Meanwhile, following a short cut through
the snowy woods that ran over the shoulder of the
intervening hill, the pair were wending their way
towards Lucerne. Godfrey, a fixed and vacant look
upon his face, went first; the Pasteur clinging to
his arm like a limpet to a rock, puffed along beside
“Heaven!” he gasped, “but
this attraction of yours must be strong that it makes
you walk so fast immediately after dinner.”
“It is, it is!” said Godfrey,
in a kind of agony. “I feel as though my
inside were being drawn out, and I must follow it.
Please hold my arm tight or I shall run.”
“Ah! the witch. The great
witch!” puffed the Pasteur, “and up this
hill too, over snow. Well, it will be better
on the down grade. Give me your hand, my boy,
for your coat is slipping, and if once you got away
how should I catch you?”
They accomplished the walk into Lucerne
in absolutely record time. Fortunately, at this
after-dinner hour few people were about, but some
of those whom they met stared at them, and one called:
“Do you take him to the police-station?
Shall I summon the gens-d’arme?”
“No, no,” replied the
Pasteur, “he goes to keep an assignation, and
is in a hurry.”
“Then why does he take you with
him? Surely a clergyman will make a bad third
at such an affair?” ejaculated an outspoken lady
who was standing at her house door.
“Where is the street? I
do not know it,” asked the Pasteur.
“Nor do I,” answered Godfrey,
“but we shall come there all right. To
the left now.”
“Oh! the influence! The
strong influence!” muttered Monsieur Boiset.
“Behold! it leads him.”
Truly it did lead him. Round
corners and across squares they went into an old part
of the town with which neither of them was acquainted,
till at length Godfrey, diving beneath an archway,
pulled up in front of an antique doorway, saying:
“I think this is the place.”
“Look at the writing and make
sure,” said the Pasteur, “for it seems
At that moment the door opened mysteriously,
and Godfrey disappeared into the passage beyond.
Scarcely had the Pasteur time to follow him when it
shut again, although he could see no concierge.
“Doubtless it is one of those
that works with a wire,” he thought to himself,
but he had no time to stop to look, for already Godfrey
was climbing the stairs. Up he went, three floors,
and up after him scrambled the Pasteur. Suddenly
Godfrey stopped at a door and not waiting to ring
the bell, knocked with his hand. Immediately it
opened and Godfrey, with his companion, passed into
a very dark hall round which were several other doors.
Here in the gloom the Pasteur lost him. Godfrey
had gone through one of the doors, but which he could
not see. He stood still, listening, and presently
heard a deep peculiar voice speaking English with
a very foreign accent, say:
“So you have come to see your
godmamma, my dear little clever boy. Well, I
thought you would, and last night I sent you a pretty
messenger to give you remembrance.”
Then the Pasteur found the handle
of the door and entered the room. It was a curious
place draped, not without taste of a bizarre kind,
in vivid colours, wherein purple dominated, and it
gave an idea of mingled magnificence and squalor.
Some of the furniture was very good, as were one or
two of the pictures, though all of it was of an odd
and unusual make. Thus, the sideboard was shaped
like a sarcophagus, and supported on solid sphinxes
with gilded faces. In a corner of the room also
stood an unwrapped mummy in a glass case.
In the midst of all this stood a common
deal table, whereon were a black bottle, and the remains
of Madame’s meal, which seemed to have consisted
of large supplies of underdone meat. In front
of the fire was a large, well-worn couch, and by it
a small stout table such as spiritualists use, on
which gleamed a ball of glass or crystal. On this
couch was seated Madame clad in a kind of black dressing-gown
and a wide gold scarf tied about her ample waist.
Her fat, massive face was painted and powdered; on
her head she wore a kind of mantilla also gold-coloured,
and about her neck a string of old Egyptian amulets.
Anything more unwholesome or uncanny than were her
general appearance and surroundings as the bright
flames of the fire showed them in this stuffy, shadowed
room, it would be impossible to imagine.
“Sit down here by my side, my
little son in the speerit, where I have made a place
ready for you, and let me hold your hand while you
tell me all that you have been doing and if you have
been thinking much of me and that beautiful Eleanor
whom I sent to see you last night,” went on
Madame Riennes in her ogreish, purring voice, patting
Just then she looked up and caught
sight of the Pasteur standing in the shadow.
Staring at him with her fierce, prominent eyes, she
started violently as though at last she had seen something
of which she was afraid.
“Say, my Godfrey,” she
exclaimed in a rather doubtful voice, “what is
this that you have brought with you? Is it a scarecrow
from the fields? Or is it a speerit of your own?
If so, I should have thought that a young man would
have liked better the lovely Eleanor than this old
“Yes, Madame Jezebel,”
said the Pasteur striding forward, speaking in a loud,
high voice and waving a large umbrella, which had come
partly unfolded in his hurried walk. “It
is a scarecrow one that scares the crows
of hell who seek to pick out the souls of the innocent,
like you, Madame Jezebel.”
Madame uttered a voluminous oath in
some strange tongue, and sprang to her feet with an
agility surprising in one so stout.
“Say, who are you?” she
ejaculated in French, confronting him.
“I am the Pasteur Boiset who
accompany my ward to pay this little call, Madame.”
“Oh! indeed. That thief
of a clergyman, who got his finger into the pie of
dead Mademoiselle, eh? Well, there are no more
pickings here, Pasteur, but perhaps you come to have
your fortune told. Shall I look in the crystal
for you and tell you nice things about what
shall we say? About the past of that handsome
Madame of yours, for instance? Oh! I will
do it for love, yes, for love. Or shall I make
that mummy speak for you? I can, for once I lived
in that body of hers it was a gay life,”
and she stopped, gasping.
“Hearken, woman,” said
the Pasteur, “and do not think to frighten me.
I know all about my wife, and, if once she was foolish,
what of it in a world where none are altogether wise?
If you do not wish to visit the police cell, you will
do well to leave her alone. As for your tricks
of chicanery, I want none of them. What I want
is that you take off the spell which you have laid
upon this poor boy, as Satan your master has given
you the power to do. Now, obey me or ”
“Or? Or what, you old paid advocate of
“That is a good term. If
I am an advocate, I know my Employer’s mind,
I, who have taken His fee, and am therefore in honour
bound to serve Him faithfully. Now I will tell
you His mind about you. It is that unless you
change your ways and repent, soon you will go to hell.
Yes, quite soon, I think, for one so fat cannot be
very strong in the heart. Do what I bid you,
Madame, or I, the advocate of God, having His authority,
will curse you in the Name of God, and in the ancient
form of which you may have heard.”
“Bah! would you frighten me,
the great Madame Riennes who have spirits at my command
and who, as you admit, can lay on spells and take them
off. A flea for you and your God!”
“Spirits at your command!
Yes, some of them in there, I think,” and he
pointed to the black bottle on the table, “and
others too, perhaps; I will not deny it. Well,
let them advance, and we will see who is on the top
of the mountain, I, the old paid advocate of God, or
you and your spirits, Madame,” and hooking the
handle of the big umbrella over his wrist, he folded
his arms and stared at her through the blue spectacles.
Madame Riennes gibbered some invocation,
but nothing happened.
“I await your spirits.
They cannot have gone to bed so early,” remarked
the Pasteur like a new Elijah.
Then, also like Elijah, to use a vulgarism,
he “sailed in” after a way which even
the terrified Godfrey, who was crouching against one
of the purple curtains, felt to be really magnificent
with such artistic sense as remained to him.
In his mediaeval Latin which, spoken with a foreign
accent, Godfrey, although a good scholar, could scarcely
follow save for certain holy names, he cursed Madame
Riennes in some archaic but most effective fashion.
He consigned, this much Godfrey made out, her soul
to hell and her body to a number of the most uncomfortable
experiences. He trailed her in the dust at the
rear of his theological chariot; he descended from
the chariot, so to speak, and jumped upon her as he
had done upon the beetle; he tossed up her mangled
remains as the holy bull, Apis of the Egyptians, might
have done with those of a Greek blasphemer. Then,
like a triumphant pugilist, metaphorically he stood
over her and asked her if she wanted any more.
For a little while Madame Riennes
was crushed, also very evidently frightened, for those
who deal in the supernatural are afraid of the supernatural.
Indeed, none of us welcome the curse even of a malignant
and disappointed beggar, or of the venomous gipsy angered
by this or that, and much less that of a righteous
man inspired by just and holy indignation. Madame
Riennes, an expert in the trade, a dealer in maledictions,
was not exempt from this common prejudice. As
she would have expressed it, she felt that he had
the Power on his side.
But Madame was no common charlatan;
she had strength of a sort, though where it came from
who could say? Moreover, for all kinds of secret
reasons of her own, she desired to keep in her grip
this boy Godfrey, who had shown himself to be so wonderful
a medium or clairvoyant. To her he meant strength
and fortune; also for him she had conceived some kind
of unholy liking in the recesses of her dark soul.
Therefore, she was not prepared to give him up without
Presently Madame seemed to cast off
the influences with which the Pasteur had overwhelmed
her. While his maledictions were in full
flow she sank in a huddled heap upon the couch.
Of a sudden she revived; she sprang up; notwithstanding
her bulk she leapt into the air like a ballet-dancer.
She tore the golden mantilla from her head, letting
down a flood of raven hair, streaked with grey, and
waved it round her. She called upon the names
of spirits or demons, long, resounding names with
an Eastern ring about them, to come to her aid.
Then she pranced into the centre of the room, crying:
“Dog of a clergyman, I defy
you and will overcome you. That boy’s soul
is mine, not yours. I am the greatest mesmerist
in the world and he is in my net. I will show
She turned towards the shrivelled,
almost naked mummy in the case, and addressed it:
“O Nofri,” she said, “Priestess
of Set, great seeress and magician of the old world
in whom once my spirit dwelt, send forth your Ka, your
everlasting Emanation, to help me. Crush this
black hound. Come forth, come forth!”
As she spoke the fearful Godfrey in
his corner saw the door of the glass case fly open,
also as he thought, probably erroneously, that he
saw the mummy move, lifting its stiff legs and champing
its iron jaws so that the yellow, ancient teeth caught
the light as they moved. Then he heard and saw
something else. Suddenly the Pasteur in tones
that rang like a trumpet, cried out:
“She seems to hesitate, this
mummy of yours, Madame. Let me be polite and
With a single bound he was in front
of the case. With the hook of his big umbrella
he caught the shrivelled thing round the neck; with
his long thin arm he gripped it about the middle,
just like somebody leading a lady to the dance, thought
Godfrey. Then he bent himself and pulled.
Out flew the age-withered corpse. The head came
off, the body broke above the hips and fell upon the
floor, leaving the legs standing in the case, a ghastly
spectacle. On to this severed trunk the Pasteur
leapt, again as he had done upon the black beetle.
It crunched and crumbled, filling the air with a pungent,
resinous dust. Then he stood amidst the debris,
and placing his right foot upon what had been the
mummy’s nose, said mildly:
“Now, Madame, what next? This lady is finished?”
Madame Riennes uttered a stifled scream,
more she could not do for rage choked her. Her
big eyes rolled, she clenched and unclenched her hands,
and bent forward as though she were about to fly at
the Pasteur like a wild cat. Still poised upon
the fragments of the mummy he lifted the point of
the umbrella to receive the charge as it came, and
taking advantage of Madame’s temporary paralysis
of speech, went on:
“Hearken! daughter of Beelzebub.
You have the curse and it shall work upon your soul,
but, yes, it shall work well. Still your body
remains, and of that too I would say something.
Know that I have heard much of you oh!
the quiet old Pasteur hears many things, especially
if he has members of the secret police among his flock.
I think that yonder in an office there is a dossier,
yes, an official record concerning you and your doings
both in this country and in other lands. It has
been allowed to sleep, but it can wake again; if it
wakes well, there is the penitentiary for
such as you.”
Madame gasped and turned green.
If Monsieur had drawn a bow at a venture, evidently
that chance arrow had found the bull’s-eye, for
now she truly was frightened.
“What would you have me do?”
she asked in a choking voice.
“Free this youth from your influence,
as you can if you will.”
“My influence! If I had
any with him would not that bald skull of yours by
now have been shattered like an egg, seeing that he
is strong and holds a stick?”
“I have no time to waste, Madame.
The Police Office closes early on Sundays.”
Then she gave in.
“Come here,” she said sullenly to Godfrey,
still speaking in French.
He came and stood before her sneezing,
for the pungent dust of the smashed mummy, which the
Pasteur still ground beneath his large boots, had
floated up his nose.
“Cease that noise, little fool, and look at
Godfrey obeyed, but did not stop sneezing,
because the mixture of spices and organic matter would
not allow him to do so. She stared at him very
evilly, muttered some more words, and made mystic upward
passes with her hands.
“There now,” she said,
“you are free, so far as I am concerned.
But I do not think that you are done with spirits,
since they are guests which once entertained to breakfast,
stop to luncheon and to dinner; yes, and pass the
night when they are merriest. I think you will
see many spirits before you die, and afterwards ah!
who knows, little pig? Put your string about
his leg and take your little pig home, Pasteur.
He will not be drawn to come here again.”
“Good, Madame, for remember,
if he does I shall be drawn to call at the Police
Office. If Madame will take my advice she will
try change of air. Lucerne is cold in the winter,
especially for those whose hearts are not too strong.
Is it finished?”
“Quite, for my part, but for
you, interfering humbug, I do not know. Get out
of my room, both of you.”
The Pasteur bowed with an old-fashioned
politeness, and herding Godfrey in front of him, turned
to go. As he passed through the door something
hard hit him violently in the back, so that he nearly
fell. It was the head of the mummy, which Madame
had hurled at him. It fell to the floor, and
striking against a chair leg, recoiled through the
doorway. Godfrey saw it, and an impulse seized
him. Lifting that head, he turned. Madame
was standing in the middle of the room with her back
to the deal table, uttering short little howls of
Godfrey advanced very politely and
saying, “I believe this is your property, Madame,”
placed the battered remnant of humanity upon the table
beside the black bottle. As he did so, he glanced
at the mesmerist, then turned and fled, for her face
was like to that of a devil.
“Monsieur Boiset,” he
said, when they reached the street, “something
has happened to me. I am quite changed. Not
for all the world would I go near Madame Riennes again.
Indeed, now I feel as though I wished to run away
“That is good!” said the
Pasteur. “Oh! I thought it would be
so, for I know how to deal with such witches.
But not too fast, not too fast, my Godfrey. I
wonder what the old Egyptians put into the heads of
their mummies to make them so heavy.”
“Bitumen,” answered Godfrey,
and proceeded in a cheerful voice to give an account
of the Egyptian process of mummification to his tutor,
which Isobel and he had acquired in the course of
their miscellaneous reading at Monk’s Acre.
Indeed, as he had said, whatever the reason, he was
changed and prepared to talk cheerfully about anything.
A great burden was lifted from his soul.
From that day forward Godfrey became
what a youth of his years and race should be, a high-spirited,
athletic, and active young man. Madame Riennes
and her visions passed from him like a bad dream.
Thoughtful he remained always, for that was his nature;
sometimes sad also, when he thought of Isobel, who
seemed to have disappeared quite out of his life.
But as was natural at his age, this mood weakened by
degrees. She was always there in the background,
but she ceased to obscure the landscape as she had
done before, and was to do in his after life.
Had she been a girl of the common type, attractive
only because she was a young and vivacious woman,
doubtless the eclipse would have been complete.
Occasionally, indeed, men do love fools in an enduring
fashion, which is perhaps the most evil fate that can
be laid upon them. For what can be worse than
to waste what is deep and real upon a thing of flesh
without a soul, an empty, painted bubble, which evades
the hand, or bursts if it is grasped? Those are
the real unfortunates, who have sold themselves for
a mess of potage, that for the most part they are
never even allowed to eat, since before the bell rings
it has probably been deposited by heaven knows what
hand of Circumstance in someone else’s plate,
or gone stale and been thrown away.
Godfrey was not one of these, because
the hand of Circumstance had managed his affairs otherwise.
Isobel was no mess of potage, but with all her faults
and failings, a fair and great inheritance for him
who could take seisin of her. Still, as he believed,
she had first treated him badly, then utterly neglected
him whose pride she had outraged, by not even taking
the trouble to write him a letter, and finally, had
vanished away. And he was young, with manhood
advancing in his veins, like the pulse of spring,
and women are many in the world, some of whom have
pretty faces and proper figures. Also, although
the fact is overlooked by convention, it has pleased
Nature to make man polygamous in his instincts, though
where those instincts end and what is called love
begins, is a thing almost impossible to define.
Probably in truth the limit lies beyond the borders
So Isobel’s grey eyes faded
into the background of Godfrey’s mental vision,
while the violet eyes of Juliette drew ever nearer
to his physical perceptions. And here, to save
trouble, it may be said at once, that he never cared
in the least for Juliette, except as a male creature
cares for a pretty female creature, and that Juliette
never cared in the least for him, except as a young
woman cares in general for a handsome and attractive
young man with prospects. Indeed, she
found him too serious for her taste. She did not
understand him, as, for his part, in her he found
nothing to understand.
After all, ruling out the primary
impulses which would make a scullery maid congenial
to a genius upon a desert isle, what was there in a
Juliette to appeal to a Godfrey? And, with the
same qualification, what was there in a Godfrey to
appeal to a Juliette? As once, with an accidental
touch of poetry, she said to her mother, when at his
side she felt as though she were walking over a snow-covered
crevasse in the surrounding Alps. All seemed
firm beneath her feet, but she never knew when the
crust would break, and he would vanish into unfathomed
depths, perchance dragging her with him. Or,
feeling her danger she might run from him on to safer
ground, where she knew herself to be on good, common
rock or soil, and no strange, hollow echoes struck
her ears, leaving him to pursue his perilous journey
Her mother laughed, and falling into
her humour, answered, that beyond the crevasse and
at the foot of the further slope lay the warm and
merry human town, the best house of which not
unlike the Villa Ogilvy could be reached
in no other way, and that with such a home waiting
to receive her, it was worth while to take a little
risk. Thereon Juliette shrugged her white shoulders,
and in the intervals of one of the French chansonettes
which she was very fond of warbling in her gay voice,
remarked that she preferred to make journeys, safe
or perilous, in the company of a singing-bird in the
sunlight, rather than in that of an owl in the dusk,
who always reminded her of the advancing darkness.
At least, that was the substance of
what she said, although she did not put it quite so
neatly. Then, as though by an afterthought, she
asked when her cousin Jules, a young notary of Berne,
was coming to stay with them.
The winter wore away, the spring came,
and after spring, summer, with its greenery and flowers.
Godfrey was happy enough during this time. To
begin with, the place suited him. He was very
well now, and grew enormously in that pure and trenchant
air, broadening as well as lengthening, till, notwithstanding
his slimness, he gave promise of becoming a large,
Madame Riennes too and her unholy
terrors had faded into the background. He no
longer thought of spirits, although, it is true that
a sense of the immanence and reality of the Unseen
was always with him; indeed, as time went on, it increased
rather than lessened. Partly, this was owing
to the character and natural tendencies of his mind,
partly also, without doubt, to the fact that his recent
experiences had, as it were, opened a door to him
between the Seen and the Hidden, or rather burst a
breach in the dividing wall that never was built up
again. Also his astronomical studies certainly
gave an impetus to thoughts and speculations such
as were always present with him. Only now these
were of a wholesome and reverent nature, tending towards
those ends which are advanced by religion in its truest
He worked hard, too, under the gentle
guidance of the learned Pasteur, at the classics,
literature, and other subjects, while in French he
could not fail to become proficient in the company
of the talkative Madame and the sprightly Juliette.
Nor did he want for relaxation. There were great
woods on the hills behind the Maison Blanche, and in
these he obtained leave to shoot rabbits, and, horrible
to say, foxes. Juliette and he would set out
together towards evening, accompanied by a clever
cur which belonged to Jean, the factotum of the house.
They would post themselves at some
convenient spot, while the instructed hound ranged
the woods above. Then would appear perhaps a
rabbit, perhaps a hare, though these in that land of
poaching were not common, or occasionally a great,
red, stealthy fox. At first, with his English
traditions, Godfrey shrank from shooting the last,
which he had been taught ought to die in one way only,
namely, by being torn to pieces in the jaws of the
Juliette, however, mocked at him,
volubly reciting Reynard’s many misdeeds how
he stole chickens; how he tore out the throats of lambs,
and, according to local report, was not even above
killing a baby if he found that innocent alone.
So it came about next time the excited yapping of
the cur-dog was heard on the slopes above them, followed
by stealthy movements among the fallen pine needles,
and at length by the appearance of the beautiful red
creature slyly slinking away to shelter, not twenty
yards from where they stood behind a tree-trunk, that
and he lifted the gun, an old-fashioned, single-barrelled
piece, aimed and fired.
Then followed a horrid scene.
The big shot with which he had loaded, mortally wounded
but did not kill the fox, that with its forepaws broken,
rolled, and bit, and made dreadful noises in its agony,
its beautiful fur all stained with blood. Godfrey
did not know what to do; it was too big and strong
to kill with Juliette’s little stick, so he
tried to batter it to death with the stock of the gun,
but without success, and at last withdrew, looking
at it horrified.
“What shall I do?” he asked faintly of
“Load the gun and shoot it again,” replied
that practical young woman.
So with some mistakes, for the emergency
made him nervous, such as the dropping of the cap
among the pine needles, he obeyed. At last the
poor beast lay dead, a very disagreeable spectacle,
with the cur-dog that had arrived, biting joyously
at its quivering form.
Godfrey put down the gun and retired
behind a tree, whence presently he emerged, looking
very pale, for to tell the truth, he had been ill.
“I do not think I like shooting foxes,”
“How strange you are,”
answered Juliette. “Quite unlike other men.
Now my Cousin Jules, there is nothing that he loves
better. Go now and cut off his tail, to hang
upon the wall. It is beautiful.”
“I can’t,” said Godfrey still more
“Then give me the knife, for I can.”
And she did!
Had Madame but known it, that fox
did not die unavenged upon her family, for with it
departed from the world all hopes of the alliance
which she desired so earnestly.