressed her that lack of friends indicated lack of something else. But really she was puzzled, because it seemed absurd that such a man, so sympathetic and so physically and mentally attractive, should not have innumerable friends. Too shy to say this, she remained silent, pensively regarding him. He said sharply:
“It’s like this, Lady Betty. I’m pestered by all manner of people. Most of them want to help themselves out of my pile. A rich man has disconcerting glimpses into human nature. And then one learns to distrust appearances.”
She laughed innocently.
“Do you distrust mine?”
He answered almost explosively: “No.” And, as the reassuring monosyllable burst from him, he told himself that she was what she appeared to be, what she must be—all evidence to the contrary being swamped by some intuitive conviction. Conscious at the same time that he had spoken too abruptly, he turned the talk into less personal channels. But, immediately, as soon as he paused, the girl said quietly:
“I, too, have very few friends. Since I was fifteen, I have led rather a secluded life. Father and mother have kept me in cotton wool. Why—I don’t know. They seem to worry about my health, but, I am perfectly well. And, of course, they both like a secluded life. Even in London I seemed to be walled in.”
She sighed, faintly smiling, inviting comment which Wendover withheld not without difficulty.
THAT night he asked himself whither he was drifting. The candid answer astounded him. He was drifting—he had drifted—away from himself. He could behold himself with curious detachment “walled in,” as she had put it, in London, self-centred, distrustful, apathetic. Alone with Betty, in the ampler, fresher air of the hills, he had become once more the ardent youth whom he remembered before the war. And she, this creature cursed with a dual personality, had wrought the miracle. Ought he to bolt? A girl, seemingly as sweet as Betty, had “downed” him before he became rich. Ever since, he had kept women at arm’s length, regarding them derisively, cocking a cynical eyebrow at their obvious wiles and guiles. But Betty seemed without guile.
"Was fie beginning to love the girl? He had to confess that she obsessed him waking and sleeping. She floated into his dreams, an elusive nymph beckoning him on. Waking he might resist her, but in the dream life he followed her breathlessly, fearing nothing. And she flitted before him into an enchanting wonderland of love and happiness.
Perhaps, he reflected, he ought to bolt, he couldn’t. Apart from any fetters that love might impose, he desired intensely to justify the curious faith in him of the Sage. Common sense told him that the task imposed was beyond him. In a sense it exasperated him to think that he had undertaken so forlorn a hope. Failure grinned at him. He wondered whether the Sage was entirely sane. A man forever concerned with the abnormal might reasonably become abnormal, or, to express it differently, be inebriated by the fumes of his own experiments. “I shan’t bolt yet,” he decided.
On Tuesday he went stalking. Betty took the hill -with him. The morning happened to be fine, but haze obscured the hills and corries. The old stalker, rubbing his glass with a bit of chamois leather, kept on muttering:
By noon, however, conditions improved and a westerly wind swept away the mists. Finally, deer were seen, but too far off to put horns on them. They walked on. The stalker strode first, carrying the rifle in its case, the ghillie came next. Wendover and Betty followed. At the next spying-place, Betty, to her great triumph, picked up an outlying stag, below the other deer. He lay snug against a hummock, in some peat hags. The other deer, on careful inspection, were revealed as young stags, not yet shootable. Farther on, after more spying, the stalker betrayed excitement.
“He’s a monster.”
Betty’s amazing eyesight corroborated this. She was positive that the monster was a royal or a thirteen-pointer. The mere sight of such a quarry rouses Highlanders to a frenzy.
“A very notable beast, ma leddy. But we canna get in.”
Heart-breaking delays followed. The stag had chosen an impregnable position. If an attempt was made to descend upon him, the other deer would get wind of the enemy. Worse, they were browsing close to the march, and would be over it in a jiffy. To approach from below was equally impossible. Half a dozen pairs of alert eyes would detect the crawlers in short, open heather.
“They’ll feed lower, ma leddy.”
EVENTUALLY this happened. The “monster” rose, revealing his immense size. With superb dignity he followed the staggies down and across the corrie, till they reached a small burn. Into this his majesty disappeared.
“The b-b-brute!” growled the stalker. To make matters more annoying, the staggies moved on, out of sight, but the big stag remained in the burn, and not a tip of a horn revealed itself. The stalker, still muttering to himself in Gaelic, took the rifle from its case, slipped in the cartridges, and replaced the weapon in the covering. The ghillie was instructed to remain where he crouched, and not to budge till he was so instructed. The stalker turned to Lady Betty.
“Ye’ll remain with him, ma leddy.” “No, Donald. You can trust me. I’ll take in Mr. Wendover. If the stag remains in the burn, Mr. Wendover must crawl the last few yards by himself. You know that.”
The old fellow looked cross, shrugging his shoulders. But, without a word, he handed the rifle still in its case to Betty. “Come,” she whispered.
Her blue eyes were dancing with excitement, as she added: “I found him;
I want to show you that I know my hills. Crawl just behind me. Don’t lift your head!”
They wriggled through the heather very slowly. Betty was heading for the burn, hoping to reach it below the stag, and then to crawl up it. There is no more risky manoeuvre in stalking than approaching an unseen quarry. The stag might have moved a hundred yards down the burn; he might appear in sight at any moment. If he did so, concealment would be impossible. Probably, he would snort and bound out of sight before the rifle could be sighted and discharged. In such cases, as Betty knew, the stalker, not his “gentleman,” is too keen. All the traditions of his craft make him keep the rifle in his hand till it is too late to use it. He is the first to see the beast, and the first, probably, to be seen. At such a moment, to tear the rifle out of its case, to thrust it into the hand, the trembling hand, of the man behind and below him, with the sudden injunction, “Shoot—shoot!” is a counsel of perfection.
They reached the burn in safety. Betty drank a little water, and motioned to Wendover to do the same.
“Take your time,” she whispered.
EXCITED though he was, the expression upon her face astounded him. She was close to him, her lips were within a few inches of his. Her eyes met his, and an unspoken message flashed out of them. He understood instantly the eagerness which betrayed her illuminatingly. Alone together on the eternal hills, breathing the sparkling air, a-quiver, each of them, with the vitality of youth, man and maid guessed the secret of the other. For an instant the stag seemed inaccessibly remote. Wendover wanted to say:
“Never mind the stag. I have stalked you; you have stalked me. I am yours just as you are mine. Let us forget everything else.”
And telepathy had established itself. She read his message and blushed deliciously. As swiftly, a mask imposed itself. Her voice was cold as convention. She went on whispering:
“The stag is just above us, not a hundred yards away. I saw the glint of one horn. Probably he is quietly feeding. You must see him. It’s not safe to go in together. Leave me here. I’ll get the rifle out. Crawl up the burn till you catch his horns. If he raises his head remain perfectly still. Find the right place behind some big bit of heather. Tread on moss; avoid the stones. Steal back to me after you have found him.” He obeyed. Her will, for the moment, dominated his. Obviously she desired a triumph for him. The instinct of a daughter of the Highlands was paramount. To miss this “notable monster” would be humiliating.
He ascended the burn step by step, thankful that its song was loud enough to mask his approach. And, step by step, the ardour of the chase informed him. He might have been forty yards from Betty when he saw magnificent antlers, nothing more. His head sank behind a tuft of heather. The antlers were slowly lowered. As Betty had said, the stag was feeding, pausing now and again to lift his head.
He crept back down the burn, consumed now by the desire to justify Betty’s faith in him. He realized that he was coolly self-possessed. When he pressed the trigger his finger would not tremble. And at such a distance could he miss so big a target?
He stopped suddenly. And well he might, for the foresight of the Mannlicher was within a yard of his head.
IN MOMENTS of danger some men think furiously; others cannot think at all. Wendover was not entirely unprepared for the thoughts that boiled up in his brain. The Sage had warned him that the patient might become homicidal. And, knowing also that this horrible perversion of character turned upon what it loved, Babbington-Raikes had spoken of the danger to which the parents of the patient were exposed. More, when Wendover had considered the increasing possibility of loving and being loved by Lady Betty, he had confronted without wincing the danger to which he might expose himself. Five minutes before, he. had read love in her eyes. And he had witnessed the suppression of that love. During that short time, it was reasonable to suppose that a modest maid, conscious of having betrayed her most precious secret, might suffer a cruel reaction. She could become limp, at the mercy of that other ruthless personality eager to take possession of its prey. Instantaneously, he recalled those dismal moments when he had wished to die, to escape from the weariness of spirit and flesh. Was this the appointed answer, the solution of the problem?
Would he care to live without her?
He couldn’t see her. The end of the barrel lay upon the heather which rose above it. At the end of the rifle crouched an insane woman, with her finger upon the trigger. If that were so he hadn’t time to grasp the barrel. If he moved the bullet would be through his head.
Standing thus he remembered the Sage’s instructions. The opportunity had come. The desperate chance obtruded itself. To call back the real Betty, to establish the necessary link between the personalities, to make the real Betty understand the hideous truth and revolt from it was, according to the Sage, the one thing needful. He would speak to her as if she were the real Betty, speak in a tone that would lure back the sleeping spirit to the clay, rouse it with love, not hate or fear. Love was surely omnipotent.
He sighed her name, so tenderly that the sublimated sound of his own voice startled him. He knew then how tremendously he loved her. He believed with intense conviction that the call must be irresistible. She would come back. There was no answer.
The sweat broke upon his skin. Having failed with the appeal of his voice nothing remained but to show" himself. He raised his head above the heather. The rifle lay there, not Betty. And then he saw her, a few.' yards aw"ay, waiting for him with her elbows upon her knees, and her face framed between her hands. She had not heard him come back; she had not heard his soft w'hisper drowned by the tinkling burn. She placed the rifle ready for him.
What an absurd denouement!
Of course anticlimax followed. He missed the stag, but with no regrets on his part or hers. The stalker, w"hen he heard the tale, exhibited a dour satisfaction. Had he taken in his “gentleman,” the Moy pibroch would have been played in Glen Ava. He said scathingly: "There’s room aboot a red deer.” Wendover had been obliged to shoot at the massive neck, not daring to wait till a broadside was presented. Betty may have w'ondered at, and admired, his good temper under a strain w'hich good sportsmen will admit to be near breaking-point. They reached the lodge late without other adventure or misadventure.
THAT same evening, Wendover had a word or two with Grizel Ross, enough to establish a friendly acquaintance. She seemed a quiet body, reserved in manner, politely discreet, and still on the sunny side of forty. Her dark eyes softened when she spoke of her young mistress. Wendover learnt that she had been nurse-maid to Betty as a child. He divined that she belonged to the generation of faithful retainers, now almost extinct. In her youth, she must have been attractive, but, apparently, no stalwart Highlander had been able to woo her from her charge.
He had passed Grizel in the passage, returning to speak to her. He went on to his own room, where Judkins was laying out his evening clothes. Thinking of Grizel he spoke of her to Judkins.
“That maid of Lady Betty’s is a faithful soul, Judkins.”
He was not trying to pump Judkins. And he had no intention of praising one good servant to another. He stated baldly what he believed to be a fact. Judkins replied scornfully:
“A faithful fool, sir, if you believe me.” “What do you mean by that, Judkins?” Thus challenged, Judkins retreated cautiously.
“I passed the remark. That is all, sir.” “Why—fool?” persisted Wendover. “It slipped out, sir. No offence!” “None; but, all the same, I am curious. Fool is about the last word I should apply to her unless it be folly—which perhaps it is—to devote oneself to another.”
To this Jukdins replied smartly:
“You haven’t seen him, sir.”
“The fellow she’s devoted to. A black Moy.”
There were black Moys and red Moys amongst the clansmen. Mildly interested, Wendover asked for details, which, eventually, were screwed out of the captious Judkins. Grizel Ross, it appeared, was infatuated with a “wrong ’un.” For many years she had been faithful to one of Lord Glenava’s pipers. She had flouted attentions from better men. Alastair Moy had piped the heart out of her. He spent her wages and his own in Inverness, a ne’er-do-weel clever enough to play the pipes and the hypocrite before his unsuspecting chieftain. Wendover salted this bit of gossip. He said to Judkins:
“If this story be true, she is a fool.” “Calves,” remarked Judkins, who was spindle-shanked, “fetch a top price in this market.”
It is likely that this talk would have been forgotten, or dismissed as negligible by Wendover, had it not been brought to mind again by Betty. After dinner she said lightly:
“My maid, Grizel Ross, refuses to believe that you are lucky.”
“Because I missed the stag?”
“Oh, no. She has gifts, you know. She told me you had talked to her. Didn’t you think her eyes rather uncanny?”
“Then you must look again. She is— spooky. Most of them are—our people I mean.”
“She won’t unbend to me.”
“But she will, if you talk about--”
“You?” he hazarded. She nodded. Lord Glenava sauntered up, proposing a game of bridge.
ALONE with his host in the smokingroom, Wendover felt slightly uneasy. He was fully alive to the extreme delicacy of the situation. He had come north on a mission, as the colleague of BabbingtonRaikes. He had been accepted as such by his host, a nobleman in every sense of ! the word. He had inspired the implicit j confidence and trust that, in such cases,
¡ only a doctor or a parson can inspire.
And now he had fallen desperately in love with his patient, and had reason to believe that he was loved in return. Indeed, Betty’s manner, during the long walk home, had fortified this conviction. The nymph, designedly, had become more elusive than ever. He felt sure that if he stalked on the morrow he would take the hill without her.
Ought he to speak frankly to his kind host?
Being human, he decided to procrastin'ate. Under the circumstances, he would speak to Lord Glenava before he spoke to Betty. Nothing else was decently possible. Of what had passed at the foot of the burn he said nothing.
“Was Betty entirely herself to-day?” asked the elder man.
“Yes. Every time I look at her, I say to myself that there has been some mistake.”
The father shook his head sadly.
“You forget. The child was seen killing her owl. Grizel Ross watched her.”
“Why didn’t she interfere?”
“She was not near enough; and she was paralysed—as well she might be— with consternation and horror.”
“Did she say anything to Lady Betty at the time?”
“No; she came to me. It was fortunate indeed that the horror was witnessed by one of my own people. Her mother was a Moy.”
“Do you mean that Grizel is of kin to you?”
“Certainly. Most of my clansmen have a tincture of our blood. The clan is a sort of vast family. Some of the Moys prospered; some didn’t. You know we Rave black Moys and red Moys. Some of the black Moys, for all I know to the contrary, may be descended from that Medici woman.”
That night Wendover lay awake. His imagination was quickened, almost intolerably. And it hovered, strangely enough, not about Betty, but around her maid. Somehow the original story failed to satisfy him. According to the Sage, Betty had never suspected the truth, purposely kept from her. A wise precaution, no doubt. The truth was awful enough to drive any sensitive girl to insanity. Certainly this woman Grizel Ross had shown remarkable discretion. She had earned the gratitude of a magnate He was fathoms deep in her debt.
NEXT morning, after a few hours’ fitful sleep, he woke early. He jumped out of bed, glad to be awake, and went to the open window. The air was deliciously fresh and scented by the flowers in the garden, a tiny pleasaunee of which Lady Glenava was inordinately proud, because she tended it herself. Baths, at the lodge, were taken by the men before dinner after stalking. Wendover shaved himself, and slipped into his tweeds. He wanted to think things out in the garden amongst the hollyhocks and sunflowers. And, then as he wras tying his tie, he saw Grizel Ross, basket on arm and scissors in hand, crossing the patch of lawn. She walked wearily, and Wendover reflected swiftly: “That is
not the gait of a happy woman.”
He went downstairs and out into the garden. At the further end Grizel was snipping off roses deftly and inexorably. Wendover hated to cut roses.
“Good morning,” he said pleasantly. She turned with a start, frowning at him. He thought for a moment that he detected hostility in her inscrutable eyes, but she returned his greeting, standing impassively in front of him.
“Why do you think I am not lucky?” “I canna say.”
Adopting the Scotch accent, purposely, so it seemed to him, she turned aside, snipping once more at the roses. Wendover watched her, thinking that she was a black Moy.
“You have a sweet mistress.”
She turned instantly with brightening eyes. The whole face softened. “This woman loves Betty.” That was his first thought. But, almost immediately, the strong features grew' hard again. Wendover, whirled afield by his imagination, continued quickly; “You Highlanders have powers of insight. Have you ever seen in your dreams the lucky man who will win Lady Betty for a wife?”
Her deep eyes exhibited resentment. She replied coldly:
“May be I have; may be I haven’t.” Her lips closed resolutely. Baffled but still persistent, Wendover attacked again.
“If you love your mistress, as I’m sure you do, you wish to see her happily married?”
“Mairitch may be unhappy.”
On that, sensible that he had been snubbed, Wendover left her and, constrained by an odd impluse, went back to his room to await the punctual Judkins. When he appeared with a can of hot w'ater he showed no astonishment. He put down the hot water and stood expectantly silent. “I’ve a ticklish job for you, Judkins.” Judkins inclined an attentive ear. Wendover spoke for nearly five minutes, when he had finished, he shook hands with the graven image and dismissed him.
WENDOVER had been right in his conjecture that Lady Betty would not take the hill with him that day. Under the guidance of the stalker, he killed an eight-pointer. As he entered the lodge he found his host tapping the barometer in the hall.
“Blood on the knife?” asked Lord Glenava.
' Wendover described his stalk. Lord Glenava, upon another beat, had killed a good stag.
“The glass is falling rapidly. And with a sou’west wind that means heavy rain.”
“Does it mean, also, a descent to the Castle?”
‘T am delighted.’”
He spoke so briskly that Lord Glenava stared at bis smiling face.
“You have had a pleasant day, Mr. Wendover?”
“I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. In sport, as in everything else, anticipation is an amazing tonic. And this air of yours is intoxicating.”
“You are welcome to take your fill of it.”
At dinner the question of leaving the lodge cropped up. Lady Betty looked unhappy, so Wendover thought, but she raised no objections. It was settled that heavy rain would drive them downhill; otherwise they would remain some fifteen hundred feet above sea-level.
Next day it poured pitilessly.
Back in the Castle whilst the party was drinking tea, Wendover asked a favour.
“I want to see your pipers marching round the dinner table. The fact that I missed that splendid stag justifies a pibroch, doesn’t it? One especially for him.”
“I believe,” said Betty solemnly, “that Mr. Wendover must have Highland blood in his veins.”
“As you missed the monster,” said Lord Glenava, “I shall instruct them to play ‘The Lament of Moy’.”
Wendover turned to him.
“I suppose,” he observed carelessly, “that your pipers are privileged persons, sacrosanct like the ancient minstrels?”
Lord Glenava admitted this.
“A good piper, my dear fellow, is not easily replaced.”
Betty observed with a laugh: “Father would sooner lose a front tooth than Alastair Moy.”
After hearing Alastair pipe, Wendover —Sassenach though he might be— appreciated this remark. There were two pipers marching round the ancient banquetting hall when soup was served —an old man and a young. The young man, Alastair, piped witha fire and intensity that astonished Wendover. The music of the “Lament” might be, from his point of view, barbaric, but it swept him from the present into the remote past. And Alastair was “braw,” a splendid specimen, probably the pick of ( the black Moys. He had the stride of a , chief. But he looked wild—untameable as an eagle. Defiance of all convention glittered in his eyes. As he swung out of the great room and the “Lament” melted away, Wendover remarked to his host:
“A remarkable personality.”
NO MORE was said'Upon the subject, but throughout the ceremonious dinner Wendover felt sensible ef Alastair’s influence as piper and man. “The Lament of Moy” echoed through his brain cells, haunting them. It had wailed down the corridors of this grim castle, it evoked poignant memories. Such a dirge, however beautiful, ought not to be played before Betty. He had glanced at her face as she sat listening to it, and an over-mastering impulse seized him. He divined that he was a “sensitive,” at the mercy of such influences as heredity and environment might impose. Acting from the best of motives, her parents had made a grievous blunder in keeping her secluded. Even at the lodge she looked a different creature. When she was fifteen, when, indisputably, some malign influence had assailed her— account for it how you might—she ought to have been whirled elsewhere anywhere away from Glen Ava. Was it too late to do this?
Could he do it?
After dinner Betty sang more Scotch songs. The sadder ballads irritated Wendover, partly, perhaps, because they revealed so illuminatingly her sensitive side. Also, she seemed to avoid him or to avoid, which was more exasperating that pleasant, intimate talk already established. She looked pale and tired when she bade him good-night.
“I must do something,” thought Wendover.
Alone again with his host the right opportunity presented itself. Lord Glenava said quietly:
“Betty has changed her room—and no wonder.”
“A greater change seems to me to be needed.”
Wendover stood up.
“I am distracted,” he said vehemently. “I am unable to hide my feelings, my convictions, from you. Up to this moment, I have believed that I came here upon a preposterous mission. Indeed, at first it seemed to me that BabbingtonRaikes had sent me to you because he hoped that such a change would benefit me. And it has—it has.”
Lord Glenava said sincerely:
“It is a real pleasure to hear that.” “And why,” continued Wendover, “why have I become a new man? Simply because I have found here somebody whose interests are dearer, infinitely dearer to me than my own. I love your daughter. I woúld give my life to serve her. This is no passing emotion. It’s the real thing that comes to a man once, and to many—never.”
His host’s kindly face indicated great distress. After a slight pause, he said sorrowfully:
“This is a shock, something, perhaps, that I should have foreseen. I would give Betty to you gladly; you have won our affection and respect, but marriage is not for her, poor child.”
“Why not?” asked Wendover. “Love might sweep her, as it has swept me, out of herself. To-night, listening to that weird ‘Lament,’ inspiration came to me. In this grim old place, dear as it is to yod and her, she is unhappy. At the lodge she looks—and is—a different creature. And if, as you suggest, there is a curse at Glen Ava, let her leave it behind her.” “And you,” Lord Glenava’s voice was slightly incredulous, “you would assume such a risk, such a responsibility, knowing as you do, the sad facts?”
“Ten thousand times—yes.”
“It is quite certain that you love her. And she--?”
“I—I don’t know I think, I am almost sure, that I am not indifferent to her. I had to speak to you first.”
“Thank you, Wendover. Would that such as easy solution were possible. If Betty knew what we know, would she marry anybody? I don’t think so.”
“She need never know. To keep such knowledge from her would be my first consideration. More, I venture to hope that new interests might drive out old influences. I understand that all these strange seizures have taken place here?” Lord Glenava bowed. “Let me take her away. I assume all risk, all responsibility.” After an interminable silence, Lord Glenava said heavily: “You must give
me time. I cannot answer you to-night and I cannot hold out any hope of answering you as you wish to-morrow.”
WENDOVER went to bed early that night, and he found the ! imperturbable Judkins awaiting him in his room. He was about to dismiss him, when the graven image challenged his attention.
“I have got at something, sir.”
“Yes, sir. For the last two hours I have been drinking whisky with the piper. Pipers hold a lot of whisky, sir.”
Wendover sat down. Judkins appeared to be perfectly sober.
“Well? Go on!”
“He has his own whisky, sir—plenty of it. He bets, sir. And, of course, he loses. He is very hot stuff, sir, if you'll pardon the expression.”
“Cut the cackle, Judkins. I asked you, for reasons of my own, to scrape acquaintance with Alastair Moy, and to find out, if you could, whether or not he was spending money that he had earned.” “I always try to carry out your instructions, sir. This piper is a wild lad, and that poor woman, as I remarked to you, is a besotted fool. He is ten years younger than she is. Most of the money he spends comes from her.”
“You are sure of that?”
“Every upper servant in the Castle knows it. What bothers them is this: Where does she get the cash from? That is a poser.”
“I am much obliged, Judkins. You have earned my gratitude, and an increase of salary. Good-night.” “Good-night, sir.”
After breakfast, upon the following morning, Wendover was asked if he would like to “wet a line.” The rain had caused a spate in the river that flowed into and out of the loch. With luck, so Lord Glenava told his guest, a cleanrun salmon might be hooked. Wendover being secretly of opinion that luck, and nothing else, might serve a duffer, was about to refuse.
“I’ll send Alastair Moy with you, my piper. He is the best fisherman we have.” “Then he can give me a lesson,” said Wendover.
A small steam-launch took guest and ghillie to the lower end of the loch. Lady Betty did not offer to accompany them. Alastair hastened to the first pool, followed by Wendover. The day was unpropitious for a novice. The wind had veered to the north-east, and blew strongly up the river. The water, however, slightly thickened by the spate was pronounced by Alastair to be in fair order. At the first two ineffective casts, the ghillie smiled, not displeased to find that he was in charge of a tyro. Masters of the craft, as he well knew, were not so generous in the matter of tips. Nevertheless, he bided his time.
Presently Wendover thrust the rod into his hand, saying:
“You must show me how to do it.” Nothing loath, Alastair grasped the rod, and sent the fly unerringly under the further bank. As it drifted across the'pool a fish rose. But he came short at the lure. Alastair sat down.
“We’ll bide a wee,” he said solemnly. He explained to Wendover that a good fish generally lay just behind a particular stone. If he were caught, another would take his place within a few hours. At the end of ten minutes he dropped the fly just above the stone and skilfully let it drift down to the right place. There was a swirl in the smooth water,a tight line, and a steel-cane rod bent into the most entrancing of all curves.
“You’ve got him,” shouted Wendover. With a broad grin upon his handsome reckless face, the ghillie handed the rod to his “gentleman.” Quietly he told his pupil exactly what to do. The tackle was strong and the salmon well hooked. Ultimately he came to the gaff, and was flung, a quivering bar of silver, upon the heather.
“A bonny fish,” said Alastair, “wi’ the sea-lice on him.”
As he spoke he glanced whimsically and expectantly at his pupil.
“We ought to wet such luck,” said Wendover. A big flask was pulled out of a creel. Wendover sipped the whisky, and then handed the flask to the ghillie with the injunction:
“Take a good whack at it.”
A FTER this first exhilarating experience, beginners’ luck, as it is called north of Tweed, was the happy fortune of Wendover. During three fleeting hours, he hooked and played five fish bringing two of them to the gaff. But the “rise” was over.
“We’ll have luncheon,” said Wendover. “And we’ll have it,” he added pleasantly, ^to^thcr.”
They ate heartily, but Alastair had the lion’s share of the flask. Possibly having drunk heavily the night before, he was unable to resist the cumulative effects of Lord Glenava’s pre-war whisky. Wendover perceived this immediately. The man’s tongue was unduly loosened. With a little encouragement he began to brag of his powers as a piper. And he became—what is rare with any Highlander-familiar. Staring at Wendover he said boldly:
“Ye were lucky the^day. They tell me ye’re ca’ed ‘Lucky’.” “Yes, I am called ‘Lucky’ because I am rich.”
Alastair’s dark eyes sparkled.
“I am abominably rich.”
“I can make others rich, Alastair. But I suppose money means little to you.”
The man laughed recklessly.
“I’d like fine to meet the canny man who wad mak’ me rich.”
“Really—I could do it with the scratch of a pen.”
He looked keenly at the piper, as he added lightly:
“Do you know what fetches a big price in any market?”
“I canna say.”
“Reliable—information. For instance, it might be worth my while to make you rich, if—if, by any chance, you could give me information which I could get from nobody else.”
His manner was impressive, but it might mean anything or nothing. Alastair’s expression at the moment indicated greed. And then, suddenly, suspicion smouldered in his eyes. He spoke cautiously:
“Could the likes o’ me gi’ the likes o’ you onything o’ that kind?”
Wendover shrugged his shoulders. “Some people,” he said quietly, “are paid to hold their tongues.” At once, caught off his guard, the big piper winced. “And others are paid perhaps more handsomely to wag their tongues.”
“I’m no understandin’ ye.”
“Ah! Now, as between our two selves, in the strictest confidence, suppose I offered you a thousand pounds to tell me the plain truth.”
The big fellow gasped. He was taken so aback that unconsciously he revealed exactly what Wendover wanted to know. The man had information, a secret, and it positively leaked from his lips and eyes.
“A thoosand poonds--!”
Wendover’s tone became incisive, dominating, and yet, behind it, lay a cool persuasiveness.
“Come, now,” he said, “I have reason to believe that a very cruel wrong has been done to an innocent young lady. And you know all about it”.
The braw piper hesitated—and was lost. A thousand pounds represented to him wealth beyond the dreams of avarice; the good-will of a small tavern in Inverness. And Wendover pledged himself to secrecy. Lord Glenava and his wife, nobody else, would share the secret.
Bit by bit the truth was revealed. Grizel Ross suffered from jealousy and an almost uncontrollable temper. She had hated Lady Betty’s pets, because of the innocent love lavished on them. In a moment of fury she had killed the owlet because it bit her. To save herself she had accused her mistress. The horrified parents had bought, so they supposed, her silence. But the infatuated woman had told her lover. And he had demanded more hush money, which she had obtained by similar means. The Persian kitten had been the last victim.
WENDOVER did no more fishing.
He returned to the launch with a much deflated ghillie trudging behind him. One trod on air and the other on heather. However, the canniness of the piper revealed itself humorously in a remark that must be recorded. As they came within hailing distance of the launch, Alastair said:
“Ye must ken that a told Grizel that in ma opeenion the sober truth might be worth mair to his lordship than her daft lee.”
By the luck of things, Wendover found his host and hostess alone. Betty had gone down to the village. At sight of his face, Lord Glenava leapt hot-foot to a wrong conclusion.
“You have spoken to Betty,” he said. “Not yet,” said Wendover.
His host hazarded another conjecture. “You must have had wonderful sport! You are beaming.”
And then the story was told. Lady Glenava listened to it with tears of gratitude trickling down her cheeks. Wendover was leaving the room, when Lord Glenava hinted at the fee that was due to the colleague of Sir Arthur BabbingtonRaikes.
“Betty,” he said, with grave dignity, “will come back through the gardens. You may find her amongst the roses.” And he did.