He found Weir kneeling on the hearth-rug.
The hall was an immense place with a vaulted ceiling
upheld by massive beams; the walls were wainscotted
almost to the top with oak which had been polished
for many a century; and the floor, polished also,
was covered with rugs which had been very handsome
in their day. There were several superb suits
of armor and a quantity of massive, carved oaken furniture,
extremely uncomfortable but very picturesque.
In the open fire-place, which would have held many
more than Harold and Weir within its depths, great
logs were burning. The lamps had been brought
in but had not been turned up, and save for the firelight
the great cathedral apartment was a thicket of shadows,
out of which the steel warriors gleamed, menacing
guardians of the girl.
Weir made a pretty picture kneeling
on the hearth-rug, with the fire-light playing on
her dark face and pliant figure, in its closely-fitting
black gown, throwing golden flickers on her hair,
and coquetting with the lanterns in her eyes.
She rose as Dartmouth approached, and he gave her
one of his brilliant, satisfied smiles.
“We are to be married a month
from to-day,” he said. “A month from
to-day and we shall be knocking about Europe and pining
for English civilization.” He drew her
down on the cushioned seat that ran along the wall
by the chimney-piece. “We cannot go out
to-night; there is a storm coming up. Ah, did
I not tell you?” as a gust of wind shrieked
and rattled the sash.
She gave a little shiver and drew
closer to him. “I hate a storm,” she
said. “It always brings back-”
she stopped abruptly.
“Brings back what?”
“So father has given his consent? But I
knew he would. I knew he liked you the moment
you met; and when he alluded that night to your small
hands and feet I knew that the cause was won.
Had they been at fault, nothing could have persuaded
him that you did not have a broad river of red blood
in you somewhere, and he never would have approved
of you had you been the monarch of a kingdom.”
Dartmouth smiled. “The
men at college used to laugh at my hands, until I
nearly choked one of them to death one day, after which
they never laughed at them again. There is no
doubt now about my having been destined at birth for
a Welsh maiden, and equipped accordingly. But
you know your father pretty thoroughly.”
“I have lived alone with him
so long that I can almost read his mind, and I certainly
know his peculiarities.”
“It must have been a terribly
lonely life for you. How old were you when your
She moved with the nervous motion
habitual to her whenever her mother’s name was
mentioned. “I was about nine,” she
“Nine? And yet you
remember nothing of her? Weir, it is impossible
that you cannot remember her.”
“I do not remember her,” she said.
“I saw her picture in the library
to-night. She must have been very beautiful,
but like you only in being dark. Otherwise, there
is not a trace of resemblance. But surely you
must remember her, Weir; you are joking. I can
remember when I was four years of age perfectly, and
many things that happened.”
“I remember nothing that happened
before I was nine years old,” she said.
He bent down suddenly and looked into
her face. “Weir, what do you mean?
There is always an uncomfortable suggestion of mystery
whenever one speaks of your mother or your childhood.
What is the reason you cannot remember? Did you
have brain fever, and when you recovered, find your
mind a blank? Such things have happened.”
“No,” she said, desperately,
as if she had nerved herself for an effort. “That
was not it. I have often wanted to tell you, but
I cannot bear to speak of it. The old horror
always comes back when I think of it. But I feel
that I ought to tell you before we are married, and
I will do so now since we are speaking of it.
I did not have brain fever, but when I was nine years
“Yes, it is true. They
called it catalepsy, a trance; but it was not; I was
really dead. I was thrown from a horse a few months
after my mother’s death, and killed instantly.
They laid me in the family vault, but my father had
ice put about me and would not have me covered, and
went every hour to see me, as he told me afterward.
I remember nothing; and they say that when people
are in a trance they are conscious of everything that
passes around them. I knew nothing until one
night I suddenly opened my eyes and looked about me.
It was just such a night as this, only in mid-winter;
the wind was howling and shrieking, and the terrible
gusts shook the vault in which I lay. The ocean
roared like thunder, and I could hear it hurl itself
in its fury against the rocks at the foot of the castle.
A lamp was burning at my feet, and by its flickering
light I could see in their niches on every side of
me the long lines of dead who had lain there for centuries.
And I was alone with them, locked in with them; no
living creature within call! And I was so deathly
cold. There was a great block of ice on my chest,
and slabs of it were packed about my limbs so tightly
that I could not move. I could only feel that
horrible, glassy cold which I knew had frozen the
marrow in my bones and turned my blood to jelly; and
the pain of it was something which I have no words
to describe. I tried to call out, but the ice
was on my chest, and I could hardly breathe.
Then for a moment I lay trying to collect my thoughts.
I did not know where I was. I did not know that
I was in the vault of my ancestors. I only felt
that I had been wandering and wandering in some dim,
far-off land looking for someone I could never find,
and that suddenly I had come into another world and
found rest. But although I did not know that
I was in the vault at Rhyd-Alwyn, and that my name
was Weir Penrhyn, I knew that I was laid out as a corpse,
and that the dead were about me. Child as I was,
it seemed to me that I must go frantic with the horror
of the thing, stretched out in that ghastly place,
a storm roaring about me, bound hand and foot, unable
to cry for help. I think that if I had been left
there all night I should have died again or lost my
mind, but in a moment I heard a noise at the grating
and men’s voices.
“‘I must go in and see
her once more,’ I heard a strange voice say.
‘It seems cruelty to leave her alone in this
storm.’ And then a man came in and bent
over me. In a moment he called sharply, ‘Madoc!-bring
me the light.’ And then another man came,
and I looked up into two strange, eager, almost terrified
faces. I heard incoherent and excited voices,
then the ice was dashed off my chest and I was caught
up in a pair of strong arms and borne swiftly to the
house. They took me to a great blazing fire and
wrapped me in blankets and poured hot drinks down
my throat, and soon that terrible chill began to leave
me and the congealed blood in my veins to thaw.
And in a few days I was as well as ever again.
But I remembered no one. I had to become acquainted
with them all as with the veriest strangers. I
had the natural intelligence of my years, but nothing
more. Between the hour of my soul’s flight
from its body and that of its return it had been robbed
of every memory. I remembered neither my mother
nor any incident of my childhood. I could not
find my way over the castle, and the rocks on which
I had lived since infancy were strangers to me.
Everything was a blank up to the hour when I opened
my eyes and found myself between the narrow walls
of a coffin.”
“Upon my word!” exclaimed
Dartmouth. “Why, you are a regular heroine
of a sensational novel.”
Weir sprang to her feet and struck
her hands fiercely together, her eyes blazing.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,”
she cried, passionately. “Can you never
be serious? Must you joke about everything?
I believe you will find something to laugh at in the
marriage service. That thing I have told you is
the most serious and horrible experience of my life,
and yet you treat it as if I were acting a part in
a melodrama in a third-rate theatre! Sometimes
I think I hate you.”
Dartmouth caught her in his arms and
forced her to sit down again beside him. “My
dear girl,” he said, “why is it that a
woman can never understand that when a man feels most
he chaffs, especially if he has cultivated the beastly
habit. Your story stirred me powerfully; the
more so because such things do not happen to every-day
“Do not wrong me; I am in dead
earnest. As a plain matter of fact, I never heard
of anything so horrible. Thank heaven it happened
when you were so young! No woman’s will
and spirit could rise superior to such a memory if
it were a recent one. But am I forgiven?”
“As you are perfectly incorrigible,
I suppose there is no use being angry with you,”
she said, still with a little pout on her lips.
“But I will forgive you on one condition only.”
“You are never to mention the subject to me
again after to-night.”
“I never will; but tell me,
has the memory of your childhood never come back for
“Never. All I remember
is that sense of everlasting wandering and looking
for something. For a long while I was haunted
with the idea that there was something I still must
find. I never could discover what it was, but
it has left me now. If you had not been so unkind,
I should have said that it is because I am too happy
for mysterious and somewhat supernatural longings.”
“But as it is, you won’t.
It was an odd feeling to have, though. Perhaps
it was a quest for the memories of your childhood-for
a lost existence, as it were. If ever it comes
again, tell me, and we will try and work it out together.”
“Harold!” she exclaimed,
smiling outright this time, “you will be trying
to analyze the cobwebs of heaven before long.”
“No,” he said, “they are too dense.”